Content Harry Potter
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A spotlight shines center stage. Harry is shackled to a bed just wearing boxers. Hermione stands over him wearing hip high leather boots and a see through teddy. In one hand she carries a two foot long Phoenix feather which she uses to tickle Harry unmercifully until he says the magic words.

Harry: (gasping and writhing on the bed) "Bob and Alyx want me to tell you that they in no way own the Potter Universe!!"

Pleased, Hermione unshackles Harry from the bed and beckons to Ron sitting in the wings.

Ron climbs nervously onto the bed and lets himself be shackled to the it. Hermione smiles sweetly at him, then walks off the stage with Harry, one hand caressing his bum.

Ron looks around nervously and gets a terrified look in his eyes as Millicent Bullstrode steps out dragging electric arc welding torch.

Stage lights dim and the only thing visible is the blue arc of the electric torch.

Sunset Over Britain
Chapter 10

Gryffindor Common Room, a few nights later…

Hermione crept down to the common room in her robe and slippers. It was very late and everyone one asleep. Well nearly everyone, one person was awake. Sitting at one of the study tables was Harry. He was hunched over a large book, flipping pages quickly. The casual observer would think he was just skimming, but Hermione knew better. She also knew why he was here instead of in bed.

Stepping up behind him, she stopped in her tracks, startled, when he spoke.

"You should be sleeping, Hermione. It’s late," he said tiredly.

"I could say the same for you," she said softly as she sat down next to him.

He peered over at her, the bags under his eyes noticeable. She reached out and brushed a lock of his hair out of his eyes.

"You’re having nightmares again, aren’t you?" she asked him.

"Different ones, but yeah. And the dream journal doesn’t seem to be helping this time."

"Would you like to talk about it?"

Harry sighed and rubbed his face with his hands tiredly, everything about him fairly screamed exhaustion. He knew he that he had to talk to her about it. And if he couldn’t, then there was no one he could talk to.

"Ever since your prophecy, I’ve been seeing places I know, and places I’ve only seen on the telly. Everything’s burning, there are bodies everywhere, in the streets, in parks, in the rivers…"

Hermione could see the tension in him as his muscles quivered underneath his shirt and his fists clenched spasmodically on the table. She closed her eyes, blocking out the sight of him and concentrated on his words.

"…So many people are going to die, Hermione. Children, women, wizards, and muggles…" he whispered.

"Harry, we know this. We know things have to get really bad here before they can get better. People are going to get hurt, they’re going to die. It’s war…"

His head whipped up and he glared at her. "Is that supposed to make me feel better? How many will curse my name because I didn’t save their mother, brother or father? How many will be crippled when this is all done?" he asked angrily.

"Oh Harry, of course it’s not supposed to make you feel better. But don’t you see? You’re mourning for people who haven’t died yet, for people that you cannot help. Tell me, have you ever heard about a man named Oscar Schindler?" she asked gently, placing a hand on his trembling arm.

Harry shook his head and looked at her expectantly. Her question at least had deflected his anger.

"In the second world war, fought by the muggles, the Germans were killing people of the Jewish faith by the millions. Oscar Schindler saw this and knew he couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t even try to stop it. But he could try to save as many people as possible. He didn’t save many compared to how many were killed. But thanks to him, some people are alive today. He tormented himself over those he couldn’t save, but he did what he could."

Harry’s brows furrowed in thought. "So you’re saying save what I can? Ignore what’s outside of my control?"

"Yes. Save who and what you can. But always remember that even you, Harry Potter, as great as I think you are and will be, can’t save the whole world," she replied.

"It hurts when I think of those I can’t save, Hermione," he said in a whisper.

She leaned over and wrapped her arms around him. "I know it does, but it also means your heart is in the right place."

The two sat for a while before heading back to their own beds. As Harry lay in his dorm room, listening to the quiet breathing and soft snores of those around him, he considered Hermione’s words.

Save what I can. It sounds so simple, but I need a plan to do that, he mused.

Harry was still considering possibilities when he dropped into a peaceful sleep.

Grimmauld Place…

Tonks rolled over in bed and reached for Remus. When she found his side of the bed empty, she muttered grumpily and sat up, awake now. Getting out of bed, she donned a robe and went in search of him. In Grimmauld, there were only a few places he would normally be found. The kitchen, the library or his monthly stays in his reinforced room and, since it wasn’t a full moon that only left two places.

Padding silently on the hardwood floors, she walked to library door and looked in. Remus sat at a table, pouring over some very old volumes. To one side was the most recent letter from Harry.

She frowned and stepped into the light.   "Remy, you can’t keep burning hours like this. You’ve been reading ever since Harry’s letter arrived," she said, exasperated.

"I know Nymph, but I’ve read this a hundred times in the past few days and, if Hermione’s interpretation is correct, we are in for a bloody awful mess."

"That bad?"

"Worse than you can imagine. I pray Harry doesn’t understand the ramifications of this prophecy. If he does, we could lose him," came his quiet reply.

"What?! What do you mean Remy?"

"Nymph, read Hermione’s thoughts about the prophecy again," he said, handing her the letter.

Tonks reread the letter. She liked to give the impression that this stuff is over her head, but her association with Remus had an added benefit of showing her that there was value in acknowledging one’s intelligence.

Remus watched her carefully as she reread the letter again. She had a fine mind despite the impression she often gave people. He loved the way her nose crinkled when she was really considering a problem.

She finally handed the parchment back to Remus and continued to ponder its contents. Suddenly, her eyes widened in shock and she stared at Remus in consternation as she made the connection. "Bloody hell! Remy, what do we do?"

"I think that, my lovely Nymph, is the five galleon question. And I also think that no matter what we decide, Harry’s the one who’s going to have the ultimate say in it," he replied softly.

Tonks frowned, but couldn’t find any way to refute it. He was right. The choice had to be Harry’s.

Headmasters Office, Hogwarts…

Dumbledore looked up from his conversation with Severus when Alastor Moody entered his office. He smiled genially at the man and offered him a chair.

Moody scowled when he spotted Snape. He knew of Snape’s role in the Order, but never fully trusted him. Of course, Moody never trusted anyone.

Moody, never one to dance around a topic, cut straight to the point. "Albus, I’m here because I’ve been picking up some disturbing rumors from our Ministry and abroad. I know how important it is to keep tabs on Potter, but I’d really suggest holding off trying to get him back under our control. Rumor has it that the Ministry and, in particular, that idiot Fudge, are out for your blood.

"He’s heard about the feud you and the boy are having and he’s just waiting and hoping for you to make a mistake that he can use to nail your hide to the door."

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, thinking for a moment. "Well now, that explains a lot. His placing Aurors in the castle then wasn’t for Harry’s protection, or the students, it was in the hopes of catching me doing something."

Moody looked thoughtful. "How did he find out about the attack on the Granger girl, anyway?"

"Probably the same way he discovered about the attack on Potter, from our resident Ministry spy, Professor Blackthorne, I imagine," spat Snape. "I tell you Headmaster, we need to do something about her."

"Yes, yes, Severus. I quite agree, but now is not the time to be doing that sort of thing, not while the Ministry has its eye fixed firmly on Hogwarts. No, I think we must leave Professor Blackthorne alone for the time being. Tell me, Alastor, what else have you heard?"

"Well, there seems to be a wave of disappearances of wizards and witches from the continent, but no one knows what is behind it… Damn it all Albus, this is serious. Between this hearing over that foolish Weasley boy and the Ministry looking to roast you over a slow fire, you have trouble! What are you going to do about that idiot Weasley anyway?"

"Yes, Mr. Weasley’s obsession over Miss Granger has become a liability. But, like you have already pointed out, we can do nothing until after the hearing, at the earliest," Dumbledore replied, his mind whirling with possibilities.

"Headmaster, should Weasley survive this hearing, I have an idea which might help," offered Snape.

Moody turned to Snape and eyed the man with distaste before speaking. "Well, Snape? If you have an idea, spill it," he growled.

"I think it’s time to replace Mr. Weasley’s obsession with Granger. If we replace it with an obsession for something else, something that can help our cause…" Snape trailed off, shrugging.

"Yes, I see what you mean, Severus. It has worked before and I don’t see why it can’t work again," replied Dumbledore.

Moody looked between the two Professors, puzzled. "Will one of you explain what the bloody hell you’re talking about?"

"It’s simple really, Alastor. In the past we’ve found it convenient to redirect the attention of some students. A memory charm, followed by the placement of new memories, allows us to take a poor student and force them into becoming a motivated one. If we were to redirect Mr. Weasley’s obsession over Miss Granger into something more useful, say his Defense studies?"

"If you can do that, then why the bloody hell didn’t you cast a memory charm on Granger and convince her she’s in love with Weasley?" demanded Moody.

"I tried!" snarled Snape. "Whatever technique she’s learned from Potter makes her immune to it. And now they both know of the attempt!"

Moody turned back to Dumbledore, alarmed. "Albus, you need to back off on Potter. If he’s aware of the attempt to alter her memories, he’ll treat you as an enemy from this point on," he stated.

Dumbledore smiled benignly at Moody, "Nonsense, Alastor. Harry will soon come to see the error of his ways and once again come to me, seeking help and advice. But we’re not here to talk about Harry Potter. We were discussing Mr. Weasley."

Alastor frowned for a moment before considering the Weasley issue. "Won’t you be worried that Weasley might become too powerful if you refocus him to defense?"

"Oh, come on Moody. This is a Weasley we’re talking about," sneered Snape. "Power is something that has never been a strong trait in the Weasley family. Look, this will turn him into a useful fighter for the Order, if nothing else."

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, smiling at the two. "Then it’s decided. Should Mr. Weasley still be a student after his hearing, we’ll redirect his interests into a more positive use."

Malfoy Manor…

Lucius sat in his living room and knocked back another stiff drink. He scowled as a house elf quickly refilled his glass from the nearly empty bottle of Ogdens before scurrying back out of range.

He read the statement from Gringotts again and angrily threw his glass against the wall, shattering it. His Lord had given him specific instructions, which he had dutifully passed to his moronic cousin, McNulty. He was to buy the Daily Prophet so that his Lord could use it to confuse the Wizarding public.

"That bloody idiot!" he snarled to the empty room.

Fergus McNulty, his cousin, had been told to spend as much as he needed to purchase the paper and, when the owner had been reluctant to sell, he simply offered it all! In a single day the Malfoy’s had gone from being the fifth richest Wizarding family in the world, to having a few properties and barely 100,000 galleons in Gringotts!

He could sell a few of the properties to bring his cash flow up a bit, but it would take centuries to rebuild the Malfoy fortune. Lucius ground his teeth in frustration. It was all he could do, really. The Dark Lord did not take complaints well and Lucius had no plans of becoming the next target of his lord’s wrath. He could only hope that his Lord’s coattails were big enough to drag the Malfoy’s back to their original wealth.

Malfoy family, he thought to himself scornfully. What family?   Damn Draco!   Why couldn’t he just take the Mark and do what he was told? And why the hell did he have to take Narcissa with him?   With her, I could have gotten my hands on the Black family money to repair my fortune. Damn them both!

Defense Against the Dark Arts Class…

Harry watched with interest as Hermione and Pansy Parkinson dueled on the platform. Romany stood off to one side, watching the two with a critical eye. She had made a few changes to the regular dueling rules that were observed in the class. The biggest change being that people no longer stopped dueling when someone was hit with a spell. The object now was to disable or disarm your opponent. The only real limit was the rule of no spells capable of causing death or major injuries.

At the moment, Pansy was having a problem with Hermione. Hermione had learned Harry’s rebounding charm and it was much stronger than a standard shield charm. Harry had to admit that the soft glow around her increased her beauty. In his mind, the halo of light made her appear angelic. Her rebounding charm wasn’t nearly as strong as Harry’s, nor could it deflect as many spells.

"Inflictum poena," Pansy shouted in frustration.

A light green cloud of smoke issued from Pansy’s wand. The cloud then moved to one side and started to roil in the air. Pansy began throwing a rapid series of explosive hexes at Hermione to keep her off guard while her main attack prepared itself.

The blood drained from Romany’s face as she recognized Pansy’s spell. The cloud suddenly formed into thin narrow line. Like a missile, it left Pansy’s side, hurtling at Hermione, who was too busy dealing with Pansy’s diversionary attacks to do anything about it.

Romany made a dive towards Hermione as the spell crossed the center point of the dueling platform. She grabbed the girl and they both crashed to the floor. Covering Hermione with her own body, she looked up in surprise when the curse never hit. Unlike so many of the dueling spells, this one didn’t need to be aimed. It should have struck Romany as it homed in on Hermione’s magical aura.

She slowly got to her feet when she saw the spell had reached the middle of the dueling platform and then stopped. The spell quivered and hummed in an ever-increasing whine.

Suddenly, the spell flashed brightly and vanished. The overload of the spell energy flashed back to the caster. Pansy’s eyes rolled up in her head and she collapsed like a sack of potatoes.

When a low rumbling sound began among the students, Romany turned away from the unconscious Pansy and faced the class.   Her eyes widened for a moment when she saw Harry Potter.   He sat at his desk at the front of the class and his body appeared to be buffeted by a phantom wind.   His cloak furled around his legs and his hair whipped about his head. His gaze was firmly fixed on Pansy’s crumpled form, and his eyes blazed with energy.

"Class dismissed!" Romany barked. "Zabini, Bulstrode, take Miss Parkinson to the infirmary. When she awakens, tell her she’s lost fifty points from Slytherin for using a dark spell."

Harry sat and watched as Blaise levitated Pansy and floated her out of the classroom. He then turned his attention to the two women standing on the platform staring at him.

Romany waved her wand, closing the door and cast a privacy charm on the room. She was about to say something, when Hermione started first.

"How dare you interfere, Harry? You arrogant prat!" Hermione hissed in anger at him.

Harry blinked a few times and suddenly realized his girlfriend was talking to him. The fire behind his eyes went out as her words sunk in.

"I was holding my own! That was my duel, Harry. You had no right to…" she stopped when Romany put a hand on her arm.

"Hermione, I don’t know what he did, but he may have saved your sanity," she said quietly.

"W-W-What?" the young witch stammered.

"Pansy cast a very powerful and dangerous spell. Inflictum poena is designed to cause pain to the victim.   The catch is, the pain increases as time passes. It’s a dark curse that can last for nearly a week, depending on the power of the caster.   For most people, it causes days of intense pain that potions can barely control. While it’s not a lethal curse, it often leaves the victim begging to die in order to escape the pain. Sometimes it drives the victim insane."

"B-B-But why did you jump in the way of the curse then?" Hermione stammered as she paled.

"It’s my job, Hermione. I told you I’m here to keep you both safe," Romany replied.

Harry got up from his desk and approached them. Hermione looked between the two, her lower lip trembled slightly. Then her gaze locked with Harry’s, the remorse visible in her eyes.

"Harry," she whispered despairingly.

He smiled softly at her. "I told you I would always protect you, Hermione."

"I’m sorry I yelled at you," she whispered with her eyes downcast.

Harry placed his cane on the raised platform and boosted himself up to a sitting position before grabbing his cane and using it to get to his feet. Romany watched him with interest.

"It’s alright, Hermione. It’s not your fault that you didn’t recognize that spell. I read about it over the summer," he said softly.

"I’d like to know what you did, Harry. That was no shield you used," Romany said.

He shrugged and looked apologetic. "I’m not sure I can explain it, Romany. I saw the spell moving and it was like I became blind for a moment and was only seeing the aura of it. Once I saw the aura, I knew what I had to do, so I adjusted the spell. It’s funny, really. It was almost like I could see the individual parts of the spell, rather like looking under the hood of a muggle car to see its engine."

"You adjusted a spell after it had been cast?" exclaimed Romany.

Hermione looked at him, startled.

Harry ignored their looks. "Yeah, I could see part of the spell energy that was feeding its motion, so I adjusted that portion of the spell back into the casting power, which tried to make it go faster, but couldn’t…" he trailed off as he noticed the two were staring at him as if he’d suddenly grown a second head.

"What? Do I have something on my face?" he asked them exasperation.

"Harry, you altered a cast spell," said Romany breathlessly.

"So? I did the same thing with the Headmaster’s Gargoyle at the beginning of the year when he didn’t give me the password," Harry replied.

Hermione placed a hand on his arm, and he looked at her. "Harry, no one’s ever done what you’re describing, I’ve never heard of it," she said breathlessly.

"Alright, let me consider it. It could be really useful to explore, but right now I have a question that has been bothering me for a while. I’ve been reluctant to ask about it, Harry," said Romany

Harry looked at her guardedly, "Oh? What question would that be?"

"You mentioned that you have to kill Voldemort? Who or what says it has to you?"

Harry’s expression darkened. "Prophecy, damn prophecy," he muttered.

Hermione put an arm on his shoulder. He turned to look at her, and then leaned his head against hers for a moment. Hermione turned slightly so she could see Romany.

"There are two prophecies that currently say Harry and Voldemort are closely linked, and either Harry will kill him, or Voldemort will kill Harry," she said softly as Harry tightened his grip on her.

Romany eyed the pair carefully. "Is it true, Harry? Only you can kill him?" she asked, watching them both.

Harry nodded, "One of the perks of being the bloody Boy-Who-Lived."

"What are you going to do?"

Harry frowned before answering harshly, "What choice do I have? I don’t want to be a murderer, but if it comes down to my life or his. I’ll pick mine. When the time’s right, I’ll kill him. I want to live my life and raise a family, but I can’t.   Voldemort isn’t going to allow me to, so I’ll remove him from the picture."

He then turned and faced Hermione, signaling an end to the discussion. "It’s time for Arithmancy," he said.

Hermione nodded and followed him down the stage steps. They collected their book bags and walked out of the classroom.

Romany watched them leave, her mind turning over the two new puzzles the raven haired young man had just presented her. She finally blew out a breath in frustration and scowled.   Harry was a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by a headache!

Hogwarts corridor outside the library…

It was late; barely an hour remained before curfew. Draco had been working on a potions assignment in the library and had just finished it. His own housemates made it nearly impossible for him to work on his homework in the common room. While there were only a few Slytherins in Voldemort’s camp, they ruled the house with an iron fist, except where Draco was concerned. Despite his feelings towards his father, even Draco was thankful for all those years of illegal training. His father had started him at an early age in dueling and defensive arts. To say that the few Voldemort supporters in Slytherin House were afraid of Draco would be an understatement. They were terrified of him.

With his homework packed into his bag, Draco stood and made his way to the exit of the library, but paused when he heard a noise. It sounded almost like someone was whimpering, while another spoke in a low voice. Creeping forward, he stopped again just inside the library door. From that vantage point he could hear the voices clearly.

"Aw… look at her, books all over the floor and now she’s crying," said a sneering voice. "What are you going to do now, Loony?"

Draco suddenly found himself incapable of rational thought. He charged out of the library, swinging his book bag like a mace of old. Luna’s assailant never had a chance.

The heavy bag connected with his head and he went down. Draco didn’t bother to look at Luna’s assailant. He scooped her stuff up into her book bag and led her away from the area.

It wasn’t until they were three floors below the library that he stopped and faced Luna. Her face was tear streaked, but her eyes were soft as she watched him. She lowered her head and glanced up at him through her lashes, smiling shyly.

He felt his pants tighten uncomfortably. As he reached down to adjust him self enough for comfort, his mind started shrieking at him and he froze.   What was he doing?   This was Luna, not one of the trollops his father brought him and let him use when he was done with her!

"Luna, are you alright?" he asked.   His voice, usually refined and cultured was suddenly gruff.

"I am now, Draco. Thank you for helping me back there," Luna replied.

He scowled at her. "Well, really, it was nothing. I just happened to pass by and he was in my way," he replied haughtily. As the silence descended, his expression changed.   The frown slowly gave way to confusion.

Luna watched the blond Slytherin and smiled mysteriously at him. She tilted her head slightly and waited.

Finally Draco couldn’t take it anymore. "Why do you let them do that to you?" he asked in frustration.

"People always make fun of me. They see me as an airhead. After a while, you get used to it."

"But why do you put up with it, Luna? You’re as strong a witch as Ginny."

She looked at him sadly, as if his lack of understanding was disappointing. "Even the wizarding world has its strange characters, Draco. People look at me and don’t understand me, so they call me Looney."

"I’m trying to…" Draco said, sotto voce.

She smiled, overhearing his muttered words. Leaning over, she brushed the back of her fingers over his cheek gently. They were both surprised when he didn’t pull away from her caress. "I know you are, Draco. But you still have a way to go before you understand me."

With that, she turned her back on him and, smiling triumphantly, walked away.

Headmaster’s Office, Hogwarts…

Dumbledore sat pensively in his office. Tomorrow was the hearing in front of the Hogwarts Board of Governors and it seemed to him that now, more than two months into the term, events were spiraling out of his control. According to dispatches from Order members, the Brotherhood was now being seen more frequently. There had been sightings in Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, and at the Ministry. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Daily Prophet was at it again.

Dumbledore sighed and picked up a copy of today’s Daily Prophet.

Hogwarts, a Breeding Ground for Dark Lords?

The Daily Prophet has learned that the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, is feuding with Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. Over the summer, the Headmaster raised some ugly allegations against Mr. Potter, which the Ministry subsequently cleared him of. Now the enmity that first caused those charges has spilled over into halls of Hogwarts as the Headmaster and Harry Potter all but wage open war against each other.

Adding to Mr. Potter’s rebellion against the Headmaster and the wizarding world is his apparent attachment to a muggle born witch named Hermione Granger. Why Mr. Potter, himself only a half blood, would turn from the many full bloods around him to embrace and sully his line for another generation can only be viewed as rebellion. Yes, rebellion against the tradition that the Headmaster of Hogwarts has neglected to instill in his students.

This paper has learned that Mr. Potter and a small number of friends, most of them social misfits in their own right, have become increasingly isolated from the student body. Mr. Potter is a very powerful wizard, and the actions of the Headmaster are driving him away from all that is good about our world…

Dumbledore threw the paper down in disgust. The nerve of them! Here they are, all but claiming Harry is turning into the next Dark Lord, and blaming me for it, he thought. Maybe I can arrange another interview with Rita, set the record straight… Yes! If I can put the fear of Harry into the public, then the Ministry and I will both control him using a threat of Azkaban!

Dumbledore stood and began to pace his office nervously. He had to plan this correctly. But first, he had to get past the blasted hearing…

Hogwarts Great Hall…

Just as Albus Dumbledore threw down the Prophet in disgust, another, younger hand performed the same action in the Great Hall. Harry growled at the paper, then glanced around the hall. There were a higher than usual number of eyes on him today. He looked over at Hermione, but she was busy opening a letter from her mother.

Oh well, he mused. We’ll talk about the article later.

Hermione unfolded the letter and began to read.

Dear Hermione,

I just wanted to drop you a note, telling you that your Dad and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, but we do wish it were under better circumstances. Tonks assures us that the Ministry has no plans of allowing this to be swept under the rug.

I understand that a faculty member will escort you and Harry down from the school to The Three Broomsticks, where the Board meeting will take place. We will meet you there.

By the way, how are you and Harry doing? When your father and I were that age I needed eight arms to keep his hands to himself! And I’m not ashamed to admit that my hands did a bit of roaming at the same time.

See you tomorrow.

Hermione frowned. She knew that the hearing was necessary, but that didn’t mean she was looking forward to it. At least Harry would be there with her since the Board requested his presence. The board, it seemed, had questions about his attack as well. Hermione looked up at Harry, her mother’s letter fresh in her mind.

Harry watched as Draco and Luna entered the Great Hall. He found it hard to suppress a wry grin watching the aloof Slytherin watch Luna’s every movement. Hermione followed the direction of Harry’s eyes and couldn’t help but grin herself. Draco and Luna weren’t a couple, they may never make it that far, but they had a strange attraction to each other that mystified those around them.

Hermione went back to looking at her letter and thinking. Her mother was a very intelligent woman in her own right. She had turned down a teaching position at the Royal College of Dentistry so that she and her husband could enjoy working together. Her parents had met in their teens, attended the same school and, despite separations caused by later decisions, they stayed close.

Hermione glanced at Harry once more. He had his nose buried in a book, which in itself wasn’t surprising. His reading preferences had undergone a major topic shift of late. He had taken a break from reading magical books and shifted to muggle texts ranging from history to philosophy.

She wasn’t sure exactly what he was searching for, and when she pressed him on it, offering to help, he told her she had given him the project and he’d bring it to her when he was ready. She could honestly admit to herself that she was pleased by his independent streak starting to show up again and in such a positive manner. Harry’s skills concerning magic, and in particular, fighting, were far above hers or anyone else she knew. In applying his talents to other areas, he was only confirming what she had suspected all along. Harry was every bit as smart as she was when he decided to apply himself.

Harry, sensing her contemplative mood, looked up from his book and smiled at her. She smiled back and leaned into him, enjoying his closeness.

On the Road to Hogsmeade…

Professor McGonagall met Hermione and Harry in the Entrance Hall after breakfast to escort them to the meeting of the Board of Governors. With school in session, the Board opted to use Madam Rosemerta’s conference room in The Three Broomsticks.

Professor McGonagall eyed Harry and his cane carefully. "Mr. Potter, are you sure you’re up for this? Remember what happened the last time," she reminded him.

"I think I’ll be fine, Professor. That was several weeks ago and I’ve been exercising my leg daily. I’ll just take it easy and, if it gets too bad, I’ll rest," he replied, smiling devilishly at her.

McGonagall stared at him a moment before chuckling. "Your father often tried the same smile with me, Mr. Potter, and for far less deserving reasons I might add," she said before suddenly turning serious. "I want you both to hold onto your tempers today, you especially, Mr. Potter. As we both know, the press has been unkind to you both in the past, and they are at it again. Do not give the Board a reason to suspect that the reports of you in the press are factual. I know it will be difficult, but you must hold your temper in check. Both of you," she said.

Hermione and Harry exchanged a worried glance, then nodded to their Head of House.

They walked to Hogsmeade in silence and, surprisingly, Harry’s leg did not slow them down. In fact, both Harry and Hermione sped up slightly when The Three Broomsticks came into view and they could see the people waiting out in front of the building.

Professor McGonagall arched an eyebrow when Harry embraced a woman who could have easily been mistaken for his older sister.

Stepping up behind the two of them McGonagall spoke. "Mr. Potter, aren’t you going to introduce me?"

Harry looked surprised for a moment, and then chuckled. He laid one arm across the other woman’s shoulders. "Professor, this is my guardian."

As he said those words, the woman’s hair straightened and fell to her shoulders. Her eyes changed to a deep purple and her features softened.

McGonagall shook her head in surprise and extended her hand. "Nymphadora! How did you manage to obtain guardianship over this troublemaker?"

Harry stepped away from Tonks and put a hand to his forehead dramatically. "Professor! You wound me!" he said, and then grinned impishly.

McGonagall and Tonks laughed. Hermione shook her head in amusement, while Dan and Emma grinned.

"Well, let’s just say it was a decision done in a hurry, Professor," Tonks replied once the laughter had faded.

"She’s my cousin, after all, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someday she ends up leashing a certain wolf I know. That would make her…what?   My god-wolf-ette?" Harry offered, innocently.

Tonks grinned back at him, while Hermione rolled her eyes and pushed him towards the door.

"OY!" Harry protested, a mock scowl on his face. "No shoving, wench!"

When Hermione’s eyes narrowed, Harry went through the front door of The Three Broomsticks rather quickly and under his own power.

The Board Meeting…

Laughing, the six of them entered The Three Broomsticks, heading for a private dining room Madam Rosemerta had set aside for the meeting.

Entering the room, Harry looked around curiously.   He noted the long table behind which, he assumed, the Board would sit.   In front of the table was a single chair, presumably for those who were going to give testimony. A few feet behind that single seat were rows of chairs for those invited to the meeting.

As people filed into the room and took seats, Harry and Tonks sat with Hermione and her parents. Hermione looked grim, but she held Harry’s hand firmly in her own and was playfully tickling his palm with a finger.

Harry watched silently as Ron entered, Arthur and Molly on his heels. Arthur held Ron firmly by one shoulder as he steered the still scratching young man to a chair near the main table. None of the Weasley’s so much as spared a single glance at Harry or Hermione when they came in. A moment later Dumbledore entered and took a seat behind the Weasley’s so that he was able to lean forward and talk to them.

Finally another door opened and a group of witches and wizards filed out, taking seats at the main table. Harry recognized only three of the people at the main table, Narcissa, Amelia and Mrs. Longbottom. Narcissa was filling in on the role of her husband, who was, after all, an escaped prisoner from Azkaban.

The stately witch in the center chair introduced herself as Esther Hampton, the chairwoman of the Board of Governors.

"We are here for two closely related matters. But before I begin, may every one please stand and identify themselves and their reason for being here for our records?" Hampton asked.

"Ronald Weasley, and I’m here because I was ordered to be here," said a sullen Ron.

"Arthur Weasley, I’m Ron’s father."

"Molly Weasley, I’m his mother and I just want to say these proceedings are illegal…" she started to say, but was cut off.

"MRS. WEASLEY! I can assure you, you will have a chance to speak. However, unless you are asked to speak, I request you refrain from doing do, else I will be forced to summarily rule against your son."

Molly sat down heavily in her seat, her cheeks puffing in an out. Harry was disconcerted. For a brief instant, Molly looked almost like a chubbier Aunt Petunia. Shaking his head, he turned back to the proceedings in time to see Dumbledore sitting down from his introduction.

"Dan Granger, I’m Hermione’s father."

"Emma Granger, I’m her mother."

"Hermione Granger, I was asked here by the board."

"Nymphadora Tonks, I’m the guardian of Harry James Potter."

Dumbledore and the Weasley family spun in their seats to stare at Tonks and Harry with varying degrees of disbelief.   Dumbledore’s expression quickly changed to outrage as he tried to catch Tonks’ eye.   When she ignored him, he turned his angry eyes on Harry, who simple raised an eyebrow in question, then turned away from the Headmaster with a small smile playing about his lips.

"Harry James Potter. My presence was requested by the board."

"Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress and Head of House for all three students."

"Thank you all for attending today," Chairwoman Hampton said. "As you are aware, we are here to discuss the two attacks that occurred in late September. The Ministry has graciously supplied us with a Pensieve memory of the event, as well as written statements from the alleged victim. Does anyone wish to review either of those before we begin?"

After a moment of silencing Hampton spoke again. "Very well, let us start with Mr. Ronald Weasley."

Ronald stood and walked over to the empty seat in front of the board. He sat heavily and stared at them, his arms crossed.

"Mr. Weasley, you are aware that the Board may still elect to expel you from Hogwarts and have your wand snapped?"

Ron stared at Hampton sullenly for a moment. "Yeah," he finally muttered, scowling.

Hampton frowned. "I say this, Mr. Weasley, because if you refuse to cooperate with this board, then that is precisely what will happen. It is to your own benefit that you cooperate with us in this matter. I hope you understand that."

Ron glared at her, then nodded angrily.

"Very well then. The Ministry has authorized the use of Veritaserum for this hearing. You can, of course, refuse to take the potion, Mr. Weasley. If you refuse however, we will expel you and turn you over to the Ministry for criminal proceedings."

Dumbledore looked surprised that the Board and the Ministry appeared to be working together on this issue. His eyes narrowed in speculation when Tonks approached the Board and got the potion from Amelia.

Tonks turned to face Ron.   "Tilt your head back and stick out your tongue," she told him firmly.

Ron glared at her for a moment before complying. She quickly applied three drops to his tongue, and then gave the bottle back to Amelia, who pocketed it.

Tonks waited for a few minutes, and then checked Ron. Noting his dazed expression and unfocused eyes, she nodded to Hampton to begin.

"What is your full name?" the Chairwoman asked.

"Ronald Bilius Weasley."

"Where did you get the ring from?" Hampton asked.

"I purchased the ring from Mundungus Fletcher."

"Do you know where he got the ring?"

"He said he picked it up in Knockturn Alley and had an Order member put the charms on it."

Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand again. She could see by his body language that his anger was building quickly. She gave him a little tug and he glanced at her, then his eyes softened. The fire hadn’t gone out, but it was banked, making his eyes shine brightly.

Together they both turned back to the questioning.

"…An un-removable charm and a love charm," Ron was saying.

"Tell me, Mr. Weasley, was it your intention to rape Miss Granger after you forced the ring on her finger?"

"NO! After I put the ring on her finger, I wanted to kiss her. When she refused, she made me angry. She and I struggled for a moment, and then she relaxed. I assumed she was accepting my advances, so I released one of her hands. I thought she was willing at that point."

Harry sat fuming, one hand tightly gripped by Hermione. She tugged him again and he glanced down to see Emma holding Dan’s hand. Emma was keeping Dan from exploding as well.

Tonks checked her watch. "Madam Chairwoman, the Veritaserum is about to wear off. Unless you wish him to be re-dosed?"

"No, thank you Miss Tonks. I think we have enough information. Now if I may, I’d like to address some questions to Headmaster Dumbledore."

Tonks grabbed Ron and heaved him out of the chair, pushing him towards his parents. Molly glared at Tonks, who ignored her.

Dumbledore took the empty seat and smiled benignly at the Board.

"Albus, this matter concerns us greatly. We’re most concerned by your apparent lack of response to this. In fact, I believe you docked house points from Harry Potter for defending himself after Ronald Weasley attacked him in anger when he discovered Mr. Potter was responsible for removing the ring. Why did you not punish Mr. Weasley?"

"Esther," began Dumbledore, "I was under the impression this was just a simple case of teenage love gone awry. I was intending to let things calm down a bit before I took action."

"So you’re saying you were going to wait a few days before doing something about it?"

"Correct," Dumbledore said, smiling genially.


"Tempers, Esther. They were running far too high. Had I merely been allowed to wait a few days and then issued appropriate punishments, tempers would have cooled. The chances for violent reactions would have been less. Unfortunately, that same evening, Mr. Potter was assaulted in his dormitory and everything was taken out of my hands."

"Yes, the attack on Mr. Potter was unfortunate, but we’ll get to that back to topic in a bit."

Dumbledore nodded agreeably at this.

"Tell me Albus, why did you dock points from Mr. Potter on the evening in question?" asked Hampton.

"Madam Chairwoman, both boys in question come from the same house. Does it matter which one gets the points removed since it affects the same house?"

"If you were talking strictly about points, I would agree, Albus. But by placing the onus of the points on Mr. Potter, he unfairly bore the brunt of this housemate’s displeasure."

"Perhaps I was wrong to put Mr. Potter at fault for the loss of points, but they would have happened anyway," replied Dumbledore, shrugging.

"Very well. Let’s turn to Mr. Potter’s attack, which I believe the Ministry is now saying the most likely cause is someone in his own house."

"Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but it definitely came from someone inside the school," granted Dumbledore.

Esther turned her attention to Harry. "Thank you, Albus. I’d like to hear from Mr. Potter now."

Harry stood and walked up to the chair in front of the board and sat down, leaning his cane up against the side of the chair.

"Mr. Potter, I understand you were instrumental in removing the ring from Miss Granger’s fingers after two faculty members failed to do so. Can you explain how you managed to accomplish such a feat?"

"I can’t really offer much of an explanation, Madam Chairwoman, except to say that Professor Flitwick suggested that my feelings for Hermione… I mean Miss Granger…might have had something to do with why I was able to remove the ring." In fact Harry knew exactly how he had removed it, but he wasn’t about to reveal those abilities here.

Esther Hampton motioned for him to continue. "Professor Flitwick suggests that our feelings for each other allowed me to overpower the non-removal charm. As to the Love charm, he says that it wouldn’t have worked since Herm…. er… Miss Granger already has those feelings for someone."

Most of the Board nodded in agreement. A love charm was useless if the person was already in love. Esther’s eyes narrowed and she looked at Harry’s cane for a long moment.

"Mr. Potter, I understand that you need a cane as a result of your injury. Will you always need a cane?"

Harry picked up his cane and looked at it, frowning while he spoke. "I’m not entirely sure, Madam Chairwoman. The school healer, Madam Pomfrey, says I will always have some impairment in my leg. It’s been getting steadily better, but I still need the cane. The walk down from the school was tiring, and I’m not looking forward to the walk home. I guess for the foreseeable future I’ll need the cane," he replied with a heavy sigh.

"Thank you, Mr. Potter. You may take your seat please."

Hermione watched him carefully as he walked towards her and sat down. The days walk had been excessive for his leg, even with his use of the weights full time. He didn’t show any sign of being in trouble yet, but that was part of his problem. He wouldn’t show any signs until he was far past the point of being in trouble.

"Miss Granger, would you please take the chair?" asked Hampton.

Hermione swallowed nervously, stood up and moved to the central chair.

"Miss Granger, according to Mr. Weasley you relaxed during his assault, giving him the impression you were accepting his advances…"

"No, Ma’am. I relaxed enough to convince him that I wasn’t willing to fight him. As soon as he released one of my hands, I began fighting him as best as I could," said Hermione, interrupting the Chairwoman.

Esther Hampton smiled. "Very well then, let’s talk about your announcement to the school later that day, shall we? It was quite forceful. Perhaps it was a bit over the top?"

"Absolutely not, Madam Chairwoman! By dinnertime, a boy who’d assaulted me was still running around the school unpunished, despite the attempts to punish him by my own Head of House, Professor McGonagall. I felt it was necessary for me to warn the other girls in school to the danger we were all in," replied Hermione forcefully.

Hampton blinked in surprise at hearing the Deputy Headmistress’s name brought up.

"One final question, Miss Granger, about the attack on Mr. Potter. How is it you happened to be the one to stumble onto him in the Gryffindor common room?"

Hermione glanced at Harry for a moment and he nodded.   "Mr. Potter and I have a relationship, Madam Chairwoman," Hermione said, turning back to face the Board. "As a part of that relationship, and because of certain incidents in school, I have taken the precaution of enchanting several objects that let me know when Harry is in danger. I believe he has done the same for me, as well."

"Do you really feel so insecure in Hogwarts, Miss Granger?" asked Hampton curiously.

"Madam Chairwoman, since returning to school, both Mr. Potter and myself have been subject to several attacks, one of which nearly killed Harry. If you look further into Harry’s school career, you will find a pattern of him being placed in harms way on numerous occasions. I don’t mean to mock your efforts, but I find the idea that anyone would consider Hogwarts safe as being blind to the facts."

Esther Hampton blinked in surprise at such a strong statement. She looked thoughtful for a moment before dismissing Hermione from the chair. "Thank you, Miss Granger. I think that covers everything we needed to ask you for now. Professor McGonagall, if you would, please?" Hampton said, pointing to the now empty chair.

Professor McGonagall took the seat before the Board, looking at them firmly.

"Professor, we were unaware of your involvement in this. Would you please tell us what you know?"

"Certainly, Madam Chairwoman. I was on my way to breakfast in the Great Hall when Ginevra Weasley approached me, saying that Miss Granger was in the girl’s bathroom, and quite upset about something. Miss Granger is one of the finest students Hogwarts has seen a very long time. Her only violations of the rules have been in the service of the school or to protect the lives of others. Therefore, I knew if she was upset, it was something serious indeed.

"I found Miss Granger disheveled, her blouse buttons popped off and there were bruises forming on her chest. She was tearing at a ring on her hand, nearly hysterical, trying to remove it. When I could not remove it, I sent Miss Weasley to find Professor Flitwick, asking that he meet us in the infirmary.

"When Professor Flitwick proved to be unable to remove the ring, I searched out Mr. Potter. Given their relationship, I felt that perhaps he could calm her down enough to find out where she had gotten the ring. To our surprise, Mr. Potter was not only able to calm her down, but also able to remove the ring. After that, Miss Granger told her story about how she had gotten the ring and what Mr. Weasley had done to her.

"Mr. Potter was incensed. Had it not been for Miss Granger talking him out of it, I am quite certain that we would now, today, be speaking about how one student killed another…"

"That’s impossible! Harry loves Ron like a brother. He’d never hurt Ronald," shouted Molly.

A cold voice cut across the murmur of voices in the room, silencing them instantly. "If he hurts Hermione again, I will," said Harry.

Molly stopped in mid-tirade and stared at him.

"And I’ll help him," growled Dan. Hermione looked between the two of them, not knowing how to react to such a rush of testosterone fueled rage. It embarrassed her, but it also made her feel safer knowing how Harry and her father felt.

She glanced at her mother, curious to see her reaction and was surprised at what she saw.   Emma looked between Molly and Ron, her eyes cold and calculating, her lips pulled back, almost snarling, and Hermione realized that her mum was as angry as her father and Harry.   So much for the testosterone theory, she thought to herself and nearly rolled her eyes.

There was a cough from Ether Hampton and heads turned as people turned their attention back to the proceedings.   "Professor, did you try to punish Mr. Weasley?" the Chairwoman asked.

"Yes. In fact, I recommended immediate expulsion. The Headmaster said that was a drastic and unnecessary measure."

"Thank you, Professor. That will be all for now.   This Board will adjourn and make its decision," said Hampton grimly.

As McGonagall returned to her chair, the Board members left the room, adjourning to a connecting suite through a previously unnoticed door.   When it closed behind them, the buzz of conversation started.

When Harry noticed Molly Weasley glaring at him, he stared back at her, his eyes cold.   When she threw back her shoulders and marched towards him, he drew his wand and cast a shield around his small group.  

When Molly opened her mouth to berate him, Tonks cast a muffling charm and shook her head at the enraged witch, now stomping her foot in frustration.   When the redheaded woman raised her hand and began to shake her finger at them, Minerva drew her own wand and cast a privacy charm, so they could talk without being overheard.

"Well, that was fun," Tonks exclaimed, her eyes dancing merrily.

Dan and Emma grinned, Hermione snickered, Harry grinned and shook his head and Minerva laughed outright.

"Yes it was, actually," the Professor said, her eyes twinkling.

Dan eyed Molly for a moment, noting her complexion and the expression on her face.   "She’s turned the color of a boiled lobster," he noted casually.

"Looks more like a beet to me, dear," Emma said, cocking her head and contemplating the furious witch.

When the Board entered the room ten minutes later and took their seats, McGonagall removed the charms and the group faced forward once more.   Hermione reached for Harry’s hand and he smiled at her reassuringly.

"In situations like this," the Chairwoman began, glancing around the room, "we of the Board need to walk a fine line between protecting the school and protecting our students. Sometimes, unfortunately, there’s a conflict between the two. Miss Granger and her parents are obviously quite capable of taking this case to the Government, which will take it out of our hands entirely.

"The fact that they have not yet done so says that they are at least willing to allow us to attempt to resolve this for them. That is a vote of confidence for which I am grateful.

"In the matter of the assault by Mr. Ronald Weasley on Miss Hermione Granger, we, the Board of Governors, decree that Mr. Weasley will serve two months in-school suspension, working as an assistant to Mr. Filch. He is further stripped of his Quidditch Captaincy and banned from playing the game for the remainder of his time at Hogwarts. He is to make a formal apology to Miss Granger and her parents here and now, and to make another public apology to the school at an evening meal."

Hampton then leaned over the table, looking towards Amelia Bones. "I believe you had something you wanted to say, Amelia?"

"Thank you Esther, I did. Mr. Weasley, the Ministry has in fact sent your case to the juvenile courts and they have made a summary ruling. The use of a charmed, un-removable ring was deemed as meeting the criteria of Virgo Vituperium." Amelia paused and glanced up as both the elder Weasley’s gasped in surprise. Even Dumbledore seemed shocked by Amelia’s words. This was an extremely old law relating to marriages and one that would be very costly for the Weasley family.

"As a result, Mr. Weasley," Amelia continued, looking directly at Arthur, "you have been assessed at fifty percent of your liquid assets. As such, the amount of 48,698 galleons has been seized from your vault and transferred to a vault set up in Miss Granger’s name.

"Furthermore, your son has been given a one year suspended sentence. If during the next year he does anything out of line, we will place him in prison.

"Miss Granger, you will receive an owl within the next few days detailing your new Gringotts account," Amelia said in conclusion.

"Thank you, Amelia," said Hampton. Then she turned a steely eye on Ron. "I do believe you have something you need to say, Mr. Weasley?"

Ron glared at her, his arms crossed in front of him. Arthur said something in his ear and he turned to glare at his father for a moment before standing and facing the Grangers.

"Hermione, I apologize," he growled.

Professor McGonagall looked up sharply at Ron. "Mr. Weasley, surely you can do…" She stopped when Dan placed a hand on her arm, shaking his head.

"Don’t bother, Professor. A forced apology is worthless anyway," he murmured to her.

McGonagall nodded and glared again at Ron. Her expression clearly stated that she was not done with him yet.

"I thank everyone for coming today, I know this business has been most unfortunate for everyone. Albus, if you would kindly stay, we have some further business with you," said Hampton.

Harry filed out with Hermione and the Grangers, Tonks and Professor McGonagall. The Weasley’s stayed behind for a moment longer.

In the main room of the Inn, Harry turned to speak with McGonagall. "Professor, can we sit and have an early lunch? My leg isn’t up to making that trip back yet," he said in a whisper. He didn’t want Hermione or the others to worry.

Minerva looked at him briefly, and then reconsidered. A lot had happened in there that they needed to talk about it. Nodding in acceptance, she let Harry lead her and the others to a table.

The group was distracted as they picked out their seating arrangement and sat down, so no one noticed when the Weasley’s stormed into the room. Molly took one look at them and made a beeline for Hermione.

"You hussy! You probably teased him into doing something. I’ve seen you flaunting yourself, throwing yourself at Harry all during his forth year," she screamed.

She then raised her hand, intending to strike the girl before her, but a hand shot out and caught her by the wrist. She was quickly spun around and came face to face with Harry. She noted the fury blazing from his eyes and, almost absently, that he was now taller than she was…much taller.

"No one hits Hermione," Harry hissed angrily. Dan had pulled Hermione into a protective embrace.

Molly’s features softened. "Harry, what are you doing? Can’t you see what a bad influence she has on you? I can assure you that whatever pleasure she might give you isn’t worth the fact that she’s only after your money."

Harry straightened to his full height and an eerie, unseen wind swept through The Three Broomsticks.   "Leave now," he said flatly, his voice devoid of emotion.

"But Harry…" she started to reply.

"Leave," hissed Dan Granger, still holding Hermione to him. Molly glanced over at them and started to take another step towards Hermione. Harry moved again to place himself between them. This time Molly noticed the raw power radiating from Harry. It was hard not to notice as the entire building groaned and trembled. The Weasley’s eyed Harry warily and edged towards the door.

As soon as they were out of reach, Hermione broke from Dan’s embrace and rushed to Harry. He wrapped his arms around her and closed his eyes.

A few moments later, he led her to a seat. He sat down next to her, putting an arm around her shoulder and she leaned in to him. The incident with Molly had shaken her badly. When Madam Rosemerta appeared at the table, Harry told her to take their orders and just charge it to his vault.

After Rosemerta left, Dan was the first to speak. "What the devil was Amelia talking about in there? Virgo Vituperium? Insult to the virgin, if I remember my Latin. But I don’t understand what happened at all."

"It’s a very old custom, Mr. Granger," said Professor McGonagall. "As you might have surmised, the wizarding world lives in an age more closely resembling early Victorian England than modern Muggle society. We’ve come a long way from that time period, and don’t honestly expect our younger generations to go to their wedding beds as virgins, however in the day when that was expected, an attempted or successful rape resulted in a lower bridal price. The assessment performed by the Ministry amounts to fifty percent of the Weasley’s money. That money is automatically given to Miss Granger to offset the fact that her reputation has been sullied. Had it been rape, rather than an attempt, it would have been ‘Virgo Vituperium Fait Accompli’ and their wealth would have been stripped from them, including any houses they own."

Dan thought about it for a moment before nodding. "So the money is to offset the loss of her reputation?"

"Precisely, Mr. Granger," the Professor replied.

Harry sniffed. "Personally, I think she’s worth a lot more than a paltry fifty thousand galleons."

Dan started to chuckle, then his eye’s turned speculative. "Oh, what would you give for her then, Harry?" he asked with a quick wink.

Harry caught the wink and thought about his reply. "Oh, at least ten million galleons, and a herd of cows. Yes, I think two hundred cows would be adequate. Don’t you agree?"

"Cows are so old fashioned these days, Harry. How about a couple Rolls Royce Bentleys instead?" Dan counter offered, trying to hold a straight face.

Meanwhile, every woman at the table was close to full-scale explosion.

Harry turned to Hermione for support. "Hermione, help me out here. Don’t you think two hundred cows are better than a couple cars? I mean, he’d have fresh milk, cheese and butter if he wanted to make it."

Hermione was sputtering at him and was about to rip into him when she noticed the smirk he was trying to hide. He was teasing her!

Hermione went for payback. She grabbed him by both ears and kissed him soundly. When she released him, he stared at her for a moment, then shifted his gaze to her parents and figured that surrender was clearly his best option.

"Er… Dan? I don’t own enough money to pay you what she’s worth. You’ll have to find another way to earn your cows," he said.

"That’s quite alright, Harry. I have a feeling they would only dirty the carpet anyway," Dan replied, uneasily eying the look that both his wife and daughter were giving him.

Harry decided to save Dan’s life by getting serious. He cast a privacy charm on the table, and then leaned across it towards Professor McGonagall. "Professor, there’s a lot going on. More than anyone here knows at this point. I can’t and won’t go into any details here, but I’d like to invite you and Professor Flitwick to spend Boxing Day with my friends and I. I think you’ll find it well worth your time."

Tonks looked at Harry shrewdly. "Something tells me I’m not going to like what you have up your sleeve."

Harry laughed at her. "Auntie, I think you’ll find this more fun than a barrel of kittens."

"Just what do you have in mind, oh nephew of mine?" asked Tonks acidly.

Harry buffed his nailed against his chest before looking at them again. "Oh, a little bit of larceny, some kidnapping, random mayhem and, for fun, breaking at least a dozen international treaties. Believe me Tonks, it’s enough to make the Marauders stand up and cheer. I’m planning on pulling the prank of the century and, when it’s done, three different sides will have no clue what hit them. Don’t worry. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will have a part to play in this. It’s going to be loads of fun!"

"Oh, Merlin! The last time I saw a look like that was the night before James, Sirius, Remus and Peter put a Fidelis charm on every bathroom in the school, then sold the locations to people for a galleon per bathroom," exclaimed Minerva.

Harry convulsed in laughter. "I bet they never sold a single location to the Slytherins either!" he gasped.

"No, they didn’t. And what’s worse, we lost a few bathrooms that day and they are still missing!" replied McGonagall. "Although I think Sirius sold a few locations to the girls for other favors instead of galleons. He was quite a ladies man."

Hermione sent Harry a look that clearly said they’d be talking about it later, but she refrained from comment. Harry nodded, but grinned impishly at her.

"I’d be honored to visit with you over the holiday, Mr. Potter, and I will pass along the invitation to Professor Flitwick, as well," said McGonagall to a beaming Harry.

Meanwhile, Back at the Board Meeting…

Hampton watched the retreating backs of the Weasley’s and waited for the door to close before turning back to Albus Dumbledore.   She was about to speak when the whole building groaned and rumbled ominously. Alarmed, she looked around wildly along with everyone else, but the disturbance quickly subsided.

Turning back to Dumbledore, she studied the man for a moment. He had been Headmaster of Hogwarts for the past forty years now. And while everyone agreed he was slightly crazed, they also thought he was the best person for the job. In all her years on the Board of Governors, this was the first time there’d been any complaints about his behavior. Because of that, she was inclined to show a certain amount of leniency towards the man.

"Albus, I have asked you to stay behind because we have some concerns… Well no, actually the Ministry has some concerns about the safety of Harry Potter and his girlfriend," Hampton said, turning to Amelia for backup.

"Yes. The Minister of Magic is concerned that not enough is being done to ensure the safety of Mr. Potter. To be blunt, Albus, the Minister wants to withdraw Mr. Potter and Miss Granger from Hogwarts and set them up with private tutors in a secure location. We don’t understand why Mr. Potter is so important to V-V-Voldemort. But we figure that if V-V-Voldemort wants Mr. Potter dead, then keeping him alive must be a good thing.

"Esther says that moving him out of school would send the wrong message to the parents of our students. So instead she suggests letting the two use the private Head Boy and Girl quarters in Gryffindor tower, since neither Head Boy or Girl is from Gryffindor this year."

At first Dumbledore was in a near state of panic. Remove Harry from the school? Move him to a safe location? Listening further, his sense of panic abated somewhat. Yes, moving them into the Gryffindor Head quarters would be no real problem.

"Yes, it would be no great hurdle to relocate them. And since Harry was attacked in his dorm at night, giving him a private bedroom may prevent a repeat of that event," Albus said agreeably.

‘Is that acceptable to you, Amelia?" asked Hampton.

"Yes, it will quite acceptable to us I think and it will fall very well into the other security measure’s we’ve taken."

"Other security measures? At the School?" asked Dumbledore.

"Nothing you need worry about, Albus," said Amelia. "We’ve just taken some additional steps to ensure the castle remains safe."

The meeting of the Board of Governors broke up shortly afterwards. The Headmaster was seriously concerned. Although no blame had been placed at his feet, he knew the Ministry would be watching him closely now. To make matter worse, he had no idea what security measures the Ministry now had in place in the castle.

Frustrated, he apparated to the edge of the wards and hurried up to his school. HIS SCHOOL DAMNIT, he thought viciously. And he’d do everything in his power to keep it that way!

Back in The Three Broomsticks…

Their meal over, Harry, Hermione and Professor McGonagall decided it was time to return to the school. Harry said goodbye to the others, but he was getting rather worried. Dan seemed different somehow. He had been fine when they were teasing Hermione, but he’d become distant shortly afterwards. He couldn’t shake the feeling that Dan Granger was examining him, looking for some fatal flaw.

McGonagall and Hermione were deep in a discussion concerning transfigurations of inanimate objects to animate objects and whether they were truly alive at that point. Harry didn’t mind the conversation in the least. His leg was starting to go lame on him again and he was hoping for a distraction. He had only a few hundred yards to go before entering the castle, so he clenched his teeth and slowed his pace.

Hermione and McGonagall were just entering the castle when Hermione noticed that Harry wasn’t with them. Both turned around to see Harry about a hundred yards back, limping badly, but still moving. Hermione made a move to go to him, but McGonagall stopped her.

"He’s a proud man, Miss Granger. I know his type well, for I was once married to one. Stubborn and proud, they are. He’ll accept your help, but only after he makes it to the castle on his own," she said softly.

Hermione blinked in surprise and there was a slight flicker of a smile on McGonagall’s face. "What’s the matter, Miss Granger? Is it so impossible a thing to think that your Head of House was once married?" she asked.

Hermione blushed. "No, Professor. I just… I mean it never…"

"It’s alright, Hermione. Right now I do believe your young man needs your help," McGonagall said, interrupting her.

Harry was at the entrance and all he wanted to do was sit down somewhere and pretend he’d never have to walk another foot in his life. Fortunately for him, he and Hermione only had two classes to attend that afternoon, Ancient Runes and Charms.

Later That Evening in the Room of Requirement…

Harry sat on the edge of the large hot tub, dangling both of his legs in the hot water. The day had been long and tiring for him and his leg had nearly given out after the walk back from Hogsmeade. Hermione was off in the library looking for a book while Harry was reading a text he had borrowed from Madam Pomfrey.

Putting the book to one side, he slid into the hot water and stretched out, letting his leg soak. He closed his eyes and let the water lull him. A good twenty minutes later, he felt someone slip into the hot tub with him. Cracking one eye open he smiled, seeing Hermione leaning against the edge of the pool, looking at him thoughtfully.

She grabbed his leg under the water and started working on the knots. "Alright, Potter. I know you’re planning something. Spill it."

Harry had known this conversation was coming all day. Sighing, he stared into her eyes, seeing the keen intellect behind them. He had to suppress a laugh because she still hadn’t figured it all out! "I’m only planning to do exactly what you told me to do. Save what I can. Think about your prophecy and why we came back to this school instead of going to another like Bauxbatons or the American Institute for Magic.

"Honestly Hermione, I know your smarter than me. If you just think about it, you’ll understand what I’m doing."

Hermione’s eyes widened for a moment as what he said struck home. Nodding slowly, she asked, "When will you let me in on the full scheme?"

Harry laughed. "I promise that you’ll know before anyone else does, but I still have some details I need to work out."

"All right, but I’ll hold you to the promise," she replied, smiling back at him.

She moved closer, nestling between his arm and his shoulder. Harry began to show all the classic signs of nervousness as she started to kiss along his shoulder and neck. Harry was acutely aware of just how little they both had on.

Hermione knew she was driving Harry crazy. She swung a leg over him and sat up, straddling him, a knee either side of him.

"Hermione, are you deliberately trying to torture me?" he growled as he wrapped his arms around her.

"No, just checking to see if you’re still alive. I swear, you and Ron used to yell at me to lighten up, but sometimes I think it’s you who needs to lighten up."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, think about. You’re sitting in a hot tub and you’ve got a girl in a bathing suit sitting on your lap," she said, watching him carefully.

Harry blushed as the meaning behind her words finally sunk home.   He reached up and caressed her cheek softly, then pulled her down and kissed her.   He let his hands roam, rubbing her back and her arms, but always mindful of their location, careful to keep them in safe areas.

It was Hermione who broke the kiss, her expression frustrated. "Harry, it’s alright to touch me in other areas," she said, taking one of his hands and placing it on her breast.

Harry’s eyes widened and he made a strangling sound. His eyes were glued to his hand as if he expected it to explode at any moment. When he finally looked away and into Hermione’s eyes, she smiled at him and, still holding his hand to her breast, she leaned down and kissed him gently.

"It’s alright Harry," she murmured softly. "Just go slow."

Harry nodded and she tried very hard not to laugh at the expression on his face. She leaned in and kissed him again, this time more passionately than she intended at first.   However, when he quickly responded she almost laughed.

Harry was still uncertain, and he’d often stop to look in her eyes, as if asking for permission. Much later they broke apart and returned to the Gryffindor common room. They’d only progressed another small step in their relationship, but it was a significant one.

Malfoy Manor…

"How go our plans, Lucius?" asked Voldemort.

"My Lord, tonight we begin moving against selected targets. There are a lot of targets, but by New Years day we will be able to give people a surprise they won’t soon forget. In the meantime, we have halted all attacks until we’re ready for an all out push."

Voldemort cackled evilly and he caressed Nagini, who lay curled next to his chair. "Excellent! Excellent! And what of the hunt for your wife and son?"

"My wife is still missing, my Lord. My son, however, is in Hogwarts. I can either have one of our agents kill him there, or I can have him abducted at your command. Just say the word and we’ll have him here."

"I think it’s time you bring him in, Lucius. Perhaps if I had a talk with the lad, we might have more success finding his mother," suggested Voldemort in a cruel tone.

Lucius bowed low. "It will be as you command, my Lord."

Double Potions Class, Several Days Later…

Harry and Draco were working on the Draught of Cleansing, an anti-infection potion, as Professor Snape prowled the room. Harry was about to add powered uni-roo spleen, a key ingredient, when he was nudged from behind. Harry immediately cast a shield over the cauldron to protect it, and then he glared back over his shoulder to see Snape sneering back at him.

"Potter!" barked Snape. "Look! You’ve ruined your potion by adding too much Uni-Roo spleen."

"Actually sir, I haven’t yet added the Uni-Roo spleen, so the potion is not ruined. But I do appreciate your watching to make sure the potion wasn’t ruined," Harry replied politely.

"Don’t lie to me, Potter. I saw you put the Uni-Roo spleen into the cauldron! Just like your dead father, lying to get himself out of trouble. You’re nothing more than an overbearing, arrogant, insufferable brat. You expect everyone to bow to you because you’re the Boy-Who-Lived. Well not in this class…"

Harry stood, his attention firmly fixed on Snape, his arms crossed over his chest. The class seemed to be split between watching Harry and watching Snape. Harry’s eyes became slightly unfocused. Snape continued to yell at him even after the door to the classroom swung open with a loud crash. Peeves glanced at Harry and winked. Then the poltergeist turned his attention to Professor Snape.

Harry shook his head, and then carefully reached down to grab his book bag. Draco noticed the motion and reached down for his own bag. Peeves began circling Snape, who tried to swing at the pesky poltergeist. Peeves reached into a spectral pocket and pulled out a cube. Harry took one look and ran to Hermione. There, he grabbed her bag and pulled her from her chair. He met Draco at the door just as Peeves threw the cube.

It landed at the feet of Professor Snape.

Harry, Hermione and Draco were out of the room when they heard a loud booming sound, followed by people yelling. Hermione and Draco looked into the classroom and choked back their laughter when they realized that it had been completely replaced by a Patented Weasley Wizarding Wheeze portable swamp!

One by one the students crawled out of the classroom. Within the room, they could all hear Snape shouting at Peeves. Once all the students were out, Draco reached up and swung the door closed.

"I wonder if Snape will run across any of the alligators the twins put into those things?" asked Harry conversationally.

"I don’t know, Potter," said Draco in a haughty tone, "but I dare say class has been dismissed early today." Then he stared at the door for a moment, raised his wand and muttered under his breath.   A flash of purple light shot out and hit the door.   Noticing the questioning looks from Harry and Hermione, he shrugged.   "An old Malfoy family locking charm.   After all, we wouldn’t want any of the Weasley’s alligators to get out and scare the first years, would we?"

Over their laughter, they could hear Professor Snape’s shrieks from within the classroom as he met his first alligator.

Author’s Notes…

And once again, we come to the end of a chapter.   Before we start answering questions however, we’d like to let everyone know that we now have a Yahoo group.   The address can be found in Bob’s author profile as the homepage link. Everyone’s welcome to join us, and we’ve posted copies of our stories there as well.   You can chat with us and/or recommend other fics and fic sites for those looking for great stories.   Now, on with the questions!

Ah, Percy.   Never fear, Percy will be back.   He doesn’t know about what his parents are doing (the theft) because the MLE isn’t using names in the investigation (example: Harry Potter is known only as "Subject P"). What would his reaction be if he did know?   He’d probably be horrified…because he would think that it reflects badly on him as a Weasley and would hamper his rise in the Ministry.

Why don’t the DE’s use the Dark Mark over their muggle targets like they do in the wizarding world?   They’re trying to sew the seeds of confusion and misdirection by leaving no evidence behind. If the Dark Mark appeared over their muggle targets, the Ministry and the rest of the wizarding world would know exactly who was behind it, wouldn’t they?  

Htman: Sure, you can borrow the idea.   We’re flattered.

We never mind long reviews, so don’t apologize for them.   We read them eagerly and are quite thankful that folks want to review our little tale!

Will it ever come down to a fight (curses and hexes being thrown) between Dumbledore and Harry? Read and find out.   (Cackles evilly)

We’ve had a few folks ask about our update rate.   Something’s changed and ya’ll need to be aware of it.   We were running 3-4 chapters ahead.   With this update, we’ve now drawn even.   Chapter 11 is being written as I type this and it’s all your fault.   Yes, YOU!   Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it’s close enough.   In order to keep up with the demands to update, we’ve been posting chapters faster than we normally would have.   What can we say?   We’re weak and your demands won us over…this time!   So what does this mean for you, the reader?   Basically, we’ll update as soon as we’ve finished a chapter now.   We can’t give you an estimate because some chapters come quicker than others. Confused yet?   Yeah, we are too.   Moving on then!

Someone asked where this story would end. The answer is: at the end of the 6th year.   How many chapters will that take?   We don’t know…we’ll answer that question once we’ve finished the story.   Now, before you panic, there WILL be a sequel to the story, picking up the summer of 7th year and ending with the final battle and the clean up, perhaps even a glimpse into the future.

Ah yes…Hermione’s prophesy.   We have to say that many of you impressed us. Tearing apart the prophecy and going through it line by line was a lot of work! Some of you came close to figuring it out, while some of you were way off the mark. There were a lot of questions about it and you know what? We’re not going to answer any of them!   Muahahahaha!   Yes, we know, we’re evil. Patience, grasshoppers…all will be known in time.

Ah yes, Dumbledore’s new law and the Dursley’s. They were Harry’s guardians BEFORE the passing of Albus’ law.   Because the law was passed however, muggles can no longer be guardians to magical children UNLESS they are the child’s parents.   No other relationship would be acceptable under the conditions of Dumbledore’s law. We hope that helps explain things a bit better for you.

Our opinions on book 6?   I (Alyx) enjoyed it, although it felt very rushed to me. Bob hasn’t read it yet but, for a variety of reason (of which I’m sure he’ll chime in shortly), he doesn’t like it.

Will Harry ever blow his top?   Read and find out! (Isn’t that annoying?)

We say the story is AU to stop the canon-ites from bludgeoning us with repeats of the same old "You screwed up because this didn’t happen in canon" or "Did you know this isn’t to canon?" statements.   The term "AU" may be overused, but it’s also easily recognizable to those who read fanfic and requires little explanation.   Call us lazy, but we didn’t want to waste time making up new terms that would require us to answer loads of questions. :D

So you want to know what our plans for Romany are, do you?   Well, you know the drill…read and discover what happens!

That’s it folks.   We hope you enjoyed the chapter.   We’re working on 11 now, you evil, slave drivers.   We’ll post it as soon as it’s done…and don’t make us pull out the whip and chair to keep you all back, either!

Until next chapter!

~Bob and Alyx~

Pet Peeves:

This is really an unfair peeve. And I don’t want to make people angry. BUT!!! If English isn’t your native language, PLEASE find yourself an English native or even an American for your beta reader. Do you know how confusing some of these stories can be when the sentence structure is skewed?

We want to read your story. But its impossible to read a story when the structure is so bizarre.

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