Joe's Note: I didn't think I'd ever have to share this particular thought again, but… if you're not actually going to read one of my chapters? Don't waste my time trying to review about what you think might be in it. Saying "I'm not going to read your chapter because I'm sure it doesn't answer these questions and/or disprove these accusations" doesn't make you seem intelligent or edgy or anything other than completely moronic. Especially when several of your "I'm sure it doesn't"s are quite explicitly spelled out in the chapter, in very small words.
Dedications & Thanks: To Nicholas, Alexander, Howard, Alonsis2, Connor, MJ, Daniel, Christopher, Fablesrogue, Morgan, Janne, Eric, DireSquirrel, Joseph, Jason, mpop, RileyWestfall, bloodylord, Luke, Zachary, Marc, Ziryo, Elliot, Crusifikz70, Timothy, Leigh, Chris, George, Koby, Ken, Dimitria, William, Invernos, Paul, Pat, Joel, Kentucky Fried Dragon, Warren, Mitch, and Jess for sponsoring me on Patre0n, and making it easier for me to spend more of my time writing.
June 26, 1996
Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom
"So, how was this year for you all?"
"I met Harry Potter! And he signed me!"
"I met Harry Potter. I thought he'd be taller."
"I met Harry Potter. He's funny."
"I met Harry Potter and he wouldn't stop staring at my sister. He should have been staring at me. I am outraged."
Tracey had to admit, it was pretty damn funny to hear her sisters talk over each other to answer her father's question, only to end up with variations on a theme. She found herself frowning disapprovingly at Daphne's words, though, and let out a soft huff as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Considering he's a disgusting little half-blood like me, Queenie, I can't imagine why you'd be upset that he wasn't paying attention to you. Isn't he a bit beneath you?"
That elicited several soft 'ooh's from her sisters as Daphne slowly turned to look at Tracey. "…what?"
Doing her best to look innocent, Tracey offered a faint shrug. "Literally everybody knows that Lily Potter was a muggleborn. That makes Harry a half-blood like me. Considering you're not shy about echoing insults against them when it suits you, I'm very curious why you care that this particular half-blood wasn't paying attention to you. Shouldn't you be relieved that he's staying with his own kind by flirting with me?"
"I... well..." Brow furrowing in consternation, Daphne sat back in her seat as she contemplated that particular conundrum for almost a minute before throwing her hands up in the air in frustration. "He's not just a half-blood and you know it! I mean, does his blood status even matter? He's Harry Potter. It's not like they make a pureblood wizarding hero our age for me to be interested in. So I guess I'll have to make do and try my hand at attracting the hero that we do have. Even if he is a half-blood. I mean, it could be worse. At least he's not a mudblood."
Tracey shook her head in amusement. "You do remember that he's friends with Granger, right? Even if he wasn't already interested in me, you wouldn't get far with words like that in your vocabulary."
The lines on Daphne's forehead deepened as she considered that. "Merlin, I'd have to be friends with her and Weasley if I dated him. And the Weaslette and Longbottom, although they're not quite as offensive to my sensibilities. You know what, on second thought? He's short and kinda scrawny and his hair's a mess and so is his social life. You can keep him and his creepy demon goddess."
Ah yes, Illyria. That was a complication that Tracey was still doing her level best not to think about when she considered her willingness to let Harry romance her. Mostly because she didn't entirely know what to make of the rather inscrutable Old One. When it came to her Mum and Mom, the two of them were good if not best friends most of the time. Thankfully nothing more; watching her father kiss her mother was gross enough, she didn't know what she'd do if her two mother figures were physically affectionate in the considerably more time that they spent together. How would she coexist with an Old One if she took Harry up on his offer? How could she ever learn to be a suitable companion to someone as alien and unknowable as a demon goddess?
Shaking her head, Tracey did her best to put those thoughts out of her mind for the time being. Illyria seemed to be encouraging Harry to cast a wide net; as well as they'd gotten on today, there was no saying that she'd even be the final contender for his heart. Or one of the final contenders. She wasn't sure how she felt about being one of three or four women sharing a man any more than she was sure of how she felt about sharing one with Illyria. Turning her attention to her parents, she nodded in the general direction of her father's study. "Didn't you want to talk to me after dinner, Dad?"
It took William Greengrass a moment but then comprehension dawned and he nodded before slowing rising from his seat. "Actually, your mothers and I all do, so we'll stay in here. We received a letter from the school that has us… concerned." That set Tracey's sisters to whispering, only to abruptly go silent as their father's eyes swept over the table. "Girls, why don't you head upstairs and start settling back in for the summer?" It took a few seconds for the others to clear the room, Daphne making a point of leaning down and whispering 'busted' as she passed, but all too soon it was just Tracey and her parents. Raising his wand, her father layered several privacy and silencing charms around the room before slumping back down into his seat. "So, how much do we owe you this year?"
"Not sure. We saw some of last year's problems come back around for an encore, others didn't, and there were some new problems too. All in all, though? Likely more than you did last June. Let's see. Evie had another serious bout of homesickness that last all of September and part of October. I lost at least an hour a day in my OWL year dealing with that." Even as Claudia Davis sighed and made a note on the pad of paper that her husband had conjured for her, Tracey ticked off points on her fingers and she continued on. "Tabby had a breakdown when nobody outside of family said 'happy birthday' and she realized what an outcast she was in Ravenclaw. The same thing happened at Christmas when she only got presents from us; I asked you lot to send me some small gifts that I could write different names on but you thought that misleading her was a bad idea. Tori… sweet Merlin. Trying to earn the political capital I needed with Umbridge to buy leniency for Tori's pro-Harry stance without being forced into joining the woman's Inquisitorial Squad was exhausting."
Frowning as she finished her own note taking, Phoebe Greengrass reached out and poked her co-wife's hand with the quill she was holding. "My one 'exhausting' daughter versus your two headcases. Which of us owes her more, you think?"
Claudia used her pen to bat the green quill away and then leaned back in her seat. "Considering she generally saves the worst for last and she hasn't mentioned your eldest yet? Probably you. Then again, they're all William's… so technically they're all his problem to deal with. Unless Tracey asks for a trip to the continent or some such as payment. In which case, I'll admit to her being mine."
"We just got back from Portugal."
"Yes, and I'd love to go back."
"If you're both quite finished making light of your daughters' difficulties and the effort that I put into keeping them level and moderately happy this year?" Tracey's eyes flicked back and forth between her two mothers, waiting for them to raise their hands in surrender before focusing on her father. "Last but not least… Daphne. Dad, you and Mom need to have a serious talk with her. I have enough on my plate between my schoolwork and my younger sisters. I don't need to spend my nights talking to Pansy to smooth over whatever hex-worthy insult Daphne threw at her last. I hate the girl just as much as Daphne, but at least I'm smart enough to realize that Pansy's starting to become more dangerous and so my self-preservation instincts kick in and I bite my tongue. Daphne not only runs her mouth but doesn't even try to protect the back that Pansy's dying to stick a dagger in. What else? Oh, I'm going to hex Daphne myself the next time she tries to use my condition as an excuse to boss me around. When it's genuine concern for my health, I appreciate it. Her trying to use it as an excuse to keep me from talking to people that she doesn't like, on the other hand? Not so much. And have I ever told you how much I adore hearing one of my sisters echo blood purity insults at me? Really. Hearing Daphne call me a 'disgusting little half-blood' just makes me feel so loved."
William sighed and exchanged a look with Phoebe before nodding slowly. "It seems as though I'll be having a talk with at least two Greengrasses in the near future." Phoebe opened her mouth, only to be cut off as he slashed his hand through the air angrily. "No. I agreed to pay more attention to our younger girls because you and Claudia both wanted 'your daughter' to raise, and now look what it's gotten me." For a moment, Tracey debated opening her mouth and confessing that her last complaint was true in fact but not in spirit… before deciding that she was just being the Slytherin her parents were always pushing her to be. It was the upbringing they'd given her, and they could reap what they'd sown. That, and being yelled at by their father was sure to put her half-sister in a rotten mood for the summer, which would put some space between them and given Tracey the ability to invite Harry over without worrying about what Daphne might do. Especially if her sister changed her mind about his suitability as a boyfriend. "Tracey, thank you again for all the help you've given us. I for one appreciate it greatly, and will make sure that your summer allowance reflects that." He paused, peering upward disbelievingly as the sound of Daphne stomping around her room above them managed to penetrate the charms he'd cast, before shaking his head and returning his attention to Tracey. "I'd like to see your journal tomorrow after breakfast, just to satisfy my own curiosity. For now, though… have you had any visions recently that we should know about?"
Tracey felt her cheeks warm as her father's question reminded her of the brief vision she'd had right before the Hogwarts Express arrived in London. Namely, her leaning across Harry's bare chest to kiss an Illyria who appeared to be as naked as Harry and Tracey herself before turning to find a girl who greatly resembled Draco standing at the foot of the bed staring down at them disdainfully. "Once I've rested a bit, I can share a memory of the vision that I had the night of Illyria's resurrection. Apart from that... Nothing of significance, no."
June 26, 1996
A Ministry Conference Room
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
"You can't be serious, Albus!"
"I am, Cornelius. Completely so. These are the terms and conditions as forwarded to me by Harry. Your version actually happens to be the exact piece of parchment that he gave me, rather than a copy."
"This is… this is madness. One or two of these things, people might not blink an eye at. But I've got purebloods breathing down my neck about prosecution, the entire country is clamoring about safety for themselves and their children, I've got a Ministry still to run until Rufus officially takes power… I can't waste the legal clerks a pardon would require, much less an auror for this other request…"
"Then I guess it's a good thing he invited the person who's going to be deciding what those clerks and aurors are doing come next month, eh?"
Albus Dumbledore nodded to Rufus Scrimgeour, the incoming Minister-Elect, as copies of Harry's list of demands were distributed to him, two of his subordinates, and then finally Amelia Bones. "And Amelia as well, since the majority of this impacts her department. I think the simplest place to start would be the immunity to prosecution. Amelia, the decision as to whether or not charges will be filed rests with you. Do you have any intention of trying to take action against Illyria for the death of the Lestranges?"
Letting out a surprisingly unfeminine snort, Amelia slid three items forward into the middle of the table: wanted posters for Rabastan, Rodolphus, and Bellatrix Lestrange respectively. "Actually, if she comes looking for it? I was planning to let her collect the rewards on the Terrible Trio here. We did specify 'dead or alive', and they're all quite dead now."
"Now see here, Amelia!" Fudge puffed up angrily and did his best to loom threateningly over the table. "The murders of three members of families from the Sacred Twenty-Eight are a serious concern to many members of the wizarding world. We have to bring their killer to justice, or we'll just be encouraging further attacks against the members of prominent magical families!"
Amelia laughed and leaned back in her chair, adjusting her monocle as she stared at Fudge's rather unimpressive display. "You seem to be confusing 'many members of the wizarding world' with 'very dark families whose members are Death Eaters and therefore now Illyria's enemies', Cornelius. It makes you seem like a sympathizer to their cause at best, possibly a collaborator with You-Know-Who at worst. Because if you ask this member of the Sacred Twenty-Eight? She's not the least bit concerned about her safety. Hell, she feels safer now than she did before Illyria rose. If I wasn't worried about risking my position for violating security clearance laws, I'd be tempted to pass Potter's beast a copy of all our actionable intelligence so she can thin the herd a bit for us."
Holding up his hand, Dumbledore tried to rein things in before they got completely out of control. "I believe that we'll be seeing enough senseless violence out of Illyria in the near future without your assistance, Amelia. Although I do agree with you: while I normally believe in rehabilitation as opposed to capital punishment, the Lestranges were guilty of some truly atrocious acts. Those who are upset about their passing are likely not the sort of people who have the best interests of our society at heart. So that is a definitive no to prosecution, Amelia?" She nodded and he drew a line through one item on the list in front of him. "Very well. Moving on…"
Scrimgeour peered down at his copy of the list for a moment before looking back up at Dumbledore and raising an eyebrow. "I'm not sure what 'possession of the chunk' is, nor am I sure I want to know…"
"I'm sure you're all familiar with the headmaster's desk at Hogwarts?" Dumbledore waited for the rest of the table to nod before continuing. "It was a creation of all four of the Founders, including Unbreakable Charms layered by Rowena Ravenclaw herself." Dumbledore sighed and tapped the edge of the table they were sitting at. "Evidently, Ravenclaw's claim of 'unbreakable' never took into account the possibility of an Old One. Illyria took hold of my desk and tore a 'chunk' free in a burst of anger. That piece is still currently in her possession. What she intends to do with it, I do not know."
Fudge started to chuckle at that point, building until he was laughing so hard that his bowler hat fell off. "This woman kills people, destroys priceless magical artifacts, and you're still catering to the whims of her and a fifteen-year old boy? I was right all along. You really are unstable."
Before Dumbledore could respond, Scrimgeour beat him to the punch. "Have you seen the footage from the monitoring charms we have set up on the Atrium? No, don't say anything; that was a rhetorical question because I know you haven't come down to our office in the last week. He's catering to a woman who shrugs off You-Know-Who's Killing Curses and a boy who might very well be just as immortal for all we know. After all, He hasn't had much luck killing off Potter either. Although I have to wonder…" Leaning back in his seat, Scrimgeour narrowed his eyes at Fudge. "If you'd listened to Albus and Potter last year and started fighting Voldemort as soon as you knew he was back, would those damn kids have come to the Ministry? Woken up Illyria? Would we be in this situation?"
Puffing up indignantly, Fudge leaned forward across the table toward Scrimgeour. "So now you're trying to blame me for this?"
"Yes. And since you certainly don't seem interested in doing anything to help the situation?" Scrimgeour pointed at the door, where Percy Weasley was waiting nervously for the man who was still technically his boss. "Get out and let the adults get to work cleaning up your mess." Fudge shot to his feet, fumbling for his wand, but Scrimgeour flicked his wrist and was armed in a flash. "Go ahead. Try something. When we're done, I'll still be the man who's been elected to replace you come August 1st, and there will still be absolutely nothing you can do about it. If you don't want to work with us until now, we'll wait until August 2nd and do everything we want then." Finally managing to draw his wand, Fudge pointed the quivering tip at Scrimgeour as he slowly rose to his feet. "Go ahead. Do it. Curse me. Curse me in front of the head of the DMLE. Curse the man who's still the Head of the Auror Office. I dare you."
The tense standoff continued for almost a minute before Fudge looked away and lowered his wand, turning and heading for the door. "Come on, Weatherby. Traitorous scum. Knew I should have pushed harder and crushed Dumbledore's power faster…"
The muttering died off as the door swung closed behind the soon to be ex-Minister and his 'junior assistant', and Dumbledore sighed in relief. He had invited the man as a courtesy; now they had a chance of getting through this in a reasonable amount of time. "But yes, Illyria has retained possession of the wood from my desk, and since I doubt she'd return it willingly… shall we move on?" Dual nods. "Pardoning Sirius Black will require a great deal of explanation and I have no desire to interrupt our forward momentum. So let us skip to… a bodyguard and trainer in the form of Auror Nymphadora Tonks."
"Nymphadora Tonks… Tonks… Tonks…" Scrimgeour drummed his fingers on the table as he thought before straightening up and snapping. "She's in her second year with us, right? The metamorphmagus?" Dumbledore nodded. "Hmm. Not to be terribly mean, then, because she's improving every day… but she's not exactly our best auror. Any insight as to why he wants her?"
Dumbledore hesitated for a moment; while Bones's brother had been part of the original Order of the Phoenix, Scrimgeour had no ties and Dumbledore was technically running a vigilante organization. After a moment's consideration, though, he decided the truth would be the best option. "Harry and Nymphadora met through the Order of the Phoenix this summer, and I would imagine she's one of the few aurors he has a positive opinion of after the last year. Also, they're both members of the House of Black; second cousins once removed. I believe he might have some sort of familial affection for her."
A thoughtful look on his face, Scrimgeour glanced over at Amelia. "Your thoughts? I was already pondering a guard for him myself because of his value to the community as a whole, and I'd much rather put a friendly face by his side than someone he'd be tempted to fight with or sneak away from."
"Agreed, although I don't think the two of you are giving them enough credit. Note that Tonks is someone who straddles both Dumbledore's camp and the Ministry. By getting us to acknowledge her as our link to them, they get away with only one minder instead of a minimum of two. Clever, no?" Amelia thought about the situation for another minute or two, her fingernails clicking lightly against the table as her mind worked. "But I agree, if we need to stick Potter with someone, he should have the right to choose who."
As he went to cross out another item on their list, Dumbledore paused. "And the training?"
Scrimgeour and Amelia looked at each other in askance, gesturing back and forth several times before Amelia finally raised her hands in surrender. "Who knows what ungodly spells that companion of his could teach him? Or rather, godly ones?" She shuddered. "I'll sign off an authorization for Potter to be cleared to learn auror material if for no other reason than to keep him too busy for Illyria to play teacher. I'll deal with Hopkirk's people if they ever pick up any spells."
With another important item down, Dumbledore decided to skip to the bottom and tackle something lighter, just to mix things up a bit. When he'd first noticed it, scrawled in a decidedly different hand from the rest of the list, he had smiled at the thought of Harry showing some small sign of being a typical teenage boy at heart. Then Minerva had seen fit to inform him that the majority of the list was in Harry's distinctively untidy script, and the last item had been in fact contributed by Illyria using Luna's far neater handwriting. "Amelia, you have a niece attending Hogwarts… what are your thoughts on the last item?"
"They want permission for the students to customize their uniforms with 'small personal effects' as long as they don't pose a danger or distraction? And… they want 'equality in attire standards', along with expanding the options to include vests for both genders, pinafores for girls, I don't even recognize what these last few items are…" Amelia trailed off, rereading the parchment and then making a third pass for good measure. "What on earth..?"
"The legacy of Miss Lovegood, I believe. She had a habit of wearing odd jewelry and other items that strained the boundaries of the uniform code, and was penalized several times in September 2004 for trying to wear trousers to Care of Magical Creatures instead of her skirt. Personally? Rolanda Hooch swears by them, and I know Aurora has experimented with trousers during the winter months. If I am willing to allow my staff that comfort, what right do I have to deny my students the same?" Dumbledore pondered that for a few more seconds before shrugging and tapping the end of his quill against some of the terms that had stymied Amelia. "As for the rest? I spend less time away from Hogwarts with each passing year. Have you seen any changes in what the schoolgirls of Chelmsford wear? Miss Lovegood grew up in the mixed village of Ottery St. Catchpole; perhaps these mystery items can be found in the uniforms currently worn by muggle secondary students."
Amelia raised one hand and wobbled it back and forth slowly. "It's not like I ever actually deal with 'school' girls up close; Susan's muggle friends are always in casual clothes when they visit during the summer. But I do run into groups of students now and then when I'm walking around town, and sometimes they're mismatched. Close enough that they're definitely from the same school, but not identical. The idea of multiple uniform options is as good an explanation as any. In the end, though… it's been a good, what, fifty or more years since the uniform was updated? At this point, it just seems like such a pixie on the behind of the problems we're facing that… why not?"
Turning to Scrimgeour, Dumbledore raised an eyebrow and received a shrug from the Minister-Elect in return. "S'your school, Dumbledore, which means it's your call to make. That being said? It could be a very good thing for the Ministry. We're barely in the black these days; Fudge has a lot to answer for. But if you change the uniform code… suddenly, we have people rushing out to drop coin in the alley, which means merchants are making more, which means we're collecting more in taxes. That money could go to training up more aurors, getting better equipment for the ones we do have, trying to come up with an alternative to Azkaban…"
"All very good points that I hadn't even considered. Three pairs of eyes truly are better than one, it seems. Agreed, then. I'll need to do a bit of research, sit down and talk with my heads of house… but we should have something formalized by the time this year's letters go out." Dumbledore crossed the item in question off. There were still a number of very important items to go over, such as pardoning Sirius, dispensation for Illyria to deal with other Death Eaters as she saw fit, and living arrangements for the pair for the coming school year, but they were off to a good start. Pushing his chair back from the table, Dumbledore rose to his feet slowly, his joints protesting the lengthy period of inactivity. "The hour grows late, and we've accomplished a significant amount tonight. Shall we adjourn for the evening and return with fresh eyes and minds tomorrow?"
Scrimgeour nodded and stood as well. "The wife's not going to be happy I missed dinner… or that this is just the first time of many. Personally, if I could choose between You-Know-Who and an angry wife? I'd pick Him." Leaning his head back, he grimaced as he stared up at the ceiling. "You know, I just realized that Potter and his Old One are out there somewhere with only a novice auror to keep them in line. And the only reason they have a semblance of a minder at the moment is because Illyria took it upon herself to commandeer Tonks for her own needs, at least according to the note she owled me earlier. I shudder to think at what they must be doing right now…"