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Chapter 6

The trials for the Death Eaters who had been captured after Voldemort's attack on the students had started, but Harry had gotten a letter from the Ministry that his presence as a witness wasn't needed for a few more days. It was such a big case that everything was more complex, and the schedule for the trials reflected that. Because they had the time and it was summer, Fleur had suggested a day out at the beach. Her reasoning was that it would help both Harry and Hermione with the stresses that came from the aftermath of Voldemort's attack, and it was actually one of the things they were supposed to be doing as teenagers on their summer break. There were a few questions about safety from the parents, but Sirius agreed that a random mundane beach was anonymous enough that obscurity would provide the security.

In the end it was agreed that most of them would go; unfortunately, Dan and Emma had to work. There was a quick trip to Gringotts first so that Harry could withdraw some money and have it converted into pounds, then they all (at Tracey's suggestion) went to Cardiff, the Welsh capital city that was both on the coast and where Tracey owned a spa business. That meant Tracey was familiar with the city and its rather nice beach.

A quick trip on the Knight Bus later, and the nine of them (Sirius, Harry, Hermione, Daphne, Tracey, and the four Delacours) were dropped off in the centre of the city, right by a castle that was almost as impressive as Hogwarts. Of the nine of them, exactly two had swimsuits. Harry had the swim shorts the Grangers had gotten him last year to go to France, and Fleur, who had owl-ordered a few different suits before she had left Beauxbatons because she was anticipating a summer with her two betrotheds. Hermione had told Harry that she had grown out of the suit she had last year, and none of the rest had owned a suit that was suitable for a mundane beach anyway. Luckily, there were a few places in the middle of the city where they could buy everything they needed.

After that, it was a quick trip on the city's public transport and they made it to the beach about an hour before lunch. They all went and changed into their suits, and when they came out of the stalls Sirius was carrying a lot of stuff he hadn't been holding when he went in. He had three parasols, a couple of beach balls, and what appeared to be a full volleyball set, obviously conjuring the whole lot while he was in the privacy of his stall. They made their way down to the moderately crowded beach. Because it was the summer holiday, they weren't the only ones who had thought that the beach was a good idea. It was a weekday so a lot of parents were at work, and for teenagers who didn't have a lot of money the beach was a pretty cheap day out.

Barry Island, as the beach was called even though it wasn't an island, was a nice beach that was walled off on three sides and open to the sea on the other. Two of the walls were natural cliffs that looked like they would have natural rock pools to explore, and the back of the beach had a raised promenade with a number of shops to one side that opened out onto a covered part of the promenade and a small amusement park at the far side.

The group surveyed the beach from atop the pavilion and decided where they would stake their claim. They wanted somewhere a little way off from everyone else, especially if Sirius wanted to set up a volleyball net, but close enough that they weren't away from everyone. Once they found a spot Sirius immediately went about setting up the parasols and volleyball net. Harry leaned towards Hermione and said. "Do you think Sirius knows that volleyball isn't that common in the UK?"

"Sirius probably saw it in a film, a lot of American films have volleyball in them if they are set at the beach. Sirius probably thinks that volleyball at the beach is normal."

Hermione was probably right, so Harry just said, "At least it's just uncommon rather than 'weird'." Harry said, tapping a finger against where he knew Hermione was wearing her disillusioned wand holster to indicate just what he meant by the word weird.

Fleur, who had been listening in, said, "Bet you a galleon Sirius is going to try and play the game to look good but will find out it's much harder than he thought."

"Do I look like a sucker? No bet." Said Hermione.

Fleur then whispered something into Hermione's ear that Harry completely missed but caused Hermione to blush. Harry could guess the sort of thing Fleur had said and decided he would give Hermione a moment to reboot her brain by distracting Fleur. "I'll take your bet. I think he is hoping a bunch of hot women in bikinis will see the setup and will want to play while bouncing around."

"Oh and why are you thinking about girls in bikinis jumping around, Harry?" Fleur teased.

"Because I was thinking of you," Harry answered without skipping a beat.

Fleur got a look that suggested she was actually considering it. While Harry, Hermione and Fleur were busy flirting, Daphne and Tracey had set out all the towels so that they all had somewhere to sit or lay down other than directly in the sands. Fleur's parents decided to go and see what was available in the nearby shops, taking Gabrielle with them.

"Hey Harry, lay down on your towel please." Fleur requested, causing Harry to look at her wondering just what she was about to do. Fleur pulled a bottle of suntan lotion from one of the bags they had from shopping earlier. "You need to be protected from the sun, and this is how it's done the normal way, right? So lay down. And Hermione, don't run off because I'm doing you next." The way Fleur had said that had Hermione blushing again.

Harry laid face down on his towel, and the next thing he knew Fleur was straddling him and actually sitting on his ass. He heard a few clicking and squirting sounds from behind him, and then warm hands started to rub up and down his muscles. For her hand to be this warm, Fleur had to be calling on her Veela fire a little, and it felt amazing. Harry was a rather tense individual,and that stress had accumulated in his muscles. As Fleur pressed, rubbed, and massaged his back, muscles that hadn't completely relaxed in years finally took a much deserved break. Harry couldn't help from letting out a low moan of pleasure and relief; just the feeling of tension he didn't even know he was carrying leaving him was amazing. Harry's moans got both Hermione and Fleur, as well as Daphne and Tracey, laughing a little at his expense, but it just felt too good for him to care, the feeling of the pain and tension just going away was almost intoxicating.

"Looks like you're a good teacher Tracey," Fleur said as she worked a knot from Harry's shoulder. "I owe you one."

Harry couldn't see it, but Tracey shrugged and said. "When you own a spa, you keep books on massage techniques in your home. I read them, Daphne helped me practise, and I was happy to help."

After Fleur had done Harry's back, she did the back of his legs, then had him roll over and do the same to his front side. While he was laid on his back while Fleur rubbed lotion into his legs, Harry was able to look around a little. There were quite a few teenage boys who were looking at Harry and the four beautiful girls with ill-disguised jealousy and anger for Harry and longing for his friends and girlfriends. Harry just ignored them. After Fleur was done with Harry, it was Hermione's turn. Daphne and Tracey also seemed to have decided it was a good idea, and now Tracey was laid face down a few towels over from Hermione as Daphne made sure every inch of Tracey's exposed skin was protected from the dangers of the sun.

Once Fleur was done with Hermione, Hermione nodded to Harry. Knowing what she wanted, Harry stepped behind Fleur, and after giving her a quick peck on the lips he picked her up off Hermione and carried her the short distance to her own towel, where he laid her down. Meanwhile Hermione had grabbed the bottle of lotion and followed. "You didn't think you could get away with working us up like that and not have us return the favour, did you?" With that, she flicked open the bottle and squeezed out a line of the lotion that sealed its way up from from the top of Fleur's bikini bottoms to just under her top. She then passed the bottle to Harry, who squirted some into his hands and then started in on his girlfriend's legs. The three of them had a surprising amount of fun not doing anything inappropriate for a public setting but teasing each other incessantly.

Sirius tried to get the teens into a game of volleyball. His idea was Daphne, Tracey, and himself on one team with Fleur, Harry, and Hermione on the other, but they just weren't interested yet. Tracey, who had visited this beach plenty of times growing up, was more interested in the rock pools on the right side of the beach and dragged Daphne with her to go explore to see what they could find. Fleur was more interested in a little sunbathing and working on her tan, and as that was something that could be done while reading she had an easy time convincing Hermione to join her. Sirius was disappointed, but it was only the start of the day, so it wasn't like they needed to do everything straight away. Harry decided he wanted to go for a walk, so he dragged his godfather with him so that he couldn't try and harass the girls into playing the game and spoiling their relaxation.

As they walked through the surf, the cool water washing back and forth over their feet, Sirius asked, "How are you holding up, pup?"

Sirius didn't need to clarify what he meant, they both knew exactly what he was referring to. Harry considered how he was going to answer. "Fine, I guess. I mean I'm not exactly good, how can I be after what happened to Ginny, after what I did and more importantly while helping Hermione with what she had to do? But I'm as good as you can expect, and I'll either be fine in time or I'll turn into a crazy Dark Lord." The line from the prophecy about living his life on the edge of a knife, and evil taking root in his heart flashed through his mind. Harry, Fleur, and Hermione had told the parents that there was a prophecy and that it meant Harry would probably need to fight Voldemort again, but they had kept the exact wording and the possibility of himself turning dark to themselves.

Sirius laughed. "Harry, if you ever become this country's Dark Lord I would feel so much better." Harry looked at Sirius as though he was crazy. "Harry, if you become a Dark Lord do you think you could target the muggleborn for destruction? Or strip people who aren't fully human of their rights? I could maybe see you, after snapping, ruthlessly killing people who disagree with you, but the ideals that you would uphold while doing that would be a massive step in the right direction on a lot of things. Don't misunderstand, I prefer a Britain with no Dark Lords. But if you ever take the role, I don't think decent people will have too much to worry about."

That got Harry thinking. If he fell and became a Dark Lord, what rules would he enforce? Maybe some modernisation of the wizarding world, minimum standards of care for house elves, calling anyone mudblood would be illegal. Maybe the worst case scenario he had been imagining since he heard the prophecy was just too harsh on himself. He had completely ignored his own core values. It wouldn't be good, just maybe not as bad as he was worried about.

They continued to walk along, enjoying the feel of the hot sun on their shoulders and the cool water washing over their feet. Eventually they turned back and made their way back to their patch. They arrived just as Sebastian and Apolline were coming down the ramp that separated the beach from the raised promenade, bringing back lunch with them. It was nothing fancy, just a portion of fish and chips each from the shop on the promenade. All five teens fell on the food hungrily; part of being a teenager meant you were growing quickly and needed both raw materials and calories, so it wasn't surprising that teenagers were always hungry.

Eating on the beach came with its own entertainment. The local seagulls had no fear of humans, and they seemed to be even hungrier than the teens. More than a few times as they were eating, they had to switch a dive-bombing seagull who was attempting to steal their lunch. A part of Harry wanted to shift to his falcon form, because if he did he was sure he could teach the so-called birds a few things about flying.

After lunch they all just laid around for an hour working on their tans. Once that hour was up, however, Sirius once more tried to get everyone interested in a game of volleyball. This time they gave in and agreed, but the problem was they didn't actually know the rules. From what they had seen of the game in films and television shows from America, the rules were similar to tennis: the ball had to give over the net and hit the floor inside the court markers on the other side to score a point. It was also obvious that you had to hit the ball, you couldn't catch and throw it. The confusion was if you could hit the ball to someone on your side or if you had to try and knock it over the net every time. Sirius said he had seen people diving to the floor in a way he thought it was impossible for someone to get the ball over the net when they hit it in the films he had seen, so they decided that passing between teammates was allowed.

The game was fun but exhausting. There was a lot of jumping around and trying to hit the ball, and more than once someone missed hitting the ball only for said ball to then hit them. Balls would also bounce out of the ring because people weren't that skilled at aiming. Still, they all enjoyed themselves. After a while, everyone started to slow down and needed a break. A few of the other teens that they were sharing the beach with asked if they could use the court for a few games. As Sirius had conjured the equipment from thin air, he had no problems letting people use it. They spent the rest of the day relaxing and just having a day off on the beach.

Once they were done at the beach, they returned to London. As four of them could apparate and Harry could Step, the trip back was as easy as finding somewhere they could disappear without anyone noticing. It did remind Fleur, however, that she would need to schedule an appointment to get a British apparition licence. Her French one would be enough for six months, but after that she would need to have a British one. It was probably just a cash grab by the Ministry, as you had to pay to take the test, but it was the law. As Dan and Emma had been working all day, and because Sebastian and Apolline were there on holiday, it was decided that they would go out to eat. They went to a mundane restaurant again because they didn't want to draw the kind of attention they would get going out in the magical public. All in all, it was a really good day.

-ϟϟϟ-

A few days later, Harry was called to testify against the Death Eaters that had been caught. Fleur, Hermione, and Sirius had gone with him for moral support, but it had turned out to be more boring than nerve wracking. Because Harry was a witness in these cases and nothing more than that, they had to sit around in a side room until he was called to give evidence. They had to wait for hours, with nothing to do but talk and drink the complementary tea that was provided.

Eventually, Harry was finally called into the courtroom, and after a load of red tape questions he was asked to tell everyone his side of the story. He was questioned about what he saw the Death Eaters doing by Rufus Scrimgeour, who was the new head of the D.M.L.E. and the default prosecutor for a case this important. The defence lawyers (because there were three of them) asked him a lot of questions like, "if they were wearing masks, how can you be sure my client was one of the ones committing a crime?" and then trying to lay the blame for Ginny's death at his feet.

Trying to blame him for Ginny's death had confused Harry at first, until after his turn in the witness box it was explained to him by an Auror that, as they were involved with the group that killed Ginny, even if they had no direct hand in it they were still being charged with her murder, and trying to lay the blame on Harry was their way of trying to sway a non-guilty vote from the Wizengamot. The Auror assured Harry that he didn't think it would work, though it was probably the best tactic that the defence had. Being caught red-handed at the scene of the crime while wearing Death Eater robes and charged with a crime that would see them sent to Azkaban for life tended to bring out the attempted long shots. It did occasionally work, which was why it was tried despite the odds.

There were five Death Eaters who had been caught, and just as many killed. The D.M.L.E. had tried to get the Death Eaters to give them the names of the other people who had joined their group. Unfortunately, all of the captured Death Eaters said they had been forced to take an Unbreakable Vow not to reveal that information. And they were claiming to be forced because all of them claimed that either they were under the Imperius or their life or the lives of their families were threatened.

Harry wasn't convinced by any of it. Voldemort was nowhere near as feared this time as he was last time. Losing so publicly to Harry at the end of the Triwizard Tournament had robbed Voldemort of a lot of his intimidation factor, and it was known that if your family is being threatened, the months since Amelia Bones had become minister made it obvious that help would have been given if it was asked for. As for the people claiming Imperius, it was impossible to Imperius as many people who claimed it. The constant drain on your magic to maintain the spell would make it an impressive feat to get out of bed in the morning if you only had three people under the curse. Most of them had to be lying.

Unfortunately the trial still had quite a way to go, and Harry couldn't even go and watch any of it, as there was a possibility that he would be called back to testify against or because the defence had more questions. Because of that, they didn't want to risk Harry's opinions being influenced by anything he heard in the trial.

That hadn't stopped the Daily Prophet, though, they were printing stories daily about what was happening in the trial. The day after Harry had appeared as a witness, the majority of the front page was taken up by a photo of Harry with the headline"'Harry Potter speaks out". It was an accurate accounting of everything Harry had said the day before, and even though it was written by Rita Skeeter it lacked her useless flair for the dramatic. It was the bland writing more than anything that had Harry unnerved, that just wasn't Rita's style. Harry just didn't know what it was. Was it because of how serious the matter was? Could her boss or the Ministry be leaning on her for a more professional level of journalism for the story? Was someone leaning on her to stop her saying anything positive about him? Whatever it was, it gave him a feeling of unease.

A few days later the verdict was finally announced. All five Death Eaters, from families Harry hadn't heard about before, were found guilty of a terrorist attack on a school and a count of murder for every one of the five students who had lost their lives. The sentence was life, for all of them. And it wasn't the mundane British idea of a life sentence, when the Wizengamot said life they meant life. Never again would those thugs walk free.

A part of Harry wanted to cheer the victory, but the images of the dead students that were burned into his brain wouldn't allow that. Yet Harry couldn't help the feeling of foreboding; there had been way too many breakouts from Azkaban over the last few years. If the Death Eaters remained in Azkaban as they were sentenced, then it wouldn't be a problem, but what were the chances of that? Voldemort was hurt right now, true, so it would probably take some time, but the fact that he would go for Azkaban again seemed more of a when than an if. It was also likely that that was going to be a lot sooner than a lot of people thought. Harry had said it before, but it bore repeating that it wasn't going to take ten to fifteen years for Voldemort to be back this time. His supporters were probably already planning on helping him get a new body.

-ϟϟϟ-

In another part of the country, in a house that was hidden from muggles but was too ordinary for any magical to look twice at it, the various parts of Tom Riddle had come to a consensus. A wide grin spread over his face as the other three nodded in agreement. It was a little unnerving to have to deal with others as an equal, but as the others were himself and could be trusted not to backstab themselves, it was something he could live with. They may demand an equal say, but what they lacked as minions, they more than made up with trust and competence.

A/N

due to inflation, it is now two comments = one energy drink.