Content Harry Potter
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Ron Weasley cackles evilly as he lifts above the cloud cover on his stolen Firebolt. "They’ll never catch me now!" he shouts to the empty sky, then he turns to the camera.

"Imagine the nerve of them! They wanted me to tell you that they don’t own these characters, then they’d try to kill me! But I’m too smart for them! I escaped and they’ll never catch me now!"

Behind Ron on his Firebolt a RAF Harrier rises vertically from the cloud cover. Cadet Pilot Alyx flips the weapon selector to Sidewinders and grins evilly. Behind her, Harry and Hermione fall into a backup position flying F-20 Tigersharks.

Sunset Over Britain
Chapter 19

 U.K. Side of the Channel Tunnel…

The first sign there was a problem came from a leak monitor in a control building, at the Channel Tunnel Shuttle station. Before anyone could react to the minor alarm, more alarms all over the building started screaming.

An operator paled at his console and slammed his hand down on the emergency control that signaled to the trains in the tunnel of a possible problem.

For the two high speed Eurostar passenger rail trains it was too late. Both trains, one traveling towards France and the other traveling to the U.K. slammed into a wall of rushing water at over one hundred miles per hour.

Investigators on the French side would later speculate that a large cache of high powered explosives had exploded in the middle of the service tunnel, which interconnected the two outer rail tunnels. While interesting, it was little comfort to the more than four thousand dead.


Showdown atop the Astronomy Tower…

Harry turned to find himself confronted with Theodore Nott Jr., flanked by Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. Behind them, Anthony Goldstein of Ravenclaw and Pansy Parkinson rounded out the group.

Harry crossed his arms over his chest. He wouldn’t need a wand with this crowd. "Well, if it isn’t the Hogwarts chapter of the ‘I lick Voldemort boots’ club," Harry sneered.

"Hand over your wand, Potter. We have you outnumbered," snarled Nott.

Harry barked out a laugh. "Outnumbered? I didn’t realize you knew how to count, Nott. You five couldn’t outnumber me if you brought another fifty people with you."

All five pulled their wands. And all five cast spells, or they would have, but Harry had already immobilized and silenced them.

"Oh, put those away and kneel." Harry said softly, his magic pulsed just beneath the surface and his eyes flared with power. A chill wind whipped across the top of the tower and Harry’s robes billowed out behind him. Each of the five Death Eaters felt a chill run down their spines as the power of his gentle command took hold. Harry then dispelled the silencing charm.

Pansy trembled, then moaned as she put her wand away and pitched to her knees. A moment later Goldstein, Goyle and Crabbe followed her. Nott stood trembling, his eyes bugging out as his put his wand away and fell to his knees.

"How are you doing this, Potter? What magic is this?" Pansy screamed.

Harry smiled softly, but the smile held no warmth. "I’ve not yet begun to really use my magic, Pansy. Now the real question is, what should I do with you, a couple of junior Death Eaters? Old Voldemort wouldn’t care if I killed you, and he probably wouldn’t care if I crippled you. No, I think something special’s needed tonight. Something that’ll embarrass him and shame you."

Harry gestured and five right sleeves were torn away exposing their Dark Marks. "Now, let’s see.   Being a Death Eaters is a crime, but you cowards will only claim you were under the Imperious Curse and get off with a warning from our lovely Ministry. Killing you is so messy, blood and gore and all that. Not to mention the problem of disposing your bodies.   I certainly can’t leave you to rot up here, can I? You know, I have just the job for you five!"

All five sagged in relief at the pronouncement. He wasn’t going to kill them!

Harry looked to an apparently empty spot next to the door. "Hermione, would you please go down to Professor McGonagall’s quarters?   Ask to use her floo, then contact Tonks,   ask her to gather some Aurors, Mr. Lovegood and his photographer and meet me in the Great Hall in a half hour?"

There was the sound of cloth swishing as Hermione came out from underneath the invisibility cloak. She looked undecided and very worried. The five students gaped at her sudden appearance, then Nott turned back to Harry.

"You’re the one going to prison, Potter! You used an Imperious Curse on us! She’s a witness to it!"

Harry looked at Nott in amusement. "You know Nott, you’re almost as much fun as your father was before I disemboweled him. Now, for your information, I didn’t use any form of Imperious Curse on you. I am manipulating your bodies directly via your auras. For example Teddy, how would you like to know what it’s like to be unable to breathe?"

"Harry," warned Hermione.

"No, no, Hermione. I’m not going to really hurt him. I’m just giving him a little demonstration."

Hermione nibbled on her lip worriedly before nodding. Nott knelt on the floor staring up at Harry, his eyes bugging out of his head as he tried to suck in the air his body was screaming for. Thirty seconds later, he discovered he could draw air once more and sucked in huge quantities in great gulping gasps.

"Hermione, please? Get Tonks and Mr. Lovegood? I promise you that the punishment I give them will be appropriate. In fact, it will be ironically suiting."

Frowning, she finally gave in and walked through the door. Harry watched her go, smiling fondly. "She’s a marvelous girl. Trusting and smart as a whip. I think one day she’ll be more famous than Rowena Ravenclaw, despite her muggle parents. Is it any wonder that I love her?" Harry asked, and then he paused in thought before continuing. "But then you Death Eaters turn up your nose at love, don’t you? Oh well, your loss."

Harry paced the tower twice.   Standing in front of his victims once more, he looked them over carefully. "I think I should mete out a punishment that you must live with, and can’t tell anyone about. And while I have use of you, you’re going to help me bring down the great Albus Dumbledore."

He noticed the look of panic in their eyes and chuckled to himself. "Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to make you fight Dumbledore. Although that would be amusing. No, I am just going to expose you and your marks to the world and let public opinion do the work for me.

"I’ve recently become interested in memory charms coupled with the idea of manipulating auras. You’d be surprised what I’ve discovered. However, this is a poor place to be giving lectures, especially to five boot lickers such as you. Not to worry, that particular career path will be closed to you shortly," Harry said, smiling coldly.

Harry stretched out a hand in front of the five kneeling students. Pansy moaned in fear and even Nott cringed when Harry’s hand burst into a coruscating halo of light. Harry’s expression darkened and his stance seemed to alter, to become more menacing. The wind whipped across the tower top in a steady shriek and Harry’s eyes burned with power.

Anthony Goldstein whimpered "Mercy… oh Merlin, have mercy! I didn’t know what I was doing!"

"I curse you five. For your crimes I curse you. From this moment forward you will renounce your magic and demand to live as muggles. From this moment forward you will harm no one. To do so will cause you pain beyond mortal reckoning. From this moment forward you will remember your crimes each night, and spend your days working to atone for them. From this moment forward you will tell no one of what has happened here tonight," Harry intoned.

When he finished speaking he looked at the five sadly. They looked at each other, shuddering and afraid.

Nott was sobbing softly in front of Harry. Pansy looked up from her spot. "Who are you to curse us so harshly?" she asked in a whisper. Her body wracked with tremors as Harry’s power coursed through her.

An odd sort of feeling came over Harry as he contemplated her question. "I am what our world has needed for many centuries, Pansy. I am a Gray Lord," he replied softly. "Now come my friends, let’s go prepare a little surprise for our Headmaster, shall we?"

All five cringed and slowly got to their feet.


Malfoy Manor…

Lucius stumbled into his Master’s chambers. He had been absent for a few days while forced to heal himself. There were few healers among the Death Eaters, at least none that Lucius would trust.

"Lucius! I sent for you days ago! Why have you ignored my summons?" snarled Voldemort. The gaunt Dark Lord stared at Lucius Malfoy, his red eyes balefully gazing at him.

"I beg your forgiveness, my Lord, but I was injured and attending to my wounds," he replied, then he held up his hand which was still a deep purple in color, even though the bones had been fully re-grown.

"Injured? Why was I not informed of this? How were you injured?"

"I was delivering your instructions to my cousin Fergus when we were attacked, my Lord. Fergus is now hospitalized and probably won’t be released for months, if his mind ever recovers. This happened the same night that the Daily Prophet was destroyed my Lord."

"Come closer, Lucius. I would see this attack for myself," Voldemort said in a sibilant whisper.

Trembling Lucius stepped forward.

"Legilimens," Voldemort murmured, his bony hand pointing his wand at Lucius.

Lucius’ trembling increased and he moaned in pain as Voldemort ripped the memory of the attack from him and examined it. Legilimency could be as gentle as a feather or as brutal as a battle-axe and Voldemort preferred a straightforward approach. Lucius fell to his knees, trembling violently. Another Death Eater quickly handed him a bucket which he leaned over, waiting to be sick. Voldemort kept up his assault on his mind while the last scion of House Malfoy trembled and lost his dinner into the small bucket.

Finally Voldemort released Lucius from the spell and the man collapsed to the floor.

Voldemort holstered his wand and sat back in his chair, his chin cupped by one hand, thinking. Then he waved to another Death Eater who came forward to stand next to Lucius Malfoy. "Take him up to his room and see that a healer checks his hand. Then see if our spy is still in the building. I would speak with him."

Bowing, the Death Eater levitated Lucius and left the room with the floating limp body following him.

Less than ten minutes later a tall bald black man entered the chamber.

"Ah, excellent. Tell me, what do you know of this Brotherhood of Druidic Knights?" asked Voldemort.

"Almost nothing, my Lord. Dumbledore had gone to great lengths to try to find out information about them, but I am beginning to wonder about his actions. He protested their actions too much, then drops all interest in the group. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect there might be a connection between Dumbledore and the Brotherhood that we do not know about."

"Interesting. Yes, I can see how a secret alliance between the Brotherhood and the Order would be to his advantage. He can keep his do-gooders who are afraid to really fight in check while he lets the Brotherhood do the dirty work for him and he still gets the credit for it because the Brotherhood is so secretive," Voldemort said.

Then he turned to his spy. "Find out everything you can on the Brotherhood, and why they are so attached to Potter. Is he leading them? Is the Brotherhood really a more violent subgroup of the Order, or are they two separate organizations?"

The spy bowed. "As my Lord commands," he replied, then he spun around and walked from the room.


Hogwarts Great Hall…

The suspended lights in the Great Hall were out when the doors swung open. Professor McGonagall led a party of eight Aurors, Hermione Granger, Bertrand Lovegood and a photographer into the Great Hall. She looked up in surprise when the overhead candles failed to turn on when the doors opened. The spell was built into the skylight charm on the room!

She gave Hermione a questioning glance and Hermione motioned to the Head Table. There, a single small spotlight moved and danced, changing color. As they approached, Hermione relaxed. She could hear Harry playing his Tin Whistle. The orb of light was pulsating, moving and changing its color to the beat of the music.

As the group approached, they saw that Harry sat with his feet up on the table, his chair tilted back. He seemed oblivious to their presence and, as he played, the orb spun in an entrancing display of magical pyrotechnics.

When he finished, he seemed to shake himself out of a trance and looked up. Spotting McGonagall and her displeased expression for his current relaxed posture, he started. Feeling like a first year caught after curfew, he quickly removed his feet from the table and his chair slammed upright. He was convinced that fifty years from now, his Professor would still be able to make him feel ashamed at his actions.

"You’re all here! Excellent," Harry said, standing up.

"Harry, what is this all about?" asked Tonks bewildered.

Harry looked to Hermione who grinned impishly. "I didn’t exactly tell them why you needed them, Harry."

His return grin was wicked and his eyes danced with amusement. "We’ll make a marauder out of you yet, Hermione!"

Turning back to the bewildered Tonks and the others, he spotted Luna’s father. "Mr. Lovegood, I know you’re a busy man as the owner of the largest Wizarding publication in Britain, but I have a story for you which I think might interest your readers. As I’m sure you are aware, the defunct Daily Prophet used to routinely claim that Hogwarts contained Death Eaters. A charge, I might add, our illustrious Headmaster denied vehemently.

"Well, I intend to prove him wrong tonight. You see, earlier today I received a message inviting me to a meeting where I was supposed to provide the entertainment."

As Harry talked, his orb of light slid higher and moved close to one wall.

"It was an interesting meeting but wisdom prevailed and I managed to talk some sense into my fellow students."

As he finished speaking, the orb burst into a blaze of light, illuminating the Great Hall. Everyone blinked for a moment and, as their vision cleared, they could see five students stuck to the wall. Their Dark Marks were clearly visible on their arms.

"Mr. Lovegood, I’d like to introduce you to five Death Eaters…students of this ‘safe’ school. Starting on the right we have Theodore Nott Jr., Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe and Pansy Parkinson of Slytherin House. The one on the end is Anthony Goldstein of Ravenclaw."

Harry continued, explaining how he had managed to convince these students of the error of their ways and how they were ready to confess everything. As he did, Mr. Lovegood’s photographer was merrily clicking away while Mr. Lovegood scribbled notes down. When Harry finally wound down, Tonks motioned to the Aurors to disarm the students. She glanced at Harry with a questioning look.

"No, Tonks, I’ve used no potions on them. They truly want to confess their crimes and are willing to give information freely," Harry said with a bit of a grin.

Hermione shot him a startled look, wondering just what he had done to them. Harry released them from the wall and waved his hand to activate the regular lighting in the Hall.   Every Auror present whipped out their wand when the students slipped free. A moment later they stood in total shock as five wands dropped to the floor. Each student looking at their own wand as if disgusted with it.

"What in the name of Merlin is going on in here?" shouted Dumbledore from the entrance of the Great Hall. He wore a night robe, and even from a distance it was obvious that something was off about him.

"I was wondering when the Supreme Mugwump would show up," Harry said under his breath. Then he turned and plastered a huge grin on his face. "Headmaster! Come see! We have five Death Eaters who are willing to confess their crimes!"

Harry waved the Headmaster to come closer while the Quibbler’s photographer continued to snap off photos.

Dumbledore stumbled up the aisle towards the waiting group and, as he did, Harry’s eyes widened. Dumbledore’s bead and hair had been replaced with a thick curly coat of gray wool. Hermione leaned closer to the startled Harry and murmured, "It’s Luna’s final hex for reading her journal."

Harry fought a losing battle with the desire to snicker at the wooly Dumbledore. The Quibbler photographer backed up slightly to be partially out of sight from the Headmaster and continued taking his photos, making sure to include the Headmaster in some of the shots.

Dumbledore scowled when he saw the Aurors present, and five students with exposed Dark Marks. His scowl only deepened when he noted the presence of Bertrand Lovegood and a photographer. He had to nip this in the bud right now or his reputation would be ruined. For years people believed that Hogwarts was safe because, he, Albus Dumbledore, kept the Death Eaters and other bad elements at bay.

"Mr. Lovegood, while I respect the power of the press, I must insist that you print none of this. These children have obviously been forced into taking the Dark Mark and are not truly evil. They are misguided by their parents and other authority figures in their lives," Dumbledore said.

Bertrand on the other hand merely nodded and continued to write down everything the Headmaster said.

"That’s not true, Headmaster," offered Theodore Nott. Dumbledore paled as Nott added, "At my initiation revel, I helped kill one muggle and raped another. We all did something similar in our initiations," he offered with a gesture to the others, who nodded at his comment.

"B-B-Baaaaa…But…no this can’t be. I’m sure you weren’t yourselves. Yes, that’s it. You were probably under the influence of an Imperious Curse," Dumbledore stammered lamely.

"Headmaster, while I’m sure this is all very interesting, I have to remove these students to the Ministry for questioning, and you have to inform their parents that they have already confessed to being willing supporters of Voldemort," said Tonks.

Dumbledore nodded and sat heavily on one of the benches. He was watching his reputation go up in smoke.

Harry placed an arm around Hermione’s shoulders and turned towards Professor McGonagall. "Professor? Unless you need us, I think it’s time we turned in. We have class tomorrow and it’s quite late."

McGonagall frowned at him for a moment, then nodded. "Quite so, Mr. Potter. Off you two go, then."

Everyone filed out and, within moments, the only person still remaining in the Great Hall was the Headmaster.


Gryffindor Head Suite, Later That Night…

"What did you do to those five anyway?" Hermione asked. She was curled up on their bed, watching as Harry went through his nightly Tai Chi meditations.

Harry stopped and looked over at her, grinning. "It wasn’t nearly as bad as you might think. I gave them a heavy memory charm, altering their views on several subjects. I gave them a fairly impressive light show, making them think I was doing a lot more than I really was. I’m shamed to admit I seriously thought about hurting them though," he said, his eyes sliding away from hers.

"But I couldn’t!" he then blurted. "I’d already subdued them and they were no threat at all. Hurting them or killing them just wasn’t an option. I wasn’t protecting anyone at that point."

Harry walked over and sat on the bed pulling his knees up to rest his chin against them. "As much as I wanted to hurt them, and believe me, I wanted to hear them whimper and beg for mercy, I just couldn’t do it. I had to settle for something entirely different. I wanted them to pay, but I couldn’t hurt them."

Hermione smiled gently at him and placed a hand on his arm. "So instead you gave them a desire to live their lives as muggles, knowing that deep down they’d hate every second of it? If you ask me, you’ve hurt them far worse with that punishment than you could have by crippling or killing them. It is a suitable punishment and you have no blood on your hands from it. That alone should make you proud of what you’ve done tonight."

Harry peered at her for a long moment as if he were trying to determine if she was trying to hold something back from him. Slowly he relaxed and nodded. She held out her hand. "Come to bed, Harry. It’s late and we need to get some sleep."

Smiling, he took her hand and silently thanked whatever gods there might be that he had not given into to the temptation to blast Nott to pieces.


Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement…

It was later than usual for Amelia and ordinarily she would have been at home, but earlier tonight Remus Lupin had firecalled, letting her know that Harry needed Aurors at Hogwarts. Hearing that, she had decided to return to the office. So it was no surprise to her when Auror Tonks knocked on her open door.

Amelia waved the young Auror to a waiting seat. "So what do you have tonight, Tonks?" she asked with a slight smile. Knowing Harry was involved meant that it was either going to be very messy, or very surprising. His last adventure resulted in the rescue of the Grangers, and six dead Death Eaters, plus a fair amount of personal injury to himself.

"Director, it seems Harry managed to convince five Death Eaters to surrender peacefully tonight. Every one of them is right now providing a full detailed confession without the use of any truth serum, although all have agreed freely to use a truth serum to verify their confessions. And all five are currently sixth year students enrolled in Hogwarts," Tonks said softly.

Amelia’s eyebrows climbed high up on her forehead as she realized the magnitude of what Tonks was telling her.

Tonks handed Amelia her Aurors Pensieve with a copy of her memories of the night’s events.

"Tonks, I’d like a full report on my desk by nine hundred tomorrow. In the meantime, I need to make a firecall. Good work tonight," Amelia said with a smile to mitigate the curt dismissal.


Gryffindor Head Suite…

While Harry and Hermione slept quietly in their beds, two people arrived in the other bed room, only a few minutes apart.

Draco arrived a few minutes ahead of Luna and he took the opportunity to light a few candles in the room. Harry had made two special portkeys that remembered the starting point. The portkeys were passed among the couples of the Outcasts so they could take advantage of the unused bedroom in the Gryffindor Head Suite. This was the first time Luna and Draco were using them, and Draco was honest enough to admit to himself that as much as he wanted Luna, tonight was going to be a night for talking only.

Luna was still upset about Dumbledore violating her privacy. Though Professor Flitwick had assured her that he would lodge a formal complaint with the Board of Governors this very evening, she took little comfort from it. Draco wanted desperately to help her in any way he could. If that meant listening to her rage, or just giving her a shoulder to cry on, he would do it.

Placing a silencing charm on the room and sealing the door, he dug a few bottles of cold butter beer out the bag he brought and placed them next to a platter of snacks he’d had a house elf make up for him before he came to the room.

It had taken him a fair amount of convincing to talk Luna into using one of the portkeys he had borrowed for the night. He had to chuckle. A few weeks back most of the Outcasts had met without Harry and Hermione to discuss asking them to make the portkeys. After Harry had made them, no one had been able to work up the nerve to ask for them yet…until now!

He lit the fire in the fireplace and had just settled into the small loveseat when Luna appeared. Her attired shocked him. He was still fully clothed and she was barely dressed. She wore a loosely tied robe and underneath that, a thin gossamer night shirt that made his heart beat wildly.

Seeing his mode of dress, she gave him a questioning look as he waved her to the loveseat. Draco blushed under her gaze and he shifted uncomfortably on the loveseat, trying to hide what she was doing to him.

"Dray? Why are you still dressed?" she asked in her typical airy tone.

Draco blushed even deeper. "Luna, I… I… I didn’t ask you here for that…"

"Oh… I thought you wanted to have sex with me," she replied softly.

"I do Luna… Merlin, never doubt that! But you were so upset tonight in the Great Hall, I thought you might want to talk about it…" he said, trailing off and feeling foolish. Inwardly he winced. Me? The arrogant pure blood son of a Death Eater wanting to comfort my girlfriend and get all touchy feely with her emotions? What am I turning into? He wondered to himself, trying not to shake his head.

Luna smiled gently at him and he could feel a wash of warmth flood him. "I really thought you wanted to have sex, Dray. But this is even nicer. You’re turning into a wonderful man. You might not see it, but I do."

"I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong idea, Luna. I just wanted to be there for you if you were still upset," he added.

Luna turned on the loveseat so she could lie against him and stared into the fire. Her robe opened, revealing more detail, and Draco trembled as he wrapped an arm around her.

"I admit I was very angry tonight. I know how badly the Headmaster has hurt Harry, but this is the first time he’s really done anything to me. In a way, tonight, he proved Harry’s case once and for all time in my mind, Dray. I don’t get angry like that often, it’s not good for people around me," she said, then she shifted her position on the loveseat slightly, giving Draco an even better view.

Draco bit his lip for a moment and pulled his eyes away from the view to stare at the fire. "I’m glad you don’t get angry often. You had everyone in the hall angry. I’m a strong wizard and I don’t think I could do what you did in just a few seconds. I was worried about you," he replied, then he shifted slightly trying to get comfortable.

"That’s sweet," she murmured. "But I think it’s even sweeter that you’re trying very hard to keep me from noticing how excited I’ve made you." She twisted so she was lying on her side against him, then she reached up and caressed his erection through his pants. Draco closed his eyes and tightened the grip he had on her.   "Are you sure you don’t want to have sex, Dray?" she asked softly.

Draco gently pushed her to a sitting position, stopping her from what she was doing. "I can’t, Luna. As much as I want to, I can’t have sex with you, at least not tonight."

"May I know why?" she asked in an inquisitive tone.

Draco dropped his eyes and refused to meet her gaze. "Because I don’t want sex with you Luna, I want to make love with you," he whispered.

Luna laughed a throaty laugh and caressed his cheek gently. "You surprised me," she said softly. "You really have a romantic side to you. If you want to make love, I’ll have to start to teach you how."

Draco looked at her in surprise. "But…"

She silenced him with a gentle hand over his mouth. "Hush for a moment, Dray. Let me explain. Making love means you’ll have to get used to my emotions, all of them. We could have sex right now and you’d not feel them, but if you want to make love you feel them all." She stopped and noticed just how uncomfortable he still was. As much as he tried, his eyes kept straying to her body. "Do you trust me?" she asked him.

"You know I do!"

"Then let me show you what I mean."

She reached over to him and opened his pants at the waist and exposed his erection. Draco blushed and reached for her as she gently gripped him. She pumped him a few times softly then moved so she could straddle his legs. He ran one hand along her flank and gently cupped her breast through her nightshirt.

Still holding his erection gently she looked over his shoulder for a moment. "In order for us to make love, Dray, you need to learn how to handle what I feel, or this is what will happen."

She stared intently into his gray eyes and a wave of passion and arousal swept through him. His body shuddered and he pulled her down on top of him tightly. She closed her eyes holding him as he came against her from her emotions alone. His whole body trembled and he chanted her name into her hair again and again. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced. After what seemed like an eternity to him, his body finally began to relax. Luna pushed herself up slightly against the back of the loveseat and looked at him dreamily.

He reached up to caress her check and suddenly became totally aware of what he had just done. "Luna… oh Merlin, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean… it just… oh Merlin!"

"You need to learn to control that response so we can make love," she said, smiling softly and leaning over him. "And I’ll be happy to help try to teach you. My mother started to explain what would happen, but she died before she could explain it all. We’ll have to help each other learn, I’m afraid."

He pulled her into his arms again. "You and I are going to talk about this," he replied in a mock growl, but he couldn’t help smiling.

In the other bedroom of the Gryffindor Head Suite, Hermione opened her eyes. Her first response was automatic, she glanced at the clock that Harry had bought and sighed. It was only four A.M. She rolled to face Harry and was surprised to see him smiling at her.

"What?" she said in a low tone.

"Nothing, I was just thinking," he replied, then he started to chuckle.

"What’s so funny?"

"I was just thinking how I sounded the last time we…. um… did it."

"How you sounded?"

"Yeah, like that Bulgarian Viktor Krum. ‘Hermy-own-nee’"

She leaned up on one elbow and frowned at him. "And this amuses you? That you mangle my name in the throes of passion?" she asked in a frosty tone.

"Not that, exactly. See, I’ve been laying here thinking about possible nicknames for you."

Now he’s really on thin ice, she thought. "Oh? Such as?" she asked again in a tone approaching glacial.

"Well, Hermy is out if you ask me, so are any variations like Herms or Hers. So next I tried chopping the ‘Her’ off…you know, like ‘Mione’. It’s actually not a bad nickname, but still doesn’t quite fit you. Then I thought, all right, really short names. Nee? Mi? Ion?"

Harry proceeded to rattle off a dozen more names, never noticing the slowly steaming girl in his arms. She was about to interrupt him when he paused and looked at her seriously.

"None of them really suit. You will always be my Hermione. It’s a wonderfully unique name for a wonderfully unique woman. I may occasionally stumble over it, but I wouldn’t want to call you anything but Hermione," he concluded, then he kissed her forehead gently and pulled her close to him.

Hermione lay in Harry’s arms wondering what the heck had just happened. Within the span of a minute he had gotten her spitting mad at him, then he yanked the rug out from under her feet. And she couldn’t be mad at him now. Besides, it wouldn’t do her any good. He’d fallen asleep! She huffed a few times to herself, promising that she’d seek some suitable revenge on him, then she snuggled closer and quickly fell asleep herself.


Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Early morning…

Minerva McGonagall was still in her nightgown and robe when a house elf informed her that visitors had arrived at the castle and were asking for her specifically. She instructed the elf to inform the visitors that she would be with them shortly, then she hurried to get dressed.

Ten minutes later, she rushed down to the Entrance Hall and was surprised to find Esther Hampton, Amelia Bones and Constance Longbottom. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but something extraordinary was in the works.

"I apologize for getting you up so early, Professor, but we have need of your services as Deputy Headmistress today. And this is why," Hampton said, handing her a copy of the morning’s edition of the Quibbler.

 Death Eaters Captured Hogwarts
Confessions made to crimes within the school grounds!

Last night in a surprise move, the publisher of the Quibbler was asked to attend a meeting at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We were invited to attend the meeting by Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. Also attending the meeting were several Aurors, Professor Minerva McGonagall, Hermione Granger, a student of Hogwarts and Headmaster Dumbledore, who for some strange reason, was dressed like a sheep.

At the meeting, Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, and a close personal friend of the publisher’s daughter, exposed five students, all sixth year students and all marked Death Eaters. According to Ministry sources, all five Death Eaters voluntarily surrendered to Aurors and have provided full, detailed confessions. The students names are being withheld pending notification of the Nott, Goyle, Crabbe, Parkinson and Goldstein families.

Headmaster Dumbledore arrived late to the meeting, dressed in some bizarre sheep costume. The Quibbler has long suspected that Dumbledore may be raising an army of lethal sheep in the dungeons, now we know for sure. The five student Death Eaters discarded their wands without being told, then one admitted to killing a muggle and raping another. According to the Ministry, all of the surrendered Death Eaters have offered similar stories. It must be noted that these stories and the presence of the Death Eaters in Hogwarts goes entirely contrary to everything Headmaster Dumbledore has been saying in regard to the school. Ministry sources indicate that they are now opening several investigations into some crimes that have occurred within Hogwarts where the victims may have been obliviated.

Minerva looked up from reading the article and paled. Her school! Her students!

"Professor McGonagall, we are here on school business. Please accompany us to the Headmaster’s office," Esther Hampton said in a coldly formal tone.

All Minerva could do was nod and fall in behind the other members of the Board of Governors.

At the entrance to the Headmaster’s office, Esther made a motion with her wand and the Gargoyle sprang to life, lifting the stairway. One by one the women stepped onto the moving staircase and were lifted up to the landing and the door to the Headmaster’s office.

Esther led the procession into the office. Dumbledore looked up in surprise when the door opened. He was sitting at his desk, his facial hair still sporting a very sheepish look. Minerva, still not understanding what was happening, stood near the door as the other women came to a stop in front of Dumbledore’s desk.

"Albus Dumbledore," Esther intoned, "by majority order of the Hogwarts Board of Governors, and at the formal request of the Department of Magical Education and Certification, you are hereby placed on a sixty day administrative suspension, pending a full review of the events of this past term and others. We regret having to take this action, but in light of recent events, we find that too many parents are expressing concerns over the safety of their children in this school. For the duration of the investigation, we ask that you return to your home. In the meantime, Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress, will assume your duties as Headmaster. Records show that Madam Hooch can substitute as the potions instructor until such time as a permanent teacher can be located…"

As Hampton talked, Dumbledore cringed and sunk lower and lower into his chair.


Grimmauld Place…

Narcissa was having a cup of tea in her sitting room, relaxing when there came a knock at her door.   "Come!" she called.

Emma walked in carrying a parchment in her hands.   "Good morning, Cissy," she called as she entered.

Narcissa smiled up at the muggle woman and waved her over to a seat. "Good morning, Emma. Would you like some tea?"

"That would be lovely. I got up early this morning because Remus and Dan were going over to Padfoot again. Then I finished up the final touches on our letter."

"Oh? Is that what you’ve got there?"

Emma handed the parchment over to other woman. Narcissa eyed it eagerly. She’d been waiting for it for a while.


You have received this letter because your child attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We are sending this letter to let you know about the measures we have undertaken in light of the unrest currently sweeping the nation. These measures are designed to protect your child, and offer you an opportunity.

In short, we are making plans that will be put into place only if necessary. However, should it come to pass, your child will be evacuated to a safe location. And for you and your family, this letter offers you a chance to join your child in that safe location.

First, a couple of key points. This letter is heavily charmed. You may discuss this letter with immediate family members, but will be unable to discuss or show it to anyone else. This letter acts as a portkey. Simply have your family touch the letter as you would a regular portkey. Tap the letter twice with your wand and say "sanctuary" and you will be transported to the same location as your child. The portkey functions will become active starting April Fifteenth and will last for all of April. After that, the function will deactivate and the letter will consume itself.

The staff of Hogwarts is extremely concerned with the current state of affairs and thinks you should be as well. We have taken these steps because we are committed to the safety and well being of our students and will go to extraordinary lengths to protect them.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

"You’re making it sound like an official letter from the school? And how come it isn’t signed?"

Emma frowned for a moment, idly stirring her tea. "Harry didn’t want his name put to the document because his recent publicity has been mostly bad.   We’re not sure how it’s going to be signed as yet, but he sent word last night to leave the signing space blank for now. That was the one thing holding up the process, really. And yes, I admit it’s deceptive. We want them to think it’s an official letter. By the time they get to Padfoot and find out what’s going on here in England, they won’t care who saved them."

Narcissa sipped her tea for a moment, considering Emma’s words. "It makes sense. Far too many would reject the letter knowing Harry had something to do with it. Yes, I think this will do," she said with a smile, and then her expression turned sly. "I think you would have made a fine Slytherin, Emma."

Emma looked shocked for a moment before she began to laugh. "Just don’t tell my daughter that. I don’t think she could stand the shock."


Hogwarts Kitchens…

Dobby stood facing nearly eighty elves belonging to Hogwarts.

"Yous know me! Yous mostly think I be crazy, but I not back heres to talk ‘bout that."

"Why then is yous here, Dobby," said Pappy, the oldest house elf in the school and the most respected.

"Bad times coming," cried Dobby, "Dark Lord coming! Hogwarts not win this time. Dobby is here to tell yous all, if bad things happens, then come to Dobby. Dobby’s friend, Harry Potter, will protect yous and lets yous work for the great Potter family."

"We be bonded or we be frees?" asked Pappy with a frown. He tugged on his tea cozy nervously and the other house elves watched the conversation with great interest.

"The great Harry Potter says that there will be a schools you can work for, as bonded elves and a place of healers needing bonded elves. He won’t take a bonded elf himself for the Potter family, but he will allow you to choose. Be free, or be bonded."

Every elf turned to look at Pappy. As the oldest and most respected house elf, his word was law. Pappy walked angrily up to Dobby until they were nearly nose to nose.

"Dobby better be telling truuf! I don’t likes Dobby, and thinks he’s bad house elf. But if bad times come to Hogwarts, we come to Dobby and see what he cans do."

Dobby nodded and smiled weakly at Pappy.


The Great Hall, Breakfast…

Something was clearly amiss. Word had filtered though all the houses that the morning that classes had been cancelled and everyone was asked to attend a late breakfast. Prefects ran around the school chasing down students who had started their days early, passing the message along. By nine o’clock, the whole school had assembled in the Great Hall and the room was buzzing with rumors.

Harry sat with Hermione and his friends. With classes cancelled he had left his school robes back up in his room and was wearing a pair of black jean and a shockingly yellow shirt that read, ‘Hey Voldemort, try not to let your mind wander. It is too small to be out by itself’.

Ginny had finally decided that Harry wasn’t the only one allowed to play with clothing. The interest she had been showing in his shirts had only grown, so it didn’t surprise Harry when she came down to breakfast wearing a shirt that read, ‘You can observe a lot by watching’.

Hermione took one look at Ginny, and the large grin on the younger girls face, and rolled her eyes. She turned to Harry, poked him in the chest and pointed at Ginny. "Do you see? Do you know what you’ve started?"

Harry shook his head grinning, and went back to reading the morning Quibbler that Luna had given him. He looked up again a moment later when Dumbledore entered the Great Hall, followed by Professor McGonagall, Esther Hampton, Amelia Bones and Mrs. Longbottom.

The group moved up to the Head table, but didn’t take seats. Dumbledore turned to face the student body and moved to stand in front of the women as the Hall quieted down. Luna snickered seeing Dumbledore still adorned as a sheep.

"As many of you are now aware, last night five students of this school were arrested for being marked Death Eaters. The Ministry’s Department of Magical Education and Certification has called for a formal investigation into the affair. As a result, the Hogwarts Baaaa B-B-Board of Governors has had to place me on administrative suspension for sixty days."

Dumbledore paused and there was total silence in the hall.

"Assuming the investigation goes as expected, I will return to the school sometime between April Fifteenth and April Twentieth. In the meantime, Professor McGonagall will assume the duties of Headmistress. Professor Flitwick will assume duties of Deputy Headmaster, and Madam Hooch will act as a substitute teacher for potions, with help from Madam Pomfrey.

"I expect every one of you to provide your complete and total cooperation to Professor McGonagall. I may be visiting the school occasionally during the next sixty days, baaa b-b-but I will not be living on the campus."

"It’s about bloody time," shouted Hermione Granger, leaping from her chair.

Harry and his friends stared at the girl in amazement, while it slowly dawned on her what she had just done. Abashed, she slunk back into her chair and pretended to be invisible.

Dumbledore, up at the front of the Great Hall frowned at Hermione. "Hmmm…yes, well despite Miss Granger’s opinion, I do expect to return to the school once this is all done."

Dumbledore tried to maintain his dignity as he walked from the Great Hall. He nearly succeeded until Ginny let out with a loud bleat that caused him to reply in kind. At that point, the hall broke up in laughter.

Professor McGonagall followed Dumbledore and the others as they left the Great Hall. But she stopped when she reached Harry and his friends.

"Miss Granger, ten points from Gryffindor for your unseemly and unladylike outburst," said the stern Headmistress, then she turned to Harry. "Mr. Potter, fifty points for Gryffindor for your novel solution to removing a known menace."

Hermione looked crushed. McGonagall had rarely taken points from her. But the slight smile in McGonagall’s expression told the young woman that her Head of House really wasn’t that upset.

There was a popping noise from behind Harry. He turned to see Dobby waiting patiently to be noticed. "Dobby? Is everything alright?" he asked, turning on the bench to talk to the little elf. Hermione, noticing Dobby also turned to listen.

"Master Harry Potter Sir! I dids like yous asked and I talked wif Hogwarts house elves. They not be liking Dobby very much, but they willing to listen. Pappy says, if Bad Mans come, they come find Dobby."

Harry grinned broadly. Rescuing the Hogwarts house elves was a breakthrough! They would be invaluable at Padfoot.

Hermione frowned at the two of them. "Harry, I hope you plan on paying those elves," she said with a scowl. Harry glanced at Dobby who, in turn, dug his hands into the pillowcase he was wearing today, both looked slightly sheepish with each other.

"Hermione, I think it’s time someone educated you about the facts of house elves," drawled Draco.

Hermione’s head whipped around and she glared instant death in his direction. Unfortunately for her, he was immune to her glare.

"The house elves are magical creatures that need to be bonded to a family or house. If you don’t bond them, they will slowly go insane. I’m sorry Harry, but I have to tell her. She could kill them with her ignorance," Draco said with a shrug.

Harry grimaced and nodded in reply.

"Dobby is slightly different than a normal house elf. His ancestry isn’t pure elf. Somewhere in the past, his family interbred with Goblins, or perhaps Gnomes. His ears are a little more pointed than a regular house elf, his eyes more round. This change in his ancestry allows him to survive as a free elf. But if you ask me, I still think he’s a nutter.

"Dobby, free or not, would give every sock he owned to be bonded to Harry. Not only would Dobby’s magic be stronger, but he’d be happier. Now Winky, the other house elf that Harry has? That’s a more interesting case and I don’t think even Harry understands what’s going on.

"What Harry has done is just slightly crazy when you think about it. He’s taken a house elf that didn’t want to be free and insisted that he hire her to do work for him. So Harry pays her and tries to treat her like she’s part of the family. Winky, on the other hand, has probably convinced herself that ‘hire’ is a fancy word for bonded and I’d be willing to bet the money Harry gives her gets slipped into his money pouch at night."

Harry looked startled. He turned to glance at Dobby who seemed to be very interested in a dirt spot on his pillowcase. Harry glanced up at Hermione. Her arms were crossed over her chest and she was making huffing noises. He knew from experience that it wasn’t a good sign

He placed his head in his hands. "I’m so dead. Thanks Dray. Next time, just push me in front of the moving lorry, will ya?"

Hermione looked at Harry, annoyed. "Oh hush, Harry. You’re not dead yet, but I’m seriously considering it," she snapped, then she turned to look at Draco. "So what you’re saying is that, without a family or some entity to bond with, they will eventually go insane?"

Draco nodded. "It will eventually kill them, Hermione, but first it will drive them insane. A free house elf is truly unhappy, and your SPEW, while well meaning, is misguided. You should be working to improve their conditions without trying to free them.."

Draco leaned back and crossed his arms, staring at her. She was about to snap something at Draco when Harry sighed and put a hand on his girlfriend’s arm.

"Well, it was a good idea, but I suppose we won’t be able to save the elves," Harry murmured. Dobby whimpered.

Hermione turned to Harry startled. "What do you mean?"

"Come on, Hermione. The only way I can save them is if I promise them homes and families to bond with. You find that unacceptable, and they won’t come without that promise. So we can’t save them. It’s a harsh decision, but I can’t allow us to get bogged down by this when there is so much else to do."

Hermione blinked in surprise. She was used to Harry making snap decisions, but this one was so arbitrary and cruel! She glanced up to find everyone, including Dobby, staring at her! It took her a moment to realize that the stumbling block to saving the elves wasn’t Harry and he wasn’t trying to be cruel. The stumbling block was herself.

With a great sigh, she finally gave in to the inevitable. "Oh, very well, then. But don’t think I’m going to give up on SPEW, Harry! I’ll just modify its aims like Draco suggested."

Harry leaned over and kissed her on the cheek before replying. "I wouldn’t dream of it," he murmured in her ear.

Dobby, who had been watching the entire exchange, grinned at Hermione and a great tear fell from one of his huge eyes. Harry winked at Dobby to let him know everything was all right again and Dobby relaxed. He’d be able to help save the elves after all.


Jedburgh, on the Scottish Border, Later That Evening…

Davey Armes had been the caretaker of the Jedburgh Abbey for the past thirty-five years. Today had been especially difficult for him, as he had been run ragged trying to find out why Abbey, originally founded in 1138, was unnaturally cold. The old coal fired heater had been replaced twenty years ago with a more efficient oil heater and that seemed to be working just fine.

Finally, in an act of desperation, Armes decided to call in the heating company to look at the system before he went home for the night. Even now, approaching his sixtieth year of life, Armes prided himself on being fit enough to make the three-kilometer walk to his home.

Being a muggle, he never noticed the hundreds of dementors as they swarmed out of the nine hundred year old abbey and fell upon him from behind.

In a matter of hours, Jedburgh had become a ghost town. The population of some four thousand souls had been wiped out in what would turn out to be the first of many attacks.

The first sign that anything was wrong in the town came when the local police received a call from a delivery truck coming up on A68 from Langlee. By early morning, officials from the National Health Services had ordered police to cordon off the area and a strict news blackout was put into effect as they activated the Infectious Disease Response Plan.

Of course, the news blackout was only partially effective and the morning newspapers were awash with rumors of an outbreak of anthrax in some unnamed Scottish town.

By mid-morning, the government had issued a vague statement about an unknown number of people seriously ill in the town of Jedburgh. Privately, officials with the National Health Service and the Ministry of Defense were conferring with officials of both the World Health Organization in Berne and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.


Grimmauld Place, late February…

Dan arrived a little later that usual for dinner bearing a grim expression. For the past week he had been bothered by certain news reports that had appeared, then quickly vanished.

When he entered the kitchen of Grimmauld Place, Tonks, Narcissa, Emma and Remus all looked up and noted his pale expression. Everyone stopped eating as he sat in his chair.

Emma put a hand to her cheek, afraid of what news Dan had to bring to her tonight. "Dan, what is it?"

"I think Harry must have been a genius, Emma. How he knew I’d need to resort to outside new sources is beyond me, but I just heard a report over the Voice of America that the American State Department is issuing a travel advisory for the United Kingdom. This is just the tip of the iceberg, I’m afraid. According to what I’ve managed to pick up on the short wave radio, several towns along the English/Scottish border have been decimated in the past week. From what I could find out on a CDC bulletin board, using Hermione’s computer, the symptoms are identical to the effects of dementors."

Narcissa and Remus were somewhat lost through most of Dan’s speech. Tonks, being a half blood, had more exposure to the muggle world and knew some of what he had been saying. But they all understood the last part. Dementors.

"Do you have any idea of the casualty count, Dan?" asked Emma in a hushed tone.

"Near as I can make, and that’s only because I’d looked up the census data, close to twenty thousand. And the Government is trying to cover it up as a outbreak of a mild form of anthrax," Dan said in a snarl.

"Is there more?" Remus asked.

"Just this. I went into London today, I wanted to pick up copies of several international papers. People are scared, Remus. From what I can find out, outbound flights are booked solid. People have taken to wearing masks in the streets. Schools have been cancelled in some districts. Things are holding together for now, but unless they get a handle on it, it’s going to get a lot worse."

"So, it’s finally begun then," Remus said softly. "I think we need to get Harry and his friends here for a meeting, and as many others as we can manage."

"I think the earliest we can get everyone together is this weekend. That’s still three days away," offered Emma.

"I’ll owl Harry and Minerva about a meeting for the weekend. Harry’s friends will alert their parents," Remus said.


Knockturn Alley…

Of all the places in the Wizarding world, Knockturn Alley, and its even seedier Burial Lane, were two places that Mundungus Fletcher felt comfortable in. He didn’t mind performing jobs for the Order of the Phoenix. It was sometimes profitable and, in his mind, Dark Lords were good for business.

Fletcher grinned to himself as he walked Knockturn Alley. The area really had a reputation that was undeserved. Most of the businesses were perfectly legal and did not deal in any dark art merchandise at all. They were there, instead of up in Diagon Alley, because it was cheaper to rent a store in Knockturn. Now if you really wanted dark arts merchandise you went to the end of Knockturn Alley, which was exactly where Fletcher was heading now.

At the end of the dead end street, Fletcher entered a dingy pub called the Warlock’s Brew. It was, perhaps, the most dangerous business in Knockturn Alley. For a galleon Fletcher bought passage through a long sloping corridor that few Auror’s learned about and fewer still lived to tell anyone about. The corridor sloped downwards for nearly five hundred meters before opening out in a large underground passage lined with businesses.

Fletcher made a beeline for one business sporting a mortar and pestle on a sign. The animated sign showed some human skulls dropping into the mortar and being ground to powder by the pestle.

Opening the door, a small bell chimed above his head. A short, balding, gnome-like man looked up from the counter. Spotting Fletcher, he smiled, showing a mouth full of blackened and missing teeth.

"Dung! I thought you might be by today. Yer shipment arrived yesterday," said the man.

"Did it now, ‘arvey? Bloody good, I don’t reckon I enjoy making these trips too often," said Mundungus.

The man placed a box on the counter and started checking off items from a list. "Let’s see ‘ere, ground vampire heart, unicorn horn, snorkack livers, ground basilisk heart, ground basilisk fangs, giant’s toenails and giant kneazle fur, blood from virgins. Sound ‘ight, eh?" asked the seedy little man.

Fletcher had been consulting his list as well. "Aye, that be the lot."

"As we talked Dung, that’ll be seventeen ‘undred fifty galleons."

Fletcher tossed a coin bag on the counter, which the small man opened and began to count.

"I’ll tell ya Dung, I afeared we wouldn’t be fillin’ all of yer needs. Basilisk is nigh impossible to find. I was just about to give up when I ‘eard about a shop up in Knockturn finding some."

Satisfied that the amount was correct, the man scooped up the coins and tossed them into a box under the counter, then he tied up the box of potion ingredients and handed it to Fletcher.

"Much obliged to yer, ‘arvey," Fletcher said, taking the box and heading for the exit of the store with a smile. This little purchase had netted him two hundred fifty galleons for a few hours work. With that kind of money, he could buy himself a fancy dinner tonight and a polyjuiced prostitute and still have a lot left over.


The Shrieking Shack, Hogsmeade…

Severus Snape, former Potions Professor of Hogwarts, looked up at the sound of someone apparating in. He quickly reached for his wand, but relaxed when he saw it was Dumbledore. Turning back to the simmering cauldron, he added a pinch of an ingredient and stirred gently.

"So, Potter has managed to do what the Dark Lord could not, then? He’s chased both of us out of Hogwarts?" asked Snape dryly.

Dumbledore placed some heavy tomes down on the table, well away from the simmering cauldron. "Yes, I fear I have greatly underestimated the boy this year. In fact, his behavior of late has been most Slytherin-like, if you ask me," He replied with a grimace

Snape snorted in reply, then eyed the large books Dumbledore had brought.

"I see my offering has piqued your interest, eh Severus? I may be under an administrative suspension, but the Board has not formally removed me from my position as Headmaster. As such, I still have access to places like my office and the restricted section of the library," he said with a frown. "It’s interesting, Hogwarts is telling me that large sections of the castle are shutting down for some reason. It refuses to explain why, but it’s happening."

"And the books, Albus?"

"Oh, these. Well it occurred to me that Mister Potter must have resorted to some sort of power amplifying ritual. It is the only reason I can think of to account for his incredible power levels. Most of those rituals are dark rituals, and require complex potions. I thought perhaps if we research them together, we might find what Mister Potter used. Perhaps even bring ourselves up to his level?"

Snape leaned back in surprise for a moment, staring at Dumbledore. That damned twinkle was back again, and he had to admit it did make sense. Find out which ritual Potter used, and then follow his steps.   "I still say we should have been feeding the brat liquid Imperius since his first year."

"Yes, yes, Severus. We’ve had this conversation many times since Harry has come to Hogwarts and nothing has come from it. Young Harry had to be nudged through his trials with a clear mind if he was to kill Voldemort. We both know that and controlling his mind would have caused him to fail."

Snape snarled in frustration. Dumbledore was right about one thing. This was an old and useless argument. He reached for one of the books and started to thumb through the pages.


Gryffindor Head Suite…

Harry sat in an armchair in front of the large fireplace in the common room, his leg propped up on a footstool. Hermione sat next to him reading a book and occasionally glancing up to check the time.

At exactly eight o’clock, the door to the room opened and Harry’s friends entered. He had expanded the room tonight and conjured an extra couch so that everyone would fit comfortably. The door opened again and Professors McGonagall and Flitwick joined them. With everyone present, Harry grabbed his cane and levered himself into a standing position.

"Thank you all for coming tonight. I have some news that needs to be covered and I’m afraid that only parts of it are good. First off, Remus is asking for an all hands meeting at Grimmauld Place Saturday evening.

"Mister Granger has detected signs of problems in the muggle community that can only be the result of Voldemort’s activities. He wants to tell us all about it. I should warn everyone, the news he has isn’t good. At this point, he’s talking about nearly twenty thousand muggles killed."

A gasp echoed through the room. This group of wizards and witches might still think being magical was better than not, but they didn’t hate the muggles enough to want them dead.

"In addition to the meeting on Sunday, Remus has sent us another shipment of hula hoop portkeys, along with a couple special items I’ve ordered."

Harry pulled out a small box from a pocket and placed it on the floor before enlarging it. Once enlarged, everyone could see it was a heavy wooden crate. Harry limped over to the crate and pried up one side of the lid before Neville, Draco and Terry jumped to help him. He shot them appreciative glances.

Inside the box was a pile of packages wrapped in a plain brown paper. Harry took two of the packages out and handed one to Hermione. "Draco, would you give everyone a package, please?"

Hermione opened her package and withdrew what appeared to be a pair of pants and a shirt made from a reddish-gold and black iridescent material. One by one, everyone, including the Professors, opened their packages to reveal the same items.

"Harry, this isn’t!" exclaimed Flitwick.

"Yes, Professor, it is. And, I might add, getting your size was rather difficult," he replied with a smile that Flitwick returned.

"It’s pretty I suppose, Mister Potter, but it’s not really my color. I don’t suppose you can clue the rest of us in about what you and Filius are discussing?" McGonagall asked, holding up the garments with something akin to distaste.

Harry chuckled. "What you’re holding is the best armor money can buy. It’s called second skin, made from the Basilisk hide we harvested, and is to be worn under your clothing. With it, it can reduce spell damage by as much as half. It’s sized, but will adjust accordingly. It is skin tight, but will stretch without feeling constricting. You can wear it all day long and not notice it’s there. But in a fight, you’ll be glad to have it. Normal second skin is made from Horntail hide, this is made from a one thousand year old Basilisk hide."

"How effective is it, Harry?" asked Hermione.

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment before replying, "Some of the lesser spells will be absorbed and you’ll never know you got hit. A cutting hex could be reduced by as much as half, so could a stunner. This isn’t a magic shield, it’s an added edge that just may keep you alive." The more he described the second skin, the more pleased people looked.

"Harry," Draco said, rummaging through the box still, "there’s more stuff in here." He pulled out two shafts of wood, several small boxes and a book.

Harry felt strangely attracted towards the objects Draco was piling on the table. Professor Flitwick started rooting through the objects in curiosity.

"Platinum and Crystal endcaps, two staves, one made of Heartwood and the other made of Yew, core materials, and what looks like a private book authored by Cyrus Ollivander more than six hundred years ago? Just what are you up to, Mr. Potter?" squeaked the little Professor.

Harry had the grace to look embarrassed when everyone turned to stare at him. Limping back to the table, he looked down at the materials there, some of which were pulling at him. "Professor," he said softly, "thanks to that spider attack, I’m crippled. I need to use a cane in the same hand that I use a wand. These are the materials needed to make a staff. If I had a staff, I could use it as a cane, and no one would be the wiser until I start casting."

Hermione gasped and grabbed him by one arm. "You are not crippled, Harry!" she said, objecting to his statement.

Harry reached out and touched her cheek gently. "Ordinarily, you’d be right. But I don’t have the mobility I need for a fight. If I had a staff and it’s focusing powers, I might be able to offset that lack of mobility. I’m not crippled, but I’m not as agile as I once was," he said softly.

"I thought you didn’t need a wand, Harry?" Flitwick asked intently.

"I don’t, Professor. Without a wand, my body provides the focus. With my wand, I can achieve a tighter control but I risk burning the wand out if I over power it. A staff isn’t as picky as a wand, but few wizards and witches have the power to use one. I thought I could make one, and use it as a walking stick, or as a staff when I needed it. Actually, this is something I wanted to talk to you about. I know you make your own wands Sir, and I was hoping I could get your help in making a staff for myself."

Filius’ face lit up with excitement. "Oh, jolly good Harry! It would be an exciting project and a real thrill to work on!"

Not even Professor McGonagall could suppress a smile when the diminutive Professor got excited.


Grimmauld Place, Breakfast time…

Remus sipped his morning coffee tiredly and waited patiently while Dobby cooked breakfast. Last night had been a full moon and he was exhausted and still in pain from his transformation.

Tonks entered the kitchen and, spotting him, she frowned at his appearance. His transformations were becoming more difficult and more painful for him each month. She was worried and more than a little frightened for him. She knew exactly what she’d do if the laws didn’t forbid it. She’d marry Remus tomorrow if she could.

There was little she could do to help him though his transformations and it tore at her heart to see him go through them every month. Each month he’d change, and each month he’d come out of the transformation a little weaker, a little more depressed.

There was a ray of hope, but it was only a ray. Over the Holiday she had overheard a conversation between Hermione and Emma about Remus and she had pinned Hermione down afterwards to get more information. It seems that Harry had hired three teams of researchers, one team in America, one team in Germany and another in Australia. Two of the groups were to research cures into Lycanthropy, and the third was to research ways to improve the current Wolfsbane potion. Harry was keeping the effort secret because he didn’t want to get Remus’ hopes up.

She eyed her lover a moment longer. "Remus, when you’re done with breakfast, I’m taking you upstairs for a long soak with some of those mineral salts that Harry uses. You’ve not tried using them to help ease the ache afterwards."

Remus nodded wearily. If they helped, even a little, it would be a welcome change.

A moment later, Narcissa walked into the kitchen. She carried a copy of The Quibbler under her arm and her expression was grave. Dan and Emma followed her into the kitchen.

"Cissy? What’s wrong?" asked Tonks.

"It seems that the Wizengamot finally got off the fence last night. We have a lot of changes this morning," she replied, then she tossed the Quibbler onto the table.

Archibald Richfield, Death Eater, Elected to Post
of Interim Minister of Magic.

In a surprise vote late last night, Archibald Richfield was elevated to the post of Interim Minister of Magic until general elections can be held. The publishers of The Quibbler think the Wizengamot have performed a grave disservice to the Wizarding World by electing a known Death Eater as Minister of Magic. But the Wizengamot ignored our warning concerning Minister Fudge and his attempt to cross breed House Elves with Dragons.

After taking office last night, the new Minister began making sweeping departmental changes. Among those changes were a series of Ministerial pardons, which he claimed were based on ‘secret’ evidence he had been withholding from the Government. Among those pardoned and immediately given Ministerial positions were as follows. Lucius Malfoy, who received the newly created position of Vice Minister of Magic, Anton Dolohov who will be heading up the Department of Magical Law Enforcement…

Dan frowned. "Dolohov? Isn’t he that arse who nearly killed Hermione last year?" he asked angrily. Tonks and Remus both nodded in reply.

Narcissa sat heavily in a chair next to Emma and trembled.

Emma turned to the other woman in concern. "Cissy?"

"He’ll be coming for me and Draco. He’s free and has the Ministry behind him now," she whispered and then she trembled again, her fear clearly evident on her face.

Emma wrapped an arm about the other woman, then looked to Remus. "We need to get Cissy out of here and alert Harry. Draco is in a lot of danger."

"We can move her to Padfoot today, but I think she’ll be safe long enough to stay for the meeting we’ve called.

"But you’re right, I’ll floo Minerva immediately. I don’t think Lucius and his cronies will come looking for Draco just yet. They have to secure their power base first. That will take some time. Besides, Draco’s not the only one in danger now. They all are."

Nodding, Emma turned to comfort her friend while Remus left the kitchen to use the floo in the living room.


Transfiguration Office, Hogwarts…

Minerva was grading some papers when the fireplace in her office flared to life and Remus’ head appeared in the flames.

"Minerva, I’m sorry to bother you, but would you mind if I came through?"

"No, not at all, Remus."

The fireplace grew to a much larger size as Remus stepped through.

"Good morning, Remus. I take it this visit is because of this morning’s headline?"

"I’m afraid so, Minerva. Normally we take The Quibbler articles with a grain of salt. However this article is spot on and Narcissa is convinced that Lucius will be coming after her and Draco. Part of that is still left over fears she harbors from his abuse, but a large part is a valid concern. Narcissa is focused on Draco mostly, but the fact is, nearly everyone in Harry’s group, including Harry himself, are in danger because of this."

"I quite agree. Hang on a moment. Milly?"

A moment later a small female house elf appeared in the room. "Yous calling Milly, Mistress Professor M’Gonagall?" asked the little elf.

McGonagall scribbled a quick note and handed it to the elf. "Milly, find Harry Potter, and give that to him please. Then you may return to your duties."

"I finds, Mistress Professor M’Gonagall," the little elf replied before vanishing with a pop.

Seeing Remus’ questioning look, she chuckled. "I’ve sent for Harry and his friends."

Nodding, Remus took a seat and waited. Five minutes later, the door opened and Harry and his friends entered.

"I thought you might visit today, Remus," commented Harry. "I take it this is in relation to our new Minister?"

"Yes, Harry, we’re worried. Once tomorrow night’s meeting is over, we’re planning on moving Narcissa and Emma to Padfoot."

Draco started at hearing his mother’s name.   "Mum?" he asked.

Remus nodded. "Yes, Draco. She’s very upset and is convinced that Lucius will get to you and her."

Harry turned to his friends. "All right, listen up, and this goes for you, too, Professor. I want everyone to be wearing their second skin if you aren’t already. I also want everyone to meet Hermione and I in the Gryffindor Head Suite. If you still have the Grimmauld portkey I gave you before Christmas, bring it. Otherwise, bring an item of jewelry that you won’t mind wearing. I’ll create emergency portkeys for everyone tonight. And from here on, no one wanders around the castle alone, at any time."

"I’ll speak with Filius at lunch, Mr. Potter," offered McGonagall.  


Gryffindor Head Suite…

Harry stood looking out the bedroom window, but his mind was a thousand miles away from the snowy winter wonderland below. Their meeting that evening had been noisy. Several of his friends were justifiably scared. Richfield may or may not be a marked Death Eater. No one knew for sure, although one thing was certain. He did support policies designed to enhance the full blood position over half bloods and muggle born. Lucius was clearly a known Death Eater. So was Dolohov, the incoming Director of Magical Law Enforcement.

Draco was worried about his mother and Hermione seemed to be sure that Dolohov was going to personally come and finish the job he started on her in the Department of Mysteries. Privately, he admitted her fear was irrational, and even if Dolohov did harbor a personal grudge against her, she was far more powerful that he was. He wasn’t going to belittle her fear in any way, however. If there was one thing he had come to know all too well, it was fear. He had his own fears to deal with and they made him sensitive to the fears of others.

Now he stood, gazing out the window unseeingly and wondering. Hogwarts, without Dumbledore and Snape, had become much safer. Now if they could only avoid the outside threats for another two or three months…Harry pounded a fist on the windowsill. Threats were cropping up all around them and he had to figure out a way of holding them off long enough to get the job done.

Behind him came a small noise and he turned to see Hermione whimper in the throes of her own nightmares. Climbing back into bed, he pulled her into his arms.

"Shhh… you’re alright love, I’m here for you," he whispered, suddenly feeling very protective towards the young woman in his arms. Hermione stiffened once as he grabbed her, then relaxed in her sleep. For the moment, he had chased her nightmares away.

Author’s Notes:

Once again we come to the end of a chapter and another visit to the dreaded author’s notes where, we, the authors, mock and cast dead fish upon our faithful readers.

Occasionally Harry will misread all the clues. He’s Harry, not God. He can’t be right one hundred percent of the time.

As to the POV changes Nicholas, there are plenty of stories in which POV’s change even more frequently. Hell I’ve seen stories jump from third person to first and back. Annoying? Yep! Thanks for your concern Nicholas, but don’t expect us to change a format for the one person that’s complained about it in the past 600,000+ words of stories.

OK for all you folks out there sending us death threats. We get the picture… No more cliffies, for now.

According to FAS.ORG and the Royal Navy Website, the UK still retains its submarine based nuclear launch capability. As of 1998, four trident class submarines (Built by General Dynamic’s Electric Boat division in Groton Co.) remain as the only nuclear launch platform in service. The four boats, Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance are equipped with a complement of torpedoes and 16 D5 SLBMs (Estimated nominal yield in the range of 100 to 140kt). The D5 missile system contains 12 warheads in a MIRV format and has an estimated range of 4000 nautical miles.

For more information, I’d suggest checking the source.

For all those people betting on it being Ron or Snape on the tower, we’re sorry to disappoint you. No, we’re not really, but it sounds good.

For the reviewer that thought the attack on the Prophet was far too voldy-ish. We’re so sorry. Please forgive us? Next time we’ll have Harry wait ‘til noon or so, set the building on fire and pick off anyone that tries to escape the building with a reducto to the head. Now that would be voldy-ish.

M.R. Moore. Grumpy aren’t we? Yes we have occasionally used Old Crow, Kinsfire and Abraxan’s name in the story. That started out as a bit of joke and a nod to what we think are fine authors. I’m sorry if this annoys you. No. I take that back. I don’t care if it annoys you. Your complaint is petty an undeserving of comment, which is why I’m commenting on it. Don’t you find that annoying? Here’s another WIP you can quit reading.

Pet Peeves:

Updates so far apart you don't even remember what the story was about when learn about its update. I can understand that if you were writing huge chapters like Jeconais does. Or even modest sized chapters like ours. But waiting two months for a 3K word chapter and being stuck rereading the story just to catch up with the new chapter is annoying.

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