Desperation – 4/6 – Sunfire

Title: Desperation
Author: Sunfire (SunfireScribbles)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Drama, Family, Kid!fic, Hurt/Comfort, PreRelationship, Slash
Relationship(s): Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Discussion- Child Abuse, Violence- Canon Level
Author Notes: Dumbledore-bashing and Good Malfoys. And awesome art by Tiffany
Beta: NCP
Word Count: 23,860
Summary: The Boy-Who-Lived, and now the Second-Time-Savior, Harry Potter is also the heir to three renowned Houses. Thanks to the training and education he received after being taken in by the Malfoys at age seven, an eleven-year-old Harry is fully aware of his place in the Wizarding World, and has many plans for how to use his power and influence to shape that world. He has already taken the first step, destroying Voldemort. Now, it is time to face his other, and no less dangerous enemy. Albus Dumbledore. With Draco by his side, the Lord and Lady Malfoy behind him, and Harry’s desperation for justice fueling him, the old man doesn’t stand a chance.

Artist: Tiffany


Art by Tiffany


Chapter Fifteen: In the Name of the Board

 

“One month ago, I stood before this august body to present the Board of Governor’s formal petition to permanently remove the Headmaster, whom the Board had suspended in the wake of the decisions by this court and by the ICW. I was told at that time that the copy of the Hogwarts Charter possessed by this court and certified by its Chief Warlock, refuted the existence and extent of oversight intended by the Founders, which were among those actions and lack of actions we, the Hogwarts Governors, put forth as part of our case against the currently suspended Headmaster.”

Almost indistinguishable gasps passed through the packed visitor’s gallery and the three lordlings had to suppress smiles and smirks at the sound as green eyes caught the grey gaze on his right just long enough to recognize the interest in them and followed their path to the group of Lords and Ladies that they had noticed wavering in their support of the old man over the last several court sessions. He felt a similar curiosity as he watched the way those Nobles failed to automatically dismiss what they were hearing as the more ardent Dumbledore supporters were clearly doing as Lucius went on.

“I renew our position on these accounts and present as evidence, a copy of the original Hogwarts Charter, duly certified by Gringotts, which was presented to the direct heir of Godric Gryffindor. I once again present to this court, our formal Protest regarding violations of the Hogwarts Charter, as well as a request for a formal review of school records and accounts, and our continued insistence that the suspension of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore be made permanent.”

 

As much as he wanted to watch the blond Lord make their case, green eyes could not help but look over at the Chief Warlock. It looked like the suspended Headmaster had decided to maintain an air of benevolent tolerance for the grandstanding of the obviously ill informed and petty Lord campaigning against him. Harry wondered with a suppressed sense of satisfaction and anticipation, how long that act would last alongside the extensive and carefully built arguments against him.

 

“We do not make these protests lightly. One the third of July I was able to begin making my case in support of these requests. I now present for your consideration, further argument that the current administration has failed in its duty to educate and protect our children and the future of Wizarding Britain.”

The Potter heir had to acknowledge a reluctant admiration for the old man’s acting ability and wondered if the skill was the result of practice or if part of the elderly wizard actually believed his actions to be in some way just.

“Some of you may still ask why I state this so unequivocally. To you I say, what argument could possibly be made that excuses the presence of dangerous artifacts, or such that could create dangerous situations, on school grounds? It is a known fact that this last school year the Philospher’s Stone –which was known by him to be greatly sought by the Dark Lord whom he knew to be still alive – was placed within the school at the discretion of the Headmaster. It is also known that on October 31st of this year, a fully-grown Mountain Troll successfully made it past the school’s wards without problem or alert. In response to this threat to the safety and wellbeing of our children, the Headmaster decided it was best for the students not to be kept in place and protected, but rather sent back to common rooms –two of which were in the last known location of the Troll – without a single adult escort or guard.”

For the first time, a murmur rose up ever so softly amongst the ranks of the top two tiers of the court. It had a decidedly angry tone that made the three heirs exchange brief expressions of satisfaction before returning their full attention to the court seats below them. It was not a difficult thing for them to do, as riveting as the speech was, they had all heard it many times in various stages of composition throughout the last year. Watching the reactions of the other Nobles, and even their families in the visitor’s gallery, was becoming far more entertaining for the friends.

“Furthermore, these dangers occurred without a word being said by the school administration to the parents of the children who had been, and were being, endangered. We, the Board, believe that the current policy to only inform parents of severe injury or illness is insufficient. All parents should be informed if their child is ill or hurt, or placed in danger while at Hogwarts. Floo calls should be allowed between a child and their parent or guardian at either’s request.”

It was impossible to see from his angle, but Harry knew that his mentor planned to meet the gaze of several other Hogwarts parents who sat on the Wizengamot and were impartial or less supportive of the Chief Warlock. The young wizard was sure that even without eye contact, the argument sounded far too strong for it to be completely ignored.

“Surely it must be acknowledged that an owl would take too long if a true problem existed. And the vicious attack on a first-year student by a professor, which occurred at the end of the school term, has no doubt proven that appropriate communication between the administration and the parents can not be currently relied upon. I myself was only made aware of this heinous event by my eleven-year-old son and heir, who was among two dozen students present at the attack. How many parents, upon hearing from their children that this horrible thing occurred, owled the Headmaster in concern and were rebuffed or ignored? Every Magical here today can attest to reading the dismissive and unconcerned comment which the Headmaster himself gave the Daily Prophet reporter who inquired about the rumors of what occurred in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.”

Given the content of the papers in the aftermath of the now infamous DADA Duel, it was hardly surprising the number of nods that were exchanged by more than half the Seated Lords and Ladies of the court. But it was still more than satisfying to watch. Though the boys could all have done without the number of people who turned to look at them with expressions that varied from hunger, to respect, to mistrust. The friends were more than happy that the presentation below soon regained the wandering attention.

“The Board of Governors has come before this court many times to say that Hogwarts was not being served adequately by its Headmaster. And we say again, now more than ever before, that Albus Dumbledore has proven to make poor judgments in his running of the school, judgments that have placed students in danger. He has made judgments that have been inarguably negligent and in violation of basic international safety requirements. The esteemed ICW has already officially determined Mr. Dumbledore to have created an unsafe environment at Hogwarts. He was found to have failed to follow even the most basic of international school safety standards, acted against his oath of service as Headmaster, and violated international banking regulations. These are not the actions of a person who can be trusted with our children.”

Another round of nods and somewhat quiet agreement drifted through the court, though it was notably louder in the audience and accompanied by several more glances in Harry Potter’s direction. No doubt they were recalling the interview he had given and the series of articles that had followed. The brunette shifted uncomfortably in his seat, prompting his best friend to give his knee a brief squeeze behind the short front wall of the private box. At the feel of the other boy’s hand, the Potter heir stilled his movements and refocused on what was being said.

“He is not the type of person who can be trusted with the running of one of the most prominent magical schools in the world. He has shown not to respect those individuals and positions, which our Founders trusted to provide necessary oversight of the position of Headmaster, and has blatantly acted against such oversight in using his position as Chief Warlock to prevent the presentation of this case against him. Certainly, he had no respect for our laws when he broke them in order to kidnap and willfully endanger the baby to whom we owe the defeat of Voldemort.”

Various gasps and cries echoed around the chamber, though it was hard to tell if they were in response to the use of the Dark Lord’s name or the first use of such direct language in describing his crimes. Even when the Wizengamot itself Censured him, they had said Harry had been ‘kept from his legal guardian’ and ‘unlawfully placed’ with the Dursleys. Never had anyone used the word kidnap, though as far as Harry was concerned that was the only truly accurate term. The Lord of the House of Malfoy did not pause at the exclamations, but simply continued to calmly lay out the case against the renowned Albus Dumbledore.

“Hogwarts should be a safe environment in which our children can learn, yet under Mr. Dumbledore’s leadership, the school is not safe, and it does not provide the education our sons and daughters deserve. It has been nearly a decade or more since the Defense Against the Dark Arts post has been held by someone remotely qualified for the position. We have all heard the rumors that the post can not be held for more than a year due to a curse left upon it, but there is no true way to know the reason for the trouble the current administration has had maintaining a Defense Professor as it has never once allowed those most qualified to examine the situation or evaluate the school wards as required by British Magical Regulations.”

A warm feeling settled in the famous boy’s stomach as he watched the barely twinkling eyes narrow slightly behind half-moon glasses as the old man struggled to remain blank-faced. The evidence of anger – and what should have been shame, but was probably a cross between resentment and offended pride – was extremely rewarding. The slightly smug look on Draco’s face and the barely suppressed grin on Neville’s told him that his friends were equally pleased to see the Chief Warlock’s indulgent act start to crumble, even just slightly.

It would have been even more satisfying, of course, to see some tiny measure of guilt or even regret to show that the manipulative wizard in some way felt sorry for what he had done, the pain he had caused. Even if it were only because he had gotten caught for it. But Harry doubted Albus Dumbledore was even capable of being embarrassed by the case against him, let alone anything else. Even so, the Potter heir was resolved to enjoy what little pain he could cause his kidnapper and tuned back into Lord Malfoy’s words.

“The former Supreme Mugwump of the ICW has taken over many roles that were not his by any rights, the least of which being ineffectually maintaining the vast school ward network on his own. He has also commandeered the task of the evaluations meant to be given by an official from the Wizarding Examinations Authority. Such assessments are meant to be given to each teacher yearly for their first five years at the school and every three years thereafter. This requirement is listed clearly in Ministry regulations. The Founders themselves first established the need for such, as well as the fact that every professor at Hogwarts should possess an O in the NEWT of the subject they are teaching. The lack of this is public record. The NEWT results of all current professors only match this prerequisite in three cases.”

Heedlessly, the clear recollection of a comment made by his new guardian drifted through the young brunette’s mind. They had all been reviewing plans and tactics yet again over tea when the subject of the professors’ qualifications came up. Narcissa had made an uncharacteristically rude noise as she took a dainty sip of tea. “Perhaps we should simply have put someone in a teaching position who holds no NEWTs at all. Maybe someone with not even an OWL in their subject and see how they liked it. Maybe then enough parents would have complained and we could have gotten something changed by now.”

At that point, their dour morning visitor had made a very characteristic sneer and replied. “The parents would have to be smart enough to notice it themselves. They were educated under the infallible old coot too, after all. Unless they possessed the money and the dedication to arrange extra tutoring outside of school and after graduation they likely would not know enough to tell the difference between a competent professor and a useless toad.”

It was hard to reconcile the sound the eldest blond had made after stating, “perhaps that is his intention,” with the poised aristocrat currently holding the attention of every Magical in the cavernous chamber.

“There is no record at all in the Ministry files of an official evaluation being conducted for a single professor in the last twenty years. Not even a copy of whatever assessment that was supposedly given by the Headmaster is included in the files, simply a statement by Albus Dumbledore that he had done so. At what point was it decided that the rules and regulations set down by our government, and our illustrious Founders, should no longer apply to Mr. Dumbledore? At what point was our children’s education sacrificed for the sake of one man’s desire for control?” Some slight measure of the frustration he had been feeling from years of attempting to address this and other issues finally began to color the Lord Malfoy’s calm voice.

“I stand before this honorable court and say that point should never come. It is time to do the right thing for our children. Albus Dumbledore is not what is best for them. The current administration has proven itself, too many times, to be unsuitable for the task of running our school. On behalf of the Hogwarts Board of Governors I appeal to every Magical here: do what is best for our children. Honor and protect their future and the future of Wizarding Britain.”

Another trickle of emotion entered the Lord’s voice as he pleaded with the silent members of the Wizengamot. “Remove Albus Dumbledore from the position of Headmaster. Grant us a full and honest review of the original Hogwarts Charter so that our great institution can be reshaped as the Founders had intended. Grant a thorough, formal, examination of the records and accounts of the school so that we may gain a full and accurate image of how best to right the many wrongs that have been done to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The school Founded by four of the greatest witches and wizards in our country’s history is not what it once was, but it can be again. You can make it so.”

The entreaty to Wizarding Britain’s Nobles resounded through the ranks of the court and into the hushed audience. Even knowing it was coming, the lordlings found it almost startling when a new voice rang out, even more passionate than Lord Malfoy’s. “My family has sacrificed in the name of this country. My son and daughter-in-law suffer every day for their service as Aurors during the Blood War. The House of Longbottom has given enough. I will not allow my grandson’s future to suffer further. The heir to the Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom will not be returning to Hogwarts for his second year unless something is done here today.”

The cultured tones were calm but confident when the Head of the Board of Governors responded. “I must agree with Lady Longbottom. I cannot trust my only son and heir to be safe and properly educated in Hogwarts as it stands now. I state unequivocally that the next Lord of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy will be removed from Hogwarts if the Board of Governors is ignored yet again.”

The blond’s Lady wife rose elegantly to stand before the Black Seat. “Several days ago, I became the permanent legal guardian of the heir to my father’s Most Ancient and Noble House. I believe every Magical here can agree that it is a truly shameful thing for the only Founders’ Heir alive today to worry for his safety and education while in the building that houses his great legacy as the heir to Godric Gryffindor. Yet I assure you, Harry Potter will not step foot again within Hogwarts grounds while it remains under the leadership of Albus Dumbledore. The school his ancestor helped to create may not be willing to guard the well being of the child who saved this country from You-Know-Who twice in his first eleven years, but I most certainly am.”

Each boy had tensed as their respective parent or guardian had spoken, but all three heirs presented a calm and confident face to the many eyes turned on them. Draco watched out of the corner of his eye as his best friend raised his chin a little defiantly and stared down the no longer twinkling gaze that met and held his. The young blond felt a rush of pride that the boy who had appeared in his maze, hesitant, fearful, and hurt, was now showing such poise in silently confronting the man that had been responsible for many of the horrible things that had happened to him.

The silence that followed the words of the Black Proxy was heavy in the expansive room and was not broken for several long seconds. Finally, Minister Fudge took his feet. The youngest blond could only assume that he was trying to lead the tide that looked sure to rise against the wizard who had held such power and influence for so many decades. Certainly, there was a pompous air about the wizard’s words as he spoke, but Draco had to admit that such a thing had never really been lacking from the Minister before.

“As the Minister for Magic, I hereby call for a vote on the Hogwarts Board of Governor’s Protest against the currently suspended Headmaster Dumbledore and petition for said Headmaster’s permanent removal from the post.”

The call was answered with an overwhelming but not unanimous agreement. If Fudge was hoping to seize some of the Chief Warlock’s power for himself, the wizard would be quite disappointed, the Malfoy heir thought as he watched his father graciously accept the court’s decision on behalf of the Board. Lord Lucius Malfoy gave not the slightest hint of a reaction to the blatant jockeying for the limelight amongst the court’s administrative tier as the Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority rushed to be the one to call for the vote on the requested review of the school.

Within minutes, the Board was granted its request to place the school, its internal records and all of its accounts, under official review so an evaluation could be made and appropriate changes proposed. The investigation into possible Charter violations was similarly approved by over two thirds of the court. Then, for the second time, Harry, Draco, and the others were granted the extremely satisfying sight and sound of Albus Dumbledore pronouncing sentence against himself.

“As the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, I declare Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore to be officially and permanently removed from his post as Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A formal evaluation of the state and management of Hogwarts, its administration, records, and financial accounts is hereby ordered. Suspected violations to the Founders’ Charter are likewise to be investigated by order of the Wizengamot. This court asserts that interim Headmaster Flitwick will continue to discharge the duties of Headmaster until the aforementioned review is conducted and its findings presented to this court for its official decision.”

Harry Potter ruthlessly suppressed the urge to whoop in victory as the old man forced out the words of the court’s verdict. He continued to suppress the manic grin that wanted to envelope his face as he gripped his friends’ hands on either side of him in the private box. The sheer force with which Draco’s fingers clasped his belayed the blond’s excitement and threatened to overwhelm his calm façade. When they watched the Chief Warlock dismiss the court, a hint of a smirk finally broke free at the sight of a noticeable tremor in the aged hand as Dumbledore tapped his wand on his podium.

The excitement and satisfaction the boy-hero had felt in that moment did not diminish overnight, but by the next morning it had been joined by a prominent feeling of anxiety. The Hogwarts Board had not wasted any time in arranging a meeting with the new Headmaster and the Heads of Houses at the school in order to begin the review process.

The first order of business was to map out exactly what the review would be looking at and the specific short-term and long-term goals of the investigation, and any changes that would follow. Now that they had the chance to make needed improvements in all aspects of the school, including course requirements and administrative regulations, no one planned to squander the opportunity to improve Hogwarts and the education it provided. According to Lord Malfoy, that included establishing the presence and authority of the only living Founders’ Heir. The blond wizard had reminded Harry before he’d left the Manor that the tone of his future interactions with the school administration would be set by his attitude and behavior today.

The brunette hadn’t needed help remembering how important this meeting would be, not only for the review, but for the relationship that would form between the Gryffindor heir and the school Godric had helped create. Hearing it again had only caused him to feel more nervous, though he was sure that had not been Lucius’ intention. Even so, the young wizard hadn’t been able to help the spike in his heart rate as he watched his mentor Apparate away. Thankfully, there had been another ten minutes before he was due to leave with Lady Longbottom, so he had some time to at least try and calm down before departing for the school.

He had spent every one of those minutes listening to his friends tell him that he would do fine, that he was prepared for this, that he knew what to say and how to say it, and stepping into the meeting room wouldn’t change any of those things. Harry was much less sure of that than Draco and Neville seemed to be, however. He was pretty sure that coming face to face with the entire Board and the four professors he had just spent a year seeing as authority figures was more than capable of having exactly that effect on him. Treating Flitwick, Sprout, and McGonagall – or even Snape – as if they should see him as their superior was not something he was all that comfortable with doing. He did have to be in most of their classes in a few months after all.

Draco was of a slightly different opinion and had made his view very clear before he’d allowed his best friend to leave the Manor. “They are not your professors when they are in that room, Harry. In a classroom, yes, but not there. When you are meeting with them as the heir to the House of Gryffindor, they have to listen to you, and treat you with all the respect and deference of your future titles. They work in your school, Heir Gryffindor, and don’t let them forget that.”

He knew the taller boy was correct, of course. He usually was when it came to matters of protocol. And his first and best friend was always the one best able to talk him down when he was on the verge of a panic attack or becoming lost in his doubts. Yet, it was Neville’s words that he repeated to himself as he and Augusta stepped through the gates and onto Hogwarts grounds.

“You know every word of the original Charter, you know exactly what needs to change to bring the school back to what the Founders had intended. You just have to be calm, confident, and decisive when you say it. And if they are rude or don’t listen, Lord Malfoy and my grandmum will take care of it. He is the Head of the Board which acts on behalf of the Founders’ Trust, and she is your Proxy for the House of Gryffindor. It’s their jobs to handle that stuff. Let them.”

Just be calm, confident, and decisive, he repeated several times in his mind as the two made their way to the room that had been prepared for this meeting. They paused in the hallway just outside the door. After one last repetition and a few deep breaths, Harry nodded at his friend’s grandmother and they stepped through the door together.

Green eyes swept the room before he even entered it completely in order to make sure he had a chance to observe those gathered inside before they noticed he was there. He looked to his mentor first, then the other Board members, putting the correct name to each as he took in the satisfied and almost eager air that surrounded the six Lords. Greengrass, Bulstrode, Macmillan, Shafiq, Abbott, and Burke he reminded himself. They were certainly all looking forward to this meeting, or at least the review it would initiate.

Next he looked to the school staff. Severus looked as bored and annoyed as he had expected his Head of House and summer tutor to be. Sprout and Flitwick appeared tired and stressed but not necessarily unhappy. They were clearly uncertain but not really worried, he would guess. Maybe they were resigned to the situation, or even okay with it, even if they were not sure what was in store. The thought made the Potter heir wonder what they had really thought of Dumbledore and the way things had been done under his rule.

The Deputy Headmistress on the other hand, seemed excessively cross and more than a little offended by the whole situation and everyone around her. That impression did not waver as the meeting got underway. Everything that was said seemed to make her more upset. The summation of the Wizengamot’s ruling and the scope of the review that had been authorized by the court left the witch indignant, most likely on behalf of the former Headmaster. From where he was sitting between the Lady Longbottom and Lord Malfoy he could clearly see the various expressions of derision, anger, and pique which crossed her face during the discussion.

He wasn’t the only one to notice the offended way she reacted to the mention of Flitwick becoming the new Headmaster. Based on what he had heard of her, Harry could only assume that the Gryffindor Head of House was quite insulted by being passed over for the position. They had expected that, however, and the young brunette did his best to ignore the huff or tsk or sour face with which she punctuated much of the first twenty minutes of the meeting. The twelve-year-old wasn’t the least bit regretful for making the recommendation he had. No matter how many good things he heard about Minerva McGonagall, nothing could make him forget that she had helped deliver him into the Dursleys’ care.

Instead of focusing on the by-play between the Deputy Headmistress and the Board, the young wizard let his gaze drift subtly over the room. It was very nicely appointed and especially fitting for the occasion. He would have liked to be sitting facing the vast fireplace, as his earlier glimpse had shown the stone around it to be intricately carved and featuring a truly beautiful school crest. Still, the warmth from the fire on his back was welcome all the same. Besides, the detailed wood paneling and large portraits of the Founders gave him plenty to look at. The stillness of the figures, however, was somewhat off-putting for the boy.

He made a mental note to look at them more closely before he left, but didn’t have time to contemplate the mystery as his attention snapped back to the people around him at the sound of his name. He spared a second to wish his best friend were beside him when every eye in the room seemed to pin him to his seat. Then he nodded politely at the Head of the Board to acknowledge the introduction and returned each gaze one by one. The others in the room hardly needed to be told his name, but Lord Malfoy had told him the night before that it would help establish his position and right to be there if he were formally introduced as the heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Gryffindor.

He had thought long and hard about what he wanted to say, the points he wanted to make and the impression he needed to leave everyone with in order to accomplish his goals. Some of those discussions had included his mentor or other adults, even the dour Potions Master, and some had included only Draco. One or two had included no one but the large stained-glass image of his famous ancestor. It was agreed by all that he would have to show maturity beyond his years and a thorough awareness of his role and responsibilities as the Gryffindor heir, as well as an extensive knowledge of the school and its Charter. Green eyes shifted briefly to the large painting of Godric on the wall several paces away from him. Then he began to speak.

“I will not sit here and try to act like I am not satisfied with Mr. Dumbledore’s removal from this school, I believe it is only to this institution’s benefit.” In the interest of not alienating the staff, he refrained from saying that he felt the old man to be inappropriate and completely unsuited to the honor of running the famous school. He had been told plainly, if regrettably, by Severus that pointing out that the former Headmaster was inadequate as a wizard and an educator would not be in his best interest.

Therefore the twelve-year-old focused on the future of the school rather than its past, which was thankfully where Dumbledore resided. “I wish to make clear, however, that this review is not a fault-finding expedition. Our goals, as Lord Malfoy has stated, are to investigate the state of this school, its financial straights, its overall safety, and its ability to provide a full, quality education to all of its students. Most of all, we are here to ensure that Hogwarts once again meets the expectations of its illustrious Founders.”

He held his hands clasped together on the table in front of him in order to keep from fidgeting as the boy-hero forced his voice and gaze to remain level and calm. “We can all agree that these admirable witches and wizards established a school they, and we, can be proud of. When we are finished with this endeavor I expect us to know every aspect of our school that has deviated from its original design and a clear plan for how we will return it to its Founding glory. As the only Founders’ Heir alive today, it is my duty to ensure that if any of the Hogwarts Four were to step foot inside these walls that they would recognize it as the Hogwarts they themselves built. This process must understandably start with a comparison of all aspects of the Founders’ Charter with the current running of this school.”

The implication that Hogwarts had not been run properly before, though hardly the first given, seemed to grossly offend the Deputy Headmistress who opened her mouth to respond in some way. Before she could do so, the Proxy for the House of Gryffindor fixed her with a glare that would rival any the pinched Head of House had given a misbehaving student. The two formidable witches locked gazes for a moment in silence before the professor looked away with a huff.

Ignoring the staring contest on his right, Harry continued speaking. “As Hogwarts is first and foremost an educational institution, I believe this process should begin with a thorough evaluation of all course content and standards, and the teaching qualifications of every staff member.” Minerva McGonagall bristled noticeably in her seat and he was sure she was about to launch into a brisk defense of herself and the other professors. The Second-Time-Savior did not give her a chance as he started to list the things he knew to be altered from the original standards and policies outlined in the Charter.

The almost approving mien of his Head of House and the various raised eye-brows and expressions of surprise amongst the Board members left Harry at least somewhat confident that he had shown his understanding of the school and the Charter it was supposed to be run by. “Our second priority, I think we can agree, should be the safety of everyone, student and staff alike. This means arranging a complete inspection and update of the castle wards, as well as those on the greenhouses, Quidditch pitch, and the grounds themselves.”

The relief that flashed across the new Headmaster’s face told Harry and the Board how much such a thing was needed. As a half-goblin, Flitwick was certainly the most sensitive of the staff to the wards. If Snape’s subtle observations over the last few years were anything to go by, Filius had been having concerns about the school wards for quite some time and was repeatedly rebuffed by the twinkling coot. Of course, safety was not the only reason that the goblin warders would be brought in post haste. The process of overhauling the wards would include the collection of magical signatures on the central ward stone beneath the castle, even those of the initial casters- the Founders themselves.

This would be invaluable to help authenticate the original copy of the Hogwarts Charter, which had come from the previously sealed Gryffindor vault. There was little if any doubt that they would need such a thing at the upcoming court session as Albus Dumbledore was guaranteed to challenge the one they had provided the court. Especially since it would be used to prove many of his crimes against the school and his contract as Headmaster.

“Those are quite sound priorities, Mr. Potter. Can we all agree that educational standards and wards should be our first tasks in this review?” The stern, confidant tone used by the Longbottom Regent nearly dared anyone at the table to challenge this course of action. It seemed effective, in that McGonagall was the only one who looked to be in disagreement, though a glare from the diminutive Headmaster prevented any verbal protest. Harry had to look quickly away to keep from laughing at the sight and couldn’t wait to describe it in detail for his friends.

“Very well,” stated the dowager with a sharp nod. “I say we cover safety protocols third. I have seen the applicable section in the original Charter, and insist that the safety and shield spells crafted and installed by Rowena Ravenclaw be put back up before September.”

It was telling that every teacher there appeared surprised and confused. Augusta elaborated with a clipped recitation just a few of the magical means that had once protected Hogwarts and her students. Such as the spells that were meant to prevent anyone unauthorized from entering the Forbidden Forrest or any animals therein from entering the rest of the grounds. And the shield spells intended to deploy around the edges of the tables in the potions classroom to prevent the contents of exploded cauldrons from coming in contact with students. There were many such safety features that had been used throughout the castle and even in the greenhouses and the area designated for Care of Magical Creatures, which had eroded or fallen entirely due to neglect and improper maintenance.

The glower on the Scotswoman’s face gave Harry the impression that she was rather put out at not being able to argue that point. Even she had complained once, according to Severus, about the lack of weather wards around the Quidditch pitch when two of her second-years had collided with each other during a game held in heavy rain and fog. The smug Slytherin had relayed the argument between the two Gryffindor staff members. This is a school, not a professional league, Albus, the whole game should be declared void and another held in better conditions if the proper conditions can not be ensured, the witch had said. That she never complained about safety conditions when her team won was apparently immaterial.

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes at the memory, Harry focused on Lord Greengrass as he spoke up with what he felt should be the next matter dealt with. “The inspection of the school’s financial records and accounts will be extensive and time consuming, it would be best if that is begun fairly early in the process or we will not be able to complete it with everything else.”

As the Board agreed on the timetable needed for the task, green eyes strayed to his Charms professor, where the boy was rather impressed with the lack of expression. He knew, from what Lord Malfoy’s contact at the bank had been able to glean, that the half-goblin had more than once caught the edge of the animosity between the Horde and Headmaster on the issue of Hogwarts’ accounts. He had to assume that with his unique perspective, the small professor would equally want, and dread, the process that was to come.

Lord Abbot was the next to make a suggestion in a rather pompous voice. “We mustn’t forget to include the scholarship account. There must be a complete review of how the funds are allotted and distributed amongst students. I saw in the copy of the Charter supplied yesterday that there is a clear list of requirements that should be used to determine who receives such funds. These things can not just be decided at the whim of a single person.”

The rather vehement statement was a surprise to absolutely no one who knew the Patriarch of the Abbott family. He had taken in his second cousin’s daughter Hannah when her parents had been killed a decade before. The young witch should have been given a scholarship when she started that year, but Dumbledore had informed him in August that he would not be awarding the money to her. As a result, the elderly Lord had been forced to pay himself and been very annoyed about it. The House of Abbott may have been Ancient, but it was hardly rich, and the expense had been a strain on the family.

Discussion of financial matters continued for several minutes, eventually devolving momentarily into a short exchange of less than polite words between Lord Burke and Professor McGonagall about whether the previous administration had been geared against Pure-bloods. Pomona Sprout managed to somewhat divert the conversation onto things which they all thought would make the school more financially and academically balanced for all students. Albrecht Burke was undeterred and immediately stated that he felt that summer sessions or extra tutoring should be made available to struggling students and that in August they be allowed a chance to retake the previous year-end exams.

Belinda Burke, Albercht’s niece, was in her third year and it was not a secret among the staff or her family that she would likely end up having to re-take her fourth year under the current policies. With the reputation of the less than reputable business he had inherited and passed to his brother for management, even the Lord’s legitimate enterprise was often subject to suspicion. It made it difficult for the House of Burke to regain its financial footing even a decade after the war and the three branches of the family were burning through their ancestral accounts at an alarming speed. Without the means to hire a private tutor over the summer it wasn’t even possible to try and get her caught up so she could better manage her fourth year classes.

The professors present seemed to have a mixed reaction. They had to know such a thing was needed and would help during the school year. Yet, there was a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. The new Headmaster seemed to know exactly what the problem was and a hesitant question quickly made it clear that the teachers were not keen on the idea of staying at the castle during the summer. Having a vague idea of the time it took to prepare lesson plans and whatever else they would normally do between terms, not to mention the need for time off, Harry readily agreed that a summer program would need some thought.

To the surprise of every staff member aside form Snape, Lord Malfoy proposed that they look into additional compensation or even summer staff instead. The aristocrat glanced to the twelve-year-old as if he were deferring to the Gryffindor heir for approval. The suggestion, his willingness to listen to their opinion, and the Lord’s seeming placement of Harry Potter’s opinion above his own, seemed to give Flitwick and Pomona pause, after which they regarded the Board and it’s Head a little more warmly. McGonagall of course, just looked suspicious, as if she thought the exchange to be rehearsed. The witch’s gimlet eye followed the conversation as it picked back up.

“Advanced students are just as marginalized as those who are behind their fellows, and there are not any programs to aid either group. I have three in my House who distract their classmates either out of boredom or frustration. Mayhap we could consider a few advanced classes as well as some remedial courses and tutoring,” ventured the Herbology professor.

The soon-to-be-former Charms professor nodded enthusiastically even as the other witch made a negative sound in the back of her throat and insisted that in her House, the more advanced students routinely helped those who were struggling. Before Sprout could respond, Harry broke in calmly.

“I agree that it would be best for everyone if students who were behind were to have the option of receiving extra tuition from professionals. The advanced students would then have time and freedom to devote to their own studies. Perhaps a revision period once a week for each year group and a joint study hall for the advanced individuals to speak with an adult and each other about topics not covered in their normal classes? The latter could be a combination of two or even three years depending on how many could benefit, though perhaps a separate one for NEWT students.”

Three out of four professors seemed to regard the idea positively, though with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The Board members all appeared contemplative. The young wizard knew Snape’s view on the subject even if he did not outwardly respond. It had been only the year before when he had come to tutor the boys at the Manor after the completion of exams that he had grumbled excessively about the problem. The dour man had memorably groused that if one of the precious Gryffs failed and had to repeat a class someone might care, but when it was a puff or snake no one even noticed other than to complain about their performance.

Those who knew Lord Greengrass were unsurprised when he was the one who brought up the fiscal side of the idea. Lord Peneus Greengrass had been happily in charge of the finances for his family’s various companies since he was fresh out of Hogwarts. “As long as there is room in the school’s operating budget I see no reason to discard the notion. However, we must keep in mind that if we are to return to the course list devised by the Founders we will be adding more than one class, and therefore, more than one additional professor to the staff already. We should really wait and see what staffing changes will need to occur and how another individual for such things would fit in.”

After an audible exchange between Sprout and Flitwick as to the ways classroom behavior might improve if they were able to implement tutoring and additional intellectual stimulation, it was agreed that the idea would be reconsidered later in the review process. The mention of classroom order prompted the Potions Master to speak for the first time. “Any real change of behavior would have to start with the choice of House pairings. Attempting to control irreverent and hormonal adolescents is hard enough without adding petty squabbles.”

“That will be addressed next year, Severus. I already have the forms ready for each professor to request the House divisions that would work best for each class.”

Snape and Sprout were both united in their relief at the new Headmaster’s words. Potions had a notorious potential for danger, especially with the rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and Herbology could be dangerous as well, depending on the season and plants that were being studied. Yet despite repeated entreaties by both professors, no other arrangement of Houses was ever made. The idea that they would be able to have some control over such a thing was noticeably reassuring to them.

On that note, the discussions continued in a somewhat more relaxed fashion. Excepting the Transfiguration professor, of course. A house elf had been called to supply tea and sandwiches by the time they turned their attention to the question of apprenticeship. As things stood, there were no allowances or preparation for apprenticeships unless with an existing professor after graduation. Since several of the subjects in which students would be required to study under a Master after graduation had been removed from the curriculum, the overall number of apprenticeships formed by Hogwarts students and graduates had steadily declined over the last several decades. This had not had a positive impact on the British employment in those fields.

When Lord Macmillan read the numbers from several international Mastery publications even the Scotswoman seemed taken aback by the decline. Lord Fitzwilliam Macmillan was almost put-out by the response. As much as he agreed that it was an issue that needed to be addressed, he appeared somewhat annoyed that others would enjoy the benefits of a program he had wanted as a student. His lifelong interest in Alchemy had led to great disappointment in his later years at the school as he had been told that the elective would not be offered during his tenure there because there was insufficient demand for the class.

When the young Macmillan heir had approached Dumbledore – the only person in the castle with the requisite Mastery – if he could apprentice with him in the subject he was told that the Headmaster was too busy to do so. Even so, the notion of expanding apprenticeship preparation programs was the first decision made in the meeting that was unanimous. It was also the last. Several prickly matters came and went until the final one of the day was presented by the youngest wizard in the room.

“I believe we have made enough progress on mapping out the coming review. We should be able to begin the first two or three items tomorrow, don’t you think?” The various members of the Board who had been assigned to oversee those particular investigations all answered in the affirmative. Harry nodded, then turned to meet the gaze of his Charms professor. “Then the only thing left for today is to address the immediate staffing concerns. Headmaster, do you have any candidates for the Charms or Defense positions?”

After several minutes of back and forth between Flitwick and the Board, a Charms Master from Dorsett was chosen and the DADA had been whittled down from three to two. The clear frontrunner, despite the opinion of some members of the Board, was Amelia Bones. The Auror had suddenly tendered her resignation as the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement only the week before. Apparently with the Dark Lord clearly dead and many of those suspected to be his former supporters now rallying around the Boy-Who-Lived, the woman had decided to consider her family avenged and devote her time to the niece she was raising.

Susan Bones had been a first-year Hufflepuff and therefore had been in the classroom with their class when the DADA duel took place. Harry wondered absently if Susan’s proximity to the possessed Quirrell during the attack, or Dumbledore’s dismissal of the severity of the event, had played a role in the former DMLE Head’s desire to be with her niece at the school. Whatever the reason, the witch had been more than receptive to the initial inquiries.

Lucius had a hard time arguing against her, as the main complaint was her dogged pursuit of him and some other Board members as possible Death Eaters. Their main objective when compiling the list of suggested candidates they had supplied was the acquisition of a competent and knowledgeable defense expert that would not be easily led if the old man were to have retained his position. The deciding factor on including her, against his reservations, had been the blond’s belief that if they had not managed to get Dumbledore fired, he might have hesitated to get rid of the professor hired during his suspension for no other reason than she had been such a large and influential figure in the DMLE and the Ministry in general.

As much as he and the Board had hoped she would not make the final cut, she had and now they needed to deal with the consequences. Which appeared imminent. Flitwick was especially found of the idea because, as a former Ravenclaw, she would be able to take over for him as Head of House as well, something none of the other current staff could do. The cheerful little wizard was practically bouncing in his seat as he informed the group that Madame Bones would be coming to the school that coming Tuesday for a final interview and discussion on what type of syllabus she might use.

Harry could hardly miss the sour and disappointed looks on a few of the Lords’ faces. He met their eyes to acknowledge their opinion and then turned resolutely back to the new Headmaster. The young brunette wanted to earn the respect of the Board, but his role as a Founders’ Heir was first and foremost to ensure that his ancestor’s legacy was honored and that the school was the best it could be. That included a quality Defense instructor, whatever his mentor’s personal opinion of her was. Even Lord Malfoy admitted she was a talented Auror and a fair-minded witch.

“Perhaps,” the boy said with a small note of amusement, “we should wait to finalize that until after the goblin warders have taken care of any holes in the wards or malevolent magics affecting the castle?”

Flitwick giggled at the reference to the curse on the DADA position and nodded to the young wizard. Harry and the half-goblin were perhaps the most satisfied with the arrangement, but no one spoke out against such a strong candidate. The twelve-year-old could see Lord Burke arch a brow at Lord Malfoy out of the corner of his eye, but the blond seemed to silently resolve the unvoiced protest with a sharp look and a deferential nod to the Founders’ Heir beside him. The exchange was noticed by more than just Harry and it gave several people in the room something to think about as far as the dynamic between the school, the Board, and the heir to the House of Gryffindor was concerned. When the meeting came to an end a few minutes later, the brunette was sure that they would indeed be giving it some thought.

The Deputy Headmistress was the first to leave the room, striding out resolutely the moment the meeting came to a close. It was several minutes before the others began to filter out behind her. With his mentor speaking quietly to Lord Bulstrode, and Lady Longbottom in the middle of what sounded like a quick gossip with Professor Sprout, Harry gave in to his curiosity and wandered over to the large portrait of his famous ancestor.

The burly wizard was rather intimidating despite the jovial grin frozen on his face. Why are they all still? he wondered. In his years at the Manor and then a year at the school, he was quite accustomed to moving portraits, and seeing the images of the Founders so different reminded him eerily of Muggle pictures.

The jade pools trailed over the entire painting and landed on the gilded frame, at the bottom of which was a plaque bearing the name Godric Gryffindor, descendant of Tintagel’s Lady Igraine: Mother of Arthur Pendragon. Without thinking, the brunette brushed his fingers across the words. The hand fell to his side an instant later when a sound from above him drew every eye in the room. Within the frame, the legendary wizard began to move with a grunt.

“Well, sirrah, what took thou so bloody long?”

Chapter 16: To Look is To Find

Three days after the Board meeting at Hogwarts, the hint of a smug smile still lingered on the faces of both Malfoy wizards as the family made its way into the eleventh session of the Summer Court Season. The father had been somewhat more successful at hiding it than the son, but both had spent the past few days reveling in the shock and awe that had followed the unprecedented awakening of Godric Gryffindor’s master portrait.

Apparently, the room had been chosen for their meeting because of the fact that the Founders’ master portraits had always been there. No one had known at the time that the reason the portraits had been hung in the room originally was because it had been the official meeting room used by the Founders and the original Hogwarts Board of Governors. Harry and the others had enjoyed the irony, but they had enjoyed the idea of Minerva McGonagall’s reaction to Godric’s awakening even more.

According to Flitwick, every Headmaster that had served since the last portrait went to sleep in the twelfth century, had tried to reactivate them. As had every Head of House. McGonagall had been a bit more dogged than her predecessors and had attempted every spell, charm, and counter-curse she knew, and then researched more trying to wake the master portrait of Godric and thus wake the other be-spelled images of the famous wizard as well. Including the one that hung in her office. That it had finally been accomplished by the boy who had helped oust Dumbledore was a fact the Malfoys – and Harry – would have paid money to watch her learn.

Maybe, the young brunette thought, he would visit the image of his ancestor when he returned to school and ask the man to tell him how the witch had responded when she had found out. He had a feeling it would be a very amusing tale. The court session that was about to begin also had the potential to be amusing, even if they had to hide that enjoyment while everyone was watching. Perhaps he and Draco could borrow Lord Malfoy’s Pensieve again when they got home? The idea was a pleasant one that helped his neutral mask stay in place as the elder blondes parted ways with them at the doors.

Both boys made an effort to copy the serious mien that overtook the adults’ faces as they went to take their seats with the court while the Potter and Malfoy heirs joined Neville in their private box in the visitors’ gallery. It was the first Wizengamot sitting since the old man had official lost his position at Hogwarts and none of them were fool enough to think he wouldn’t try to fight back in some way. That fight began as soon as the Chief Warlock called the session to order. Like he so often did, Dumbledore armed himself with the pretense of grandfatherly concern as he attacked indirectly in order to hide his own self-serving manipulations.

“Before we begin our session today I feel we must revisit a matter from our previous session. On the third of August, Proxies were assigned for the lost Houses of Black and Gryffindor. Investigation into the records for these esteemed Houses has raised a concern I feel cannot be ignored. According to Ministry records, the relations used to claim ancestry were found to be unsubstantiated. As such, the acceptance of Proxiship must be proclaimed withdrawn by the court and all votes revoked. This means all decisions made through votes that included the false Proxies must be stricken from the record and recast only by those granted through substantiated right of blood and magic.”

The overall reaction in the courtroom was, no doubt, not exactly what the former Headmaster had expected. All but Dumbledore’s staunchest supporters seemed surprised, if not shocked. Some even appeared confused. A claim of ancestry, which was not rejected by the magic of the Wizengamot itself, hadn’t been contested in about four hundred years.

It was said that Trojant Gaunt never made it through his first session in the Slytherin Seat he had tried to claim, supposedly on behalf of his father. The next Gaunt set to take the Lordship had been forced to swear an unbreakable vow to never attempt to circumvent inheritance laws for any reason before he was even granted the title, let alone his Seat on the court. For the old man to act as if his inability to find the records to substantiate the claims held more weight than the magic of the court not retaliating against a false claim was arrogant in the extreme, the brunette thought.

It took quite a bit of restraint not to smirk as the murmurs of the crowd drifted through the one-way privacy charms on the box inhabited by the three young wizards. Harry wanted to roll his eyes at the hastily concealed surprise that flashed behind half-moon glasses, but remained outwardly clam and collected for the benefit of those watching. It would seem that several others on the court felt the same, though they did not bother to hide their eye rolls or indignant noises at the automatic revocation of the court’s acceptance.

Every member of the Malfoy/Potter Bloc, past and present, plus the House of Burke and three other Houses that had been wavering in their bloc’s direction all rose to protest and insist that the Proxies be given leave to present the evidence by which their heir had claimed ancestry of the two contested Houses. With a total of twenty out of the thirty-six Houses against him, the Chief Warlock had no choice but to allow Ladies Malfoy and Longbottom to speak.

When the witches declared that they would bring proof of their claim at the next session, however, Dumbledore adopted a benevolent expression. His oh-so-polite response was that of a parent indulging their naughty child with the opportunity to plead their case despite knowing said child was clearly guilty. He hardly even tried to be subtle when implying that the time between sessions would be spent manufacturing a connection between Harry Potter and the Houses of Black and Gryffindor.

The Dowager Longbottom responded with characteristic sharpness, saying she could hardly be expected to carry extensive genealogical records with her at all times. A twitter of amusement made its way through the chamber, causing the elderly wizard to bristle slightly, then even more clearly when the witch indicated that she felt it should be proof enough of the connection between Potter and Gryffindor that the goblins had tested the Potter heir and were so confident in the connection as to grant the young wizard uncontested access to the Gryffindor and Black vaults.

The former Headmaster answered that with a disgusted look and a dismissive gesture. It was hardly a secret among the court that Albus Dumbledore did not like the goblins. No one was surprised when he implied that goblins could not be trusted, especially with important matters of Wizarding law. What did surprise many members of the court was the sarcasm with which Narcissa Malfoy spoke a moment later.

“Indeed. Goblins are so untrustworthy that they once even filed a suit against a well respected wizard for trying to withdraw more than allowed from the Hogwarts vaults.”

Whispers rippled through the Wizengamot chamber as witches and wizards recalled the goblins’ accusations two decades before. In 1971, the revered Albus Dumbledore had been above reproach and had easily dismissed the case in his role as Chief Warlock. Only Lucius Malfoy and a few others had questioned it at the time, but having now been reminded twice of the incident, others began to wonder if there had been some truth to the accusations after all.

The blonde witch let out a dainty sigh while adopting a rather put upon expression. “That being the case, if it pleases the court, the House of Black requests a one hour recess to retrieve the documents in question.”

“Yes,” Augusta said before the Chief Warlock was able to respond. “Let us resolve this today and get on with more important matters.”

Having already implied putting the matter off to the next session would be problematic, Dumbledore was hardly in a position to now protest what would allow the court to avoid the wait. With a somewhat disgruntled smile, the one hour recess was granted, the old man no doubt annoyed that he would not be able to say that any proof now presented had been crafted in the sixty minutes it took to retrieve it. Not that the documents wouldn’t be questioned anyway. In fact, there was a Ministry document examiner ready and waiting next to the Chief Warlock when the hour was up and the session re-convened.

The Longbottom Regent ignored the elderly wizard almost completely, instead presenting the private records, which had been compiled and provided to her by the Lord and Lady Malfoy the day Harry had assigned her the Gryffindor Proxy. The collection of documents included ancient genealogies from the Arthurian Houses of Black and Peverell, which showed the direct connection from Lady Igraine of Tintagel, to Lady Morgause, to Sir Gawain of Camelot, down to Godric Gryffindor, and then eventually to Linfred of Stinchcombe where the line was believed to have died out. Records from the Houses of Malfoy and Potter completed the connection by showing Linfred of Stinchcombe, the Potterer, to be the father of Hardwin Potter, Harry Potter’s undisputed ancestor.

In addition, Lady Longbottom also supplied certified copies of the lineage tests performed by the goblins, which had allowed the Potter heir access to the previously sealed Gryffindor vault and the original Hogwarts Charter. The contents of each scroll and sheet of parchment were read aloud to the court before being subjected to numerous complicated verification spells by the Ministry expert there and then. When dating spells clearly showed all the documents to have been created in the tenth and eleventh centuries, a few whispers started amongst the Nobles.

When the magical signatures of the documents’ authors were compared to the Black and Potter ancestors and proven to be written by the appropriate witch or wizard, the whispers grew. As several more charms and spells clearly verified that none of the records had been tampered with, altered, or even updated since the late twelfth century, those whispers spread into the audience.

Whispers became murmurs as the Lady Malfoy, acting as the Black Proxy and the permanent legal guardian to the Potter heir, produced four separate Wills. The first, that of her own ancestor, Arcturus Black, confirmed that Sirius Orion Black had been the official heir to the House of Black upon his imprisonment. Sirius’ living Will, as well as the Wills of James and Lily Potter, further proved that Harry had been magically adopted through ritual and was the legal and magical heir to the House of Black as well as to the Houses of Potter and Peverell.

By the time the verification spells had shown the Wills to be unaltered and the magical signatures of Arcturus, Sirius, James, and Lily, had all proven them to be authentic, murmurs had turned to exclamations. Draco could hear a few comments regarding the Lady Potter’s clear statements about her son’s guardianship which had already been revealed before the Censure of Dumbledore, but mostly, the court and its audience were absorbed with the obvious verification of the contested Proxies. The reactions were fun to watch, and grey and green met several times during the hour it took for the evidence to be presented. Neither could hold the other’s gaze for more than a moment, however, for fear of losing control of their carefully crafted expressions.

In what must have been a last ditch effort to limit his opponents’ power, the Chief Warlock tried to challenge the ritual Sirius had used to adopt his godson. That only managed to offend every member of the Old Families who sat on the court. Even the Nobles of younger Pure-blood families immediately defended the grey, but legal, adoption ritual. Dumbledore appeared more than a little surprised, and even slightly overwhelmed, by the Nobles’ reactions. When Lady Amelia Bones, the former Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, stood to list the legal codes which allowed the use of the ritual, the twinkle almost left entirely for the several seconds during which Dumbledore could do little more than blink repeatedly in apparent confusion.

The Chief Warlock’s visible opinion that he had lost control of the day’s outcome – and wasn’t quite sure how or why – continued to be written across his wrinkled face as he tapped his wand on the podium to signal the court’s decision to uphold the Potter claim to the Houses of Gryffindor and Black, and therefore uphold the votes cast by those Proxies. As he raised his wand and called an end to the day’s session, the old man seemed to realize what had happened, and though he made an apparent effort to look abashed at an innocent and well meaning mistake, another quick exchange of glances between the three heirs watching showed each other that they could easily see that he was in fact furious at being outplayed.

The old man’s effort was not entirely wasted, however, as many on the court chose to believe that their Chief Warlock had not been acting with selfish intent. However, in the course of the next two sessions, as the Wizengamot handled the regular minutiae of the court, the well-honed portrayal of benevolence weakened. It began to crumble entirely on Sunday the 18th, when the Hogwarts Board of Governors presented everything that had been found during the course of their official review of the school, its administration, and its Charter.

The lordlings found it extremely satisfying to see some of the old man’s rage and frustration peek through the cracks of his mask as the seven members of the Board stood before the court and presented the findings of whatever aspect of the review with which each had been tasked. They found it so satisfying, in fact, that two of the young wizards were still enjoying it hours after court had adjourned for the day.

“This was a great idea,” Draco said with a grin as he and Harry prepared to enter the Pensieve. The brunette responded with a grin of his own as the library was replaced by the sight of the visitor’s gallery.

The Potter heir grinned even wider when he noticed himself sitting with almost every appearance of calm in the seat beside his friends. Having been involved in the many meetings that had been held throughout the review process, Harry had known exactly what was coming and he hadn’t been sure at the time how well he had succeeded in keeping the smug expression off his face as he watched. It appeared that he had done quite well indeed. A feeling of pride, which he had slowly managed to become familiar with over the years of his stay at the Manor, left him feeling warm as he shifted his gaze away from the colorless image of himself from that morning.

His best friend had already done the same, and the two young wizards quickly settled in to enjoy the show. The content of the Board’s presentation hadn’t been a surprise to either when it had been made the first time, so they didn’t spare much attention to listen to it this time either. Instead, they focused on the reactions of the court, and its Chief Warlock. The entire Wizengamot appeared to be listening intently, though some looked either annoyed or offended by the Lord Malfoy’s words as he gave a brief overview of the way the Board had gone about conducting its review of the school.

“Remind you of McGonagall?” Draco asked with a nod towards the less than pleased court members, who coincidentally were the largest fans Dumbledore had among the Nobles. Mention of the sour professor made the smaller boy laugh briefly, distracting him somewhat from his impatience. He knew the largest reaction of the day was forthcoming and he was anxious to actually see who had done what. The overall cacophony had not allowed him to really notice at the time.

The feeling of anticipation heightened as a soft buzz of reaction began after the blond aristocrat finished listing the objectives that the Board and new Headmaster had agreed upon before the official start of the review. That buzz rose to a roar as the Lord Abbott began his report. Being the member most widely regarded as quote, unquote, Light, in the eyes of the public, he had been chosen to supervise the examination of the three versions of the Hogwarts Charters. That is, the one that had been supplied by the Chief Warlock and former Headmaster for the use of the school, the Wizarding Examinations Authority, and the Wizengamot, in comparison with the copy possessed by the Board, and the one provided to Harry from the Gryffindor Vault.

He started his presentation with the comparison between the Magical signatures recovered from the school wards and those attached to the original Founders’ Charter, which prevented even the slightest argument that the document could be anything but fully authentic. Harry recalled the way he hadn’t been able to prevent his eyes from widening significantly as they took in the sight of outraged witches and wizards when the findings of four separate document examiners declared the Charter that had been used by the court for the last three decades to have been significantly altered both before and after it was provided to the Wizengamot.

He and Draco exchanged the incredulous expressions they hadn’t been able to that morning as they once against watched Nobles left and right suddenly yelling in either disbelief or outrage. The Charter, they had cried, had been authenticated by Albus Dumbledore himself. How, they’d asked, could he not have noticed that large portions of the document had been changed? Had he noticed and just ignored it because all the changes were in his favor? Had he – gasp – been involved in making the changes in the first place?

The two young wizards shook their heads. “I don’t understand. Your dad told them that his copy of the Charter was different when he spoke to the court at the first session. When I assigned my Proxies he showed them the copy I was given by the goblins as a Founder’s Heir. And we’ve already proven that my claim to the House of Gryffindor is valid. Lord Malfoy had all but accused Dumbledore of forging the document, or at least knowingly using a fake copy, more than once over the course of presenting the Board’s formal protest against the old coot. How is this a surprise to any of them?”

Draco just shook his head and his best friend followed suit as they continued to watch. Part of the review the court had ordered was to evaluate the differences between the original Charter, the copy of the Charter currently being used, and the running of the school to see where changes were needed to align the administration and teaching with the Founders’ design of Hogwarts. Neither could see why the fact that there were differences was suddenly considered shocking. “I guess some of them either didn’t think any of that through at the time, or they had convinced themselves that there was some kind of misunderstanding.”

“I guess,” the brunette agreed, a note of incredulity still audible in his voice.

After a few minutes, the young wizards pulled their thoughts away from their own disbelief and refocused on the way the unexpected reaction had affected their opponent. Wanting to save the best for last, Harry first found the present Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority to see how the ardent Dumbledore supporter had fared. The answer was a pleasant not well. The once respected Ministry Head looked entirely overwhelmed attempting to fend off the ire of those around her.

A closer glance around showed that some of those who were vehemently protesting the news included witches and wizards who had always been fans and supporters of the old man. Apparently, Harry thought with an internal smirk, they had finally jumped ship and joined the growing sound of indignation and fury. The young brunette let out a delighted laugh as he watched the Minister trying to take over the Chief Warlock’s task of calling for silence as the wizard was too busy responding to protests and accusations to do it himself. He’d known the man had done it, but hadn’t been able to fully enjoy the sight before.

Once Minister Fudge had managed to get everyone to quiet down, some of the anger seemed to suppressed enough to allow the presentation to resume. Grumbles of discontent had continued, however, as several Nobles demanded to see the ward report that had supplied the Founders’ Signatures. This had led to a presentation of the report in question by Lord Bulstrode, which only increased the outcry.

Hearing that the school wards had been years out of date and that many features hadn’t even been engaged at all had caused somewhat of a ripple among court members, particularly those who had argued for or against Dumbledore casting the wards himself. The lack of intent wards on the school, which had no doubt allowed the possessed Quirrell entrance the year before, was quite effective in stirring up a good quarter of the Sitting Nobles. This time it was the blond who let out the laugh he had been forced to swallow down that morning. Harry’s grin turned quizzical a moment later when it was announced that the weather wards on the pitch had fallen completely almost a decade before and never been replaced.

The sudden fury on the face of the Lord of the Ancient House of Flint still didn’t make sense to him, and of course he hadn’t been able to ask for an explanation the first time. Now, green eyes shifted to grey and the other boy answered his question before he even had to ask.

“Lord Flint is Marcus Flint’s father,” Draco stated. “Marcus was badly injured two years ago, during his first year on the Quidditch team. It happened during a storm. The bludger that hit him caused so much damage to his jaw that he had to have three procedures to regrow the bone and teeth.” It went unsaid that while bones could be almost easily regrown, teeth were a much more challenging to replace solely with magic.

The famous young wizard’s face lit with sudden understanding. Everyone in Slytherin, and probably most of the school, knew the chaser looked the way he did because of a Quidditch injury. But Harry hadn’t known that it happened because of a storm. The Noble’s reaction to the news about the weather ward made perfect sense now. “I wonder,” mused the brunette as the scene unfolded before them, “if Lord Flint would be quite so upset if the family had had enough money to hire private healers?”

A soft snicker was his only response, though he didn’t take the time to ask if his friend was more amused by the reference to Lord Flint’s vanity or the implication that the Healers at St. Mungo’s hadn’t done a very good job repairing the damage that had resulted in the chaser’s well known facial disfiguration.

Draco, for his part, simply continued to enjoy the court’s less than polite language as the number of cursed objects within the castle clearly unsettled almost every witch and wizard present. The reactions had been, no doubt, for a variety of reasons, and did not match in every respect. Agreement, however, had been almost instantaneous when the curse on the Defense position had been confirmed a moment later. The angry muttering was a constant buzz by that point which the boys found just as satisfying the second time around as they had that morning.

It was equally satisfying to watch again as the dignified aristocrats became increasingly upset when Lord Shafiq explained his findings regarding the safety regulations and health protocols of Hogwarts. The many ways current standards fell short of those detailed in the Charter – not to mention basic modern safety standards – angered every parent in the room. As did the numerous ways in which the interaction they had received from the school during their children’s time there failed to live up to even those standards the administration under the former Headmaster had professed to follow.

That anger only grew louder as Lord Macmillan stepped forward to present his findings. Harry and Draco exchanged grins yet again as they hungrily took in the fallout they knew was coming. As it had when the Charter had been confirmed, the noise in the chamber grew to overwhelming levels with the distribution of parchments outlining the comparison between the course schedule devised by the Founders and that which had been followed since the late 1950s, shortly after Dumbledore became Headmaster.

The overall sensation of negativity and shock which had easily reached the back of the visitor’s gallery and the private box they and Neville had occupied that morning was still enjoyable. But now they had the opportunity to take in the details that had previously escaped them. The young brunette distantly marveled at the magic which made a Pensieve memory so accurate, a part of him wondering how he could have remembered so much that he hadn’t noticed at the time. As fascinating as that train of thought was, however, it was easy to disregard when the alternative was paying attention to all the startled exclamations being made throughout the Seats of the court. Snatches of conversations and arguments reached them as the two made their way through the many aisles.

“Why were Spell Crafting and Warding eliminated from the elective options?” The boys could hear one Lady in the Ancient tiers asking the Noble beside her. Green eyes couldn’t help but roll at the sound before meeting grey. Harry was spared the need to make the comment he’d intended when the other Lady answered with a sneer that caused the two friends to laugh out loud.

“I would certainly have chosen them myself, but clearly Mr. Dumbledore felt Divination and Muggle Studies were better options. It says here that they should have been extra curricular courses.”

A Lord among the Lesser Nobles could be heard yelling, “Arithmancy and Ancient Runes were required for years fourth through sixth?”

Another, whom Draco absently identified as Lord of the Ancient and Noble House of Fawley stuttered about the fact that the extra curricular subject of Magical Theory had originally been required for first, second, and third-years. The chaos surrounding them was a joy to watch and Harry actually found himself bouncing just a little on the balls of his feet as he listened to it. Even better was the poorly suppressed rage beneath the stiff smile on the face of Albus Dumbledore.

“I think he’s trying to look sympathetic,” the taller boy observed with a chuckle as he followed Harry’s gaze.

The Potter heir’s laugh was anything but innocent as he agreed. “Me too, though I think it’s one of those dismissive, ‘I know better than you so just shut up’ looks too.” Harry cocked his head to one side, as if trying to take it in from another angle would clarify what he was seeing. “The combination makes him look a little constipated, don’t you think?”

The pair laughed so hard they missed quite a few other comments and it took a long minute for them to gain enough control of their mirth to take in more of the nuances of the court members. Once he had refocused, the brunette could see that the loss of formerly required courses had a mixed effect on the Lords and Ladies. Not that the spectacled boy was at all surprised that they were far more upset about first-years no longer studying Latin than they were that seventh-years no longer learned Ritual Magic. Nor was he surprised that the reaction to the fact that Flying – which had originally been an extra curricular – had been made required was notably absent regardless of the fact that the change was the direct cause of Latin being removed from the first-year schedule.

He probably would have been surprised, though, if they hadn’t hear at least one person complaining about the extension of History of Magic, which had once been only a three year requirement, being supplemented instead with Ancient Studies in the latter years. As expected, four different Nobles grumbled, cursed, and called out upon reaching that notation on the parchment. The noise continued for several minutes, even after it was clear that all the court members had finished reading through the pages. Eventually, however, it quieted down enough for the Board’s presentation to continue.

Many still appeared shocked when the curriculum was compared to the other major schools of magic in other countries, they just did so more quietly. The sound Draco made beside him was hardly quiet, though. “Honestly, how have so few British Nobles been outside of the country before? It is not exactly a secret internationally that Hogwarts has a limited curriculum.”

Harry nodded absently in response but was too focused to say anything. Someone was about to comment, he knew, but he wasn’t sure who. When the voice had interrupted the Board member that morning, it had been so sudden that he hadn’t been able to see the speaker before others had chimed in and forced Lord Greengrass to cut in earlier than planned to explain what he had found out about the financial straights of the school.

“These classes must be added to the student schedules immediately! Our children deserve to be taught everything the Founders intended for them to learn!”

Green orbs snapped to the outraged face of the elderly Lord Ross even as the Lord across from him argued with equally sudden vehemence that the changes must have been made for a good reason and to just undo it all would surely be detrimental. Another member of the Lesser Noble tier piped in with a demand to know who would be paying for the extra classes and instructors if the courses were added back into the curriculum. The verdant gaze shifted to meet grey as the fiscal report was started behind them.

“Lady Longbottom was right, the House of Ross may well be ready to listen to an overture from your father.”

Draco nodded, recalling the conversation they had all shared after the morning’s session. The two friends observed the Nobles that had been the topic of that particular conversation as Lord Greengrass discussed administrative expenses, maintenance costs, and salary percentages. There wasn’t much of a reaction to the speech, though one or two looked suitably suspicious or angered when they received a copy of the sheaf of numbers being distributed. Harry had seen them already, of course, even before the session. He had hoped more of the court members would have a reaction to the unusually large amounts listed as ‘miscellaneous expenditures,’ which conveniently lacked any detail as to what they had been expended on.

“Once everyone has had a chance to look over the parchment records of the account activity over the last few decades, that will change,” Draco reassured him. “They clearly did not look much this morning. But at least some of them will tonight. Some might even have done it by now. And when they do, especially when they see how it compares to the activity on those same accounts under Dippet’s tenure, they’ll have a reaction. At least one or two will have a truly wonderful reaction, and I sincerely look forward to seeing it when the time comes.”

The brunette nodded slightly to acknowledge the prediction. It was most likely an accurate one. Families like the Flints, who remained in the upper echelon of Wizarding society and yet had had only enough funds to cling to their position, were very sensitive to the way money was spent by those whom they considered to be below them and yet had those envied galleons.

Hogwarts was a revered institution, but as far as those families were concerned it existed for the betterment of their heirs and having proof of the mismanagement of funds specifically allotted to the running of the school was bound to ruffle a few less-than-wealthy feathers. And that would, he agreed, be something to look forward to. Perhaps more so than the remainder of the Board’s presentation, which consisted of Lord Burke’s recitation of the school’s comparatively deplorable teaching standards. As if a possessed Muggle Studies Professor being hired for the Defense position hadn’t been bad enough.

“To think, if things had gone differently, that horrid groundskeeper could have been our teacher in a few years’ time,” the smaller wizard said with a shake of his head. The young blond shuddered lightly at the reference to the parchment that had been found in the staff files which indicated that the hiring of said groundskeeper had actually been initiated days before Dumbledore had been suspended. The revelation had had the same effect on several of the Nobles, Harry noted as they continued to view the memory.

Frankly, the boy-hero was a little disturbed that more didn’t appear to be properly horrified at the prospect of someone like that being entrusted to teach a course that included potentially dangerous animals. The position required, at the very least, the ability to use magic to defend the students under such conditions. Not to mention an education in the subject being taught, which was a little difficult to claim of someone who hadn’t graduated Hogwarts and was not legally allowed to carry a wand. And that was without even considering the absurdity of letting someone who had broken the 1965 ban on experimental breeding multiple times actually teach children about magical creatures.

“Well,” the taller boy said with a voice that practically dripped sarcasm, “the oaf was never actually charged with illegal possession or breading of dangerous animals.” The best friends shared a look while the memory of the Wizengamot session approached its conclusion.

“Of course he wasn’t, the Chief Warlock conveniently chose not to,” the bespectacled young wizard pointed out.

“And of course, once hired, it would take proof of serious physical danger to students to even attempt to get rid of him under the stipulations of the so-called Charter the court was using. I think if that oaf actually was hired, we’d have had to stage some kind of injury just to get him fired before a student really did get hurt or killed. Merlin knows it would happen at some point with that giant idiot in charge of Care of Magical Creatures.”

Harry shook his head again, this time in amusement at the sudden mental image of his friend whinging and crying over a supposed injury. Draco adopted an overly innocent expression. “It would be for the greater good.”

The Potter heir let out a laugh as he refocused on the memory, enjoying the animated expressions and colorful language of the various Nobles as the session ended and they all stood to leave. It boded well for the forthcoming reaction of the public the next day, especially based on the excitement and anger of the reporters he once again saw outside the courtroom doors as they watched the audience file past. The aristocrats and their families were clearly too worked up to even try and censor themselves so the reporters were sure to have overheard something scandalous enough to print.

On their original departure that morning, he had thought he’d caught a glimpse of the legal correspondent for the Prophet among the press. Now he was sure of it, and not only that, the reporter looked to practically have foamed at the mouth at what he was hearing. Harry recalled clearly wanting to stay and watch and he wished they had as the memory began to dissolve around them. Even so, what they had been able to deposit in the Pensieve had been well worth watching. By the next morning, however, he wasn’t sure what was more entertaining, watching the Nobles begin turning against the old man, or seeing the Wizarding media do the same.

The article focused mainly on the discrepancies between the Founders’ Charter and the copy previously used by the court and Ministry. It seemed the reporter was quite interested in the changes that had been made to the school, and the article would presumably do a lot to make the general public interested as well. Overall, the tone of the day’s paper was more directly negative regarding the former Headmaster than ever before. Public opinion as a whole was sure to finally turn decisively against him.

If nothing else, the Board of Governor’s findings had hammered in another nail in the old fool’s reputation as Headmaster. The review of the school was proving to be as much a success as they had hoped and it had taken them one step closer to their next major goal. Now Dumbledore’s strongest support rested in his position as Chief Warlock and his famous defeat of Grindlewald, even despite implications about his relationship with the Dark wizard from earlier that summer. Those two things remained to be seen by die-hards as proof that the elderly wizard was still a defender of the light and a warrior against dark wizards.

The most devoted of his sycophants were sure to cling to Albus Dumbledore as the defender of Wizarding Britain. Surely, some still claimed that all the crimes that had come to light over the summer were purely innocent mistakes made for all the right reasons. It had been clear, even in the Pensieve memory, that a handful on the court still considered the Chief Warlock to be a champion of the Light among the Wizengamot with the best interests of their country at heart. Even knowing this, the breakfast table at the Manor was host to four smiling faces as the editions of the paper were poured over and recited throughout the meal.

“We have made significant progress since the school term ended,” the eldest blond admitted between sips of hot tea as he considered the ranking of the various pieces on a chessboard. “The blindly adoring masses have served as pawns in his games for decades, and now the majority have been removed from the board. The Ministry employees and Nobles once so soundly in his pocket have begun to desert him, leaving the old man short more than a few bishops.”

“And his knights? His rooks?” Draco asked with an arched brow at his father’s chosen analogy.

“The little vigilante group of his he thinks no one knows about would equate to knights, I suppose. Useful and reliable but still expendable. They may still rally around him, but are of little strategic use now that the Dark Lord is out of the game. The important piece for us is the queen, or the combination of the various positions of power he holds, or has held. They are still, as we have always felt, the key to his downfall.”

The boys both nodded as the adults exchanged satisfied smiles. The Malfoy heir, however, remained taken by the chess terms and persisted, thinking over the many plans they had devised and followed in their quest to take down the manipulative wizard. “What about his rooks? What would those be considered?”

For a moment, there was silence at the table, but just before Lucius opened his mouth to answer, the smallest member of the household spoke for him. For all that he had felt like nothing but a pawn, he had realized that strategically he had held at least a little more value to the old man. “The vulnerable, naïve little Boy-Who-Lived who was to have seen Hogwarts and Dumbledore as a refuge to cling to with little thought or question. The seemingly valuable game pieces that were meant to stand bravely and foolishly before the white king and queen against any attack from the black king.” Harry Potter smiled grimly into his tea. “He lost those pieces a long time ago.”

It was silent another moment, then one after another, the Malfoys each raised their glass in a wordless toast before the youngest blond finally found his voice once more. “He certainly did. And his loss is our gain.”

Green rose to meet grey and two matching smiles restored the festive atmosphere to the table. Before the meal was done, a happy conversation had commenced as to the ways they would soon manage to gain what they would need to attack the opposition’s remaining argument in their favor. He may still be seen as a famous protector but they would only need to show his clearly negative actions and intentions to loosen his tenuous hold on the Ministry and the court. Not much planning however, was needed on their parts as the Ministry and court themselves handed them the needed ammunition – or at least an opportunity to get it – at the next court session.

Chapter Seventeen: Avalanche

Wednesday, the twenty-first of August, 1991, saw the fifteenth session of the Wizengamot’s Summer Season and an unprecedented occurrence, even given the shocking happenings of the last few months. An investigation into the possible criminal actions of the great Albus Dumbledore was officially called for by the Auror Department. In what the three heirs considered an especially enjoyable show, even some of the old wizard’s fans voted in favor of the investigation in an apparent attempt to distance themselves from the rapidly falling star of their Chief Warlock.

The new Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Rufus Scrimgeour, certainly saw the writing on the wall of the once pristine shrine to Dumbledore. Amelia Bones’ recent replacement looked almost too eager to start the process, though Lord Malfoy’s contacts in the Ministry had found nothing about the egotistical wizard to indicate a personal grudge against the former Headmaster. They could only assume the interest was because of a hunger for the spotlight and the professional advancement that would be possible from heading such a prestigious case.

If that was the man’s reasoning, it was not overly successful, Lucius commented the next day as he read the Prophet’s sensationalized coverage of the upcoming investigation, which included a list of names of all the Aurors assigned to the case. The most notable name was that of the famous Alastor Moody. The Lord informed the rest of the table over dinner that night that, according to their Ministry contact, Moody had insisted on being part of investigation and the grizzled Auror was too well-respected to be ignored. The only reason the one-legged wizard hadn’t been made the new Head of the DMLE was because he was due to retire at the end of the year and couldn’t be convinced otherwise.

Opinions were mixed as to how useful the assignment would prove to be. “I remember Gran talking about him, even when I was little. They don’t just call him Mad-Eye because he’s got a magical eye. Apparently he’s completely paranoid and sees threats and potential enemies everywhere. I don’t think he’ll ignore the evidence or assume Dumbledore’s good just because he likes him.”

Draco shook his head slightly at his friend. “Father has always said Alastor Moody was one of the most ruthless Aurors there were during the war, and quite dogged in his pursuit of criminals, so I suppose it’s possible he will look into the old man thoroughly.”

Harry bit his lip and fiddled absently with his glasses. “I still think he’s already made up his mind about Dumbledore, and more importantly, us. He sees Lord Malfoy as evil and everyone that works with him as evil too. He probably won’t trust a single fact or scrap of evidence simply because the whole thing was started by someone he sees as just a Death Eater. He may be capable of changing his mind about a friend and considering them a foe, but I doubt he could ever do the reverse.”

The debate continued for two days, until Saturday evening when Lucius received word from his contact in the Auror Department that new evidence had prompted a search of the Weasley property.

“Apparently,” explained the blond aristocrat as the family settled down for drinks and tea after dinner, “correspondence between Molly Weasley and Dumbledore was located in the initial search of his residence. Further letters found to be in her possession as well as other items look to prove some kind of plot or other unlawful intentions was being orchestrated between them.”

The details were sparse, but all indications were of a successful start to the investigation, but the smirks they wore to bed had been replaced by much more rigid expressions the next morning. The Lord of the House of Malfoy looked especially strained as he set down the new owl he’d received from one of his contacts.

“Does it say what the letters between Weasley and the old man were about?” Draco had queried as soon as his father finished reading.

“Indeed it does. It would seem that the two intended to ensure the long term cooperation of the Boy-Who-Lived by manipulating him into a relationship with the Weasley daughter.”

Harry flinched rather violently in his seat, though it was the young blond who asked how such a thing was to have been accomplished.

“There were all the needed ingredients for several types of love potions in the Weasley woman’s possession, and more than one of the letters included brewing recipes or other such recommendations. So one must assume that a potion-induced love affair was to be the goal.”

Harry found himself unable to finish the small plate of snacks he had just served himself. A strange, cold sensation gripped his chest and stomach, leaving him more than a little nauseous. The feel of his best friend’s firm grip on his shoulder was a welcome one as he struggled to make sense of what had been said and still pay attention to the conversation that continued to take place.

“The larger issue at the moment, however, is what else was located at the Weasley hovel. Apparently, the family has owned a pet rat for nearly a decade and when Auror Moody’s magical eye caught sight of it, it was discovered that the animal was something else entirely.”

“And what was that, dear?” asked the Lady of the Manor.

“An Animagus by the name of Peter Pettigrew.”

That announcement prompted another few days of deliberations. The official and inarguable capture of the wizard long believed to be a victim of Sirius Black would no doubt be a significant boon to their plans to eventually make known the illegal and unsubstantiated incarceration of the rightful Lord of the House of Black. However, the revelation that the man partially responsible for the deaths of the Lord and Lady Potter had in fact spent the entire school year in Harry’s vicinity was more than a little unsettling. They all tried their best to focus on the fact that Pettigrew’s Dark Mark had guaranteed a swift and highly publicized trial at the very next Wizengamot session. There was mixed success.

For the two boys, their scheduled lessons on Monday and Tuesday of that week were almost a complete waste of time. They were so keyed up waiting for the trial, neither could concentrate on a single word their tutors spoke. The anxious wait proved worth it when they were able to watch the rotund prisoner being interrogated with Veritaserum under the direction of Rufus, and Albus Dumbledore himself. As he still retained his position of Chief Warlock, and the trial was not directly connected to the current investigation into himself, the former Headmaster could not be prevented from conducting the court’s activities. Even so, it was wonderfully amusing to see the noticeable tick in one of the not-so-twinkling eyes throughout the day.

Less amusing, but no less satisfying, was the immediate conviction of Peter Pettigrew. Being charged with his status as a Death Eater, betraying the Potters, faking his own death, and killing a dozen Muggles in the street explosion, it was hardly a surprise when the sentence was announced. Knowing the traitor would receive the Kiss within two days’ time was a kind of relief to the Potter heir, but as great as the conviction was, Harry felt thoroughly disturbed at hearing the description of his parents’ betrayal and the occurrences of that Halloween night.

The brunette’s two friends were left to herd him from their private box and through the gallery whilst keeping the curious audience members at bay. “Come on, Harry,” Draco whispered in the shorter boy’s ear as a loud witch jostled into him in an effort to catch a glimpse of the boy-hero. “We’ll be home soon. Father got us permission to use the Nobles’ exit, it’s right through here. We’ll be out of the crowd in a moment, I promise.”

The brunette could only nod silently as he concentrated on keeping his face blank and his gaze downward. They eventually managed to make it down to the court floor and out to the nearest Apparition point. It ended up taking the combined efforts of both heirs and all three adults to do so. Word of the trial had been front page news from the moment it leaked and every article and conversation that had resulted was as much about Harry Potter as it was Peter Pettigrew.

The end of the investigation into the former Headmaster and the release of the Auror’s official reports only made the spotlight on Harry worse. Even Dumbledore’s financial crimes against the school were reported in such a way as to highlight the orphan’s role as a Founder’s Heir so as to present the crime as one perpetrated against the famous boy. The potion plot hardly needed the Prophet to sensationalize it in order to keep the Boy-Who-Lived on the front page through the end of August.

The train ride on September first therefore proved to be not much easier than the ride home had been the previous year. It would have been even worse if the three boys hadn’t had the adults help them create and spell items for them to use to put up privacy charms in their train car without using their wands illegally. The idea, originally inspired by the spellwork on the private visitors’ box they had spent so much time in in the courtroom was sure to make the year easier.

“You know,” Neville stated with a glare at the locked door to their compartment, where yet another person was trying to get through to see the boy who had killed You-Know-Who twice by the age of eleven, “I bet we’ll be using these as often as we used the anti-eavesdropping spells last year. At least these won’t have to be re-cast every single time.”

The prediction proved true in the coming weeks as the Wizengamot continued to meet. No matter the discomfort he was sure to feel under the public scrutiny, Harry found himself aggravated that he couldn’t be at every court session while he was in school.

“That will change when you hold your titles,” Draco had assured him more than once, not that he wasn’t already aware of the fact that even when under his Proxies’ oversight at age fifteen, he would be have to be allowed to perform his Noble duties, regardless of his school schedule. It was a little reassuring to hear anyway, though, so he never chastised his friend for pointing out the obvious. He needed to hear it repeatedly their first week back in the castle.

On the third of September, Narcissa, as the Proxy for the House of Black, requested of the court a formal recognition of inconsistencies in the case against the rightful Black Lord. Considering Pettigrew’s conviction, it was not that difficult to argue that something had been awry with Sirius Black’s imprisonment. The court’s expected inability to produce any trial records, while a point in her favor, was not enough to force the issue.

Simply proving the need for further investigation into the situation took a ridiculous amount of debate as far as Harry was concerned. It was beyond frustrating for the Potter heir despite all three Malfoys and both Longbottoms explaining to him that it was because the court didn’t want to admit that they hadn’t seen or prevented such a problem. Certainly, the Wizengamot members did not want to look like they might have had a hand in imprisoning a Noble without trial.

When that very thing was nearly inescapable, a large bright spot appeared for the famous young wizard. On Saturday, September seventh, Albus Dumbledore’s removal from the court was called for by the highest-ranking seat on the court, which happened to be Lady Longbottom in her role as Gryffindor Proxy. The vote was scheduled with surprising haste.

“As much damage control and finger pointing as an attempt to right a wrong,” Draco had called it that evening when they’d settled into their dorm, “maybe more in some cases. I doubt all of the old fool’s biggest supporters on the court and elsewhere were unaware of what happened. They’re not shocked by such a thing happening under his tenure as Chief Warlock, just anxious not to be tarred with the same brush.”

Regardless of the reasoning behind the Wizengamot’s motivation for finally addressing the fact that their Chief Warlock had been found to have committed many crimes while on the court, they followed through on it. The dramatic media coverage of the old man’s swan song successfully diverted attention from the injustice against Sirius Black, at least temporarily. At least three Nobles were more than able to ignore the melodrama of the situation and enjoy the complete lack of twinkle in the once well-respected wizard’s eyes. Narcissa Malfoy did her best to convey that feeling in the letter she wrote her ward immediately following the court session.

My Darling Harry,

I am sure that you would have appreciated the sight as much as we did this morning. As often as he has adopted a grandfatherly mien to accomplish his manipulations in the past, he finally looked authentically old, but certainly not wise, as he listened to the case being presented against him.

Indeed, his face was so blank that my husband quite cheerfully speculates as to the use of potions. He gave hardly any indication of emotion whatsoever whilst Minister Fudge presided temporarily over the court in his place. As for the Minister himself, the man at first appeared overly pleased with the situation, though I do believe we are already seeing the effect of the preceding scandal as regards your Godfather.

Fudge may have held reign over the Wizengamot today but it does not bode as well for his career as it might have in different circumstances. The other Nobles were less than circumspect in their suspicious appraisals of the man. Those looks were nothing compared with the ones the majority of our august body fixed upon the former paragon of Light and virtue. The vote of no confidence we have so long hoped for was overwhelming. I am so very pleased to inform you that Albus Dumbledore has been officially and permanently removed from the court, and his position of Chief Warlock within it.

This joyous occasion will, of course, allow for the filing of formal legal charges against him. I believe this to be the intentions of the DMLE at this time. All indications are that the Auror investigation into Mr. Dumbledore’s conduct has successfully uncovered the needed evidence to finally hold him fully and criminally accountable for his heinous deeds against you and the whole of Wizarding Britain.

Further developments occurred with which I am sure you will find much satisfaction. Before the court closed for the day, our next session was deemed the appropriate day upon which to try Molly Weasley for her horrible plans. As we had discussed, I petitioned to the court for this expedience citing her clear threat to yourself and other heirs and it was agreed by over three quarters of us that the witch posses enough danger to the children of our society to warrant the action.

I close this letter with the hope that today’s events will bring you a measure of comfort and safety in knowing that the atrocious behavior of these two individuals is no longer unseen. As an intended victim your presence at our next session cannot be curtailed despite your school schedule. I have already informed your Head of House and arranged for the necessary assignments to be provided for you in advance of your departure.

I will see you soon. Please give my love to Draco.

Your loving guardian,

Lady Narcissa Malfoy

Harry knew he should be as happy with the news as Narcissa had indicated he would be. He also knew that his lack of that emotion was a source of concern for his best friend. Draco was constantly giving him pointedly worried looks accompanied by inquires of varying subtlety about his health.

“I’m just tired,” the brunette assured him the next night. The blond’s raised brow indicated that he was less than reassured. As he ran a hand over his face, and then over the back of an impatient Excalibur, Harry tried again. “Honest, Draco. I’m just exhausted. I just- I just want it all over with. I’ll be able to enjoy it then, I’m sure.”

Grey eyes remained fixed silently on his face for several long moments before the taller boy gave a hesitant nod and got settled in his own bed for the night. The next morning, before they headed to the Great Hall for breakfast, however, the blond did not allow him out of their room without first discussing what they both knew would be on the front page of the Prophet when it arrived.

“The likely guilt of a mother of seven and the former Headmaster in a plot to potion an underage heir will be big news, but I don’t think it will completely overshadow the possibility of a government conspiracy to hide a Noble’s illegal eleven year imprisonment.”

Harry let out a loud sigh at the reminder as the other second-year rushed to finish his statement. “But that’s hardly a bad thing. Everything is coming together. Maybe not exactly like we planned, but any additional evidence against the old man only helps us, right? He’s off the ICW, he’s out of the school, and now he’s off the court, Harry. We’re so close to removing him from power and influence completely!”

The brunette did not express the hope or excitement his friend had wanted to draw out of him. Instead he sighed again and cuddled Cal to his chest for several long, silent moments. “I know,” Harry finally agreed tiredly.

“It’s what we wanted. What I wanted more than anything. For people to see what he’s done. For him to pay for it. But do you think maybe it’s coming together a little too easy? I mean, it’s only been a few months and he went from paragon to near-pariah. Will everything just swing back at the first opportunity?” the bespectacled Slytherin asked, green eyes closing when he received a furry head-but in response. A tiny hint of a tired smile played at the corners of the young wizard’s mouth while he scratched the cat behind his ears and waited for his best friend to answer as well.

“It can’t go back, Harry.” Draco reassured him even as he reached out to pet the purring Kneazle. “He can’t. That was the reason we’re making sure he loses all his positions. Public opinion may be fickle but power bases like the one Dumbledore had take decades to build. Which is why once we were able to reach a certain point the next steps were so much easier. Like father said, remember? The speed of Dumbledore’s downfall is a reflection of the old man’s own house of cards. Every increase in fame and power he accumulated was built on lies or other misdeeds. It makes sense that once enough of those false supports were uncovered that there would be an avalanche.”

Avalanche proved to be an apt term over the next few days as things continued to go rapidly downhill for the so-called Light side. Harry was able to witness at least part of that fall at the red-haired witch’s trial, though it was done alone as his friends had not been allowed to attend the session that Monday. The outcome he watched did not come as a surprise. Lord Malfoy’s contacts had been able to provide at least rumor of much of what was presented as evidence, so little of it came as a complete surprise to the second-year. Harry found himself thankful for that as it allowed him to maintain a sufficiently composed expression.

Even so, hearing the correspondence between Mrs. Weasley and Mr. Dumbledore read aloud, which detailed their plans for him, was still difficult. He did his best to focus on the absurdity that they had put it all in writing and then actually kept it around. The two had been so secure in the belief that they would never be suspected, let alone caught, that they hadn’t even destroyed the evidence.

And what evidence it was.

The letters had included time lines and methods of dosing the Potter heir starting in his fourth year at Hogwarts and even outlined Ginny Weasley’s planned reactions. Though it was not clear if the girl knew or would know about the plan, it was hardly subtle in its intentions towards the Boy-Who-Lived. They had exchanged recipes and arranged ingredient purchases and even made samples of a few of the recipes to compare their effectiveness. The idea of how that might have been done made the twelve-year-old shiver in his seat.

The outcome had been inevitable, especially when combined with Molly Weasley’s history. That is, the fact that she had been caught giving a potion to an upperclassman when she was a student. The vote for conviction was unanimous. It even included the Head of the House of Weasley, though most likely in an attempt to salvage some shred of reputation in the face of Molly’s crimes. Ten years in Azkaban for the imminent theft and damage of the lineage of an honored House and the intention to subvert and confine the will and person of an underage heir through the use of legal and illegal potions made the day objectively worth it.

Still, sitting stoically through the recitation of another plan to control him as heinously as had been done when he was trapped in the abusive home of his early childhood had prompted him to do something he never would have imagined doing. He had taken his cue from Albus Dumbledore. He had dosed himself with a strong calming potion before the start of the court session to ensure he would not loose control of himself while in public.

Thankfully, as horrible as the offenses covered in upcoming sessions proved to be, none were so severe as to demand another such dose for the Potter heir. Though use of Dreamless Sleep in the interim might have had something to do with that. Certainly the expertly brewed potion and the uninterrupted sleep it provided left him rested and clear headed for the final two sessions before the court’s Samhain Recess, both of which he was able to watch first hand. As the Black heir, a crime against the Black Lord was, after all, considered a crime against him too.

Harry struggled to find some small enjoyment in the close of the court’s Summer Season. Yet, he found it more than annoying that the court felt it appropriate to punish those it deemed responsible for the illegal incarceration before deigning to address the effect of that crime, namely Sirius’ still being illegally held in Azkaban. The abstract crime against a man he had never met, however, was ever so slightly edged out by the crimes he had lived through as a result. As such, he managed to gain a measure of satisfaction in watching those responsible for his years with the Dursleys finally be held responsible.

He could appreciate the charges against Minister Fudge but was most pleased with those against who he considered to be the main perpetrators. Former Minister Bagnold, former Head of the DMLE Crouch, and former Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore. Being the highest profile individual, charges were leveled against the former Headmaster first for his failure to do anything to prevent or correct the situation at the time. His defense for not checking into it when he was supposedly told by Crouch that there had already been a secret trial – that he had been too busy seeing to the safety of the infant Boy-Who-Lived – had finally broken said boy from his exhausted and overwhelmed malaise.

As a result, Harry finally began to take the pleasure in his enemy’s downfall that he had missed thus far. Almost every night, when their homework had been hastily completed, the three friends met in the familiar back corner of the library and reveled in the contents of the letters they received from their parents and guardians that day. The Lord and Lady Malfoy and the Lady Longbottom were explicit in their details when recounting the drama that happened outside of the courtroom and Harry himself provided a thorough description of the two Wizengamot sessions.

Friday the 13th saw three grinning twelve-year-olds sharing the delights of their former Headmaster’s ruin. The crimes for which he had been Censured were unfortunately considered already litigated and so were not able to be included in the criminal charges levied, but anything not directly addressed at the time was fair game. The financial crimes uncovered in the Hogwarts records – including embezzlement, or as the old man had tried to put it, ‘the redirection of school funds for the war effort’, the forgery of the school Charter, the dereliction of various duties as Headmaster, the conspiracy with Molly Weasley, and the inaction regarding Black’s imprisonment – were all prosecuted to their fullest.

Even the illegal militia charges he and Draco had once speculated about in regards to his running of the Order of the Phoenix had been included as they connected rather obviously to the thefts through the Red Wing Foundation. Harry cleared his throat as loudly as possible before adopting a pompous and overly dramatic tone as he read from the court transcript his guardian had just sent him.

“The convicted, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, shall be confined in Azkaban Prison for a term of no less than eighteen years followed by five years of civil confinement at his primary residence during which the convicted shall not legally have the use of his wand. The convicted shall then, for a period of five years be subject to weekly examinations of his wand and behavior which shall prescribe to the code of conduct of Closely Monitored Civilians under paragraph three subjections B through G of the Wizarding Penial Code of 1893. Any violation of the above conditions will automatically result in the forfeiture of custody of said convict to the Governor of Azkaban Prison for a further ten years.”

The other boys clapped and cheered to their hearts’ content behind their privacy charms while the brunette took an elaborate bow and then joined in the merriment. It remained unsaid that additional punishment was no doubt awaiting the fallen hero from Magic herself. Violating a Magical Contract was more than just a legal crime, after all. More than one late night had been spent speculating as to the possible repercussions of such an act, but they all knew that only time would tell what Magic had in store for Albus Dumbledore. It was a pity that such consequences were often long term, of course. Though it was entirely possible that he had been suffering them for years and had hidden it along with everything else.

Thankfully, they would not have to wait to enjoy the legal convictions for those who had wronged the Wizarding World and its Second-Time-Savior. It was several minutes before a winded Neville took his turn, reading out the verdicts relating to the former Minister and DMLE Head. For intentionally preventing Sirius Black’s trial, ensuring his illegal confinement, and knowingly ignoring the duties of their positions in not allowing an investigation into the supposed crimes, both Bagnold and Crouch were found guilty.

“Eleven years each in Azkaban,” the Longbottom heir proclaimed with a grin. “The same length of time which Lord Black has been there.” More cheers and laughter followed until curfew finally forced them all back to their dorms.

The sense of victory lasted more than long enough for it to enhance their celebration the following Wednesday when Fudge and Umbridge, having been summarily ousted from their positions in the Ministry the day before, were given their trials and subsequent convictions.

“Willfully suppressing the rights of a Wizarding citizen,” Draco read from Fudge’s sentencing. “Four years in Azkaban. Twice the length of time since he took office, which is when he officially learned about what happened and didn’t do anything to fix it.”

“What did they charge that Umbridge woman for?” asked a smiling Neville.

“She blocked the trace on me that monitors accidental magic when I was left with the Muggles. Apparently certain types or frequency of accidental magic are supposed to be investigated in a Muggle house in case there’s risk of other Muggles seeing and therefore violating the Statue of Secrecy.”

The round-faced boy’s smile dipped downwards at the corners in confusion. “Why would she do that?”

Harry simply scowled at the surface of the table and Draco quickly stepped in to answer, hoping to close this portion of the conversation and get back to the more enjoyable part that focused on their overall victory. “She said at first that she did it because Dumbledore asked for her help to hide him from any remaining Death Eaters. But when they gave her Veritaserum she said that she watched the alerts anyway and since the pattern indicated abuse or mistreatment she left the block on to make sure he was punished for killing the Dark Lord.”

Neville’s eyes grew wide, then narrowed. “You think they might tack another conspiracy onto the old goat’s sentence? It might get him another few years?”

Draco let out a breath and shot the other Pure-blood a smile at the way the question seemed to restore Harry’s good mood.

“That would be great! She got two years in Azkaban for,” the brunette scanned his transcript for the proper wording, “her role in facilitating crimes against a Magical child. Maybe they’ll give the old bastard another two years as well!”

The three exchanged another, wider grin and resumed their celebrations with a pile of smuggled sweets. The last of the convictions weren’t quite as severe as they had hoped for, but they had decided that morning to just take the additional victories all the same. The sense of relief the Potter heir felt at finally accomplishing so many of the goals he had had since the age of seven was far too keen to be damaged by disappointing sentences like Umbridge’s.

That same relief proved strong enough that weekend to carry him through the expected news of Narcissa’s call for a review of Sirius Black’s case and a trial for the wizard upon the opening of the next court Season. The missive carried a tinge of frustration with it, as the young heir had hoped to address the court himself regarding his Godfather’s case, but his desire to do so did not qualify him to leave the school. He had written a statement for his guardian and Proxy to read to the court on his behalf, but it didn’t provide him the level of participation he had wanted.

The general population of the school appeared to feel differently. Every word and action of his Proxies were seen by the students, especially the Gryffindors, as being directly attributed to the boy-hero. In certain instances it only added to the irritating number of witches and wizards who pestered and stalked him in the halls. In others, it seemed to invite constant vocal criticism every minute he was not closed in his dorm.

On average, fans and critics alike either maintained a frosty silence – his preference by far – or kept up a flurry of whispers and pointing. Even the Gryffindors didn’t try to approach him anymore, however, not since he had added a stinging hex to the privacy charmed items he now wore at all times. The addition had earned both young Slytherins a detention but the fact that they were physically left alone was worth it.

That wasn’t to say the majority of Gryffindors, including their Head of House, pretended to be friendly. Most often, anyone in red and gold gave him death glares, but in the nearly two months they had been at school only two had attempted to hex him in the hall. Over all, it had been a disappointing term. Harry had hoped that with Dumbledore out of Hogwarts that they would be able to enjoy school more so than they had the year before. He still held out hope. He knew from talking with Lord Malfoy and Lady Longbottom that plans were underway to update the curriculum, so soon they would at least be able to receive a quality education.

Between the wait and the constant unwanted attention, however, the brunette wondered if he would be better off transferring to France. “How long do you think it would take me to learn French?” he asked his best friend.

Draco narrowed his eyes, looking the smaller boy over in case he had missed any signs that one of the older lions had been bothering him again. For his part, the blond had been fairly fluent in the language as a child but the priorities of his at home education had shifted when Harry arrived when they were seven and he hadn’t mastered it as he would have otherwise. “Why don’t we work in the meeting room today? We can drop our things off there and I’ll go get Neville.”

The brunette let out a long sigh and nodded. They had taken to visiting Godric Gryffindor’s portrait at least once a week, but after the court Season came to a close, the three friends met there more and more often to avoid the crowds that even their warded corner of the library couldn’t hide them from.

The room was fast becoming a refuge for the young heirs, allowing them privacy when they needed it and a priceless source of information and advice. Whether they wanted it or not. Godric, for all his wise yet affable character, had been someone put out to learn that his only descendant had been sorted into Slytherin House. The renowned wizard seemed to be doing his best to teach and influence Harry as much as possible in an attempt to, in his words, preserve thee proper character from such contamination as Salazar’s ilk are wont to provide.

The brunette couldn’t help a small grin as he fielded his ancestor’s greetings while waiting for his other friends to join him. Godric had a tendency to discuss the school and his fellows for about a quarter of every visit. Despite the lingering traces of Old English left from when he had last been awake, the Founder, whenever he mentioned Salazar Slytherin, sounded remarkably similar to one half of an old married couple bickering about their spouse. He had a feeling the two men had enjoyed an amusing, if slightly antagonistic, friendship.

Godric was, in general, an amusing person to speak with. Even the lectures he had delivered on managing the Board of Governors, dealing with the Wizengamot, and completing classwork had a joke or other humorous anecdote here and there.

“Have you any missives today, young sir?” Godric questioned once the pleasantries had finished.

The Potter heir found that his ancestor was a great audience to read his correspondence to, especially when it was one of his Proxies asking about his wishes on court matters or the Board’s continuing attempts to undo the damage to the school’s administration and academics. “No sir. Just homework.”

“And a sense of melancholy if mine eyes do not deceive me.”

Harry smiled slightly, glad the portrait’s language filters were beginning to catch up to more modern times. In an effort to distract himself from the bad mood that had prompted the visit, the second-year dived into his charms assignment, asking questions of the one-time professor. Charms of course had not been Godric’s specialty, but the wizard still had fascinating bits of advice on that topic and nearly any other. Other than Herbology and Potions. Those courses were apparently ones the painting’s subject had not enjoyed or excelled at when he was alive.

Minutes later, Draco and Neville joined in the conversation and it was little time at all before all three lordlings had completed the assignment. The remainder of the afternoon and early evening were spent simply talking with the portrait and each other. With October’s end only a week away, Samhain naturally came up in conversation, leading to a revelation that wiped away the last of the brunette’s discontent.

“The room ‘tis made for none other use than that of ritual observance. All you shall need for the sacred day wilst be available to you there. Only ask for that which is lacking and it wilst be brought forth.”

Harry closed his eyes and swallowed the burning sensation in the back of his throat. As Draco quietly explained the significance of the date to Godric, the young brunette was already imagining how much easier the anniversary would be with the ability to fully observe the holiday with both his friends. October had not gone particularly smoothly so far. While several members of the court spent its Samhain Recess reviewing Sirius’ case, Narcissa was drafting a reform bill on behalf of the House of Black to prevent similar acts of injustice in the future. But other than his letters to and from his Proxies, Harry was unable to participate directly in either process. But access to a full ritual room would at least help his overall mood if not the situations causing his frustration.

After another few minutes spent settling his mind and emotions, Harry reminded his friends that dinner would be served soon. The three boys offered their good-byes to the painting, then the smallest one made his way around the room, briefly sweeping a hand over each of the other three portraits. Godric had insisted on the action the first time the students had visited him at the start of the term. He claimed that following the Board meetings over the summer that he had seen the other Founders twitch or shift in their frames. The medieval wizard speculated that the presence of a Founder’s Heir and the use of the room for its intended purpose was gradually waking the others.

“You share not blood with mine fellows,” Gryffindor reassured his heir before the boy left. “But still, the presence of our magic will soon bear fruit.”

Harry smiled back hopefully, then made his way towards the Great Hall, wondering absently how long such a thing might take. Perhaps it would not take as long as he feared. Certainly when he and the Malfoys had first begun their nebulous plans to bring down Voldemort and Dumbledore – and build a stronger and better Wizarding World in their absence – they had not dared hope that the first two goals would be reached before the heirs finished their second years. And yet, that was essentially what had happened.

Voldemort was dead and gone. Dumbledore had lost his reputation, power, and positions and would languish in Azkaban for nearly two decades. Given the horrible man’s age and the conditions on the island, he might even die before he was released. His Proxies and their allies controlled an unprecedented percentage of the Wizengamot, making the attainment of their longer-term goals a realistic possibility. He may not be precisely where he wanted to be, the boy thought with a glance at a group of giggling first-years on his left and a pair of glaring fourth-years on his right, but he was closer than he had once imagined he could be.

“Bye Harry,” Neville said with a smile as he headed towards the Hufflepuff table.

The brunette waved and sat down with Draco among the other snakes with a smile of his own. The last living Potter filled his plate and glanced from the doors that led to the hall where Godric’s room was located, to the seat beside him where his best friend, his first friend, sat trying to cheer him with a silly joke.

He needed the comfort of his best friend’s presence more as the days passed. Or maybe he just took more comfort in it than he had before because it was familiar and predictable and things around him were not. Being in Hogwarts was in general a little off putting. Knowing that it was part of his legacy and that it should in fact feel like home to him increased the discomfort of not being able to feel that way. He could do nothing, however, for the inherent distrust he had of a place that had been run for so long by a man that had been intent on controlling him and had been prepared to do anything to accomplish that goal. No matter how it hurt Harry in the process.

Even with the old man safely locked away and unable to do anything to him, the unease within the castle remained. Dumbledore had held complete control over the magical building and everyone in it for so long the young wizard simply couldn’t shake the feeling that people here were still loyal to him or that something had been left behind that had escaped the goblin warders’ notice that might do him harm. Seeing Flitwick in the Headmaster’s chair at meals every day helped reinforce the idea that it was safer now. And having Professor Bones competently teaching Defense helped assure him that changes were being made that would eventually bring Hogwarts back to what it should have been.

But however much seeing the former Head of the DMLE in the classroom helped, it also caused another, different feeling of unease. One that had begun to creep up around his own Head of House as well. Both Bones and Snape kept giving he and Draco odd looks for no apparent reason. The two professors almost acted like they knew some kind of secret about the second-years that they were keeping to themselves. He knew Draco had noticed it as well, they had discussed it more than once at night in their dorm, but neither of them could figure out the reason or meaning behind the looks.

It had started several days before, after they had learned of the ritual room from Godric and only increased as they approached Samhain. The first odd expression that had been aimed at them had occurred when an especially persistent third-year named Cho Chang had broken pattern and started to approach the small wizard and attempt conversation. After half a dozen attempts to dissuade her that only seemed to embolden her further, Draco had lost his patience and altered the way the stinging hex had been integrated into their privacy charms so that when she got too close it gave her a small jolt.

Despite her placement in Ravenclaw, the annoying girl had been stung three times already and she still didn’t appear to have figured out the cause. As she drew back the hand that had been reaching for Harry’s shoulder with a yelp, the blond once more caught sight of a smirking Potions Master making his way down the hall several yards away.

Taking advantage of Chang’s momentary retreat, Draco steered his best friend away from the gaggle of third-year girls and into a nearby empty classroom. “Snape was doing that weird stare thing again.”

Harry nodded as he adjusted his glasses after their abrupt and hasty escape. “Bones was smirking at us when class let out. Do you think it’s connected? Maybe they’ve become friends or something and he’s told her some kind of amusing tale regarding our summer tutoring?”

Grey eyes widened as he looked at the other boy incredulously. “That is the best explanation you can think of? Severus Snape being friends with Bones?”

“Well,” the brunette bristled slightly, “what do you think it could be?”

“Snape seemed amused by the hex just now. Have you noticed anything like that happening when Professor Bones makes her funny looks?” The boy-hero gave that a bit of thought, then ventured a tentative response.

“Well… I think she did it yesterday when Chang was coming over pretending to ask for help with a DADA assignment.” The two boys exchanged looks. The girl really was running out of excuses to invade the famous boy’s personal space. “You stepped in front of me to keep her away since I didn’t see her coming up behind me.”

Draco gave his friend a thoughtful look. “Maybe they have a bet going about how long it will take Chang to get the message and leave you alone.”

Harry tilted his head to the side as he considered that idea. A competition with the Head of another House made more sense than Severus Snape forming a friendship with a new teacher, let alone a former Auror. Thinking of Bones as the Head of Ravenclaw and the former Head of the DMLE sparked another thought. “Maybe Snape is curious to see how long it takes her, and Bones is just watching to make sure one of her Ravenclaws doesn’t get hurt or something.”

It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility, Harry thought to himself as Draco conceded that point with a shrug, obviously not caring if the girl got herself hurt or if he got in trouble for causing it. Watching for the strange looks over the next few days seemed to disprove the theory, however, as the Professor seemed more amused than offended when the blond boy was pointedly rude in his dismissal of the girl when she approached yet again.

Harry almost felt like he should be scolding his friend for the excessive rudeness, but he had a strange feeling of warmth every time his best friend bristled at the girl’s presence. The brunette didn’t know the meaning of that feeling but found he kind of liked it and therefore didn’t think about it overmuch. Besides, he was a little too busy trying to contain, and understand, the unreasonable annoyance he felt every time Daphne Greengrass talked with Draco in the common room.

Confusion over the situations eventually led Harry to mention it in a letter to his guardian, though her response, an oblique mention from her about his stress, had been completely unhelpful. The chocolates that had accompanied the reply were well received of course, though the snort of amusement given by his Head of House every time he spotted Harry and Draco together in the days that followed somewhat spoiled the buoying effects of the sweets. He appreciated them all the same, even more so when another delivery arrived the days before and after Samhain. By the time court re-opened for the Fall Season on the 3rd of November, Harry decided he didn’t even have time to contemplate it and made the decision that the adults’ odd conduct was not worth his time.

Instead, he resolved to ignore any strange behavior in reaction to how he and Draco chose to handle his unwanted fans and critics. After all, they had been best friends since the day they met, and were understandably protective of each other. There was nothing wrong with that, or with his increasing enjoyment of the blond’s tendency to scare away any and every student bold enough to come too close to him. If he didn’t have a problem with the taller boy playing bodyguard in addition to best friend there was no reason for anyone else to. Therefore, there was no reason for him to waste time worrying about their opinions on the matter. He had Godric and Neville to talk to and spend time with. And more importantly, he had Draco, and anyone who was unreasonably annoyed or amused by that could go hang.

With a silent but decisive nod to himself, the small brunette grabbed his books with a smile and caught up with his impatient friend as they left the dungeons for their first class of the day. As soon as he was within reach, Draco Malfoy casually slung his arm over his best friend’s shoulder and pulled him along down the hallway. Harry Potter smiled that little bit more and followed along without a word.


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Sunfire

I have been writing fanfic since I was twelve and after my sister forced me to read the first Harry Potter book in 2000 I have been addicted to the fandom. Despite my love of the books I have found plenty over the years to twist to my own purposes so this theme is going to be a blast. I love turning things on their head and looking at canon from a completely different direction and making it totally different without changing the core. I have been branching out in my pairings the last few years and finally have enough of my existing stuff finished to start playing around in a new ship or two.

2 Comments:

  1. Aw. So adorable.

  2. Excellent part! I’m so glad things are working out so well for Harry!

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