“Ms. Granger, do you know why you are here?” Dumbledore asked in his “headmaster” voice. Beside him were Professors Spout, Flitwick, McGonagall and Snape, the heads of houses.
“People are upset that I am taking points,” Hermione said. It was ultimately true. That’s what people were really upset about.
“Perhaps, in a way,” Dumbledore began slowly. “There have been some accusations regarding your behavior.”
“Accusations, Professor?” Hermione asked, feigning ignorance. “What accusations?”
“Some individuals have come forward with protests against your rationale for deducting points,” Professor McGonagall stated diplomatically.
“Oh dear,” Hermione said innocently. “What did Professor Umbridge have to say?”
The professors tried, truly tried to keep from smiling, even Snape, but their collective dislike of the Umbridge invasion was such that they couldn’t keep the amusement from their faces. They did, however manage to keep from laughing outright.
“Professor Umbridge has expressed her displeasure at your comments regarding the trial of Harry Potter and the return of a certain dark wizard,” Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling and shoulders shaking from restrained laughter.
“A shame she didn’t say anything to me,” Hermione said blithely.
“Yes,” sneered Snape, though this time it was not directed at the Granger girl. “A shame.”
“If she had, I might have reminded her that on page fifty-two of the addendum to the Hogwarts School Handbook regarding Prefect conduct that prefects like myself have the ability and duty to deduct points for unseemly behavior,” Hermione said with an innocent smile. “Most people would classify hateful lies as unseemly behavior.”
“Unfortunately, most people believe those lies,” Professor Sprout said sadly.
“Yes, but there was a time that a majority of people thought that the world was flat,” Hermione said. “Just because many people believe something doesn’t make it true.”
“Quite right,” Flitwick said. “Fifty points to Gryffindor for detailed and well thought out analogies.”
“Thank you, Professor,” Hermione said humbly, giving them a little bow from her chair. She had just the barest smile on her face, but struggled to look like it was a serious issue.
“However, you do realize that Professor Umbridge is not going to let this continue without a fight,” McGonagall stated.
“I would hope so,” Hermione said. “The more she tries to fight me, to subjugate me, the more effort she has to exert, in order to do so. When I consistently press my point, people will start to wonder why Umbridge is putting so much effort into working against me. And I can assure you, that
lady shall protest to much.”
“Do be careful Ms. Granger,” Dumbledore said. “She has certain… allies.”
“Should I be worried about dementors, then?” Hermione asked. “After all, they were sent after the last student the Ministry tried to silence.”
“I should hope not!” Sprout said in outrage. Clearly, she didn’t think too highly of the current administration, either.
“I do think I shall work on my Patronus this year,” Hermione said with a serene smile. “Just to be on the safe side.”
“Very well,” the Headmaster said. “I’ll tell the professor that we spoke.”
“Thank you,” Hermione said with that same serene smile.
“That was bloody amazing,” Sirius said, feeling like a kid again. He swung an imaginary sword around as they trudged back home after a long day’s practice. “Haven’t held a sword since I was a kid. Fair difference from those fencing lessons Dear Old Mum insisted I have, but the principle is the same.”
“What principle is that?” Harry asked.
“Put the stabby end in the other guy,” Sirius replied with a grin.
impressed,” Tonks said. “You hadn’t lost much skill. I, on the other hand, was a pure beginner. I did enjoy the unarmed fight I saw. Like dancing with fists and kicks. But you, Harry, you were incredible. Was that really just the second time you’d worked with them?”
“I really like the bow,” Harry said. “It feels…natural.”
“You certainly seem like a natural,” Sirius said. “The General told me he’d never seen anyone improve that fast.”
Harry shrugged. “Marion Archer, and yes, that’s her real name, gave me some suggestions as for what to do next.”
“Such as?” Sirius asked.
“Buying a better bow, for one,” Harry said. "Apparently, mine is just for beginners. She wants to see me with a greater pull. Marion suggested I build my own.”
“You can build bows?” Tonks said. “Why do that?”
“I guess it’s a test of some kind,” Harry said. “They thought my first one wouldn’t be all that great, but you learn from making mistakes. I think I’m going to try.”
“You should do it,” Sirius prompted.
“I think I will.”
When they finally got back, Moody was waiting for them. “Letter for Harry,” he said as he put it in the boy’s palm. “Nice coat.”
“Thanks, I think,” Harry said as he opened the letter. Dear Harry, I regret to inform you that I have as yet been unable to convince the Wizengamot to reverse their decision; however, I have rescued the pieces of your wand and have sent them to your godfather for safekeeping. Be warned, Harry, do not even TRY to use the pieces as Hagrid does or the Trace might uncover the location of Headquarters, even under the Fidelius Charm. Please, do not think that I am giving up on you as I am trying my hardest. Try to study up and perhaps when things change, you can be up to speed on your classes. Regretfully, Albus Dumbledore
“What was it, Harry?” Sirius asked.
“Dumbledore saved my wand pieces, but he doesn’t want me to use them,” Harry explained. “I’ll write him back and send Hedwig out.”
“That might be a bad idea,” Moody said. “Rumor is out that Umbridge is checking mail for anything from you or for you.”
“Is that why I haven’t heard from anybody in the last couple of weeks?” Harry pondered.
“Like as not, Harry, like as not,” Moody said, trudging off.
Harry went upstairs to his room and wrote out a reply letter to the Headmaster and then to Ron and Hermione. He just talked about what had been happening around Number 12, but colored the story behind the archery a bit differently than the actual events. He told his friends everything. Every single detail of what had been happening. As depressing as it had started, it was beginning to morph into the best year he’d had in some time. Dear Hermione, I kept my promise. I found something I love. Archery. I never thought about it before, but I ran into some people who were part of a reenactment group called the Knights of Byzantium and got sucked in. I’ve got a bow, a sword and a new coat to fill out the look. Tonks gave me the coat and it seems to fit well. I hope everything is going well at school. The last letter I got told about the troll of a woman who’s teaching DADA. I heard even Snape complain about her. The fact that he said it in my presence was enough to show his hatred of the woman. Professor McGonagall had a bit too much wine at the last meeting and talked at length about her feelings for the woman. Just let me say that Minerva McGonagall has one scary vocabulary. She used about every dirty phrase in existence to describe Umbridge. When is the next Hogsmeade trip? Maybe I can meet you both up there? I miss you both. Also, I won’t be sending letters anymore, since Moody says they’re all being searched by Umbridge. Instead, I’ll send Special Agent Nymphadora Tonks to hand deliver them. She’s faster than any owl, anyways. Don’t tell Hedwig I said that because I’ll never hear the end of it and I like my fingers and ears where they are. As for that project I asked you about? Try to get the wand of someone nasty like the ferret or one of the bookends. You won’t want this to come back on you. Speaking of wands, would you be willing to look up the exact wording of the Decree for the Reasonable Restrictions on Underage Sorcery? Does it just ban wand use, or magic? I’m not interested in what they intend for it to say, what does it state specifically? All thanks, Harry
When he was done, Harry folded it up and sealed it with some wax that they Twins had given him. Only they had the counter agent to remove the seal. Trudging downstairs, he went up to Molly in the kitchen.
“Yes, Harry dear; what can I do for you?” she asked, whisking a wand over a bowl to start it stirring.
“I was wondering if I could send a message through you to Ron and the Twins,” he asked.
“Wouldn’t Hedwig be a better choice?”
“Moody says Umbridge is searching my mail at school,” Harry explained. “There are some things that should only be between friends.”
“Oh, you’re absolutely right,” she agreed. “I’ll do it. Don’t like that woman myself, either.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Weasley,” he said before heading down to the archery range to get a few hours practice in.
The next day, being Sunday, was another weekend morning, and Harry was up and ready for anything. Everyone in the house could see the change in his mood. Even Snape (very deeply on the inside, mind you) was proud of the boy getting past things. Each and every one of them knew that if it had been them, they would have gone insane.
“Hey, Tonks,” Harry said in a playfully cheerful voice, perfect for buttering up someone. Tonks’ warm face fell as she rubbed her temples in anticipation of what his request was going to be.
“I know that tone,” she said slowly turning around with a look of dread on her face. “That’s the tone my idiot cousin uses when he wants something that I probably won’t like. What is it?”
“I need you to deliver some letters for me to Hogwarts,” Harry said.
“That’s all?” she asked. He nodded. *sigh*
“Fine, hand them over. Your other thirds, right?”
“I assume by that, you mean, Hermione and Ron, right?” he inquired. She nodded. “Yeah, them. Thanks, Tonks!” She watched as he walked away, straight backed, self assured and motivated.
He was growing up.
It looked good on him.
Time passed, and a while later, on one of those special weekends, the General called Harry over to talk to him.
“Harry, how are you doing?” he asked the teen. Harry was a little confused.
“Fine, I suppose,” Harry said. “I’m ordering a new bow soon.”
“Well done, I’m glad to see that kind of dedication in someone as young as yourself,” the older man said before taking a swig from his water skin. He carefully capped it and set it down beside him. “I wanted to talk to you about something else. Are you a particularly religious man?”
“I wouldn’t say so,” he said. “Sorry if that offends you. My relatives were C&E people, but I’m not really a follower.”
“No, you didn’t offend me,” the General said with a laugh. “I just like to get to know people a little better. Some of us are very religious; others have a sense of duty and order of a secular nature. Marion told me you came to us when you were expelled?”
“Yes, sir. But it wasn’t my fault,” Harry said, trying to placate him. The General put up a hand to stop him.
“Don’t worry, I have no problem with your situation,” he said. “You were fighting to protect your cousin, isn’t that what Marion said? A noble thing to do.”
“Not really, sir, just the right thing to do,” Harry said. The old man chuckled at that and nodded his head. The General leaned on his walking stick a little, keeping him upright. He’d had a limp since long before Harry had met him, but it seemed worse today.
“Sorry,” the old man apologized, pausing to press his back. “An old war wound. Harry, do you read much? On your own?”
“A friend is pressuring me to finish school, but I haven’t really started yet,” Harry replied quietly. “I really don’t want to disappoint her.”
“Ah, friends like that are good,” the General assured him. “Perhaps I could send you some reading? Some books I like are interesting reading and much of what I like is on common curricula of various institutions. Still, it is best if you get back to school as soon as possible.”
“I think I’d like that,” Harry said. “I need a little more to do. I can’t practice all the time, after all.”
“No, I don’t suppose you could,” the man said with a smile. They chatted about various things for a while, the topic and tone shifting until they spoke of more somber things.
“Tell me Harry, do you believe in Evil?” the General asked quietly with a touch of sadness in his voice. “I’m not talking about simply breaking the law, shoplifting or stealing a radio or some such. I’m talking about reprehensible acts that there is no forgiveness for.”
“Yes I do,” Harry said. “My parents were killed on Halloween when I was a toddler, and I don’t really remember it, but the man who did it? He’s Evil. There’s no other way to describe him.”
“Ah, so you do understand,” the General said, his voice suggesting that Harry had just risen in status in the General’s mind.
“He‘s not the only one,” Harry said. “There’s more evil than just him.”
“Indeed, I agree,” the General said. “Two years ago, my daughter went insane.”
Harry’s head whipped around. “I’m sorry to hear that sir.”
“No, it’s not a problem,” the man explained. “It was sudden. The doctors couldn’t tell what it was, but she was clearly not alone in the affliction.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “Eventually I will find what did that to her. And when I do…”
“I know how you feel sir,” Harry said. “It’s something I’ve thought about constantly. That murderer I told you about? He came back last spring and killed a friend of mine. I’ve had plenty of time to think about what to do to evil, sir.”
“Then you understand my conundrum, Harry,” the General said. “Have you ever read Ecclesiastes
?” Harry shook his head. “I’m a man of Faith, Harry, and of all the books, that one is the hardest for me to live by. It says that there is a time for everything: a time to live and a time to die, a time to reap, and a time to sow. It is the hardest to accept because it demands that I give up on certain things, it explains that there are some things that I just do not have control over.”
“Like chaos, sir?”
“No, more like events will happen as they happen, no matter what mortals wish,” the General said. “But I’m turning into an old man. I’ll do my duty and hope that it brings vengeance on that which wronged my daughter, but I’m stuck in my ways. Hopefully you won’t have the same problem.”
“You are young, adaptable,” he told the teen. “Don’t fall into the same patterns. You should learn to live and love. Another part about Ecclesiastes is that it tells that we should all learn to take things in their proper place.”
“It sounds like you’re talking about the Byrds' song,” Harry said. The General raised an eyebrow. Harry blushed slightly and shrugged. “My aunt was a fan, so I listened to her records when they weren’t home.”
“But, yes, that song was taken from Ecclesiastes by a man named Pete Seeger,” the General said. “It’s a conundrum that most biblical scholars have pondered at some time during their careers. You see, it is much more in line with eastern philosophies than western beliefs, especially considering the other books of that testament. It is very similar to that of the I Ching in some respects. Forgive me, I’m rambling.”
“No sir, I just don’t have a very good background in such things, though I think I’ll look into them,” Harry said.
“Good, good. But the core of the matter I wanted to speak with you about before this old man climbed aboard his soap box was that there is a time for everything: anger, rage, hate, but there must also be a time for love, forgiveness, and acceptance,” the General said. That brought Harry up short. “But you can, to a certain extent, determine when you do which. Now, go practice. Marion’s been giving me the hairy eyeball for a while now. I think she wants to teach you a few arrow tricks.”
“Thank you, sir,” Harry said as he scampered back down the hill. The General watched him with a self satisfied look.
“Yes, I think this one will do nicely.” And then he went back to berating would-be swordsmen.
Thanks go again to GreyWizard for all the editing help!