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Harry Potter and the Goblin Rebellion



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Old August 21st, 2005, 7:46 pm
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Harry Potter and the Goblin Rebellion

Author's Introduction - An earlier version of this story and its sequel have already been posted here. Since then I have done a substantial edit on it, as well as adding new bits and trimming others. It has also been posted in 3 other sites by me. Since we have so many new members here since the last post of the first draft was posted, it seemed appropriate to post the newer edition (and particularly the climax of the sequel has been pumped up vastly from the first). This story begins just at the end of OOTP, as Harry has gotten into the Dursleys' car after the 'Welcoming Committee' has threatened the Dursleys about treating Harry better. And in fact, they do accept Harry and his 'oddity,' although not because of the threats.

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Chapter 1 - A New Leaf

The occupants of the Dursley car were silent for quite some time after they left Kings’ Cross Station. Harry Potter’s Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had found themselves on the receiving end of a very convincing display of intimidation by a number of quite disparate sorcerers, all members of the Order of the Phoenix (which they had no way of knowing) and all quite fond of and dedicated to Harry Potter (which they had no trouble surmising). What they had demanded is for Harry to be treated well and for him to keep in touch with them. These ought not to have been burdensome requests, but the Dursleys had long had in mind to squash the magic out of Harry by oppressing him, an effort which had been a spectacular failure. Still, no one likes to be threatened, even to do something which ought to be easy.

Harry Potter had walked ahead of his uncle, aunt and cousin to their car when they came to pick him up at Kings’ Cross Station. He was not entirely sure what led him to do so. Perhaps he was emboldened by the show of support of the ‘Welcoming party’ that confronted the Dursleys. Perhaps the death of his godfather Sirius Black left him beyond caring what the Dursleys thought. Or maybe the realization that the Prophecy Professor Dumbledore had shown him required him to shoulder a man’s load – Nay, not a man’s load, but a load beyond any other man’s. That felt more like it to Harry: he could no longer indulge boyishness – whether he liked it or not, he had to step into an adult role. If he was to shoulder that burden, then he was going to do so with all the pride and dignity he could muster.

However, the silence suited Harry just fine. He didn’t seek confrontation, though that was all he had ever known in the home he had grown up in. ‘Home?’ thought Harry, ‘a house maybe, but very much not a home.’ Harry had never felt more homeless, indeed a refugee, the target all his life of Lord Voldemort’s desire to eliminate all threats to him and for that reason forced to return and hide in the very nonmagical house of his maternal aunt. However, so long as he could communicate with the magical world, he could endure the summer. For now Harry just wanted to be with his thoughts. What had started as an awful year had done nothing but get worse. Harry rested his head against the door frame and looked out the window as the traffic slowly crept along.

Traffic moved slowly and time moved slower still. The Dursleys scowled with anger and frustration and Harry saw them frequently exchanging meaningful looks at each other. The tension was palpable. Finally, Uncle Vernon spoke.

“So, Potter, you’ve got a gang to threaten us?”

“Uncle Vernon, I didn’t know they were going to do that, I swear,” answered Harry, not pleading, but not wanting to aggravate the situation either.

“Hrmf. Well, I’ll grant you looked surprised by it. Still, you also seemed a bit amused by it all,” grumbled Uncle Vernon.

“I ...I … Not at any scare they may have given you, Uncle Vernon,” explained Harry, “but it’s nice to have people make the effort to stand up for me.”

“Everyone needs to have people they can count on, eh? Well, we’ll talk about what can be done. The threat was really quite unnecessary.”

“I’m sure they don’t mean any actual harm, they just …”

“They just wanted things to be easier for you this summer, right?” interrupted Uncle Vernon, “That’s just what I meant. That headmaster of yours, Tumbledown …”

“Dumbledore”

“Eh, whatever. He explained some things while you were at school. Most of all he’s convinced us of the great need for you to stay at our house and for you to continue with your … ways.”

Harry wasn’t sure where this was headed. Calling magic ‘ways’ rather than an ‘abnormality’ or worse was the most neutral reference Uncle Vernon had ever made.

“He’s also told us that you have something terribly important to do, and he let us know that it affects both your kind and the regular world. We never really understood that before, and I can’t say we fully grasp it yet. I lived a long time without knowing of your kind and I liked it like that. However, as odd as the fellow is he seems trustworthy and he was most grave about your situation. As you know, our experiences with your kind have not been good, but it seems as though we’ve got a choice that will affect more than just us. I’d like to think I’m the sort who would have sailed across to Dunkirk, and maybe this is the Dursleys’ Dunkirk. We reckon it’s time we did our part, much as we’re not happy with it. Mind you, we don’t like that you seem to attract problems…”

“I’m very tired of it myself,” interrupted Harry.

“Yes, right, but that’s what is, isn’t it? Your headmaster’s convinced us your only use of magic last summer was to protect Dudley, not to hurt him. So we want to say that we are grateful that you didn’t just save your own neck, but Dudley as well.”

Uncle Vernon almost trailed off to a mumble at the end, but Harry caught every word. Harry had trouble believing what he was hearing. Even after being subjected to a threat, Uncle Vernon was expressing appreciation for something Harry had done, with magic no less. Harry was speechless. Harry had thought and hoped at first that the Dursleys would be tolerant for a change, but this was actual acceptance! If they hadn’t been separated by a car seat, Harry might have hugged his uncle: on realizing that, Harry was very glad that the car seat was there. Harry had tried to tell himself that he truly cared not a whit what the Dursleys thought; nonetheless as cruel as they had been, these were the people he had grown up with and so it did matter. As much as they hated magic, they appreciated something he had done, and it felt marvelous to him to hear it.

Uncle Vernon continued “He also explained about your godfather, erm, passing on. I remember when my father died. It’s hard losing someone you care about.”

Harry was twice dumb-founded – sympathy from his uncle!

“How’d it happen?”

Harry came thudding back to earth. It was a fair question, innocent enough. The thing any person, muggle or wizard, would ask if they were showing sympathy. Harry hadn’t been prepared, however, to discuss Sirius’s death. He didn’t mind telling of his part in it: he felt instinctually that the more he acknowledged his guilt, the easier it would be to bear. The feelings about Sirius being gone were, however, almost too personal to explain. He would have to choose his words carefully as well, since much of his original excitement at having a godfather who was willing to take him was simply that Sirius was not the Dursleys, and it would not do to make such criticism when they were just starting to accept him as a wizard.

Therefore Harry answered slowly, so as to be reasonably accurate and yet understandable to muggles, and to avoid offensive matters. “I… I was tricked into a trap. Followers of Lord Volde- … (Aunt Petunia caught her breath at the name, so Harry rephrased), … the man who killed my parents, were trying to force me into getting something for them and then they were probably going to kill me, but my godfather, Dumbledore and most of those people that met you at the station, and a few others came and rescued me and my friends. My godfather fell through a, um … he fell to his death.”

Dudley then spoke “That’s rough, Harry.”

Harry couldn’t believe his ears. He had long hoped that someday his aunt and uncle would act like, well, adults about the situation of having to take him in after his parents were killed. But he never imagined his cousin Dudley acting decent. It was very unnerving to hear sympathy.

“Don’t look so shocked, Harry,” said Dudley. Then he looked down, “Well, it’s probably fair enough to be surprised. But you see, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since last summer – don’t smirk, Harry, I CAN think, y’know. That THING in the alley brought out horrible thoughts, and well, I guess it’s what they call a new perspective. Since then and the visits your headmaster made, I saw that I didn’t like the way I was going. That … thing … made me see awful stuff. It was a real eye-opener.”

Petunia spoke up “Harry, I can see you’re surprised that we’re trying to see things in a new way. We’ve been talking, both with the Headmaster and amongst ourselves. We see now we’re never going to get you out of that world - away from m-m- you know. We also know you need to live with us during the summer because ... that person is trying to kill you. If you can accept that we are not comfortable with m-m – those powers, we can have a better relationship. Okay?”

“Do you mean it? That would be great,” said Harry beaming.

Uncle Vernon nodded. “That’s settled then. As much as I don’t like the type you’re now with, and I don’t like danger around my family, I won’t stand for some bloke threatening someone under MY roof. We raised you, so you’re at least partly a Dursley, and we’ll all pull together alright.”

Harry wasn’t too thrilled at the thought of being called a Dursley, but then he knew that by Uncle Vernon’s reckoning, it was the finest thing he could say. The point was that for the next couple of months, they were all in this together. He was just thrilled to think that he wouldn’t be at war with what family he had and lived with for this summer. This could be his best summer yet.

On the way home, the Dursleys stopped at a seafood restaurant. Dudley was still on his boxing team diet, so he was only allowed to have a small broiled fish filet and a salad. On the other hand Harry was encouraged to have the largest platter available. Harry got the impression that his aunt and uncle wanted to make up for some of the very harsh and hungry times he had previously spent. Growing up he had spent entire weeks with less food than this.

“You’re a growing boy,” said Uncle Vernon, “you need to fill out some.”

Harry felt terribly guilty eating so much food in front of Dudley, whom he knew was starving. He was torn between savoring the best meal he had ever had away from Hogwarts and hurrying so as not to prolong Dudley’s torment. Hurrying won out, but even so he was still eating twenty minutes after Dudley had finished. Dudley could not control his staring as Harry ate, Dudley’s mouth and tongue silently working as if they too were experiencing the feast. Harry expected the drool to start dripping from Dudley’s mouth any second. He tried to share some of his crab cakes and fried shrimp with Dudley, but Aunt Petunia prevented it. Harry felt that with a few more meals as this, he would wind up every bit as large as Dudley, if Dudley didn’t go mad and eat him.

When they arrived at the neat and proper home at 4 Privet Drive, Harry saw that the yard was in need of tending. Apparently Uncle Vernon had put off some of the yard work till school was over. With the change in the atmosphere with the Dursleys, that suited Harry just fine. As it was still late spring, there were a couple of hours of sunshine left, so Harry announced that he would get to trimming the hedge as soon as he had put his trunk and his owl Hedwig up in his room.

“You’ll do no such thing!” said Uncle Vernon quickly. “Dudley can take care of that, and the rest of the yard work.”

“What!!!” said both boys together.

“I’m not having Harry do any yardwork around here,” said Uncle Vernon.

“Really, it’s fine, Uncle Vernon, I’m looking forward to it, especially now that things are better. I want to help out.”

“Maybe so, but I’m taking no chances that your friends might sneak round and see you up to your elbows in dirt and weeds, looking like you’re some kind of servant. Who knows what that lot might do!?”

“I’ll write to them. I’ll explain that things are better and I want to do the chores,” pled Harry. He wasn’t sure why this all upset him so. In previous years, he would have been thrilled to give up some or all of his chores. But now that he felt more like he was part of a family, losing the chores made him feel on the outs. It occurred to him that this must be a bit of how Winky the house elf must have felt when Mr. Crouch gave her clothes and set her free – she was losing her place in her family, and Harry felt like he was losing his.

Uncle Vernon guffawed, “Yes, I’m sure that will be a convincing letter – ‘This is Harry, a fifteen-year-old boy who just can’t get enough of doing yard chores in the mid-summer sun, so don’t think that I’m being abused when you see me sweating in the yard and pushing a wheelbarrow full of manure.’ They’d be here turning me into a bullfrog faster than you can say m-m-m … the M-word!”

Harry had to admit that if he heard a boy his age writing words to that effect, he’d be suspicious. But he also didn’t want to have Dudley resenting the new relationship. Dudley had sounded decent at first, but it had been a huge strain on Dudley to watch Harry eat an entire seafood platter, and if Harry kicked back while Dudley did all the hot chores, it could well be too much.

“I’ll do the chores in the backyard!”

“Still too risky.”

“I’ll have one of them over so we can explain in person.”

“One of them? Over here!? Harry, we’ll take care of you, but we really don’t want oddballs giving us a bad name.”

Harry had to admit that few of his wizarding friends could pass for muggle. “How about Mr. Weasley, or Tonks, the lady who was at the platform?”

“Weasley? He’s the one who tore apart our fireplace and sitting room, isn’t he? I would prefer not. And the day we have a woman that looks like THAT into our house is the day I’ll dress that way, myself.”

Harry thought. “Well, then I’ll do the indoor chores – laundry and dishes and stuff.”

Petunia objected to this “I’ll do the cleaning in the house. That’s my territory and no man of this house can clean it the way I do. No, Harry, you just relax and watch telly, or read, or get your summer homework done. Oh, and if you would, send a letter to your friends tonight, and let them know that everything is fine here.”

Uncle Vernon then asked, “Are you still following the news like you had been? Yes? Right, then, you can have one of Dudley’s tellies in your room, for those times when the downstairs sets are not on the news.”

This was finally too much for Dudley. He turned red in the face and started to splutter, “No! I won’t have it!. They’re my tallies - you gave them to me!. It’s bad enough that he gets the food and I get the chores. Now you’re giving him my things. I WON’T HAVE IT.”

This outburst in the front yard only served to attract attention from the neighbors, and not of the sort the Dursleys desired. They quickly shushed him and started to offer to buy another telly, but Harry spoke up.

“Dudley, these changes are strange and hard for all of us. You know, I don’t want one of the good tellies – I’d rather have that old ten inch black-and-white set that you haven’t used since you were 9.”

“Really?” said Dudley, calming down.

“Really?” said Uncle Vernon, curiously, and perhaps for the first time not looking past Harry. “Now why would you prefer that one?”

“Well, I’m not as interested in the pictures as the news stories. So I don’t need much of a picture. But that one has built-in wireless, so I can listen to other types of news. It’s also small and can run on batteries, so I can take it with me if I have to go anywhere.”

“Hm,” said Uncle Vernon, “that makes sense. Well, what about it, Dudders – it’s not like he’s asking for something you use.”

“Well, I’m still not happy about the chores or the diet,” Dudley grumbled, “but I guess the telly’s okay.”

With that resolved Harry and the Dursleys headed into their home. Harry took his things upstairs, Dudley following behind to get the telly. Harry put Hedwig and her cage on the wardrobe and set his trunk down and went to Dudley's room. Dudley had just dug it out of the wardrobe and was bringing it out.

"Here you go, Harry"

"Thanks, Dudley. Sorry about the chores."

Dudley shrugged. "It wasn't your choice."

"I'd help if I could," said Harry.

"I know you would, Harry. I guess we're different that way: I sure never bothered when the shoe was on the other foot."

Harry smiled, "No, you never did. You know, Dudley, we're both getting older, taking on some responsibilities. We've had our differences. I didn't like what you were and I know you don't like what I am. Maybe, though, with a little effort, we could actually put all that behind us and be, in some way, better toward each other."

Dudley nodded, "I reckon there's a chance. But if you think you're getting a hug, you're loony."

Harry laughed, "No, that's a good bit further than either of us is ready for. I'll do something more tangible though - I'll try to convince my friends that I should be able to do some of the yard work."

They shoved each other playfully and then Harry took the telly and headed to his room. As he shut the door and set the telly on the desk, he heard Dudley's heavy footsteps as Dudley clumped down the steps and out to the garage. Harry shut the door. ‘Well,’ he thought, ‘this is a welcome change, not living with people who hate me.’ Then he remembered his problems in the wizarding world: ‘Whether I'm here or elsewhere, I have to live with myself.’ It seemed to Harry that those who really loved him, and whom he loved, died; and now with Sirius, it was not only because Sirius was around him, but because of Harry’s own decisions. He also could not get off his mind the thought which had dwelled with him since he had heard the Prophecy: that he had to kill or be killed, and Voldemort would not rest until one of those had occurred.

Harry opened his trunk and began to put his things away. He made sure the magic-related things were well out of sight – no need to rock the boat. The last thing he took out was his photo album that Hagrid had assembled for him. He opened it to the wedding picture with his parents and Sirius. They were all laughing and smiling. Every so often, Harry's parents would kiss each other. Sometimes, Sirius would ruffle Harry's Dad's hair - when he did Harry found himself running his hand through his oh-so-similar hair to imagine Sirius being beside him again, ruffling Harry's hair as he had in life. These people had died so that he, Harry, had a chance to live. Friends both in school and in the Order of the Phoenix had stood by him, risking their lives for him.

Harry would have liked to have had the release of chores to distract him from the twin thoughts that preyed on his mind: many people had risked their lives, and some had given their lives, so that he could live, and he was fated to either meet his death at Voldemort’s hand or to find a way to himself kill Voldemort. Over the week that followed, spent brooding on these central facts of his existence, Harry realized that the people who had died protecting him had given their lives in vain if he could not find the way to defeat Voldemort. That realization led Harry to decide that there was no choice but to repay that debt as well as he could. If he was going to have to face Voldemort until one of them were dead, he had to be the absolute best wizard and fighter he could be.

Harry took out parchment and quill and sat at the desk. He decided his first letter needed to be to Dumbledore for advice about his plan.

“Dear Professor Dumbledore, I have started my summer break and have been thinking about that thing you showed me two weeks ago. I had always known that he was after me, so what you showed me was not a shock in that regard. If it just concerned me, I could handle that. It’s not as if I have shrunk from danger. But above all I cannot bear to think of a threat to those I love, and I find that this is an ever-increasing number. If my death or running away would save them, I would embrace such a course. Instead, it seems that would just hasten the day for the death or subjection of those I care for As of yet I do not even know what I am supposed to do, and I assume you do not either, unless knowing what it is would make it impossible for me to achieve. In either case, I need to prepare to meet the fate I am faced with. At present, however, I do not feel like I am his equal as a wizard, quite the contrary: therefore I am now in training. I understand and accept that I need to develop my skills and power as much as possible. When back at school, I will be able to practice, and while I am here I can study my books, but I cannot actually practice my skills. Is there anything else I can do to prepare myself for the challenges ahead? Oh, and I need to let you know also, that whatever explaining you did to my aunt and uncle, you almost overdid. Everything is fine here, except they won’t even let me do chores. I guess that gives me more time to work on my skills. --- Harry. P.S. I am very sorry for my reaction in your office. This was a very difficult year for me.”

Harry took Hedwig out of her cage and petted her head for a few minutes, then hugged her.

“Hedwig,” he said, “it’s dangerous being a friend of mine. Do you still want to be my owl?”

She hooted and turned her head sideways, as if to say “Are you crazy?” Then she nipped his ear playfully and squeezed his arm with her talons.

“Thanks,” said Harry “I don’t want to lose anyone else.” He attached the letter to her foot and told her to take it to Dumbledore. He carried her to the window. “If you stop for a rodent, make sure you take care of the letter,” he warned. Hedwig hooted indignantly, as if she resented being taken for some silly young owl that might put food ahead of duty. Then she took off into the early night sky.


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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.

Last edited by Dedalus Diggle; August 21st, 2005 at 9:41 pm.
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Old August 22nd, 2005, 5:34 pm
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Chapter 2 Goblinology

Harry turned from the window and heard the front door slam. Dudley was complaining loudly about being exhausted from evening chores and famished from his diet. The stomping could be heard proceeding to the kitchen, followed by the opening of the refrigerator, Dudley’s groan “Only diet drinks!” and his mother’s comforting him over his hardships. Harry was bemused at the fact that Dudley’s chores that evening would have been the lightest day Harry had had at the Dursleys in the previous ten years, excepting of course times when Harry was locked in his room. Nonetheless Harry thought it best to keep Dudley at least somewhat sympathetic toward him. Therefore, as he had all week when Dudley was around, Harry hurriedly got out his summer homework on History of Magic so he could be seen to be suffering mentally, if not physically. A book the size of old-time ledgers ought to help. He purposely left the door open so Dudley could see work being done.

Professor Binns had assigned a ten-parchment essay on the underlying causes of the various goblin revolts over the years. He had explained in his holiday assignment memo that it seemed that his lectures had not been well understood (“Well, duh,” thought Harry, “Who could listen to them – except Hermione!?”) and that it may be useful as there had been renewed restiveness among the goblins of late. Harry still had the first sheet of parchment he had labeled at the beginning of summer holiday. He had not begun to write yet, because he found himself getting engrossed in the readings. Unlike the lectures, the book was actually quite a good read. He began to regret having leaned so heavily on Hermione and her notes to get him through exams.

The text was not just a recitation of the names and events, but looked at the reasons that the various participants were motivated to do as they did. The goblins were tough and very protective of their interests, but they were not the bloodthirsty brigands as wizard’s tales would have it; they really couldn’t be, Harry realized, and still maintain over long periods the peaceful and productive businesses they do, much of it conducted with the much more numerous wizards. Harry started to draw connections and recognize patterns in the numerous rebellions. It seemed that the very nature of the magical world led to an inherent tension between humans and goblins. Goblins were similarly powerful to wizards, though with differences in strengths and weaknesses of magical ability, and very industrious, but they had inherent characteristics distinct from humans that provided a basis both for profitable interactions and conflicts.

Harry learned that two controlling facts shape goblins’ entire existence. The first is that goblins are tribal to the point of being magically bound to their families, called hullabaloos. With most goblins, this is quite strong, but as with most behavioral traits, there are variations, though for none of them was an unattached life in any way a possibility. The books noted that articles in the Journal of Magical Beings and Creatures Origins and Development suggest that early on goblins who tried to live independently soon died, and at the very least found that acquiring a mate was essentially impossible, so any trait toward independence was removed from the bloodlines. Second, goblins cannot tolerate sunlight; there appeared to be no exceptions to this. Goblins had stories of young goblins who had been exposed to sunlight, and while they were said to have survived, it was said that such exposure turned them into monstrous and abominable. Harry had found the goblins to be quite frightening enough the few times he had been at Gringotts Bank, so he shuddered to think at what goblins would find abominable.

Both of these facts of goblin nature predisposed them to settled life in moderate to large groups, since before they learned to build homes and other shelters, they had to spend daytimes in caves or deep forest. During these times, they would not forage, even in the forest, lest they be exposed to sunlight due to shifts in the winds or coming upon a clearing. Winter was particularly hard, for while the sunlight was much weaker and nights were longer in the northern latitudes, there was no protection in the leafless deciduous forests. Even in evergreen forests, there was enough sunlight filtering through to make goblins essentially non-magical. It was critical then not to be caught away from the home in the winter. Thus they were compelled by their vulnerability to be sufficiently industrious that they could stash away large stores for the winter. This also placed limitations on the size of hullabaloos, until they adopted a lifestyle of commerce with the wizarding world which allowed a more dependable access to supplies.

In their early years of human contact, the goblins would go foraging amongst humans to take things – food and other goods – that they needed or wanted. This seemed fair to the goblins, as they often found that their mushroom farms and beehives (larvae being a favorite food) were disturbed by humans during the daylight hours. Muggles, not knowing about goblins except by legend, did not realize they were infringing on other beings’ crops: to their thinking the mushrooms and honey were simply in the woods for the first taker. When muggles would find that their farms had been disturbed during the night, they of course became angry and greatly frustrated. Generally the muggles feared the night and mysterious nighttime disappearances of their property only added to the fear.

Nonetheless the muggles found ways to resist the removal of their property. During harvest season, groups of muggles would patrol the farms around the villages to scare off any intruders. As the adults were generally very tired from their hard work during the daylight, the patrols would mostly be undertaken by children, teens and younger adults. They would carve lanterns out of large turnips, rutabagas and other large, sturdy vegetables to help them make their way in the dark. They would carve scary faces into them in hopes of scaring off whatever creature was causing the mischief. This was actually counterproductive as the lanterns were quite attractive to the goblins, who would steal those lanterns left unattended for use in their caves. The muggle youngsters also found that these patrols presented a delightful opportunity for dancing, mischief, and liaisons with members of the opposite sex. So fond did the muggles speak of each year’s harvest time patrols that the tradition was carried on even after the goblins reached an accommodation through the wizard community which allayed the need for the patrols. The term ‘raising a hullabaloo’ persisted amongst muggles as a term for revelry.

However, before the need for the patrols had been lost, they would often lead to skirmishes between goblin hullabaloos and the muggles. It would have been a terrible mismatch, given the goblins’ magical ability, except that goblin magic cannot work against someone, even a muggle, when the being is defending his or her own family, home and other property. Self-defense is a powerful countercharm, working unconsciously and without other magical ability, and particularly effective against the race of goblins. (This works in goblins’ favor, as well, when they are defending their homes, so long as they are not exposed to poisonous sunlight). They even lost their invisibility to muggles when the muggles were defending home and family. Thus, when goblins were caught trying to take muggle things, they were often killed or badly injured.

The reaction of many of the goblins’ tribal princes (called glamdrings) was to seek the extermination of the muggles. Occasionally one or another hullabaloo would attempt to wipe out villages of muggles, which led to many muggle reports of sightings of goblins, and even more goblin deaths. The goblins sought the assistance of the wizards, many of whom were sympathetic to the idea of exterminating the muggles. However, many other wizards, and a fair number of goblins, realized that the things that the goblins wanted were by and large grown or made by humans, and particularly muggles, so killing them off would be counter-productive. Wiser sorcerers also realized that the fertility of the full-blooded wizards was quite low (due to excessive inbreeding), and they too would soon die out if their numbers were not replenished both by intermarriage with muggles and by spontaneous magical talent emerging (Harry thought of his own mother and his friend Hermione, both muggle-born witches). A small number of wizards even said it was just wrong to kill off the muggles for convenience, but they were dismissed by the rest as woolly-headed.

After the death of the more obdurate goblins and wizards, a new arrangement emerged. It evolved from the growing goblin industry and commerce. Goblins began to learn commerce through their first industry, which grew out of their need for homes. Originally, the goblins had been dependent on caves for dwellings. As caves became scarce, they learned to dig new artificial caves. Goblin mythology has it that a clever goblin named Gudderbal devised the two most characteristic features of goblin excavated homes. These were the practice of using crossbeams to shore up the walls and ceilings of the excavations and cutting drain sluices along the walls on either side of the tunnels and chambers to collect the water which condensed on the rocks. The beams of course prevented cave-ins and the sluices both allowed for dry, non-slippery floors, and gathered water in a central location for use as needed.

The legends always noted Gudderbal’s cleverness with a mix of gratitude and repulsion, since inventiveness is individualistic, which is a generally disfavored trait amongst goblins, and yet they have a grudging admiration for the odd goblin heroes who displayed this trait, in the same way that the Chinese have nurtured their legends of the ‘woman-warriors.’ He was said to be sickly and inept at digging tunnels, such that his tunnels were apt to cave in; this was said to be the reason he began to experiment with using stout logs to support the tunnels. (Harry wondered about this, since the books also said that all the goblin excavations are said to be supported by timbers in this manner – were goblins of old better at digging safely, had the techniques been lost because they had learned to use timbers, or was this just a story that was told to ridicule a hero who had done something as unacceptable among goblins as showing individual creativity?) To this day, as goblins play their favorite game of rolling rounded rocks from one end of a hall at groups of staves stood on end at the other end, they will shout his name at any inept roller who has entirely missed the staves, with the rock instead rolling down one of the drain sluices.

The goblins discovered that in digging out their tunnels for homes, they would often come across valuable deposits. This gave rise to the goblin mining industry. They learned that the wizards would trade for the pretty stones and ores that were found. This was even before goblins had learned to turn the ores into metal. Mining was perfect for goblins, as they liked dark, damp places and did not need to make tunnels near as tall as wizards did, as the largest among them were rarely even 4 feet tall. Goblin legends also tell of a wizard trader named Whisseasalleweyn who had showed great interest in goblin life and was allowed for a time to live with them; as friendship developed, he showed them how to turn the ores into metals themselves. From that beginning, the great goblin metalworking industry developed. They also retained the memory of that great friendship and benefaction, such that despite many terrible conflicts with the wizarding world, goblins always looked forward to finding other wizards who would prove themselves to be ‘true goblin friends.’

The arrangement that emerged kept muggles and goblins apart and served the growing consensus among wizards that the magical world would have to be kept hidden from the vastly more numerous muggles. The goblins would avoid muggles and earn their way in various trades and businesses with the wizards. The wizards would acquire the things that goblin society needed from the muggles by trading with them. So the goblins settled into a life of living in their tribes in special ‘goblin-quarters’ in or near wizard settlements or communities – depending on doing various businesses that the wizards were not so good at. Besides mining and metalwork, these businesses were usually those requiring mathematics and logic, for which goblins had a special knack, apparently ingrained as tribal custom. These businesses included banking, gambling, accounting, and insurance. They hired wizards when they had tasks requiring creativity, since the goblin culture strongly disfavored creativity and spontaneity. Besides giving up raids on muggles, the goblins also gave up land-ownership, except within all-wizarding communities; this was necessary because muggles continually expanded their range and would use whatever lands they came across, so avoiding detection required that the goblins live within areas covered by disillusionment charms. Goblins also gave up wand-use rights, as wands were not needed for either defensive magic or the types of magic done in goblin homes and businesses, but rather were only useful when making aggressive forays.

Unfortunately, this division of responsibilities led to friction. Because the goblins lived separately, generally dealing only with the few wizards they did business with, wizard society was suspicious of them, with terrible rumors of their habits being spread. This was not aided by the goblin dietary habits, which rejected much of what wizards considered most appealing, particularly fruits and other sweet items, and included many things that wizards found appalling. Vague stories of hideous foodstuffs often became grossly exaggerated in the retelling, but there was not sufficient cultural exchange to set perceptions straight.

Unscrupulous and short-sighted wizard political leaders would exploit these perceptions, fanning the flames of suspicion and promising to impose greater and greater restrictions on the goblins. When a politician had achieved a position of power, he had to show at least some ‘progress’ on ‘the goblin question,’ so new restrictive laws would be imposed. The excuse was always made that the laws were needed to prevent conflict between goblins and humans, but usually they were designed just as much to give the politician an opportunity to plunder goblin wealth.

The goblins very naturally resented the restrictions. This was especially so among those hullabaloos that failed to teach their young, called goblets, the historical reasons for the valid restrictions. In their turn, it was also very easy when the goblins were objecting to new and undeserved restrictions to include objections to the long-established restrictions needed for mutual peace and safety. So goblin history consisted of long periods of mostly peaceful commerce, during which more or less gradually imposed oppression of the goblins would mount, followed by eruptions of violence from the goblins – the goblin rebellions. These had often affected the muggle population, and the wizards had to use memory charms to cover up the death and destruction by making them appear to be natural disasters. Peace was restored when goblin restrictions were restored to only those based in the need to avoid goblin-muggle conflicts.

Harry found this all immensely fascinating. He wished that Professor Binns could bring all this history to life this way. Then Harry chuckled to himself: how could Professor Binns, as a ghost, bring anything to life!? Harry continued reading and making notes until after 2 a.m., when he heard a pecking at his window. He opened it and let Hedwig in. He stroked her head and gave her a scratch, and then removed the parchment attached to her leg. She hooted and returned to her open cage and Harry gave her fresh water. He could see from the blood on her bill and talons that she had already eaten. Harry jokingly referred to Hedwig’s kills as fast food, but it was not fast enough to escape Hedwig’s talons.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #3  
Old August 23rd, 2005, 2:09 pm
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Chapter 3 – The Yetis

Harry recognized the delicate script as Professor Dumbledore’s. Harry unrolled the parchment and read Dumbledore’s message.

“Harry, I could not be more pleased with your new-found resolve and apparently a better living arrangement. I can assure you that I and every person who works with me will be doing our utmost to fit you for the challenges which you quite rightly have concluded are inevitable. I cannot say what the successful resolution of these challenges will require, but there are a number of things you can be doing at present to be best prepared. Complete all your homework now and study all the charms, hexes, curses, countercharms and spells of all types that you can. Do not practice them with your wand yet – we are making arrangements for later this summer to allow you to practice with experienced wizards. You can, of course, practice the wand movements using an ordinary stick.

“Practice your occlumency, particularly clearing your mind of negative emotions. I am strongly of the opinion that positive emotions occlude your mind to Voldemort, so work on giving up anger, resentment, jealousy, fear, spite, depression and all other negative emotions. Soon you’ll be as chipper as the Creeveys, I’m certain.

“You also should make yourself as physically fit as you can: work on endurance, strength, flexibility and reflexes. Long distance running and swimming are excellent, along with weight-lifting for strength, stretching exercises such as yoga for flexibility, and some sort of sport for reflexes, such as martial arts or anything that has aspects of a duel and makes you think fast, even while in pain. I hope you know I would do anything I could to save you from pain. Alas, my best efforts heretofore have been spectacularly unavailing, even counterproductive, in that regard. But be reassured in this, that for all your considerable talents, perhaps your greatest strength has been to come through so much adversity with a positive attitude. This bodes well.

“Also, I am sending Tonks to collect the broken mirror that Sirius gave you. I found its mate amongst his things and could tell from the image that you still had the other, though it was broken. I can well imagine the circumstances. Nonetheless, it can be repaired, and it will allow us to communicate face-to-face at any time without the danger which appeared over the course of this past year. Personally I shall be very glad to not avoid you any longer – it was as hard on me as you. Signed, Albus Dumbledore.”

“Well, good,” thought Harry. “Now I have a plan. I have my books I can study. With the door closed I can practice the proper pronunciations, movements and focus, using a fake wand to avoid inadvertent magic. There are plenty of streets to go running on, and there are enough other runners around Little Whinging that a teenager running for exercise would attract no negative attention. The community recreation center near the park has a pool and a weight room. That just leaves a dueling-type sport to build reflexes. Now what can be done? Hmm. I’ve got it - I’ll talk to Uncle Vernon and Dudley about it tomorrow morning. Dudley will be thrilled.”

Harry went to bed, clearing his mind of negative thoughts, and slept very soundly. He had accepted his lot in life, so far as he understood it, and had a plan to deal with it. Come what may, he was going to give it his best shot.

In the morning, Harry brought up his idea over breakfast.

“Uncle Vernon, Dudley, I’d like to practice boxing with Dudley.”

Dudley got a very eager, and not a little wicked, grin on his face. “Great by me, Harry.”

Uncle Vernon was not so sure. “Now why would you want to do that? Dudley must outweigh you at least 2 to 1, and he’s been lifting weights and training all year. His body may not move fast, but his fists do, and they’re half as big as your head. Even with a sparring helmet on, a good punch from him is going to hurt a lot, maybe injure you.”

“I understand, Uncle Vernon, and I want to take that risk. You know I have certain challenges coming up. I have to practice as hard as I can dodging whatever’s thrown at me and recovering quickly from whatever I don’t dodge. I can’t practice my, erm, school activities, but boxing’s the nearest approximation to what I may face that I can think of.”

“Fair enough, if you’re sure, and you seem to be,” continued Uncle Vernon, “but I don’t want to take any chances on making your friends upset with Dudley. Some of them seemed a little unstable.” (Harry agreed to himself that they could be volatile) “Still it would be good for Dudley to get some ring time in during the summer, so how about this: you and Dudley can box only when I’m with you. We can go to the rec. center 3 times per week before dinner. I’ll referee – I used to do some boxing m’self,” Uncle Vernon said with a touch of pride, “but I never was as good as Dudders here.”

So it was decided – on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, they would go to the Rec. Center and box. The rest of Harry’s days would be filled with studies, practice and exercise. They decided that since it was a Wednesday, they would go ahead and start the sparring that very evening. Harry could check out spare gloves from the Rec. Center; Dudley had his own pair, as well as several sparring helmets. When Harry went to the Rec. Center for morning exercise, he bought a protective mouthpiece. While he was boiling it in the kitchen so it could be formed to his mouth, he wrote to several members of the Order so they would be aware he was undertaking this strange muggle sport.

Rarely has such an apparent mismatch been set. Harry was no longer as scrawny as he had been, but he was still only average height, light and wiry. Dudley on the other hand, was six inches taller and built like a rhino. The Rec. Center manager tried to put a stop to it before they had even started, but Harry convinced him that it was his own idea. Uncle Vernon showed Harry a number of defenses: blocks, feints, dodging, etc. He showed Harry how to hold his gloves for safety, how to jab so that his arm would protect the side of his head, how to throw an uppercut and roundhouse and still maintain defense. He also explained the rules for sparring matches. Then the sparring began.

At first, the two teens circled each other, Dudley making the occasional punch, Harry dodging. Soon Harry got the knack of counter-jabbing after a fist was thrown at him. This did little but embolden Dudley, who started using combinations. At first, Harry was caught on the second punch, and when he got used to handling two-punch combinations, Dudley increased to triples. Dudley’s training was really showing. After the first three minute round, though Dudley was only throwing single jabs so far, Harry realized that he was getting puffy above his left eye, despite his helmet, and his ribs and forearms were getting sore. In the second round, Dudley returned to two-punch combinations. Harry attempted to back away from Dudley, and this worked some of the time, but sometimes he was backed against the ropes. His lip got cut, as well as the cheek under his right eye. He noticed several bruises on his arms from blocking punches and on his chest from not blocking them. The sparring went on like that for several more rounds, with Dudley moving to the triple combinations. Harry was getting better at dodging and blocking, but he was still getting tagged often enough and began to get a bit woozy. In the seventh round, Dudley unleashed a furious combination ending with a roundhouse to the side of Harry’s head, which spun him around off his feet and landed him on the ropes, gazing starry-eyed at a woman with chartreuse hair. All of a sudden he heard the woman’s voice.

“Harry, what are they …!? HIRSUTE! HIRSUTE!.”

Harry shook his head to recover and realized that he was seeing Tonks with a horrified look as she cast spells on both Dudley and Uncle Vernon. He saw the odd gray spells erupt from her wand and strike his cousin and uncle, causing them to erupt in long whitish-blond hair all over their bodies, so thick they could neither move nor speak. They looked just like the picture of a yeti Harry had seen in his Magical Creatures books. Harry waved his arms to stop her, unable to speak around his mouth protector.

“Harry,” called Tonks, “Your aunt said I could find you here, but I had no idea they took you here to beat you!”

Harry had to struggle to spit out his mouth protector. “Tonks, this isn’t a beating. Well, I guess it sort of is, but they were doing me a favor – I’m training for reflexes – ooh, and pain. Didn’t anyone from, you know, tell you? Couldn’t you have asked first or something? Did anyone see that?”

Obviously the manager had, as he had stared dumbfounded for a few seconds and had just then grabbed the phone. Tonks cast as gentle a memory charm on him as would do the job and knocked him out so they could sort out the situation. Dudley and Uncle Vernon came staggering over moaning and roaring like the yetis they looked like.

“Tonks, you’ve got to undo the spell.”

“Right, Harry, sorry about this. DEPILIATE! DEPILIATE!” said Tonks and a red-and-white striped spell for each of them shot from her wand and wound around them, causing the hair to fall out. However, it affected not just the magically grown hair: ALL of their hair fell out, leaving them balder from head to toe than they had been the day they were born.

“Oh, oh,” said Tonks, “I think I overdid it.”

“Potter-r-r!” shouted Uncle Vernon, “MAKE HER STOP!”

“Yeah, Tonks, this may work in an arrest, but firing spells without thinking like this is making a mess of things,” Harry said, trying to suppress the laughter that was rising as he saw his uncle and cousin, both bald as billiard balls, standing in the mounds of cast-off blond hair.

Tonks quickly eliminated the hair and then thought a few seconds before coming up with the right spell to make an appropriate amount of hair grow on each of them where it belonged. Their beards and the hair on their heads was thick and shaggy, but not overly long. Vernon felt on top of his head, where he had previously been quite thin, and Dudley felt his face, where he had previously never had more than a bit of fuzz, and both said together, “Cool – will it last?”

Tonks laughed and said, “Well, yeah, sure. I can just do a quick charm to keep it growing at the right rate. I’m really sorry – it looked to me like you were tearing Harry apart.”

Vernon grimaced. “I suppose it might have but did you not notice the protective gear – do you think we’d have put that on him to cuff him about?”

“Good point,” said Tonks. “My supervisor says I’m too impulsive, and I guess I’ve proved it. Blast, I’ll be filling out reports on this half the night. Can I make it up to you?”

“Hrmf!” said Uncle Vernon, not too happy with the situation, but realizing there was probably no harm done. “Well, the hair up top helps. Just make sure that ALL of Potter’s friends know that he’s going to be boxing with his cousin and he’s not being abused!”

“Well, I can tell them about this, what’ya call it – boxing? Where are the boxes? They’ll still insist on hearing from him every few days. Oh, that reminds me – Harry, I came over to get that broken mirror Dumbledore wanted to fix.”

“It’s back at the house. I think we’re about done now. I don’t think I could take any more tonight. Can you wait while we shower and then we’ll walk back together?” asked Harry.

“Sure - can I come and watch?” said Tonks with a giggle. “You two are becoming quite the handsome young men.” Then, winking at Dudley, she said, “Love those muscles.”

Both Harry and Dudley turned bright red, and Tonks cackled with glee at their embarrassment. Uncle Vernon suggested it would be better for her to wait out front. Before long the three had emerged from the locker room and met with Tonks and they all began the few blocks walk to Privet Drive.

“So what’s this boxing all about?” said Tonks. “My dad’s a muggle and I don’t remember him doing it or watching it.”

“Um, well, it’s kind of like a duel,” explained Harry, “except that we try to hit each other with our fists and to avoid being hit. It’s actually turning out to be pretty good training, since I have to watch out for two fists at the same time.” Harry felt the sore spots on his face and added with a grin “At least I think you’ve only got two fists, Dudley.”

Dudley grinned back. Despite how it had ended, he had very much enjoyed being invited to throw punches at his cousin. He was clearly relishing the chance it gave him to burn off his frustration at being saddled with all the chores.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #4  
Old August 24th, 2005, 2:22 pm
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Chapter 4 – Wandless

Harry was surprised and relieved at how well Uncle Vernon and Dudley had taken this exposure to magic. Being given thick hair where it had been undesirably thin is certainly better than meeting a dementor or getting a pig tail, or for that matter having either your sitting room or your sister blown up. Still, Harry understood how disconcerting it must be for his muggle relatives. It helped at least that Tonks looked muggle, though she dressed like she was going to a punk bar and would not normally have been at all welcome at 4 Privet Drive. Harry decided that he should make getting the mirror for Tonks quick, as he didn’t want things to turn back from the rather amicable relationship he and the Dursleys were now developing. When they got to the house, Vernon and Dudley went straight in. Harry asked Tonks to wait while he got the mirror.

“Here it is, Tonks. I gathered up all the pieces from my trunk and put them in this box.”

“You were really upset when you did this, weren’t you, sweety?” Tonks said sympathetically.

“I didn’t open it all term. When I opened it – after Sirius was … - I realized I could have avoided that foul elf Kreacher’s treachery. I could have confirmed Sirius was okay for myself. If only I had opened it sooner,… If only I hadn’t been so headstrong …”

Harry hung his head sadly. Tonks pulled him to her so that his head was on her shoulder. In a few seconds, he put his arms around her and softly cried. Tonks stroked his back to comfort him.

“Don’t beat yourself up. If that’s too much to ask, then not too badly anyway. You got tricked. We aren’t perfect. I’ve been feeling like it’s my fault cousin Sirius was killed too.”

“I had forgotten he was your cousin.”

“Yeah, but I really didn’t much remember him. I was very young when he was sent away. I mostly just got to know him this past year, more as a friend.”

Harry nodded. “Okay. But why would you feel guilty. You were dragged into my mess the same as him. You were fighting alongside him.”

“Harry, I’m an auror: I’m supposed to be a trained fighter. I got hexed when I should have warded it off and kept fighting. Sometimes I just want to jinx myself for being such a klutz!”

Harry pulled his head back to look into her eyes. With a slight smile and shaking his head, he softly said, “Now what good would that do?”

“Same to ya, buddy,” she replied with her own weak smile. “If you had used the mirror earlier, Umbridge would have known and confiscated it. You would have been right back to square one. So hug me again, we’ll both have a good cry together, and then we’ll both get back to stopping those truly responsible.”

Tonks held him for several minutes until Harry pulled away, wiping his eyes and nose on the sleeve of his t-shirt.

“Thanks, Tonks,” he said quietly, “you may be as tough as any other auror, but you’re still very much a woman”

“Thanks, Harry, glad you can tell. It’s harder to cry around ‘the guys,’ isn’t it?”

Harry nodded. “Something about being a boy allows raging but not crying. Anyway, how long will the mirror take?”

“It should take only a few days, maybe a week with all the pieces this one’s in.”

“Good,” said Harry. “Even though I broke it, I really want to keep it. It was shared by Sirius and my father, so it’s a connection to them. I treasure my broomstick – it was a gift from Sirius, too - but this is even better, because he and my father personally used it. I feel connected to them by it, even if I can’t talk to them as they did to each other.” And then he added as an afterthought quietly and sadly, “I know – I tried.”

“Harry, it’ll be back good as new by next Friday evening. I thought I would bring it myself, since I know what to expect of this boxing thing. Oh, and Remus may come with me – he and I have been stepping out a bit,” she said with a grin.

“That’d be great, if he’s got some muggle clothes. Erm, what do wizards and witches do on their dates anyway?” Harry asked, knowing only what he had seen of wizard dating at Hogwarts.

“Well,” Tonks said with a patronizing voice, “there’s the boy and there’s the girl, and …”

“That’s enough – I meant, is it wizard restaurants, or dancing, or going flying, or what?”

“Wait - don’t you want to hear about the wizard’s ‘magic wand’?” said Tonks with a wicked grin. “There’s a surprise ending!”

Harry blushed and smiled. “It’d serve you right for me to see just how far you’d go with that line, but the Dursleys want to get the door locked, so I need to get in.”

“Okay, okay, I knew what you meant. For the old-blood families, dating’s a right depressing ritual, because the marriages are usually pre-arranged and they have nothing to do with compatability as people. The couple is introduced to each other a couple of months before the wedding and they talk and play parlor games at one or another’s house with older kin supervising - and that’s whether they know each other already or not. A lot of bad feelings have been raised by witches or wizards backing out of marriages arranged for them. When my mother eloped – with a muggle, no less: the horror! - instead of going through with the arranged marriage, it created a big stink. She and the rest of us have never been accepted by the Blacks since then – it embarrassed the family. Of course, Sirius and his uncle came around, but the rest acted like we didn’t exist. But if you’re not stuck with that insanity, dating is whatever we think’s fun, just like the muggles. Sometimes we do muggle stuff, sometimes wizard things, there’s no rule – playing games, quidditch matches, troll-baiting, whatever. Or it can just be doing stuff together. Remus just keeps things light, though. He won’t allow himself to get too close emotionally. He’d love to have a wife and family, but there’s the whole werewolf thing.” Tonks sighed, “If not for that, he’d be about the perfect man, so sad and sweet, very dependable – I feel like he balances me out.”

“Still, that is kind of a big issue,” said Harry somberly, to which Tonks nodded. Then Harry added, “And I can definitely understand not wanting to bring danger to those around you that you care about.”

“Harry,” said Tonks sternly, “now you’re talking about yourself. Don’t you dare pull away from us. We’re all very fond of you and your friends. If we didn’t favor a little danger, we wouldn’t be in the Order. And I don’t know what the deal is, but Dumbledore says keeping you safe is Job One for the Order, so you may as well admit you’re stuck with us. Bye now. I’ll see you Friday week.”

As he waved good-bye to her as she walked off to a safe place to apparate from, he suddenly had a vision of her collapsed unconscious on the ground with a broken leg and some sort of large wound in her abdomen and back. It took less than a second. He shook his head and the details faded. He reached for his scar, but it wasn’t burning. He was relieved that she had not been able to see him react. All he needed was more fodder for the ‘crazy Harry Potter’ fire. That night as part of Occlumency practice, he worked on putting that image out of his mind, and after several minutes, he succeeded.

Harry was glad to have no boxing on Thursday – he needed to heal. He got up early to run as far as he could before breakfast, and after that, he went to the rec. center to work out with stretches and weights. The middle of the day was spent on schoolwork and letters, and then in the heat of the afternoon he went back to the rec. center to swim laps for an hour or two. Dudley came with him then and used the weight room – it seems there weren’t as many chores that really needed doing when the Dursleys were putting their own son up to do them. Harry noticed this, but he didn’t care – so long as things were better. In the evening Harry read the papers and followed the telly and wireless news reports.

“A right decent routine,” thought Harry, “given that we have to face an impending war. At least I know I’m doing everything I can to be ready.” When it was finally time to get ready for bed, Harry cleared his mind as well as possible. Nonetheless he often had disquieting dreams of death and destruction of the people and places he loved.

The week that followed was much the same. Harry made quick progress with the exercise routines, realizing that he would continue to get pummeled by Dudley if he didn’t become stronger, faster, and sharper. Each day he boxed with Dudley, he got better and better at avoiding Dudley’s fists, learning to not stare at one fist or the other, but to watch in a semi-focused way that allowed him to see all of what every part of Dudley’s body was doing. In that way, even as he parried one fist, he was no longer taken by surprise when the other one followed from the opposite side. In the meantime he also continued learning all the spells and curses he could. He got a set of drumsticks that looked a lot like his wand. A teenager carrying several drumsticks around, tapping on things like he was in a band, didn’t attract attention the way the same teen carrying a single stick might have. He also could use the drumsticks to practice wandwork without actually doing magic - at least not often.

It even seemed to Harry that his occulomency was going better. Accepting the prophecy for what it was, and seeing that his course was set for the foreseeable future, made him far less emotionally volatile. Like Dumbledore, he did not know if fighting skills were what would allow him to beat Voldemort, but he knew that they were his best bet to keep him alive. This allowed him to be very focused and calm, perhaps too focused, even obsessive. Suppressing emotion at the end of such intense days was not too difficult – he was so exhausted he couldn’t afford to indulge negative emotions. He only had trouble the next Wednesday, after they had boxed. Harry was walking to the locker room with his cousin and uncle and got a vision of them sprawled out dead on the gym floor, similar to the vision of Tonks. It recurred three times for less than a second each time. He did not see himself doing it, or feel any glee or excitement over it – just horror and revulsion. He also noted that his scar was not hurting any more than the usual twinges during these times.

Keeping busy as he was, Harry found that Friday rolled around very quickly. Harry looked forward to seeing Tonks and Professor Lupin. He thought they might show up early, but the whole day passed and it became time to go boxing, so off they went. He and Dudley got changed and were warming up in the ring when Tonks and Lupin showed up followed by Mad-eye Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt and finally Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. They did their best to look muggle, and Harry supposed that if you did not know there were such things as wizards, you would just think they were a bit quirky, as if they were members of a community theatre group.

Mrs. Weasley explained. “Tonks told us about this thing you’re doing. She tried to describe it, but it sounded, well, like such utter foolishness that we felt we needed to see it for ourselves.”

Harry looked beyond her to Mr. Weasley examining the various sparring dummies, lockers, punching bags and other devices. “Well, it looks like that n might not have been the reason for all of you.”

Molly turned and looked and, rolling her eyes, said, “I’m sure once the two of you start your exercise routine, you’ll have his undivided attention. Trust me on that!”

Both Uncle Vernon and Dudley gave Harry a look that let him know he needed to explain things beforehand so there would be no misunderstanding.

“Well, okay,” said Harry, “I guess you can watch if you understand a few things. First I asked them to do this with me. Second, Tonks’ description was probably pretty accurate. This is not a routine. It involves the two of us trying to hit each other with our fists as hard as we can.” Harry noticed Mrs. Weasley eying Dudley’s massive fists and even more massive shoulders and drawing a deep apprehensive breath. “Also,” Harry continued, “this mostly works out to Dudley throwing punches at me and me trying to dodge or block them. Now understand,” and here he looked Mrs. Weasley directly in the eye and said sternly, “sometimes he does hit me, and he does it hard, and it hurts, and it can stun me for a moment or two, and this is an important part of my training. Don’t - get – upset!”

They all agreed and Harry and the Dursleys took to the ring to begin. Dudley and Harry circled each other warily. Although Harry’s fists were too small to cause much damage to Dudley, they stung effectively and, besides, Dudley had to regard them as if he was fighting a boy his size for the training to be good for him too. Dudley started throwing the occasional jab, which Harry easily avoided. Harry began to counterjab, enough to keep Dudley honest, though Dudley too had improved in the past couple of weeks and become quite nimble in the ring for such a large boy. They had worked up a decent sweat when Uncle Vernon called time for the first round.

“Well, that wasn’t so bad,” said Mrs. Weasley, biting her lower lip.

“Molly,” said Moody, in his gentlest growl, “you’ve seen enough duels to know they were just getting warmed up, taking each other’s measure. Harry didn’t get those cuts and bruises without them mixing it up pretty well. Are you sure you should watch more of this?”

“I have plenty of sons, Alastor: I’ve seen boys hitting each other before,” Mrs. Weasley said.

“Maybe so, but that one is as big as any two of yours put together.”

“I’ll be okay,” she said, patting his arm.

Soon it was time for the next round. Moody was right, as both boys came out throwing combinations almost immediately. Still they were both avoiding the brunt of each other’s punches. Then Harry caught Dudley with a hard punch to the chest and Dudley reflexively countered with an uppercut and a roundhouse, the latter of which caught Harry in the side of his head and knocked him off his feet. The spectators flinched and the Dursleys cowered from them, but Harry jumped up and gestured them back, showing it was okay, all part of the sport. The rest of the round and the next several were vigorous but went smoothly, with Harry only getting caught by a fist a few times, and getting in an equal number himself. Still, Harry noticed, Mrs. Weasley had drawn close to her husband, and he had his arm tightly around her for comfort and calming.

They were in the last round for the night when Harry made a significant error. Dudley had thrown several lefts to Harry’s body which had gotten through, and Harry started to focus too much on that fist. Dudley made to throw one more left, but when Harry moved to his left to avoid it, he found that Dudley’s right fist was coming up and from the side very fast and hard. The punch caught Harry at the jaw line and lifted him up. Harry wheeled and fell. Before he even hit, he immediately sensed that someone was pulling a wand and would use it on Dudley. Without thinking, he shouted “Expelliarmus” and put up the hand that was not slowing his approach to the floor.

Harry lifted himself up, shook his head, and looked at the wand in his left hand. He checked to see that Dudley had not been hexed, and then turned, calling “M- Mrs. Weasley, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Harry: perhaps you should ask Mr. Weasley.” Mr. Weasley was picking himself up from in front of some rolled-up exercise floor mats into which he had been thrown by the spell.

“I’m fine, Harry,” he said, as Mrs. Weasley ran to him. “I guess I’m also a bit protective of you.”

Dudley was very impressed. “That was cool, Harry, how’d ya do that?” His father frowned disapprovingly, still not comfortable with magic being mentioned, even in a room where everyone knew about it.

Tonks agreed with Dudley, though. “Yeah, Harry, how’d you pick that up, doing spells without a wand?”

Lupin looked simply interested, while Moody and Shacklebolt both were very thoughtful about it.

“I don’t really know,” said Harry, “Sometimes when I have some emergency and I don’t have time to think about not having a wand, things happen anyway.”

Lupin nodded, and then said, “Harry, do you think you could come with Tonks and me after you change clothes to talk about this?”

Harry tossed Mr. Weasley’s wand back to him and looked at his Uncle Vernon for his agreement.

Vernon nodded. “It’ll be fine, but don’t keep him too late, right? We don’t want to leave the door unlocked till all hours.”

So it was agreed. Before Harry and Dudley went to shower, Mrs. Weasley gave him a hug and told him that she and the others needed to be getting back to duties, giving no more detail. Harry asked how things were in the ministry, and the Weasleys got a worried look on their faces.

“Well,” said Mr. Weasley, “there’s been no going back on acknowledging Voldemort’s return. Quite the contrary, Fudge is now being very active, particularly in pushing policies to promote what he calls ‘preparedness.’ ”

“That’s good, isn’t it,” said Harry, “We want everyone to be prepared and pull together against Voldemort.”

“Hmm. Well, policies can be said to be for one thing, but have an entirely different effect. Or even a different purpose. That’s all I’ll say about it for now, Harry. We must be going. No hard feelings about that spell – you did the right thing. But I will be interested to hear from Remus what he finds out.”

“Harry, we’re looking into when you can come to the Burrow or … elsewhere. Things are a bit up in the air yet. Dumbledore has us doing some things that the Ministry is not attending to.”

“So there’s no question of the Order disbanding now that the Ministry is involved?” asked Harry.

“Oh, of course, not” said Arthur Weasley, “There are still many things that can be done that are outside the reach of the Ministry. Some things can’t take the glare of politics.”

Harry nodded, having learned how governments can be at once ineffective and bluntly intrusive at the same time.

As all but Tonks and Lupin turned to leave, they all waved to Harry. Mrs. Weasley added “Ron, Ginny and the twins all send their greetings, and hope to get with you. They’ll be owling you a letter soon.” As Harry turned toward the locker room, he glanced back and for just a moment saw Mrs. Weasley sprawled as though badly hurt or dead. He shook his head and saw that it wasn’t so. Nonetheless, the image was disturbing.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #5  
Old August 25th, 2005, 2:32 pm
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Chapter 5 - A Night Out

After showering, Harry met with Lupin in the lobby of the Rec. Center. When they went out front, Lupin called for Tonks who came around from the left side of the building. Harry suspected she had been giving the place a look over for signs of visits by other sorcerers and possible defenses. He accepted that having members of the Order do that for the places he frequented was the way his life had to be, but it still gave him a pang of frustration that he found himself in such a situation.

“Looking for an inconspicuous guard post?” asked Harry.

“Oh, just looking around at the landscaping,” said Tonks.

“Yeah, I believe that like I’d believe Moody saying the same thing.”

“Okay, fine. You’re spending time here, so we’re going to be cautious. Moody looked everything over before he left, and now I’m scouting everything out before we go. Does that make you feel ‘safe,’ smart-aleck?”

“I don’t know any more what it’s like to feel safe,” said Harry snippishly, “but I don’t care for people acting like I have to be kept out of the loop.”

“Alright, Harry,” said Lupin, “but understand that for some things we’ll have to keep information away from you.”

“Fine! Just don’t treat me like a child!” snapped Harry. “I’m stepping up to shoulder my share: give me credit for that!”

Lupin recoiled a bit at Harry’s reaction, and then looked ruefully at him. “Okay, Harry, calm down. A number of us are still very saddened that you’ve never really had the chance at a childhood that you should have and perhaps at times, we want to protect you to allow you that chance. But, okay, you’re facing things like an adult, and working like an adult to meet them – you’ll get whatever can be shared.”

“I’m sorry I was short, there, Professor Lupin,” said Harry, more calmly. “I guess I’m not fully over the frustration of being kept in the dark.”

“Trust me, I understand. I know that there’s a lot more going on around you than I’ve been let in on. With your parents and Sirius gone, I feel like I need to step in to help, but all I know is to accept Dumbledore’s instructions. I’d like to know more, too.”

“Trust me on this,” said Harry, “You don’t want to know it all.”

Lupin looked him in the eye, then put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a squeeze. “Well, it seems that you know something that I don’t. I’ll take your word for it, and I promise you I’ll be there for you in whatever way I can.”

Harry nodded. “Thanks, I think I’ll need it.”

“I’ve called Arabella Figg, Harry. She’ll be expecting us,” said Tonks. “She’s even getting dinner going. Hope you’re hungry.”

Before Harry could reply, Lupin laughed. “He’s a fifteen-year-old boy who exercises more than half the day and you have to ask if he’s hungry? I wouldn’t hold food near him unless I planned on counting my fingers.”

Harry laughed with Lupin and Tonks as Lupin ruffled Harry’s still shower-wet hair. “I reckon I could eat.”

“Well, that’s good,” said Tonks. “We don’t need to make this talk seem like an interrogation. Sitting around the dinner table will make it more relaxed. You understand we have to go over this, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” said Harry, “Anything unusual that happens with me is not just my own business – it concerns all of you.” Then he added sarcastically, “Can I keep it to myself when I respond to a pretty girl?”

They grinned. “We don’t have to hear about that, Harry,” said Lupin, “but you might want to let the girl know you appreciate her.”

Harry looked down and smiled shyly. “Oh, I don’t know if I could do that.”

“Too shy, guy? Don’t worry, the girls won’t bite,” said Tonks, “unless you ask them nicely to.”

Harry looked confused at that. “Well, I guess there’s a bit of shyness to it. I’m still not comfortable with girls. But as things are now, I’m afraid to get involved when there’s so much going on around me.”

At that moment, Harry’s head involuntarily turned as a young woman in shorts and a tank top on a bicycle coasted by going the other direction. She noticed him watching and smiled as she passed. Lupin grabbed Harry’s t-shirt sleeve to keep him moving the direction they were going.

“I think you’ll be able to overcome those fears, Harry. You seem to have a decent appreciation for things other than fighting,” said Lupin.

Soon they found themselves at Mrs. Figg’s house. She greeted them even before they rang the doorbell. They were greeted by the smell of chicken broth warming and bread rising, as well as the ever-present odor of rotten cabbage and many cats. She led them into the kitchen and gave them mugs of tea before resuming cutting the vegetables for the soup.

“Arabella, did you already have bread going when we called?” asked Tonks.

“Oh, no, dear. When you called, I put the flour and other ingredients in the bread maker there. I thought fresh bread would go well with the soup.”

“Bread maker – a muggle thing? How’s it work?” asked Tonks.

“Oh, it’s like a small electric oven with a built in mixer and a timer. I just punch the buttons to tell it to mix, and how long to let the bread rise and then how long to bake. See: there’s the instruction book. The machine makes a ‘ding’ when the bread’s ready. We’ll be having a whole wheat and oat bread with dinner.”

“Yum,” said Lupin, both appreciatively and facetiously.

“This is fascinating,” said Tonks, leafing through the manual. “I’ve tried to master baking with magic and I come up with lumps you could use as bludgers. This is like magic.”

“Except even you could make it work,” snickered Harry.

Tonks opened her mouth in mock offense. “Cheeky monkey! So you do have a sense of humor yet. That’s good. Y’may need it before all is said and done.”

Lupin laughed and then got more serious, “Perhaps we should begin discussing your spell tonight.”

“Tonks didn’t tell me what happened,” said Mrs. Figg. “What was it?”

“Expelliarmus. Harry’s disarming spell stripped Arthur of his wand, while he was trying to use it, brought the wand directly into Harry’s hand, and tossed Arthur ten feet back into a stack of exercise mats.”

“Well, that’s good and strong, but not unusual for a wizard his age who practices.”

Tonks looked sidelong at her. “Harry didn’t use a wand.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Figg woodenly. Then she recovered and said with a wink, “Don’t think anything of it, Harry: I never use a wand either.”

“Ah, that’s reassuring,” said Harry. “Well, we can get on with it. I suppose I’d be more concerned if you didn’t interrogate me. After all, I seem to be right in the center of the maelstrom; I’d better accept it.”

Just then, Mrs. Figg’s cuckoo clock activated and the little bird came out cuckooing the time. Harry watched it as between each cuckoo, the eyes swiveled about. He hadn’t been here since he had known Mad-Eye Moody, but it occurred to him how much the movement of the cuckoo’s eye reminded him of Moody’s magical eye. He wondered if this was a way he had been watched, and what other ways Dumbledore might have of keeping tabs on him.

As they all sat at the kitchen table, Tonks and Lupin prodded Harry’s memory about all the occasions he had performed magic without a wand. Harry had been a bit woolly as to how unusual it was to perform wandless magic, but the reactions of the three of them told him it was quite unique.

They finished just as the soup and bread were ready. Over dinner they had a good long talk about Sirius. It was quite a relief to Harry to be able to talk about Sirius’s death, and more importantly his life, with people who knew him so well. They talked about adventures and missions with the original Order of the Phoenix, about his friends and interests, pranks and things that happened at Hogwarts, what it took to become an Animagus secretly, all sorts of things. Harry learned more about the way Harry’s father and Sirius had been vain, arrogant and boorish. Harry was pleased to learn that both Sirius and his father had matured immensely from the end of fifth year to the end of sixth year at Hogwarts.

“I hope I can mature like that, too,” said Harry. “I’ve been a right donkey, particularly last year. I hate that I hurt my friends and others who care about me.”

“Yes, you were a bit of one, Harry,” laughed Lupin, nudging Harry’s shoulder, “but the people who care understand. Most all of us go through a time when we’re hard to be around, and it’s not as if you didn’t have a lot to deal with. I dare anyone to go through adolescence with the burdens you have and not get peevish for part of the time at least.”

“And now that you see the pointlessness of so much attitude,” said Tonks with a smile, “you’ve taken the biggest step toward becoming a real adult, rather than just taller, older and hairier.” Then she gave Harry’s sparsely-bristled adolescent mustache a brush with her finger, and added, “About due for a shave there soon, aren’t we?”

Harry grinned. “But wasn’t it near the end of sixth year that Sirius tricked Snape into going to the Shrieking Shack when you were the werewolf?”

Remus looked grim and slowly nodded. “Yes, it was. I didn’t say maturity came suddenly and Snape had earned some revenge. It happened late in Spring after Snape had pulled a nasty trick which got us all in a week’s detention and cost enough points that Gryffindor lost the House Cup. And while we had gotten away with plenty of other things which would have cost us dearly, on this we were innocent. Sirius particularly couldn’t let it go – I think because he had been breaking away from his dark relatives like his immediate family and his cousins Bellatrix and Narcissa, and Severus reminded him so much of them, with all his very obvious experimentation with the dark arts. So when the next full moon came, a week before exams, …well, you know the story. It was an awful thing for him to do. You’ve seen the werewolf – would you wish that on anyone?”

Harry took his time to think about that carefully. “No. I think I can honestly say I don’t. I want people like Voldemort and the Death Eaters stopped and put away, and while I won’t be too fussed if they die or get the Dementor’s Kiss, I’ll be satisfied if they are just stopped. Their best punishment would be knowing they had failed.”

“And what about Professor Snape?” asked Lupin.

Harry sighed. “I don’t know what he’s on about. He’s unfair to all Gryffindors, but there’s some special venom for me - and Neville Longbottom. But still, as angry as I was just a month ago, I don’t want him hurt – I just want to not have to look at his greasy self again. Fortunately if I get the grade I expect in my Potions OWL test, I think I may at least see very little of him.”

Lupin laughed. “Excellent, Harry, you’ve come a long way. Three years ago you were ready to throw Sirius to the Dementors for betraying your parents. Hatred and vengefulness can destroy you from within. But I can tell you part of what eats at Snape. Not only did he hate that your father saved his life, but the story got out that James had risked his own neck keeping Snape from a werewolf. Snape was a top student and Slytherin prefect, so even though he was not popular, he had been the obvious choice for Head Boy up until then. But with such heroics, your father – who had not even been a prefect, you know – was vaulted into being the preeminent male student and the overwhelming choice for Head Boy. Think how you’d feel if you were passed over for an honor you thought you’d deserved.” Lupin arched his eyebrow at that last statement.

Harry nodded. “I know – I had a touch of jealousy last year at Ron when I was passed over for prefect. I didn’t begrudge it to Ron, but I felt like I’d proved myself and, well, with Dumbledore not willing to speak to me, I felt like I was being rejected all the way around.”

Tonks nodded. “Yeah, everyone could see it. We were all surprised. How do you feel about it now?”

“I’m glad not to have it, actually. I mean, recognition is nice – well, not the kind the Ministry was giving me this past year – but it’s not as if I haven’t had my share of notoriety. I’ve got to keep my head on what’s important, and as it seems like Voldemort isn’t going to be leaving me alone, I’ve got to prepare for what may come. Being a prefect would just distract me from training.”

“Good” said Tonks with a smile. “We’re all thrilled that you’re getting focused on the skills you may need. But let’s not get too dour. There’s time for enjoying life, too, y’know. Oh, by the way, I’ll be filing a report saying that the Expelliarmus spell was mine, done to protect muggles, so that’s our story and we’re sticking to it, right?”

“Thanks, Tonks,” said Harry, “I imagine I’m still not Fudge’s favorite person.”

Now that dinner and the serious discussions were out of the way, they helped Mrs. Figg with the dishes. She was thrilled to have them cleaned and stacked by magic for a change. They played games and talked about cats and Quidditch and what everyone was up to. Mrs. Figg invited Harry to come any Monday or Tuesday to help her brew potions for the Order – though she was a squib and thus couldn’t do magic, she could follow the most exacting requirements of any recipe.

After a few hours, Tonks and Lupin walked Harry home. They got to talking about changes at the Ministry. Fudge was pushing to have all banking transactions reported to the Ministry, giving as a reason the need to track Death Eater activities.

“Well, that’s a good idea, isn’t it? I mean, it’s one way to get after them, right?”

Lupin explained. “Yeah, it sounds good, doesn’t it, but it’s not as simple as that. We’re all subject to it, and we all would have to explain to the Ministry every time we take out more than just a few galleons. We’d all be forced to reveal any earnings and investment income and any other economic activity. That information can be used by others with access to the information to drive hard bargains or otherwise take advantage of the honest wizards. Also, there are any number of ways that the unscrupulous can evade it, so it only burdens the honest wizards and witches. It also violates the regulations for protecting each wizard’s independence that were created when the Ministry was created – the ministry was formed to protect the magical and muggle worlds from each other, but this looks like another in a number of steps toward making us all subjects of the Ministry, rather than sovereign citizens of a magical republic.”

“I think I see.”

“Harry,” added Tonks, “people aren’t just controlled by particular laws which tell them what to do. People, even sorcerers, need money and things to do almost anything, so when someone takes control of your property, that person is taking control over you. It won’t stop with this, you know. We’ll be told of other ‘protections’ that are needed as the Ministry starts telling us when or how we can get our money, or what we can do with it. Pretty soon it’s ‘our’ money in name only, because the Ministry has taken all control. It’s happened with many other magical republics through history, as well as most muggle governments.”

Harry once again wished he had paid more attention in History class, but he had the impression that Professor Binns had never talked about issues such as this; at least, it had never been on the exams.

“And that may not be the worst of it,” added Lupin. “By passing regulations impinging on banking, Fudge is increasing the friction with the goblins. If we are going to have warfare with the Death Eaters, we’ll need all the allies we can get, and Fudge’s banking regulations are pushing the goblins away. They are natural allies of stable wizard society, since most of their income and security derives from wizard commerce and cooperation. But too often the Ministry has treated them poorly, and this law is a good example. After all, most of the burden falls on them through Gringotts, and the accounting and insurance industries, and they are not even allowed a voice on the Wizengamot.”

“Not that Fudge too much minds,” said Tonks, “He’s always had harsh words for the goblins and any non-human magical beings - just hates ‘em. Won’t have any dealings with part-humans either. It’s no surprise that he placed Delores Umbridge at Hogwarts last year – they’re two peas in a pod when it comes to non-humans.”

Harry shuddered at the mention of last year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Umbridge had been the vilest teacher they had ever had, surpassing even Snape, and had imposed actual tortures on him to try to make him deny that Voldemort had returned. She had even threatened to use the unforgivable Cruciatus Curse on him before Hermione had devised a scheme to stop her.

Harry asked, “Is anybody trying to stop these new laws?”

“Well, Dumbledore, Madam Bones and a few other members of the Wizengamot have tried to speak against them” answered Lupin, “but Fudge is very effective at rallying people with a patriotic speech. We suspect he has some dirt on some others who have gone suspiciously silent. Arthur’s been very outspoken, and he and Molly are very concerned he may lose his job. Most people like and respect Arthur, but not the wizards that Fudge has been placing at the top to surround himself with sycophants. Molly tries to calm him, but Arthur is just as passionate about protecting wizards and goblins and other creatures as he is about protecting muggles.”

“Yeah, Arthur can seem kind of silly with his affection for muggle things, but he’s a regular volcano when it comes to any being getting treated badly or unfairly,” added Tonks approvingly. “You saw how he jumped to protect you tonight – after a while, he just couldn’t stand to see that enormous cousin of yours beating up on you, even though you literally asked for it.”

By then they had reached the Dursleys’ home. Tonks handed him the mirror and told him that Dumbledore said he would be available the next evening to talk. Harry thanked them and said goodbye. Since he had showered at the gym, he said goodnight to the Dursleys, brushed his teeth, cleared his mind, and went right to bed.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.

Last edited by Dedalus Diggle; August 27th, 2005 at 3:50 pm.
  #6  
Old August 26th, 2005, 2:31 pm
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Chapter 6 – My Bodyguard

On Saturday after dinner, Harry helped clear the dishes and load them in the dishwasher. The Dursleys figured that would be safe, especially now that Harry’s friends knew he was not being mistreated.

As he finished, he asked, “Aunt Petunia, is that everything?”

“Yes, Harry. That’s fine.”

“Right then. I have to go up to my room to make a call to someone.”

"But there's no phone in your room," observed Uncle Vernon.

"Do you really want to know how I'm going to make it?" asked Harry with a smile. "But don't worry, there's nothing dangerous to it."

Harry bounded up the stairs and prepared himself to speak to Professor Dumbledore. There were some things he wanted to say and he had to compose himself for it. He pulled out the mirror and looked in it. He saw his own image at first and wiped a smudge from dinner off his face. Then he called "Professor Dumbledore" into it; soon his own image faded and Professor Dumbledore's appeared.

"Aah, there you are, Harry. How have you been? Feeling better than the last time we spoke?"

"Fine, Professor. Erm, before we talk about other things, I want to apologize for that," said Harry softly.

Dumbledore smiled. "Quite alright, Harry. My things have a memory of how they go together. Everything here is restored."

"It's not just that. I let my emotions get the better of me. It was ugly of me," said Harry.

"Not to me, it wasn't, Harry. As I see it, your emotions are the better of you. I would have been vastly more worried if you had not shown so much grief and anger – it shows you continue to care, no matter how much that can seem a terrible burden at times. I think the most important thing about you, beyond all your magical talent, and perhaps the source of much of it, is that you care so very much. Though it grieved me to see it, your rage was a comfort to me."

"But sometimes it hurts terribly when someone goes away, when someone dies …"

"When someone you care about won't even look at you?" added Dumbledore with a sad smile, which Harry returned with a nod. "Of course it does. Caring hurts a lot, but would you give it up if you could?"

Harry looked down and shook his head, hiding the tears welling in his eyes. "No, of course not. I can’t imagine living without caring."

"But let's learn to manage and harness those emotions. We can't have you facing Voldemort at less than your best because your skills are clouded by anger, can we?"

Harry smiled. "No, sir, I think I've had a better focus on that this summer."

"Yes, I know," said Dumbledore.

"Tonks and Professor Lupin have already reported?"

"Well, yes, but that's not the only way I know: let's just say a little birdy told me," said Dumbledore.

Harry glanced over at Hedwig who cocked her head at him.

Dumbledore laughed. "No, I said a little birdy; besides it's probably a figure of speech, although you can never be too sure when dealing with wizards, can you? I can see that you’ve been exercising - you're already showing a leaner, tauter face and more muscle in your chest and shoulders. I know about your training schedule and the only concern I have is that you might overdo it. Don't wear yourself out so much that you lose strength.”

"I won't, Professor," Harry said with a smile, glad to hear the concern. "I’ve worked with a trainer down at the Rec. Center. I told him I want to take up boxing and Ironman competitions; he helped me design my exercises and got me on a diet plan. I'm also better rested than ever, what with clearing my mind each night before bed and being so tired when I lie down. I haven't been feeling much of Voldemort's thoughts, just distant twinges and rumblings.”

“Excellent summary. Is that all?”

“I think I’d better tell you that I've had quick visions of my family, Tonks, and Mrs. Weasley injured or dead. They are quite graphic and disturbing, but I don't think they come from Voldemort, because my scar hasn’t been hurting."

"Good, Harry," nodded Professor Dumbledore. "Excellent use of your resources. I want you to tell me of all your visions like that, also how they make you feel."

"Well, actually, it made me feel like staying away from them, even though I love Mrs. Weasley and Tonks and I’m growing fond of my kin. I had the feeling that being around me is too dangerous for anyone I care about," admitted Harry.

"It's a natural feeling, Harry," Dumbledore said sadly. "You are dangerous to be around, but you've got to go on with your life. You are stronger being with those you care about than you are in isolating yourself. Molly particularly knows that there is danger around you and danger in being in the Order."

"Okay, but I'm still afraid to care too much. So many people that I care about have been hurt or killed.”

“I wish I could tell you that things will soon change. I am afraid there is to be much more darkness before there can be light.”

Harry nodded and then asked, “So has anything been happening with Voldemort?"

"He hasn't been reported and there haven't been any Dark Marks over people's houses. My best guess right now is that he is recruiting more supporters quietly. So far the Death Eaters who were captured have been secure, now that we have aurors guarding Azkaban. As an added precaution, the Ministry decided to use the Time Room at the Department of Mysteries to make them all extremely old and feeble until they are called for trial. I also suspect there are other things he's concerned with right now rather than trying to face you immediately. I think the power you demonstrated when you ejected him from possession of you has hurt and scared him. He has probably become more cautious, so I anticipate he would be seeking some additional source of power that he thinks will give him the upper hand over us."

"Do you know what that might be?" asked Harry.

"No, not yet. There are several candidates which he has long shown an interest in. We are looking for all the odd developments everywhere we can, looking for a pattern. The fact that you have had no problem with your scar is an important clue. It suggests that he may be overseas, but who knows where?"

"What about the Ministry? Is it taking any steps against Voldemort, besides holding the Death Eaters?"

"I wish I had good news there. Fudge is pushing his 'security program,’ but that looks like it is aimed at concentrating his authority more than anything," said Dumbledore with a sigh.

"So I've heard. Anything besides the financial things Professor Lupin and Tonks told me about?"

"Well, he's been trying to load the Wizengamot with his supporters first. He's got several measures he'd like to put through once he gets rid of independent voices. The speeches and interviews he's been giving have made the goblins even more dissatisfied with the Ministry. We have several people who work with the goblins who have been doing their best to calm them – Bill Weasley works for them, Fred and George do a lot of business with them, and Kingsley Shacklebolt has long cultivated relations with the goblins. Alas, they can't be very convincing with so little to work with."

"That's bad - we don't need another goblin rebellion while trying to deal with Voldemort," said Harry.

"Aah, my suggestion to Professor Binns as to a summer project is bearing fruit. I want all of you students - and the parents as well - to understand the lessons of the rebellions well. We are in need of unity, and I'm afraid that Fudge's way will achieve the opposite. At least I was able to get one concession out of Fudge - school-age students will be allowed to practice defensive magic so long as they are supervised by a competent adult sorcerer and are not in the presence of muggles. That leads me to something else I'd like to discuss with you as well."

“Oh? Moving out of here?”

“I’m working on something along those lines. There’s another matter that needs discussing first.”

"Yes," said Harry apprehensively.

"I think the Defense Association should be continued."

Harry sighed with relief. "You mean Dumbledore's Army?"

"As proud and tickled as I am with that name, I think we shall stick with Defense Association," said Dumbledore with a laugh.

"Then you have a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor who will lead that?" asked Harry.

"Well, no, we don't have a new teacher yet, but I have my eye on someone who may become available. I was thinking the Defense Association should be a student-run organization," said Dumbledore.

Harry's heart sank. "You're not, … you don't mean, you don't want me to …"

"Yes, Harry, you did a marvelous job last year. All your students developed remarkably. Now that Voldemort's return has been acknowledged and you have been publicly 'rehabilitated,' even more students will want to learn how to defend themselves.”

"But ... But that was just a private thing, just a couple dozen students…," pled Harry.

"And this will be private as well, like the Charms Club or SPEW," teased Dumbledore, "and who knows, very few students may want to spend a couple evenings a week learning defense techniques."

"Do you really think so?"

Professor Dumbledore tilted his head to look somberly over his spectacles. "No, Harry. I expect a minimum of 400 students, perhaps twice that number. It's a lot of work, I realize. But you already have a year under your belt teaching schoolmates and I expect that last year's members will be willing to assist you, so you can show the whole group something useful, and then break into smaller groups to practice. You'll have fewer classes now that you have completed your OWLs."

"But won't the rest of the students say I have a big head - I've been running from that for years."

"And you dealt with that last year, didn't you? Besides, you don't have to call yourself an expert. The Daily Prophet has already put out the word about many of the times you have survived great dangers," said Dumbledore, "- we don't have to tell them all of your adventures yet, do we? - so all you need to offer is to teach the things that you have used and are learning to use to keep yourself alive."

"Won't the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher feel insulted, like I'm on his or her turf?"

Dumbledore laughed. "Not the person I expect to come available. And if I have to go with someone else, I will explain the matter to him or her and take full responsibility for pressing you into service. So, will you do it?"

"You already know the answer - if you ask me, I'll do it. I'm awfully glad that we're talking again. Will the DA be open to, erm, EVERYone?" said Harry.

"Which of your schoolmates would you want to be unable to defend themselves? Perhaps I shouldn't ask that. But in fact the skills needed to defend are not the same as those needed to harm. You are concerned about the relatives of Death Eaters and others who may not be fond of you?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, of course."

Dumbledore smiled. "When Sirius was in his first years of school, he would have been among those who resented someone like you. Some will stay away because of resentment. Some will come as spies - so be it. But some will come out of curiosity or because they honestly want to be on our side. We truly need to reach across all divides and find common cause."

"The Sorting-Hat's song," said Harry sagely.

"Aah, you listened, did you?" said Dumbledore with a wink. "I'll tell it - it works so hard coming up with an appropriate message."

"Well, I have misgivings, but I’ll do it. That's settled then – should I go ahead and owl messages to all last year's members asking their assistance?"

"An excellent step, Harry. The sooner the better I say, so you don't get cold feet," said Dumbledore. "Oh, there's one more thing I need to tell you. I have had a bit of concern that we may need additional protection for you, so I'm sending someone to be a bodyguard, but he can also be a helper and companion, as you choose."

"I don't know if the Dursleys will put up with another wizard in the house - they're just now accepting me."

"Well, it's not a wizard, and you can explain it to your relatives however you like. He does know that he is to remain out of sight when around anyone whom he has not been introduced to by you or when outdoors. He's looking forward to working with you, Harry, and he should be arriving any second now. Is there anything else on your mind?"

"The Prophecy," answered Harry, "Must it be a choice of murderer or victim?"

"There might be another way - I hope you recall that the Prophecy referred to one with the power to 'vanquish' the Dark Lord. This may not require killing."

"I have been thinking there must be more to it," said Harry, "since if I were to just kill him, then he would return to what he was 14 months ago, wouldn't he?"

"Perhaps. He has many deep magical protections against death," answered Dumbledore.

"You could have killed him last month, but chose not to, didn't you?" asked Harry.

"You're thinking, Harry," said Dumbledore with a smile. "Very good. Yes, I could have put an end to the body he occupies now, but I couldn't end the existence of Lord Voldemort. That is a puzzle the two of us must unlock."

"And you believe there are vulnerabilities in the way his current body was made that makes it better to leave him attached to it," said Harry, more as a conclusion than as a question.

"Exactly. He thought he would access your strengths in using your blood. But I believe that what are strengths for you could well be fatal flaws for him.”

“But it also said ‘either must die at the hand of the other’ – doesn’t that require a death: kill or be killed?”

Dumbledore face went slack and he looked careworn with age. “I can hope for a different way somehow, but I can only advise you to plan on just that. I hate to end this on such a negative note, but I need to go now. Please keep in touch about everything on your mind."

With that Dumbledore faded away and Harry's face returned to the mirror. Harry looked at his furrowed brow. He still was not comfortable with the idea of setting out to kill someone, even someone like Voldemort. Harry put that line of thought aside and began to wonder what Dumbledore could mean about a bodyguard. He wasn't too keen on the idea of having a bodyguard. Besides, what kind would not be a wizard? A witch? No, Dumbledore said 'he' and Harry could not believe he would send a witch to share Harry's room, as a fulltime bodyguard must surely do. Hagrid? No, he certainly would not be inconspicuous. But then, who …?

Just then Harry heard a crack behind him and then a voice.

"Mr. Harry Potter - I is so pleased to be working for you now, sir."

Harry turned and there was Dobby the house elf, in all his polychromatic glory, literally grinning from ear to ear, dancing with excitement, and holding a suitcase longer than he was tall.

"Dobby! What are you doing here!?" exclaimed Harry happily.

"Oh, no," said Dobby worriedly, "Harry Potter is supposed to know Dobby is coming. Was Harry Potter not told that he would have a bodyguard?"

"Well, yes, but I wasn't told who it would be. You don't mean ...?"

"Yes sir!" said Dobby proudly, placing a hand on his tiny chest as to take a pledge: "House-elf Dobby - bodyguard to the great Harry Potter, destroyer of the Dark Lord, friend to magical beings everywhere."

“Can we just stick with ‘Harry’ – the rest of that is a bit much. Erm! I don't mean to insult you or anything, Dobby," said Harry hesitantly, "but you're kind of small: are you going to be able to protect me?"

Dobby wagged his finger in front of his face. "Dobby is small, but powerful. Appearances is deceiving; Headmaster Dumbledore, the great man, has said so many times. Dobby is sly. Dobby sees things. Dobby has protected Harry Potter before, has he not? And Dobby would do ANYTHING to protect Harry Potter - Harry Potter knows this, doesn't he?" said Dobby firmly.

"Yes, Dobby, if there's anyone whose loyalty I could not question, it's you. But understand, we are not in a castle here, so we can't be disruptive. I'm also going to have to introduce you to my muggle relatives. Hm, you can sleep here in my room - but let's see, what would be a good place?" Harry said, looking around.

"Begging Harry Potter's pardon, sir, but Dobby's suitcase makes a wonderful bed for Dobby, if he can just slide it under Harry Potter's bed," offered Dobby.

"That works for me. Well, I had better go down and talk to my Uncle and Aunt. Keep out of sight until I tell you to show yourself, okay?"

Dobby made himself invisible, and Harry rehearsed a few words in his head. This really was going to be pushing his relatives' acceptance of magical things. Harry crept down the stairs and found his aunt and uncle watching telly in the parlor.

"Uncle Vernon? Aunt Petunia?" said Harry quietly. "Erm, there's something I need to discuss with you."

They looked up, a bit apprehensive due to Harry's reluctant tone but not hostile. Uncle Vernon arched an eyebrow, indicating both his concern and that Harry should proceed.

"I've just been told by Professor Dumbledore that the school has assigned a full-time bodyguard for my protection," said Harry tentatively.

"A bodyguard!? Does this mean we're going to have that strange-looking woman parked in a car in front of the house all the time?"

"No, it's someone different - very different - who will stay right with me all the time."

"Potter, when I hear a phrase like 'very different' from … your kind, I get a chill. Before I say yea or nay, I need to know how much disruption this is going to be and when will he, she or it arrive?" said Uncle Vernon uneasily.

"Well, he's here already, Uncle Vernon," said Harry. "I may as well get it over with. Dobby, would you show yourself?"

With a shimmer, Dobby made himself visible. Uncle Vernon jumped over the back of his chair, but Aunt Petunia squealed with delight. "Ooh, a house-elf - Vernon, do you know how clean I could make this place with the help of a house-elf!?"

Uncle Vernon and Harry both stared at her, mouths open; Vernon because his wife knew what this thing was, and Harry because he could not imagine any place being cleaner than his aunt already kept this house.

"But, Harry," said Petunia, "something seems strange about him, you know."

Vernon Dursley glared again at her. "Petunia: we have a three foot tall, flappy-eared, greenish-brown creature with eyes the size of tennis balls in our parlor and you cannot put your finger on what's odd about him? I suppose you're going to say it's that his socks don't match!?"

"Yes, that's it!" Petunia cried, snapping her fingers. "He has clothes on!"

"WHAT! I should hope so," exploded Uncle Vernon, looking at Dobby with a look that was half fear that he would suddenly disrobe and half curiosity as to what a naked house elf might look like. "Potter, I'm trying to be patient, so tell me: what IS a house-elf and what are the chances of it running naked around my house - or worse, the neighborhood?"

Petunia, still excited, told what she knew first. "Well, my sister told me about them - their folk have them as live-in servants to take care of all the cooking, cleaning, and all sorts of chores. They work like beavers and they're ever so loyal!" Petunia was gushing.

"Yeah, they're really quite powerful and usually they are bound to the family they serve," added Harry, "Some people think it's a form of slavery, but most of the elves I have known were very happy to be servants and would be distraught at being free."

Dobby spoke up proudly, "But Dobby is a free elf and pleased to be so. Dobby works for Hogwarts School of …"

"Dobby!!!" Harry interrupted, "We aren't to mention those next words around here. Just say Hogwarts - they know the rest of it."

"Yes, sir, Harry Potter!" agreed Dobby. He then continued. "Dobby works for Hogwarts and gets paid. Dobby wears clothes because Dobby is free. But Dobby never ran around naked, sir. Dobby is no animal. Dobby wore a pillowcase before he was free. Then until yesterday, Dobby was cleaning at Hogwarts, but now he has been assigned to protect Harry Potter until Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts - if Harry Potter's kind family will let him?"

"While you're protecting Harry, can you help with some of the chores around here?" asked Petunia.

"If it helps me be around Harry Potter, Dobby would be very pleased to do what he can. But begging your pardons, Dobby uses his powers to do chores and Dobby has been told Harry Potter's family does not like those powers being used in their home."

Uncle Vernon looked at Dobby and then at Petunia's excited face. He knew he had no choice and would have to strike his best deal. "Tell you what, uh, Dobby, you can use the powers around here so long as no one else sees. If there are outdoor chores, they can be done very late at night when we are sure it's safe. Can you do it that way?"

"Dobby would be very pleased with that arrangement, sir. House elves is accustomed to working without being seen," replied Dobby, "but Dobby is wanting sir to understand that his primary job assigned by Hogwarts is to keep Harry Potter safe."

"Agreed," said Uncle Vernon. He then cocked his head a bit and asked, "Dobby, you seem awfully keen on Harry: why is that?"

"Oh, sir, Harry Potter is a great wi… (Harry wagged his finger) a great friend to house elves. We was treated terrible until the Dark Lord fell. Harry Potter caused the Dark Lord to fall. And even when Dobby was still a slave, Harry Potter treated Dobby with kindness and," Dobby began crying, "like an equal! And Harry Potter set Dobby free."

"Oh, well," put in Harry, "I just sort of tricked his old master into throwing him some clothes - that's how they are set free - in fact, it was one of your old socks, Uncle Vernon, that you had given me for Christmas."

Hearing that, Dobby was ecstatic. He grabbed Vernon’s hand and began kissing it. Vernon cringed like he expected to be bitten. "Sir is the first owner of Dobby's freedom sock!? Oh, what a wonderful and generous man sir is, to give his own socks as a present!"

Harry could barely suppress a belly laugh at his uncle's bewilderment. Uncle Vernon certainly was intending no kindness in giving a worn-out pair of socks and Harry knew that they all knew it, but here he was being praised so effusively for what was meant as an insult.

Uncle Vernon mumbled, "Well, I don't know about that. I guess we could have done better."

Harry was amused to see his uncle made so keenly aware of what shabby gifts they had given.

"Oh," added Dobby, "and Harry Potter has fought evil wizards, slain monsters, and risked his life in other ways to help others. Harry Potter is brave and kind."

"There's a lot we don't know about that's been going on at school, eh, Potter?" said Uncle Vernon with an uneasy smile, obviously unsure if he should believe this over-enthusiastic house-elf. "Well, okay, if he can keep himself secret, he can stay." (Petunia squealed at this) "But where to put him - how about in the cupboard under the stairs?"

"Pardon, sir, but Harry Potter and Dobby have set up a bed under Harry Potter's bed. Dobby can protect Harry Potter better if he stays in the same room."

"Well, alright, then," said Uncle Vernon, "if that will do you, it's fine with us. Dobby, if other house-elves are happy to be slaves, why are you so happy being free?"

"Yes, Dobby," said Harry, "I've long wondered that myself."

"Dobby does not know, sirs. Dobby's masters was Dark, cruel, wi…, people, but there are other house-elves who are happy with masters who are just as dark and cruel," said Dobby. He then added sadly, "Dobby wants freedom, but Dobby also feels lost without a family - like Dobby is not complete without others." Then Dobby perked up. "But this summer Dobby gets to serve Harry Potter and his family and sleep under the bed - Dobby is very happy!"

Harry and Dobby thanked Harry’s aunt and uncle and went upstairs. As they went Dobby grumbled, "'Cupboard under the stairs' indeed - Dobby stayed in such a place when he was with his family. Nasty place - too nasty even for house elves!"

"Dobby," said Harry, "I stayed in the cupboard under the stairs until I got my Hogwarts letter."

"Oh, beg pardon, sir," said Dobby, abashed.

Harry smiled. "It's okay, Dobby, I hated it too."

Feedback? - http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=69535


__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.

Last edited by Dedalus Diggle; August 27th, 2005 at 3:50 pm.
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Old August 27th, 2005, 2:44 pm
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Chapter 7 Second Chances

Back in his room, Harry was very pensive as he thought about what he would write to last year’s members of the DA as he got Dobby situated with his suitcase and what little possessions – mostly clothes, of course – Dobby had brought. Dobby was still in a very excitable mood when Harry was ready to sit down to write, so he decided to find out from Dudley what yard chores needed doing. He led Dobby over to Dudley’s room and knocked on the door. Through the door he heard Dudley call “One minute,” then the sound of the internet connection being shut down and a lot of rustling of papers, followed finally by the shutting of the wardrobe door. Then Dudley opened the door.

“Oh, it’s only you,” he said, with a bit of relief in his voice.

“What’s the matter, Dudley? You’re a bit flushed,” said Harry with a wry smirk.

“Never you mind, Potter. What d’you want?”

“Oh, I have a friend from school who’s been assigned to be a bodyguard and helper this summer.”

“Yeah? So what? Are Mum and Dad okay with it?”

“Yeah. They’ve met him already. I wanted to introduce him. Dudley, this is Dobby; Dobby – Dudley.”

Dobby stepped out from behind Harry and bowed, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Dudley, sir.”

Dudley half-screamed and hid behind the door.

Harry laughed. “He’s not dangerous, Dudley. I thought you’d be interested to know that part of the deal is that he’s going to do a lot of the chores around here.”

That got Dudley’s attention. He peeped around the door. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. He’s what we call a house elf. He just loves to do all sorts of household chores and he’s very good at it. For instance, Dobby, would you make Dudley’s bed, please?”

“Yes, sir, Harry Potter,” said Dobby. He snapped his fingers and the sheets straightened and tucked themselves, the pillow plumped and straightened itself and then the blankets and cover arranged themselves neatly. With one more snap a silver-wrapped chocolate appeared on the pillow.

“Uh, uh, Dobby. He’s on a diet, he can’t have that.”

Dudley lunged for the candy, but with another snap, the chocolate became a daisy.

“I just might eat that anyway,” Dudley grumbled. “So, Harry, Mum and Dad are okay with him doing things …THAT way?”

Harry smiled and nodded, “So long as he isn’t seen. He can even do yard chores under cover of darkness.”

Dudley’s eyes lit up, realizing that he was going to get out of those chores after all. “Dude!!” he exclaimed and reared back to share a high-five with Harry.

Unfortunately, Dobby was not conversant with the custom of the high five, so upon hearing this enormous boy shouting a strange name at Harry and pulling his arm back as if to strike Harry, he reacted. With a wave of Dobby’s hand, Dudley was thrown upward and flattened against the ceiling, like a fly on flypaper. Dudley immediately began screaming, drawing Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia at a run up the stairs.

“What’s happened now, Potter?” bellowed Uncle Vernon.

“Erm, I think Dobby misunderstood Dudley.”

“I was going to high-five Harry, Dad!” said Dudley, still stuck to the ceiling.

“That was not an attack?” asked Dobby timidly.

“No, Dobby, it wasn’t,” said Harry, “it’s a gesture of celebration. He was trying to indicate he was happy to have you around.”

“Harry?” said Uncle Vernon, “Can he let Dudley down? Gently?”

“Oh, sir, yes sir,” said Dobby, waving his hand to slowly lower Dudley and place him on his feet. “Beg pardon, sir, I misunderstood the situation.”

“That’s alright, Dobby,” said Dudley, “nothing to forgive. Pleased to meet you, Dobby.”

“Dudley,” said Uncle Vernon, “you’re taking this remarkably well.”

Dudley shrugged, “Well, I wasn’t hurt, was I? And it’s a small price to pay to get someone else to do the yard.”

Vernon nodded. “Actually I can call that a good life-lesson – being able to put up with something unpleasant in order to get something you want. Right then, Dobby, we’ll let this one go, but could we have a bit more restraint?”

“Yes, sir. Certainly, sir,” said Dobby.

Dudley and Harry showed Dobby the chores outdoors to be done. Harry reinforced the need to not be seen and set him to doing the jobs. Harry returned to his room so he could write in peace. He had to explain the new status of the DA. He wanted to make it clear that this was not HIS club, nor was it his idea to coach it again.

"To all DA members: Headmaster Dumbledore has let me know that he would like the Defense Association, as he plans to keep the name, to continue. He would like it to be a student organization, and he has asked me to continue the role I had this past year. Toward that end, I have begun a training and study program which I will outline below for those of you who would like to start on a similar preparedness program. I hope that this arrangement will be acceptable to all of you, as I am writing to ask your help. As the DA will be open to all students from all houses, and as the Ministry of Magic has acknowledged the return of Voldemort (I hope you will all try to use the name he is known by – fearing his name creates a mystique which itself must be overcome), Professor Dumbledore is anticipating that we will have several hundreds of students desiring to learn practical self-defense. I would like to continue the procedures we had last year, that is, demonstrating new skills then dividing up into smaller groups to practice them. However, due to the numbers involved, I would like to divide the DA into medium sized groups, which I am calling teams for the moment. I would also ask each of you to be a team leader, going about amongst your team members as I did amongst you this past year. That will allow me to circulate among the groups and provide assistance where needed. Some of you may feel a bit intimidated at taking on that role. Let me assure you, I felt that way last year, and it is only magnified at the thought of such responsibilities for half or more of the school. Nonetheless, I have no doubt whatsoever that there are no students better qualified than yourselves to teach the self-defense and teamwork which may well be needed for us to survive the trying times to come. I would appreciate knowing before classes start whether you will be able to participate. Professor Dumbledore assures me that the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher will be agreeable as to this, but given the events of the past year, if you would prefer to wait until we know who that will be, I truly understand. Signed, Your Friend, Harry Potter."

As Harry waited for Dobby to finish taking care of the yard, he thought about how many copies he would need Dobby to make. He counted down the members of the past year’s DA, eliminating those who would not be students this year. Finally Harry remembered Marietta Edgecombe. Where did she fit in? Last year, Marietta had betrayed the DA to Professor Umbridge, Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and High Inquisitor imposed on Hogwarts by the Ministry of Magic when Minister of Magic Fudge was trying to undermine Dumbledore. This betrayal exposed them all to severe punishment or expulsion until Dumbledore took all the responsibility on himself. At first Harry thought to himself that her betrayal was unforgivable, but then he kept turning that word over in his head. ‘Unforgivable?’ How much more so were his own actions unforgivable, making a foolish and headstrong decision to go to the Ministry of Magic to try to rescue Sirius on the basis of visions he was receiving from Voldemort, leading five of his best friends into a trap, which ultimately led to the death of his own godfather in the rescue effort. What exactly had led Marietta to reveal the DA to Umbridge? Harry didn’t know if she had been tortured, drugged, threatened or what. Harry himself knew how ruthless Umbridge could be and not everyone was as resistant to pain and pressure as he had proven himself to be. If he was ever to forgive himself for the errors he had made, maybe he first needed to allow Marietta to redeem herself. Goodness knows he could use every able returning DA member he could get, and she had been very capable. She would be doubly helpful as a second-year healer trainee, as that would include unhexing skills. Harry didn’t even know if she would be willing to participate, given the history involved, but he decided he would give her the chance to make that decision.

When Dobby apparated to Harry’s room, Harry asked him to charm several quills to make copies enough for all. While the copies were being made, Harry explained to Hedwig all the work he had for her. She nodded and preened proudly at the opportunity to undertake such a large and important job. She also seemed pleased that as compared to times past when her master had taken her to this room, she was going to get lots of flying and hunting time. Harry gave her several owl treats and made sure she was properly groomed for efficient flight. He divided the letters by region and tied the first four, including Marietta’s, to Hedwig’s leg and sent her off, instructing her to return in the dark.

If Harry had been concerned that the others would be reluctant, that fear was soon dispelled. By the time Hedwig had returned in the pre-dawn darkness, Harry was getting owls from those who had received the first set. Perhaps it was the open acknowledgement of Voldemort’s return, or perhaps it was Dumbledore’s endorsement, but over the following days everyone replied enthusiastically. Even Cho was gracious, although a bit formal – as was to be expected. Many of the students’ letters also had notes from their parents as well, thanking Harry for everything he had done and was undertaking. As good as it felt to be appreciated, Harry could not help but thinking ‘what choice do I really have?’

The whole process was going to take over a week. He did not want to overload Hedwig, so he was sending out only four or five a night. Of course Hedwig didn’t mind; she seemed to be thrilled with having all the work to do and plenty of flying and hunting time, but still Harry had the whole summer and did not want to wear her out. It was on Tuesday that he received the response he was most concerned about, carried by a rather elegant barred owl. It said simply “Do you really want me? – Marietta.” Harry brought Marietta’s owl in and put her in Hedwig’s cage and gave her a treat and some water, and then added his own note to hers: “Marietta, we need all the good people we can on our team. If you want to be with us, I want to have you. – Harry.”

Realizing that he would be responsible for not just his own but many others’ self-defense skills, Harry thought back to the battle at the Department of Mysteries for any ideas about the way a real battle is fought, rather than just a duel. He realized two primary principles. The Unforgiveables and the other deadliest spells were not particularly useful because they took more time than other simpler disabling spells. And the second had to do with the first – speed counts. You had to overwhelm your opponents defenses while protecting yourself at the same time. There might be ‘special case’ opponents with whom you would take time to play mind games, but the typical case requires speed and more speed. Harry thought about what he was learning boxing with Dudley and realized that Dudley had several combination that he did together because they were difficult to defend against and easy to apply in rapid succession, especially with practice. Harry realized he could apply the same concept with spells. From then on, his dueling practice with the drumsticks in his room focused on combining the speaking and the wand motion in ever faster succession and in effective combinations. He was frustrated that he could not work on aim, but that would have to come later.

Marietta’s reply came on Thursday, added below Harry’s note: “I would love to, and I won’t wait for the hiring of a new teacher to say so – Marietta. P.S. could you say something to Granger about removing the ‘Sneak’ hex; I tried asking her and she said you are in charge.” Harry laughed at that, realizing she may have been wearing her balaclava for several weeks of the summer now. He promised he would, and since Hermione’s letter was to go out on Friday, he added a note to it asking her to remove the hex. He knew Hermione and Marietta did not live too far from each other, so he suggested they make arrangements to meet so that Hermione could remove the hex.

By the end of the week, all the letters had gone out and replies had been received. On Friday morning when Harry got back from his morning run, Harry was greeted in his room by a great horned owl with a thick pocket book wrapped in parchment. He removed the book from the owl’s leg and unwrapped it. The book was titled “A Sorcerers’ Guide to Individual and Group Self-Defense.” The note was signed “Alastor Moody,” but Harry knew him better by his nickname of Mad-Eye. The note read “I thought this would come in handy.” Harry jotted a thank-you on the note, reattached it to the owl’s leg, saw to its needs and sent it back to Professor Moody.

Harry stuck the book in his back pocket and headed down to breakfast with Dobby. Dobby quickly assembled a lovely meal. Harry and the Dursleys watched the morning news on the kitchen telly and when the show had gotten beyond the ‘hard news’ stories Harry was looking for, he decided to take a look through the defense handbook. He pulled it from his pocket and noted that Moody himself had been the editor for the fourth edition. Harry opened the cover.

“CONSTANT VIGILANCE,” bellowed the book.

Harry and the Dursleys all jumped two feet into the air, spilling tea and toast all over themselves and the table. The Dursleys glared at Harry, but quickly realized that he had been as surprised as they were, and was panting heavily from the startle and staring at the book, now lying on the floor, as if it were an angry, snarling weasel. Dobby quickly cleaned them and the table and provided replacement food and tea. Harry gingerly picked up the book and explained that a number of books he dealt with had various such charms or tricks to them. Now that the book was open, he examined the intro and discovered that you had to pat the book like you were burping a baby to keep it from shouting. Harry never afterward forgot to do that, although on occasion he would toss it to others to have a laugh as they received the same shock he first had.

That evening after boxing, while studying Moody’s book, Harry heard a familiar voice calling. He followed the sound to his two-way mirror and greeted Professor Dumbledore.

“Hello Professor, it’s good to see you again.”

“Hello, Harry, training going well?”

In fact it had been. Harry was getting stronger and faster, and his reactions had become so keen, that Dudley hardly ever laid a glove on him now. Nonetheless they both looked forward to their sparring sessions, as it was great training and motivation for them both.

“I am glad your recruitment has gone well.”

“Ah, so you know already?” said Harry with a smile.

“Of course I do,” said Dumbledore with a wink. “And I particularly want to congratulate you on bringing Miss Edgecombe back into the fold.”

“I don’t know as I’m a shepherd with a fold, but I do know that someone I greatly respect believes in giving second chances,” said Harry. “She’s a very capable witch and her help is needed. Last year was such a trying and divided time that although I cannot completely overlook her decision, I can understand it.”

“Good, Harry. None of us can be held to a standard of perfect judgment in all things, eh?” Dumbledore said with a wink.

Harry understood that to be a comment not just on Harry’s own mistakes of the past year, but Dumbledore’s admissions of making mistakes with regard to Harry. It had been a devastating shock to Harry to find Dumbledore as imperfect, but Harry now understood that no one should be placed on such a pedestal – it’s unfair to everyone involved.

“In fact, I’m surprised you didn’t suggest that I include her,” said Harry.

“It’s best that you choose who you are willing to work with, Harry. You had to decide if you were able to forgive.”

“I understand then. Professor Moody also sent me this book,” said Harry holding it up to the mirror, “and it’s helping me plan out what spells to work on and exercises to practice. If we accomplish half of this, the name Dumbledore’s Army may be more accurate than I had thought possible.”

“Excellent, Harry,” replied Dumbledore. “We cannot be certain what will come, but we want to be as prepared as we can be to keep everyone as safe as possible. Harry, there’s another matter I’d like to discuss. In previous summers, you have been anxious to leave your relatives’ house as soon as possible. This summer you have taken to your training so well, as well as planning for the Defense Association, I was hoping I could convince you to stay there, and take weekend visits to your friends’ homes.”

At first Harry was appalled: it was simply a matter of habit for him to look forward to getting away from Privet Drive. Then he realized that it wasn’t so bad this summer. His relatives were treating him like a person. He had all the opportunity he needed to study magic. He was keeping in touch with the wizarding community. He had Dobby to keep him company, and although Dobby was quirky by human standards, he was really very pleasant, congenial and above all ingratiating. If he could spend some weekends with his friends, that would make for a very decent summer indeed, all things considered. Finally he answered, “Okay, Professor.”

Dumbledore laughed. “Anybody else might have thought you hadn’t heard me or were ignoring me, but I could guess from the movement of your eyes all the things you were thinking through. I hope you will allow me to make arrangements so that I can see to your safety and that of your friends.”

“Of course, Professor, how soon can I visit?”

“Would you like to go to The Burrow this coming weekend? I’ve already made the arrangements for the Weasleys to expect you Friday after your workout with your cousin. Also with the change in the underage use of magic laws, you will be able to practice spells there.”

“That would be great. How should I get there - Knight Bus?”

“I suppose you could do that, but why not just let Dobby apparate you there. If you’re holding his hand, he can take you wherever he goes. It’s called side-on apparition. Only a few wizards can do it, but house elves have a particular knack for apparition, especially when it includes people they are serving. Have him tell you about it so you’ll be that much more prepared for Apparation Class this year. Remember, though, you’re not to do it yourself without proper supervision and passing your test.”

“Is it that easy, that I might get the knack just from having it demonstrated by Dobby?” asked Harry.

“I think you will find it rather easy, with the way your powers are growing. I can sense your progress with you maturing and training, so I think you will take to it readily. But try not to refer to any magical skill as ‘easy’ in front of others. There are always those who find something difficult, and it will seem to them like you are ridiculing them when you say something is easy when they cannot do it. Think of Mr. Longbottom, with all the progress he has made, and he still rides a broom like a muggle child with a stick pony.”

Harry nodded. “I know just what you mean, Professor, as much as I care for Hermione, it can be pretty infuriating when she calls a fifty-step, gradual infusion potion ‘simple.’”

Dumbledore agreed. “As brilliant a witch as she is, she sometimes forgets just how far ahead of others she is. And you, my boy, can watch for the same thing when it comes to the things you are good at.”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Any more pains or visions, Harry?”

“The scar has been quiet, but I saw brief visions of Hedwig, my owl, Mrs. Figg and my cousin Dudley lying as if dead,’ answered Harry. “Do you know what that might mean?”

“I think it means you’ve actually become fond of your cousin. These visions seem to be about those you care about who are around you. As long as they don’t correspond with pains in your scar, it is probably just your fear and love speaking, and in that regard, the visions are probably healthy.”

“They are very distressing. It makes me want to just get away from everyone, so that I don’t have to see those things.”

“And yet you have written to make plans for the DA.”

“Yes. I’ll force myself to do what must be done, no matter how disturbing it all is. But if it keeps up, I may be spending most of my free time alone.”

“It’s understandable, but you need your friends as well. As unwelcome as these visions are, remember that they are not prophecies and they are healthy in that they show you care. Make sure you keep telling me of all visions and activity with your scar, right?”

“Of course, Professor.”

They chatted a few more minutes, joking a bit, and then said goodnight. Harry went back to analyzing the defense book as he looked forward to seeing Ron and Ginny and the rest of the Weasleys the next Friday.

Fedback - http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=69535


__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.

Last edited by Dedalus Diggle; August 27th, 2005 at 3:51 pm.
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Old August 29th, 2005, 2:15 pm
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Chapter 7 Back to The Burrow

As soon as Harry got back home from the Rec. Center that Friday night, he checked that his suitcase had everything needed, said goodbye to his relatives, and returned to his room so Dobby could apparate them both to The Burrow. He was a bit apprehensive, since he had never apparated before. Even though the magic would be done by Dobby, whom he knew was fully capable, Harry still wondered how it would feel. So many other forms of magical transportation made him uncomfortable and queasy. Dobby explained that it happened very quickly and that it was a matter of visualizing yourself where you want to be and then telling yourself very strongly to make it happen, or even telling yourself it had already happened. Dobby apologized for not being able to describe it better, but Harry understood that many types of magic require a type of concentration which is hard to put into words. Harry thought of his own recent attempt to use the Crucio curse on Bellatrix LeStrange, which was only weakly effective since he had anger but not the desire to torture.

When Harry said he was ready, Dobby took Harry’s hand and they both concentrated on the living room of The Burrow: suddenly - 'pop' - they were there. Only Harry didn't feel sick from it - he felt wonderful, sort of like when a really good dream woke him up. He could hardly wait to start apparating lessons at Hogwarts.

"Hiya, Harry," beamed Ron.

"Harry - you made it!" piped Ginny.

"Oh, good, Harry, you're here," said Mrs. Weasley, bustling over with a towel in her hands to give him a hug. "My, you're flushed. Dumbledore said you'd be coming right after a workout of some sort. So what were you doing?"

"More boxing, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, just like when you and Mr. Weasley showed up," said Harry cheerily, then turned to Ron and Ginny. "It's sort of like wizard dueling, only the duelers put on big thick gloves and try to hit each other with their fists."

"Doesn't it hurt to get hit like that?" asked Ron.

"Um, well, yeah, that's kind of the idea, but then wizards don't duel with Cheering Charms either," laughed Harry.

"No, no, I suppose we don't. Well, if Dumbledore's for it, it's fine by me."

Then Mrs. Weasley said with a wink, "Later you can take Ron out back and cuff him about."

"I don't think so, Mum. Look at his muscles now," said Ron. "All that working out's paying off, Harry. I'm not about to let you have at me. How about that, Ginny?"

Ginny didn't say anything. She got red in the face, mumbled something about helping with dinner, and ran out to the kitchen. Ron laughed. "Maybe she's not as over Harry as we thought."

"Now, Ron, don't tease her." His mother scolded playfully. "Be fair, Harry's new body'll make many of the girls blush - muscled but not beefy, lean but not skinny anymore. The muggles must be feeding you alright."

"Um, yes, maam" said Harry, feeling warmth in his cheeks at being talked about. "Things have actually been pretty good there, when wizards aren't showing up to hex them. And they've loved having Dobby about."

"Oh, my, I'm sorry, we haven't been introduced," said Mrs. Weasley to Dobby, as she realized she had overlooked him in the excitement of Harry’s arrival. She bent down with her left hand on her knee and extended her right hand to shake his. "You must be Dobby. I'm very pleased to meet you. I hope you'll be comfortable here as our guest. I'm Molly Weasley. I've heard so many interesting things about you, Dobby."

Dobby shakily extended his hand to hers, and when she grasped it, he began bawling uncontrollably. "Oh, -oh -oh -oh! It's too much. First the great Harry Potter treats Dobby like a friend, then his Weezey gives Dobby a jumper (Mrs. Weasley peered scathingly at Ron upon hearing this), and now the great dear witch Harry Potter praises so highly greets Dobby as a guest and asks about HIS comfort. Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo. It's just too much for a lowly house elf." Dobby threw himself on the floor, crying.

Mrs. Weasley looked back and forth from Harry to Ron. Ron explained "He's sort of excitable."

Harry added "He used to be the Malfoy's house elf. They didn't treat him well, so when people are decent to him, he gets all emotional. He'll be okay." Then Harry put his hand on Dobby's shoulder and said, "Dobby, would it help you calm down to help with dinner?"

"Oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, thank you, Harry Potter, sir. Leave it all to Dobby, Madam. No witch or wizard need be in the kitchen when Dobby's in the house. Just tell me when you want it served, Madam, and I'll have it on the table." Dobby gushed, still sniffling.

"Oh, my, this is a pleasant treat. Well, I expect Mr. Weasley in a few minutes. Could it be ready in half an hour?" said Mrs. Weasley.

"Yes, yes, of course, Dobby will have a nice meal ready by then, Maam. Any witch so respected by Harry Potter deserves proper service." Dobby hurried into the kitchen. Almost immediately the door opened again as Dobby chased Ginny out. "No witches will be puttering in the kitchen while Dobby's in the house."

"Hello again," said Harry to Ginny with a grin. "Feeling better? Was everything okay in there?"

"You git," she said, with a smile. "Why didn't you tell us you'd … changed."

"What was I supposed to say? ‘By the way: I’ve been working out, so I’m a bronzed Adonis now. And I’m trying to win Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile award.’ You knew I’d been working out and honestly, I hadn't even noticed much, except I knew I could lift more. Besides, it's not like you've gone around announcing your changes." Harry playfully arched his eyebrows and smirked.

Ginny bit her lower lip as Ron said, "Doesn't mean she hasn't been looking for ways to make people notice."

“Ron!” She hit him in the arm.

He laughed. “You should see her in front of the mirror, Harry, turning this way and that, trying out different stances for display.”

“Ron!!” hissed Ginny threateningly.

Mrs. Weasley intervened. "Well, Harry, Dumbledore wants you to continue as much of your training as you can do around here. There's a muggle Rec. Center in the village. Ron and Ginny will be joining you. A little exercise won't hurt 'em, hmm?"

"Well, if you're sure, I get up at 5 o’clock for a run before breakfast. I was checking out the map, and it looks like if we follow the path we did two years ago to the top of Stoatshead Hill, then down the east side through the village, along the river to the weir, and then head west back here, we should get in a nice run before breakfast."

Both Ginny and Ron's jaws dropped.

"Before breakfast, that must be over 15 miles?"

"5 a.m.! What kind of a mad schedule are you on!?"

"Just training. That’ll leave plenty of time the rest of the day for exercise and magic practice, too. Dumbledore and I have worked out a pretty rigorous routine." Harry pursed his lips, seeing their surprise at how focused he was. "I’m sorry: I don’t mean to put you off. Listen, I can't tell you everything. It'd be dangerous for you to know the whole story. It’s already too dangerous to be a friend of mine. But I've got to be the best fighter and the most powerful wizard I can be. It's not merely a grudge Voldemort has against me, and he'll show up to kill me - maybe sooner, maybe later. I have to be ready."

Ron looked grim. "Well, if Dumbledore says you should be doing it, then I'll be there with you."

"Me, too," said Ginny.

“But I don’t have to like it,” added Ron, with a smile.

Harry grinned. “It gets easier with time.”

"Harry, is the danger why Dobby's with you?" asked Ginny.

"Right - my bodyguard," said Harry. "He'd do about anything to protect me and he can do magic I can't so long as I'm underage. Especially after the dementors attacked last year, Dumbledore doesn't want to take any chances."

"Well, it's alright by me," said Mrs. Weasley. "I could get very used to having a house elf about."

The grandfather clock started to change and they saw the hand for Mr. Weasley move to Home. They heard a pop from the front vestibule, then Mr. Weasley's voice. "Weasleys - I'm home," he called. He clearly was trying to sound peppy, but did not.

"Oh, there you are, Arthur. Our houseguests are here," called Mrs. Weasley.

"Ah, yes, there you are, Harry," said Arthur Weasley, with a smile. "And I hear you brought a friend - how did you like apparating here?"

"Oh, it felt great, sir, like the first time I rode a broom. I'll be very glad to apparate rather than use Floo Powder or a portkey," replied Harry.

"Hmm, that's interesting. Some wizards hate it, and they never seem to get the hang of it. I expect you'll be among the first to pick up the knack this year," said Mr. Weasley. "Now, what's for dinner, I'm starved."

"Well, I'm not sure," said Mrs. Weasley. "Our guest hasn't got the hang of being a guest and insisted on preparing the meal for us."

"Well, I guess I'll meet him soon enough: I wouldn't want to interfere with the preparation of a nice meal. Perhaps you kids could help out by setting the table."

By the time Harry, Ron and Ginny had gotten the plates, silver and napkins out, a procession of dishes came levitating out from the kitchen: a large platter of stuffed pork chops surrounded by thick-cut fried potatoes, a large bowl of glazed carrots, a tureen of fruit compote, a server with broccoli almandine, a basket of fresh dinner rolls, and a large bowl of salad. The dishes arranged themselves on table as Dobby followed behind, squeaking with indignation that the children were setting the table.

"Ahh, so this is our guest. Pleased to meet you, uh, Dobby, is it?" said Mr. Weasley.

"Oh, sir, yes, sir, thank you so much, sir. You are too kind to Dobby. A great master of a wizard home, calling Dobby a guest," prattled Dobby.

"Well, I don't know how it has been wherever else you've been, but in The Burrow, all beings of goodwill are welcome guests. I also doubt the term ‘master’ often fits me here. Ahh, but it seems we are missing a chair here - you must eat with us, Dobby, I have a million questions to ask. We Weasleys have never had house elves about. But, hmm, our chairs wouldn't do so well for you. Wait a second, I'll just pop out a minute," said Mr. Weasley, and that's exactly what he did, apparating out with a pop to the garage and a minute later appearing back holding a high chair and a child-size rocker.

"Dobby, I think these will fit you decently, and probably be a bit more comfortable for you than our larger furniture. The kids clearly don't need these anymore."

"These were things used by … your own children, and you are sharing them with Dobby? Oh, boo-hoo-hoo."

"Now what have I done wrong?"

"Nothing, Dad," said Ron, "Dobby is just not used to decent treatment even yet. He was the Malfoys' until three years ago. (At the mention of the Malfoys, Mr. Weasley's face contorted). He's the elf Harry helped free."

"Well, I can see where a bit of kindness could go a long way. I should be very ashamed if I couldn't treat a fellow being better than would Lucius Malfoy. But let's not spoil a wonderful feast like this with talk of that kind. Let's get this table set and tuck in."

The children and Dobby set the places, and Mr. Weasley insisted on Dobby sitting next to him, so that he could learn about the life of a house elf. Several times he asked questions which brought Dobby close to saying bad things about the Malfoys or revealing their secrets, at which he would variously stab his ears with a fork, slam his hands with the high chair tray, and bat himself with the salad tongs until Harry was able to interrupt his abuse. Mr. Weasley soon learned to avoid certain topics, and remarked at how strong this sense of commitment was, even though Dobby had been free for several years and never liked or respected his old masters.

After dinner, while Dobby was cleaning up, as he insisted on doing, everyone else went out to the porch. Molly Weasley first broached the subject which was on everyone's mind.

"Arthur, you're worried. You're trying to hide it, but we've all noticed it. Let's not have any secrets."

"Ahh, you've always seen through me, Molly. It's one of the many reasons I love you more each and every day.”

“You know it’s the other way around, Arthur – it’s because I love you so much that I take note of things and can know when something’s wrong. So what is it?”

“It's Fudge and these 'unity' policies he's pushing. Now he wants a nighttime curfew and an accounting of all assets by magical beings. He says it's for the war."

Ron spoke first. "A nighttime curfew - what's the point in that?”

"Well, the excuse is that the Death Eaters had always done their killings at night, so that the Dark Mark would be more visible and frightening. So with a curfew on, a wizard out at night could be presumed to be up to no good. Besides being a big imposition when there haven't even been any killings," said Arthur, then correcting himself after thinking of Cedric Diggory’s and Sirius Black's deaths, "- well, none of the 'Dark Mark' executions, anyway - it's almost completely useless since the Death Eaters would typically apparate into a victim's home anyway. Worse, though, it has the goblins in a rage."

Dobby asked, "Beg pardon, sir. Dobby has almost never had to deal with goblins. They detest house elves. Why would they be in a rage about a curfew any more than anyone else?"

Mrs. Weasley explained. "Ah, Dobby, you don't know about goblins and sunlight then, do you? They can't take it. It burns them and weakens them. They lose their powers if they are in strong sunlight. The most they can tolerate being outdoors in the day is to stay in deep shadow or in a forest away from the edges. They wear thick clothes covering almost all of their bodies to protect against it. You'll notice all their businesses and occupations keep them indoors, like banking and accounting or mining - like that. It's also why they have such large eyes, so they can see in the dark caves and buildings they prefer.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, that was in the summer readings and essay we had for homework.”

Ron rolled his eyes, “You’ve done that already, too!?”

“A bit more industry wouldn’t be so bad from you either, Ronald Weasley,” said his mother. “Anyway, Dobby, knowing that about goblins, you’ll understand that a curfew would take away the only time the goblins have to be out and do chores they cannot handle from inside buildings. Arthur, can't goblins be excepted? No one would mistake them for a wizard."

"That was proposed, but Fudge insisted he can't be sure some of them haven't gone over to the other side. So he makes laws to control them, and drives them that way. I've been trying to point out that he's making enemies we don't need to make, but you know he's always been suspicious of goblins, all non-humans in fact."

"Is this going to affect your job?" asked Molly.

"I'm afraid it might. There's nothing definite yet, but Fudge has spoken of purifying the ministry of non-loyal wizards. I don't think I'm the only one he's thinking of. Luckily, Shacklebolt’s always cultivated relations with goblins on the side. But Im sure he must be thinking of me as well, especially after I shot my mouth off about the demand for an asset accounting."

"But, Dad," said Ron, "Why would you worry about that? It couldn't take more than a few minutes to list everything we have?"

Mr. Weasley chuckled. "That's true, Ron, but you shouldn't think of laws just for how they affect you yourself. All beings deserve fair consideration. It would work a hardship and disadvantage on many people. Let's start with your brothers as an example. The twins have been doing very well, and wouldn't want to tell everyone just how much they have - more than I've ever seen, I suspect. Also, if they revealed the stock of ingredients they have on hand, other companies could duplicate their products. I'm also afraid they may be using some ingredients they aren't strictly supposed to possess: I try not to ask too many questions so long as they have tested their products thoroughly. Also people like Harry who have inherited shouldn't have to reveal how much - it's no one's business."

"If it would help get rid of Voldemort I wouldn't mind" offered Harry. Ron winced at the saying of the name.

"Yes, but many would, and besides how would it really help fight him. No, it seems to be something Fudge has trumped up as being for the war, but that would be used by wizards with access to the information to gain advantage over those who don't line Fudge's pockets."

At this Harry thought back to his run-in with Lucius Malfoy after Harry's trial; when Malfoy was going up with Fudge to Fudge's office, Malfoy's pocket was weighed down with gold, at least as he went in.

Mr. Weasley continued. "And it also comes back to the goblins. The plan currently is to begin with a vault-by-vault examination of everything in Gringott's. The goblins have long prided themselves on keeping all the assets and objects in the vaults secure and secret. Sworn enemies could have their property in adjoining vaults and never would either be in danger or have any knowledge of what the other possessed. That's at the very core of the value of Gringott's - to have a place that is completely secure. If the Ministry begins to exert control over Gringott's, it's the beginning of the end for one of the goblins' most important enterprises - and they know it all too well."

Ginny asked, "But aren't there goblins on the Wizengamot to object?"

Mr. Weasley shook his head. "Goblins are considered beings, but the Ministry has never accepted them sufficiently to allow them representation. Truth be told, they never really have sought it, only participating in various ad hoc conferences, but not more regular organizations. I can’t say as we have pushed very hard to include them however. To most wizards, they are just sub-humans without a proper claim to rights. It's no wonder, though, that they've had to resort to rebellion to protect themselves: they have no voice in the magical world's government."

They all sat a few minutes thinking about this. Then Ron changed the subject "Harry, what about the DA - what are we going to be doing this year?"

"Well, I figure those of us who were in it last year will need to go through the same material for all the others, bring them up to where we are. I'm using a book on wizard's self-defense that Moody gave me to streamline plans and be a little better organized. I’ll show it to you when we go upstairs. That will also give us all good practice on all those skills, and we can all stand the practice. I also want to work on more advanced skills - real fighting, like we saw at the Department of Mysteries - with last year's students for an hour after each regular session. I've been learning a lot of different protective spells, and instructions on how to use spells more effectively. In fact I was hoping to get in a little practice here, since I can't use magic at my muggle home."

"That'd be great, Harry," said Ginny. "I'd like to see what you've been learning."

"No time like the present," said Harry, as he, Ron, and Ginny stepped out to the front yard, followed by Arthur and Molly Weasley. They set up 10 pumpkin-sized stones in a row, and Harry then stepped back about 20 feet from them.

"The book said that if you are focused on your spells and can coordinate your wandwork with your pronouncing of the spells, you can get very fast. You don't need to be very loud either. I've been practicing using a drumstick as a fake wand to prevent much magic from happening."

" 'Much' magic!?" asked Mr. Weasley. "Hhave you been doing wandless magic again, Harry?"

"Just a little - I've scorched some things, Dobby got tossed across the room a few times, transfigured a few beetles into brooches.”

"Harry," said Ron, "I didn't know you were doing stuff without your wand!"

"Oh, usually just when I am excited or practicing very intently. It must happen to you too."

"Uh-uh," said both Ginny and Ron.

“Well, maybe some things moving a bit during a fit of pique,” corrected Ginny.

“Yeah,” agreed Ron, “but just a mess really, nothing focused.”

"I may as well tell you two," said Mr. Weasley. "When your mother and I checked up on Harry at the Rec. Center where he and his cousin were practicing together, Harry used Expelliarmus on me without a wand - it took my wand and threw me across the room. Mind you now, I wasn't braced against it, but still, it was very impressive."

"Whoa, Harry, that's awesome!" said Ron. "I have trouble doing it that strong even with a wand!"

"Alright then, Superwizard!" said Ginny sarcastically. "Let's see what a few weeks practice has done for you."

Harry composed himself, and scanned the distance to the rocks, reddened by the setting sun. Suddenly he drew his wand and murmured spells as fast as he could, aiming his wand at each of the stones in turn. It took less than twenty seconds. Three stone were crushed, two were thrown back, one was cracked, one was glowing hot, and three were unscathed, although there was a small fire behind one of them. They ran over and stomped it out.

"Wow, Harry, really cool!" said Ron.

"Yeah, Harry, you hit seven of them," gushed Ginny.

But Harry had a strange hard look in his eye, not angry, but clearly disappointed and determined. "If those were Death Eaters, they wouldn’t be standing still like that and even if they did, there'd still be three of 'em cursing me - I have to do better!"

Ron and Ginny looked at each other, then Ron said, "Well, you've only just started with real spells, mate. Let's all give it a go for awhile here." So they all practiced til the sun went down. Harry coached them on wand movements, combinations, and pronouncing the spells quietly but effectively. Then Mrs. Weasley chased them all off to bed, reminding them that 5 a.m. would come early.


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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #9  
Old August 30th, 2005, 10:27 pm
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Chapter 9 Isolation Among Friends

The next morning Molly Weasley was enjoying a cup of tea before breakfast when she saw Harry running up the path from the river with Dobby riding on his back. Harry was sweating heavily, but not breathing overly hard when he came to the porch.

"Good morning, Madam," chirped Dobby. "Dobby will have breakfast on the table by the time the others arrive." Then he slipped in the front door.

Harry leaned on the railing. "That was a good run. At Little Whinging, everything is flat and I'm always on sidewalks or hard footpaths in the park. The variety here and springy ground was really refreshing. I'll just go in and freshen up. Ron and Ginny will be here in a bit."

"That's nice, dear. I don't imagine they're doing so well. They aren't really used to it."

Harry had already showered, dressed again and checked with Dobby when he heard Ron and Ginny thud onto the porch. He decided to listen a few seconds. He peeped out the window, noticing how nicely the sweat held Ginny’s t-shirt to her body. Then he shook his head – there was no room in his life for such thoughts.

Ron spoke between heaving pants, bent over and holding his side. "Mom, …how long's…he been…back?"

"Oh, maybe twenty minutes - is there a problem?"

Now Ginny spoke, having caught her breath, but still breathing heavily. "We felt like we would die. The first couple of miles or so he tried to hold back, but he was getting frustrated - he wasn't pushing himself enough, he said. So he got Dobby to ride on his back for extra weight, and even that wasn't enough. He beat us to Stoatshead Hill, and went about it a couple times til we could catch up, and then he fairly bounced up the hill. Dobby kept giggling and waving - I felt like throttling the little twirp."

Mrs. Weasley smiled. “Harry or Dobby?”

“Mom!” said Ginny.

Now it was Ron's turn "Harry did pushups at the top - with Dobby still on his back - til we made it up there. He was over a hundred when we finally got there. Then he jumped up and led us down to the town. We finally told him to go on ahead. We saw him pass through town and head to the river, but we just decided to turn back home. He must have run a good three miles further than we did and still got here way before we did. Mom, I know he feels like he's got to prepare for the worst, but this is freaky."

"Well, dear, he and Dumbledore think this is necessary, so we need to encourage him all we can. We can't trade places, but he needs friends and people to love him."

Harry caught himself with a tear and was about to step outside, when he heard a throat being cleared behind him. It was Mr. Weasley.

"Harry, we don't know the whole story. We know something's been up since before you were born. We won't pry, but Molly's right - anything we can do to help you, just let us know."

"Just being the people you have been is the best I could ever ask," said Harry, with more tears forming. "Excuse me."

"Nothing to apologize for, Harry," said Mr. Weasley, putting his arm around Harry's shoulder and conducting him out to the porch.

"So, finally decided to show up, eh?" Harry said to Ron and Ginny, laughing.

"Okay, buddy, you've been hard at it for awhile. We'll catch up," promised Ginny, as Ron glared at her for making that commitment. "We're going to train just like you've been even while you're back with the muggles - except maybe the boxing, I'd probably hurt Ron too much."

"Hey! You may have me on hexing, but I'm at least stronger than my little sister."

The rest laughed and Dobby stepped out and announced breakfast. They ate heartily. The rest of the workouts that day were not so burdensome for Ron and Ginny, as they could swim at their own pace and use only as much weight and as many repetitions in weight-training as they could handle. At dinner, they talked about the day.

"I don't remember the last day I felt so tired, unless it was at the end of OWL testing," said Ron. "Mate, I think I liked you angry and lazy better than focused and obsessed."

"Not I," said Mrs. Weasley. "I'm glad to see him preparing for what challenges may come. I want to see him at this table for years to come."

Harry smiled broadly at that.

Mr. Weasley added, "Hear, hear! Ginny, you're oddly quiet. How was the workout for you?"

Ginny was showing an intense interest in the shepherd pie Dobby had prepared and mumbled that the workouts had been fine.

Ron then spoke up, "This is well and good, Harry, but you can still have some fun, right? You're up for Quidditch, aren't you? Ginny and I have been practicing as Chaser and Keeper. Think you could play some Chaser after dinner?"

"Oh, sure, I guess I have some time for that. It'll be good to fly again. Wish you had a snitch, though; I'd like to practice some Seeking again. It's been almost a year."

After dinner, Ron, Ginny and Harry got their brooms (Dumbledore had gotten Harry's back to him after resuming Headmaster duties) and headed out to the Quidditch pitch in the Weasleys' yard. It wasn't perfect, but fine for practice. It felt great to Harry to be flying again, and he did not even realize that he was putting on maneuvers even before they got started that took everyone else's breath away.

"Harry, what's up?" called Ron. "We didn't even see moves like that at the World Cup."

"I dunno, I'm not trying to push it. I reckon the training is paying off."

"Well, it's even improving Quidditch, so if I wasn't sold on it before, I am now. I know I need every move I can get to be a proper Keeper. You're really looking sharp. Isn't he, Ginny?"

Ginny zoomed across the pitch as if she had not heard.

Harry asked Ron, "Any word on who'll be the new captain?"

"I figured it'd be Katie or you - you two've got the most years on the team," said Ron.

"Maybe Katie. Not me. With the DA, I haven't the time, and besides, I'm a Seeker - I don't often watch precisely what the rest of you do. You'd be a good choice. Nobody studies Quidditch more than you, Ron, and as a Keeper, you're always watching what's happening over the entire pitch."

"You think so? It's always been a dream of mine," said Ron, wistfully, “but I didn’t dare hope for more than a shot at it when Katie’s gone.”

"I can't think of anyone better for it. Besides, Katie's pretty intent on her NEWTs this year. I think you've got a great shot."

They practiced until the sun went down. Then Harry asked them to help him practice his shield spells by trying to hex him. They spent another half hour as first Ron, then Ginny, and then both together tried to get a spell through Harry's defenses. They tried to fire spells as rapidly as they had seen Harry do the night before, and improved considerably, but still Harry avoided or shielded against everything they could throw at him.

When they stopped, Ron said, "Awesome, Harry, you're like a one-man army."

Harry thanked him without enthusiasm. "Yeah, but it was only two of you."

Ron shook his head, not really grasping what had Harry so intense. As he went into the house, he said to his father, "Criminy, Dad! What's it going to take for Harry to be satisfied?"

"I know how you feel, son, but think whom he is expecting to face - how good would you say is good enough?"

"There'll be no rest for him, then, will there?"

"I'm afraid not, son. Not anytime soon."

Arthur looked out at Harry, who had been stopped by Ginny, and shook his head sadly.

Ginny had caught Harry's arm before he could walk in with Ron. "Harry, let's walk a bit."

"Sure," said Harry, "I need to wind down."

After they passed the garage, Ginny said, "Harry, you've really improved, in, erm, lots of ways."

"Thanks, Ginny, so have you."

"Harry, I'm no longer the giddy starstruck pre-teen I once was."

"I know that - you're quite a fighter now."

"Thanks, Harry, but I mean I'm not a little girl - I'm becoming a woman."

Harry smiled shyly. "Erm, well, I've noticed that too."

"Your looks at me in the gym - were they just idle curiosity?" asked Ginny, stopping him and placing her hands on his upper arms.

He tensed. "I can't say I looked at Ron in the same way.”

“No, I understand that – boys look at girls and girls look at boys. But was I merely the only girl around to look at?”

Harry smiled warmly and looked into her gentle brown eyes. He felt like he could look into them forever. Perhaps he could risk getting close. “No, Ginny. In fact, lately I’ve been feeling … uh," Harry stopped dead. He suddenly had a vision of Ginny sprawled dead on the floor, her flesh desiccated like a long-frozen corpse, limbs contorted macabrely. He broke away from her and covered his eyes in horror. "No, …No."

“What is it, Harry?”

“I’m seeing you dead. I see everyone I care about dead. Everyone around me is being destroyed. I can’t take it!”

Harry held his eyes closed for several seconds and then looked back at her. She was gazing with intense concern for him. She was so enticing to look at. Then the visions took over again. Harry watched in horror as slash after slash appeared on her until he saw her collapsing in death. He screamed and then reached out to touch her shoulder to confirm that it was just a vision and not reality. He squeezed his eyes shut, turned, and ran back to the house and straight up the several flights of stairs into Ron's room.

Ginny stared sadly and then came back to the house. She told her parents what had happened. Her parents nodded.

"Dumbledore warned us of this," said her father sadly. "Harry knows what danger there is around him, and that for whatever reason he draws it to him. He’s seen so many people killed and hurt, and he dreads having someone else he cares about hurt. Dumbledore said that this summer, when he lets himself feel like he really cares for someone, he sees them hurt or dead or dying. And he relives the pain of losing those close to him. Harry told Dumbledore he doesn't know if it's the fear of the danger that he attracts or the devastation that would follow if he isn't up to his challenges."

"Oh, Harry," said Ginny softly. "So, Mom, Dad, the best thing I can do for him is to pull away?"

"No, he needs his friends desperately," said Molly, "but he may not be able to handle any stronger … attachments."

"But I, …I .."

"We know, Ginny, we're your parents, we know," said Arthur. "It's no longer just a crush. You've spent time with him, and now you know him as more than just the Boy Who Lived. And he is quite an impressive young man. But I'm afraid you'll just have to keep it to yourself, because he won't be able to let himself get that kind of close to anyone. Not til ..."

"Arthur, don't mention it," said Molly sadly, putting an arm around his waist and laying her head on his chest. "It frightens me too much at what that boy has to face."

Ginny went out to the porch and cried. She didn't notice Dobby sitting out there in the toddler rocker.

He watched her a few minutes and then said softly, "You worry over Harry Potter?"

"Yes," she sniffed. "It's too hard."

"Think of what Harry Potter has faced. He always comes through for those he cares about. He will come through - more for all of us than for himself. Harry Potter will be just fine"

Ginny stared at Dobby in his serene confidence. He believed in Harry in a way she could not fathom. But his words comforted her that Harry would indeed be just fine. But would she? She knew, however, that he was right that there was always danger around him, so she would prepare like nothing else was more important. And she would prod Ron and all Harry's other friends to do so as well. If fate was coming to meet Harry, he wouldn't face it alone.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #10  
Old September 1st, 2005, 3:52 pm
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Chapter 10 Longbottom Manor

As much as Harry loved being at The Burrow, he found it a relief to get away. He hurt with worry over the people he cared about and he couldn’t be with any of the Weasleys for more than five minutes without a death vision.

Back in Little Whinging, he resumed his personal training routine and visited with Mrs. Figg while she was brewing potions. On Wednesday evening, he heard Dumbledore’s voice in the two-way mirror again. Dumbledore asked about his death visions (still happening, more frequently), his scar hurting (only occasional twinges, no strong pains), his Occlumency practice (progress, Harry thought, but not perfect, as his mind still on occasion turned darkly to those who had hurt the people in his life and who, more importantly, still wanted to hurt them) and his training. Dumbledore tried to reassure Harry that he should not shy away from his friends, that all were stronger together than any were separately. Harry’s head understood this, but his heart had misgivings. Then Dumbledore told him he had arranged another weekend with a friend.

“Hermione?” asked Harry brightly. “I’d love to see what her home is like!”

“No, I believe your training would be a bit too frightening for her parents. I’m afraid we might not see her back at Hogwarts if they saw one of her best friends training like a commando,” explained Dumbledore.

Harry looked downward. “Is it fair to them to not tell them the danger she’s in being around me.”

“Aah, well, there’s no going back now – Voldemort knows you love her dearly. She would certainly not be safe trying to return to a muggle life. Besides, we need witches of her caliber and you need her particularly. Besides, do you think that anything would keep her in muggle life after five years at Hogwarts? No, rather than Miss Granger, I was speaking with Mrs. Longbottom and mentioned that I was arranging weekends for you to visit with your friends and she was quite insistent that you visit Neville.”

“Well, I like Neville just fine, it’d be nice to visit him,” said Harry, “but his grandmother is kind of, erm ,,,”

“Intimidating?” laughed Dumbledore. “Yes, she has that affect on me as well. And indeed she is a very powerful witch. Not that either of us has anything to fear from her – she is resolutely against Voldemort and the Dark Arts. Still, she is usually so stern it is hard to imagine her showing the slightest hint of levity, and yet I remember when she was a schoolgirl here, a laughing, giddy schoolgirl – powerful, excellent with spells, a superb duelist – but light-hearted. She had become much more serious even before her son and daughter-in-law were hurt, and all the more so as a result of that. But trust me that her heart is in the right place. I think it will be a good experience for you to see other magical homes.”

So two days later, after boxing on Friday night, Harry again grabbed his trunk and allowed Dobby to take his hand and apparate him away from Privet Drive. Just as they were about to leave, he saw an image of the whole house around him destroyed and the Dursleys dead. He tried to shake it off as Dobby apparated the two of them. This time they appeared in the courtyard of a manor house on the northern English-Welsh border region. It was surrounded by rolling hills, farmland and pastures. They approached the door, well-lit by the early evening sun, and knocked. In a few seconds, the door opened and they were greeted by a house elf. Harry introduced himself and Dobby, and then Neville came bounding down the stairs.

“Hi, Harry, glad you could come. It’ll be great to have company.”

“It’s good to be here, Neville. This is a great place,” said Harry.

“Oh, it’s pretty enough, but kind of cold. There aren’t many other kids nearby, and no other wizarding family. Gilly?” Neville addressed the house elf, “Please tell Gran that Harry Potter and his elf are here.”

“Oh, he’s not ‘mine’ – he’s free and works for Hogwarts, he’s been assigned to keep me out of trouble this summer” said Harry, “I thought you might know him, he cleans the Gryffindor dorm, but well, Neville, this is Dobby, Dobby, this is Neville Longbottom.”.

“It is a great pleasure to meet Neville Longbottom, of whom Harry Potter has spoken with both great affection and great pride,” said Dobby, bowing very low.

“Uh, yeah, pleased to meet you, too.” said Neville, with a quizzical look at Harry, “I’m surprised you brought him, Harry. Gilly and Gumbo can take care of anything you might need, and this house is as safe as any wizard home around.”

“Well, he can apparate me places, and Dumbledore wants me to have the extra protection. Besides, Dobby’s a friend of mine (Dobby beamed at that). I like having him around.”

“Hmm, friends with a house elf, that’s odd” said Neville.

“Is there something wrong with that?” asked Harry.

“Oh. No, not really, I guess. I’ve just never met any others than Gilly and Gumbo. They’ve been with the Longbottoms for ages, before my father was born, at least. I suppose they were my most common playmates growing up, but I never really thought about it. They’re just … part of the family.”

“Yes,” interrupted Mrs. Longbottom, who had just arrived “unlike some old families, we do not differentiate unnecessarily between the house elves and any other part of our family. I am pleased to see you again, Mr. Potter.”

“Please, call me Harry, and it’s a pleasure to see you again, Maam,” Harry replied. “May I ask what you mean by ‘unnecessarily’?”

“Of course,” Mrs. Longbottom replied with a gracious smile. “They are not humans, so we don’t treat them as such. For instance, they like some human foods and not others, and they eat other foods few humans would taste. But they are intelligent and magical beings, so we treat them accordingly. It is in their nature to be a part of a family. Even Gilly and Gumbo’s children were part of our immediate family, until they were old enough to move to other Longbottoms’ households. House elves are lost and very uncomfortable without a family. They find the thought abhorrent. Isn’t that so, Dobby?

Dobby jumped at being addressed, and then said. “Most are, Maam. Dobby is proud to be a free elf.”

“I know, Dobby. Professor Dumbledore has told me all about your situation. You are indeed the only elf I have heard of who desired freedom, and that is obviously most unusual. Normally an elf is devoted absolutely to his family no matter how cruel that elf’s family might be. And yet, did you not desire the comfort of having a family even after you became free?”

“Yes, Maam. Dobby likes freedom, but Dobby loves his Hogwarts family, too.”

“And,” continued Mrs. Longbottom, “unless I am reading things wrong, you have gone quite some way toward adopting Mr. Potter as family.”

“Yes, Maam,” said Dobby quietly. “Harry Potter is a great wizard and a kind one. He set me free and he treats other beings well.”

“You shant be having any argument in this house on that, Dobby. In addition, Harry, house elves express their affection for their families by the work that they do. Of course, that is the reason that a family adopts a house elf initially. Some learn to love and be loyal to their house elves in return, and some don’t know how to do so. They probably cannot so act among themselves, much less toward other species. In the Longbottom house, I can assure you that the relationship is not at all parasitic, but is as symbiotic as any family could be,” said Mrs. Longbottom, reaching to lay a hand tenderly on Gilly’s head, as she smiled in response. “No house elf wants for care or affection here. Now, Neville, will you show Harry up to his room. Harry, you will have the room next to Neville’s. Dobby, would you prefer to stay in Harry’s room or find a separate space to your liking?”

“Oh. Maam, you are so gracious,” said Dobby, “but Dobby can best protect Harry Potter if he shares a room - if Harry Potter wouldn’t mind, sir?

“We’ve been sharing all summer, why would I complain now?”

“As you both prefer,” said Mrs. Longbottom. “We will be dining in one hour. Neville, why don’t you show Harry around the manor after he gets settled?”

Dobby went to the kitchens to help with dinner and spend time with his fellow elves. Neville and Harry brought Harry’s trunk and Dobby’s suitcase up the stairs to a room next to Neville’s that was as big as the Weasleys’ living room, but was nowhere near as inviting. Not that it was unpleasant, just cold and stodgy. Neville started the manor tour with his own room. It was oddly neat for a boy nearly 16 years old.

“Do the elves keep it this neat? It’s neater than your part of the dorm,” asked Harry.

“Well, they do the cleaning, but I don’t make messes. I never really have. I’ve mostly always spent my time in the greenhouses out back and in the fields and forests. I even keep a few plants over here by the window” said Neville, leading Harry over toward a small dresser with plants atop it.

“Oh, there’s the plant you kept all last year in the d – ow!” said Harry, as he stubbed his toe against a drawer.

“Are you okay, Harry? Sorry about that,” said Neville. “I could have sworn that was closed. I’ll get it.”

“I’m right here, I’ll get it,” said Harry. Harry was certain the drawer had been closed when they came in as well. He bent down to shut the drawer and caught a glimpse inside. “That’s odd,” he said, “you’ve got this filled with candy wrappers – no, not just any candy, they’re all gum wrappers.”

Neville got very ill at ease, but nodded. “Yes. Droobles Best Blowing Gum “

“I remember now. Your mother gave you one when we saw you at St. Mungo’s. Your Gran said to toss it, but you slipped it into your pocket. That broke my heart.”

Neville nodded, tearing up a little. “There’s very little sensible contact I get with my parents. Sometimes they look at me like they’re trying to reach into me, but usually they just seem vacant. When I was just seven, I had some gum with me. When I took the wrapper off, my mother picked it up. The next visit she returned the wrapper to me. It said to me that she remembered me, in some little addled way. So I kept it. You probably think that’s stupid.”

Harry was sniffling a bit now, trying to restrain himself. “Not at all. What wouldn’t I give for some remembrance from my parents? And yet, after meeting yours, I’ve at times thought that maybe I was luckier. Mine are over and done with. I always wished I had parents, but I knew they were gone. But you see your parents and yet, they aren’t really there, are they? In a sense, we’re both orphans.”

Harry put a hand on Neville’s shoulder and he nodded his understanding of what Harry was saying. Then Neville gave a small smile, “At least I have my Gran and Uncle Algie and Aunt Enid. I know they love me even though my Gran is, ahh, somewhat difficult, and Uncle Algie is kind of offbeat”

“Well, we don’t need to compete for who got the shorter end of the stick. Let’s make a pact, you and I, not to rest until those responsible have been stopped for good,” said Harry, sticking out his hand. Neville shook it with zest.

“But she continues to give you wrappers?” asked Harry.

“Yeah, I think the staff saw her holding onto the wrappers. I don’t know if they just bring in their own empty wrappers or bring in gum to her. I’ve never seen her chewing it, but she always has a wrapper to give me.”

“That’s really odd. Say, speaking of things from your parents, Neville” said Harry, “since your father’s wand was broken last month, are you going to get a new one?”

“I already have it,” answered Neville, “When Gran was talking to Dumbledore and learned of your training program, she wanted me on it too. So I’m supposed to join with you on all your exercise – as well as I can – and we can do magic practice in the space between the greenhouses – no muggles will see us there. She took me to Ollivander’s right away to get a wand. Here it is,” he added, pulling out a thin box, “Dragon heartstring in Live Oak, 13 and a half inches. Do you want to try it?”

“Not unless I have to in a pinch – that wand chose you, Neville, and it should respond best in your hands.”

Harry held it for a few seconds, flicking it carefully and testing the strength.

“I remember reading about live oak – the British Navy was built out of it before the Americans became independent – it’s very resilient and strong. Why don’t you show me a Levitation or something?”

“Okay, Harry,” Neville smirked. “Expelliarmus!” and Harry’s wand flew out of his pocket and into Neville’s hand and Harry was thrown back onto Neville’s bed.

“Oh, yeah,” said Harry, with a wicked grin. “EXPELLIARMUS!” he shouted and both wands flew out of Neville’s hands to Harry’s, and Neville was thrown across the room against the wall. His grandmother knocked and then opened the door.

“Now, boys, any of the rougher spells you need to practice outdoors,” she said.

“Gran!” said Neville excitedly. “Harry just stripped both wands off me when he wasn’t even holding a wand!”

She nodded. “Yes, I was told that this was a possibility. I wish I had seen that, Harry. But,” she looked down at Neville on the floor, just getting up, “I can see that it was quite effectively performed.”

“Professor Dumbledore has shared a lot with you concerning me, Mrs. Longbottom. May I ask if you are involved in the fight?” asked Harry.

“Of course you may ask, although I could always choose not to respond and, in fact, I will not to tell you all. I have a role in the efforts, but it is in matters that do not involve you, except in the broadest sense of marshalling forces against those who would harm others. For the moment my role is to be the mistress and protector of this house, where you two may visit with each other without fear of Voldemort.”

She said this last part with such utter certainty that Harry knew that this stern witch was entirely capable of securing this place against practically any threat which might present itself. He marveled at the confidence, and understood why Neville had always been so cowed by her – she was a big act to live up to.

“Does it bother you that nothing appears to be happening with the Dark forces?”

“It does indeed, Harry. He is gathering strength, both people and powers. I would expect some sort of a ploy to release those captured last month in your recent skirmish, as well as efforts to gain access to important information and artifacts. Those of us who oppose him will be sharing the little signs we observe. I am certain, though, that we are in a calm before the storm and that when it hits, you will look back longingly on these days of nervous tension. So while we have the chance, let us make the preparations we must to come through the hard times as well as possible.”

After dinner, Harry and Neville practiced spells and discussed the DA. The next morning Neville was up even before Harry to start the morning run. He eventually lagged behind, but kept up longer than Ginny and Ron had. After the run, Harry told him how surprised he was Neville had been able to keep up as well as he did.

“Gee, thanks, Harry,” said Neville, panting through his grin. “I started as soon as we learned Dumbledore had recommended it for you, two weeks ago. I thought I would collapse at first, but I guess I’m coming along. If Dumbledore says it will make us more capable of meeting the Death Eaters, then I’m going to do it!”

“Neville, if I ever thought of slacking off, your attitude is the kick in the pants I need to get going.”

“And don’t think you’re going to get out of it at school – we’re going round the lake every morning before breakfast. I’ve already owled Ron and Hermione, and they and Ginny will join us.”

“It’ll be good having people doing it with me,” said Harry gratefully.

After breakfast, they went to the exercise room Neville’s parents had used when they were healthy young aurors. The equipment was a bit creaky, but it cleaned up with a few spells. In the afternoon they swam in the largest of the nearby farm ponds. When the boys came down to dinner, they each had a large golden envelope by their goblets. They saw the Hogwarts seal on the envelopes and looked at each other, with mixed excitement and dread- “Our OWLS” they said together.

“You first,” said Harry.

Neville nodded weakly and tore the flap of the envelope open. He pulled out the letter, looked over the results and started gasping like a trout out of water.

“Six – I got 6 OWLs,” said Neville, handing the letter to his grandmother.

“My word, Neville,” she exclaimed, almost losing her composure, “you did – Charms, Defense, Potions – of all things, and Outstanding at that -, Transfiguration, Herbology and Beasts. Neville, I am so proud. And I think we owe Professor Potter here quite a debt of gratitude.”

“Not me – Neville did it,” said Harry.

“No, Harry, you are not going to get away with such modesty here,” said Mrs. Longbottom. “Neville had been at Hogwarts four years when I sent him off last year. He was not much of a wizard then, and he only had two new teachers last year – that awful Umbridge woman and you. He certainly did not learn how to perform magic from her, that’s certain. You are the factor that changed. I have even worked with him myself every break and couldn’t make headway getting him to perform any spells properly.”

“She’s right, Harry,” said Neville. “I may have done the spells for the tests, but I only learned how to make any of them work when you coached me. As you showed me what was involved, the theory all made sense, too. It’s like a switch was turned in my mind, unlocking the potential for magic.”

“Well, at least give Hermione credit for Potions,” said Harry “You wouldn’t have gotten through that on my skills.”

Neville laughed. “Yes, Hermione and not having Snape there for the testing.’ Then Neville suddenly looked horrified. “Oh, no, I was looking forward to the two final years without either Potions or Snape.”

Well, Neville,” said his grandmother,” you must keep all your options open. It’s only two more years.”

Neville groaned. “Alright, Gran.” Then he perked up. “Okay, Harry, how about yours?”

Harry tore open his envelope and scanned the letter. His jaw too dropped. “This can’t be, it just can’t!”

He handed the letter to Mrs. Longbottom, “Oh, my stars!”

“What is it, Gran? Is it something bad?” asked Neville.

“It’s unheard of: 8 OWLS and a NEWT – Outstanding at that!”

“What!? Harry, these were only supposed to be the OWL tests” said Neville, now taking the letter his grandmother was handing him and reading “Let’s see, all the same OWLS as me, plus Astronomy and Divination – that’s a surprise – and a NEWT in Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

“There’s got to be some mistake,” said Harry, “I was only a fifth year.”

“No, I’m sure there was no mistake, Harry,” said Mrs. Longbottom, “I see Dumbledore’s tracks all over this. He has a lot of influence with the testing board. Not to get particular results, mind you, Madame Marchbanks would never stand for that, but to get them to test you at NEWT-level during the OWL tests.”

“But, why would he do that? Why didn’t he tell me?” asked Harry incredulously.

“Obviously he wanted you to prove yourself as a stellar Defense student,” replied Mrs. Longbottom, “Any other student with an OWL in Defense might have trouble taking instructions in the Defense Association from another student, even if that other student is the Famous Harry Potter. But now you have proven yourself advanced beyond any similarly situated student – this will give the other students all the more reason to listen to you. I think he also probably wanted to show you the confidence he had in you.”

“As for why he didn’t tell you,” she continued, “you certainly did not need the pressure of knowing you were taking a NEWT-level exam on top of all your OWLs. And if it got out that you were taking the NEWT exam this early and you failed, you would be embarrassed, even though there should have been nothing to be embarrassed about. I would recommend that neither of you make any effort to talk this up. The results will all be posted at the school, and it will be noticed. The effect on the other students will be far more pronounced if others talk about it than if you and your best friends do.”

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Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #11  
Old September 3rd, 2005, 1:12 am
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Chapter 11 Back to the Closed Ward

After dinner, Neville and Harry went out between the greenhouses to practice spells under the watchful eye of Mrs. Longbottom. Harry made sure that Neville was performing them all properly, and then they squared off, with Neville trying to hex Harry and Harry avoiding or blocking them. Neville’s aim and reliability continued to improve. His grandmother watched, both to see how they did and to unjinx either of them if a spell got through or was reflected back at Neville. Neville was surprised to find that he could cast spells even with his fearsome grandmother there. More than once he found himself relieved that she was there to undo a spell. Then Harry showed Neville the Protego blocking spell and cast mild spells like jelly-legs at him so he could practice blocking. After a while, Neville was blocking more than were getting through. Then his grandmother stood up.

“Alright, Mr. Potter,” she said with a glint in her eye, “you can get spells past a youngster – let’s see how you can do against a grizzled old witch.”

“Are you sure, Maam?” asked Harry.

“What, you don’t think I’m good enough? Or are you afraid? If you can’t handle an old lady, how can you face Voldemort!?”

“Alright, then,” said Harry, reluctantly. They squared off and he began to timidly fire curses her way, which she easily blocked. He sped up, and she still deflected them. She laughed at him.

“What are you, a garden gnome? Have you never learned how to fight!? Do you want to win or not!?”

That was enough for Harry – she had asked for it. He started firing spells as fast as he could, first one every 2 second, then every second, finally reaching almost 2 spells a second. Mrs. Longbottom was handling them until he got to his fastest and then a stunner got through. Four more spells flew over her body before Harry could stop himself.

“Gran!” Neville screamed, “Are you alright? Harry, what’d you hit her with?”

“A stunner," said Harry as he performed the countercurse and she revived.

She smiled. “That’s going to hurt for awhile, but it's worth it to push you to perform. Not bad, Mr. Potter. You might become a fighter yet, after all. Now it’s MY turn.”

Having seen how well Mrs. Longbottom could defend, Harry was a bit nervous as he faced off against her. He rehearsed in his mind all his defensive spells and avoidance moves. At a signal from Neville, she began casting spells, just as fast as Harry had ended with. Harry was barely able to keep up, and then she increased her speed even more. He jumped and rolled and blocked and reflected; after five minutes and over 350 spells, she finally got through with an Impedimenta. She smiled and nodded at him as she did the countercharm and helped him up.

“Definitely the makings of a fighter – excellent reflexes,” she said happily. Then she looked him squarely and sternly in the eye “But you let that be the last time anyone gets a spell past you. We weren’t using spells that do any lasting damage. I expect to see you coming back here to visit for years to come, understand?”

Harry nodded, still breathless from the effort and exhilaration.

“There’s something else I want to show you that I think no one else probably has. Neville, lend him your wand.”

Neville pulled out his wand and handed it to Harry, who took it in his left hand, since his own wand was in his right.

“Now try casting a spell with Neville’s wand,” she said.

Harry started to trade hands with the wands, but she stopped him. “No, go ahead and do it left-handed.”

Harry pointed Neville’s wand at a bench and levitated it. It felt very strange, both because he had very rarely ever used other than his own wand and because he was used to letting the power flow through his right arm. He held the bench up for several seconds, and then first one end then the other dropped.

“There’s something else to practice,” said Mrs. Longbottom. “There are lots of good reasons to learn to use both hands. Your right arm could get injured,…”

“Or deboned,” said Neville with a laugh, reminding Harry of the time that happened to him in second year.

“Or it could get caught or you could be in such a tight place that you can’t aim with your right. Also, you can cast spells even faster than you were if you can alternate wands. You can also use the left hand for protective spells or disapparating while using your right for spells you need good aim for. Now give a try with that cistern there – see how fast you can heat it up.”

Harry alternated wands while repeating “Thermo” as fast as he could until he was tongue-tied. Half the spells cast with his left hand missed, but still the water in the cistern was steaming by the end of the twenty seconds he had been casting spells at it. He had hit it with some thirty-odd heater spells in that period.

“Wow,” said Harry, amazed.

“Cracking, Harry!” said Neville.

“Never think that there is only one way to do magic, and prepare for everything. Those who would hurt you don’t play by rules, and will look for any little weakness to exploit. You should consider getting yourself a second wand – you have the skill to use it, and the need as well.”

In the morning during breakfast, Mrs. Longbottom told Harry, “On Sundays, Neville and I visit his parents at St. Mungo’s. You and Dobby are welcome to stay here if you would like or return to your relatives’ house.”

Harry thought about it, remembering seeing Neville’s parents the previous Christmas. “Mrs. Longbottom, I don’t want to intrude, but if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to come with you.”

Neville spoke up. “Harry, you don’t have to, really.”

“I know, Neville. It’s just that I think it’s important I keep in mind what the people I will probably have to face are capable of.”

Mrs. Longbottom smiled benevolently. “Certainly you may. You’re right – a fighter should know what the fight is about. And I’m afraid you have no choice but to fight.”

Harry excused himself and went to the kitchen, where Dobby had taken to having his meals with the other elves. “Dobby, the Longbottoms and I are going to St. Mungo’s to visit Neville’s parents.”

“Does Harry Potter want Dobby to come along as well?”

Harry shrugged. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s up to you. A visitation with very sick people can be pretty grim.”

“You will be with Mrs. Longbottom, Harry Potter?”

“Erm, well, yeah, like I said.”

“Dobby has been told you will be safe when around her, and Dobby is making new friends here with Gilly and Gumbo, so if Harry Potter does not mind, Dobby will stay here.”

Harry nodded. “I think that’s best, Dobby. I just didn’t want you to feel you were neglecting duties. I know how that upsets you.”

“Not neglecting, Harry Potter. Harry Potter will be with Mrs. Longbottom, so he will be safe. Dobby’s duties are attended to.”

Harry returned to the small dining room (the manor house had a very large formal dining room for accommodating feasts for all those of the surrounding estate and guests) where Neville and Mrs. Longbottom were. “Dobby will stay here with your elves,” he said, “I hope it won’t be a problem that I don’t have any more proper clothes than the jeans and shirt I have on.”

“It’s no problem, Harry. I don’t dress up any either,” said Neville.

“How will we get there? Can you apparate us there, Mrs. Longbottom?”

She smiled benignly. “I could, but I have given up on doing that with Neville. It makes him sick.”

“Really, Neville?” said Harry. “When Dobby apparates me, I think it feels great. It’s portkeys and Floo Network that I can’t take. Oh, and you can have the Knight Bus.”

Neville laughed. “No, thanks, on the bus, but I find the Floo and portkeys to be no problem.”

Harry shook his head. “So you aren’t going to take apparation classes this year?”

Neville looked to his grandmother and then with a steely glint in his eye, looked back to Harry. “Gran says it’s real useful for a fighter to be able to apparate, and it’s pretty obvious that it would be. I’ll be there. If I get another chance like we had last month, I aim to be effective.”

“Neville, you were amazing at the Ministry. I’m just sorry I led you guys into that.”

“I guess mistakes were made, but I don’t regret going. What kind of Gryffindor would I be if I didn’t stand by my friends?”

Harry noticed that Mrs. Longbottom was beaming and had an uncharacteristic touch of moistness gathering around her eyes. She cleared her throat huskily. “Yes, well, St. Mungo’s is allowed to issue reusable two-way portkeys to families of the chronically ill, so that they may readily travel between home and hospital. We’ll be using that.”

She led them both over to a drawer in the side table and pulled out a box with a shiny bedpan in it. “I think this is their idea of humor. On the count of three, then, we will each touch the bedpan. We will be arriving at the lobby. One – Two – Three!”

As a contrast to Harry’s visit at Christmas, this visit to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies had people openly greeting him and giving him thumbs-ups and other gestures of approval. At Christmas those whose behavior showed they recognized him acted as if he ought to be a patient rather than a visitor. Harry appreciated the difference, but was a bit annoyed that so many people had put so much credence in the word of the Ministry and the Daily Prophet newspaper. Harry then reminded himself that all any of these people knew about him was what they had heard from others – good or ill, true or not. For a month now he had been getting good press, so he was a hero. Who knows what the future would hold?

Harry was relieved to be under the penumbra of Mrs. Longbottom’s imposing presence. They were able to sweep by those who would interrupt or stop them, and even Gilderoy Lockhart left them alone as they passed through to the rear of the ward. Nonetheless, there seemed to be people hanging about keeping an eye on him. Harry realized it could just be celebrity seekers or Order members he didn’t know, but they could also be spies for Voldemort. He thought he should be careful, but he did not know anything which should not be revealed.

Harry recognized the frail, nearly vacant woman that Neville’s mother had become from his Christmas visit. However he was hardly prepared for meeting Mr. Longbottom, whom he had only seen in photographs taken before Mr. Longbottom had been tortured into insanity. He had been a robust vigorous impressive man, but now he was a shell of a man, as thin as Harry when Harry had first arrived at Hogwarts and seemingly shrunken even in height. Mr. Longbottom was as gaunt as Sirius had been in the year after he had escaped Azkaban Prison.

They tried to discuss things, but the exercise seemed pointless. Mrs. Longbottom talked about events at home and in the wizarding world. She explained about Neville’s OWL results, bragging on Neville profusely, at which Neville beamed, despite his parents’ apparent lack of comprehension. She also introduced Harry and bragged on him, particularly for his work with the DA and helping Neville. Neville’s parents nodded emptily and whistled tunelessly as she talked, and the only point Harry could see to the visit was so that they did not forget the couple confined in this facility. It worked. Harry felt a renewed feeling of revulsion and hatred for Bellatrix Lestrange, and he knew he would have to use all his Occlumency skills to put down these emotions. He had a lingering sense that even this rush of emotion was being felt by Voldemort, and this thought had him immediately working on managing his feelings.

After a bit over an hour, it was time to go. When they stood to leave, Neville’s mother reached over and grabbed Harry’s hand. She looked him in the eye and very briefly Harry felt an intense intelligence there which he had not previously noted. She grasped his hand in a double-handed shake, as someone would do when thanking someone vigorously. But while she was doing this, he felt a wad of waxy paper being pressed into his hand. He remembered how she had given Neville a wrapper from Drooble’s gum at Christmas, and how dismissive Neville’s grandmother had been. But it had nagged at him, since Neville had been saving them in the drawer Harry had seen opened, and Harry noted that it was all the same kind – Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum. He immediately realized that this was intended as a secret gesture, so he palmed the wad of papers and stuffed it into his pocket, while acknowledging her handshake patronizingly. Then she turned to Neville, made a show of pulling out a wrapper, in such a way that Harry felt she was distracting from the possibility that she had given Harry anything, and gave it to him.

“Thanks, Mum,” said Neville, with a tear at the corner of his eye.

“Alright, very good, Alice, dear, we’ll be back in the middle of the week,” said Grandmother Longbottom, and they all left.

Back at Neville’s house, Dobby already had all of Harry’s things packed. Neville and Harry spent a couple of hours practicing their spells before Harry had to return to Privet Drive where he could not do magic. Then they all had a lovely supper. Afterwards, as they tried to say farewells, Harry looked around at the house fondly, but then the image of its destruction and the crushed bodies of its residents, even the elves, intruded on his mind. His face took on a look of horror. He squeezed his eyes shut and put his hands over them, first covering them and then starting to dig his nails into them to try to make the vision stop. Before he could do anything, he felt a surprisingly strong grip on his wrists pulling his hands back.

“Potter! What is it, what are you seeing?” shouted Mrs. Longbottom. Harry told her, through his tears, and she continued. “Yes, Dumbledore warned me. Listen, the danger is not your fault. You aren’t the cause and you aren’t responsible. This is just another of the burdens you’ll have to bear until the matter is over.”

Hearing that, Harry relaxed and, blinking away his tears, he said “Then … you know about the Prophecy?”

”Of course, Harry, both the Potters and the Longbottoms were told once it was determined it could apply to either of you children,.” she answered.

“What prophecy?” asked Neville.

“You haven’t told him?” asked Harry.

“No, and he shouldn’t know all of it – it would put you both in greater danger,” said Mrs. Longbottom.

“But he should know something about it – Neville, 16 years ago there was a prophecy about the birth of a child who could defeat Voldemort. From the wording, it could have been either of us, but in trying to kill me first, he was destroyed, which showed that it was me. Of course, that’s where I got this accursed scar. Part of the rest of it is that neither he nor I can rest until one of us has killed the other.”

Neville silently gasped, and looked sadly at Harry. “So you’re not training because you might have to fight, like the rest of us – you know that you’ll have to. It’s life or death for you?” said Neville quietly. Harry nodded, and Neville put a supportive hand on his shoulder.

“Harry,” said Mrs. Longbottom, “I am already doing all I know of to do to counter Voldemort and his supporters. If there is ever anything that we can do to assist you, it only need be asked. And you are always welcome here at Longbottom Manor.” Neville nodded his agreement.

Harry looked at Neville and said “Well, a fellow can always use a friend, so keep up with that, alright?”

“You’ve got it," replied Neville.

With that, Dobby took Harry by the hand, and after the farewells, he apparated himself and Harry back to Harry’s bedroom at Privet Drive.

Back at his kin’s house Harry took out the wrappers and spread them on the bed. They were all fairly wrinkled, but there was nothing written on them, except of course the name of the gum (no content labeling requirements in the wizard world, noted Harry – that saved the twins a lot of trouble with their products). The only oddity Harry noticed was that they all had little holes in various places around them. An occasional hole would have been no surprise, but it looked like they had all been placed on very slender spindles several times. Harry was surprised to think that the Longbottoms might even have access to needles. Then the thought occurred to him that perhaps these were holes caused by hypodermic syringes – perhaps the Longbottoms’ supply of gum was being injected with a poison to kill them or at least keep them incapacitated! He did not want to raise alarms unnecessarily. He wished Hermione were available, as she seemed to know everything, and particularly with parents who were dentists, in whose office she often helped out during the summers Harry knew, she would know about the sorts of marks syringes would make. He placed the wrappers in an envelope and placed them in his trunk so he could ask her later. Then he cleared his mind of the disturbing images of the day and went to bed.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #12  
Old September 4th, 2005, 4:42 pm
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Chapter 10 Birthday Wishes

Professor Dumbledore arranged for Harry to visit other students’ homes nearly every weekend through the remaining weeks of the summer. In the remainder of July, Harry visited with Jack Sloper, Susan Bones, and then for the last weekend, he went again to the Burrow with the Weasleys. The second trip to The Burrow was specifically arranged so that Harry and Neville together could have their first-ever birthday party.

Before he came for the birthday weekend, Harry was visited by Pig, Ron’s tiny messenger owl, carrying a note. Pig came twittering in through Harry’s bedroom window while Harry was asleep. He bumped Harry’s face several times, like an especially soft shuttlecock being batted against Harry’s cheek and forehead, until Harry realized what was going on and snatched him out of the air like an overgrown moth.

“Hi, Harry,” began Ron’s letter, “No need to write much now, you’ll be here in a few days. Mum wanted me to write to see if there was something special she could make for the day of the party. Mum wants to make it extra special. Ron.”

Harry broke off some pieces of owl treats for Pig and placed him in Hedwig’s cage. This was to Hedwig’s obvious annoyance as Pig snuggled next to her for a nap on the perch. Harry stood a few minutes looking out his window when the perfect notion came to him as he looked into the back yard. He wrote a quick note saying he had something in mind and that whatever The Burrow didn’t have on hand, he would bring. In the morning after his run, Harry spoke to his Uncle Vernon and borrowed a book. He and Dobby took a trip Friday afternoon to the shops to get the other things they needed.

Arriving Friday evening after boxing, Harry was greeted warmly as before. Mr. Weasley was home early. Hermione was also there, having taken the Knight Bus, despite misgivings. She was to stay for the whole weekend. Harry told her and Ron about the gum wrappers. Hermione wanted to see them, but Harry had not brought them. She told him to make sure he brought them when he went back to school.

“So, Harry,” said Mrs. Weasley, “if I’m to make something special tomorrow, I’d like a little advance notice. What did you have in mind?”

“You won’t be preparing anything, Mrs. Weasley. Dobby will take care of the side dishes, but I need to show you, Mr. Weasley, what we brought for the party meal.”

Harry led Mr. Weasley and the rest out to the backyard where Dobby was surrounded by a substantial pile of bricks and cement bags.

“Harry,” said Arthur Weasley apprehensively, “I know the muggles didn’t used to feed you well, but we can’t eat bricks.”

“They’ll be fine once we get the cement mixed,” Harry grinned. “Those aren’t to eat. This is a muggle kit for building a backyard grill. Muggles build a sort of outdoor fireplace and cook outdoors right over a wood or charcoal fire. It gives a very nice taste to the food. Usually it’s meat and potatoes and, well, anything else you can roast. I brought some aluminum foil to wrap things that can be cooked this way, but might dry out too much if not covered. See, I brought this book that the Dursleys use when they cook out.”

“Ooh, Harry,” squealed Hermione, “A cookout would be loads of fun. That’s a wonderful idea.”

“Harry,” said Mr. Weasley excitedly, “do you think I could help assemble this?”

“I already knew you would want to, Mr. Weasley, and I discussed it with Dobby. That’ll be fine, but he’s to do everything with the cement – it’s quite the skilled craft to lay the cement and bricks, and Dobby learned how to do it. I also want to help out – that’s part of the fun. I figured we could all work on it tonight so the cement will set adequately by tomorrow. ”

“You’re sure you’re okay with me being about, Dobby?” asked Mr. Weasley.

“Of course, sir. Harry Potter has already informed me of your interest in muggle things. And we has brought plenty of extra bricks and cement for when sir attempts to help. Harry Potter insisted.”

Everyone, including Mr. Weasley, laughed at that.

“You’ve got him pegged, Harry,” laughed Ginny.

“Guilty as charged,” said Mr. Weasley, smiling. “I’m afraid I’m a bit more enthusiastic than skilled with muggle things. Harry, did you intend for me to help with the cooking tomorrow, too?”

“I was hoping so. I hoped you and Ron and I could do it together. Traditionally it’s the men of the family that do most of the cooking out. It always looked like so much fun for my cousin and uncle when they would cook out.”

“Well, Harry, you were right there watching,” said Hermione. “Why weren’t you with them?”

Harry looked down. “I had to be in my room, pretending I didn’t exist.”

Hermione put her hand on Harry’s shoulder and leaned in close to him and said softly, “I’m sorry, Harry. I don’t live with such things, so I sometimes forget.”

Harry nodded. “It’s okay. I understand.”

After a brief silence, Mr. Weasley clapped an arm around Harry’s and Ron’s shoulders. “Well, of course we’ll all be cooking out tomorrow. I can’t think of anything I’d like better than to cook out the muggle way with two of my favorite boys. This is as much a treat for me as for anyone else.”

Harry smiled sheepishly. “I kind of thought it would be.”

The next day the Weasley twins showed up before breakfast in robes that brought new meaning to the term ‘tasteless,’ but they enjoyed them nonetheless, until they shucked them for muggle clothes. When they heard that Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny had been out for two hours already running and getting in early spells practice, they were aghast.

“Has none of our influence remained?” said George in mock dismay.

“Not that kind, dear,” said his mother, “but we still find the occasional surprise hidden around the house.”

When the others returned from their workout, they greeted Fred and George, expressing surprise to see them up so early.

“Ah, well,” said Fred, “we wanted to give Harry his birthday present early.”

“Uh, oh,” said Hermione.

“Oh, you’re such a doubter. Can’t we simply give a present to one of our best friends?” said George disingenuously.

Harry looked suspiciously at the large heavy package.

“Go ahead and unwrap it – it’s safe,” said George.

Harry did so and found a crate of grapefruit. The brand label said ‘NeverMiss.’

“You see,” said Fred, “Just a simple gift of fruit. We just wanted to have them here early so we could all have some with breakfast.”

“Right then,” said Ginny, “I can’t help but think that something’s up but we’ll play along. At least I’m sure you wouldn’t poison your family.”

Dobby had already laid out a large breakfast and then sliced several of the grapefruit so everyone had a half. They all sat down to eat. Everyone seemed loathe to actually sample the grapefruit.

Finally, Ron said, “Oh, I can’t stand the suspense. I’ll give it a go.”

He took his grapefruit spoon and started to dig out a section.

“Ooh, Ron!” said Hermione, grabbing her napkin, “you squirted me in the eye.”

Then Ginny tried her grapefruit and Mr. Weasley got squirted. Mrs. Weasley dug in and Harry got the squirt. All along the twins looked excited while stifling laughter.

All of a sudden, Hermione exclaimed, “I’ve got it. These are charmed grapefruits that always squirt your breakfast company in the eye! That’s why they’re called NeverMiss.”

“Right in one, Hermione,” said the twins together, aiming dual squirts of grapefruit juice at her.

“New product, boys?” asked their father.

“Right, Dad,” said Fred. “Rather easy charm, too, it only has to last as long as the grapefruit would stay fresh.”

“Yeah,” said George, still giggling at all the squirting going on. “We start selling them next week. We wanted Harry to be the first with the new product.”

“Yeah, right,” said Harry. “You just wanted guinea pigs to try out the products.”

“We’re hurt,” protested Fred. “Well, right, we’ve tried them out amongst ourselves - thought we’d go blind with all that juice - but we wanted to see if they would get confused if there were large numbers of eyes to aim at.”

“Well, it might be fun to slip some of these into the Dursleys’ breakfast.”

“We thought you might enjoy that – a very mild way to get back for past affronts,” said George with a wink.

After breakfast, they all gathered firewood from the ground in the surrounding woods. Since the twins could apparate with things, they took the task of moving the downed dry branches which Ron and Harry would locate to the house. Ginny and Hermione were using spells to cut, or sometimes break up, the branches into suitable pieces. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley levitated the pieces into convenient stacks. They kept gathering until guests began to arrive, since even though they had far more wood than they would need, they could tell from Mr. Weasley’s excitement that this would not be the only occasion the new grill would be used.

Luna, Neville, and most of the rising 6th year Gryffindors and quidditch team members came by Floo Network, except those who came from muggle homes: they had to use the Knight Bus. All who took the bus agreed they simply had to learn to apparate as soon as possible. They had all manner of wizard games to play. Those who were good on a broom organized a quidditch game and Harry and Ron found enough time away from cooking to join. Later Harry noticed Hermione talking quietly to Neville, and while he was certain from the sad faces of both that it was about Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom, he did not know if she asked about the gum wrappers.

As they were sitting around the garden eating lunch, Harry asked Hermione to work on learning countercharms, as he would need someone to help him unjinxing DA members.

She beamed and gloated. “I told you the DA was a great idea.”

“Score one for you, Hermione,” said Harry. “Or rather two, including the interview.”

“Score them for all of us,” said Hermione. “We all need to prepare ourselves. Thanks for asking me to do the countercharms, Harry. It makes me feel grand to be entrusted with such an important task.”

“Who’s better at charms than you, Hermione?” asked Harry sincerely.

She blushed and hugged him. “That’s sweet of you to say. This should help out with healer training as well.”

“Healer training?” said Ron, who overheard her. “I thought we were all training as aurors!?”

“I’m taking the classes I need for both. Well, we only have a few short years to get all the education we can from Hogwarts. This way I keep my options open. Besides, it looks like we’re going to have plenty of fighters, once Harry’s trained them all. But we may well need people who can help out with healing as well. I expect there will be some real injuries before everything is sorted out. And an auror who can heal could be a big asset.”

Ron and Harry had to agree. Of course, OWL results and Prefect badges were a major topic of conversation. Both Ginny and Luna had been made Prefects, although Luna seemed singularly unconcerned. Harry wondered if it were not better to have such a floating attitude, rather than be as intense as he so often felt. Everyone was very impressed with Neville’s 6 OWLs and Harry’s 8. Of course, the NEWT just floored everyone, but Mr. Weasley nodded, stroked his chin, saying, “Wise man, that Dumbledore.”

Ron got 7 OWLs, the same ones as Neville, but with two more Outstandings, plus Astronomy. Hermione got 10, all Outstanding, missing only her OWL for Muggle Studies (as well as Divination, since she had dropped that in third year).

Ron laughed. “Of all things, Hermione – you were raised a muggle, you live with muggles. How can you fail at Muggle Studies?”

“That was the problem, Ron” said Hermione, a bit put out. “I know muggles, so taking a test on what wizards think muggles are like is confusing, because I started answering questions from my own muggle experiences. I remember one question was ‘what do muggles do when their teeth start to go bad?’ The correct answer for the test was ‘they have barbers pull out their teeth and then they carve a set of false teeth from wood’.”

“Do they now?” said Mr. Weasley. “Fascinating.”

“Perhaps, Mr. Weasley, but they haven’t done that in well over 100 years. I answered from what I knew of my parents’ dentistry practice, and of course, the Ministry hadn’t a clue what I was talking about, so I got no points for that question. It’s rather like taking a spelling test in America and getting counted down for spelling labour with a ‘u’ – their perception of how to spell the word isn’t wrong, it describes the way they say it, but it’s not the way we British do.” Then she added with an arched eyebrow at Ron, “At least for those of us who can spell.”

Ron looked at Harry with a ‘what did I do to deserve that?’ look, but Harry just laughed.

Around mid-afternoon, a pair of great horned owls arrived carrying a flat rectangular box. It was marked for Harry, and bore the label of Denton Drabble. Harry recognized the name as one of the preeminent British wizard portraitists. Wizard portraits were a particular skill, since you had to capture not just the exterior aspect of the subject, but an image of the very soul. Harry wondered if someone had had one of him made from a photo. He opened the box and was dumbfounded. Everyone there gasped.

“Well, I thought I would be better received than this. Something must have happened to the original me,” said the image of Sirius Black.

“Y-Yes,” said Harry sadly. “You were killed over a month ago. Voldemort tricked me into a trap at the Department of Ministries, and you came to rescue me and were killed by your cousin Bellatrix.”

“That nasty witch!” said Sirius. “Well, what’s done is done, I guess. I’ll have plenty of time to think about that. That makes me all the more glad I had Drabble come to my house during those long months sitting around with Kreacher to get this portrait done. So how do you like me?”

“Very much, Sirius” said Harry. “I just wish I had the original.”

“That’s as it should be, Harry,” sighed Sirius, “but you know we are in a war, and good people die in wars. Never forget that.”

“How could I?” said Harry sadly.

“Did I at least take Bella out with me?”

“No,” said Harry. “She and Voldemort escaped. But 10 Death Eaters were captured and are still in custody – most of those who escaped from Azkaban last year. Oh, and Fudge and a couple of his men saw Voldemort, so the word is out among the wizarding world that he’s back, and Dumbledore and I are heroes again, rather than nutcases.”

“Well, if I was the only casualty, then it was a fair trade-off,” said Sirius.

Harry gasped, breathed deeply several times, and then yelled, “No! No, it’s not! Losing you was awful!”

“I know, Harry, and I’m glad to know you care that much. I wondered when you didn’t contact me with the mirror. I guessed that you had never unwrapped it. Umbridge probably would have discovered it if you had; after all, there are ways of detecting magical activity. But Harry, you have to understand that we must consider the big picture. Trading one soldier to take out 10 enemy fighters is almost always a successful battle, particularly when the soldier lost was as hampered as I was by my history. I know I didn’t try to die and I am proud to have died valiantly. Grieve, yes, but don’t lose sight of the big picture.”

Harry kept the portrait of Sirius with him through the rest of the day, setting it up at the table during dinner and cake, and setting it up on the porch for the fireworks show the twins put on.

The next day, Mr. Weasley came to the breakfast table with a grim look.

“I didn’t want to spoil the party with unpleasant news, but it’s time to spill the beans. I’ve already told your mother. I’ve been sacked,” he said.

“No,” “How could they?” “Dad!” came the cacophony of voices.

“Well, I shot off my mouth once too often about these anti-rights and anti-goblin policies of Fudge. He purged several of us.”

“How did you get the word, Dad?” asked Bill. “Did Fudge at least tell you himself?”

Arthur scowled and mumbled darkly, “No, not Fudge.”

Molly Weasley spoke up for him, but with no less bitterness than her husband, “Fudge had a new office created – the Wizard for Unified Security Services – to give a position to someone who will do his unpleasant chores: someone who is ambitious enough, loyal enough, insensitive enough to do these things and count it an honor.”

The others looked around at each other, until Ron’s face dawned with the horrid realization. “Not … Percy!?”

“Who else!” said George sharply. “Fred, you and I have an errand to do when we get back to London.”

“NO, BOYS!” said Arthur sharply. “I won’t have any of you repaying ill with ill. Besides, he has a cadre of protectors that you couldn’t get through. And … I still hope that he’ll come around.”

“Dad,” exclaimed Ginny, “after the way he’s treated you, you still would welcome him back?”

“Absolutely, Ginny. Haven’t I always told you that there is nothing that you could do that would make me stop loving you?”

“Yes, Dad,” she said quietly.

“Well, that’s just as true for any of my children. People make mistakes, sometimes great ones, but you are all still my children, and I couldn’t stop loving you if I tried. That’s what it is to be a parent.”

Molly nodded her agreement. Harry had to keep his face low to his porridge so that the others wouldn’t see the moistness around his eyes, as Arthur Weasley’s declaration reminded him of how much his own parents had loved him.

“Mr. Weasley,” said Hermione, “did Percy at least tell you in person?”

Arthur Weasley pursed his lips to keep control and looked aside.

Molly Weasley answered for him, “Yes, Hermione, but … an auror escorted him up to Percy’s office, two doors down from Fudge’s. Percy told him he had been declared redundant, without calling him even ‘Father’ or offering sympathy. Then Percy said ‘You’re dismissed,’ and when Arthur left his office, all of his things had been emptied from his cubicle into a box and left outside Percy’s door.”

All around the table fists were being clenched to the point of knuckles whitening as the scene was described.

Fred spoke up. “You can count on us, Dad, business is good. We’ll take care of tuition and supplies for Ron and Ginny, and anything else you need.”

George nodded agreement.

“Thanks, boys,” said Mr. Weasley with a broad but weak smile, “With my severance, I’ll be able to take care of household needs for quite a while, but covering school was going to put us in a bind.”

Hermione spoke up. “Do you have any prospects? Is there any other kind of work you could do?”

George spoke up before his father could respond. “We’ve been thinking of opening a Hogsmeade store – we were going to wait a while, but we could accelerate the plans and you could manage that.”

Arthur glanced a bit uneasily at his wife and said, “Well, actually, I’ve already been contacted about another position. I’m considering it. It might be temporary, but it would allow me to look for something else.”

“What is it, Dad?” asked Bill.

Arthur smiled. “Ahh, I’m not at liberty to say at the moment. If it works out, we’ll certainly let you all know.”

In August Harry had weekend visits with Luna Lovegood, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Andrew Goldstein, and Katie Bell. As Harry continued to work and visit other students through the summer, he found that all the DA members who had taken OWLs or NEWTs passed their Defense and Charms tests, usually with Outstanding ratings, which was at times quite some surprise. All had heard of Harry’s early NEWT test and were happy both for him and for the authority it would impart to him to help everyone learn to defend themselves. They all had begun the sort of training program Harry had, though none as intensely as he had. To his utter frustration, Harry continued to get visions of others dead or dying, which reinforced the distance he had maintained. Only once did his scar act up through the summer, near the end, three days before he was to go to Diagon Alley to get his books and supplies. The pain started slowly and grew in intensity, and the sense Harry got from it was of frustration.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #13  
Old September 6th, 2005, 2:39 pm
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Chapter 11 – Goblins

The Hogwarts letter with the book list and reminders came in mid-August. Included with the usual information was Professor Dumbledore’s personal announcement of the opening of the DA as an official Hogwarts student organization. Dumbledore’s letter described the Defense Association’s having been established as a student practical defense practice group the previous year - leaving out the drama of it being illegal and nearly leading to the expulsion or worse of the participants - and called attention to the improvement in skills, knowledge and camaraderie of all the participants; Dumbledore concluded with an encouragement for all students to participate so as to learn individual and mutual defense. Harry realized that it would be inappropriate for the school to call attention to the problems of the DA the past year, and besides, students were sure to pass stories around, if they hadn’t already, which would give the whole organization a real outlaw panache.

The plan for summer’s end was for Dobby and Harry to apparate to The Leaky Cauldron and spend the night there, then meet Ron, Ginny and Hermione downstairs the next morning to go shopping for supplies together. Hermione would take a room that night at The Leaky Cauldron, while Ron and Ginny would stay in Fred and George’s apartment over their Diagon Alley shop. Harry and Hermione had suggested that Ron and Ginny could stay with them in their rooms, but both Ron and Ginny said that they had seen too little of their closest brothers since the twins had left Hogwarts. Harry and Hermione understood, as they felt a strong twinge of envy toward Ron and Ginny in having siblings. The next day they would go to King’s Cross Station by apparation conducted by Dobby, with Fred and George assisting on gear, which is all they were qualified to apparate with.

Harry was anxious to get back to a full-wizarding environment, so he got all of his things together and Dobby apparated them right after he had cleaned up after lunch at the Dursleys. Harry arrived early enough that he and Dobby had time for a walk together and some personal shopping on Diagon Alley the afternoon before the others were to arrive. Harry got a room and they placed their things in it and set off. After viewing the new brooms at Quality Quidditch Supplies, they stopped by Ollivander’s Wand Shop and discussed with Mr. Ollivander Mrs. Longbottom’s recommendation that Harry get a second wand. Mr. Ollivander said he had known of several wizards to do that, especially if they were expecting danger. He had some ideas for several good left-hand wands. Harry told him they would be right back after he filled his money bag at Gringott’s Wizarding Bank.

As they got to Gringott’s, they saw a sign to the side of the entrance stairs which Harry had overlooked before. It had clearly been there for a long time. What drew Harry’s attention was a collection of house elves standing near the sign, which read “No Slaves Admitted.” Dobby immediately walked over to join the group of elves. The others eyed him suspiciously in all his clothes, but seemed to accept him.

“What are you doing, Dobby?” asked Harry.

“House elves always waits here, Harry Potter, sir,” replied Dobby. “Dobby has never been in Gringott’s. My master always left me here.”

“But you’re no slave – you’re free.” said Harry. He noticed that the other house elves started muttering and moving away, as if he had some foul infectious disease. “A free elf should feel free to do the things open to free beings.”

“Yes, sir, Harry Potter, sir. Besides, it looks as though Dobby is not much welcome here around the sign anymore.”

As they entered they were immediately approached by a goblin who appeared to be older than the rest. Harry had previously noted him observing and coordinating activities in the lobby like a manager or a floorwalker.

“No slaves, no, no, no, no, no slaves in Gringott's!” he yelled angrily. “Didn’t you see the sign? You, boy” he added, addressing Dobby, “you should serve your master better by observing the rules.”

“Now hold on. Dobby isn’t a slave. He’s free,” said Harry sharply but politely, with Dobby nodding proudly.

“Free, you say, sacked by your old masters, eh?” said the elder goblin. “Well then, boy, why haven’t you got yourself a new family? The Ministry’s (he fairly spat the word) Department of House Elf Placement will arrange you new masters – if you’re good for anything.”

“Beg pardon, SIR,” said Dobby. This was the closest to rude Harry had ever heard Dobby get. “Dobby does not want new masters. Dobby chooses whom to serve. Dobby gets paid for his services. Dobby is happy to be free!”

“Free? And you want to be that way? You even say it with goblin pride. Well, then what are you doing here with a master!?”

Harry spoke up first. “Oh, I’m not anyone’s master. Dobby is my friend.”

Dobby got terribly excited and squeaky again at Harry calling him a friend.

“You call HIM a friend,” asked the old goblin incredulously. “Well, that’s the darndest thing I’ve ever heard of. Next thing you know I’ll hear you share quarters with him.”

“Yes, sir. We has done that all summer,” said Dobby, while Harry nodded, “since I was sent to guard Harry Potter.”

“Harry Potter!! Really!? Bend down here, would you?”

Harry did so, with just a touch of annoyance at the interest the scar drew.

“Well, what do you know? Couldn’t see that scar from this angle. My eyes aren’t what they were. But why would Harry Potter need guarding by an elf?”

“Well, sir, I’m underage, and I’m not allowed to do magic around muggles, with whom I live. Last year I had some legal trouble when I had to use magic to save my cousin’s and my life,” answered Harry.

Dobby added, “Dobby works – for pay – for Hogwarts and Headmaster Dumbledore assigned Dobby to protect Harry Potter so he wouldn’t have to use magic when he’s not supposed to.”

Then Harry added, realizing that they were finishing each other’s thoughts, “Dobby seemed happy for the job since I helped get him freed.”

“You, Dobby, wanted freedom, and you, Potter, helped an elf!? And you call each other friends and have been sharing quarters!? You two are a couple of odd bats, aren’t you? Well, times are changing all around.”

Suddenly there was a hideous shriek behind them. A relatively large goblin came running at them with a stave kept near a side door to bar it at night. Before Harry or Dobby had time to react, the goblin had crashed it down upon Dobby’s head. The stave cracked, as did Dobby’s skull. Dobby collapsed to the ground unconscious. The elder goblin grabbed the stave and screamed something at the large goblin in a language Harry did not understand, but which he presumed to be gobbledegook, the goblin language. Harry by this time had knelt by Dobby and was trying to see if he was alive.

“Carry him, Potter, and come with me,” said the elder elf quickly, leading Harry to one of the rail carts used to reach the chambers and vaults below.

Harry picked up Dobby and cradled him in his arms, like a father with a sleepy toddler.

“My hullabaloo has a healer in our cave who can help him - if we can get there in time.”

They stepped into the cart and it set off at the goblin’s command.

“Why did that goblin attack Dobby?” Harry asked.

“He’s an elf,” growled the old goblin, as if that explained the matter.

“But he’s free – or is there something else?”

“Ayah, we goblins hate elves. It’s always been sufficient before that the sign says ‘no slaves.’ Of course, that gets at the heart of why we hate them.”

“But it’s not their fault they’re slaves. Why is that such a problem for goblins?”

By then the cart had careened to a stop at the very deepest level of the passages under Hogwarts. The vaults with numbers in the 700s were at their right. The goblin jumped out of the cart to the left and gestured for Harry to follow him toward some doors that direction.

“I’ll explain inside, Potter. First, let’s get your friend to our healer. Hurry – we take pride in the safety and security of our guests.”

The older goblin led Harry through a low door in the opposite direction. The door and passages were well rarely over four feet high, so while the goblins could stand up going through, Harry had to crouch rather far. If Dobby had not been so light, Harry could not have carried him in. They went through several passages with rooms and other passages off to the sides; they reminded Harry of a rabbit warren except they were hewn into rock. The walls were quite smooth and the floors were nearly level, but with a slight tilt to one side and a small channel at the edge draining away water that seeped through or condensed on the cool stone walls.

They finally entered one of the larger rooms Harry saw. There were two female goblins: one seemed fairly old and the other quite young but apparently full-grown. There were a number of cabinets and extremely low goblin-length beds. Harry was directed to place Dobby on one of the low beds.

“Grishnack!” the older goblin woman hissed, “what do you mean bringing a wizard and a slave in here! This is our home and you defile it!?”

“The elf is free, not a slave, and was injured by Gribball in the lobby. We owe assistance to any guest. And the wizard is Harry Potter, who helps freedom-seeking beings such as this elf, and calls them friend.”

“You take liberties with the traditions,” she muttered, then sighed, “but you are glamdring: you have brought an injured being to me for healing and I will do so.”

She directed the younger goblin to the cabinets to retrieve potions and objects that did not resemble anything Harry had seen in Madam Pomfrey’s supplies. The women seemed to know what they were doing and Harry did not know any better so he let them do what they could.

“By the way, Potter, my name’s Grishnack,” said the goblin who had taken him here. “I am the glamdring of this Hullabaloo, as you may have guessed. Or,” he continued, “I’ll warrant you know nothing of goblin life. You probably think we’re just violent, underhanded and money-grubbing, eh?”

“Well, I don’t really know what goblin society is like, sir. I read that you live in larger family groups and can’t take sunlight. I also know that you goblins have run the bank safely and honestly for a long time. Oh, and that you have risen in rebellion quite a few times: and it sounds like you had good reason.”

“Really? You as a wizard see reasons for it? And what about now?”

“I hope you goblins won’t rebel. My friend’s father says the Ministry’s policies are hurting the goblins and pushing you toward rebellion. He even got fired for objecting to those policies. I hope to see those policies changed, but I had trouble getting people to listen when I saw Voldemort rise again.”

“Yes, the Ministry didn’t have much good to say about you, did they?” grunted Grishnack, “but we goblins knew to trust Dumbledore more than the Ministry.”

“But the Ministry doesn’t represent all the wizards. Dumbledore hopes the wizards and goblins can stay allied against Voldemort.” said Harry.

“Don’t fool yourself, Potter, we aren’t allied. Dumbledore’s a good man, but the Ministry doesn’t seem to want to treat goblins well. Maybe if there were a change in the leadership ...” Grishnack trailed off. Then he gestured toward the older healer and said to Harry, “Forgive her reaction. We do not bring any but goblins to our home as a rule. We have had only two other wizards in this cave. Some of the other hullabaloos who run other activities of Gringott’s have had a witch or wizard in their homes on occasion, but it’s rare. Mostly we have meetings with humans above. I am the glamdring, the leader, of this hullabaloo. Since I said for you to come in, you may, and if I tell Molina to heal, even an elf, she heals.”

“I understand the hostility toward wizards, Mr. Grishnack,” began Harry.

“Just Grishnack, Potter. We do not use wizard titles.”

“Alright, sir. I mean, er, Grishnack. But why is there such hostility to elves? Just because they are not free?”

“It would be closer to say that it is because they do not want to be free of wizards. Goblins and elves are related, and we find such servility, particularly to wizards, to be offensive beyond words. It is an obscenity to us. Were this elf not a free elf, and more importantly one who sought freedom, I would not have brought him here. Molina is right: to bring one of the slave elves here would be defilement. But as I say it is appropriate, she will heal him.”

Harry crouched over to the foot of the bed Dobby was on and saw how much improved he already was. Molina, the older healer, said he would require two hours recuperation.

“You had business in Hogwarts, Potter?” Grishnack asked.

“I needed to go to my vault for some funds,” Harry said as he pulled out the key.

Grishnack checked the imprinted gobbledegook numbers on it and nodded. “Let the elf rest. He will be safe here. I’ll take you to your vault. Do you have errands?”

“Yes, I need to go to Ollivander’s.”

“Right, then. I’ll take you to the lobby. When you come back, come to me, and I will conduct you down here personally.”

Before he left, Harry saw Dobby wake. Dobby was looking up at the younger healer who was tending to the various potions and healing devices at his side. She was smiling pleasantly. Harry thought Dobby had a faraway look in his eyes and figured that the injury and treatment were making his head swimmy.

“Dobby, I’m going to go finish my errands. Will you be okay here by yourself?” inquired Harry.

“Yes, Harry,” said Dobby, in a dreamy way, surprising Harry by saying only ‘Harry’ rather than the full name. “I’ll be here at home.”

“Sounds like he needs some bed rest,” said Harry. “I guess we can get going now.”

Harry filled his money bag and then walked over to Ollivander's. Trying wands left-handed took quite a while. Finally a rather stouter wand than his first wand reacted well in Harry’s left hand. It was mahogany with a unicorn hair core.

“Is there anything unique about this one?” asked Harry.

Ollivander leaned in rather too close to Harry, peering deeply with his bulging, rarely-blinking, watery eyes. “You mean like your first wand?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Harry with a nod.
“Yes, there is,” said Mr. Ollivander ominously, raising Harry’s anxiety. “It chose Harry Potter.”

Ollivander winked, and Harry laughed a little, but uneasily. Stepping out into the sun, Harry tried levitating a few things with his new wand in his left hand. Then he checked his new watch, a birthday present from the Dursleys. Even though it had been the mailaway prize from a packet of breakfast cereal, it was still the best thing they had ever given him – it was new and it worked. Besides, he thought, he did seem to have a tendency to break watches. It had taken quite a while to test wands, so it was time to go back and get Dobby. He returned to Gringott’s where he was greeted by Grishnack and conducted down to the goblin homes. When they entered the healing room, he saw Dobby’s hand being held by the younger healer.

“Ahh,” said Grishnack, “touch is good healing. It restores the vitality from within.”

Molina grumbled, “Just be glad we’ve got Melony in training here, as you wouldn’t get me touching one of them one second longer than I had to, free elf or slave.”

Dobby was helped up, and though he seemed a bit wobbly, he clearly was able to get about and go. They thanked the healers and Grishnack took them up to the lobby by way of the rail car. This was a first for Dobby while conscious and he was ecstatic to take the ride. In the lobby Grishnack escorted them all the way out for protection and wished them well.

As they walked back toward the magical doorway to the alley behind The Leaky Cauldron, they came upon Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. Harry decided he wanted an ice cream cone and offered to treat Dobby to one, too.

“Oh, sir. Harry Potter is too kind.” wailed Dobby. “For a wizard to buy something for an elf is unheard of.”

“Not for an elf, Dobby, for a friend. And you’ve had a rather hard day.”

Harry decided to have a double-scoop chocolate-dipped cone, with one scoop of pumpkin-hazelnut, and one scoop of cranberry swirl. Dobby had a lot of trouble making up his mind, and finally asked Fortescue about the flavors.

“Beg pardon, sir, but all these flavors seem sweet. We elves doesn’t have sweets, as a rule, not good for us. Do you have any kinds that aren’t sweet?”

“I think I know just what you’re after,” said Mr. Fortescue helpfully, with a wink to Harry. “We don’t usually take out the menu for the goblins until dark, when they start to come out. Wizards don’t generally buy treats for their elves, but if that’s what Mr. Potter wants to do, it’s fine with me.”

“He’s a friend, not my servant, Mr. Fortescue,” said Harry, “but let’s see if that menu is more to his liking.”

Harry and Dobby looked over the menu that Fortescue handed them. Harry thought he would retch. The flavors were awful, such as tuna and sauerkraut, kidney, broccoli with aphids, lima bean, pickled beets with grubs, haggis, bitter chocolate with garlic chunks, turnip, and anchovy paste.
Dobby, on the other hand, was aquiver with excitement. “Dobby has never seen such splendid treats as this, Mr. Fortescue! How shall I ever decide?”

He finally settled on a single scoop sundae of chicken liver ice cream with squid ink sauce and roasted millipede sprinkles. They sat at a table out front to have their treats. Dobby was terribly fascinated playing with the millipedes on his sundae, prodding them so that they looked like they were crawling all over it; Harry was amused at first, but then made apologies and spent the whole time turned away as they talked. After they were done, they started to make their way back to The Leaky Cauldron.

“Harry Potter, sir, that was the most wonderful treat Dobby has ever had,” chirped Dobby, “except two things.”

Harry smiled. “Glad you enjoyed it, Dobby. I’m even gladder I didn’t watch. What are the two better things?”

“Well, of course, sir, when Dobby received clothes from his old master was the best thing ever. And the second best was this afternoon, when Dobby woke to find that angel holding his hand.”

“That ‘ang…’ – Dobby do you mean that goblin healer?” asked Harry.

“Yes, Harry Potter. Is she not the most beautiful creature ever? When I awoke and saw her face, and felt the rasp of her hands on mine, I felt like I was home – like I was in the place I should be forever.”

“That’s great, Dobby, but are you sure it wasn’t the potions making you feel that way?” asked Harry, having trouble believing that anyone could find that green-brown, warty, rough, squatty goblin woman attractive. But then, Harry thought, if an elf can go gaga over chicken liver ice cream with squid ink sauce and roast millipede sprinkles, then maybe a girl goblin is a nymph to him. It’s like Mrs. Longbottom said, elves can be treated like family, but they still are just not humans.

“Harry Potter, sir?”

“Yes, Dobby.”

“Can we stop there tomorrow when you buys your books?”

“At Fortescue’s? – absolutely! I want Ron and Hermione to see that menu.”

“That would be wonderful, sir, but I meant Gringott’s, sir. I was hoping to see Melony again.”

Harry couldn’t help but smile as he looked sidelong at Dobby, and Dobby grinned shyly up at Harry.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #14  
Old September 8th, 2005, 4:36 pm
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Chapter 12 Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

Harry had to do his pre-breakfast run along Diagon Alley, which required several times back and forth retracing the same areas. He suggested taking Knockturn Alley for some variety, but Dobby insisted that he had the strongest of orders from Professor Dumbledore not to let Harry go into any such dangerous places. Harry relented and on his third repeat trip, he heard a familiar voice calling from above.

“Oy, Harry, looking good!”

It was one of the Weasley twins calling from a window above their shop. Even under better conditions, Harry couldn’t tell which one it was until he was close enough to see the freckles and faint scars that told one from the other; at a distance and without his glasses, which Harry was carrying but did not have on while running, it was impossible for him to tell them apart without asking.

“Hiya, Gred!”

“Naw, it’s Forge,” said whichever twin with a laugh. “I’m hurt – you still can’t tell us apart?”

“Not at this distance and not by voice - maybe one of you should use an Italian accent. Why aren’t you two out here with me?” called Harry.

“Yeah, well, we’re not exactly known to be morning people, y’know?”

“I’m surprised you’re even up now”

“We have to get over to The Leaky Cauldron. If you think we’re going to hand Ron and Ginny a bag of our hard-earned gold and set them loose on Diagon Alley, you’ve got rocks for brains.”

Harry laughed. “I hadn’t really thought about it, but I see your point. Next thing you know, you’ll be seeing Ginny ogling the brooms at Quality Quidditch Supplies.”

“Exactly. Mind you, Slytherin’s not the only team now that has alumni that might want to see their team on good brooms, but if we buy a broom, we’re going to be driving a bargain.”

“So I’ll be seeing you in a bit?”

“Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”

“Hah – only if the tests on a new product went bad!” Harry waved and continued down the Alley.

After his run, Harry showered, dressed and headed downstairs with Dobby for some breakfast. Luckily for Harry, Dobby’s choice in breakfast fare was the same as Harry’s, except he shunned the syrup and marmalade. They talked and laughed like the old friends they were, drawing quizzical stares from wizards and creatures far odder than they. Harry was on his second cup of tea after breakfast when Hermione showed up, and not long after, Ron and Ginny arrived with their father.

“Hello, Mr. Weasley, good to see you. Please have a seat. Are you going to shop with us?” asked Harry.

“I’d love to stop, Harry, but I haven’t the time. I’ve got a new job and I’ll need to get some supplies,” said Arthur Weasley, who then departed briskly out the back to the entrance to Diagon Alley.

“A new job?” asked Hermione to Ron and Ginny. “What is it?”

“He won’t say,” said Ginny.

“Yeah, but whenever we ask, he gets a funny look,” said Ron.

“I noticed that, too, Ron, but I didn’t want to say anything,” said Ginny. “I hope it’s on the up-and-up.”

“Ginny!” said Hermione. “How can you suggest that your father would do something dodgy? He’s the straightest arrow I’ve ever known, except maybe my folks, and they’ve been known to take a few liberties on Health Service filings and tax reports. It’s not like it’s the twins you’re talking about.”

Ginny laughed. “Oh, I know he wouldn’t do anything bad, but I think he would fudge a few lines to support his family – he’d do anything for us, you know.”

“As it should be!” added Dobby, to everyone’s surprise. “You doesn’t want to get hurt or in trouble, but a person should be willing to do anything for his family’s well-being. There’s no shame in doing what you needs to in providing for your own.”

“Well,” laughed Harry, “I didn’t know I was harboring such a radical here.”

“No radical, sir,” said Dobby more shyly. “Dobby has no political ideas. But responsibilities must be met, and family must be cared for, that’s all.”

Hermione beamed. “Dobby, I’m liking you more and more all the time. I wish the other elves thought that way.”

“Begging Miss’s pardon, but they do,” offered Dobby, “but they understands their family as their wizard family. Very few ever knows their biological families, and because we is raised by wizards, we thinks of wizard families as our families. So when elves grow up, it’s just natural for us to do what we can for our wizard families. It’s who we are.”

“So, Dobby,” asked Ron, “you were raised by the Malfoys: how’d you turn out decent?”

“Oh, please don’t make Dobby talk bad about the Malfoys! I’d have to punish myself,” Dobby pled.

“Erm, well, okay, sure. Don’t hurt yourself. But you certainly have a different view of things than they do.”

“That is true, sir,” answered Dobby. “I’m not sure I always lived with the Malfoys. My earliest clear memories are with the Malfoys, but sometimes Dobby recalls things - vague memories and dreams of … other faces and other places and sometimes some very scary things.” His voice had risen and he started rocking and moaning. “Dobby doesn’t know why, but Dobby hates green lights – he has very bad feelings about green lights.”

The four young sorcerers were momentarily speechless. They had never heard Dobby or any elf sound so deeply emotional and conflicted.

“Mate,” said Ron to Harry, “He sounds like you after your bad dreams and visions.”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “Dobby, do you know anything about these feelings you get?”

“No!” squawked Dobby. “And Dobby doesn’t want to know.” He hopped up, obviously substituting activity for thought. “Time to go – Harry Potter and his friends must get the things they needs for Hogwarts.”

“I reckon we can set off toward Fred and George’s place. Likely they’re either not up yet or dragging themselves around,” said Ron. Harry thought he’d be quiet about his earlier conversation, so he paid for breakfast and they set off.

They arrived at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in about half an hour, having taken some time to check the new brooms at Quality Quidditch Supplies. Hermione could not have been less interested, but she chatted further with Dobby about house elves. Harry overheard Dobby telling Hermione that elf welfare was one thing, but setting them free would be great cruelty. Hermione was having trouble with that and argued the point. When they approached the twins’ shop, they saw a familiar figure walking away from it, checking off something on a piece of paper he was holding.

“Dad!” Ginny called.

He waved back to them. “Hi, kids! Sorry kids, can’t hold up. No time. Besides you don’t want an old fellow like me around.”

“Well,” said Ron, “it’s better than him moping about.”

They went into the shop and looked around. There was an entire wall of ready-to-use magical items: fireworks displays for various occasions, portable swamps, deserts (with and without oases), waterfalls, quicksands, sinkholes; small waterspouts; siroccos, dust devils, local thunderstorms (with an offer posted to produce larger weather phenomena with sufficient notice – for the right price), an extensive array of clothing with different magical effects (generally not permanently harmful, but sometimes temporarily disabling), and all sorts of candies and foods with various effects. They had a number of bowls set up with free samples. Ron started to reach for one and Hermione grabbed his wrist.

“Have you forgotten where you are? You grew up with these two!” asked Hermione sharply.

“Oh, right, I forgot,” said Ron, “I was feeling hungry and they look so good.” He started to reach with the other hand, but Harry caught that one.

Just then George stepped out, grinning. “Oh, what’s the matter, can’t he have a snack?” Then he pointed up. “Better pull him away: we have a willpower shroud set up near that bowl – you get under it and you lose any power to resist a sample. We get more testers that way.”

They pulled Ron back and he shook his head to clear it. “What was I thinking?”

“As usual,” said Hermione, “not much.”

“Harry, you were under it, too,” said George. “Why didn’t you go for any?”

“I don’t know. I guess I wasn’t interested because I just came from breakfast.”

“I just ate, too,” said Ron. Harry shrugged.

Then Hermione asked, “Say, George, we saw your father hurrying away from here, checking something off. What was he up to?”

“My lips are sealed,” he said with a smile and a wink.

“There, that’s it,” said Ginny, “that same funny look Dad gets when we ask him about his new job. Now what kind of job would have him getting supplies from you trolls?”

Fred called out from the back room, “I’m hurt and shocked to hear our names besmirched, just as we were prepared to spend our gold on you.”

“Yeah, right,” said Ginny, “you two wouldn’t stand for us holding our tongues.”

“Hrmf,” said George. “I guess Gryffindor’s new chaser can just keep riding a school broom.”

Ginny got wide-eyed. “You two weren’t planning on getting me a broom, were you?”

“Well, we discussed it, but we’re not so sure now: who’s a troll?” teased George.

“Okay,” she said, “you’re not trolls.”

“Uh-uh,” said George, “not good enough – who’s a troll?”

“Okay, I’ll say it,” said Ginny. “I’m a troll.”

“Did you get that, Fred?” asked George.

“Uh-oh,” said Ginny. “What are you two up to?”

“Testing our new camera – it doesn’t need flashes and it captures several seconds of a person’s actions and words. Wait a second – here comes the print,” explained Fred, stepping out from the back room.

He held up a print of Ginny, looking exasperated and saying every so often “Okay, I’ll say it. I’m a troll.”

“GIVE ME THAT,” she yelled, grabbing for the print, but George caught her by the arms.

“Wow, you really have been working out,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter if you wreck that print – we can make more. We’ll run a bunch of these for our ads, but this one we’ll keep on our mantle – it’s the first spontaneous shot we’ve taken. Don’t worry, Ginny, the charm wears off after a few weeks, unless it gets renewed with the refresher potion, sold separately.”

“I think I’ll just wait outside,” said Hermione, edging toward the door, “until the rest of you are ready to go.”

“Yeah, me too,” said Harry, as he and Dobby headed out.

“What’s the matter?” asked Fred with a laugh. “Afraid we won’t catch your best side?”

In about ten minutes, everyone was together outside. As they expected big business on this, the day before the Hogwarts’ train departed, Fred stayed with the shop, while George accompanied the rest shopping. Fred hung out the door to say good-bye, then said to George with a wink, “Reckon we ought to make it up to her?”

“Think we can?”

“I think so – let me know how she likes it.”

And then George started leading them the opposite direction from Quality Quidditch Supplies, with a skip in his step.

“Right, George, you’re up to something – what is it?” asked Ginny.

“Oh, just something we’ve had our eyes on for about a month. We were going over the books with our accountants at Gringott’s. We noticed in the back a nice-looking broom they were holding. They told us it had been seized and was being sold to pay off some debts a wizard had. So we’ve been doing some negotiating, and we’re going to pick up your Firebolt.”

Ginny stopped dead, and then started jumping around in excitement. “George! You’re kidding, aren’t you? If you’re teasing about something like that, I’ll …You can’t mean it – a Firebolt, just like Harry’s?”

They heard a voice from down the block – “I reckon she likes it.”

“Well, not quite like Harry’s – this one’s souped up, for extra stabilization and maneuverability – if you’ve got the guts to push it.”

“Oh, boy, have I, have I, have I? I’ve wanted a broom I can take to the limit for a long time. Hoo-boy, Harry, I’m gonna have a better broom than you!”

Harry grinned. “Yeah, well, some players need all the help they can get.” He dodged her playful swipe at him.

Hermione then asked, “George, Harry’s broom is the factory model. If this one has extra charms put on it, how can you be sure it’s safe?”

Ron groaned. “You’re always a ray of sunshine, aren’t you Hermione? Some other wizard’s already been using it and would have tanked by now if it wasn’t safe.”

“Well, actually Ron, he hardly got to use it at all before he went on the lam. It was Ludo Bagman’s. He was having additional charms put on it – factory specs, mind you” added George for Hermione’s benefit, “but he had it only for a couple of weeks before Harry tied for the Triwizard Tournament and he had to run from the goblins he was in hock to. They’ve already sold his house and a bunch of other stuff. This will finally get him out of debt, if he hasn’t been taking any other foolish bets.”

“This must have set you two back a bundle,” said Harry, “I remember pricing these before Sirius bought me mine, and you could buy a decent house for what these cost.”

“Well, that was over three years ago, and other models have come out, so the price of new Firebolts has dropped, and of course, that pushes the price of used brooms even further. Mind you, it wasn’t cheap, but it didn’t cost the small fortune Sirius paid. He was a bit giddy with freedom. And Hermione, as for reliability, not only were the alterations factory-installed, but the goblins and Fred and I have all tested it – it’s a real sweet ride, there’s no vibration until you’re at the very edge of what it can do.”

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #15  
Old September 9th, 2005, 11:57 pm
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Chapter 13 Taking Positions

When they reached Gringott’s and went inside, Dobby situated himself in the center of the group, since as much as he wanted to see Melony again, he didn’t want to do so with a skull split wide open. Instead of going to the tellers, George led them over to the accounting department. He exchanged a few words with a goblin there, signed a receipt, and was handed a Firebolt. Then he balanced it in the air and let go, where it held as steady as a rock.

“Well, Ginny,” said George, “Aren’t you going to come get your new broom?”

“First things first,” she said, and threw her arms around his chest and hugged him vigorously, then kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you, you big idiot.” Then she carefully took hold of the broom. “Oh, my – it is beautiful.”

As Ginny and Ron looked at the new broom, Hermione went to a teller to exchange the pound notes her parents had given her for galleons. Harry noticed Grishnack and decided to say hello. Grishnack was speaking to a couple of wizards. As he got closer, he realized that it was Percy Weasley and Kingsley Shacklebolt. Harry didn’t really want to deal with Percy so he busied himself with his head down at a kiosk.

“It’s not in your interests to flout the Ministry’s laws,” Harry overheard Percy warning Grishnack. “Gringott’s needs dealings with wizards and wizards won’t be able to deal with Gringott’s if we do not all resist those who would destroy wizarding society.”

“I well understand the source of Gringott’s prosperity, but what is prosperity if you make laws which leave us vulnerable to someone,” said Grishnack, at this point cocking his head to indicate he had someone very specific in mind, “who would not mind seeing us goblins destroyed?”

Percy laughed disingenuously. “Aah, Grishnack, the Ministry of course values its relations with the other magical beings. You can trust the Ministry to see to it that Gringott’s is protected.”

“You think me a fool?” said Grishnack sharply, his voice rising and attracting dark looks and muttering from the tellers. Then speaking low and stern he added, “Not all stories are merely stories, lad. Dark deeds have been done, and not just by those you now call enemy.”

“Well, of course,” Percy went on breezily, “in any endeavour, there are those who will make mistakes, and while I do not know of all the things you now refer, I am sure that any illegal acts have been punished. Or if you are referring to Bagman…”

Grishnack hissed. “Bagman! He is a fool, simply an empty-headed buffoon. But that was just business. His debts have now been resolved. There are those who have gone unpunished and there can be no alliance nor any trust until the Ministry addresses anti-goblin attitudes more thoroughly than they have been willing to.”

“Well, Grishnack, I’m certain that …”

“Mr. Weasley,” interrupted Shacklebolt in his deep voice, “I have known Grishnack for some time now. Perhaps if I could speak privately with him a few minutes, we could work the current concerns out.”

Percy pursed his lips looking down at Grishnack. “Very well,” he agreed reluctantly.

Percy turned and stepped angrily toward the kiosk where Harry had been listening. Harry could tell Percy had not yet seen him, but he could find no cover to allow him to duck out. Suddenly Harry saw the look of recognition on Percy’s face.

“Harry!” called out Percy, beaming at him like they were grand old friends even yet. He extended his hand, “You’ve been growing quite nicely I see, getting a bit of exercise too. Splendid!”

Harry reluctantly shook his hand, though he felt more like breaking Percy’s arm. “How can you talk to me like … this, after the way you treated me at the hearing last year and at Hogwarts.”

“Oh, did you misunderstand that? I thought you’d realize I was just doing my job, just being professional. When I had to step in at the TriWizard Tournament judging, I had to maintain decorum then, as well, didn’t I? It wouldn’t do to look like we were good chums, now would it?”

Harry remembered that ‘decorum’ breaking down when things got tight back at the TriWizard Tournament, however, as when Ron came staggering out of the lake at the end of the second task.

“You said some rather harsh things about me,” said Harry, measuring his words.

“What? I don’t think I had the opportunity to say much of anything to you.”

“I didn’t say ‘to me,’ I said ‘about me.’ I read the letter you wrote to Ron.”

“Ah,” said Percy, “Well, Harry, I do regret that. I had the inside information on how the winds were blowing and didn’t want Ron to be hurt. I am concerned for all of my family.”

“You’ve got a funny way of showing it.”

“Harry,” said Percy, arching an eyebrow, “do you remember the final feast your first year at Hogwarts, when Neville Longbottom was awarded points for trying to stop you three? What was it Dumbledore said? I think it was that it can take far more courage to stand up to our friends than to our enemies. I would like to see all of the family through the coming hard times, but when they work against the Ministry, I do my best by trying to bring them around to loyalty.”

“A person’s got to take a broader look than just the interests of the current administration,” said Harry darkly.

“Indeed!” agreed Percy. He then leaned in closely, “Now you aren’t proposing some effort against the current administration, are you?”

“I just think the bigger picture must be kept in mind.”

“I see,” said Percy. “Well, then, do you happen to be here alone?”

“No,” said Harry, nodding over toward Ron, Ginny, Hermione, and George, all still looking at the broom. “And I also have Dobby here with me,” he added, looking down toward Dobby, who had been quietly sticking close to Harry for both their protection.

“Ah, yes. Well, I guess I should …” Percy started saying as he began to walk toward the others.

“No,” said Harry, grabbing him by the arm. “You really shouldn’t! Your father has told them not to seek you out to hurt you, but I’m not so sure they would have such restraint if you approached them.”

“I am that badly misunderstood?” asked Percy sadly.

“Misunderstood!?” said Harry incredulously. “Well, if that’s what you want to call it, yeah, it’s that much.”

“Perhaps you can then fill me in on the events of the family?” asked Percy gently.

Harry peered at him. He seemed genuinely interested, so he recounted for Percy some of the events of the last year, trying to keep to things that could be easily found out through other channels, such as the progress of Fred’s and George’s business and the OWL test results. He avoided matters concerning the Order of the Phoenix or other secrets. As he talked, he tried also to listen to the conversation between Shacklebolt and Grishnack. He heard something about the Ministry and conspiracy, but when Grishnack saw Harry paying attention, he made a gesture and both he and Shacklebolt stopped talking.

“You need something, Potter?” said Grishnack.

“Grishnack, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I was just here with my friends and wanted to say hello and thank you again for helping Dobby,” said Harry.

Dobby nodded his earnest agreement.

“Very well, Potter, hello, you’re welcome. I see your friend is doing well. By the way, let me introduce you, Mr. Shacklebolt, to Harry Potter. Kingsley Shacklebolt – Harry Potter, Harry Potter – Kingsley Shacklebolt. Potter, you seem already to know Mr. Weasley. Mr. Weasley and Mr. Shacklebolt are here from the Ministry to inform us of the latest requirements they would seek to impose on us goblins.”

Shacklebolt gave no hint of recognition as he nodded politely toward him. Harry realized that it would be suspicious if he acknowledged knowing Harry.

“Yes, of course," Shacklebolt said, eying Harry’s scar as those who had not previously met him invariably did. “Mr. Potter’s fame precedes him. It is an honor to meet you, Mr. Potter.”

“Likewise, Mr. Shacklebolt,” said Harry.

“Now, Grishnack,” said Shacklebolt, returning his attention to the goblin before him, “the Ministry expects compliance with its decrees. It is for the good of all magical beings to unite behind the Ministry to meet the new challenges which face us.”

“You and Weasley can tell your Ministry that many of these measures go too far – they aren’t increasing security, they are only oppressing goblins and the wizards we do business with, and we can most certainly be pushed too far.”

“I’ll take my leave then.”

Shacklebolt and Percy turned briskly to leave together, but Harry hurried to catch them.

“Mr. Shacklebolt,” said Harry, “Excuse me. Percy, do you mind?”

Percy looked like he did mind, but then relented and took a few more steps toward the door so Harry could talk to Shacklebolt. Harry was aware that Percy was trying to look occupied but was in fact listening in, much as Harry had.

“Mr. Shacklebolt, I see from your badge you’re an auror: could I ask you a few questions? I’m considering career options.”

Harry stood close to Shacklebolt so he could then whisper, “What is going on with all these decrees? Grishnack’s right, some of these things are just oppression.”

Shacklebolt pulled Harry over to a secluded alcove and gestured for Dobby to stay a space away. He said loudly, “Well, I’ll tell you about auror training; that might help you make up your mind.” Then he added quietly “I can’t talk about any new decrees here, Potter, but it appears that Fudge wants to push the goblins into rebellion. I think he wants to seize the bank and the mining interests. Then he’ll control most businesses by controlling their finances. He’ll establish nearly unstoppable power in the Ministry with assets like that. As for me, I cannot forget, as a black man, that I am here in this country as a result of oppression imposed on my ancestors by earlier muggle governments. If it comes to it, I’ll stand with the goblins against a tyranny. You might want to consider where you would stand if it comes to that.” Then he resumed his louder speech “And that’s the sort of education and challenge I found at Auror Academy. It’s rigorous, but from what I have heard of you, you may be up to it.”

“Well, thank you, Mr. Shacklebolt,” replied Harry, giving a nod as Shacklebolt rejoined Percy and left with him.

Harry then returned to speak to Grishnack. “You sounded very put out, Grishnack. Is it really becoming that dire?”

“We still have some patience, Potter. We hope the Ministry will come to its senses and reject the decrees not passed and reverse some of the others. We don’t want bloodshed, but we can only be pushed so far. In the meantime, we prepare. We know we have some friends, such as Shacklebolt. I can read lips, so I know he confided his position to you. He carries the Ministry’s messages, and for now he does its bidding, but he has made it clear with whom he would stand. How about you, Potter? I have no doubt you want to be a friend of both sides – but if it comes down to it, where would you stand?”

“I don’t know,” Harry said doubtfully.

“I’d rather an honest answer like that, then an ephemeral promise. Just keep your eye out, pay attention to what’s going on, and think about it.”

“Sir,” Dobby interrupted, “Erm, I was hoping I could see that healer Melony again, and, er, thank her for her help.”

Grishnack eyed Dobby carefully. “You’ve taken a fancy to her. I must warn you to stay away! You’re an elf, she’s a goblin. I can respect you as a free being, but the hullabaloo cannot tolerate an elf showing that kind of interest in one of its members. There are plenty who thought Gribball had the right idea in trying to kill you, even though you are free. I have spread the word amongst the hullabaloos of Gringott's not to harm the elf in clothing, but I cannot protect you if you try to approach Melony or any other women. Do you understand?”

Dobby nodded sadly.

“Grishnack,” said Harry, “I’m curious about – what did you say his name was – Gribball? Will he be punished for attacking a Gringott’s guest?”

“Most certainly. He should not have taken the matter into his own hands, especially with a glamdring attending to the situation. He seems to have gone off to sulk, as our young males sometimes will when they have been scolded as he was yesterday, but when he returns, we will have a conference and decide a proper corrective.”

Harry nodded. Then he and Dobby turned back to rejoin Hermione and the Weasleys. Hermione asked why they were so sad, and they told her how Dobby had been warned away from Melony. She tried to comfort Dobby and suggested that he look to the girl elves, but he shook his head.

“Miss, I cannot explain it, but there is nothing that interests me about them. They’re just friends. But around Melony, Dobby felt like he was where he ought to be, like everything was just right.”

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.

Last edited by Dedalus Diggle; September 10th, 2005 at 12:08 am.
  #16  
Old September 10th, 2005, 9:07 pm
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Chapter 13 Troubles in Egypt

Tasks at Gringotts completed, the group stepped out from the cavernous darkness of Gringotts into the mid-morning light. The sun hurt their eyes as they blinked while adapting to the brightness of the day. Ron was the first to notice in the shadows to the right of the bank’s entry steps a couple kissing to one side. He nudged the others and pointed.

“I know that ponytail,” said Ginny and Hermione at once.

“I know that blonde hair,” said Ron, Harry and George together. They all waited till the kiss was over, which took an embarrassingly long time, and then called “Bill”, “Fleur,” and walked over.

They noticed that Fleur’s eyes looked like she had been crying.

“Oh, good, girls cry when you kiss them, too – I thought it was just me,” said Harry.

“Oh, hi, all” said Bill. “No, Harry, this is not the normal reaction. We, erm, were just saying good-bye. I’ve been called away on business emergency. One of Gringott’s exploration sites in southern Egypt has been tampered with. I have to go see if any of the protective charms have been broken, or possibly others put on.”

“So what sort of treasure is in the site?” asked Hermione.

“Well, the goblins are always hoping for gold or gems, of course, and there’s usually some in a relatively intact site such as this. When there are magical protections, there are usually magical objects or directions as well. I had worked on this site before and there are some interesting magical protections there.”

“And by interestaing, ‘e means ‘e has not been able to beat them yet,” teased Fleur, with only a mild accent now.

“Well, if they were easy to beat, they wouldn’t be interesting, would they?” agreed Bill with a laugh.

“Now you’re sounding like Hagrid,” said Ron. “A creature’s not interesting if it can’t kill you.”

“Ronald, please don’t say that,” gasped Fleur.

“Yeah, Ron,” snapped Ginny. “You’ll jinx him.”

“Oh, Ginny, you don’t really believe in such things just from saying that, do you?”

“I was raised with magic, and I know many of the curses Bill breaks are deadly – I’d rather not tempt fate.”

Hermione looked on the verge of tut-tutting, but inside she said, “So Bill, what’s keeping you out of this one?”

“Proper entry appears to require some sort of small magical object, probably something that could have been carried on a necklace, but the goblins have tried all such objects that they have available in Egypt. There are legends that it was taken to Alexandria before the first century, but that’s the last anyone in Egypt had heard of it. Some people think it’s underwater with most of Alexandria, others say it was taken to some other part of the Roman Empire.”

“Maybe here?” asked Hermione.

Bill shrugged. “That’s part of the Merlin legends, but other lands have legends of magical objects that would fit the description as well. Even if it was here, the leads we had from the legends are all dead or blocked.”

“You know, Bill” said Ron, “If it were in Britain, the Hogwarts founders might have gotten it.”

“Well, yeah, but all the objects Hogwarts has have been examined. None of them could be it.”

Harry squinted at him. “But even Dumbledore says there are things he hasn’t explored in Hogwarts. You can’t have searched everything.”

“You two aren’t going treasure-hunting at Hogwarts, are you?” asked Hermione.

“Oh, we would never do such a thing as that,” protested Ron disingenuously.

“Hah! I’d be disappointed if you didn’t,” said George. “Hey, what about the Chamber of Secrets? That’s just the sort of place old Snake-tongue would hide something cool. And Harry, you’ve got access.”

Bill shook his head. “Listen. I don’t want you two getting in anything dangerous, and I think that would include the Chamber of Secrets.”

“Don’t worry, Bill,” said Harry grimly. “The only people who could speak lightly about going down there are people who’ve never been.”

Ginny and Ron, both of whom had turned ashen at the mention, nodded at that.

“Oh, well, if that’s out of the question, there are still plenty of other out-of-the-way places to look – Trelawney’s Tower, some of the deeper dungeons, or the tunnels you haven’t been to yet.”

“George, I think both Ron and Harry are going to have quite enough to keep them busy this year,” said Hermione, glaring more at them than him. After a few seconds silence, Hermione changed the subject. “So, Bill, your job is to beat the magical locks?”

“Exactly. With the key it would be easy, but most locks – magical or muggle – can be beaten in some way.”

“Bill, I know you think Fred and I are odd to learn some of the muggle ways into things, but have you tried drills or blasting?” asked George.

“That’s actually part of the standard procedure at a site: first we try all the charms and countercharms that have worked before, then all the magical objects that have not worked somewhere else, then we use all the tricks we have to get the protections to reveal themselves, then we give brute force a try, though we hate to. For most tombs and storerooms, if nothing else works, dynamite will.”

“So?” prompted Ginny.

“Not a scratch.”

“What would have such protection as that?” asked Ron.

“Well, obviously something that was prized by ancient wizards more than the gold, jewels and mummies we’ve found in other sites. By the inscriptions it appears that there is some sort of instruction or formula or such for something that the ancient wizards described as very wonderful or powerful or somehow very desirable – the translations aren’t perfect, but the sense is of something really great – not so much for money-type value as desirable in itself.”

“Wow, that is so fascinating,” said Hermione.

“You know, Hermione, from what I’ve heard and seen of you, you’d make a great Gringott’s explorer and charm-breaker – it requires extensive study of ancient languages and charms, as well as a bit of derring-do.”

Hermione smiled and blushed. “Well, I’ll keep that in mind too. There are a lot of great possibilities.”

George then asked, “Do you know when the attempt was made, or who did it?”

“Not really,” answered Bill. “We know it was recent, but this is a project that’s been on hold since I came back to London. Dumbledore says he can spare me for awhile, especially if it’s a matter of keeping the goblins placated.”

“I know who and when,” said Harry matter-of-factly. “Voldemort, four days ago.”

They all stared at him.

He explained, “I was feeling his frustration in my scar. It was similar to his frustration at not being able to get into the Department of Mysteries last year, but more like a matter of a puzzle that stumped him. And I could tell he was a long way away from here.”

“Okay, Potter,” said Ginny, “How much of that did you tell Dumbledore?”

“All of it,” said Harry. “Well, except I didn’t know what Bill just told us, but the timing is right, and it sounds like the sort of thing he would go for.”

“Oh, Bill,” said Fleur, “must you go?”

“It’s all the more important if Harry’s right. Besides, if we hope to have the goblins ever stand with us, we must show that we are willing to stand with them when their matters are threatened.”

Fleur looked down. “I understand, but I do not ‘ave to like it. You must be careful! ‘e may ‘ave put his own ‘exes on it, and ‘e will probably ‘ave people watching the site to keep others from getting in.”

“I’ll watch out, I promise. A cadre of guards has been added, and you’ve just helped me apply essence of murtlap – repels most spells, you know (he explained to the others) – and I’ll be wearing a graphorn-leather cloak that the goblins keep at the most dangerous sites.” Then Bill groaned and rolled his eyes, adding, “in the summer, in the Sahara!”

“Oh, yes,” said Ginny, “If only it was in the winter in the Sahara it would be fine.”

“I thought you generally worked at night, Bill,” said Ron, “when the goblins can be out. It shouldn’t be as hot then”

“Yeah, but they head out as soon as the sun is down – they don’t wait for the sand to cool. And I’ll be out there some days in the midday heat as well, since many of the signs of Dark enchantments can only be detected in sunlight, the brighter the better.”

“Well, we’d better let you finish your good-byes,” said George with a smirk, “and we have shopping to do. Oh, do we need to tell Mum and Dad?”

“No, thanks,” Bill replied. “I told Mum. Speaking of Dad, I just saw him dart down Knockturn Alley. What’s up with that?”

“Don’t worry,” said George, again with the infuriating grin, “everything’s under control. He hasn’t become a Death Eater or anything.”

Bill laughed, his earring jingling. “That’s the last thing I worry about.”

The group was going to get books first, but Harry stopped them and asked, “Hold on a sec - where’s Dobby?”

Dobby came from the alley at the left side of Gringotts with a dreamy smile on his face.

“While you was talking to Bill Weasley, I heard a voice call my name,” explained Dobby. “I looked to the side and it was Melony, leaning out a window. She said she wants to meet me. She says she can get out and visit me Friday at midnight. We’re to meet at Gryffindor dorm, so we won’t run into any elves – they’d be angry. They hates goblins.”

“That’s great, Dobby,” said Harry. “We’ll make arrangements. I guess we’d better take care of our books at Flourish & Blotts next.”

By now many Hogwarts’ students and their families were also doing their pre-school shopping. Harry could not turn his head without getting a wave and a thumbs-up, and students calling out, “I’m in.” More than a few parents approached him to shake his hand and thank him personally for whatever help he could give their child. A few even asked if they could join the DA themselves, which at first took Harry aback, until he recovered – realizing that few adult wizards were probably much prepared to defend themselves - and referred them to Dumbledore.

Hermione beamed. “You see, Harry. Now that Voldemort’s return is acknowledged – oh, get over it, Ron, it’s just a name - everyone wants to learn from you.”

“Well, I don’t know if it’s me or that it’s the only game in town,” said Harry modestly.

“Oh, stop that!” said Ginny. “I can’t stand that overdone modesty. You don’t need to have a big head to recognize that there aren’t five other people in the country better qualified to teach surviving confrontations with the Death Eaters!”

“Alright, alright,” laughed Harry. “I guess you’re right. I’ve just always been put off by all this fame stuff.”

Ron spoke up next, “Harry, we didn’t want you to coach us because you survived as a baby. We want you to teach us because you’ve fought and survived so many times after growing up – THAT took skill and guts, and that’s what we want a piece of.”

But when they got to Flourish and Blotts, they learned that not everybody was enthusiastic about Harry and the DA. Back in the shelves, Harry ran into Draco Malfoy and his goons, Crabbe and Goyle.

“So, Potter, you bribed your way to a NEWT early and now you think you’re the expert,” said Malfoy, while Crabbe and Goyle rubbed their fists and cracked their knuckles.

Somehow, Draco’s taunts didn’t get under Harry’s skin anymore: they seemed so small.

“It really wasn’t my doing, Malfoy, either the NEWT or the DA. As for being an expert, I’ll let everyone else decide if they want to practice with me. You three are welcome to join us too, if you’d like, or form your own club. It’s your choice, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you, Potter, making me come to you for lessons? We’ll see a Weasley named Minister of Magic before that happens.”

Crabbe and Goyle nodded and laughed thickly, rather louder than made sense.

“Suit yourself,” replied Harry.

“But we might just do like you said, though, about forming our own club. With you forming a gang of mudbloods and riffraff, the real wizards at the school may just need to get organized.”

“Fine by me, Malfoy. The Defense Association is already a lot for me to handle, so the more you can take the better.”

Malfoy eyed Harry suspiciously, all the more so for his calm response, as he and his henchmen shoved their way past him.

“I reckon we can put these away,” Harry heard George say from the next aisle. He, Ron and Ginny came around the corner, putting away their wands. “We saw those three clowns looking for trouble and figured we’d best be prepared.”

“That was brilliant, Harry,” said Ron. “It made him madder that you didn’t react than if you had mouthed off. Let’s make a pact this year – we’ll all turn Malfoy away with soft answers and courtesy this year – it’ll drive him nuts.”

They all put their hands together and made a pledge.

“But, Harry,” said Ginny, “Do you really want him to set up his own group? A bunch of thugs up to no good?”

“Sure, I only want people who are serious about survival in the DA. We’re going to work hard, and I don’t need disruptions. Anyway, I’d rather not teach junior Death Eaters how to be effective in battle. Besides, all Malfoy can teach ’em is how to be slimy and sneaky, and we already expect that. As far as fighting skills go, it’ll be the blind leading the blind.”

They finished buying their books and headed back to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes to have lunch with Fred. When they got there, they found him overwhelmed with customers. As it was the day before the students returned to school, everyone wanted to load up on their joke supplies, especially since it looked to be a tense year. Harry, Hermione, and all the Weasleys pitched in to catch up with business, while Dobby took care of bringing additional supplies from the basement storeroom. Every so often, a customer would get too close to the samples, take one, and with a pop convert into some sort of a creature or grow some auxiliary appendage.

After they got a good start on taking care of the press of customers, Dobby went upstairs to make lunch for them all. They took turns staffing the store and having lunch so that all the business could be handled. Even so, it came to be fairly late in the day, and they still had not gotten their stationery and pet supplies. The rest had been talking quidditch all day when they weren’t doing business, so Hermione offered to go get supplies for everyone.

“Would it be alright for Dobby to come with me, Harry? I’ll need help carrying things,” she asked.

Well, it’s up to him – Dobby, do you think I’ll be safe enough surrounded by all these wizards?”

“Dobby thinks he’s being made fun of, sir. Dobby takes his work seriously,” answered Dobby.

“Oh, Dobby, I’m sorry if you didn’t like the tease. It’s just been strange for me having a bodyguard all summer.” Harry said sincerely.

“Dobby understands. Harry Potter will be safe here. Dobby will go with Miss.”

When the shop finally closed, there was still daylight available, so Ginny decided she had to try out her new Firebolt. They went to the roundabout in front of the shop and she kicked off. She hooted and hollered for awhile on it, till Fred called, “Well, if you’re not going to put it to the test, we may as well take it back.”

“Right then,” called Ginny and pushed up the speed and started making rather daring approaches through trees and at buildings that would have been foolish on a school broom. Then as Harry watched in horror, the broom started bucking and tossing like his had his first year when Professor Quirrel jinxed it. Harry watched and grabbed for his wand to try to break her fall, when he saw the broom suddenly dart with Ginny across the road and slam into the side of the twins’ shop. Harry shouted in horror as he saw Ginny’s limp body drop two and a half stories to the pavement.

Then Harry blinked his eyes and saw Ginny still flying about, as she came to a stop and stared at him. The rest were staring too, and then Harry realized it had just been another vision. He let his arm drop limply by his side, still clutching the wand. He squeezed his eyes shut to keep from crying.

“I saw … Ginny (pointing to where she had been when the vision started) … she crashed (he traced the path ending at the wall) … she collapsed (pointing at the ground below)”

“Come on, mate,” said Fred, “it’s time for a cuppa, or maybe even a butterbeer. Let’s go upstairs.”

Ginny landed and they all went with Harry to the twins’ walkup apartment. George kept a watch from the window for Hermione and Dobby and called them up when they arrived. They told about the vision, and Hermione came and stood behind Harry and rubbed his shoulders.

“It’s okay, Harry,” she soothed. “Everyone here understands. Nobody carries what you do. It’s a wonder you keep caring about anything at all.”

He turned and looked up at her. “That’s just it. When I first came to Hogwarts, I just wanted to figure out what being a wizard was, and get out of the Dursleys’ house, and learn stuff about my parents. I made some friends – good friends - but I couldn’t say I was too worried about what happened to most people. I figured someone else was looking after them, and I’d just take care of myself. But that’s not the way it is now. I care for too many people – all of you, and the DA, and everyone at Hogwarts, and the Order, and the Dursleys, and … everyone.” He put his head down on his crossed arms on the kitchen table. “And it’s all on me.”

Everyone looked around, and as much as any of them would like to say otherwise, they all knew it was true.

Finally, George spoke up. “Maybe so, Harry, but you’ll never be alone. We’re with you all the way.”

And they all agreed.

“In fact,” he continued, “Fred and I were hoping we could be with the DA ourselves, if you don’t mind letting a couple of dropouts have a second chance.”

Harry caught himself and looked up. “I’ll put in a word for you. I need all the experienced hands I can get. I’m sorry, everyone. It just all gets to me sometimes. With this Occlumency, I’m supposed to be closing out emotions, but I just can’t stop caring.”

Ginny put a hand on his arm and looked tearfully into his eyes. “We wouldn’t want you to stop that, Harry. It’s what makes you so special.”

Harry took a deep breath and gathered himself. “Oh, we can’t mope around like this. Tell you what. Let’s go to Fortescue’s for ice cream, my treat. We learned he has a special night menu, but he’ll bring it out early for us, won’t he, Dobby.”

Dobby started tittering uncontrollably and Harry winked at him.

When they arrived, Harry insisted they take a couple of tables outside. Then he went in and got the goblin menus from Fortescue. Ginny and Ron started looking at the entries and gave the desired look of disgust. Fred and George started whispering to each other. Hermione looked thoughtful.

“This is very interesting,” she said.

“Hermione, don’t you find these revolting?” asked Harry, with a hint of exasperation.

“Well, of course, on a personal level. But I was expecting something strange, since you and Dobby were acting so silly. It was very good to see you cheering up like that. So when we got the menus, I noticed right away that the heading said it was for goblins. Of course, we all know that as primarily troglodytic beings, their preferred foods run to roots, grubs and meats, generally heavily spiced, and very little in the way of sweets.”

“Granger,” said Harry, “sometimes you’re just too rational to be any fun.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying, mate!” said Ron. “But what’s up with these two?”

The twins broke their discussion.

“This is brilliant,” said Fred.

“Oh?” said Ginny. “I suppose you’re going to have the silverfish and horseradish!?”

“No, it’s not that WE want to eat these things. It’s that there are customers who do,” said George. “Just like Zonko’s has blood pops that are just for jokes for most people but are a real treat for the vampires, we have a line of disgusting flavored foods coming out. Nothing magical about them – just so awful they’re funny. We’re calling the whole line Gross-ries.”

“Yeah,” added Fred. “We’ve got things like angel-food cake tubes filled with chicken curry, and licorice-coated garlic dills.”

Everyone got a disgusted look on their faces, except for Dobby who got the ‘kid in a candy store’ look and licked his lips.

“See! Look at Dobby,” continued Fred. “We consider these things repulsive, but he’s excited. He likes this ice cream menu, too, which means the goblins will probably like these other things he likes as well. It’s one thing to sell these as novelties to wizards, but to sell them as packaged foods to goblins would be a gold mine! Zonko’s makes good money with blood pops and there can’t be more than 100 vampires in Britain. But there are several thousands of goblins.”

“Dobby,” said George. “How would you like a part-time job.”

“I has the best job in the world already, sir. I guards Harry Potter,” Dobby said proudly.

“You could keep doing that, and a noble calling it is, too,” George went on, with a wink at Harry. “What I have in mind is this: when we come to Hogwarts for DA practices, we’ll bring some of our new products – we swear no tricks – and you taste them and tell us how you like them. It might be things like cantaloupe in guacamole, or tripe treacle tarts, or yams in mole sauce.”

“That’s pronounced ‘mo-lay’, George” corrected Hermione.

“Not the sauce WE use.”

“Eeeww,” said Hermione.

“Sirs would let Dobby be the first to try these delicacies and pay him!? Already Dobby gets to guard Harry Potter and clean the Gryffindor dorms. And Dobby has a date with the beautiful goblin Melony! Could life get any better than this!?”

“It takes all kinds, doesn’t it?” said Ron.

“Ron, after hearing all this,” said Ginny, “I’m going to stop teasing you about your peanut butter and ketchup sandwiches.”

“Eeeww!” said Hermione.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #17  
Old September 12th, 2005, 9:48 pm
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Chapter 14 Greetings and Departure

Harry and Hermione ran together before breakfast, or at least they set off together. Although Hermione had been working on a conditioning program, she had started less fit than Harry and had not worked nearly as obsessively. Soon Harry was running ahead with Dobby on his back, and when he got to the end of Diagon Alley, he would double-back and greet Hermione passing the other way. His first reaction as he saw her coming was the pleasure one gets in seeing a well-loved friend. But then Harry noted to himself that as composed and even imposing as Hermione could be in robes bearing a wand or a book, she was particularly ungainly once she started to get winded. He hoped that as she got into shape that would pass, because he did not want to think poorly of a friend or let pass a comment that would offend her.

Every time Harry passed Weasley Wizard Wheezes, one or the other of the twins would either catcall or act like they were taking pictures. By the time Harry was on his third pass-by, he noticed a mess around the windows, which grew every time he passed by again. He realized Hermione must be getting the same teasing and in response was pulling her wand to keep the twins at bay. Of course, Harry thought, the eggs and other debris would just egg them on.

When they were done Harry and Hermione went to their rooms to shower and put the finishing touches on their packing. They went downstairs together to check out and stow their bags until time to leave. They found Ron, Ginny and the twins already down there claiming a large enough table for all of them for breakfast.

“What’sa matter, Hermione?” laughed Fred. “Don’t like your picture taken in the morning? Did you forget your makeup?”

“Why worry?” said George, “No one could see you through that hair anyway.”

“That’s how they’d know it was her,” said Fred.

Hermione glared daggers at them, but Harry, Ginny and Ron were stifling their own laughter.

“Next time, I won’t use temporary charms on you two,” growled Hermione.

“Ooh, we’re scared. Ickle Hermione is going to jinx us,” said George.

“Hermione, next time you say you’re jealous of me having brothers, I’m going to remind you of this,” said Ginny.

“You know, Harry,” said Ron, “that would be an interesting fight – Hermione against the twins. Who d’ya reckon would win?”

“Hmm,” said Harry thoughtfully, “that’s a good one. One on one, it’d be Hermione, I reckon (the twins feigned offense at this), but could she handle the two of them at once. Maybe we should stage that at one of the advanced DA sessions. Oh, by the way, you two, I talked with Dumbledore last night – you’re in. Just apparate to the Quidditch pitch and walk on up. He said you could join the Gryffindor table for dinner on DA nights.”

“Hey, now! That’s a deal, even if we have to spar with Hermione,” said George.

“I’m glad he agreed. Without you two, if we have 400 new students, the rest would have over 20 each This will cut it down some,” said Harry.

“Harry,” said Ginny, “I thought 400 was the low side estimate – what if more show up?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m hoping for. If we have too many, I’m afraid progress will be too slow, but I’d hate to turn away anyone who wants to learn. I’ve even thought about dividing the group into two if it’s too large and doubling the nights we meet, but that would be so hard on us original DAs to meet 4 nights a week, plus do studies and for most of us quidditch.”

“Well, better this sort of problem than last year’s situation,” said Hermione. “I don’t know if I could handle another year of such sneaking around. I just hope the new DA teacher won’t have a problem with it.”

“He, or she, won’t,” said Fred, with a grin toward George. “We’re sure of it.”

“Any chance you’re going to fill us in?” said Harry.

“Nope, so don’t bother.”

“I know you too well – I won’t. By the way everyone, everything about Marietta is in the past.”

The Weasleys were aghast, but Harry continued. “What’s done is done and we need every competent DA student from last year to help this year.”

“Harry’s right,” added Hermione. “I’ve already lifted the Sneak Curse on her, and she says she has been practicing hard. She really was quite good, even if she was only forced into it by Cho.”

“Yeah, but she stabbed us in the back!” said Ron.

“Ron,” said Harry, “Have you forgotten already what things were like last year!? We were all scared silly, not just of Voldemort, but of Umbridge as well. It was just a matter of time before someone cracked. If someone saw her skulking off with Cho and reported it, Umbridge could have brought all sorts of pressure.”

Ron scowled. “Well, I don’t have to like it and I don’t have to be nice to her.”

Harry nodded. “I told her to accept that she would get a cold reception. If you’ll at least treat her as well as McGonagall treats Trelawney, it’ll be okay.”

“What if there’s trouble again, though, Harry. Maybe she’d pull a Pettigrew on us and sell us out in a pinch. She seems to have done that once already.”

“Well for now, we’re only talking about training with the DA. I’m not saying we have to put her in a crucial role, like my parents did with Pettigrew. I’m also not saying we need to tell her about secret matters, just accept her as a group leader in out training sessions.”

“Oh, I suppose I can live with that,” Ron muttered, with the other Weasleys nodding reluctantly.

“Okay, I’m glad that’s settled. We also need to get the word to the others – no one is to mention any of this problem to the rest of the school. What happened last year is solely among last year’s DA, okay?”

“Yeah, I guess. So what’s the plan for getting to Kings’ Cross,” said Ron, as breakfast was brought out on large platters.

Hermione answered. “We’ve worked out a plan for maximal safety while Dobby’s not with Harry. Oh, Harry stop rolling your eyes – you know we have to be cautious. Fred and George will be taking the baggage. From here, Dobby will apparate Ginny to the station, while one of the twins takes her things. Then Dobby and the twin who went comes back for you and your things, Harry, and then for you, Ron. Finally Dobby comes back for me, and the other twin will come along at that time with my things.”

“Yes, we can’t have Harry getting lonely,” teased Fred.

“Oh, yeah?” said Harry, as his hand darted under the table and he muttered something, then as quickly returned to buttering his waffle.

“Erk!” said Fred, with his eyes watering. “Good one, Harry. Excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

“What’s the matter, Fred?” asked Ginny, noticing his odd gait.

“Erm, well, Harry’s mastered the wickedest wedgie-charm ever. Harry, you’ve got to show me that one later – but on someone else.”

Traveling by apparation, they were able to go directly to the Hogwarts platform, without passing through from the muggle side. An area was set aside for families who could arrive that way, which greatly eased the problem of disguising passages through the wall to Platform 9 ¾ from the muggles.

Virtually as soon as he got there, Harry was beset by students and parents. All the parents who approached thanked him profusely and the students all said they were looking forward to it. More than a few of the young witches eyed Harry in his jeans and t-shirt and blushed: some went away with their witch friends giggling together. When Harry saw Neville, he asked him to save a seat on the train, and to try to get a couple of other students to join them, since all their usual seatmates were now prefects.

“Actually, Harry, I was going to spend a good bit of the time in the last car,” said Neville, pointing.

Harry looked and saw that a car had been added – conjured for the day most likely - which was not a passenger car. He could see through the windows that it contained a fully–equipped gymnasium, and seemed oddly larger on the inside than on the outside. He figured it had been magically enlarged on the inside to accommodate as many as might like to use it.

“That’s great,” said Harry. “I’ve been away from a gym for a couple of days and I’ve needed to get back. Wow, Neville, I just noticed, you’ve really dropped weight and firmed up since I saw you last.”

Neville beamed. “Actually the same weight, Harry, but muscle instead of fat. I’m feeling better and stronger, too.”

“I’d better get to work,” said Harry, “just to keep up with my students.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll always be the coach,” said Neville.

“I like that,” said Luna, who had arrived with her father during this talk.

“Hi, Luna. You like what?” asked Harry.

“You’ve said you wanted to downplay both the sense that this is an army being formed or that you are ‘in control’ – well, let’s call you ‘coach.’ That has more of the sense of a team learning skills together.”

“What’s wrong with calling me ‘Harry’?” asked Harry.

Luna laughed. “There are too many. Have you not noticed how many Harrys there are in the younger years? After Voldemort was destroyed when you were a baby, ‘Harry’ became the most popular boys’ name among British sorcerers. All the boys in your year had already been named, but my year has several Harrys and the following years must have at least a dozen each. There are even more than a few Harriets who answer to ‘Harry.’ If we start calling for ‘Harry’ in the DA meetings, we’ll get dozens of people responding.”

Neville slapped him on the back. “Coach Potter it is, then, mate.”

“Well, it’s better than what I was being called this time last year,” said Harry.

As the students filtered away, Harry felt a hand on his shoulder. “Harry, it’s good to see you again.”

“Oh, Mr. Lovegood, how are you? It’s nice to see you again. Thanks again for letting me visit.”

“I’m doing splendid, Harry, and please feel free to visit anytime. It’s a pleasure and an honor to have you visit and I’m so impressed with what you and your DA have been doing.” Harry started to put up his hands in protest, but Mr. Lovegood continued, “Alright, I know you shy from the credit, but someday you’ll accept what is due. In the meantime, I want to give you something – a free subscription to The Quibbler.”

“Oh, um, gee, uh, that’s great, Mr. Lovegood,” said Harry reluctantly.

Mr. Lovegood laughed heartily, and Harry realized where Luna got her laugh from. “You think some of the articles in there are trash and a joke? So do I. Thing is, I could say the same for the Daily Prophet, eh? But I admit it and they try to claim to be ‘authority.’ We run a lot of articles from sorcerers of all stripes with different viewpoints. We get a lot of rubbish, because we can’t afford to pay for the articles or to verify all the claims. We aren’t subsidized like the Prophet. Nonetheless, we also get some good articles as well – like a certain interview we ran last year, eh? The trick is to figure out the gems from the garbage – again, that’s true of any news source. This year I’d love to run most anything you might want to submit about the challenges ahead and getting prepared - think about it. I know you’re busy during the school year though. Here, here’s your first issue, it makes good reading while you’re on a treadmill, takes your mind off the sweating.”

Harry smiled. “Okay, thanks, Mr. Lovegood, I’ll keep an open mind. You’re certainly right about one thing – the establishment paper has no better track record than The Quibbler. Uh-oh, the train’s about to leave - gotta run. Thanks, Mr. Lovegood.”

With that Harry grabbed his trunk, and he and Dobby jumped on the Hogwarts’ Express and set off down the aisle looking for Neville. By the time they got situated, the train had departed. They changed into gym clothes and set off to the end of the train. By the time they arrived there, the gym was already busy. Several students waved happily from their exercises. Harry and Neville did stretches first before moving to stair-climber machines. Harry was surprised that they seemed to be muggle machines, but then he realized muggles exercise the same way that wizards do. Similarly, the steam engine which pulled the train was no different from muggle steam engines, except of course that almost all of the muggle steam engines had been retired to scrap or museums. Generally, wizards used muggle things when they were up to the job. Harry suspected, though, that the boiler of the steam engine was kept heated magically rather than by coal or wood.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #18  
Old September 14th, 2005, 3:43 pm
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Chapter 15 Training

Harry and Neville were just finishing with the stair-climber and started into sit-ups when the prefects were able to join them. After calisthenics, Harry decided to get a steam bath and some pumpkin juice before heading to the weight machines. As he headed into the steam bath, the door shut rather too forcefully. Harry wheeled around to see Draco Malfoy grinning evilly, with Vincent Crabbe beside him and Gregory Goyle leaning his immense bulk against the door so no one would get in or out.

“Well, well, Potter. Finally we meet without your gang of mongrels barking at your heels,” sneered Draco while stroking his wand. “Now what shall we do first – shall we reproduce what your friends did to us on the train ride back?”

“Y’know, Draco, if you didn’t go looking for trouble, you wouldn’t find it so much,” replied Harry. He considered using his wandless Expelliarmus, but wanted that to be a last resort.

“I could say the same to you, Potter, but first I’ll say this – PETRIFI---“

Draco’s curse was interrupted with a large crack, as he and both of his cronies were thrown into the corner.

“You will not harm Harry Potter,” roared Dobby, who had gone unnoticed in the steam.

“I know that voice,” said Draco. “That’s Dobby, our house elf.”

“He WAS your family’s house elf,” said Harry. “My friend Dobby is free and likes it like that.”

“’Free’ – right! He’s a house elf. Born to be a slave and never anything but,” said Draco. “You’re just the sort of riffraff that would call an elf ‘friend.’”

“I’m proud to call him that. Dobby has more dignity and value than Voldemort and all his Death Eaters combined,” Harry retorted.

“Every time I think you cannot get more absurd, Potter, you prove me wrong,” said Draco. “Since it seems that we’ll be unable to get our revenge now, we’ll be on our way - until later.”

Harry pondered a second as they got up and said, “Malfoy, wait a second – you want a shot at me?”

Malfoy eyed him suspiciously. “Yeah, but it doesn’t look like your keeper is going to let it happen.”

“How about without magic? A muggle sport I learned called boxing – we put on padded gloves and head gear and go at it with our fists. A few simple rules, like no hitting below the waist or in the back. Interested?”

Crabbe and Goyle were already rubbing their fists and grinning, obviously anxious to take on Harry without magic being a factor. Brute strength was their forte’ and they knew it. But Draco looked worried – he never liked a fair fight and he didn’t have size like the other two did. He clearly would rather that Harry fight Crabbe or Goyle instead, especially as he noticed Harry’s newly developed muscle.

“Crabbe and Goyle want in on this, too. Find a couple of seconds for yourself, Potter, then we’ll draw straws to see who fights whom,” Draco drawled.

Harry immediately remembered that Seamus Finnegan and Dean Thomas both had muggle fathers who favored boxing and other rugged sports. “I think that can be arranged. We’ll get some other prefects to referee. I’ll meet you outside the steamroom in ten minutes.”

Neither Seamus nor Dean needed convincing.

“Me whole father’s side of the family’s been Golden Gloves,” said Seamus. “I’ve been sparrin’ with ‘em for years. I was going that way when I got me Hogwarts’ letter.”

“Same here,” said Dean. “Dad reckoned that a black boy in London who makes strange things happen had better know how to defend ‘imself. I’m game to fight any of those arrogant nitwits that try to say us mudbloods ain’t good enough.”

“Dean!” said Harry. “How can you call yourself such an ugly name!?”

“Harry, they use it anyway – if I take it from ‘em, it loses the power to hurt me.”

“Well, we half-bloods can stand our ground as well, eh, Harry?” said Seamus.

“I like our chances here,” replied Harry. “I just wish we didn’t have to make it a ‘blood’ issue. We’re all just people, and we happen to be able to do magic.”

Word of the match spread like grippe down the train and the exercise room was soon crowded. Dobby conjured helmets, gloves and ropes for the boxing rings and three prefects were found who knew enough about boxing to keep things clean. Dean drew Goyle as an opponent and Seamus drew Malfoy, to Malfoy’s visible relief, as Seamus was the smallest of the three Gryffindors. That left Harry to fight Crabbe, who was every bit as big as Dudley.

Dean and Goyle went at it first. Dean had a couple of inches more height and reach, but Goyle was substantially larger. Nonetheless, Dean’s skill was immediately apparent. He kept moving around the ring, enticing Goyle to punch, then easily backed away or ducked punches. He spent a couple of rounds content to let Goyle exhaust himself, tagging Goyle occasionally with stinging jabs. Even Goyle could tell he was being played with, like a cat with a mouse, and got all the more angry because of it. By the third round, Goyle was getting fatigued and Dean moved in close with punch after punch: roundhouses, jabs, uppercuts, all aimed at various allowable targets on the body and head. The punishment got worse through round four. Harry could tell that Dean was holding back, scoring points as he might in a tournament match rather than going for the knockout.

Goyle made it into the fifth round, but just barely. Halfway through, he tried a wild flurry of flailing punches, hoping for a surprise hit, but finding only air. Then breathing extremely heavily and dragging his feet, he held up his gloves. He spat out his mouth protector, slumped to his knees and holding his body up by the ropes panted, “I give up.”

“What, no! Goyle, you worthless loser. You can’t let a mudblood beat you!” yelled Draco.

The words were out before he had thought, and the gym became silent, as nearly a third of those present were muggle-born and most of the rest treasured their muggle-born friends. Even most of the Slytherins edged away from him, even though most probably would have used the term in private.

Dean stepped up to him, towering over Draco by more than a head. “I reckon this ‘mudblood’ has done just that. It’s your turn now, Malfoy. I’m going to enjoy this!” Then Dean grinned wickedly, knowing Seamus’s experience. “Have fun picking on someone your own size.”

Malfoy and Seamus then put the gloves on, and began their match. Seamus lived up to the stereotypical small, pugnacious, Irish brawling style, but had discipline and skill. As for Draco, it was not so much a stylistic choice to mix it up immediately, as a complete lack of experience in a fair fight and very little choice against a very aggressive opponent. Seamus was stronger, skilled at aiming his punches effectively, and he knew how to defend as well. Draco’s only real advantage was that the referee was not calling the match very closely, due to inexperience, so he got away with a number of punches which would have disqualified him in a more formal setting. Both threw lots of punches, with Seamus connecting about twice as often. Although Seamus was receiving the occasional improper hit, he was familiar with being hit both fairly and unfairly in matches, so he could handle them. Malfoy, on the other hand, had always had people protecting him, so he only knew to try to hit as well as he could, which wasn’t all that good.

Seamus didn’t want the fight to end too quickly, so he concentrated on punches to the torso and the head away from Draco’s face. He didn’t even care if Draco blocked punches, since he knew his fists moved fast enough to severely bruise Draco’s arms, making Draco less able to defend as time wore on. After the first round, Draco was still fairly sharp, but winded and visibly bruised on the underside of his arms and his lower ribs. In the second round, Seamus toyed with Draco by making it look like his defenses were down, then when Draco would try to hit him, Seamus would dodge and jab. Draco got madder and madder and more and more tired.

In the third round, Seamus decided to end it. He would stay just out of reach, then jump forward and throw three or four quick jabs or uppercuts, and then jump back as Draco tried to respond. By halfway into the round, Draco was barely responding and Seamus was scoring at will. Seamus started choosing his punches more carefully so that Draco would have cuts to remember the fight by for a good long time. By the end of the third round, Draco had a gash under his left eye and another over the right. His upper lip was badly swollen and there was a slow-bleeding cut on top of his right collarbone.

Draco barely make it out for the fourth round and Seamus decided to end it. He threw a flurry of punches. Even though they all found their mark, his fists were not large enough for a knockout, but they took their toll. Within a minute, Draco collapsed to his hands and knees and could not get up. Crabbe and Goyle helped him out of the ring. Marietta Edgecombe, who was in her second year as a healer trainee and had retrieved the magical first aid kit from the wall of the gym, gave him an invigorating draught to bring him around and started to tend to his wounds.

“As long as I can see Potter pummeled, it’ll be okay,” he muttered.

Crabbe was at least eight inches taller and easily over twice as heavy as Harry, but he knew Harry was mobile and strong, so he circled warily. Harry’s plan was to tire him out. Seeing an opportunity, Crabbe punched hard with a lunge; Harry jumped to the side and punched Crabbe in the side of the head. Though Crabbe was not very bright, he understood enough about fighting for this to make him realize that this would not be a one-punch fight. He circled again, and then threw a two-punch combination, which Harry deflected and dodged and answered with a sharp jab in the ribs. The cheering was deafening, but Harry‘s mind was only on the fists. Crabbe’s combination showed that he had gotten at least a little experience.

Once again, Crabbe advanced on Harry, and Harry backed and sidestepped. From boxing Dudley, he knew his best opportunities would come when his larger opponent was getting worn out. As Seamus did, he made himself look vulnerable to entice Crabbe into an attack, and then dodged whatever Crabbe did, usually with a small counterpunch that had little effect but to annoy. The first round continued like this, but by the end, Crabbe was panting heavily. In the second round, Crabbe decided to conserve strength, so he stood flat-footed and waited for Harry to come to him. Harry moved around him to make Crabbe keep moving, but it was not really tiring him. Therefore Harry started moving in closer to punch, then jumping back. On most occasions, he was out in time, but several times Harry was hit solidly. Harry got a severe bruise on his cheek, despite the headgear. In a scored match, Harry would have won the round, but he knew he had taken more damage than Crabbe had.

In the third round, Harry kept it simpler: jab and dodge, jab and block. He kept with quick, annoying punches that Crabbe was too slow to respond to. Crabbe had to respond and so he tried again advancing on Harry. He was more cautious this time, however, so as to move Harry toward the ropes without an easy escape. Crabbe punched hard, and Harry dodged, then Crabbe tried a roundhouse and uppercut combination, which Harry blocked and answered with a straight punch in the chest. Then Crabbe immediately went for another combination, which Harry pulled back to avoid the first punch and then started to jump sideways to dodge the second. However, this time Malfoy had moved around behind Harry and stuck a foot out to trip him. Crabbe’s punch glanced off Harry’s headgear as Harry fell. The cries of foul were heard all around, but Harry jumped up and quickly blinked. Crabbe assumed Harry was dazed and lunged again, only to find Harry ducking and then rising again with the strongest uppercut his compact muscular frame could give. It caught Crabbe under the jaw and dazed him enough that he was no longer able to give effective defense. Harry followed up with a furious storm of punches to the head and torso, which made Crabbe's entire body wobble until it collapsed like a mudslide to the mat. Almost the entire gym started cheering. Marietta quickly came and examined Crabbe, finding he was not significantly damaged. She gave him an invigorating draught also and within seconds, he was recovered, though still a bit woozy.

Draco was enraged. “This isn’t the end, Potter,” he threatened, and stomped back down the train.

Seamus, Dean and Harry were hugging and high-fiving, and being congratulated by all those who stayed behind. Suddenly the crowd around the three parted and started murmuring as Crabbe and Goyle approached them. Those who had their wands put their hands on them, and Dobby tensed as well, even though Crabbe and Goyle clearly did not have their wands on them. Seamus and Dean were flanking Harry as he faced the approaching hulks, who came close and extended their hands.

“Good fight,” they both said.

Crabbe continued. “I don’t like getting beat but it was a good fight and a fair one, well, on your side, sorry about Malfoy's trick - Goyle just told me.”

The three Gryffindor boxers broke into big, relieved grins.

Goyle added, “Yeah, that was fun. I’d like to learn to fight like that. Can we do it again some time?”

“Well, we’ll see. Listen, we’ll be working on fighting skills in the DA – everyone is welcome who wants to improve. I was serious when I invited you yesterday. It won’t be boxing, but there will be some sparring. Why don’t you join us?”

Crabbe frowned. “Well, we’ll have to see if we can. I don’t think Malfoy’d like it.”

Then Ron spoke up: “If you want to come, tell him you’re spying on us.”

They nodded and then Goyle said, “Yeah, erm, Draco’s starting his own pureblood dueling club. He’ll expect us there.”

“Listen,” said Harry, intently, “the DA is not about sport. It’s about surviving and fighting back against dark wizardry. If you don’t want to go that way, you’ll want to know how to defend yourselves. It may be all the more necessary for those who have grown up close to dark wizards.”

“Yeah, erm, we’ll see,” they muttered and went off toward the showers.

“Harry,” said Seamus, “you’d teach even them!? They’ve been Malfoy’s henchmen since we’ve been at Hogwarts, and you said their fathers were in the graveyard with … you-know-who!”

“Seamus, EVERYONE,” called out Harry loudly. “I’m serious about this. I’ve been asked to teach what I can to everyone who wants to defend themselves against the Death Eaters and their sort. I don’t care what your blood is or what your house is. I don’t care if you and I have quarreled before or you thought I was crazy or a showboat or what. There is only one thing that matters to me now – and that is to see that we all survive the coming hard times. We are coming together as the DA to prepare everyone to stay alive. Every lost person is a tragedy. I hope to see all of you at the DA meeting, the first meeting will be this coming Tuesday. For now, I came to this gym to exercise, so I’ll get back to it.”

Hermione, Ron, Neville, Ginny and Luna were left with Harry as the crowd dispersed and Harry doffed his boxing gear.

“That was barbaric,” said Hermione.

“Sometimes people act like animals,” said Luna airily.

“That’s right,” said Neville, with a harsh edge to his voice, “and sometimes they act beneath animals. And when someone wants to hurt you, you’d better be prepared to hurt them first!”

Ron clapped him on the back “That’s the idea, Neville. Wow, you’re getting solid. I’m not turning my back on you after making you mad.”

Neville glowered and spoke quietly. “You’re not in any danger, Ron, but if I get another chance at Death Eaters, they’re going to pay!”

“Okay, Neville,” said Harry. “I’m all with you on that, but let’s keep a level head. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that hatred and anger destroy performance. When the time comes, we’ll have jobs to do, and we won’t be able to afford poor performance.”

All agreed and then completed their workouts before showering, finding the witch with the snack trolley, and then repairing to their cars for rest, talk, and games before arriving at Hogwarts.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #19  
Old September 16th, 2005, 2:30 pm
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Chapter 16 - Quidditch Captain

Although the sun was low in the late afternoon sky when the train arrived at Hogsmeade Station, it was still soothingly warm. Ron, Ginny, Luna and Hermione had to help herd the first years toward the boats. Harry and Neville were to hold spaces in a carriage; since the carriages could only hold four, Luna and Ginny said they would ride with other fifth-years. Harry and Neville approached an empty carriage. Harry stopped and gazed at the thestrals, pawing the ground and rearing their heads spiritedly.

“You can see them?” he asked Neville quietly.

“Sure, Harry," said Neville.

"But you could see them before, couldn't you?" Harry went on.

“Of course, you know that. Why do you ask?"

"I just try to fool myself that Sirius isn't really dead. I try to think that the arch just took him somewhere else, like a portkey would. If you couldn't see them, then …but you could see them before, so of course you still can,” answered Harry.

“I saw my grandfather die - peacefully. I was 10 years old. And now I’ve seen Sirius Black go. But I've always seen the thestrals. That's enough deaths for my taste," said Neville sympathetically.

“I’ve had my fill, too. Look around us at all these happy faces. In their heads, they know he’s back and that the world has become more dangerous, but it hasn’t sunk into their hearts yet. Last year after the TriWizard Tournament, I still couldn’t see the thestrals because Cedric’s death hadn’t sunk in yet. It takes time for some changes to become real to us. It’s our job, all of us who were in last year's DA, to prepare all of these people to stay alive, even though they don’t yet fully appreciate the scope of the threat. Are you up for it?”

“Harry, you know I am. So long as I know why my parents are in St. Mungo’s, I have no choice but to do everything I can against the Death Eaters. But you know what? I like our chances. We have a coach who could bring me around from utterly hopeless to competence in twenty or so surreptitious training sessions. With a full year and the support of the school, you’ll work wonders.”

“Thanks, Neville. Nothing like setting the bar high, eh?”

“The rest of us will do what we can, Harry. You know that. I just know it was you who made the difference for me.”

In the Great Hall, Neville, Harry, Hermione and Ron sat together at the Gryffindor Table.

“Have you noticed,” Harry asked “how the classes seem to be bigger and bigger? We must have the smallest class in the school, except maybe the seventh-years.”

“Yeah,” said Ron, “I asked my folks about that. They said that when You-Know-Who – don’t kick me, Hermione - was around near the time we were born, a lot of couples were avoiding having children, and many were not even getting married at all. There were loads of marriages and new births in the years after he disappeared: people making up for lost time, I reckon.”

“I sure can’t blame anyone for not wanting to commit their hearts in times like that – it hurts too much when they are taken away,” said Harry.

“Harry,” said Hermione, “people don’t die only in wars. There will always be people dying and it will always leave holes in the lives of those left behind.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right, but do me a favor – I don’t want any of you leaving until you’re at least as old as Dumbledore.”

Hermione shook her head. “Harry, I’m the one who dropped Divination. Even if there was some amount of substance to it, I don’t think it’s for us to know such things.”

“Any idea who the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher will be?” asked Neville.

They all looked up at the teacher’s table. Most of the teachers were already there. Neither the centaur Firenze nor Professor Trelawney attended the feast, but this was no surprise: they rarely attended schoolwide functions. Snape was as greasy and glaring as ever, maybe even a wee bit more bitter looking. Harry felt a pang of sympathy despite his hard feelings toward Snape. Professor Flitwick was sitting on a stack of books in a chair between Professor Sprout and Professor Sinistra, with whom he was talking. Hagrid had taken his place after bringing the first years across the lake.

Harry suddenly had another of his visions, seeing all the faculty dead, killed in a bloody mess. He barely stifled a scream and quickly turned his head down to stare at the floor. The others turned to comfort him, gathering already what had happened. They were getting Harry to describe what he saw so he could let go of it easier, when Ginny came up hurriedly, thumping them on the backs and loudly whispering “Look” while pointing up to the teacher’s table.

Seating himself next to Hagrid, who was giving a warm greeting, was none other than Arthur Weasley.

“It can’t be!” said Ron.

“I’m ruined,” said Ginny. “No boy’ll date a girl whose father is a professor.”

“Oh, well,” said Ron, a little too happily, “you’ll need that time preparing for OWL exams.”

“Easy for you to say, Ron,” snapped Ginny. “No girl with any brains would go out with you anyway.” Harry noticed her winking at Hermione as she said this.

Harry smiled. “Well, I guess there won’t be any problem getting the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher's support for the DA this year. Dumbledore obviously had your Dad in mind all summer. He could see which way the winds were blowing at the Ministry.”

“It IS a bit unsettling though,” said Hermione pensively, “given the track record of Defense teachers here.”

“Hermione Granger!” teased Ron. “Are you now a soothsayer!?”

“I never said there was no such thing as prophecies or curses,” said Hermione, “just that the stuff Trelawney was pushing at us was claptrap. It would be hard not to think there was a problem with the Dark Arts position. If something’s going to keep your father from teaching more than one year, I just hope it’ll be quiet, like Professor Lupin’s departure, rather than the way of the others we’ve had.”

“Well, let’s see,” said Neville, “The ministry didn’t send him, so he’s no Umbridge. He’s no egomaniac, so he’s not a Lockhart. I’ve seen his forearm, so he’s not a Deatheater like Crouch. And I don’t see Voldemort sticking out of the back of his head like Quirrell. I guess the only thing we have to worry about is the full moon.”

Ron had been caught by this last remark while drinking pumpkin juice and immediately spewed it out through his mouth and nose with a guffaw, “Yeah - my Dad, the werewolf.”

At this point, Professor McGonagall called the Hall to order for the Sorting Ceremony. The nervous first years lined up down the aisles and around the sides of the Hall. A few waved at siblings at the tables. Professor McGonagall brought out a four-legged stool and the tattered old Sorting Hat.

“In the Sorting Ceremony,” she announced, “you will each come up when called and sit on this stool. I will place the Sorting Hat on your head. It will determine the House which should be best for developing your skills and character. Your house will be your family and your home while you are at Hogwarts. I must stress, however, that just as when you are with your parents and you have friends outside the home, it is entirely appropriate and healthy for Hogwarts students to have friends outside their Houses.”

She then placed the stool down and the Hat upon it. The brim came alive and opened up into a mouth and began to sing:

“You come to me for sorting now, to place you where you’ll stay;
To tell the House where you shall sleep and help you find your way.
But I tell you sorting can go too far, when it keeps good beings apart;
Sorting should help you find your strength and not diminish your heart.

Consider, young friends, where I sit, upon this faithful stool;
Four legs it has, I know you know it, unless you are a fool.
Each leg is needed to carry the weight, and help it do its chore,
Of keeping your little bottoms up so you don’t fall to the floor.

Sorcerers have thought for much too long that they were all that counted,
Now they find they have upon a one-legged stool been mounted
Of Magical beings there are more than you and must be in the mix,
Muggles too from whom you come are not mere earth and sticks.

Clasp hands, clasp hands, clasp hands around with neighbors of all sort,
Make friends, build bridges while still you can, before you must resort,
To hunkering down, keeping low, hiding from the gale,
Conjoin, confer, consider neighbors well, and now I’ve told my tale.”

And then the Hat went silent.

The Sorting ceremony proceeded, with the Hat placing the first years in the various houses. Ron and Ginny kept trying to catch their father’s eye, but he studiously avoided their gestures, even while Harry thought he saw a small smile at the corner of his mouth.

“Harry,” said Hermione, “that was a very short song.”

“But it made its point. Here I thought I was doing enough with the DA trying to get the Houses to work together.”

“Is that what the boxing match with Malfoy and Crabbe and Goyle was about – to reach out to Slytherin?” asked Hermione.

“I didn't plan it, but I immediately saw a lot of reasons for it. Reaching out was part of it. I don’t think Crabbe and Goyle are bad, just dense. And Malfoy’s just a spoiled git – he hasn’t got the Death Eater hatred and cruelty in him yet, though he’s far along. I wanted those three to have a fair shot at getting back at us for what happened on the train a couple of months ago. Hopefully that much will have cleared. I also wanted to show the rest of the school that you didn’t have to be the biggest or the strongest or to fight dirty to defend yourself and win. So it was sort of an advertisement, and sort of an olive branch offered to that gang.”

“Harry,” Hermione cocked her head suspiciously, “Are you sure you weren’t just showing off.”

“Well, maybe a little. After the way you and Ginny have been reacting – oh, don’t deny it, you’ve noticed us boys and we’ve noticed you girls, too, it’s natural – I realized that it feels good to be thought of as other than just the Boy Who Lived and the chief resident warrior.”

“So who were you showing off for?” Hermione asked with a smile.

“No one, everyone. No, I guess just for me. Everyone wants to feel attractive, but I can’t get close to anyone; I just can’t allow that. It hurts too much already when I see everybody I care for destroyed in my visions. If I fell in love, I think I would go mad. I was close to that when Sirius died. If I was in love …” Harry hung his head sadly, unable to finish the sentence.

“I understand, Harry,” replied Hermione “until this war is over, you really can’t have a life, can you? Well, let’s change the subject then. Doesn’t the Song make you realize how important SPEW is – we have to reach out to our fellow magical beings.”

“Hermione, all those elf clothes you made are in Dobby’s suitcase – he had to magically expand it to fit them all in,” said Harry. “If you want to help them, why don’t you find out what they want?”

“But freedom is what intelligent beings should want, shouldn’t they? And not to be beaten and abused like the elves are," said Hermione.

“Well, I’m not sure that they understand freedom the way you do. But the abuse is a good starting point. The elves here and at the Longbottoms’ house (Hermione glared at Neville, though he didn’t realize it as he watched the Sorting) are very happy and well treated. They are part of a family and like it like that. But maybe something could be done about setting standards of treatment, like the humane treatment laws for pets,” suggested Harry.

“They aren’t pets!” hissed Hermione angrily, drawing annoyed glances from several people.

“No, but they are members of households who are often treated poorly, and yet would still rather stay in their homes despite awful treatment. And maybe, if they saw themselves as creatures with rights, they would eventually want freedom, too.”

“Maybe you have something there, Harry. You’ve spent more time with elves than I have.”

“Thank you for admitting that. Nobody doubts you care – but you can’t act blindly on your care,” replied Harry.

“I won’t mention someone else who acted blindly on his cares,” replied Hermione.

“Let’s both take that lesson to heart,” said Harry with a nod.

After the Sorting, Professor Dumbledore gave very brief introductory remarks, welcoming Mr. Weasley to the faculty and encouraging participation every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the DA, giving a mercifully subdued acknowledgement of Harry’s role in it. He also announced the formation of a student-run dueling club meeting at the same time as the DA. Interested students were directed to discuss matters with Draco Malfoy.

After the feast, the prefects had to help conduct the First Years to their dorms, so Harry started to head out of the Great Hall with Neville. Before he could even leave the table, however, he heard Professor McGonagall calling his name. He turned and found her standing at the head of the Gryffindor table with Katie Bell. He shrugged to Neville, who continued toward the dorm.

“Yes, Professor?” said Harry.

“Potter, you and Miss Bell are the only team members who have been on the Quidditch team for longer than one season. I wanted to discuss with you two about selecting the new Quidditch Captain. Miss Bell, what are your thoughts on the subject?”

“If you’re asking if I’m interested, then I would have to say no. Between NEWT preparations and Defense Association meetings, I don’t think I could do a good job at it. Besides, even though I love to play, I’m not really interested in being in charge. Harry would be good, though – if he doesn’t get banned again,” she added with a smirk.

“That WON’T be happening again, will it, Potter?” said Professor McGonagall sternly, peering over her glasses. He shook his head as she continued, “Well, how about it then, Potter?”

“I have given it some thought, because I knew Katie had said she didn’t want to do it. I don’t think I should either. I know seeking, but I rarely pay attention to the formations and strategies of the chasers and beaters. And while I’m just starting NEWT preparation, my responsibilities with the DA are frankly scaring the bejeebers out of me,” said Harry.

Katie laughed. “Better you than me.”

“But I do have a recommendation – Ron Weasley. I know that as a keeper, he started poorly and only came around in the last game, but he has studied Quidditch religiously all his life, he has played at his home with all his brothers for years, and as a keeper he can and does watch everything that the chasers and beaters are doing. He also is the school champion at wizard chess, and that strategic thinking should be good for a Quidditch captain.”

Katie added, “And from what I can tell, he plays better when he’s not thinking about how others see him. The more involved he is in the game, the better a keeper he should be.”

“I see. So you two are saying he’s a good choice, not just the default choice?” asked Professor McGonagall. They nodded. She continued, “Then my decision is that Mr. Weasley will be the Captain, but you two will be his assistants. His performance last year does not yet fill me with enough confidence to turn the entire team over to him. I want both of you to be involved at all stages, particularly the recruitment and training of the new chasers and beater.”

“That’s fine, Professor,” said Harry, “but I think we will be only needing to find one new chaser. Ginny Weasley wanted to switch positions anyway, as she’s more naturally a chaser, even though she performed excellently as a seeker last year, and Fred and George have gotten her a Firebolt.”

“Ooh, a Firebolt,” said Katie, “and in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.”

“Is that as opposed to me?” asked Harry bemusedly.

“Oh, you know what I mean,” said Katie with a smile.

“Officially, she has to try out,” said Professor McGonagall, “but with the support she has, I’m certain it’s just a formality. Miss Bell, I’d like for you and Mr. Potter to discuss the Captaincy with Mr. Weasley – here’s the badge. But before you go to the dorm, I need a private word with Potter. Miss Bell, Could you wait outside the door for a few minutes.”

Katie replied, “Of course, Professor,” and walked down past the tables to the door.

“Potter, I wanted to express my own appreciation for what you are doing with the Defense Association. I also want to ask if there is any way I might be of assistance.”

“Gee, thanks, Professor,” replied Harry. “Honestly, I find it very intimidating to think of trying to teach over 400 students.”

“400? You’ve been deluding yourself, Potter,” said Professor McGonagall. “I would be surprised at less than 600. Any Gryffindor who thinks he or she will not be participating will be getting a very thorough discussion of the matter with me. I know the Headmaster wants you and last year’s students to run this, but it seems to me he has put an awful lot on you.”

“It’s time I accepted having a lot on me, isn’t it, Professor?”

She pressed her lips firmly together. “Certainly, but you wouldn’t be the first person to run from responsibility if you were to do so, Potter. Now you are being expected to take responsibility for the development of the defensive skills of most of the school, while preparing yourself for … whatever may happen. I imagine right now you have plans for the first few meetings, and all the problems for the moment are abstract. You’ll have Transfiguration class on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and a double session Thursday afternoons. Let’s plan on meeting every Wednesday after class for a few minutes.”

“Okay, Professor, I’m sure I’ll have questions and problems. It’ll be good to have an experienced teacher to discuss them with,” replied Harry gratefully.

“Potter,” said Professor McGonagall, “There’s a lot on you, but you’re not in this alone.”

“Thank you, Professor,” said Harry. Just then he saw Professor McGonagall in the Hospital Wing, lying in a bed, as pale as death. His face registered shock, but then he put down the feeling, knowing it was just his mind’s tricks.

“Another vision, Potter,” said Professor McGonagall, with concern. He nodded.

“Me?” she continued. He nodded again.

“I don’t know if I should be frightened or honored,” she said with a smile.

“You’ll be reporting this to Professor Dumbledore?” Harry asked.

“Of course,” she replied.

“Is there anyone who ISN’T watching me?”

Professor McGonagall smiled. “Maybe a few.”

“I’ll have to remember that if I ever feel like picking my nose.”

Professor McGonagall laughed. “Yes, we would appreciate that.”

“Is there anyplace I’m not being watched?” asked Harry.

“When you are in the bathroom stall or you’ve pulled the curtains on your bed, only the enclosures are watched. Usually.”

Harry shrugged. “Well, if I had been thinking of dating anyone, I guess that’s out the window.”

“We’re not watching for your human foibles, Potter. In fact, we are relieved at how normal and human you have remained. You are watched for your safety and developments in your powers.”

“Still, it’s hard for a fellow to relax like that.”

Professor McGonagall smiled and nodded. “Good evening, Potter.”

“Good evening, Professor.”


When Katie and Harry came through the dorm door, they were immediately beset by the returning members of the team.

“So – what did McGonagall have to say?” asked Andrew Kirke anxiously.

“She wanted to talk about the DA,” answered Harry.

“Don’t try to pull that, Potter” scoffed Ginny. “She wouldn’t have asked for Katie to stay for that.”

“All right then, she DID talk with me about the DA, but she also talked about the team,” admitted Harry.

“And …?” prompted Ron.

“Since Harry and I had both been on the team for five years already, she wanted to ask us who we thought should be captain this year,” answered Katie.

“And …?” prompted Andrew.

Harry pulled the badge from his robe pocket, and a cheer went up. “Knew it’s be you, Harry,” “Couldn’t be a better choice,” and “We’ll show ‘em all this year!” they congratulated him. Then Harry, grinning, took the badge and pinned it on Ron’s robes.

“There ya go, mate.”

The cheering continued, but much quieter and quite half-heartedly.

“You’re kidding, Harry! Aren’t you?” asked Ron dumbfounded.

“Yeah, you’re kidding, aren’t you!” added Ginny insistently and with concern.

Harry smiled and shook his head. “I told you before, even if it had been offered to me, I would ask McGonagall to take it back. But she never offered it to anyone else,” Harry assured him, which was literally true, though he knew that if he or Katie had been interested it would have been given to them.

“That’s right,” added Katie, picking up Harry’s lead. “She wanted to know who was best for the job, and we told her it was you, Ron.”

“Well, you know it’s been a dream of mine,” Ron said incredulously. “Wasn’t she concerned about, y’know, the problems I had last year.”

“That was your playing, and yes, of course, she’d be a fool not to worry about that,” said Harry, “but we told her nobody knows quidditch and strategy better than you, so she agreed to go with you.”

“Just like that?”

Katie cleared her throat a bit and said, “Well, not entirely. She also wanted Harry and me to be assistants to have a couple of more seasoned players helping out.”

“Oh,” said Ron, a bit crestfallen. Then he brightened up. “Well, who’d have thought otherwise? I’m not exactly battle-tested, am I? Not like you two, and there aren’t two players in the school I’d want to work with more than you. And after all, the badge says ‘Captain’ not ‘King,’ right?”

“Glad you noticed that, Weasley,” said Andrew, with a smirk. “I was afraid maybe the song last year had gone to your head.”

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.
  #20  
Old September 17th, 2005, 5:37 pm
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Chapter 17 - Back to Classes
As the Hogwarts Express and the Opening Feast had been on a Thursday, Harry had his Friday classes to look forward to: double Potions in the morning, then double Charms and Care of Magical Creatures in the afternoon. Sirius' portrait had counseled patience and a stiff upper lip concerning Potions. Before going to sleep Harry pulled a sheet across the portrait. The only place in the dorm he could hang the portrait was over his bed. Sirius even insisted on the sheet "I'm always here for you, Harry, but you should have at least that much privacy. Besides, it'll give me a chance to nip off and get to know the other portraits around Hogwarts."
Harry set his alarm for 5:00, but at 4:55, another alarm went off. He heard Neville stretching and groaning, then the stirrings of the other three boys he roomed with.
"Wake up, sleepyhead!" called Dean, "I thought this morning run thing was your idea."
Harry popped out and pulled on his running shorts and t-shirt. It was still summer, so it would be warm enough not to wear a warm-up suit.
"You're all joining me?" said Harry, with obvious pleasure.
"Me Mum wouldn't have it any other way," said Seamus, with a wink, "now that she knows what's up, we're going to get prepared."
"We don't have to like it though," said Dean, with a laugh.
They all headed down the stairs, where they ran into well over half of Gryffindor house heading out in their running clothes. The Fat Lady seemed quite incensed to be getting such a work-out at this hour of the morning. As they got down to the steps of the castle, they merged with another two hundred or so students. Many had already started running around the lake. Harry was just about to start when he heard the voice of Arthur Weasley.
"Mind if I join you, Harry?" he asked.
"Please do, Professor Weasley - wow, that sounds odd," said Harry with a laugh.
"Yeah, Dad," said Ron, "Why didncha tell us?"
"The Headmaster wanted to keep it quiet," said Professor Weasley, as they set off. "By the way boys, this is my first day running in years. If I slow down, don't wait for me. I'll have to build up to it."
"Ah, then you weren't sent to do this?" asked Harry.
"Well, Molly kind of prodded me, but just because she said it was good for me," answered Professor Weasley, "and I figured, if students are doing this to improve their self-defense, then the defense professor ought to be out here as well. But no, I'm not here to keep an eye on you."
"Glad you came, Dad," said Ginny, taking a pinch at his love handles, "it'll do you a lot of good."
"It might even make me friskier when I get back to The Burrow," said Arthur, waggling his eyebrows.
"Dad!" said Ginny.
"Great, now that image will be in my mind all day," said Ron.
But Harry thought the open expression of affection, which he had never seen or heard at the Dursleys, was simply beautiful. He ran out ahead of the others so they wouldn't see him getting emotional. Almost halfway around the lake, he noticed something on one of the small islands which dotted the lake which caught his attention. At the end of the first trip around the lake, he did pushups until Ron caught up with him.
“Hi, Ron.”
Ron was puffing, but worked in a ‘Hi.”
“I’ve seen something interesting.”
“I didn’t … know we were … sightseeing.”
“Gotta keep occupied, right? Anyway, we’ve never seen the lake from the far side away from Hogsmeade before.”
“Yeah?”
“One of the islands has a formation that looks like a snake’s head, with the mouth open like it was striking.”
“Nice catch,… Harry, … How far?”
“Another quarter of a mile.”
“Good. What … do you … reckon?”
“I’m not sure. It’s worth checking out when we get a chance.”
They ran in silence a bit longer until they had rounded a turn. “I see … what you mean,” said Ron. “It’s not … real obvious, … though.”
“No, you’ve got to be at the proper angle to notice it with the other rocks around it. It’s not a flag for everyone.”
“But still, … it’s not natural, … is it?”
“No. Somebody placed that there as a marker, and chose a snake design.”
“Hmm, I wonder… who would choose … a snake?” said Ron sarcastically.
“I can think of two candidates, neither of them cozy. Let’s do it Sunday morning. We’ll need brooms to get there, so we’ll say you want some extra keeper practice.”
“We’ll go through … the pitch and … circle around. …If we’re asked … we aren’t … staying at the pitch … because we don’t … want gawkers.”
“Good.”
Harry got a knot in his stomach as he took his place in Potions, which included the sixth-year Potions students from all four houses, as the majority of students had either not achieved the grade needed to continue or chose not to take Potions any further. Harry felt he couldn't blame them.
"Welcome to the first year of NEWT-level Potions class," hissed Snape as he shut the dungeon door with an ominous thud, "Now that you have completed your OWL tests, let me assure you that the fun-and-games side of Potions is over. The subtleties which must be observed for the most exquisite of Potions is extraordinary. This class is only for the most dedicated, the most skillful, the most diligent, the most disciplined of sorcerers. Indeed I am most surprised to see some of you here (he looked at Neville) and dismayed at others (he looked at Harry). I am afraid that the OWL graders must have applied some sort of compensatory points based on the uproar the school was in last year. That would be a shame, as disruption and distraction are no excuse for doing something incorrectly. When your life depends on accomplishing something, one does not have the luxury of complaining that conditions were not sanguine. I am also afraid that I have been too subtle in intimating which students have no business in my classes (again he looked at Harry and Neville). I shall endeavour to be more direct in the future, for those of you who lack the subtlety for either potion-making or communication.
“We begin today a series of truth serums of various characteristics. The potion whose recipe on the board is Persuasium - it should be flavorless, so that it can be given surreptitiously; and is not affected by most foods and drinks, except head cheese and uncooked blood. Properly prepared and administered, it will make most people unprepared for it reveal all but the most hidden secrets and will be undetectable after three hours. Please observe the requirements as to airflow, temperature, titration and stirring. Begin."
Harry and Ron read the recipe and set to preparing their ingredients. As Harry looked around, he was again struck by visions of death and destruction. He caught himself on the desk.
"Are you okay?" Ron asked.
Harry glanced up and saw Snape peering suspiciously at him.
"Yeah," Harry said, "another vision. Listen, don't think me rude. I have to shut everything else out to block these visions. I'm just going to think of nothing else but this potion."
"I'd better do the same - this is the hardest one we've seen yet," said Ron.
"Well, you didn't think NEWT-level work would be easier, did you?" whispered Hermione, who turned to her ingredients and started humming happily to herself.
"Mental," muttered Ron.
At the end of the class, which had proceeded uneventfully, Harry scooped a sample of his potion into a bottle and corked it carefully, then placed the bottle on Snape's desk.
"Potter, are you ill?" said Snape.
"No, sir, why?" responded Harry.
"Your potion looks like it ought."
Draco Malfoy approached the desk with his sample and as he placed his sample on the desk, his hand bumped Harry's off the desk.
"Oops," he said in feigned surprise, "Too bad."
But Harry's potion didn't fall to the ground, but gently settled like a feather.
"I was going through too much glass, so I decided to learn a few useful charms to protect my things," Harry said with satisfaction as he picked the bottle up and placed it again on Snape's desk.
"Potter," said Snape, "you are to stay after class. There is something we must discuss."
"Must be more remedial classes," Malfoy s******ed as he toted his book bag - considerably lighter than in years past - along with him and the rest of the class cleared. Hermione and Ron lingered as if they expected Harry to be able to leave immediately.
"You two may go. If you cannot live without Potter's company, you may wait on the other side of the door. Please refrain from bickering with each other while you wait," Snape oozed, pointing them to the door. When it was closed, he continued, "Now, Potter, it has been impressed upon me that you have a need to resume Occlumency lessons."
"But, Professor Snape, I thought, perhaps, Professor Dumbledore would be able to teach me this year."
"As before, he has more obligations than any of us, and must delegate the task to me. Furthermore, he expressed the idea that your training would prepare you best against the Dark Lord if it came from someone you regard as hostile. Somehow that made him think of me," Snape replied.
"Sir, you told me that I was never to enter your office again," objected Harry.
"Circumstances change," replied Snape, "and the Headmaster explored the entire set of circumstances and has suggested I consider whether I might not share some blame in the unfortunate events. In any case, while I am as delighted to have you in my office as you are to be there, I have been asked to undertake this chore again."
"Professor, I asked Sirius and Professor Lupin about the behavior I observed and they confirmed that their group of friends had often treated you that way, and yet you did not place all the occasions of humiliation in the pensieve - just that one. From that I can only conclude that you either wanted to tempt me into viewing my father in that light or there was something else you wanted to hide, which would have to be the way you responded to my mother. If we are to continue the lessons, I have to ask which it was."
Snape regarded him for a number of seconds before replying, "And you have done so, but I will decline to answer. You will have to accept that I am again willing to teach this to you and that you are in need of learning."
"If Professor Dumbledore wants me to do so, then I will," replied Harry.
"Three things make me hope for better results this year, Potter: you acceded to the Headmaster's authority, your question shows you are starting to actually use your mind, and in Potions class today, you showed the kind of focus on the task at hand needed to develop whatever talent you might prove to have. You may go."
"Professor"
"What is it, Potter?"
"I am not my father. I may look like him, and I may have some of his talents, but I am a different person."
Harry left, without hearing any response from Snape. Once outside, Harry found Ron and Hermione waiting for him and told them all that had happened.
"Whoa, Harry, that's the closest to a compliment that I've heard Snape give anyone he wasn't kissing up to," said Ron.
"Yes, that's very odd, isn't it?" said Hermione.
"What? You think there's something up? You just can't accept a good turn of events without spreading a little manure, can you?" Ron groaned.
Harry listened to them fussing at each other all the way to the gym which had been installed, or more likely, conjured. They had time for over an hour's workout before they needed to get some lunch and still make it to Charms.

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__________________
Where are they now? (part 42)
(an occasional series following wizardry after the Second Voldemort War)
Rubeus Hagrid continued as groundskeeper and Professor of Magical Beasts.

Here he is on a summer vacation trip to the Canary Islands with Fluffy, his second favorite dog.

Last edited by Dedalus Diggle; September 19th, 2005 at 2:47 pm.
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