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Harry / Tonks ship

"You made WHAT deals?"  Remus's voice was somewhere between incredulous and panicked.

This wasn't the first time Harry had to repeat it since returning from Hogwarts and its multiple meetings, so he boiled it down to its essence.  "The Grand Pooh-Bah will keep us informed of all Order intelligence.  In exchange, I don't turn Snape or him in to the Board of Governors.  The political flunky sitting in the prettiest chair will stay out of our hair and will do one or two useful things for us.  In exchange, I have a nice little press conference with Madam Bones and show the world that the ministry and the Boy Who Lived are all chummy."

Remus blinked at the venom in Harry's words.  "A little unhappy, are you?"

"Very," Harry admitted.  "Why do I feel the overwhelming need to wash my hands?"

"After those deals, I'd be worried if you weren't feeling a bit soiled.  What was that you said earlier about an aura around Albus?"

"I saw what I thought was a Compulsion Charm around him."

All four of the adults in Harry's group looked alarmed.

"Not ON him, AROUND him," Harry added at their expressions.  "It wasn't that someone was forcing him to do anything.  It . . ."  He trailed off and frowned in thought.  "It's like he had a permanent Trust Me Charm if there is such a thing."

Godric frowned.  "Oh, there is.  It's very frowned upon, though, since it's so close to a mind control spell.  As you guessed, such a spell would make whoever he talked to more likely to trust anything he says."

Tonks looked pensive.  "Since nobody would expect the greatest light wizard in the country to try to trick anyone with such a spell, nobody could resist something they didn't believe would be there."

"Even someone as naturally distrustful as Alastor, though he wouldn't necessarily be affected, couldn't see it unless he could see magic," Kingsley pointed out.

"His eye can't, can it?" Harry asked.

Everyone shook their heads.  "It's magical, but it can't see magic like you can."

"Manipulative old coot," Tonks said in a tone of grudging admiration.

"Is there anything we can do about it?" Harry asked.

Remus frowned in thought.  "Now that we're aware of it, it won't affect us.  It's a very subtle magic that requires the subject to be unwary.  We are anyway, but now that we know about it, it's guaranteed to fail against us."

"Should we tell anyone else about it?" Harry persisted.

"If there's anyone in Hogwarts you want on our side, you could tell them.  I'd be kinda careful of that, though.  If he starts noticing anyone acting differently, he'll know something is up and then no telling what would happen."

Kingsley sighed.  "I really don't like treating Albus as the enemy, but . . ."  He trailed off, not knowing how to finish the thought.

"I know what you mean," Remus said. 

Tonks nodded agreement.

Godric said, "I'm really concerned about this press conference."

"Why?" Harry asked in surprise.

"You're starting in a whole new field, Harry.  Politics.  Much as we all dislike Fudge, he IS more than proficient in this arena.  Albus is even more so.  I wish you'd spoken to us about this beforehand, but there's nothing to be done for it now.  Backing out after getting those concessions out of Fudge would be seen as a serious show of weakness."

"Why would I want to back out?  I show up, smile for the cameras, and say that I'm working with Madam Bones to fight the Death Eaters."

Godric shook his head sadly.  "You're in over your head, Grandson.  Well, we'll work more with you as the day draws closer."

"If you say so," Harry grumped.  "Any other concerns?"

"That provision you gave to Fudge about executing re-captured Death Eaters.  That's the first step down a very slippery slope, Harry," Remus warned him.

"Harry phrased it carefully, Remus," Tonks interjected.  She started ticking them off her fingers, "Previously convicted, escaped or broken out, re-captured, and then only after questioning."

"What happens when the first one escapes or is rescued before the questioning is complete?" Remus persisted.  "Will you then advocate skipping the questioning and just killing them on sight?"

"Absolutely not!" Harry objected.  "They're a great source of intelligence on Tom and his activities."  He raised his hand to Remus's gathering frown.  "That may seem cynical, Remus, but it's true and you know it.  Besides, how can you otherwise guarantee they're out of action for the rest of this fight?  Azkaban has already been proven to be far from impenetrable.  Ministry holding cells?  Please.  Give me another option and I'll take it, but we have to start permanently cutting down on his numbers somehow."

"Harry isn't advocating killing all Death Eaters on sight, Remus," Tonks added.  "As he pointed out to Fudge, under the current rules of engagement, they aren't really being punished.  If we make becoming a Death Eater an offense that is REALLY punishable, then he might have more trouble recruiting."

"I'm not saying the idea's bad, just warning that it can be taken to extremes very easily.  Paving the road and all that."

"That's why you're around, Remus," Harry said lightly.  "You're the group's conscience."

"I thought that was your job, Harry."

"Naw.  I'm the Light side poster boy.  You're the conscience and Kingsley's the brains."

"What does that make Nymphadora and I?" Godric asked in amusement.

"You give us historical credibility, and Nymph here is for good-looking comic relief."

Harry smiled at her glare.

Remus, trying to head off an explosion, asked, "What'd Fudge and Albus say about the werewolf laws?"

"Dumbledore said it was a doomed fight, so he didn't even try.  Fudge basically said it was an effort to make the rest of society safe."

"By exposing us to unsympathetic bigots when we're feeling our most anxious and volatile?  By forcing us to come in the next morning when we're feeling our absolute worst and might or might not physically be able to do so?  Sweet Merlin on a bike, is it a WONDER so many of us turn to the dark?" Moony snarled.

"Hey, we're on your side, Moony," Harry attempted to calm the man.

"Yeah, Cub, I know.  Just letting off a little steam," Remus grumbled.

"So long as it doesn't scald anyone important."

"Funny."

"That could well be his goal," Kingsley pointed out to bring them back on track.  "If Fudge is trying to get someone to attack the check-in people, or some exhausted and wounded werewolf fails to check in the next morning, then he'll have the law on his side to go on a hunting expedition."

"He WANTS to kill the werewolves?" Harry asked.

"Why does this surprise you so much?" Remus asked bitterly.

Harry frowned mightily.  "One of us needs to contact Snargtooth to get that portion of Sirius's Will started up.  We have GOT to make Wolfsbane generally available or Fudge and his cronies will kill the entire population in less than a year."

"I'll take care of it," Remus volunteered.  "May I borrow Hedwig this evening?"

"Sure.  That reminds me.  Come to my room please, Remus."

Remus shared a blank look with the others at the table before he followed the young wizard out of the room.

"I have a birthday present for you, Moony."

"You're five months late, Harry.  My birthday was back in March, remember?"

"Think of it as a late gift, then, since I haven't given you one for sixteen years."

"Fifteen.  You got me a present in eighty-one."

Harry stopped and looked at Remus.  "I was eight months old, wasn't I?"

"You were," Remus readily agreed.

"Okay, what'd I give you?"

"You recognized me and - without prompting, mind you - said, 'Uncle Moony'."

Harry grinned and resumed his trek toward his room.  "I was that articulate?"

"Well, maybe not, but we all knew what you meant.  Padfoot tried to claim you were saying, 'yucky pooey,' but Lily, James, and I knew the truth."

Harry laughed as he opened the door to his suite.  He walked over to the two owl perches and waved a hand at the tawny owl with her head tucked under a wing.  "Happy birthday, Moony."

Remus frowned.  "I thought you were going to give her to Hermione for her birthday."

"I was.  Right up until I learned that she was the one who snitched the Diagon Alley plan to the high and mighty master manipulator."

Remus winced at hearing who had told Dumbledore their Diagon Alley plans, but he addressed Harry's reference to Dumbledore instead.  "You're really upset with him, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I kinda am, Moony.  He didn't even try to stop those humiliating regulation laws, but that's just the most recent problem.  He's never given me a choice, always ordering me around and making decisions that affect my life 'for my own good'."  Harry mimed quotes around his words.  "He's always told me what to do, and never asked me my opinion or whether I wanted to do something.  Dumping me on the Dursleys, never telling me anything, letting Sirius go to prison without a trial, those disastrous occlumency lessons with Snape.  Take your pick on the reason.  I'm just tired of how he's always treated me.

"At the end of the year, right after we lost Sirius in the ministry, he promised never to withhold information from me again.  Then a month later I find out I'm the last heir of Gryffindor and that I'm due two major inheritances, all of which he's known for decades.  He also told the Order the contents of the prophecy after specifically telling me he wouldn't do so." 

Harry sighed.  "I'm tired of him lying to me, Remus, even if it is only lying by omission.  I'm tired of him running my life without having any control of it myself.  The first time I tried to do something on my own - completely legal and within my rights - he tried to scold me and lock me under tighter restrictions.

"Is it so surprising that I'm doing my best to pull myself out from under his thumb?"

"No, I suppose not," the werewolf quietly answered.  Instead of pursuing that line of conversation further, he looked at his new owl before turning back to Harry.  "Thank you."

Harry left Remus to begin bonding with his new post owl and to write that letter to his goblin representative.

Harry went back downstairs to write his own letter only to find Kelly and Laura in the dining room instead of the rest of his houseguests.  Kelly was apparently cutting Laura's hair with her wand.

"Honey," Kelly said in exasperation, "you have to hold still.  If I miss, your hair might end up looking like Daddy's."

"What's wrong with Daddy's hair?" Laura asked belligerently.  It was clear that she adored her father and defended him at any opportunity.

"Nothing is wrong with it," Harry said as he took a seat.  "But have you ever seen a girl without hair?"

Laura thought about it for a moment and shook her head.

"See?  Girls look better when they still have all their hair."

"Okay!" Laura cheerfully replied.  She turned back forward and held herself perfectly still.

Kelly shook her head and quickly trimmed her daughter's hair.  "I said it before, Harry.  You have a way with kids."

"Yeah, well, I'm a kid myself, right?"

"Chronologically, perhaps, but emotionally you're no more a child than Kingsley is."  She concentrated for a moment to finish the trim over Laura's forehead.  Giving a nod of satisfaction, she vanished the loose clippings.  "All done!"  She turned to Harry.  "While I'm at it, do you need a trim?"

Harry shook his head.  "Nope.  Ever since Aunt Petunia cut off almost all my hair and I regrew it overnight, I haven't had to cut my hair.  It has to be subconscious magic of some kind.  It doesn't matter to me all that much, honestly.  It works for me and that's all that matters."

Kelly blinked a little at the unexpected answer.  "Okay, then."  She cocked her head, and a small smile formed.

"What?" Harry asked warily.

"Oh, just thinking about what you said a few minutes ago.  Something about girls looking better with hair.  Any girl in particular?"

Harry blushed and mumbled.

Grinning widely now, Kelly asked, "What was that?  I didn't quite hear you."

"I said, 'Yes, maybe.'"

"Maybe?"  Kelly was now confused.  "Maybe you like her, or maybe it's a girl?"

Harry rolled his eyes.  "I like her, she's a girl, but I don't know if she likes me."

Laura clapped her hands and giggled.  "Harry likes someone, Harry likes someone!"

Kelly laughed as Harry groaned and dropped his head to the tabletop.  "Laura, honey, please stop teasing Harry."

Laura pouted.  "You don't let me have any fun."

"You want to have some fun?" Harry asked with a sudden grin.  "Locomotus scamnum."

Laura's chair began walking around the table to her squealed delight.

"Show off," Kelly accused good-naturedly as she watched her daughter.

"Faster, faster!" Laura demanded.

"In the words of a goblin I know, 'One speed only,'" Harry said.

"You aren't getting out of it so easy," Kelly mentioned.

"Well, I COULD make it go faster, but it wouldn't be safe."

"Not that.  I meant the potential girlfriend conversation."

Harry grimaced briefly.  He thought he had gotten out of that.  "Like it's safe to date me?  I have the Hogwarts Headmaster, the Minister of Magic, and - oh yeah - a mass murdering dark lord all angry with me to varying degrees.  I'm really good dating material," he finished in deep sarcasm.

"And you decided this on your own?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

"Yes, but isn't this HER choice?  By not giving her the choice, aren't you as bad as anyone who has refused to give you any options?" 

Without waiting for an answer, Kelly pulled out her wand and cast, "Finite.  Come on, Laura.  Time to do some of your school work."

Harry only half-heard the child's attempts to get out of doing the work.  He was realizing that his refusal to even give her the choice made him as bad as he'd accused Dumbledore of being.

This was not a pleasant thought.

Instead of thinking about it, Harry composed a letter.

Ginny,

It's only lunchtime and already so much has happened today.

First, why didn't you tell me that Hermione had told Dumbledore I was going to Diagon Alley that day?  I know you knew and am curious as to why you never told me.  I'm trying not to be angry with you until I know the full story.  I hope you do give me good news.  I don't have all that many friends left and don't want to lose you over this, Ginny.

On to less accusatory topics.

I assume you read the story in the Prophet about the werewolf registration.  The headmaster claimed he couldn't stop it even if he tried, but I'm not so sure I believe that.  I'd like to think he'd stop it just because of how it reflects on our society, but I can't help the niggling doubt that he didn't stop it as a strike at me.  If so, I feel bad mostly for Remus, as he's been caught in the crossfire no matter how it plays out.

I spoke with Fudge, too.  Did you know that ponce was planning on making me a ward of the ministry?  I don't know if that'd be better or worse than the Dursleys, honestly.  Remind me to tell you the story about Peeves and Percy the next time I see you.  I promise you'll enjoy it.

Good news.  Professor McGonagall isn't mad at me.  At least not for the howler.  I spoke to her after ---

Oh, yeah.  I'd better back up a little.  In addition to yelling at Dumbledore about the new law, I also told him I wasn't returning to Hogwarts (feel free to share that bit of news with everyone - they'll know quickly enough anyway).  I have great tutors here with me, and I'm not under threat of attack from professors or fellow students.  I figure I'm safer, happier, and will learn more this way.

Anyway, McGonagall.  She's surprisingly not angry about my not returning.  She said she even understands my reasons.  She was good enough to give me my Firebolt back, too.

As you predicted, Hermione sent me a howler.  In short, she was angry that I sent her one, so she sends one back.  It doesn't make any sense to me, but then again I've never been able to figure out the female mind.  Care to clue a bloke in?

Come to think of it, she'll probably send me another one when she learns I'm leaving Hogwarts.  Now THERE'S something to look forward to.

"Found a young witch worth wooing, yet?"  You've asked me that twice now.  Do you, perchance, have any suggestions on where I'm supposed to look?

Yours,
Harry

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Author Notes:

These bunnies (Remus's warnings and more Laura - Kelly - Harry interaction) are brought to you by Cami.

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