AN: This story takes place 24 years after the Battle of Hogwarts and loosely follows the epilogue. I have tweaked with "canon" (if you believe that wretched epilogue is canon at all) to fit my needs. Please enjoy and feel free to comment and leave suggestions.
I am looking for someone who would like to be my Beta, please PM me if you are interested. Also, if you are an expert on the Wizarding World or know about England, let me in on my errors and feel free to "Brit pick" me.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling does.
Headmistress Minerva McGonagall was not pleased. The new school year was about to begin and there were many things left to do. She groaned internally and rubbed her tired eyes. Sometimes she thought she was getting too old for this. Although, Minerva expected to be around for another 30 years health permitting; she was a few years past that 100 year mark that most witches were quite proud of.
She snorted. Proud of being a century her arse. What did it mean except that she had increased her daily intake of potions and her joints ached in the cold seasons even more constantly? Not to mention being the Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry meant that she lived in a large stone castle; a castle that had approximately 142 moving staircases. At least being the Headmistress meant she had an affinity with the castle in a way that allowed her to utilize the shortest routes and use the hidden corridors. Well, most of them at least.
Thinking on that, she knew quite a few young Hogwarts students who had an affinity of their own for finding themselves in precarious situations, much like their parents many years ago. Fortunately, the world was a much safer place now than it had been 24 years ago when He-Who- er Lord Voldemort had been alive.
No, now at 24 years, nearing the 25th anniversary of what was now known as Liberation Day, they were living in what the public christened as the Golden Age of the Golden Trio. In fact, Hogwarts was to host the 25th celebration within its own walls on the 2nd of May. It was to be a celebration of the freedom gained from that terrible night; a nod of recognition to the ones who gave their lives over the course of the years to the cause; and most symbolically, a festivity of the complete restoration of the school and its entire grounds.
And that wasn't looking very promising at the moment. Minerva groaned thinking of the last details that had yet to be completed for the castle, not to mention the quidditch pitch. Hogwarts had been officially closed for two years following the final battle on its very grounds. Even that had been a struggle and almost pushed back. There had simply been too much destruction and debris to clear away to declare it safe for students, faculty and staff. The schools opening was allocated to the large collaboration of volunteers that had made it possible to reopen the school in such a short time frame. During the first few years many of the classrooms had been temporary and the class schedules had been in disarray. It had been difficult to both get the curriculum finalized and find qualified instructors willing to teach at the school. Hogwarts had become famous to an extent, infamously so.
While the Defense Against the Dark Arts position was no longer cursed there were quite a few superstitions and rumors, and even fear regarding the well-known "Last Stand of Hogwarts." It was no secret (for the most part), what had taken place on the grounds, and it was most difficult to hide the fact that the quantity of ghosts that resided on the grounds had increased triple fold. Most of them were quite pleasant and prideful of having sacrificed themselves for what they deemed a noble cause. But some spirits were not alluring, and more than a few were hostile. Not all of the ghosts that remained had been fighting against Lord Voldemort. This had led to a few of the spirits being "dealt" with, which was most difficult to do.
A loud crash followed by an explosion came from outside and Minerva rushed to the nearest window of her office and scanned her eyes worriedly over to where the crash had obviously taken place. She groaned and felt nearly reading to pull out her silvery grey hair. This was the exact reason she was not only devoid of her hair color but on blood pressure potion. The sheer stress of her position, and a half giant named Hagrid. The rubble and smoke clearing in the sky was obviously coming from the quidditch pitch, which was currently finishing its final revisions.
The Hogwarts' temporary pitch had been discarded ten years ago, but the new one was a joke to serious quidditch players when it had first opened. It had slowly gotten built upon and so far it was turning out to be quite spectacular mostly thanks to former world champion seeker, Professor Krum. That is if the individuals responsible for its final reconstruction could keep from destroying it in the process.
The quidditch pitch was undergoing the final stages of remodel, and for some insane reason she had entertained Neville and Hagrid and allowed them to oversee the construction. Neville had been eager from a herbologist standpoint regarding the grass and plants within and around the stadium. Minerva had no idea that vegetation was so important to the sport, and doubted it was in actuality. Apparently, Neville was planting a new shrub that would discourage the midnight trips to the stadium that students were known to make.
Neville had assured Minerva that the plants were entirely safe, and would do no lasting harm to the student. What Professor Longbottom considered lasting harm was another thing entirely; the years had shown that he was the Hagrid equivalent to wizarding plants. Well, similar in some aspects, but he was a brilliant professor and the students adored him. This had been made apparent in the last few decades and Minerva had suspected that this was one of the ways the wizard coped with the aftermath of the war; dealing with plants and teaching rather than spend time with actual people. He was one of the few professors that lived outside of the castle during the school term as his wife Hannah Longbottom, nee Abbott, was the landlady of the Leaky Cauldron. Neville stayed at the school a few nights during the week, but for the most part he went home to his wife at The Leaky Cauldron.
Minerva could hardly blame him. She eyed the desk drawer that housed her well-loved bottle of Fire Whiskey. Returning to her desk, she decided that it was five o'clock somewhere and it was only shy of five by a few hours anyway. She pulled out the aged whiskey and grabbed a tumbler from her glass cabinet. She twirled the amber liquid around in her glass and took a sip and felt the liquid travel down her throat.
Her second source of aggravation came from the two new professors about to begin teaching at Hogwarts this year. And truth be told, she was slightly anxious for them. Oh they were highly recommended and well sought after, but accepting a teaching position at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was one thing, but staying the whole year and coming back for next one was another thing entirely. The first year under contract tended to weed out the keepers as she referred to them as. Minerva wanted to find the ones that were willing to devote their time and person to the students and the Hogwarts legacy. So far, quite a few faculty had come and gone, not to mention over the years much about the school had changed; the sorting of students into houses being one of them.
The sorting had undergone a huge change since decades past. It was an issue of much controversy among the Board of Governors and former Hogwarts Alumni alike, but in order to increase collaboration and community between the houses the sorting had been revised. There was one thing that had been made clear to Minerva from the war, and that was the prejudice that separated the wizarding community. In her opinion it started young, and the separation of the students in the houses created loyalty and affinity for those members in their respective houses, but it also divided the houses, ultimately dividing Hogwarts and leaving it vulnerable. This was not a mistake she herself intended to make.
Merlin bless his soul, but Albus had not been the most partial of men. As Headmaster it was his duty to be impartial to the houses and treat students equally. Minerva was not ignorant to the fact that it was nearly impossible to be impartial (and a war had been going on for many decades) and that every professor had their favorite students, but it was vital to at least try. The Head of House were allowed to show some regard for their respective houses, but still effort was appreciated. Albus had clearly distrusted the students in Slytherin House and praised those in Gryffindor. In her opinion it had out-casted those in Slytherin, and had secured those unsure of their position on blood status to swearing fealty to a mad man all for the sake of feeling as if they had no other option. Not to mention that students in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff had been cast into the shadows and treated as pawns in the war excluding a select few.
No, if there was one thing Minerva McGonagall intended to do it was to bring together the four houses and unify the school. And well, it was getting there, slowly but surely. There were still stereotypes in place, but the houses were no longer hostile towards one another, for the most part.
Minerva believed much of her success belonged to the resorting of every student for each school year. It was slightly difficult to do and had taken a lot of work and she had received much criticism from the Board of Governors, but the students had seemed to thrive.
The sorting of the new students was the same as it had been since the founding of Hogwarts; each new first year was sorted at the welcoming feast in front of faculty, staff and student. The difference came from the end of the school year in which every student was called in to meet with their respective Head of House. The students made an appointment with their Head of House and were privately re-sorted. The process was entirely the same. The hat was placed upon the child's head and the hat still depicted their house based upon the qualities of the student and factored in the students' own wishes.
This made it so that students who wanted to belong to another house or try something different it could be made possible, and they could rest assured that they would not have to stay in one particular house if they did not want to. It helped the students become more accepting of others and appreciate the different traits they each had to offer. For example, one student may have been in Huffelpuff one year, but may be a Slytherin the next, only to be resorted and stay in Hufflepuff for the rest of their years. For some reason, this benefit the student and made them seem less weak for being in the house of Hufflepuff, which had a long standing history of being looked over, despite the well-known sacrifice of Cedric Diggory and Auror Nymphadora Lupin, nee Tonks.
More importantly, the re-sorting gave the students an option, a choice. It was a symbol that said as you grow older you change and you are not required to stay the same person from year to year; you are responsible for the person you become. It was about giving the students opportunities, and letting them know that no matter what happened there was always a choice. There was always a choice, sometimes not always apparent, nor the easiest, but they existed.
While many past generations of Hogwarts students objected to the system there were many that approved. In fact, many of the students were eager for the end of the year sorting now. It was a time of excitement that sent the school alight with whispers. Many of them conspired over who would end up where. Most of the students ended up being sorted into two different houses in their time at Hogwarts. It was not uncommon to stay in one house for the entire seven years, but nor was it rare to be sorted into three different houses. The few that had been sorted into all four houses prided themselves for having known all the secrets, or most of, each house. It also had the indirect impact of making the end of year awards of quidditch cup and house cup more unpredictable and stimulating. It was far more competitive and wavering in which house won each year. Although, Slytherin and Gryffindor typically had the most competitive quidditch team each year, it wasn't impossible for the other two houses to win. Indeed the houses were still known for their respective traits, but the sorting system simply paid homage to and recognized that each student had a multitude of characteristics that spanned across the houses.
Minerva sent her finished glass of whiskey down and stoppered the fine bottle and replaced it in her desk. She eyed the Hogwarts first year student registry and stared at the name that had been causing her trouble over the last few months.
In bold cursive lettering the name taunted her, as did the multitude of returned official Hogwarts acceptance letters that lay piled on her desk.
Harper Rae Carey.
It was proving to be quite difficult to contact and locate this particular Muggleborn student. There usually were always minor complications when recruiting the Muggleborn students as the concept of magic was a rather large issue to tackle. She had officially designated specific professors each year to make house visits to the families in order to ensure them that the acceptance letter to school was not a faux pas. And ultimately, there were always a few students that were unable to attend due to the culture, religion etc. of the family. But for the most part, the system they had developed at the school to integrate the children and their families who were unfamiliar to the wizarding world was quite accomplished.
Minerva had inclinations as to why this case was proving particularly difficult, and was afraid that her hunch would prove to be correct. The young girl was of dual citizenship, born from an American Mother and British Father. While she was born in London, her family had been living in the United States for three years leading up to their unfortunate accident.
The automobile accident had left the girl an orphan at the tender age of five.
The girl had been officially declared a ward to the state of Louisiana and had been living with foster families ever since her parents' death having no known relatives. Minerva was unfamiliar with the foster care system of America, but could only hope that it had given the girl a better upbringing as seen with arguably the most infamous orphan of the wizarding world, Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Minerva had been in contact with a few of the American Wizarding Schools in regards to Ms. Carey's case. The schools had investigated Ms. Carey's particular situation and had decided it best to let the girl live on as a Muggle. Apparently, it was not just the foster family that had to agree to allow the child to attend a wizarding institution, but the case worker had to be dealt with along with other pertinent members of the foster system. Minerva suspected that the decision for the girl to remain in the Muggle world had come more from the fact that there were multiple avenues that had to be dealt with and it increased exposure of the magical world to multiple Muggles. There was obviously a security risk to be considered. However, as the girl was a viable candidate for Hogwarts having been born in London, Minerva felt as if she owed it to Ms. Carey to invite her to Hogwarts and instigate her own investigation. Let it be known that Minerva McGonagall was an instigator for her students.
It was showing to be a trying case, and one that would not leave her mind at ease.
All efforts to contact Ms. Carey had been inconclusive resulting in unresponsive or returned acceptance letters. Minerva had sent a few case workers from the Ministry of Magic to take a look, but their efforts had proven in vain. The Ministry was willing to look into these situations to an extent, but the fact was it simply didn't occur that frequently. Muggleborns made up less than 15% of the students in Hogwarts, and fewer than those came from broken homes whose families were intolerable to magic. However, of the Muggleborns that appeared in the schools registration, the percentage of attending was as high as it had ever been.
Minerva was quite proud of that and gave credit to the system they had developed to educate the families of the wizarding world in a manner that made them feel safe, secure, and more importantly in control. She had found that when Muggles felt they had options or felt they had some measure of authority, they were less hostile towards magic. Furthermore, many of them required concrete evidence in this new age dominated by technology. Hogwarts' entire Muggle Studies Department had undergone a complete overhaul and they had even integrated a measure of magic infused technology within their programs as actual Muggle technology would not work in Hogwarts.
Hogwarts had even been known to give tours to the considering families of Muggleborn witches and wizards. However, if they chose not to attend the families' memories were professionally altered. In the end, they remembered that they had fleetingly considered a distant boarding school and had decided to keep their child closer to home instead.
This situation was different entirely, and it was time for a more direct approach.
Shifting stone reverberated through the tower as the gargoyle leading to her office moved to accommodate for the altered stair cases. The sound of thick dragon hide boots made its way closer as a tall imposing figure hovered at the entrance of Headmistress McGonagall's office.
The man crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame and stared at her for a moment appraising her before lifting an eyebrow in inquiry.
"Well don't just stand there Severus, have a seat," she said after a moment.
"I was under the impression that this would not take all day." His voice was as captivating as ever despite the raspy quality it had acquired due to the near fatal wound Nagini's bite had inflicted.
"Well, it might actually. In fact, this may involve some effort on your part."
"Do tell." Severus uncrossed his arms and walked across the floor to sit in front of her desk.
Minerva interlaced her fingers atop her desk. "I have a Muggleborn student, a Ms. Carey that is proving to be most difficult to get a hold of."
"It is Professor Smith's job to coordinate the retrieval of Muggleborn students," he interrupted.
"Yes, but this is a special case."
"Severus, I need you to go investigate the girls situation. She has not only been unresponsive, but the American Wizarding Senate has deemed her case unsuitable for-"
"Forgive me Headmistress, but how is this our concern? I assume the child lives within the States as the A.W.S. is involved, and their decisions are out of our jurisdiction," he drawled.
"It is more complicated than that. You see the child is of dual citizenship and lives within the foster system." Minerva noticed Severus' body tense slightly and nodded at him. "My thoughts exactly; I don't feel confident that the Americans have given their complete effort with her case considering Ms. Carey's particular situation. And while I am ignorant to most of their dealings, I and not unfamiliar."
"What is it you expect me to do exactly?" he asked at last.
"Why Severus, I thought you'd never ask."
He sighed and brought a finger up to press against his forehead. "Are you asking me to go retrieve the wretched girl from the bloody States?"
"If feasible, yes."
"Well, it might require you to look into her situation for a few days. I'll trust your judgment of course."
"You're asking too much now and you know it." Severus' voice began to grow in volume and anger.
"I would not if I did not believe it was important."
"What you're asking would go around the American Wizarding government-"
"Yes, this is why Harry agreed to-"
He threw his hands up in the air. "Fucking fantastic, you've involved Potter. That's why you've asked me to act as your personal hound and retrieve the brat. Once Potter's involved you knew Hermione would want to help." Severus pointed a finger and glared hard at her calm expression. "You know how she is about hopeless cases and such."
"I apologize Severus, but I really believe it might take more than just-"
Severus stood angrily from his chair and stared down his nose at her. "What you believe is of no consequence. Congratulations Minerva, your manipulative powers as Headmistress is becoming worthy of the late Albus Dumbledore."
With a flourish and a swirl of dark robes Severus left the office. The door closed with a bang that caused some dust and loose papers to flutter. Minerva sighed wearily and took out the bottle of Odgen's Old Fire Whiskey for the second time that day. Retrieving her tumbler from the cabinet once more she proceeded to poor a generous amount.
"Well, that went rather well, if I do say so."
Minerva frowned at the portrait and replied, "I find that I disagree Albus."
The portrait of former Headmaster Albus Dumbledore peered at her from behind his spectacles. "Ah, but I do believe it did." His eyes twinkled at her as he smiled.
"Explain to me exactly," she gestured with her glass of fire whiskey in hand, "how that went well. I indirectly interfered with his family affairs, and you know how private a man he is."
Minerva stared at him and the portrait smiled back. "Infuriating, the lot of you. I suppose I can see if Professor Smith is available. I do recall she was accompanying another Muggleborn family to Diagon Alley this weekend. I suppose Brittany wouldn't mind the extra task. Perhaps she could use it as any excuse to visit her sister. I think she lives somewhere over in the Southern States."
"You needn't do that my dear."
"Well why not? I have to get this resolved somehow."
"Ah, but Severus didn't exactly say he wouldn't retrieve the girl, did he?" Albus Dumbledore smiled knowingly at her bemused expression.
"Ambition is not a vice of little people." - Michel de Montaigne
"I know all those people, I have friendly, social, and criminal relations with the whole lot of them." – Mark Twain