Chapter 11

The girl waited for them as they exited the floo into Grimmauld Palace. Her long blonde hair had been tied into an uncomplicated ponytail. Clear blue eyes narrowed as they glared into emerald green ones.

"Greengrass," Rose sneered at her.

"Potter," Daphne sneered back.

"Yes?" said Harry as he emerged from behind his sister.

"Not you," both girls snapped at the same time.

The boy frowned before looking at the two other Slytherins in the room.

"Is there a reason these two detest one another?"

"They have a history together," said Blaise with a faint grimace.

"A long, long history together," Tracey expanded.

"In ze year I spent at 'ogwarts," Fleur said as she emerged from the floo, "I spent 'alf of it listening to Rose complain about a very specific Slytherin."

"Aww," Daphne mocked, "Did you envy me that much that you had to gossip about me to your French friend?"

"I don't envy anyone who once thought Gilderoy Lockhart was dreamy," Rose shot back.

Daphne's cheeks flushed slightly.

"That was three years ago!"

"And I still remember it like it was yesterday!"

"You know what I remember just like it was yesterday? You chasing after Viktor Krum like some lost puppy wagging its tail!"

This time, it was Rose's turn to blush.

"At least Viktor won multiple Quidditch trophies! What has Lockhart won except awards for looking at himself in the mirror!?"

"Gilderoy Lockhart won Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award five times in a row!"

"That's the same exact thing!"

Harry gazed quizzically from one girl to the other.

"Is this a Slithering-Indoors thing?"

All eyes turned to him. Even Daphne and Rose stopped glaring at one another to stare at Harry.

"A what now?" Blaise blurted out.

"A Slithering-Indoors thing?" Harry repeated.

"Do you mean a Slytherin-Griffindor thing?" Tracey ventured.

"That's what I said."

Blaise looked at the others.

"You mean to tell me he doesn't know when he's mispronouncing things?"

"It's the magical translating amulet," Rose bit out, "Sometimes it malfunctions."

"Sometimes?" said Fleur who had been called Floor way too many times over the past week.

"Alright. Fine. It malfunctions all the time. Happy?"

"I would be happier if he could actually say my name right," the quarter-Veela groused.

"So the reason he calls me Daffodil instead of Daphne is because he's thinking he's actually pronouncing Daphne but the translation is… lost in context?" Daphne asked.

"Yes," Fleur said, "Zat is ze reason."

"No," Rose said at the same time, "He calls you Daffodil because it suits a fragile flower like you."

The Slytherin girl glared back at her Griffindor counterpart.

"Your name," she said through clenched teeth, "is literally a flower."

"Yeah, and we all know that roses are better than daffodils," Rose planted her fists at her waist, "Isn't that right, Harry?"

The boy in question frowned slightly.

"I am not well-versed enough in the art of botany to give you a definite reply," said Harry Potter.

"Oof," winced Tracey, "Not the right answer."

Rose rounded on her newfound brother with a look of abject betrayal.

"Harry, you're supposed to be on my side! I'm your sister, for Merlin's sake!"

"Yes," Harry nodded, "I am aware of our blood relation. And from a geometric perspective, based off where we are currently standing, I am already on your side."

"Also not ze right answer," sighed Fleur sympathetically.

"Look," Blaise skillfully interrupted before Daphne could gloat, "as much as I enjoy another bout of Griffindor-Slytherin rivalry, I think we should do that while we're actually at Hogwarts and not in a stupid, antiquated safehouse managed by the Order."

"For your information," Rose huffed, "my godfather's house is awesome and filled with cool stuff, thank you very much!"

"Everything is old!" complained Daphne, "And unfashionable! And out-of-date! And old!"

"There is a portrait of a very ancient woman on the ground floor who constantly screams at us," Tracey said uncomfortably.

"I see you've met Sirius's mother," the Girl-Who-Lived smirked.

"It got better when we told her we were purebloods," muttered Blaise.

"Then she started going on and on about how real purebloods behaved back in her day," Tracey grimaced.

"So it got worse," summarized Daphne.

"But that's not why we're here to greet you," Blaise admitted, "I'm not very good at these sorts of things, but here goes," the dark-skinned boy swallowed, as though his next words would personally cost him, "Harry Potter, we owe you a Wizarding Oath. For what you did in that mansion. So thanks… I guess."

"What is a Wizarding Oath?" Harry inquired.

"In the past, it was a magically binding oath that witches and wizards took with one another," Tracey explained, "If you broke the oath, the repercussions could get very bad. I've read stories of magical folk losing their magic because they broke their oaths. Nowadays, it's a lot less extreme. Think of it as the wizarding equivalent of 'we owe you big time and we'll return the favor someday'."

Blaise peered at Harry warily.

"You're not going to make me run down the halls of Hogwarts screaming 'I love Griffindor!' are you?"

"Of course not," the Boy-Who-Turned-Warcaster said confidently, "In all likelihood, I would use this magical oath to make your families perform an act of sacrificial service in the war against Voldemort."

A moment of silence passed before Blaise finally nodded.

"I take that back. Please use my Wizarding Oath to make me run down the halls of Hogwarts screaming 'I love Griffindor!'."

"Too late now, Zucchini," Rose grinned, "You've given him an idea."

"Is… Is that a bad thing?" Tracey ventured.

"Ze last idea he had," sniffed Fleur, "involved overthrowing ze French Ministry of Magic and installing a new regime just because it did not suit his definition of competence."

Daphne looked at the quarter-Veela and then at Harry.

"Why can't you have normal ideas?"

"To me," the boy replied, "this is a normal idea."

"Overthrowing foreign governments is a normal idea to you?" Blaise stared disbelievingly at him.

"In my profession, it is an openly kept secret that mercenary companies prefer chaotic working environments over stable ones. Governments that are close to collapsing or have devolved into open chaos offer many opportunities for the unscrupulous man looking to get rich. I have known several instances when powerful mercenary companies have either manipulated or directly interfered in the local political climate just so that it would suit their interests," Harry shrugged at the types of looks he was being given, "If your sole ability to put food on the table is war, then why would you want to put an end to a good thing?"

"You're not going to do something similar to us, are you?" Daphne looked slightly alarmed at the thought, "Manipulating our government I mean… into open chaos and things…"

"There is no need," the boy seemed unaffected by the sighs of relief that spontaneously erupted around him, "Because as I understand it, your government is already in open chaos."


The motion is out of instinct. Pure reflex.

His hand is on the grip of his sword before he can rationally think the action through. Muscle memory tugs the blade halfway free from its sheathe.

The creature backs away from him, spitting in fear.

"Harry!" the voice calls him back to reality, "What's wrong!?"

The snarl that has inadvertently crept onto his features matches the aggressive combat stance he has adopted.

"Nasty brat! Trying to frighten Kreacher! Mudblood-lover! Blood-traitor!"

The words come out shrill and afraid, but that does not make him lower his guard. Not in the least.

"What is this… thing?"

"Oh, that's just Kreacher. He's Grimmauld Palace's resident house-elf."

His eyes follow the creature as it hobbles away. His hand remains firmly wrapped around the grip of his sword.

"This is your world's example of an elf?"

"Uh, yeah… Why?" Rose looks back to the others and receives only nonplussed expressions in return, "Does your world have elves too?"

Slowly, hesitantly, he allows his blade to slide back into its sheathe.

"It does."

"Oh? What kind?"

He turns towards them and sees the similarity they think they see. He is like them. Alike in age. Alike in stature. Alike in what they believe to be the norms and behaviors of any fifteen-year-old in the monolithic precincts of a cultured, civilized society.

But some things can only be mimicked on the surface.

"The genocidal kind," he tells them.


"So, this is the boy who's going to save us all," the sarcasm in the man's tone matched his demeanor. Cold blue eyes stared regally from an aquiline face, features twisted in derision, "Should we all get down on our knees and beg for your generosity?"

"No," came the brusque reply, "but if you are seeking a place to bow and scrape," those same twisted features relaxed briefly in surprise before contorting again into an altogether different emotion, "the Dark Lord's mansion is that way."

"Harry," admonished Dumbledore from his position seated across two more figures, "This is a diplomatic meeting."

"I am aware of the sensitive matters being discussed today. Which is why I am being polite."

"If this is polite," growled a burly man with dark brown hair, "then I'd hate to see your definition of impolite."

"That definition would be the Death Eaters lying strewn around the mansion's floor, I suppose."

Silence reigned, laden with tacit recognition. The man who had spoken first broke it, leering towards the ones who shadowed the boy's back.

"It seems your son needs a lesson in manners."

James narrowed his eyes but said nothing. Sirius crossed his arms over his chest, a trickster's grin playing over his features.

"Tell you a secret, Greengrass. When my godson materialized out of Merlin-forsaken nowhere with four of mechanical golems at his back, I didn't know what to make of him. I still don't know what to make of him. But now? Now, I'm finding I'm liking him a great deal."

"Gentlemen," Dumbledore interjected mildly, "is all of this really necessary?"

"I am in the court of my enemy, speaking with ones who would betray my ideals, and you ask me if all this is necessary?"

"As opposed to being in the court of another enemy, speaking with ones who have already betrayed your ideals," said Harry Potter.

"He's got a point there, David," the burly man drawled.

"The only reason I'm here, the only reason," the aristocrat who bore David Greengrass's name reiterated with a deep breath, "is because you ventured into that nest of snakes and came out with my daughter. For that, I am willing to entertain whatever offers the Order will make. Within reason."

"So there is a heart under all that pompous ass," smiled Sirius.

"Careful now, Black," cold blue eyes became hateful slits, "Careful."

"Or what? You'll go back into hiding with your family and your wealth while men less fortunate than you die in a war they didn't start?"

A hand reached for a wand while another was already grasping one.

"Enough!" Dumbledore's voice was thunder and lightning rolled into one, "You may fall into old habits of bickering wherever you wish but not here! Not today! Am I clear?"

Sirius looked away, as did the Head of Greengrass.

"As you wish."

"Alright, Headmaster."

"We are in unprecedented times," the old wizard's tone had grown softer, but the tumultuous storm in his eyes continued to roil unabated, "Unprecedented. The Ministry has been gripped by indecision while the Dark Lord roams free to terrorize the civilian population. Lives have already been lost and more will continue to be lost with every second we spend arguing amongst ourselves. There is no time for old rivalries to resurface. There is no time!"

"What are you proposing then, Albus?" the last figure in the room made herself known, "I hope it's something not so simple as an alliance or we will have all wasted our time."

"Is the thought so unthinkable Cassandra?" James asked, "An alliance, even if a temporary one, against a greater evil?"

The way the dark-skinned woman's lips curled just served to make her all the more beautiful.

"I sometimes forget just how naïve our friends from the other side can be."

"This goes far beyond schooltime rivalries," the brown-haired man leaned back into his seat, "There are decades worth of bad blood between us. For years your side has mocked our beliefs and our traditions. For daring to uphold our views, we have been lumped in with the Dark Lord's followers and our children treated with hostility and contempt. Now you expect us to cast aside these grievances just like that?" Adrien Davis shook his head, "No. We are more enemies than friends, and no one here is fool enough to truly believe that an enemy of my enemy is my friend."

"And you would be fooler still if you believed that all enemies are the same," an entire room's worth of gazes focused on the speaker, "Some enemies can be reasoned with. Respected even. They will treat you with honor in victory or in defeat. Other enemies are nothing more than rabid dogs who will bite all the harder for every inkling of kindness you show. I have fought against both and I can tell you a reasonable foe is far more preferable to a mad one. Which one do you think Voldemort is?"

Everyone in vicinity recoiled save James and Dumbledore.

"Don't say his name like that, boy!" David Greengrass hissed.

Emerald green eyes stared impassively into worried blue ones.

"Voldemort."

"Do you even know what that name means-" Adrien Davis began to say.

"It means fear," he stopped at the impassive words, "Cold, unshakeable fear. It is a title as much as a name. A title purposefully said to invoke fear. Fear of pain. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear that if you say his name, he just might show up on your doorstep next."

"If you know all that," growled David, "then why say it?"

"Because there is power in saying that name," Harry continued without emotion, "There is power in saying it without being afraid. How can you defeat a foe if you cannot speak his name? I say his name because I am not afraid of him. I say his name because saying it means I have power over him. I say his name because in the end, I will be the one who kills him."

"Confident, are we?" Cassandra pursed her lips together.

"Yes," the boy stated, "I am."

"Even if we wanted to aid you," Adrien looked like he was trying very hard not to look interested, "How can you guarantee we can win?"

"A mansion full of dead Death Eaters is a start," Sirius grinned.

"Saving the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is another," added James.

"I believe there was a mansion full of dead Death Eaters involved in that as well," Dumbledore mused.

"Not exactly a mansion full, Headmaster," Sirius shrugged nonchalantly, "Half of them got away."

"They died in the forest," James explained.

The three Slytherins in the room stared at one another.

"We do not doubt these results," David allowed, "But how can you ensure that this was not a one-off? I am a businessman by nature. I do not deal in trades that have no return and no future. How do I know you won't leave me out to dry when things start going south? How do I know you won't leave me and my family to the Dark Lord's dogs as soon as our cover is blown?"

"Did you think I did this just so a merchant like you can haggle over prices?" everyone present shuddered at the sudden directness, "Did you think I persecuted the raid on Voldemort's estate just to rescue your sons and daughters? As if they were somehow more important than all the sons and daughters lost in war. For whatever reason, you are under the impression that your family and your well-being are of significant value to me. Allow me now to disabuse you of that notion."

The boy stepped forward, hand resting comfortably over the pommel of his sheathed sword. The air of authority clung over his shoulders like a general's cloak.

"The only purpose your existence serves is to become a hidden asset in the Dark Lord's camp. Once you are exposed, your value as an asset becomes nonexistent. You effectively become worthless to me. That is the principle of this meeting. All of you are mistaken in the belief that this assembly would involve some form of negotiation where you could barter your value to an interested party when in reality the terms have already been set. Should you refuse these terms today, then you have, by default, chosen to side with the Dark Lord and against the Order of the Phoenix. By extension, that makes you, my enemy. In which case, why do you think you will be allowed to leave this room?"

Three pairs of wide eyes stared into resolute green ones.

"That's a threat!" Adrien was the first to come to his senses. He looked to Dumbledore, who could always be counted on to inject calm rationality into the subject at hand, "Headmaster, you're actually allowing this?"

The old wizard smiled serenely back, the picture-perfect of composed neutrality.

"Given the circumstances, Adrien, that is exactly what it is."

In the silence that followed, Cassandra rose slowly and elegantly from her seat.

"They're here, aren't they? Those… machines?"

Harry tilted his head. The motion was accompanied by a sound so faint, so minute, that they almost missed it. Yet the unmistakable purr of engine servos suddenly being ignited somewhere floated ominously into the room.

"A warcaster may be distant with many things but his warjacks are always near."

"And what?" Adrien stood up with a snarl, "You're going to kill us all for disagreeing? Murder us in cold blood for the crime of putting our families first?"

"Hasn't your criticism towards the Order always been we were too soft?" Sirius said quietly from besides James. Both men looked distinctly uneasy, but their eyes were hard. The grips on their wands were harder still.

"I can't believe we're here listening to this!" the Head of Davis ranted on, "You're insane! You're all insane! If you think we're going to be threatened like this just because you rescued-"

"What happens if you win?"

The question came from the only one among the three who was still sitting. David Greengrass had steepled his fingers under his chin. His stare was long and considering.

His fellow pureblood rounded on him in confused fury.

"David! How can you actually consider this?"

"I want to know," the man's gaze remained locked on the only figure that mattered, "What happens if you win? Do we go back to our lives before the Dark Lord's return? Pretend like none of this ever happened? Live in constant fear of Him appearing again to finish what He started? What of His followers? Do they get a light slap on the wrist like last time? Plead the Imperius and go back to a society so desperate to escape Him that it'll welcome His servants with open arms?"

The boy met his gaze. Unafraid. Undaunted.

The gaze of a man who had nothing to lose was hard but the gaze from a warcaster was a harder thing altogether.

"What makes you believe I will let that happen?"

The head of Greengrass made a derisive noise.

"You are one man. One boy. Trying to play soldier. Yes, I'll admit that you're good at it. Those dead Death Eaters prove that you're good at it. But there are enough fools out there who think they can change the world."

"But if that fool had backing," Dumbledore spoke up softly, "If he had the means to convince the general public. If he had the winners of this war back him both politically and legally while ensuring that the vanquished would never again hold power…"

David shook his head.

"What you are suggesting would require the reconstitution of not only our current government but our society as a whole."

Again, all pairs of eyes turned to the one figure that mattered.

"Yes," said Harry Potter.

"Ludicrous," snorted Adrien, "Preposterous!" he said again, "We're not considering this," the Head of Davis looked confidently to his fellow Slytherins for support only to see David still contemplating and Cassandra… Cassandra had sat back down, "We're… actually considering this?"

"What if we agree with this vision?" David had leaned forward, all pretenses of superiority gone, "What do we get out of it if we join?"

"Annndddd we're actually considering this," sighed Adrien.

"We assumed you would have conditions for agreeing to an alliance," Dumbledore said mildly.

"Not a condition. A price."

"Name it," said Harry.

"I want a position in this new government."

"Done," the Boy-Who-Disappeared agreed.

David blinked before narrowing his eyes.

"I want a position high enough where I can influence things. An office with real power."

"Done," the Boy-Who-Disappeared-And-Reappeared-As-A-Warcaster said again.

The Head of Greengrass paused before blinking a second time.

"My price is the Minister of Finance or whatever is equivalent in your new government. I've had enough of Lucius running things all by himself. I've got ideas of my own on how to expand our economy. If you want the Greengrasses in this shadow alliance, you secure me that position first."

Harry turned to Dumbledore.

"Would this arrangement work?"

The old headmaster stroked his beard thoughtfully.

"The seat for the Minister of Finance is a highly sought-after office. It requires contenders to have a great deal of both political experience and business acumen. I have no doubt that David is qualified for the position on account of his business ventures, but for someone who has never entered the field of politics himself except to vote in the Wizengamot… the general population will not be confident about his credentials for candidacy."

"Then we need to manufacture those credentials."

"If the potential candidate was to immediately apply for the position of Deputy Commissioner of Taxes and Magical Fees," Dumbledore transitioned seamlessly, "It is a position that serves directly under the Minster and Vice Minister of Finance. The current seat is open as the original Commissioner has resigned in fear of Death Eater attacks. Once the rest of the term has been served, the experience and knowledge David will gain will make all arguments against his candidacy effectively irrelevant."

"But the Minister of Finance has always been a position that is voted on," the pureblood growled, "How can you guarantee me the office without guaranteeing me the votes?"

Dumbledore made a musing sound.

"We would have to present an opposing candidate so fundamentally ignorant of wizarding traditions and so comprehensively lacking in political acumen that the general population will automatically disregard his campaign."

Everyone in the room turned to stare at Sirius. The man frowned back.

"What are all of you looking at me for?"

"This man in question," the Head of Greengrass had developed a calculating grin, "would have to be so incompetent on the campaign path that the general populace would automatically assume him to be an idiot."

Everyone stared at Sirius again who frowned for a second time.

"Seriously, stop doing that!"

It was Dumbledore who responded, a thoughtful look on his aged features.

"Sirius, what do you know about the ergonomics behind the successful operation of a wizarding economy?"

"Absolutely nothing," the former Marauder said cheerfully.

"Good," Harry took over, "You will be running against Mr. Green Grass for the position of Minister of Finance in the foreseeable future."

"Sure," the man nodded, then sputtered, "Wait, what?"

"Oh, I'm going to enjoy this," the grin on David's face had turned positively feral.

"Now, now, David," Sirius held his hands up in a placating manner, "I know that in the past we chased after the same woman and had a little spat over it. But I swear to you I didn't know she was already your fiancé when I kissed her at that ball."

"That woman is now my wife and the mother of my children," the pureblood snarled.

"In my defense, I was very drunk at the time."

James turned to Dumbledore.

"Are we sure Sirius is the right man for the job?"

"Yeah," Sirius nodded hurriedly, "Are we sure I'm the right man for the job?"

"As much as I'd like to embarrass Black on the public stage," David agreed with a faint scowl, "he's got a point. What if the wizarding population votes him in anyways?"

"Then the wizarding population is even stupider than I originally imagined," said Harry Potter.

Adrien looked at the boy and then at everyone else.

"Should I be insulted? I feel like I should be insulted."

"Why?" Harry glanced in his direction, "Did you vote for Fudge?"

The Head of Davis coughed into his hand.

"I'm... not going to answer that question."

"Even if Sirius carries the election," Dumbledore dragged the conversation back on track, "he is still a member of the Order. If the need arises, a scandal can be manufactured at our behest that will paint the false candidate in a negative light. Should that occur, the voting population will naturally select the other candidate to replace him."

"Since when did the Order of the Phoenix seek to actively place candidates favorable to them on the stage that is political theatre?" Cassandra raised an eyebrow.

"Since Voldemort forced us to," James replied somberly.

"And all this time I thought we were talking about kicking down His door with wands blazing."

"That worked too, if you recall," Sirius said smartly.

"Nevertheless," the woman dusted off the hems of her robes, "I find myself suitably impressed. The Order of the Phoenix could have been a potent political force had its master not leashed it so," Dumbledore smiled serenely at the implied insult, "Now that the leash has snapped, it will be illuminating to see just what is in store for us all, even if the candidate in question is both unsuited for the position and unwilling to fulfill it."

At this, Sirius simply shrugged.

"Believe it or not, this is actually one of the less outlandish things I've done for the Order."

Cassandra ignored him and turned her attention to the Boy-Who-Turned-Warcaster.

"If you want another noble family in your coalition, then I too have a price."

"Name it," said Harry.

"The investigations into my household by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I want them to stop."

The boy's head swiveled automatically to the two Aurors in the room.

"Explain."

James met his son's gaze apologetically.

"I'm sorry Harry, it's classified."

"Understood. As your direct superior in the Aura Branch of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, you may now de-classify it for me."

In the stunned silence that followed, no one even realized that the boy had pronounced "Auror" wrong.

"Did your own son just pull rank on you?" Adrien asked, amazed.

"I think he just did!" sniggered Sirius.

"If you find something amusing about the situation, Aura Black, then you may be the one to enlighten me."

Sirius immediately stopped sniggering.

"Ah… Well… You see, Harry… I mean sir… Oh Merlin's sake I don't even know what to call you now…" the man glanced at Cassandra furtively before letting it all out, "Cassie here is under investigation by the department for the death of her husband. The death of her seventh husband, to be precise."

"And has the investigation turned up anything conclusive?"

"No," James answered, "Neither did the other six for that matter."

"If we have found nothing conclusive then why are we are continuing these investigations?"

Both Aurors shrugged their shoulders helplessly.

"The general public wants an answer. At least, that's the reason being given by our higher-ups. You have to admit, Cassandra, it looks suspicious. Especially when everyone thinks your Gringotts vault gets larger after every husband's death."

"Lies and slander," for the first time since the meeting began, an undercurrent of anger could be detected in the woman's tone, "I was already well-off before I married. Three of my husbands were less wealthy than me. My last husband was a janitor who worked at the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes! Ah, poor Victor… Do you even know what all these rumors are doing to me? To my Blaise?"

"We know," sighed James, "and for the record, we don't believe them either. But the public wants a scandal. And the Department of Magical Law Enforcement has always been beholden to the public."

"The same public whose response to the Dark Lord's reemergence was to collectively stick their heads in the sand," said Harry Potter.

Everyone in the room winced.

"Now I know I should be insulted," Adrien muttered.

"You're not the only one," Sirius shuddered, "I actually felt that."

The boy turned to the heiress.

"The investigations will stop."

Cassandra accepted the statement with a graceful smile.

"If this was anyone else, I would be skeptical. But from you, I will believe it. Consider the Zabinis as part of your pact."

Which left only one of the three unspoken for. Adrien glared back at his audience, though the earlier resentment had faded.

"I'm not a businessman, like David. I don't have nearly the wealth of Cassandra. What I do have is a family. One that I love and cherish. And He almost ruined it. Do you understand, boy? He made me kneel before Him with my family. I had to bend my knee in front of those mask wearing bastards. Bow my head to a man I hated. I had to kiss His hand and smile when He demanded my child as a hostage. Grin and bear it when He told me my daughter would make a fine pureblooded bride for one of His followers… You make sure my family never goes through that again, and we are yours."

Harry met the man's gaze evenly.

"It will be done."

Silence reigned as the magnitude of what had just occurred settled over everyone's shoulders. Sirius broke it, just like he always did, with a trickster's grin on his face.

"And just like that, we're all friends."

"Not friends, Black," David huffed, though like Adrien, most of the anger had gone, "Allies. Acquaintances. We only become friends when my position in your new government is secure."

"Speaking of positions within the government," Dumbledore began without preamble, eyes suddenly twinkling.

"Yes," Harry took over curtly, "It is my understanding that all ancient households within wizarding society are owed a representative seat in the main parliamentary body within your government. What was this parliamentary body called again, Headmaster?"

None missed the way the boy had said the title and not the name.

"The Wizengamot, Harry," the old wizard had started stroking his beard.

"Yes. The Wise Marmot," the way those emerald green eyes snapped to one person in particular made sure there was no wave of amusement that followed the mispronunciation, "It is also my understanding that some of those seats that could have been filled with individuals of likeminded loyalties and compatible thinking are inexplicably empty. In fact, I have been informed that the only reason these positions of power are not occupied by allies of the Order is because those certain individuals have simply chosen not to sit in them."

James actually swallowed.

"Ah… Well, Harry… It's just… It's just that I was never very good at politics."

"So instead of becoming better at it, you chose to vacate a seat of high power within your own government capable of passing laws and legislation that could have prevented the rise of the very Dark Lord you now seek to defeat."

"Well… If you put it that way…"

"Please put it in a way that would make you seem less responsible for this utter idiocy."

James scanned the room desperately for help and received only nonplussed gazes in response. Both Adrien and David had looks of horrified fascination on their faces, as though they could not quite believe what they were seeing. Cassandra simply arched an exquisite eyebrow. Sirius had… Sirius had placed both his palms on the back of his head and was whistling innocently to himself. The former Maurader's gaze roamed everywhere except his friend.

"Even if I took up my ancestral seat at the Wizengamot," James tried to deflect, "I would be useless! I've missed so many sessions, I wouldn't even know where to begin!"

Harry's gaze merely flickered back towards Dumbledore.

"How long until the next legislative session?"

"In about two weeks, Harry."

"Then you will have two weeks' worth of time with the Headmaster who will make sure you know where to begin."

James gaped at the two figures, one of whom was his son and the other whose eyes had started twinkling even harder.

"But I wouldn't even know what to vote for!"

"When has not knowing what to vote for ever stopped the Wizengamot from operating?" David snorted.

"An extra seat leaning our way would be helpful," Adrien rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

Both men had lost their earlier stunned expressions and had developed calculating looks.

"But… You know what? Fine…" James accepted defeat with a sigh, "I'll do it. If it's for the sake of defeating Voldemort, I'll do it."

"Good," Harry nodded before switching his attention to a certain individual who had, throughout the course of the conversation, been steadily inching towards the exit, "And just where do you think you're going?"

Sirius's face resembled that of a hippogriff who had just had a particularly high-powered Lumos cast upon it.

"Oh hey, cub! I was just… you know… leaving the room for a breather! You guys are obviously busy discussing um… government matters, so I'll just show myself out!"

"You also have a seat in the governing body," Harry's expression, in contrast, was absolutely merciless, "so you'll be joining him."

"Oh, no," Sirius threw out his hands in front of him, "You might have browbeaten your father into sitting in sessions at the Wizengamot, but you're not getting me into a room full of those old fogies!"

The boy's method of reply was a stare so withering that all those present recoiled as though they had been struck. Sirius recoiled as though he had actually been struck.

"D-Don't look at me like that! I'll do anything but sit in a room with those old bats! I'll even help you with your warjacks! Arthur taught me all there is to know about muggle tools! Like wrenches and stuff! All you have to do is to hit things with them. That's how muggles repair their gadgets! How 'bout it, cub? You don't make me bore myself to death in that stuffy chamber and I'll help you hit your warjacks with wrenches!"

Eyes harder than cut gems narrowed ever so slightly.

"N-No… Alright! Alright! I'll do it! Merlin, it's like disappointing the old man all over again!"

The three Slytherins in the room looked at one another.

"All of sudden, I'm feeling a lot better about this alliance," David admitted.

"Why's that?" Adrien couldn't quite tear his eyes away from the scene being played out in front of them.

"Because we won't be the only ones getting this type of treatment," Cassandra said primly.


"I can't believe you did it," was the first thing Blaise said.

"You're talking to the guy who dove into Voldemort's lair and dragged all of you out," snorted Rose, "Of course he could do it."

They had surrounded him in one of Grimmauld Palace's many living rooms, watching him with bated breath.

"I'm not surprised he's the one who did it," Tracey murmured, "I'm surprised at how he did it."

"How did you do it?" wondered Fleur out loud.

"I dragged the two sides together, forced them to air their concerns, then addressed them one by one," the boy ignored their incredulous gazes. His attention remained on the mechanikal blade in his lap, which he was cleaning with an oil-stained rag, "The threat of annihilation by my warjacks may or may not have been involved in the conversation. Standard protocol when it comes to negotiations."

"This is standard for you?" muttered Blaise.

"Harry," Daphne looked him in the eye, "Do you have any idea what you just did? The Slytherin-Griffindor rivalry goes back centuries. We're supposed to hate each other. Even our parents don't get along."

"I am aware of the petty rivalries embedded within your society," came the steady reply, "My own culture is no stranger to them. However, what differentiates your society from mine is your seeming inability to get over them. When a threat like the Dark Lord emerges in my world, the various disparate factions set aside their differences and unite to face it. Once the threat has been destroyed, they go back to hating one another. Your society seems unable to move past that first step."

"Wow, Harry," Rose wrinkled her nose, "Tell us how you really feel."

"I just did," the boy frowned.

"Is no one else weirded out at how well this is going?" Blaise raised his head to look at the others, "I mean I appreciate I'm no longer a hostage in the Dark Lord's dungeons, but is anybody else weirded out just how well everything is going? What's next? We all hold hands and banish the Dark Lord through the power of love or something?"

"Oh, stop being such a vegetable, Zuccini," Rose snickered, "Don't be so skeptical all the time."

"It's Zabini."

"We're Slytherins," Daphne answered for Blaise, "We're supposed to be skeptical."

"I understand your skepticism," Harry had finally stopped wiping his blade, "My advice to you is to take these blessings for what they are worth. There will be plenty of time in the future to wallow in the consequences of your failures."

"And you've done that before?" Blaise challenged, "Failed before?"

"Yes. I have failed before. Many times, in fact."

"How many is many times?"

The-Boy-Who-Turned-Warcaster smiled but it didn't quite reach his eyes.

"Many."


"You see that man?" rough calloused fingers grab his chin. They force him to stare at the comatose body, lifeless and still, "He's dead."

He doesn't fight the old warcaster's grip. The shame prevents him from doing so. The tears don't help either.

"You were on watch. You didn't see what you were supposed to be watching. Now he's dead because of you."

The words burn him in a way the cold never will.

The old warcaster pushes him away. He doesn't try to regain balance and eats a mouthful of snow as he falls face first into the ground. The tears that streaked down his cheeks now leak past his lips.

They make the snow taste like salt.

"He's dead because you didn't do your job."

He doesn't respond because he doesn't have any right to respond.

The soldiers don't respond either. They lean on their rifles and watch mutely. There's no anger in their eyes. There's no blame either and somehow that makes it even worse.

They don't blame him for what happened even though they should.

The old warcaster seizes him by the collar and hauls him upright. The man's gaze is as cold as the icy wind whipping into his face.

"Now we're down one man and the contract isn't even half finished. One more mistake like this and we're all dead."

He waits for the blow to land. The verbal lashing to continue. Something to punish him for the fault that was entirely his own.

Instead he feels something heavy being shoved into arms.

He looks down.

It's the dead man's rifle.

One of his hands instinctively clutches the pitted, worn-down barrel. The other grasps the stock.

He looks up into his mentor's eyes and sees nothing resembling what he wants to see.

"You killed this man," the old warcaster repeats, "Now you do his job."