The Unknown Power
Early September to October 31
Harry / Ginny ship and Ron / Hermione ship
"Sit down and be silent," Snape barked, slamming into the potions classroom.
Every student was already sitting and silent. He stalked toward the front before turning around to glare malevolently at the assembled sixth years. As in all NEWT level courses, all four houses were in the same classroom. This was the first year that Harry could remember having classes with Ravenclaws.
"How some of you got an 'O' in your potions OWL is beyond me," Snape gritted out, staring straight at Harry.
For his part, Harry bit his tongue and kept his temper under tight control.
"Nevertheless, you are here and I must deal with that fact, no matter how it nauseates me."
He started running down the roll call, giving Harry a moment to determine the makeup of the class. Five Slytherins including Malfoy but not Tweedle-dee or Tweedle-dum. Four Ravenclaws, one Hufflepuff, plus Harry and Hermione as the only two Gryffindors. Well, at least the Slytherins didn't outnumber everyone else put together, Harry thought hopefully.
"Potter!" Snape snapped.
"Yes, Snape?" Harry asked.
Snape's eyes narrowed. "You will address me as Professor," he ground out dangerously.
Harry didn't say anything for a moment. "May I speak with you privately for a moment, sir?"
Taken aback by the suddenly respectful tone, Snape gestured to his office, following his student and slamming the door behind him. "What?"
Harry came straight to the point. "I know you loathed my father and godfather, Professor. Why you continue to take it out on me is something I don't understand. You're intelligent and honest enough to know that I'm neither James Potter nor Sirius Black. Whether we like it or not, we both ARE on the Hogwarts faculty and, more importantly, on the same side of the war. I will treat you with respect if you cease treating me like a Blast-Ended Skrewt."
Snape's eyes flared.
"Oh, you won't need to continue with the Occlumency lessons, and I strongly suspect Dumbledore will continue to keep me out of Order business, so our only interaction will be in your Potions class, Professor."
The combination of mild compliments, offered truce, and promise of reduced interaction took the Potions Master a few seconds to digest. "I still maintain your undeserved celebrity status has given you an ego and disregard for the rules that is intolerable."
"I would gladly give up the celebrity status, sir, if I could. Unfortunately that is not something I have any control over. Also, I completely agree that it's undeserved. My mother deserves the credit for my survival. I don't." He considered trying to defend what Snape consistently called his disregard for the rules, but decided it would be a waste of time. Besides, there WAS a kernel of truth in that one, unintentional as it may be.
Snape stared at him for a few moments longer, an unreadable expression on his face. He abruptly flung open the door and strode back out into the classroom.
Harry hurried after him, taking his seat. Hermione shot him a look that was clearly a question. He shook his head at her and picked up his quill to take notes again.
Though the class wasn't what he would call good, at least is was better since Snape didn't treat him any worse than any of the other non-Slytherins.
As everyone was packing up their bags at the end of the period, Harry stopped Hermione. "Do you have a minute? I'd like to talk with you and Professor Flitwick about the DA."
Shrugging her agreement, Hermione led the way toward the Charms classroom, arriving just as the last of the third year Gryffindor and Hufflepuff class was leaving. "Hermione and Professor Potter!" the small wizard greeted them cheerfully. "To what do I owe this unexpected visit?"
Harry grinned at being called a professor. That's something he doubted he'd ever get used to. "If you have a minute, Professor, there's a personal charms project that I'd like to talk over with you."
Smiling widely, Professor Flitwick waved the two students to seats. "Call me Filius. We're colleagues, are we not?"
Harry let the offer slide by without comment. "I brought the smartest witch in the school along with me so we can hopefully work through this quicker."
"I think Minerva and Silvia would be a bit put out by the 'smartest witch' portion of that comment," he observed with a wink toward Hermione.
Hermione's blush deepened.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Potter?"
"The loyalty contracts for the DA," Harry said.
Hermione sat up straighter in her chair, turning her full attention to Harry.
"Hermione here can give you the specifics on what charms went into it last year. This time, though, I'd like to add a few extra things, and I need your expertise."
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
"I still can't believe you said that to the greasy git, mate."
Hermione smacked Ron's arm.
Harry fought a smirk. He'd just told them what he and Snape had discussed behind closed doors. Ron was understandably surprised.
Ron rubbed his arm and gave Hermione a dirty look. He moved a foot further away from the bushy-haired girl and turned back to Harry. "Seriously, it sounds like you were almost being nice to him."
Though there was no explicit question in what Ron had said, Harry understood anyway. "Don't worry. I'm not about to start a Snape fan club. I still think he's a greasy git, and I haven't yet decided whether I'm going to play 'point swap' with him during the DA."
Ron grinned, and Hermione frowned.
"No, I'm not going to be overly nice to him, and I'm not defending him. I still think he's spying for the Order not because he believes it's good for the Light, but rather because it's good for Severus Snape in the long run. No, I'm calling a truce between us to get him off of my back. The way I did it is the only way I could get it accomplished considering his worldview and prejudices."
Hermione was looking disappointed. "And here I thought you were growing up."
"Is any of what I said not true? Okay, so maybe I added some editorial comments that weren't necessary, but really."
Hermione sighed. "Harry, think about what he has to do for the Order. You know Voldemort routinely Cruciates his Death Eaters. You know he has to risk getting into a deadly fight with Aurors every time he goes out. You know he has to keep a complete Occlumency shield up all the time he's around Voldemort. I'm not trying to defend him either," she added to Ron's frown, "but think about what he has to put up with on a daily basis. I don't like how he treats us any better than you two do, but think about what all he puts up. On top of that, he has Professor Dumbledore's trust."
Harry felt she was putting too much faith in Dumbledore but kept the thought to himself.
Ron was frowning heavily. "Yeah, so his life isn't all tea and scones."
Harry shook his head at Ron's stubbornness, but he did have a bit more sympathy for the Potions Master.
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
Friday evening, towards the end of dinner, Harry was getting exceedingly nervous. He was waiting in the same antechamber the Tri-Wizard contestants had gathered in, waiting until dinner was over and he started the DA's first organizational meeting.
"Almost time, Harry," Dumbledore said, entering the room. "Relax, my boy. No need to be so nervous." He studied his student for a moment. "If I might say so, you do not look well, Harry. How have your dreams been?"
"Between Remus's meditation and my other thing, I haven't had any visions if that's what you're asking." He gave the grandfatherly headmaster a wry grin and continued, "As for my dreams . . . well . . . I'm a sixteen year old male with a girlfriend. I'm sure I don't need to describe my dreams any further than that."
Dumbledore's mouth twitched. "Believe it or not, I was once sixteen as well. I believe I have a fair idea of what you are implying."
They shared a moment of almost levity before Harry started pacing again. "How many are still out there?" he asked, afraid to check for himself.
"Very nearly the entire school," Dumbledore answered cheerfully.
Harry groaned, burying his face in his hands.
"If you are nervous, I have found that it helps to think of the audience wearing only their unmentionables."
Harry's mind simply stopped. He had momentary images of a few of the attending females clad only in underwear. Cho. Parvati and Padma. Tonks. GINNY.
He swallowed on a dry throat. "That would be a very bad idea, I'm afraid." He turned his back on the headmaster and surreptitiously cast a Cooling Charm upon himself.
"Perhaps so," Dumbledore acknowledged.
Harry spun to look at Dumbledore. The ever-present twinkle in his eyes the only sign of humour. Harry sighed, convinced that the older wizard was teasing him. "You're enjoying this entirely too much," he accused.
"Of course," Dumbledore agreed, to Harry's surprise. "I am always gratified when a student steps up and accepts more responsibility."
Harry glared but decided not to pursue the conversation. In verbal fencing, Dumbledore was by far his superior, and they both knew it.
A soft chime sounded, indicating the dishes being cleared, and Harry knew it was time to start. Taking one final breath, he strode out to find the head table had already been replaced with a raised platform and a podium. The vast majority of the four house tables were still filled with the students. Most of the staff was standing along the wall.
Ginny had stationed herself at the near end of the Gryffindor table and mouthed, "I love you," as he walked past.
Hermione, seated across from her, nodded encouragingly. Tonks, he noticed, gave him a discreet thumbs-up.
Finally reaching the podium, he stood behind it and looked across the sea of faces. One last breath and he started. "Good evening, and welcome to the Defense Association's first organizational meeting of the year."
Cheering and table banging came from the former members. Harry smiled at them momentarily, thankful for the show of support.
"As you can tell, some of the former members are quite happy that we're continuing.
"At the Welcoming Feast, Professor Dumbledore mentioned that the lowest OWL or NEWT of one of the former members was an 'E', which was news to me, incidentally, so I guess I'm doing something right."
Light chuckles came from most of the room, with the notable exception of the Slytherin table.
"Okay, organizationally, this is under the direction of the Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Professor Tonks, however, has indicated that she'll be giving me a degree of freedom. She will be at most meetings, so if you have a problem with something I'm doing, a higher authority will be right there. All the other professors are of course welcome to come and observe or participate as well, if they wish.
"Meetings will be immediately after dinner on Fridays and Saturdays here in the Great Hall. Curfew for members will extend ten minutes after the meetings break up if it lasts that long. Madam Pomfrey will be in the hospital wing during and immediately after the meetings for the minor injuries, though there shouldn't be many. There weren't last year, and I don't plan on altering the material all that much.
"What is this class going to teach you? Primarily, it's offensive and defensive Charm practise. I won't be assigning written homework, but I've been reliably informed that sometimes studying the theory behind a spell can make it easier to learn or more powerful when cast." His glance toward Hermione went unnoticed by no one, resulting in a wave of chuckles.
"If there's enough interest, we could have a friendly tournament at the end of the year."
"Hear, hear!" sounded from multiple points in the room.
Harry smiled momentarily before going on. "What do I expect from you? Mostly it's just hard work. Not all of these spells are fun to learn. But we have to learn them if we expect to survive the first time we're face to face with Death Eaters. That IS why this group is here, after all.
"Now, who can join? Fourth years and above only." He raised a hand toward the angry mutterings of the younger students. "This is for practical reasons. Simply put, any witches or wizards younger than that won't have the background knowledge or power to pull off a lot of what I'm going to be teaching. All houses are invited," he went on, pointedly looking over toward the Slytherin table. "Similar to last year, anyone wanting to join will have to sign a loyalty oath that is magically binding. In short, you agree not to discuss anything about the DA's activities to non-DA members. Violations of that oath will be . . . unpleasant.
"This contract will be ready for signing tomorrow night, so everyone has twenty-four hours to think it over.
"For the moment, does anyone have any questions?"
"Is what you said on the train true, Harry?"
"Which part, Neville?"
"That You-Know-Who is a half blood."
Shocked whispers started up all over the room.
Harry nodded calmly. "Yes. Tom Riddle was a Slytherin who graduated in 1945. His father was a Muggle. Incidentally, he was the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets back then, and again four years ago. The first time led to the virtual expulsion of our own Hagrid," Harry waved to the half-giant standing along the wall, staring in shock, "who was a student at the time. That timeframe also contained the first fatality of the newly self-named Lord Voldemort. A student was killed. She's still here today. I'm referring, of course, to the ghost some of us know as Myrtle."
A buzz of whispers started up again. Harry chanced a glance at Dumbledore, honestly surprised that the headmaster would allow him to be revealing this much information. Dumbledore's expression allayed Harry's fears. Whatever else he may have thought about what Harry was doing, he wasn't upset at anything said.
"You expect us to believe any of this nonsense?"
"Whether you believe it or not, Malfoy, everything I've said is the truth. Like I suggested to you on the train, you can look up the information on Riddle in the library. Professor Dumbledore was the Transfiguration professor at the time, so he might be able to provide more information if you're interested."
"Is what the Prophet said about You-Know-Who the truth?"
"I don't get the Prophet over the summer, Padma, so I don't know what it said."
"Yes, it was," Hermione interjected. "Voldemort returned at the end of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. He did attack the Ministry in June. A dozen Death Eaters were captured in that fight."
"Rumours said you were there, Harry."
Figuring she'd already blown her own anonymity, Harry said, "Yes, Hermione and I, along with other students, were lured to the Ministry under false pretence. We were rescued by, among others, Professors Dumbledore and Tonks."
"Who were the other students? Who else was it who rescued you?"
"I'm not going to reveal those names. If they want to let their parts be known, they can come forward on their own. The ones I've already named are already part of the official record." He glanced at Hermione with a grin, "Or revealed too much personal knowledge, so there's no point in hiding them."
"My Auror partner, Kingsley Shacklebolt, was also listed in the report," Tonks added from her place against the wall.
Harry was sorely tempted to reveal Sirius's part and subsequent death, but that revelation would only confuse matters for the time being. Better to wait until Wormtail was in Azkaban before trying to deal with that whole mess.
"Any other questions?"
"Who was in the DA last year?"
"The ones making the most noise," Harry said dryly. Almost everyone chuckled. Ginny and Hermione stood and walked up to flank the podium. Ron followed a moment later, followed by a steady stream of other Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs. The only one Harry didn't see was Marietta Edgecombe, but he was of two minds over her inclusion anyway. Once the twenty-one students had joined Harry, even Zacharias Smith looking proudly back at the sea of faces, Harry turned back forward. "This doesn't count the five graduates, of course."
"More questions? No? Okay, I hope to see many of you tomorrow night."
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
Harry spent the majority of Saturday discussing the DA and answering questions from various potential members. Walking through the halls, he saw that most of the previous members were similarly besieged.
They had also become instant celebrities, much to Ron's delight and Neville's embarrassment. Almost all of them threw Harry exasperated looks when they spotted him.
Evening finally rolled around, and Harry was pleasantly surprised when the majority of the eligible students stayed in their seats after dinner. Unsurprisingly, the least represented house was Slytherin, but a fair number were still there. Many younger students, perhaps hoping to sneak in, had to be chased out of the Great Hall before things could move forward.
Dumbledore waved his wand, and the head table vanished, replaced again by the podium. Harry moved forward immediately. "Okay, we're here to sign up for this year's DA. Before we begin that, does anyone have any questions?"
"You claimed that anyone could join, Potter?" Malfoy drawled from the Slytherin table.
"If you sign the loyalty oath, yes," he answered evenly. A low level rumbling came from the Gryffindor table that Harry ignored.
"Can we read it?"
Harry pulled out his wand and the scroll. Muttering a few incantations over it, a large illusion appeared in the air above and behind him. While everyone in the Great Hall was reading, Harry quietly conjured a table, inkwell and quill.
"You're the designated leader?" someone from the Hufflepuff table asked, still reading.
Harry nodded. "Last year, the members made it clear that I was the only acceptable choice. Headmaster Dumbledore asked me specifically to continue it."
"What if we don't want you?" a Slytherin asked.
Jeering from the vast majority of the Great Hall answered that question readily enough.
"What if we're unwilling to follow your orders?" the same voice persisted.
"Then you'll be in violation of the oath," Harry answered.
"What's to keep YOU under control?" a Ravenclaw asked reasonably.
Harry nodded, surprising more than a few. "Professors Tonks and Dumbledore have the authority to override my orders or remove me if they so choose."
"Are you going to sign this?"
Harry shook his head, glad he'd discussed this exact issue with Professor Flitwick. "I can't. I'd be designating myself as my leader, which can cause some magical control problems during the meetings. Also, I need to talk with various professors about the DA, and I wouldn't be able to do so if I signed. Finally, I need to speak with my researchers about the DA and they're not going to be members."
"Can we trust THEM to keep quiet?"
"I think so, yes."
"Who are they?"
"Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley."
There was a moment of stunned silence before Head Girl Cho Chang spoke up dryly, "Can't ask for better than that." Chuckles and nods from around the room.
"Any more questions?" He paused, looking over his audience. "No? Okay, let's get this thing signed." Harry put the scroll down on the newly conjured table.
Ginny and Hermione left after a smile and wave toward Harry.
Nobody moved forward for several seconds until Ron stood and calmly approached. He signed with the available quill before returning to his seat. His move sparked the remaining eighteen former DA members to queue up to sign. Seeing their enthusiastic support, first more Gryffindors and then Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs and even a few Slytherins got in line.
As people signed, more joined the line, much to Harry's pleasure. He spent most of the time chatting with Tonks and Professor Flitwick.
To Harry's utter lack of surprise, the last three people in line were Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. Swaggering, Malfoy approached the table. Casting a disparaging glare at the conjured quill, he removed what appeared to be a small fwooper feather from a pocket and signed with a flourish.
Or he appeared to sign it, at any rate. No ink was left on the parchment.
Frowning, Malfoy tried again with the same result. He looked up and glared at Harry. "What are you playing at, Potter?"
Harry raised his eyebrows in lazy denial. "Me?" He brought a hand to his chest with a look of wounded pride. "I'm not doing anything, Malfoy. Why do you ask?"
"I'm trying to sign your stupid little paper, and it isn't working."
"How very strange. Why don't you try a different quill," Harry suggested politely.
Giving vent to a subsonic growl, Malfoy did just that, using the conjured quill. Again, no ink appeared on the parchment.
"Now that is strange," Harry said laconically, having watched the procedure. "I seem to recall . . ." He tapped a finger to his lips in a pose of exaggerated thought. Turning his head, he asked, "Filius?"
"Yes, Harry?" Professor Flitwick looked over in polite inquiry.
"What would it mean if someone was incapable of signing the DA's charter?"
"The charms I placed upon it would prevent someone from signing if they had the intention of betraying the DA, Harry. Just as you asked."
"Ah, yes. That was it. Thank you, Professor."
The Charms professor, knowing full well the part he was playing, answered, "You're most welcome, Professor."
Fighting his smile, and noting absently that Tonks wasn't even trying to hide hers, Harry turned back to Malfoy. "There you have it, Malfoy. You can't sign if you have the intention of betraying the DA."
Malfoy only barely fought off the urge to sneer. Instead, he gave a sickeningly sweet smile and said, "But I have no intentions whatsoever of betraying you or the DA."
A burst of white light came from the parchment, expanding in a sphere that quickly swept outward through the room. It knocked Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle off of their feet and onto the table behind them. Everyone else in the room was startled when they saw the light sweep through them quickly, but nobody else was affected.
"What was THAT?" Ron asked, looking around.
"That, Mr. Weasley, was the second stage of the Anti-Betrayal Charm I placed on the charter," Professor Flitwick answered calmly.
"Now that your intentions are clear, Malfoy, I'd strongly recommend that you three leave the room," Harry's pose of nonchalance had vanished.
Gathering together the remains of his pride, Malfoy got off the floor and stalked out, chased by the jeers of most of the students.
"Now that the entertainment's out of the way," Harry said, to the light amusement of the room. He rolled the parchment up and muttered a Sealing Charm over it. He handed the scroll to Tonks. "Keep that safe, would ya, Tonks?"
Harry clapped his hands loudly, getting everyone's attention. "Since we have such a large group of newcomers, we're going to spend some time reviewing. We'll start out with the Stunning Spell and Shield Spell. If everyone could begin to pair off? Thank you. Once someone thinks they've mastered it, please help anyone around you who seems to be having trouble. Okay, the Stunning Spell uses the incantation 'stupefy' and requires this wand movement . . ."
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
The next few weeks proceeded quietly for the Hogwarts students. After one more spying attempt by Ted Nott that was instigated by Malfoy, the DA was left alone by what they eventually called the DEiT (Death Eaters in Training) crowd. The double handful of Slytherins in the DA were in the most ticklish positions, but they had made a group decision not to pass along even the most vague of information in either direction. They were attempting to walk the razor's edge of neutrality, and so far it was working for them.
At the end of September after a Saturday meeting, Harry went into the library in search of his research team. Predictably, they were surrounded by dusty tomes at one of the study tables near the Restricted Section.
Harry snuck up behind Ginny and slipped his hands over her eyes.
Ginny didn't even pause. "You shouldn't be doing this here, Argus. What if Severus sees us?"
"Ew," Hermione commented, making a face.
"Agreed," Harry said in disgust at the mere thought. Or thoughts as the case may be. "You have a seriously warped sense of humour, Miss Weasley."
"You grow up with Fred and George and see what it does to you," she retorted dryly before giving Harry a welcoming kiss. "Good news. I think we've found something that might help."
"DA or Tommy?" Harry asked.
"The Tommy issue. Let's take this to the Room of Requirement. This'll take some explaining."
Harry helped the girls gather up the books and replace them into their appropriate places. They then went towards the seventh floor, discussing the day's DA meeting. They were working on the Patronus Charm again. Almost all of the original DA members could now cast a corporeal one with the exceptions of the Creevey brothers. Most of the new sixth and seventh years could do so after three days worth of practise. Harry had asked Filch to keep an eye out for boggarts to use to practise with, as Harry's boggart was a dementor look-alike. Or at least it was the last time he'd seen one.
Once safely ensconced into the Room of Requirement, Harry asked, "Okay, ladies. What have you uncovered from the dusty shelves of Hogwarts?"
Hermione first pulled out her wand. "Colloportus," she cast, pointing at the door.
Harry raised an eyebrow. She was sealing the room? This must be some information.
Putting her wand away, Hermione started to pace. "Based on what you told us about Moldywart coming back, we've been going under the assumption that his new body is magically constructed. Or at least has a high level of magic in it, or helping keep it together. Does that make sense?"
"It was the result of a ritual spell and potion. It's also clearly not human, so I guess that makes sense. If nothing else, I can just try physically killing him, but I'd have to get through his magical defences first, wouldn't I?"
"You're not doing this alone, Harry."
Harry frowned. They'd had this argument before. "I have to, Ginny. Prophecy, remember?"
Both girls shook their heads. "You may be the one casting the important last spell, but that doesn't mean there can't be others there to help you. 'Power the Dark Lord knows not.' Friends or allies could well be what the prophecy means," Ginny persisted.
Hermione raised a hand to Harry's gathering frown. "We found something we think will work. It was originally designed to deal with dementors, golems, griffins, dragons and like that. A physical entity with extremely high magical resistance. Several problems, still. It's a dual spell. Two halves have to be cast nearly simultaneously on the target. 'Finite res totalus' and 'finite magus totalus'. The 'res' half tries to stop the body. If done properly, the body simply ceases functioning. This is a purely physical attack. Any magical resistance at all will block the spell completely. Muggles have more than enough latent energy in them to block this. Even a living plant has enough magic to stop this from working. Which is where the 'magus' half comes in. It attempts to stop all the magic in and around the target. The problem with this is that it's a temporary situation. One second at best."
She took a breath and continued. "Okay, that was the good news. The bad news is that the magus half takes a LOT of energy."
"How much is a lot?"
"Let me put it this way," Hermione answered, "If every professor minus Dumbledore in the school pooled their energy it might . . . MIGHT," she stressed, "be enough."
Harry blinked. "That's a lot."
"Yes," Hermione agreed. "The res spell takes a powerful magician, but it can be done by an individual. The magus half has to be cast by one, but takes the power of a dozen to cast. We still have the problem of getting both spells to work simultaneously as well. Two people standing next to each other, casting it at the same time, isn't enough. The spells have to merge when they hit."
Harry sighed. "This is sounding impossible."
Ginny and Hermione frowned. "Maybe, but it's by far the closest we've come to a way of defeating Moldywart so far."
"I hate to ask, but would Lifeforce be enough to power the second half?"
The girls shuddered. The concept of someone voluntarily using their own soul to power a spell, even one to defeat Voldemort, wasn't something they wanted to contemplate.
These were not normal times, however, and Hermione had already considered this. "No, it isn't," she answered definitively. "That's getting close to the kinds of power levels we're talking about, but it has too much of a physical component inherent in it to cast such a purely anti-magic spell."
Harry summarized, "So we have a pair of spells that we think will work. The problems are that one of them is too powerful for anyone to cast, and the two spells have to be aligned more closely than is physically possible. Did I miss anything?"
Hermione was frowning. "No, you got it all," she said slowly.
"What are you thinking?"
"How to get more power available to a witch or wizard than they normally have," she answered absently.
"Channels? Power share?" Ginny tossed out ideas.
"Power sharing spells are all dark arts," Hermione waved that one off. "They usually require a blood sacrifice and then end up draining one or the other permanently anyway. A channel is a thought, though."
"The two spells would still need to be aligned," Harry noted.
Hermione sighed and rubbed a hand across her face. "I'm too tired to think straight. I know the answer's out there, but it won't come to me when my brain feels like tapioca."
The three picked up their bags from when they entered the Room of Requirement and trudged back to Gryffindor Tower. Hermione gave them a distracted wave before disappearing up the stairs to the girls' dormitory.
"Tired?" Harry asked.
"Some," Ginny admitted, waving him down onto a couch. When he'd settled himself, she curled up next to him, using his thigh as a pillow.
He absently ran a hand through her hair, staring at the fire. "I just wish I didn't have to do this."
"Me, neither. I'd rather that our biggest concern was finding broom cupboards to snog in. Fact is, though, that with Moldywart out there, he's going to keep coming for you until we take care of him."
"Yeah," he agreed. He took a breath, knowing she wouldn't react well to the next topic of conversation. He looked around carefully and nodded when he realised they had the common room to themselves. Not terribly surprising this late. "Ginny, I'd rather you didn't have to go into danger with me."
She sat up and turned to look at him with a piercing look. "I'd rather that neither of us had to go into danger, but that isn't going to happen unless Moldywart trips and falls off a cliff."
"You're not understanding what I'm saying," Harry whispered. "I know I have to fight him. I just don't want YOU to have to fight him."
Her eyes flared.
He held up a hand to forestall her words. "I know you don't like me trying to protect you, love. That honestly isn't the reason. It's more like I don't want you there because you will be in danger, and I'll be distracted trying to protect you."
She poked him hard. "You listen to me, Harry James Potter. You and I have to do this together. If you're resigned to do this, then how can you ask me not to do the same? As for my distracting you, you know that I'm well able to defend myself."
"I know, I know. I just don't want . . . I don't think I can survive it if you're hurt."
Her expression melted. "Then I won't get hurt. Once Hermione figures out how to do it, we can practise whatever spells it'll take in the Room of Requirement. You know it has to be me, Harry. In your heart, you know it."
He let out a long sigh and nodded. His heart did indeed know it would end up being her. He had no idea how he knew it, but he did.
She settled back down, and the young couple stared at the fire.
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
Sunday afternoon, Harry and Ginny were sharing a table in the library, working their way through their weekend homework.
Hermione came charging in, caroming off of a group of Hufflepuff third years without a word, and coming to a stumbling halt in front of the couple. "By the end of this conversation, you two will worship the ground I walk on!" she announced breathlessly with an excited gleam in her eye.
Trying to match her enthusiasm, Harry said, "You convinced Moldywart that this whole taking over the world thing was a bad idea and he's decided to take up a job bussing tables in the Three Broomsticks?"
Hermione's mouth twitched. "No."
"He's going into pet grooming?" Ginny guessed.
When Hermione's grin widened and she shook her head, Harry and Ginny began alternating theories.
"Experimental Flobberworm breeding?"
"Writing love advice and horoscopes for Teen Witch Weekly?"
Hermione and Ginny got nauseated looks on their faces.
Harry grinned. "HA! I won."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Very mature." She dropped her voice so the students in the library couldn't overhear, though nobody was in sight. "No, I was referring to the problem we talked about last night. I think I found an answer!"
She suddenly had the undivided attention of Harry and Ginny. "You did? How?"
Hermione shook her head. "We need to talk with Headmaster Dumbledore. He's the best around at magical theory, so he'll know if my idea will work. Besides, if my guess is right, he'll need to be part of the solution."
Quickly putting their work away, the couple followed Hermione to the stone gargoyle. Hermione stared at it for a second before turning to Harry. "Um . . ."
"Warheads," Harry said.
The gargoyle jumped aside, revealing the moving staircase that Hermione immediately started climbing. Harry and Ginny moved to follow.
"Warheads?" Ginny asked.
"Muggle candy," Hermione answered over her shoulder before using the griffon doorknocker.
"Enter," Dumbledore's voice invited.
Hermione entered the room, dropped the book she was carrying into one of the guest chairs, and started furiously pacing. "Good afternoon, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said cheerfully. "Lemon sherbet?"
She stopped suddenly and smiled at the aged headmaster as Harry and Ginny took seats. "Yes, please," she accepted one of the small candies and sat down, the book now on her lap. "Please excuse me. I've just found something and am still excited."
"Quite alright. Harry, Miss Weasley, how are you two this fine day?"
"Fine, Professor," Harry answered.
"Now, Harry, you are on the staff. How many times must I insist you call me Albus?"
He grinned ruefully, letting the easy banter calm him from the excitement Hermione had infused him and Ginny with. "As we've had this conversation four times now, I guess the answer is: At least five."
Dumbledore shook his head, twinkle firmly in place. "I can see that I will have to attempt to convince you again. It must be later, however. I daresay we had best talk with Miss Granger before she spontaneously combusts." He ignored Ginny's snicker as he turned to the fidgeting girl. "Miss Granger, you had something you wished to speak with me about?"
"I think I found how to do the channels to allow someone to use the 'finite magus totalus' spell," she burst out.
Dumbledore blinked once. He picked up his wand and cast a series of charms first on the door, then window, then fireplace. Laying his wand down again, he said, "Please explain."
"You're aware of the research Harry has Ginny and I doing?"
"We found the 'finite magus totalus' and 'finite res totalus' dual spells. As you know, the power requirement for the magus portion is prohibitive. Ginny suggested using power channels. I think I found a way of doing that."
"Wait," Harry interrupted. "I thought there was a synchronization problem, too?"
"That answer is obvious," Hermione dismissed. She turned back to Dumbledore. "Blood links, using magical conduits," she explained cryptically. She opened the book again at a specific page and handed it to the very attentive headmaster.
With a totally perplexed Harry and Ginny looking on, Dumbledore rapidly read a page and a half of the massive tome. He gently closed the book again and leaned back in thought. "Fawkes?" he asked Hermione after thirty seconds of contemplation.
Hermione smiled, pleased that the headmaster thought the plan was sound. "That was my thought, if he's willing," she confirmed.
"Could you two explain what you're going on about?" Harry asked irritably.
Suddenly showing an amazing level of animation, Dumbledore leaned forward. "I am tempted to award two hundred points to Gryffindor for Miss Granger's superb idea; however, I am sure you can all see the reason this idea must remain a complete secret."
Hermione beamed at the praise, even if no points came of it.
"Would you care to explain, Miss Granger?"
She nodded and turned to the other two students in the room. "Harry, let's take the issues one at a time, starting with the synchronization you mentioned. The way to get such a dual spell to work properly is for the two magicians in question to have synchronised auras. Several ways I know about in order to do that. Some twins already have it," she nodded to Ginny in tacit indication of Fred and George. "Long time married couples can also have synchronised auras. There are various spells available as well. These all work better if they're already an existing bond between the two." She stopped, staring at Harry.
"What kind of bond?" he asked. "Magical? Emotional?"
"Magical," Dumbledore answered.
"Like the one I have with Voldemort or Wormtail?" Harry spat.
"Like the one you share with Wormtail for example, yes," Hermione calmly explained. "When you saved his life, the magic created a connection between the two of you. That connection can be used in a variety of ways if both participants are willing." She paused and went on, "To a lesser extent, you can do some things with it even if he's unwilling as he's the one indebted to you. However, that isn't who I was thinking of, Harry."
"Me?" Ginny asked. She turned to Harry. "You saved my life as well, so that same kind of bond exists between us."
"You two have a much stronger bond as there is also an emotional component to it," Dumbledore added, smiling benignly at the couple who were holding hands without even realising it.
Harry blushed slightly, but didn't release Ginny's hand.
"Headmaster," Hermione slowly said. Once she had Dumbledore's attention she hesitantly continued, "Please understand that I'm not advocating it, but would it help the bond if there were a . . . physical . . . component to it as well?"
It took a second for her meaning to sink into Harry's consciousness, and he went utterly still.
"I . . ." Ginny started, clearly understanding what her friend was implying. She shook her head and took a deep breath, shoving her emotions to the background. "Would it help, Headmaster?" she asked in a brittle voice.
Dumbledore's eyes flickered back and forth between the two for a moment. "Unlikely," he finally said. "What we need in this circumstance is a strong magical bond. The emotional bond you already share will enhance that. A physical bond would likely not harm the situation, but I feel it would not help overmuch."
Both Harry and Ginny let out a breath. Neither could decide if they were happy with that answer or not, but it was at least something they didn't have to deal with for the time being.
"Now," Dumbledore went on, "there are several spells we can enact that will bring your magical auras closer together. They will have no other effects upon you, so long as you do not try to duel each other while the spell is in effect."
"What would happen?" Harry asked, honestly curious.
"Something similar to 'Priori Incantatem'," Hermione answered. "Okay, so we have a way of getting the two spells to work together. Now the tricky one: how to get enough power available to Ginny to cast the 'magus' spell. Your suggestion of channels last night got me thinking. One of the most stable power channels that can be created is based on blood ties."
"My family?" she asked, catching on immediately.
Hermione nodded. "If we can give each of them a power focus after placing the proper spells on it, you can tap their magical energy. It'd be draining for them, but would give you a lot more power."
"Is it dangerous?" Ginny asked in concern.
"No," Hermione shook her head. "We can put a limiter on the foci. At worst, they would have a case of magical exhaustion."
"How do you make the foci?" Harry asked. "Wait," he suddenly said, eyes travelling first to Fawkes the phoenix and then to his wrist where his wand was snugly resting.
When his enlightened smile went to Hermione, she nodded. "Yes, if Fawkes is willing, we can divide one of his feathers to make multiple foci. The fact you have another of his feathers in your wand will only help."
"Nine, I should think," Dumbledore said, staring off into space. "Arthur, Molly, William, Charles, Frederick, George, and Ronald. I am afraid Percival would refuse to assist us in such an undertaking. Ginevra here would have to wear one as well, of course."
"That's only eight," Ginny pointed out.
"I would have the remaining one," Dumbledore explained.
"You're related to the Weasleys?" Harry asked incredulously.
Dumbledore laughed. "Of course I am, Harry, as the Potters are. The magical community is far too small for us not to be related. In my case, the five generations removed is not enough to be useful in this instance. No, it is my connection to Fawkes which will enable me to contribute energy to this endeavour."
"Erm," Harry fumbled, glancing sideways at his girlfriend.
Dumbledore shook his head with a smile. "Seven generations off on your father's mother's father's side, I believe."
Harry and Ginny both let out a breath.
Hiding her amusement, Hermione went on, "Will eight magical foci be enough?"
"I should think so," Dumbledore answered pensively. "The Weasley and Prewett lines tend to produce strong wizards. I, myself, will also be contributing. With my connection to the school, I am somewhat more powerful than the average wizard."
Which was grossly understating things, the three students knew without bothering to mention it. There was a reason that Voldemort was hesitant to duel him one-on-one.
"Fawkes, perchance would you be willing to contribute a feather toward our undertaking?" Dumbledore asked the phoenix politely.
The red and gold phoenix let out a short trill of song that ranged upwards in a clear note of acceptance. He fluttered over and perched on the back of Ginny's chair, to everyone's surprise.
"Such a handsome fellow you are," Ginny whispered, running one finger down his chest, causing him to croon quietly.
"Remarkable," Dumbledore said, catching Harry's eye.
Harry just grinned, thankful that the phoenix which had always been friendly toward him was also accepting Ginny.
"Who is going to explain this to Dad and Bill?" Ginny asked, still stroking Fawkes.
"Why just them and not your whole family?" Harry asked.
"They'll all get suspicious if we just give them something and tell them to wear it without explanation. Bill is a curse-breaker for the goblins, so he could probably figure out any and all charms we put on it. Therefore, he has to be told. Mum would just have a conniption if she found out about what we're doing. Ron is too protective of me to allow this. Charlie, Fred, and George would be willing to help without asking too many questions. Dad has to be told in order to give a good cover story to the others."
"Protective spell by the Order?" Harry offered a possible cover explanation hesitantly. True to his prediction, Dumbledore had been subtly shielding Harry and the other students from all Order business since the beginning of the term.
Dumbledore nodded. "I shall be contacting Mr. Ollivander and Miss Chantally immediately to commission the items in the strictest confidence."
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
The pendants, each with a portion of a single phoenix feather, took only a week to fashion and then enchant. Dumbledore, Hermione, Harry, and Ginny explained the situation to Arthur and Bill that evening, getting their grudging assistance.
Harry eventually talked everyone into letting him pay for the items and the time taken by Mr. Ollivander and the jeweller Dumbledore had also hired. This was not school related, so Hogwarts shouldn't have to pay for it. It wasn't truly Order related, so that source of funds would be difficult to access without Dumbledore telling the Order more about the scheme than he was willing to divulge. That left personal payment. As it wasn't charity or gifts, Harry eventually got Arthur to accept the explanation that it was his responsibility as it was part of fulfilling the prophecy.
Ron took some friendly ribbing from his dorm-mates over the necklace that appeared as a blocky, masculine "W", but he had been told it was a protective spell for the Weasleys, the largest single family in the Order of the Phoenix. Outside his dorm room, he wore it tucked inside his shirt, as did all the non-student Weasleys.
Ginny wore hers openly, explaining that it was a gift from Harry. She wore a much more stylised "W" with a pair of emerald chips embedded in it at her hesitant request.
When Parvati had hinted that a ring would have been more appropriate, she was roundly ignored.
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
Three weeks later, it was the evening before Halloween and the usual feast. Harry was reading, for the fourth time, an article in that morning's Daily Prophet. Rita Skeeter was back to her previous muckraking. This time, it was Harry and Ginny's relationship. According to the article, Ginny was pregnant by Harry, and he was on the verge of suicide due to the public disgrace. Rita somehow also managed to imply that Ginny had suckered Harry into this in an attempt at extorting money from him. Harry shook his head and muttered darkly to himself yet again. Since Skeeter's year of good behaviour had expired, she was back and appeared to have a vendetta against Harry.
Harry caught the headmaster sneaking a look at him when he folded the paper and looked up. That was the third time tonight. Finally fed up with the treatment, he approached the head table. "Headmaster, as I haven't been permitted to attend any meetings, may I ask if the Order has any information on imminent attacks?" he asked quietly.
"Whatever do you mean, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, looking at him in confusion.
"Voldemort seems to like Halloween attacks," Harry explained. "I didn't know if anything was known about his plans for tomorrow."
"Nothing is known," Dumbledore assured his student.
Harry wasn't paying all that much attention to Dumbledore's answer. Instead, he was paying attention to McGonagall's reaction out of the corner of his eye. Just as he suspected, she looked down and began fidgeting with her napkin. To anyone else, it would look perfectly natural. To Harry, it meant she knew something that she was hiding from him.
Harry turned his full attention back to Dumbledore just in time for the headmaster to realise that something was wrong. Harry's face closed off completely. "Thank you for the information," he said flatly. Turning on his heel, he strode down the aisle toward the doors, Ginny falling into step beside him as he passed.
"What's wrong?" she asked, recognising the tension in his stride. "It's not still that Skeeter article, is it? If it is, I can assure you that I'm not -"
"Look back at Dumbledore and tell me what he's doing and how he looks," Harry quietly cut off her attempt to cheer him up.
Deciding not to get angry over his attitude, at least not at the moment, Ginny threw a quick glance over her shoulder.
Dumbledore, not expecting her to turn, was a moment too slow in averting his gaze.
"He's hiding something," Ginny reported, turning back forward and dropping all attitude of cheerfulness. "He was looking at you, concerned about something. The instant he saw me looking, he turned to McGonagall. What's going on, Harry?"
"He's been keeping a closer eye on me than usual tonight. I went up to ask if the Order knew about anything happening tomorrow, Tommy has a strange fondness for Halloween attacks, and he told me nothing is known. He did not say whether anything was suspected. What was interesting was that McGonagall refused to look at me when he said it."
"And since she's in the Order, too . . ."
"I just hope it's not something around here."
"Same here. I'm afraid I'm going to be spending a lot of time with my map tonight."
"Want me to keep you company?"
Harry smiled down at her. "Sure. Maybe you can think of something to keep me awake."
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
Near four o'clock, they were long since the last ones in the common room. They'd started in front of the fire, but Harry soon found himself falling asleep. He'd moved to one of the work tables, leaving his sleeping girlfriend in front of the dying fire. She'd eventually awoken when she got cold, scolded him for letting her sleep, then joined him at the table. They'd both finished their homework, so they played a few games of wizard's chess, the activated map lying next to them.
"We probably should have let Dumbledore and the Order handle everything."
Harry's face closed down a bit. "With everything I've told you about how he treated me over the years and what you've seen yourself, do you really trust him to do the best thing for us?"
"Well . . ."
Harry held up a hand, stilling Ginny's half-formed comment. "I don't doubt that he does what he thinks is the best for the wizarding community as a whole. THAT doesn't always coincide with what's best for me or what I think is best for the wizarding community, though."
Ginny nodded slowly. It was a hard for her to admit that the headmaster was only human, but after Harry's pointing it out during the summer, she'd seen many of the same signs of his subtle manipulation of all of those around him. Then there was the whole Heir of Slytherin thing that he'd completely missed. Plus the false Professor Moody. Yes, the Hogwarts headmaster was imperfect. Which implied his decisions could be fallible as well.
Forcibly changing the subject, she said, "I'm surprised Ron hasn't come down here yet."
Harry shrugged, accepting the topic shift. "I keep kinda strange hours, so he's given up trying to keep track of me."
"Strange hours?" she asked.
Harry nodded. "One of my DA duties is to mark some of the homework that Tonks hands out. I occasionally do that down here in the middle of the night."
"I thought you weren't having as much trouble sleeping," she said in concern.
"I'm not. I just don't need much sleep, I guess," he shrugged. Privately, he thought it was a legacy of only getting four or five hours a night for years thanks to Voldemort induced visions. Saying so, however, wouldn't help matters any and in fact would only upset her.
"So what do you do all night?" she asked in interest.
"You mean besides my midnight rendezvouses with my harem?" He grinned at her sour look. "Seriously, I mark first and second year essays for Tonks, wander around the castle, study my Defense textbooks, Quidditch books, whatever." He glanced at the map as he'd been doing every few minutes all night and suddenly stiffened.
Alarmed, she also looked down. There, just entering the edge of the map from the Forbidden Forest, was a dot labelled Peter Pettigrew.
"Wormtail," Harry breathed, giving a sudden, feral grin. Abandoning the game (she was winning again anyway), he flipped his invisibility cloak over Ginny's head and said, "Follow me." He snatched up the map on his way past the table and exited the portrait hole, Ginny following closely behind.
"Don't worry, it's just me," Harry soothed the Fat Lady as she started to stir.
"Off to patrol the castle again, Professor Potter?" she asked sleepily.
"Never can be too careful," he said over his shoulder. Once out of earshot of the portrait, he whispered, "Open up."
Ginny held up part of the cloak so he could slip under it as well. Harry immediately discovered that three eleven year olds fit under the cloak much easier than a sixteen year old and a fifteen year old. After a few moments, they discovered that they could stay covered only if he was so close behind her that he was rubbing against her back. Ginny kept the map open and her head down, giving a low voiced running commentary on Wormtail's location. Harry kept his head up and steered them around with his hands on her hips. Not that either teenager disliked the arrangement, of course.
"Shouldn't we warn a professor?" she whispered.
"In case you didn't notice, you're sharing very close quarters with one of those very same professors," he breathed into her ear.
She shivered but kept to her thought. "You know what I mean, Harry. Should we be doing this on our own?"
"I have my mirror on me. If we run into something we can't deal with, I can contact Remus quickly enough."
Harry had originally hoped to intercept Wormtail in the Entrance Hall. This proved wishful thinking as Wormtail entered the castle through a window and first headed toward the headmaster's office. The two students where then forced into a short chase. Fortunately, it appeared that Wormtail stayed near the gargoyle long enough for the two to catch up with him. Stepping quietly, the two spotted a large rat poking its nose around the base of the gargoyle statue.
Stepping out from under the cloak, Harry pulled his wand and cast a spell he'd first heard his third year. "Animus reverto."
The rat in front of them was caught looking the wrong way. A flash of blue-white light later, and a small, stoop-shouldered man was staring at the gargoyle. The two students heard a sigh. "Hello again, Harry," Pettigrew whispered in his slightly squeaky voice.
"Wormtail," Harry coldly greeted one of his father's best friends. The one who had betrayed them all. "You know, you could repay the Wizard's Debt you owe me right now, Wormtail. Just tell us everything you know about Voldemort, his plans, and his Death Eaters and then turn yourself in at Azkaban so you can rot in Hell like you should."
Peter turned to face Harry and managed a slight smile. "You could do the intelligent thing and renounce your loyalty to this mockery of a school and join forces with My Lord."
"I guess we're both doomed to disappointment, then, aren't we?" Harry cocked his head for a moment. "On the other hand, I could just stun you and turn you in to Dumbledore. A couple drops of veritaserum and my wish could very well come true."
Pettigrew's face lost what little colour it had. Moving so suddenly that it caught both Harry and Ginny by surprise, Wormtail threw his silver hand forward, darted toward Harry, and cast several spells in quick succession. "Diffindo! Stupefy! Activate! Reducto! Stupefy!"
"Protego!" Harry shouted, throwing up a shield reflexively when he heard Wormtail's first spell. His shield protected him (barely) from the four spells coming at him, but he had no room and no time to manoeuvre away from the small man charging at him.
Ginny was just as surprised by Pettigrew's sudden attack as Harry was. She stepped forward and grabbed Harry's arm, starting to pull him away. While her left hand was doing that, she raised her wand and called, "Everbero!"
At the same time that her bludgeoning spell crashed into Pettigrew, rendering him unconscious, the invisibility cloak fully slipped off her head and Pettigrew's momentum carried him further forward and into Harry.
Both Harry and Ginny immediately felt the peculiar jerking sensation of an activated Portkey.
They stumbled upon landing, Peter's limp body falling at their feet.
"Well, well. THIS is most unexpected," commented a cold, hissing voice from behind them.
Harry whirled in place, feeling his heart nearly stop at the sight of an amused Voldemort standing not four meters away in a small clearing of a forest. Glowing, magical balls floated around, casting an eerie glow over the scene.
Nagini was nowhere in sight, a fact which slightly confused Harry, but for which he was thankful nonetheless.
Voldemort was looking down at his unconscious follower. "He never was any good in a fight, but at least he activated his Portkey and kidnapped you as I ordered." He looked up at Harry. "I was planning on having more of my followers here to give you a proper welcome, but perhaps the personal touch will be more enjoyable." He slowly drew his wand but continued to point it at the ground. "Yes, MUCH more enjoyable," he hissed, eyes flickering back and forth from Harry to Ginny. "Which one shall I kill first?" His eyes stopped at Ginny, causing the girl to swallow convulsively. "While killing Harry Potter is my main goal, I do believe that killing his lady love first, before I touch a hair on his head, would be most enjoyable. Don't you agree?"
"I wouldn't agree with you even if you said that Albus Dumbledore was the most powerful wizard alive," Ginny spat.
"Oh, but I wouldn't say that," Voldemort disagreed, looking vaguely amused. Such an expression looked grotesque on his face. "You see, he ISN'T the most powerful living wizard."
Harry used the distraction of their conversation to shift the aim of his wand from pointing to the ground at his feet, to pointing at Ginny's foot. "Confero Facultas Magus," he whispered, fervently hoping he'd gotten the Aura Alignment Spell correct. Both he and Ginny had practised it occasionally over the past two weeks, but he wasn't totally confident in its success yet. It was going to be tested within a few minutes, he was sure.
"Why not?" Harry asked, drawing Voldemort's attention away from Ginny. "I'm not so sure I'd call you human, honestly. Morality aside, that ritual I watched you and Wormtail cast created a body for you, but really, you aren't looking human, Tom."
"Don't use that name," Voldemort hissed, his glowing eyes tightening in anger.
"Why not?" Ginny asked. "You were born Tom Marvolo Riddle, weren't you?"
Voldemort didn't respond immediately, rather he seemed to be studying her for a moment. "You're the little girl to whom Lucius gave my diary, aren't you? I'd dearly love to hear how you bested me and the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets."
"Well, Tom, all you have to do is ask."
"That name no longer has any meaning for me," Voldemort growled angrily. "I've evolved beyond the human he was." He turned his head. "Join me, Harry, and we can rule the world together."
"I'll never join you," Harry stated firmly. "Even if I was insane enough to believe you, didn't you just say that your goal was to kill me?"
"Only if I must. I'd rather have you by my side, but if you will not join me, you will die!" He raised his wand faster than the two young magicians in front of him could react. "Avada Kedavra!"
Harry and Ginny dove apart from each other, the sickly green light passing between them.
"Stupefy!" Ginny cried, throwing an extremely bright, red light at Voldemort. He didn't fall from the spell, but he was knocked backward by the unexpected power of the standard Stunning Spell.
Harry had been thinking about what he'd said a few seconds previously. Voldemort truly did not look human any longer. In fact, he was looking more and more like . . . "Expecto Patronum!"
Harry's Prongs Patronus formed and charged Voldemort down. Voldemort, recognising the spell for what it was, ignored it and shook off the remainder of Ginny's Stunning Spell. He was therefore surprised when the Patronus physically ran into him, knocking him to his back Prongs kept moving forward, trying to herd Voldemort away from his caster.
Harry, using the distraction Prongs was providing, ran back to Ginny's side. Sharing a single glance, the two students nodded and turned their wands toward Voldemort.
"Finite Magus Totalus," Ginny spoke, her necklace suddenly flaring to painfully brightness.
"Finite Res Totalus," Harry spoke, overlapping his girlfriend's voice, pushing as much power and concentration into the spell as he was capable of.
The two spells, one yellow and one blue, seemed to twine through each other to become almost green as they cleaved through the air toward their target and struck Voldemort full in the chest.
Ginny's spell, carrying the power of eight Weasleys and one Dumbledore, performed flawlessly. All magic in a two metre sphere abruptly ceased.
Prongs winked out of existence.
More importantly, all the magical defences that Voldemort had laboriously built up since his resurrection stopped working for a critical moment in time.
That was the same moment that Harry's spell struck, causing Voldemort's body to simply cease functioning. Even if theoretically a Healer could later get Voldemort's heart to start beating again, his brain had just irrevocably shut off.
Voldemort froze in position, arms falling to his side. With all the grace of a cut tree, he fell over. A hazy smoke drifted up from his body, rapidly dissipated by the gentle breeze.
Harry fell to his hands and knees, breathing heavily, drained from casting the powerful spell.
Ginny collapsed beside him, pale and sweating, panting for breath.
It took a solid minute before Harry had the energy to pull his head up and look around. Pettigrew was still out cold, Voldemort was unmoving, and Ginny was lying beside him, shaking, and looking even more drained than he was. "You okay?" he groaned out, falling over, somewhat gracefully, onto his side to face Ginny.
"Is he dead?" she asked faintly.
Harry craned his neck and looked at his arch nemesis. Peering closely, Harry didn't see his chest rising and falling in breath. "I think so," he answered. As soon as the import of the words he'd spoken registered, he rolled away from Ginny and explosively emptied the contents of his stomach. He continued to heave, even long after nothing was coming up any longer.
"Are you okay?" Ginny finally asked as he quieted down.
"No," he groaned, spitting the foul taste from his mouth. "I killed him. I just killed someone."
"WE just killed someone," she quietly corrected him, finally feeling strong enough to lift her head.
"You took down his defences. I killed him. I cast the res spell," Harry mumbled, unwilling to look at her.
"WE," she repeated in emphasis, "cast a dual spell, love. The goal was to destroy the most evil wizard in the world. Who, incidentally, would have happily killed us and everyone we care for. We succeeded in that spell. Yes, he lost his life in the process. Would you have preferred some other result?" She had slowly levered herself upright while speaking, and was now sitting, staring at Harry's back.
He silently digested that for a few seconds before giving a long sigh. "I suppose you're right," he finally relented.
"Something you'll have to get used to, especially if we're going to have a future together, love," she teased softly.
He chuckled weakly back, finally rolling back over. "Are you okay?" he asked in concern, once he saw how pale she still was.
"Tired," she admitted. "That spell took a LOT of energy. I'll be okay in a few minutes, but I'm going to want a big breakfast."
He smiled, hoping the taste in his mouth would recede by then. "How's your family?"
She shrugged slightly. "Dunno. I suspect that they're the same as me, but they're probably all asleep."
"Aw, hell," Harry whispered. He levered himself back up to sitting and pulled his communication mirror out from inside his robes. "Remus Lupin." He waited a few seconds and then repeated in a louder voice, "Remus Lupin!" He could faintly hear something from the mirror. "Remus!" he shouted at the mirror. "Are you there?"
"Yeah, yeah," Remus said, but it was muffled. The image suddenly swerved crazily for a moment, causing Harry's stomach to almost revolt again. Fortunately, the image steadied on a sleep-tousled Remus Lupin, shirtless, in a dark room. "Harry? Why in the name of Merlin are you calling at this time of night?" He peered into the mirror for a moment. "You're outside? What do you think you're doing? Get back inside, right now!"
"What is it, Rem?" a sleepy female voice came from the mirror.
Harry didn't even try to cover first the surprise, then the ear-encompassing grin that spread over his face.
Remus, looking slightly guilty, turned to address someone out of viewing range of the mirror. "It's Harry, Dora."
"Dora?" Ginny asked, grin audible despite her exhaustion. "Could that be our very own NYMPHADORA, my dear Professor Lupin?"
"Ginny? What are you two doing together, outside, at," he looked off to the side again, "five-thirty in the bloody morning!?"
"Long story," Harry cut his guardian off. "This is important, Remus. Wake up Madam Pomfrey. Grab Pepper-Up Potions and go to Dumbledore then Ron Weasley. I expect you'll find both of them are suffering from magical exhaustion. Then get to the Burrow and Fred and George's flat. Same thing." Harry tried very hard to ignore the sounds of rustling, as if someone were putting clothing on, coming from the mirror.
"Harry? What in the name of Magic are you talking about? All the Weasleys are magically exhausted? What are you going on about?"
"I'll explain later," Harry answered in exasperation. "Just do it, alright?"
Remus stared at his ward for a few seconds, trying to judge his sincerity. "Where are you?" he asked eventually.
"Don't know, really. We got Portkeyed out by Wormtail."
"WHAT?" Remus bellowed.
"Forbidden Forest, I think," Harry continued, ignoring Remus's outburst. He gave a sly grin and added, "My girlfriend and I are fully clothed, incidentally."
Remus blushed but maintained eye contact. "You're not going to tell me anything, are you?"
Harry shook his head. "Dumbledore and Hermione know what happened if you want a preview. We should be back in time for breakfast if we are indeed near Hogwarts."
"Should I owl a Portkey?"
Harry frowned. "Doesn't a Portkey need to know the start point, at least generally?"
"Good point. You really don't know where you are?"
"What can we do to help?" Tonks came into view of the mirror, face composed, sporting her usual short hair, bubblegum pink at the moment, charmingly tousled.
"Send some Pepper-Up to us, too," Harry decided. "We can see where the owl heads off and follow that direction to get back to the castle."
"I could follow the owl on a broom," Remus offered.
"Dammit, Remus," Harry growled, his patience rapidly running out. "Just check on Dumbledore and the Weasleys. Get Tonks there to send the Pepper-Up. I'll explain everything else later, but now is not the time."
"If you don't like my answers then ground me. Right now, I'm tired, I've got a monster headache, and I BLOODY WELL DON'T WANT TO EXPLAIN!"
"Temper, Harry," Tonks calmly said. "Okay, we'll do your bidding. Pepper-Up's on the way. See you in a bit." She took the mirror from Remus. Harry's last view of his guardian was of his surprised face.
"I just hope they invite me to the wedding," Ginny commented.
Harry snorted in laughter, slowly standing and putting the mirror away. Looking around the small clearing again, he offered Ginny a hand up. "You getting better?"
She nodded tiredly. "I'll be glad of that Pepper-Up, though."
A groan from Wormtail interrupted Harry's agreement.
In an eye blink, Harry was standing, wand pointed at the recovering Death Eater. "Silencio. Locomotor Mortis," Harry cast.
"Why not stun him?" Ginny asked, slowly standing with the support of a tree.
"I want him to see his master," Harry answered, staring at Wormtail in cold loathing.
Peter finally came around enough to realise that there was a problem.
Before he could do anything, Harry said, "Wormtail, don't even think of casting anything. I'll cheerfully kill you if you so much as sneeze wrong."
Pettigrew froze, slowly swivelling his head to look at Harry. He took in the iron-hard look Harry was giving him, then Ginny's unsteady posture. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Looking only slightly surprised at that occurrence, he used his arms to lever himself up to a sitting position, looking at Harry in question.
Without moving his wand from the traitor, Harry indicated Voldemort's body with a head jerk. "Take a look, Peter."
Cautiously, Peter turned in the indicated direction. He stared for nearly thirty seconds before turning back to Harry, abject fear spread all over his pale, perspiring face.
Mood changing entirely, Harry said conversationally, "Maybe you could help me, Peter."
Wormtail tried to look attentive.
"I'm trying to think of a reason not to kill you, but I'm not coming up with much. So, I was thinking of letting you become a rat and feeding you to Crookshanks. Or maybe ask Remus NOT to take his Wolfsbane Potion and save you until the full moon. What do you think?"
Terrified beyond coherent thought, Peter transformed into Wormtail and tried to scurry away. His immobile back legs hindered him such that he was barely moving forward.
"Stupefy." "Petrificus Totalus."
Both students cast at the struggling to flee Animagus. Harry's Stunning Spell hit the slowly moving target. He immediately collapsed. Ginny was looking at her wand in surprise. Now that she was looking at it, she could see the thin stream of smoke coming out of the tip.
"What happened?" Harry asked. Ginny hadn't fumbled a known spell in years, and a Full Body Bind was well within her capabilities.
"I don't know," she admitted. "Either my wand's broken, or I'm completely magically drained." The latter possibility caused concern that rapidly grew.
"Calm down!" Harry said, trying to keep her from panicking. He handed her his wand. "We know my wand works. Just try a 'lumos'."
"Lumos." Both magicians breathed a huge sigh of relief when the wand tip lit up. "My wand must have overloaded," Ginny speculated, handing the wand back to Harry.
"Nox. Well, it DID channel about a dozen times the usual energy into a complicated, powerful spell."
She pocketed her wand with a sad sigh.
"I'm sure we can get you another one," Harry offered.
Ginny dredged up a smile. "Maybe Charlie will get me a dragon heartstring."
Grinning at the mild joke, Harry conjured a bag and levitated the rat into it. After casting Unbreakable and Locking Charms on the bag, he tied it to his belt, taking mild satisfaction in letting it bump into his leg every time he moved.
While closely examining Voldemort's body to determine that indeed he was totally and completely dead, Harry heard a rustling and whirled, wand out yet again. A white blur approached and Harry gripped his wand harder, subtly moving in front of Ginny. He was relieved to recognise Hedwig when she got close enough. The snowy owl alighted on his shoulder. He scratched her chest for a moment before pulling the two vials and scrap of parchment from her legs. "Hey, girl. Don't go quite yet, okay? We'll need some help to get back to Hogwarts." Hedwig gave a solemn hoot, hopping from Harry's shoulder to move over to a tree.
Harry uncorked one bottle and gulped down the contents, handing the other vial to Ginny. She repeated his actions as he opened up the scrap of parchment.
Dumbledore is magically exhausted, but his eyes are brighter than ever if you know what I mean. He won't tell us anything about what happened. Remus went off to check on Ron. I considered asking Fawkes to fetch you, but he won't leave Dumbledore. I figured Hedwig was at least a friendly face.
You, buster, have a LOT to explain to Remus and the rest of us.
I suppose Remus and I have some explaining to do to you, too.
Harry chuckled, reading the note. "Dumbledore was exhausted, just like we expected. Remus is taking care of Ron then presumably the rest of your family. Dumbledore won't tell them anything and that's driving them batty. You about ready to go?"
Ginny nodded, the Pepper-Up causing a slight steam to float about her head.
Harry expected he looked much the same, as it was the normal side effect of this particular potion, but it DID give them both a much needed jump in energy levels.
Harry waved his wand at Voldemort's body, levitating it.
Ginny leaned down and picked up Voldemort's fallen wand.
Harry smiled at Hedwig. "Please lead us back to Hogwarts, girl. We're obviously on foot, so stay slow enough that we can keep up, okay?"
Another hoot and Hedwig took flight, stopping at another tree fifty metres distant. Her white colouring made her easy to spot and follow. Moving at fifty metre intervals, she led the two magicians slowly back to the castle.
It took more than half an hour of steady movement, but they finally broke clear of the forest on the far side of the Quidditch pitch. "Thank you, Hedwig," Harry called. His snowy owl gave an echoing hoot back and moved off into the brightening sky toward the Hogwarts owlery.
"Remind me to thank Hermione when we see her," Ginny mentioned, moving up to walk beside Harry now that they were out of the forest's winding trails.
"No kidding. We probably should ask if she wants her contribution mentioned, though."
"Why should we explain anything?"
"Hmm," Harry pondered for a moment. "That's a good point, but everyone WILL want some sort of explanation. It's not like we can get away with claiming we found him like this," Harry motioned to the body floating in front of him with his free hand. "Not to mention Pettigrew," Harry added.
"No, I suppose not," she sighed, slipping an arm around his waist.
They passed the pitch and Hagrid's Hut and continued toward the castle's main entrance.
While they were still a hundred metres short of their goal, the doors opened and out strode Headmaster Dumbledore followed by the staff, most clearly just out of bed. They froze at the bottom of the stairs once Harry, Ginny and a floating body became close enough to identify.
Dumbledore simply beamed.
The student body, also in nightclothes with robes hastily added, flowed around the knot of professors and formed a semi-circle around the steadily advancing pair of students.
Harry also spotted a knot of red hair. Obviously, all the Weasleys had come to Hogwarts, looking for an explanation.
Ignoring the deafening silence from everyone present, Harry walked forward until Voldemort's body was five yards from Dumbledore. At that distance, Harry released the levitation spell, allowing the body to fall unceremoniously before Hogwarts Castle.
Advancing another pace, Ginny threw Voldemort's wand on top of the body. It bounced before caming to a clattering rest against Dumbledore's feet.
Other than Hermione's huge grin and Dumbledore's smile, everyone else wore looks of utter shock at the scene.
"Well this is odd," Luna Lovegood's voice broke the tableau in its typical dreamy tones.
Hermione and Ginny stifled the sudden cases of giggles at the irony of Loony Lovegood saying such a thing.
Excited whispering slowly spread among the assembled students.
The staff were still gaping at the scene.
Desperately looking for something to say, Harry said, "Good morning, everyone. I wasn't expecting the entire castle to welcome me back." Only Harry's closest friends recognised how forced that casual tone was. Everyone else in earshot thought he was as calm as if delivering the body of terrifying dark wizards were an everyday occurrence.
A sudden flash to the side drew everyone's attention and very nearly resulted in Colin Creevey being horribly hexed by the still tightly wound Harry. Colin lowered his camera just enough to give an unrepentant grin to Harry and Ginny before bringing the camera back up and snapping a dozen more pictures of the scene before pandemonium exploded.
Every student began screaming and cheering. McGonagall looked nearly in tears.
Hagrid's deep voice bellowed above the noise, "I told yeh, Harry. I told yeh that yeh were a great wizard!"
Hermione dashed forward, burying Ginny in a hug, repeating, "You did it!" over and over.
Harry was smiling at the girls when he felt a hand upon his shoulder. He looked over at his headmaster. Harry spotted suspicious moisture in Dumbledore's eyes along with such a look of deep pride and happiness that Harry nearly choked up himself.
Remus nearly bowled him over, engulfing him in a bear hug.
Molly Weasley was third to approach Harry. Instead of waiting for Remus to finish, she simply wrapped both of them up in her own hug, tears pouring unhindered down her face.
Utter pandemonium reigned for more than a few minutes, Harry being passed from one person to another, alternately congratulating him, thanking him, kissing him, shaking his hand, and hugging him.
When he spotted Remus for the third time, he grabbed the lycanthrope's shoulder. "Remus, Ginny and I are still tired. We need to get out of here."
Remus nodded, pulling a few Order members in to form an honour guard of sorts around Harry and Ginny.
Dumbledore futilely tried to restore order and get the students back inside for breakfast.
Remus and Tonks led the two young heroes inside and toward the hospital wing. Once inside, Remus asked Kingsley and another Auror to stand guard at the entrance. He and Tonks followed the two students to beds before Madam Pomfrey swooped down, clucking over their obviously haggard appearance.
"Magical and physical exhaustion," she diagnosed both of them after a quick examination.
Remus nodded. "Unfortunately, they won't be getting rest anytime soon. Albus will want to speak with them immediately, and then I'm sure there will be a press conference. No telling what else Fudge might do, as well."
Harry groaned at Remus's words as Madam Pomfrey handed him another Pepper-Up Potion and a chunk of chocolate. Gunning down the potion, and feeling immediately better for it, he waited until the matron was out of earshot before looking up at Lupin. "Remus, there's something about today that you need to think about."
Remus blinked before giving a slight grin. "There are more than a few things that bear thinking about regarding this morning, Harry," he calmly pointed out.
Harry grinned then pulled the bag off his belt. Pulling his wand out, he muttered the Unlocking Charm and handed the bag to Remus.
Confused, Remus opened the bag and peeked in. His eyes widened momentarily before he closed the bag again. "Is this what I think it is?"
"Wormtail," Harry confirmed, causing Tonks's eyes to widen.
Remus swallowed, staring at the bag. "Why did you give this to me, Harry? Why not turn him in to Kingsley or Tonks or one of the other Aurors?"
Trying to keep his composure, Harry said, "He'd be easy to keep unconscious until the next full moon."
Remus stared at Harry. It took more than a few seconds before he shook his head. "No. As personally satisfying as that might be, he's more valuable alive and talking. He can give us names. After that, he's proof of Sirius's innocence."
Harry nodded, finally smiling. "That was the answer I was hoping for." He re-sealed the bag and placed it on the bed stand.
"It was a TEST?" Remus asked in delayed understanding.
"An offer," Harry corrected. "I considered feeding him to Crookshanks or Hedwig, but realised the same thing you did. Besides, after he's drained of all useful information, he'll be dropped into Azkaban. If there's anything worse than death, that's it." Turning from a flabbergasted Remus, he called, "Dobby!"
Dobby the house-elf appeared with a crack. "Harry Potter sir called for Dobby?" the outrageously dressed elf asked around an ear-encompassing smile.
"Yes. Ginny and I are tired and hungry. Two big breakfasts, please, with strong tea." He looked at Ginny for her reaction, and she nodded.
Harry then turned to Remus and Tonks, but only she responded. "Breakfast for Remus and myself as well, please."
Dobby bowed and disappeared with another crack.
Remus asked, "Since when did you start ordering house-elves around, Harry?"
Harry chuckled. "Dobby is a special case. He'd probably bring me a plate of dragon ribs if I asked him. Anyway, as I'm officially staff, I'm accorded all the same rights as a full professor as far as that goes."
"Including your own quarters?" Remus asked in curiosity.
Harry blinked. "You know, that's a good question."
Tonks smirked. "Oh, we all discussed whether to offer him his own quarters. Snape was dead set against any more favouritism being shown to the Boy Who Lived, of course. Professor McGonagall and I were against it for a different reason, though."
Harry looked mildly affronted. "You were?"
Tonks's smirk grew. "Giving a sixteen year old with a girlfriend his own private quarters?"
Remus started coughing. Ginny turned a red to rival her hair.
Harry nodded. "You do have a point."
Remus nearly swallowed his tongue. Tonks looked mildly impressed at Harry's answer.
Ginny, while still glowing red, was looking at Harry with a pondering expression.
Harry was saved from any further conversation by four breakfast trays popping into existence.
All four dove into their food in favour of talking about the events of the morning.
Finally placing his fork down, Harry grinned at Remus.
"What?" the werewolf asked.
"Oh, I'm just trying to figure something out."
"What's that?" Remus asked suspiciously.
Harry's eyes flickered to Tonks and back. "Was it your animal magnetism or was it a wolf whistle that hooked her?"
Ginny laughed. Tonks grinned and picked up Remus's hand, completely unselfconscious.
Remus himself groaned. "That was about the worst pun I think I've ever heard."
Harry shook his head. "I'm sure Sirius got a lot of mileage out of punning with his name. Furthermore, I'm sure that my father made more than one crack about Padfoot's romantic exploits and 'doggy-style'."
Remus laughed. "Okay, you've got me there. James was merciless."
"Seriously," Harry went on, "I'm glad for the two of you. How long has this been going on?"
Remus grinned in embarrassment. "Since the summer."
"Just so long as I don't have to call you 'Mum'." Harry grinned at Tonks.
She stuck her tongue out at him to Ginny's amusement.
Harry's face screwed up in confusion for a moment. "Hey, I thought you and Charlie were an item?"
She just chuckled. "Charlie was a friend from my school days. We never said anything, and you all just assumed from the seating arrangement that we were together."
"It worked," Ginny said. "Mum is about to send out the wedding invitations."
"Drat," Tonks muttered. "I'll have to talk with Molly about that."
"Have Charlie and Remus with you," Harry suggested. "If all three of you explain, she won't take your head off over it."
Tonks nodded just as everyone heard the step-thump of Mad-Eye Moody approaching. He paused outside the doors and then entered, nodding when he saw Tonks, Harry, and Remus looking his way. As he approached the group, his magical eye swivelled around before coming to a stop on the bag still sitting beside Harry's bed. "You realise there's a live rat in that bag?" Moody asked in a conversational tone.
Harry grinned diabolically. "He's a party favour for later." Knowing what a media frenzy the castle would shortly undergo, he had plans on what to do with this live rat.
Moody shrugged. "Dumbledore wants to talk to ya, Potter, Weasley. Most of the Order's here. Dropping Voldemort's body at Dumbledore's feet sure stirred up a hornet's nest."
"Not what I wanted, but I suppose it was inevitable," Harry sighed, standing and stretching the sore muscles out.
Remus conjured a backpack and dropped Wormtail's bag, none too gently, into it before presenting it to Harry. "I look forward to the show," Remus said, sneaky grin in place. He may have been the responsible one of the Marauders, but he was still a Marauder.
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
Harry and Ginny's talk with the Order of the Phoenix (plus Ron and Hermione) went just as they expected. To put it bluntly: Not very well.
After explaining everything to an incredulous audience, the majority of witches and wizards in the Order showed relief that Voldemort had been defeated. There were, however, a few notable exceptions.
Snape's expression toward Harry kept alternating from loathing to relief to gratitude before quickly reverting back to loathing.
"Albus! I cannot believe this! You permitted these CHILDREN to do such a thing?" Minerva McGonagall was fuming in anger toward her old friend.
"You let her do WHAT?" Molly Weasley screeched at her husband.
Arthur, after wincing, tried to calm his wife, aided by Bill.
Ron had such a look of betrayal on his face when he looked at Harry, Ginny and Hermione that Harry quickly got fed up with everyone's attitudes.
"ALRIGHT!" Harry snarled, standing from the small couch he was sharing with Ginny in Dumbledore's office. Immediate silence dropped as everyone turned to look at him. "Professor McGonagall," he started, turning to her, "he did not PERMIT us to do anything. In point of fact, he's done his level best to keep me out of the line of fire, and completely ignorant of all happenings, for well over a year now. That attitude resulted in our little jaunt to the Ministry last June," he concluded, staring at Dumbledore's chagrined expression. Having made his point, he turned his head. "Mrs. Weasley, Ron, the reason the pendants weren't explained to you in the first place was because we knew this would be your reaction. You want to treat us as children, and I suppose that makes sense except for two little things." He addressed the entire crowd. "The prophecy stated that I must defeat him. I had help, but I cast the spell that k - killed," he verbally stumbled with a wince.
Remus, Molly and Arthur also winced, knowing how this affected the young man.
Harry took a breath and continued, "I cast the spell that killed him. I had no choice but to get into this mess. Ginny and Hermione chose to help me. THAT IS THEIR RIGHT," he bellowed, overriding Molly and Ron's attempts to interrupt. "The reason Ginny had the right to help is simple. Mrs. Weasley, how many times have you faced Voldemort?"
"None," she answered in confusion, not knowing where Harry was going.
"Ron, same question."
"Same answer, as you well know," Ron muttered.
"That's right. With the exception of Professor Dumbledore and maybe Moody, have ANY of you fought Voldemort? NO!" he didn't wait for them to answer. "Ginny, on the other hand, HAS. I HAVE. Mrs. Weasley, Ron, Professor McGonagall, stop treating us like children. We aren't and haven't been for quite awhile. This had to be done. I didn't want to do it, but I had to. I didn't want Ginny to have to do it, but she was the only one who could help me. Therefore, we were the only ones who could do it, despite everyone's wishes. End of discussion. Now, does anyone have any questions that aren't based on your own wishes that we hadn't had to do it?"
Still fuming, Harry glared around the room. Ginny was looking at him proudly. Molly and Ron were red-faced, but kept their mouths shut for the moment. Snape was sneering.
Dumbledore spoke into the silence, slightly impressing Harry with the nerve of the man whom it was clear wasn't in Harry's best favour right then. "Miss Weasley, did you indicate that your wand was no longer functioning?"
Dumbledore silently held out his hand.
Ginny drew the wand out of her pocket and handed it to the headmaster.
Dumbledore spoke a long incantation over it before giving a sharp nod. "Your assumption was quite correct, Harry. The magical core is burned out by the power of the spell it cast. Miss Weasley will be needing a new wand."
Fawkes, until now quietly watching, gave a short squawk and hopped from his perch to Dumbledore's desk. Under the eyes of everyone in the room, the phoenix took Voldemort's wand in one claw and jumped into the air, dropping the wand into Ginny's lap before settling himself on the couch back between Harry and Ginny. Once there, he started quietly crooning, causing Harry and Ginny to relax.
"It seems that Fawkes has his own answer to that dilemma," Dumbledore observed.
Ginny picked up the wand and it immediately felt warm and shot sparks.
"Remarkable," McGonagall breathed.
Moody grunted. "That simplifies that. You understand, missy, that the Aurors will need to hold that as evidence for a couple days."
Ginny nodded absently, staring at the wand in her hand. Voldemort's wand was suitable for her, too? What did that mean?
Harry laid his hand over Ginny's. "It doesn't mean anything," Harry said as if reading her mind. "The wand is just a tool. The tool isn't dangerous, the user was. Besides, Fawkes has chosen you to hold the only other wand with his feather in it."
Ginny smiled gratefully at Harry and handed the wand over to Moody.
"Even the bloody BIRD wants them together," Ron mumbled.
Bill and Hermione, the only two to hear him, poked at him to be quiet.
Dumbledore was rummaging around in his desk before coming up with a plain wand which he handed to Ginny. "That is a spare wand that Hogwarts loans to students when the need arises. Likely it will not perform as well for you as others may, but this way you are not defenceless until that wand," he waved toward the one Moody had stored in a pocket, "is again available to you."
Ginny nodded. "Lumos." The wand lit, but not a brightly as she was used to. "Nox." She put the wand into the dedicated pocket in her robes.
"Now that it's been fulfilled, what was the full prophecy, Harry?" Remus asked hesitantly.
Hermione glanced at Harry for permission. At his nod, she recited, "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not. And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies."
Ron, Ginny, Dumbledore, Remus and Harry all already knew this, so they were the only ones not staring at her in disbelief.
Harry said, "This was given to the headmaster here by Professor Trelawney the winter before I was born. You're all aware I was born July thirty-first. My parents had apparently already fought Voldemort three times by that point. This," he tapped the scar on his own forehead, "is his marking me. It all fits." He saw no reason to mention that Neville was the other possible candidate. It wasn't a case of wanting the limelight to himself but rather wanting to spare Neville.
"You've known about this for months?" Molly asked, tearing up.
Harry sighed and nodded tiredly.
She stood and moved around the room to hug him.
"'Power the Dark Lord knows not . . .'" Bill echoed thoughtfully. "Any ideas what that was?"
"The power provided to us by the pendants could've been what it meant," Harry answered. "Personally, though, I think it was loyalty and love."
"Love?" Charlie asked with a questioning expression.
"He possessed me briefly in the Ministry in June. As Professor Dumbledore explained it at the time, my love of Sirius drove him out. Thoughts of love have been what's kept him out of my mind since then."
Hermione's face lit up in sudden understanding, eyes flickering between Harry and Ginny.
Harry ignored her and continued, "Lastly and most important, though, Ginny's and my love for each other enabled us to cast the dual spell successfully."
"Love is the power he doesn't know and doesn't understand," McGonagall summed it up.
Harry merely nodded.
"Percy Weasley is approaching," Moody said abruptly
Half the witches and wizards in the room tensed up. Fred and George scowled.
A knock sounded, and Dumbledore invited, "Enter."
Percy opened the door and was momentarily taken aback at everyone in the expanded office. His eyes tightened slightly at seeing the grouping of his entire family. He also blinked at Ginny and Harry snuggled together with Fawkes perched above them. Shaking himself back to the reason he was there, he turned to Dumbledore. "Headmaster, the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, wishes to speak with you." His pomposity and tone indicated just how important he considered this information to be.
Alternating, Fred and George cracked one knuckle at a time, staring at Percy.
Everyone could see a thin sheen of sweat break out on Percy's forehead, but he kept his attention on Dumbledore.
"Certainly," the headmaster said. "I believe we are done here. Cornelius is in the Entrance Hall?" At Percy's nod, Dumbledore stood and followed the former Head Boy out of the office.
"Unless there is more to discuss?" McGonagall smoothly took over the meeting.
Everyone shook their heads before standing and shuffling through the door.
The professor indicated for Harry and Ginny to stay behind. When the room finally cleared, the stern professor sighed and seemed to slump. "Harry, I owe you something of an apology. You are indeed correct in that I saw you two as children needing to be protected. All of your points were quite correct. I shall endeavour to remember that."
Deciding to test his luck a bit, Harry asked calmly, "Does that include the professor's quarters previously denied me?"
McGonagall paled slightly but otherwise kept her composure. "I shall have to have words with Professor Tonks for that," she stated.
Ginny smothered a snicker.
"Yes, Professor Potter, including the quarters I shall arrange for you." She flicked a glance at Ginny before turning her attention back to Harry. "Please maintain your maturity with regards to the room, Harry. I would definitely wish to avoid any . . . problems."
"You're not the first to ask that, Professor," Harry said with a grin. He started ticking names off on his fingers. "Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Charlie, Hermione, Remus, Tonks . . ."
McGonagall graced the two students with one of her rare half-smiles. "Indeed." She stood and looked down at them. "I daresay that there will be a press conference followed by the largest party in fifteen years yet to come today. I would suggest you two get some rest. As Gryffindor Tower is unlikely to give you any peace, I would recommend the Room of Requirement. I will send one of the house-elves to fetch you when the inevitable starts." Her expression softened. "On a more personal level, I would like to thank you both for what you did this morning. Like everyone else in the wizarding world, I owe you more than can ever be repaid." Before the two slightly stunned students could respond, she turned and strode out of the room.
Ginny shook off the mild shock first. She stood and smiled down at her boyfriend, holding out her hand.
He stood and entwined his hand with hers. "Bye, Fawkes." Harry called over his shoulder.
"And thank you!" Ginny added.
The magnificent phoenix gave back a short series of trills that the pair had no trouble interpreting as, "You're welcome."
Laughing, the two headed up to the seventh floor and the Room of Requirement.
(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)
"Harry Potter sir?"
"Hmmph. Go 'way." Harry snuggled further into the dark, enveloping warmth.
"Harry Potter sir? Please, sir, but sir and miss must get up now. Many important wizards and witches sent Dobby to wake sir and miss."
After a major effort, Harry finally managed to pry his left eyelid open. He saw the dancing flames of a fireplace through a mass of red hair. He slowly realised that the warmth in his arms was his girlfriend. That fact brought the rest of his memory back. Staying up all night, the fight, reporting to the Order, Room of Requirement becoming something vaguely like the Gryffindor common room. Harry sleepily admitted to himself that he and Ginny probably would have taken more advantage of the absolute privacy provided if they hadn't been so tired and simply dropped onto the couch. Harry gingerly raised his head and turned toward the hand-wringing Dobby. "Okay, Dobby. I'm awake." He luxuriated in a jaw-popping yawn before shaking Ginny gently. "Up and at 'em, love."
She mumbled something unintelligible and wiggled back further, effectively trapping Harry against the back of the couch they'd stretched out on.
Her wiggling also caused some blood flow issues for the teenaged wizard, but he squelched those thoughts as quickly as he could. He shook her a bit more insistently. "Come on, Gin. Time to get up and greet our adoring public."
She grunted and stretched in a way that Harry had only ever before seen Crookshanks perform.
His blood flow issues became bigger.
Finally waking up, she rolled to her feet in one smooth motion. She smiled at the house-elf and said, "Thank you, Dobby. We're awake."
Dobby nodded and left after a toothy smile.
"Oh, and don't call me 'Gin', please."
"Hmm?" Harry asked as he tried (unsuccessfully) to tame his hair.
"I don't like 'Gin'. Yes, it's a cute diminutive of my name, but it's also the name of a Muggle liquor. One of my roommates is a Muggle-born, and I took a lot of teasing over my name after she explained it."
Harry kept a straight face as he turned to face her. "Well, when I say 'Gin', I'm not thinking about liquor. Instead, I'm thinking of the intoxicatingly gorgeous redhead in front of me."
She smiled at him. "Very smooth, Potter. Especially as you used 'intoxicatingly' there."
"Why thank you, Weasley. I do aim to please."
Giggling at the banter, she gave Harry a quick hug then turned to the door with a sigh. "I suppose we should get this over with."
"You and I just DID defeat the most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, Ginny. They just want to thank us." His face clouded over, and he hung his head, thinking about what he'd done early that morning.
"No, you do NOT feel guilt over this, Harry!" Ginny admonished. "Aside from the whole prophecy thing, he was going to kill us out there. We were simply defending ourselves the best way we knew how."
Harry straightened back up and nodded. The darkness of despair beaten back from his mind again, at least momentarily, he said, "Yeah, I know. Anyway, we need to go out there."
"I don't want thanks. I just want to be left alone." She sighed quietly.
Harry shrugged. "So do I. Welcome to my life." She gave him a venomous look, but he just smiled. "Think of it this way. All this is for their benefit, not ours."
"For our benefit, then, couldn't they just leave us alone?" she pouted.
He smiled, the last of his foul mood evaporating. Being that cute even when pouting should be illegal, he decided. "You know that's not how it works, love. They're relieved. They have a reason to celebrate, but they also want some heroes. We're it."
"Joy," she rolled her eyes.
"Come on, let's get this over with."
Sighing, she nodded and led the way out. Just outside the door, they nearly bumped into Ron and Hermione, arguing over their usual trivial whatever-it-was.
Ron broke off from his devastatingly clever counterpoint to look at his best friend and sister. "There you are." He turned around and led the other three back down toward the Entrance Hall. "You're missing quite a party. EVERYONE is here. Fudge, all the Ministry department heads, a good chunk of the Ministry, most of the Order, the entire school and most of the students' parents showed up. They're all waiting on you two. What were you doing, anyway?"
"Well, after sleeping with your sister, I tried to snog her senseless. Unfortunately, she has too much sense for me, and it didn't work," Harry deadpanned.
Ron's mouth fell open, and he started sputtering.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "He's kidding, Ron."
"Actually, only partially," Ginny calmly retorted. "We haven't snogged for a good thirty-six hours now. You'll have to make that up soon, Harry," she added as an aside. After Harry's obedient nod, she continued, "On the other hand, we WERE sleeping together."
Ron turned bright red and looked like he was about to explode.
"Literally," Harry added. "I didn't get any sleep at all last night, and Ginny only got a couple hours. After the Order finished interrogating us, we went to the Room of Requirement and fell asleep on a couch."
"Don't DO that to me, mate," Ron groaned, rubbing his forehead as his colour slowly returned to normal.
"Has it occurred to you that they intentionally wind you up simply because it's so easy to do?" Hermione asked dryly.
Hermione's words, of course, triggered another argument between the two. Harry and Ginny grinned at each other and shared an eye-roll as they approached the Entrance Hall.
"There you are," Remus said, stepping over. He threw a look at the bickering Ron and Hermione. "What's with them?"
"They're flirting," Ginny stated baldly.
This caused Ron to sputter to a stop in mid-word, as both he and Hermione turned red.
Remus was only partially successful in fighting his grin. "Come on," he waved them out the doors. "There are so many people it's being held at the pitch. Awards ceremony, press conference, then party. And you two lucky kids are going to be the centre of attention. You get to give a speech and everything."
"Speech?" Harry asked faintly, wide-eyed.
"You know, a whole bunch of official sounding words strung together that the media will misquote horribly," Hermione explained cheerfully.
Harry glared at Hermione.
Ron and Remus were just snickering while Ginny slowly paled at the thought of giving a speech to everyone in the wizarding world.
"Oh, fun." Harry sighed, resigned.
Ginny shook off her shock and hugged his arm. "Don't worry. I'm sure we can sneak out halfway through the party."
Harry nodded and took a deep breath as the five some approached the Aurors guarding the main entrance to the Quidditch pitch.
The older of the two raised a hand and said, "Halt. You may not enter."
Everyone stared at him in blank shock.
"You DO realise who this is?" Ron asked, waving at Harry and Ginny.
"Yes, sir. That's Harry Potter and Ginevra Weasley."
"So you're saying we can't enter?" Ginny asked in total disbelief.
The Auror shook his head. "You four," he gestured at the students, "are expected. It's him," he gestured at Remus, eyeing him carefully, "that I can't allow past."
"Why?" Harry asked in a low tone that caused Ginny and Hermione to glance at him in apprehension. They'd heard that tone before.
"He's a well known werewolf, sir. Such an unpredictable dark creature might attack the Minister. I can not allow him past."
The four students glared. The aforementioned "unpredictable dark creature" just looked resigned.
Harry recovered first and shrugged. "Fine. YOU explain to Minister Fudge that you refused me entrance to the spectacle he's holding to honour me."
The Auror was shocked. "No, sir! I wasn't saying you were not allowed in. It's just this . . . individual that I can not allow in."
Harry shrugged again. "If you're not allowing my godfather in, I'm not going in. I'll be telling everyone that it was Minister Fudge and YOU who caused that. Good day." He turned back toward Hogwarts castle, the others moving with him immediately.
"Wait," the younger Auror requested in a strangled voice. "How about I ask Minister Fudge?" he pleaded. His older partner was clearly torn with indecision.
Harry shrugged eloquently and leaned against the wall. "Sixty seconds."
The Auror went in like a shot. The five friends all stared stonily at the increasingly uncomfortable senior Auror while waiting. It was a short wait.
The younger guard came back out. "You all may go in," he invited, smiling timidly.
"Thank you," Harry smiled at the younger and glared at the older Auror on his way past.
Remus chuckled once they were past, but it sounded strained. "Thank you," he whispered, squeezing Harry's shoulder. "Godfather?" he asked next.
Harry shrugged. "In fact if not in name, Moony, assuming you have no objections to the title," he grinned for a moment before scanning the audience. Ron was right. Everyone Harry knew was there and several thousand that he didn't as well. When the nearest one spotted him, applause started. Flushing in embarrassment, Harry kept a firm grip on Ginny's hand and led the way toward where Minister Fudge was standing beside a podium facing the largest section of stands. Harry dropped his backpack nearby and turned to the crowd.
The applause continued for several minutes, embarrassing Harry and Ginny immensely. He tried to be a good sport about it, but enough was enough.
Hermione gave him a helpless shrug from the front of the student sections when she recognised his expression.
The Weasley twins thought Harry and Ginny's expressions were hysterically funny, though their laughter wasn't audible over the clapping and cheering.
Finally, Minister Fudge waved for silence, and it slowly quieted down. After a muttered, "Sonorus," he strutted up to the podium and planted himself behind it with a dazzling smile.
Harry was momentarily reminded of Gilderoy Lockhart's theatrics.
Never losing his wide smile, the Minister took a deep breath and started. "I am delighted to announce that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is dead!" A roar came from the crowd at his amplified words. "Every since receiving conclusive proof of his return back in June, your Ministry has been working tirelessly toward his defeat. I can now conclusively announce that his body is in Ministry custody along with his wand. There are no doubts that the body and wand are authentic. This war is over!" Another roar. "The Ministry can not in good faith take full credit for his defeat. I have two others here with me who assisted us greatly. For that reason, I hereby grant the Order of Merlin, First Class, to Harry James Potter and Ginevra Molly Weasley!" As the Hogwarts portions of the crowd sustained the applause, Fudge slipped a medal around each student's neck and handed them scrolls. Again addressing the crowd, Fudge went on, "I must admit that I don't know all the details of the operation that resulted in his defeat, so I'm going to allow Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley to speak."
Harry kept a smile pasted on his face despite his growing outrage. The absolute nerve of the man!
Ginny, no doubt feeling his anger through their discreetly clasped hands, turned toward him as the applause slowed down. "I'll say a few words first, but YOU get to explain everything, Harry." Before he had a chance to respond, she leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek, resulting in dozens of flashes as every photographer at the event caught evidence of their romantic involvement. It wasn't a secret, but nobody had published a picture proving it yet.
Ginny cast a quick Sonorus Charm and stood behind the podium next to a beaming Minister of Magic. She smiled timidly at the thousands of witches and wizards. "I'm just going to say a few words before turning it over to Harry for the explanations. He did most of the work, after all. I just want to thank you all and let you know that what we did, we did for ourselves as much as for all of you. Lord Voldemort," most of the crowd, including Fudge, gasped, "was a threat to us all. Harry and I just happened to be the ones there to stop him. We would appreciate it if you didn't try to make us out to be heroes for this. We just did what had to be done. What any of dozens of others would have done if they were there instead. Now, before I ramble on any further, I'll turn this over to Harry." She rapidly stepped aside.
Resigning himself to the situation, Harry cast his own Sonorus Charm and moved behind the podium. The applause continued to grow until almost everyone there was standing, clapping wildly. Smiling in embarrassment, Harry waved everyone back down. If only the Dursleys could see him now, he mused. Once the pitch got quiet enough again, Harry started, "I hope everyone will indulge me for a few minutes. I'll get to this morning's events eventually, but there are a few other items that must be covered before I get to that point. There are many people for me to thank, first of all. Ginny for being willing, and able, to help me. Hermione for finding what we needed. The Weasleys for providing me a home when I desperately needed one. My godfather for his support and a link to the parents I never knew." He paused. "My godfather is a good man." He glared toward the main entrance and the offensive Auror before continuing, "And he IS a man and not a blood-thirsty monster that everyone wants to brand him as. Remus Lupin, though, was not my first godfather." Harry abruptly turned and asked, "Minister Fudge, what do you think of Sirius Black?"
Fudge blinked in confusion. Harry's speech wasn't going as he expected. "Sirius Black is a very dangerous wizard. He killed a street full of Muggles after betraying your parents to his master. He then escaped from Azkaban using dark magics we don't understand and nearly killed you again three years ago."
"He was thrown into Azkaban for killing, along with all those Muggles, one of my parents' best friends, Peter Pettigrew, correct?"
Fudge just nodded, still confused.
"Now, what did I tell you after the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Minister?"
Fudge relaxed. He thought he saw where Harry was going now. "At the time, you claimed to have witnessed a resurrection ceremony that brought He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named back to power. I deeply regret having dismissed your claims, Harry. You have my apologies for not listening to you about his return." Having said what he thought Harry wanted to hear, he started smiling again.
"Thank you, Minister, but I was thinking more along the lines of WHO I claimed was there in the graveyard."
"Yes, you implicated many people, most of whom are currently awaiting trial on charges of being Death Eaters," Fudge grudgingly admitted. The questioning was hurting Fudge's public image, but he figured the positive events of the day would easily outweigh the negative revelations, especially after he got the Prophet to put the proper spin on it.
"Yes, I mentioned several names, Lucius Malfoy being only one of them. I also said Pettigrew was there. Now, I have absolute proof of Pettigrew's guilt."
Fudge's smile froze in place. "Now really, Harry, do we really need to get into all that here and now? We're here to honour your activities in ridding us of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
"I'm glad you admitted it that way, Minister, since it indeed was MY activities without any assistance, and a whole lot of obstruction, from your Ministry. Back to Pettigrew, though, I think we should let our audience decide whether they want me to explain myself. What say you?" he asked the crowd.
In the front row Dumbledore spoke up immediately. "Please, Mr. Potter. I am most curious."
Harry gave him a wry look. Dumbledore already knew this story as well as Harry himself did.
"Aye!" chimed in several dozen voices, mostly Order members who already knew what was going on.
The group of reporters off to the side were muttering to their Transcription Quills furiously, but they all nodded frantically. This is far from what they had expected going into the press conference, but it was definitely news all the same.
Fudge clearly wasn't happy at the turn the situation was taking, but had to concede to the moment.
Harry cleared his throat, "Once upon a time, a young werewolf was invited to attend Hogwarts. His name was Remus Lupin."
"'Once upon a time'? You don't have to make me look THAT old, Harry," Remus interjected from his seat near the entrance.
A light wave of laughter flowed around the stands. Fudge barely refrained from glaring at the werewolf.
"Sorry, Remus, I got carried away for a moment," Harry apologised without looking the least bit apologetic. "Anyway, while he was a student here, he formed close friendships with three other young men in Gryffindor house. These three eventually learned that he was a werewolf when they noticed he was sick during and immediately after each full moon. Instead of turning their backs on their good friend, they tried to figure out a way to help. Eventually, they learned about Animagi. If they could turn themselves into animals, they could accompany Remus when he was in his wolf form. After years of study and practise, they succeeded. One was a large dog; another was a rat; the last was a stag. They were, in order, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and James Potter."
Fudge sputtered. "Students learning to become Animagi? Preposterous!"
Harry was expecting this and so had his defence ready. "I have the Animagus notebook of Sirius Black. He wrote about how he and his friends did it. He details all the steps, all the failures, and their eventual success." He turned toward where he'd spotted the Hogwarts staff. "Professor McGonagall, you're the only registered Animagus here that I'm aware of. Do YOU think it's possible for Sirius Black and James Potter to do this?"
She nodded firmly. She knew full well that Sirius, Peter, and James had been Animagi, but that knowledge came from the Order of the Phoenix. Harry had not mentioned the Order, so she phrased her answer accordingly. "Those two were among the best Transfiguration students I've ever had the pleasure of teaching. I would be interested in reading this notebook, Mr. Potter, but I have no doubts that it's possible."
Harry nodded, thanking his Transfiguration professor. "To continue the story, they eventually all graduated, and one of them, James Potter, married his sweetheart, one Lily Evans." Harry grinned at Remus. "I've heard that the bachelor party was something to behold."
The audience laughed, especially those who knew Sirius and James back then. He had the entire audience enthralled.
"In the due course of time they had a son, Harry."
"I'm sure he was a very cute kid," Ginny interjected from beside him.
The audience laughed again.
Harry smiled back. "I'll ask Remus's opinion later. At any rate, Lord Voldemort was gaining in power all through this time. He'd recently heard of a prophecy, stating that a threat to his power would be born about this time. Albus Dumbledore learned all of this and recommended to James and Lily Potter that they go into hiding under the Fidelius Charm. Everyone thought that they would use their best friend, best man, young Harry's godfather, Sirius Black as their Secret Keeper."
Harry paused as a wave of quiet muttering ran through the stands. "Everyone expected that, so they didn't," he dropped his bombshell. Absolute silence reigned. "They instead chose Peter Pettigrew because nobody would ever think of Peter as a Secret Keeper. They didn't even tell their old headmaster their last moment change of plans. We all know what happened fifteen years ago today. What I'm telling you is that it was PETER PETTIGREW who betrayed my parents. When Sirius Black learned of Peter's betrayal, Sirius chased after him, finally cornering him in a street full of Muggles. Peter loudly accused Sirius of betraying his friends, cut off his own finger in order to leave as evidence, blew up the street full of Muggles, AND CHANGED INTO A RAT TO ESCAPE." A few tears were being shed now, and Harry's eyes were prickling. He continued relentlessly, "Sirius was immediately thrown into Azkaban without a trial. As an Animagus, he kept a grip on his sanity. He escaped twelve years later when he discovered that Peter, now the pet rat to the Weasley family, was living at Hogwarts."
Harry vaguely noticed that Percy, Scabbers's original owner, had suddenly become very pale.
"After repeated attempts, Sirius finally cornered Peter in June, two and a half years ago. Sirius and Remus Lupin, who was the Hogwarts Defense professor at the time, explained all of this to me and two of my friends. They almost succeeded in bringing Peter in, but he again managed to escape by turning into a rat." Harry turned to the man beside him. "At the time my friends and I tried to explain all of this to you, Minister. You waved it off as the ramblings of three students, a werewolf, and an escaped convict." He turned back to his audience. "Sirius managed to escape the Dementors Kiss later that night.
"A year later, we have the Tri-Wizard Tournament. After I escaped from the resurrection ceremony, I tried again to explain to you, Minister. Voldemort," the audience shivered, "was back. Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, Avery, Macnair, Lestrange and PETTIGREW were all there. You again didn't believe me. You stuck your head in the sand and pretended the increasing dark activity wasn't happening. You wasted a year while Voldemort gained followers and power.
"Last June, we had the fight in the Ministry. At the end of that battle, you saw him with your own eyes, Minster. Finally, FINALLY you believed he was back. What have you done about it? Have you recruited more Aurors? Encouraged the populace to learn defence and put up home wards? No, you had a press conference to announce your re-election campaign."
By now Fudge was more than a little irate but tried to salvage the situation. "Don't you think that's a bit harsh, Harry? Err, may I call you Harry?" he asked in far-too-late courtesy.
"Only if I can call you a sycophantic spineless slug," Harry shot back, causing a minor stir among the audience.
"Now see here!" Fudge finally objected. "There's no need to be that way about it. Besides which, you have provided not one shred of proof that this fanciful tale is anything but sensationalism!"
Harry smiled unpleasantly. "Sensationalism, Minister? What do you call all this?" he asked he asked in a deathly calm voice, waving around to indicate the situation. "You called this press conference and awards ceremony. Or should I call it a public relations spectacle?
"But on to the proof you asked for. Could I have Head of Magical Law Enforcement Amelia Bones come down here as witness, please? Also, Aurors Alastor Moody, Nymphadora Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt?" Once Madam Bones was standing near Ginny, the three Aurors formed a semi-circle open to the audience so everyone could still see what was happening.
Moody spoke quietly to Harry, "Quite a party favour, Potter." He had a vicious grin in place, though it was almost invisible on the Auror's scarred face.
Throwing Mad-Eye a quick grin, Harry continued, "Okay, I've got Pettigrew in my bag, stunned."
The audience gasped.
"He's currently in his rat form. Could I have Percy and Ron Weasley come down to positively identify their former pet rat, please?"
Ron came forward immediately, amused at his friend's actions. Percy came forward slowly, unable to refuse under all of the public attention.
Harry cautiously checked and was encouraged when he saw Wormtail was still unconscious. He drew him out by his tail and dropped him to the grass in front of the podium.
The three Aurors had their wands out but not pointed. The nearest audience members leaned forward for a look, but at the moment it was simply a rat except . . .
"Scabbers didn't have a silver paw," Percy loudly exclaimed, obviously thinking he'd found a flaw in Harry's story.
Harry grinned victoriously at Fudge. "I explained that at the time, did I not, Minister? He cut off his own hand in the dark ritual to resurrect Voldemort. In turn, he was given a new silver hand, courtesy of his returned master."
Fudge grudgingly nodded, and Percy's face fell.
"I agree with Percy," Ron calmly added. "Except for the one paw, he looks like Scabbers."
"Thank you," Harry said politely. "I think we can forgo asking any of the other Weasleys or the other Gryffindor sixth years up to identify Scabbers. Auror Moody, are you familiar with the 'animus reverto' charm?"
Moody nodded and cast it.
The rat immediately grew into Pettigrew. As luck would have it, his left forearm was exposed and the Dark Mark was there for all to see.
Press photographers immediately started clicking pictures like mad. Almost the entire audience gasped. Fudge was looking positively green. Madam Bones was watching in rapt attention.
"Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape, could you come forward and identify this man, please?" As an aside, he explained to Fudge, Bones, and the audience, "Professor McGonagall was head of Gryffindor house when Peter here was a student. Professor Snape was in the same class as Peter, though not in the same house." After both professors came forward, with great reluctance on Snape's part, and identified Peter positively, Harry continued his case. "Minister, as you've not accepted the word of a werewolf before, I won't bother asking Remus Lupin to come down here and identify one of his one-time best friends.
"Aurors, his silver hand acts as a wand. Earlier he had a Portkey on him. He's aware that his master is dead. Auror Moody, I leave him in your capable hands."
Mad-Eye gave a sharp nod and waved his wand a few times, mumbling spells. After Peter was enclosed in a glowing sphere, he was levitated out with Moody and Kingsley following his still unconscious form.
Tonks put her wand away and re-joined the Hogwarts staff.
Harry turned. "Madam Bones, have you seen and heard enough to clear the name of Sirius Black?"
She nodded slowly, still staring after the departed Death Eater. "Pending interrogation of the prisoner, I will certainly be re-opening the case. If everything you've said is the truth, I expect that the complete exoneration of Sirius Black is likely."
Harry nodded and turned back to the audience as Bones made her way back to her seat. "I'm glad that my godfather's name finally has a chance of being cleared. Unfortunately it will be posthumously. He was the only fatality in the fight in the Department of Mysteries. He was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange. He died defending me."
Harry took a deep breath, head down for a moment of mourning. He looked back up at the spellbound audience. Taking another deep breath, he continued, "I went into this press conference hoping to accomplish two things. First was to clear Sirius's name. Second was to lobby to have Minister Fudge removed from office." He turned back to Minister Fudge, who was by now in a state of shock. "Your absolute refusal to acknowledge Voldemort's return despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary is inexcusable. You listened to your good friend Lucius Malfoy and his galleons speaking to you instead of the proof your Aurors, Albus Dumbledore and I were piling up around you. I don't hate you personally, Minister. I'm not doing this out of anger or spite. I'm doing this because your actions have hurt the wizarding world I love so much. In order to secure the peace, you will best serve the wizards of Britain by NOT being our Minister of Magic." He turned back to the stunned audience. "To you good people and all the other witches and wizards of Britain: I implore you to remove Cornelius Fudge from the post of Minister of Magic in the upcoming elections."
Ignoring the speechless man who stumbled his way off the stage, Harry paused to catch his breath and calm down from the emotions threatening to explode. After a few moments, he changed the topic completely. "Thank you all for allowing me to diverge from the original purpose of this press conference. On to the events of this morning: All I'm willing to say about it is that Ginny Weasley and I cornered Peter Pettigrew in the castle. After a short duel, he Portkeyed all three of us into the Forbidden Forest before he was knocked unconscious. Voldemort was there. He wasn't expecting us quite so early but indicated his intention of killing us both. We duelled him. I cast a spell that killed him. No, it was not the Killing Curse. Shortly thereafter I stunned Pettigrew when he was in his rat form. Ginny and I made our way back to the castle, arriving sometime around dawn. The entire staff and student population was there." He sighed. "I'm sure I'm going to regret this, but are there any questions?"
Every reporter started shouting questions, each jostling the others in an attempt to get their question addressed first. Harry paid more serious attention to them for the first time. He recognised only one of them by sight. "Rita! Come on down here," he invited with a jovial smile and a wave of his hand.
The other reporters looked upset that Rita was getting special attention.
Only Ginny was in a position to recognise the vicious edge to Harry's expression.
Smiling smugly, Rita strutted up to the front, her parchment and Quick-Quotes Quill floating along behind her. "Harry, as always it's nice to see you. My first question is about what you said about Minister -"
She stopped as Harry raised his hand. "Rita, I didn't invite you down here so you could ask questions. I just wanted a clear shot." He whipped out his wand and pointed it, causing all the reporters to duck aside. "Explodre. Incendio."
When it was clear that he in fact hadn't killed anyone, Rita stood and looked around, only to find her quill was in about a thousand pieces and the parchment with all her notes were now scattered ashes. "Potter! What do you think you're doing?" she screeched.
"Rita, you wouldn't know the truth if it ran up and urinated on your leg, as you proved quite spectacularly during the Tri-Wizard Tournament and again yesterday. I thought you would have learned something in your year-long sabbatical, but you clearly did not. To put it bluntly, I never want to see you again as long as I live. If you print one single word about me or anyone close to me, you'd better have a deep hole in which to hide. Otherwise, you'll have a very pissed off Harry Potter out to make your live so miserable that you'll beg for dementors to make it better. Have I made myself perfectly clear?"
"You'll pay for this, Potter," she snarled.
"Literally but not metaphorically, Rita," he grinned, but there was a hardness around his eyes that gave even her pause. "Do send me the bill for a new Transcription Quill." He turned his head and addressed the huddle of reporters. "Is there another Prophet reporter here?"
One of the wizards hesitantly held up a hand, fearful of what the volatile Boy Who Lived might do to him for admitting who he worked for.
Harry smiled, trying to put the obviously terrified man at ease. "Don't worry, I'm not going to attack you. I'd just like to ask you to take a message to your editors. I hold Rita personally responsible for the senseless drivel she's been writing. So long as the Prophet ceases such false, scandalous writing, I won't take any further action against your paper or your reporters." He glared at all the assembled reporters and growled out, "Is that understood?"
As one, the reporters nodded. They were, by and large, the best in the country at what they did. They had all just watched Harry decimate the Minister of Magic and then one of the most obnoxious reporters in the wizarding media. None of them were stupid, and they all caught the not very veiled threat without any problems.
Snarling to herself, Rita Skeeter stomped off the pitch, dragging her photographer out by his collar.
Harry nodded as she walked out of sight. "There. She was really starting to bug me. Now that that unpleasantness is out of the way, are there any other questions? After all, this was supposed to be a press conference, wasn't it?"
One of the witches timidly raised a hand. "Mr. Potter, could we have some pictures of the body of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
Harry was sorely tempted to respond with, "Only if you can cease using such asinine euphemisms," but instead said, "You'll have to speak with the Ministry's public relations department about that. I believe they're currently in custody of Voldemort's body. On the other hand, you might want to speak with Colin Creevey." Harry waved at the student before continuing, "He took some pictures this morning that you'll probably find interesting."
Colin, for his part, first went pale then rapidly smiled very widely and gave Harry a grateful nod.
"You two just defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. How do you feel?"
Harry closed his eyes and winced. Disregarding the audience, Ginny ran a hand up and down his back for a moment.
Taking a breath, he opened his eyes again and said, "Awful. That's the first person I've deliberately killed through my own actions. I'm glad he's gone and not killing anyone else, but I just wish we hadn't had to kill him. If you're asking about how we physically feel, we're both tired but otherwise unhurt."
"Mr. Potter, you earlier thanked Miss Granger for finding what you needed. Presumably you were referring to the spell you used. What spell was that, sir?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't answer that. It's possible that giving out that information could result in the remaining Death Eaters using that information to somehow resurrect their master. Again."
"Remaining Death Eaters?"
"I know that Bellatrix Lestrange escaped from the Ministry fight in June. As far as I know, she hasn't yet been apprehended."
"Will you be making Sirius Black's Animagus notebook available to the public?"
Harry thought about it for a second. "Perhaps. I'd like to read it over myself first, though."
"Could you comment on your relationship to Miss Weasley?" the Witch Weekly reporter asked.
"We're dating," he said dryly, unwilling to go further than that explanation.
"Sir, you've made a wide variety of accusations against Minister Fudge. Do you have proof of any of these charges?"
The questions ranged over many topics and continued for another half-hour before Harry ran out of patience. "Look, folks, I've had a long day, and I'm tired. Could we please wrap this up?"
"Indeed," Dumbledore stepped up immediately. "I believe that concludes Mr. Potter's statements. Refreshments are available in the Great Hall. Everyone please enjoy yourselves."
Excited chatter broke out all over. The reporters all darted out to start writing their stories.
Harry sighed and stepped back from the podium.
A fair percentage of the audience came forward immediately to speak with him instead of moving toward the castle.
Harry suffered through more hugs and kisses from adult witches than he'd ever received in his life. He got offers of endorsement deals from Firebolt, Nimbus, Bernie Bott's Every Flavour Bean, and many more products that he'd never heard of. He received job offers from Amelia Bones, half the Ministry department heads, Puddlemere United, and one non-descript man who claimed to be an Unspeakable.
Eventually, Harry broke back into the clear and spotted Remus looking at him in amusement. "For someone who was less than excited about giving a speech, you did amazingly well."
Harry grinned sheepishly. "Well, maybe I've been thinking about it for a while."
"A while?" Remus asked with a teasing grin.
"Okay, for a very long while. What do you think I did during Divination and History of Magic, anyway?"
Remus laughed and clapped a hand on Harry's shoulder.