Alliances, Part Five
Alliances, Part Five: The Professor, the Cursebreaker, and the VeelaAuthor's Note
: I wanted to include this is as a bit of forewarning: I don't write the speaking voice of Fleur (and later Hagrid) in the same manner as that of JKR. I don't particularly care for that kind of exaggeration, and I'm sure you will all be able to apply the French accent (or brogue) to your reading if you so choose. This is just a personal peccadillo, but I find that it slows down my reading. Also, it's just supremely annoying. :)* * * * *
Harry knocked hesitantly on McGonagall’s heavy oak door, somewhat hoping he had been quiet enough so that she hadn’t heard him, and he could go away, return to the Dursleys, try to ignore what he learned in Gringotts, not worry about Hogwarts until September.
He so didn’t want to do this; certainly not now, and quite possibly never. Poppy was one animal, but McGonagall was in a whole other league, one in which he was sure he wouldn’t have made the cut even as the water boy. Luna squeezed his hand in support.
“Come in, Mister Potter!,” called McGonagall’s clipped voice.
“Just remember what I told you,” Luna whispered, “and stay true to what you want to do. No one can force you to do otherwise; not even Dumbledore. Even he has his limits, Harry.”
Harry doubted that, but gave a hesitant nod and opened the door. Luna discreetly followed him.
“Good afternoon, Mister Potter,” McGonagall nodded. “Miss Lovegood. Your presence is not required, young lady.”
“I’d like Luna to stay, please, ma’am,” Harry stated.
She stared at him for a moment before her gaze slid over to the girl, who was staring at empty space. Sighing and not seeing the harm, she nodded and waved a hand to indicate they should take the seats before her desk.
“Very well. Let’s discuss, then.” She waited until they had sat down and folded her hands before her. “I’m afraid I do not understand the purpose of this meeting, Mister Potter. You have already selected your courses for the coming term.”
“And I’d like to change them, please.”
He faltered and looked at his hands, blushing.
“Mister Potter…Harry,” Minerva said more sedately, “what is it you wish to do?”
He raised his eyes to meet hers, ignoring how his mouth went dry. “I want to drop everything but Transfiguration.”
She blinked and tried to process the request, but she was too stunned. “You what!”
He flinched and looked to Luna, who shook her head.
“No, Harry. This was your idea, and you must speak for yourself. You know what you want to do, so now tell the Professor. You can’t expect people to read your mind, and there will not always be someone there to make you feel better.” She gave a small smile. “This is your life, Harry. Make it into something you want.”
“Well said, Miss Lovegood,” said a startled McGonagall. Perhaps Albus wasn’t wrong about the girl; then again, she figured the Headmaster was due for an astute prediction. “Mister Potter, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me how. Now, why do you wish to drop your other courses?”
“May I speak freely, ma’am?”
She blinked again, this time with relief. While she appreciated that she kept her students on their toes, the downside was that they were often on their guard around her, which was both good and bad – those students with whom she didn’t want to be close avoided her, but those in whom she took a healthy interest were too often intimidated – not to mention Albus had kept Potter well isolated from almost the entire faculty, though she was aware that in addition to herself, Poppy and Flitwick had much affection for the boy.
She nodded. “I wish you would.”
He absently scratched his head. “History of Magic is a useless course,” he blurted, appearing surprised by his own bluntness. “I honestly cannot fathom what the Headmaster is thinking by allowing a ghost to teach that class,” he added, now picking at his scar. “Everyone falls asleep and Hermione is the only one I’ve ever seen in the past five years who actually bothers to take notes. Most people skip the lectures and read the assigned books, which are equally boring and unhelpful. Binns can’t be bothered to take attendance, probably because he doesn’t know our names, so the grade really isn’t affected.”
“Sad, but accurate,” Minerva acknowledged. “Continue.”
“I’ve earned O.W.L.s in every course. I’m not technically required to continue studying anything.”
McGonagall’s eyes once again turned toward Luna, whose face was blank, wondering how Harry had discovered this, for there was no way Albus would have ever imparted that bit of wisdom. She was sure it came from either the Lovegood girl or those infernal Weasley twins; whatever, it didn’t alter the fact that the boy was correct. Well, wouldn’t this put a bee in Dumbledore’s ridiculous hat?
“You’ve done your homework, Mister Potter – for once – but I’m afraid that I require further explanation.”
Harry exhaled. “Professor McGonagall, I absolutely refuse to endure Snape any longer. I don’t know how I managed to score an O in Potions, but I did well enough that I no longer have to suffer that course or his irrational abuse.”
Minerva stifled her own sigh, instinctively wanting to chastise him for his phrasing but knowing that doing so would be tantamount to abetting Severus’ behavior – which was indeed abusive and had gone too long unchecked by Dumbledore – and she would not have Harry think her to be as lax as the Headmaster.
“Mister Potter,” she said slowly, debating whether she should endeavor to persuade him to continue with the course while abandoning its professor, “you should know that Professor Snape will no longer be teaching Potions.”
“Oh? Then who will?”
“I stand by my decision.”
She raised a brow. How interesting. Severus might treat Harry poorly, but he seemed to know the young man well enough to predict that he would eventually, if not turn against Albus, come to resent him.
“Very well, but surely you wish to continue with Defense? It is your best subject. And thanks to you, your year has earned more O.W.L.s in that class than any year previous.”
His cheeks pinked, but McGonagall sensed it was not from embarrassment, but from his immediate dismissal of the credit, which was certainly quite annoying; she was not one to lavish praise, and to have it snubbed was grating.
“I have already earned my N.E.W.T.,” he countered.
“Which is not to say you’ve learned everything you need to know,” she sharply replied.
He sighed. “Professor, were I not required by law to attend school until I reach majority, I would not be returning to Hogwarts at all.”
The boy’s face became mottled. “Professor McGonagall, I love this school. I love my friends, and...and...I...” He looked helplessly at her, his eyes bright.
“Understood,” she quietly said, heart in her throat. If he made her cry, she would beat him with a broom.
He clamped his mouth shut and nodded. “You know how dangerous it is to have me here,” he finally said, holding up a hand to silence her protest, surprised when she inclined her head in acknowledgment, “but even more than that, I have come to the conclusion that for too long I have allowed other people to dictate my life.”
He squared his shoulders. “It's time I took control. I may have been prophesied to battle Voldemort, but that doesn't mean I have to cede my entire life to that fight.” His gaze narrowed. “Nor do I have to allow others to do it for me.”
She blinked. “Prophecy?”
His jaw set.
“All of this is about some ludicrous prophecy?,” she thundered. She pressed her tongue against the roof of her mouth and shook her head, eyes trained to the ceiling. “Well.”
“You didn’t know?”
She snorted. “You are not the only one our illustrious Headmaster keeps in the dark with regularity, Mister Potter.”
She exhaled through her nose. Prophecy. It explained so much; in particular, Trelawney’s appointment, which had never made sense, despite Dumbledore’s frequent assertions that the woman was not without talent. Dumbledore had arranged this boy's entire life around a prediction proffered by a woman who was barking mad.
She swallowed heavily, her thoughts racing, all but tasting Harry’s rancor on her tongue. She knew him well enough that despite his level timbre, his dark tone suggested he was furious, and she was sure the target of his wrath was Dumbledore; she could appreciate this, as she too was undergoing a similar crisis of faith. None of this information, however, changed the fact that Hogwarts was the safest place for him; his only other option was to return to those horrible relatives of his, and she was not about to let that happen.
She also wondered how he had learned of the particulars of the prophecy, which she now realized must have been Voldemort’s target that night in the Department of Mysteries. She was sure it had since been destroyed, but found it hard to believe that Dumbledore would reveal its contents to its subject. It was fairly well known that Harry Potter believed in Divination about as much as the man in the moon, but if Dumbledore had thrown all of his authority behind the words and pontificated as if from on high, playing on Harry’s guilt in the process, it was no surprise that the boy had caved.
Bile splashed the back of her throat. Dumbledore could be dealt with at a later time; right now, her priority was ensuring that Harry remained at Hogwarts for the foreseeable future, preferably from this moment forward. But how to accomplish it?
“Oh, Harry,” she sighed, her own eyes becoming impossibly bright as she watched him force back angry, bitter tears. “You are not the only one who has waited too long to make difficult choices. I understand your anger and your resentment, and you are entitled, but child, you are simply too intelligent to waste your education. As you said, you are compelled by law to attend this institution, and you are correct that your O.W.L.s excuse you from continuing with classes you no longer wish to study, but I sincerely hope that you do not throw away these final two years out of petty spitefulness.”
“I don’t intend to,” he said. “Madam Pomfrey has agreed to allow me to intern with her for the year in the Infirmary.” He gave a sardonic smile. “She also insisted that I learn whatever potions she decrees I must so that I can sit for my Potions N.E.W.T.”
She raised a brow. “Then I do believe congratulations are in order, Mister Potter. It’s not just any student whom Madam Pomfrey allows into her domain.”
“I know,” he grinned.
She smiled as well, pleased that he was able to take some pride in his accomplishments rather than simply viewing them as a means to an end. “So, you wish to continue with Transfiguration as well as interning in the Infirmary. Is there anything else?”
He bit his lip. “Well, Luna has suggested that in order to do well in my internship, I should continue with Herbology. And I really like Professor Sprout.”
“Good advice,” McGonagall declared, thinking that she should later speak to Pomona about this meeting and ask her to keep an eye on Harry in her class; not that she would need to ask, of course. Pomona’s outburst this morning in the Headmaster’s office had been both surprising and illuminating. “That’s three.”
He nodded. “I would also like to begin Arithmancy and Ancient Runes.”
This time, she raised both eyebrows. “But Mister Potter, you have no experience in those courses. Do you understand that you would be in class with Third Years?”
“I do, and I don’t care. It’s time I took advantage of every resource this school has to offer. If that means I have to learn along with a pack of thirteen-year-olds, so be it.”
She considered him for a moment. “You consistently surprise me, Mister Potter, and it’s extremely rare for me to be surprised. However, where you are concerned, I find I’m rather fond of the experience; when we’re not in mortal danger, of course.” She nodded. “Very well. If you wish, I will speak to the professors about instructing you privately.”
He shook his head. “Thank you, but no. There’s a line between taking advantage and being demanding, and I don’t wish to cross it. Luna has offered to tutor me when I need it, and she’s the top student in her year.”
“She is?” McGonagall turned to the girl. “You are?”
Luna dropped her mask, her eyes focused and her mouth grim. “I am a Ravenclaw, Professor.”
“So you are. It would appear Mister Potter has rather surprising friends, as well.”
Luna turned to her friend. “Harry, why don’t you consider taking Runes and Arithmancy as independent studies? That way, you could determine your own pace and schedule, in conjunction with Professors Shiloh and Vector, and you wouldn’t be forced to sit alongside thirteen-year-olds who would probably take much more time assimilating the information than you.”
She then returned to considering oxygen molecules and what they were whispering to her about the evils of nitrogen. Mean nitrogen.
Harry smirked at McGonagall’s befuddled stare. He had a feeling the professor wouldn’t again underestimate Luna Lovegood.
McGonagall looked again to Harry. “I don’t foresee Miss Lovegood’s suggestion being a problem. Mister Potter, there is also a new required course being instituted this year: Muggle Literature and Dramatics. All Fifth and Sixth years must take the class.”
He narrowed his eyes. “What is this really about?”
“You will find out soon enough, I expect,” she replied, rolling her eyes.
“Oh, good grief,” he sighed, running a hand over his face.
“Quite. Nevertheless, it has already been written into the curriculum as required, and thus you have no choice but to take it. It is not demanded of Seventh Years, however, so you must only endure for these next two terms. It will not be terribly inconvenient, I believe. Mostly reading and a few essays. All of the materials will be provided by the school.”
“Who is teaching this course?,” Luna interjected.
“Frankly, I do not know. The Headmaster is making the arrangements.” She looked to Harry. “He will most likely be speaking about them with you.”
“Indeed. Now, that is six courses. I shall register you immediately and generate a booklist.”
“Excuse me, Professor,” he interrupted, “but there’s one more I’d like to request.”
“Mister Potter, seven courses is really exceeding the recommended guidelines, and you well know the trouble Miss Granger experienced when she pushed herself too far.”
“It’s not technically a course,” he said. “I’d like to have a dedicated period of library time, preferably when it is rather unoccupied and in which Madam Pince is informed not to disturb me, as well as a year’s pass to the Restricted Section.”
McGonagall slowly removed her glasses and looked down her nose at him. “Excuse me?”
“Professor,” he said, knowing he would have to sell this quickly and was not beneath self-deprecation and arousing pity, “I have to learn things in my own time and in my own way. I did well on my O.W.L.s, yes,” he flashed a quick grin at McGonagall’s snort, “but it took me five years to be able to order in my mind what I had learned. I’m not like Hermione or Zabini. It takes me quite a long time for me to build onto my knowledge.”
She frowned. “How so?”
He fidgeted. “Well, take Hermione, for example; or Blaise, for that matter. They only need to read or be taught something once to understand it. Hermione can recall information whenever she needs, and she’s then able to integrate that knowledge with everything which preceded it. Ron, on the other hand, does best only in certain subjects, but those in which he does do well, it’s like he has an instinctive grasp of the whole, and immediately fills any gaps with new information.”
She gave a curt nod. “Your observations are correct.”
“I’m not like that,” he continued, shrugging. “I don’t really know how I learn. Harder spells come easy to me, yeah, but other things which almost everyone knows fall out of my mind as if my brain is leaking. I just can’t keep them inside, and I can’t seem to correlate them with each other. I’m constantly having to relearn things which I already learned but have forgotten. I can conjure a Patronus, but still can’t do a decent Scourgify
She frowned again, more deeply, and considered his explanation, which was lacking in several respects and rather poorly phrased, though she nevertheless got the gist.
“I understand what you are saying, Mister Potter. Perhaps what you don’t know is that the level of power of a witch or wizard duly influences how they absorb information. You are highly powerful, so it is unsurprising that harder material is easier for you to grasp.”
She then decided to probe more deeply into his background, at least as far as magic was concerned, because she was sure that despite Albus’s silence on the matter, the boy had displayed excellence from the beginning.
“Tell me, Harry, did you ever perform any magic before you came to Hogwarts?” His guilty flush spoke for itself. “Ah, I thought as much. Please tell me about these incidents.”
“There are too many. I don’t remember them all,” he admitted, eyes down, “just being punished for them.”
He flushed more deeply at his unintended admission, although after his letters and his conversations with Luna, he was finding it easier to qualify the Dursleys’ treatment of him. Still, it was embarrassing.
McGonagall’s face became stone and she nodded for him to continue. As he couldn’t see the gesture, Luna, who had noticed it, gently stroked his arm.
“I Apparated once,” he recalled, his face screwed up in thought, deciding that was as good a place to begin as any.
“Excuse me?” Minerva turned to Luna and was even more disconcerted to see she too was startled. “You Apparated? Without training? When
“I think I was eight. You see, I was...”
She tuned out his explanation, however, preferring her stupor as her mind desperately processed his words. The boy had Apparated at eight years old
. There were several things about this which shocked her, the primary one that there had been no report from the department which regulated underage magic; at least, none with which she was familiar. Such a feat would not have been able to be contained, even by Dumbledore. So why hadn’t the Ministry been alerted to an eight-year-old Apparating about England? Dear Merlin, his power must be astonishing. But then why were his scores only mediocre to middling in the previous five years?
She determined that there was more going on there than just how Harry perceived his ability to learn. She resolved to look into it later, and would not be informing Albus that she intended to do so or of her findings. Hopefully, she had temporarily disabled the charms he had placed about her office. She was still outraged that he had been so presumptuous, but that was a conversation for a later time, one she would make sure Dumbledore would not likely soon forget. She struggled to tune back into the conversation.
“And really, Professor, I’m speaking only of learning theory, not practical. I won’t be casting any spells, I promise. I just...I just have to do something
. I can’t stand being reactive to things anymore. I can’t settle for being told only what people think
I need to know!” He paused, trying to get his temper under control as he thought of Dumbledore and the man’s irritating prevarications. “The bottom line is this: when it is time for me to face Voldemort, I will be standing alone. I need to be ready.”
She eyed him briefly before looking away. If he thought he would be standing alone, he was very much mistaken. The death of innocence had never been so poignant, and her anger at Dumbledore had segued from fiery outrage to frigid wrath, which helped to order her thoughts.
“I understand. All right, Mister Potter, I will write you the pass, but with the following conditions.” She ignored his mixture of relief and annoyance. “First, I will create it so that I am aware of every book you pull from a shelf and every spell you read. Second, at the end of each week, you will write me a summary of what you have learned, as well as theoretical scenarios in which such spells could be employed; thus will you be able to receive credit as another independent study for all the work you will be doing. Third, the pass will be charmed so that you cannot reveal to anyone that which you have learned without my express permission, and don’t think it will be easily obtained.”
Her mind roared with glee, for even Dumbledore would not be able to violate the charm she would place on that pass.
Harry released a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding and slowly nodded. Nothing for which McGonagall was asking was unreasonable and it was nothing he wasn’t prepared to relinquish; he had anticipated far greater difficulty.
Minerva had expected his surrender, so she went in for the kill. “Finally, you will agree to private lessons with me in the Room of Requirement - yes, I know all about that room - where you can practice what you have learned without fear of reprisals or of harming anyone. Further, should I deem it necessary, I will invite at my discretion any faculty member or other witch or wizard whom I believe could assist in your development, even if such people are those with whom you would prefer not to interact.”
He glared at her and then turned to Luna, who nodded. “Don’t say no out of fear of Snape or anyone else. The Professor is not going to tolerate nonsense from anyone. You have to trust somebody, Harry, and I think it should be her.”
“I advise you to listen to Miss Lovegood,” McGonagall added, stunned by her own words, “and I promise that I will not take advantage of that trust.”
never would,” Harry whispered, his tone unintentionally scathing. He cleared his throat and nodded. “Thank you, ma’am.”
“Will there be anything else?”
“Yes. I’m resigning from the Quidditch team.”
Her eyes became the size of saucers. “Oh, Harry! Please don’t do this! Aside from the rather perverse pleasure I get out of snatching the cup out from under Slytherin every year, your resignation would be catastrophic for the team morale.”
“Then they’re not a very good team if they place all of their hopes on a single player,” Luna demurred.
Both Harry and McGonagall blinked and turned to stare at Luna, who appeared rather bored. Silence reigned for several moments.
“Yes,” the Professor finally sighed. “Well...yes. An excellent, though rather tragic, point, Miss Lovegood.”
“I just don’t have the time, Professor,” Harry continued. “I have other priorities now. You of all people know how much Quidditch means to me; these past years, it’s often been my only solace. But if I’m going to demand to be treated as an adult, then I have to start acting like one, which means that I must sometimes make choices which don’t necessarily benefit me.”
She sighed again. “I wish I could change your mind, but I understand. However, I insist upon informing the team myself, and I shall take responsibility for your absence.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I can and I will. This is nonnegotiable, Mister Potter,” she said sternly. “You know how seriously Quidditch is taken at this school. Do you have any idea what would happen were it to get out that you voluntarily quit? You remember what it was like for you during fourth year; your own House, with the exception of Miss Granger, all but abandoned you!” She shook her head. “Never have I been so ashamed and disheartened as I was by that behavior. I simply refuse to allow it to happen once more. As you said, you have enough to consider without your own House turning on you yet again.”
“But what will you tell them?”
McGonagall waved her hand. “I will make up some excuse as to why you are no longer on the team, and I dare one person of any House to aim one untoward remark my way.” She pursed her lips and became thoughtful. “It’s perhaps easiest to claim that Umbridge’s ban still holds and that you are simply no longer allowed to play. For all I know, it might even be true.”
“Ginny,” he blurted. “She has the potential be an excellent Seeker, and she already has some experience under her belt, thanks to Umbridge. If you speak with her soon, I can begin to train her next month for tryouts while I’m at the Burrow.”
McGonagall wondered why the boy simply couldn't contact the Weasley girl himself, but refrained from asking. That Harry was willing to forfeit some of his summer holidays to train a possible replacement was gratifying, so she had no qualms about acceding to his request.
Harry frowned. “Although Colin Creevey has the build and would probably do well, too. I’m just not sure he could handle the pressure.” He gnawed on his lip. “Who will be the team captain?”
“Miss Bell,” she answered, rather relieved when he appeared pleased at the news. Dear Merlin! Was she really so dependent on the boy’s approval? Well, when it came to Quidditch, perhaps she was.
“Katie’s an excellent choice, and while Angelina was competent, I imagine Katie will be more like Oliver and keep the team in a firm grasp.”
McGonagall’s shock was obvious.
Harry's answering smile was rather cheeky. “I gather you thought I would advocate for Ron. He’s a brilliant tactician and he knows a lot about Quidditch, of course, but he has a tendency to become obsessive and he would most likely alienate the entire team before the first game.” He shrugged. “He also hasn’t been on the team long enough to justify the appointment; the others would rebel. And, frankly, even though Ron is my best mate, I don’t think he could balance the captainship in addition to his Prefect duties.”
“You’ve been rather underestimated, haven’t you, Mister Potter?”
Luna nodded. “Yes. He has."
Harry, however, was lost in a Quidditch haze. “Ginny, I think. For Seeker. Colin would cave were he pitted against Malfoy or Cho. Ginny wouldn’t care. She has the concentration and is used to Malfoy’s insults.”
“Agreed,” Minerva said. She would owl Miss Weasley later in the day. She suppressed her sigh as her rage for Dolores Umbridge once again sparked. Stupid cow. “I am very pleased that even though you are relinquishing something in which you find pleasure, you are still able to see the big picture and plan accordingly for others. Let me handle this, Mister Potter. It’s one thing to be an adult; it’s quite another to be a martyr. I think you’ve sacrificed enough, don’t you?”
“It’s okay if you want to cry,” Luna told him, patting his cheek.
He laughed instead, understanding that was her sole intention. He reached up and grabbed her hand, entwining their fingers, at which McGonagall raised an eyebrow. Harry caught the look and blushed before he began fidgeting.
“Er, Professor. Luna and I aren’t together, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Harry,” Luna warned.
“You said I have to trust someone.”
“There is a limit.”
“What is going on here?,” McGonagall demanded.
“I sometimes like boys.”
She pressed a hand to her chest. “Is that all? Oh, thank Merlin!,” she exclaimed. “I thought you were going to tell me you had gotten some witch up the duff or something!”
She shook her head to dispel her queasiness, before noting with amusement the Lovegood girl’s smirk and the boy’s baffled expression.
“Potter, honestly, do you think you’re the first? Please. You’re not the first in your House, in your year, nor the first in your House in
She suppressed a grin as she watched him try to process who the other or others might be. She supposed she shouldn’t have been so forthcoming, but truly, Mister Finnegan was more than a bit obvious about his tastes; if it had a pulse, he was interested. She wasn’t even sure that a pulse was requisite.
She cleared her throat. “I admit I’m somewhat taken aback, simply because I witnessed your fondness for that Chang girl, but it’s certainly not earth-shattering.”
McGonagall thought about her words and, once they registered, she struggled to keep her face stoic. It had never been about Chang, she realized, but Diggory. Oh, Harry
She decided to press her luck and fish for information, narrowing her eyes. “However, if I find out that you and Mister Weasley are using your dorm room to...”
“I don’t like Ron!,” Harry barked. “Not like that, I mean,” he choked, his face scarlet.
She studied him for a moment, feeling vaguely guilty at her delight in making him squirm. “Very well. As long as you observe the rules for any dating couple while at this institution, there should be no problem. Why were you so concerned with telling me?”
“It’s a problem for Muggles,” Luna explained. “There are laws and such throughout the world. Beatings, blatant discrimination, and the like are commonplace. While recognized as equals in England, homosexuals are usually not permitted to marry nor raise children in most other countries. They can even be jailed for having relations.”
McGonagall looked incredulous and colored slightly at the word ‘relations’. “How utterly barbaric!”
She turned to Harry. “Potter! Some advice: who you love is simply who you love, and that’s the end of it. Now, if this is something you wish you to keep to yourself, then I will hold your confidence. Who you wish to tell is certainly your own business.” She glared at him. “However, if someone learns of this and attempts any sort of extortion, you will inform me immediately. If you choose to announce it to the world at large and you suffer any harassment for it from those in this school, you will inform me of that
immediately. I will not tolerate foolishness. Not yours and not that of anyone. Is that understood?”
“Yes ma’am!” He had paled considerably.
“Harry does still like girls, you know,” Luna confided. “It’s nice that he's not exclusionary.”
“Well, congratulations on your versatility, Mister Potter,” Minerva drawled, pleased when she saw him flush once again; this was far too easy and rather enjoyable. She quickly filled out a registration form and spelled the ink dry to seal the charm.
“Now, I will keep a copy of this for my own records and one will be sent to you via owl along with your new schedule. You are to give this copy to the Headmaster before you and Miss Lovegood leave the school. If he has any questions, you tell him he is to come to me to discuss them. If that is all, I wish you good day.”
Hopefully, Dumbledore would distract Harry long enough for her to conspire with Poppy to keep the boy on the grounds for the remainder of the summer.
“There’s one more thing, Professor.”
“Yes, Miss Lovegood?”
Luna turned to Harry. “Show her.”
He blinked as he puzzled over what she meant. When he realized, he shivered and blanched. “No!”
“Luna, I said no!”
The girl rolled her eyes and waved her wand. Immediately, Harry was thrown to his feet and began marching toward McGonagall.
With another wave of her wand, Luna canceled the concealing glamour on Harry’s wrist. Another wave and his arm was held out in front of McGonagall’s face. Both the McGonagall and Harry were so startled, neither stopped to notice that Luna had cast her spells soundlessly.
“What do you see?,” Luna demanded.
Minerva, taken aback by her tone, peered closely. “I must not tell lies.”
The girls nodded. “Umbridge. Detention. Blood Quill.”
At once McGonagall stood, her scowl furious and her eyes enraged. She crossed to her fireplace and threw a handful of dust into its mouth.
Momentarily, Snape’s head appeared in the grate. “Minerva,” he greeted. Then he spied Harry and Luna. “Everyone,” he sneered.
Harry rolled his eyes, while Luna stared.
“Severus! Gather Pomona, Filius, and Poppy and meet me in Dumbledore’s office at once!”
“Professor...,” Harry said weakly.
“Shut it, Potter!,” she barked. “How you could not have come to me with this immediately does your supposed intelligence a great disservice!”
Severus cocked a brow as he watched Potter’s face fall; to be chastised by a professor whom the boy obviously respected appeared to be a harsh blow for him. Interesting.
“I’ll see you there shortly,” he addressed McGonagall, before disappearing from the flames.
Minerva turned to the students. “Both of you! Come with me!”* * * * *
Alastor Moody rambled about his small home, still cursing the fact that some random house elf had managed to breach his wards last night to deliver a letter. While Potter’s epistle was disquieting, he was more upset about that blasted elf. He should have taken into account the fact that most wizarding wards provided no defense against other magical creatures. What was to halt an elf owned by some accursed Death Eater from penetrating his defenses for nefarious purposes?
Right. Well then, perhaps the elf’s appearance should be viewed in a more favorable light. He must look into ways of denying anyone, human or not, entrance to his sanctuary. Pleased, he turned his attention to other matters.
Potter’s letter was surprising and disturbing. He was frankly astonished that the boy had contacted him in secret and was rather pleased that he had not done so by using his very recognizable owl. That he had instead employed a free house elf to deliver his missive was inspired and implied to Moody that the boy was not incapable of rational thought. It was the contents of the letter which were so injurious.
Potter had laid out his suspicions and asked pertinent questions to which Moody believed the boy already should have had answers. What the hell was Dumbledore playing at, keeping the boy so misinformed? To what possible end could the old wizard have believed such action to be wise?
At first, Moody had almost dismissed the boy’s concerns out of hand, as if they were nothing more than a teenager’s petulance, but the fact that Potter had sought him out when they had almost no relationship, and especially after the farce with Crouch, suggested the boy had reason to be wary. Moody had laughed out loud when Potter had asked if he was simply being paranoid. Paranoia was a wonderful gift! Especially for a boy under such scrutiny.
Also impressive was that Potter had bypassed those Moody was sure Dumbledore would have expected the boy to approach. Molly Weasley was a smart choice, and he was sure Potter was capitalizing on her affection. Excellent strategy. The woman was formidable, and not even Albus Dumbledore intimidated her when a child was at risk.
Amelia Bones was also a clever idea, though it was obvious from the letter that Potter had no idea she was the new Minister, still believing her to be the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. That should prove entertaining, though it rather stuck in Moody’s craw. What was Dumbledore doing, keeping the boy so isolated from the wizarding world? It made absolutely no sense. Oh, he was sure it made sense to Dumbledore, but that meant little to Moody, who often thought Dumbledore believed all of this to be some exquisite game, a tidy little whatsit of Good versus Evil.
Well, that was quite charming in theory, but impractical. Moody was sure that Albus sat in his office on his throne with his pet Death Eater at his side and silently laughed as he yanked on people’s strings. Not that he believed the old buzzard was malicious per se, just idiotically myopic.
Dumbledore had maneuvered all of this so that Potter would be forced to confront Voldemort. Why? Because some prophecy suggested it must be so? Moody snorted. Prophecy, indeed. He couldn’t believe someone as allegedly intelligent as Dumbledore put so much stock in Divination. It was asinine. If Dumbledore was so intent on using Potter as weapon, why hadn’t he had the boy trained? It was obvious to anyone with any whit of sense who spent even five minutes in the company of Harry Potter that the boy had enough power to topple the wizarding world if he so wanted.
And that’s when Moody understood. He smirked.
Dumbledore feared what the boy would do were he not kept in check, and that was wise. For the past two decades, he had heard that Aurors were now trained to overcome their fears, but that was fallacy. Fear was necessary; if employed correctly, it forced one to rely on logic in making split-second decisions rather than emotion. One should struggle to recognize fear for what it was, a warning, and not to discount it.
Still, Dumbledore was being ludicrous. If Potter was truly interested in becoming the next Dark Lord, he would have taken steps already; he would have declared his allegiance to Voldemort and thrown in his lot. Moody was quite sure Voldemort had already extended the offer, and he wondered what enticements had been held up as carrots.
Were Potter to align himself, there was no limit to what Voldemort would be willing to concede, even his own followers. If Potter was evil, he would have taken the Dark Mark and called for the executions of Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy, quite possibly Snape, and a host of others. In fact, he was betting Voldemort would make another offer quite soon, especially after that debacle in the Ministry. The death of Sirius Black had all but shattered Potter, and he would rightfully want vengeance against Lestrange, as well as against Dolohov for attacking Granger.
Well, so be it. Moody believed that if Potter had turned down Voldemort once before, he would again. Dumbledore’s mistake was consistently underestimating who Potter was as a person
, too focused on Potter the wizard
. The boy had already gone to great lengths to demonstrate that even if he cared little for himself, he would fight and die for his friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger in particular. Moody assumed that protection had now been extended to Ginevra Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood.
Ah, there was a proper witch.
Moody remembered too well the girl’s mother, and Luna was an excellent blending of her parents. She had her father’s paranoia and belief in all things possible, and her mother’s intelligence and ferocity. That she had so firmly declared herself in Potter’s camp was both interesting and enlightening, and he was quite sure Dumbledore hadn’t seen it coming, though he was most likely preparing for a way to press this new advantage.
However, Moody didn’t believe the Lovegood girl was under any illusions as to the character of her Headmaster. She had purposefully cultivated a reputation as a misfit so that she might better keep a watchful eye on her surroundings and the people who moved within them, all the while subtly encouraging them to discount her with their every glance.
Clever, clever girl.
And when Harry had listed in his letter the others to whom he planned to reach out, Moody was sold. He couldn’t wait to see what the boy would do next, and what Albus would do when he realized a mere child had placed him firmly in check.
Alastor Moody cackled. Things just became interesting.* * * * *
Neville Longbottom had abandoned his manor house proper and sought refuge in the conservatory, trying to discern what had laid behind his grandmother’s tenacious interrogation an hour previous.
She had first demanded to be told everything he knew about Harry Potter, and he had started to become annoyed, fearing that she would try to separate him from Harry, and by association Ron, Hermione, Luna, and Ginny. That would never happen, of course, his grandmother’s approval notwithstanding. After everything that had happened the year previous, which had culminated in their mission at the Department of Mysteries, Neville was not about to let anyone nor anything interfere in his relationships with his friends.
She had surprised him, however, by quickly segueing from Harry to Dumbledore. He had no idea what she was on about; the most he was able to determine was that she had problems with the man. She had all but commanded him to avoid the Headmaster unless absolutely necessary, and told him he was never to speak with Dumbledore alone. If the man ever demanded such an audience, Neville was to notify her at once. That was odd.
But not really.
Neville had to admit that he had felt rather abandoned when Dumbledore had all but disappeared from Hogwarts last term, taking off for parts unknown to do Merlin knew what, and relinquishing control to Umbridge. True that he had not much choice, but surely he could have stuck around and fought the Ministry. Had the students’ parents ever learned of what that woman had been doing, they would have rallied behind Dumbledore to have Umbridge tossed into Azkaban.
He snorted. “Good place for her, the stupid cow.”
He looked around guiltily, fretting he might have been overheard.
He picked up the nearest trowel and began repotting some mandrake saplings. After the events in second year, he had determined it would be good to have some on hand. After all, who knew if Voldemort had more basilisks waiting in the wings? He knew it wasn’t much, but beyond his Herbology talent, he didn’t have much to offer, other than as a foot soldier. He wasn’t the most skilled in combat or the most talented at spellcasting, but he was loyal, a trait which he knew Harry valued above all others.
He had to admit that it was rather nice being friends with Harry. When he had first met the boy, he had been both thrilled and terrified, but the more he had gotten to know him, the more Neville had realized that Harry was nice; he wasn’t conceited or arrogant as others had often accused him of being, and he was a good friend. Neville trusted Harry with his life, which was no small feat. It had taken a lot for him to stand up to the Golden Trio in first year, when they had stormed off after the Stone, but they had appreciated the fact that he had been worried about their safety. They, Harry in particular, always stood up for him, whether it be against Malfoy, or Snape, or even against other members of their own House. Harry had told him that the Hat had put him in Gryffindor for a reason, and that Neville belonged there just as much as anyone else.
Neville still wasn’t sure about that. He often thought the Hat had made a colossal blunder in its Sorting, but there was little he could do about it. He had always believed he would be Sorted into Hufflepuff and that had been fine with him; there were certainly worse things than being regarded as loyal and industrious. His grandmother had been pleased he had put into Gryffindor, of course, as if it was some sort of validation; both of his parents, after all, had been Gryffindors.
He sighed. He supposed he should make arrangements to visit them before he was due to go back to Hogwarts. He used to think it would get easier over time, but it had only gotten worse. He guessed that a child never outgrew their need for their parents.* * * * *
Andromeda Tonks was bustling around her kitchen, preparing to begin supper.
While she didn’t miss most things about the wizarding world, she often longed for a house elf. Not that she really needed one, of course, with just she and her husband rambling about their townhouse. It was still hard to believe that Nymphadora had moved out over five years ago. The house just seemed so empty without her and the constant - and loud - accidents.
She gave a small smile and sent up a silent prayer to whomever might be listening to keep an eye on her daughter. Though she knew Nymphadora was a brilliant Auror, Andromeda still followed the progress of the wizarding world, and Voldemort had been too quiet for too long.
She was startled from her thoughts by a quick and insistent rapping on her front door. Wiping her hands on her apron and blowing a lock of hair from her face, she rambled toward the sound of the intrusion and threw back the door.
“Do you open your door to just anyone?”
“Apparently,” Andromeda snapped. “What in Tartarus do you want, Narcissa?”* * * * *
Bill Weasley stormed into his apartment in Diagon Alley and slammed the door behind him. The goblins had insisted that he take the rest of the day off; in his present state, he was of no use to them or anyone else. He had been faintly surprised that they were as outraged as he, but perhaps it was to be expected under the circumstances.
!,” he snarled.
“William!,” Fleur scolded, bustling out of the kitchen. “About whom are you speaking? And why are you home at this hour?,” she demanded. Her eyes widened and her frown died as her lips parted in concern. “I have never seen you this upset,” she fretted, turning back into the kitchen and fetching him a glass of water.
He followed, sat down at their small café table and put his head in his hands.
“I’m not supposed to say anything,” he ground out. “Gringotts laws of confidentiality and all that, but more importantly, I can’t break Harry’s trust.”
“Harry?,” she repeated. “This is about Harry? Has something happened to him?,” she trilled.
Bill raised his head and stared at her, blinking. “Are you all right, love? I knew you liked Harry, but I didn’t know you were quite so fond of him.”
“He saved my sister’s life!,” Fleur exclaimed, with a tone which indicated she thought him stupid for not remembering as much. “I thought for sure Gabrielle would perish in that lake, but out of nowhere, Harry broke the surface of the water with both she and your brother! My entire family owes him a life debt!”
He was confused. “But it was all part of the Tournament, wasn’t it? Nothing truly bad would have happened to Gabrielle if Harry hadn’t pulled her out of the water.”
She gave him an incredulous look. “Well, we certainly didn’t know that, did we?,” she testily retorted. “You have no idea what is was like for me, being underwater, utterly and completely terrified that my incompetence would kill my sister; of the shame and guilt I felt leaving her behind so that I wouldn’t drown myself; waiting on the dock, shivering almost to the point of convulsions, wondering how I would tell my parents that their youngest child was dead.” She paused and gave a dreamy sigh. “And then he emerged, with Gabrielle in his arms.”
Bill managed not to roll his eyes and said nothing as he quietly watched her blink back tears. He had never truly realized just how horrible that accursed Tournament had been for all of the Champions, and now he sat and pondered her words.
No, he couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for her. Charlie, not knowing the rules of the Tournament, had been furious once he realized it was Ron whom Harry was to rescue, as almost everyone was convinced it was Hermione, who had also been missing; in fact, Charlie had found the whole Task utterly perverse.
Bill frowned as he began remembering that Charlie had been just as concerned for Harry as he was for Ron and Hermione; more so in fact. Interesting. Especially since Charlie really didn’t know Harry; he still didn’t. He supposed it didn’t matter anyway; Harry simply inspired devotion just by being himself. That he thought himself rather unremarkable was simply more reason to care for him.
He forced himself to focus. Harry had not only rescued Ron, but Gabrielle as well, completely disregarding his own life; all he had known was to save as many people as he could. Bill had no doubt that had Krum not successfully freed Hermione, Harry would have found a way to rescue her as well, or die trying.
He then thought about Ginny and how Harry had saved her from the Chamber in her first year, not even really knowing her, but desperate to save the sister of his best mate. If any family truly owed a life debt to Harry Potter, it was the Weasleys.
There was still a lot Bill didn’t know about that particular escapade; Ginny had been unconscious for most of it and couldn’t recall anything, and Harry had been frustratingly tight-lipped. He was doubtful that even Ron and Hermione had all of the details. All of these things served merely to reinforce his anger at what had been done to Harry Potter, and if his fiancée was of the same mind, then Harry had a new ally, and a powerful one at that.
“Dumbledore,” he seethed.
Fleur’s eyes widened in partial understanding. “Foolish old man! Making Harry compete in the Tournament! Fourteen years old! Kidnapping children!,” she raged. “Cedric!
” She at once became wistful and gave a gentle sigh. “Cedric liked Harry, you know.”
“Almost everyone likes Harry,” replied a distracted Bill. He then thought of Snape and Fudge. “Well, save for the wretchedly cruel and stunningly stupid.”
She gave him a withering glare. “No, William. Cedric liked
His eyes became the size of saucers.
“Oh,” he whispered. “Did...did Harry like Cedric as well?” Poor Harry’s life seemed destined to become a Greek tragedy of epic proportions.
“I do not know,” Fleur admitted. “Harry is one of the few people whom I cannot read. He has no reaction to my Veela magic.”
“None? At all
?,” he sputtered. “I thought he was just being polite out of respect for us.”
“Well, Harry is very respectful, of course,” she conceded, “but he never treated me as anything more than another Champion. He was cordial, always, though I regret to say I was not,” she confessed, her cheeks slightly pinking. “I think he was rather embarrassed by Ronald’s reaction to me.” She paused and cocked a brow. “In fact, I’m not sure for which of us he was more embarrassed,” she mused, a slight smile on her face.
“Perhaps Harry prefers boys,” Bill shrugged. Given the day’s more shocking revelations, he was surprised to recall so strongly Harry’s apparent crush on Charlie, but it came readily enough.
She waved a dismissive hand. “Harry likes a bit of both, I think, but that is of no consequence; beauty is beauty. Most people do not understand the way of the Veela. We don’t compel people to become nymphomaniacs or anything so ridiculous. We simply exude an aura of comeliness to which people respond; although, unfortunately, sometimes that reaction is more visceral than that which we would like. Even among those who prefer people of the same gender, a reaction is almost guaranteed. Not from Harry, though.”
“He does seem very...controlled.”
“Abnormally so, I think.”
“How do you mean?,” he asked, understanding exactly what she meant, but wanting her to explain her reasoning. Fleur was disarmingly insightful; he wished his family would give her a chance.
“Well, don’t you think that anyone who had been through half of what Harry has endured would have been rendered a lunatic? And I think more has happened to him than anyone even knows.”
Bill snorted. “More than you can imagine.” Her eyes narrowed and he realized that she was abandoning pretense and taking a page straight from the book of her future mother-in-law.
“What are you talking about? What do you know? Has it something to do with why you’re home so early?”
“Harry came to see me today.”
“They let him out of his prison?,” she asked snidely.
He sneered in concert. “Too right. I think Harry’s finally learned that if he stops begging for the simple things and instead demands them, he’ll find little to no opposition. He wanted to meet that Lovegood girl and he needed to go to Gringotts.”
Fleur’s brow furrowed. “Luna? I did not realize they were so close.”
“You know Luna?,” he asked, confused.
“Well of course I do!,” she laughed. “She’s my cousin, after all!”
“Have you even looked over the guest list?,” she demanded, mock annoyance clouding her face. “Yes, she’s my cousin. Several times removed, but she is family through her mother’s side.”
Bill was flabbergasted. “I can’t believe I never realized. My family has known the Lovegoods forever. They live right up the street, you know.”
“Yes, I do,” she grinned.
He rolled his eyes. “Whatever.” He then frowned. “Is Luna part Veela? Perhaps that explains Harry’s interest in her.”
Enraged, Fleur rose to her feet. “Oh, so he couldn’t like her just for her, is that it?”
Bill’s eyes widened; too often he forgot about the Veela temper. “That’s not what I meant at all!,” he sputtered, though it was.
“Yes, it was!,” she challenged. She huffed and sat back down. “Luna probably has some Veela blood in her, but only a trace amount, and if Harry has no reaction to me, he certainly would have none to her, at least in that way.” She shrugged. “Luna has other gifts.”
“Is that right?”
“So what did Harry need at Gringotts?”
He raised an eyebrow, knowing better than to press her on something she wished left alone. “Well,” he began slowly, “he initially came in to make a small withdrawal from his vault, but once he arrived...”
He then launched into that morning’s misadventures, watching as her expression flitted from surprise to horror to outrage and, finally, to righteous indignation.
“That’s illegal!,” she screamed, once he was finished. “And immoral! And...and...,” she panted, trying to catch her breath and rid herself of the bile building up inside her throat.
He nodded, the gesture one of both sadness and anger.
“What is Harry going to do now?,” she hissed.
He smirked. “He has a plan, you see...”
She gave a feral grin and eagerly leaned forward.
Bill Weasley was once again reminded why he was the luckiest man in the world.