The Institute

While I have tried to keep the flashbacks to a minimum, my intention is to use them as the backstories to pertinent parts or to explain the reaosns for certain events. This chapter doesn't have them, because it doesn't need them.


The erstwhile Chamber of Secrets had been turned into a hall of exercise and a gymnasium modelled right after the real, ancient Greek constructions – barring of course the attire of choice. Students were required to purchase two sets of normal workout clothes, which were then charmed to be self-fitting so that they didn't have to spend money on new ones again for the rest of their time at Hogwarts.

The twenty six of the twenty seven first years currently using the facilities, however, were about as appreciative of them as Voldemort was of the muggleborn.

Where once the shrieks of Fawkes, the insane ramblings of Tom Riddle, the hissing of the basilisk and the seemingly deathbed apology of Harry Potter had reverberated, the Chamber was now filled with the groans of twenty six aching first years as they tried to move after the strenuous workout which X had termed as 'light'.

"Come on you rugrats!" growled X. "You are but eleven! My eighty-year-old grandmother is stronger and limber than you lot!"

The only answers he received were more groans and muttered swearing.

"Language there, young man!" barked X. "Up you get! A lap around the room you shall take! Your tongue for you cure it will!"

When the kid wouldn't move, a tickling hex found its mark. Left without a choice, the kid had to break into a run, as the tickling subsided the more he ran.

Once the kid had returned, X barked, "That's it for today! The segment one and two stretches will be available as illustrated prints as you go out. Remember to take them. And I shall know if you haven't practised them! Up and out you go!"

As the students filed group-wise into the changing rooms, X couldn't help but look around the place – a place where he had faced a terrible horror.

Harry was moderately impressed with what he had seen at Hogwarts so far. The discriminatory slurs were down to an infinitesimal minimum, the quality of education was outstanding, the students were really well cared for, and there was none of the petty foolishness which both the Marauders as well as Draco and his clique had been guilty of during their respective times at the castle. It wasn't the place he once called home, but it was, all the same, his favourite place in the world. It was even more so now, because his son, for the most part was happy here. There had been a mini bust up when he had asked Xerxes to take up the vacant post, but that had been quickly put to rest.

As much as he had loved this place, where he had truly lived, had fought, had learnt – a bit, and had died, he was sure as hell not ever going to let his cub have any experiences and adventures of the sort that he'd had. And so, in spite of close friends like Daphne, Neville...and Lady Dagworth-Granger (Harry could never consider her anything less than his closest friend, even though he had assiduously avoided contact with her out of some stupid notion) being present, he had had Xerxes be around at Hogwarts.

"X?"

"Yes?"

"Would you let us out, please?"

"Oh, sorry about that," X murmured, hissing at the doorway and the elevator.

The Chamber had been remodelled to imitate the Batcave from the most recent Batman movie. First off, the abandoned Girls' Bathroom had been demolished. As Myrtle had gone on after Tom's death, there had been no problems on that account. The tunnel down to the Chamber had fallen through during the battle, just after Weasley and Lady Dagworth-Granger emerged from it after they had destroyed the Cup. The whole place had been reconstructed in such a way that to any person, looking from either the top or the bottom, would see a sheer cliff past the door. Two sets of elevator platforms transported people. This was especially important, because a structural audit had revealed a stress line due to the pressure from the lake. With prior permission from the mermen and the Board of Governors, the lake had been drained off, before the stonework was re-laid and pressure valves that would drain off the excess during flash or torrential rains had been routed through the fifty metre high fall.

The space without the Chamber was fairly large, and it had been modelled into an auditorium. Like in mundane schools, Hogwarts too had annual days, school plays and the like.

As a security measure, so that nobody would get stuck in, anyone accessing the place had to have passes. Also, since not everybody was a Parseltongue, there was an automated password speaker...or well, hisser. So, a magi-biometric system which spoke the password to the doors had been given to all staff.

There had been severe outcries against all that because of the 'loss of tradition'. Those same people, when they got the chance to see their children during the school year, had turned grudging supporters.

And Harry had been massively proud of all that his other baby, the DG, had accomplished, not only because of the achievements themselves, but also because of the legacy that it would be. The DG, whether anyone knew the founder or not, had become a legacy, one which he hoped Teddy would drive forward given the signs of interest he had been showing. So many people had joined, had volunteered, helped and shown the organisation the way forward in some cases, whether it was for one project or full-time. Many people had sought to change the magical world, for better or for worse, but it had been DG that had succeeded.

And Hogwarts was one of DG's biggest success stories. What was even more interesting was the identity of the operatives that had overseen these changes – Robert and Helen Granger. Nobody would ever know that.

It was in late 2004 that Robert and Helen, who were visiting their favourite unofficial grandson Teddy, raised the issue of restructuring Hogwarts. As soon as he had started the DG, Harry had communicated what he was doing to the couple. It was, incidentally their first contact in person after Harry had left.

Robert had liked the idea immensely, and had observed the matters closely. As the father of war-heroine Hermione Granger, he was one of two muggles accorded respect by the magical society. He had also struck an unlikely friendship with Tom, the owner of the Leaky Cauldron. In the afternoons, which were the lull period for the pub, Richard and Tom would talk about just anything in the magical world. This had made Richard the prime candidate to be Harry's barometer for change. He had wholeheartedly approved of what the organisation was doing, and what it had achieved.

Helen, on the other hand, had been the one who had observed the students when she used to visit Hermione at Hogwarts. She had observed the students. What she saw was a generation of students that wanted to change and wanted a new direction from the war that they had known about somewhat, but didn't know the way. She had also found Neville and Daphne, as well as Minerva McGonagall to be fairly good conversationalists. She had made her lists (Hermione had to get that from somewhere!) for changes that she thought were needed at Hogwarts.

"Harry, there's something that we mean to ask you."

"Yes?"

"The DG, do you think we could be involved?"

"I don't see why not." Seeing the smiles that had graced the couple's faces, he ventured, "You are looking altogether too happy with the idea – just like she did when she got into forming the DA. What's the pet project you have?"

"Hogwarts," they answered in unison.

"Have a Plan?"

"We have one. It's tentative, but we thought we should run it by you once."

And they did. It was ambitious. It was also massive – so massive that it would have been a bit too difficult to shove down the throats of the resisting public. So it had been staggered into stages. Hogwarts, after all, had to change as the students did.

His Grace Lord Potter-Black, had, then sent a personal letter to Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, proposing changes and monetary help for Hogwarts which he otherwise wished to be kept secret. And he had sunk all the Malfoy Wealth into turning Hogwarts around by the Grangers' plan. Hogwarts had been a personal fiefdom for the Board that refused to use the money. It had actually been conceived as a no-profit-no-loss school. The fees were supposed to be an exact match to the sum total of costs incurred, including material and inventory margins.

Successive administrations after the early 1800's had started treating it as a business, turning the profits into their pockets. Phineas Nigellus, the then Headmaster, and his brother Aries Leo, the then Head of House Black (surprise, surprise!) who had done a bit of a George Graham, indulging in kickbacks had laundered in money to the House of Black, had both been in a Royal Snit when a muggle plot to return that hard-earned money had come to fruition. Gits.

And so it was that it wasn't Hermione Granger, but her mundane parents that had changed Hogwarts for the better. Everything that had been changed had germinated from their ideas which had been translated – for lack of a better word – from the mundane origins to the magical domain. And it had become an important benchmark for other schools that once had to attempt to catch up with Hogwarts. There was a lot that could be done for his alma mater, and the Grangers had had Harry start the process through his channels and their ways.


"Paw?" called a voice from near his shoulder. It was Teddy.

"'Lo Ted."

"You wanted me to carry a 'medium sized cage'. What was that about?"

"Ah yes. You remember Luna had told us about –"

"You brought the Crumple-Horned Snorkack Aunty Loony always tells me about!" Ted broke in enthusiastically.

"What have I told you about calling her Loony, Ted?"

"But she always makes me call her that," Ted whined.

"Then don't call her that around me!" Harry scolded.

"Sorry Paw."

Harry nodded curtly.

"Are we going to give it to Hagrid?"

"Of course," Harry replied with a smile. "I want you to approach him first though. I don't think I've met him since after that day."

Ted frowned. It had been the matter of major disagreements between father and son. Ted didn't like the fact that Harry had cut off everyone from his life at the time under the notion of protecting his godson. Harry was convinced that at that time it was extremely necessary, and privately felt that Ted was sometimes a bit too bossy.

"Did you meet the rest of them?"

"Yes. Called on Theo yester-morning, then met Daphne, Neville and Hannah last evening for dinner," he duly reported.

Bringing the subject back to the original track, Ted asked, "Where is it?"

"In the office; you go on. I'll bring it to Hagrid's under this guise. Nobody will know."

Ten minutes later, Ted and a large black wolf were standing next to a cage that was emitting squelching/squeaking sounds outside Hagrid's hut.

"Come in Ted, wha' a surprise!" boomed Hagrid. "Quite the early bird aren' yeh? Evn yer go'father an' his frien's waited till about a mon' inter school ter come visit me."

"Yes. I wanted to show you this new creature that I never saw in the beastiary that you'd given to Paw. May we come in?"

It was then that Hagrid saw the cage and the wolf.

"Who 'ave we go' here?" he asked, approaching the wolf cautiously. It looked feral, and was certainly far larger than a normal wolf. It was jet black. That wasn't beyond the normal. The Black Wolf after all is a variation of the grey wolf, the largest among the wolves. What was different was the distinctly different colour of the paws. They were blood red. That sort of a discoloration was absolutely uncommon – nay, unique.

"That's Bloodpaw," Ted introduced the wolf. Hagrid seemed to ignore that. He was checking the wolf very closely. There was something way too familiar about it. The fur, he realised, stuck up in all directions. That was alright, not so much to bother about. But it was the eyes. Again, it was not an uncommon thing. Yet he couldn't help feeling that this wolf was more than just a wolf, that this wolf was a friend. The penny just wouldn't drop.

Harry couldn't help but grin as he transformed and sat cross-legged across his first friend ever.

"Hi Hagrid."

The Half-Giant stared at the man for a complete minute. Then he just picked Harry by the scruff of his neck and proceeded to hug the stuffing out of him.

"Where 'ave yeh been?" Hagrid croaked at last. "Last I see yeh, yeh were dead and then alive, 'arry! Where 'ave yeh been?" Hagrid's voice was rising as he spoke.

"I have been away Hagrid. I am a wolf. I have a cub, the last of my pack to protect."

"Remus made yeh godfather?"

"Yes. You didn't know? Hermione's his godmother. I thought she might've told you."

Hagrid looked at Harry with more than a little anger. "Hermione's no' bin too well, 'arry."

"What happened to her?" Harry asked worriedly. He hadn't known that Hermione was unwell. Had Hagrid not been angry at the man sitting in front of him, he might have smiled a secret smile (it was easy for him with the forest of facial hair to keep his smiles secret) at the immediate worry.

"Well, yeh know 'ow she was before 'alloween, don' yeh? All frien'less an' shy li'l chit she was. When yeh did a runner, she los' 'er bes' frien'. The' Weasley wen' an' broke 'er 'eart."

Harry shifted guiltily. The break-up between his ex-friend and Hermione had been partially – well, largely – his doing. He had done many things at that time that retrospectively, were not good things at all. In his mind, at that time, he had been saving Hermione from Ron.

Deciding that he had to explain himself a bit, he finally spoke. "Well, I had to do a runner, Hagrid. Weasley and the little Weaslette set Unspeakables after Teddy. I couldn't come back till that danger was gone."

Hagrid was a simple man, even very innocent. But he wasn't foolish. He had the ability to make logical conclusions when presented with facts. "Is tha' why yeh made 'em Weasleys all fo'git all about yeh?" he asked shrewdly.

"Yes. He became the Peter Pettigrew for us."

Hagrid didn't show it but he was a bit shocked by the accusation. He'd always thought of Harry and Weasley to be as thick as James and Sirius.

"Can we talk of better things than them?" Ted asked irritably. "You have met after eleven long years; don't waste this meeting talking about people you don't like."

Hagrid's eyes crinkled around a smile. "Righ' yeh are, Ted. 'suppose tha's the bit of Remus, innit? So, 'arry, 'ow 'ave yeh bin doin'?"

Harry grinned at his cub, and then his first friend. "I've been doing quite well, Hagrid. Britain's changing. That's half the things I need to be more than fine already."

"Is tha' why yeh've returned, 'arry?"

"Sort of. You do know X is a werewolf, right?" Hagrid nodded. It had been made clear to the staff. "I am his replacement."

Hagrid smiled broadly. "Yeh were a great teacher, Dumbledore tol' me that'. Great man, Dumbledore," Hagrid added with a sniffle.

"Yes, great man, Dumbledore," Harry agreed amiably.

"So yeh 'ave the Masteries an' all?"

"Yes. One in DADA, another in charms, and a very thorough grounding in mundane Computer Science," Harry answered. "That actually brings me to one of the reasons why I sought you."

"Yes?"

"You got your Mastery in Care, didn't you?"

"Yes. Hermione made me appear fo' the exams. She is brilliant, but bossed me until the exams."

Harry smiled at the memories that brought up. Shaking his head, he brought himself to the present. "Do you remember Luna Lovegood?"

"Yeah, I do. She was one o' the few stude'ts tha' were my frien's. Miss 'er a lot. Brough' up all sort o' strange beasties, but she was the good sort."

"Remember the Crumple-Horned Snorkack that she used to speak about?"

"Yeah..."

Harry opened the cage. There were four small rabbit-like creatures with the hind legs of an antelope and the forelegs of a cat. Each creature had horns on its head that closely resembled the state of a crumpled empty can of fizzy drinks. "This," Harry started Harry dramatically, "is a Crumple Horned Snorkack."

"They're real!" Hagrid exulted. "They're such wee little beasties!"

"They are like Luna, Hagrid; calm and collected and nice till they are troubled. Don't let nifflers or any rodents come near them. Against rodents they can go on a rampage."

"Food?"

"The same as you'd give an owl, rodents. They like to hunt in the afternoons. I am not quite sure what they hunt, it's most certainly not anything larger than them."

"You wan' me ter take care of 'em?"

"I want you to learn about them. They are the only ones out of all those creatures that she used to talk about that I have managed to find. These little buggers don't really think much about human contact."

"O' course!" agreed Hagrid jovially. "Yeh think I should try ter breed 'em or summat?"

"Yes."

"I'll try." Then with the broadest grin he'd worn in a while, he thanked Harry for the new challenge. "None be findin' me new critters ter look afta fo' a while, 'arry!" he informed the wolf animagus.

"Well I'm happy that you are up for the challenge, Hagrid. I've got an offer for you, if you are up for a trip."

"An offer?"

"Yes. I've got you a job offer, if you think you can manage it with your work here, or exclusively there."

"Now yeh've got me interested, 'arry. Lemme git me cloak an' stuff, eh?"

"Sure. Ted, wait up in the common room alright? I want to meet you later. I've never seen the Hufflepuff common room, even though I've seen the Slytherins' and Ravenclaws'."

"'Kay, Paw!"


Fifteen minutes later, they were standing on a very large area which would have otherwise seemed non-existent on the world's map.

"Whe' are we, 'arry?" This place was, for Hagrid, heaven.

"This is my island in the Northern Atlantic Ocean," Harry replied. "It's as big as the Snowdonia, Shropshire AONB and the Cairngorms combined."

"Blimey! Tha's massive!"

"It is. This is also the Luna Lovegood Memorial Institute of Magi-Zoology."

Hagrid's eyes, which had widened at that, softened considerably. "She was a dear girl, wasn' she?"

"Aye, she was."

Shaking of the maudlin moment, Harry showed Hagrid around the island. It was equipped with the standard weather controlling spells set up using runes for longevity. The Rune stones had been placed at intervals of half a kilometre along the boundary of each section dedicated to a particular habitat, creating a special boundary. It had a two nautical mile territorial boundary extending into the sea to house aquatic creatures. The populations were under close control – the island hoped to be the magical equivalent of Noah's Ark, and therefore could only house two or at best three pairs for very large territorial animals like dragons.

At the centre of the island was the building which would house the Institute by itself. It was about a quarter of Hogwarts' building's size in terms of ground area occupied. An equal amount of space around it was the only demarcation to separate it from the habitat grounds. A portkey grid with controls at the institute helped the conservators and the staff to tend to any problems as soon as possible. As far as protection went, there were the standard ones. The island was unplottable, invisible to mundane eyes, and had beacons and buoys around it in the sea itself shepherded ships to the correct routes around the island. In most cases, it would have been an encroachment on the territorial waters of several countries. However, an agreement by a private investor who wished to remain anonymous to create an area for natural conservation with the countries having the North Atlantic Ocean as an international boundary had paved the way for the island's construction.

"It's beau'ful!" Hagrid claimed. "It's beyond beau'ful!"

"You like it?"

"D'yeh 'ave ter ask, 'arry?"

"Would you consider working here?"

"O' course I would! I'd be a fool ter not want teh!"

"That's good! We have a post for a researcher open. We are researching habitats and estimating what sort of creatures would survive where – a kind of zoological divination, if you'd care for the explanation."

"I'm in!"Hagrid decided. Then he frowned. "Bu' I can't leave 'ogwarts permanently, 'arry. It's bin me 'ome for more'n fifty years."

"I wouldn't ask you to, Hagrid. Look you are the gamekeeper as well as the Professor for Care. You could choose to keep any one of those posts. I'd suggest you choose the Professorship. That way, if any of your students show promise, you can bring them here. As for your research, it is more of recording what you see in the places. I don't think it'd be difficult for you. The Forbidden Forest always spoke to you Hagrid. This will be an entire island speaking to you."

Hagrid spent some time talking to the staff. Some had been from Hogwarts and knew the friendly half-giant from their time there. They showed him a few new creatures that they had found or relocated for conservation on the island. A boat ride into the sea showed them the Avalonian narwhal, a true giant of the sea. There was the reef which had been constructed carefully and isolated to create an underwater habitat resembling the Great Barrier Reef. The little magical creatures flitting through were things that even Hagrid had never seen. For him, this was heaven.

"'arry?"

"Yes Hagrid?"

"When we starte' the tour, those blokes there put some magic onter me. Wha' was tha'?"

"Biological isolation, sterilisation and autoclaving," Harry replied. "You live in a magic-rich environment. Magical parasites of some sort or the other, vectors for diseases that these animals contract, often cling to our clothes and stuff. We wouldn't want them to fall ill, would we?"

"So that thing, it was making me cleaner?"

"Sort of. That procedure is compulsory whenever anyone switches between habitats." Hagrid was still frowning in confusion. "The magical diseases and animals living in Scotland and Egypt are different, yes?"

"Yes."

"Now, if an animal from one of those regions, is let lose in the other, and manages to survive, that animal starts taking up territory?"

"Yes." And then the penny dropped for Hagrid. "So wha' they did makes it impossible for the two 'abitats tah mix, and keeps 'em 'ealthy!"

"Exactly! We had that problem, you know. We didn't realise it at first, but there was a problem due to the explosion of Ashwinder eggs when they came too close to a phoenix having a burning day."

Hagrid cringed and flinched impressively. "I see tha'."

"Now the example was for a fairly big creature – we can see Ashwinders and phoenixes. What about microbial, that is, beasties so small that we can't see them?"

"There are such beasties?" Hagrid asked, partly excited at the idea of creatures not being large enough to be seen, and partly horror-struck at having ignored hitherto them.

"There are," Harry confirmed. "However, they cause diseases. We lost our first herd of Hippogriffs to them last year. That was what prompted us to start using the BISA every time we travelled across a habitat. They were Congolese wing-rotting bacteria."

"Oh."

As they sailed back towards Scotland, Hagrid had a very pensive expression on his face. He had always wanted to learn about all kinds of creatures from across the world. However, his time at Hogwarts as a student had culminated in expulsion, putting paid to any ambitions he had harboured. Now though, after fifty years, he was getting a chance. Was it too late? Harry had put it together as soon as he could have; there was no doubt about that. That sort of a sanctuary couldn't be built within a year – it had to have been in the works for six years at least.

But the problem that bugged Hagrid was of a very different kind. Hogwarts had been his home for as long as he cared to remember. Being the Gamekeeper, his friendship with the Centaur herd, taking care of the Unicorns, chasing away the mischievous students hell-bent on undertaking an excursion into the forest had been his life ever since 1942. That was a span of nearly seventy years! Hogwarts was an integral part of him, as he was of Hogwarts. Would it be possible that at eighty, he could accomplish this massive change?

When he had instantly given his assent to Harry, he had been enamoured with what he saw, and was also thinking of the century or more that he could spend there. After all, his Giant ancestry made his life-span longer than even that of magical humans. But letting go of all that had defined his life at Hogwarts to start a new adventure...was it a good thing to do?

"Are you unsure about this venture, Hagrid?"

"Nah, tha's no' the pro'lem, 'arry. Tis' no' 'bout the island. We', no' completely 'bout the island."

"What is it then, Hagrid?"

"I'm eighty, 'arry. I am used tah considerin' meself human. I'm gettin' old."

"That's a load of old tosh and you know it, Hagrid. You've got at least another century to live – a century and half with your lifestyle."

"I know. Bu' goin' the', learnin' all the new beasties, an' everythin' else will be new. Am I too old ter learn?"

"Do you wish to be too old to learn? Dumbledore had once told me that he found Hogwarts enchanting because the castle and the students taught him something new every day. He was a hundred and thirty five himself. That's nearly fifty five years older than you are now."

"Tha' true..."

"Look, Hagrid, I can understand. You feel as if you are saying goodbye to a part of yourself. You aren't really, are you? You are just getting a larger playground."

"Tha' I am," Hagrid replied with a grin.

The rest of the boat ride went silently. When they touched shore, Harry configured a portkey to take them to just outside the Hogwarts gates. "So what do you think, Hagrid? Are you going to track back and refuse, or are you game for a new challenge?"

"Must I tell yeh now, 'arry?"

"Well, I'll be visiting McGonagall immediately, and ask her permission to recruit you. I wouldn't want to propose it and not have you willing, would I?"

Hagrid relapsed into another lengthy silence.

"Can yeh give me a short contract? I'll see how it goes an' 'en commit long-term."

"Seems sensible," agreed Harry. "In case you decide not to commit long-term, would you put the word out among the Beast Masters? Someone that you think would do well will have a really good recommendation."

Hagrid glowed at the implied praise. "O' course, I'll do that! Yeh din' need ter ask, 'arry!"

"Thanks Hagrid. It means a lot. That island is a way to conserve our natural magical heritage, as well as commemorating Luna. I started building it on her birth anniversary, the 13th of February 2003."

Hagrid only nodded. There was little he could say that would adequately console Harry. He had treasured his friends, and Luna was among them.

As they reached his hut, Hagrid finally asked a question that was as unrelated to their previous conversation as it was intriguing.

"Say, 'arry, why are your animagus form's paws red?"

Harry's face morphed into something that was a cross between a devilishly cruel grin and a snarl. "Well, I got some blood on my hands – that of my Death Eater cousins on the Black side like the Lestranges, when I had to protect my pup. It translated to my animagus form's blood red paws."

Hagrid returned a grim nod. Who better to understand the true reason behind violence than one of Giant descent?


The black-furred, green-eyed, red-pawed wolf trotted into the castle, more like a dog than a wolf, sniffing the trail for its cub's scent. He just wanted to meet Teddy before he would have to go away for another month. Remus had had to remind him that he was a big boy now, and it wouldn't do to miss the boy as much as he was.

Suddenly, another scent assaulted Bloodpaw's senses. It was very familiar. It was parchment, vanilla, something slightly minty and a flowery something else that he had never been able to place. It had been the one he had smelt when Slughorn had taught them all about Amortentia. Bloodpaw froze. Under the lights of the everlasting sconces (now bespelled to alternate between LED type white lights and yellow lights), the wolf saw the one person he had studiously avoided for eleven long years.

Hermione was taking a walk through the castle. It was one of the compulsive habits she had developed since she had taken over from Minerva, that helped her calm down. The OWL students had been the subjects of her ire most recently. Fooling about during her lectures was something she hated. Suddenly she became aware of another presence near her. It was a wolf. What was a wolf doing in the castle?

"You!" she shouted, pointing her wand at the wolf. "Shoo!"

The wolf cocked its head at her, and then gave her a very amused (amused?) grin. Then instead of running towards the doors when she shot a spell at it on reflex, it started to run inwards.

"It just had to be today," she muttered irritably as she chased after it.

The wolf indeed did lead her on a merry chase as it went around to all the places in the castle that it remembered. And having quite forgotten about her anger at the fifth years, Hermione had something new to concentrate on. It took her a good ten minutes before Hermione started to realise that each of these places held a memory. The troll, the Polyjuice potion, the Gryffindor common room, the classroom where she remembered teaching Harry the summoning charm, the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy...

Something clicked and she stopped. Looking at the wolf curiously, she approached it cautiously and extended a hand to it. The animal was just too odd. It was supposed to be a bloody wolf, not a dog, for Merlin's sake. Just as she was about to touch it, the wolf gave a soft yip and started running again, making her groan as she started chasing it again. Then just as abruptly, it vanished on a straight.

For Hermione, this started alarm bells ringing at harsh decibels. She changed her path and started for the Headmistress' office. This thing could be dangerous. Come to think of it, the only other being she had seen do that was X, and the staff had been told that he was a werewolf. That creature wasn't.

Practically running up to the gargoyle, she blurted out the password, "Gamp's Cup-winning Silver Arrow."

The spiralling staircase was still rotating upwards – someone had just used it to enter the Headmistress' office. Not knowing whether Minerva would be inside, and whether the mystery entrant was an intruder, she drew out her wand and hopped onto the staircase. Without waiting to knock, she burst in.

"HEADMISTRESS, THERE IS AN IN-" she started, but her words were cut off when she saw her immediate superior, the Heads of the four Houses (Neville for Gryffindor, Septima Vector for Slytherin, Filius Flitwick for Ravenclaw and Alicia Atherton for Hufflepuff), and a man who stood awkwardly as he made to withdraw the cowl of his cloak, and had certainly been startled, turning to face her.

"It is good that you came, Lady Dagworth-Granger," the Headmistress said primly. "I had sent you a message through the intercom but it was unanswered. Our guest reports that you have taken a fancy to the hobby of chasing after innocent but dangerous animals in the school premises. Most unfitting of your station, I should say."

Minerva's mouth started twitching as Hermione briefly imitated a fish before brushing a Gryffindor scarlet.

"It's not a big matter, Headmistress," the guest said as he went through his action. "I was quite touched to note that Her Grace still has the practice needed to chase after an animal. I daresay I gave her quite a bit of the practice during our school years."

It was Harry.


Hermione stared at the boy – no, Harry had been a boy when she had last seen him; now he was a man – who had been her best friend for seven years. The laughter around her did not even register to her as she stood dumbfounded, taking in the sight of her friend. He had changed. Taller than she remembered him, Harry now looked a picture of health, something that he had never been till she had last seen him. He looked self-assured. She didn't even register him approaching her.

"Good evening, Your Grace," he said as he placed a kiss on her right knuckle.

"H-Harry?" she stuttered.

He just smiled at her, the infernal prat.

"Lord Potter-Black..."

"Just Lord Potter, Headmistress," Harry interrupted. "I am Lord Black Emeritus. I abdicated the seat for the rightful Heir, my son."

"You gave a young boy the Lordship?" Minerva asked in shock (quite forgetting that it wasn't her place to interfere in House Business).

Harry responded with a raised eyebrow. "I believe it is my decision and mine alone to choose the time of abdication, Madam. My son," he emphasised with a hard glare, "is The Black, legally, rightfully and uncontested by any that were unfit to bear that name, as they bowed to another, relinquishing their loyalty to House Black."

Minerva flushed. "I apologise, My Lord."

"Indeed." Harry was not going to allow her to either question or undermine Teddy in any manner, never mind that she was the Headmistress. It was what had happened throughout his time here, and he would be damned if he let Teddy be bereft of that extra bit of protection that being Lord Black gave.

Neville meanwhile, frowned and asked, "Is abdication possible?"

"There is a ritual to that effect, My Lord Longbottom." Then he gazed at all the people in turn. "Vagaries and intricacies of House matters aside, I believe we have business to attend."

"Yes, My Lord," Minerva agreed weakly, with a sigh.

Changing his demeanour, he drew out six invitation cards. "These are the invitation cards for the inauguration of the LLMIM."

"The LLMIM?" asked Minerva.

"The Luna Lovegood Memorial Institute of Magi-zoology," Harry answered softly.

The responses were immediate as they were varied. Neville gave a heartfelt sigh and a beaming smile. He was one of the few people who had known Luna's fate, and had at that time, been in hospital. Luna was, along with Miss Weasley, one of the two people who had helped him protect Hogwarts while Harry, Hermione and Weasley were off searching those foul things. This way to remember her had been his idea. Not that either of Harry or he had known at that time that her creatures were truly existent, till Neville and Hannah had met up with Harry and Teddy on a holiday in Iceland of all places. They had found the creature while Teddy was charming his Aunt Hannah.

Hermione choked a sob as she remembered her friend. She was another that had been lost.

Madam Vector and Professor Atherton had not known the quirky Ravenclaw much. But hers had been one of the names on the lists of heroes of Hogwarts – the lists of those who had fought the final battle for their side. Such a person was a sore loss, after all.

Flitwick and McGonagall had sobered up. They remembered the blonde girl that Potter had befriended sometime in his fifth year and had fought with him thrice. The girl, kidnapped by those Malfoy beasts, had helped protect Hogwarts before then. They hadn't known much about her before then, or what had happened to her after, but she was a student who had given much to the school.

Neville read the date, "The eighteenth of October, Harry?"

"I couldn't find a better way to remember her, Nev," Harry replied sadly. "The last day that she graced earth seemed appropriate."

"'Graced'...quite the appropriate word for her," Neville agreed. "Headmistress?"

"Of course, Professor Longbottom," Minerva agreed immediately, "We shall all be there, Lord Potter."

"Please, Professor, in this matter, I shall prefer it if we dropped the formalities. After all, I am looking forward to poaching one of your teachers, Hagrid, Madam."

"POACHING?" Minerva shouted in a scandalised manner. "Never in all my years, had I expected you to stoop to that level, Harry Potter! How can you talk about poaching Hagrid?"

Harry was taken aback by the sudden vehemence. He blinked at her, and then he blinked again. He looked around to Neville, Hermione and the others for help but found only anger. Something was amiss here.

"Professor, is there something wrong?" Harry asked tentatively.

"IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG?" Minerva hissed. "YOU HAVE THE SHEER AUDACITY TO WANT TO POACH HAGRID? AND YOU ASK ME WHETHER SOMETHING IS WRONG? HAVE YOU GOT AN AGENDA LIKE UMBRIDGE AGAINST GIANTS?"

That explained it. Harry looked at his old teacher, and then started laughing uproariously. Minerva looked at him with further disgust, a look that was copied by her colleagues, as well as the portraits. Dumbledore's portrait had a particularly pained and scandalised look as he started wondering where he had gone wrong with the boy.

Harry finally calmed down enough to explain. "I-I am sorry, M-Ma'am!" he attempted to explain around chuckles. He stopped for a while as he let the chuckles subside. Then he took a deep breath and started again.

"I am really sorry Madam," he said again, his eyes still sparkling with unshed mirth. "We are having two different conversations altogether. You see, I worked briefly in the IT sector in the mundane world. The term 'poaching' refers to giving the employee of another company a lucrative job offer. I am just offering Hagrid a job as a researcher at the Institute."

"Oh." The response was rather sheepish, considering what they had mentally accused Harry of, as the younger Professors started laughing (a bit uneasily) as well.

"I am also rather offended that you'd think that of me, Headmistress," Harry admonished. "And you too, Professor Dumbledore, I saw your expression."

"My apologies, my boy," portrait-Dumbledore replied with a smile. "One gains a certain predilection towards jumping to conclusions in old age, and magicals particularly find that tendency exacerbated. I must say that I am quite proud of what you are doing with the Institute."

"Thank you, sir." Turning to Minerva, he asked, "So what do you think, Headmistress? You will have to appoint another Keeper of Keys and Gamekeeper."

"But he shall remain at Hogwarts as the Care of Magical Creatures professor?"

"Yes Madam. He will."

"Won't there be a conflict of interest?"

"No. In the mundane world, it is de rigueur for teachers to have varied research interests. As of now, the contract that I shall give Hagrid will be on a short-term basis. If he feels comfortable, he shall continue."

"What will Hogwarts gain from this?"

Harry looked at his ex-teacher seriously before answering. "Professor Hagrid will have his hands full if you allow him to join us, but knowing Hagrid, he is likely to make groundbreaking discoveries regarding his beloved animals. That will get him international acclaim. Now, we both know that Hagrid will never leave Hogwarts. So his acclaim, by association, will be shared by Hogwarts."

"You are making it sound like the Professors from smaller colleges getting research grants at Cambridge, Harry," Hermione interjected softly, marvelling at the proposal.

"That's exactly my point, Your Grace," Harry retorted excitedly. Hermione winced slightly. "Hogwarts doesn't cater to the Mastery-level education exclusively. However, having an internationally acclaimed master in a field makes Hogwarts more lucrative as an option. Hagrid will, then, be a major selling point for you when you decide to make a pitch for Hogwarts as a top-level school."

When Harry had accepted the magical-equivalent-to-Cambridge analogy, Hermione was sold. The next statement made her truly excited about the possibilities.

"Now, that Institute is only the starting point. It was also the most difficult, as we had to actually recreate existing habitats. So resources were a bit of a problem. However, similar campuses dealing with say, Transfiguration, Herbology, Charms, Arithmancy and so on and so forth are in the pipeline, so to speak. Those campuses together will be the first British Magical University. As such with acclaimed Masters on your staff, you could very well pitch Hogwarts up to foreign students as well."

"You know, Potter, that sort of ambition was why I wanted to put you in Slytherin. Though, I must say, from what I have read in your son's mind, you were good enough to be The Black indeed," declared the hat.

"I have regretted overruling you several times since then, Mr. Hat."

The Hat gave a smug smile.

"What do you think Professors?"

"I personally think that is a swell idea, Lord Potter," Flitwick squeaked. "As a Ravenclaw, I would've been eternally thankful for it."

"Indeed, my Lord," Minerva said. "It will revolutionise the scope of education in Britain. I shall be there to support the endeavour wholeheartedly."

"Thank you, Professors. It means a lot. And, er, about Hagrid?"

"If he is willing, I can certainly see the benefits of allowing the 'poaching'."

Harry grinned widely. "Then I best go talk to him, if I may have your leave, Professor."

Minerva smiled and nodded.

"Bye," Harry called brightly.

Hermione made to move, but stayed as she looked at the Headmistress.

"Go, Hermione. I will not have you held back from giving him a what for on my account."

Hermione didn't need to be told twice.

Dumbledore gave a raspy chuckle and looked to the portrait beside him that was feigning sleep. "So Severus?"

"He is Lily's boy, alright," the dour man accepted grudgingly.

Hermione, who had just reached the door, nearly bumped heads with Harry, as he peeped in, his wand flicking slightly at Snape's portrait. With a grin he called, "Gee, thanks Snivellus!"

The other occupants of the room roared with laughter as Snape shrieked, "POTTER!" The portrait's robes had been turned pink, with a matching mohawk.