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The Unknown Power
October 31 to November 6

By Crys

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Harry / Ginny ship and Ron / Hermione ship

Stepping into the Great Hall, all of Harry's worst fears were confirmed.

Hundreds of witches and wizards broke into applause the instant the young couple crossed the threshold of the room, hand-in-hand.   Nearly a hundred flashes went off as the photographers made their presence known all over again.  

A couple dozen young witches surged forward, batting their eyes at Harry and clamouring for autographs.   Ginny very nearly snarled aloud at them.   Whatever the girls and young women saw in the petite redhead's eyes was enough to convince all of them to turn away without another word.

Harry was suitably impressed and thankful.   Along one side, the couple could see that Tonks was laughing so hard she was nearly falling over.   Remus threw her a betrayed look but stayed at Harry's side.

As the applause died down, they could see that the Hall was done up in Gryffindor colours as if they were being awarded the House Cup.   All of the house tables had been removed and only one table, containing a variety of drinks and snack items, was along the side of the room.

Hanging over where the head table usually stood was a wide banner.   On one end was an image of Ginny, looking both omnipotent and caring.   On the other end of the banner was an image of Harry's face, with his scar slightly exaggerated.   The expression on the image-Harry's face made him appear to be immensely wise and all-powerful.   Between them, in elaborate script, were the words: The Couple Who Won.

Below the image of Harry, someone had set up a few mannequins on a slightly raised platform.   All three Dursleys and James and Lily Potter stood, looking proud and happy.   Harry vaguely noticed that simulacrums of the Weasley family (Percy included) stood beneath Ginny's image as he stomped toward the mannequins representing his family, such as it was.  

Once he got close enough, he read the plaque at the feet of James and Lily Potter.   It simply stated their birth and death dates in addition to saying that they were Harry's parents.   Based on the pictures Harry had of his parents, the images looked about right.   Their expressions of happiness and pride were something that Harry could only hope were correct.

The entire setup of the Dursleys was hideously inaccurate, however.

"What unmitigated fool came up with this?" Harry demanded in a loud voice.

"Harry!"   Percy Weasley came out of the suddenly silent crowd in the room, smile fixed and hand extended.   "Allow me to congratulate you on your stupendous achievement!"

Narrowing his eyes, Harry folded his arms in a clear counterpoint to Percy's extended hand.   "You and your idiotic boss did this, didn't you?" he asked instead.

Percy's jovial expression melted instantly.   "Mr. Potter!   This is the Minister of Magic you're referring to!"

Harry smiled coldly.   "You obviously didn't pay attention to what I said at the press conference, WEATHERBY.   I couldn't care less about him.   Now, since you haven't denied it, I'll assume you either did it or you're taking credit for this insult to the truth," he waved his hand at the smiling Dursley images.

Percy merely pressed his lips together and started glaring.

"Whoever did this clearly knows nothing about those three poor excuses for Muggles.   There are so many problems with those images I don't think I could list them all, never mind the utter fiction that plaque says.   What imbecile came to the conclusion that they were 'generous' with me in any way?"   Harry abruptly waved his hand in irritation.   "You know what?   Never mind.   I don't care who produced these things."   He turned his head.   "Remus, are the images of my parents correct?"

Remus, looking highly amused at Harry's words, simply nodded.

"Will 'altero simulacra' work, you think?"

Now grinning outright, Remus asked, "Sirius?"

Harry smiled and waved his hand in an inviting gesture.   "Be my guest.   I'll do the plaque."

"Now see here!" a red-faced Percy stepped in front of the threatened dummies.

Harry just stared at him for a moment.   "Percy, think very carefully about what you saw me do to Fudge less than an hour ago.   Now think about what my attitude toward you is after what you've put your family through, your support of Fudge, your support for Umbridge, and your participation in trying to have me expelled for the DA last year."   He paused as those thoughts slowly sunk into Percy's mind.   "Do you really want to get in front of my wand right now?"

Looking sullen, Percy moved out of the way.

"Frankly, I'd rather do away with all of them altogether, but since I know that's not going to happen, I'd at least like this to be an accurate representation of my family, " Harry muttered to nobody in particular.   He pointed his wand.   "Evanesco.   Evanesco.   Evanesco."   He vanished first Vernon, then Dudley, then the banner above them.   While Remus was busy remoulding the image of Petunia Dursley into Sirius, Harry modified the plaque to read, Sirius Black.   Godfather to Harry Potter.   Born April 23rd, 1960.   Died June 26th, 1996 fighting against Death Eaters.

He looked at Remus's efforts and nodded agreement.   This was not an image of the adult Sirius who'd died five months previously, nor the bedraggled, escaped convict he was for years prior to that.   Rather it was a young man with a happy yet mischievous smile in place.

He turned to the very unhappy Percy.   "THIS is the family I claim, Percy.   These three," his pointing hand indicated the images, "Remus, Hermione and MOST of the Weasley family.   If you're going to say or do something about me, at least get it right."   He turned on his heel and stalked away from Percy to see what Ginny had been up to.

The image of Percy had been removed from the Weasley group.   Ginny was just finishing altering the plaque to indicate that Percy had disinherited himself from the Weasley family as he arrived at her side.

"He did?" Harry asked in surprise.

Ginny nodded, putting her wand away.   "Yep.   Official and everything as of last Christmas.   It devastated Mum and Dad, so we didn't talk about it."

"Did you mean that, Harry?" Hermione asked from behind Harry.

Harry turned to find a teary Hermione with Ron's arm over her shoulder.   "Did I mean what?" he asked, slipping an arm around Ginny's waist.

"That you included Hermione and I in your list of family," Remus said, joining the group.

Harry nodded firmly.   "Definitely.   Hermione, you're the sister I wish I had.   Remus, I can't decide if you're an older brother or an uncle, but calling you 'godfather' is good enough for now."

Eyes suspiciously wet, Remus pulled Harry into a hug, quickly joined by Hermione then the two Weasleys.

A sharp bang pulled the three out of their group hug, Harry and Remus's wands out and aimed at the unexpected noise.

Tonks calmly put her wand away after her Concussion Charm and turned to the staring, silent crowd.   "Alright, folks.   Nothing to see here."

Harry's face burned in embarrassment as he realised that the entire Hall full of witches and wizards had undoubtedly watched and heard everything.

Ginny snaked an arm over his shoulder and leaned up to whisper into his hear.   "Hey, don't be embarrassed.   It's all true, after all."

"Yeah, but . . ."   He sighed.   "I just wish they wouldn't hold me up as some kind of hero.   Hold US up," he corrected himself, waving toward where the now removed banner had been hanging.

"They will, you know," Remus said in amusement.   "What you two did was huge and incredible.   They just want to honour you for it."

"Instead, how about they hold up Sirius and the Order," Harry grumbled.

"The word you're looking for is 'iconize'," Hermione mentioned.   "The witches and wizards of Britain would rather celebrate the Boy Who Lived than a shadowy Order, Harry.   The fact that they get a second hero," Hermione indicated Ginny with a short nod, "is just a bonus.   Whether you like it or not, you are the heroes of this."

With a sigh, Ginny said to Harry, "You were right earlier."

"No need to look so surprised.   That HAS been known to happen before," Harry teased.

Ginny rolled her eyes.   She explained to their small audience, "Before we came down here, he warned me that we'd end up being heroes because everyone else needs us to be heroes."

"I just wish it didn't have to be us," Harry grumped.

"Then you shouldn't have won," Hermione dryly answered.

"Think of it this way, Harry.   If we hadn't won, we couldn't do this."   Ginny gently pulled his head down enough to give him a passionate kiss.

Harry grinned.   "Oh, you mean this?"   He kissed her back.

"Oh, Great Merlin," Ron groaned.

Chuckling at their antics, Remus turned from them to enjoy the large party in progress.

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

The next morning's Daily Prophet was mostly devoted to the Second Fall, as it was now being called.   One of Colin's pictures had a prominent spot on the front page, which included full photo credit to the student.   It took until halfway through the paper before anything except Voldemort, Harry, or Ginny was mentioned.   At that point, it became the other events at the press conference, including Harry's diatribe against Fudge (which would be further investigated and covered, the paper promised) and then against Skeeter.   Though the Prophet skimmed over the second part of that, they firmly stated that she had been dismissed for "gross journalistic misconduct".  

Harry snorted when Hermione read that portion of the paper aloud.

"Only about five years too late," Hermione acidly added.

"Why did you let her go?" Ron asked quietly, still helping Harry open packages.   He, like everyone else, was moving a little slower than usual after a very long and boisterous party all the previous evening.

In addition to the usual family post and paper deliveries, hundreds of owls had descended upon Harry and Ginny.   Almost all of them were thank you gifts of one variety or another (some containing promises of a much more PERSONAL thank you if Harry so desired), and Harry had recruited his dorm-mates into helping him open all the gifts.  

Malfoy, and to a lesser degree Snape, were glaring and muttering about the situation.

"I promised I'd let her write whatever she wanted again after a year.   I had hoped she would have learned her lesson, but apparently she hadn't," Hermione answered Ron's question as he threw another box of Chocolate Frogs onto the pile of candies at the end of the Gryffindor table.

Natalie McDonald brought yet another armload of Ginny's haul down from where she and Ginny's other roommates were helping her open her own mail.   "This is the last of it, I think.   Harry, Ginny also told me to tell you that some of her letters gave her inventive ideas.   I don't know what that means, though."

Dean spoke up without taking his eyes from the parchment he'd been reading.   "Oh, if they're anything like this one, I think I can hazard a guess."   He tilted his head and frowned at it a bit as Neville looked over his shoulder in curiosity.   Just as Neville's eyes bulged at the sight, Dean commented, "You know, I wasn't aware that that position was even physically possible."

Hermione coughed, spraying pumpkin juice on Harry's robes.   Natalie's eyes grew huge before she turned and scampered off.   Harry groaned.   Ron took on the look of a simmering volcano.

Hoping to head off a Weasley explosion (of one variety or another), Harry quickly asked, "Is that the pile of real letters?"   He'd asked the boys to segregate the obvious fan mail from the other items.   The fan mail had been summarily incinerated.

"Yeah," Seamus answered, hurrying to Dean's side.   "There's even one from Gringott's in there that wouldn't let me open it."   He got to where he could see the parchment that Dean was still studying and quirked an eyebrow.   "Very . . . flexible, isn't she?" he asked.

"Uh .   . ."   Neville had lost all ability to communicate.

"Someone had better rescue Neville," Harry commented in amusement.  

Hermione, still holding a cloth napkin to her mouth, rolled her eyes and placed a hand over the parchment in question.  

That seemed to snap Neville out of his trance, and he hurried away, his face nearly imitating an embarrassed Weasley at their best.  

Dean pulled the parchment away from Hermione's reach and continued to study it, muttering with Seamus.   He was saying something about "double jointed" that everyone chose to ignore.

Shaking his head at his friends' antics, Harry called loudly.   "Hey, everyone!"   When he had the attention of most of the Hall, he continued, "Two things.   First, both DA classes are cancelled this weekend.   Second, you all might have noticed that Ginny and I got sent some sweets."  

Most everyone chuckled.   'Some sweets', as he called it, was currently forming a small mountain near the head table.  

"Everybody feel free to come along and take what you want.   I only ask that any Agrippa Chocolate Frog cards go to Ron.   He's still missing that one."   The entire Hall laughed, and students started to make their way forward.

"Thanks," Ron said sarcastically.   His slight grin, though, showed that it was less than angry.

"Anytime, mate," Harry cheerfully acknowledged, gathering up his real letters.   They would require a more thorough reading later.   He only hoped that Ginny's plea from the previous day to not treat them like heroes would mean that this sort of morning post wouldn't happen for more than another day.   Maybe a politely worded request for the Daily Prophet to publish?

Harry's morning class that day started out having little to do with educating him.   Instead, he was bombarded with requests to detail everything that'd happened.   For the entertainment of Professor Flitwick and all the Charms sixth year students, he related what happened.   After that, the professor went over two topics.   The Animagus Reversion Charm and the mechanics behind Portkeys.

Lunch was reasonably quiet.   Harry suffered through more pointing and whispers, but he had long ago become immune to it.   Ginny was just learning.

Toward the end of the meal, Dumbledore asked Harry to attend a staff meeting that evening.   This, of course, resulted in all the nearby Gryffindors renewing their teasing of him over his current professorial status.   In an odd way, Harry was thankful to the headmaster for trying to bring life back to normal.

In the afternoon Defense class, even Tonks wanted a play-by-play of the action, though she didn't ask about the final spell he cast.

She nodded when he wound down.   "Okay, class. Who can tell me what Harry and Ginny did wrong?"

Everyone stared at her blankly.  

"Nothing!" Neville blurted out.   "They took down the worst wizard in history!"

Tonks shook her head.   "Yes, but they shouldn't have made it that far.   That they survived at all is nearly miraculous.   I'm supposed to be teaching you Defense Against the Dark Arts, so I'm asking what they could have done differently so as not to get to the point of nearly being killed by Voldemort."

Hermione answered, "They should have shouted out the password to the headmaster's office the instant they had Wormtail cornered."

Tonks nodded.   "That's one.   They had a powerful ally very near by.   He wasn't informed until well after the point of it being useful.   Anything else?"   She looked apologetically at Harry.

"I should have stunned Wormtail when I had a shot at him instead of reversing his Animagus transformation.   I let my anger get the better of my judgement," Harry said thoughtfully.

Tonks nodded, thankful that Harry wasn't bothered by this critique of his performance and was even participating.

"He should have contacted ANY professor the moment he knew Pettigrew was in the castle," Dean volunteered.   He turned to Harry, "Come to that, how DID you know he was here?"

Harry shifted uncomfortably.   He wasn't about to divulge the secret of the Marauder's Map.   "Ginny and I stumbled upon him, and I recognised him."

"And what, pray tell, were you and the baby Weasel doing out at four in the morning, Potter?" Malfoy sneered, though it had less venom than usual after the past day's events.

"Two points for insulting a prefect, Malfoy," Harry first answered with a resigned sigh.   "As a professor, I had every right to be out and about.   I often patrol the corridors at odd times of the night.   All my dorm-mates know I'm a borderline insomniac."

"What was Ginny doing up and with you at that time?" Ron nearly growled.   He knew about the map, and had already been informed, along with the Order, about the exact sequence of events.   Harry assumed Ron was hiding his knowledge behind his infamous big brother role.

"Nothing against the law or school rules," Harry assured him, skating around giving any real answer to the rest of the class.  

Ron narrowed his eyes before leaning back and folding his arms.   "I'll be sure to ask for a more complete answer once I have a few brothers of mine around to help."

All the remaining Gryffindors winced, remembering the legendary Weasley protectiveness toward their sister.   This included the twins.

To complete the scene, Harry cowered, but he was quietly relieved.   He was now positive that Ron was merely acting the part he had to.   He couldn't admit to too much previous knowledge, after all.

"I'll leave Mr. Potter's fate in the hands of the Weasley clan," Tonks put her stamp of approval on that scenario, much to the room's amusement.

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

Sitting down to dinner, Harry began to read through the pile of mail that he and his dorm-mates had weeded out of the obvious fan mail.

The Ministry sent two letters.   First giving formal notification of the Order of Merlin that

was currently in Harry's trunk.   The second parchment from them was a statement clearing Sirius Black's name.   It went on to explain that a sizeable compensation for wrongful imprisonment had been deposited into Sirius's Gringott's vault plus a posthumous Order of Merlin, Second Class.   This was signed with a flourish by Fudge.  

Harry snorted in disgust.   If the idiot Minister thought he could buy Harry's good graces, he was sorely lacking in grey matter.   Not that this was news.

One polite (nearly begging) request for an exclusive interview by a Daily Prophet reporter of his choice, sent by their editor-in-chief.

A similar request for interview by the Quibbler, sent by Luna's father.

A joint offer to pose for the cover of Wizarding Today magazine with Ginny.

A request for joint interview and pictures from Witch Weekly.

An offer of a job interview from Madam Bones and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

An invitation, also from Madam Bones, to what looked like a "junior Auror" sort of summer camp.   This, Harry laid aside for further contemplation.

A note from a solicitor, apparently having to do with Sirius's estate, to meet him on Sunday morning at Gringott's bank.

Lastly, the note from Gringott's.   Tapping it with his wand, it unrolled itself and a key fell out and onto the table.   It was larger and much more ornate than Harry's other key, even having Potter engraved into it.   Reading in curiosity, Harry learned that due to his new legal status, he now had access to the Potter family vault in addition to his trust account.   The goblins further explained that a sizeable deposit had been placed into his main account by the Ministry of Magic.

"Harry?" Ginny asked, carrying a similar letter and holding a smaller key of her own.

"Yes, love?" he asked absently, re-reading his letter.

"I just got this from Gringott's," she said, not looking up.   "Do you happen to know what 'change of legal status' they're talking about?"

Harry looked up.   "You too?"

She nodded, glancing at Harry's new key.   "The Ministry made a deposit in my name and the goblins put it into my own, new account due to my change of legal status.   Do you have any idea what they're talking about?"

"Order of Merlin awards have monetary rewards attached," Hermione mentioned from her place across from Harry.   "As for the legal status, I'm not sure."

Harry stood and approached the head table, Ginny trailing along behind.   "Headmaster?" Harry asked politely.

"Professor Potter and Miss Weasley.   What might I do for the two of you this evening?"

"Gringott's sent us both letters this morning, mentioning our change of legal status.   Do you know what they're referring to, sir?"   Harry had wondered if Sirius being cleared might have something to do with it, but then why did Ginny get something similar?

"The fact that you have been granted your majority," Dumbledore answered.

Both teenagers frowned in confusion.

"Oh, dear.   I see you that you do not understand the significance of receiving an Order of Merlin."   Dumbledore's eyes showed great amusement.   "The awards are always phrased identically, so I am aware of what it says as I also received one some time ago.   The pertinent portion states that a monetary reward will be placed in your personal Gringott's vault.   However, one of the goblin's banking laws states that only those who have reached their majority are permitted a personal vault as opposed to a trust vault such as yours, Harry.   Therefore, by stating it in the way that it does, it has the secondary effect of legally changing you into adults.   Seeing as how you two are the youngest recipients of this award by a fair margin, this has previously not been an issue.   In this case, however . . ."   He waved a hand at the couple, twinkle lighting his face.

"Legally, I'm an adult?" Ginny asked in shock.

Dumbledore nodded, still smiling benignly.

Harry raised an amused eyebrow.   He was less than a year from reaching his seventeenth birthday, and gaining the same status by normal means, but Ginny was just short of two years away yet.   "The underage wizarding decree —"

"No longer applies to either of you," Dumbledore assured them.

Harry's mind immediately started quietly planning a proper goodbye to give to the Dursleys.

Stunned, Ginny politely thanked Dumbledore and turned back to the Gryffindor table.   Harry made his way to his seat in a state of bemused shock.

Hermione looked up from her examination of the Potter key.   "This is your family vault key?" she asked.

Harry nodded.

Ron objected, "I thought you wouldn't get access to that until you're seventeen."

"Seems that receiving an Order of Merlin legally turns you into an adult," Harry told them.

As Ron thought that one through, Ginny dropped onto the bench across from him.   "Hiya, little brother!" she greeted him cheerfully.

"Little brother?" he asked her with a raised eyebrow.

"Yep.   As of yesterday, I'm legally older than you."

Hermione and Harry smothered grins at Ron's expression of blank shock.

"Harry, Ginny," Colin Creevy greeted them, walking up with a handful of photographs.

"Hi, Colin," Harry greeted.   Ginny nodded to her year-mate.

"Harry, I'd like to thank you for mentioning me and my pictures yesterday during the press conference.   I'm sure you noticed my picture in the Prophet this morning?"

"It was a good picture," Harry assured him.   "I'm not so sure I looked quite that calm at the time, though."

"Yes, you did," Colin, Neville and Hermione chorused and then grinned.  

Ron was still shaking off the shock of Ginny's announcement.

"I've gotten a couple job offers as a photographer, too," Colin proudly reported.

"Good for you," Ginny congratulated him.

Blushing a bit, Colin went on, "Anyway, I had a couple copies made up for you two.   This first one is a copy of the one the Daily Prophet bought.   Here's a couple panoramic shots to show you who was there.   This last one, though, I think you'll both truly appreciate."   He handed it to the couple with a flourish and a grin.

Harry and Ginny broke into peals of laughter.   It was Snape's face.   He was clearly looking down at the dead Voldemort.   His expression could only be described as "dumbstruck fish".   Even though it was a typical wizarding photograph and was therefore moving, the picture-Snape merely opened and closed his mouth and blinked rapidly.

Wiping the tears away, Harry proclaimed, "Colin, you're a genius!   This is now officially my favourite picture ever."

Ginny weakly nodded, clutching Harry's shoulder for support.

Colin was grinning at their reaction.   "Yeah, I thought you two would appreciate that one.   Enjoy!"   He headed off, whistling cheerfully.

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

Harry entered the staff room a few minutes early that evening to find Dumbledore and Snape being the only two present.   Perfect.

Harry nodded politely to Dumbledore and said to Snape, "Professor."

"Potter," Snape acknowledged.

"May I make a request?"

"Your history has proven you capable of such a thing, though the relevance and intelligence of -"

"Severus," Dumbledore warned gently.

"Far be it from me to deny the Boy Who Won anything," Snape said, smoothly bypassing Dumbledore's unspoken chiding.

"Now that you no longer have to kowtow to the children of Death Eaters, do you think you could be fair to your students?"

"What makes you think I am not fair, Potter?" Snape sneered as McGonagall entered.

She barked out a laugh.   "Aside from consistent, continual complaints from the younger students of the other three houses?"

"Only the younger students?" Snape smiled oily.

"We give up complaining when it's obvious that it doesn't matter," Harry explained.

"Aside from the wide discrepancy in your class grades versus OWL and NEWT grades for all houses, including your own?" McGonagall gave another reason.

"Really?" Harry asked in interest.

Minerva grinned victoriously, still looking at Snape.   "Oh, yes.   Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs consistently do better on the standardized tests than he grades you. Slytherins, on the other hand, consistently do WORSE at the standardized tests."

"Those examiners are biased against my Slytherins," Snape stated.

"Only in Potions?" McGonagall questioned with all the delicacy of a Bludger.

Harry couldn't decide whether he should be enjoying the show or getting nervous.

"We have spoken about this, Severus," Dumbledore quietly interrupted the bickering professors.   "Now that it is no longer imperative to stay in the good graces of the children of known Death Eaters, it would show considerable maturity and forgiveness to treat all of your students identically."

Snape's jaw worked for a few moments, but he never gave a direct answer.   Instead, he thumped down in his seat and glared at Harry.

"I have another question," Harry directed his attention to Dumbledore.   "Were you intending to make the Order public?"

Dumbledore shook his head.   "Alas, no.   We must remain behind the scenes if we are to be useful against the remaining Death Eaters or other surfacing dark wizards."

Harry shivered slightly at the thought of someone else trying to take up Voldemort's banner, but he figured it was bound to happen sooner or later.   Dumbledore himself took Grindelwald down fifty years earlier just as Harry took Voldemort down just the previous day.

The door opened and most of the rest of the staff entered, including Professor Trelawney coming out of her tower in a rare excursion.

Tonks sat next to Harry and threw him a flirtatious wink.  

Harry winked back, causing a snort of disgust to come from Snape's direction.

Dumbledore ignored the small byplay and stood as everyone found seats.   "Thank you all for coming on such short notice.   Professor Firenze will not be attending, but I believe everyone else is present.   I hope to keep the meeting short, but if anyone has any concerns, feel free to bring them up.   I would first like us to discuss whether to re-instate the Quidditch Cup for the year.   Thoughts?"

"Not that it's bad right now, but restarting Quidditch would help student morale," Harry immediately observed.

Madam Hooch nodded.   "Indeed it would.   It is, however, rather late to be starting a season, don't you think?"

Tonks shrugged.   "Everyone will still have the same lead time available, so it's still even.   Nobody would have an advantage over anyone else."

Harry was not the only one who nodded.

"Objections?" Dumbledore asked.   When nobody spoke up, he nodded.   "Heads, please contact your captains or choose them as quickly as possible.   Madam Hooch will be producing a schedule soon, practises arranged through her, all the normal procedures in place.   My second item of discussion is Hogsmeade visits, including one tomorrow."

"Isn't that rather short notice, Albus?" Flitwick asked.

Dumbledore shrugged easily.   "I see no reason why we cannot resume as normal a school year as possible, Filius, given the recent change in our security threat," he nodded toward Harry.   "I have already spoken with the town council and they are understandably supportive of the idea."

Nobody else commented and Hogsmeade trips were again allowed after the matter of the permission slips was covered.

"I foresee great happiness," Trelawney said mystically.

Harry rolled his eyes and caught McGonagall and Hagrid rolling theirs.   He made a snap decision to use his new status as associate professor and no longer a student of hers to its fullest.   "How does my future look now, Professor?" he asked politely.

She turned a cool look toward him.   "I am well aware that you have long eschewed the Arts of Divination, my child, but there is no reason to be rude about it."

"I'm sorry you took it that way, Professor.  I was simply remembering all those times in class you predicted my horrible death.   Now that Voldemort is no longer after me, I was wondering how my predicted future has changed."

She sniffed.   "An Inner Eye is a great burden to bear.   I would not want to alarm you by telling you the entire truth."

Harry's eyes flared just a little and he opened his mouth.

Dumbledore stilled him with a raised hand.   "Harry, please.   Your disagreements with Sibyll are not unknown to us.   We have no need of a demonstration."

"Yes, Headmaster," Harry ground out.

Both Trelawney and Snape looked inordinately smug.  

Harry heroically kept himself from drawing his wand.

"My offer still stands, Sibyll," Silvia Vector offered innocently.

Trelawney glared at the Arithmancy witch.   McGonagall, Flitwick, Hagrid and Tonks smothered grins.

Harry leaned over to Tonks and asked in a whisper, "What offer?"

Tonks whispered back with a twinkle in her eye, "Trelawney tells all of her predictions to Vector for the next two months.   Silvia writes them down and then publishes Trelawney's accuracy rate when all are either fulfilled or avoided."

Harry narrowly avoided laughing aloud.

With nothing else to cover, Dumbledore quickly ended the meeting.

Harry followed McGonagall out, giving Tonks a wave.   "Professor, may I have a moment?"

"Certainly, Harry.   What may I do for you?" she answered as he fell into step with her.

"Could I tell Ron about Quidditch and give him the captain's badge?"

She raised an eyebrow.   "What makes you so sure I was going to offer it to him?"

"If you offered it to me, I would refuse it.   So would Ginny.   Katie has already told us she doesn't want it.   Ron's the only other reasonable choice."

She smiled slightly.   "Miss Bell as expressed similar thoughts to me.   I had also thought of Miss Weasley, but I agree that Mr. Weasley is a better choice.   Yes, you may give him the badge.   I believe I gave you your broomstick back at the beginning of term?"   At his nod, she continued, "Would you like to also announce the Hogsmeade weekend in Gryffindor Tower?"   As they spoke, she led the way into her office and pulled the captain's badge out of her desk to give to Harry.

He smiled ironically, taking the badge.   "Sure.   I could always use more popularity."

She grinned minutely.   "Harry, I daresay you have enough popularity right now to run for Minister of Magic."   She then laughed at the horrified look on his face.   "Not that I'm suggesting such a thing, of course.   On another matter, your rooms should be ready Monday after classes.   Please see me then, and I'll show them to you."  

Harry nodded, looking forward to having his own quarters.  

McGonagall went on, "Lastly, could you and Miss Weasley go to Professor Dumbledore's office after dinner tomorrow?   The Chocolate Frog portrait company representative would like to speak with you both."

Harry sighed.   It really shouldn't have surprised him that they would.   If popular musicians had cards, then the defeaters of Voldemort would have to as well.  

After agreeing, Harry walked back to Gryffindor Tower.   Entering the portrait hole, he saw a fair number of students in the common room, but not the whole house.   He went over to Ron and Hermione's study table and leaned over the two.   "Just got back from the staff meeting and McGonagall would like me to make a couple announcements.   Could you two go be prefectly and clean out the dormitories for a quick house meeting?"

"Prefectly?" Ron asked in amusement but moved to obey all the same.

A few minutes later everyone was in the now crowded common room, Harry raised his voice.   "Everyone, Professor McGonagall asked me to make two announcements to you.   First, the good news.   Quidditch has been re-started."   The entire room started buzzing, causing Harry to raise his voice,   "Second, the really good news is that tomorrow is a Hogsmeade visit."  

Everyone erupted in cheers.  

"Third years, you'll be given permission forms at breakfast.   Tomorrow you'll be allowed to go to Hogsmeade, but the next time you won't unless you turn the permission slip back in to Professor McGonagall, signed by a parent or guardian.   For the rest of us, existing permission slips, or lack thereof, are still active.   If you want another blank to get signed, see her.   If the Quidditch team could stick around for a minute, otherwise that's all I have to tell you."

Katie, Ginny, and Ron walked up to Harry as the rest of the room exploded into excited chatter.  

"McGonagall and I talked about the captaincy," Harry told the three without preamble.   Alicia, Angelina, Andrew, Jack, Fred, and George had all graduated (or otherwise left), so these four were all of the remaining Gryffindors with team experience.   "Katie, we knew you've made your refusal well known."   The seventh year Chaser nodded.   "I'd refuse as well.   I like playing, but not obsessing over it.   Ginny?"   He figured asking her opinion couldn't hurt because he'd privately asked her over the summer and knew what she was going to say.

True to expectations, she waved it off.   "I'm going to have to learn how to be a Chaser on top of my OWLs.   I don't have time to be captain."

Harry pulled the badge out of his pocket and held it out to Ron.   "Congratulations, mate."

Ron stared at it, gaping.

Since Ron wasn't taking the badge from him, Harry pressed it into his hand.   "Hooch will be making a schedule soon.   See her about scheduling the pitch.   See McGonagall for anything else, right?"

Ron dumbly nodded, eyes never leaving the badge.

Ginny giggled, twining an arm through Harry's.   "I think you broke him."

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

The next morning at breakfast, the mail call was even worse for Harry and Ginny.

While the two dormitories' worth of students were opening candy, Hermione was reading aloud several articles.  

The Aurors had already made a dozen arrests based on the initial interrogation of Pettigrew (who had subsequently been sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban).   Many more Death Eaters were named, shocking more than a few, and Sirius Black was publicly and officially exonerated.   Harry already knew about Sirius's pardon after the post from the Ministry the previous day, but getting it out to the public made him feel slightly better.

Aurors were beginning to round up the rogue dementors.   Without orders from Voldemort, they were apparently easy to locate if not easy to contain.   Measures were being discussed on what to do with them in the long term.  

The next article was a long list of celebrations that had taken place and the resulting monetary fines handed out by the Aurors for attracting Muggle attentions.  

The final article Hermione read was about the early stages of Fudge's political meltdown as the smaller department heads started talking about how Fudge's Ministry REALLY operated.

Harry lent only half an ear toward what Hermione was saying.   He was busy opening job offers.

Every professional Quidditch team in the British and Irish Quidditch League offered him a chance to try out for their Seeker position.   The English and Scottish national teams did as well.

Every Ministry department (minus Magical Law Enforcement as they'd asked the previous day) asked him to come in for a job interview.

Endorsement deals from every company he'd ever heard of and many that he hadn't.  

Requests for interviews and photographs from every publication he could ever remember seeing in the periodical section of Hogwarts library.

An invitation to join the Dark Forces Defense League.   Seeing as how Lockhart had been an honorary member, Harry wasn't too terribly impressed with the organization.

Requests to come and speak to a wide variety of groups from London's Chapter of the Eternal Order of the Owl to Durmstrang's Duelling department.

This was just getting ridiculous.

"The absolute NERVE of these people," Ginny fumed, glaring at a letter in her hands.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked.

"Playwizard wants me to pose."

Ron fell over.  

Neville jerked so hard that the box of Bernie Bott's Every Flavour Beans in his hand spilled all over the table.

Hermione looked up, fire in her eyes.   "Setting aside the morality for a moment, isn't that illegal due to your age?"

Ginny rolled her eyes.   "They addressed that.   They ASSURED me that it was legal since I was declared an adult witch."

Harry hastily wiped away one or two (or ten) very inappropriate mental images.   "Hey, did I tell you that we need to meet the Chocolate Frog people tonight after dinner?"

Ron smiled widely as he pulled himself up from the floor.  

Ginny groaned.   "No, you didn't.   Nice change of subject, by the way."

"Thank you.   Yeah, Dumbledore apparently set it up or something.   I wasn't given much of a choice about it.   On the other hand, I've gotten offers for you and I to do joint interviews and photos in Witch Weekly, Wizarding Today, Daily Prophet, Quibbler, Charms Digest . . ."

She sighed.   "Yeah.   I got a request for a solo interview with Teen Witch Weekly."

"Oooh!" Parvati squealed.   "You ARE going to do that one, aren't you?"

Harry narrowly avoided throwing up.

Ginny just shook her head.   "I got a request from them back right after it became public that I was dating the Boy Who Lived.   They just asked again, offering a LOT more money."

In a strangled voice, Harry said, "You do what you think you need to do, Ginny."

She rolled her eyes.   "I'm not going to put you, or me, through that, Harry.   We will probably have to speak to at least some of them, you know.   The Daily Prophet and at least one of the respectable magazines."

"Charms Digest is well regarded, but they'll want to know the last spell you used," Hermione threw in.

Harry nodded.   "Everyone will probably want to know, despite what I said at the press conference.   How about interviews with the Daily Prophet, Wizarding Today, and the WWN?" he asked, referring to the Wizarding Wireless Network.

"If you can trust the Prophet," Ginny sounded pessimistic.

Harry grinned.   "The Editor in Chief assured me they'd send whomever I specified.   Seems my treatment of Rita didn't go unnoticed."

Ginny and Hermione looked much more comfortable at this news.

"Come on," Ron said.   "It's a Hogsmeade weekend.   No need to stand around here."

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

Hours later, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione walked into the Three Broomsticks, laden with shopping bags.

Harry collapsed into a booth, head resting on the table.  

Ginny slid in beside him, piling her bags with his at their feet.  

Madam Rosmerta approached the foursome.   "Hi, Harry!"

Harry groaned and didn't even look up.   "Not you, too.   Please."

The voluptuous owner stopped and peered quizzically at him.   "Not me what?"

Ginny combed a hand through his hair.   "Poor Harry here has gotten job or endorsement offers from every place we've gone into today," she explained.   "You should have seen what happened in Honeydukes."

Madam Rosmerta smiled.   "I can imagine.   No, I'm simply going to offer you a round on the house."

Harry sat up and peered at her hesitantly.   "That's it?"

"That's it," she assured him.

He smiled.   "In that case, four butterbeers with my thanks."

"Coming right up!" Madam Rosmerta answered cheerfully, moving back toward the bar.

"Finally someone is treating me normally," Harry said in relief.

"She's getting us free drinks, mate.   Not exactly treating us like normal."

"Better than any other shop owner we've seen today.   What surprises me is how everyone is paying attention to me and ignoring you, Ginny.   You did as much as I did.   You should be getting at least as much attention."

"I'm trying to stay out of the limelight, thanks.   I just hide behind you until I need to buy something and then wait until the cashier is gushing over you before slipping in and out."

Harry rolled his eyes.   "I don't blame you, honestly.   You saw how Wutherford Zonko treated me when I walked in."

Ginny and Ron grinned widely.   "Actually, he wanted you to endorse him above the twins," Ginny explained.

"They're doing well, then?" Hermione asked.

Ginny nodded as Madam Rosmerta placed four mugs of butterbeer on the table.  

Everyone thanked the owner before Ginny continued, "Mum's all chuffed about it.   They're putting in insane hours, almost never come back to the Burrow, but they're making galleons hand over fist."

"Good on them," Harry gave his opinion.

"They're talking about hiring Ron and I over the summer," Ginny went on.  

"As test subjects or workers?" Hermione asked in amusement.

"Yes," Ginny answered dryly.

"You don't have to work this summer if you don't want," Ron said without rancour.   "I don't know how much the reward was, but if it requires your own vault, it has to be a whole bloody lot."

Harry and Ginny shrugged.   She answered, "It's nice, but it's not like I can retire on it.   Maybe get myself some nice dress robes for the Yule Ball," she speculated

"Oh, no," Harry objected.   "THAT will be my Christmas present to you."

"And why can't I buy dress robes for you instead?" Ginny asked reasonably.

Harry opened his mouth but clicked it shut again when no obvious answer presented itself.  

Hermione and Ron chuckled at Harry's expression.   "She's got you there, Harry."

"I'll just have to think of something else, then.   Where else do we need to go today?"

"Gladrags," Ginny answered with a grin.

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

"That was interesting," Ginny said that evening as the Chocolate Frog representatives left Dumbledore's office.

Unsurprisingly, they wanted to do two new cards.   Harry had argued for a joint card, but the company representative had nixed the idea immediately.   All cards had one person on them only.   No exceptions.

Therefore, Harry and Ginny had to suffer through a quick photo shoot each and decide on the wording for the reverse side.   Harry was very interested in the fact that he was paid two knuts per card of him produced.   Initially that didn't sound like much, but when he realised that at least a hundred of his cards would be produced each week, at a minimum for the next hundred years . . .

"Ron is missing three cards now," Harry said with a small grin.   "Agrippa, Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter."

"Indeed," Dumbledore nodded.

"Headmaster," Harry addressed him, "I received a letter from Sirius's solicitor with an appointment tomorrow.   I'm just letting you know that I need to be leaving the castle."

Dumbledore nodded.   "I received a similar letter.   I have already arranged for Remus to accompany us.   Shall we meet at ten here in my office?" Dumbledore suggested.

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

"Are we ready, then?" Dumbledore asked Sunday morning after a late breakfast.   When Harry nodded absently, still thinking about the Prophet story detailing the uncovering truths about Fudge's shady campaign finances, Dumbledore stood and held out a quill.  

Harry looked at it blankly for a moment.  

"Please grip the other end.   This is a Portkey," Dumbledore explained.

Sighing, Harry gripped the near end.  

Dumbledore tapped it with his wand.  

Harry felt the usual jerking sensation and landed with a jolt in the Gringott's lobby.  

A goblin had obviously been waiting for them.   He stepped forward and peered at them menacingly before giving a brief nod.   "Follow me," he ordered brusquely.   It led them to a small room down a hallway.   Opening the door, he waved them in and then followed them after they entered.  

Harry saw an unknown, older wizard on one side of a table and Remus Lupin sitting in one of three chairs on the other side.   "Remus," Harry smiled, shaking the offered hand.

"Harry.   How have you been?"

"Busy couple days," Harry said with a small grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"Understandable," the unknown wizard agreed, waving the two newcomers to seats.   "I'm sure your time is as precious to you as mine is to me, Mr. Potter, so shall we conduct our business?"  

Harry nodded, taking the seat between Dumbledore and Remus, and looked attentive.  

"My name is Mophestus Norgellus.   I am the solicitor for Sirius Black's Estate.   You have my condolences on your loss, sirs," he nodded to each wizard present.   After they had nodded back, he continued, "Further, I wish to apologise for bringing you in on a Sunday; however, I believe you will agree with me that this duty has been delayed more than enough.   I am afraid that I was not able to do this earlier, but his fugitive status until recently was a major complication.   Unless there are any issues to bring up at this point, I suggest we get on to business.   I have reviewed the paperwork and all is in order.   All things considered, it's a very straightforward situation."   He slid a sealed scroll to Remus and another to Harry.   "I've been instructed to give these scrolls to you gentlemen with the request that you read them later."   He looked at his notes as the two scrolls in question were tucked into robe pockets.   Solicitor Norgellus continued, "As for material possessions, there are only two bequests listed.   First is his vault and all its contents.   Remus John Lupin is bequeathed half the ready cash excluding the sickles."  

Harry gave a sad little smile.   Even now, Padfoot was doing his best to keep Moony safe.   In this case, it was from silver.   Based on Remus's matching smile, he was having similar thoughts.  

Norgellus went on, "The remainder of the vault's contents go to Harry James Potter."

Harry nearly choked.   "WHAT?"

Norgellus smiled slightly.   "All the items, half the galleons and knuts plus all the sickles in that vault are yours, lad."

"But . . ."

"He was your godfather, Harry.   His doing this doesn't surprise me in the least," Remus said quietly.

Harry leaned back, stunned.   A bit of money, maybe stories or pictures of his father, something like that was all that he was expecting from Sirius.   Slightly over half the Black family fortune was well beyond what he was expecting.

Seeing no further interruptions from Harry, Norgellus continued, "The only other specific item to bequeath is a property.   The Black Manor goes to 'The Order' as run by Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.   I have tried to locate it, but it is unplottable.   Mr. Dumbledore, do you know the property I speak of?"

Dumbledore nodded, running one hand through his beard absently.  

Harry and Remus nodded, too.   The solicitor was clearly referring to Twelve Grimmauld Place.   That Sirius would give it to the Order, which was gearing up for a full-scale war when Sirius had died, was not surprising.   Harry was even vaguely happy with that bequest as it meant he never had to step foot in the place which would have too many Sirius memories.   Not to mention not having to deal with Kreacher.

Getting an affirmative answer, Norgellus relaxed minutely.   "Do any of you three gentlemen challenge any of these bequests?"   All three shook their heads, Harry still in a slight daze.   "In that case, please sign this, stating that you understand the terms and don't wish to dispute any terms.   Once that is done, Farmok here," he gestured to the silent goblin, "will take a moment to conclude the business within Gringott's and that will be all, gentlemen."

Dumbledore lifted the parchment and silently read it for a minute.   Without making any comment, he lifted the provided quill and signed the appropriate line, sliding the parchment down to Harry.  

For his part, Harry tried to read it, but got bogged down in the legalese.   What he understood looked correct and Dumbledore had signed without comment, so Harry also signed.   He didn't completely trust Dumbledore but knew the ancient wizard wouldn't do anything to truly endanger Harry or himself.

Remus signed with an even more cursory glance than Harry had given it.

After Remus slid the parchment back to the solicitor, the goblin stepped forward, drawing all eyes to him.   "Mr. Lupin, shall we transfer your portion of the Black vault to your vault, or would you like a new one?"

"If mine is large enough, please send it there."

The goblin nodded and turned to Harry, dropping a large key in front of the young man.   "This is the key to the Black vault.   Please do not touch any of the monies in it until tomorrow as we need to transfer much to Mr. Lupin's vault.   At that time, what to you wish to do with the vault?"

After getting over the shock of actually inheriting the majority of the Black family vault, Harry had been thinking.   He fished his educational trust key out of his robes and put it onto the table.   "Please transfer the contents of the Black vault and my educational trust vault to my family vault."

The goblin paused and took on a slightly sheepish expression.   "I am afraid that this is impossible, sir.   There is not enough physical space to accommodate all the items in question."

Harry blinked hard.   "Is there enough space in the Potter vault to move the trust fund into there?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then please do that and close that vault.   I'll hold onto the Potter and Black vaults for the time being until I can figure something out."

"Much of the space could be taken up with furniture, Harry," Lupin mentioned.   "I know Lily and James emptied Potter Manor before they went into hiding.   Who knows what all else is in those two vaults."

Potter Manor?   It had never occurred to Harry that he might now own anything more than just galleons from the Potter vault.

Farmok turned to Dumbledore.   "With Mr. Potter's change of legal status, your access to the Potter vault has been rescinded, Mr. Dumbledore."  

Dumbledore nodded.  

Harry grimaced but felt he shouldn't really be surprised.   Someone had to have been the trustee of the thing, after all, considering Sirius's incarcerated and then fugitive status.  

Farmok went on, "Your security arrangements upon both of Mr. Potter's vaults has likewise been rescinded.   Do you have any questions?"

Dumbledore shook his head silently.  

Harry thought the line of the headmaster's shoulders was as tense as he'd ever seen it.   Further, Harry thought he knew why.   "Excuse me, Farmok, but what security arrangement are you referring to?" Harry asked.

The goblin looked at him curiously.   "Mr. Dumbledore had several monitoring spells upon your vaults, Mr. Potter.   Did he not inform you of this?"

Harry's eyes narrowed.   "No he did not," he answered lowly.

Farmok merely raised a hairless eyebrow.   "As he had legal access as the trustee of both vaults, we had no cause to stop him, Mr. Potter."

Harry nodded shortly.   "I do not blame you or Gringott's, Farmok.   Thank you for informing me."

The goblin ignored the suddenly tense atmosphere.   "Are there any further questions?"   Getting no response, he quietly left, followed by Norgellus after the wizard shook each hand again.

"What's this about monitoring Harry's vaults, Albus?" Remus asked steadily once the door closed.

Harry spoke before Dumbledore could.   "Oh, I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable answer, Remus.   No doubt it has to do with trying to keep me safe.   Just like sending me to live in the hellhole called the Dursley residence was for my own good.   Just like not telling me about the existence of my GODFATHER was for my own good.   Just like not telling me about the bloody prophecy was done for my own good."

Harry's low key but still cutting tone had a visible effect on the old wizard.   He flinched.

"I did what I thought best, Harry," Dumbledore said quietly, still not looking back at his student.

"For me or for you?"

He flinched again, and Harry got a bit of guilty satisfaction in causing it.   "For us all," was Dumbledore's whispered answer

"Did you even once bother to ask my opinion?"

Dumbledore slumped.   He didn't even bother to try to answer the question.   "If that is your opinion of me, Harry, why did you accept my help these past three months?"

"Because I needed it.   I could not have done what I did on my own.   I needed the access to the Hogwarts library, the means to make the pendants and your knowledge of what was possible.   Make no mistake, Headmaster, I think you're a brilliant wizard who does a great deal of good for the magical community.   The problem is that you've consistently treated me like a loyal follower without my ever having had a choice in the matter."

Remus spoke up hesitantly, "Harry?"

"Oh, don't worry, Remus.   It isn't like I'm going to try to attack him for this."   Dumbledore's shoulders twitched, but Harry couldn't decide what that meant.   Shaking off the minor mystery, Harry continued, "I think he's a very good headmaster.   I'll happily continue at his school and be an associate professor of his if he'll have me.   I'll probably even follow his advice on most things.   However, I will NOT blindly follow his every order with regards to my personal life any longer."

Dumbledore nodded and stood.   "Thank you for that, Harry.   I shall endeavour to keep your words in mind."   He took a breath and straightened his shoulders.   "I shall see you back at Hogwarts, Professor Potter?"

"Yes, Headmaster."   Harry wasn't surprised at the suddenly overwhelming formality of their interaction.   It was too bad, really.   If the man hadn't taken such a high-handed approach to Harry's life, he probably could have been a good friend and trusted mentor.

Dumbledore quietly left, not having looked toward the other two men since entering the room.

"Monitoring your vaults was a bit extreme, I'll grant you, but did you really have to do that, Harry?" Remus asked in a slightly censorious tone.

Harry twisted in his seat and stared at Remus in astonishment.   "You really haven't noticed, Remus?"

The werewolf blinked.   "Noticed what?"

Harry made a noise of disgust and waved it off.   "Never mind."

"No, not never mind.   What did you mean, Harry?"

Harry looked at his friend for a moment, measuring the werewolf with his eyes.   "Before I tell you, you need to lose the belief that he can do no wrong.   Granted that he's done a LOT for you and for me, but for you to understand what I'm saying, you need to acknowledge that all of his decisions aren't the right ones."

Remus waved his hand impatiently.   "I know that, Harry."

"Do you?" Harry asked quietly, still staring at the other man.   "He left me at the Dursleys for ten years, Remus.   He failed to check on me at all.   In an effort to keep me safe, he consigned me to that hellhole simply for the supposed blood protection.   If he'd even once checked on me, he would have realised how I grew up.   Friendless, loveless, abused slave to those three monsters who were convinced that they could grind the 'unnaturalness' out of me.   Do you know the address of my first Hogwarts letter?   'Cupboard Under the Stairs.'   That's where I lived for ten years, Remus. Did he ever check?   No.   Even after I came to Hogwarts and indications of my home life made their way to him, did he do anything about it?   No.   Fred, George and Ron had to literally rescue me one summer, and he STILL did nothing.

"One of his professors was a self-obsessed charlatan.   Another was possessed by Voldemort.   Another was a Death Eater in disguise who managed to kidnap me from under his nose.   You and Tonks aside, his recent selections for professor positions are somewhat wanting.

"My Occlumency lessons with Snape are another case in point.   Even after they failed miserably, he STILL wanted me to go back for more.   He refuses to see that Snape is incapable of treating me objectively.

"He's fallible, Remus, and he's manipulative.   Your idea of the meditation for me?   He phrased it as an order to you to train me instead of acknowledging it was your idea in the first place.   He also managed to make me out to be the unreasonable one for not yet forgiving him for his treatment of me last year.

"Now, I'm not saying he's a bad man.   It could be argued that most everything he's done is for the greater good.   I'm just saying that his controlling of my life is at an end.   If he wants me to do something, he can come and ASK me rather than order it and assume I'm going to follow along like an obedient little puppy."

"I . . ."   Remus shook his head at the sudden flood of information and took a deep breath.   "You've given me a lot to think about."

Harry smiled and dropped the conversation.   "I'm going to go and look at my two new vaults.   Care to come along?"

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

"What are you doing this Christmas, Moony?"

"Hmm?" Lupin looked up from the crate he was poking through.  

The Black vault had contained money, jewellery, some papers that they hadn't bothered to look through and many items that even Remus couldn't identify immediately.   They were now in the Potter vault, looking through the items Harry's parents had placed in there before going into hiding.   He'd hoped for some personal items of his parents', but so far it was basic furniture and household goods in addition to the usual mounds of galleons.

"What are your Christmas plans?" Harry repeated.   He was working on a few ideas and needed a fully trained wizard, preferably Remus, to help with a lot of it.

Remus winced.   "Nothing much.   Albus has offered Headquarters to those of us without permanent family or homes."

"Your family is gone?" Harry asked in concern, realising even as he asked that he didn't know anything about Remus's home life.

Remus sighed.   "My parents were killed at roughly the same time your grandparents were.   This was when Voldemort was first after James and Lily, before they were put under the Fidelius."

"Moony," Harry started out carefully, "I'm sorry if some of these questions are insulting or personal, okay?"

Remus was looking at him strangely.   "You said yourself that we're as close to godfather and godson as could be, Cub.   Ask away.   I promise I won't get mad."

"Are werewolves still restricted from getting decent jobs?"

He nodded sadly.   "Yes, we are.   Albus has been giving me some of the Order funds to live on since I can't get a job otherwise.   Now that the fight's over, I don't know what I'm going to do."

"The fight is hardly over," Harry corrected him.   "There are still more than a few Death Eaters running around out there.   Anyway, what do you think of my hiring you?"

Remus grinned at him in slight amusement.   "To do what?   Answer your fan mail?"

Harry grinned back.   "That's not a bad idea.   No, I need someone to clear out that Black vault of those unknown items, dispose of the dangerous ones, categorise the useful stuff and so on.  Who better than a Defense Against Dark Arts expert?"

"I don't know . . ."

"You could also help out a lot by moving all this stuff," he waved at all the furniture and household items, "back to Potter Manor.   That's the obvious place for me to live now."

"The place in Godric's Hollow is a lot smaller and quite frankly more appropriate for one instead of the Manor."

"I thought that house was destroyed."

Lupin frowned.   "Good point.   Okay, never mind that, then."

"Anyway, I'll need someone to move most of this back to Potter Manor.   Not to mention someone actually telling me where it is.   You're the obvious candidate for both."

Remus smiled.   "I'd be honoured."

Harry grinned wryly.   "Don't thank me until you hear the whole list of what I'd be hiring you for."   He started ticking them off on his fingers.   "Moving this stuff back there.   Setting up the place.   Setting the wards back up.   Werewolf-proofing at least one room.   Setting up a handful of guest rooms, a duelling chamber and a Quidditch pitch.   Assuming the Manor and grounds are big enough for all of that, of course."

Remus nodded.   "No problem with any of that.   I don't want to get paid for this, though."   An eyebrow quirked.   "'Werewolf-proofing'?"

Harry shrugged.   "You need somewhere to go in case you can't get Wolfsbane Potion some month.   I saw how torn up the Shrieking Shack was.   My list wasn't done, incidentally.   This is all before Christmas holidays start.   During the holidays, I'd also like tutoring.   Three subjects come to mind at the moment, with the possibility of school subjects as well, depending on how I'm doing at that point."

Remus was starting to look excited.   "Three non-school subjects?"

Harry took a breath.   It was hard to tell how Remus would react to these.   "Apparition, Animagus and duelling."

Remus blinked rapidly a few times.   "I'd have to get an Apparition instructor license from the Ministry."

"Is there a problem doing that?"   There was no telling what his lycanthropy would prevent him from doing.

Remus frowned.   "I'd have to brush up on some of the theory for the written test."

Harry waved at the vault and the piles of galleons.   "I'll cover the testing fee if you want."

Lupin's frown deepened.   "I don't want charity, Cub.   Besides, half the galleons in the other vault are suddenly mine, remember?"   His face cleared.   "On the second one: you realise that I'm NOT an Animagus."

Harry nodded.   "I've read Padfoot's notebook.   He mentioned that you were present for a lot of their practises.   If it comes right down to it, I could just ask Professor McGonagall for tips, though I'd rather not include her, frankly."

"It took them years to learn, Harry.   This isn't something you and I can do in a month."

"They started during their third year and without any ideas of how to do it.   I've got three additional years of education, an instructor and a notebook on my side.   I realise one month probably won't be enough, but it'll at least give me a running start."

"Just don't try to practise without me or preferably Minerva nearby," Remus said with a sigh.

Harry just grinned, realising that Remus was agreeing to his proposals.

"On another subject, Potter Manor is too big for you to keep by yourself, you know."

"You're welcome to live there with me, Remus," Harry answered seriously.  

Remus graced his charge with a small smile.   "Thank you, but that's not what I meant.   I was referring to the upkeep of the property."

Harry grinned.   "You haven't really met Dobby, have you?"


"The house-elf you saw in the hospital wing Thursday morning.   Don't worry, I'm sure I can get at least one and probably two elves working for me just by asking."

"That's a good start, but a half-dozen would be about right.   That's how many your grandparents had."

"Six?" Harry asked in surprise.   "Malfoy only had one, didn't he?   And the Blacks only had Kreacher."

Remus shook his head.   "The Malfoys probably have a few and the Blacks did, too, before Sirius's mother died.   Six may sound like a lot for you, but in addition to the main manor, there is a lot of land there plus stables, livestock pastures and like that."

Harry mentally tacked that discussion to the list of conversations he would have to have with Remus over Christmas holiday.   "What happened to the elves when Mum and Dad died?" Harry asked curiously.

Remus frowned.   "I don't rightly know.   You have no more wizarding family, and they were barred from following you to the Dursley's, so they didn't have anywhere to go.   Hogwarts is my best guess.   The castle tends to collect the orphaned elves."

"Hmm.   I'll ask around when I talk with Dobby and Winky.   You're of course welcome to live there during this whole process.   One hundred galleons a month, plus expenses and room and board.   What do you say?"

Remus's jaw dropped for a moment before he composed himself.   "Fifty," he countered.

"You know, if you're haggling, you're typically supposed to go higher," Harry pointed out in amusement.

"A hundred is entirely too much.   Besides, I won't be able to devote all my time to this.   I'm still working for Albus, too, remember?"

He sighed.   "Fifty for now.   We'll re-negotiate when the responsibilities change."

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

After setting up a line of credit at Gringotts for Remus's use, Harry Flooed back to Hogsmeade and walked directly to the Hogwarts kitchen.

"Harry Potter sir!" Dobby tackled Harry around the knees when he entered the house-elves's domain.   "Harry Potter sir has come to see Dobby!   Dobby knew Harry Potter sir is great wizard!"

"Hi, Dobby," he wryly answered, prying the house-elf from his leg.   He sat down and waved Dobby to a facing seat.   "Please sit down.   I need to talk to you."

Dobby, seeing that something serious was in the offing, calmed down and took the offered seat.

"Dobby, I'm going to be setting my family home back up and moving there.   I'll need some help to run it."  

Dobby's eyes started shining, but he said nothing.  

"Would you consent to come and work for me?"

A high-pitched squeal that threatened to rupture Harry's eardrums was his immediate answer.   In addition, Dobby physically launched himself over the table into another hug.   Most of the other elves in sight looked over in amusement.

Laughing, Harry asked, "Can I take that as a yes?"

"YES, Harry Potter sir.   Yes, Dobby would be very honoured to work for Harry Potter sir."

"Great.   We'll start with the same pay and time off that Hogwarts gives you."   Harry raised a hand at Dobby's stricken look.   "You're a free elf, Dobby.   I refuse to have a free elf working for me for nothing."  

Dobby's face screwed up in thought for a bit before it cleared.   He nodded.   "Dobby likes being a free elf, Harry Potter sir.   Dobby would prefer to stay free, so Dobby accepts Harry Potter sir's most generous offer."

Harry paused at something Dobby had just said.   "Dobby, are you saying that there is a way for a free elf to become . . . well, not free?   I mean to pledge to another family?   I don't know the right term for this, but I think you know what I'm asking."

Dobby nodded solemnly.   "Yes, Harry Potter sir.   When an elf's family dies, the elf can Join a new family.   'Tis only a small ritual."

Harry nodded slowly.   "Is Winky still here?"

Dobby's eyes started shining again.   "Yes, Harry Potter sir."   He turned and gave a peculiar whistle.  

Winky walked over from near the ovens a few seconds later.   Her clothing was, if possible, even more filthy than the last time Harry had seen her, but at least she appeared to be sober.   She bowed.   "Master Potter wishes to speak with Winky?"

Harry nodded formally back.   "Yes, Winky.   As I mentioned to Dobby, I'm re-forming the Potter household.   I'm in need of some help.   Might you be interested in working for me, either as a free elf or Joined?"

Winky's eyes widened.   "Master Potter would allow Winky to Join his House, even after Winky's disgrace?" she whispered in awe.

Harry nodded.

Winky fell to her knees and began weeping.   "Winky would be greatly honoured to Join Master Potter's House."

Harry reached over and laid a hand on her shoulder.   "Please, Winky.   Never kneel to me."   Once a still crying Winky had re-gained her feet, he turned to include Dobby in the conversation again.   "Now, you two know Remus Lupin?"  

They both nodded.  

"Remus will be working for me, getting Potter Manor ready for me to live there again.   That reminds me."   He stood and said in a louder voice, "Did any house-elves here use to work for the Potter family?"

Five elves hurried forward and lined up.   The oldest looking one (or at least the one with the most wrinkles) stepped forward and bowed.   "Yes, Master Harry Potter.   We's have worked here since Master James Potter and Mistress Lily Potter were killeded by the evil wizard."

Harry looked at each of the five, standing at something that was almost an "attention" stance.   All five were wearing immaculate Hogwarts tea towels.   The one who spoke was a bit older, but the rest appeared to be roughly Dobby's age.   "What are your names?"

"Rully, Master Harry Potter," stated the oldest, starting a chain reaction down the line.

"Tarry, Master Harry Potter."

"Scully, Master Harry Potter."   A higher pitched voice, indicating to Harry that Scully was female.

"Borry, Master Harry Potter."

"Delly, Master Harry Potter."   Another higher pitched voice.   Based on what little he could guess at, Harry figured that made four male and three female house-elves.

"Would each of you be willing to come work for me?"

Each of the five nodded immediately.

"I do not intend to insult you with this next question, but would any of you feel better with freedom instead of Joining?"

Looking vaguely horrified, each shook their head quickly.

"Very well.   Now, I must admit to ignorance of house-elf society.   I'm going to ask another question, but please understand I'm not trying to be cruel, insulting or crude."

Rully hesitantly nodded while the rest just looked wary.

"Do any of you have spouses or significant others that I should also take into my House?"

They all relaxed.   Rully explained, "House-elves do not have marriages as wizards understand them, Master Harry Potter.   To answer sir's question, we's have each other, and that is all that we's wish."

Harry blinked, trying to decipher exactly what that meant.   Figuring he had an answer to the important part of that question, he went on, "Remus Lupin said that my grandparents had six house-elves working for them.   Do you know what happened to the sixth?"

Tarry, Scully, Borry, and Delly looked sad.   Rully's face froze into a mask of pain.  

Winky surprised Harry by answering, "Rarry was killeded, Master Potter, while defending her master from the evil wizard."

Harry sighed.   "Voldemort killed her while she was protecting my grandfather?"

All the elves save Dobby nodded.  Rully looked close to tears.  

Harry laid a hand on Rully's shoulder.   "You have my most heartfelt sympathies, Rully, on your loss."

Rully gave a watery smile before pulling himself back up to attention.

Deciding to drop that issue, Harry said, "Remus Lupin will be re-opening Potter Manor in the next few days.   For some time, he will be the only one living there as he does various chores for me.   At Christmas holiday, I'll be going there and then for the summer.   Once Remus opens it up, we can do the Joining ceremony then and you seven can move there to begin work.   Is this acceptable?"

Most of them looked at him strangely.   Rully spoke up, "We's has already agreed to work for Master Harry Potter.   We's shall do as Master Harry Potter orders."

Harry frowned slightly.   "I will be asking for opinions quite often.   If you have thoughts or things that you think I should know, please speak up.   I will never punish you for speaking your mind.   In fact, I will probably reward you for good ideas.   One other thing:   Just call me Harry."

All seven looked truly horrified at the outrageous suggestion.   "Master Harry?" Winky offered in compromise.

Harry's lip twitched.   "I suppose that's close enough."  

They all sighed with relief.  

"If you can't bring yourselves to call me Harry, anyway," he added.   "Now, does the timing work out for you seven to move to Potter Manor?"

They nodded.   Borry hesitantly spoke up, "As former elveses of Master Harry's House, we's are permitted to re-join Master Harry's House if we's so choose.   As free elveses, Dobby and Winky may do as Dobby and Winky choose.   However, Borry humbly suggests that Master Albus Dumbledore should be told."

"Good idea.   I'll inform him after I finish up here."  

Borry looked very happy to have given his new master good advice.  

"As I said, Remus will be there for at least a while.   He has my authority to make purchases and decisions for the House.   If there are items that need to be purchased, please see him.   Borry?"  

The young elf gulped, clearly nervous at being singled out.  

"You're in charge of furnishing and decorating a room or rooms for you seven."  

Borry beamed in happiness.  

"I don't know if you need one or many rooms.   You decide that among yourselves.   Make that decision on what YOU want, not on what you think would make me happy, understood?"

"Yes, Master Harry.   Borry understands," the excited elf answered.

"Remus will let me know when he's opening the Manor.   What is needed for the Joining ceremony?"

Rully shook his head.   "Very little, Master Harry.   Master's presence in the Manor with the elf or elveses doing the Joining."

Harry nodded.   "Do I need to come back down here to get you?"

"No, Master Harry.   If master calls the names of his elveses within Hogwarts, his elveses will hear and come."

"I'll see you all in a few days, then.   Thank you all for doing this for me."

Every one of them bowed deeply and just about cried at Harry's words.  

Dobby looked so proud he was about to burst.  

Rully held his bow longer than the others.   "It is our honour, Master Harry.   It is what house-elveses do."

Harry nodded solemnly back and left with a final wave.

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

Dear Harry,

I think the traditional start to this letter should be, "If you're reading this, then I'm dead."

Frankly, I think that's the most morbid traditional start to a letter I've ever heard of.

How about, "If you're reading this, then Padfoot and Prongs are again scheming together"?

Yes, that sounds much better, don't you think?

I'm writing this immediately after you've left headquarters after the Christmas during your fifth year.   I know I said it before you left, but I really do appreciate you coming over here during your holidays, even if it took an attack on Arthur to bring you all here.   It brought a bit of joy to this old mutt to see his godson again.

Anyway, this letter is to inform you of several things that you should know in case I don't get the chance to tell you in person.

Now, for my most important piece of information:   MY DEATH ISN'T YOUR FAULT!

Obviously, I don't know how I died.   Or went off to doggy heaven.   Or went on the next great adventure, as Albus would put it.   Call it as you will, but the fact remains.

Sorry, went off on a tangent.  

As I was saying, what happened to me isn't your fault.  

I know you, Harry, and you're no doubt beating yourself up over it, no matter what the circumstances were.   My death isn't any more your fault than your parents' were.   My guess is that it was, directly or not, the work of Voldemort.   Whatever happened, I hope I went down fighting, defending you, Remus or any of the other "good guys" from the "bad guys".

By now, Morphey has told you that you get everything in my vault minus half the galleons and knuts.   I'd highly recommend you get Albus, Remus, Tonks or Moody to sort through everything with you.   Some of the things in there are downright dangerous.

Just so you know, my Will grants your custody to Remus.   Whether this is the least bit possible given my legal status and the restrictions placed on Remus, I don't know.   I just hope Morphey and Albus can get that to work.

Remus.   Harry, I'm sure Remus will take my death even worse than you will.   If not for my sake, then for his, please don't block yourself off from him.

As you know, the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black is very old and prestigious.   Not to mention the most bigoted bunch of arseholes I've ever had the misfortune to meet.

Sorry, another tangent.

Among the items of interest in the vault are titles to a small home in Paris, a weekend home on the coast of Ireland, a ski lodge in the mountains of Colorado in the United States, and a small island in the Caribbean.   As you can probably guess, it is this last one where I was staying early your fourth year.   As Morphey said, the Black family home has been given to the Order.   I couldn't imagine you'd be upset by that.   Much as I detested all that my family stood for, their wealth has at least been useful.   Find the titles to get the Apparition coordinates of all the other properties.

As one of the oldest wizarding families, we also had a seat on the International Confederation of Wizards.   I'm afraid you won't be able to exercise your vote until you reach your majority, but I'm sure that once you do, you'll use it and the Potter vote well.

One last shock for you:   You now have a title.   Henceforth, you can call yourself "Lord Black".   Ostentatious, huh?   Personally, I recommend you only force Snivellus and Malfoy's son to call you that, but that's your prerogative.

What the title of "Lord Black" means, officially, is that you're the patriarch of the Black family.   Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view), there aren't any more Blacks for you to boss around.   Unless Bellatrix or Narcissa get divorced, anyway.   Or Andromeda for that matter.   Wouldn't that be a hoot?   If Andy got divorced from Ted, you'd become Tonks's patriarch.

So much for all the official stuff.   I only have one last piece of godfatherly advice for you:   Harry, don't block the world out.   I know you well enough to know that you tend to bottle everything up.   Don't do that.   That will make you even more of a prat than Snivellus is, and that is the worst thing I can think of to doom you to.

All joking aside, please live.   Go out and get roaring drunk.   Have a one night stand (if you're over sixteen, young man!).   Throw galleons from the rooftops in Diagon Alley.   Do something outrageous.   It doesn't matter what you do, just don't forget to live.

Love always,


(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

Monday morning, Harry hoped that life would begin returning to something vaguely approaching normal.

Unfortunately, breakfast didn't work out that way.

"This has GOT to stop," Dean groaned, opening yet another fan note.

"I thought you'd be happy," Ron returned.   "You get to keep all the 'interesting' ones, after all."

Dean smirked.

"I'm sure I'm going to regret asking, but what all have they said?" Harry asked.

"Marriage proposals, offers to bear your children, polish your wand -"

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," Ginny said, dropping an armload of sweets.   Fortunately, it was slightly lighter today than the previous two days, but not by all that much.   "Harry, I have History first thing today.   How about I write a letter to the Daily Prophet, asking them to publish a note from us?   I'll ask everyone to stop sending us notes and items."

Harry nodded.   "I was going to do that a couple days ago, but I've been kind of busy."

"Where were you yesterday, anyway?"

"Sirius's solicitor first, then the Black and Potter vaults, then talking with the house-elves."

Ginny frowned at that answer.   "Huh?"

"Potter Manor is mine now.   I've asked Remus to move all the furniture out of the Potter vault and get the place ready to live in again.   He mentioned that my grandparents had six house-elves, so I went to the kitchen to see if any of them were down there.   Turns out that five of the original six were.   Dobby and Winky are going to be working for me as well."

"Free?" Hermione asked with an arched eyebrow.

Harry sighed softly.  

Ron's sigh wasn't quiet.   "I don't want to start this row with you again, Hermione," Ron said in resignation.   "You just don't realise how much it insults them to be free."

Harry added, "For what it's worth, I offered each of them freedom.   Only Dobby wanted it.   Winky said she'd be happier Joined."

"Joined?" Hermione asked with an unhappy scowl.

"That's what they call it when they pledge themselves to a House.   At any rate, Remus will be opening the Manor for me.   You're all invited over for the house warming party over Christmas holidays."

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

Monday's classes were the first indications that things would ever return to normal for Harry.   Professor McGonagall made no mention of Thursday's missed class nor the reason it was cancelled.   She merely went on to show how statues of an animal could be transfigured into said animal.

Over lunch, Ginny presented Harry with their letter to the Prophet, asking them to publish a plea from the two to stop the public from sending them tokens of appreciation.   Harry liked the way it was phrased, and Hermione couldn't find any grammatical errors in the letter, so the couple signed it and sent it off with Hedwig.

Afternoon Potions was doing a section on anti-venoms.   When it came time to turn in the finished potions, Snape stared at Harry long and hard but then turned away silently.   He didn't even poison any of the non-Slytherins to make them test their potions, much to everyone's relief.

Harry approached McGonagall in the Great Hall after dinner.   "Would now be a good time, Professor?"

She nodded and led him out and roughly toward Gryffindor Tower.   "Mr. Potter, I'm aware that I asked this of you before, but please do nothing to make Headmaster Dumbledore or me regret giving you your own quarters.   Associate Professors are exceedingly rare, but Hogwarts has never had a problem with them before.   Please do not be the first."   Not giving him any time to respond, she stopped in front of one of the suits of armour lining the hallway.   "Harry Potter," she spoke.   The armour, amazingly silent for its apparent condition, stepped to the side, revealing a hole in the wall.   "That password is only temporary, of course," McGonagall explained, leading the way.   "I shall show you how to alter it after you've seen your rooms."

The first room Harry stepped into was roughly the same size as Dumbledore's office and appeared to serve the same purpose.   A large desk took up most of the open space, but there were several guest chairs available and empty bookcases lined the wall behind the desk.   All in all, it was a cosy, functional office.

Stepping through the doorway beside the desk, Harry found a small bedroom done in Gryffindor colours.   A four-poster bed, two chairs and a fireplace comprised most of the major furniture of the room.   One wall held a window that had a view over the Forbidden Forest.   Poking his head through the other doorway, Harry found a private bathroom with the usual fixtures.

"This is somewhat smaller than most of the staff apartments," McGonagall told him.   "It's actually the Gryffindor Head Boy rooms.   As Mr. Ruthins is a Slytherin, these rooms were sitting idle this year."

Harry nodded in understanding.   "This is more than sufficient, thank you."

"The fireplace is connected to the castle's fire call Floo system.   Just use the professor's name or whichever common room you need to contact.   They are not set up to allow people to move from one place to another like the larger Floo systems that I believe you're familiar with.   Professor Dumbledore informed me you're already familiar with the house-elves, so there is no need to go into that with you.   Do you have any questions, Professor Potter?"

"When can I move in?"

"Immediately.   The rooms were just cleaned, so they can be used as early as tonight if you wish."

"Thank you.   If you could just let me know how to change the password?"

She nodded and stepped out of his quarters, allowing the armour to move back into place.   Once she gave him the incantation to alter the password, she took her leave.  

Harry immediately did the charm and changed the password to "Moldywart".   Stepping back into his new bedroom, he called out, "Dobby!"

The elf cracked in.   "Master Harry called?"

"Yes, Dobby, I did.   Could you please move my trunk and clothes into these rooms?"

"Certainly, Master Harry.   Dobby will do this right away, Master Harry."   He cracked out, presumably to carry out Harry's orders.

For his part, Harry went in search of his friends to show them where his new rooms were located and give them the password.

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

The next morning, the number of owls was still much higher than usual, but was actually down from the previous days.

"Hey, Harry," Dean called, igniting yet another fan letter.   "I didn't see you come back to bed last night.   Did you stay up all night or did you . . . find somewhere else to sleep?" he ended the question with a lecherous grin.

Surprising Harry, Ron answered calmly, "Somewhere else.   He let me know ahead of time.   We must've forgotten to warn you guys."

Dean, Seamus and Neville blink in consternation.  

Harry let a small smirk appear, suspecting that he knew where Ron was going.

"You know," Ron continued, "I was originally upset by it all.   The more I think about it, though, the better I feel about it.   You deserve all the perks you want this year, Harry.   This is just a small one that I don't begrudge you in the least."   He turned to face Harry fully.   "Anything else you can think of that I can help with, just say the word, okay, mate?"

"Will do, Ron.   Thanks for being so understanding.   For a while I was worried you'd be upset with it, but I can see I was worried about nothing."

Ron shrugged.   "Naw.   This is something that should've happened long ago, to tell the truth."

"But . . ." Neville started to object, clearly at a loss for words.

"Bloody hell, Ron," Seamus breathed, wide eyed.

Ron looked at Seamus with raised eyebrows.   "What?   I don't have a problem with Harry's new sleeping arrangements.   Why should I?"

"You . . .   But . . .   Ginny!" Neville managed to get out.

Ron again shrugged.   "What about her?   She certainly doesn't object."

Neville just gaped.

"Honestly, why would Ginny or I object if he's moved into private quarters?"

Dean, Seamus and Neville each let out a groan and glared at Ron.  

Harry and Hermione, who'd listened to the whole thing with a straight face, broke into laughter.

"I was talking about Harry moving into the Gryffindor Head Boy quarters as he's an Associate Professor.   What did you three think I was talking about?" Ron asked in a tone of pure innocence that belied his grin.

The three boys in question growled and glared some more.  

Hermione wiped a tear of laughter away.   "Oh, Ron, you are a terrible tease.   I didn't know you had it in you."

Ignoring his muttering dorm-mates, Ron looked at Hermione contemplatively for a few moments.   He gave a short nod, apparently to himself.   Standing, he moved behind Hermione and leaned over so he was whispering into her ear for a moment.   Whatever he said caused her to blush and gasp.   Grinning at her reaction, he stood and walked out of the Great Hall on his way to his Creatures class.

"Ronald Weasley!" Hermione objected, face still flushed.

He simply threw a smile and wink over his shoulder without slowing.

Ginny moved down the table from where she'd finished going through her mail.   "What has my prat of a brother done this time?" she asked.

"Nothing!" Hermione said just a little too quickly.

Ginny's eyebrows went up.

Apparently realising her reaction was too extreme for the circumstances, Hermione immediately buried her face in the day's Daily Prophet.

Not getting an answer to her question from Hermione, Ginny turned to Harry.

He raised his hands.   "Don't look at me; I don't know.   Ron was playing a joke on Dean, Seamus and Neville.   Hermione called him a tease.   He whispered something to her and . . ." he trailed off, eyes moving to Hermione.

She didn't raise her eyes.   "Harry, Ginny, did you see your letter is in this morning's Prophet?"

"Don't try to change the subject, Hermione Granger," Ginny admonished.   "What did Ron say to you that caused you to blush like that?"

Hermione kept her mouth firmly shut and head down, drawing chuckles from everyone watching.

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

Wednesday morning, Harry and Ginny's fan mail was down to almost nothing, thanks to the previous day's letter.

The one item of note that morning was Tonks walking up to Ginny during breakfast and handing her Voldemort's wand, taking the spare back from Ginny.  

Natalie McDonald frowned.   "What was that all about?" she asked her best friend.

"I told you my old wand burned out during the fight against Voldemort?"

After shuddering, Natalie nodded.

"Professor Tonks was just delivering my new wand to me," Ginny explained, examining Voldemort's wand minutely.   If she ignored the history of the thing, it wasn't a bad looking wand.   She had long since decided that telling everyone who the previous owner was wouldn't help anything and would only cause problems.   She tucked the wand away and said, "I hate to eat and run, but I need to talk with Ron, Harry and Katie about yesterday's tryouts."   At Natalie's nod, she moved further down the table, sitting next to Harry.

The four Quidditch team members spent a few minutes trying to privately talk about the tryouts, but the sudden silence from the nearby Gryffindors proved that they couldn't do it there without having a very large audience.  

Harry was just about to suggest they move to the Room of Requirement when he heard, "Harry Potter," in Remus's voice.  

He looked around for a moment, thinking his friend had come to Hogwarts.   Not seeing him, he dug the mirror out of his robes.   "Hi, Remus."

"Hey, Harry.   I tried to catch you at the end of breakfast?" he raised his eyebrows.

Harry nodded.   "I was finished.   We were just talking Quidditch.   How are things going there?"   Remus was, after all, arranging Potter Manor.

"Reasonably well.   Most of the furniture is here now.   I also have the Floo connected.   Call it 'Potter Manor' to get here.   Could you come over tonight after classes?   I need your opinion on how to set the place up before I can go much further."

"I can come over for a while, but I have to get back for some homework before too late."

"That'll be fine."

"I'll bring the elves over, too.   May as well get them set up.   See you later, then?"   At Remus's nod, Harry tucked the mirror away.  

Turning back to his team-mates, he picked the conversation back up.   "Why don't we take this discussion somewhere quieter?"

(-) (-) (-) (-) (-)

At the end of that day's classes, Harry invited his three friends along to Potter Manor.   Hermione, perhaps still upset over his use of "slave labour" declined.   Ron claimed homework and Quidditch team selection duties.   Only Ginny accompanied Harry toward the castle entrance.

Once in the Entrance Hall, Harry called, "Dobby, Winky, Rully, Tarry, Scully, Borry, Delly!"

With overlapping cracks, the seven house-elves appeared in front of Harry.   Rully stepped forward and bowed.   "Master Harry called for his elveses?"  

Many of the passing students stopped at the scene as house-elves were rarely seen.

"You don't get enough attention, Potter?   You have to HIRE it?" Malfoy drawled from the direction of the dungeons.

Harry sighed and shook his head without bothering to turn.   "Dobby?"

"Master Harry wishes something of Dobby?" the elf asked, glaring at Malfoy.

"Yes.   Do you remember what you did to Lucius Malfoy immediately after you were freed?"   Dobby nodded, looking downright feral (or at least so far as he was capable of such an expression).  

When Harry turned, Draco Malfoy was looking somewhat confused but still held his ground.   "What, you're going to have this elf lick my boots clean?" Malfoy sneered.

"Dobby, please demonstrate."

A sharp bang sounded and Draco Malfoy was suddenly hurled backwards, landing with a thump and sliding another ten feet before coming to a stop.   Harry was actually grateful for the angle as Malfoy hadn't hit anything in his short flight and therefore couldn't claim injury.   Every student witnessing the scene laughed as Malfoy pulled himself up with the aid of his two followers.   Apparently deciding not to press his luck, Malfoy glared and stomped on past toward the library.

Harry turned with a smile.   "Thank you, Dobby.   Well done."  

Dobby beamed.  

"Okay, I spoke with the headmaster Sunday night and he's agreed to release all of you without prejudice.   I'm going to be going to Potter Manor in a few minutes.   Can you all use the Floo?"

Rully shook his head.   "Elveses can travel to Master Harry in the house-elf way.   Elveses do not need to use the Floo."

Harry nodded, not really surprised.   "Okay, Ginny and I are going to Hogsmeade and then Flooing.   Call it twenty minutes?   Then come to me, and we can make it official."

All seven bowed and then disappeared with muted cracks.

Arm in arm, Harry and Ginny walked to the Three Broomsticks, chatting comfortably the entire way.   Waving to Madam Rosmerta, Harry threw a handful of powder into the fire.   "Potter Manor!"

One harrowing trip later, Harry came crashing out of the fireplace in his new home.   "Ouch."

"I'm going to need to put a Permanent Cushioning Charm right there, aren't I?" Remus asked in high amusement, stepping into the room through an archway.

Harry pulled himself off the floor and glared at Remus as Ginny gracefully stepped out of the fire behind him.   "At least until I have my Apparition license, I guess.   You don't have to rub it in, though."

"You do have to admit that it's funny, Harry," Ginny said, brushing soot off of his back.   "The great Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, defeater of Voldemort, and scourge of every surviving Death Eater, can't travel by Floo without falling flat on his face."

He turned to her with a wounded look.   "Whose side are you on?"

She didn't get a chance to answer before a staccato series of cracks announced the arrival of the house-elves.   All seven looked around the room for a moment before turning their complete attention to Harry.  

Rully was the first to approach him.   Reaching up, he laid one hand upon Harry's arm.   Chanting for a few seconds in a surprisingly sing-song tone, he completed his Joining.   Harry himself couldn't feel any effect, but the results were obvious on Rully's face.   The house-elf suddenly stood straighter and years seemed to melt off of his face.  

One by one, Tarry, Scully, Borry, Delly, and Winky repeated the actions.  

Dobby simply stood there, watching the proceedings with a look of such pride on his face that he was nearly crying.

Once Winky finished the ceremony, Rully spoke up again.   "The Joining to the House of Potter is complete.   Does Master Harry have any orders for his elveses?"

Slightly off balance from the ceremony and sudden question, Harry needed a moment to regain his bearings.   "Yes.   Just to make it official, Remus Lupin and Ginny Weasley," he nodded to the two, "are to be accorded all honours when they're here.   Remus has my authority to act as master of Potter Manor in my absence.   Remus and Ginny, please meet Rully, Tarry, Scully, Borry, Delly, Winky and Dobby.   The first five are returning to the Potter household.   Winky used to work for the Crouch family.   Dobby I helped free from Malfoy.   I think I've told you each that story?"  

The wizard and young witch nodded and smiled at all the elves.  

Harry turned back to the seven.   "For the moment, I suppose you should re-familiarise yourselves with the Manor and make notes on what needs to be done and what needs to be bought.   Please see Remus for all the purchasing needs for now.  

"Rully, I've noticed that you have acted as spokesperson since I've brought all seven of you together?"

Rully nodded.   "As eldest, it is Rully's place, Master Harry."

"Then I leave it to you to determine the order of activity.   Ginny and I will be returning to Hogwarts yet tonight, but I believe Remus will be living here for a time?"   He turned and looked a question to the werewolf.   At Lupin's nod, he turned back to Rully.   "Any questions?"

"No, Master Harry," Rully answered as the rest of the elves just shook their heads.

"Thank you, and don't hesitate to speak up if there is a need."

All the elves bowed and each hurried out of the room, all going in different directions.

Remus grinned.   "You've taken up the role of master of the Manor quite well, Harry."

He rolled his eyes.   "Don't you start, Remus.   It's just easier on them this way."

"I for one think you're managing brilliantly," Ginny gave her opinion, earning a smile from Harry.

Remus nodded agreement and said, "I suppose I should give you two a tour.   Harry, you'd be interested to know that you did live here, but for less than a year.   This is, obviously, the parlour.   This fireplace is the only one in the Manor attached to the Floo."  

He led the way out of the room and took them on a short tour of the entire Manor.   The building had an air of disuse, but nothing was wrong that a good cleaning wouldn't fix.   Harry was happy to see most of the furniture he remembered from the vault had already been scattered around the place, just as Remus had promised.   Everything looked arranged rather haphazardly, but almost all of it was in the correct room at least.  

Remus ended the tour going down the hallway upstairs.   "The stairs here lead to the attic, but there's nothing up there right now.   This last door is to the master suite."   He opened the doors and allowed the young couple past.

Harry stopped at the threshold of the room and simply stared.   Bay windows gave a majestic view of the wooded countryside.   The bed looked impossibly soft, not to mention big enough for five or six.   Wandering around in a daze, he noticed two bureaus in addition to a huge walk-in closet.   It'd take him forever to actually use up all the storage space available in this room.

His head turned at a squeal.  

From behind the other door, Ginny's voice floated out, "This bathtub is HUGE, Harry!   You could nearly swim laps in it!"

Harry laughed.   "Just so long as there's a shower in there, too."

Remus nodded.   "That, too.   Two sinks as well.   If I recall the story, your great-great-grandfather constructed this place.   He didn't spare any expense at the time, and it's been upgraded as needed in the meantime.   It really is quite some estate you've inherited, Harry."

Harry could only nod in agreement, still looking somewhat stunned at everything.

"Now that you know what you have to work with, do you have any specific requests?"  

Remus gave every indication of playing the part of a trusted aide, so Harry figured the rest of the conversation would best be served by treating him as exactly that.   "Uh, yeah.   More than a few, actually.   How many guest rooms does this place have?"

"An even dozen, I think, if you count all the bedrooms except this master suite."

"Okay, turn the most secure one into someplace safe for you during a full moon.   One of the others to your personal preferences as your permanent room."   Harry gave a sudden grin.   "Might as well ask Tonks's opinion for that room, too."   Seeing Remus's blush, Harry smirked and went on, "I hope Rully or Borry will inform you which room or rooms they prefer for their use.   Half a dozen guest rooms or so.   Mix of styles and all that."   He walked downstairs and called out thoughts as they occurred to him with each room he entered.   "This just has to be a library.   A couple study desks in here would be nice with parchment, quills, and everything.   All or at least most of the books from my vaults to these shelves, of course.   As that's probably at least twenty years out of date, please work through Flourish and Blott's to update the library.   Heavy on Defense, Charms, and Transfiguration, but a good mix of the usual subjects as well.   I suppose turning one of the smaller rooms with ventilation into a potions lab would be a good idea.   Most of the general use potions I can produce reasonably well if I don't have Snape breathing down my neck.   If any one of the rooms is big enough, please turn it into a duelling chamber.   Jeez, how may places will this table seat?   Twelve?   Good grief.   I hope those chairs have Cushioning Charms on them.   They don't look all that comfortable.   Oh, we're back to the parlour?   I like these armchairs in here.   Maybe a couple more, Gryffindor colours for the wall decorations or maybe a portrait of my parents if there is one.   Did they or Sirius ever get portraits done?"

"Not the moving and talking kind, no.   I wish they had."

Harry sighed.   "Maybe some landscapes, then.   Anyway, what kind of security can be put on the Floo?"

"Just about anything.   Most homes of high stature like this one have a ward to only allow certain people through.   I'd recommend that, just for safety's sake.   Don't want any reporter Flooing in during the dead of night, do you?"

"Good point.   If you could set that up, then?   All the Weasleys, Hermione, you, and me for the time being."

"Even Percy?" Ginny asked quietly.

Harry nodded slowly.   "Thank you.   No, not Percy."   The third Weasley male was a sore point for everyone.   Despite everything that happened on Halloween, he still held faith with Fudge and had completely alienated his entire family.

"Dora, Albus, Kingsley?" Remus asked.

Harry grimaced.   "Tonks and Moody.   I don't know Auror Shacklebolt all that well.   Moody for security and safety reasons.   You're aware of my feelings for Headmaster Dumbledore, Remus."   Harry paused and took a breath to calm down.   "Anti-Apparition wards, defensive wards, like that.  You have a better idea of that stuff than I do."

Remus nodded.   "I'm afraid you're going to be a high-value target for the remaining Death Eaters for quite some time to come, so I'll make the wards more layered than usual.   Once I figure out what wards to put up, I'll come and talk you through them."

"Thank you.   What else?   The entire kitchen needs to be stocked, I'm sure.   Food, spices, like that.   I'm partial to butterbeer and pumpkin juice, so please make sure there's some on hand.   Tea and firewhiskey probably wouldn't be a bad idea to have as well.   Plus whatever you like.   Does the vault have all the kitchen implements and place settings I'd need?   Good, that saves us the bother.   Other than the wards, are there any home defensive measures I should use?"

Remus frowned in thought.   "Kneazles might not be a bad idea.   Golems or animated armour is a possibility, but unless you're going to be here by yourself for extended periods of time, they're probably more trouble than they're worth."

"I suppose I wouldn't mind a kneazle or two.   I never had a pet, of course, so I don't know what to expect."

"Talk to Arabella.   I'm sure she could help you with that.   She trains them, too."

"Professionally?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow.   Whenever he'd thought about it, he'd supposed that old Mrs. Figg was retired.   Training animals, especially ones as intelligent as kneazles, made a certain amount of sense.

"Yep.   Not a huge market for them, but enough."

"Please get in touch with her about what she'd recommend for a place this size, then."

"Will do.   Anything else?" Remus looked up from the parchment he'd been making copious notes on.

"Are the grounds big enough to hold a Quidditch pitch?"

"There is already one set up back in the woods.   Potters have been Gryffindor house players for generations.   Chasers usually, like your father.   I'll just check that all the charms are in place and it's ready whenever you are."

"Great.   Could you add a set of Quidditch balls to the shopping list?   After that, nothing more comes to mind at the moment."

Ginny was reading the list that Remus had been compiling alongside the notes of things to do.   "That's quite enough, I think," she said in amusement.   "It'll take Professor Lupin days just to buy this stuff, let alone put it all away."

"Call me Remus, Ginny," Lupin said with a smile.   "I'm no longer your professor.   I'd like to think we're past such formality and hope we could be friends."  

The young Weasley smiled back.

"Remus, thank you very much for all the work you've already put into this.   I'm certain you had to work like crazy to get this much accomplished in so short a time."

Remus shrugged.   "Not really.   When Albus heard I was working for you, he took me off the active Order list.   I'm still on call, but I'm not doing the scouting or research tasks I was doing before."   Harry frowned, but Remus held up a hand.   "Don't worry about it.   With Voldemort dead and the Ministry Aurors actually doing what they're supposed to, our workload has gone way down."

Harry sighed but didn't comment.   He was more concerned that Dumbledore was in the process of cutting Remus out of the Order than the change in their workload.

Ginny frowned at what Lupin had said.   "You're working for Harry?"

"Didn't I tell you?"   At her head shake, Harry shrugged.   "I've hired him to do all of this and then some tutoring over Christmas holidays.   I needed someone to do all this house setup stuff, and he's also my favourite teacher by far, so this is a win for us both.   Speaking of which, do you want to learn Apparition, Ginny?"

"Apparition?   But don't you have to be -"

"We're legal adults now, remember?" Harry interrupted.   "I've hired Remus to give me tutoring on Apparition, Animagus, and duelling.   With your permission, Remus, Ginny could join us for any or all."

Remus nodded agreeably.   "Certainly.   James and Sirius were younger than Ginny when they started Animagus training, so the age isn't an issue.   I still think Minerva would be a better tutor, though."

"Perhaps.   If we want to continue once back to Hogwarts, we could talk with her then."

"Does that mean I can read Sirius's journal?" Ginny asked.

"Sure.   I was hoping there would be a bit more personal information in there, but there really isn't.   A lot of it is very technical, but it was written by a teenager, so it's easy for me to follow.   I'm looking forward to trying it out."

"Christmas holidays, Cub," Remus reminded him.   "You've left me a fair number of tasks to do in the meantime," Remus held up the notes in indication.

"You don't mind doing all this, do you, Remus?" Harry asked in sudden concern.

The werewolf laughed.   "Not at all.   It gives me something to do now that Dumbledore doesn't have me running hither and yon.   The pay is just cream for me."

Harry was relieved.   "I don't expect you to work non-stop on this, Moony.   Whenever you feel like it, take some time off.   Visit your favourite Metamorphmagus at Hogwarts.   Or if you both would rather, invite her here over the weekends.   I certainly don't mind."   He grinned at Remus's combined embarrassment and relief as Ginny laughed.  

"Yes, well, I'll take that under advisement," Remus said.   "One other thing that you should be aware of.   I found a trunk in the Potter vault as I was moving all the furniture here."   He gave Harry a sad look.   "It was James's from his Hogwarts days."

Harry's face slowly lost its smile.   "Do you know what's in it?"

Remus shook his head.   "No.   I didn't open it.   I left it in the closet of your room."

Harry merely nodded, closing his eyes momentarily to calm himself.   He couldn't deal with that right now.   Maybe over Christmas.   He hadn't seen the trunk in fifteen years.   Two more months wouldn't matter.   "Thank you, Remus," he whispered before he took a breath to regain his equilibrium.   "We'll be going, then.   I trust your taste and judgement on the decorating, Remus, but you know how to reach me if something more comes up."

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