Winds are changing
After five months between posts, here's the next installment.
By Monday, the entire school knew of the falling out between Harry and his mother. The former seemed a little sad but otherwise fine; the latter seemed to alternate between angry and hurt. The other professors seemed almost universally to be scowling at Lily Potter, and even the Headmaster seemed unhappy about something.
Gryffindor table seemed to be pretty annoyed with their new Potions professor as well. There were few that gave her pleasant looks, and the grumbling from those that had her class was actually audible to those at the Head table.
The situation didn't really improve during classes. While she was a good teacher, the Gryffindors were treating her exactly as a teacher and nothing more. There were no friendly, "Good morning," calls, and the class itself dealt with nothing but the course material.
By Friday, she had had it. "I have had quite enough of this," she said at lunch. "I would appreciate the students staying out of what is a purely family related issue."
"A bit hypocritical of you, wouldn't you say, Professor?" Harry asked without turning to look up at her. "Telling people to stay out of a purely family thing when you're willing to bring the full force of your authority as a teacher at this institute of learning to play on the exact same situation?" He stood and turned to face her. "Besides, Professor, you've gotten what you wanted. Hermione and I are not dating, nor will we until we are both finished with school. You've won. Are you happy now?"
"I will not permit a student to back-talk a teacher," she snapped back, ignoring the questions, "even if he's my son. Detention tonight at 8 PM."
"Shall bring the Bruise Balm, Professor, or will you be able to keep the Evans temper under control this time?"
There were several hisses of indrawn breath at his comment.
"I'll take the detention, Mr. Potter," his father said. "If she chooses to attend it as well, then she can, but this way both sides are appeased."
Lily looked at her husband as if hurt.
Eight o'clock rolled around and found Harry stepping up to the door of the Defence classroom. As he entered, he saw that his mother had preceeded him. She come to a stop in front of his father. "Why did you take the detention from me?" she demanded.
"Because I was planning on preventing another incident like last week. I somehow think that you getting angry and proving Harry right about the Evans women is a bad thing," James Potter replied calmly.
"Excuse me?" she asked him, softly, her temper quite obvious.
"You're about to lash out and strike me if I continue in this vein, just like Petunia would have. Can you deny that you're acting just like her?"
Lily stopped moving, standing stock still for a few moments. "Oh my God. I've become my sister," she finally said in a choked whisper.
"Worse, in a way," Harry said, stepping forward and announcing his presence. "She didn't hide that she wanted to control me. She made it quite very clear that she simply hated me. You use a perverted version of love to justify your attempts to control me."
"I'm sorry, Harry," she said softly, eyes glistening as they regarded him.
He shrugged. "That's neither here nor there. I think it's better to see you as a human being, rather than as a saint. This summer sort of allowed me to revert to childhood and see the both of you as these marvellous people who could do no wrong, but I can't be that child any longer. I have to kill a man one of these days, and I don't like what that's going to do to me. I've a family I have to head, and that requires adult thinking." He turned to his father. "Which is why I agree with the detention. I argued with a teacher in a public setting." Turning to his mother he added, "I apologise for that, by the way. Our disagreements should be kept between us. I'll talk to the Gryffindors as well."
"I appreciate that.
"I suppose that I should leave you two to the detention, then," she said in a subdued tone.
"If you want," James said.
"I probably should." She walked to the door, but before she could leave, she turned around and said, "James? Will you be . . . can I expect -"
"It's been a lonely week for me, too. I'll make things easier on the house elves."
She gave a tiny smile at that comment and left the room.
"Am I too young to understand what that last was about?" Harry asked with some bemusement.
James raised his hand to rub at the back of his neck. The move spoke volumes about his embarrassment. "I've . . . been sleeping on the couch in our quarters."
"She kicked you out of bed?" was the incredulous response.
"No, I was angry enough that I kicked myself out of the bed. That's all worked out now, so let's get on with the detention."
Harry was laughing as he staggered into the Tower. "See you tomorrow, Dad," he called out just as the portraiture closed.
"Things went well?" Ron asked simply from the Trio's usual study table. His eyes were showing amusement at the manner that Harry had entered the Tower.
"We've come to an understanding. She's going to work on her temper."
"And the dating thing?" Ginny asked, leaning on the couch behind her brother.
"One thing at a time," Harry said. "I'd like to avoid the Evans temper before I bring that up again. In that vein," his voice rose as he addressed the Common Room as a whole, "I'd appreciate it if people acted nicer toward her. It means a lot that you've closed ranks behind me, but . . . well, the argument is a family one."
The Gryffindors grumbled a bit, but they agreed and slowly went back to their previous activities. Harry gravitated to where Ron and Hermione were sitting, gently ruffling her hair before he jumped over the edge of the couch and landed next to her. "Things will work out eventually."
"It's for the best right now anyway," she said sadly. "I . . . it's just too soon."
"I understand," he said, pulling her close and kissing her forehead. "Besides, I like the idea of just sitting here with you leaning against me. Makes me feel like . . . well, like a family. Like I've got a chance at one."
"What happened?" Ron asked. "I remember you talking about how the two of you were laughing when she was testing your Occlumency skills. Now you won't even call her 'Mum'."
"I don't know. I don't know if she was putting on that face for me in the summer, or if she's fallen prey to something now that we're at the school. It's like she sees Hermione as a threat or something, and that bothers me. If she forces me to choose, then she'll lose, because I've known Hermione a lot longer. I've done without a mother for years, I can get used to still not having one."
"I just hope that she wakes up to that realisation before it's too late to fix things," Ron said somberly. Percy had passed the point of no return as far as the twins were concerned, and Ron was at that point as well. Losing a family member hurt, and he didn’t want Harry going through that.
Amelia Bones glared at the letter from her niece. How dare Potter talk about me in such a manner? I think I need to go to that school and have a conversation with the young man. She donned her cloak and headed for the Ministry's Apparation point.
She reappeared directly in front of the gates to Hogwarts and strode purposefully toward the school. She was met by a rather surprised Albus Dumbledore. "Madam Bones! What a surprise! To what do we owe the honour of your visit?"
"Albus, I'm here to have a conversation with one of your students," she replied, more than a little annoyed at his obvious stalling tactics.
"In an official capacity or as a concerned parent, so to speak?"
"At the moment, the inquiry is purely private, but if necessary, I'm certain that it could be taken into the official realm."
He raised an annoying eyebrow at her. "That sounds as if you are threatening one of Hogwarts own."
"When you have a student sowing dissent within families, in order to forward some unknown agenda, possibly damaging the Ministry's image, then perhaps it should sound as if I am threatening him. Now, shall we go inside, where I may speak to Mr. Potter?"
"Yes, I believe that moving this to my office would be an excellent idea."
"I don't believe so, Headmaster. I am here to speak to him, not to speak to the administration of this school. Our conversation will be private."
"Mr. Potter is considered to be an adult, Madam Bones. The conversation will take place in a manner of his choosing." Albus Dumbledore began to exert some of the pressure that he was so famous for.
"If he is an adult, then he can come with me to the Ministry where we can carry on this conversation in peace."
Lily Potter came out the door at a run and then slowed to a walk a short distance before stopping in front of Amelia. "I believe that you are here to speak to my son, Madam Bones?"
"Ah, Mrs. Potter. Further stalling tactics to prevent me from speaking to the boy?"
Lily blinked once at the open hostility. "No, I came because I would like to know what you wish to speak with him about. He may be an adult in the eyes of the law, but he is still my son."
"Nonetheless, you do not have a legal right to know of the conversation's content while it is happening." Amelia was beginning to get angry — far angrier than she had been when she had headed to the school. "I find myself wondering what reason you seem to have for preventing me from speaking with Mr. Potter. You are aware that I could probably charge you with obstruction of a Ministry official?"
The door spat out more people — this time Potter, followed by several of his fellow students. "Thank you, Miss Vane. I appreciate your coming to get me when you heard that Madam Bones wished to speak to me."
The sharp-faced girl he was speaking to blushed furiously and melted back into the crowd.
He approached Amelia. "So, Madam Bones, to what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?"
"I wish to speak with you alone," she replied with something approaching a snarl.
"By all means," he said. "Shall we head inside and find a place to talk?"
Amelia Bones raised an eyebrow to him. He's being awfully charming. What's he got up his sleeve? "That should work quite well, Mr. Potter."
In short order, Harry was seated with Amelia in an unused classroom. She cast multiple privacy spells to ensure that their talk remained just between the two of them. "So, Mr. Potter. What was the idea behind the conversation you had with my niece?"
"I had a sneaking suspicion that was why you were here. Rather hammer the problems out with me before you go and tell her that I was . . . mistaken, perhaps?" His tone was tightly controlled.
"Convincing my niece that I'm a bigot? I'll break you if I have to, Potter."
"Then how do you explain that you are openly biased against werewolves, Director Bones? Isn't that the definition of bigotry? I believe that your words to Auror Tonks were that her contract was forfeit if she married Remus Lupin. That I would be removed from my parents if Remus were to do more than occasionally visit them? These are not the words of a non-prejudiced woman, Director."
Amelia shuddered in the chair for a moment. Before she could speak, Harry continued. "I can see you reacting in disgust at the thought. I am sorry that I hurt Susan's feelings. I'm sorry that I was forced to open her eyes to the real Amelia Bones, but I am glad that she now knows just how two-faced and political you are." He sneered at her. "People like you and Umbridge disgust me, Madam Bones. That nasty little toad was at the school last year spouting the same type of crap that you are now."
"How dare you refer to a respected member of the Minister's staff as a toad!" Amelia hissed.
"I call a spade a spade, Madam," he said sharply. "I have said nothing that is illegal, to my knowledge."
Amelia blinked several times in succession at Harry's tone and manner. "Exactly what are your intentions in regards to the Ministry, Mr. Potter?"
"Ah!" he replied with a sharp laugh that held little humour. "Now we get to the meat of the questioning! My intentions in regards to the Ministry are as follows: to leave this accursed island called England as soon as that snake faced bastard Riddle is dead and never return. I will leave because the Ministry is just a legalised version of Riddle's Death Eaters, and I refuse to fight that battle if I don't have to. So you can run on back to your masters, Madam Bones, and tell them that I am not going to be any threat to them. I will simply go away when Riddle is dead, and you and your ilk can continue to betray the public trust."
"You surprise me," she replied after a long moment of silence. "I'd expect you to fight the supposed injustice. You are a Gryffindor, after all," she replied with a small sneer.
"You and yours have proven that it's useless to fight the government. Umbridge tortured students, and nothing will be done to her. I'd imagine she's even been promoted, given the Ministry's way of working things."
She shuddered again. "What do you mean 'tortured students'?" she asked through clenched teeth.
He shoved his right hand under her nose. "You can tell your partner for tea that I will carry these scars for the rest of my life. I have her obnoxious little attempts to force me to the Ministry's official thought processes permanently carved into my hand. After all, 'I must not tell lies' about the return of Voldemort."
"Who else had detentions with her?" she ground out.
"I refuse to tell you, on the grounds that you're going to have to earn your arrest record. I already know that I'm bound for Azkaban without a trial, if Fudge and Umbridge sent you to talk to me. I see no reason to make your job easier."
"Was Susan on that list?" she asked.
"Ask the Headmaster, if you can convince him to give up the information. As for me, I intend to make your job as hard as possible, within the law."
"Tell me if Susan did detentions with Umbridge!" she yelled at Potter.
"Why?" he asked, tilting his head curiously. "You'll just find an excuse to keep her out of prison anyway. Why does finding out whether or not your crony tortured her make any difference?" He sat back, a sly look suddenly appearing on his face. "Unless she swore not to hurt Susan and then hurt her anyway?"
Amelia sat back and stared at Harry for a long few seconds before she began to shake in the seat. Suddenly, she pulled her wand and fired off a Bludgeoning spell. Then everything went black.
Susan sat in the hospital wing looking at her unconscious aunt, her parents beside her, worry etched on their faces. Susan's worry was for a different reason than for her aunt. She was sure that Harry was going to be fined at the very minimum and possibly sent to Azkaban for Stunning her aunt.
"How is she, Madam Pomfrey?" Denise Bones asked.
"She should be awake at any moment. It was a rather powerful Stunner that Mr. Potter sent her way."
"Yes, it was," Susan's aunt said groggily from the bed. "Remind me to commend that young man on his reflexes."
"Aunt Amelia?" Susan asked softly. "Why did he Stun you?"
"Because he had no way of knowing that I was not aiming at him. I was frustrated that Dolores Umbridge had used me! And she'll get away with what she did to me, too," she said in a loathing tone.
"What did she do to you?"
"During the time you were in the St. Mungo's summer study program, she came into my office and threatened you — politely, of course, and with nothing I can take to court, but the threat was obvious to someone who has worked the political arena as long as I have. It's fairly obvious that she cast the Imperius on me at some point. Worry for you probably lowered my resistance enough, and she certainly didn’t vocalise it, or else I’d have fought it. Again, I can't prove it. She's rather soundly destroyed any good will I had with people and destroyed my credibility and my career."
"Isn't there anything you can do about it?" Amelia's brother Edwin asked.
"Short of going into the Ministry and challenging her to a duel? Not a damned thing. She's doubtless cast many spells since she hit me with an Unforgivable, so I have no proof. Mind you, challenging her is a damn good idea, but I won’t do it in the heat of the moment. I’ll plot that duel to make it to my advantage as strongly as possible." She looked around. "What happened to the Potter boy?"
"He has placed himself under house arrest, so to speak," the Headmaster said from the doorway. "After all, he has attacked the Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
"Good heavens!" Amelia cried out. "Tell him he's no worries from me on that quarter."
"You realise that your attitude from this summer is not going to instill him with a great deal of confidence in your trustworthiness," Susan warned her.
"I know. Umbridge has managed to cost me my job, but she forgot that I was in Slytherin as well. She'll not get away with it scot-free."
"Why not?" Minerva McGonagall asked. "After all, she's gotten away with the torture of Hogwarts students by making them carve their own flesh. Why should we trust that she will finally face some form of justice?"
"Because I know about it now," Amelia responded, face settling into determined lines.
"Honestly, Amy," Edwin said, "you know that the very people that you'll need to convince are going to be the hardest to convince now. You've alienated Harry, and he's the one who you most need to convince. Face it, Sis: by letting your guard down and letting Susan be a hostage, you've ruined quite a lot."
"As much as I hate admitting it, I'd have to say that you're right." She scowled deeply.
"I still love you, Auntie," Susan said softly. "Knowing why you acted the bigot helps, though. I'll tell Harry what happened. That should help your efforts to convince him."
Harry and Hermione sat out on the cliffs above the lake, their one class of the day over. They'd eaten lunch and absented themselves from everyone else. It was the nineteenth of September, and Hermione was near tears. Harry just held her and let her cry. Her first birthday without her parents was understandably rough on her.
"I miss them," she sniffed. "I wish I could . . . all those summers when I rushed off to be with you and Ron and Ginny, and I'll never . . . I'll never -" She dissolved into tears again.
When she had cried herself out once more, Harry responded. "I really do understand. Until this summer, remember, I had no parents. I wanted so much to explore things with them, and to know that they loved me. Your parents loved you, Hermione. I'm sure of that."
"How can you be sure?"
"How could they not?" he asked her with a smile. "They had a beautiful and intelligent daughter, the top of her class, and they couldn't help but be proud of that. And where there's pride, there's love."
"How do you mean?"
"'That's our daughter that beat all the school records!'" he said, pretending to be her father. "They'd want people to know that the smartest girl Hogwarts has seen in at least a generation was their daughter. They'd want people to know that you were theirs. Contrast that with the Dursleys, who would only accept that I existed if it would bring them acclaim. I was a freak and not fit to live, to them. Your parents took you all over Europe. The Dursleys took me to Mrs. Figg."
She nestled into his arms again. "Thank you. It means a lot to me that you'd do this for me."
"You're my girlfriend, no matter what my mother wants. The way I understand things, the boyfriend is supposed to be there during all kinds of situations, not just when things are good." He grinned. "You know the drill: 'For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.' All the time."
"Are you proposing to me, Mr. Potter?" she asked incredulously.
"Not yet. We may have known each other for five years already, but we might discover that we don't work as a romantic couple. We may be best as just friends. On the other hand, if we discover that we do work as a couple, that could change. But likely not until we're finished with Hogwarts, to be honest."
"Gives a girl something to look forward to," she replied softly.
"Gives me something to look forward to as well. I like the idea of surviving and getting married some day. Even if it is to a woman that my mother hates for some stupid reason."
"She'll get over it someday, I hope. I'd like to get along with her. I hope it’s possible soon."
"Well, I . . . hey, is that Tonks running up the road from the gate?" he asked. "Looks like she's got something important, given the speed she's moving. Want to head to the school and see what it is?"
"We probably should," She agreed reluctantly, disengaging herself from the comfortable hug. She stood, smiling as Harry held his hands out to help her to her feet, especially since he used it as an excuse to pull her into another hug.
They walked at a more sedate pace than Tonks was using, and by the time that they had reached the school's front doors, Tonks had been met by the Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress. "You are certain about this?" Albus asked in shock.
"Saw 'em with my own two eyes, sir!" she said, bouncing happily. "They're down in Hogsmeade right now!"
"Min . . . apologies. Professor McGonagall, would you go into Hogsmeade with Auror Tonks and perhaps take Miss Granger with you? She might be able to shed some light on this subject." A flash of silver shot from the Headmaster toward Hagrid’s hut, and a moment later, the half-giant was out of his hut and tethering a thestral to a coach.
"What situation, Tonks?" Hermione asked as Hagrid’s work began.
"Can we leave it a surprise? I promise you, it's something you'll like."
"Can Harry come too?" she asked. "I'd like him there to share in any good news I'm getting." At a nod from the Headmaster, they headed into town as soon as the coach pulled up to them.
They’d been unable to get Tonks to admit anything, and she proved that she was capable of being trusted with state secrets by not even giving the slightest of hints as to what they’d find when they reached Hogsmeade. "All I will say is that it will cheer you up, Hermione."
They disembarked in front of the pub, and Tonks was the first at the door. She blocked Hermione from entering for a moment. "One more thing, kiddo. Happy birthday." Tonks opened the door.
Hermione's eyes went wide as she entered the Three Broomsticks, and she launched herself across the room. "Daddy! Mummy!" she yelled, sobbing as she ran, colliding with them and hugging them as hard as was possible.
Tonks placed her hand upon Harry's rising wand. "I've checked 'em, Harry, and I'm convinced they actually are her parents."
He released a breath and nodded, putting his wand away again.
"I'll let them tell the story," Tonks went on softly, "but it basically comes down to purebloods thinking that Muggles are stupid."
"Why am I here?" Harry asked her. "I know that she asked for me to be here, but this is really family time. I'm certainly not family."
Before either Professor McGonagall or Tonks could say anything, Hermione motioned over to Harry to come closer. She had tears in her eyes. "Mummy, Daddy, this is my boyfriend, Harry Potter."
"Thank you for looking after her for us, Mr. Potter," her father said, extending his hand. "She needed friends while we were making our way back, and she tells us that you were there for her."
"It's only right," Harry replied. "With all the times that she's been there for me when I needed a friend, it would have been — what's a good word? — churlish of me to not be there for her when she needed someone."
"Not everyone thinks that way," her mother said.
"A proper adult does," was all Harry said.
"How did you survive?" Hermione asked. "We were told that the house fell on you!"
The elder Grangers motioned for everyone to sit down with them and began their tale. "Well, the answer to your question is yes and no," her mother said. "We heard the shouts and made for the first place we could think of to save ourselves — the villa's wine cellar."
Understanding lit Hermione's face. "So the Death Eaters just assumed that the house falling crushed you to death, while you were actually just waiting it out in the cellar."
Her father picked up the thread. "Since that area is prone to earthquakes, the cellars are built to withstand a lot, so a house falling on it was nothing."
Her mother giggled. "We were pretty pissed by the time that the rescue squad got us free. Scared the hell out of one of them when -" The giggling overtook her, and she stopped speaking.
Her father was chuckling but also blushing slightly. "When I saw light break through from the upstairs as the cleared the rubble, the first thing that came to mind was to shout 'MacIntyre!'. Almost scared the poor guy to death!"
Hermione thought for a moment before she started to giggle as well. Harry looked confused, especially when McGonagall and Tonks began to smile and chuckle themselves. Tonks surprised him by breaking into song. "Oh, there was Brown, up side down, mopping up the whiskey on the floor. 'Booze, booze,' the firemen cried as they come knockin' at the door. 'Well don't let 'em in 'til it's all drunk up.' Somebody shouted, 'MacIntyre,' and we all got blue blind paralytic drunk, when the Old Dun Cow caught fire."
Harry looked at her for a moment and then visualised it from the point of view of the rescuer. A moment later he was laughing the hardest of all of them. "I'm sorry," he finally gasped, "but what got me was the image of the rescue guy up top, expecting the worst and hearing someone quite happily shouting out a drinking song!"
"Precisely," Mrs. Granger said with her own laugh. "They helped us out, and eventually we made our way back to England, but it wasn't exactly easy. After all, our passports and everything else were in the house and just part of the debris. We went to the British Consulate and got what help we could from them, but due to a number of things, we had to stay there for a while. Since it was obviously an assassination attempt on us, we couldn't even try to send word ahead." She hugged her daughter tighter in silent apology.
"We ended up getting the most important of our things back," her father continued, "such as our passports and other papers. All our money was in traveler's cheques, which made things a great deal easier as well. But we still had a hell of a delay getting out of Greece. It probably would have been quite the problem getting in touch with you if Auror Tonks hadn't come to our house to begin clearing things up when our taxi pulled up outside. She waited for us to get closer and then verified that we were your parents. The next thing we knew, we were here in this pub waiting to see you."
"Can you forgive me for not saying I love you enough?" Hermione asked quietly of her parents. "I kept crying myself to sleep because I kept thinking of some of our arguments. I'd just taken you for granted, and -" She sniffled and was pulled back into a hug by her mother.
"We know, darling," her mother said. "We kept worrying how this would affect you."
While they talked, Harry carefully stepped outside the tavern, followed by Tonks. "Let Professor McGonagall know that I'm heading back up to the school. This is a time for family, not for boyfriends."
"Are you sure?" the pink-haired Auror asked, obviously a little worried.
"I'm not depressed or anything," he assured her, "I just don't belong here. That's all. I am incredibly happy for her that she can tell her folks what she feels for them. That's been one of the biggest points that would make her cry these past days." He was actually smiling. "Please let her know that I'm not angry or hurt or anything — I'm just doing what I can to not intrude on family."
He left Tonks behind and walked back up the road toward the school, smiling as he walked. I'm glad for her. She was so heartbroken by their deaths.
"It is true, Mr. Potter?" Albus Dumbledore asked him when he later approached the front of the school. "The Grangers are truly alive?"
"I saw them with my own eyes, sir. I left Hermione down there since she had Professor McGonagall and Auror Tonks to keep her safe. It's a family moment. Guys who will someday be boyfriends don't qualify as family."
"She kicked you out?" Lily Potter asked as she approached. Harry merely rolled his eyes and walked past her without an answer. "Harry, I asked you a question," she said a little more forcefully.
"Yes, you did," he replied, turning back to face her. "Congratulations for recognising it as such," he added sarcastically. "However, I am under no constraints — either educational or familial — to reply to your fishing expedition, Professor. Perhaps you can run down to Hogsmeade and find out for yourself. I, on the other hand, will not fuel your Snape-like attempt to destroy a specific student here. If I say that she did, you will crow that you knew she would do something like that, and if I say that she didn't, then you'll convince yourself that she's fooled me into thinking that she didn't kick me out. You want her gone? Fake your own evidence, but don't come to me asking for help on the project." He stormed down the hallway away from her and the Headmaster, muttering darkly as he moved. He stopped a short distance away and turned to face them again. "I am coming to the realisation that as far as my past is concerned: I still have no mother. All I have is Aunt Petunia, Mark II."
His father, who had just arrived after letting out his class, simply winced at the comment.
Never fear - there IS a reason Lily is acting the way she is...