The Granger Defense
Chapter Twenty-Two - A Day That Will Live In Infamy!
For those of you reading both "The Granger Defense" and "Great Scott, Potter," I have colored the unique text in blue.
My gratitude goes to my writing coach, Kokopelli,
and to my beta readers GardenGirl and Sparky40sw.
HBP described Side-Along Apparating.
Hermione had never Apparated before. She expected... well, she really didn't know what she expected to occur in mid-Apparation. She assumed there would be a transfer from one location to another, with the feeling of being forced through a tube, or some other type of squeezing in the middle. Those were the sensations Lavender Brown mentioned from the two times she'd been Apparated by four aunts and uncles as a child. It was basically known that it took a number of witches and/or wizards to Apparate a person. Two or three pretty powerful ones could do it, but no one person could do it.
Except Harry. One more thing he did that was impossible, but he did it anyway. He'd hate the attention, so she'd bit her tongue on asking once again how he could do the impossible.
Hermione felt that roughly three seconds had passed while they traveled and while she thought all of this, and that even though she really didn't see anything, she had the impression of being in a light fog, just before daybreak. There was no squeezing feeling such as Lavender had described, but there seemed to be wind rushing by, though not unpleasantly.
When she reappeared she did expect to feel a jostling of some sort, as if she'd jumped from two or three steps up, but all of a sudden her feet were on solid ground just like they had been when she'd popped away in Harry's arms.
Half a second later she barely kept her balance as Harry released her and crashed to the ground. He groaned as he crumpled there.
"I'm hurt, but I'm all right, Hermione. I think my leg is broken and so are several ribs, but I've had worse. Please levitate me and walk toward the door of the church. It should open for me."
She did as he asked and fretted for only a moment before she realized she might have been here before. "Where are we, Harry? This isn't St. Mungo's and it isn't Hogwarts. Who's going to help you?"
"This is St. Simon's Church. We're heading to the friary, where I've had sanctuary since Aberration Day this summer. Father Martin has been looking out for me and he knows some field healing spells, but Brother Caleb was a Mediwizard during the Grindelwald War before taking Orders. He's well prepared to deal with injuries such as this. He's worked on me before."
At that moment Dobby popped to his side. "Oh, Harry," the elf said, wringing his hands. "May I take him from you, Miss Hermione?"
By this time they were inside the foyer of the church. "Stop for a second, Hermione," Harry said. When she made to protest, he said, "I've applied a few Numbing charms so I'm really not hurting that much for a few moments, and I'm not really bleeding."
Without waiting for an answer from his new girlfriend Harry asked his house-elf, "Is everyone in our two shops safe? Are any of them hurt?"
"Miss Clarinda and her staff stayed in the shop and tended as best they could to anyone who came in hurt. All of those you trained in the DA, as well as Miss Millicent, went out and fought. They're all a little battered, but mostly scrapes and bruises. All of them are helping tend to the wounded and putting up temporary repairs to buildings."
"Harry," Hermione said, "Please let me take you to this Mediwizard."
"Almost done, Hermione. Dobby, please go back and find out about all the Potter Fund students and their families. Offer them whatever assistance they need. Then you and Winky help wherever you can. Then see Gultangk before the day is over, and tell him I want to guarantee rebuilding loans for any business that can't qualify otherwise. Ask him to look up whatever happened in the last war and tell him I agree to whatever he says." Harry paused and sighed. "Is there anything else I can do that either of you can think of?"
Dobby shook his head and then Harry said, "Oh, is there enough help there in the Alley for clean up?"
Dobby made to tug on his ear, but stopped his hand halfway there.
"Dobby, does this Heir of the First Master thing hold any weight with house-elves other than you and Winky?"
"Yes, Harry, all house-elves revere you for that status."
"Well, I don't want to make any type of demand or break any established rules, but can you go to Hogwarts and ask if any elves can help without forsaking their first duty to the school? Perhaps you should ask Dumbledore first."
"Dumbledore is at Beauxbatons today, Harry. Dinker, the chief elf, always sends spare house-elves to help when needed. I'll send Winky to him in your name; he never liked me all that much."
When Dobby popped off, Harry asked Hermione to continue to the offices of the church, and began to give her directions.
"I know where the offices are, Harry."
"Yes, I started going to services last year. With all that was going on, I missed quite often, but I do attend now and then. But why take you to the offices? And what friary are you talking about?"
"There is an friary attached to the church, but it's designed not to be seen easily, as it goes down the sloping hill. I have a small room close to the church. The entrance from the offices is off the rector's personal corridor to the cloister."
As Hermione levitated Harry into the office area, he waved his hand at a switch. A small buzzing sounded for several seconds.
"That will bring Brother Caleb."
Harry directed her to Father Martin's private corridor, and just inside he pulled his wand and swirled it in a rather complex pattern. An archway of significantly older design and materials than the church appeared, and Harry directed Hermione in and to his room less than twenty feet away.
A Grey Friar approached. "This is Brother Caleb," Harry said. "Caleb, this is Hermione Granger, who seems to be my girlfriend at the moment."
"A pleasure, Hermione. What's he done this time?"
"Taken on fifty or more Death Eaters, I suppose. I have no idea how many there really were, but they were drawn to Harry like flies to honey."
He looked at Harry. "Did you kill any, son?"
Harry hung his head. "A fair number, Caleb. Please pray for their families."
"I will, Harry, and... I hate to have to say this, but I'm glad they're dead. My own killing last war drove me to orders, but I still believe every death was necessary, even while all being so senseless. However, that fact doesn't stop the dreams at night, does it?"
Harry just shook his head.
All during this dialogue, Brother Caleb was moving his wand in an intricate pattern of diagnostic spells. He held out a potion and Harry downed it immediately. In seconds the young warrior was unconscious.
The friar conjured a partition between himself and his patient, and then turned to Hermione. "Harry is pretty banged up, but nothing serious. I'll only be a bit with him and then Harry will be able to see you when he wakes. Most people would be out until morning, but he'll be awake in less than a half hour, I'd wager, except I don't wager... as you might guess."
She looked at her watch.
"Hermione," Father Martin called as he walked in the door.
"She'll update you on Harry, William," the friar said as he walked behind the curtain he'd conjured, "but all will be well. I just need a few minutes with him."
"Oh, Father William," Hermione said, as she turned to the priest. "It was awful, but Harry was magnificent. I've... I've only seen Harry fire off a few spells in real anger. But... but..." She flung herself into the priest's arms and began the tear filled saga of Peace Day gone very bad. When she finished and calmed down, the priest went to Diagon Alley to see how he could help.
Harry awoke with a familiar hand holding his. He squeezed it. The person on the other end of the hand rose without letting go. A soft kiss pressed his lips, and in a few seconds he opened his eyes when it ended.
He said, "So kissing you in Diagon Alley wasn't a dream then?"
His eyes open to see beautiful brown eyes and a face he knew so well, surrounded by a halo of lovely disheveled curls. "I like this new hair style," he said, "but it wasn't this way when I left you to stop the giant, was it?"
Hermione self-consciously raised her loose hand to her hair and ran her fingers through it, accomplishing nothing in the way of imposing order. He gripped her hand and said, "I really mean it, beautiful. I loved your hair as it was, but the curls around your face are gorgeous. Most Hogwarts witches have long hair. You'll start a new fashion all by yourself. Parvati and Lavender will be jealous when you're the trendsetter."
Hermione calmed, and Harry knew his truthful, yet forceful, admonition had succeeded.
"Some Death Eater grabbed my hair at the start of the battle and almost put me down before I'd done anything. I blasted some spell I can't even remember behind me and then in a moment of frustration I grabbed all my hair and put a Cutting curse at the nape of my neck. This is the result. If it looks good to you in the front, then fine, but who knows what the back looks like. Since you like it, I'll ask Mum to even it out or something. That Cutter couldn't have...
"Harry Potter! Here you are all injured and you have me talking about my hair. How are you? Brother Caleb told me to send for him when you wake." Saying this she pointed her wand at a paper airplane, which then left the room.
The friar arrived shortly thereafter and asked Harry how he felt. The young wizard replied, "My left foot is a little numb, and I'm just sore all over, but nothing specifically hurts."
After a number of wand swishes and incantations, as well as one vile potion, Brother Caleb said, "I'd like you to stay in bed until tomorrow. That being said, Hermione, do you think you can keep him lying still for at least thirty minutes?"
"If I have to sit on him, I'll make sure. Thank you for tending to him so well today, and all summer for that matter."
"You're welcome, my dear. Father William told me that you're fairly regular at the 1:00 service on Sundays during the school year. If this one gets you up for early services, as is his practice now, maybe we'll see each other on some sort of regular basis."
The friar left humming tunelessly and Hermione turned to her new boyfriend. "Harry, I've wanted to talk with you about St. Simon's all summer, and now I find you've been staying with Father William for a month now."
"How do you know Will?"
"'Will?'" Hermione asked a bit confused by the familiarity.
Harry smiled. "Yes, 'Will.' Father Martin taught me Occlumency and Legilimency this summer. When you've spent as much time in each other's heads as we have, titles seem a bit silly. But I call him Father William in front of others." Harry frowned a bit. "You've wanted to talk to me about St. Simon's? Brother Caleb said that you attend, but you've never said anything to me."
"Church is a bit new to me, Harry. My parents became believers last year after a study called Alpha* at St. Aldates, in Oxford where we live. They seemed really happy and peaceful from it, so I started coming to church here whenever I could, to figure out what all the fuss was about. That's how I met Father William, who's done his best to answer my questions. I had so many questions, and I can be a bit of a cynic."
"I prefer to think of you as analytical, Hermione."
She smiled at him and leaned over for a quick peck on the lips, and then she continued. "I just couldn't let go and trust, like faith requires. All year long Father William answered my questions and then turned the spotlight away from my intellectual pursuit and asked me why I struggled with commitment. I had so many excuses, but he answered all of them. I realized I wasn't throwing away my intelligence if I believed, but I was still stuck."
"The cabinet at the end of the seventh floor corridor, near the Room of Requirement," Harry interrupted. "That same cabinet you use to go to services, I use to come to this room. I just have two access passwords, not one."
Harry looked at her. "Sorry to interrupt, beautiful. So what happened to change your mind?"
She frowned and looked down. "It was Sirius dying - it made me think hard - about everything. I came to an end of my ability to make everything right, and I faced the permanence of death. Once I was recovered enough from my injuries to do so, I went to see Father William, and after pouring out my heart and praying with him, - well - I'm a believer. It was great comfort to me; I had instant peace, even though it didn't change any of the circumstances. Things have been different since then. The comfort and peace make my life meaningful."
When Harry shot her a big smile with this declaration, Hermione brightened and continued. "I wanted to talk to you about this, but we left on the train the next day. This summer, even though we've had a good deal of time together, we've always had a specific purpose for every moment. I did pray for you, I still pray for you, every day."
Harry pulled her hand to his face and kissed it tenderly. "Thank you, beautiful, I know that really helped. This place is amazing. The brothers here know quite a bit about prayer - a Muggle known as Brother Andrew is considered the greatest intercessor. I met him one day; he was emptying the rubbish bin in my room."
Harry stopped for a moment and looked towards his small window. Hermione squeezed his hand and he looked back at her with a wan smile. "In our world, the great ones receive recognition, and people fawn all over them. Father William told me about Brother Andrew and the things he's accomplished on his knees. And here I find him emptying my... Well, it gives me quite a contrast to judge my life by."
He looked away again, and for a couple of long moments they sat with their own thoughts.
"Let me give you some good news about Sirius," he said. "Remus told me that Sirius and my parents became believers somewhere in their seventh year. Mum and Dad were researching old magic to defeat the Killing Curse and Dumbledore suggested they talk to Father William about a solution. Both Will and Remus believe the Bible verse, "...greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends..." had something to do with why I survived that night - that verse combined with the faith of a magical mother.
"I mean, think about it. Many people probably took a Killing Curse for a loved one, but my mother, as a believer, applied all her faith, hope, and love to that verse, Will said. I believe she somehow applied all her magic to it also, and, well... here I am, the Boy-Who-Lived.
"Now as to Sirius," Harry grinned. "My Godfather went to services with them on a lark, probably to meet girls and upset his family. But Remus claims he did become a believer eventually. I can't tell you how comforting that is to me, about all three of them - I hope to see them again, just not soon."
Hermione rubbed his hand. "I can understand. Knowing of my parents' faith is a comfort, especially now that they're involved in our fight, and can't even do magic. I'm so happy for you, Harry."
They kissed for a little bit, and then turned to look out the window.
Harry turned quickly to her, but not in a startling manner. "Are you all right, Hermione?" No wounds or anything?"
"I had a little scratch that Father Martin took care of for me. I'm tired, but he also gave me a half dose of Pepper-Up and I'm fine now. I'm sure I'll sleep soundly tonight, though.
"Umm, Harry, can I ask about some of the spells you used in the fight today, and how did you call that sword?"
He nodded and she continued before he could answer. "First, I see you succeeded in Mongering the marble shield spell, Scutum Marmoreus, so it would float behind you. How did you configure it to angle spells hitting it away from others?"
"I'm not sure, Hermione. I did hammer in an optical charm to watch for curses and to intercept them, but the angling away was only something I thought about as I was casting it, wishing I'd thought to add it in." He pondered it for a second and said, "You know magic is substantially intent driven, it must have picked up on my intentions for it in the future."
Hermione scrunched her brow, and Harry smiled at her. "You're awfully cute when you're concentrating so hard."
She blushed. "Stop distracting me," she said, but she winked at him before returning to her serious, curious face.
"I wasn't wrong, was I, thinking you stopped McNair from Apparating and Portkeying away with your own spells? They were in English."
"Yes. At that moment I realized I should know how to cast Anti-Apparation and Anti-Portkey wards, but all I could do was just will magic to do what I wanted in Spontaneous Mongering."
"You've told me about that concept before," she said, "but am I correct that this was the first time you've done it?"
"Yes, and that Stasis charm I just decided I needed. There was little Patty dying right before me, and with seconds to go I decided I would stop it. I'd have given a lot to save her right then, but I didn't feel drained like the two Null Spells did to me.
"Telemachus Grind wrote that the only time he did Spontaneous Mongering, it knocked him out for several days. Of course, in his perverse manner of writing, he didn't mention what spell he created. Before that he wrote of reading the journals of two other Mongers who'd experienced it, and one of them had talked to another about it.
"The problem with Spontaneous Mongering is that the Monger can't analyze the spell once he's created it. He can't see it in the Monger's Spell Scrutinizer, at least not at the level needed to access the information to compile and package the spell so others can use it. You'd at least an advanced apprentice or full Monger can recoup the spell material. At this point, Hermione, you probably won't be able to do it, even though you can see the raw slug of magic and other details. Grind observed that both of the Mongers he read of recover each others spells in that manner, but no other Monger still lived when he did it himself. That spell died with him.
"How much time do I have left before I can leave?" he asked abruptly. "I want to go to Diagon Alley. Or better, do you think they will have news on Patty yet at St. Mungo's?"
"Harry, it's only been just over an hour since Patty was struck down. I doubt they'll know anything yet. Father William said he'd ask some of the friars to pray for her."
"Good. That's one thing I won't have to do that I'd planned to do before leaving."
"Now, Harry," Hermione persevered, "What were those six hundred and nine hundred second incantations, were they more Spontaneous Mongering?"
"The first wasn't, but the second sort of was. The six hundred seconds, ten minutes, is how long I wanted the pallet to float through Knockturn Alley before McNair's Portkey activated. I wanted plenty of darker witches and wizards to see what I'd done to him, so more than just active Death Eaters know of my threat. If the pallet went to Voldemort right away, they might keep knowledge of my proclamation quiet. This way my message gets out to many others leaning Dark, but perhaps not under his influence quite yet. Only then did his Portkey activate.
"The nine hundred seconds is sort of different. I hope it works. I haven't told you, but I've been working on Conjuring explosives. The basic work was done by Grind himself, who modified a combustion spell of a Welsh Monger named Gruffouid. Grind never could cause an explosion like gunpowder, but he did get it to do two things, burn rapidly, and look like wood.
"I've been able to upgrade the explosive power a bit; it actually explodes, rather than just bursting into flames, but it's still a low yield explosion. That spell is in my Mongering process, but I haven't begun to compact it as a final spell or prepare it for sale.
"My Spontaneous Mongering of nine hundred seconds was for the detonator. Five minutes after it arrives at Death Eater HQ, it should blow up, though I have no idea if it will or not, nor any idea how big an explosion it will cause. I've only worked with small pieces of wood, and I don't know if I can conjure that much wood as a disguised explosive, or if it'll just be wood. Though it's not high power, there was enough of it that I hope it makes a mess and ruins someone's day.
"There are existing charms that I've planned on looking at, to create a detonator. What I Spontaneously Mongered won't really set me back now that I have done it nd I can't access it with my Scrutinizer."
Hermione nodded, looked at him pensively, and then asked, "Was that the Sword of Gryffindor? How did you call it? Does that mean you're the Heir of Gryffindor?"
Harry smiled. "That's my girl. Why ask one question when you can ask three or fifty at once?"
Hermione blushed and frowned a little, smiled and then tried to hit him lightly on the arm. Like a striking cobra, Harry caught her hand and said, "Please don't do that. The Dursleys used to hit me."
Horrified she said, "Oh, Harry--"
He brushed his fingers gently across her lips. "It's nothing really, sweetheart. I'm not scarred by it and I don't flash back to any traumatic childhood experiences. I just don't want you to do it."
The look of concern on her face broke out in a smile. "I like it when you call me sweetheart it's one of the nicknames my father has for Mum."
"I'm not planning on using it in front of the whole school, but I like to think of how dear you are to me," he said. "All at once it's like I felt that you have been precious to me for a long time, but only now does it occur to me to call you that."
He leaned further over from the pallet to her face. They adjusted their heads so their mouths aligned more easily, and their tender kiss lasted until their necks hurt, which wasn't that long.
Harry groaned. "The kiss was great but we have to find a better angle; my neck can't take much of this."
"The sword, Harry."
"All right, all right. That was the Sword of Gryffindor. I recognized it instantly. No, my research at Gringotts this summer proved I am not the heir of Gryffindor, or any other Founder. I just wanted a sword and felt a compelling tug at my consciousness to reach up and grab it out of the air. There wasn't time to analyzed it, I just did it. Something inside of me tells me the sword appears when one defending the school, or its students, needs it."
Changing the subject he said, "Can we leave yet?"
"Five more minutes, Harry. How do you feel?"
"I'm a little tired, and generally sore like a hard day's working out double or triple time, but I don't feel any of my wounds or breaks. How about you?"
"I'm fine," she said, and he smiled at her. "No, Harry, I can say that and it means something. I was only doing a fraction of what you were doing, so I don't feel any magical exhaustion."
"It's not magical exhaustion I feel, just a little physical tiredness. Of course I was up before 5:00 and did a full workout before Morning Prayer. Father Will had a great sermon today. Anyway, I was bored after the service so I did another workout session before going to Diagon Alley."
Hermione hesitated a moment, but then reached out and felt his upper bicep. Her eyes widened.
Harry reached over and felt her bicep. "I'm impressed too, Hermione. Do the ladies know if the version of the Paladin potions you took was designed to give you great strength without making you look like a female weightlifter?"
"I never asked about that, but I'm at least twice as strong in my upper body as I was, if not more, but I'm not really unusually muscular." She pulled her robe around and gave Harry a view of one of her calves and a bit of thigh. She rotated that leg to show as much of the muscle development as she could. She looked at Harry after a few moments and saw that he was mesmerized. She smiled and pushed her robe down slowly, watching Harry follow very closely the fall of the fabric.
Being the best friend of two boys and close only to one girl a year younger than herself, Hermione had often wondered what boys thought of her physical development. Harry had told her sincerely how beautiful he thought she was at the Yule Ball in fourth year. No one else, except for Victor of course, had mentioned it then. Ron had told her this summer she looked very pretty, but usually only after Molly Weasley had made such a comment first.
Now she had proof that at least Harry thought her desirable, and his was the opinion she valued. She had to taunt him. "Like what you see, Harry?"
He raised his eyes to hers. He didn't blush, which again proved this was a much more mature Harry than had left school just over two months before. Harry looked deeply into her eyes, but she knew he wasn't using Legilimency. He smiled.
"The day I met you, it registered that you were very pretty. I've always thought so. I've noticed as you've grown to a lovely young woman, though I'm as guilty as everyone else of deciding to let you know only after seeing you at that Yule Ball." He smiled more.
"I must tell you, I have to guard against drooling over you, Hermione. You are fit, your face is beautiful, and your heart is precious." He blushed and turned away. "Okay, enough flowery words - you're hot, Hermione, what else can I say. I've brought my emotions under ruthless control this summer, but you're turning me into a hormonal teenager again. Can we please talk about raising Blast-Ended Skrewts, or spreading dragon dung on Bubotuber shoots?" After that he laughed nervously.
"Crucio!" "Crucio!" "Crucio!"
It was a very large room for a personal dwelling, even larger than the outsides of the building in which it existed. It was a dungeon in fact, but no one who had visited this one would call it a dungeon.
It was closer to a throne room, yet three people held court at this time in different parts of the underground facility.
To the west of the room Colonel Talmadge Tryon conferred with his lieutenants and a number of his "troops," as he referred to his small but growing army of the Wizards of the Blood. Those who had failed this day were assigned painfully long sessions of casting debilitating spells that sapped the witch or wizard of his or her strength for days. In the end, it also strengthened the magical core of the one punished to a small degree. If a trooper failed him sufficiently, the Colonel just killed him, or her, without notice or explanation.
Koschei Svarogich had the largest number of followers. They were known as Craveners in English. Svarogich was from the dark forests of what was now known to Muggles as southern Ukraine, but he cast a wide net for recruiting into much of Slavic Europe and western Asia. He cared little of what the Muggle governments called their so-called country this year. His domain had no specific name, but magicals looked in its direction from all points of the compass and shuddered at the idea of going there - and so it had been since anyone could remember.
The Craveners that returned from the Peace Day Attack reporting great victories - the biggest braggarts died of fire and ice. The Svarogich family had developed the Blood Burning and Blood Freezing curses millennium before.. More than a dozen "former Craveners" were in the process of dying, boiled from the inside out. Today was a Burner as Svarogich stated when he awoke that morning. A dozen more were recovering from being released from a Blood Burner just in time.
Svarogich was a Legilimens with the taste and talents of Severus Snape. He mind raped his followers after a defeat to see who did what. The ones who had survived their few defeats in the past, knew to think only about their personal successes during the fights in question.
Voldemort dispensed the Cruciatus Curse generously. Returning Death Eaters who reported a less than desired outcome lay in quivering masses around the center of the hall where their master held court.
A young wizard, obviously under the Imperius Curse, led a hovering wooden pallet into the main room and right up to his master. There was some charm on the pallet broadcasting the words of the sign hung around the neck of the quivering mass of useless flesh perched on the pallet.
"Silencio!" "Muffliato!" The usual silencing spells wouldn't stop the repeated declarations:
By proclamation of
Patron Protector Harry James Potter
Finally, Voldmort cast several over-powered Reductors to break through the protective barrier and destroy whatever enchantment proclaimed the words of the Dark Lord's number two nemesis.
Of course, the Reductors also killed McNair, but Voldemort had already decided to reward such failure in this way.
"Crucio!" Riddle decided to tickle the explanation out of the Imperius'd wizard who brought this mess before him. The Cruciatus broke the Imperius.
After a minute of music to his ears, Riddle asked the drooling-in-pain-but-still-coherent young wizard, "What is the meaning of this? How did this happen?"
"My Lord," The sixteen-year-old Death Eater gasped out, "McNair stayed behind after the recall to torture a young Muggleborn girl. I Apparated away as soon as possible, upon your command. Roughly ten minutes after that, McNair's Portkey activated, it seems, and this is how he arrived. Mister..." The young Death Eater struggled here and could not overcome the Obliviation. "Umm, someone Apparated to Knockturn Alley and found out that this pallet had floated around there for five minutes or more making that proclamation before coming here." He fought the Obliviation again. "Mister... er, I thought I should bring him to you as soon as possible."
"Come forward, boy."
The young man fumbled as he rose from his knees. He was racked with pain. He almost fell again as he approached his Lord.
"Legilimens!" Voldemort pierced his nonexistent mental barriers like a charging hippogriff. He culled everything he could from the lad's weak mind, shattering it, and then cast him aside.
Death Eaters, Craveners, and Troopers milled around the room and looked to the center. Koschei Svarogich and Colonel Tryon walked over to Voldemort during this spectacle. They considered themselves his equals, probably even his betters, but they knew not to interrupt him when he was in this mood. Voldemort hit two Death Eaters near him with short Crucios and then seemed to calm a bit, taking in several cleansing breaths.
"Lord Voldemort," the Colonel finally said. "I have a number of reports of teenagers, school-aged girls and boys, fighting and defeating some of my Troopers. Can you ascertain if they are the cadre of students trained by this Potter you so despise? We were led to believe that they would be of no consequence. Is your source's other intelligence to be trusted?
"My Craveners give me similar information, Lord Voldemort. Two who returned badly wounded but able to walk claim, to have fought Potter himself. What fool told you he is a pathetic fighter, if I may ask?" Svarogich waved his wand and a ghostly image similar to a projected memory in a Pensieve appeared. There was no containing device and it was two-dimensional, not three, and soundless. It was from the perspective of a wizard attacking Potter, and occasionally a wand arm rose to fire a spell. It was clearly the view of a Cravener sent to attack in or around Gringotts Bank.
Harry Potter whirled around like a dervish, weaving in and out of his Battle Barriers, while his marble slab shields spun at his back deflecting curses and hexes of all kinds. The viewer's attention was clearly fixed on Harry, but occasionally one of his attackers came into the periphery of the projected images. Those attackers who appeared were dispatched by Potter with ruthless efficiency.
In a moment Harry's gaze turned right into the projection. He raised both wands and fired several different spells independently. Shielding spells were raised in front of the view, but in seconds the projection abruptly ended.
Talmadge spoke up. "Wielding two wands independently. Shields covering his rear that act independent of his attention and move of their own accord. Lord Voldemort, what fool told you of this Potter's poor fighting skill?"
Riddle seethed inside. He was losing face in front of his allies, inferior though they were. But now was not the time to debate their value. His plans for global domination required their support, before he eventually killed them and took over their countries as well.
Many thought Lord Voldemort mad, insane. He was anything but, though he admitted to himself he did have a temper that he let loose more often than he should. He'd even rarely admit he had too great a fondness for the Cruciatus, and he ruined more followers than was prudent.
"Severus, come forward."
With no hesitation, Snape came from Voldemort's left and knelt before him. "Your servant, my Lord." His voice betrayed no fear or emotion of any kind.
"Severus, my little spy. What is it that you always say when asked about Potter? You have a mantra that I've heard in many a rant from you."
Snape remained silent.
"Bella? You remember Severus's opinion of young Harry, don't you?"
The psycho-witch came forward. "Of course, my Lord." She nearly giggled, then lowered her voice into a passable imitation of the Potions professor. "Harry Potter is a spoiled brat of modest magical ability and no training or discipline. He gets by on reputation and luck; he is as arrogant as his father was."
Bella finished. Voldemort clapped his gloved hands together several times, and the witch actually performed a slight curtsey before returning to his side.
"I believe Bella quotes you verbatim, don't you, Severus?"
"Would that all of my Craveners were as unskilled and lucky," Svarogich stated. All of his minions laughed appreciatively, and a number of Tryon's Troopers joined them. The Death Eaters remained still and silent.
"I'd like some sort of explanation, Severus," Voldemort said quietly.
After a very long moment that lasted only a few seconds, Snape cleared his voice and said, "The boy has been in seclusion all summer. Perhaps Dumbledore has arranged for training--"
"That does not explain," Voldemort coldly interrupted, "why his fellow students were so successful fighting us in this attack. Nor does it explain why almost everyone there cast such potent Protego shields."
Not wanting to admit out loud that he had allowed his spy to convince him that even Potter's fight in the Little Hangleton graveyard was sheer luck, Voldemort continued, "My dear Severus, it seems you have allowed your prejudice to sway your judgment. Not very Slytherin of you, and very costly to a spy." Voldemort paused, then in a flash cast, "Crucio!"
He held the Potions master under the torturous spell for the eternity of one minute. Snape never screamed under the curse. However, when he was released he did gasp once and then let out a brief, low moan.
"Severus, you are too valuable to kill, and I fear holding you under the Cruciatus too long and damaging your mind for my service. I must think of another way to punish you. I advise you to never force me to chastise you again."
"I will endeavor--" Snape gasped, but Voldemort cut him off.
"Severus, I do not want to hear from you what you think I want to hear, nor do I want your biased reporting. I need facts; I need impressions, as objective as you can provide. I need to know my enemy. I already know your hatred for all things Potter."
Voldemort paused and leaned back in his chair. "I will soon have more eyes in Hogwarts, in place to both confirm your insights and provide information from different perspectives. I'd like to have your unvarnished reports to validate the impressions of these new sources. Can I rely on you in this?"
"Of course," Snape hesitated, swallowed, and then continued. "I will endeavor to remove my bias from future reports, My Lord."
"That, Severus, is an answer I can believe from you at this juncture. Now accomplish that and I will be justified in my trust in you, and shall reward you accordingly."
With this Voldemort turned to his allies, in effect dismissing the Potions master, who did not hesitate to remove himself from proximity of the Dark Lord. It was a wise move that he found himself closer to Tryon's Troopers than his fellow Death Eaters.
Before continuing his conversation with Svarogich and the Colonel, Riddle commanded, "Young Crabbe, remove that mess from my presence." He pointed to the Death Eater that had brought the pallet with McNair into the cavernous room. "Finish him if he still lives."
Voldemort turned to another of his minions and pointed to the shattered pallet. "You, dispose of that debris."
Johnny Popkins was a pureblood wizard who grew up in one of many tiny secluded Wizarding communities that rarely contacted the outside magical world. Johnny was home schooled and knew a great deal about Charms and basic household and farming Transfiguration spells. He had ambitions and left home at nineteen, hoping to join the greater British world of magic. Having no Hogwarts education and no O.W.L. or N.E.W.T. scores, Popkins could only find work as a hired hand for menial labor. He was a classic recruit for Voldemort's mass of disposable Death Eaters.
The Dark Lord had pointed to him to dispose of the debris from the pallet. Johnny had been the primary person asked to bring in wood for the huge fireplaces, and had carried it in, rather than levitate it. Normally other Death Eaters might laugh at Johnny under these circumstances, but the new recruit was over six and a half feet tall and he was very powerful at casting the Cruciatus.
Johnny started picking up the pallet pieces, and then one of the Inner Circle sniped at him to use magic. Rather than banishing the wood, Johnny Accio-ed it together and levitated it to the fireplace.
Harry Potter's half completed Detonation spell failed. It had been nearly twenty minutes since the pallet should have exploded. However, Potter's conjured wood was very similar in composition to nitrocellulose. It did react to fire.
The fireplace was destroyed, several other Death Eaters were hurt badly, and another Death Eater had to clean up the bits of Johnny Popkins that were spread all over that end of the room.
Vincent Crabbe was glad he had on his mask. No one could see the few tears he couldn't stop. He had followed his father's instructions from prison, and he and his best and only friend, Gregory Goyle, took the Dark Mark.
Now, Greg's mind was shattered by the Cruciatus Curse, and Vinnie was all alone in the ranks of the cruelest men he'd ever met. He decided not to kill his friend as commanded, even though Vinnie knew Greg would never recover. He quickly moved the limp body to an unmanned Floo and secreted him away to his home. He decided there was the only place he could care for his friend. Vinnie's father was in Azkaban, and his mother had died when he was four.
Before Flooing away from his master's headquarters, Vinnie heard the explosion, so he quickly traveled back to see what had happened.
After recovering, Harry Apparated himself and Hermione back to Diagon Alley, right near the twins' shop. Harry commented, and she agreed, that they thought there would be more wreckage in the Alley. Harry turned and saw goblin overseers still stood guard in front of both Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and Phoenix Fashions.
"Harry, there you are, and Hermione." George ran up to them holding Millicent's hand, followed closely by Clarinda Jordan. Since joining the Paladins Millicent Bulstrode had lost a lot of weight and appeared to be taking better care of her appearance. Or perhaps her new boyfriend was the reason she made that last effort.
George said, "We'd heard you were hit, Harry."
"Minor damage," Harry stated plainly. Hermione huffed but Harry followed with, "Well, I got better. How are you and everyone else? What's happened here in the last..." Harry looked at his watch, "...hour or so?"
They were walking towards Gringotts. The buildings and shop facades didn't look quite as nice here, but Harry soon saw a blur of short creatures fixing and cleaning at a feverish pace.
"Hogwarts sent twenty-five house-elves and they've been a Godsend. Of course, Dobby is directing them so I guess you had something to do with this." Harry said nothing, so George continued, "They first made sure everyone was either unharmed or gathered together for mass Portkey to St. Mungo's. Then they just started cleaning - it's what house-elves do, I guess, so things are well in hand."
"I stood guard over the captured Death Eaters along with several other students, Harry," Millicent said. "The Aurors finally showed up and dealt with the survivors, taking them to prison, I guess. I found those watching them turning their backs on them, so I hope you don't mind, but I used your name to say they had to guard them more closely. I didn't think they would follow my lead."
Harry looked at her. "They might not have, but I bet they will now." She smiled.
By this time they had reached Gringotts. The dead goblin guards were gone, and several goblins were busy placing heads of dead Death Eaters on pikes around the bank. An older, official looking goblin, fiercely dressed in what looked like battle armor of some sort, walked up to Harry.
"Mr. Potter," the goblin said in a surprisingly soft voice, "Gringotts hopes you won't mind if we took the heads of your many kills and added them to our own few trophies, as is our tradition. I was informed that you would understand the gesture, particularly after your declaration of Patron Protector."
"Please call me Harry, and I guess you've spoken to Director Gultangk."
"No, sir and yes, sir. No, sir I will not call you anything but Mr. Potter since Wizards disavow the Muggle titles of Lord, even for a Warlord. So until you assume any other title you must be at the very least, Mr. Potter. And yes, I have spoken with the director. He thought you'd like the symbolism of placing the heads of your kills on pikes with ours."
Harry paused in thought for a moment. "I do appreciate the honor you and your great nation pay me. It would not be how I would dispose of their remains, but I will respect your customs. However, please try to keep my name out of this, if possible."
Harry looked at the building. "Were there any breaches within the vaults?"
"No, sir. There is no indication as to what the motives or intent of this attack on Gringotts might have been. We killed the few attackers inside the bank right away. Those Death Eaters amassing out here may or may not have tried to storm us and do something, but you and your friends effectively ended whatever plans they had. The placement of their explosives actually stopped us from arriving outside sooner to help you. That being said, these attackers would have been stopped going in by the same destruction that held us up. They either had no intention of entering the bank, or they were marvelously incompetent."
"I'd bet on the latter," Harry said, "for right now, depending on further evidence to the contrary. It is so unlike Death Eater to use Muggle devices of any kind, but... Hold on.
"I heard different languages other than English, and I believe I heard a few American accents as well. All of the attackers wore Death Eater robes, however, only about a third wore masks. The ones obviously not British wore the robes without their usual care for fit. Voldemort must have acquired allies, rather than recruits--"
"Nonsense, Potter. Your imagination is running away with you." It was Auror Dawlish. "There is no evidence to support such a fancy."
"We were just discussing the evidence, you fool," Harry growled at him. By this time a good number of survivors of the attack had made their way to this area as it went around that Harry Potter was there. Harry raised his voice. "Those of you that were here, did you notice most of the attackers weren't properly dressed as Death Eaters, and that many of them spoke foreign languages or heavily accented English?"
Many of the crowd shouted agreement to Harry's words. Dawlish turned in surprise at this support, but quickly sent off a small burst of red sparks with his wand to quiet the people.
"You're not valid witnesses. You're in shock and merely responding to your Boy-Who-Lived like sheep. Cooler heads, like those of us in the Auror Corps, will decide this."
"None of you were here," Harry spoke loudly. "You were waved off by Fudge himself. How can you decide what happened? Is this how the Ministry decided Voldemort wasn't back last year? That was a piece of brilliant analysis - spot on, all would agree."
The crowd roared their agreement. More sparks from Dawlish.
"I'm not here to debate with you, Potter," Dawlish drew his wand. Harry tensed, but didn't draw his - yet. The Auror continued, "I'm here to take you in for questioning about the death of several pureblood bystanders in this recent scuffle."
The crowd began to grumble.
"I'll arrest you if I need to, Potter." Dawlish and his four Aurors began to position themselves to thwart the crowd, pointing their wands outward. The people backed away. However, it was from the doors of the bank that the response to this demand came.
"Auror Dawlish, I am Director Gultangk. By what authority do you try to arrest a Patron Protector? Are you aware that in doing so without the written authorization of the Minister of Magic and the Supreme Mugwump of the Wizengamot, Potter may attack you on the spot and kill you if necessary? And as the Patron Protector is an associate of Gringotts, I must tell you we will look unkindly on dubious arrests made for political reasons, instead of sound rule of law."
Gultangk looked at Harry and winked. Then he turned back to Dawlish and said, "If you arrest Potter now and do not have witnesses to a specific crime, I cannot imagine how many weeks it will take to reopen Gringotts to serve the good witches and wizards of Great Britain. How will the people react if they cannot access their money?"
Dawlish cowered at this.
"Dawlish," Harry said. "I'll be at the Wizengamot session on Tuesday, and any emergency session that should be called in this time of unrest. Since you cannot produce any evidence against me here in front of my peers, I will gladly answer in front of the Peers of the Wizengamot."
As the crowds chuckled, Harry leaned in and spoke so only Dawlish could hear. "After this summer, and your other feeble efforts against me, be forewarned. The next time you draw your wand on me, make it good, as you will not get another chance."
Harry turned away from the Auror, but he saw that a number of his supporters kept an eye on him. Dawlish huffed and walked away.
"Dobby!" Harry called
"The Potter Fund students are all safe?"
"Both Creevey brothers were slightly wounded, but they'll be fine. All others either weren't here or were unharmed. Winky is at St. Mungo's right now checking on Miss Patty Quirke."
"All right, you've done a fine job here, Dobby. When the Hogwarts elves are finished, if I'm still here I want to thank them personally. If not, please thank them for me. Also, if you can think of some small gift--"
A loud elf popping sound interrupted Harry's words. An ancient house-elf stood before him, and bowed deeply before speaking.
"I is Dinker, Harry Potter SIR, chief elf at Hogwarts. Dobby is not succeeding, Dinker sees, in making Harry Potter SIR understand that hard work is a house-elf's reward. Anything else is confusing to Dinker and others. If Harry Potter SIR truly wants to thank house-elves, Harry Potter SIR should invite house-elves to more disasters to clean up."
With that, Dinker bowed deeply again and popped away.
"I've tried to tell you, Harry," Dobby said. "Winky and I do appreciate our gifts from you, and Winky and I will fix a special house-elf pudding for the Hogwarts elves in your name once school starts, but serving you truly is our one desire and great reward." With that, Dobby popped away nearly silently.
Harry looked at Hermione. She sheepishly concluded, "I guess that completes my education regarding house-elves. Now I can only campaign against house-elf abuse, not slavery."
Right then Winky popped in.
"Harry, I'm glad you are here. I can report and get back to work."
"How is Patty?"
"She is safe and will recover, but it will take over a month. Magic and potions can only do so much. The Healer said, just before I left, that he thinks all will be well, except Patty will... never... never have... children."
With this, Winky dissolved into tears. Harry knelt quickly and reached for her. She threw herself into his arms, and cried in a tinny voice. The crying jag lasted for only about ten seconds, and then Winky was fine. House-elf emotions are not human.
"Winky, please go tell Mr. and Mrs. Weasley that I insist that Patty's mother take leave from her job and stay with Patty during this whole time. I'll fund their family indefinitely if necessary. Have them insist for me, telling Mrs. Quirke I have employment for her when she is able, and that my employees always have such sick and disability benefits.
"Should I go there now?" he finally asked.
"I don't think so, Harry," Winky said. "Not unless you really want to. It's very crowded and quite the situation you despise. I'll tell them you asked about all of them and that I suggested you stay away. I can find you if you're needed."
Harry stood, and Hermione said, "And yet, you still teach me more about house-elves."
Harry smiled, held out his hand, and they walked to see what else might need attention.
At a press conference held at 9:00 last night, Minister Cornelius Fudge declared, "Today, Sunday, August 25th, -- a date which will live in infamy -- the Wizarding nation of Great Britain was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the Death Eater forces of, er, uhm, Lord Thingy.
"After misleading the Wizarding world, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named sent scores of Death Eaters into the Peace Day celebration yesterday at Diagon Alley.
"A number of people were killed" Fudge went on to say, "but thanks to the high quality of training Hogwarts has given for many years, especially under Senior Under Secretary Delores Umbridge last year, the wizards and witches in attendance were able to defend themselves adequately."
When the Minister was asked about rumors that Harry Potter fought and killed many attackers, including a giant, the Minister had this to say, "Haven't we had enough glorifying of that, er, glory seeker yet? Yes, he fought some of the attackers, but we have plenty of evidence that he might have wounded and maybe killed a few good purebloods that happened to be there and innocently happened to be wearing black robes.
"If you want to talk about a hero, talk about young Neville Longbottom. This young man from a well-known pureblood family fought valiantly while outnumbered, and saved me from being abducted. Not only was he quite effective and powerful with his wand, the young genius at Herbology developed a secret weapon over the summer. After he was finally overpowered and lost his wand, he pulled a blow gun from his robes and paralyzed my attacker."
Harry forced himself to read on. The rag went on to magnify the villainy of Voldemort, glorify Neville twice again, and cast aspersions on the Boy-Who-Lived from time to time. Harry was glad for all the nice things said about his Gryffindor dorm mate, but he felt his fury grow and grow with the accumulation of lies.
Where was the responsible press asking government the tough questions about this dubious peace treaty, and about the lack of Aurors present in Diagon Alley during the day? Also, why didn't they talk about the other students that fought so well? Harry huffed to himself, and Winky and Dobby knew him well enough to let him steam.
"I can't buy the Prophet, they won't sell, and they won't even tell me who owns it so I can talk to them about selling. What we need is another paper!"
And that's when lightning struck.
It was 7:14 AM, and Harry had already exercised, gone to services to pray for those injured and the families of those killed, and eaten breakfast.
Harry stood up, paced around the small table, and sat back down. Then he stood again and started to call for his elves, but they were there already.
"Uhm, okay, Dobby, please go ask Director Gultangk when I can see him this morning."
Harry sat, and wandlessly and wordlessly summoned parchment and a quill. After a few moments writing one note, he started another. Hedwig flew into the room and landed on his outstretched arm.
"Winky," he said, "I'll have a note for you in a second."
"Don't forget, you want to go see little Patty Quirke this morning," she said, handing Harry a rasher of bacon for Hedwig.
Harry paused, then said, "That's why I asked you to remind me, thank you. I will as soon as Dobby comes back and tells me the time of my appointment. Your note will be ready soon."
He fed the bacon to his owl and then said, "Hedwig, if I don't know where a person is, but I know her name, do you think you can try to deliver a message anyway?"
The owl gave Harry a very human like tilt of the head and a blink that expressed her exasperation with her unbelieving human, and then held out her leg.
"I should have known, girl, you are the smartest owl in all of England. Please wait for a response if she has one, but she might not. Take care of yourself, I don't know what I'd do without you, you great beauty, you."
Harry finished his second note, and said, "Winky, have you ever been to Ottery St. Catchpole?"
Monday August 26, 1996 - 3:13 PM
Director Gultangk and Andi Tonks nodded. She said, "Mr. Lovegood, we have the contract written as you requested. It's ready for you to read and sign if you are satisfied, but I'd still feel better if you hired representation and had your own solicitor review it."
Sol Lovegood took off his glasses and began to absentmindedly clean them for the fourth time in the last hour. He sat with his daughter, Luna, and looked both excited and confused.
"No, Mrs. Tonks, er, Andi. I trust Harry Potter, and if you tell me this contract protects both of us and fulfills the spirit of what he asked of you, I have no need for other representation. I never liked a single solicitor I've ever talked to - until I met you. Harry will be my partner. So that makes you our solicitor as far as I'm concerned. If he is not worthy of my trust, then all is lost, so why should I care?"
Everyone present looked around at all the others in the room.
Finally Harry spoke. "Andi, why don't you read the pertinent elements of the contract, leaving out all of the legal, er, boilerplate I believe you called it."
"Okay, Harry." She cleared her throat.
"On this day, August 26, 1996, I, Sol Lovegood, hereafter known as Seller, do hereby sell 49 percent of The Quibbler Amalgamated and Ltd., hereafter known asThe Quibbler, to Harry James Potter, hereafter known as Buyer, for the sum of 300,000 Galleons. Buyer also agrees to purchase a new Heidelberg Magical News Press, and pay for renovations to the premises owned by The Quibbler to accommodate the new press.
"Both Buyer and Seller agree to set up an operating fund of 100,000 Galleons, according to the percentage of ownership, to upgrade The Quibbler to a weekly paper within one month, and a daily paper within one year or sooner.
"Seller agrees that at a minimum, 50 percent of each issue will be dedicated to traditional news, and the news which The Quibbler has been known to print in the past will be relegated to the second section of the paper.
"Seller and Buyer agree to attempt to make The Quibbler a newspaper to rival the Daily Prophet and hope to either change its competitor into a serious journalistic entity, or run it out of business. To this end shall Seller as Managing Editor strive with all seriousness, including recruiting and hiring sufficient staff to accomplish this."
Andi paused, and lowered her reading glasses. "From there on the contract is boilerplate. You two do realize that last paragraph holds no legal substance to cause either of you to have to do anything, don't you?"
Harry and Sol both nodded. Sol said, "I just like it there to tell anyone who chooses to look, what we plan to do to the Prophet." Harry nodded in agreement.
"All right, you two sign under your names, Harry first. Director, I assume you have the funds prepared to transfer to the correct vaults?"
The goblin nodded.
"And, Mr. Lovegood, may I be the first new advertiser to sign up for a quarter page ad each week on whatever page you think would be appropriate for a solicitors' firm. I'll have some one bring you the mock up by Thursday, is that soon enough?"
"Oh, yes, Mrs- er Andi, and thank you for your help and your patronage. I cannot say when our next issue will go to press, but we will be running it as soon as possible."
Andi Tonks left. Sol, Gultangk, and Harry walked through the maze of old machinery from the past occupations of the building to the place goblin printing experts were preparing the building for the new press. The Heidelberg Magical News Press weighed more than six tons and was five times longer than the existing press.
"Sol," Harry pointed to the unused machinery and asked, "Can we clear out most of this stuff? What's it good for?"
"Oh, I always used to say I'd take it all apart one day and figure out how it worked. Some of these devices are Muggle, don't you know. I like to see what I can learn about our non-magical brethren."
"All of this stuff is no longer used," Harry said. "Studying it will tell you how the great, great grandparents of Luna's Muggleborn classmates did things."
"Oh, well, I've been meaning to do that for nearly fifteen years, so I guess I'm glad I never wasted my time. I'll have someone clear it out."
"Director Gultangk, Mr. Potter, Mr. Lovegood," A supervisory goblin addressed them. "The flooring is stable enough to begin transformation of the press foundation. We can inform the Heidelberg goblins they can deliver the press anytime after next Wednesday."
"Excellent, Tusgoff, you and your minions are to be congratulated. It looks like you will earn Mr. Potter's performance bonus with progress like this."
At this point a woman that worked in the office arrived. She was flustered by the goblins, and even more so by Harry. "Mr. Sol," she finally said, "The guest you told me about is in the waiting room."
"Very good, Missy, we'll be there directly. See if she wants tea, or, er, whatever else we might have to offer."
"I'll stay here with the pre-installation crew," Gultangk stated. "Good luck to you, Mr. Lovegood, Potter."
As the walked to the office, Sol said, "Harry, are you sure this is wise?"
"I looked into her early work, Sol, she can do what we want. The question remains will she do things our way. We certainly have the incentives that should interest her. Do you want to talk to her about this?"
"No, you know her better, and your history together needs to be, shall we say, clarified, for this to work. I'll jump in if I think it wise."
With these last words the two entered the office waiting room.
"Harry Potter!" the witch gushed. "It's been too long, to what do I owe the pleasure? Granting me another interview?" "Who would you sell it to, Rita? Not Sol here. I believe the Prophet has told you to never darken their doors again, or the Evening Prophet for that matter."
"Oh, Harry, a story about you, written by me, that will sell regardless of what that rag says."
"That rag, and the vicious tone you use to talk about it, is why I've called for you. So why did you come?"
"I seem to remember you mentioning an offer of revenge," she said, looking at her nails as if she wanted to sharpen them. "Far be it for me to turn down an opportunity for revenge against Barnabas Cuffe and whoever owns that disgrace of a newspaper, may they all rot in Perdition."
"Don't hold back, Rita," Harry said grinning. "Tell us your true feelings."
"I bet you'd like that, Harry. No, I have my reasons for hating them, and leave it at that. Now tell me, why am I here?"
Harry looked at Sol, who nodded for Harry to go on. "I just bought a minority interest in The Quibbler. Sol and I have agreed to take on the Daily Prophet by creating a respectable newspaper that reports the facts from both sides of an issue if at all possible, so that people know what's going on. We will be up front with ownership, and right under the banner it will say that Sol owns 51 percent and I own 49 percent."
"Stupid, Harry," Rita stated bluntly. "They'll roast you over it."
"I'm sure they will, but we have two tactics to fight that, well, three I guess, but the third is little more than an idea with no real substance yet. First, you are going to write about anything and everything you don't like about me, without making things up. For instance, I have twenty-seven votes in the Wizengamot. That is about eight percent of the votes, and that is entirely too much power in the hands of one person. Plus, I just inherited it. What qualifies me to vote wisely?"
Rita smiled, calculating wheels turning in her mind could be seen on her face and just about heard out loud.
"Next," Harry continued, "I just declared myself Patron Protector over thirty-six families, and I don't mind adding to that number. With that declaration, I have the right to raise my own private security force - what might be called my own army. How dare I do that, aren't there sufficient Aurors to protect the people?
"Oh, and then there is the fact that I have helped start two, er, rather three small businesses recently by making capital investments with brilliant entrepreneurs. Four if you count Sol here. With the other three, I've defied the M.I.D., the Mages Importers and Distributors, Ltd. They have the protection of the Ministry to force individual shop owners to buy inferior raw goods at extortionist prices, and I've defied them. How dare I do this?
"Rita, you have all sorts of things to write about." Harry ended his list and smiled smugly.
She looked at him still calculating. She turned to Sol, who nodded confidently. "I'll ponder this, Harry, while you tell me the other reason or two why people will accept you being a part owner of this rag, er, sorry Sol, news journal?"
Sol laughed. "I'll tell you later, Rita, why I've published the The Quibbler as I have in the past, and what's happened recently to change my mind about its direction. But for now, accept that I'm with Harry on this one hundred percent. Go on, Harry."
"You said that articles about me sell. What Sol has also discovered is that articles by me on Defensive spells and how to fight sell even better, if you look at Sol's limited subscription base and his even smaller number of distribution outlets. Did you read my article last week on the Protego Shield?"
Rita smiled. "I didn't read it until Tuesday. I didn't pass a shop that carried it until then, and the owner, you'll be glad to know, Sol, told me that he had sold out twice already, and was upping his normal allotment of issues he takes when you publish. He sneered at that, and then griped about your erratic publish dates and unreliable press."
Harry said, "We're installing a new Heidelberg Magical News Press next week. The Gringotts goblin technicians are back there now finishing up site installation prep. Sol and I are also investing in the staff to run it, and the staff to fill it with articles of interest. The back half will be dedicated to the typical Quibbler articles its long-term readers expect, but the front half will take the fight to the Daily Prophet and try to compete with it. Which brings us to you. We want you to report for us."
"I'll string for you for my usual," Rita snapped instantly. "I get five Sickles a word, and I want Bozo as my photographer, at ten Galleons a photo published, a sickle a photo taken on the subject of an article of mine."
"We don't want you to be a stringer, Rita," Sol said. "We want you to work for us."
"Actually," Harry said, "We don't want you to work for us, we want this writer to work for us." At that Harry held out two press clippings, from years before. One was from the start of the first Voldemort war, and it proclaimed that there were indications of graft in the Ministry of Magic connected to a rising Dark lord. It used the name Voldemort, not He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The second article was printed at the start of the trials after Voldemort was defeated in 1981, and it pointed to an early payoff of a Ministry official by an accused Death Eater.
They had been buried on back pages.
"What happened to this reporter, Rita? I really admire her."
Rita had the good graces to blush a bit before jutting out her jaw and saying. "She starved to death, or I nearly did. The Rita you know has eaten well, er...." She lost a bit of her blatancy. "That is, until the last year."
Sol said, "I know, Rita, that as stringers you get a Sickle a word, except on your story about Harry last spring, and Bozo gets a Galleon a photo used, and three Knuts per photo on subjects for the archives. We don't want you to string. We'll pay your salaries, what you both made before the Daily Prophet fired you, but we want her," Sol pointed to the articles in Harry's hand, "to write for us. No Quick Quotes Quills or unsupported slander.
"We write supported facts and put an anti-corruption, anti-pureblood bigotry spin to it. We have an agenda, but we admit to it. We'll put it on our masthead or on our statement of purpose on the editorial page at the very least. We're for merit advancement and equality for all. Harry surprised me when he said his friend Hermione found out several months ago that you've hidden the fact that you're a half-blood, and you've risen to your status on your skills alone - you've had no family patronage. It's time you were celebrated for all of this, not ashamed of the facts."
Rita looked at the two of them with unseeing eyes. Harry and Sol looked to each other quickly, then Rita spoke.
"It's like what Dad did during the Grindelwald wars," she said, "when the Daily Prophet was a real paper. They took on the old Magical Guardian, the paper that was the lead news source in magical Great Britain. It failed to denounce Grindelwald's pureblood movement until the war was nearly over." Rita paused here and smiled at the two men wanly.
"My Mum was a driver for the Muggles that interfaced with the Wizarding Expeditionary Forces. My father was a photographer for the Prophet as a young man, and went to the battles in Dumbledore's forces. Dad was wounded in the last battle. It's what killed him eventually, but not until 1964 when I was ten. I remember him coughing his way through, telling me about what lengths they went through at the Daily Prophet to make sure the news was accurate, and how they killed off the Guardian with better reporting and great pictures, he liked to add."
"I know nothing about that," Harry said, "But it sounds like what we plan to do. Is your father why you became a reporter?"
She smiled again. "Yes. He wanted me to be a photographer, but I'm just incapable of holding a camera steady and squeezing the shutter release. Dad allowed that reporters might earn their keep. When he died I was already writing news stories about what went on at my witches' day school." She paused again and they remained silent as well.
"Barnabas Cuffe's grandfather was responsible for making the Daily Prophet what it was. His son had no interest in the paper, but Barney has spent his life using it as a means to make money, selling it and himself to the highest bidders, even though no one knows who actually owns the Prophet. I say we put a small picture of Hyrum Cuffe in the paper somewhere, at least on occasions, and maybe in the offices as well. It will really irk Barney, and I'll consider that part of my pay. He's the one who made me a hack, though I sold out to him willingly enough."
She paused again, and after a few moments Harry spoke. "I knew nothing about this, Rita. It would make a good article, or even a series perhaps. How else can you help us? Will you help us?"
She looked at them and pulled out a pad of parchment and standard quill. "You're a monthly now, you have to go weekly and daily as soon as possible. What are your plans?" "I plan to re-enter active reporting myself to help at first," Sol said, "And we are financing for new staff. I'm open to suggestions on people you know that want to report like we've described. We want to go weekly in a month or so, at least bi-weekly. And I hope to go daily in a year, though I've had only since early this morning to think about it once Harry came to me with this proposal." "I'm in," Rita said, "Though forget Bozo. He a good photographer, but he likes being a hack, and he's a pureblood bigot through and through. He'd faint if he knew I was a half-blood. I think I'll tell him at the next press conference.
"I can take your twenty-seven Wizengamot votes and slam the Fudge cabal featuring that toad Umbridge and her forty-seven votes. I'll love sticking it to Florence Sheets. I know what to do with the M.I.D. also. I'll go with those two first. I don't know enough about the Patron Protector stuff. I just heard about it for the first time in this morning's paper, so I'll want some help from you on it." She paused, scratching several further notes silently.
"I'm in, but under one condition. I think I'd like to try my hand at the news editor's desk. The Daily Prophet's news editor is very powerful and a despicable witch with a capital 'B.' I'd like to think I could do the job one day, but I want to prove it to myself as much as to you. I just want the opportunity to try."
Harry looked at Sol for a moment, then nodded. Sol said, "I'm not opposed, though I'll take it for a while, eventually going to publisher and editor-in-chief. I've no problem giving you a trial in that post once we need someone else in that position."
"Fair enough," she said. She turned to Harry.
"What's the third thing you two plan to promote the new Quibbler. Have you thought about changing the name?"
"No!" they both said in unison, causing all three to laugh.
Harry said, "I want to try to promote The Quibbler to gain new subscribers. Sol and I both have our funds in this and realize it will lose money for a good long while, but I'd eventually like to see a profit, and that means advertising, which means we need readers to warrant the ads. It's just an idea that I might be able to use my fame and connections to promote readership and advertisers. I'm open to discussions."
They talked into the late afternoon.
Harry spent only an hour with Hermione later that night telling her of his activities of the day. They then kissed for a few minutes and parted reluctantly.
Tuesday brought more Fudge-generated smearing of Harry's good name regarding Peace Day, which was now called the "Day of Infamy." Harry couldn't tell exactly why the Prophet's coverage revolved around the victims, Voldemort's treachery, and Neville, but Fudge continued to harangue solely on Harry. There was even a veiled threat about bringing the matter up before the Wizengamot for some sort of action. Harry snorted in his breakfast with this. Let Fudge bring on his censure. If such action was worded carelessly Harry could challenge him to a duel for his honor - so stood his status now that he declared himself a Patron Protector.
Before heading to Diagon Alley and then the day's Wizengamot session, Harry stopped by Father William's office and asked that he send a note to the Friary to pray specifically for him this day in Chambers with the other legislators.
The Alley still showed signs of the battle, but it looked significantly better than it had at the end of day Sunday. In spite of everything, Clarinda's shop had done a good business, and many people had come back on Monday to buy her apparel. Ginny's StudyBooks and other versions were a big success. The twin's joke shop had done well, and run out of catalogs for Owlpost orders.
While at the shops, Harry was told that Patty Quirke was doing better than expected, though it would still be over a month before she was as fully recovered as possible. She would eventually have only a few small external scars, and would walk and even run normally in time.
With little time to spare, Harry made his way to St. Mungo's and visited the family. Orla and Amanda were there, but Patty was asleep. He raised a Silencing barrier and they chatted quietly.
"Mr. Potter, I can't begin to thank you for paying for Patty's bills here, and the employment possibility. I didn't mention it to the girls, but there was a fair chance I'd be put on half time at my work. Are you sure you have a place for me?"
"I'm very sure, though I don't particularly know what it will be. I have several business interests, and I've chosen to take a position in Wizarding society called a Patron Protector. I'll be able to raise defense forces of my own and protect people like you and your family that have some sort of relationship to me. I'm starting with all of the Potter Educational Fund students and their families. It's sort of like the lords and dukes of old raising their own regiments, but more on a security force scale. There will have to be someplace for you helping in administration for all of this. I assume that's what you do."
"Yes, though I was a computer specialist, I am a trained typist and good at bookkeeping. I understand computers don't work in the magical world."
"There is a way to do it, though I will probably never be able to use one. I have someone looking into it. If you know computers you can help research it. That would be a great business in itself - bringing computers to our world. Help figure out how to do it and I'll give you a minority piece of the business, if there's anything to it."
The look on Amanda and Orla's faces were enough to make that offer worth it to Harry. But at that time Patty startled awake, and mother and sister ran to her.
"I'm here, Patty. Orla and I are here. You're safe. And Harry Potter is here looking in to see about you."
She looked to him as though he was a long way off, even though he was a few feet from her mother. "Am I still a witch?"
Harry looked to Amanda, who nodded quickly. "They say your magic will blossom fully as you grow older. How do you feel?"
She looked at the ceiling for a moment. "All numb, Harry. How do I look?"
"Simply gorgeous, sweetheart. I cannot remember a more beautiful nine year old. Even with the bandage on your cheek, you're too cute for words."
She smiled, then frowned. "Mummy says I can't have babies. Does than mean no boy will want to marry me?"
Harry determined he would answer her as best he could. "I think many a guy will want to date you because you're so pretty. Out of all that lot, there will be a few that won't want to marry you for one reason or another, but the rest will look past that and see that life with you will be worth it. If you want, I'll help you pick out a good one, since you don't have a big brother."
He smoothed the hair from her right eye. "Now, as to babies, just because you can't have a baby, doesn't mean you can't be a mother. My parents died when I was one year old. I was stuck with my terrible relatives, but I would have much rather had someone like you adopt me and be my mum."
Patty looked into his eyes. She yawned. "Good, as long as you help me pick out a good husband, I'll adopt a baby like you."
At this time, a mediwitch interrupted them and gave Patty a potion that put her back to sleep.
"Thank you, Harry," Orla said. Amanda was crying into a handkerchief, but smiling brightly at him. "We tried to convince her of all of that, but... I guess yesterday was too soon for her. But she did ask about you. We told her Dobby came by for you. I didn't tell her about house-elves. Patty thinks Dobby is your valet." "I guess he is at that."
"But today, Harry," Orla continued, "Patty seemed to believe you. Thank you." "Yes," Amanda said, "Thank you so very much for everything."
So, it was with a sad heart but resolute determination that Harry ran through the Ministry and made it to the Wizengamot chambers just before the session began. He actually pulled his robes out and unshrank them after entering, raising the ire of Florence Sheets. Harry looked at her and forced his hair to lengthen while returning her glare. This startled her momentarily, but she was her bitter-looking crone self soon afterwards.
Harry rushed to sit by Isaiah Smith and then looked to the Chief Warlock, but before Brownlea could call the session to order, Fudge sniped loud enough to draw everyone's attention, "Surprised you have the gall to show your face here, Potter."
"Mister Fudge!" Brownlea exclaimed and hammered down his gavel. He looked to Harry, who shook his head. Brownlea nodded to Harry courteously. Then he called the session to order.
Fudge, Sheets, and Umbridge were huddled together throughout the reading of the minutes and what little passed for old business. When the Chief Warlock asked for new business, Fudge stood and called for the floor, but then he conversed with Sheets and Umbridge until Brownlea called his name several times.
"My apologies, Acting Chief Warlock," said the Minister. "It has been a month since we first broached this subject, and now it is time to vote on the endowment to St. Mungo's. As you know, I pardoned Sirius Black of all charges against him after his death in June because of an endowment in his will."
This bludgeoned Harry with a flat iron.
"There had been some dubious evidence of his innocence, but now that he is dead, releasing him would not send a possible Death Eater back onto the streets to join You-Know-Who. However, pardoning him does release the funds his black heart set aside to buy absolution for his many sins--"
"Mister Fudge, you're a liar!" Harry spoke out of turn, but he did use proper addresses.
Brownlea spoke quickly, but with less rancor than he had to Fudge moments before. "Mister Potter, you spoke out of order. You may have a turn when Mister Fudge has finished."
"Thank you, Boaz," Said Fudge.
"You, Mister Fudge, have shown no respect to the naming procedures of this chamber. Please speak as you know you should."
"Right you are, Acting Chief Warlock. I put forth for brief discussion and final vote the proposed Fudge Black Medical Research Wing for St. Mungo's. I propose to allow this go forward with the great financing from myself, and whatever that rogue Sirius Black decided to leave for this project. There is enough to endow this research facility, but those of us responsible enough to the future of our society decided to make sure the Black name did not soil our lives by its solo presence. I looked high and low to find a fine pureblood family to lend their name to this to negate the Black blight, but none came forward. In the end, I decided to risk my own money and good name to see this center endowed."
He sat, and Dolores Umbridge stood, and took the floor, even though Harry tried to ask to speak properly. " Sit down, boy. I wish to second this proposal for final vote, and I wish to take this opportunity to praise our wise and courageous Minister of Magic for his generosity and desire to risk his good name to clean up the blight of the Black name."
She sat looking smugly and Harry immediately stood and asked for the floor.
"Potter," Sheets sneered, "I was speaking first."
"No, Madame Sheets," declared the Chief Warlock. "Mister Potter asked properly, unlike your compatriot, Madame Umbridge, and unlike you. I only let her go on because Mister Potter graciously nodded his assent. Now he has the floor and I remind you that you must use proper decorum and addresses for all in this assembly. This reminder goes for all of your little cabal. Now be seated and let Mister Potter continue."
"Yes, Acting Chief Warlock." Sheets scowled as she said this.
"Thank you, Chief Warlock," Harry said. "I have heard Professor Binns speak on Goblin Wars for years, as have most of you, but I have never heard more useless ramblings of half truths and outright lies in all of my life than I just heard from our esteemed Minister."
A good deal of laughter followed this. Harry continued, "I must correct the Minister on several points. Sirius Black was not a Death Eater and he did not betray my parents. Peter Pettigrew did; the same Pettigrew that received a Order for Merlin, from Mister Fudge's hand."
"You have no proof, Potter, and you know it."
Brownlea hammered his down.
"Chief Warlock," Harry asked, "You've several times alluded to allowing me to use their names without the honorific if they continued to not addressi me as is proper. May I have that privilege?"
Browlea smiled as the three stood and shouted while out of order. Brownlea pounded them down.
"Mister Potter. These three proved even again that they do not know what proper decorum is. I declare that all here in this assembly have the right to address Fudge, Umbridge, and Sheets without the appropriate honors in these chambers for one month. If at the end of that month they have not addressed anyone improperly, then we will return their honorifics. Please proceed, Mister Potter, and thank you for setting a good example for these three."
"You do me honor, Chief Warlock," Harry stated, bowing slightly as was custom. He cleared his throat. "I stated that Sirius Black was innocent, and I believe there are ways to take my sworn testimony on the matter, not as legal precedent, but as to clear his name once and for all. I offer Pensieve memories, a Wizard's Oath, or, if Mister Smith alone asks the questions, Veritaserum testimony."
There were many gasps around the chambers at what Harry was willing to do to clear his Godfather's name.
Brownlea turned to Ledbetter, the Clerk of the Wizengamot. "What is the procedure, Ledbetter?"
"Pensieve memory with a Wizard's Oath after viewing, swearing that the memory has not bee altered has been accepted in the past."
Fudge stated, "As Minister of Magic, I will only accept Veritaserum with me asking the questions."
Harry said, "Mister Ledbetter, as a Patron Protector, if I submit to that extraordinary and insulting means of verifying the truth of my testimony, do I have the right to demand Fudge undergo identical testimony regarding the amount of his intended contributions to the research wing for St. Mungo's?"
"Why yes, Mister Potter, you do."
Fudge quickly stated, "I withdraw the request."
"I bet you do," Harry said as an aside, but loud enough for all to hear. Even more laughter followed.
A Pensieve was brought out. Harry gave the memories of Peter, Sirius and Remus in the Shrieking Shack from third year, and Pettigrew killing Cedric Diggory and performing the ritual to bring back Voldemort in fourth year.
They were projected so all could see and hear. When they were finished, Harry stood, drew his wand and proclaimed. "I, Harry James Potter do swear on my magic that what was just presented in this chamber was my untampered memories. So mote it be."
He lowered his wand and said, "May I perform some simple task of magic, Chief Warlock?"
"Proceed, Mister Potter." Harry cast a Levitation Charm on a piece of parchment on a desk. It shot quickly two feet high, rotated slowly, and then descended more slowly.
"Well," said Brownlea. "That proves Mister Potter's testimony about the innocence of Sirius Black. It also proves, Mister Potter, that you told the truth in the spring of 1995, that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had come back. You have my apology for considering our Minister correct then. I'd like to think many others in this chamber will apologize to you for similar thoughts for the past fourteen months. I fear asking how you escaped." Harry blushed, lowered his head and his voice and stated, "I fought him to a draw and escaped him and his Death Eaters in the confusion, making it back to Cedric's body and Accio'd the Portkey TriWizard Trophy Cup to get away and back to Hogwarts."
"All lies!" Umbridge screeched.
"Madame, you are out of order!" Brownlea declared forcefully. He was furious. "Once more and I will have you removed and censured."
He turned back to Harry and politely said, "I believe you, Mister Potter. You have nothing to prove here."
"Chief Warlock," Harry asked, "May I show my fight that night in the graveyard - to clear my good name once and for all times of these accusations? I can also show you Voldemort interviewing his loyal Death Eaters. It includes several former members of this assembly."
Brownlea looked at his pocket watch. "Perhaps not the interview, but we owe you the fight after what you've been accused of in this chamber today, and for the accusations of the past month."
Harry nodded, pulled the appropriate memories, and watched as required the battle the Wizengamot now viewed. At the end there was nothing but silence, until Harry eventually cleared his throat and said, "I, Harry James Potter do swear on my magic that what was just presented in this chamber was my untampered memory. So mote it be."
During the projection of the battle, Harry remembered he was a Patron Protector, and he needed to always act like he was worthy of such a position, one taken by self-proclamation and backed by force of will and force of magic.
After taking his oath, Harry drew his wand and cast, "Expecto Patronum!" A nearly solid silver Prongs leapt form his wand, but did nothing more than turn, nod to those present, turn to Harry and bow to him before disappearing in silvery mist.
"Well," Brownlea stated, a little flabbergasted, "I do believe that eloquently proves in more than one manner that Mister Potter did indeed fight Voldemort and live to tell about it. Please proceed, Mister Potter, you still have the floor."
Harry took a moment to gather his thoughts. "I thank all of you for watching my memories with tolerance--"
"It was a great honor, Mister Potter," Tiberius Ogden called from the back of the room. Many others agreed loudly from all over.
After a moment of quiet applause, Brownlea gently tapped his gavel and nodded to Harry.
"No, you all honor me, but I wish to honor my Godfather, Sirius Black. The Black family, for generations, had been a scourge on this society, Sirius felt. He wanted his name to stand for more than what it had before him. He endowed a number of charities, including an orphanage, so that children who lose their parents won't have to endure being raised in situations intolerant of magic, like I was.
"I know Sirius gave 500,000 Galleons to St. Mungo's. Has Fudge offered more, so that his name goes up first ahead of Sirius's? Has he offered half as much to have his name with Black at all? That's my question, and I'd like an answer."
Harry sat down at this point.
Big mistake. It relinquished the floor and made his question rhetorical, not one Fudge had to answer.
Florence Sheets stood and proclaimed, "I move that the Fudge-Black endowment be accepted as is without any further discussion."
"I second the motion," Umbridge shouted right after Sheets.
There was nothing else for it. The vote had to go forward, before that question or any other debate could occur, and then only if the motion was defeated. With the current count, particularly with the Umbridge forty-seven votes, the motion would pass with over two score votes clearance.
Grabbing at straws, wanting to postpone the vote for even the shortest of times and faintest of hopes, Harry called, "I ask for the thirty-three minute delay."
In each calendar year, each Wizengamot member has one chance to delay a vote for thirty-three minutes without any need for a second or any discussion. The call is made and a vote is delayed. Period.
Smith looked at him. "You have your thirty-three minutes. I don't know what you can do, but get to it."
Harry pulled at his hair, and then ran from the chamber. He would be the only one allowed to leave. He paused outside and then thought of Dumbledore, all the while knowing there was nothing the aged mage could do to sway enough votes. After a second's thought, he ran to Arthur Weasley's office. He thought for sure the man could Floo call the Headmaster from there, or would know how.
Harry ran into the office. Perkins wasn't there. "Mr. Weasley, can you fire call Dumbledore from your fireplace?"
"Why, yes, Harry, use the Floo powder in the small box and just say, "Headmaster's office. And do call me 'Arthur' like we agreed."
After nearly a minute trying, Harry gave up, and stood from his kneeling position. He leaned against the wall and sighed sadly.
"Fudge and Umbridge are going to pass a law that names the research wing at St. Mungo's 'Fudge Black' and I just know Fudge isn't giving hardly anything to get the recognition. They have the votes, and no amount of reasoning will stop it."
Arthur immediately stood and looked to the framed ensign of his family's denied Right to Rule. Harry and he naturally gravitated to it.
Almost as graffiti, the words Abnego Interrex Stativus were written so carelessly on the ensign. Arthur, like last time, touched the scrawl of poorly worded Latin that declared his family had been denied the Right to Rule forever. Once again it gave off a sickly yellow spark and a disagreeable odor. Once again Arthur waved his wand wordlessly and cleared the air.
But everything changed after that. Harry pulled his wand at the exact moment that he remembered the historical narrative of the American Squib, Cilla Newcastle.
Harry pulled up his Spell Monger's Scrutinizer and checked the magic of the document. There was a general set of old magic with object wards on it that Harry guessed could be the original recognition spells for the Wizengamot Chamber. Then there was the banning magic, which after closer inspection was two spells, one on top of part of the other.
"Arthur, may I cast an analysis spell on this document to see what that banning statement consists of?"
"Sure, Harry, you're the one with the time limit."
A general Finite Incantatem would be too general. But Spell Mongers had a very precise low power magic canceling spell that could end a tiny portion of a spell in development. Harry cast this on the written word, Stativus.
There was another spark of yellow and a greater rotten smell, but then the word 'burned off' with royal purple sparks. A springtime scent filled the room. Where the previous ban was, now it read Abnego Interrex Posteritas X.
"Good Lord, Harry, that basically reads 'Rule Denied Ten Generations.'"
"Arthur, did Ginny or Ron tell about the American we met that told us the life story of Sir Percival Weasley?" "Yes. I've been meaning to visit her, perhaps even invite her to dinner."
"Well, the Americans record the event that the Weasleys were only denied rule for ten generations. This backs up that idea. If that was the case--"
"Then we Weasleys have been denied the right to rule for seven generations."
Harry looked at his watch; he had eight minutes left of his thirty-three. "Come with me, please, sir. You can take back your family votes, all forty-six of them. You'll turn the balance of power in the Wizengamot and save... save Sirius's legacy at St. Mungo's."
Arthur stared at him for a moment, and then said, "Let's go, Harry. I don't have the appropriate robes, but that doesn't matter I don't think, at least not the first time. I have the inheritance from Sirius, and I can buy whatever robes are needed."
They ran to the Chamber, and came to the door with just under two minutes to spare.
"Let me go first and grab Isaiah Smith."
"Is Dumbledore in there?"
"No, he hasn't been in all the past month or so. Wait thirty seconds. If I haven't come back, step just inside the door, but don't go further."
At the thirty count, Arthur stepped into the door. He'd been there for testimony for his Muggle protection legislation before, but had entered through a witness's box. He held the framed Weasley's Three-Thirty-Three Family Right to Rule as a shield before him.
Arthur looked to Harry who was rushing back to him, but his attention was drawn to the shouting voice. "Weasley, if you enter this room you are fired from the Ministry of Magic immediately!" It was Fudge ranting at him, anger and panic in his voice.
"That will be okay, Mr. Weasley," Harry assured him. "You--"
"Harry," Arthur interrupted him, sticking out his jaw. "I'll do the right thing because it's the right thing. Consequences can go to blazes."
Arthur stepped forward and a loud gonging started.
"Chief Warlock!" Fudge and Sheets shouted in unison. Sheets screeched, "We have a vote. Nothing can stop a vote."
Boaz Brownlea had been Dumbledore's Acting Chief Warlock for over ten years. He'd seen more excitement in chambers in the last month than in all those previous years combined. This day was shaping up to be the most interesting in his forty-four years as a Wizengamot member.
Brownlea said, "As I understand it, and the Clerk of the Wizengamot can confirm this, the only thing that can interrupt a vote, interrupt anything going on in session for that matter, is the challenge of a member's Right to Rule, by someone holding magical evidence that they might have a prior and higher claim to another's vote or votes." He looked to Ledbetter.
"Yes, Chief Warlock, you are correct," the clerk stated. "and that sound was the challenge gong that insists we stop all proceedings and investigate. Mr. Weasley. Please bring forward your Family ensign."
Arthur, visibly shaking, stepped towards the Clerk.
"Chief Warlock," Harry said, "while our more than capable Clerk investigates this, may I explain why I brought him here?"
"Proceed, Mister Potter."
"I was aware of the Weasley family indefinitely losing their Right to Rule seventeen generations ago. However, just recently, I heard from a questionable source that the loss should have been only for ten generations. I dismissed that, assuming the Weasley ensign, which I had examined, had been correct.
"In desperation today I went to Mister Weasley's office to call Chief Warlock Dumbledore. No disrespect to you, Chief Warlock Brownlea, I wanted Mister Dumbledore here to try to persuade votes, not take your place."
Harry bowed and Brownlea bowed back, indicating he understood.
"While there, I noticed the spell declaring Abnego Interrex Stativus was poorly settled magic. I thought for sure such a decree would be better cast. Upon closer examination, the indefinite abrogation of power showed itself to be counterfeit, and Abnego Interrex Posteritas X, Interrupted Rule for Ten Generations, was underneath. If that indicates what I thought it did, and this chamber may point to my conclusion, there is a change of voting rights needing to occur."
"Chief Warlock," Ledbetter said out loud, catching everyone's attention. The man had perfect timing. "I find no fault with the document and its implication that Mister Weasley should join this august body. It only remains to inquire of this chamber which votes go to him, and what level of punishment, if any, is to be exacted from those who have wrongly held those votes."
"Please proceed, Ledbetter." Brownlea said.
Ledbetter laid the ensign on the Clerk's table and stepped back. He slowly withdrew his wand, and pointed it at the document. A quick swish and some indistinct Latin later, the document began to glow. A different, more melodious gonging occurred.
A basso profundo voice stated mechanically, "Forty-six votes withdrawn from the usurper Umbridge family. Forty-six votes returned to the Weasley family. The Weasley Family is aggrieved. The Thirty-Three Second Directive applies, beginning with the next tone."
Isaiah Smith ran to a shocked Arthur Weasley, who had walked to Harry's side. Smith said, "Mister Weasley, I congratulate you and welcome you to our assembly. There is no time for formality, which will be attended to after this--"
A quieter, but obvious gonging began and continued every second.
"Count, Harry," Smith ordered, then turned to Weasley. "You have certain rights to extract retribution. I cannot explain all right now. Will you trust me? I want to see Umbridge severely punished, but not physically harmed."
Harry said, "Eight."
Arthur gulped and nodded, but said nothing. Sheets and Fudge, as well as other Family Heads who voted with them were shouting and calling for the floor. Brownlea ignored them.
Smith stated, "You have until thirty-three, or you lose the right for retribution. Will you trust me?"
Arthur gulped again and stuttered, "Yes, s-sir."
Smith spun Weasley around to face Brownlea and whispered into his ear. "Say my words: Chief Warlock Brownlea."
Harry said, "Twenty."
Arthur began to parrot, "Chief Warlock Brownlea, I am eager to join this assembly. I ask that the Umbridge Family be required to forfeit their Family Vote until they pay to the Weasley vaults the back wages that my family has been denied for seven generations." With that, Dolores Umbridge fainted.
Harry said, "Twenty-eight."
Arthur continued, "And I ask that I receive five thousand Galleons, immediately to transition my family to where it needs to be to serve."
The last gong rang. After several pregnant moments, the room's voice stated. "So mote it be. Remove the usurper. She has no Right to Rule."
Arthur wavered but did not faint. Harry and Smith moved him to their corner and pushed him in a chair to prevent his falling.
Brownlea declared, "Auror Dawlish, it is your duty to escort Umbridge out of this chamber immediately."
She had been revived by Florence Sheets. The squat witch looked panicked for the moment, then she turned to Harry.
"You ruined everything!" Umbridge then drew her wand and tried to hex Harry.
For his part, Harry knew the room would not allow a spell cast in attack on one of its members, or any other magic that was out of order. But he stood to dodge the spell and lead it away from those sitting in his corner.
But Harry's efforts were unnecessary. Umbridge flew back under a significant magical backwash, even though she'd cast nothing. Dawlish carefully withdrew his wand and levitated her out of the room.
Brownlea hit his gavel. "Before we officially welcome our new member to this assembly, we have a vote."
"Chief Warlock, I withdraw my motion," Fudge said. Harry chuckled and Fudge squared his stooped shoulders a bit and said, "And it's a pity that St. Mungo's will not benefit from the donation I was prepared to make."
"Fudge," Harry said, not treating him with any decorum, as the Chief Warlock's earlier decree allowed. "If you will tell us what amount you were willing to contribute, perhaps we will vote in favor of your measure. If you are offering the same 500,000 Galleons Sirius Black contributed, or more, I'll make the motion to include your name with his on the new research facility."
Fudge slumped. He muttered as he sat down. "No, I irrevocably withdrew my contribution."
Harry turned to Smith. "Do we have the votes to call for a Vote of No Confidence on Fudge as Minister?"
"No, we need a solid two hundred and twenty-three votes, not two-thirds of the existing quorum."
Brownlea pounded his gavel. "I'd like to be the first to enter into the minutes of this session, my welcome to Mister Arthur Weasley, as our newest member."
The applause was hearty in some areas of the room, and non-existent in others.
Still in shock, Arthur went back to his office to clear out his desk. Only the Senior Undersecretary for Law and Order, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and Minister of Magic can hold a position in the Ministry and still be an active Wizengamot member. Harry offered to help him, but Arthur turned him down, wanting to be alone as he removed his possession from the desk he'd occupied for decades.
Arthur asked Harry to go to Grimmauld Place and tell his family about what happened, and to tell them he'd be home early. Before Harry could leave, a Gringotts raven delivered a post telling Arthur that the five thousand Galleons transition money had been delivered to his vault.
Arthur fell into his chair. "Well, that will add to the forty-five thousand from Sirius. I have a long time before I have to find a job, but I'd rather not touch very much of it for the future. And I need the new robes and such, whatever that takes." "Mr. Weasley." "Now, Harry, we've asked you to call us Arthur and Molly, and you've done it some. In the Wizengamot I understand we are Miss-Tahs Weasley and Potter, but as peers now, we need to be Harry and Arthur." Harry smiled. "All right. Arthur, you don't seem to know that as a Wizengamot member you receive a daily stipend."
"Yes, but it is something like a Galleon or two a day, not enough to live on." "It's three Galleons a day now, and three per vote that you control. You have forty-six votes, so that's... er..."
"A hundred and thirty eight Galleons a day," Arthur said, amazingly doing the maths in his head, "for two days a week, totaling two hundred and seventy-six Galleons a week for two half days of work basically." Arthur gazed at the family ensign casually placed on a filing cabinet. He turned to Harry.
"But I only make two hundred and twenty Galleons a week as it is. I get a fifty-six Galleons a week raise for working less than a fifth of the time I did here.
"Harry, that's not right."
"Oh, it's right that you be paid, it's just not right that one man has forty-six votes, and that I have twenty-seven. You've studied Muggles, what do you know about their government?"
"Each person of age has one vote, and in the House of Commons the people elect every official. Each of them has one vote in their assembly. That's amazingly fair, and the Prime Minister is elected that way also."
"Yes, Arthur, that's fair. That's what Mr. Smith and I want, and everyone sitting in my corner is very open to the idea. We're keeping our votes consolidated until we can pass sweeping changes and revamp our government along the lines of merit and one vote per person. Would you like to join us?"
"Er, why yes... Yes, Harry I would. I've admired Muggles for their ingenuity, but treated them like specimens in a lab. The Grangers have made me aware of just how backwards Wizarding society is in such governmental matters."
Harry remembered an important detail. "Arthur, I've done you a disservice today." "I'll read this huge book by Thursday morning, Harry."
Harry laughed. "It's dry enough, but start with the back half, believe it or not. That's where most of the current information is. But no. Most of the people that have joined my side and Mr. Smith's this summer have been attacked shortly thereafter by Death Eaters. Mr. Smith was attacked right here in the Ministry at the Floo and Apparation Concourse. Can you Floo to Grimmauld Place from this fireplace?"
"Most fireplaces inside of the Ministry are Floo calls only. Because I have to react to Muggle secrecy problems instantly, this Floo is one of the few that transports as well. I just use the secure Floo powder Fred and George developed and I can go straight to headquarters from here."
"Good, please do that. And talk to Bill about personal security measures. You are now a prime target for Death Eaters, even more so than you were as a member of the Order of the Phoenix. I'm serious. Isaiah Smith, Darance Bread, and Alexius Tiller have all been attacked, and I happened to be there each time to save them. You are now a bigger threat than they were. Everyone in our corner has spent time and money on wards and personal protective measures. You really need to take this seriously."
Arthur blinked. "I never thought of that. We have wards at the Burrow, and Grimmauld Place is as secure as can be, but I walk around Diagon Alley just as you please. I'll talk to Bill for sure, and all of the children. They're all supposed to be home for dinner tonight. You'll come, won't you? You can help me explain all of this. We're helping Percy make final preparations for Penny's funeral Thursday afternoon. It's at 3:30. We'll be finished in the Wizengamot by then, won't we?"
"We've never gone past 1:30 in my time," Harry stated, "Though I've only been in it for a month or so. But I've seen members get up and leave, so we can do that if needed.
"I won't be there for dinner, Arthur. I know you and Molly consider me family, but I'd rather let you all do that with out me. I will be by tomorrow at 10:00 to take you for robes. Meeting Ernald Tattershall at Tattershall's will be a treat. Be prepared to spend money on robes like you've never imagined, but it is important."
Arthur said, "If you won't come for dinner, please come for breakfast tomorrow. I get up at 6:30 and eat at 7:00 even on vacation. It won't change tomorrow now that I'm unemployed, or part time working for more money than I've ever made."
Harry agreed to go briefly tell the Weasleys at Grimmauld Place about the day's events. Arthur would walk around and said goodbye to his many friends, and finish packing after that. He said he'd be a couple of hours at most.
Harry Flooed from Arthur's office to Grimmauld Place. He'd spent little time there this summer, but thanks to Ginny, he at least knew how to land without face-planting himself.
When he called out in the empty kitchen, Molly responded from the salon. Hermione was there, and he ran to her and planted a big kiss on her. She glued herself to him and Ron said, "Aguamenti is the incantation, isn't it Mum?"
Harry and Hermione broke apart. She said, "You do know that would cost you dearly, don't you, Ron?"
"Oh, yes, but I've been working on my Door Locking spells, and I'm pretty sure I can run faster than either of you, so..."
"What brings you here, Harry dear," Molly asked, "not that I'm not glad to see you."
"I have a message from your husband. He'll be home early. It's a long story, but Fudge was going to push through a terrible piece of legislation. I ran to Arthur's office to try to reach Dumbledore, but he wasn't available. Arthur and I looked at the Weasley Family ensign as a Three-Thirty-Three Family."
"That old parchment just depresses Arthur," Molly said. "I've tried to convince him to throw it away, but he refuses."
"Well, I'm glad he didn't. We discovered the Weasleys didn't lose the Right to Rule forever. Umbridge and her forefathers have been cheating the Weasleys for seven generations. So Arthur took his ensign down to the Wizengamot chambers and took her votes away. Fudge threatened to fire him, but Arthur quit right there. He was nervous, but magnificent."
Harry didn't notice that Molly sat down hard at the news of Arthur being unemployed. Ron balled up his fists and walked towards Harry, who wasn't looking his way until the last second. Harry turned to see Ron reach back to give him a mighty blow to the head.
Harry half-stepped away in a blur of motion and raised his hand, catching Ron's hand in a vise-like grip. He shoved his friend away.
"Why'd you do that, you git?" Harry shouted.
Ron advanced towards his best mate, saying, "You get Dad fired like it's some great joke. We need his income." Ron took another swing, and Harry stepped away again, not touching Ron this time but letting the redhead's momentum drop him on the sofa edge.
Ron rose, amidst Molly, Ginny, and Hermione telling him to stop. Ron made for his wand, but Harry appeared right before him and said coldly, "Don't move." His wand was at Ron's chest.
"First of all, you great bloody prat," Harry said, "I would never let your family starve."
"We don't want your charity." "And I wouldn't give charity. I have need of someone just like your father at a decent salary. But that's not going to work for him now that he's a Wizengamot member."
"Do you want to own every Weasley, Harry?" Ron spat.
"Bill works for you. The twins owe you their start, and give you money for doing it. Ginny now works for you. You want Dad too?"
Ginny pushed her brother around so he was facing her. "Harry is my partner, not my boss. He's given me the opportunity to make money that I'd never have had, without him. He's a junior partner. And I get the lion's share of the money, when he could rightly ask for half. That's the way it is with the twins, and Clarinda Jordan. And as for Bill, no one would have given him the opportunity to advance at Gringotts, much less such a big opportunity. Harry is Bill's client, not boss."
"Harry knows your father, Ron," Molly added. "Any job offer would most likely have been doing more with Muggle contraptions than he does now, and you know how Arthur would have enjoyed that."
By this time, Ron and Harry had calmed down. Harry said, "I should have told you from the start, but the next thing out of my mouth would have been that your dad gets paid as a Wizengamot member."
"He does?" Molly asked. "Oh, it's just a stipend as I understand it."
"Yes," Harry explained. "I won't tell your business, Molly, but it's so much per day per vote controlled. Arthur now controls more votes in the Wizengamot than anyone else. He works less than a half-day on Tuesdays and Thursdays and he told me that with his forty-seven votes he'll make fifty-seven Galleons a week more than he does now. Plus there are the punitive damages from the Umbridge family for cheating the Weasleys all of these years. You're coming into a windfall, Molly."
Ron asked quietly, "How many votes do you have, Harry?"
"Twenty-seven." Then Harry's brow narrowed. "You're concerned about how much I make a week to serve, aren't you, Ron? Well, I'll ask your father not to tell you what the stipend per day per vote is."
Harry ran his right hand through his hair. "I consider you my best mate, Ron, but you're perspective is twisted sometimes. Ginny and Hermione tell me you're big on figuring out strategies this summer - the strategy of Transfiguration and the strategy of Charms. Well, here's an assignment. Try to figure out what the strategy of a best mate is, and then get back to me.
"In the mean time, think about this. Just how do I qualify for my stipend from the Wizengamot? Here's a hint. For you to get the Weasley Family stipend your dad would have to die. Then Bill would have to die. Then Charlie would have to die. Then Percy would have to die. Then Fred would have to die. Then George would have to die."
"Let me know when you want to trade places, Ron."
Harry took a deep breath and turned from Ron. "Molly, always lovely to see you. You too, Ginny." He turned to Hermione. "Beautiful, I'll see you tomorrow."
With that Harry silently Apparated out of the house.
Ron turned to the ladies in the room, knowing he'd be in trouble. "He's not supposed to be able to Apparate from here, is he, Hermione?"
"He can do whatever he wants, Ron," Hermione said, hands on her hips. "And I was hoping he'd spend time with me this evening. Harry has never turned on you --! Oh, I give up! Why bother, Harry said it so even you can understand what you did wrong.
"I'm going to the library. Avoid me for the rest of the day, Ron. Molly, please call me after he's finished his dinner, and I'll eat whatever's left over."
Hermione stormed out. Ron turned to the two female family members present.
The weather forecast inside Grimmauld Place called for immediate lightning and thunder.
At breakfast at Grimmauld Place the next day, both Molly and Arthur tried to apologize for Ron's behavior.
"There is nothing for you two to apologize for," Harry stated, "this is between mates. I can understand being upset that it looked like I caused you to lose your job, Arthur. I'm sure I could have explained it better, but trying to punch me is... well, beneath Ron."
"Nevertheless, Harry, I do apologize that apparently I didn't raise him to know better, particularly now that he is almost an adult. Molly joins me in this."
"He's already eaten, hasn't he?" Harry asked.
"I made him wake and eat before Arthur said you were coming. I sent him off to his room to ponder your assignment. The girls are at Hogwarts checking on something or the other. I think that was very clever of you, Harry," she said. "Ron has learned a great deal about magic this summer in his pursuit of the strategies of different magical disciplines. Minerva started him on it for Transfiguration, but the rest has been his idea, and he's only discussed it with Hermione to refine his statements. She's been impressed as well."
"Well, let's see what he does about it. Back to you and the Wizengamot, Arthur. First and most important, you've explained to everyone the security risks?"
"I didn't have too great a discussion with Charlie. The long distance Floo call connections to Romania were terrible last night, but he did understand that personal security is important, and Bill told him he'd send along some ideas about personal wards and other ideas. Bill talked to all of us last night about it."
Molly said, "I hate not being able to just go to a shop here or there without checking with someone else with the Order to go with me as backup."
"Yes, Molly dear, but do it for me, please, and for your children. I don't think I could live without you."
She looked at her husband fondly. "I feel the same, Arthur." They kissed and then she pulled back. "We'll embarrass the boy, dear."
"No," Harry said, "I does my heart good to see a happy couple show true affection. My aunt and uncle hardly ever did, though they used affectionate nicknames for each other. Had I grown up with them kissing or hugging, it would be one thing, but the idea now is a bit revolting. I use you two as a model for how couples should be."
Molly stood and moved to him. Harry rose - surviving a Molly hug was easier if you could keep your head above water. The hug occurred, then they sat again.
"Now," Harry said, "You two have discussed the idea of one vote for one Wizengamot member, and those members being elected by the adult population?"
"Yes, Harry," Molly said. "At first I didn't want to give up the income. Old habits die hard. We hadn't let Sirius's inheritance affect our daily finances. But them Arthur pointed out that we should receive a goodly sum from liquidating the Umbridge estate even if that cow can't pay back everything. And there is whatever you had in mind for Arthur to do in your businesses if it comes to it. He and I both have thought about opening a shop for helpful Muggle devices that aren't in the magical world yet. So there are plenty of opportunities for the future."
"Besides," Harry said, "I think changing society and the Wizengamot to that point will take years, perhaps decades. And we'll need Arthur's level head and sound advice with us all of the way."
"I'm still in shock over all of this, Harry."
"If you want a shock, let's go to Tattershall's for your Wizengamot robes. Ernald Tattershall is a unique human being - a combination of fashion sense, governmental gossip, and the biggest busybody since my Aunt Petunia. But all that said, I like him, and he can be a valuable asset.
"I started off trying to scare him at Isaiah Smith's advice. Ernald proclaimed he didn't like half-bloods, but when I apologized and treated him fairly, he turned right around and changed his very demeanor in the conversation. Mr. Smith says it's like he has a fake personality for his shop, and we saw the real person there. Ernald gave me a wealth of information in a non-gossipy way, and has sent me several notes with information that he thought I'd like to know he's gleaned from other members.
"Don't get upset, when you see the prices, Molly, but they are what I would consider very good dress robes. You could easily do with two sets only, Arthur. And even though many wear a wig, a number of the members don't have long hair at all."
Harry showed them how he changed his hair length, and said that after further research with Tonks, that is the only metamorphic abilities he discovered.
The rest of the morning Harry told them of all of his experiences in the Wizengamot to date until Tattershalls had opened at 10:00.
Harry and Arthur Apparated right to Tattershall's. Arthur had never been there before and Harry took the older wizard with him. At first he was hesitant to Apparate with only one wizard, but Hermione had told them all about Harry's ability to Apparate someone safely by himself.
"Er, Harry, that didn't feel like normal Apparation."
"I've been experimenting on ways anyone can Apparate silently, or at least make less noise than they normally do. I'll show you later if you wish."
"Well, I guess that could make the difference, son."
They'd Apparated with their wands drawn, but no threat occurred, and they relaxed and put them away when they went inside the shop.
Harry walked towards the back of the shop as he had before. Tattershall looked up with venom in his eyes, but changed to an odd smile after a moment.
"Ah, Potter, Weasley, I was expecting you."
"Ernald, how are you today." Harry wondered what was going on. Tattershall usually gushed over any Wizengamot member, particularly those with a larger number of votes.
"Fine, Potter. Let me measure our new Wizengamot member for his robes."
Harry stepped back but moved to where he could see Tattershall's eyes. Arthur turned as instructed so Ernald could measure him. The tailor had a tape measure in his hands.
Harry saw the tape measure fall and Tatershall raised a dagger to Arthur's neck.
Harry raised his hand in a flash and cast a concentrated Reductor before the wand was in his grip. The dagger, hand, and side of the neck of the assailant were ripped away by the spell and Arthur was sprayed with blood.
"What the--" Arthur exclaimed in fright, after looking up to see the bright red spell hurling over his shoulder.
Harry rushed behind the counter and looked around. He reached down and pulled up a goblet, sniffing it.
They heard a shuffle behind the curtain and ran to the back room. Arthur followed with his wand drawn, ignoring the blood on his back.
A Death Eater, mask resting on the table, stood with his wand to the real Ernald Tattershall's throat. The wand tip glowed green. Tattershall was badly beaten and was bleeding from several wounds.
The Death Eater pulled his wand back and then started to push it forward into the tailor's neck. At the same time he took a deep breath and started to cast.
The spell Diffindo! was half cast, but interrupted by Harry Disapparating across the room and appearing with his Fairbairn knife embedded in the Death Eater's throat. As he appeared he violently ripped the knife out and away from him and Tattershall.
The Death Eater died with the fountain of his life obscenely decorating the wall. The Death Eater's wand had caused a small but dangerous cut in Ernald's neck, and Harry clamped his hand over the wound as best he could.
"Arthur, Apparate now to the Emergency Entrance of St. Mungo's. I have to get him there, but I'm not going to leave you here unprotected."
Weasley stood in shock at the death Harry had wrought in seconds.
"Right, Harry. St. Mungo's Emergency Entrance."
Arthur Apparated away, and Harry followed a second later.
Tattershall was not as badly hurt as he looked. He'd be back to work the next afternoon. He then insisted that Arthur Weasley would have his Wizengamot robes for the Thursday session.
Harry returned to the tailor shop with two Aurors less than ten minutes after leaving, but the bodies of the two Death Eaters were gone. The destruction and blood weren't.
Thursday's Wizengamot session was a non-event. Fudge and Sheets weren't even there. Many a witch and wizard in session offered the newest Wizengamot member their congratulations, even those who didn't mean it, such as the head of the Yaxley and Parkinson families.
Harry had send word to the people that sat in the far right corner with him and Isaiah Smith. They met in a private room near the Wizengamot Chamber thirty minutes before the session started. He evenly distributed the proxies for his votes to the group, asking them to vote their conscience first and foremost, but to also take into consideration how he might want his votes cast.
Penny Clearwater's funeral was interesting to a degree - at least as much as such a sad event could be. The Clearwater parents were Muggles, however, their four children had all been magical. Because Penny was the youngest, and her oldest brother was fourteen years her senior, the service was magical with a nod to Muggle traditions. The Clearwater parents had both been only children so there were no Muggle relatives attending. The Muggle Church of England traditions were for the parents, but it was a wizard CofE priest who conducted the service.
Harry felt very out of place as some recognized him and thanked him for all he did in a battle where Penny had died. Percy was nearly stunned to silence during the entire time, only occasionally releasing a tear that he quickly brushed away. Percy accepted Harry's condolences like an automaton, but he treated everyone else the same as well.
During the rest of the week the Daily Prophet didn't mention anything about the shift in power in the Wizengamot, but it did quote Fudge even more vehemently about Harry being too big an influence on society and somehow the cause for the failed Peace Day. Harry received a number of Owlposts chastising him for it, but Dobby and Winky enjoyed blowing them to bits.
Unlike when the Daily Prophet had printed bad things about him in the past, this time Harry received a small but significant number of posts from people who didn't believe what Fudge said.
Harry made sure they received a complimentary six month trial subscription to The Quibbler.
In the final days before school started Harry spent a good bit of time with his new girlfriend, and even more with Remus. His guardian had come to mean a great deal to Harry over the summer.
Bill Weasley arranged a meeting for Harry and the recently fired Senior Auror Bentley Johnson and Auror Samuel Freezemore. They agreed to form the nucleus for the Potter House Guard, with Johnson in overall command. They would approach all other former Aurors they trusted to join his staff full time, and to form an Auxiliary of concerned citizens that would be part timers as well. Bill immediately volunteered for the Auxiliary.
"I've financed this pretty will," Harry told them. "Bill is the financial controller for this operation. I want you to spend it wisely, but I don't want you scrimping to accomplish your work. Get creative in how you do things. You both were in the Corps for a long time and have wished you could try this or that. Discuss it with Bill and try out your ideas. If you need a bit of magic you can't find, let me know what you're looking for and I try to Monger it together.
"Buy good equipment and don't hesitate to spend money on safety for you and your cadre. I want you to start with the families of the Potter Educational Fund students. Make sure they are safe and have escape options if attacked. Next, please approach the Muggle families of Muggleborn students. After that, do what you think makes sense. You know better than I do."
Harry also spent time refining his class agenda for the Practical Defense lessons in light of the events of the last month, and Mongering bits and pieces of magic he thought he'd need for the coming year.
In the fullness of time, it was Sunday, September first, and unlike in the past, Harry, as well as the rest of the Paladins would not be going to Hogwarts on the Hogwarts Express.
Two weeks before, Dumbledore had sent them a message saying that all Paladins would Floo to Hogwarts by 2:30 in the afternoon to be on hand to greet the Paladins from around the world as they arrived by International Portkey.
On Friday, all of the regular students received Owlposts instructing them to arrive at Platform Nine and Three Quarters at 10:00 AM instead of 11:00. The Paladins were instructed to arrive by 1:30. Something else special would happen at dinner that night.
Author's Note - The phrase, "A day that will live in Infamy" came from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech on December 8, 1941 to a joint session of the Congress. The president used these words to describe the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Fleet the day before.
*Alpha - Alpha is program that started in the Church of England, but is now in use around the world, by churches of various denominations. Throughout the 1990's nearly a million people in England participated in this program, therefore, several million had probably been invited to attend.
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