"Great Scott, Potter, This is War!"
Chapter Twenty-One - Peace In Our Time
For those of you reading both "Great Scott, Potter" and "The Granger Defense" I have posted the unique passages in dark blue type. Even at that, portions of the relationship specific parts in the large battle have many elements in common. The differences are subtle but significant. Thanks for reading.
and to my beta readers GardenGirl and Sparky40sw.
Saturday, 17 August, 1996
Harry stepped out of the cabinet that connected St Simon's and Hogwarts. His Firebolt was slung over his shoulder as he walked towards the main entrance and the Quidditch pitch. He was meeting Ron and Ginny in half an hour to practice and to discuss Ginny's plans for the team as the up-and-coming Gryffindor Captain.
As he descended the final steps to the ground floor, Harry heard his name. He saw Dumbledore and McGonagall coming out of the Great Hall, and met them half way across the Entrance Hall.
"Harry," Dumbledore said, "I've been meaning to have a chat with you. Is now a good time or would later be better? I only need a few minutes."
"I'm meeting Ron and Ginny in thirty minutes or so. I was just going to warm up a bit, so for the moment, I'm all yours. How are you today Headmaster, and you, Professor McGonagall?"
"I am well, Potter. Thank you for asking," McGonagall replied.
"Forgive me for not inquiring about you, Harry," Dumbledore said. "We see each other so rarely and you seemed bent on the pitch, yet I have been meaning to ask you about your recent encounters with Death Eaters. I've been told that you've taken the Cruciatus Curse at least twice. Are you recovered from that ordeal?"
Dumbledore's tone implied concern beyond Harry's health.
"I can't say I enjoyed it, but repetition seems to lessen its effect, short-term and long-term," Harry stated. "After being under Voldemort's Crucio, these Death Eaters seem to pack less of a wallop. I think I may also be developing a degree of tolerance. I was able to remain standing and return fire while under it the last time."
McGonagall visibly shuddered, though probably not because of the pronunciation of the dreaded name. She said, "I'm proud of your ability to fend for yourself under such dire situations, Potter, but do take care to avoid contacts such as this in the future,"
Harry smiled ruefully. "I don't go looking for it, Professor. I just deal with what comes my way as best I can."
"Do you, Harry?" asked Dumbledore.
Harry stopped and looked the Headmaster in the eyes for several seconds.
"Explain please, Headmaster," Harry said. He had a blank, almost warning look on his face and in his tone.
"I understand most of the Death Eaters that have attacked you have been taken to the morgue at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, rather than Admissions at St. Mungo's."
Harry said nothing, but continued to fix Dumbledore with his stare.
The Headmaster sighed and continued, "I fear for you, Harry, that killing has become too easy for you, and that you hold too little value for life."
Harry frowned. "Have you asked Darance Bread, Alexius Tiller, or Isaiah Smith how precious I hold their lives?"
"I admire your abilities to protect those you know, Harry, but what of the lives of those you've killed? Could you not have used a Body-Bind or Petrification spell?"
"I could have. We used them in the Department of Mysteries, the six of us who went there, but the Death Eaters simply cancelled those spells as fast as we cast them - faster, since it generally took us a number of shots to hit a moving and shielded target. Those I've hit this summer don't stand back up and fire at me or anyone else."
"Yes," Dumbledore said slowly. "Most of them never stand up again."
"Right, Professor." Harry's voice was hard now. "They never stand and apply the Cruciatus to children again. They never laugh as they rape young girls again. And they never kill whole families again and then enjoy a drink at the pub before going home.
"Tragic to think of all of life's little pleasures those Death Eaters will miss out on in the future, thanks to me."
"Sarcasm doesn't become you, Harry." Dumbledore said.
"Favoring the lives of those bent on evil instead of the innocent doesn't become you, Headmaster. Good day."
With that Harry turned towards the doors to the Entrance Hall.
Before Harry was out of earshot Dumbledore said, "Such callousness towards life was a hallmark of Tom Riddle as an older student, Harry."
Harry paused for a second, and then huffed. He mounted his broom there in the Entrance Hall. With a wave of his hand the doors shot open and he blasted out of the castle at the Firebolt's full acceleration speed.
Dumbledore moved towards the doors but before he had taken two steps, Dobby popped into his path, his bony green hands raised threateningly towards the Headmaster.
"Professor Dumbledore. You will never speak to Harry Potter that way on this subject again. You don't know of what you speak, and I will not have you upset him."
"Dobby, your speech--"
"House-elves learn human speech from our masters, but we talk as you like us to. Harry Potter asked that I never speak in that way again. I express myself as the greatest wizard in the world wants his friend and house-elf to talk. But you distract me.
"Professor Dumbledore, yesterday morning at St. Simon's after Morning Prayer , Harry Potter was walking an elderly Muggle woman to her granddaughter's automobile. As they drove off, another auto hit a dog that had been crossing the road."
Dobby paused and his voice lowered in respect. "Harry Potter ran to it and tried every healing charm he knew to save it. He called for me and I followed him to an animal clinic in the nearby town. He told the veterinarian that money was no object, but it was too late for that poor creature."
A tear formed at the corner of Dobby's eye. "Harry Potter cried for the longest time. Father Martin has been warning him something like this would happen. Father Martin sits and talks long into the night with Harry Potter after he kills to protect others. You may wish to speak with the good priest. Though Father William will keep Harry Potter's confidences, I am sure he can calm your fears, if you do not believe me."
Dobby sniffed and then straightened his shoulders.
"Never discuss this with Harry Potter again, or you will answer to me."
Before Dumbledore could respond, Dobby popped away, intentionally producing the most earsplitting popping sound he could.
The next day was Sunday. After early services at St. Simon's, Harry opened the Sunday edition of the Daily Prophet. He wanted to see the ads for Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes and Phoenix Fashions, the new name for Clarinda's Shop.
Harry had suggested calling it Clarinda's, stating that it was standard in the Muggle world to name the shop after the chief designer, but Clarinda had insisted on something else.
"Phoenix Fashions" had come to her while Lee Jordan was telling the seamswitchress Mazey about Harry's relationship with Fawkes.
Everybody associated with the new enterprise and the closely associated Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes loved the name.
Harry had balked at posing in Clarinda's wizardwear for the advertisements in the Daily Prophet. However, the twins made a strong case (with no pranks or humor) that Harry's face and name would add cachet to the shop and its new fashions. Of course, after Harry had agreed to do it, Fred and George teased him unmercifully.
Fleur Delacour had also posed for the ad. There were several shots of each of them wearing various outfits Clarinda selected to feature in the paper, and there was one small shot of the two of them together.
That advertisement Harry sought was there in the Sunday edition. However, he was not ready to read the headline of that day's Daily Prophet.
Minister Cornelius Fudge late yesterday declared "Peace in our time," when he announced a signed peace treaty with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Fudge stated, "I've had Ambassador Carver Glean working on this treaty for months now. In spite of those who nearly destroyed this peace through the Vampire Clan negotiations, and in spite of those who have attacked emissaries of peace sent from, er, Lord Thingy, we have secured a lasting peace."
Details were sketchy in the rushed press conference late Saturday afternoon, but the Minister stated that all so-called Death Eaters would no longer react to those attacking the traditional Wizarding way of life. "Instead," Fudge stated, "we will have a committee headed by Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge, with Ambassador Glean participating, to address the issues You-Know-Who and his Traditionalist supporters seek to, er address."
This reporter asked the Minister if his remarks regarding interference with the negotiations and attacks on emissaries of You-Know-Who were referring to Harry Potter, the so-called Boy-Who-Lived. The minister refused to confirm or deny Potter's interference with peaceful negotiations."
Harry almost tore up the paper in disgust, but noticed a second article just below the fold on the front page.
Minister Fudge announced that to celebrate "Peace In Our Time," the Ministry is arranging for a special day for all of those families and students of Hogwarts coming to Diagon Alley to buy their school supplies.
Fudge declared, "Sunday, August 25th, will be a special day in the Wizarding world as we celebrate "Peace In Our Time." The Ministry will use Arithmantic Spell Crafters from the Department of Mysteries to expand the thoroughfares at Diagon Alley to promote a carnival atmosphere. We encourage booths of special entertainments and perhaps even a circus ride or two. The Ministry asks all of those planning to come to Diagon Alley for their start of school supplies to wait until that day."
Harry tore the paper to shreds. Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes and Phoenix Fashions had already purchased full-page ads in this edition of the Daily Prophet and smaller ads for each day this week. Had they known of this earlier they could have saved their money and bought bigger ads only for the next weekend.
Harry had planned to go to Diagon Alley and watch the shops from the back offices, coming out to help if, and only if, the best of all hopes happened, and the shops were swamped with customers and needed an extra hand.
Instead, Harry walked casually down the Alley from the main Apparation point, and noticed that the place seemed fairly empty. He made it to Phoenix Fashions and asked after everyone and what they thought of the news.
"Well I'm not displeased to have a few more days to prepare," Clarinda stated. "If we can have more clothes on the racks to sell, we'll realize more immediate income and more word of mouth than if we only have samples to peruse. And a down payment on advance orders is not as good as having the total sum from a regular purchase. There is nothing like trying on what you fancy and having it fitted to you right then and there."
Just as Harry walked into the back room to go to Weasleys', he heard the door slam shut and a rough voice address Clarinda rudely. "So, you bloody chit, no Potter around to save you. I'm going to mess you up and your ruddy store for not paying the M.I.D. like you should have." A small explosion followed his crude words.
It was Albus Jenkins of the Department of Magical Business Licensing and Fees. The thieving bureaucrat used his position in the Ministry to line his pockets with Galleons from Mages Importers and Distributors, Ltd., - known as the M.I.D. - the organization that offered shoddy goods at exorbitant prices and used fear and violence to enforce their stranglehold on Wizarding business owners.
The small explosion resulted from a spell Jenkins cast to destroy the call box to the Goblin Overseers Office - the organization Harry had hired to protect the two shops he had a financial and personal interest in.
As Jenkins raised his wand to wreak some other sort of havoc, Harry Apparated right in front of him and plucked the wand from the man's hand. Then Harry pushed his own wand into Jenkins' fleshy neck.
"I hope you have ten Galleons on you, Mr. Jenkins. That's the deposit we paid for that box. Pull out your purse with your left hand and place it on the counter, then dig out the coins. Do it slowly and I might not snap your wand."
Harry pushed his own wand deep into the man's neck.
"Whatever I may choose to do to you right now, I don't think you are in any position to stop me. Do as I tell you or I might cut off your left sleeve and see what we find tattooed on your skin."
"Hah! I'm no Death Eater," Jenkins protested.
"No, you just act like one - common thugs, all of you. No, instead of cutting off your sleeve, I'll just take you down to Gringotts. That box belongs to them; we only rent it. I'll let you explain why you destroyed goblin property. Better make it twenty Galleons to pay for the replacement." Harry had no idea if they bought, rented, or just had the call box there, but he decided Jenkins was going to pay in some way before he left the shop.
Jenkins paled momentarily when Harry mentioned the goblins and damaging their property, but the fear gave way to resignation as he slowly pulled his coin pouch from his robe and placed it on the counter as instructed. He carefully used one hand to withdraw twenty Galleons.
Harry lessened his wand's pressure on Jenkins' throat, and the wizard stumbled backwards towards the door. Harry followed the man and crowded him away from the door handle.
"Potter, you're in trouble now, threatening and robbing a Ministry official," Jenkins brayed.
"I doubt it, Mr. Jenkins. I have several witnesses here that saw you attack our property, heard you make threats, and begin to cast a spell on Miss Jordan here.
"And I, as a member of the Wizengamot, do hold a little sway with Magical Law Enforcement. I think I can persuade Madam Bones to request Veritaserum testimony from you, if you decide to press charges. I'll visit the Department of Magical Law Enforcement later today; then we'll be by to see you."
Harry sneered a very Snape-ish sneer and said, "Good day to you, sir. Do come again - in a hundred years or so." Then Harry opened the door for him and tossed his wand out onto the cobblestones, making sure to reverse the polarity of the wand core for good measure.
Jenkins glowered, but ran into the empty thoroughfare to retrieve his wand.
Harry closed the door and called, "Dobby."
"You called, Harry?"
"Yes, Dobby. Please go to the Goblin Overseers Office and inform them that our call box was destroyed by a Ministry thug that also moonlights for the M.I.D." Harry explained the rest to him and Dobby popped off.
Seconds after Dobby left, they heard Mazey, one of the seamswitchresses , screaming right outside the shop. She'd volunteered to run to Fortescue's for coffee and scones.
Through the shop window they could see Mazey on the ground, and under the Cruciatus Curse, which they just lifted.
Lee, who had just come in through the doorway connecting the shops, drew his wand, growling; he'd begun dating Mazey recently.
"No, Lee," Harry said. "You stay here and protect everyone else. They shouldn't be able to penetrate the wards without a significant effort, but stay here just in case. Dobby should be right back. Have him return to Gringotts for Overseer help. Meanwhile, shout for the Aurors through the Floo. I'll get Mazey."
Harry raised his hands and both wands snapped into place. Soundlessly he Disapparated out of the shop and right behind the two Death Eaters who were standing over Mazey, ready to torture her again.
Harry's first instinct was to use Reductors on them, but taking Dumbledore's request for moderation to heart, Harry cast simultaneous Stunners instead. The Death Eaters fell over, and Harry reached for Mazey. A significant crack echoed through the Alley as he Disapparated her back into the shop.
Harry looked out of the window and saw the stunned Death Eaters being released from the spell by their cohorts in crime. He raised his wand and silently Apparated to a position right in front of the shop.
"Surrender now, that was my last Stunner."
An unexpected event occurred next. Two Death Eaters Apparated to either side of him. Their Apparation cracks were very loud and close by, and as they were on either side of Harry, the distraction delayed his response. That was all the time they needed to snatch Harry's wands from his hands and Disapparate away.
The remaining pair of Death Eaters then cast simultaneous Cruciatus curses on him.
Inside the shop Lee moved to the door, but Mazey and Clarinda reminded him that opening the doors would lower the wards protecting them. Lee tried to Disapparate outside, but couldn't. When he asked no one in particular how Harry had exited that way, Clarinda speculated that Harry had had himself keyed to the wards.
In tremendous agony, Harry still managed to raise one hand towards his two attackers. A weak Cutting curse lazed out of Harry's hand, and hit the Death Eater's wand hand. The cut was not too bad, but the surprise of it combined with the pain caused that Death Eater to drop his wand. The other Death Eater looked at his co-torturer in surprise, and lowered his wand, releasing Harry from torment.
With a grunt, Harry reached across his battle vest and pulled from the Concealment charms two of his throwing knives. He held them out by the hilts as if to stab, not by the blades so he could throw them.
Harry simultaneously Disapparated from his lying position noisily. The two Death Eaters looked down to where he had been. To their surprise, Harry Apparated right in front of them and pushed the blades into their throats.
As they fell over, Harry was struck on his right thigh with a Cutting curse. It didn't cut all the way to the bone, but it did open a gash that bled freely. Harry fell to his right and leaned over grabbing his thigh, which probably saved his life. A Reducto missed him flying just where his head had been a fraction of a second before. Harry rolled away from another Crucio that landed where he had fallen. The blast from the Unforgivable blew stone shrapnel into the back of his head, which also began to bleed.
Harry came up out of his roll and raised his hands in front of him. He cast Protego just in time to deflect another Cutter and a Stunner. Then he Disapparated and re-appeared right behind one of his attackers with his Fairbairn knife already drawn. Harry stabbed the Death Eater in the back and through a lung, before he was hit by the edge of a Reductor spell on his right shoulder. Harry dropped the knife, his right arm useless.
He Disapparated again and was gone for several seconds. He reappeared right in front of one of the remaining Death Eaters holding the short stubby wand Harry kept in his right boot. The Cutting curse Harry wordlessly cast would have given Sir Nick another almost headless friend, if the Death Eater had become a ghost. Harry instinctively raised another Shield charm in time to interfere with a powerful Reductor.
Most of it dissipated against the Shield, but some of it came through and hit Harry in the chest, beating him to the ground and knocking the breath out of him. The triumphant Death Eater walked over to the young wizard, as Harry gasped for air while groping for his wand.
Harry rolled in a ball, protecting his face and ribs from further damage.
Bellatrix Lestrange pulled up her mask and said, "Potter, I engineered your defeat here. I'll take your life now, but I want to see your face as I do it."
She stepped up to him and with amazing strength she used her stiletto-heeled boot to kick at his feet, causing him to roll over onto his back to face her while he was still balled up.
As he rolled, Harry thrust forward with both of his legs that had been curled to his chest, aiming for her kneecaps.
Her scream resounded throughout Diagon Alley in a chilling echo of pain as both of her legs bent in the wrong direction. Bellatrix fell over and disappeared a second later.
The only Death Eaters left in the Alley were down and probably dead. Cursing his uselessness, Lee bolted through the dropping wards as he opened the shop doors and ran to Harry with Clarinda right behind him, tears in her eyes.
Aurors arrived at that moment, running from the Alley Apparation point.
Much can be said about Aurors arriving late to the scene of a fight, but in truth, they are often not to blame. Kingsley Shacklebolt led this group and he had no intention of arriving one second later than he could to help Harry. Aurors had protocols they were forced to follow - some wise and some ill conceived.
It is dangerous to Apparate right into a battle zone. An Auror doing so has a moment of disorientation when arriving. Only in line-of-sight-Apparation did one appear without that second of bewilderment. At that moment, the person appearing is an easy target for attackers. Unfortunately, Fudge signed a rule that Aurors must use the Diagon Alley Apparation Point and travel on foot to their appointed location of action. That added perhaps thirty seconds to their arrival in this particular instance.
From Harry asking Lee to Floo Auror HQ to the time Kingsley arrived was less than two minutes. Wizard firefights, at least Harry Potter's firefights, just didn't last that long.
Tonks ran to Harry's side and quickly applied Wound Closing spells to his deeper cuts. Harry was still gasping for air.
"Benson, establish a perimeter and begin questioning the witnesses," Kingsley ordered. "Flowers, take any Death Eater that lived through this to Holding and call a mediwizard. You know what to do with the dead. Tonks and I will Portkey Harry to St. Mungo's and I'll be back shortly."
"Wait," Harry spoke raggedly.
"Harry--" Tonks began with concern in her voice, but Harry raised his working left hand.
He took a rough deep breath, closed his eyes, and then called out, "Fawkes!"
The firebird flashed into sight and landed at Harry's right side. The majestic bird took in Harry's condition and leaned over to release a tear.
"No, Fawkes," Harry croaked. He took another pained breath and said quietly, "Someone took my wand, the one with your feather in it. Can you... is it possible for you to sense it and retrieve it for me? No worries if you can't, or if it's too dangerous--"
Fawkes disappeared in a burst of flame.
No one spoke for a while, and then Kingsley cleared his throat and said, "Well... all right then. Yes," he finally said decisively. "You all have your assignments. Now, Harry, if Fawkes finds your wand I'm sure he will--"
Another fiery intrusion erupted above them and Fawkes circled to land next to Harry once more. He held out a talon holding the wand in question. As the bird released his catch, three bloody fingers, apparently recently torn from a hand, fell to the ground.
"Thank you, Fawkes," Harry said weakly.
The bird trilled and all of those present felt a thrill run through them. Fawkes then proceeded to drip tears on several of Harry's deeper cuts that Tonks had just field dressed.
Harry grabbed his wand and said, "I don't know if Aurors use finger prints, blood samples, or any other test that might identify who those belong to, but at least tell St. Mungo's Patient Admitting to call you if someone comes in missing those three fingers."
Harry nodded at his wand and the blood vanished. He tossed it around to bring the handle towards him. Before it landed in his grasp the wand retracted into his wand holster.
Harry then passed out.
The sound of a door opening and the accompanying change in pressure in the room awoke Harry. He kept his eyes closed, and took stock of his condition. He hurt but it wasn't too bad. Harry remembered why he was here, and then realized a soft hand was holding his.
"Any changes, dear?" Harry heard Mrs. Weasley whisper.
"No, Mum," Ginny responded. The nearness of her voice told Harry it was Ginny holding his hand.
"I'm awake," he said in a croaky voice.
"Hello, Harry," Ginny said as she dropped his hand. "Can I help you sit up for some water? How do you feel?"
"I think I can sit up by myself, but have a pillow ready, please."
"Are you hungry, Harry dear?"
"No... well, actually I am a bit, thanks just the same, Molly. How long have I been here, and when can I leave?"
"You were under the Cruciatus, Harry dear, and thanks for feeling free to call me Molly. Surely you have the nerve pain and shakes from the curse?"
Harry looked at the ceiling for a moment. "No, just a bit of a headache from bouncing around on the cobblestones, and a few sore places where I was cut or beat on, but I've felt worse after Quidditch practice. They must have been new Death Eaters, their Crucios weren't that bad."
"Lee told us one of them was Bellatrix Lestrange."
"Yeah," Harry responded looking at his hands. "She must be losing her touch, or I'm getting used to torture." He shivered. "That's a talent I could do without."
"Lee told us you severely damaged Bella's legs. Is that true?" Ginny asked with a smile on her face. She knew that stories about Harry tended to be either wild fabrications or gross understatements.
Harry chuckled tiredly. "Yes, did he tell you the circumstances?"
"No. Her back was to the shop and no one saw what you actually did."
"I was down, and had just lost my third wand. I had also lost my Fairbairn. Oh, did some one pick it up for me, and my short boot wand?"
"They're here with your main wand, Harry," Ginny assured him. She pointed to Harry's wand holster where he could see it on the table by the bed and his holly and phoenix feather wand beside it so he could reach it without bothering with the holster.
"I was down and weaponless," Harry stated. "I didn't think about the other throwing knives I had, and I couldn't easily reach the wand at my back. I have to do something about that.
"Well, I'd had the breath knocked out of me and was balled up like a baby. Bellatrix said she was going to kill me, and I was gathering my strength to Disapparate away just as she started the Killing Curse. However, when she used her boot to kick me over so I'd be facing her when she killed me, I saw my chance and slammed my legs forward and hit Bellatrix in both kneecaps. Her legs folded in the wrong direction. She may not walk right again if she doesn't find proper medical care. Now that would be a crying shame, wouldn't it?" Harry grinned at them.
"As much harm as we can do with a wand, one should not underestimate the satisfaction of physical violence, or so Arthur says," Molly stated with a sigh of resignation. "That was close, Harry, too close."
"In part I blame Dumbledore," Harry said. "No, that's not fair to him really. I should blame myself for being stupid enough to listen to him."
He then went on to tell of how and why he'd attempted to only stun the first two who had tortured Mazey, when his first inclination had been to do them real, perhaps permanent harm. Although he might have been injured even if the first two had stayed down, Harry theorized that the fighting style he'd developed lately would have kept him moving right after the two had Disapparated with his wands, and he probably would have escaped most, if not all of the damage.
"But," Harry said with a sigh, "that's all speculation. I am what I am and where I am and that's that. Just, no more trying to capture Death Eaters without harming them. If they hurt someone, then the best they can expect from me is to be maimed at least enough to put them out of the fight. Five seconds after I Stunned those first two, they were back in action and ready to do harm."
"Dumbledore was here, Harry," Ginny said. "He told us of your conversation. I was about to hex him, but then he said that he had a long conversation with Dobby and now he believes you've only... how'd he say it? Oh, 'you've only put on a cold, uncaring face to keep yourself from breaking down during a fight.' But inside he said, 'you're still our caring Harry.' I'm still not happy with the way he treats you sometimes, but..."
"Now, Ginny," Molly said. "Albus Dumbledore..."
"Albus Dumbledore," Harry interrupted gently, "is a great man with feet of clay. He makes mistakes like we all do. He and I have discussed this over the summer. I give him the benefit of the doubt, and I hope others will do the same for me." "I'm not sure what your conversation was about, Harry," Ginny continued, "But Professor McGonagall was shocked to hear him say what he said."
"McGonagall was here too?" Not waiting for an answer, Harry went on with a smile, "And how about that Dobby? I can only imagine what he said to Dumbledore, but my little elf won't stand for anyone messing with his Harry Potter."
"You sound like he owns you, not the other way around," Molly observed.
"It's my belief, that that is truly the nature of the bond, not the master/elf relationship wizards and witches settle for. When I say, 'my elf' it should mean the same thing as when someone says, 'my brother', or 'my wife, or 'my father.' You don't own the other, you belong to the other and they belong to you. That's what Dobby, Winky, and I have, and I'm all the better for it."
After several moments of silence, Harry asked, "How long have I been out?"
"Eight hours or so - it's late afternoon- but since it's Sunday, no one's working except those in Diagon Alley. Fred and George, and all of the people at Phoenix Fashions sent Clarinda to check on you. She left an hour ago or so. Ron and Hermione came by here as well and left then also. The mediwitch said you've been unconscious because of the potions they gave you, not because of your injuries.
"When can I leave here?"
Ginny smiled broadly. "Who would have ever guessed you'd ask such a question?"
Harry left a half hour later with several potions in Dobby's possession, and the house-elf agreeing to look after his master as well as possible.
The week leading up to Fudge's Peace Day in Diagon Alley was packed with events. However, in spite of the ballyhoo or perhaps because of it, the days crawled by. Harry acted bored while Fudge crowed about his "peace in our time" in the Tuesday Wizengamot session. The Minister had asked that standard protocol be suspended and that he be allowed to explain the peace negotiations even before the opening of the session.
Harry had arrived just at the start time and could not check with Mr. Ledbetter to see who held the Hagrid family Right to Rule. Mr. Smith didn't know, and neither did anyone of the family heads or proxies who had joined Smith and Harry in their corner. The count of those openly siding with the two had risen to eight wizards and three witches, representing twenty four votes in addition to Harry's twenty six and Smith's seventeen.
A quickly whispered survey as Fudge pontificated on about his peace with Voldemort showed that none of those in the Smith/Potter corner claimed the Hagrid vote.
Smith counseled quietly, "Harry, it would be best to wait and confirm that you do not take that vote from an ally or even a neutral."
"I promised Hagrid I'd take it from that family, whoever it is, even an ally. If it is a friend, I'll return a proxy to them."
"Well, wait until next session so you can make your claim without upsetting anyone."
"We'll see. Fudge is entirely too pompous with this peace treaty of his."
"Calm, Harry, remain calm."
Harry said nothing in reply. Smith sighed and turned back to Fudge and his self-aggrandizing verbosity.
Eventually Fudge came to an end, saying, "And so, in conclusion, Ambassador Glean and I were able to forge this peace with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his Traditionalist supporters."
Fudge hesitated, looked down at Harry, sneered, and added, "A peace we were able to create in spite of the best efforts of Harry Potter to spoil this accord."
Fudge sat down, and Harry immediately rose to his feet and addressed the assembly.
"I claim the right to comment on our Minister's self-congratulatory gloating, since I was mentioned directly--and insulted--in his boastings."
Florence Sheets interrupted him, shouting, "You're out of order, Potter, you didn't ask the Acting Chief Warlock for permission to speak."
Boaz Brownlea rose and said, "Mister Potter may speak since Mister Fudge insisted on speaking before the session was called to order, Madame Sheets." Brownlea used the customary pronunciation of the titles. "It is only proper that Mister Potter be given the right to respond after such charges. The only one out of order is you since you did not accord our youngest member his proper honorific. I've warned you before. Once more and Mister Potter will have the right to respond in kind." He turned back to Harry. "Please proceed briefly, Mister Potter."
"Thank you, Chief Warlock. I have little of the skill our esteemed Minister possesses of taking a great deal of time to say very little." Many chuckles were heard around the room. "But I'd like clarification about exactly how I interfered with the Minister's negotiations with murdering terrorists for this very questionable peace treaty. Was it when I saved the treaty with the vampires, as the governments of seven countries participating in that convocation said I did? You remember, the very same peace treaty for which our Minister and this august body rewarded Ambassador Glean an Order of Merlin. It cannot be that event of which you speak when you say I tried to spoil your chances of peace in our time, unless you and the good ambassador were hoping to start a war with the vampires as a means of providing Voldemort with more deadly allies.
"Oh, I know, perhaps the good Minister wishes that I had not defended Messers. Smith, Tiller, Bread, and myself on the occasions when Death Eaters tried to kill us. So, other than defending myself and others from unprovoked attacks and saving a peace treaty, how have I jeopardized this dubious peace in our time?"
Harry paused here, but no one responded other than to smile or stare daggers at him.
Harry continued, "I call it a dubious and questionable peace for the simple reason that I cannot imagine it will last a month. As a matter of fact, I'd wager a vote in the Wizengamot that Voldemort will break this peace by the end of September."
"Potter, how dare you hold this esteemed body in derision by gambling with a Family Right to Rule," Florence Sheets spat.
"Oh, I am in good company when I do so, Madam. Your father, Creadmore Sheets, gambled away two votes and wagered to win three others for your family throughout his long years serving on the Wizengamot. I thought my bet followed an established precedent you'd appreciate."
Harry smirked at her, before saying, "But I appreciate your concern for my vote count. I'll discuss this further after we're in session."
Brownlea called the Wizengamot to order and soon Harry had the floor again to bring a procedural change.
"I have in my possession a writ of sale for a Three-Thirty-Three Family Right to Rule. Its current bona fides have been confirmed by solicitors, and I'll sign it now in the presence of our Clerk Mr. Ledbetter after he's examined it, so he may verify it and see to passing that vote into my possession if he and the Chamber approve my purchase."
Harry walked to Ledbetter's table and presented the document. There was silence, as was appropriate during such a time, but soon Dolores Umbridge broke decorum and shouted, "What family will you swindle for their Right to Rule, Potter?"
Harry smiled. "Come now, Madame Umbridge, you prove yourself uncouth by not following protocol. Considering how you rejoiced when Madame Sheets took one of my votes," Harry sniffed dramatically, his nose pointed skyward. "Do I smell hypocrisy in the air?"
Harry smiled at what he felt was a well-worded retort to an out of order insult. He remembered at that moment Umbridge's hatred for all half-creatures as she called centaurs and half-giants. He decided to tweak her displeasure a bit more.
"I'll have you know, Madame Umbridge, I have taken charge of the Potter Educational Fund and found Rubeus Hagrid was a Potter Fund student while at Hogwarts. As he was cleared of the charges that expelled him in 1943, he has now resumed his education. I've taken him to buy a new wand, and by the way, he produced a noticeable stream of golden and red sparks." The gasps around the room and Umbridge's eyes becoming wide showed Harry that the meaning of the quantity and color of sparks did not go unnoticed. "Seeing your magical abilities last year at school, Madame, I dare say you cannot produce an appreciable amounts of sparks of any color.
"But back to Hagrid. Because of his educational status in relationship to my family, I am taking an interest in Hagrid's training and hope to see him pass a number of O.W.L. exams in the near future, which will discharge my duties as Protector of one of my magical charges."
An even louder surge of gasps and exclamations of disbelief greeted his last words, and Harry made a mental note to determine just how he'd stepped in it again with this declaration.
"Chief Warlock," Mr. Ledbetter chose that momentary pause to gain the attention of the assembly. "I have reviewed his document. It is legally and appropriately written. I find no fault with its form or provisions. You only need Mister Potter to sign it in our presence to discover if the magic of this Chamber accepts it and makes the transfer. Of course, if it does, the Hagrid family ensigns must be forwarded to Mister Potter in the specified time period."
When Ledbetter mentioned the name Hagrid as the actual family vote in question, Cranford Boom, a crony of the Fudge/Sheets/Umbridge Triumvirate sharply inhaled. Harry, and any number of the rest of those assembled in the room, noticed his actions. The current holder of that Right to Rule had identified himself, and Harry inwardly sighed in relief that he wouldn't be taking a vote from an ally or neutral he'd hope to sway to his faction.
Harry approached the Clerk's Table. He heard Fudge trying to gain the Acting Chief Warlock's attention, but Brownlea gaveled him down. With his signature, Harry heard the melodious gonging sound of an accepted change of a vote from one member of the Wizengamot to another.
Cranford Boom now had three votes instead of four, and Harry had another enemy.
When that day's assembly ended, Harry turned to Smith immediately upon stepping out of chambers and passing his Wizengamot robes to Dobby. While he casually shrank his hair back from below his shoulders to its usual messy length, he turned to his group of allies and asked, "What did I do this time when I stated I was Hagrid's Protector?"
Several of his newer allies gawked at his hair changes, but Isaiah Smith, Harry mentor in the Wizengamot, was the one who spoke.
"Harry, the Potter Educational Fund charter, like most older charitable charters, becomes deeply involved in the lives of its recipients. Your charter states that those receiving your largesse are your magical charges, but it specifically does not declare you Pater Protector. As Pater Protector you bring Hagrid, and by extension all of the Potter Fund students, into your family to a degree. They have a right to lay claim to some of your estate should you die without a will, for example." Smith paused, but obviously intended to go on.
Harry interrupted, "But, sir, I didn't say Pater Protector. I used only the title Protector. I believe I can claim the role of Patron Protector, but didn't say that because I'm not entirely sure yet what all that title entails. By not claiming a specific Protector role, I can state that I mean protector-with-a-small-'p' of my magical charges. The Fund charter does say that a magical charge may ask the Potter family for protection."
That explanation brought reflective silence from the small group surrounding Harry. Smith had walked the group of allies to one of the several smaller rooms near the Wizengamot chamber. It was there for such meetings. With Harry's words, Smith pulled his wand and shut the door, casting Sealing and Silencing charms on the entire room.
Almost all of the allies now in the Smith/Potter right hand corner of the Wizengamot chamber were there. Only Mazelina Abbott, Hannah's grandmother, Bartholomew Sigridsen, and Walter Graycloth had pressing matters and had left after closing the session. Bread and Tiller were there, as well as Tiberius Ogden, Mildred Allenton, Trent Macmillan, Dennis Fox, and Fordwin Keels. But it was the eldest member of the Wizengamot, Griselda Marchbanks who spoke next.
"Isaiah, you've led from the right hand corner ever since Benedict Potter died. Do you trust all of us present, or do we need to invoke a magical pledge from each?"
Smith looked at each one in the eyes. He did not linger on any one in particular, but Fordwin Keels spoke. "I have voted on occasion with Fudge and company. I may in the future, but only when I truly agree with the issue, not as a part of their cabal. But please, allow me."
He drew his wand, held it over his heart, and said, "I pledge to keep all said here today privy to only those present, and with those Isaiah Smith includes in the future. So mote it be." He placed his wand back in his robes and said, "Sorry, Harry, Isaiah knows better whom to include ; I mean no slight in not mentioning your name as well." "I have no qualms with your pledge, sir," Harry said. "Remember, in less than a fortnight I return to Hogwarts and my votes will be held in proxy."
Quickly, all there gave similar pledges to Smith. Harry did not do so, and he realized later this was because he was the prime mover right after Mr. Smith in the right hand corner of the chamber.
"Now," Smith said, "Madam Marchbanks, you were about to speak, I believe."
"Thank you, Isaiah. Mr. Potter, why do you believe you have the right to claim Patron Protector? The Potter Educational Fund only supports twenty-four students. You do not have the numbers for that title."
"I have expanded the fund's endowment. Oh, and please call me Harry, all of you. I now have thirty-four students, thirty-five if you include Rubeus Hagrid, which I believe it does, since the charter of the Fund states I am responsible for my charges until they take their O.W.L.s or leave Hogwarts as students, which ever comes last. Oh, and my advisor for the Fund at Gringotts told me there are two other students that we should subscribe this week.
"That number takes me over the required thirty three magical charges so that I may claim Patron Protector status, and if I understand that role, it is not like family, but more like a liege lord without claiming my charges as vassals. Sixteen of the Potter students are Muggleborn, and only three of the remaining students are purebloods, though one we'll enroll this week is a pureblood and newly orphaned as of this summer. I'm looking for ways to extend protection to all of these and others, and I'm willing to put my Galleons into it to see it done proper. But I need your guidance and advice, all of you."
Most were stunned at first, but many smiles appeared shortly.
Alexius Tiller, said, "Well done, Harry. You're Benedict's grandson for your principles, but I've never heard of any Potter as willing to pay such a serious price to back his words, and I mean no insult to the Potters coming before you. They were always much more generous than most."
"Yes, well done, Harry, so far," said Marchbanks, "but are you ready to go to the logical conclusion? As Patron Protector, you not only offer protection, you need to commit funds to your House Guard. That requires ongoing funding for training, equipping, and salaries. Where do you propose to find those who will make up such a cadre?"
Harry looked at her, then glanced at all those present. He stared at his hands and finally said, "I've set nothing into motion as of yet, but only studied the matter." He sighed, straightened his shoulders and continued, "I plan to commit one million Galleons to do what you describe."
Several gasped and most looked amazed.
"I figure, money is only worth what you do with it," he continued. "I grew up with nothing, and only found out this summer that I am wealthy. If I contribute half of what I have to this effort I'll still be richer than I ever dreamed, so if I spend it and make people safe, so be it."
He lowered his eyes to his hands, and spoke in a lower tone. "Most of you don't know this, but because of this curse scar, I sometimes have nightmares where I actually see Voldemort and Death Eaters killing people. I've learned Occlumency, but sometimes I still see what goes on. Each death kills me a little, and I'll not have it if there's any way to stop it. I'd give every Knut I have if it would stop it, but... that's foolish even to say, because it's a vain pretension. This... this House Guard idea... that can do some good. I'm open to suggestions about whom to recruit and how to go about it."
Several had ideas and a few said they knew of individuals experienced in the dueling championships or an ex-Auror to join the guard. Harry had thought about former Aurors, knowing the Fudge administration had fired a number of them over the years. Harry figured any Auror Fudge didn't like probably was just the person he'd wanted.
Griselda Marchbanks cleared her throat, bringing the group's attention back to her. "That is commendable and I applaud you, Harry, but you open up opportunity and danger if you assume the role of Patron Protector. The Pater laws are from the Old Ways, grandfathered in at the founding of the Wizengamot. They go on for scrolls about the father and his role as head of the household. Pater Protector is the vast majority of those edicts included in the Old Way rules. Most Three-Thirty-Three family heads know them well because of the inheritance laws Isaiah first mentioned to you. I ask all of you, how many of you have read the Patron Protector Codicil to the Pater laws?"
Only Isaiah Smith, Darance Bread, and Tiberius Ogden raised their hands.
Marchbanks said, "It's all from the Old Ways. When you begin to work with the Old Ways, you open up great opportunity and leeway. You can literally raise armies, loyal only to the Muggle Crown above yourself. That is a part of the Old Ways. They are a blending of laws with the Muggle nobility and royals of the time.
"However," the old educator paused for effect as any good teacher would. She had a look of fear in her eyes as she continued. "If you go to the Old Ways, you expose yourself if you aren't very careful regarding the reasons the Founding Three-Thirty-Three families first chartered the Magicae Magna Carta. It was a barbaric time. Families could lose all of their lands and submit all family members to serfdom and near lifetime indenture on the outcome of a duel fought in the heat of emotions.
"I have many of the scrolls on the Old Ways, and will make a copy for each of you so you can see the pertinent passages." She looked Harry deeply in the eyes and continued, "I am sure your House Guard will open no cause for worry to you, as long as they are circumspect in their actions. But, Mr. Potter, for Harry will not do for a Patron Protector... you, Mr. Potter, need to know where you are headed with these steps."
Harry looked at her seriously as he nodded his head to acknowledge her admonishments. He kept a straight face, but inside he delighted in the possibilities.
Oh, the ignorant bliss of enthusiastic youth.
On Thursday August 22nd, Harry fought Fudge and company in the Wizengamot alongside the growing faction he and Mr. Smith were gathering around themselves. Smith was very excited when Clarence Spinnaker moved to their side of the room. The wizard held four votes, but he felt required to vote one proxy vote basically in line with the Fudge faction, with few exceptions possible. He held that vote for his cousin, Blake Roper, who was infirm with Wizarding gout. Smith assured Harry that Clarence was trustworthy, but he chose the honorable path and voted as his cousin would like, which added to why Smith trusted him.
The most exciting aspect about Spinnaker was that he was very good friends with Tilden Farmer, who controlled thirteen votes. Farmer generally voted in line with the Smith/Potter faction, but hesitated in joining that side of the room. Spinnaker's presence made that more likely in the near future.
Smith, Harry,, and company spent the day stopping Fudge from awarding himself accolades for a peace that was only days old and unproven. Umbridge pointed out that no Traditionalists had attacked the usurping Muggleborns or Halfbloods who didn't know their places.
Walter Graycloth, a quiet but eloquent man on the rare occasions when he did speak, pointed out that if Voldemort and his Death Eater terrorists did have nefarious plans for this peace ruse, they wouldn't jeopardize it with small attacks. All begrudgingly accepted the stellar logic of his statement, and Smith winked at Harry when the younger wizard looked to his mentor with appreciation.
Harry became more confident that he could leave the Wizengamot for school and not fear his efforts of the summer in that assembly would be for naught.
Harry met with Bill Weasley several times during the week leading up to Peace Day, finalizing enrollment of Potter Fund students and certain other financial matters.
"Now to business," Harry said. "I want you to invest in the Muggle corporation Apple Computer. I've recently seen their technology and found out they have a number of Squibs as well as a few wizards involved in their research and development. I think we should invest significantly in such joint magical/Muggle technology companies, if we can find them. And ask Gultangk if he or any of his faction or clique would like to join me in this."
Bill smiled. "I've informed the Director that you wish to offer goblins participation in any Muggle investments you make. He is delighted, and let me know he has made great gains in the struggle within the goblin business community regarding your relationship.
"The Gringotts branch bank in San Francisco, I believe it is, has a few goblins watching Muggle technology. I don't doubt Gultangk will arrange very favorable fees for their consulting, since he will participate with you."
"Great. You know my intentions and the limits we discussed. Use your skills and protocols to invest as carefully or aggressively as you wish. I tend to lean more toward aggressive, because this technology should only grow in the future. Look for new trends, and place whatever percentage you think appropriate in speculative areas that could really pay off."
Bill smiled. "You spoil me, Harry. The other advisors, all goblins, think you're giving me such leeway because I'm human and not a goblin. Gultangk was quick to disabuse them of that notion. Now they just envy me, which is a respected goblin emotion."
There conversation turned to developing the Potter House Guard.
While training the British Aurors in the use of Thunderfire a few weeks earlier, Harry had learned that Fudge had fired Senior Auror Bentley Johnson and Auror Samuel Freezemore. The pair had not only escorted Harry and Dumbledore to the vampire negotiations under Amelia Bones' orders, but they had also stood by Harry at Pont du Hoc, stopping the Aurors loyal to Fudge from attacking the vampires. For that action, Fudge had sacked them.
Harry explained as much to Bill and added, "I'd like you to approach those two about joining the Potter House Guard. As a Senior Auror, Johnson should be able to help in founding the Guard properly. They also probably know other former Aurors who might want to join us."
"Former Aurors will be expensive, Harry," Bill pointed out. "There are wizards and witches who are skilled in fighting, that we could hire for less. Paying for equipment and even training is one thing, but ongoing salaries is another."
"I know, Bill, and we may want to hire some of those less expensive types to fill the ranks, but Johnson and Freezemore have already proven themselves loyal to my way of doing things. That's worth a lot. Also, we need the best at the top, to make sure those not as well trained are brought up to standard. We want lawful action, not hooliganism. The Daily Prophet will attempt to smear our every act simply to accommodate Fudge. We need to be above reproach."
Bill looked a little concerned, and Harry asked what was bothering him.
"You know I'm dating Dorey, er, Tonks, don't you?"
"Ooh! Can I call her Dorey?"
"Only if you don't value all your body parts, Harry," Bill said with a smirk. "Tonks is extremely frustrated by all of the restrictions Fudge and Umbridge have placed on the Auror Corps. Bones is trying to fight them, but with very limited success. The Auror requirement to only Apparate to Diagon Alley at the Apparation point is one example you are all too familiar with. Magical Law Enforcement has detection equipment in large magical areas to let them know when something happens. They don't want to Apparate into the middle of a spellfight, but they should be allowed to arrive closer to the action if it's well away from the Apparation point.
"The Aurors were too late to help in your fight in front of the shops, Harry, because of that very rule. I know that Tonks hates those types of restrictions , but I wonder if these former Aurors will insist on continuing to observe the Auror Corp regulations."
"Good question, Bill. When you interview former Aurors,, particularly Johnson, who I think might make a good Captain of the Guard, feel them out on the subject. I want us to be unquestionably legal, but we have to do better than current reaction times.
"Also, ask for their ideas on different types of spells they'd like to use, or think would be handy that they don't have now. If Hermione and some of the Ravenclaws can't find the spells they need, maybe I can Monger them. Such new spells might also help with the Practical Defense courses I'm teaching this year."
Harry and Bill spent the next few minutes discussing that new course before parting.
As Sunday approached, Harry helped out when and where he could with Phoenix Fashions and Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes. There was little he could actually do, but he was there, to his partners' delight.
Not all shoppers postponed their buying until Peace Day. Both shops had customers every day, and if the week's business was indicative of the future, Phoenix Fashions would be as popular as they had hoped.
Some say it's all right to be paranoid, if the whole world is out to attack you. In anticipation of Voldemort and the Death Eaters breaking the peace agreement, Harry, Clarinda, and the twins paid Gringotts Overseer Services to erect Outer Rampart wards.
When activated, the Outer Rampart wards would snap visible gates into place in front of the shops in a matter of seconds, and goblin Overseers would tumble out of the Floo, ready to meet any potential threat. Friendlies only fleeing a spellfight outside could run through the warded doors for protection, but only those keyed to the wards could leave.
On Tuesday while Harry endured Fudge's crowing about "Peace in Our Time" in the Wizengamot, The Quibbler finally published Harry's article on Shielding spells. The article had been completed, but Harry suggested, and Sol Lovegood agreed, that Harry write an addendum that discussed the Shield charm variation, Protego Amplexus. That particular charm could add shielding to a wall or any other barrier, and, if the caster was strong enough, it could erect a Barrier Shield Wall without anything material to anchor it.
In the spring, the Rita Skeeter article on Harry in The Quibbler had been the most popular edition in the tabloid's history. Sol Lovegood had been forced to reprint it three times to meet demand, and new subscriptions poured in as a result. After the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, when the Daily Prophet ran the very same article word for word, the news was quickly spread by all of those who knew, that The Quibbler had run the story over a month before. Subscriber levels skyrocketed again.
When The Quibbler ran Harry's article on how to cast the Patronus charm in early summer, demand increased yet again, causing news outlets to carry more copies of the monthly. New subscriptions flooded the owl post delivery window, particularly after the DA members had used the Patronus to drive away dementors so effectively at points all over Great Britain.
For the release of the issue with Harry's article on Shield charms, Sol Lovegood used a promotional technique he'd seen at a Muggle newsstand in King's Cross Station. He printed posters declaring a new Harry Potter instructional feature was in the current issue, and he gave copies of the poster out to all news outlets where The Quibbler was sold. He even attracted new outlets by telling potential vendors such an article was coming, and citing sales figures for previous issues including stories about and/or by the Boy-Who-Lived.
When Harry left the Wizengamot that day, he went straight back to St. Simon's. Regular Owlposts addressed to Harry from unknown sources were being directed to Hogwarts this summer, not the abbey. That combined with The Quibbler's flexible publication schedule meant that Harry didn't realize the issue was out until the next morning, when Dobby asked him what he and Winky should do with the hundreds of posts still arriving at the school for him.
Sunday, August 25th, 1996
The Daily Prophet heralded Cornelius Fudge as if he'd defeated Voldemort himself, Harry thought in disgust. He also noticed that there was no mention of what Fudge had offered Tom and the Death Eaters in the negotiations. Also conspicuously absent were any mentions of guarantees or penalties or assurances that peace had indeed come to magical Britain.
Oh, there were loads of quotations from Fudge, and a number of pictures of the man attempting to look regal, wise, and anything else the wizard photographers could pose or retouch. And of course there were a number of snide remarks aimed at Harry Potter, even several that mentioned him by name - all attempting to smear him for nearly preventing peace, though there was no mention of anything in particular he had done to try to stop it.
The Daily Prophet walked a fine line in exactly what it said about the youngest member of the Wizengamot. The news rag had been very circumspect ever since the day Isaiah Smith had confronted the publisher Barnabas Cuffe, and reminded him what might occur if the paper slandered a Wizengamot member. From that point on, nothing bad was ever written as an opinion of the paper about Harry, but they quoted anyone and everyone who said anything insulting about the young wizard.
Harry had tried to buy the paper; not knowing how much it would cost, but asked the goblins to make inquiry anyway. Their request on his behalf was rudely rebuffed. The owner's name--or names--weren't even available.
That Sunday, "Peace Day," the Weasley twins and Clarinda Jordan told Harry there was no reason for him to help behind the counter. Fred and George asked him to go out and walk around instead, and then come back into shops to see if he could draw a crowd. Harry laughed at the joke, but it turned out it was no joke. Clarinda asked him to do the same, and she'd never kid Harry like that.
Traffic was light in both shops at the usual opening time of 10:00, but within an hour the crowds were already as large as Fred and George had projected they would by mid-afternoon, the busiest time of day. Harry was surprised to see Luna Lovegood and Millicent Bulstrode helping Lee, Fred, and George at the prank emporium. The two witches knew well their way around the shop and how to explain the wares. Luna was all business and only stared dreamily at people who couldn't make up their minds as to what to purchase.
Millicent was surprisingly friendly and solicitous of the needs of potential patrons of Weasleys'. The witch had lost all of her relatives in a Death Eater attack on their family farm early in the summer. The Bulstrodes were all Slytherins and long-time Voldemort supporters, but it had come to the Dark Lord's attention that the family had a Muggle living in their home - Millicent's maternal grandmother. The family had passed her off as a near Squib for decades, but once that was revealed to be a lie, the family was killed. Millicent had survived because she was visiting with Pansy Parkinson, listening to the offer to join the Paladin Program.
Millicent had turned the offer down during that meeting, but after returning home to death and destruction, she had promptly volunteered to be a Paladin. According to Remus, Millicent had work harder than any other student he'd helped with their studies to qualify for the program. Millicent had asked to meet with Harry, and in that meeting has sworn a Witch's Pledge to train hard and fight by Harry's side in the battles to come. Harry counted her as an ally of the first order, and looked to her to sort through her house to find those who were for the Light and those who weren't. Harry had rejected the notion that Slytherins were all bad, and he and Ron were known to debate the matter heatedly from time to time.
There was one visibly obvious aspect about Millicent and the Paladin Program - the exercises and proper diet had done her a world of good. She was now rubenesque as opposed to fat, and she smiled most of the time instead of frowning. Millicent was a different person to look at and be around.
Even though the ads in the Daily Prophet and The Quibbler had featured Harry and Fleur Delacour wearing Clarinda's fashions, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Lavender Brown were modeling her designs that day. Justin had supplied Clarinda's shop with cloth, thread, and accessories, and the classically handsome, dark haired Muggleborn seemed to know just how to walk, turn, and show the outfits to their best advantage. Lavender was not as poised a model as Justin, but she was strikingly gorgeous after the affects of the physical maturations of the Paladin Acceleration potions. She had been beautiful and tall for her age the first day she'd set foot on the Hogwarts Express, but now Lavender was a breathtaking goddess of blonde curls and devastating curves.
There was a small but prominent display of Ginny's StudyBooks off to one side. There was a looping demonstration of how it worked, charmed into the table so students could see all the different features in about a minute. The StudyBooks were available at the counter and at Scrivenshaft's Stationers.
There was also a sign telling parents that professional versions of the StudyBook were available only at the stationers. Listed ProStudyBooks were:
Ministry Official: PlanningBook
Potions Master: GuideBook
Bank Official: GoldBook
Professional Quidditch Coach/Player: PlayBook
Dark Lord/Death Eater: EvilBook
The last book name was neatly printed by hand by one of the twins. Ginny and Harry thought it was hysterical and agreed to make a mockup version of the EvilBook for display as well.
It was lunchtime, and Hermione, Ginny, and Ron came into the back of the shop where Harry was overseeing Winky setting up food for all the workers for both shops - like Winky needed supervision. They ate and chatted about what they wanted to see after their meal.
Harry had kept Hedwig busy all week, delivering messages to almost all of the Potter Fund Student families, asking to meet them today. He'd not sent one to the Weasleys simply out of a desire to spare Ron's pride. The notes were addressed to the parents instead of the students. In addition to requesting a meeting, Harry told the parents that if their child didn't know about the scholarship, to please let him know by return post so that he could avoid saying anything to cause hurt feelings or break confidences. The exception to this was Millicent, who was a new Potter Fund student because of her parents' deaths.
It sort of surprised Harry when all of the parents responded that their children already knew that the Potter Fund was paying their tuition. Evidently none of his schoolmates had said anything about it to Harry because he wasn't managing the fund before. In fact the Creeveys' Muggle father wrote that he had told his boys it wasn't polite to bring up such financial matters with Harry, because it might embarrass him. He went on to add that his boys felt only gratitude and no sense of shame that they'd needed assistance. It did explain, at least in part, their fascination with Harry. But the pair had toned down their Harry-worship during the DA sessions the year before.
Mr. Creevey joined his two sons for the "Peace Day" festivities, and was delighted to finally meet the great Harry Potter. Harry hated the man's excessive gratitude, but it amused him to see the two young Creeveys cringe at their father's ravings.
Harry had Dobby and Winky arrange portable meals for the shops with Warming or Cooling charms on the food as needed. The workers had planned to work straight through, so they appreciated the sandwiches, chips, crisps, fruit, biscuits, and variety of drinks.
Shortly after lunch, a young witch he only barely recognized approached Harry. Hermione had dragged Ron off to Flourish and Blotts, and Ginny and Harry were on a mission to Quality Quidditch Supply. He felt like he should know the girl coming toward him, seeming bent on dragging her little sister and mother to meet Harry.
"Orla Quirke," Ginny whispered, as if she were reading his mind. "Rising third year Ravenclaw. She and Dennis are friends."
"And a Potter Fund Student," Harry stated quietly in return.
"Hello, Orla," Harry said. The young witch was both pleased and surprised at his recognition. That very moment, Harry decided to apply his Occlumency-inspired memory skills to memorizing the names to go with the faces he readily remembered.
"Hello, Harry," Orla said, beaming and blushing a little at him. "May I introduce my mum, Amanda Quirke--"
Orla's little sister tugged almost violently at Orla's arm to be introduced as well. The young witch looked peeved, but a throat clearing from her mother settled the matter.
"And this is my sister, Patience, but she's anything but."
Patience moved forward with a determined look, and said, "I'm Patty, and I'm a witch, too." She stomped her foot at the last declaration.
"Patience, behave yourself," her mother said. "I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, I don't know what's bitten her today, she's in a mood. She did just have her first case of accidental magic, and Orla wrote off to confirm it with Hogwarts that Patience is on the list. She just doesn't understand that she can't have a wand and go to Hogwarts next Sunday as well."
Harry told Mrs. Quirke, "Please call me Harry." Then he knelt to face Patience and asked, "So you're a witch too, huh? Well, what did you do to prove it, Patty?"
Patty took half a step back when Harry knelt down to address her, but then stepped back forward boldly, and said a little more civilly, "I broke a tea cup. I couldn't reach it and I just stared at it and it shattered." Harry smiled. "Well, that's pretty powerful, but it's also wasteful. Next time hold out your hand and will it to come to you. But mind, only do it if you can see the handle, or if you know there's nothing in it. Your mum would skin me if you burned yourself with hot tea."
"Gosh, Harry, I hadn't thought about that."
"Call him. Mr. Potter, dear."
"No," Harry said not looking up. "If it's just the same with you, I'd like her to call me Harry."
"All right," Amanda said.
"Yes, Patty, magic has responsibilities with it. It's not just having your way when you want it. People could be hurt; you could be hurt. Magic means being careful and certainly not telling anyone in the Muggle world."
"Mum and Orla told me all about that. I'd never tell," the little girl said, wide-eyed. "But it's nice to know I can do magic, isn't it?"
"I'm very fond of it, Patty. So tell me, your sister's a Ravenclaw; that makes her real smart. Do you like to read?"
"Oh, yes! I love to read!" she gushed.
"You'll make a Ravenclaw too, I'll wager... although, you charged up to meet me like a Gryffindor, so don't think only of Orla's house, unless you really want it. How old are you, Patty?"
"Nine last Saturday."
"Ah, a birthday girl as well." Harry stood. "Patty, this is my friend, Ginny. She's real smart and a Gryffindor. Ginny, do you think you could help me find a good supply of books for Patty to read about magic, to help her prepare, and perhaps lessen the desire to do magic when she shouldn't?" "Of course, Harry."
Harry looked back at Patty. "We have a friend named Hermione that is already at the bookstore. Ginny knows a bunch of good books, but Hermione is Muggleborn like you. She'll probably know of special books just for you.
"Do you want to be a Potter Fund Student, when you go to Hogwarts, Patty?"
"Oh, yes sir!"
"Patty!" Mrs. Quirke said. "Mr. Potter, we never... I... Paying for Orla is so kind of you. I'm sure I can manage. Jack left us a little--"
Harry put his hand on the young widow's arm. "Mrs. Quirke."
"Amanda," he corrected, "the Fund is there for people just like you and your daughters. There will be four students finishing Hogwarts the year before Patty starts. I intend to reserve a place for her unless your financial status changes, so there is no burden on you at all. Please, accept this from me, and let me spoil your daughter with books today as well. You'll make my day if you agree."
"Mr. Pot--Harry, I don't know what to say. The Fund now pays for tuition and books for Orla-- Oh, God bless you!"
"He has, Amanda, He has. Now let me be a blessing to you."
As they walked through the crowds towards Flourish and Blotts, Amanda was as amazed by the different sights as were her children.
"Orla is listed with the Potter Fund as a Muggleborn. I'm guessing there are no magical folks you know of on either side of the family?" Harry said.
"No, although my mother was with us when Professor Vector came to our home and told us Orla was. Mum speculated that her paternal great-grandfather might have been magical if the stories about him were true.
"This," she waved her hand about, "was equal parts enthralling and terrifying the first time we came to Diagon Alley. Last year Orla and I came just the two of us on a Monday morning and there were few enough people around, but with Patty showing magic, and with Peace Day, we decided to make a family outing of it.
"Orla has told me a little about this Dark wizard no one names. It's rather confusing and frightening. I'm glad there is peace now. I understand you've fought this wizard several times before. Did you have anything to do with this peace treaty?"
"No!" Harry said that single word with such vehemence that he knew he had to explain more. "I probably know more about how Voldemort thinks than anyone alive who isn't one of his evil servants. Probably even more than most of them do. I was not consulted on this peace, and I am a member of the Wizengamot, our Parliament. It's a hereditary position," Harry added, when Amanda looked at him curiously.
"It's not in Voldemort's nature," Harry continued, "to give up his demands and his desire to rule magical Britain. There was nothing in the papers about what our Minister gave him to stop fighting. I fear it is a ruse, and we'll be ill prepared, or even begin disarming to a degree during this lull in the fighting, and all the while he'll be preparing to take what he wants. That's the only reason he would have agreed to peace for now."
They arrived at the bookshop and the conversation died.
"I think I saw Ron with Hermione in Scrivenshaft's while you were talking, Harry," Ginny said. "If she comes in while we're here I'll ask her opinion, but I've talked to Colin Creevey enough to know some of the better books Hermione recommended to him."
Harry whispered to Ginny to buy as many books as she could find that she thought appropriate for Patty. The number grew so large that Amanda protested again and again, to no avail.
As Harry took the young girl to the books about Quidditch and other more lighthearted subjects, Ginny drew Amanda aside. "You must let Harry spoil Patty. I've never seen him like this, but he somehow needs to play this role of sort of a rich uncle or indulgent big brother. Harry could buy her the shop, goodness, he probably owns the shop, the building that is, not the business.
"In spite of always being wealthy, Harry grew up as if he were penniless in a horrid, abusive situation. He needs to do this for some reason, and I must say it does my heart good like a medicine to see him with Patty. So humor me, if not him."
Amanda Quirke spent the rest of the time in the bookshop shaking her head in amazement. Even more amazing was the spell Harry put on books to shrink them that Orla could verbally trigger when they made it home. Then the parcels would expand, but not alert the Ministry as to underage magic.
In the published and wireless announcements of the day's events, it had been highlighted that the Minister would speak at 2:00. Harry realized it was petty of him, but he wanted to try to speak to the Minister just before his speech in hopes of disconcerting the man right before he started.
Harry and Ginny picked up Ron and Hermione as they worked their way through the crowds heading towards the podium. The thoroughfare of Diagon Alley had been expanded significantly. Where as it normally seemed closed in and cramped on busy days, today the Alley was wide, open and sunny, despite the over crowding. The side streets had all been expanded as well, all except Knockturn Alley. Harry couldn't blame the Ministry for that. No reason to open up to public inspection the less desirable part of this Wizarding equivalent to a High Street, though under different circumstances, a different type of inspection would be a good thing.
On their casual stroll towards the podium, the four spoke to a number of schoolmates and fellow Paladins. Ernie Macmillan and his girlfriend Hannah Abbott congratulated Harry for persuading Justin to model for Phoenix Fashions. Harry told them it was all Clarinda's idea, and Justin agreed because she was Justin's first magical business client.
Zacharias Smith tagged along behind his fellow Puffs gripping Su Li's hand possessively. He and Harry had met for dinner one night at Isaiah Smith's invitation. Harry felt bad, because here he was once again in a better position to Zach - invited to the Smith home as a peer of Zach's great grandfather, not as Zach's friend. Harry could tell that Isaiah had bragged about their joint actions in the Wizengamot. Harry tried to smooth things over with Zacharias when his year-mate walked him to the Smith property Apparation point.
"Look, Harry, you're in a position I envy. Gramps missed your grandfather Benedict something fierce. He's fought a lonely and losing battle in Chambers for over sixteen years, and I can quote verbatim many of his stories about the two of them fighting Malfoys, Sheets, and Umbridges. You've given the joy of the good fight back to him, and for that I am grateful to you.
"I could have told you tonight wouldn't work out things between us, because you came here as his friend, not mine. But I could never say that to Gramps. You and I are not friends almost solely because of my pigheadedness. How about once we're back at Hogwarts we start over, deal?"
The two had agreed, and Zach told Harry he'd tell his great grandparents that they'd made much better friends, which is what the elders wanted and what Harry and Zach wanted as well. They parted with a friendly handshake.
At a vendor cart of sweets and biscuits in the expanded Diagon Alley, Harry and company ran into Anthony Goldstein and Terry Boot escorting the Patil twins around. The two couples looked very affectionate. Also there stood Dean Thomas arm-in-arm with Tinica Waters, and Ginny seemed fine with it.
"Hey, you three," Harry asked his closest friends once they came to a less crowded area where they could talk, "Is it my imagination, or has everyone paired off? All the Paladins."
The three looked at each other and Hermione explained. "It's not a matter of dating seriously, it's just a date for most of them. Ernie and Hannah are together, and if you noticed they were the most natural together. The others are probably just on dates. It may be the first date for all of the other couples for all I know."
"The Patils are on a first date," Ron said. "I heard them this week at school mentioning that they felt today would be first and last dates with these two blokes. They talked like there wasn't much future there."
"But they were glued to each other, almost disgustingly so," Harry said.
"I know, Harry," Hermione stated. "The Paladins that went through Aberration Day without being separated from their visitors are now very demonstrative in their affection. They even kiss on the lips as if it's nothing when they greet a fellow Paladin. Did you notice Sally-Anne Perks? She came up to you and shook your hand warmly, but then gave a lip-to-lip kiss to Steven Cornfoot right there in front of us." "I thought they must be a couple," Harry admitted.
"They don't even like each other, but see how they reacted. The girls ignore you and Ron, and the guys ignore Ginny and me. Ginny because she wasn't a Paladin, and you, Ron, and I are ignored because we were interrupted that day. Maybe it's pheromones."
"We have to come up with different names for it besides kissing and snogging," Ron said. "This is becoming redundant."
"Neville isn't attacked by the girls either," Hermione continued to explain. "He was with Eloise Midgen that day. Luna was visiting with Mrs. Longbottom, something having to do with hats." Hermione smirked at this, but made no editorial comment. "Anyway, Luna came in and found them snogging right after the hour started. She broke them up and stuck them to different pieces of exercise equipment."
"I thought Luna and Neville were dating," Harry said, "from some correspondence with her earlier this summer. But now I see her in the shop with the twins. And Millicent's there as well. What's up with that?"
"Fred is dating Luna," said Ginny. "He said she's brilliant and inspiring. They have a backlog of new product ideas from their conversations with her, and Fred loves to sit and chat with her all day long."
Ron said, "And George is dating Millicent. Yeech! Be still my stomach."
Hermione popped him on the back of the head.
"I hate it when you do that, Hermione," Ron said, annoyed.
"And I hate it, Ron, when you act like an idiot. Millicent has sworn allegiance to Harry in this fight, and Fred says she's a different person than we've all thought."
Harry nodded to agree with Hermione, but moved to change the subject. He said, "So is Neville dating Eloise Midgen?"
"No," Hermione responded. "She and Neville have been friends since they were little. He's helped her learn what you taught us in the DA last year, and they exercise together because Eloise's mother doesn't want the mostly-Muggle equipment in her house."
"Have you seen Eloise Midgen since this summer, Harry?" Ron asked. When Harry shook his head, Ron said, "The Paladin potions really changed her."
"Ron, you're being rude again," Hermione scolded. "She has feelings--"
"I know, Hermione. I've not said anything about how she used to look. I said that she looked good now. Pretty. How can that be insulting? I told you this morning when you came down that you looked nice. Was that an insult?" He winked at Hermione when he said this and patted her arm warmly.
Hermione looked at Ron and groaned. Ginny rolled her eyes. Harry gave Ron a sympathetic look.
"So all of the Paladins that weren't interrupted that day are sort of compelled to be overly affectionate toward each other?" Harry asked, coming to Ron's rescue.
"Yes, Harry. Professor Dumbledore seems to think it will pass," said Hermione. "Professor Snape mumbled something about all of us being dunderheads, but Mother is concerned to a degree. They weren't like that until last week when all of us went through that high potency potion series to make up for the ground lost on Aberration Day. Now they are all quite demonstrative.
"Mother thinks it may adversely affect how seriously they take their studies, particularly when they should be paying attention in Defense and Practical Defense classes. She admits that it may wear off, like how we stopped rampaging towards each other at the start of the visits, but she thinks this is different."
"Dumbledore can be overly optimistic," Harry said. "He and I discussed it some this summer. He has his reasons for his optimism, personal reasons that I can't share with you, but we need to watch out for him being too forgiving of Death Eater children and general Slytherin nastiness. He gave me permission to come to him, and I plan to, but only when we agree it's necessary. I trust you to help me decide on that." Harry realized he had been talking directly to Ginny all of this time, and so he turned to include the other two.
"You too, Ron, Hermione. It's just that as a non-Paladin Ginny will hear things we won't. We've seen how Dumbledore has given the Slyths a pass all these years, all too often. Now that I'm on staff to a degree, and after he and I came to certain agreements, I think I can make a few changes, slowly. I'll need all of you to help me build my case if I do go to him."
The four turned and again walked towards the podium. "There's Neville," Ron said, easily looking over the throng . "Look at the arms on him," Ron said. "Hermione and I spent our time during the Aberration Day hour worrying about you. We still do more than we ever did. But Neville was stuck on an exercise machine. He tells it that he spent eight to ten hours a day the next week exercising, and still feels compelled to do it all the time. He's a great bloody hulk."
"He's not as tall as me, but look at him, Harry. He's wearing loose robes, but... but, just look at him. Only so much exercise was needed, after all."
"Did you only exercise the minimum required this summer, Ron?" Harry asked.
"It was enough. I've never been in such good shape. I can arm wrestle Charlie and win. Why, did you do more?" Ron asked incredulously.
"Usually two or three hours a day over the minimum. Sometimes more."
"You should feel Harry's arms, Ron," Ginny said.
"No thank you. I'm not going to feel another bloke's muscles, even my best mate's . I'll take your word for it."
Ginny looked at Harry for just a moment like he was a delectable morsel, but changed her expression once Harry turned an eye toward her.
By this time they had made their way to Neville. Neville introduced all of his friends to Mrs. Longbottom.
"I hear great things about you in the Wizengamot, Mr. Potter," Mrs. Longbottom said. "An active and vocal Potter has been missed since your Grandfather Benedict."
"Thank you, Mrs. Longbottom. I've heard from many whom I respect that you are sorely missed in chambers. When will your presence grace the assembly of equals?"
Ron whispered loudly, "Why's he talking like that?"
Neither Harry nor Augusta Longbottom turned to look at Ron, but Harry gave her his best "what can I do" expression and she smiled slightly in return.
"I have no heart for the Wizengamot, and no patience with government these days, Mr. Potter."
"And we are all the less blessed because of it, Augusta." It was Cornelius Fudge. Harry clenched his jaw at the Minister's first words, and took some comfort in seeing that Mrs. Longbottom was also perturbed by the Minister's interruption of their conversation.
"Cornelius, I am not aware that we are on a first name basis," she said. "Why would you miss me since you know I'd vote against you?"
"You wound me, Madam," Fudge was in his element in a conversation like this. "I always vote the Fudge vote the same way that your proxy votes the Longbottom's' Rights to Rule."
"Yes," she said, looking down her long nose at the man who was significantly shorter than she. "And then vote the Malfoy ensigns and proxies as he would vote them."
"I feel that I must do so to maintain my integrity."
"Indeed" she snorted back and looked away from him.
"A clever game, Minister," Harry interjected. "One I'm sure Voldemort approves of, but few will see it as anything but voting the Death Eater line." The Boy-Who-Lived found this too good an opportunity to needle the Minister.
"Mr. Potter," the Minister sneered. "I see you have the temerity to show your face this day after all you've done to try to prevent peace in our time." Fudge loved that phrase, and used it every chance he could in the Wizengamot and in the Daily Prophet.
"That tired old line again, Minister. I really think you should retire it. One day the people will know of all you've done; and I'll be more than ready to cast my votes when the Wizengamot finally calls for a vote of no confidence."
"I guess it's fortunate for me, Harry that your votes don't add up to anywhere near what you need to do that."
Fudge looked around and noticed people were congregating to hear the conversation between two such public figures. They'd been talking quietly, but he didn't want to risk their words being overheard.
He took a step back and said expansively, "I'm so glad you're here, Harry, for our first annual Peace Day celebration. It should go down in the annals of history along with the day you defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named all those years ago. Today could be said to recognize your efforts then as well."
Even louder he said, "Good people, don't you all feel safer now? I don't even need my bodyguards."
Harry gasped. Something had been bothering him all day, and it finally hit him.
There were no Aurors around. None.
Even the first time Hagrid took him to Diagon Alley, back when everyone thought Voldemort was dead, there were Aurors present just like Muggle Bobbies would walk busy High Streets.
But there were no peacekeepers present in the Alley today.
"You ruddy fool!" Harry hissed quietly. "You've left everyone here unprotected."
Harry turned to see what could be done.
Fudge said loudly, "See here, Potter. You can't go around spreading panic. It's 2:00 and I'm just about to give my speech."
It was at that precise moment that several explosions occurred, mostly around Gringotts. Then a number of very loud Apparation cracks were heard around the expanded Alley as Death Eaters appeared throughout the crowd. The panic was instantaneous.
"Neville, you stay here and protect your Gran and the Minister. Ron, you and Hermione make your way towards Gringotts. Gin, stick with me if you can."
Harry cast Sonorus on himself and shouted. "DA! Pair up and defend in twos. In twos, everybody."
"They should work in threes, Harry." Ron said.
"Not now, Ron, just go, and look out for each other."
At that moment the echoing pop of a Portkey sounded louder than anyone had ever heard. The loud panicky shouts stopped completely for a second, and then resumed much louder than before.
A giant had Portkeyed into the center of the widest expanse of the enlarged Diagon Alley.
"YOU must protect me, Potter, I'm the Minister."
Harry turned to his friends, ignoring the quivering man, and said, "You have your assignments. I'll be back soon, Gin."
"What are you going to do, Harry?" Ginny asked, worriedly.
He looked back at the giant, it was just roaring toward the sky at the moment. Harry smiled. "I've wondered about this. Let's see..."
With that, he Apparated away.
"He... he ran. The coward," said Fudge fearfully.
"No, you damnable fool," Augusta Longbottom said. "Look." She pointed toward the giant.
Harry stood precariously on the top of an amusement ride about twenty-five feet in the air and about forty feet in front of the giant. He sent up several fountains of red sparks to capture the behemoth's attention and then sent out a flaming arrow that began to circle above him at the eye level of the giant. The flames mesmerized the leviathan for a few seconds.
Harry was guiding the arrow with his wand as if it was on a string. As the giant's focus left the arrow, Harry made a whipping motion with his wand and the arrow flew straight toward the giant. At the last moment, Harry shouted, "Engorgio!"
The flaming arrow expanded to twelve feet long and nearly a foot in diameter a few feet from the giant's chest. The increase in mass at the consistent speed multiplied many times the punching power of the arrow. The head was razor sharp. The arrow went through the giant right at his heart, and came out of his back almost three feet.
The giant fell forward in what looked like slow motion. Harry disappeared from atop the ride and Apparated right beside a woman and child in the path of the falling giant. Harry wrapped his arms around the two and Disapparated ten feet away, out of the path of the falling monstrosity. They barely made it.
Silence reigned for a few moments. Then one shout was heard, setting everyone in motion again.
The battle began in earnest.
Ron and Hermione ran off towards Gringotts. Harry arrived next to Ginny and Apparated her to a safe spot on a building that over looked the battle. "You'll be safe here, Ginny."
He turned to leave but she grabbed him. "You're not leaving me here, Harry Potter. It's as much my fight as it yours." She clung to him with a fierce determination.
He looked at her with mixed parts of worry and pride. "Okay, but I need you to be fairly safe so I can concentrate. You're a pretty accurate shot, aren't you? So I'm going to place you where you can hit the enemy from a distance. When you do, that distraction will allow me to Apparate to a new location or do something different to confuse them all the more."
Without waiting for her answer, Harry grabbed Ginny in a hug and Apparated them both to a vantage point on the wall of Gringotts. An explosion had made the crevice. From there she could easily see the front of the bank, and fire down on the attackers. Before Ginny realized it Harry Disapparated and reappeared in the middle of a group of Death Eaters. He spun in a circle with both wands drawn, firing like a madman. In little more than a second the six of them were down, most for good.
Ginny decided to stop watching Harry, when he barely ducked a spell from a Death Eater she could easily see. Ginny knew her Cutting curse was strongest, most accurate, and invisible. It also dissipated less than most other spells over a distance. She aimed and fired, hitting the shoulder of a Death Eater who had just fired on Harry.
After dodging the one Reductor, Harry Apparated to the top of the building and then back down into the midst of another Death Eater group. Once again he spun around firing, taking them out, but a Cutting curse hit him on the leg and he fell - under a Killing Curse's path.
Ignoring his wounded leg, Harry Apparated sideways while still lying down and appeared right in front of the Death Eater who'd hit him. The Reductor from below brought a grisly end to his attacker, and the spells Harry shot at the others were gruesomely effective as well.
All around, DA members reacted as Harry had commanded - moving off in twos and attacking Death Eaters at will. There was no doubt in their minds who had issued that command. They remembered what Harry had taught them and followed his orders. They knew doing so would offer them the best chance of surviving the moments ahead.
"But I have a peace treaty," Fudge whined.
"Shut up, you fool!" Augusta said as she pulled her wand. Neville moved to push them both toward a brick wall and away from the podium, which would be an obvious place to find the Minister.
"Move, move!" he shouted, finally shoving Fudge into wobbly action.
Fudge stumbled and fell. Augusta moved in front of Neville and stooped to help the Minister up. "Protect us, Neville, while I take care of him."
It was at that exact moment that six Death Eaters Apparated right in front of Neville.
They all wore their robes, but most of them wore no masks. No one recognized any of this group of attackers.
"I surrender," said Fudge.
Reducto! Neville shouted, and the front Death Eater spun around as his left arm tore from his torso. Neville started sending out Reductors as fast as possible, but was soon forced to exclusively cast the Shield spell.
Augusta Longbottom fired off two well-placed Cutting curses, and two Death Eaters Apparated away, howling in extreme pain. She, too, had to shield after that.
The remaining Death Eaters were joined by three more. Augusta Longbottom cast a purple spell, incanting, Dolo Bifidus. The Death Eater's chest caved in. The Death Eater beside him winged Mrs. Longbottom with a "Reducto!" and she fell back, holding her shoulder.
"I'm fine, Neville, fight!"
And fight he did. During that moment of distraction Neville was hit by a cutting curse on his shoulder, but it didn't put him out of action. The blast of a Reductor hit Mrs. Longbottom's shield, and it cracked. She went down but called out that she was all right. Neville now faced four Death Eaters alone.
Neville fought on. His grandmother was down and Fudge was a useless quivering mass, still trying to surrender. His spell work was mostly defensive, but Neville occasionally landed a curse or hex.
Soon, three more Death Eaters joined the fight, and Neville went completely on the defensive for a moment. His Gran managed to summon a slab of building debris and placed it as a barrier for herself. She then began sniping at the enemy as occasions arose. When the one who appeared to be the leader of this group went down from a hit by Mrs. Longbottom, Neville dropped his shield and began running and dodging, firing only Reductors as fast as he could. This strategy soon reduced his opponents to only three Death Eaters. Soon two others went down, but a crack occurred and Neville found himself being attacked from the side by a huge Death Eater he didn't recognize, who stood well over six and a half feet high.
This appearance caught not only Neville but also the other Death Eater he faced by surprise. Mrs. Longbottom landed a Cutting curse on the original Death Eater, severing his wand arm from his body. The man screamed and Portkeyed or Apparated away, leaving his appendage and wand behind.
The oversized Death Eater wielded two wands, something no one there could remember anyone doing except Harry. With two quick spells Mrs. Longbottom was wrapped in chains and knocked unconscious. The hulk then turned to Neville, as he swatted away one of the young wizard's Reductors.
It took the colossus four quick curses and hexes to batter away Neville's attacks, blast him to the ground, and Summon his wand. Then the menace stepped toward the Minister with a gleam in his eyes.
"Minister Fudge--" he said with an American accent, but that was all he said.
At that moment, the down-but-not-out Neville Longbottom hit him with an herbal-based pellet from a blowgun.
The big man froze on the spot, and fell over, off balance from taking a step when stricken.
Neville crawled toward the nearest downed Death Eater, grabbed her wand, and used it to Summon his own. Neville had a broken leg from being blasted into the side of the building nearest them and several badly bruised ribs. He cast a field healing spell on his leg, and painfully pulled himself up by a nearby street lamp. From there he staggered to each Death Eater and bound them and stunned them just to make sure. Then he headed towards his grandmother to check on her.
He ignored the gibbering Minister of Magic.
Elsewhere, the last of the explosions that the started the attack was randomly placed with its only purpose being to cause panic. In the blast path stood Percy Weasley and Penelope Clearwater. Penny worked in Muggle Relations at the Ministry and had volunteered to escort two Muggleborn First Years to Diagon Alley for Peace Day.
When the bomb went off, Percy and Penny threw themselves on the eleven year olds and pushed them to the ground. The children were safe, though pinned down by the unmoving older witch and wizard.
Percy was unconscious, but would awake basically unharmed just as the battle ended.
Penny Clearwater was dead.
In the midst of the now-destroyed Peace Day celebration, witches and wizards were putting up Protego shields, just like Harry Potter had taught them in The Quibbler. Their shielding was, for the most part, effective and frustrating for the Death Eaters. As the battle progressed more and more Death Eaters resorted to the Cruciatus, a spell that could not be blocked by anything other than a physical object. No magical shielding could stop it.
This was a terror attack. Voldemort had instructed his minions to harm as many people as possible because wounded people create more long term disruptions that the dead. However, they should not spend time killing any victims unless they found significant key people. Pro-Light senior Ministry officials should be eliminated. Harry Potter was on this list, but none of his friends were. Any Auror there with his or her family was to be killed, as well as any known member of the Order of the Phoenix.
The effective shielding spells left Death Eaters only the Cruciatus to break through the shields to harm people. More and more, cries of Crucio! rang through Diagon Alley.
More and more, furious people stopped sending out their Stunners and Petrifiers, and resorted to "Reducto!" and "Diffindo!" The battle became bloodier and bloodier. Like most battles, this one seemed to go on for an eternity, even though only two minutes had passed since Harry had toppled the giant.
That one seemingly impossible act had, in fact, inspired resistance in many of those who were originally terrified by its appearance. "Harry the Giant Killer" soon joined his many titles.
Ernie Macmillan suffered a serious cut that Hannah was able to heal fairly quickly. He'd struck down three Death Eaters in almost that many seconds when they appeared right before him. He'd had his wand out, and fired off Reducto! many times before he'd realized he was hurt. Hannah and Zach Smith fought very well also, though Hannah found providing shields for the two and healing the occasional wound was her forte. Zach's date Su Li had not been a DA member and was mostly frightened during the battle.
The pairings of Boot and Padma Patil and Goldstein and Parvati Patil proved to be a tough double duo to fight. They moved around each other while Shielding and sending out Stunners like a well-practiced machine.
The Gryffindor Paladins fought with great heroism, taking chances they shouldn't have, but usually surviving without harm. Most ended up in personal duels with Death Eaters.
The Ravenclaw Paladins contributed their intelligence and accurate spell fire to the fight, Stunning and Petrifying as they went.
It was the Hufflepuff Paladins that surprised most observers during the fight. For no real reason, most non-Puffs thought the Hufflepuffs would be too merciful to try to harm the Death Eaters. However, the loyalty, friendliness, and openness classic to the Badgers, did not translate into the expected timidity. They were fighting for their friends, families, and the good folk around them.
The Hufflepuff Paladins were vicious and decisive. Although none of them had discussed it with Harry, they instinctively understood his reasoning about stopping a foe rather than Stunning, so he or she didn't get up to fight again - maybe forever. Hufflepuff Paladins only fired off spells that could do serious damage - and they succeeded.
Ron and Hermione ran toward Gringotts at the opposite end of the Alley. Ron cast Cutting curses, and Hermione wielded a serious "Stupefy!" that few would recover from easily. Together they battled towards the Wizards' bank, but encountered too many who needed their help along the way to arrive in time to help Harry.
Ginny's nature was to be furious that Harry had treated her like a child, but she quickly realized he really hadn't. She was in the fight, but in a position where he didn't have to worry too much about her. She remembered hearing about how her father had required her mother to sit out any of the battles the Order entered during the first war with Voldemort, even though she was a capable fighter in her own right. Molly had explained it to Ginny that Arthur was more experienced and skilled, but he would be significantly less effective in a fight if he had to worry about his wife, the mother of his children.
This popped into her mind seconds after Harry Apparated away, and Ginny watched just how magnificent he was in battle. Harry was almost poetic in his dance of destruction.
She watched him fight, while effectively sniping away at Death Eaters on the periphery of the battle focused on Harry. He was a wonder. He'd Apparate into the midst of one group, fire away and then roll through them to appear below another group who would begin to go down under his accurate spellfire.
He'd next appear in the middle of an unoccupied space and cast several Battle Barriers to fight from for a while.
He'd then roll on his back and Apparate sideways along the ground going from place to place, never stopping for more than five seconds. Then he'd appear above them all on the sign above Gringotts, where he'd drop several of his Boulder Bombs before Apparating into the next group that ran up.
As Harry fought behind another hastily cast Battle Barrier, he heard his name called. Patty Quirke and her mother and sister had taken refuge near where he was standing. Harry turned to see the little girl wave, even as her terrified Muggle mother pulled her back into cover.
At one point a shout was heard, and in seconds all the conscious Death Eaters either Apparated or Portkeyed away.
The silence was so loud Harry thought his eardrums would burst. He panted with exhaustion as his adrenalin level began to ebb.
Then another group Apparated in, and one of them sent a blasting spell at Ginny's perch. Harry saw her fall as he fired at those around him. Unable to rescue her, he sent a spontaneously Mongered spell to Ginny that was intended to protect her.
A spontaneously Mongered spell was what Ginny called it when Harry just made a spell up on the moment and willed something magical to happen. Such a spell would almost be a waste of magic, because he could never recover it to use in his Scrutinizer to package it for sale. He could only repeat it, though it was a limited use spell at best.
Harry simply waved his wands around as he spun about and those Death Eaters around him fell in various states of damage and/or containment. He turned back to the fight, but in a few moments the Death Eaters remaining conscious all Apparated or Portkeyed away again.
Without checking that any of those Death Eaters still there and down were all incapable of rejoining the battle, he Apparated the fifteen yards to Ginny's side.
As he arrived, Harry retracted his wands into their holsters and swung his arms open, causing all of the building wreckage around Ginny to scatter as if it was just pebbles before a stiff broom.
Ginny was encased in a translucent lozenge-shaped barrier. Harry knelt down to pick her up, and as he did so, the protection around her vanished.
Ginny's eyes had been closed in her cocoon, but she'd had a peaceful look on her face. When the "bubble burst" she opened her eyes, to find Harry's arms tightly wrapped around her, crushing her to his chest.
"Ginny, please be all right, please be safe, dear. If... If you're... I'll die right here. Please, sweetheart, wake up... for... me."
As he said these last words, Harry drew back so that he could look into her eyes. Ginny was fine, he could tell, and his heart thrilled even as his pulse lowered in relief.
She gave him the simplest of smiles. His face was inches from her.
"Oh, Ginny, my sweet Ginny." He then lowered his lips to hers for a chaste kiss.
Moments later he moved his lips to create a delightful friction between them. Moisture from their mouths caused the friction to cease, and a new sensation replaced it. Their lips parted. The kissed deepened ever so gently. Soon they trembled as their tongues tentatively explored each other's mouths.
Harry gently eased Ginny into a sitting position across his lap. His left hand moved from her back and lightly brushed the hair from her face, his fingers continuing back through the length of her hair. As if moving of its own volition, his hand slowly returned to caress her cheek as Harry kissed her again.
He pulled his lips away from Ginny's slowly, exhaled in relief, and opened his eyes.
"Are you okay, sweetheart?"
The dazed look on her face passed, replaced by confused delight. He chuckled.
"Yes, Gin, sweetheart. I've wanted to call you that for almost a month now. I've realized that I love you, is that okay?"
She nodded her amazed approval, and he asked, "Can you stand if I help you?"
She nodded again, and Harry began to help her up, but before he had moved much at all Ginny tightened her grasp of his arm and said, "I love you, too, Harry."
He smiled. "It does my heart good to hear that, Gin. Now let me help you. Be careful."
Harry rose and lifted Ginny to her feet as if she weighed nothing. As she found her footing, he softly rubbed his thumb across her cheek and then he kissed her again, longingly.
Applause brought them out of their embrace, and they sheepishly parted, though Harry firmly took Ginny's hand in a way that all could see.
At that moment, a horrifying scream pierced the air, followed by two other screams.
In seconds, Harry Apparated with Ginny to the source of the screams. A Death Eater he had knocked down in this last flurry of spellfire before going to Ginny's rescue now stood, laughing maniacally, his mask boldly cast aside. Before him on the ground was a small broken body and Harry's heart raced and froze at the same time.
The Death Eater was the sadistic Creature Exterminator Walden McNair, and he had just cast the Entrail-Expelling curse on little Patty Quirke.
As Harry appeared, McNair turned and saw him. Harry swiftly raised his arms and his wands appeared in his hands, pointed forward. He shouted, "Null Apparate!" followed by, "Null Portkey!"
It was clear from the look on McNair's face that he'd tried to Disapparate away a second too late and then he tried to trigger a Portkey in his pocket. When that didn't work, he raised his wand to attack, but Harry blasted his wand with a Reductor. McNair fainted from the pain of his shattered hand.
Harry turned to the little girl moaning in horrendous agony. Her mother and sister were hysterical. Both knelt near her but were afraid to touch her, lest they somehow make her pain worse. Harry stared at Patty for a moment. Then he pointed both wands at her and shouted, "Stasis!"
Patty froze in place just like those paralyzed by the Basilisk in Harry's second year. All blood stopped flowing and her entrails ceased oozing. Harry flashed his arms around in the air and a transparent golden box formed around the girl.
Harry looked up and saw Remus Lupin making his way toward him through the crowd. "Remus, would you go with them to St. Mungo's?"
Harry's guardian swallowed and said, "Of course, Harry."
Harry poked at the golden box and handles appeared. "Take hold, Mrs. Quirke, Orla. You too, Remus."
In a daze the three did as instructed.
Harry said, "Oh," reached down into his boot, and pulled out a short wand. He muttered to it as he swished his holly and phoenix feather wand around it.
"Put this in your pocket, Remus. Once the mediwizards and healers have her located where they can help her immediately, tap this wand on the box three times and say, 'Release.'"
"Er, of course, Harry. Be safe."
Harry raised his wand above his head and swirled it around. As he brought it down in a bold stroke, he shouted, "Portkey!" A second later, all five vanished from sight.
Stunned silence greeted him for a moment. But Harry simply stared at those who looked like they were about to ask questions.
The attack and subsequent rescue of Patty Quirke would take longer to describe than it took to occur. McNair was coming around by the time Harry sent the five off to St. Mungo's. Knowing he had done all he could for Patty, Harry turned his attention back to the Death Eater.
"Well, Potter, arrest me yourself or call the Aurors," McNair snarled. "I need St. Mungo's to restore this hand."
"You're not going to St. Mungo's, and you're not going to regain your hand."
McNair barked out a pain-racked laugh. "Are you going to let me suffer? No worries, the Aurors have to take me for help." He laughed again, looked at the horror on Ginny's face, which turned to disgust and anger as she looked at him. "I see you have a spitfire here, Potter." Then he addressed Ginny. "I can't wait to see you in my tender care, red. Did you see the look on that little girl's face? And her mother? Muggles scream a little more pathetically than witches, don't you think? More despair and no hope at all."
McNair grimaced in pain. "Give us another Stunner, love, to ease the pain," he said to Ginny, "and I'll just kill you when I see you next - no torture."
Harry saw red at this. McNair sat with his back to some rubble, holding his damaged right hand with his good left hand. In one swift motion Harry raised both of his arms above his head. He brought his hands together and the Gryffindor sword appeared in his grasp. In one blindingly fast action Harry brought the sword down and cut off McNair's other hand. While the sadist was speechless at this, Harry brought the blade down again and cut off both of the wizard's legs above the knees. When the blade rose again to the zenith of his swing, Harry let it go and it disappeared .
By this time McNair was screaming again, and Harry cast a Silencing charm on him. Then Harry pointed both wands at the wizard and shouted "Cauteriso! four times. This spell cauterized the wounds, saving McNair from dying of blood loss, but also forever preventing the magical restoration of his hands or legs.
The wizard continued his silent screaming until Harry cast "Petrificus Totalus!" McNair froze in place with only his terrified eyes moving, but he could still hear. Harry then cast a Sonorus on himself.
"Those in the Quirke family are magical charges of mine. I, Harry James Potter, claim Patron Protector rights and have delivered justice in accordance with the Old Ways. All who support Voldemort beware of House Potter, beware of House Black, and beware of House Ollerton."
Then Harry conjured a wooden pallet. He levitated the silenced and severely damaged McNair onto the pallet, and cast a Levitation charm on the rig. He conjured a sign with these words printed on it:
By proclamation of
Patron Protector Harry James Potter
Harry pointed his wand at McNair and said, "Accio Portkeys!" As a Portkey shot toward Harry, he swished his wand around violently and it stopped, hovering right in front of him. He cast the Monger's Spell Scrutinizer on it, and looked at it for nearly a minute. He poked his wand at it and muttered a few words, then said, "Six hundred seconds." He pointed his wand at the pallet and said, "Nine hundred seconds." Then he waved his wand again and pointed toward Knockturn Alley.
Finally Harry cast, "Acroasis Acclamatio!" As the pallet slowly made its way towards the more disreputable shops, McNair's voice could be heard loudly reciting the words of the sign, over and over.
Ginny looked down at her robes, and saw blood on them, a good bit of it. She looked to Harry, and noticed he was cut badly in several places and had only used rudimentary field healing charms on the worst of them. There was also something odd about how he favored his right shoulder and the right side of his body. Some of his hair was scorched as well.
"Harry, you're hurt," she said in alarm.
He turned to her and finally allowed some of his pain seep to his face. Harry held out his left hand, and Ginny stepped into his awkward embrace. He drew her closer and holding Ginny firmly to his side, Harry Potter Disapparated away from the Peace-Day-that-was-anything-but.
"Peace in Our Time" - The infamous phrase, "Peace in our time" comes from a speech from Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1937 to 1940. He declared that he had achieved "peace in our time," after conceding major chunks of Czechoslovakia to Adolph Hitler in 1938. Of course Great Britain was at war with Germany eleven months later.
Phoenix Fashions - The name of Clarinda Jordan's shop was suggested by my reader FenrisWolf. The second place suggestion came from Carol Layland-Veach: FantaMagical Designs. I almost used it and may use a variation of it in a later chapter. Thanks!
StudyBook Professional Versions' Names - My reviewers sent in some great ideas for Ginny's StudyBook Pros. I finally chose the great naming series conceived by Chatmandu. Thanks!
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