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The spotlight opens up center ice and Ron Weasley skates out to stop in the center of the spotlight. He lifts a microphone and announces, "I give you AUTHORS ON ICE!"

A moment later Abraxan, Old-Crow, Kinsfire, Bob and Alyx come skating out.

Ron hands the microphone to Abraxan who says, "We thank Bob and Alyx for letting us visit their story. It’s an honor!"

Abraxan hands the microphone to Old-Crow. "They’d like us to remind you all that they do not own anything pertaining to Harry Potter. It’s all part of what JK Rowling owns. And we also want to thank Bob and Alyx for letting us promote our stories in theirs! Read our stories!"

Old Crow passes the microphone to Kinsfire who says, "As an author of more adult oriented Harry Potter fictions I have to warn you that if you are reading the version of this chapter with the explicit sex scene in it and you’re underage, SHAME ON YOU! And if you are one of those strange adults that still believe sex is evil and kids come from cabbage patches, we think you should find another story to read."

Bob takes the microphone from Kinsfire then says, "HI!" before passing the microphone to Alyx.

Alyx: "Hi! Thanks for reading our story. We don’t own anything."

All of the authors then take a bow and skate off the ice. Leaving Ron standing there bewildered. Another spotlight lights up showing the stands around the ice rink are empty except for Harry Potter who is giving all of the departed Authors a standing ovation.

From the rink comes a rumbling sound and a scream as Ron is run down by the Zamboni driven by Hermione Granger. Hermione waves to her adoring audience

Sunset over Britain
Chapter 16

Grimmauld Place, Remus’ study…

Remus Lupin looked up from the stack of papers on his desk as Dan Granger opened the door to his study.

"Good morning, Remus. Are you busy?" asked Dan.

"No, come on in, Dan. Any interruption from this pile is a welcome one," Remus replied, pointing to a stack of muggle papers at least six inches high. He then waved Dan to a nearby seat.

"Oh? What are you working on now?"

"Well, you know Harry’s relocated his Wizarding wealth to Stonewall Lane in Ireland. That leaves me to try to make sense out of his muggle investments so he can do the same. The money was the easy part, but understanding the companies his family has invested in is what’s bogging me down. Some of these companies I just don’t understand at all," Remus replied in frustration.

"Maybe I can help explain that sort of thing. Give me an example, and let me see what I can tell you."

Remus rooted through a pile and pulled out a fancily colored annual report from one company and handed it to Dan.   "Here. I have no clue what this outfit does, but it seems to make a decent return on the investment."

Dan leafed through the report for a few minutes before handing it back to Remus with a smile.   "I don’t think you have to worry about this company, Remus. They’re based in Germany with only a small sales and servicing outlet here in the UK."

Remus looked at him in exasperation. "I figured that out already, but I don’t understand what they do," he said in frustration.

Dan grinned. "It’s nice to be on the giving end for once. All right then, that company is a German based Bio-tech company. Their principle product line is surgical instruments and, according to that report, they’ve recently opened up a sub-division that’s doing research on gene suppression for cancer patients."

At Remus’ blank look Dan started laughing. "All right, let’s try it this way then. You know what an appendix is correct?"

Remus nodded, everyone knew what an appendix was!

"I imagine in the Wizarding world, when you need to have your appendix removed, you just take a potion that dissolves it or something. But that isn’t the way it works in the muggle world. Muggle surgery involves cutting open the body and removing the bad part, or fixing it, then closing up the hole and healing the patient. That company of yours makes the tools to do that."

Remus shuddered at the thought of such a gruesome procedure, but then he always knew muggles were strange anyway. "Dan, it would be a help if you could look through some of these and tell me about them. Right now I’m just looking for companies that we need to sell out on because they are strictly UK based, but I keep getting sidetracked by trying figure out what these companies do."

"I’d be happy to help you. With our surgery shutdown, we really have nothing to do at this point," Dan replied.

Remus blinked in surprise. He hadn’t thought about that before. Dan and Emma were effectively out of work at the moment. Even if they wanted to work, the police still weren’t done with their office and probably wouldn’t be done until the official inquest was held.

"How’s Emma doing?"

Dan looked thoughtful for a moment. "She’s holding up, I guess. Right now she’s having tea with Narcissa. We’re not used to being entirely idle like we are now, and the attempt on our lives shook us both badly.   I mean, we both have bad moments. I never thought I’d be so thankful to have such a strong woman I could turn to at times like this. When I think of what could have happened, or for that matter, what Harry went through…"

Remus nodded in agreement. "It’s never easy. And you’re right. You are lucky to have Emma to turn to. When James and Lily were killed, and Sirius sent to prison for Peter’s murder, I sunk so low I’m amazed I ever recovered. Harry was an infant at the time and had been taken beyond my reach. There was no one left to me but a bottle of Ogdens."

"War is never pleasant, Remus, for the participants or the survivors. The one I’m really worried about is Hermione…Harry too, I suppose." At Remus’ curious look, he elaborated. "Hermione would follow Harry anywhere at this point. And Harry is going to be on the front line of this war."

"I don’t think you need worry too much about Hermione, Dan. Harry would protect her with his life, if it came down to it. I just hope that Hermione can manage to keep him anchored to his humanity. That’s the biggest risk we face, keeping him firmly grounded to his humanity. He has more power than any human has ever had. The only reason he got hurt rescuing you two is because he’s inexperienced and he hasn’t realized the scope of his abilities yet."

"Hermione can do it. She’s as strong and as smart as her mother. And she’s fiercely protective in her own way."

Remus nodded. "I know, and I’m thankful for it," he replied as he slid a stack of company reports towards the other man.   "I suppose we should get started."

Ministry of Magic, Minister’s Office…

Arthur Weasley sat in a chair in the outer office. Being that this was the outer office for the Minister of Magic, the chairs were much more comfortable and plush. Arthur closed his eyes and waited nervously. He didn’t know why he had been summoned to the Minister’s office, but he wouldn’t have been the first mid level manager to get called on the carpet because they were deadheading in their office due to family problems.

Cornelius Fudge was having a wonderful day for once. Even though the Ministry was cooperating with Harry Potter, he was secretly pleased to discover the Prophet attacking both Dumbledore and the boy. And this time it hadn’t taken any prodding on his part!   The flare up of Death Eater attacks seemed to have calmed down some. That was, if he ignored the attacks on St. Mungos and Diagon Alley in recent weeks.

Right now he was reading a letter from the French Minister of Magic turning down a request for an alliance that had been made by the Wizengamot without his approval. If it hadn’t been so undignified, he would have giggled with glee in reading the Minister’s dismissal of the Wizengamot’s offer.

Putting the paperwork in a file folder, he placed it to one side and checked his schedule, and then he pressed a button on his desk summoning an aide. A moment later, a woman opened the door to his office.

"Ah Nancy, would you please file this?" he asked, offering up the reply from the French Minister. "Then, would you ask Weatherbee to come in here? I’d like to talk to him about something."

"Of course, Minister."

A moment later the door opened again and Percy Weasley entered the office and moved to stand in front of the desk. Fudge glanced up when Percy didn’t appear with his usually efficient notepad in hand. His mouth dropped open as he spotted the wand pointed straight at him.

"Avada Kedavra," Percy shouted.

The green beam lanced from the tip of his wand and spanned the few feet between the wand and the Minister in milliseconds. Cornelius Fudge had no time to realize that Percy was trying to kill him before the beam of light struck his chest and he died.

The shout drew the attention of the staff in the outer office and several alarms began screaming throughout the building. Percy ignored the commotion he had caused. He dropped his wand and stood staring at the Minister as if he was trying to understand just how this had come to pass. The partially open office door burst fully open and several stunners hit Percy in the back, dropping him where he stood.

Arthur stood in front of his chair, his hands clenching and unclenching spasmodically. Despite his proximity to the attack, it had caught him unawares, still dozing lightly in the comfortable waiting area. Something was seriously wrong, but he wasn’t sure of what. The alarms were still sounding in the building when three Auror’s dragged Percy past him. His son looked shocked and dazed.

As with so many other government agencies, there were procedures to follow in times like this. Within moments of the discovery of the assassination of the Minister of Magic, the Ministry went into total lockdown. Aurors were summoned to patrol the halls, while others started the investigation into what had happened. Percy was searched, then dragged to a Ministry holding cell. Amelia sent Auror’s out to collect members of the Wizengamot for an emergency session. Despite the news blackout, word would quickly leak out to the Wizarding public. The Minister of Magic was dead.

While those in the Ministry were shocked by the events, many were also thinking the same thing:   Leave it to Cornelius Fudge to inconvenience as many people as possible when he died.   The man could do nothing right…

Grimmauld Place, Remus’ study…

Remus was actually enjoying going through the company information now that Dan was helping him. They’d been at it for several hours and had located several companies that needed to be divested. Remus decided he was going to try to bring Dan and Emma into setting up the sanctuary. He was convinced their muggle background could actually help them all.

Both men looked up, surprise, when the door opened and Narcissa and Emma entered. Both of the women had serious expressions on their faces, but Narcissa seemed to be shocked by something.

"What’s wrong?" asked Remus, standing in alarm.

"The Wizard Wireless is reporting a rumor that the Minister of Magic has been assassinated!" Narcissa exclaimed.

"Well, from what I’ve heard, he was a very ineffective and vindictive leader," commented Dan. "But what’s the process for replacing him?"

"First they must hold a conclave of the Wizengamot. That means all members must attend, except those excused due to health reasons. Once the Wizengamot has gathered, they’ll select a temporary Minister until the general election, which isn’t for another two years. Replacements are nominated and voted on by the Wizengamot and the winner needs a two-thirds majority in order to be declared Minister Pro Tem. Amelia Bones, as the Director of the MLE, will be the presiding officer of elections. Selecting an acceptable candidate could take weeks or even months. In the meantime, the government is powerless, no laws can be made, no decisions to hire or fire. Nothing," explained Narcissa.

Dan leaned back, looking thoughtful. "So you’re basically stating that the government has just become ineffective at a time when it’s most needed?" he asked incredulously.

Narcissa and Remus both nodded.

"Did the network say anything about the assassin?" asked Remus.

"No, not a word as yet. But I think you’d better owl Harry and alert him that things may have to be kicked off earlier than we thought," replied Narcissa grimly. She, like Remus, had been helping set up the sanctuary, so she was fully cognizant of Harry’s plans.

"I’ll do that right now," Remus replied, reaching for a parchment.

Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement Holding Cell…

Percy sat on a stone bench, weeping. One moment he was returning from lunch, the next moment he was bring dragged down to this dank holding cell and told he had killed the Minister!

Percy stood and started to pace the small room. It had no windows; there was a water spigot in one corner, and a hole in the other, presumably his toilet. The stone bench was rough and cold. Physical comforts, it seemed, were something he no longer deserved. He turned when he heard a noise as the door opened.

A tall black man stepped into the room. Percy had seen him numerous times around the Ministry building. He knew him as an Auror of significant rank and seniority. The man gestured for Percy to sit on the bench.

"Mr. Weasley, I’m sure you know who I am, so let’s press on, shall we? I’m here to ask you a few questions."

"Thank Merlin! Maybe we can get this awful mess straightened out then!"

"Let’s start by reviewing the events starting just before lunch and going up until you ended up here," said the tall Auror.

For the next hour Percy talked while the Auror took notes and sipped from a pocket flask. Occasionally, he would offer Percy a drink from the small container.

"So you’re saying you remember absolutely nothing until you were being dragged down to this holding cell? It sounds to me like you’ve been under the Imperious Curse, Mr. Weasley," said the Auror, putting his notes away.   "I’ll see that one of the public defenders comes down to see about your rights and arranging for proper representation. In the meantime, I expect dinner will be along shortly. Thank you for cooperating," the Auror said, standing. He walked to the door, which opened for him as he approached, then slammed shut again upon his exit.

A few minutes later, a small slot at the bottom of the door opened and a tray was unceremoniously shoved through the hole. Percy grabbed the tray and started to eat. When he was done, he placed the tray in front of the slot and laid down on the stone bench. His eyes closed and he fell asleep. Within minutes, his breathing stopped. Percy Weasley was dead.

Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement…

"I want a list of everyone who entered his cell today and I want it twenty minutes ago. And have the body examined for toxins," Amelia said in a voice that cut through three offices of noise, then she turned to another aide. "Tell the Wizengamot to retire for the evening. We’ll meet tomorrow, mid-morning. Hopefully by then we’ll have more information and the rest of our membership will see fit to present themselves."


"Yes?" she asked of the aide who’d poked her head in through the open door.

"Arthur Weasley is here as you requested."

Amelia slumped back in her chair. The day had been fine until the return from lunch. Then everything had gone to hell in a hand basket. Now she had to tell a father that his dead son was the prime suspect in the murder of the Minister of Magic. Could anything else go wrong today?

With a sigh, she leaned forward and nodded to her aide. "Please send him."

Grimmauld Place, Dinner…

It was a quiet in the kitchen when Dan, Emma, Remus and Narcissa sat down at the table. Tonks still hadn’t shown up for dinner and no one was sure if she would. The earlier reports from the Wizarding Wireless had stopped, but they were now confirming that some sort of emergency existed within the Ministry, as they had imposed a total news blackout and lockdown.

Remus had just reached for a platter of mutton when the door swung open and a clearly exhausted Tonks stepped into the room. Remus bolted from his seat and helped her to a chair, then started loading food onto her plate. She looked up at him gratefully.

It wasn’t until she had nearly finished with dinner that she started talking about the events of the day. Everyone was dismayed to learn that Percy Weasley was implicated in the murder of Fudge, and even more surprised when it was learned that Percy had been killed later in the day by as yet unknown means.

"I know you’re exhausted, Nymph, but do you think we should talk with the Weasleys?" asked Remus.

"They must know by now, Remy. Arthur was informed only an hour or two ago, and he has reconciled with the twins, Bill and Ginny," came the tired reply.

"Then the only one who doesn’t know is Ginny. I’ll floo Minerva and ask her to break the news to her. I don’t want her finding out from the Daily Prophet," he said, getting up and walking to the fireplace. He threw a handful of floo powder into the fireplace and stuck his head in.

Gryffindor Head Suite…

Harry was up to his eyebrows in a transfiguration essay in the common room and Hermione was taking a shower, when Professor McGonagall came through the door.

"Mr. Potter, I am wondering if you know the whereabouts of Mr. Longbottom and Miss Weasley?" asked McGonagall.

Harry thought for a moment. "Not really, Professor. After dinner we all went to the Room of Requirement. I did my therapy and then everyone went swimming for a bit. Neville and Ginny left before Hermione and I though."

Professor McGonagall eyed him speculatively for a moment. "Mr. Potter, I am not unaware that you have a way of finding people in this castle, or avoiding them. Now, I won’t accuse you of having contraband magic, but if you do have a way of finding them, I would appreciate you doing so. I have important news for Miss Weasley and I’m afraid it won’t wait."

Harry looked up at his stern Head of House and winced. She was clearly alluding to the Marauders Map, but rather than using the map and confirming his possession of it to his Professor, he thought about apparating directly to Ginny and Neville. "If you like, I can go get them and tell them to come here," he offered, unthinkingly.

"Hmmm, well yes, that would be alright, Mr. Potter."

Putting his homework to one side, he marked his place in his book and closed his eyes. Finding Ginny and Neville in the school for his apparate wasn’t hard at all. And unlike the last time, he didn’t mind apparating close to them. A second later, he was gone from the common room.

Harry apparated into sheer pandemonium. Several items hit him upon his arrival and he stumbled into a shelf, knocking its contents off. Between the items bouncing off his head and the screaming, he had no clue what was going on. All he knew was that it was dark and he was under attack. Something had attacked his foot and something wet was clinging to his head. He started coughing, and he could hear others coughing in the room as well. He heard a familiar voice say, "Lumos," and two people appeared in the darkness.

Neville and Ginny both stared at him in shock. He stared back at the two naked people, his expression mirroring theirs. Harry flushed and immediately apparated back to the head suite.

McGonagall blinked in surprise when Harry vanished without a sound, and she tried to stifle a bark of laughter when he reappeared with a mop clinging to his head, a bucket attached to his foot and partially covered in some sort of powdered cleaner. His arms windmilled wildly and he crashed backwards as the bucketed foot caused him to lose his balance.

Hermione had appeared in the doorway to her bedroom just as Harry had vanished. She was surprised to see him apparate away, and even more surprised to see her Head of House in their common room. She was extremely thankful she was wearing her heavy terry cloth robe. Somehow she didn’t think her Head of House would appreciate her sleepwear tonight.

When Harry appeared again and fell to the floor Hermione doubled over in laughter. McGonagall’s lips twitched several times before her composure finally broke and she began to laugh.

Harry sat up and removed the bucket from his foot. Hermione was still snickering as she helped Harry to his feet.

"I take it you found them, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked. She’d gained control of her laughter, but she still grinned.

Harry winced. "You could say that, Professor. I daresay they’ll be here any minute to find out why I interrupted them."

"And just what were they doing when you found them?"

"I think it was a form of mutual entertainment, Professor," Harry replied evasively.

McGonagall cocked an eyebrow at him and gave him her sternest looks. Harry sighed and glanced at Hermione in embarrassment.   "Professor, you were a student here once, and I’ve seen your yearbook photos. You were one of the prettiest witches of your year. Even you must know what goes on in the utility closets of this castle after hours," he offered cautiously.

McGonagall blushed for a moment, then frowned and poked Harry in the chest. "I didn’t take that kind of flattery from your father and I’m not going to take it from you. Go get yourself cleaned up before that powder eats through your clothes. Be off with you," she said, making a shooing motion with her hands.

Harry nodded and swiftly retreated into his own room to shower and change. As he did, both McGonagall and Hermione watched his retreating back with a fond smile. When he was gone, she turned to Hermione. "His father was a flatterer, but he lacked the sincerity that Harry has when he compliments someone. It’s a good thing he’s uncomfortable using flattery or he’d have half the women in this castle wrapped around his finger."

Hermione nodded and was about to reply when Ginny and Neville came storming up the stairway looking for blood. Both of them skidded to a halt upon seeing Professor McGonagall in the common room.

"Ah, finally. Miss Weasley, Mr. Longbottom. I have been looking for you both. Sit down please."

Both Ginny and Neville’s expressions grew panicked as they sat. McGonagall looked at the two. "Before you get angry with Mr. Potter, I asked him to find you. Miss Weasley… Ginevra, there has been an incident at the Ministry today. I don’t know an easy way to tell you this, so I’ll just say it. It appears that your brother, Percy, assassinated Minister Fudge. He then died in his holding cell later that day," she said softly.

Ginny’s expression grew pained and her hands trembled slightly. "Percy’s dead? Percy killed Minister Fudge?" she asked in a very small voice. Neville placed his arm about her shoulders and she shot him a grateful glance.

"Yes my dear, I’m afraid it’s true. If you’d like to come down to my quarters, you can floo your family to find out what arrangements are being made. I daresay you will be leaving the castle for a few days at least. In times like these, family members need to lean on each other."

Ginny leaned into Neville, her eyes closed and tears beginning to stream down her cheeks. She nodded to McGonagall and both of them helped her to her feet and down the stairs.

Hermione watched them leave silently. The owl from Remus about Fudge’s assassination had come earlier, but none of them had any clue it would strike so close to home. This only confirmed her plans for the evening. Things were getting too dangerous and too hectic. She didn’t want to wait any longer.

Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement…

Amelia was exhausted. It was nearly midnight and she still couldn’t go home and sleep. They were still alerting Wizengamot members. They would probably not be up to voting strength for another day or two. Some of them, like Dumbledore, wanted time to plan their strategy before entering the building, so they were employing delaying tactics, which were stymieing her efforts to assemble the Wizengamot.

"The Medical Examiner’s reports, Director."

Amelia started awake and looked up in surprise at the Auror holding out the reports. She thanked him and turned to the report on Fudge. It was no real surprise. Cornelius had been killed by a killing curse fired at close range. Time of death corresponded to the report of the witnesses in the outer office. The wand had Weasley’s signature on it, and a casting of Priori Incantato had shown the last spell cast to be the killing curse. The report merely confirmed exactly what they already knew.

Turning to the report from the examination of Weasley’s body, she immediately noted two interesting facts. Weasley had worn the Dark Mark, indicating he was a Death Eater, but he had worn it in a very unusual place - his heel. She made a note to check if any other Death Eaters ever had such a concealed Mark.

The second interesting fact was that Weasley had died from a binary poison. Binary poisoning required two chemicals, which became a poison only when combined, like in the stomach of a person, or within the blood stream. It meant that Weasley ingested two different chemicals, which, when combined, killed him.

Amelia scowled. In either case, it suggested that she might have a mole in her department who’d slipped the poison to Weasley. Whether the poisoning was done as an act of mercy or as a means of getting him out of the way before he could talk, they’d probably never know. But it was another avenue she’d assign her Aurors to look into.

She rubbed her face tiredly and looked up as an aide brought in another report for her attention. It was going to be a long night.

Gryffindor Head Suite…

Hermione waited until Harry had been in bed for nearly hour before she slipped into his room. She smiled gently at the sight of him sleeping. The two of them had been playing this elaborate game in the past week and a half. At first she had joined him at night to help with her nightmares…and his. But very quickly she’d discovered that she wanted more…and Harry was afraid of giving it to her.

Walking to his bed, she cast a silencing charm on the room, and then she locked the door with another spell. Finally she cast a warming charm on the bed before she pulled the covers back from his body. She had to suppress a laugh when she banished his boxers and then peeled off her own robe, revealing a lacy sheer chemise. Quietly she climbed onto the bed and straddled him.

Harry woke slowly. He had a not-unpleasant feeling of weight on his body. Blinking his eyes, he looked about in the gloom cast by his ever-lasting candle he burned at night. His eyes locked on the reason for the feeling of weight on him and he froze. Hermione was practically naked…and sitting on him!

She was running her hands lightly over his chest and, when she noticed that he was awake, she leaned down over his body. He felt his own body responding and she smiled a little, shifting her position slightly. The sensation of her soft body against his was intoxicating. She kissed him gently, then sat up again.


"I’m sorry, Harry, but I want you. Now. I don’t want to wait any longer. This damn war is getting closer and I want to experience all you can give me now, before something happens that makes it impossible. I want you Harry, I want to feel you inside me, I want to make love to you and have you make love to me," she said very softly, but her eyes burned with an intensity he had never seen before.

"But Hermione…"

Harry stopped at the look on her face.

"Don’t you find me attractive, Harry? Don’t you want to make love to me?" she asked in a very small voice. His single statement had done more damage to her self-image than a dozen Slytherins calling her a mudblood could ever do. Harry’s heart ached to see her doubt herself and their relationship so much.

Harry reached out and touched Hermione’s cheek gently. "You know I do, Hermione. This past week has been difficult. You’ve been so close and I’ve wanted you so much it hurt. But I wasn’t sure you wanted this. I think I’ve spent more time in the shower in this past week than I have in a month. And most of that wasn’t spent washing," he said, a bit sheepishly.

Hermione’s eyes widened and she laughed when she realized what he was really saying. He reached up and pulled her flat against him again, kissing the top of her head. She closed her eyes, reveling in the sensations that coursed through her.

"I want to spend the rest of my life loving you, Hermione," he whispered to her huskily. She shivered in his arms and let him gently remove the chemise over her head as she sat up. Harry’s eyes filled with tears, shocking Hermione.

"Harry, what’s wrong?"

"Nothing Hermione… you’re so beautiful," he said softly and she blushed. Harry reached down to find her knickers, but then he looked up at her in shock.

Hermione arched an eyebrow at his reaction and laughed gently. "I’m not wearing any knickers tonight, Harry."

Hermione shifted again and she could feel his erection throbbing against her. She lifted herself up so she could reach down and stroke him gently. He moaned and pulled her prone against him, kissing her passionately and rolling gently until he was atop her.

Bending a little, Harry took one of her nipples in his mouth, gently teasing it. She gasped and wrapped her arms around his neck, cradling his head to her breast.

Working partly on instinct and mostly on overheard conversations in the boy’s dorms, Harry slowly slid his body lower, his breath and his kisses tracing a trail a liquid fire down her belly. Hermione’s hands became more insistent, pushing him lower still.

He slid down between her legs and she spread them wider to give him access. At first he was unsure what he should do, but since kissing seemed to make her happy, he decided to keep doing that. He wasn’t surprised to discover that she was nearly as bushy below as above and he buried his face into her mons pubis. He knew that some where in this area there was supposed to be spot that would drive her crazy.

She was swollen with desire and she shuddered when his tongue first pushed between those lips. Her hands pressed against his head and she moaned loud enough to be heard even with her legs covering his ears. He lapped his tongue, questing for that special spot. When he finally found it, her back arched and she pulled him tight to her. He suckled against that nubbin and she writhed under his attention. Her cries reached a fever pitch and he started to pull away to look at her, but she held him fast against her.

Finally it seemed as though every muscle in her body tensed and he could feel her gently pulling his head away from her, up to eye level again.

Hermione’s eyes were half closed, her breathing rapid and her face flushed. Harry crawled up her body again, stopping to kiss and lick at her breasts before kissing her neck. He then rolled to his side and she turned to face him. He kissed her forehead and caressed her with his hands.

She pushed him flat on his back and she reached down with her hand to gently grip his erection. She marveled at the contradiction she found. He was rock hard, but the skin was soft as silk against her palm. She tightened her grip slightly and slowly pumped him a few times with her hand. Harry moaned and tried to pull her close enough to kiss her again, but she smiled wickedly.

"Ginny showed me a spell that makes it so the first time won’t hurt me," she whispered just before she straddled him. She grabbed his erection in her hand and, after a few moments of fumbling, gently guided him to her. With a simple downward motion of her body, he was inside her and she inhaled sharply.

Harry gasped, his eyes widening as the warmth from her body engulfed the head of his cock. When she moaned, his eyes caught hers and he nearly lost control seeing the desire in her heavy lidded gaze.

With a growl, he grabbed her hips and pulled her down upon him. Buried to the hilt within her welcoming body, he groaned. She moaned again when he thrust into her.   Her head fell back, her hips ground against him and she cried out in pleasure.

His control snapped.

Tightening his grip on her hips, he thrust into her again and again.   There was no rhythm, no grace to their movements, only need.   His orgasm blazed through him and, with a harsh cry, he spilled himself within her.

Hermione’s eyes widened when she felt him come, the warmth of it surprising her.   She smiled as his grip loosened and, leaning down, kissed him gently. When he opened his eyes, she was surprised by his horrified expression.

"Hermione, I don’t…"

"Shhh… It’s ok, Harry. Your first time is quick, but you’ll recover quick too," she whispered, understandingly.

He tightened his grip on her once more. He was still inside her and his erection hadn’t diminished by much. Slowly they started rocking against each other and, a few moments later, he hardened again.

Hermione seemed determined to bring him to another release as her pace soon increased. But Harry found that, now that the initial pressure had been relieved, he had better control. With a wicked smile, he sat up, wrapped his arms around her waist and rolled over.   She gasped, momentarily surprised at finding herself flat on her back. She quickly adjusted to the new position and found that she liked it.

Hermione lay back and her expression became one of intense pleasure, bordering on pain, and then she came again, while Harry continued to thrust into her. She was still riding the wave of her last orgasm when Harry came again, pushed her over the edge for the third time.

Harry gasped and buried his face into the nape of her neck as he shuddered from the pleasure. He held himself above her body high enough that they lightly brushed against each other.

They lay together quietly for several minutes and then Harry began to nibble on her neck. Hermione, who had been drifting in a comfortable state, gasped in shock as Harry began making love to her again. He made slow, long strokes and she moaned with each one. Her fingernails raked his back as his pace increased. Their final orgasm was a mutual affair that left the both of them laying side by side as Harry finally slid from her. He pulled her into the crook of his arm and whispered, "I love you," before falling asleep.

Hermione looked at Harry, his strong arms cradling her. She snuggled closer and soon followed him into sleep.

Hermione awoke to a pleasant sensation. It took her a moment to realize that both she and Harry were still naked, and what Harry’s hands were doing were driving her to distraction. She stretched and made a purring sound in the back of her throat as she leaned back into him.

The Great Hall, Breakfast, the Next Morning...

The Outcasts looked up in surprise when Harry and Hermione entered the Great Hall. They were late and breakfast would be over in less than twenty minutes. Luna and Susan looked at Hermione and both girls broke out into huge smiles at Hermione’s satisfied look. Harry wore an expression that seemed to be mixed between shock, wonder and a fervent prayer that last night and this morning hadn’t been a dream.

Hermione looked at Harry curiously as she spotted him pinching his arm a few times. She leaned closer to him. "What are you doing?" she whispered.

"Trying to make sure I’m really awake," he replied with a disarming smile. Both would have continued to gaze at each other had they not been interrupted.

Professor McGonagall, Bill Weasley, Ginny and Neville approached the table.

"Miss Weasley will be leaving the school today and will be gone for a few days while her family prepares to hold services for Percy, which will be in two days. Anyone wishing to attend those services may do so, so long as you have permission from your parent or guardian," Professor McGonagall said.

Harry looked at Ginny. Her face was tear streaked and she looked like she hadn’t slept. He reached out and took her hand.   "Ginny, this time is for you and your family. If you want us at the service, I’m sure we’ll all attend. But I’m worried your mother and Ron might cause problems if we do," he said softly.

Hermione gasped as his words hit home. He was right, Molly and Ron would object to Harry’s presence at the service, and might object to hers as well.

Harry’s eyes were filled with unshed tears as he looked at Ginny. He wanted to be there for her, but he wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do.

Ginny broke from her own grief long enough to recognize the pain the rift in her family was causing not just herself, but her friends. She smiled weakly at Harry and ruffled his hair fondly.

"Harry," Bill broke in, "I don’t like it, but I think you’re correct in as much as what my ‘brother’s’ reaction would be, as well as our mother. I… we would like you there, but it’s probably for the best that you don’t come."

Hermione watched Harry carefully. She could see what this was costing him. He made a lot of noise about family, but this sort of incident drove home just how isolated he really was. Harry turned back to the table as McGonagall and the others moved away.

She reached over and put a hand on his arm. "Are you alright?"

Not trusting himself to speak, he nodded and smiled wanly back at her. Then he put an arm around her shoulder and leaned into her as she read the article in the Daily Prophet, announcing the death of Minister Fudge.

St. Mathews Church, Ottery St. Catchpole…

Ginny sat alone. Her mother and Ron sat across the aisle from her. Arthur and the other Weasley boys carried the coffin into the small church. Remus, Tonks and the Grangers sat in the back of the chapel. Harry had, through Remus, donated a banner for the coffin that had both the Gryffindor and Weasley family crests on it.

The press was out in force, but Alastor Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt and several other Aurors had kept them from entering the small chapel. There was considerable public opinion to deny Percy any sort of official service in retribution for his killing the Minister of Magic, but Amelia had stepped in and prevented that from happening.

Ginny smiled gratefully when her brothers finally laid the coffin in front of the altar and took seats around her. She leaned against Bill and he placed his arm around her. While it was true that Percy had alienated himself from the rest of the family, they had all hoped that the breech could have been mended. Now that hope was gone forever.

Neville Longbottom sat with his Gran, next to Remus and Tonks. Ginny wanted nothing more than to curl up in his strong arms and have a good long cry.

She tried to pay attention to the Wizarding Vicar as he gave his sermon, but the tension surrounding the Weasley clan was immense. Molly sat stone faced, staring vacantly ahead as if she was trying to deny what was happening to her and her family. Ron seemed once again ready to explode in anger.

Ginny shivered and looked around uncomfortably. No one was ever easy at a memorial service, but this one seemed to be simmering just below the boiling point, ready to explode.

At the close of the service, the mourners followed the coffin as it was brought out to the small church graveyard and placed in a plot that had been prepared for it. Afterwards, Molly stood hesitantly, watching with a touch of longing as her husband, her sons and her daughter clustered around each other for comfort. Neville had joined them, holding Ginny in his arms protectively.

Arthur glanced over at Molly and sighed heavily. He walked towards her slowly, surprised to see Molly turn and tell Ron to stay there, before meeting him half way.

"Hello, Molly. How are you holding up?" Arthur asked her gently.

She looked at him, her expression mixed with hope and more than a little fear. They had been married for nearly thirty years and in all that time, Arthur had never asserted himself in their relationship. He had been content to allow her to lead, until recently that was. Gone was the mild meek man she had led around by the nose for so long. This was a new Arthur

"I miss my husband and family," she whispered timidly. The loss of Percy and the gulf that existed between her and the rest of her family drove home the magnitude of her loss.

Arthur’s expression hardened. "I’m afraid there’s little you can do to change that now, Molly, unless you’re willing to offer some apologies."

A look of anger flashed across Molly’s face for a brief moment. "Apologies? To whom?" she asked.

Arthur controlled his own anger. "To whom? Do you really need to ask that Molly Prewett? To your sons, your daughter, and most importantly, to an orphan boy who offered you his heart. Harry Potter loved you like he would have loved his real mother. Hermione Granger as well. Both of whom you’ve badly hurt. It’s not easy apologizing, I know, I’ve done it. But if you want to rebuild any sort of relationship with your family, your sons and daughter will demand nothing less than an apology to Harry and Hermione," he said coldly, drawing up to his full height.

"Apologize to Potter and that slut? I won’t do it! I refuse to do it. Arthur, please be reasonable. That boy is a menace who should be locked up in Azkaban like his murdering godfather! Don’t you read what they say about him in the paper?"

Arthur’s scowled. "Then you leave me no choice. As Head of the Weasley family, I’ll have to disinherit and disown you and Ronald. Time is quickly running out for you, Molly. Don’t make the mistake of standing by Ronald when you still have family."

With that, Arthur turned and walked back to his children. Ginny and the rest of the Weasley boys had clustered around Remus and Tonks. Ginny was wrapped in Neville’s arms, crying softly.

Ron, seeing his mother upset, started forward, but Molly grabbed him, shaking her head. Together they slowly walked from the graveyard.

Gryffindor Head Suite Common Room…

It had been nearly a week since the funereal for Minister Fudge and as yet there had been no progress towards finding an interim Minister. According to news reports, the Wizengamot was evenly split between Amos Diggory, backed by Dumbledore and an Archibald Richfield, backed by the Daily Prophet among others. For the Outcasts the political infighting seemed to be insignificant to the fighting at school.

There had been several attempted attacks on the Outcasts, which were fortunately easily thwarted. But their sense of isolation only increased as more than one of them at times could finally understand what Harry had been feeling all along. For Harry, the one bright spot through it all could be answered in a single word: Hermione. And, strangely enough, she could say exactly the same thing.

Harry had gotten over his embarrassment with Hermione joining him in his bed. It was hard to be embarrassed that you’re naked when you are dying to see your partner in the same state. Even on the nights when they didn’t make love, he still held her as if she were the most important thing in his universe. It was an unusual feeling for Hermione. In a way, she realized, they were both addressing deep-rooted needs in the other.

Hermione smiled as she watched her man talk to the Outcasts. Inwardly she acknowledged a proprietary feeling towards Harry. It was something she never suspected she’d ever have. It still caught her by surprise from time to time. She’d catch a glimpse of him looking at her or watch him doing his homework, and she’d smile, knowing the depths of passion she could invoke in him. There was a muggle saying that she thought was very appropriate when it came to him…Still waters run deep.

He was handing out assignments for what would be an all day excursion to the Chamber of Secrets. They were going to transform the Chamber into a sort of Headquarters.

Ginny nudged Hermione. "Pay attention," she hissed.

Hermione looked around wildly. Noticing that everyone was staring at her, she blushed.   "What?" she stammered, embarrassed.

Harry looked a little uncomfortable. "I asked if you had that first shipment from the twins?"

"Oh, yes! Right here," she said, searching her pockets for the shrunken crate. Harry tried not to smile, though the others were snickering.

"See Draco, that’s what being in love is like. You’ll do something similar someday, I imagine," Luna said, making Hermione’s blush deepen.

Harry smiled and put his arm around Hermione possessively. "Snicker all you want, you slugs, but we’re happy and that’s what matters. Now, let’s get to work. Everyone remember, the lighting spell is Lumos Flotima."

Harry shot a warning glance at Neville who nodded and stepped closer to Ginny. Harry then led the Outcasts into Hermione’s bedroom, where he opened the passageway. Casting the same orange scouring charm as last time, he entered the narrow passage. From behind him came multiple voices incanting, "Lumos Flotima." The light from the orbs flooded the passageway.

After thirty minutes of walking downhill, they came to the metal grate marking the end of the passage. Harry turned around and motioned to everyone. "Everyone, cast the Bubblehead Charm. Ginny, stay close to either Neville or myself. We’ll give you a bit to get used to the idea before we start cleaning the place up."

After casting the charm on himself, Harry lifted the grate and slid through the narrow opening. Still holding the grate up so the others could enter, he commanded the lights to come on with a quick command muttered in Parseltongue.

Harry chuckled as he released the grate. Everyone was through now and they were clustered close together, watching him tensely. He smiled reassuringly at his friends and led them out into the central aisle between the two columns of snake statues.

Ginny gasped and swayed, clutching at Neville’s arm when she spotted the sixty foot long rotting Basilisk corpse. Her breathing quickened and her eyes showed the panic building within her. Harry signaled to Hermione and she led Draco and Luna to the body to collect the potion ingredients.

Harry put his hands on Ginny’s shoulders turning her to face him. "It’s dead," he told her gently, but firmly. "It’s been dead since the end of your first year at school, and so is the incarnation of Riddle’s memory. Don’t you remember? I killed him."

She nodding, but still wasn’t calming. Hermione returned from helping Draco and Luna. "Ginny, we wouldn’t bring you here if there was a danger. Harry killed the snake to save your life," she said gently.

"I-I-I remember… that monster bit you, Harry! And Riddle… he…"

"I killed him, Ginny. I stabbed the diary with the fang from the Basilisk remember? He died when I destroyed his diary."

Neville tightened his embrace and she slowly calmed while her friends watched her worriedly. Finally she was able to control herself enough to look around. Draco and Luna were filling a large crate with the hide and other parts from the Basilisk. It looked like they had already harvested the teeth. Both wore thick dragon hide gloves and carried   charmed knives that could withstand the corrosive nature of the basilisk flesh.

Harry sent Ginny and Neville to start cleaning up the far end of the Chamber, near the entrance. Hermione, Susan and Terry went to join them. As soon as Draco and Luna had finished with the Basilisk corpse he’d get rid of the remains and start scouring this end of the Chamber.

While Harry waited, he glanced up and started the incantation to cast the echoing charm on the ceiling, similar to the one that existed for the Great Hall. He was just finishing with the charm when Draco passed him, carrying a small box. He’d shrunk the crate of ingredients to something pocket sized. Draco nodded to Harry and he turned to follow Luna, while Harry turned to the still huge, rotting body.

He banished the corpse, then he cast a complex series of incantations. Slowly a whirling cone of wind arose in the Chamber. The air rushed into the cone and it built higher and wider as it pulled in the stench left by the dead snake. After three minutes Harry saw that the cone wasn’t growing any bigger so he started walking back towards the front of the Chamber, near his friends. As he did, the controlled tornado followed him like a faithful puppy.

His friends looked up, startled, as he slowly walked near them followed by a howling whirlwind. He seemed preoccupied, staring at the wall. Finally, he stopped about twenty feet away from his friends and stared hard at the wall for a moment. With a flick of his hand, the tornado moved towards the wall. As it did, it scoured ages of dirt off the surface, revealing a fist-sized opening in the wall. With another flick, the base of the cone leapt from the ground to the opening and the tornado slowly entered the small pipe the scouring had revealed.

The others stopped their cleaning efforts to watch this unusual display of magic. When the tornado had vanished entirely, Harry lifted his hand. A bright beam of light shot from his palm and rock around the hole boiled and melted, sealing the opening.

Canceling his bubblehead charm, Harry took a deep breath, and then signaled for the others to cancel theirs as well. The air was sweet and pure again. His friends approached him with curious expressions on their faces.

"Why that particular hole, Harry?" asked Draco. "You passed dozens of others, looking for that one in particular."

Harry managed to look sheepish He looked down at the ground scuffing his feet. "Well, that one leads to the air ducts that bring fresh air down to Snape’s quarters."

Everyone looked at him in astonishment for a second before Draco’s eyes suddenly narrowed. "Wait a second, is that the only place the pipe goes?"

"Oops," Harry said, his eyes wide in mock innocence.

"Oops? What do you mean?   Where else does it go, Harry?" demanded Draco.

"Slytherin House and the potion lab," came the quiet and unexpected reply. There was a moment of silence before the first sounds of laughter echoed off the ancient stone walls.

Great Hall, Breakfast, Early February…

"I don’t understand why it’s taking so long. It’s been more than two weeks now," complained Harry at the breakfast table.

"The process is convoluted and complex," explained Draco. "The Wizengamot started with a field of twenty seven candidates, and in the past two weeks they’ve narrowed that down to two."

"Well it just seems like a lot of effort for a temporary position. Why isn’t there a Senior Under-Secretary or Vice Minister who could have stepped into the position?"

Hermione watched the byplay with interest. Harry, raised as a muggle like herself, had little knowledge of the workings of the British Magical Government. Both of them had read up on the topic and knew the basics, but what was happening now was way beyond the basics, even if their pureblood friends seemed to instinctively understand it. Surprisingly, it was Draco who took it upon himself to explain the process. Growing up as the Malfoy heir, Government was one of the topics he had cut his teeth on.

Right now Harry was upset. According to the Daily Prophet, an entire graduating class of Aurors, over two hundred people, had graduated an immediately took work in other countries. With the Ministry paralyzed, the graduating class had not been allowed to make the transition from cadet to paid employee of the Ministry.

The Wizengamot had finally narrowed the field down to two candidates, Amos Diggory and Archibald Richfield. Diggory was a known member of the Order of the Phoenix and Harry was mistrustful of him because of his connection to Dumbledore. Richfield was an enigma. He was the brother in-law of Fergus McNulty, owner and publisher of the Daily Prophet who, in turn, was cousin to escaped convict Lucius Malfoy. Richfield had been a long time member of the Wizengamot, and his political leanings tended towards favoring the more extreme pureblood oriented views. But his voting record, even on that subject, was somewhat ambiguous, as he didn’t always come down on the side of the purebloods.

Right now Harry sat at the table with the Daily Prophet in front of him. The headlines screamed about the ineffectiveness of the government and the rise of attacks by Death Eaters on magical and muggles alike. It also screamed again about the evil being taught at Hogwarts, viciously attacking Dumbledore. And just so Harry didn’t feel left out, they had started a series of investigative reports digging into Harry’s upbringing and comparing his past with the way past Dark Lords had been raised as children. Not surprisingly, they never mentioned the current Dark Lord, finding ample items to use to compare between Harry and the likes of Grindelwald and others. Harry looked up at Draco again, listening to his explanation and nodding.

"One thing’s for certain. The names of stuff might be similar, but this government is nothing like the muggle Ministries," Harry said softly, shaking his head in amazement.

"I have to agree. It’s a wonder the Ministry of Magic manages to accomplish anything," added Hermione. "It’s so inefficient!"

Ginny looked at Hermione, her expression puzzled. "But it’s always been this way, Hermione."

Draco snorted in amusement. "I know what it sounds like, Hermione, but every European Ministry is run like this. It’s been like this since the great families ceded their rights to Govern about five hundred years ago."

When Hermione arched an eyebrow inquisitively, Draco shook his head. "You know, the problem with this school is that they give us have teachers like Binns. He’s so lost in the Goblin wars that he’s completely forgotten to teach the other parts of our history," he said in disgust. "The great families, the Potters, Malfoy’s, Zabini’s, Bones, Dumbledores and yes, even the Weasleys, were among the last of the noble families to recognize the British Royal Crown. When the Ministry was first formed about five hundred years ago, the great families were afraid the new Ministry would try to drive them out. The crown allowed them to set up a Ministry that was highly inefficient in return for their oaths of fealty."

Draco paused for a moment, and then gestured around the table. "Most of us here can boast a title of some sort if we wanted to. Luna can lay claim to the title of Countess, even Harry can lay claim to a Viscount title and, if I’m not mistake, there’s an Earldom floating around in his family as well.   And it’s all perfectly legal and recognized in the muggle world."

Hermione glanced over at Harry in shock. He simply shrugged. "This is all news to me too, Hermione. I don’t think the titles mean all that much if you ask me. You saw the only time I even came close to using it at Gringotts," he replied. Draco grinned at him.

"Harry’s right. The Goblins are very proper when it comes to things like titles. But the rest of us pretty much ignore them anymore…unless you’re a Malfoy, of course. My father was pretty insistent that I learn all about the Ministry when I was growing up, as well as our place in it. I think it always bothered him that the Malfoy’s weren’t among the oldest families, even if we were considered to be one of the great families. I know he spent a small fortune trying to prove a connection between the Malfoys and Slytherin," he finished off softly, scowling.

Luna placed her hand on his. "There’s only one title you need worry about Draco, and that’s ‘boyfriend’," she said smiling sweetly at him. "Another day I’ll instruct you in other possible titles like fiancé, husband, father, that sort of thing."

The rest of the Outcasts watched in amusement as Draco got lost in Luna’s gaze. Luna’s condition was finally explained to the Outcasts over the Christmas holiday and, after the initial curiosity had worn off, the group accepted her added abilities without question. Since then, everyone had felt the full brunt of Luna’s attention at least once. Draco experienced it more than most, however, and it drove him to distraction.

The Three Broomsticks, Hogsmeade, Hogwarts Board of Governors Meeting…

Esther Hampton looked up from her papers, glancing to her fellow Governors. With a nod to Amelia, she had an aide open the door admitting Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape. The two men took seats in front the table seating the Board. Esther looked towards Augusta Longbottom, she nodded back as she set up a quick quotes quill and parchment.

Esther cleared her throat. "This is a special meeting of the Hogwarts Board of Governors. Our first order of business will be to examine the details surrounding the death of Argus Filch, long time caretaker at Hogwarts. According to our records, Hogwarts had employed Mr. Filch for nearly thirty years. Mr. Filch was a squib with no family, hence the burial in the castle graveyard.

"According to the reports, on the night of January 29th, Mr. Filch was climbing the staircase up to the seventh floor landing when he tripped and fell over the banisters, plunging six stories to his death.

"Professor Snape, you were a witness to the event, along with the two students, Miss Abbot and Mister Finch-Fletchley. Were either you or the two students near Mr. Filch at the time of his accident?" asked Esther.

"No, Madam Hampton," Snape answered. "Apparently Mr. Filch had caught the two students in question in some infraction of the rules. As caretaker, he was not empowered to assign punishments to the students, so he routinely brought them to the attention of the staff. I can only assume he was bringing them up to Headmaster Dumbledore’s office when he spotted me on the landing above him. When he spotted me, he instructed the two students to remain on the lower landing, presumably so he and I could discuss their infraction first."

"Where were you coming from that night, Professor?" asked Amelia.

"I was returning from the Headmaster’s office, Madam Bones. The Headmaster and I had just finished discussing the lab schedule."

"Is it safe to assume that you traveled that same stairway earlier in the evening, Professor?"

"Yes, Madam Bones."

"Was the staircase wet? Had it been recently washed?"

"Not to my knowledge, Madam Bones. Mr. Filch normally took care of such matters and, as far as I am aware, he had Professor Flitwick charm mops that he would release to clean the floors. As a squib, he couldn’t do magic himself, but he took as much advantage of it as he could."

"I’m curious, Professor. If the stairs weren’t wet from cleaning, what do you suppose made him slip sideways? Even you have to admit a lateral movement when one is walking forward is rather unusual," asked Amelia.

Snape leaned back in his chair trying to appear cooperative and thoughtful. "Madam Bones, I’ve thought of little else since that night. Mr. Filch suddenly staggered to one side as if he had lost his balance. I saw no spells cast or any discharge of magical energy. I can only surmise that Mr. Filch must have suffered from some sort of vertigo, which resulted in him pitching over the railing."

Amelia nodded and turned to Dumbledore. "Headmaster, can you shed any further information? I realize that from your statement you were not present when the accident occurred, but did you check the stairway for spells, traps or jinxes?"

"While Professor Snape went to get help from Madam Pomfrey, I ran a series of detection spells on the stairway and found nothing out of the ordinary. The stairs, as you recall, are enchanted but, except for the normal enchantments, there was nothing," replied Dumbledore.

Amelia looked at Esther, nodding to indicate she was done with her questions. Esther then turned to Dumbledore.

"Headmaster, Professor, I’d like to thank you both for taking the time from your busy schedules to help us with this matter. We have but one more item to cover and then we’ll be able to adjourn for the day," Esther said mildly.

Dumbledore cocked an eyebrow looking interested. "Oh? I wasn’t aware of any further orders of business. This is rather unusual Madam Chairwoman. Normally the Headmaster is informed of the Board’s topics before the meeting begins."

Esther shot an appealing look to Amelia Bones. "Yes, Headmaster, I understand.   However, this matter was only brought to my attention just before the meeting started by a representative from the Department of Magical Education and Certification. It seems that near the middle of last month, the DMEC received a stack of papers, student’s work, from Hogwarts and they were asked to explain why papers that contained essentially the same information were receiving such a massive grading discrepancy."

Dumbledore looked up in concern and Snape swallowed nervously as Amelia produced a stack of student homework.

"Upon receiving these documents, the DMEC conducted some further investigation and made some recommendations, which they have since passed on to us. The documents in question are entirely potions homework and exhibit a clear cut pattern of bias towards one Harry James Potter," Amelia said, holding up several papers. "Here are two reports, one from Hermione Granger of Gryffindor and one from Harry Potter, also of Gryffindor. Both reports are nearly identical in length and cite the same key points in the correct order. But Miss Granger received an E for her effort, while Mr. Potter received a T. These are just two sample papers of nearly forty homework reports received by the DMEC.

"Examining Professor Snape’s grading history, there is a clear bias towards his own House. As a result, the DMEC is suspending Professor Snape’s teaching certificate, pending a formal inquiry and retesting this summer," concluded Amelia softly.

Esther turned from Amelia to look at the two ashen faced professors. "Professor Snape, as you can see, our hands are tied. Your past actions have earned you few friends in a position to help you. Pending the re-certification process this summer, we have no choice but to suspend you without pay. Once you have been re-certified by the DMEC, we will be able to renew your contract. If you fail to certify, we will not be renewing your contract. Regrettably, Professor, we will have to ask you to vacate your quarters within the next few days."

Snape slumped in his chair, ashen faced and in shock. Dumbledore’s expression grew angry. He needed Snape! "Madam Chairwoman! Surely there is…"

"I’m sorry Albus, but the Ministry was quite firm on this subject. In fact, they informed Amelia that their initial thought was to press charges. Professor Snape publicly assaulted a student, in front of witnesses mind you, on platform 9 3/4s before the start of term. His bias towards his own House is legendary and his treatment of the Potter heir has been nearly criminal. The really surprising thing is that, even though the homework assignments belong to Mr. Potter and Miss Granger, the complaint itself came from a totally unexpected source. Draco Malfoy-Black.

"I’m afraid the Board can do nothing in this situation, Albus. See that he vacates the castle before the end of the week. Oh and Albus, there will be no housing of former teachers like you did with Sybil Trelawney last year. According to the DMEC, your own actions in the past year are highly suspect," said Esther sternly.

"And speaking of Sybil Trelawney," she continued, "since there are no current teachers at the school who are alumni of Slytherin House, we have decided that Sybil Trelawney will take over the position as Head of Slytherin and you, Headmaster, will assume Professor Snape’s duties as Potions Professor."

Dumbledore sat back in his chair and felt as if he’d been slapped. No one had questioned his right to lead his school in years, and now this! Nodding numbly to the Board, he stood and approached Severus. While their relationship had always been based on need and necessity, a grudging friendship had built between the two men. Dumbledore placed his hand on Snape’s shoulder, shaking him from his shock.

Snape looked up at Dumbledore, his eyes still echoing the bewilderment he was feeling.

"Come, Severus, it is not the end of the world. There is much I can still do for you, my friend," Dumbledore said gently.

Lessons in the Room of Requirement…

Harry had found a section of the library that seemed to be rarely used. Mostly the books were Muggle in nature, and he found the topics to be fascinating. Muggle science was rarely discussed in school, except for the rare discussion in Muggle Studies class. The section that Harry had found concentrated on muggle science and the muggle world in general. It didn’t come as a shock to Harry that the muggles were far more advanced in their technology than the Wizarding world wanted to believe. But he knew it was an attitude that he’d have to work with his friends on.

But even more importantly than working with his friends on their attitude towards muggles, he knew he had to work on his girlfriend’s attitude. The change in their relationship had brought Harry and Hermione much closer together and they made love as often as they could. As they grew closer, he noticed a specific trait in her that he wanted to help her change. Which was exactly why he had spent hours pouring over the muggle section of the library before dragging her to the Room of Requirement for a special dinner.

The room was pitch black except for a lit table near the center of the room. Harry had enlisted the aid of Dobby and Winky in preparing a simple meal. The thrust of tonight’s activity wasn’t romance, it was to teach the love of his life, to love life.

After they were seated at the table and Dobby had served them a dinner, Harry looked at Hermione thoughtfully. She was a little nervous because Harry had been exceedingly tight lipped about tonight’s dinner. To be honest, she was afraid of what would happen tonight. He had made a few comments over the past few days that had caused her to believe he was upset with her. She wasn’t sure why he was upset and it scared her that he might be thinking about breaking up with her.

"Hermione," began Harry.

She nearly jumped from her seat in fright and he frowned at her. "Harry, what ever I did, I’m sorry," she whispered.

He blinked in confusion. "Do you think I’m angry with you?"

She nodded and he chuckled, then he reached over and grabbed her hands in his. "I’m not mad at you, I’m not angry about anything. I am, however, going to show you something. Will you promise to look with an open mind and not get angry with me?"

She nodded and Harry waved a hand to activate the room in the sequence he had planned.

The room wavered and suddenly they sat at the table on the edge of a huge canyon. "This is the Grand Canyon in the United States. I found a bunch of photos of this place and others and I’ve set the room to take us there for a bit. Tell me what you see when you look at it."

Hermione looked out over the scene. She had to admit it was breathtaking, but she was sure that wasn’t what he was asking her.   "Well the canyon was built over millions of years by the action of the Colorado river cutting through the rock. It’s one of the largest canyons in the world. The various colors in the wall come from different mineral deposits," she offered.

Harry smiled and shook his head as the room darkened and the ceiling overhead shifted to display images he had found from the Hubble space telescope. "I’m sure you recognize some of these images, Hermione, but what do you see?" he asked stressing the last word.

"Well this is the famous photo of the Horse Head nebula. It’s a stellar nursery where millions of new stars are being born. Many of these stars are so close together they destroy each other."

Harry laughed and let the room shift again. Now their table was cleared off of leftovers and there was a box in front of Harry. He reached into the box and pulled out a kitten, which he handed to Hermione, then reached into the box and pulled out another kitten.

"What do you see Hermione?" he asked gently.

Hermione looked down at the little ball of fur in her hands. It was obviously a kneazle half breed mix. "It’s a kneazle mix," she said, faltering as she watched him.

"It’s a cute kitten?" she offered lamely when Harry’s expression fell

Harry smiled gently at her. "I love you Hermione, and nothing will change that," he said, then he cuddled the kitten in his hands for a moment. "What I want you to learn is to see the world, not analyze it all the time."

Still holding the kittens, the scene shifted back to the Grand Canyon and Harry continued talking.

"The colors are beautiful. The understanding that nature took millions of years to build this is awe-inspiring. But look at how the sunlight casts shadows and makes some of the layers in the wall almost glow in vibrant color. That I can share this with the woman I love makes me feel good inside, like knowing a funny little joke that just the two of us share."

The scene remained, but darkened and overhead came the same images as before.

"The astronomy photos are awesome, Hermione. Forget stellar nurseries for a moment, forget light years and all that. This is nature drawing on the biggest canvas it could find - the universe itself. Michelangelo couldn’t have done so well. I look at this image and ask myself, what put it there? Is there some higher power that put together the universe in all its majesty? Is what put that marvelous image in our heavens the same thing that granted me the ability to love someone as special as you?"

Then he held up the kitten in his hand. It was busy gnawing on his finger and making little growling noises.   "This kitten, this helpless little creature, is born with a capacity to love. An emotional capacity we share with it, despite being a totally different creature from it. It begs to be nurtured, to be played with. Just looking at it tugs at your heart."

Hermione watched and listened to him carefully. This was a side of him she had only seen when he played his tin whistle, and even then he rarely expressed himself in words during those times.

"My point is a simple one. You’re the smartest person I know and I hope someday that together we’ll have children even smarter. But you need to learn to step back sometimes and look at things from a different angle," he said softly.   "I know you’ve been wanting to talk about our love making and what we’re experiencing. To be honest, I’ve avoided the topic because I’ve been afraid I’d disappoint you with my comments."

"How so?" she asked him gently.

"Because I don’t see things clinically like you do," he told her. "I don’t look at it in terms of time, or how many times I can bring you to orgasm. How can I describe touching Heaven, Hermione? That’s what it’s like for me and I don’t have the words to describe it. How can I describe what it’s like to be given the most precious gift in the world? That’s exactly what I feel like every night when you fall asleep in my arms. Loving you isn’t something I can easily put into words. My favorite witch in the world would tell me to ‘quantify my feelings and qualify them with examples and anecdotes’," Harry said, doing a very good imitation of her.   "The problem is, I can’t. I need to learn to see the world more like you do, but you need to learn to see it like I do."

He held up the kitten in his hands and scratched its head gently, causing the small animal to push its head back against him and purr loudly.

Hermione smiled gently at the sight of Harry with the kitten. His words had touched her in ways even she couldn’t describe. She realized he was right, she did tend to over analyze things. And while that wasn’t always a bad trait, she had been applying it to their relationship and their activities. She had wanted to talk to him about their love life, but now she was convinced that had she forced it, she never would have understood where he was coming from.

"I’ll talk to you about it, Hermione. But try to see where I’m coming from. Some of these things I just don’t have the words for, and some shouldn’t need any," he said softly, still scratching the kitten’s head.

She reached out to him and put her hand on his arm. The kitten in his hands swatted her hand and growled in mock anger. "You have the soul of a poet. I should have seen that with your music. You also flatter me more than is necessary. Our relationship has changed greatly in the past months and I’m very happy with that, but ‘touching Heaven’? Isn’t that a bit extreme?"

 "You might feel that it’s extreme, but I certainly don’t," he replied in a whisper. "How else can I explain being truly happy for the first time in my memory? I don’t feel alone anymore. That alone is a gift I can never repay you for."

Chewing on her lower lip, she nodded. He placed the kitten back in the box and she handed him the other kitten, which he also put away. With a wave of his hand the scenery shifted again and they were sitting at a table on a wind swept beach. Dobby appeared and served tea while they talked about their relationship.

Headmaster’s Office, Hogwarts…

Dumbledore sat heavily in his chair. It had been a long day, and it hadn’t been a pleasant one. The firing of Professor Snape had come as a complete surprise. Dumbledore snorted to himself. The Board of Governors could call it what ever they pleased, but it was a sacking.

He sighed and removed his glasses before pinching the bridge of his nose. Severus had been of enormous help to him over the past years and he still could be, but he was also a marked man. If he stepped outside of the castle, Voldemort would have him hunted down and killed. Dumbledore felt obligated to do something about it.

He looked up as the door to his office opened and Severus Snape walked in.

"Severus, come in! I’ve been giving your problem some thought and I have some ideas about how we can turn this to our advantage," he said, waving the man to a chair.

Snape sat down dejectedly. "I hope so, Headmaster. Right now I find myself at a loss."

"Here’s what we’re going to do with you, Severus. And I promise you, we’ll do our very best to protect you. First thing, I’ve had the Hogwarts House Elves cleaning up the interior of the Shrieking Shack. The first floor will be set up as a potions lab for you, as well as kitchen space. The second floor is being fixed up into living space, including library and bedroom. From the outside, the shack will look as run down as ever, but it will be much nicer on the inside.

"What I’m going to do is arrange to pay you from Order funds to make potions for us. Healing potions, interrogation, empowering potions, that sort of thing. When you’re not making potions, you’ll be free to conduct potions research, which I know you’ve always wanted to do."

As Dumbledore spoke, Snape sat straighter in his chair. The Headmaster’s words made him realize that, not only did he still have work he could be doing, but he also had time to work on projects that interested him now.   Potions research was something he had always wanted to do! No more teaching ungrateful brats!

Snape smiled gratefully. "I do believe that your solution is both elegant and efficient, Albus. There are several areas of research that I have wanted to delve into, areas that might help us in our fight against the Dark Lord. But I haven’t been able to do so with my teaching duties."

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, relieved that Snape had accepted his solution so easily. "Excellent, Severus! I will, of course, have to make the announcement at breakfast tomorrow. In the meantime, I will make arrangements with the House Elves to allow you access to a Hogwarts Owl if you need to obtain any special supplies. The elves are stocking the potion lab with a basic ingredient supply even as we speak."

Severus nodded. For the first time since their meeting with the Board of Governors earlier in the day, he was a happy man.

"I’ll also schedule an Order meeting to let everyone know of the changes in your status and what you’ll be doing for us," Dumbledore offered.

Snape, barely hearing the Headmaster, nodded in agreement.

Breakfast, the Great Hall…

Harry and Hermione came down late once again to the Great Hall for breakfast. Their time spent in the Room of   Requirement the night before had been very fruitful for both of them. Like all new relationships, not all of the issues had been resolved, but they had made great progress in learning to discuss issues that embarrassed them both.

When they’d retired for the night, Harry had made love to her with a tenderness that took her breath away. Everything she’d heard in the dorms about boys from people like Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil was turning out to be so totally different from what she was experiencing with Harry.   Either Lavender and Parvati had bad experiences, or her Harry was truly different from other boys his age.

Entering the Great Hall, still holding hands, Harry led Hermione over to their friends at the Gryffindor table. It wasn’t until after they’d sat down that they noticed the hush that permeated the Great Hall. Glancing up at the Head table, they noted that Sybil Trelawney sat in Professor Snape’s chair and was wearing robes signifying her affiliation to Slytherin House.

Dumbledore stood and waited for the few students loitering by the entrance to take their seats. "I have an announcement that I need to make, so might I have everyone’s attention please?" Dumbledore asked in a voice that carried throughout the Hall.

"Due to a complaint lodged by Draco Malfoy, Professor Snape has been relieved of his teaching position pending a formal enquiry by the Ministry’s Department of Magical Education and Certification. With his teaching certificate suspended, the Board of Governors had no choice but to relieve Professor Snape of his duties as Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House."

A gasp rang out through the hall and a number of the Slytherins cried out in protest. Snape was popular among his own House because of his bias towards them. The few Slytherins who didn’t like him were those who openly supported Voldemort and knew of his spying activities.

Once the Hall had quieted down again, Dumbledore continued. "Starting today, I will take over the position of Potions Professor until a replacement can be found, and Professor Trelawney has graciously agreed to become the Head of Slytherin house."

That announcement left the room in total silence except for Lavender and Parvati, who both cheered briefly, but even those two faded into silence when they noticed no one else cheering.

Draco pushed his plate out of the way and sunk his head into his hands murmuring, "They are going to kill me. I’m a dead man."

Luna leaned over and patted him on the back. "If you want, I’ll sneak you up into my dorm room. Your dorm mates won’t be able to reach you there. And since I have my bed warded against the Antenna Snapping Whistle Jumpers, you won’t have to worry about them, either."

Draco peered up at Luna in confusion. He couldn’t tell if she had invited him to her bed or not.

Harry looked at the two of them and snickered. They’d been dancing around each other for a while, much to the enjoyment of everyone else. But now Draco looked desperate. As breakfast ended, Draco pulled Harry, Neville and Terry off to one side.

"Did she just invite me into her bed?" Draco asked. It was hard to tell whether his tone was hopeful or terrified.

Neville snorted in amusement. "Draco, when she invites you to her bed, you’ll know because she’ll be stripping you as she pulls you in."

Harry made a strangling sound as he tried to choke and laugh at the same time. Terry pounded on his back while Draco eyed Neville with renewed interest. "Speaking from experience, Longbottom?" he asked in a drawl.

Neville eyed Draco calmly, then buffed his nails against his shirt. "Yes, I am," he replied in a matter of fact tone.

Harry’s eyes lit up and he waved a hand where Neville and Draco couldn’t see. His hand flared briefly and the backs of Neville and Draco’s robes changed. Terry looked at his two fellow Outcasts and watched as the robes changed to read:   Draco ‘Clueless’ Black and Neville ‘Studly’ Longbottom.

Terry’s eyes widened and he dragged Harry to the floor as he collapsed in a fit of laughter. Draco and Neville eyed the two of them suspiciously.

Hogwarts Dungeon, that night…

Having said goodnight to Luna up in the library, Draco trudged down to the Slytherin common room and, ultimately, his dorm room. The day had been particularly rough on him since the morning announcement about Snape getting sacked. Contrary to popular belief, Snape had been popular with the Slytherin House members and they were not very pleased with his involvement in getting the man sacked from his job.

There had been a few verbal exchanges with his fellow Slytherins during the day, but nothing major. The simple fact was that Draco was a better duelist than most of the students in the school. His knowledge of spells, light and dark, rivaled that of Hermione Granger and Draco was known to be a ruthless fighter when pressed.   The problem with being one of the best or one of the strongest, or smartest, is that one can still be surprised. All it takes is a few brief seconds of inattention for one to lose his or her advantage.

That surprise came when Draco was descending the last set of stairs into the dungeon. The explosive hex came from behind and above him. He never even heard the assailant. Hit in the shoulder, he sailed off the stairway in a spinning motion. His vision grayed out almost immediately and the last thing he remembered was seeing the floor spinning as it rushed up to meet him at high speed.

Draco reconnected with a world gone crazy a few minutes later. He was on his side, looking up the stairway at an angle. From behind him, deeper in the dungeon, came the sound of footsteps. He tried to move his head, but the pain was excruciating.

Severus Snape leaned down so Draco could see him clearly. "I don’t know who did this to you Draco, but it is a pity you survived."

With that single comment, Snape stood and walked from view.

Draco tried to move, tried to speak, but an inexplicable weakness pervaded his body. He heard another set of footsteps approaching, this time from the stairway, and whoever it was, was in a great hurry. Draco felt comforting hands on his body and a face framed by a halo of blonde hair filled his vision. He was sure it was an angel.

"Rest easy, my Draco. Help is coming for you," whispered Luna through her tears. As she touched him, he relaxed and her feelings washed over him, drowning out his pain and anxiety.

Luna concentrated on holding Draco as Harry appeared. She didn’t even look up or acknowledge his presence. Harry took in the scene in a single glance, the huge whole in his shoulder, the blood, and Luna somehow keeping Draco anchored in this world. Grabbing Luna’s wrist and Draco’s hand he concentrated for a tandem apparate and with a soft pop they were all gone.

As soon as they appeared in the infirmary, Harry went straight to the door leading to Madam Pomfrey’s office and quarters, calling loudly. A moment later Madam Pomfrey was stepping out of door, throwing a robe on over her nightgown. She took in the scene of Luna and Draco and rushed over to help the stricken young man. Harry watched for a moment before vanishing again.

Luna refused to release Draco while Madam Pomfrey struggled to levitate him into a bed. Once he was in the bed she was about to tear into the young woman when another voice cut through the silence of the infirmary.

"Leave her be, Poppy. She is the only thing keeping Draco anchored to our world, rather than passing on," said a voice.

Madam Pomfrey looked up to see that Harry Potter had returned with Nymphadora Tonks and Narcissa Black.

Narcissa rushed to the bedside, and her expressions wavered between gratitude and anguish as she looked between Luna and her son.   "Luna is a child of Gaia, Poppy," Narcissa explained softly, "Draco is her chosen one. She’s dampening his pain and he’s anchoring his soul to hers. As long as she continues to hold onto him, he’ll live long enough for you to treat the wound and get him out of danger."

Understanding flared in Poppy’s eyes and she quickly began casting healing spells, closing up the wounds and repairing broken bones. Once the major damage was dealt with, Madam Pomfrey pulled out the necessary potions and, with Luna’s help, got Draco to drink them.

After nearly an hour working on Draco, Madam Pomfrey stood and ran a few more diagnostic spells before nodding in satisfaction. "He’s out of danger now, thank Merlin… and thank you, Miss Lovegood," she murmured.

Luna released Draco’s hand and leaned back in her chair, smiling softly at the sleeping form. Then she leaned forward again and gently smoothed the hair on his brow.   "It is not yet your time, Dray. We have much still to do together, my beloved," she whispered to the sleeping young man.

Narcissa’s eyes filled with tears and she placed a hand on Luna’s shoulder. Luna looked up at the older woman and then cried in surprised happiness when Narcissa pulled her into an embrace. The two held each other while Tonks, Harry and Madam Pomfrey looked on.

Harry made a move to back away from the scene, thinking to give the women a bit of privacy, when Narcissa looked up from holding Luna.   "I owe you and Luna both a life debt, Harry. You both played your part in saving Draco’s life."

Harry shook his head, denying Narcissa’s claim. "I merely did what family is supposed to do, help each other. Tonight I helped two of my closest friends. One was badly injured, the other stood to lose her heart if Draco died. No Narcissa, there is no debt between family."

Tonks watched impassively. She stood waiting to take statements about tonight’s events as soon as they were ready for her.

Harry stepped back and started to turn when Luna stopped him. "Hermione is a lucky woman, Harry Potter. Thank you, from both of us," she whispered.

Harry smiled and nodded before leaving the infirmary, heading back to his own bed, and his own love. As he walked, he couldn’t help but be impressed by how focused Luna was tonight, but still withholding the wash of emotion over people. Either he was getting used to it, or she was getting better at controlling it.

Author’s Notes:

The yahoo group is an adult group. If you want questions answered and can’t join the group, then you can email us with your questions. We will however, not answer any question which might be considered as a spoiler. The link to the group can be found in my profile under the homepage.

"What makes you think the wizarding world isn't run like ours? I mean you could sue for slander in ancient times so why not in the wizarding world." Simple. If we assume that the British Ministry of Magic is patterned off of the muggle British Government, Sirius black would not have gone to prison without a trial. Since he did, we can’t make that assumption about the Ministry of Magic, can we? I don’t think we can.

Harry is definitely getting used to having to kill Death Eaters. He will still continue to have his moments where he feels some remorse, and he’ll definitely feel it for any innocents that might get caught in the crossfire. But its something you grow accustomed to after a while.

For those that thing we are relying on prophesies far too much. Well you’re welcome to go try to write your own fiction. This story was plotted with them there as a means of providing a push in the direction we want our characters to go. If we pull the prophesies out, then we’ll have people scratching their fuzzy little heads and wondering "How the heck did we get here?"

Why must Harry lose his temper? The simple fact is, he (a) can’t slag Hogwarts right now, he needs it and (b) That means he can’t kill Dumbledore either. Dumbledore force the Outcasts to duel the entire school? I bet you thought that Draco swimming the lake would prove him to be on the side of the light too.

Harry did want a stealthy approach to getting to the Grangers, until they started getting tortured. After that, all bets were off and Harry decided it was time to send Tommy a message.

Heh. Quite a few thought that Arthur had been put under the imperious curse. Fooled you!

For those complaining about the gore and the ever darkening theme of this story, get used to it. It’s going to get darker and darker. That’s why the story is called SUNSET over Britain.

MarinePotterFan: You’ve been one of our longtime reviewers, even in our other stories so we’ll admit, no we really don’t have any plans to torture you. These things just happen.

Pet Peeves.


If you are writing for an adult audience, then do so. If you’re writing for a T or K audience, then don’t. I hate authors that are incapable of spelling curse words properly. Hmmm if I write it as shite then no one will know that I really mean shit. Euphemisms! I remember reading one story where Harry and Ginny were using a few spells to enhance their sex life, and instead of saying they screwed like bunnies in heat, the author, in every other paragraph had to mention them using "those spells for personal enjoyment."

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