Raid and Ron
Many of you have been decrying the legal system that would let all of this happen to Harry. Snape's attempt at rape is barely enough to get him fired; Draco's attempted kidnapping results in
points and detention. It's all utterly unfair to our hero.
That's my point.
Any society that could turn the girls into chattel, and not see the inherent problem with that, has a screwed up legal system. After Harry's trial in OotP, we've seen that.
This story is simply working within that framework.
Oh, and anyone who dislikes Ron bashing? You may want to bail now. It comes to a climax here.
"Have you given any further thought about how to defeat Riddle?" Tracey asked one evening.
Harry put down his potions book and sighed. "I can see three problems. First is finding him. Second is getting rid of his Death Eaters or at least getting past them. Third is making him weak enough that it's possible to bring him down."
"Don't you mean making you strong enough?" Daphne asked.
Harry shook his head. "He has decades of experience in the dark arts and he's widely regarded as one of the strongest duelers around. He fought Dumbledore to a standstill in the ministry atrium at the end of fifth year. If Dumbledore isn't strong enough to beat him, we have to bring Riddle's power down instead."
Daphne frowned in thought, staring at Harry's opened potions book. "I can think of one way," she said hesitantly.
"What's that?" Harry asked. He followed her line of sight and shook his head. "I thought of a poison already. I've heard through the Order that he tests everything before eating or drinking it."
"How about a binary poison?"
He sighed. "Do you know of any non-magical binary poisons? Besides, I already asked M- . . . one of the Order about that. Part of the tests he does checks against what is already in his system."
"That must be one heck of a test," Tracey observed.
"I don't know where he got it, but with Snape only supposedly being on our side . . ." He grimaced. "I heard some of the details. Honestly, this isn't something you want to hear about."
"I believe you. One thing you should think about, though: Sometimes the removal of a potion that someone is dependent upon is just as debilitating as a poison."
Harry frowned in thought.
Tracey went on, "About the other two problems: can't the Order help on the location?"
Harry snorted in disgust. "Even if they could, do you think they'd tell me? I'm just the weapon. Not like they have to tell me anything."
Tracey frowned. "Stop it. The self-pity thing gets old really fast."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Regardless, my point stands."
"Dumbledore may not be willing to tell you anything, but what about the others?" Daphne asked
"Like any of them would buck Dumbledore's orders?" Harry asked incredulously.
"One of them may," Tracey said thoughtfully. She ignored Harry's curious glance. "Now as for the Death Eaters, leave that to us and your D.A."
Harry's face closed down.
She gave him a stern look. "I thought we'd talked about you trying to do it all alone."
He frowned. "We did," he grudgingly admitted.
"And it was decided that . . ." she prompted him.
"You've made your point," he grumbled.
Tracey nodded in satisfaction. Pushing aside her Transfiguration homework, she pulled out a fresh parchment and dipped her quill into the inkpot.
"What're you doing?" Harry asked.
"Trying to help my husband survive," she answered without looking up.
Taking the hint that she preferred not to inform him, he picked up his potions text again, turning to the index.
The next evening in the Great Hall, Hermione dropped into a seat across from Harry with a huff.
"Hi?" Harry greeted the irate girl in the form of a question.
She just grunted as she pulled some food to her plate.
He waited for a further explanation.
After a few seconds, Tracey amusedly asked, "Okay, what about Weasley?"
Giving an exasperated huff, Hermione looked up and said, "He talked to me after Charms. He wanted to apologize for what he said last week."
"That's good, right?" Harry asked cautiously.
She rolled her eyes. "It would be if that was all he did."
"Before you get to the rest of it, what brought about his apology?" Tracey asked. At Harry's confused look, she elaborated, "Why he apologized may be more important than the fact that he did."
Hermione raised an eyebrow and slowly nodded. "That makes sense. Your suspicion is probably correct. He said Mrs. Weasley had a talk with him this last weekend."
Harry frowned sourly. "So he wasn't apologizing because he was sorry, he was doing it because his Mum forced him to."
"Most likely," Hermione agreed, "and after that, he asked if we could give dating a try again."
Daphne stared at her. "Why in the name of Morgana would he think that you two would work out this time?"
"I don't know," Hermione answered with a shrug.
"Didn't his blinding show of stupidity the first time with you make any kind of impact?" Daphne asked.
Hermione shrugged again and frowned.
"That's what has you so out of sorts?" Harry asked.
"Even if she is, you're not supposed to bring it up," Tracey pointed out.
Harry rolled his eyes. "If I were dating her, maybe that's true, but as she's my best friend, I figure I'm supposed to be concerned about her moods."
"Ooh, he's getting better," Hermione congratulated Daphne and Tracey.
Tracey surreptitiously looked around as Harry stuck his tongue out at Hermione. Seeing nobody besides a highly amused Neville listening, Tracey leaned forward and whispered, "It's been a lot of work, but I hope to have him ready for polite company by the time we graduate."
Daphne, Hermione, and Neville broke into laughter.
Harry groaned and put his face into his hands. "What'd I ever do to deserve this kind of abuse?"
"You got involved with three intelligent and strong-willed women," Neville pointed out with a grin.
"We're involved?" Harry asked Hermione with a querying look.
"Everyone seems to think we are, but I don't remember anything."
Tracey perked up. "Oh, good. They worked."
They all turned to her. "What worked?" Harry asked.
"The Memory Charms."
Hermione stared at her. "I don't remember you Obliviating Harry."
Tracey waved negligently. "Oh, I Obliviated you, too. And the point of it is that you wouldn't remember, right?"
"Er, right," Harry agreed, looking at her strangely.
"Why would you Memory Charm us?" Hermione asked in outrage.
"I could tell you, but then I'd just have to Obliviate you again," Tracey said sadly. Daphne nodded solemnly.
Hermione was all set to rail at her further when she caught sight of Neville's red face. She turned to him just as he broke into laughter.
Harry, cottoning on to what was happening, relaxed. "Minx," he grumbled affectionately.
Tracey gave him a blinding smile.
Wiping the tears from his eyes, Neville gasped, "The look on your face, Hermione." He gave up and resumed laughing.
Hermione folded her arms and huffed in annoyance at the laughing young man.
Neville finally calmed down enough to speak. "I just meant involved as in good friends with, Hermione." He turned to Tracey. "Good joke, though."
She grinned toothily. "Who says it was a joke?"
Harry came back to his apartments from a long session with Flitwick. Rubbing a developing bruise, his only thought was for a long bath and some sleep.
He was completely unprepared for his sitting room to look like the waiting room of a muggle emergency room.
Stopping and blinking repeatedly at the unexpected scene, Harry looked around. Their kneazle Aurora sat atop the bookshelf, clearly annoyed at the D.A. students standing or sprawled about the room. Bruises and minor cuts were visible on everyone. They were all talking, the noise having masked his entrance.
While Harry stared around in bewilderment, a house-elf popped in with an armload of sealed pots.
Without looking away from holding a bandage against Ernie Macmillan's side, Tracey called "Alright, if all you have is bruises, take one of these and rub a bit in every two hours."
More than half of the students moved forward and took small pots from the elf and headed toward the door.
Ginny Weasley was the first to spot Harry and came to an abrupt halt. "Oh."
Harry surveyed the faces suddenly looking at him in a combination of surprise and slight chagrin. "Good evening," he said. "Does anyone want to explain why you're here?"
Silence reigned as most everyone shuffled their feet, looking down.
Neville finally eased forward from the back of the crowd. "I'll explain, Harry, but we need to get the wounded taken care of first."
Harry stared hard at Neville. The other boy held firm, gazing calmly back. Seeing the conviction in his eyes, Harry nodded and moved aside.
More than one person tensed up as Harry drew his wand, but he simply healed an oozing cut on Colin Creevey's arm. Moving around the room, he healed the small wounds he knew how to deal with, silently thankful for the handful of lessons he had taken with Pomfrey as an adjunct to his training with Flitwick. As he finished healing each of the students, they thanked him nervously before escaping.
As he was about halfway around the room, the door to Daphne's bedroom opened and a pale but smiling Hermione emerged, followed closely by Daphne. "- for a couple days and then you should be good as new, okay?" Daphne said.
Daphne followed the Gryffindor witch's eyes and found herself looking into the thunderous face of her master.
Eyes wide, Daphne swallowed hard. "Uh, hi?" she asked in a very small voice.
"Let's finish healing them, and then we need to talk," Harry said flatly. "Hermione, sit down," he ordered. He spoke quietly, but his words received instant obedience.
Without a further word, Harry resumed healing those he could, letting Daphne, with her superior healing skills, deal with those that he was unable to handle.
Finally, the room emptied until it was down to three Potters, Hermione, and Neville.
"Explain," Harry commanded as he sat down.
The four in front of him exchanged glances but nobody spoke up.
Harry sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Where'd the medical supplies come from?" he asked instead.
"The infirmary," Daphne whispered.
"Do you think Madam Pomfrey just might report them stolen?" he asked sarcastically.
"Were there any fatalities among the D.A.?" Harry asked of Tracey.
She shook her head.
"Thank Merlin," Harry said. "What was the worst injury?"
Neville nodded toward Hermione.
Harry turned with a raised eyebrow.
"Laceration from flying stone," Hermione offered. She moved her right arm around experimentally. "Daphne already closed the wound. I'll be okay in a couple days."
"If that was the worst injury and there were at least a couple dozen D.A. going, then I'd guess this was a raid of some kind."
Neville nodded hesitantly.
"Where'd you hit?" Harry asked.
Tracey said, "We got the location of a small base. Three dozen D.A. Portkeyed in, crashed the wards, destroyed the house, and Portkeyed out. Took less than a minute."
"Very subtle," Harry observed dryly.
"We weren't going for subtle," Hermione said. "We were going for safe."
Harry looked at her mildly. "And how many people were killed by the collapsing house?"
All four of them winced. "We don't know."
"And how many of them were innocent bystanders?" Harry continued inexorably.
Harry laughed mirthlessly. "You just said you don't know how many were inside; therefore, you don't know who was inside. How do you know this place, whatever it was, wasn't a primary school?"
"According to the Ministry, it's owned by the Carrows."
"At least you did a little research," Harry admitted. "How'd you hear about it?"
"My great uncle," Tracey said.
"Who is that?"
"An Order member," Hermione interjected. "I can tell you if you really want, but there's no reason for you to know."
"Plausible deniability?" Harry asked sarcastically.
Hermione nodded. "That's why we did it while you were in a session with Flitwick."
"So I can honestly say I had no prior knowledge, didn't go on the raid itself, and even have an alibi."
Hermione smiled. "Exactly."
Harry smiled humorlessly. "Except for the minor fact that my chattel, these two who I'm legally responsible for, were on the raid and were, in all likelihood, instigators of it."
Hermione's smile fell. "Oh," she whispered.
"Ya think?" Harry sarcastically asked.
Neville spoke up, "Hey, now! There's no need to beat her up over it."
Harry glared at him. "You know I'm going to get blamed for this. And legally, I am at fault through them." He waved at Tracey and Daphne. "The problem is that I didn't know about it." He sighed. "Did anyone see you?"
All four shook their heads.
"Did you cover your tracks?"
"We cast Magical Signature Suppression spells afterwards," Neville said.
"Where in the name of Merlin would you have learned how to do that?"
"I know more than a few aurors," Neville pointed out.
Harry just grunted. "Where'd you get the Portkeys?"
"It took some digging, but the information is in the Black library," Hermione said with a sliver of pride. "I found it when we were staying there last summer."
"What's to stop one of your D.A. raiders from blabbing?" Harry went on. "Colin and Dennis aren't exactly what I'd call subtle."
"Magically binding oaths to never speak of what we were up to."
Harry raised an eyebrow at Hermione. "And then how can you four talk to me about it?"
"As leaders of the D.A., Neville and I aren't bound by the oath. As to these other two, their Marriage of Chattel prevented them from signing the contract that the rest did."
Harry frowned in silent thought for a minute. "As far as I can see, other than trying in vain to protect me from your actions, it sounds like you did try to make it as clean as possible," he grudgingly admitted.
"Safety for us first; keeping everyone, especially you, out of trouble was the second goal," Hermione said.
Harry wordlessly looked at his chattel and then back to her.
She winced. "I forgot, okay?"
Neville almost smiled. "I heard her say it."
She smacked his arm.
"You all realize that you can't do this again," Harry said, ignoring the byplay.
Neville stopped rubbing his arm and looked at Harry in confusion. "Why not?"
"Voldemort and crew will make their wards harder to get through, so your lightning attack won't work next time. That, and the fact that you needed medical supplies from Pomfrey, without being able to tell her about it, means that they can find out who did it if they want to."
"You don't sound angry any longer," Tracey ventured.
Harry waggled his hand back and forth. "Sorta. My head knows you guys did something that needed to be done, despite the fact that Dumbledore and his vaunted Order refuse to use these kinds of tactics."
"Not very Gryffindor, was it?" Neville said pensively.
Tracey smirked at him. "Not hardly."
"We'll see if there is any fallout from this and what it is. Then I'll figure out if I'm angry at you all."
The expected inquisition occurred two days later. Harry had been called to the Headmaster's office following dinner, only to walk into a loud argument between Lucius Malfoy and Scrimgeour, with the not-very-amused Dumbledore and McGonagall looking on. Flitwick sat to the side of the room, supremely bored.
Harry sighed and turned to McGonagall as the two standing men continued to hiss and snarl at each other. "We have got to stop meeting like this, Professor," Harry observed dryly.
Her quick snort of laughter stopped the arguing men. Scrimgeour looked slightly apologetic and took a seat.
Malfoy put up his nose and turned to Dumbledore. "Now that the whelp is here, let us question him and be done with this."
"You sure you want to do that, Malfoy?" Harry asked curiously. When everyone turned to him, he explained, "After the last time this group questioned me, I showed his son to be an attempted kidnapper. His record in trying to get me in trouble hasn't been very good."
Malfoy glowered. Flitwick held a hand to his face, covering his mouth.
Without batting an eye, Scrimgeour said, "Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy has asked that you be questioned in regards to the attack on the Carrow estate."
"Why ask me about it?" Harry asked curiously.
"You have a habit of being at the center of . . . many situations."
Harry looked at Malfoy momentarily before turning back to Scrimgeour. "From what I read in the Prophet, there were a dozen dead Death Eaters found in the wreckage. I'd think that any honest and upstanding member of society would want to congratulate whoever is responsible instead of trying to blame me for the attack."
Scrimgeour's eyes flicked to Malfoy. "Yes, well, attacking the estate, bringing the wards down and then destroying the manor are illegal actions. Despite the fact that the only fatalities were Death Eaters, the attackers did indeed break the law."
Harry nodded. "I understand."
"First, where were you that afternoon from one o'clock until one-thirty?"
"I was in a private lesson with Professor Flitwick from noon until two," Harry answered, tilting his head toward the small man. Flitwick nodded his agreement.
"Did you know of someone else planning the attack?"
"Where were your chattel?"
"When I got back to my apartment, they were both there."
"What were they doing while you were in your private lessons?" Malfoy asked acidly.
Harry gave the man a cool look. "So long as they don't break any school rules or do something against my morals, I give them a fair amount of freedom. Perhaps a bit more than is generally given to chattel-wives," Harry allowed, "but then I'm not generally around people who feel chattel are a part of a reasonable society."
"I know you were behind the attack, Potter," Malfoy growled.
Harry shrugged. "I know you're an unreformed Death Eater who bribed Fudge to pardon you before he was chucked out of office. Unfortunately, without proof, I'm unable to imprison you like you deserve."
Malfoy's hand darted to the head of his cane. "Insolent brat!"
"Mr. Malfoy!" McGonagall's sharp voice snapped out.
Malfoy's hand stopped before the wand hidden in the cane made an appearance, but his venomous glare stayed on Harry.
"Too bad you interrupted, Professor," Harry observed quietly, his own hand resting on his wand. "He was about to prove me right."
Malfoy slowly uncurled his fingers from the cane. "I demand his two slaves be brought in and questioned as well as Longbottom."
"You know you have no grounds to demand that, Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall responded.
"You only - barely - have the right to have Harry questioned," added Flitwick.
"Going on a fishing expedition?" Harry asked. He turned to the tense Scrimgeour. "Tell you what, if I allow that, then how about we question him about a few things." He turned and smirked at Malfoy. "Like his whereabouts after that Portkey took me at the end of the Third Task." Malfoy glared at him for several long seconds as he looked politely back. "How about it, Malfoy? I'll let them be questioned under Veritaserum if you're willing to give a Pensieve account of your time for . . . oh, three hours on either side of the Portkey taking me." He grinned predatorily. "You willing to tell us the truth about your time for the truth about my girls' time?"
Malfoy glared harder. "I shall consider it," he ground out.
"Ah, ah, ah," Harry chided him. "This offer isn't open forever. Once we leave this room, the offer is revoked." His tone turned flat. "I don't trust that you or Snape don't have a way to fake memories even under Veritaserum if given the time to prepare."
Malfoy's jaw muscles bunched, but he remained silent.
"How's your Death Eater son?" Harry goaded him further.
Malfoy made a low growling noise. Standing abruptly, he stormed out of the room.
"Must you provoke him?" McGonagall asked wearily.
Harry, slumping back into his chair, laughed humorlessly. "You think I can get any higher on his or Voldemort's 'to-kill' list?" He sighed and then mused aloud, "You know, I just don't get it."
"To what are you referring, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked before Scrimgeour could respond.
"Why Malfoy wrote the marriage contracts like he did. Oh, I get what they were intended to do, but what I don't understand is what he would get out of it." He was silent for a moment before continuing, "Punish Daphne and Tracey for something? But they haven't done anything to him. Punish their families? But then why would they have let him write the contracts in the first place? Intimidate the neutrals? That would definitely help Voldy's cause, I suppose, so maybe that's it. Give his son an indirect gift? After all, Malfoy junior made it clear that the girls, even if technically wives of Crabbe and Goyle, were going to be community property. Maybe cement the loyalty of the boys' families?"
Scrimgeour grunted as he levered himself upright. "Who knows how that Death Eater's mind works. Any or all of those suppositions may be the truth, Mr. Potter. Unless we get some Veritaserum into him, we may never know."
"You wanted to see us, Madam Pomfrey?" Harry asked, leading his two girls into the Hospital Wing.
The matron waved the two girls into beds. "Just wanted to do a quick check of Tracey and Daphne's health," she explained casually. Once the girls were seated, she started waving her wand over the two girls.
All three Potters shared mystified glances.
"Er, not that I mind, but I don't remember check-up visits before," Harry observed.
"Hmm," Pomfrey made a non-committal noise, wand still waving.
Daphne suddenly smirked as her eyes continued to track the nurse. "Ah, that's why we're here."
"I assure you, we're not pregnant," Daphne dryly said.
Harry gawked before blushing furiously.
Tracey, smirking faintly, said, "Neither of us is pregnant, we're being well treated, and we're in good health. Was there anything else you were going to surreptitiously check?"
Chagrined, Pomfrey put her wand away. "I should've known better. No, that was it. Mr. Potter, may I speak with you for a moment?"
"You may, but I doubt I'm going to keep any secrets from these two."
She nodded. "First, thank you for how well you're treating them."
He blinked, not having expected that.
She grinned at his reaction. "Chattel-wives aren't usually treated . . . well. There have been a few in my time as school nurse. Not many, but a few. Unfortunately, I've had to treat them for a variety of things after their husbands' . . . ministrations."
Harry winced. "I'm treating them well," he objected.
She nodded. "I'm aware of that. Now. I'm just thanking you for being a good man." She smirked. "The fact that it cuts down on my workload is just a bonus."
All three of them laughed.
Pomfrey went on. "I'm surprised at a few items that came up during the diagnostics, but I'm satisfied that you're all in good health." She paused. "The other thing I wanted to say is that I did an inventory of my supplies a couple days ago." She studied Harry's neutral expression and then Daphne's utterly still face. Giving a decisive nod, she said, "The Bruise Balm isn't a big deal, but I'm concerned with one or two items. However, so long as someone with medical training is supervising their usage . . ." She trailed off, staring at Daphne pointedly.
Harry cleared his throat in the resulting silence.
Pomfrey looked over at him. "Based on the rumors I heard, especially after Lucius Malfoy was here, I think I can guess what happened." She held up a hand before anyone could react. "I'm not going to speculate. All I ask is that if some . . . dueling practice injury requires serious medical attention, you bring it to me. Agreed?"
Daphne nodded, eyes full of gratitude.
Now smiling fondly at the girl, Pomfrey waved one of her hands in a shooing gesture. "You're all healthy. Out with you."
The three made their escape.
Tracey saw Harry's faint smirk. "Yes, you told us so, Master," she said with a sigh, referring to his predications after the D.A. raid.
"That was good of her not to try to press us on it, though," Harry observed, letting her off the hook.
Daphne shrugged. "Patient confidentiality. As her de facto apprentice, it extends to anyone I treat, too."
He nodded before changing the topic. "What was with her surprise about a 'few things that came up in the diagnostics'?"
"Probably our virginal status," Tracey bluntly answered.
Harry almost missed a step.
Both girls laughed at him.
He gave them dark looks.
Tracey shrugged. "We keep telling you that in your situation, it's fully expected."
He rolled his eyes. "Just because I can doesn't mean I should," he repeated patiently.
Daphne loudly sighed.
Harry grinned at her. "Even if you say you're more than willing." He paused. "So long as you can't say, 'No,' it's too much like rape for my peace of mind," he said quietly.
Tracey burst into the apartment. "Harry!" she called.
He was on his feet, wand in hand and through the bedroom door in two seconds. "What?"
"Hermione is in the Hospital Wing."
Harry paled. Tracey would not mention it unless it was serious. "What's wrong?"
She shrugged uncomfortably. "Don't know. I just heard that she was seen running that way, holding her side and crying."
Harry made for the door but was stopped by Tracey holding up a hand and quirking a grin. "May I suggest you put on a shirt, first?"
He gave a wordless growl and jabbed his wand roughly toward the bedroom door. One of the shirts the girls had picked out for him over the holidays came flying out, followed by Daphne who was adjusting her robe. Tracey raised an eyebrow at that but left the question unasked.
Harry stormed down the hallway, headed toward the Hospital Wing as he put the shirt on. The girls scurried to keep up with his rapid movements. Two hallways later, Harry spotted Ron moving along in the same direction, limping. "Ron!" Harry called. "What happened to Hermione?" he asked, pulling his friend around by the red-head's shoulder.
Ron came around with his fist leading.
Caught completely unawares, Harry took the punch to the side of the face and stumbled backwards into Daphne. The two of them fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs.
Face full of fury, Ron clenched his other fist and moved toward the fallen pair.
Tracey, not understanding the cause of the problem but clearly recognizing that Harry and Daphne were in danger, drew her wand and stepped in his way.
Ron sneered. "Out of the way, slave."
Her eyes narrowed, and her wand came up.
Harry finally got to his feet. Helping Daphne up, he glared and asked, "Ron, what the hell was that for?"
"You have two sex-toys of your own, Potter. You leave Hermione for me!"
Uncomprehending, Harry blinked at him. "What are you on about?"
Ron glared. "I know you're trying to steal her away. She is mine, you hear me? Mine!" With that, he turned and stalked off toward the Gryffindor Tower, still limping slightly.
"What the hell is wrong with him?" Harry asked.
"I don't think we want to know," Daphne said worriedly, drawing her wand and waving it over Harry's developing black eye.
Shaking off the mystery, he waited until Daphne was done before again moving toward the Hospital Wing. "Thank you, both, for what you just did," he said absently.
The trio made it to the Hospital Wing without further mishap. The curtains were drawn around one of the beds and they could hear Madam Pomfrey's voice muttering healing charms from behind it.
While Harry looked torn, Daphne spoke up, "Madam Pomfrey, it's Daphne. May I assist?"
The muttering stopped for a moment. "Bring me a jar of Bruise Balm and a dose of Calming Draught, please, Miss Gr-" she interrupted herself to change to, "Bine Potter." As Daphne moved toward the medicinal supplies, Pomfrey continued, "Mr. Potter, may I assume you are out there?"
"Yes, Madam Pomfrey."
"To ease your mind, Miss Granger will be fine, physically. Now, the best way you can help is to step out of the Hospital Wing and keep anyone else from entering with the exceptions of the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall."
Harry's face twisted into an expression of indecision.
When Harry failed to immediately comply with her order, Pomfrey continued, "Truly, Mr. Potter, she will be fine. Daphne is here to help me, and you may leave Tracey as well if it will make you feel better."
A slight smile came to his face. The women around him could read him entirely too well. He turned to Tracey. "I'm going to be on the other side of the door. Let me know when there is news?"
She nodded and drew her wand, taking what appeared to be a guard position within view of the door.
With one final, strained smile at his two girls, he moved outside the doorway. It gave an immediate squelching noise as it was sealed from within.
Harry only had a few minutes to pace nervously before Neville arrived at a run.
Without giving the other boy more than a fleeting glance, Neville pulled on the handle. When it remained unmoving, he gave a snarl of anger and reached for a wand.
Harry's hand captured his wrist. "Pomfrey told me to keep anyone from entering, Nev," he said quietly.
Neville Longbottom went still. "Remove your hand from me, Potter," he said in a flat voice.
Harry sighed and removed his hand. "Pomfrey said she'll be fine. Daphne and Tracey are still in there, and they'll let us know when there is news."
Neville took several deep breaths and slowly relaxed. His hand came up to wipe at his face.
Seeing that his friend was at least somewhat calm, Harry leaned against the wall. "What happened, anyway?"
"Ron," Neville growled back.
Harry blinked. He replayed his recent confrontations with his friend in his mind and frowned. "Please tell me that he didn't try to do what I think he did."
"Whaddya mean? You haven't heard what he's been saying in the dorm, so how can you know?"
"We ran into him in the hall on the way. He was warning me off of her, saying that Hermione belonged to him. Add in the fights we've had since the whole mess with the girls started, and this looks like he's done something - or tried to anyway - that I may have to kill him for."
Neville nodded shortly. "Yeah, more of the same boasting in Gryffindor Tower. Nowhere near where she can hear anything, of course. I've told him he's an idiot for what he's saying. Ginny's yelled at him a few times, too. He's just gotten more and more stubborn and obnoxious about it." He sighed. "Nothing more than his claims of ownership, so nobody knew what to do about it."
"If he tried to do what it sounds like -"
"You can have what's left after I get done with him," Neville interrupted coldly.
"Now, boys," a new voice cut in, "I hope you are not discussing harm upon a fellow student."
Both seventh year boys turned identical glares upon the approaching Headmaster, causing the older man's steps to falter.
"If what I fear is true, then I'm talking about far more than mere 'harm'," Harry countered flatly.
Dumbledore was taken aback for a few seconds as he eyed the two angry students in front of him.
McGonagall appeared from around the corner and walked up during this small stare-down. "Dare I ask what may have precipitated this?" she asked, eyes darting from one wizard to another.
Neville didn't take his eyes from the headmaster. "Just voicing our . . . opinion on what we think should happen to Ron," he answered.
"I . . . see."
A sad Dumbledore waved his wand at the door, causing it to open.
Harry immediately held out his hand, preventing the headmaster from entering. "Tracey," he called out, "the two requested professors are entering. No need to hex them as they enter."
"'Kay," Tracey's voice answered. Everyone heard her footsteps approach. She exited the Hospital Wing and sheathed her wand. Stopping in front of Harry, she stated baldly, "Weasley attempted, but failed, to rape her."
McGonagall and Dumbledore winced. Harry and Neville's eyes flared before they both went cold.
"D.A. meeting, right here, right now," Harry commanded flatly.
Tracey nodded, turned on her heel, and moved down the hallway. Neville took a coin out of his pocket and started to fiddle with it.
"Harry, please do not do anything drastic," Dumbledore pleaded.
"My actions depend entirely upon how you handle this, Headmaster," Harry responded in a tone barely short of a snarl.
Dumbledore nodded sadly and entered the Hospital Wing. McGonagall, face set in a fierce scowl, followed.
Once the two professors closed the door, Harry slumped against the wall. "Damn him."
Neville, putting his D.A. control coin away, grunted angrily.
Harry looked over. "Sorry about that, mate. I just realized that I stepped on your toes by calling a meeting like that. The D.A. is yours now, not mine."
Neville waved him off. "If you hadn't called it, I would've."
The two friends sat and stewed for several minutes before the first of the D.A. started to appear. Whatever the students saw in the faces of the two Gryffindors quelled any questions.
A few minutes after that, Tracey reappeared from the direction of the seventh floor, leading a few more D.A. members. She approached Harry and lightly touched his shoulder.
Harry looked up at this and nodded his thanks to her. Looking around, he saw several dozen faces peering at him quizzically.
He cleared his throat. "This isn't everyone, but spread the word for those who are not here. The short version is that Ron was so disillusioned by my refusal to share Tracey and Daphne," Tracey made no effort to suppress her shudder, "that he somehow came to the conclusion that he owned Hermione."
The gathered students reacted in scowls and gasps of anger.
Neville said, "Less than an hour ago, he attempted to rape her."
Dead silence fell.
Tracey took up the story. "She fought him off but got hurt in the process. She should be fine, physically, already. She's had a Calming Draught, so I have no idea how or if this is affecting her emotionally."
"It will," Justin Finch-Fletchley said darkly. When everyone turned to him, he explained, "Attempted rape is more common on the muggle side. I saw a news report about the after-effects on the telly once."
With a sick look, Tracey said, "Snape trying to rape me was bad enough. Weasley is . . . was a friend and former boyfriend. This has to be worse for her than it was for me."
Harry put her arm around Tracey. She turned her face into his shoulder.
After a moment, Neville said, "Due to this incident, Ronald Weasley is hereby expelled from the D.A. Any further . . . punishment will hinge upon how Dumbledore and McGonagall react."
"Just say the word, mate," a stony-faced Dean offered as Ginny silently cried into his shoulder.
"No," Harry sharply said, drawing surprised looks from everyone. "Nobody takes matters into their own hands. You hear me?" He glared around. "If I hear about someone from this group going after Ron on their own, you'll have to answer to me. And I've been learning all sorts of interesting hexes from Professor Flitwick." His stern face dissolved into an evil smirk. "Now, if Neville and I give the go-ahead, on the other hand . . ."
Several blood-thirsty grins reappeared.
Neville rolled his eyes and spoke up, "We'll need a D.A. guard in the Hospital Wing until Hermione is released." He paused and grimaced. "Due to the . . . nature of why she's here, it should probably be only female guards." He turned apologetic eyes to Ginny. "Sorry, Ginny, but considering -"
She shook her head, swiping at the tears. "No worries. I can be on the guard detail if you want, or not. I understand your - and her - arguments on that either way." She scowled fiercely. "You can be sure the Weasleys as a whole will be responding to this. Our actions will be done separately from what the D.A. may or may not do." She turned her head. "I don't want to use Pig for this. May I borrow Hedwig?"
Harry nodded, recognizing that such a note from Ginny, using Harry's owl, would have a message all its own.
Two days later Harry was talking with Neville when the Great Hall fell silent. Both boys looked up to find a visibly nervous Hermione standing at the door.
Susan and Hannah stood beside her, whispering with the Gryffindor. At Hermione's shaky nod, they each squeezed her shoulder for a moment before they moved toward their regular seats at the Hufflepuff table.
Dumbledore stood in front of the room. "Our Head Girl has had a trying time over the past few days and has just been release from Madam Pomfrey's care. I implore you not to pester her about her ordeal. Now, everyone, tuck in." A sharp clap of his hands brought the breakfast foods to the tables.
The four sitting at the Gryffindor table ignored the food. Harry and Neville stood as Hermione nervously approached. She gave the two standing boys a timid smile.
"Hi, Hermione," Daphne quietly greeted her.
Hermione was visibly more relaxed as she nodded back to the girl. Taking a breath, she seated herself next to where Neville was standing. Only Daphne saw her twitch as the Gryffindor boy seated himself again.
"It's good to have you back, Hermione," Neville whispered.
She merely nodded, eyes still on her plate as she slowly filled it with her breakfast.
Harry and Neville shared a glance before they silently returned to their meals as well.
"Thank you," Hermione unexpectedly said.
"What's that?" Harry asked.
Her eyes came up and settled on Neville. "Thank you for the D.A. guard." Her eyes went back down, and she sighed. "I wish I didn't need one, but emotionally, it made me feel better that they were there."
"You're welcome," Neville said simply.
"What've I missed?" she asked more determinedly.
"I can let you borrow my class notes," Tracey offered.
"Thanks, but I was interested in any other news."
Harry grinned faintly. "Why, Hermione. You're after gossip? How very girly of you."
She mock glared at him. "I am a girl, you know. And after a few days in a hospital bed, I'm surprisingly curious on how everyone is doing."
"More attacks by Death Eaters of course, including a big one in Bristol. Here, nothing much has happened," Daphne answered, "with one exception. He," her emphasis made it clear that she was talking about Ron, "was . . . strongly encouraged to sit out the rest of the year."
Neville frowned. "He should've been arrested for what he did," he stated bluntly.
"He still may," Tracey pointed out. At Hermione's inquiring look, she added, "It's up to you, actually. From what I understand, you'll have the option of pursuing further legal action."
Hermione blinked and opened her mouth once before shutting it again, a stunned look on her face.
"Write down the date. Hermione Granger is surprised speechless," Harry gently teased her.
"Git," she rejoined, not paying much attention.
Ginny approached them hesitantly. "May I?" she quietly asked, gesturing at the empty seat on Hermione's other side.
Hermione nodded and scooted over fractionally.
Ginny sat and looked down forlornly. "Sorry."
"For what?" Hermione asked, visibly bracing herself. "You didn't do anything wrong. It was . . . your brother, not you."
Ginny nodded tightly. "I know, but I still feel like I should apologize for his actions."
"He should apologize for his actions," Harry pointed out.
"But since they're inexcusable, there wouldn't be much point," Neville added.
"Yeah," Ginny agreed with a sigh. She glanced at Hermione for a moment. "I was just worried that you'd hate me for what happened."
Hermione looked at the smaller girl for a long moment. "Is that why you weren't on guard detail?"
"We didn't know how you'd react to me," Ginny explained.
"We're good," Hermione assured the girl. "It's only . . . him that I have a problem with in your family."
"How about Percy?" Harry asked with a grin.
A smile flitted about Hermione's lips for a moment.
Ginny rolled her eyes and smirked. "I didn't think it was possible, but Mum is even more mad at Ron than she's disappointed in Percy right now. Dad called a family meeting and even pulled Percy in to talk about what to do with Ron. There was a serious discussion on whether to disown him." Neville, Tracey, and Daphne gasped as Harry and Hermione's eyebrows went up. Ginny nodded solemnly. "In the end, Dad didn't do it, but it was close. He's restricted to the Burrow until next year starts."
The six were silent for a few minutes before Hermione guessed, "It was Molly who prevented him from being disowned, isn't it?"
Ginny nodded. "Speaking of Mum, I was asked to assure you that if you wished to pursue further legal action, we'd support you." Ginny turned to Harry. "And Mum wanted me to assure you that we hold no ill feelings toward you for any of the circumstances around Ron's expulsion. On her behalf, I'm to apologize to you, as well."
"What for? You already made a formal apology for how he acted just after winter hols."
She shook her head. "Not that. This is from her, not the whole family. It's about how she's treated you since the whole thing with the two girls started. For the longest time, she believed the rumors on why you married them instead of just asking me or even Ron about what was going on."
"Well, he wouldn't have been an unbiased source of news," Hermione pointed out.
"Hermione," Harry quietly caught her attention. "For the same reasons Dumbledore and I encourage everyone to use Voldemort's moniker, you should call Ron by name." He watched her face go through several uncertain expressions. "I've never known you to be afraid of anything, least of which is a prat of the first order." He smirked. "After belting Malfoy in our third year, I hardly think the likes of Ron Weasley would frighten you."
"What's this about ferret-boy?" Ginny asked curiously.
Harry grinned and leaned back. "I'll let 'right-hook Granger' explain that one," he answered cheerfully.
Hermione's tension visibly abated another degree. Giving Harry the barest of smiles for his attempts to lower the tension, she turned to tell the story.
On a Friday evening in the middle of May, Tracey entered their quarters clutching a slip of parchment. "I know where Voldemort will be in two days," she announced.
Harry's head shot up. "How?" he demanded.
She handed the note to him.
LV will be moving to the Dolohov estate on 17 May.
Harry recognized the spiky lettering. He looked up at Tracey. "Alastor Moody?"
She gave him a nod. "My great uncle."
"Huh. Small world." Harry stared into space for several long seconds. Moving to the side of the room, he pulled down a copy of Most Potente Potions then flipped through it for several seconds before a finger trailed down the text. Giving a decisive nod, he replaced the tome and moved toward his desk. "Dobby," he called.
The elf popped in as Harry pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment.
Harry started a quick note as he spoke, "Voldemort will be moving on Sunday."
Dobby started wringing his hands. "Ooh, Master Harry sir. Dobby not knowing if Dobby can continue to do what Master Harry sir ordered."
Harry smiled fleetingly. "Don't worry about it. You've done brilliantly. I'm telling you so that you know to stop first thing Sunday morning."
The elf visibly relaxed. "Yes, Master Harry sir."
Harry gently blew on the parchment before handing it to Dobby. "Take this to Remus, please."
The elf took the parchment, bowed, and popped out.
"Why not use Hedwig?" Daphne asked.
"Much as I love and trust her, she can still be intercepted. Be it by Dumbledore or deez." He leaned back and let out a breath. "Okay, we have two and a half days to plan. Daphne, go talk to Pomfrey. We'll need her to quietly get things ready in the Hospital Wing."
Daphne nodded and left.
"Tracey, find Neville and Hermione and send them here. Then let Flitwick know."
"McGonagall? Dumbledore?" Tracey asked in a neutral tone.
Harry frowned. "Get Fil's opinion on McGonagall. The Headmaster won't know until the last minute."
"He won't like that," she observed.
"He won't like a lot of things I have to do in the next three days," Harry replied crossly.
Tracey held up a hand. "I know. I'm just saying."
Harry grimaced. "Yeah."
As she left, he put away his unfinished essay and pulled Dirty Dueling Deeds from the shelf.
Monday the 18th of May, 1998 started like any other Monday during term.
Some students came to breakfast earlier, some later. Mostly, though, breakfast passed in the usual conversations, clink of cutlery, and occasional laugh or shout.
If one was looking, however, one could see the tension and lack of appetite in the faces of some of the students. If one noticed and then thought about it, the observer would also realize they were all members of the D.A.
Albus Dumbledore was, above all things, observant.
Just as he turned to his deputy to ask just what she thought about this, he noticed that the tension and lack of appetite also affected a certain member of the staff, namely Pomfrey. Looking more closely, he also saw indications of tension in McGonagall and Flitwick.
Once more, Albus Dumbledore opened his mouth to query his deputy but was interrupted yet again as he saw over a dozen members of his Order of the Phoenix walk through the Great Hall doors.
Harry Potter, showing no signs of surprise, stood and greeted them.
"Oh, dear," the Headmaster said with a resigned sigh.
"Albus?" Professor Sprout asked from two seats away. "Is something the matter?"
Dumbledore glanced over and met McGonagall's eyes for a few seconds before he looked at the frowning Sprout. "Unless I am very much mistaken, yes, there is something the matter. Most unfortunately, there is nothing you nor I can do about it."
This only confused Sprout further, but before she could respond, Harry Potter approached. "Headmaster."
Dumbledore simply gazed at the one student who had by turns produced the most headaches and pride in him. He sighed again. "I was going to accuse you of co-opting my Order," Dumbledore started, causing Harry's eyebrows to shoot up. "However, I realize that they are not mine, as such."
"The Order's mandate is to fight evil," Harry agreed, silently thankful that the man was not going to make a scene.
"Indeed." Dumbledore looked over at the man approaching. "Et tu, Alastor?"
"The lad's plan can work," the former auror grunted unapologetically.
Dumbledore nodded sadly. "Very well. What would you have of me, Mr. Potter?"
Harry tilted his head slightly. "If I may say so, you're taking this much calmer than I would have expected."
A brief smile flickered across Dumbledore's features. "I wish that it had not come to this, but yet here we are." He paused for a moment in thought. "As well, I am trying to mend my ways with you."
"I'd like to talk about that later," Harry mentioned.
Dumbledore inclined his head once. "I look forward to that." He looked at the student attentively, clearly awaiting instructions.
"Dobby is having the Hogwarts elves shepherd all the students in the school into this room," Harry said crisply. "I know you would be an asset in the fight, but keeping Hogwarts safe is at least as important."
Dumbledore nodded and closed his eyes.
Everyone watching heard a series of distant bangs and felt a surge of magical energy.
While the Headmaster was communing with the Hogwarts wards, Harry's gaze rested momentarily on Flitwick, McGonagall, and Pomfrey. Each of the three stood and hurried toward the Order guests. This caused the various members of the D.A. to abandon their untouched breakfasts and join the knot of people.
"Hogwarts will be here when you return, Mr. Potter," Dumbledore quietly said. "Best of luck to you." He stood and addressed the people standing at the door. "Merlin go with you," he offered solemnly.
Not wanting to waste any more time, Harry turned and strode back to the gathering. As he passed, his girls fell into step to either side and a pace back. Wordlessly, the throng opened up ahead of him. His fighting force flowed out of the Great Hall behind him, all ignoring the increasing volume of confusion they left behind. Without breaking pace, Harry led them through the Entrance Hall, unsurprised to find the front door still open for them. Once they were all outside and the castle doors had shut behind them, Harry stopped and turned.
His eyes went from face to face, noticing without surprise the frightened but determined expressions almost all of them wore. All of the remaining D.A. members were looking back at him. They were mostly friends, but some were little more than acquaintances. Harry's gaze moved on to the Order members. Bill and Fleur, the twin Weasleys, Tonks and Remus, Mad-Eye, McGonagall, and Flitwick were the ones he knew. There were a few more faces he recognized, but was unable to put a name to. If they had Remus and McGonagall's trust, however, that was enough for him.
Clearing his throat against a sudden lump, Harry said, "Before we go, I just want to thank you all. This isn't necessarily your fight." He waved a hand at Tracey and Hermione's open mouths, cutting off the objections. "Though some will disagree," he said dryly.
A nervous chuckle ran around the gathering.
"I think you will find, Harry," Flitwick said gently, "that it is indeed our fight. Our world will suffer if we don't win. Isn't that enough to make it our fight?"
"I suppose so," Harry acknowledged. "However, I'm the only one prophesied to take down Tom."
"So that's what dad was guarding," Bill observed quietly.
Harry nodded. "So that means that I can use the help, but nobody is to get into a one-on-one duel with Voldemort."
Hermione spoke up, "Professors McGonagall and Flitwick, Tonks, Lupin, Tracey, Daphne, and I will work with you to take him down and guard your back. Everyone else will keep the rest of the Death Eaters occupied."
Harry looked a question at Neville and Alastor, the two commanders. They both nodded and Moody spoke up, "Aye, lad. We've discussed it already."
Harry nodded, not really surprised. "Okay, then, you lot listen to Neville and Moody and maybe we can all come back here and have a kick-arse party after we kick some Death Eater arse!"
A cheer, fueled by nerves as much as anything, went up among the students.
Harry turned and started down the road to Hogsmeade to get out from under the Hogwarts wards.
"Very inspiring," Bill Weasley said dryly.
Harry made a face at the elder Weasley.
Bill laughed as Fleur smacked his shoulder. "Bill, be nice to the poor boy."
Harry smiled at the French part-Veela. "Thank you, Fleur.
"By the way, I notice your accent has gotten much better since the last time I spoke to you."
She rolled her eyes expressively. "When was the last time we spoke, 'Arry?"
"Ah, there's that adorable accent," Bill teased.
She smacked his shoulder again.
Harry chuckled before pondering the question. "I wasn't back to the Burrow at Christmas, was I?"
"You were kinda busy," Tracey dryly said.
Harry grinned at her. "Quite." He turned to Fleur. "Last summer?"
"Bill and I were out of the country last summer. It was the Christmas before last that we saw each other."
"Has it been that long?"
"Yes, it really has, Harry," Bill spoke up. "But if I may point out, we're kinda losing focus, here."
Harry nodded, chagrined.
"Back to the point, please let us and maybe Professor Flitwick examine the wards wherever we're going before your little army here crashes them. You're much less likely to get yourselves killed that way." He shook his head. "You lot were lucky the first time that they didn't blow up in your faces."
Harry raised his hands. "Don't look at me; I wasn't there. Hermione and Neville did that one."
Hermione spoke up from behind the two men. "I've read more about bringing down wards since the Carrows' place. I agree; we were lucky."
"At least you recognize that," Bill said. "Anyway, I'd like to take a look at them before you do the same thing you all did last time."
"You don't have to convince me," Hermione said. "Since we have two, maybe three ward professionals along, I'd feel much better about it if you did look at them before we just threw spells at it."
"Conjuring dense objects, rock and metals and the like, above the wards would be a quicker way of bringing them down by brute force," Flitwick spoke up.
"Would doing a Switching Spell, bringing rock in, work as well?" Hermione asked.
Flitwick blinked once and looked at her with a smile. "It would, and it would probably be less energy intensive if it's less than thirty miles away. Capital idea, Miss Granger. Twenty points to Gryffindor."
Tracey made an amused noise. "Not exactly a school outing we're on, Professor," she pointed out.
McGonagall said, "That may be true, Bine Potter, but learning and using the mind should always be encouraged.
"As to the current situation, I happen to know of a stone quarry in Dover near the Dolohov estate. I'll produce the first Portkey and take all of us there before we head to our final destination."
Moody wordlessly pulled a length of string from his pocket and handed it to McGonagall.
Still walking, the transfiguration professor muttered over it for a bit. As she finished, the group passed the gates. She spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear, "Our first Portkey will take us to a stone quarry so you know its location for later. The second Portkey will take us to within walking distance of our target."
Hermione turned toward the students. "Remember, shielders, it's your job to protect your shooters. You've practiced conjuring stone to block the Killing Curse. You all know your jobs. Nobody get fancy, don't do anything stupid, and we'll all go home." Glancing over the serious, and slightly scared, group of students, Hermione sighed. "I don't like the situation any more than you do. I wish we didn't have to do this, but the fact is that we do." She straightened up. "After getting a good look at the quarry, Disillusion yourselves but stay within audible distance of each other."
Moments later, the string had been stretched out and was being held by everyone. With a final tap of McGonagall's wand, the light side's fighters went off to finish the war.
Harry turned toward the sound.
"Over here, Delacour," Moody grunted quietly from beside the near-invisible Potter.
Harry heard the rustling noise as Fleur moved toward them.
"It is 'Weasley', Alastor, as you well know," she huffed quietly.
Harry chuckled. "How's it going?"
"Bill and Filius 'ave identified the wards and are bringing some of them down. Once they 'ave done all they can, it will be up to your D.A. to overwhelm the rest. By that point, it will be safe to use the . . . cruder methods."
Harry felt Hermione tense up from five feet away. He forced another chuckle and tried to head off an explosion. "Don't knock it, Fleur. They may have been crude methods, but they worked. It's fast and easy, which is what we need."
"True," the French witch acknowledged grudgingly.
"Glad we have your approval. How long?"
"Ten, fifteen minutes. Filius will send you a Messenger Spell."
Moody spoke up, "Longbottom, take two-thirds of your force and go around back. I'll take the other third and the rest of the Order and cover the front. Potter, you and your little hunting party would be better to go in through the side."
"There aren't any doors on the side," Hermione objected.
"See that wand in your hand, Granger? With the right spell, I bet you can make a nice hole in that wall."
Harry tried very hard to not laugh aloud at Moody's snarky comment. He heard more than one student fail to completely resist the same temptation.
"Apologies, Granger," Moody went on in a more mollifying tone, "but this isn't the time for neatness. Speed and firepower might keep you alive for the rest of the day. Remember that."
"Yes, Professor," an audibly subdued Hermione responded.
Moody just grunted in response to her. Raising his voice, he continued, "Potter, once you get Flitwick's Messenger, you send to me and Longbottom. We'll all be waiting for your signal to start the assault on the wards. Once those are down, our job is to keep the Death Eaters penned up inside the building. Weasley, you and your husband put up Apparition and Portkey wards as quickly as you can. They don't have to be pretty or last long, but they do have to keep the Death Eaters from leaving the party early. Once those are up, guard or collapse the hole Potter makes on the side. Questions?"
"How will we know Harry's signal to assault the wards?" a voice asked from the nearly invisible crowd.
"It will be rather obvious, Mr. Hawke-Thorne," McGonagall said in a very dry tone.