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Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past
The Not So Welcoming Feast
Harry barely had time to register the incantation before it was all over.
He only had one regret.
Harry didn’t think Barty Crouch, Junior, realized he was pointing a bouquet of flowers with lethal intent before he was hit by a stunning spell. Crouch folded up and dropped back into his seat, head lolling forward. Harry’s own wand popped out of his forearm sheath and into his hand as the Top Box plunged into chaos. The Ministry Aurors practically pounced on Fudge, surrounding him against any possible threat. Their Bulgarian equivalents closed ranks around Mr. Oblansk, but several stayed clear, wands out and ready to cast.
There was a sudden commotion near the entrance to the Top Box. Harry could just make out Percy’s hair before there were too many bodies in the way. There was a loud bang then things went still. Harry wanted to push forward and see what happened, but Ginny had a death grip on one arm and Hermione was digging her nails into the other. Ron looked ready to body-check him or any one that wanted to get at him. It was a little amusing to see the Ministry Aurors step carefully around the putative Heir of Gryffindor, even if he was sword-less at the moment. But Harry’s sense of humour was at best restrained with a Weasley still unaccounted for.
So Harry had to settle for straining to stand on the tips of his toes, peering for any clue as to what happened. His heart re-started when he saw Mr. Weasley extract his son from the melee. The nearest Auror let out a gasp when they got a good look at the assassin’s face. “Barty Junior!” the older man exclaimed in shock.
This caused several heads to turn. As the adults shifted around, Harry caught a glimpse of Barty Crouch, Senior, laying on the floor near the entrance to the stairs. Harry relaxed a little as he watched an Auror extract a wand from the unconscious man’s hand. He shifted his focus to Percy, who Mr. Weasley was leading over to rejoin the family. Percy was pale and sweating buckets, the pallor of his face making his red hair stand out even more.
The Bulgarian Aurors, including that one chap with spectacular aim, were rapidly clearing the corner of non-Weasleys. Of course, that excluded Harry, but interestingly they also let Hermione stay where she was sitting next to Ron. Someone had done their homework, or at least been paying attention. They let Mr. Weasley sit Percy down in a vacated seat as they clapped manacles on Barty Junior and levitated him away. Winky followed them docilely, crying quietly and wringing her hands. A whispered conversation between Mr. Weasley and Bill saw a silver hip flask being handed from son to father.
Arthur Weasley sat down next to his third son, placing an arm across his shoulders. This also allowed him to subtly offer the flask with his other hand. Percy twitched a little, but accepted the offered drink and twisted off the cap with shaking hands. A small sip produced a surprised cough, but some of the colour returned to Percy’s cheeks as well. He handed the flask back to Arthur with a whisper and straightened up a little in his seat.
Harry heard raised voices coming from the exit, and saw Lucius Malfoy berating the Aurors. They appeared to be blocking him from leaving, and Harry wondered if he was afraid of missing a meeting with the other Death Eaters to plan tonight’s Muggle baiting. The argument appeared to be escalating when the suddenly relieved-looking Auror was replaced by none other than Amelia Bones, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Malfoy swallowed his irritation with a visible effort. Unfortunately, after a few minutes of conversation, he was allowed to pass. The monocle-wearing witch then headed in their direction.
Percy looked a bit calmer, but Mr. Weasley was making a point not to let the twins talk to him at all. “Arthur,” Madam Bones said as she arrived. Harry noticed that Mr. Weasley looked noticeably relieved now. From what little Harry knew about Madam Bones, she seemed fairly honest and apolitical. He wondered if Percy was in some sort of trouble.
Harry edged a little closer. Madam Bones didn’t even look up as an assortment of red-heads and their guests drew closer, with some of them placing themselves between her interview and the politicians raising their voices at the other end of the box. Percy was rambling a bit, but whatever was in the flask seemed to have helped.
“I noticed earlier today that Mr. Crouch seemed a bit out of sorts,” he began after a deep breath. “I know he isn’t the… well, the warmest of people. Very straight-forward, no-nonsense approach to work. Not like some others I could… anyway. He seemed a bit, I suppose you would say, distracted, maybe. And a bit more abrupt than usual.”
Madam Bones nodded, but said nothing, clearly waiting for him to continue.
“Anyway, he was gone for most of the match, though I did see his house-elf holding a seat for him. I thought perhaps there was another complication with those extra seats requested by the Bulgarians.” Percy frowned. “I thought it rather irresponsible how Mr. Bagman dropped that whole mess on him right before the match. His department should have retained at least one competent translator for this event, rather than just dumping it all on International Cooperation… Anyway, he showed up again right as Krum caught the snitch and ended the match. I felt rather bad for him, missing the whole thing after all the work he had done, so I got up to go see if I could help him with anything.”
Percy took a deep breath.
“As I drew closer, I got the feeling something was wrong. His expression was far too tense. Then there was some sort of disturbance behind me and… well… I’d never seen Mr. Crouch look so furious before. It happened so fast. I heard… I heard someone shout the killing curse behind me, but Mr. Crouch was in front of me, looking furious and pulling out his wand… He was turning towards the Auror next to us, who had just cast a stunning spell… Something was wrong here, so I stunned Mr. Crouch. I didn’t even realize I’d pulled out my own wand until he was already falling down… Oh Merlin, I stunned my boss!” Percy rapidly inhaled and exhaled. He might have worked himself up to hyperventilating if Mr. Weasley hadn’t given his shoulder a squeeze that seemed to snap him out of it.
At that point, one of the older Aurors made his way over to Madam Bones. “It’s really him alright,” he said without preamble. “No idea how, but it is.”
Madam Bones let out a sigh. “Of all the…” she said before she cut herself off. “Mr. Weasley, I mean, Percy, I will need you to come down to the DMLE to give a signed statement at some point, but barring further developments no charges will be set. I would, however, like for you to organize your thoughts on any actions you have seen Bartemius Crouch take since you became his assistant. Don’t leave anything out, no matter how trivial.”
“Amelia?” Mr. Weasley asked, clearly concerned.
“Don’t worry, Arthur, Percy isn’t in any trouble,” she reassured him. “The same cannot be said for Bartemius though. That young man is his son.”
“The one who…?” Mr. Weasley gasped. “But how?”
“That’s a very good question. One we will be getting an answer to,” she promised. She turned a little in her seat and continued. “Speaking of answers, can Mr. Potter shed some light on what transpired tonight?”
Mr. Weasley turned toward Harry, who shrugged and swapped seats with a visibly relieved Percy.
“All right, Mr. Potter,” Madam Bones began, “what happened?”
Harry took a deep breath. “I was watching the end of the match, when I felt something pull the wand out of my jacket pocket. I spun around when I felt someone else’s hand and my fingers snagged on something I couldn’t see. When I drew back, it turned out to be an invisibility cloak. The bloke it was covering had the wand in his hand, and he… well, he tried to use the killing curse on me before someone stunned him.”
Madam Bones nodded. “That was one of the Bulgarian Aurors. Good reflexes. But about this wand that was stolen… it was not your wand? And do you know who transfigured it?”
“Ah-heh!” Harry chuckled nervously, “No, that wasn’t my real wand. No one had to transfigure it… it was one of Fred and George’s joke wands.”
“Joke wands?” Madam Bones asked, ignoring the sudden preening displayed by two of the attending Weasleys.
“Yes,” Harry confirmed. “They look like regular wands, but if you try to do any magic with them, they turn into a bouquet of flowers, or a rubber chicken, or something equally embarrassing.”
“Really?” Madam Bones exclaimed. “And they look like real wands beforehand? Do you know where I can acquire some of these items?”
Fred cleared his throat. “Er, we don’t have them in full production yet, but I’m sure Weasley Wizard Wheezes can fill an order for the DMLE,” he said with a wide grin. Mr. Weasley rolled his eyes.
George nudged his twin. “I think we can get you the friends and family discount though, Madam Bones. Our Da has always spoken highly of you, says you are quite brill.” Their father’s face was now turning red.
“I’m not sure we need a large order… yet,” Madam Bones replied, though Harry thought the corner of her mouth was twitching ever-so-slightly. “But for two of them, plus instructions, I’ll make sure the Daily Prophet learns that an attempted assassination was foiled by one of your products.”
Fred and George both blinked at that. “Deal!”
Harry just hoped Mrs. Weasley didn’t lay the blame on him.
After all the excitement, it was fairly late before everyone left the top box. As the DMLE completed their initial investigation, Harry got the chance to shake hands with Auror Buehler, the Bulgarian who’d stunned Barty Crouch, Jr. The tall man was imposing, with his thick black eyebrows and ice blue eyes, but his whole face transformed when he smiled. When he timidly asked if Harry would mind signing something for the man’s daughter, Harry was more than happy to scrounge up a program and add his signature, addressed to Marija. With a smirk, he nudged Ron and had him add his as well. It took a moment before Auror Buehler made the connection that Harry’s embarrassed friend “was being sword-boy!” from the Battle of Hogwarts. That was when the transformative smile came out again.
As nice a shot as the man had made, under pressure, Harry thought it was the least they could do.
On the plus side, the delay had thinned out the crowd streaming out of the stadium. It also meant that it was easy for Luna, her father, and Neville to find them near the exit. Xenophilus already had a scroll and quill out as they approached. Harry was more than willing to share the sanitized details with the publisher of The Quibbler as they made their way out to the camp site. Neville and Luna hadn’t been overjoyed at their exclusion from the plan, but understood the delicacy of the seating issues… and it wasn’t like Neville considered the time spent with Luna, or her father to be wasted.
They were heading back toward the borrowed Weasley tent for a cuppa before bed when Harry first heard the distant shouts and screams of terror. “Looks like Lucius got away in time,” Harry muttered to himself.
Mr. Weasley cautiously led them a little further, but stopped once he made out the crowd of masked and robed figures. Harry could also make out the silhouetted figures of the campsite manager and his family, helplessly levitated above the jeering mob.
Mr. Weasley looked outraged. “Bill, Charlie, Percy, we need to help the Ministry stop this. The rest of you…” his voice trailed off as he looked around.
“I think we’re safer all together,” Harry said quietly. Ron nodded but didn’t say anything. The wand in his hand was enough. The others had drawn theirs as well.
Mr. Weasley let out a sigh. “Molly is going to kill me, stone dead. All right, everyone stick together. We’re going to try and rescue the people floating above them first.”
“Ron and Hermione are good for that,” Harry volunteered, recalling the Hufflepuff girls they’d pulled away from the Dementors.
“Very well,” Mr. Weasley agreed. “Percy, help them with that. The rest of you, stunning spells and the like. Let’s get a little closer if we can.” The group edged forward, partially masked by the people running away in the dark. Just as one of the masked figures turning did a double-take, Mr. Weasley shouted “Now!”
Ron and Hermione’s wands were twin blurs as they cast Wingardium Leviosa and Accio Muggles . Mr. Roberts, his wife, and eldest child soared toward them, but the youngest child spun slightly askew. Percy, however, was ready and brought his own wand into play, guiding him back on course. The rest of the Weasleys and their allies sent Stupefies into the hooded mob that was only now starting to cast shield charms.
After Harry’s second stunning spell, the Muggles were clear of the resurgent Death Eaters, so Harry cast his modified Flash-Bang charm in their midst. The burst of light was slightly dazzling at range, but Harry could still see his targets. He didn’t need to imagine what it must have looked like up close. The thunderous bang also seemed to knock down figures in the middle of the pack. He saw more staggering figures drop to stunning spells from the older Weasleys when suddenly the lot of them shimmered and vanished with a loud pop.
“Bloody Portkeys,” Harry grumbled as Percy caught the youngest child in his arms. Ron and Hermione guided the rest of the hysterical family to the ground in front of them.
The second round of interviews with Madam Bones lasted well past midnight. This time around, the monocled witch seemed a lot less jocular and a lot more tired. She did, however, order them a Portkey back to Ottery St. Catchpole. For that kindness alone, Harry was more than happy he’d shown the older witch how his Flash-Bang charm worked. She raised an eyebrow when Harry explained it was two basic sound and light charms, just crazily overpowered to make them overwhelming and not terribly efficient. He wondered, though, if he’d revealed a bit more of his capabilities than he should have.
No sooner did they cross over the wards then Mrs. Weasley was out the front door like a shot. She was almost incoherent as she hugged her husband and fussed over her children. Neville quietly made his way to the Floo during the confusion, having already parted from Luna and her father. Harry noticed that Xeno seemed fairly fond of Neville, and even left off some of his stranger conversational topics when the boy was around. Harry hoped Neville acquired more male role models in his life that didn’t think dangling him out a window was acceptable behaviour.
Mrs. Weasley hugged Hermione just as long as Ginny or her boys, leaving the girl somewhat flustered as the matronly woman wailed about how happy she was that they were all safe now. Harry felt a twinge of guilt. She’d only stopped objecting to the plan they’d laid out in broad terms because Harry said he’d make sure “the hidden Death Eater” would never get his hands on a real wand.
Soon they were inside, where Sirius already had the kettle on for some hot chocolate. Of course, as soon as they were settled with their drinks, Mrs. Weasley and Harry’s Godfather wanted to know everything. Mr. Weasley did most of the talking, which was fine by Harry. At this point, the day’s excitements had left him practically dead on his feet. When they got to the point where Percy stunned Mr. Crouch, Sirius couldn’t stop himself. The retelling was interrupted by a large black dog planting its paws on the fussy young man’s shoulders and giving his face a thorough tongue-bath. Ironically, Fred and George were sitting the closest, and ended up having to rescue their brother from dog-slobber.
Charlie passed Percy a slightly used-looking flannel to wipe off his face, while Sirius was man-handled back toward his chair, where he reluctantly transformed back to human. “Maybe they’ll give the hypocrite my old cell,” Sirius mused with a smirk. “If only I could have seen it.”
Harry cleared his throat. “Yes, it’s too bad no one’s invented a magical artefact that lets you view memories. Oh, wait….”
Sirius laughed again. “Just for that, I think I’ll name my first-born child Percy.”
“And if it’s a girl?” Hermione asked.
“I don’t see a problem,” Sirius replied, dead pan.
That remark earned him a dirty look from the Weasley in question. “Maybe I should get started on that report for Madam Bones,” he huffed.
“Finish your chocolate first, dear,” Mrs. Weasley chimed in. Then she turned to Sirius. “Behave!” she barked.
Sirius jumped, seemingly in spite of himself. “Yes, Molly,” he acquiesced.
The following morning saw the delivery of The Daily Prophet, complete with coverage of the Quidditch World Cup Final, and what happened afterward. Fred and George sent off a packet containing two of their prank wands to Madam Bones via Hedwig. Errol probably could have made the delivery, but they wanted to make a good impression and Harry agreed.
Mr. Weasley winced as he read the Prophet. “Rita was busy last night,” he said ruefully. “She’s blaming the Ministry for not having enough security to prevent the ‘Quidditch Hooligans’ from rioting last night.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Mrs. Weasley objected as she plated up a rasher of bacon. She paused, looking around the table. “Charlie? Could you see what’s keeping Percy?” she asked.
The second son took a playful swipe at a smirking Bill as he rose from the table. “Sure thing, Mum,” he replied. “Save me some bacon?” he added with a pitiful look. As he headed up the stairs, Harry noticed that a good bit of the bacon ended up deposited directly on Charlie’s plate. Ron’s fingers also got a swift rap when they seemed to stray on their way back from the serving plate. Harry himself managed two rashers that he folded over into a piece of toast. A dash of HP brown sauce and he set it aside while he addressed his sausage, eggs, and fried potatoes.
Harry hadn’t even started his bacon sandwich when Charlie returned with a rather rumpled-looking Percy. The third-oldest looked like he hadn’t much sleep, and his fingers were ink-stained. “Found him up doing paperwork,” Charlie reported, shaking his head as he sat down.
Percy looked up from the tea his mother passed him. “I’ve been working on that report for Madam Bones,” he explained. “I want it to be as complete as possible, as it will likely be my last project as part of the Ministry,” he continued in a morose tone.
“But you didn’t do anything wrong!” Hermione objected. Ginny, sitting next to her, didn’t say anything, but Harry could tell by her flush she was easily as outraged.
“Doesn’t matter,” Percy explained. “I still ‘turned’ on my superior. Mr. Crouch’s replacement won’t want to deal with me, and none of the other heads will trust me.” He turned to address his father directly. “Do you really think I won’t be blacklisted for this?” he asked in a weary voice.
Mr. Weasley sighed, “Well, Perkins is getting on in years, and…”
Percy shook his head. “No, father. Not that I don’t appreciate it. I do, really. But I vowed to myself that I was not going to be one of those that achieved things because of who they knew, rather than what they could do. And I think it could also be quite awkward.”
“If that’s how you want it, son,” Mr. Weasley agreed. Mrs. Weasley, on the other hand, did not look happy.
Both Mr. Weasley and Percy started spending a lot of time at the Ministry the following week. No new questions were asked when they gave their depositions. Unfortunately, Percy’s predictions came true. Cuthbert Throckmorton was appointed acting head of the Department of International Cooperation, and one of his first acts was to suggest to Percy, in a closed interview, that he should seek other opportunities outside the department. By Thursday, he had cleaned his desk out and come home early. Harry felt a little guilty, wondering if he shouldn’t have warned Percy to keep an eye on Mr. Crouch. If the man had been apprehended by an Auror, rather than stunned by Percy, would Crouch’s successor have been so quick to bin him?
Harry mulled this over as he helped Percy carry his things upstairs. Ron and the twins were making it a point not to tease Percy at all since the World Cup. Ginny had asked them about including Percy in the Weasley Wizard Wheezes plans, but Ron pointed out that he’d likely see it as charity. Harry knew Ginny and Hermione both thought Percy was being a bit too prideful, but he agreed with Ron that his brother just wanted to succeed on his own merits.
As Harry set Percy’s things on his desk, he noticed a thick sheaf of parchment in the older boy’s hands. “What’s that?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s just that request from Madam Bones,” Percy said tiredly. “I’m still fleshing out some details, but I should have it done to deliver to her tomorrow.”
Harry blinked. If that was all one document, it was massive. “She’s going to be all weekend reading that,” he said dubiously.
“Well, she did ask for everything I could remember,” Percy replied testily. “I did, however colour-code the corners of each entry to signify possible relevance. But there are some things that I think might be significant that are only apparent over time.”
Harry nodded slowly, remembering that Percy made Head Boy for a reason.
Picking up their school supplies from Diagon Alley was a welcome break from the ongoing tension at The Burrow. Percy wasn’t being mean or spiteful, but his family tended to walk on eggshells around him nonetheless. Her son’s crushed ambitions were also making Mrs. Weasley a bit weepy. Her grown sons’ impending departure when their holidays ended didn’t help either. Harry tried to interest Percy in joining their group training, but the young man was wholly focused on completing his report for Madam Bones. Harry sort of wished Charlie had been similarly reticent… he had a few extra bruises after the brawny dragon-tamer joined in one of their sparring sessions.
Sirius was a little mopey as well. Aside from the fact of them leaving for Hogwarts, Harry was also hopelessly stalled on his Animagus transformation. Nothing they had tried seemed to work, and the pain never seemed to diminish. Rather than blame Harry, Sirius seemed to think he was teaching the subject wrong, which made Harry feel even worse. Finally, Remus pulled a visibly-depressed Sirius aside for a private conversation after their lesson. Harry hoped a little time apart from his “Dogfather” would make things a little less awkward.
It was a dreary, rain-lashed Monday morning that saw them up early to catch the Hogwarts Express. But as they were loading their trunks, a Ministry owl arrived, addressed to Percy. His expression brightened a bit as he unfolded the parchment, but then he sighed. “Madam Bones wants to speak to me,” he said. “Probably something about my report.”
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Weasley reassured his son. “I’m sure you did a good job. Go ahead and take the Floo. I’ll take this lot to King’s Cross.”
“I can go to the Ministry afterward,” Percy said morosely. He’d volunteered to escort Harry and the others to the train station so his father could have a lie-in on the last of his holiday. He seemed to Harry to be desperate to make himself useful since being dismissed from the Ministry.
“It’s all right, Percy,” Mr. Weasley said with a bit more force. “We don’t want to keep Madam Bones waiting,” he added.
Percy nodded and went upstairs to change out of his Muggle clothes.
Bill and Charlie decided to tag along as well, so it was quite a mob that boarded three Muggle taxis for the journey to London. Fred’s trunk sprang open as it was being loaded, and some Filibuster Wet-Start Fireworks inside it went off, making everyone jump and Crookshanks accidentally scratch the poor cabby. To his annoyance, Harry remembered this happening before, but not in time to do anything to stop it.
After giving it some thought, Harry simply asked Hedwig if she’d rather fly to Hogwarts on her own. She was out of the cage and winging out of sight in seconds, giving Harry a chuckle. That made for a much quieter ride than might have been for him and Ginny. Charlie somehow managed to end up riding with them as well, sitting between them. Harry was inclined to let it pass, but by the set of her mouth he could tell Ginny was getting annoyed.
“So Da rode with Ron and Hermione?” she asked after a few minutes.
“I think he did,” Harry confirmed.
Ginny nodded. “Good thing. Can’t leave those two unsupervised.”
Charlie coughed. “What?”
“Oh yeah,” Ginny said. “There’s a pool on when those two will do the deed.”
Harry had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing out loud.
“There’s what?” Charlie yelled, making the cab driver glance back at them in the mirror.
“You didn’t know?” Ginny gasped. “You never noticed how Mum never left those two unsupervised? Not that it will do much good once they’re at Hogwarts.” Charlie’s face turned redder and redder as his baby sister continued. “That reminds me. I wanted to ask you about broom cupboards.”
“Broom. Cupboards,” Charlie choked out.
“Yes, broom cupboards,” Ginny confirmed. “Which ones are the most comfortable? Which ones don’t get checked as often? I heard you were quite the lady’s man in your day, so I figured you would know.”
“You don’t need to know about that!” Charlie hissed, and gave Harry a filthy look for good measure.
“What?” Ginny asked, clearly scandalized, “Do you want me to get caught shagging Harry?”
Harry muffled a cough. He had absolutely no desire to draw attention to himself at this point.
“You are not shagging Harry, ever !” Charlie declared.
“And how do you propose to stop me when I’m at Hogwarts and you are in Romania?” Ginny asked sweetly.
Charlie turned a gimlet eye on Harry, but froze when Ginny spoke again. “So this is where you threaten to kill Harry is it? Do you really think you can do that and get away with it? Do you think I would let you get away with that?” Her voice had grown as cold as ice. “Charlie, I love you as my big brother, and I appreciate what you think you are trying to do. But I don’t need protecting from Harry. I don’t think I ever will. What is going on between us is just that. Between us. So kindly take whatever good-intentioned threats you have made and stick them up your nose.”
Harry felt acutely uncomfortable at this point, but Charlie looked poleaxed.
“If you lot want to get out and fight, I’m keeping the meter running,” the cabby advised.
“No need for that,” Ginny said brightly. “Just reminding my darling brother that he needs to mind his own business.”
Harry was relieved to exit the taxi at King’s Cross, even as he got thoroughly soaked manoeuvring his trunk across the road and into the train station. He couldn’t even make eye contact with Charlie at this point, and was happy to cross over onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters as quickly as possible. Ginny was seemingly unaffected, and gave her father and two eldest brothers warm goodbye hugs before boarding the train. Charlie seemed a little confused by this, but Bill just smirked at him. Harry didn’t think he would ever grasp sibling politics.
Harry jumped a little when a hand grasped his shoulder. He smiled though, when he realized it was Mr. Weasley. He shook the offered hand firmly. “Have a good term, Harry,” his guardian murmured. “And do take care of Ron and Ginny, and yourself as well.”
He swallowed. “Of course, sir, I mean, Mr. Weasley.”
The older man gave a genial smile. “Maybe one day, I’ll get you to call me Arthur,” he teased. Harry blushed. “All right then, off with you before the train leaves. We’ll be looking forward to your letters.”
Buoyed by the man’s unspoken regard, Harry smiled and dragged his trunk onto the train. He was pleased to learn that Neville and Luna had already reserved the last compartment for their friends. There was really only room for six and their trunks, but Fred and George just laughed and said they were looking for Lee Jordan anyway.
They were just settling in when a nasal voice was heard from the doorway.
“So, the losers have returned,” Pansy Parkinson announced to Crabbe and Goyle. Harry wondered if they were hired out, or just natural followers.
“The only losers I see here are in the corridor,” Ron shot back.
Pansy opened her mouth to reply when Harry cut in. “Merlin’s beard, Parkinson, is Lucius paying you to sub for Draco now?”
She smirked at Harry, which did no favours to her already pug-nosed countenance. “He doesn’t really need that, all things considered. But I want to know what you have on Slughorn.”
“Slughorn? What?” Harry asked, confused. “What are you on about now?”
“My head of house,” she clarified in a haughty tone, “It’s nauseating, the way you’ve got him sucking up to you lot. We all know you blackmailed Professor Snape to get rid of him. Now you obviously have something on his successor, and I want to know what it is. Tell me now, and I’ll let you know why this year is not going to go well for any of you.”
Harry sighed. “I didn’t blackmail Snape, or anyone else. Your precious Draco implicated him in the theft of a Potter family artefact, not to mention being an accessory in an attempted murder. Do you really think Dumbledore could keep him around after that?”
“Parkinson, Professor Slughorn might favour you a bit more if you put some effort into Potions,” Hermione added. “You barely passed more than half your brews last year.”
Pansy’s face reddened. Hermione’s words weren’t untrue. Without the more egregious favouritism Snape employed, the Gryffindors as a class were doing nearly as well as their Slytherin counterparts. “So it’s just a coincidence that you all spontaneously turned into Potions prodigies?”
“Mostly,” Harry agreed. “Though according to Professor Slughorn my Mum was one of the two best students he ever taught, along with Severus Snape. We all seem to have gotten better because we don’t have someone breathing down our necks anymore, looking for any pretext to fail us.”
Pansy scowled, which made her look even more unattractive, which Harry wasn’t previously sure was even possible. “Like your Mudblood mother has anything to do with…”
Harry shot to his feet and the glass in the sliding door suddenly crazed with cracks. “You will hold your tongue when you speak of my family, Parkinson,” he snarled. “Girl or not, I will call you out and make you eat your words. We won’t be underage forever, you know.”
Pansy took a step back, leaving Crabbe and Goyle between her and Harry. However, the two showed no eagerness to advance. Harry figured they were at least bright enough to count the wands facing them. Harry took a deep breath, trying to throttle his temper. “Is this what Slytherin has come down to?” he asked. “Has the house of the cunning become the house that can’t compete unless they cheat? Don’t you find that just a little bit embarrassing?”
Pansy huffed. “You think things are going your way now, Potter, but that’s going to change. Very soon.” She turned with a flounce and stalked down the corridor. After a moment, Crabbe and Goyle turned and followed her.
Harry slid the door shut, making a few pieces of glass fall to the floor. Hermione sighed and cast Reparo , causing the broken pieces to fly back into the frame and the glass to knit into a seamless whole. Harry sat down and closed his eyes as Hermione locked the door with a series of charms. He massaged his temples trying to calm himself and get his head to stop pounding.
“Do you feel better now?” Ginny asked quietly as Hermione sat down. Harry could hear the others talking in low tones.
“A little,” Harry admitted. “What on Earth were you on about with Charlie earlier?”
Ginny sighed. “I knew he’d been… interfering. Soon after he arrived you got very stiff and formal. It didn’t take a genius to see he’d said something to you.”
“Ginny,” Harry began, hesitantly, “he’s your brother. He’s just looking out for you. I can’t really fault him for that.”
“No, you can,” Ginny replied. “Just because he’s my brother, it doesn’t give him the right to mess around in my personal affairs. I get that he meant well, but it doesn’t make it right.”
“He did bring up some valid concerns,” Harry admittedly glumly.
“Did he now?” Ginny inquired. Her tone of voice sent a mild shiver down Harry’s spine. He knew he needed to choose his words very, very carefully.
“Well, you know…” Harry began. “Regarding the age difference.”
“Because if you were theoretically older in some way, you’d be taking advantage of my naïve, innocent self?”
“I’m trying not to make it worse than it sounds,” Harry complained. “I could be manipulating you in some ways. He’s right to question that.”
“Not that you need any prompting to question yourself,” Ginny noted with a huff. “Listen. You, Harry, are the king of unreasoning guilt. Yes, when we first met, you knew more about me than I did about you. And practically the first thing you did was to go about remedying that. If you were really this awful manipulator, you would use every excuse to delay that, wouldn’t you? Instead you pushed us to learn Occlumency as quickly as we could. And as soon as we could keep your secret, you told us.”
Harry tried to look away, but her eyes were almost shining with the intensity of her words. This was one of the things about her that had first attracted him, and he felt his pulse grow slightly faster.
“Despite all that, the first time my brother, who has no idea what he’s talking about, questions your motives you automatically think the worst of yourself.” Ginny sighed. “A little humility is nice and all, but try to have a little faith in yourself. In both of us, really.” She reached out and clasped his hands in hers. “I know you wouldn’t do anything deliberately to hurt me, you need to know it too.” She paused, then smirked. “Or are you going to question my judgment like Charlie did?”
Harry smiled and shook his head. He felt rather like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. It felt good.
Percy paused to straighten his robes and visitor badge before knocking on the office door.
“Come in,” a voice replied. He opened the door and entered, feeling the gossamer touch of various security charms and anti-eavesdropping enchantments. Madam Bone’s office was very spartan, especially given her seniority within the Ministry. Several filing cabinets jostled for space with an unadorned desk. Even Bartemius Crouch had kept a few decorations and adornments in his personal space. The older witch looked up from what Percy could see was a copy of his report. She gestured for him to take a seat.
“I’ve been going over your notes,” she began. “I must compliment your memory and eye for detail. I agree with some of the items you have flagged. We’re starting to piece together what happened, and it’s not looking too good.”
“Thank you, Madam Bones,” Percy replied quietly. It was good to hear someone appreciate his work. It was galling to think that she’d just given him more positive feedback than he’d ever received from Mr. Crouch.
“I heard that Throckmorton has taken the reins at International Cooperation,” she observed. When Percy nodded, she continued, “and I understand that he feels you might be better suited for a different position?”
Percy swallowed and nodded. “Yes, Madam Bones,” he replied, trying to keep any bitterness out of his voice, “he gave me the option of resigning first.” It was harder than he thought it would be.
Madam Bones nodded, her monocle glinting in the indirect lighting. “Well, his loss, my gain.”
“I beg your pardon, Madam Bones?” Percy asked. His heart was suddenly trying to climb his oesophagus.
“If you can produce documentation of this quality on a regular basis,” she replied, gesturing with his report. “I might have a position for you in the Magical Law Enforcement Squad.”
Percy could feel that damned Weasley flush climbing the back of his neck. “But, I’m not a hit wizard,” he objected.
“Mr. Weasley, pray tell, what is the process for setting up a new undersecretary?”
“Well,” Percy began, caught off guard by the unexpected question. “You would need to get a form 99Q from the Personnel department if they are a new hire, or a 95Q-Zed if they are a transfer from another department. Once that is filled out and returned, they will give you a 53G voucher for basic office supplies, a form 72 to authorize the background check, and a chit to schedule an appointment with Facilities to reserve an office space. Of course, if they are filling a currently empty position, their direct report should still have possession of the requisite office space so you only need to send a memo to Facilities to inform them of the new assignment. You also will want to send a memo to the head of building security to make sure a new hire is added to the building roster. Sometimes they don’t get the updated list from Personnel in time…” he trailed off as Madam Bones cleared her throat.
“That’s precisely what I need you for, Mr. Weasley,” she said. “I know you’re not an Auror; what I desperately need right now is an intelligent, competent assistant who can take on and organize the squad’s paperwork so the Aurors and Hit Wizards can do their jobs. Are you interested?”
“When can I start?”
Harry stared out the window at the passing terrain as he thought about Ginny’s words. He supposed it was sort of presumptuous for her brother to dictate like that. He still felt irrationally guilty at the thought of any Weasley disapproving of his relationship with Ginny. If he could even call it a relationship. He wondered why he felt so guilty and unworthy, even. Like he didn’t deserve her, or deserve any happiness with her, after…
Then it hit him. He didn’t deserve it after letting her die in the original timeline. He gave a guilty sidelong glance at the girl sitting beside him. She was pulling a comb through Luna’s hair as the girl sat sideways next to her. The blonde sat very still with her eyes shut as Ginny slowly ordered her damp and slightly tangled locks. The rest of the so-called Gryffindor Six were spread out across the opposite seat, reading in Hermione’s case, or playing chess.
One thing Harry was certain of: if Ginny knew what he was thinking, she would kick his arse.
Harry smiled a bit, and stretched, taking in a deep breath and releasing it. He knew it was irrational, but that wouldn’t make the niggling doubt go away. He closed his eyes as he leaned back, trying to compose his thoughts. Almost reflexively, he fell into an Occlumency exercise. He visualized all his doubts and fears as a twisting morass sitting in his middle. The appropriateness of his relationship with Ginny, Animagus frustrations, his fading memories and fears for the future - all of it. With an effort, he pictured gathering them all up into a huge rolling ball, then throwing it away, out the window. He relaxed and thought for a while about what he wanted to do, ignoring those doubts.
Eyes still closed as if he was dozing, Harry let his head loll to the side, until it was resting lightly against Ginny’s shoulder. He breathed in through his nose, smelling Ginny’s hair and listening to her voice as she spoke quietly to Luna. Ginny didn’t pause in her ministrations, and Harry let her murmuring voice wash over him like a warm tide.
When the Hogwarts Express pulled into Hogsmeade, the weather was as foul as Scotland could get in the fall. Ice cold rain was bucketing down, punctuated by gusts of strong wind and bursts of lightning crackling overhead. Nonetheless, Harry woke from his nap relaxed and energized at the same time. Ginny had eventually fallen asleep. They were leaning against each other in the corner of the compartment when Hermione woke them. For once, Ginny was the one blushing more, which Harry found utterly charming for some reason. Maybe it was the contrast with her strong words with Charlie earlier. Maybe it was the realization that she was likely to always keep him on his toes.
He and his friends changed into their robes as quickly as they could manage, adding their heavy cloaks as well. Harry was the first of them to disembark, and cast a modified shield charm that was supposed to block solid objects as well. It muted most of the wind and almost all of the rain, if he angled it properly. However, it was surprisingly difficult to maintain, especially when the wind gusted. The drain grew worse as the rest of his friends emerged and he expanded it to cover them as well. Harry gritted his teeth as they made their way to the carriages. He supposed it was the constant pressure of the wind against the entire area of the shield that made it so taxing. He was barely able to spare the concentration to give Hagrid a brief wave as the groundskeeper led the bedraggled first years off to the lake.
Harry was pale and shaking by the time he entered the carriage and dropped the shield. His other hand clutched at the stitch in his chest. He gasped for breath as he sat down.
Ginny looked at his face and appeared to grow alarmed. “Harry, are you all right?” she asked. “You’re as pale as a ghost!”
Harry took a deep, shuddering breath. “That was… that was a lot harder to hold than I expected,” he explained.
“That might be why we didn’t see the upper years doing something similar,” Hermione theorized.
Harry nodded, still catching his breath.
“Don’t do that when we get to the castle,” Ginny scolded. “It’s not like we’ll melt.”
Harry took another deep breath. “Don’t worry,” he reassured her. “I had no idea it would be like that. I just wanted to do something nice.”
Ginny accepted this, and patted him on the back as he rested his elbows on his knees. Harry heard Hermione demonstrating the Impervius charm to Luna as she applied it to Harry’s cloak. He tensed as the wind gusted again, setting the carriage to rocking on its springs. It wasn’t long before they arrived at the castle.
The cloaks weren’t perfect as they rushed across the courtyard, but they stayed mostly dry. Harry was breathing easier by the time they scurried up the rain-slicked steps and into the entrance hall. Remembering the rude welcome that was in store, Harry looked up as soon as they cleared the doorway. Spotting Peeves and his water balloons, Harry raised his voice. “Peeves! Throw that and we’re cutting you off for a month!” he yelled.
The Poltergeist paused, red balloon in hand, as if weighing his options.
“Fred and George will cut you off as well,” Harry warned. “No pranks, no surprises, nothing.”
“Potty is no fun!” Peeves whined. “Already wet, aren’t they? Little squirts!”
“Then what’s the point of getting wet people wet again?” Harry asked. “It’s like taking coals to Newcastle!”
Peeves paused, and Harry swore he could hear the gears grinding in his immaterial head. “Peeves will save for later!” he finally crowed, and zoomed off cackling... right over the head of Professor McGonagall as she hurried in from the Great Hall. She glanced back over her head at the retreating Peeves, then turned toward Harry and raised an eyebrow.
“It’s ah, a negotiated truce, Professor,” Harry stammered as his friends looked away and busied themselves casting drying charms. He winced as screams of outrage and a cackle of maniacal laughter echoed from the Great Hall. “I, uh, just pointed out that we were already pretty damp,” he added lamely.
Professor McGonagall sighed. “Please make your way to the Great Hall,” she said. “I need to meet the First Years.”
Harry nodded and led his friends past the Deputy Headmistress into the Great Hall. He could still see some students milling around the Hufflepuff table, several with wands out, but there was no sign of Peeves. The Great Hall itself was decked out as usual for the start-of-term feast. The light from the floating candles glinted off of the golden plates… though a few candles over the Hufflepuff table looked like they’d been snuffed out. As Harry watched, they sparked and re-lit. Harry glanced at the head table and wondered if they did that on their own. Professor Dumbledore and most of the staff were already sitting down, though Professor Sprout looked like she was still settling into her chair. Professor Lupin, caught his eye and nodded.
“Hiya Harry!” Colin Creevey called from the Gryffindor table as they approached.
“Hello Colin,” Harry said. Colin’s hero-worship could be a bit wearing at times, but he was, with some less than subtle encouragement, getting a handle on it. Still, he was tolerable in moderate doses, and Harry hadn’t seen him all summer. Besides, he felt he sort of owed a little extra leniency to anyone who was in the original Dumbledore’s Army.
“Guess what! My brother Dennis is starting this year,” the mousy-haired boy announced.
“That’s great!” Harry replied.
“Do you think he’ll get sorted into Gryffindor?” Colin asked. “I’m really hoping he’ll be here with us.” He paused for a moment and turned to Ron. “Brothers usually end up in the same house, right?”
Ron paused as he was sitting down. “Er, I suppose so,” he said after a moment. “It worked out that way for us.”
“But not always,” Hermione chimed in. “Parvati’s sister is in Ravenclaw, and they were twins.”
Hearing her name, the Gryffindor in question looked up from her conversation with Lavender Brown. “Padma and I are only the same in looks,” she declared. “Personality-wise, well, she’s a good fit in Ravenclaw, while I’m a lot more sociable.”
Harry saw Colin’s brow furrow. He couldn’t tell if it was worry or unaccustomed introspection. “We’ll just have to see what the Sorting Hat thinks,” Harry gently reminded him, “It’s been doing this for centuries. I think we can trust it to do right by him.”
Colin smiled. “You’re right Harry, thanks!” he gushed. Harry nodded and finally sat down.
It wasn’t long before Professor McGonagall led the thoroughly bedraggled first years into the Great Hall, including the tiny boy Harry was pretty sure was Dennis Creevey. His guess was confirmed when the boy, wrapped in what appeared to be Hagrid’s moleskin coat, waved at Colin and mouthed “I fell in the lake!” with evident delight. It bothered Harry just a little bit that he didn’t immediately recognize the boy.
Harry concentrated as the Sorting Hat began its song, but he couldn’t recall enough of the lyrics from the original timeline to determine if they had changed. He wondered why his memories seemed to be fading. Was it some side effect of the merger? Was it because he was changing things so they couldn’t happen as before – was he somehow eroding the original timeline that only seemed to exist in his borrowed memories? It was a profoundly troubling train of thought – even more so because he wasn’t sure which was preferable.
If he thought about his future self as a separate person, like he’d appeared in that first dream, it seemed like a damn poor reward for the extraordinary lengths the haunted man had gone to in order to make Harry’s life better. Well, to be honest, he hadn’t really done it for Harry’s sake – he’d done it for everyone else. Maybe Harry could honour that sacrifice by making the most of the advantages he’d been granted.
Harry sighed as the song continued. When he arrived at Hogwarts his first year€, he felt more like he was his future self, operating inside a younger body. Now, he realized it was more like he was that Harry, only with some added memories and an inflamed corpus magi. He found this more than a little disturbing, and thought back to when this transition occurred. As best he could tell, it started happening after second year. Maybe it had something to do with finally being able to tell his friends? He wondered if he’d ever know for sure.
Harry shook his head as the song concluded and the sorting began. He needed to pay at least a little attention or people would start to wonder. He clapped with the others as Dennis Creevey was sorted into Gryffindor. No surprise there. Neither was Colin pointing Harry out to his brother.
Desperate for distraction, Harry focused on watching Ron fidget as the sorting dragged on. Every time he whispered for them to get on with it, Hermione silenced him with a sharp look. Harry’s amusement grew until, right after Graham Pritchard was sorted into Slytherin, a hollow growl seemed to echo from the vicinity of Ron’s midsection. Harry suppressed a snicker as Ron flushed and Hermione rolled her eyes. Luna, of course, immediately began looking around for the Bordellian Kroogah, as she’d just heard the Kroogah mating call. Ron slouched a little lower in his seat.
Fortunately, it wasn’t too much longer before the sorting was completed. Professor Dumbledore rose to his feet. “I have only two words to say to you,” he announced, “Tuck in.”
With that, the tables filled with food. Ron filled his plate and fell upon it like a hungry lion, so to speak.
Once they were fed and the tables were cleared, Professor Dumbledore began his start of year announcements. After reviewing Filch’s list of banned objects and warning everyone about the Forbidden Forest, he dropped the bombshell regarding the Quidditch Cup being cancelled that year.
Harry carefully aped an appropriate expression of shock and disappointment. He didn’t want to cause any issues for Mr. Weasley if someone thought he’d disclosed Ministry information prematurely.
“This is due to an event,” Professor Dumbledore continued, “beginning in October and continuing throughout the school year that will occupy much of the teachers’ time and energy. However, I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts, we will be hosting the Triwizard Tournament!”
There was a murmur of surprise from the assembled students.
“For those that are not familiar with this event,” Dumbledore said, his voice rising above the noise, which cut off as he drew everyone’s attention again, “the Triwizard Tournament was first established some seven hundred years ago as a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. A champion was selected to represent each school, and the three champions competed in three magical tasks.”
Everything was as Harry could recall, but the explanation was suddenly cut off as the main doors to the Great Hall were thrown open. Harry spun in confusion, wondering why Mad-Eye was here, but the retired Auror was not who strode into the room.
There was a man and woman, both looking rather damp, flanked by a pair of Aurors in their distinctive brown trench coats. The man, who looked to be in his 40’s with a salt and pepper goatee, was not anyone Harry knew. He wished the same could be said for the woman.
Dolores Umbridge was just as Harry remembered, only now the toad-like woman was wrapped in a cloak that ranged from a dusky pink at the top to a muddy brown at the hem. Harry wondered for a moment why his memories of the foul woman were still as vivid as ever. Maybe it was the sheer loathing he held for the woman.
Dumbledore, on the other hand, didn’t miss a beat. “Ah, Mister Throckmorton, I was just telling the students of our big event this year.”
“Yes,” the man replied brusquely, “I’m sure they are quite thrilled. However, something quite urgent was brought to my attention that I think we need to speak upon at your earliest convenience.” He glanced around the Great Hall. “I see now why there was no response from your Floo, but if you would indulge me…?”
Dumbledore peered at them over the lenses of his spectacles. “Very well. Students, the delegations from the other schools will be arriving on October thirtieth. Please make them welcome. Students that wish to participate may enter their names at that time, and they will be selected by an impartial judge on the thirty-first. Further details will be made available as the time comes. Remember, classes begin tomorrow, so off with you now. Chop chop!”
As the students rose to leave, Harry’s eyes lingered on the visitors from the Ministry. With Umbridge involved, this couldn’t be good.
Authors Notes: Hello, back again with another update to Year 4 of NoFP… Yes, I am bringing in one of the most detested characters in the Potterverse, and I’m doing it early!
I’d like to thank Runsamok, Tempest, and Torbin for alpha-reads, and the ever-awesome consistently outstanding Kokopelli for his beta work.
In other news, I’m posting some of my original fiction on Patreon. If you are interested, you can find it here: https://www.patreon.com/viridiandreams?ty=a