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Matryoshka Vignettes Introduction

This is a direct follow on from Perfect Situations. This story started with a small quickly written piece about Albus visiting the Goblins. That story didnt make the final cut, as it was pretty out of the character I wanted Dumbledore to have. There was another short - an Island Visitor, that was also cut because it didn't fit. But that gave me the idea of doing a couple of character pieces and Hermione and Ginny soon followed. From there, I just kept going and posting on my yahoo group, without bothering to have them betad. After a while, a few other authors submitted stories to me, and I realised I had to do something with this, and this is the result. So Id like to thank Kokopelli, Ishtar and GardenGirl for betaing all of these, and Id very much like to thank Kokopelli, Crys, Draco664 and OHGinnyFan for playing in this universe. If you would like to read this story in chronological order, you will need to follow the links in the order below, as the story has been uploaded in the Pulp Fanfiction style in which it was written. Chronological Order: Sing A Song of Sixpence, A Pocket Full of Weasleys (2/4) - Fred and George - Sun, February 1st 1998, 11:30am Eternal Sleep - Severus Snape - Sat, February 21st 1998, 10:47am Into the Abyss - Adam Sage - March 1st 1998, 1:02pm For the Best - Albus Dumbledore - Tue, March 15th, 2:15pm Sing A Song of Sixpence, A Pocket Full of Weasleys (3/4) - Bill - Fri, 10th April 1998 9:02am Sing A Song of Sixpence, A Pocket Full of Weasleys (4/4) - Charlie - Fri, 10th April 1998 3:35pm The Unforgiving Minute - Neville Longbottom - Sat, May 2nd 1998, 10:30am A Promise Made Is A Debt Unpaid - Minerva McGonagall - Mon, 20th April 1998 True Bravery - Neville Longbottom - Sat, May 30th 1998, 4:42pm A Lawyer's Tale - A Bay Area Lawyer - Mon, June 8th 1998, 10:00am And Now For Something Completely Different - Luna Lovegood - Wed, July 2nd 1998, 9:01am By The Light of a Silvery Moon - Remus Lupin - Thu, 28th July, 6:45am Wings of Fire - Fawkes - Thu, July 31st 1980 to present A Thousand Miles - Ron Weasley - Mon, August 10th 1998, 11:45am He's Alive - Hermione Granger - Thu, August 13th 1998, 1:42pm Sing A Song of Sixpence, A Pocket Full of Weasleys (1/4) - Percy Weasley - Fri, August 14th 1998, 5:28pm Father Forgive Me - Luna Lovegood - Fri, August 14th 1998, 3:58pm Wings of a Prayer - Ginny Weasley - Sat, August 15th 1998, 4:31am Gang aft a-gley - Albus Dumbledore - Sat, 15th August, 1998, 1:01pm A Gilded Cage - Severus Snape - Fri, October 23rd 1998, 11:15am

Matryoshka Vignettes Eternal Sleep

What? Severus Snape growled, as he flung open the door to his private shop off Knockturn Alley. Ive got a delivery for a Severus Snap, the man said, his arms full of wooden boxes. Thats Snape, you imbecilic incompetent, he barked. It felt good to insult someone again; it had been too long since he had enjoyed the opportunity and for some reason it felt even better to do so with this deliveryman. Well, dont just stand there gaping like an idiot, bring them in. Yes, sir, the deliveryman said, his eyes firmly on the floor. Snape marched through his hallway to his converted kitchen, swirling his robes dramatically. The deliveryman followed him, and dropped the boxes down loudly on the counter. Gently, you oaf, Snape snapped. Those ingredients are worth more than your life! Sorry, the man grunted. Sign here. Snape signed the proffered parchment with a dramatic flourish. Now get out, he snarled. The deliveryman shrugged and turned, walking out and slamming the door behind him. Arrogant fool, Snape muttered to himself. He began to open the boxes eagerly and sighed happily. Potions ingredients always allowed him to forget everything else and do what he did best. An hour later, with all his ingredients meticulously placed in their correct positions, he looked over to his order sheet and sighed again, although less happily. A sex potion. A stinking sex potion. It was a travesty that a man of his talents was reduced to making potions to spice up the love lives of the idiot rich. And it was that arrogant bastard Potters fault, he thought bitterly as he started his work. Potter had corrupted one of his best Slytherins, and she had casually destroyed his life, like any good Slytherin would, with a throwaway comment. He let his thoughts ramble on while he absently crushed some sopophorous beans with the flat side of a silver dagger and added them to some Valerian roots. He had returned to Hogwarts after Potters funeral, as cheerful as he could remember. Both of his most hated people, Potter and Voldemort, were dead, and he could look forward to the future of intimidating children with something approaching joy. Instead he found that there was rebellion afoot. Hed hadnt even done anything just made a second year Gryffindor girl cry when one of his own students, his own, had called him a bullying coward. Well, he wasnt going to take that, even from his own House. Hed removed five House points and assigned a twenty-minute detention. Hed presumed that would be the end of it. Only it wasnt. The next thing that had happened was Draco Malfoy, white with fear, begging him to find an antidote for the poison that Greengrass had forced down his throat. Snape had initially been excited. Lucius would pay a large reward for saving his sons life. It would make a major contribution to his retirement fund. He continued working on the sex potion automatically, as he added the Ashwinder eggs, cleaning his hands afterward.

Things had gone on normally for a week before he had been ordered to attend a meeting of the Hogwarts Board of Governors. He hadnt been concerned. Lucius was back on the Board, and Lucius wouldnt allow anything to happen to the man finding his sons cure. Only he had arrived to find that there was someone new in Lucius chair someone he didnt recognise. The man explained to him that the Malfoy family was bankrupt, that someone had purchased all their debts and foreclosed on them. That Malfoy had overextended himself in his backing of Voldemort, and was now penniless. He had cursed to himself this was going to affect his retirement. And Professor Snape, the stranger had continued inexorably. By request of the students of your House, and because of your appalling behaviour with the students of all Houses, we are removing you from the Head of Slytherin House position. He had been stunned into speechlessness, and hadnt even thought till later about the drop in pay involved. It was substantial. So here he was, spending his weekend making a sex potion, which had turned purple at the right time and had been stirred correctly throughout. Hed abandoned the search for an antidote for the younger Malfoy; there was no way he was going to waste valuable ingredients and research time on the boy. He was positive that Greengrass was more than competent enough to make an antidote very difficult to find. She was a Slytherin after all. He allowed the potion to cool for an hour, while he tidied up his workshop. It might be small, but it was one of the best laid out potions chambers in the world. Magic, proper magic, not that stuff caused by foolish wand waving, went on here, and soon he would have the money to be able to purchase the ingredients he needed. He would make his cure for werewolves, sell it to a distributor for an absolute fortune, and then leave the country, long before the side effect the death, after a year, of every werewolf who took it was discovered. He poured the lilac potion into a vial, and left a small amount for testing. He couldnt afford to gain a bad reputation yet, so he always tested his creations himself (the nondeadly ones at least) to ensure that they were perfect. They always were. But he liked to be sure. He swallowed the potion quickly and absently decided which of his students he would fantasise about as he relieved the effects of the sex enhancer. And he yawned. He waited for the expected rush, but all that came was another yawn, this one bigger, and he started to feel sleepy. Sleepy? Dread filled him. Something had gone wrong. He shouldnt feel sleepy. But what had happened? Hed done the potion properly. He had even cleaned his fingers after touching the eggs. Wait. He shook himself. He didnt need to do that, they were only eggs after all. He stumbled frantically over to his supplies, not caring as he knocked his completed potions in all directions. Finite Incantatem , he whispered, and the box of eggs seemed to shimmer and change. It was no longer a box of eggs but asphodel in an infusion of wormwood. But if you added wormwood infusion, instead of eggs, to the sex potion He slumped to the ground. Hed just made his own death. A living death. He almost smiled. Of all the ways he had expected to die, this was perhaps the kindest. Greengrass had certainly struck in style. Still, at least Potter was dead as well. It was almost worthwhile to die, knowing that the Potter family had been wiped out for eternity. He settled down onto the floor, and relaxed, wondering how Greengrass had managed to switch the ingredients. The deliveryman couldnt have known, even if it had felt so good to berate him. He hadnt felt like that since the last time hed insulted Potter. And the delivery driver had given him the same insolent look as Potter had.

No, he whispered, as he tried to lurch to his feet. He fell forward onto his counter, desperately searching for something, anything, that might keep him awake. The deliveryman had had green eyes. The potions escaped his grasp, and he sank down, screaming as he fell into the endless sleep, a sleep that was an eternal nightmare. A nightmare infested with Harry Potter and Daphne Greengrass laughing at him. Forever.

Matryoshka Vignettes He's Alive

Hermione Granger sat in a large armchair with a copy of her favourite book on her lap. It was a position she had been in countless times, and it had never failed to calm her and allow her to immerse herself in the book. Until now. So far, this afternoon, shed calculated the size of the ceiling in square inches, counted the number of leaves she could see out of the window, and watched a spider build a web. It was the books fault. The book was lying to her. Or rather, the front page was lying to her. Underneath the signatures of the authors (eight, over a thirty year period) was the untidy scrawl of Harry Potter.

Thanks for always being there. H.J.P.

It was a lie. She hadnt been there when he really needed her. None of his friends had been. Only his new girlfriend had been there. Everything had been so clear after Dumbledores funeral. She had been told the secret first that the Professor had faked his death to allow him to get hold of the Horcruxes , and she had been amazed at his cleverness, and swore to her allegiance to him. Then shed gone to the Burrow, and talked to Ginny, only to find out that Ginny and Harry had broken up. Well, she wasnt going to have that. Ginny was perfect for Harry. Shed get them back together. She knew about Harrys jealousy the previous year, as hed watched Ginny and Dean, and playing on that would soon make Harry realise he was being silly. Besides, Ginnys idea of just slapping him wouldnt work. Harry had been cheerful when he had greeted her at Grimmauld Place, and she was excited to see him. She couldnt wait to see his face when he realised just how clever Dumbledore had been. Hed grabbed her hand, and told her he had a plan, and that theyd talk later. And that was the last time she ever saw him happy. When he had come out of the meeting with Dumbledore, he had changed. His eyes had dimmed. She hadnt really noticed it at the time, but when was hindsight not twentytwenty? Hed asked her, hed begged her to go with him and deal with Voldemort. But shed said no, positive that Dumbledore knew what was best. And shed said no again and again. Ron and Ginny had followed her theyd felt the same way. That Dumbledore had it all under control. And so they had returned to school, and Harry had retreated into his shell and it wasnt really a surprise. He did that a lot. Daphnes words at the funeral echoed around her mind again. They had been haunting her, keeping her from sleeping. He understood that you cant stand by and watch evil when you can do something about it. It was something that everyone else didnt get. Every time someone died, Harry felt it. Every time someone was tortured, he felt their pain. He knew that it would continue until he defeated Voldemort. It was his sense of responsibility, his nobility, and everything else that made up Harry James Potter. I truly believe that forcing him to do nothing was the biggest torture that you could have inflicted on him. His soul had been dying bit by bit. The words shamed her with their truth. They taunted her with their accuracy. Shed watched as Harry had slowly been torn apart, and not even realised what was happening.

She had failed him as a friend. She had failed. Ginny had tried to make him jealous, but hed hardly seemed to notice. He just took to vanishing from the Common Room. Hermione had tried to find him, tried to follow him, but couldnt. It was almost as if Hogwarts was conspiring with him. She didnt even realise he knew about her and Ron. She thought shed been so clever, hiding her relationship with him from Harry. After all, Harry never knew how long prefect meetings went on for, and it allowed them to have some private time before and after. Some friend she had been, not even telling him that she was in love. She thought it would have changed things between them, made it harder for him in some way, so figured that hiding it would be best. She had failed. And when she stopped being that friend for him, that friend who was always there for him, he found someone else. Daphne Greengrass a girl who had made the phrase Ice Princess a grim reality. A girl who everyone knew not to touch and not to play with. A girl who everyone knew was going to do exactly what she wanted in her life, and no one and nothing would stand in her way. Only Harry Potter would see that as a good thing. Everyone had known about how she had dealt with Draco, how the younger Malfoy was more terrified of her than he was of Voldemort. Her best friend had fallen in love, and she hadnt even noticed. She couldnt blame him for not telling her it would have been hypocritical to do so. She lightly traced the outline of the words in front of her, his last message to her, and sighed softly. He had chosen well. He had chosen a girl who didnt second guess him, who understood where he was coming from, and understood that sometimes you have to fight for what you think is right. Although she didnt know it, Daphnes casual revelation of the truth behind Salazar Slytherin had been like a shockwave through the school. Slytherin House had undergone a huge change. Snape was no longer the Head of House. Ousted not for his behaviour with Harry, although that was a factor, but because the students had demanded that someone more openminded be placed in control. Draco and his allies, far from ruling, had then been treated as pariahs, as traitors who had dragged the name of Salazar Slytherin through the mud. And Draco. She smiled slightly in admiration for what Daphne accomplished. The boy had looked awful, hed lost weight, his hair was always filthy, and every waking hour when he wasnt in class had been spent in the library. For the first day after Harrys funeral he had been loud and boisterous, fighting for his place in Slytherin, because of the overwhelming hatred among his former colleagues. The second day everything had changed. Hedwig had flown into the school and dropped a letter in front of him. A Howler. Everyone knew that Daphne must have sent it, and everyone had held their breath while he opened it, an expression of pure terror on his face. The Howler had been much shorter than everyone expected. Only four words.

It wasnt a bluff .
Draco had seemed to fold into himself. Hed turned and run out of the Great Hall. She had received an owl at the same time. Her message was different.

It was a bluff, so when he asks you for help in five weeks, say no. D.
Daphne had been right. It had taken Draco five weeks to ask her for help. And she had moved closer to him, and whispered in his ear. Drop dead. Draco had started to cry and abandoned all dignity. He dropped to his knees and begged her for his life. If hed really been dying, she would have helped. But she turned on her heel and walked away, leaving him on the floor. It was a resigned Draco who had turned up on the last day of school. With his family bankrupt, hed had no one to turn to for help except for Snape, and no one knew what had happened to him. Hed simply disappeared, abandoning the Potions classes to a substitute.

And Hedwig had flown in again with another Howler. Shed figured out that Daphne was sending them so that everyone could hear what was going on. Youre not going to die, Malfoy, the voice said Daphne must have been whispering, as the Howlers amplification made it normal. But now you know how the victims of your terrorism have felt. Live well, because next time there wont be an elaborate charade. Ill just kill you. The final threat had been more chilling because Daphnes voice hadnt changed. It was a statement of fact, and Draco had known it. The blond placed his head into his hands and cried in relief. But seeing the final victory over Malfoy hadnt filled her with glee. It reminded her too much of what she had lost. Harry. Ginny. Ron. And how the four of them would have loved this. While Ginny had forgiven her, their friendship had never recovered. They were polite to each other, but the closeness that used to exist had been broken. The arguments shed had with Ron had spiralled out of control. And no amount of time spent in a broom cupboard could make up for the hurtful things theyd said to each other, as theyd dealt with their grief in the worst possible way. And so she had finished Hogwarts as she had begun it: with no friends. The only difference being that shed had a wonderful friend. And she had lost him. After the funeral, Dumbledore had approached her, his eyes twinkling, and for the first time she had really looked at him. Not as the Supreme Mugwump. Not as the Headmaster. But as a man. And she did not like what she had seen. She looked him in the eyes and had then slowly turned on her heel. Every time hed tried to talk to her, shed responded with monosyllabic answers. Never rude but never friendly, always leaving the impression that shed be happy if they never talked again. If only shed done that when it had mattered. If only shed listened to her best friend. If she had, she would have been there for Harry. She might not have been able to fight as viciously as Daphne had, but she would have had Ron and Ginny with her, and the numbers would have made the difference. They would have been able to keep Harry alive, and still deal with the three Death Eaters. She paused. Three Death Eaters. One dead from the Killing Curse. Two dead from a Cutting Curse. Thats what Daphne had told them. But there had only been two dead Death Eaters at the church. Two Death Eaters. A dead Harry and a dead Voldemort. There was a missing body. She shook her head slowly and thought back to another throwaway comment. That Daphne had visited Snapes dungeon beforehand. Another thing popped into her mind. A mental picture. Daphne looking at her watch, her Muggle watch. And then, when she had walked out, Daphne had taken the ribbon from her hair and placed it in a snakeskin purse. A particularly striking purse, most likely a Nagini-skin purse. Daphne had said that she had collapsed after the fight. But Nagini had gone by the time they had returned the next day. She mentally went through Daphnes final words and gasped. Daphne never said that Harry was dead! Just that his eyes closed, and that she thought it was the end. There was no way in Hades that Daphne would accept his death so passively. Daphne had chosen Harry, and she would not let anyone, even death, stop that. All of her thoughts left her with one inescapable conclusion. He was alive. Harry was alive! She leaned back in the chair and smiled, and then reached for a quill. She had so many people to tell. She stopped and looked at her hand. Deliberately, she placed the quill back down.

She wasnt going to fail again. She would give him the privacy that he wanted, that hed earned, and let him and Daphne find their home, and then in time, say, perhaps five years, she would send him a single letter, telling him that she knew he was alive, that she had known for years, that she was sorry for everything, and ask to meet him. She would promise him that even if he said no, she would take his secret to her grave. She traced his words with her fingers again. She hoped that she would be allowed to be there for him in the future, but even if not, she could be there for him now. She smiled gently, turned the page and started to read.

Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry was founded by Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin.

Matryoshka Vignettes Wings of a Prayer

Ginny held her hands out to the side as they swooped down and around the field outside the Burrow. She had no fear. His arms were holding her against him as he forced the broom into impossible manoeuvres. He inverted them both, and she could feel her t-shirt float up her body, and his hand move across her stomach, holding her in place. But now he was touching bare skin. His hand felt like it was branding her, claiming her. She laughed happily as they swooped up vertically, pressing her tighter against him. She could feel that he was enjoying it as much as she was the impressive bulge she could feel was definitely not part of the cushioning charm. He levelled out, and she inched forward before swinging her legs up and acrobatically spinning so that she was facing him. It was a perfect night. It was warm and cloudless, and he had cast a charm over the entire field, so that they could have fun without worrying about her family or any wandering Muggles. She had a much better idea of fun than he did. He was watching her curiously, his green eyes smiling warmly at her. She smirked back at him as she grabbed the bottom of her t-shirt and pulled it off smoothly, shaking her head a little to get her hair out. He gulped, and his eyes seemed to catch fire. Before she could lose her courage, she reached behind herself and undid her bra, letting it follow her t-shirt to the ground far below. She could hear him exhale slowly as he looked at her. And then he moved; he pulled off his own t-shirt, leaving him as topless as she was, and it was her turn to gasp. She never expected him to be so beautiful as he sat there, his fair skin gleaming in the bright moonlight. She opened her arms again, in an invitation for him to come and claim her, to take her, to make her his. He moved along the broom, bringing it down as he did, so that by the time he was against her, their feet were on the ground. She arched her head back, rubbing her chest against his, glorying in the new sensations of being wicked, scarlet, and loving every single second of it. She kissed him, deeply, feeling his arms hold her so tight, as if she was the only thing that mattered in the world to him. I love you, Harry, she whispered. I love you too, he whispered back and then paused for a second. Daphne. Ginny woke, the scream dying in her mouth before she could let it loose. She stumbled out of bed, grabbed a dressing gown, and walked down the stairs, getting a drink of water from the tap in the kitchen before she went outside and sat on the grass. It was the third time this week she had been through the same dream; the third time her subconscious had punished her. It wasnt as if she needed her subconscious to beat her up she was doing a pretty good job of it with her conscious mind. Everything had changed that one morning. When Harry had broken up with her, she had been expecting it, for exactly the reasons he gave, and she was ready to give him some time and space, before pointing out how silly he was. When Harry came to Grimmauld Place for the summer that was when she had decided that she was going to correct his silly assumptions. But then she had talked to Hermione, and decided on a different course of action. Shed tease him a little make him want her so that he came to her. Shed made the decision to act as teenager, not an adult. And it hadnt worked.

Shed worn revealing clothing in front of him, but he was distracted by Dumbledores return from the dead, by trying to convince them to go with him. Dumbledore had explained to her why he had faked his death, and showed her the Horcruxes that he had already collected, and how he had destroyed them. And he asked for her help. The great Albus Dumbledore had asked for her little Ginny Weasleys help. Hed said that he knew that she and Harry were close, and thought it was wonderful, and then asked her to make sure Harry didnt go off on his own. Dumbledore had pointed out how badly it had gone when they had lost Sirius, and she could remember how devastated Harry had been. It made sense to agree; Dumbledore had it under control, and shed soon be able to get back with Harry. But she never did get back with him. Shed tried making him jealous Hermione had told him about how jealous hed been of Dean only it didnt work. He pulled away from her, from everyone. Harry asked her to ignore Dumbledore and trust him. Shed laughed as if it was a joke and told him not to be silly. She hadnt even thought that her refusal meant that she didnt trust him. She did. Only, she trusted Dumbledore more, and wanted Harry safe. She knew he could handle himself in a fight, more so this year, as it seemed to come naturally to him. Shed abandoned trying to make him jealous, and tried to talk to him. But he was never around to talk to. She wanted to explain, but could never find him. It was as if Hogwarts was helping him hide. And then hed come to her, one more time, and begged her to go with him, to help him fight Voldemort. And shed been a good girl, and told him to wait, that Dumbledore had things under control. He had smiled at her. The last smile she had seen from him. And it was a sad smile. A smile that had something in it she didnt understand. He kissed her forehead and retreated, leaving her stunned, her apology and explanations locked in her throat. And by the time she had recovered, he was gone. And then her world had crashed down. Hermione had flown into her room, telling that Harry had been found, that he was dead. Dead. Harry Potter. Dead. It didnt seem right. It didnt seem possible. She understood then. She understood the smile. It had said goodbye. Her mind wandered to his farewell gift to her: the Marauders Map. She understood the gift, how much it meant to him, and how much it meant to her, but also that it was a symbol of the past. Like she was. It had been unspoken for years, but she had always thought that at the end, it would be the four of them, with Dumbledore, fighting Voldemort. And it would be a big battle, and they would win, and then Harry would marry her and they would live happily ever after, with children with deep red hair and sparkling green eyes. But real life hadnt been like that. Real life had Harry fighting alongside his girlfriend. A new girlfriend no one even knew he had. A girlfriend who took the time to get to know Harry, and when she had, a girlfriend who did exactly what she wanted. She envied Daphnes courage, more than anything else. Daphne had slept with Harry because she wanted to, unconcerned about what anyone else thought. If only she had displayed the same courage, things would have been different. She had thought about sleeping with him. Hell, shed fantasised repeatedly about sleeping with him, but when she had the chance, when they had been kissing, shed held back. Hed never pushed her, so it had been easy. But now, she didnt know why she had. Now her subconscious was punishing her for ignoring her dreams. For thinking of others and not herself. She sighed and stared at the stars, wondering which one was him. The problem was that he had grown up, and she hadnt. Hed asked as an adult for help, and shed responded as the teenager she was, ignoring her own intuition and following others. She shook her head, letting the tears run down her cheek and into the sweet smelling grass. She had been given her chance for heaven, and had blown it big time, and no amount of blaming others could hide the fact that in the end, it had been her own decisions that had caused it.

And now she faced a year at Hogwarts alone, with everyone knowing what had happened. A year where she would have to explain to anyone who asked that she wouldnt date anyone because it wouldnt be fair to them, not while she was still in love with Harry. A year as the only Weasley. Without Hermione, without Ron, and forever without Harry. A year without excitement, as Voldemort was dead, Snape was missing, and Draco was gone forever. Hell, it was even a year without Daphne. She hadnt had much to do with the Slytherin Ice Queen. Daphne had always been a little intimidating, with her almost flawless beauty and serene self-confidence. Shed felt awkward and ungainly every time they had exchanged a few words. But Harry hadnt. Harry had seen her as a challenge, and had gone about it in the same direct way he did everything else, and Harry had fallen in love with her. And Daphne was as alone as she was. Where are you? she whispered to herself. Are you hurting as much as I am? More? She sat up suddenly, dashed back into the house, and upstairs. She wrote out a note, and passed it to Pigwidgeon Find Hedwig, and then give this to her owner, she ordered. She smiled as the owl carried her hope into the night sky, and went back to bed. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldnt, but at least she had tried. For Harry, she had tried.

Daphne, Im sorry, well, for a lot of things. For taking this long to write to you. I was so locked up in myself that I didnt even think about how much worse it must be for you. I know Im probably not the person you would probably think of, but if you need to talk, Im here. We do have one thing in common we both loved Harry. Ginny Weasley

Matryoshka Vignettes The Unforgiving Minute

Neville Longbottom finished picking up the potions that were scattered over the floor and took a deep breath. He couldnt delay any longer. Much as he wanted to, this was it; this was his chance to overcome his fear. He swallowed deeply, and then bent over the stationary form of Severus Snape, and lightly dripped the potion he had brought down his exProfessors throat. He picked up Snapes wand and snapped it absently. It would take a few minutes for the potion to kick in, so he crossed his arms and waited, leaning against the counter in a studied pose of casualness. Somehow it hadnt been a surprise that Harry was alive. With Harry gone, Gryffindor had lost its natural leader, and while he couldnt, and wouldnt, take Harrys place, he had become the person that the other students turned to the senior Gryffindor, if only by default. And then hed received a letter, and a Portkey, delivered by Hedwig.

We need to talk. D.
There had never been any doubt as to who the D was. Everyone knew that the witch had taken ownership of Hedwig, and that she was waging a fiendish campaign against everyone who had ever stood against Harry. His first reaction had been a tinge of fear, followed by some deep soul searching to check if he had ever said anything or done anything against Harry. As far as he could tell, he hadnt. So, like the Gryffindor he was, he activated the Portkey, and felt himself pulled through space. With Voldemort dead, and him being in his final year, he was allowed out of school most weekends. He arrived somewhere unknown, and given the fact that it was night, it was probably at the other end of the Earth. He was on a beach with an absolutely gorgeous view of a dark ocean that sparkled beneath the moon and stars. A stone path led the way through some dense foliage that shimmered dark green where the moonlight touched it, and he followed it. He thought about getting his wand out, but well, if Daphne wanted to hurt him, his wand wasnt going to do much. He could feel his heart pounding faster than he wanted it to. The path led up a slight hill, before it flattened and path went onward for another half a mile, past a lake, a waterfall, and a swimming pool. Finally, he came to a huge house that seemed to be made of glass. With a pop, a house-elf appeared in front of him. Dobby? Neville asked. He didnt know why he was surprised; after all, hed heard the rumours about the house-elfs relationship with Harry, and even seen examples of it before Harry had died, as the two would often be seen talking together. Dobby smiled at him and turned, leading him silently into what was the largest, airiest living room he had ever seen. The sofa alone probably could have fit most of Gryffindor House. Daphne was sat comfortably near one of the corners. She looked as flawless as usual, even in what was pretty informal clothing a summer dress, with her long black hair loose around her shoulders. Im glad you could make it, Mr Longbottom. Please take a seat, she offered formally, indicating a space near her. He gulped and walked over to her. His palms felt damp. She hadnt said anything that could be regarded as even remotely hostile, but he still felt intimidated. He could also see, now, just why Harry had fallen for her. As she had at school, Daphne appeared completely in control, as if she knew exactly where she was going, and how she was going to get there, and nothing at all would stop her. That sort of strength would have been so appealing to his friend. Someone who could be a true partner to him. Im sorry, he said simply, as he sat down.

Daphne raised one eyebrow elegantly. What ever for? she asked. Her voice was a little warmer now, a little smoother. That you lost Harry, he explained. For us, we lost a close friend; for you, it was so much more. Daphne nodded slowly. And that was when he knew. Without a doubt, he knew. There was no trace of sadness around Daphne, no loss of confidence, nothing at all. And it could only mean one of two things. One was that she was over his death already, but considering the raw emotion she had shown at his funeral, that was definitely not the case. That left the other, inescapable conclusion. Harry was alive. And it made even more sense, when you looked at what had happened afterwards. The things that had happened had been Slytherin, but they had Gryffindor tendencies as well. They taught people a lesson, but didnt actually do much damage. As if a Slytherin and a Gryffindor were working together. He smiled at her widely, relaxing for the first time. Thats the best bit of news Ive had in months, he grinned. What is? Daphne asked, not a quiver on her face giving away what she was feeling. Sorry, Neville said, feeling buoyant, but youre too perfect. I am? You are, he said. Harrys alive. Harry clapped as he walked into the living room. You owe me, he said to Daphne. Damnable Gryffindors, Daphne sighed. Neville looked at Harry, and had to blink a few times. For a second, he had trouble recognising him. He had never seen Harry look so so carefree and relaxed. He was wearing a pair of dark green shorts, and nothing else. His body, pale the last time Neville had seen it, was now suntanned, and he appeared to have been working out a lot, because his muscles were much more evident. In fact, Harry appeared more intimidating than before, as his confidence seemed to have grown with his new physique. Harry took a seat next to Daphne, and idly took her hand, playing with her fingers. So you two did what you said you would? Left the Wizarding world and found a place in paradise? They both nodded. So why are you still paying attention to what goes on back there? Because I had to fall for a damn Gryffindor, Daphne said, with a slight smile on her face. Harry grinned at her, and it was the first time that Neville saw the grin that Daphne had described at the funeral. Because you dont gain self-respect by becoming what you dislike, Harry explained. As soon as I got over my initial anger at everyone... He got all moody and started comparing himself to Dumbledore, Daphne interrupted. Regardless of the situations being completely different, he did have a small point. Thank you, Harry said with another grin. So we decided to have a bit of fun. My non-death is never going to be publicly announced, but I am going to tell my friends and family. Daph and I love it here, Dobby takes good care of us, and we have nearly everything we want. Apart from friends, Daphne said dryly. Harry has convinced me I was just unlucky with my choices in the past, and that friends might be pleasant. And more importantly, if we have children, at some stage they will have to go to school, and we cant trust the Wizarding world at the moment, so we thought wed change it. It was the simplicity of the sentence that struck Neville more than anything else. They didnt like something, so they were going to change it. As if changing the world was just as easy as turning the page in a book. Neither of them seemed to realise that it wasnt easy, that it was difficult, hard work, and an incredible challenge. But then, maybe for them, it wasnt. It was just something they had decided to do, so they were going to do it. How can I help? he asked. Harry laughed softly and nudged Daphne in the ribs.

What is it about you Gryffindors? Daphne asked, her voice was curious, not accusing. That you just volunteer to help? Trust, Neville said, after a moments thought. I trust Harry. But not me? Daphne asked, her voice still curious. He nodded. I dont know you, he explained almost apologetically. You dont, Daphne agreed. And in other situations, you never would. It was a statement of fact, not an insult. But, as my life seems to have been diverted by a hard-hitting Gryffindor, I am now Daphne Potter. Welcome, Neville Longbottom, to our home. She held out her hand. Neville took it solemnly. Congratulations, he offered. Thank you, Daphne said, and seemed to relax. She lifted her legs up and leant against Harry. And for the first time, Neville saw the girl behind the Ice Queen mask, the girl that Harry had seen from the start. In a way, he envied Harry even more now, for having the strength to look at Daphne, and to blast his way through everything blocking his path to her. Now that were all acquainted, Harry said with a teasing glint in his eyes, we have a he paused as if searching for the right words. A combined present and challenge for you. And now here he was, with his present and challenge about to awaken. Snape started to move, muttering, Potter, it was Potter, as he started to wake up. Neville smiled slightly, Harry would be amused when he told him that Snape had recognised him. Snape awoke with a large twitch that seemed to flex his entire body. The professor climbed to his feet, swearing and muttering under his breath, before he turned and stared at Neville in disbelief. What are you doing here, you incompetent moron? Snape sneered. Every past insult came back to Neville; every time Snape had insulted him, had sneered at him, had belittled him came back to him, and he felt like running away, like leaving, like hiding. Shut up, he said simply, his voice cold. His heart was racing, but he would not show that to Snape. Snapes eyes grew, and he pulled himself to his full height. What did you say? Snape roared. Neville almost gulped, but he stopped himself. He would not show the weakness he felt to this man. He would not be intimidated any more. This was it, this was his chance. He would not let himself down. He would not let Harry and Daphne down. I said, Shut up, he repeated evenly. And might I suggest you do something to clear your breath? It stinks. Snape gaped at him. And then seemed to draw himself closer together. You owe me, Neville said, before Snape could yell again. You owe me a life debt. Snape paused and shook his head. I owe you nothing. Without me, you would still be sleeping with your potions, until your body died of old age, Neville pointed out, folding his arms. Snape sneered at him. Neville shrugged and pulled out his wand. He used a curse that Daphne had taught him that paralysed the victim from the neck down, and he picked up the potion that Snape had made originally. Then you can rot here, he said cheerfully. Goodnight, Snape. He moved over to toward the greasy professor. Youre not going to do it, Snape said disdainfully. Release me at once. You seem to have forgotten, Neville said, bending over for effect, that I hate you. He sent a quick thank you mentally to Daphne. She had made him practice with her, and it had worked. Snape was good at intimidation, but Daphne was far better. He reached out and pinched Snapes nose, then pulled his hand away disgustedly, and wiped the slight grease from his fingers. He let his distaste show as he pulled a handkerchief out. Wait, Snape croaked.

Neville paused, and looked at him. I acknowledge the debt, Snape said formally. Neville shivered slightly as his magic responded. Excellent, he said brightly. And while I have your attention, Im calling in your debt to Harrys father as well. You cant do that, Snape protested. I can, Neville contradicted him. This is blackmail, Snape yelled. Fun, isnt it? Neville grinned. His heart was returning to normal now that Snape was immobile. What do you want? Harry wants your promise that you will never reveal that he is alive, Neville said. Swear, on your debt to his father, that you will not do or say anything that would either announce, or lead others to think, that he is alive. The phrasing was Daphnes. Snape looked disgusted. I so swear, he grunted. Neville nodded. Now, the next thing; you are going to come with me, and work on potions. Specifically, a potion to cure my parents. Why? Snape asked, still managing to load the word with absolute contempt, despite being held immobile. Because this place is a dump, Neville sniffed. We have a much better home for you, where you can work properly. And after youve cured my parents, youre going to fix the werewolf potion. How do you know about that? Snape gasped. Daphne has been through all your notes, Neville replied, looking at Snape with contempt. He was starting to wonder just why he had ever thought the man was intimidating. He wasnt. He was full of bluster and malice, but he was empty inside. He was a bully, pure and simple. If you do a good job with the werewolf potion, he continued, you will be allowed to retire as you had planned, and you will never have to worry about money again. Snapes eyes gleamed with greed, and Neville almost sighed. The man wasnt a Slytherin, not in the slightest. Daphne was a Slytherin, and the difference was like night and day. Snape was just a nasty, petty, little man. Neville reached into his pocket and pulled out a Portkey. He grabbed hold of Snapes shoulder and activated it. They appeared in a large room in a small castle in the heart of the Cotswolds, miles away from anywhere. Snape tried to Apparate, but the wards wouldnt let him. Only when he was sure he couldnt escape did Snape bother to look at his new surroundings. Neville watched as Snapes eyes lit up as he stared at the potions chamber before him. Daphne had fitted it with everything that Snape could want, including the ingredients. Neville removed the spell holding Snape still and watched as Snape lurched toward the shelves of ingredients. Food will be provided for you, Neville said. You can walk around the house and the gardens, but I wouldnt try going any further. We will be back to check on you regularly. Yes, yes, Snape said absently, moving toward one of the cauldrons. Your bedroom is next door, Neville finished. He shook his head. Snape seemed almost excited. In a way, Neville realised, this must be Snapes idea of heaven. A puzzle to fix, all the potion ingredients he could ever need, and not actually having to deal with anyone. There is a full list of symptoms and observations on the wall, he added, and turned away. Longbottom, Snape called. What? Neville asked. If I do it, and the Wolfsbane one, will I be allowed to stay? If you do both, Neville said softly, offering Daphnes final carrot, This whole place will belong to you. Snapes eyes widened and he turned, gathering more ingredients and muttering to himself. Neville touched his Portkey and returned to Harry and Daphnes island. Its done, he said as he walked into their living room. How do you feel? Harry asked.

Neville slowly smiled. Like a man.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds worth of distance run Yours is the Earth and everything thats in it, And which is more youll be a Man my son! Rudyard Kipling, If.

Matryoshka Vignettes A Thousand Miles

Everybody makes mistakes. But it takes someone quite special to really screw up. And doing it more than once? Well, that just puts me at the top of the damn tree. Its not something that I can say I like that I look into a mirror, and wonder just who the hell I am these days. Ronald Hated Middle Name Weasley one-time best friend of the Boy-Who-Lived. One-time. Merlin, how I hate those words. How I wish that they werent true. How I wish. Unlike most people, I can pinpoint the exact moment I made the mistake. The exact moment I agreed to screw up my own life. He was clever, he played me perfectly, and I sang like a eunuch for him. And what do I have to show for it? Best friend? Nope. Girlfriend? Nope. Sister-as-friend? Barely. Happiness? Hell no. Invisibility Cloak worth a bloody fortune? Yes. And Id trade that bloody cloak for the things Ive lost without hesitation. You know, I have fame now, I have something worth more than my parents house, and finally, FINALLY, I understand that its all bloody useless. August 14th four days short of a year ago. That was the date. That was when I signed over my dignity in exchange for a few words of praise. Life was great. Well, apart from the whole Dumbledore being dead thing. But I was pretty sure that Harry was going to stick with his wild idea about skipping school for the last year and going on a Horcrux hunt. Now, how does that sound to you? Scary? Stupid? Oh yeah, and so much fun. Harry and I would have been able to persuade Hermione, especially as I couldnt wait to tell him that we were now dating. Yeah, I had the most beautiful and smart witch in the country dating me. And man, you wouldnt believe the curves that are under those robes. Life was good, you know? Sure, there was the whole Harry-not-dating-Ginny-as-he-should routine, but Ginny was going to let loose that famous Weasley temper she inherited from Mum, and hey presto, one happy group later, wed all be ready to kick some Horcrux arse. But then Mum called me down into the Library at Grimmauld Place. I thought it was for homework. Id started it, honestly, but you know, it was summer holidays and me doing homework was about as likely as Nessie signing autographs for the Muggles. And that monster hates publicity. He just wants to spend all day asleep, and the evening swimming around and having fun. Sounds like a good life to me. Anyway, I wandered in alone, and blow me down if it wasnt Albus Dumbledore. Most people would have said None other than Albus Dumbledore. Now I know Im no English expert, hell, if you look at my Potion notes, you could rightfully claim that English is my third or fourth language, but that phrase just seems so wrong to me. It makes my teeth grate. Youre dead, I said intelligently, proving once again that I am hero material with my sparkling wit. Ron Weasley, professional stater of the obvious, at your bleeding service. Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated, he said, his eyes twinkling. No shit, I replied, and then blushed furiously. I couldnt believe Id just sworn in front of the headmaster. He just laughed softly, in that were sharing a private joke way he always had. It made me smile as well mainly because I wasnt going to get bollocked for the swearing. Its a good job Mum didnt hear me say that. He smiled and indicated a table behind him, with some objects on the back. I have used my death wisely, he said solemnly. And I have collected most of the Horcruxes.

Blimey, I whistled, moderating my language a bit. Ive got to say, I was impressed. Faking your death and pulling this off was a bit of class. He smiled. But I am afraid that I must ask for your help, Ron. I need someone I can trust, someone reliable. Well, my chest inflated so far it was surprising I didnt hit him. I, me, Ronald That Name Weasley was being asked for help and not Harry. So it was my turn. And boy was I excited. As you can see, Dumbledore said. Ive got everything under control. I am aware that Harry is contemplating going after the Horcruxes himself, and it is imperative that he does not do that. Of course, I agreed, my tongue so far up his backside I was giving Percy a run for his money. That would be a stupid idea. I conveniently forgot that Id been thinking that it was going to be fun a few minutes before. Harry is going to have another difficult year, he sighed. I nodded, not having a clue as to why. So I must ask that you make things as easy for him as possible, and do not mention your burgeoning relationship with the young Miss Granger. I blushed how the hell had he known that? Of course, I agreed. At the time, it made some sort of sense, and it was for Harry, you know? He mentioned that Harry was going to be Head Boy, but that it was more an honorary position this year he wouldnt really be the Head Boy, and I would actually be the head of the prefects. Well, I think I heard Ginny yell in pain as my ego crushed her from forty feet away. And so, with a few more requests from him, I was on my way. De facto Head Boy, Captain of the Quidditch team, and, oh yeah, best friend of Harry Potter. I walked upstairs. Hermione had arrived, and I heard her telling Ginny that maybe making him jealous would be a good idea. Well, by heard, I mean I used an Extendable Ear, but thats not really important. That seemed like a great idea. Why? Because it would take time. If Harry and Ginny got back together immediately, theyd just go off on their own my sister would follow Harry through hell and high water, not that I can blame her, I feel that way myself most of the time. So I joined them, and I encouraged her. I betrayed her. After Hermione talked to Dumbledore, and talked to me about keeping our relationship a secret, I agreed. I betrayed her as well. And then when Harry saw Dumbledore, and he seemed a little down, and he asked me to go with him, I said no. And I really fucking betrayed him. A triple-play in the space of day. Yay me, what a fucking hero I was. So wrapped up in the shit Dumbledore had told me that I didnt even realise what I was doing. Why? Because I was the hero, the indispensable man for a change. But things didnt go according to plan. Rather than Harry being worried about Ginny making him jealous, he just shook his head and turned away. I thought he was hiding it. Then we went back to school, and everything was as planned. McGonagall was a good Headmistress, working with Dumbledore in the background. Ginny persuaded Seamus to help her, and Hermione and I were having excitement in the broom cupboards. As honorary Head Boy, Harry was told he didnt have to do prefect patrols, or even come to some of the more boring meetings, so we got the chance to go off for private time together before and after those boring meetings. Sneaking behind my best friends back, and enjoying it. How heroic. How absolutely bloody stupid. I mean, come on, this is Harry If I dont like the rules Ill bypass them completely Potter. Harry Potter with the Marauders Map. Can you fucking believe I forgot he had that map? Sneaking? I should have cast a spell to write Rons trying to shag Hermione in the 3rd floor Broom Cupboard, in letters of fire on the lake. And it was about then that Harry started to disappear. Dumbledore called me to the office, and asked me to find out where he was going. And I tried, I really did, but it was like Hogwarts herself was hiding him from me. I even tried to find out if he was seeing anyone else, and the only person he could be seeing was Daphne Greengrass. I laughed. Daphne Greengrass? Hell no. No one in the school would have a chance of getting near her. She was going to marry someone incredibly rich, incredibly good looking, incredibly powerful, and incredibly brave theyd need the bravery just to approach her. Anyone with more than three brain cells would have realised that Harry ticked all those boxes. Well, maybe not the good looking one; he doesnt do

anything for me, despite those rumours Malfoy started about us being a trio in more than one way. So I was stumped. But then Harry came to me. Hey Ron, he said, his eyes alight again, and I realised that I hadnt seen that fire for quite some time. Whats up? I asked him. Fancy a game of chess? Nah, he laughed. Ive had enough of having my arse kicked to last me a lifetime. I wanted to ask you something. How do you fancy coming with me to deal with Nagini and Voldemort? Dumbledore has that under control, I said, disappearing up Dumbledores backside. Please, Ron, he said. Weve been friends for ages. Lets go and finish this. I cant wait any more. He was begging, not in the standard way, but his eyes were pleading with me. And I betrayed him again. I waffled, I quoted Dumbledore. I vanished further into Dumbledores nether regions. Here, he said. Look after this for me, as he handed me his cloak. He looked at me, and his eyes were so sad. Thanks, he said simply. For everything. And those were the last words he said to me. To his betrayer. He knew. He didnt blame me for it. Id chosen to be Dumbledores sheep. And that was it. The next thing I remember was Hermione, crying, saying that Harry was dead. I called her a liar. Harry wasnt dead. Id been protecting him for the past few months. I was a hero. Im not bloody lying, Ron, Hermione screamed. He went off and killed Nagini and Voldemort. I knew she wasnt lying then, because Hermione, swear? Not bloody likely. But... I said. She looked at me, and the words died in my throat. And that was the start. Even when Hermione and I were together, sneaking off in private Harrys presence had always been between us, and I thought that it was a little weird, and kinda in the way. I was wrong. Again. He was a buffer for us, forcing us both to grow up and be adults. Take away that buffer, and well, we said some pretty damn awful things to each other. We tried to make up with kissing, but calling someone a coldhearted bitch doesnt exactly work as the worlds best chat up line. But that was after the funeral. Before it, we were all in a daze. I remember at his funeral, saying a few words, and wishing he was still alive, while realising just how much he would have hated the ceremony. A way to honour him? Not bloody likely. And then Daphne Greengrass walked in. The Ice Queen. And I didnt want to believe her. Harry was supposed to be jealous of Ginny, and then get back to her, and Idve done my job. But that wasnt the case. Hed thought that Ginny was being childish and she was, we all were and hed gone and found himself someone else. Daphne Greengrass else. And that girl is a complete fox. More curves than a Quidditch pitch, a face that makes you want to drop to your knees and thank Merlin that you were male, and an attitude that makes Malfoy look like an incompetent buffoon (which he is). And she told Harrys side of things. And every word slammed into me. Every word said the same thing: Traitor. Traitor. Traitor. I remember afterward finding out that Dumbledore had done a Caesar on us. Yes, going out with Hermione was good for one thing. Hermione had

done some extra credit on Wizards in Ancient Rome, and Id read one of her essays. Divide and Conquer. Hed arranged for all three of us to, in one way or another, move away from Harry and not give him the support he needed. The result? Dumbledore thought Harry was too smart to go off on his own and he was. Dumbledore didnt think that Harry would simply find someone who else. Someone wouldnt betray him. Ron Weasley, clockwork toy. Stroke my ego, and watch me go. Independent thought? Not on my bloody watch. Hermione started ignoring Dumbledore as much as she could. I agreed with her completely. Dumbledore had been one of the causes, but we had all done our fair share. And we tore each other apart. Well, and this is where I am uncomfortable now. Ginny and I tore Hermione apart. It was her idea, right? Its not that we teamed up; its just that Ginny and I are family, so we never attacked each other much, and Hermione was there. We were dealing with grief, as was she, and we did the one thing that would make Harry disgusted with us, as he watched from wherever true Heroes go when they die. We turned against our remaining friends. I left Hogwarts alone. I didnt give a crap about my exams. I still dont. Hermione left Hogwarts alone. She did better than I did, but her heart wasnt in it. And rather than comfort her, Id helped destroy her. And here I am. Ron Weasley. Arsehole. Betrayer. Alone. But Ive had enough of the recriminations now. If there was one thing I knew about Harry, its that he would forgive me screwing up, but not if I didnt change. So I am changing; I am growing up. Im not a hero, I never was. I was just a guy lucky enough to be near someone who was truly great, who was willing to sacrifice for others, because it was the right thing to do. Ive apologised to Ginny, and apologised properly to Hermione. Not because I thought I could get her back we both did too much damage to ever get close again, but because it was the right thing to do. It was what Harry would have told me to do. I think she understood. And in a strange way, I think she misses him even more than I do. When she was an arrogant bookworm with big teeth that I liked to pick on, he was there for her. He was the first person ever to see someone worthwhile inside her, and drag that girl out. My pain was deep, but nowhere near as deep as the way hers had pierced her soul. For the first time I thought about her grief, not my own, and I felt sorry for her. Like I had, she had made a few bad decisions, but it cut through her even deeper. I lost Harry, my best friend. Hermione lost Harry, her very best friend, her brother, the one guy she could rely on. We are becoming friends again, slowly, and me? I am going to live my life how Harry tried to show me. Im going to be brave, Im going to try to be hard working and honest, so that when I finally meet up with Harry again, Ill be able to say sorry, and Ill be able to meet his eyes, having learnt the lessons that he taught me and lived properly. I took a few steps downstairs. I picked up some Floo powder, and called a name. Harry taught me that if you want something, or someone, no matter how far out of your league you think she might be, you have to go for it. Ron? Ill get Parvati... No, wait, I wanted to talk to you. To me? Yeah, and I smile. Do you fancy going out sometime? Me? she asked again. Yeah, you, Padma. She looks shocked, and then this shy little smile appears. Maybe.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step Lao Tzu

Matryoshka Vignettes And Now For Something Completely Different

The problem with ink was that it didnt taste very nice. And the ink that did taste nice wasnt dark enough. And the quills that you had to use with the ink werent bendy enough. How you were supposed to write intelligently about Snorkacks when your quill didnt bend? Luna sighed to herself and wrote another line. She just couldnt seem to find herself today. Shed looked behind the sofa, because Muggles were always finding things there. Shed tried surprising herself, but she always seemed to guess when she was coming, so it wasnt very surprising. The problem was that Harry Potter was alive. Very alive. And she didnt know what to do about it. Normally it would have been so clear the public had a right to know, and even if he was now forming a colony for single mother mermaids on a beautiful island, they should know just how wonderful he was. There were not many people willing to help the poor mermaids. She paused, and made a note on a piece of parchment to the left of her story. Fund raiser for Mermaids? Ideas: Tin donations everyone could send in a tin, and theyd convert them to something valuable. That was a good idea on its own, never mind the Mermaids. She made another note. Discover secret of Alchemy. Speak to Bob, he might know. She turned back to her story. And the perplexing puzzle producing permanent problem pontificating. Alliteration always aided an artistic attainment. Shed discovered he was alive when trying to track down what had happened to the Malfoy family. One day they had been rich; the next day Lucius had found that no one wanted to be a sycophant to a pauper. So shed gathered her trusty quill the note-taking one that did taste nice, even with green ink, and green ink normally made her sick and followed some rampaging pixies. The pixies, however, didnt seem to want to do anything but frolic, and certainly werent explaining what was going on with the Malfoys. Shed been very peeved with them, and had written a stinging editorial, pointing out how duplicitous they were. And then Daddy had rejected it, pointing out that duplicitous had four syllables, and all good negative words had an odd number of syllables. He was right, and by the time shed thought of one, it had been too much later, and then shed lost interest, when she stumbled across some paperwork. After shed picked herself up, and refrained from declaring war on the paper for its egregious treatment of her, shed read it. She was pretty sure that reading paper was good for it, and had been tempted not to read it and let it suffer instead. After all, if you were a perfectly good piece of paper that someone had taken the time to write on, then surely all you wanted from life was for someone to read you. She looked around guiltily for a second. Shed taken some time to taunt the paper first, pretending to read it, and then looking away at the last minute, and Daddy would be very disappointed with her for doing it. The paper had been a bill of acquisition, from the Goblins to a third party, passing on all of the Malfoy debts they held. Now, if the paper wasnt being unscrupulous, and shed questioned it closely on the matter, and it had retained its cool, and hadnt cracked under the pressure, even when she held it near a candle, this meant that there was someone who a) hated the Malfoys, b) had a lot of money and c) liked bananas. So, she had then been on a trail, and she had followed it. It was really nice, leading through a leafy forest, over a bubbling stream, and through a field. Unfortunately, the only place that trail was getting her was Kendal, and while she liked it, it wasnt helping her find out who had been hunting the Malfoys. Her next step had been to go and see the Goblins. This seemed like a logical thing to do, and she hoped Daddy never found out. Because if there was one thing that he had taught her, and there wasnt hed taught her many things it was that logic was the tool of Beelzebob. And Beelzebob

was the leader of the cult that the Daily Prophet worshipped, and he was powerful. Very powerful. How else could you explain the reason that the Prophet sold more papers than they did? Originally, they had thought it was something to do with the news, but they had quickly decided that sort of thinking was just the product of too much prune juice, and that they should cut back on it immediately. So they had, and their supplier had been very grumpy. Hed been importing it especially for them. Theyd felt sorry for him, and told him that Giants liked it just as much, and he was now raking in a fortune selling it by the barrelful to them. It was funny how so many people who were important in life had Bob in their name. Maybe it was because it was the same backward and forward. Symmetry was very important in the world. Perhaps she should change her name, and that would allow her to become even more successful. Luna Nul? Now that was a good name, it had all the familiarity of the same name her mother had given her, and none on the lopsidedness of the non-Nul name she had now endured for eighteen years. Shed have to have a word with Daddy later to let him know how disappointed she was with him for making her name all lopsided. Maybe he could change his name as well. She shook herself. No good reporter was ever distracted. Luckily, she was a brilliant reporter, and they were allowed to get distracted all they liked, as long as the copy was filed on top. And the filing cabinet was right next to her desk, and she didnt even have to stand up to get it. She did, however, have to write the story. She made another note. Create spell to write story through mind-reading. Hermione might help? The Goblins hadnt been very respectful, and that had made her sad, so shed passed out. Not really of course, but while they had been fretting about what to do about the unconscious witch in their office, finally deciding to get help, theyd left her alone for a bit, and shed jumped up quickly and read the book on the Goblins desk. It was a combined account that had been doing all the buying of the debts. A Greengrass/Potter account and a note under it said, Change to Potter/Potter account. Shed cast a spell on herself to knock herself out properly, and fallen to the floor, wondering just why the Narbuckles no longer talked to her like they did when she was younger. Once shed known he was alive, and not a ghost as she had first presumed, it hadnt been hard to track them down. As everyone knew, the best place to find something that wasnt you was either behind the couch, or Bora Bora. Having checked the couch, and been disappointed that they werent there, shed gone to Bora Bora, which had a very balanced name. Shed manage to ferret out the fact that they had bought an island together, simply by sending her pet ferret into the local Ministry, and telling him to find anything of interest. And boy had he! She had been right all along! There really was a conspiracy to keep printing ink tasting bad. Oh, and shed also found out about the island. And so here she was, wondering if shed find herself hiding at the back of her desk. Her desk thoroughly searched, she admitted that she wasnt there either, and she wasnt likely to return till she fixed the problem. As far as she could see, she had two issues, which was good, because three would have been odd. The first: Did she report that Harry was alive and well, when he obviously wanted some privacy. And second: If she could find him, maybe someone else could as well. And that would be bad. It would take them longer, as they werent a brilliant journalist like she was. Harry had saved her life, not just by killing Mudblood Tom (even though technically he wasnt), but by making friends with her, and then, as Head Boy, stopping people from hiding her favourite quill.

Shed thought about doing something to thank him, and in the end she had. Like most people, she had noticed he disappeared at times, so shed tried to follow him, but it had seemed like Hogwarts was helping him hide. Shed had a very firm talk with Hogwarts, who had apologised, and told her she was just trying to keep Harrys secret. Shed promised to keep it as well, and had seen him with Daphne. She blushed. Hard. She hadnt expected to see them doing that. But it did look interesting. And after they had finished touching their feet while doing some homework, they had had sex. And that had been interesting too. Daphnes breasts were bigger than hers, and Harry seemed to like them a lot. Shed been concerned when she had seen Harry naked; it didnt seem like he would fit, and for a second, she had thought that he was really hurting her, but then shed realised Daphne was enjoying it. The whole thing seemed to be a lot of fun, and while tiring, they had both seemed to glow afterward, and had seemed close. Shed decided to try it herself as well, with Ernie, but he had obviously been cursed at as a child, because his was a lot smaller, and when shed mentioned that, hed been upset and then it didnt work. He seemed even more upset when shed measured him with her quill, and hed only come halfway up. Thinking that it was a one off, shed decided to conduct an experiment. It was amazing how happy men were to show her their bits when she asked. And they all seemed really hung up about her boobs when she displayed them. She didnt see the fascination really, they werent as big as Daphnes, and were part of her, just like her elbow. And her elbow was really sexy. Shed even tried Draco Malfoy, more out of pity than anything else, and hed really objected when she had told him that he was the smallest in the school. Hed even tried to make her put his thing in her mouth. So she did, and then bit as hard as she could. He hadnt seemed to like that, but if he hadnt wanted her to do it, why had he put it there? Thats what teeth were for, werent they? She had casually mentioned it later to Susan, who had been shocked and told her that it was wrong. That Draco shouldnt have forced her. But when shed told Susan what she had done, Susan had laughed, and congratulated her, so everything was fine again. It was another week before she realised what Draco had been demanding and what she was supposed to have done, and that Draco shouldnt have tried to force her. Especially as she might have done it anyway if hed asked nicely. And shed been really good and not spied on Harry again. Keeping the secret and not spying were definitely a way of paying him back for rescuing her quill. Shed also dropped a potion into Dracos drink that would stop him from getting excited for the foreseeable future. She stood suddenly, and dove over the filing cabinet. And there she was! Hiding! Having found herself, and managed to surprise herself at the same time, she knew what she was going to do. There was only one way she could tell the people the truth AND protect his privacy. She picked up her quill, sighed disgustedly at the ink, and started to write. Harry Potter: Alive! And now playing Vegas!

Exclusive by Luna Nul. Harry James Potter was today seen alive in Las Vegas, Nevada, America, Earth. Potter, the famously well endowed wizard, was recently seen performing on stage in front of thousands of Muggles. Potter, 18, dressed in a Muggle tuxedo, wowed the watching crows with his lion taming skills, before making an elephant vanish into thin air. The Muggles seemed to be impressed, yelling and cheering like Quidditch fans. When confronted, Potter defeater of Mudblood Tom said, What the hell are you talking about? Proof positive that we had our man!
She smiled happily. This was perfect. No one would ever believe it, and she would have told the truth and kept his secret again. After all, who truly believed that elephants existed?

AN: No, crows is NOT a typo.

Matryoshka Vignettes For the Best

Albus Dumbledore sat at his large desk, deep in thought. He had a few problems. His Potions professor had disappeared. There was a new chairman of the Board of Governors who didnt like him. One of his pupils was undergoing a thorough psychological torture at the moment. And Fawkes was giving him looks he hadnt managed to interpret yet. And Harry Potter, alive and well, was completely out of his control. It was the last one he was more concerned about. The last thing they needed, with Voldemort now dead, was for a new dark lord to replace him. And Harry had more than enough power to do so. Hed been shocked when the flares had gone off, and when hed found both Harry and Tom dead at the scene, saddened. He hadnt wanted that to happen, and had done his very best to stop it. It was only after Daphnes speech at the funeral that he had become suspicious. But he couldnt do anything at the time. He had to deal with the public fall-out of Daphnes revelations. She hadnt known that the Death Eater was supposed to have lived; it had been an unfortunate accident that he had died. Severus was supposed to have cast a special charm on the Death Eater powered by Phoenix Tears that would have changed the killing curse to a stunning curse. And he would have then buried an illusion of himself. Unfortunately, Severus had missed. He couldnt blame his old friend; it was a difficult shot. Hed monitored all of Harrys friends for a few weeks, but none of them had seen anything. And whats more, all of them had treated him with scandalous disrespect, especially Miss Granger. Why they couldnt see that what he had done was for the best, he didnt know. While it was possible that Miss Greengrass was working alone, seeking revenge, it made his nose twitch. And the nose twitching normally meant something was up. So, hed paid a very late night visit to Harrys grave, and cast a few spells which, if not illegal, where certainly not accepted by the general public. And as he had suspected, they had buried another Death Eater. Harry had done exactly the same thing he had done, and faked his own death. Which left him with the problem of a boy with far too much power for his own good, somewhere in the world with a Slytherin who believed that Killing Curses were something that you dished out to people who stood in your way. They might have been Death Eaters, but there had been no need for her to have killed them, when she could have stunned them instead. And what would happen if she decided she wanted power? Harry would support her, and it would be just like Voldemort all over again. Power always corrupted, well, except with him; hed resisted corruption. So, knowing that they were alive, hed started to try to track them down. Hed inquired with the Goblins to see if Harry had left a Will, and had been told clearly that everything had been left to Daphne, and that his account had been closed. Convenient. Hed almost caught up with them in New Zealand, but by the time he had arrived, they had already left. And from there, they had vanished again. Two children. Two huge family fortunes merged. And in Harrys case, far too much magical power for anyone, other than himself, to have access to. He needed to know where they were; he couldnt allow them to go dark, not after what he had spent his life fighting. The question was, how? They had already proved elusive to find. Owls sent to either of them returned confused. Attempts to track Hedwig had failed somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

He rubbed his beard thoughtfully. Perhaps it was time to bring in the Ministry to help him out. He turned and threw some powder into the Floo, calling for Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister. Albus? The Minister asked. Good afternoon, Minister, he said respectfully, hiding his disdain with the practice of decades. What can I do for you? Im afraid, he lied slowly, that I have evidence that Daphne Greengrass is behind the disappearance of Severus Snape. Much as he hated to have to lie, this was for the best. Really? Rufus asked, his eyes closing slightly. I have found out that it was she who made a pauper out of poor Lucius. Really? Dumbledore asked, faking surprise. Indeed, Rufus said, his face turning shifty. Someone with so much money available and an unfounded grudge against me, and you, could be dangerous. Absolutely, Albus agreed. He hated doing this, it always made him feel guilty, but it was for the best. What can we do about it? Rufus asked, as if they were talking about the weather. Perhaps we could persuade the international community that she is dangerous, Albus said thoughtfully. After all, she did use confess to using a killing curse. True, true, Rufus agreed. And that sort of thing is illegal, no matter what and why it is done. Although, there might be a bit of a backlash from the public. I was thinking, Albus said, going off on a tangent. That maybe a new law should be passed, one that allows the assets of convicted murderers to be seized by the Ministry. Rufus face lit up, and then toned down as he instantly regained control. Why yes, he agreed. What a splendid law. And if we made an example out of Greengrass, Im sure the public would protest, but a large tax cut, funded by this law, nearer the next election would ensure that any lingering disgust would be forgotten. Agreed, Albus said. I thank you for bringing this to my attention, Rufus said. Well have to wait a month or two, so that it doesnt appear that we are targeting her directly. Dumbledore nodded, It was a pleasure talking to you, as always, Minister. Albus settled down in his chair. That would bring Harry back to the country, where he could be controlled. He looked up, and met the look of Fawkes. Its for the best, he explained. Fawkes crooned once and stretched his wings, flying out the window. He felt a little surprise. Hed have to ask the Phoenix later what was going on. But now he had one final puzzle to piece together. Exactly how had Harry hidden from him within Hogwarts? It shouldnt be possible. Even now, he knew where everyone and everything inside it was from the baby Basilisk growing in the Chamber of Secrets to the elf clearing Snapes room of all his personal belongings. Nothing happened in the school that he didnt know about. And yet Harry had managed to allow himself to be corrupted by that Slytherin. There were times when he thought that he hated Daphne. He had Harry under his control before her influence. Hed neutralised all of Harrys allies, explaining what was for the best, and at the same time, had Harry calling himself Dumbledores Man again. And then that little tart, Daphne Greengrass, who had broken all the rules of Hogwarts by seducing him, had ruined everything. If it hadnt been for her, Harry would have defeated Voldemort under his direction, and would have died properly, as was his destiny. The world would have been safe then. But no, she had to encourage him, lead him astray. He took a deep breath, and forced himself to calm down. This wasnt the way to go. It was just a coincidence. After all, she couldnt have known.

All these years of carefully allowing Harry to have just enough danger to force him to become what he needed to be, but with just enough support given and taken at the right times to allow him to be unsure and confused about where he really stood. And she had ruined it. But how had they hidden their relationship? As Headmaster, the wards reported directly to him, as did the school herself. He closed his eyes and concentrated, allowing his Legilimency skills to reach out, trying to contact the awareness that was Hogwarts. The school was not alive, not in any sense that could be measured, but it had a definite awareness of what was going on. So much magic concentrated for so many years had sunk into the very stones that made up the castle. Hed been trying for as long as he had been headmaster to access all the areas of the consciousness, but it was literally like trying to bang his head against a brick wall. There were parts of it he could not access, and it frustrated him no end. For one last time, he tried to understand, to find out what was going on. I need to know, he thought. Silence. Please tell me, he asked again, hating that he, the most powerful man alive, was reduced to begging. Silence. Its for the best! And something changed.

Matryoshka Vignettes Father Forgive Me

It was done. She had done it. And now she didnt know what to do. She felt like she had betrayed him, like she had ignored everything he had ever told her. And she hated the feeling. It was gnawing inside her like a Horklump. She sat back and raised her knees, hugging herself tightly. Shed never rebelled before, and never wanted to again, but sometimes, you just had to. She hoped he would understand that she didnt have a choice. And while she hadnt believed it earlier, she now knew that there were some things that were more important, that doing what was right, over what was easy or expected sometimes had to be done. She just hoped that the Quibblers name wouldnt be dragged down because of it. But she wouldnt have been able to face her her She shuddered, she couldnt think of what she was going to say. What she had done was tainting her investigative mind on top of filling her with guilt. She was losing her perspicacity! It had all started this morning. Like most mornings, she had woken up first and climbed out of bed. Yesterday, she had tried getting out of bed before waking up, to be different, but that had only ended with a sore toe, so today she had gone back to normal. Shed kissed Daddy good morning on the cheek and sat down for a lovely breakfast. Everyone knew that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. And the Lovegood house was no different. She started with a prawn cocktail, and followed that up with a plateful of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and finished with some apple pie and marmalade. Shed walked to work, mainly because she had yet to find any fairies willing to keep her slim and so needed the exercise. Shed arrived at her desk, and after checking it for explosive devices, chocolate, and the lead singer from the Weird Sisters, shed settled down and started to work. The first article for the day was easy. It was by far the most popular thing in the paper at the moment her articles on where Harry Potter was at the time. Over the past few weeks, after her revelations of him performing for the crows in Vegas, he had been scuba diving for pirate treasure in the Atlantic, performing as a Mime Artist in Paris, and working as a Sushi chef in India. Today, she had decided, he would be wrestling Alligators in China, as part of their regimes push to ensure the purity of the Chinese language. And then her life had fallen straight through the ceiling. Ernie had Flood her. Hi Ernie, shed said brightly. Are you calling to confess that the Ministry is secretly run by a super-intelligent chimp? Well, Rufus might look like a chimp, but hes not super-intelligent, Ernie replied dryly. Look, Ive just heard something I thought you might want to know about. That Government is finally going to give a tax break to drunken mongoose handlers? That they have indicted Daphne Greengrass on charges of murder after her confession at Harrys funeral and asked every country with an extradition treaty to find her for them. Luna gaped at him, in a way she felt was particularly effective, and stored the look for future use. And, Ernie continued, they are placing a new law in front of Wizengamot to seize the assets of convicted murderers.

Luna gasped and nodded slowly. Thanks, she said, closing the Floo automatically. This was terrible; it was obviously a direct attack at Daphne, and an attempt to seize their assets. It was horrible. Almost in a daze, she sat down and picked up her quill, not even trying it for taste. Wizengamot Prepares Direct Attack on Harry Potters Girlfriend

Scrimgeour goes after grieving partner Today, the Minster for Magic has gone too far. It is not enough that the Ministry stood in the way of Harry Potter when he was trying to defeat Voldemort, today they have gone a step further and indicted Daphne Greengrass on charges of murder. Those of us lucky enough to be present at the funeral of the Boy-Who-Lived will remember Daphne Greengrass startling revelations of her relationship with Harry Potter, and that during the final battle, where Harry lost his life, she, in an act of pure self-defence, defended herself against three Death Eaters. The Ministry has now requested international aid in tracking her down, so that she can be tried for their murders. With their complete disregard for the basic tenets of self-defence, they have instigated an international man-hunt for a heroine. And if this was not enough of an insult to everything Harry Potter stood for, a new law has been placed in front of the Wizengamot, clearly aimed at reducing Miss Greengrass to a pauper. The law, which would seize the assets of convicted criminals, is aimed at the combined Greengrass and Potter fortune, of which Daphne is the only living heir.
She paused for a second, and threw some Floo powder into the fire. Gringotts, she called. Oh, its you, a goblin sighed. No, we are not keeping Gnomes enslaved in our dungeons. Its not that, Luna said directly. Did you know that the Ministry is enacting a new law which will enable them to seize the assets of convicted criminals? No, the goblin said slowly. I didnt. How will that affect the famed neutrality of Gringotts? Will you follow the law if your clients accounts are held in another country? The goblins expression changed, and he sat up formally. Until we have seen this law in full, we can not comment on the specifics. Can I have a quote for an article decrying this? The goblins are very wary about any law that touches on the neutrality of the goblins, and if the law is found to be illegal by the international community, the goblins would not comply with it. Luna raised her eyebrows. Thats far more decisive than I hoped for, she pointed out softly. The goblin smiled slightly. I heard about Daphne Greengrass a few minutes ago, he said. I came to the same conclusion you have. Thank you, Luna said, and closed the Floo, returning to her article.

When asked for a quote, Clawbeak, the head of Public Relations for Gringotts, said: The goblins are very wary about any law that touches on the neutrality of the goblins, and if the law is found to be illegal by the international community, the goblins would not comply with it. A warning that the Wizengamot must take seriously. This witch hunt for Harry Potters love could lead to international isolation, at a time where we are just regaining the trust of our international colleagues. We have suffered from the abject incompetence and obstructionary decisions from the Ministry of Magic for years, and if it hadnt been for the supreme sacrifice of Harry Potter, we would still be living in terror from Voldemort. Thanks to people who stood up for what we believe in, these cowards who now attack the survivor can only do so because of the heroic actions of the people they persecute. It is time for the people of Britain to stand up, as one, and deliver a rebuke to the Wizengamot and to the Minister of Magic, and demand that the person who lost everything be allowed to live in peace, and that this ridiculous charge be dropped immediately. The Minister has gone too far and needs to be stopped, now! Luna Lovegood
She signed the article, and placed it in the filing cabinet, in the front page place, relegating the news of the International Conference of Giants Who Love Fairies to the second page. She managed to get it in a few minutes before the deadline, and it was only as the cabinet glowed and the paper was created and Owled out that she had realised what she had done. How she had gone against everything she believed in. Luna? She couldnt look up. Yes, Daddy? she whispered, tears starting to run down her face.

What is this? Im sorry, she cried. I had to do it, I couldnt let this go. I know it was factual, that it didnt mention that Rufus might be a monkey, and everything else you taught me to ignore, but I couldnt let them do it. I needed to be taken seriously by everyone for a change. Normally when we write, they laugh at us because we tell them the truth, but this time I had to play their games and leave out the truth. Im sorry Daddy, I didnt mean to drag the Quibblers good name through the mud, but I had to do it for Harry and Daphne. A second later she felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around her. She blinked and looked up. I am so proud of you, her father said softly. You are? she sniffed doubtfully. He nodded, smiling warmly. It is exactly something your mother would have done. Really? Oh yes, if she believed in something, she would fight on their level, and put in a way they could understand. But it was logical, she mumbled. And logic is the tool of Beelzebob. Ahh, yes, about that, her father said uncomfortably. Ive been doing some research, and the Prophet is not worshipping him. Theyre not? she asked, shocked. He shook his head. It turns out that people actually like reading their stories. But their stories are more fabricated than ours are! I know, I know. But people believe them anyway. So youre not mad? Luna asked warily. Not at all, he replied. Well deal with the fallout together, and well give it a try. Give what a try? Writing like they do for a bit. Its time the Quibbler stood for something, and getting rid of the current Wizengamot is as good a scheme as anything. I was going to suggest we stood for repealing some of the Anti-Werewolf laws, but this is even better. Really? Her father nodded and hugged her again. She started to relax as the Horklump left her stomach, when an owl flew in through the window. Hedwig, she gasped. She unwrapped the letter quickly, and thanked the owl before she flew off.

Luna, We need to talk. Bring your quill. D.

She looked at her father. Its from Daphne, she whispered, picking up the Portkey that was with the letter. Then youd better take your best quill and go do an interview. Well scoop the Prophet and increase our circulation! She giggled. And Ill start asking the Wizengamot why they are assisting in this persecution! Okay Daddy, she smiled. Thank you. He just smiled and hugged her again, and everything was all right. Except the mystery of who kept eating her oranges. Maybe shed put some dye inside one to see if she could find the culprit.

Matryoshka Vignettes Gang aft a-gley

Albus placed down the paper on his desk and glanced once more at the empty perch that had been the resting place for his pet Phoenix. A Phoenix he had not seen for several months. He was slightly worried, as Fawkes had never vanished like this before. There was a noise as his Floo activated, and he turned. Minister? he asked politely. This really was the last thing he needed today. He reached out absently and grabbed a lemon drop. The Minister glared at him with a passion he had rarely seen. Is something wrong? Is something wrong? Rufus spluttered. Is something wrong? Why no. Not at all. I just thought Id share with you some interesting correspondence I received this morning. Would you care to hear it? The sarcasm evident in the Ministers voice was almost physical in its intensity. Please, Albus said politely. The Minister held up a piece of paper. From the Americans, he confided.

Minister, We have noted with interest your request for assistance in the apprehension and extradition of one Daphne Greengrass on charges of Murder. Now, you will forgive us if we are missing the point a little here, but you do know how we poor backward Americans are, with our strange beliefs in liberty and justice for all. But we have consulted with our lawyers You have heard of them, right? They are the people whose job it is to interpret the law and, well, they laughed. You see, in America, we have this strange concept of self-defense. Now, allow me to explain this obviously foreign concept to you. If, for example, a group of terrorists are approaching you, all armed and intending to kill you, and in the past this group has been responsible for atrocities of the like not seen since the fall of Troy, and you were to fight them and win, that would be classified as self-defense. And as such, at least in our country, this is perfectly legal. So it is with regret that we turn down your request for assistance, and hereby inform you that, if Miss Greengrass is on American soil and we believe that she desires privacy, so we will not tell you if she is or is not then any attempts to remove her would be treated as an act of war. As a side note, we find it most disturbing that the British Ministry did not inform us of the severity of the late Lord Voldemorts attempts at taking over the country, and call into question a Ministry that allows a seventeen-year-old to fight its battles. But we shall save that discussion for the next Summit Meeting. Regards, John Pelli, Secretary of State (Magical).
And theres more, Rufus continued. From the French. And I had to have this translated, as they replied in bloody French.

Minister, I regret to inform you that, for services rendered to France, Daphne Greengrass has been granted French Citizenship. As such, we will not allow a French Citizen, if she be on French Sovereign soil, to be extradited. Michelle Lamport
Or, Rufus continued. How about the Germans, and I didnt bother to get this one translated.

Rufus placed down the papers. So far, Greengrass apparently holds citizenship in thirty-two countries, and a further forty turned down our request flat. Only our very close allies said yes, and I suspect that the yes was more for form than from any firm commitment to help us. But all of this is irrelevant anyway, as we now know where Miss Greengrass is. She has purchased an island near Bora Bora, which, I no doubt need to remind you, is French territory. The island, however, is its own sovereign nation, and has complete jurisdiction over itself. So, and he finished with almost a shout, any attempt to

extradite her will be summarily refused, by the ruler. Daphne bloody Greengrass. Cant we send out some Aurors to bring her back? Albus asked. Are you going senile? Rufus roared. You want me to invade another sovereign nation? A nation that most of the other Ministries in the world would happily help defend? Do you have any idea how many islands are privately owned like this? No, Albus replied. Hed never needed to know. Globally, and this is according to the research we did this morning, nearly two thousand. Do you know what they all have in common? The money to own a private island. Do you have any idea just how much damage could be caused to our economy if several thousand of the richest people in the world decided that they didnt like the idea of Britain invading one of their own? The repercussions would last for decades and be felt in the Muggle world as well as the Magical one. And if that is not enough, as if I am not already a laughing-stock, I now have to face the Wizengamot this evening and explain exactly why I have placed this new law before them. And to finish everything off, I have the Quibbler the Quibbler! launching a campaign to overthrow the Ministry, led by one Luna Lovegood, who I find out, was a close friend of Harry Potter! Rufus took a deep breath. I believe, Albus that now is the time for you to hand over your evidence that Miss Greengrass was involved in the abduction of Severus Snape. Albus sighed softly. Of course, Minister, he agreed. I will send it over to your office this afternoon. I must say that I did not expect you to act with such a lack of decorum when pushing this forward. Rufus froze and shook his head slowly. I see, he said icily. I might be going down over this, Albus, but believe me that I am not going down alone. Albus raised his eyebrows. I fail to see the relevance of your threat. You wouldnt, would you, Rufus said disgustedly and closed the Floo. Albus turned back to his desk and helped himself to another lemon drop. So, it was now official that Potter had his own island in Bora Bora. Perhaps it was time for another visit. He picked up the Quibbler again, and turned to the crossword puzzle on the back. Silver coloured Indian fish (6)" Halfway through writing Ramora his Floo activated again. He sighed; he so rarely got to complete the crossword. Alastor? Have you seen the latest ridiculousness from the Ministry? he demanded. Putting Greengrass on trial for murder, he snorted disgustedly. Should I wait to be arrested next? There is no need to worry; I have the situation under control. The charges will be dropped by the Wizengamot tonight, and I shall inform Miss Greengrass personally. You know where she is, then? Of course, Albus said with a smile, allowing his eyes to twinkle. It wasnt as if he was lying to his old friend, merely allowing him to keep the illusion of infallibility. Good, Alastor grunted. Lass is probably in need of a friend or two right now. Quite. Well, I wont keep you, Mad-Eye said, and signed off. Albus smiled softly. Yes, perhaps things had worked out for the best after all. It was true, he hadnt expected Rufus to act with such clumsiness, but having him replaced with someone a bit more malleable would be no bad thing. He pulled a piece of parchment from a table, and scribbled onto it.

Gringotts Account: 234205. Ministry Project: Runespoor Protection. It might be the clue you are after.
With a wave of his hand, the letters separated into dots of ink, before joining back up again in completely different handwriting. He walked up to the school Owlery and picked one at random. Take this to Luna Lovegood, he said. The owl hooted and took off, flapping its wings hard. He smiled cheerfully. That should help things along a bit. Perhaps it wasnt such a bad day after all.

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o mice an men Gang aft a-gley, An leae us nought but grief an pain For promisd joy. Robert Burns
A/N: I am well aware of the laws regarding owning an island inside French territory.

Matryoshka Vignettes Sing A Song of Sixpence, A Pocket Full of Weasleys (1/4)

In conclusion, given her sovereign power over the island, and the considered international reaction, attempting to forcibly persuade Miss Greengrass to return to the U.K. would not be the recommended course of action at this time.
Percy sat back and re-read his work slowly. He shook his head slowly in admiration. It was opaque, overly verbose, and the conclusion was a complete fabrication. All in all, it was perfect. He was positive that none of the Wizengamot would read any of it, except the conclusion, and that not one of them would think to do any fact checking. After all, that was his job. French law quite clearly prohibited anyone from owning an entire island. France always retained ownership of a sliver of land which was defined by the high tide. And while Daphne and Harry might have autonomy when it came to economics and social laws, at all other times, they had to follow French laws. He signed the report cheerfully, and put it into his outbox. Another task completed successfully. His life was a lot more interesting these days, and he had the added bonus of being able to look in the mirror every morning and see a real Weasley. For the first time, he had actually managed to make the correct decision, and pledged his loyalty to people who actually deserved it. Hed been lost after Harrys funeral. Hearing just how badly he had misjudged the man, and just how manipulated Harry had been, had caused him to enter a rather sharp spiral downward. So much so that he had even taken up drinking. Hed betrayed his family, his friends, and even the saviour of the Wizarding World, and he took scant comfort in the fact that he wasnt alone in having done so. But then Hedwig had appeared to offer him a second chance at life. The message was simple.

We need to talk. D.
And hed grabbed the Portkey without hesitation. Of course, as soon as he had arrived hed regretted not stopping for a shower and a shave first. He was on a beautiful beach, and as there was only one path, he had followed it nervously. He was met by a house-elf, who silently guided him to a bathroom, where fresh robes had been laid out. The bathroom was luxurious, and he had made quick use of the facilities, and feeling much more like himself once he was clean. He dressed in the light summer robe, and opened the door. The elf was waiting for him, and led him into the largest living room he had ever seen. Miss Greengrass was seated in one corner. Please, take a seat, she said, indicating the couch near her. He found himself wanting to check that his hair was perfect, that his teeth were clean, that he didnt look like, well, someone who had been drinking his way into an early grave. He sat, nervously, a feeling he hadnt experienced since he had left Hogwarts. She studied him as he sat, and he wanted to look away from her piercing eyes. May I offer my condolences, he said, as she didnt look away.

Oh? she asked curiously. I was under the impression that you were on the Ministrys side in all of this. He winced. Im afraid that I have had my eyes opened rather forcibly, he confessed. And I believe that I have made a few rather large mistakes. My support of Cornelius and Rufus was a most egregious error. And is this why you are attempting to kill yourself with drink? Her tone was even and curious, as if she had just mentioned the time. He straightened his shoulders, and started to blurt a denial, when he collapsed suddenly. Yes, he whispered. Ive got nothing left. Ive lost my family, my friends, my love, in support of a career based on lies and deceit. And then he had almost had a heart attack. Sometimes, Percy, Harry said, walking into the room, you have to hit rock bottom before you can start to find yourself again. Percy gaped at him, not even noticing as Daphne reached out and lifted his jaw shut. Youre dead, he whispered. We Polyjuiced a Death Eater, Harry explained. We wanted a clean break from the Wizarding world. Percy nodded slowly, and then launched himself forward, hugging Harry. Im so pleased youre alive, he half shouted. Harry hugged him back for a second. Weve brought you here to offer you a second chance, Percy. Percy released the younger man and sat down. He held up his hand, saying, Give me a second, please. As they went silent, he took a deep breath and calmed down. So, Harry Potter was alive and well, and living with Daphne. If they were going to stay out of the Wizarding world, they would have not invited him to see them, as the more people who knew a secret, the less of a secret it actually was. Now, he knew that Snape had disappeared, that Lucius had been removed, and that Draco was being tortured in a very effective manner. So, they were still interfering with the Wizarding World, which would mean that they had a plan for it. It felt good to actually use his brain for a change despite the split infinitive rather than try and kill it. Id be delighted to help, he said sincerely. Harry and Daphne looked at each other. We appear to have missed a few steps in your logic, Daphne said dryly. Oh, sorry, Percy replied. Its just that you obviously have a plan for the Wizarding world, and you need someone in the Ministry to help. You said you were offering me a second chance, which would be the chance to work with you, and not against you, correct? Another Gryffindor with brains? Daphne asked Harry. Harry grinned at her. Just because as a class were a little impetuous And foolhardy, overconfident and overbearing, Daphne added. Thank you, dear, notwithstanding all that, it doesnt mean were stupid, Harry finished. So what do you want me to do? At the moment, Harry replied, not much at all. We just need you to keep an eye on things, and use your own judgement about what to do if anything comes up. Fred and George know that I am alive, and well be telling Bill and Charlie shortly. You do know, Percy said, that the more people who know a secret, the more likely it is to come out? I do, Harry nodded. But we trust the people involved implicitly. Percy felt his back straighten. I wont let you down, he had promised. And in the last few months, he certainly hadnt. Hed been proud to return to work, and had quickly regained his position as Rufus secretary. And when Rufus had told him yesterday about arresting Daphne and asking for international help, hed been able to act, and act fast. Rufus hadnt specified the contents of his letter requesting aid to the other countries, and it was just possible that he might have accidentally placed a few more details in it than Rufus might have liked, emphasising Daphnes actions in great detail, leading to the obvious conclusion of selfdefence for a hero. And then he had happened to have lunch with Ernie, who he knew to be friends with Luna, and just might have passed on a few too many details. And then this morning, when the Aurors had tracked down Harry and Daphne, it hadnt been hard to fabricate their autonomy.

He felt like whistling to himself as he wrote a quick note to them, explaining what was going on. If you wanted something done, you could pick anyone off the street, but if you wanted something done properly, with style and panache, then you really had to choose a Weasley. It was just a pity that Ron and Ginny were still out in the cold. He understood why, that Harry wasnt sure about their loyalties at the moment, and had agreed. Still, rumour had it that Ginny had made the first move, and after all, if he of all people could be forgiven, so, surely, could they.

Matryoshka Vignettes Sing A Song of Sixpence, A Pocket Full of Weasleys (2/4)

So, what do you think? That if I add some sulphur to this it would make a really cool firework. True. But I was referring to last week. Ahh, Harrys funeral. Yep. And the rather impressive eulogy Daphne gave. Do you remember the recipe for the perfect lie? You take two parts truth, one part lie, blend, and imply as much as you can without saying anything. Exactly. And she was lying? I think so." So, which bit was the truth, and which bit was the lie? Well, if we wanted to hide something big, what would we do? Focus on the other things? Pretty much. Lets break it down. We had a lot of detail about their relationship. True or false? True. One, she had the photo, and two, she had no reason to tell us they were sleeping together. Agreed. Okay, our siblings actions or lack of? True. They swallowed Dumbledores stuff hook, line and sinker. Against our advice. People never listen to us, Fred. I cant think why. Okay, Harrys death? False. Blimey. Youre right. She never said he was dead. She just implied it. Now that takes style. Lying to so many people so effectively? Absolutely. What are we going to do about it? Contact them. If we can figure it out, others can. Not as fast, though. Of course not! They are not the Weasley twins. Fred smiled, picked up a quill and dashed off a quick note.

The problem with lying to liars is that we can recognise the lie. We need to talk. F&G still partners.

Perfect, George said cheerfully. He attached it to an owl. They might be warded. True, but Ill bet Daphne is, which means that Harry isnt because who would send post to a dead man? We would, George pointed out. Well tell Harry to close that hole when we see him. Do we tell anyone else? Did they listen to us before? Good point. Fred looked at the owl. Take this to Harry Potter not his grave. The owl seemed to look confused, and then took off, vanishing into the overcast sky. And now we wait, George sighed. Well, lets add some sulphur and see what happens. Capital idea! It was a day before their owl returned, bearing a letter and a Portkey.

Agreed. Wear a tux. Portkey stops working in two hours. D.

Whats a tux? One of those Muggle things that make the wearer look like a penguin. Where can we get one? London? Close the shop? Sure, this is more important! George picked up a piece of parchment. Gone to recover from an explosion caused by too much sulphur. Back in a few days. Perfect, Fred said admiringly. Two parts truth, one part lie. George grinned. Shall we away? We shall! A trip to Gringotts for some money had been followed by a trip to a tailor, and while it had been a little, well, unexpected when they had been measured; they were both soon fitted out in some off-the-shelf tuxedos. What do you think? Fred asked doubtfully. Its close, but not quite there, George replied. Mines fine. I know! He pulled out his wand, and cast a charm, reversing all the colours on Fred. Fred looked down at his white tux and black shirt and smiled. Perfect. He pulled the Portkey out of his pocket and activated it. Fred! George said. Do you know where we are? Las Vegas, Fred whispered in awe as they looked out from the balcony they had appeared on. How much can we afford to lose this time? You can bet later, guys, Harry said from behind them. As one, they turned and jumped at him, hugging him tightly. Next bloody time you do something as stupid as to go off to fight without even asking us, well make sure you dont bloody survive! Fred threatened. Damn right, George agreed. Im sorry, Harry said, looking embarrassed. If you three have finished, Daphne interrupted, we do have an appointment to keep.

Fred and George looked up and blinked repeatedly. Harry, George said. You do realise that you seem to have Fallen in love with a complete fox, Fred finished. Harry smiled. I know, he agreed. So, the infamous Weasley twins. We meet again, Daphne said dryly. Is there any chance that we could keep a certain conversation secret? George asked Daphne hopefully. None whatsoever, Daphne replied. Oh? Harry asked. Fred sighed loudly. Theres a slim chance that I may have asked your girlfriend out on a date before the events that led to our tragic early departure from dear old Hogwarts. And, I, too, may have done the same, George confessed. So that was why you smirked when I said invite them? Harry asked Daphne. She turned us both down, Fred playacted a sniff. Of course, if wed known that all we had to do was to be unspeakably brave and not be scared off by her threatening to remove key body parts, wed still have failed. True, brother mine, George agreed, looking solemnly. Ive missed you guys, Harry said. So, why the penguin suits and why Vegas? Well, you see, after tonight, Daphne will no longer be my girlfriend. What? Why? Fred demanded. Because were getting married in ninety minutes. Fred and George cheered together, before Fred embraced Harry and George embraced Daphne. Five seconds later, they switched. So its just the four of us? George asked. It was going to be just the two of us, Harry said, But your letter arrived at the right time. Ninety minutes? Fred asked. Harry nodded. He looked at George, Harry looks fine, doesnt he? Yes, his tux, while not as dashing as ours, looks better on him. But Daphne What? Daphne asked, frowning at them. Split up? Fred asked. Absolutely, you take Harry, Ill take Daphne. What? Harry and Daphne asked together. George took Daphnes hand. Youve got access to money, right? Why? No time for idle chit-chat, weve only got ninety minutes, the clock is ticking. He pulled Daphne through the hotel room and down the elevator. Why am I letting you do this? Daphne asked. Because Im cute? George grinned. Daphne shook her head. Because Harry trusts me with you?

Daphne sighed. I guess. What are we doing? This is Las Vegas, where if youve got the money, theyve got your dream. And? That dress, while gorgeous, is something to be worn to a restaurant, not a wedding. But Daphne said. No buts, George grinned. You brought us into this. We know Vegas, we came here last year. The elevator reached the ground floor. I take it youve got a credit card? Whats the limit? The Goblins set us up with an American Express card, no limit. Do you trust me? No. But Harry does, and thats what counts, right? Daphne sighed again. I guess. Give me your card. Daphne reluctantly handed him a platinum coloured card from her purse. Thank you, now come with me. He strolled confidently along the floor toward the concierge. Can I help you, sir? the man asked politely, recognising Daphne as a guest. My friend here is getting married in eighty-five minutes, George said. If you can arrange for a dress, makeup, and hair in that time, there will be a $40,000 tip in it for you. The normally cool concierge gaped at him. Excuse me, sir? I want the best for my friend, money no object, he subtly waved the card in front of the man. The man gulped. Eighty five minutes? George nodded. I think that can be arranged, he said. If youll give me thirty seconds to arrange for another concierge to cover, well step next door to a wonderful boutique. George smiled. You might want to tell the cover that my brother will probably be down shortly, requesting help for the groom. And my brother is just as generous as I am. Where is George taking my future wife? Harry asked Fred. Fred grinned at him. You two amateurs were just going to get married like you are, werent you? We wanted a quiet wedding, Harry explained. You two have a lot to learn, Fred sighed. Now, hand over your credit card. Why? Because were going to be spending a lot of money, and its far better if you dont know until later how much it costs you. That makes no sense at all, Harry pointed out. Of course it doesnt, Fred agreed, and as soon as he had Harrys wallet in his back pocket, he continued. And wheres the ring? Harry reached into a pocket and pulled out a box. Fred looked at it, snorted, and shook his head. You two have no taste at all. He threw the ring casually over the balcony edge. Harry darted forward, and swore as it vanished from sight. He turned and ground out, That could have been my mothers ring.

Nonsense, Fred said cheerfully. Your mother was a red-head, and all red-heads have much better taste than that tatty piece of junk. Now, weve no time to waste, weve got a ring to buy. Harry put his hands on his hips, allowing Fred to link his arm with the Boy-Who-Lived, and drag him out the door and down the stairs. What we need, Fred mused, is professional help. Now, Im sure my dear brother has already bribed the main concierge, so well need one as well. Bribed who? Not now Harry, youre far too innocent for this sort of thing. Can I help, sir? a concierge said, appearing as if by magic in front of them. Just the man, Fred said expansively. My friend here is getting married to the most gorgeous girl on the planet in eighty-three minutes. Unfortunately, he has the taste of a Tunisian mud scraper, so hes going to need a couple of rings, a fifteen minute stag party Fred paused, mid flow, and turned to Harry. Just where were you planning on getting married? In one of the wedding chapels down the strip. Fred shuddered. Okay, we also need to arrange for something with a little more class. Can we extend the time available? the concierge asked hopefully. If were rearranging the ceremony, certainly, Fred said, ignoring Harrys stunned looks. Lets make it an evening wedding, seven pm? That gives us five hours, the concierge noted. I think we can arrange something for that. Fred reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone, and dialled a number quickly. George, they were planning on getting married somewhere tacky, so were rearranging it to something with a little more class. So youve got until seven tonight. Brilliant, George said over the phone. Im paying the concierge $40,000 of Harry and Daphnes money. Okay, talk to you later. Fred hung up, and looked at the concierge. If this gets arranged, youll get the same as your colleague. Yes sir, and please, call me Chris. Fred, Harry sighed. We are going to have a very long talk when this is over. Fred grinned. But not now, weve got no time to waste. Let us away to a jewellers, and Chris, nothing that even remotely resembles cheap. Daphne is the sort of girl who makes you want to thank God you were born male. While they are both young, they are both orphans, forced to grow up before their time. The marriage is the right thing for them, but like so many of the young, they have absolutely no class. Hey! Harry protested. I completely understand, Chris agreed. By the time were finished, well have a wedding that theyll remember for the rest of their lives. George lounged negligently against the counter as he watched what could only be an army of hairdressers, manicurists, pedicurists, and make-up artists, all working on Daphne. Normally getting an appointment in a famous salon on a Monday afternoon was impossible, but Edward, their concierge, knew everyone of any import in town, and knew exactly which buttons to press. Spending someone elses money was a lot of fun. The first boutique hadnt had anything that was absolutely perfect, but Freds idea of putting the wedding back had changed all that. He stepped back as a large van pulled up outside, and a couple of immaculately coiffured ladies climbed out, accompanied by two large men who looked like they ate steel for breakfast. The van was opened, and the two men lifted down a large rack of wedding dresses, and they rushed toward the door. One of the women walked over to him quickly. Wheres the bride? Shes under that toxic looking green stuff at the moment. As he spoke, the green stuff was removed expertly. The woman whistled. Young, beautiful, and rich. Some people have all the luck! Well her parents were murdered, George said dryly, as were the parents of the groom. I know they would give everything up for a chance to see their parents again. The woman blushed furiously. Im sorry, she said.

George shrugged. Neither of them would ever mention it. Look, I wanted to see if we could do a deal. Oh? Let us use her for some publicity shots in one of our dresses, and well let her have the dress she chooses for free. George raised his eyebrows. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get real beauty, complete with minor flaws, down here, not the plastic perfection we normally get? George shook his head slowly. Okay, he said slowly. But no pictures of the groom, hes a little publicity shy. Thank you, the lady said, smiling. Now, if youll excuse me? Fred smiled tolerantly as row after row of rings were placed in front of Harry. Now that he was being given the chance, he seemed to be very serious about the whole thing. A stocky, balding man sidled up to him. So, the man said with a New York accent, is that who I think it is? Im sorry? The man reached into his wallet, and pulled out a card. Fred looked at it, and the American eagle on a Stars and Stripes background nodded regally at him, before morphing into a business card.

Agent K Fire, Federal Bureau of Magic

Fred handed him the card back. Who do you think it is? A dead man. Hed like to remain that way. We heard rumours, but I thought it was only a minor internal problem he dealt with? Id check your sources very closely; Voldemorts power was only matched by his overwhelming hatred for everything and everyone. Really? Agent K said slowly. The reports we had were that he was a two-bit problem that the British Ministry was handling. Over five thousand Muggles and nearly four hundred witches and wizards were killed, and a nation was terrified to stand up to him. The man paled slightly and made a curious gesture. A woman walked up to them. She was about five foot ten, and while she was in her forties, she still had an attractive figure. This is Agent D; shell be here while we check out what you said. Fred nodded. Are you any good at picking out rings? The woman laughed and nodded. Then go rescue the hero over there; it will give you a chance to get to know him. One of the unexpected benefits of helping Daphne was getting to watch her change. Damn, but Harry was a lucky man, George thought. Ed, he said thoughtfully. Shes going to need some lingerie as well. Its on its way, sir, as are the flowers. Dont call me sir, George said absently. Im George, and my brothers Fred. Tell everyone who helps that theyre welcome to attend the party afterward which reminds me, the party. What are we going to do about that? Ed looked at the crowd in front of him and smiled slightly. He pulled out a cell phone and dialled a number from the speed-dial menu. Its Ed, he said, as George eavesdropped as much as he could. Put me through to Martha. Ed paused for a second. Martha, Im with the couple from 516. Theyre getting married in a few hours. Yes, I know. Listen, they were wrongly categorised; they were trying to keep a low profile. Theyre going to need the Ambassadors suite for the evening. Ive already booked the Hall for their wedding. I have people decorating it at the moment. A pause, while a tinny voice came from the other side. Excellent. Ed hung up and smiled. All set.

Do you want to do the inviting? It will be my honour. With a newly purchased ring which had been slightly delayed while American Express had contacted the jeweller to make sure that Harry was who he said he was, a not too surprising move after a brand-new card rang up some serious activity, Fred, Harry, Chris, and Agent D were now heading toward the casino attached to the hotel. Now, Harry, the object of the game is to lose as much money as fast as possible. And thats supposed to make sense? No, Agent D said. Fred had introduced her as another employee of the hotel. You can also win. Fred leaned into Harry and whispered in a low voice. Do not use magic, even wandless. They have magical detectors on everything. Harry nodded. Fred walked up to one of the cashiers and dropped Harrys card onto it. $100,000 please. The cashier didnt even blink, not fazed at all by what was, to some people, a small sum of money. Fred took the chips, split them in half, and gave one pile to Harry. D? Chris? Were not allowed to, Chris said evenly. Your loss, Fred grinned. Come on, Harry, the first game is roulette. Youve got two choices. You can play red or black and if the ball lands in the one you pick, you win, however the odds arent very good at that. Or you can pick one of the numbers between one and thirty-six. Oh, and if the ball lands in zero or double-zero, you lose. Okay, Harry said with a shrug. He looked at the table, picked up a small stack of tokens and placed it on number twenty-three. Sirius birthday, he said, with a slight smile. Fred placed a smaller amount of chips on number two. The croupier spun the ball and the wheel, and after a few seconds, said, No more bets, stopping the other people at the table from placing any more bets. The ball jumped merrily along, until, with a last minute jump, it landed firmly in twenty three. Fred sighed loudly. You are such a git, Harry! George was pouting slightly as he sat waiting for Daphne. Hed been summarily ejected from the room when the lingerie had arrived. Still, there was nothing worse than a bored Weasley twin, so he picked up his phone and arranged for a male stripper for Daphne. With that done, and his gesture toward some sort of hen night for her out of the way, he dialled his brother. Fred, hows it going? Interesting: were having Harrys stag night. Hes supposed to be losing money in the casino now. Supposed to be? The git keeps winning, and hes not using magic either. Typical, George snorted. How is the casino taking it? Theyre loving it; theyre making a killing from what Chris has described as the Halo Effect. The what? All the other players are seeing Harry win, so theyre gambling even more and losing. The casino is going to make more money tonight, despite paying for Harry. You know, we really need to open a Wizarding casino. Well talk to Harry about it later. If youre bored, why dont you organise a honeymoon? Great idea! They can come to Vegas anytime.

He hung up and looked thoughtful. Ed, where would you suggest for a honeymoon for people who want to get away from it all? The Caribbean? Wonderful, George grinned. You know a travel agent? Of course. Okay, Harry, Fred said. Youve won enough; we still have things to do. Harry nodded. What do I do with these? he asked, pointing at the large pile of chips in front of them. Ill take care of them, Chris said. Theyll be credited to your room. He motioned to a smartly dressed man who had been hanging around in the background. Their entourage had grown, as Chris had arranged for some security. The hotels always looked after their guests, and the more money they had, the better they were looked after. Might I suggest a new tuxedo? Chris suggested quietly. The one he has is merely adequate. Fred nodded. Come on, Harry. Its time for you to be primped. Daphnes been going through it, so no complaints from you! Harry nodded, and followed as they walked out of the casino to a few groans from punters who had been following them around. As Harry was being measured, Agent K arrived back. That was quick, Fred noted. Agent K had a ferocious scowl on his face. It turns out that our Ambassador over there was a member of the Death Eaters. Hed been feeding us crap for years. Really? We dont like traitors, Agent K continued, and hes now singing like a canary under Veritaserum. So, would Harry mind if a few more people turned up at the wedding? Can they keep a secret? Of course, but the Secretary for Magic would like to be able to say thank you on behalf of the Wizarding population. The knowledge that he is alive will be kept top secret. Fred picked up his phone and dialled his brother. George, the American Ministry has asked for a few invites. It appears that the American Ambassador in England was a Death Eater. Really? Well, that explains that, George replied. Sure, why not? Well, they did want a small wedding, remember? Then they shouldnt have invited us. True. Im picking up people left, right, and centre at the moment. Me too, Im bringing around thirty at current count. Fred grinned. Im getting that way, he said, and hung up. Not many wizards use cell phones, Agent K half stated, half asked. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get cordite? Excuse me? In the Wizarding world, getting bats eyes or the tears of a virgin camel is easy, but getting something like cordite is practically impossible. Its the same with most of the really fun stuff. So the only way we can get half the ingredients we need is to go into the Muggle world. We travel a lot, doing business, so we purchased some top of the range tri-band mobiles so we can remain in contact. Agent K nodded. Have you thought about opening a branch this side of the Atlantic? A few times, Fred replied. We need to talk to Harry about investing our profits. Harrys involved?

Without him, our business wouldnt exist. We learnt a long time ago that while some people might follow Voldemort, and some might follow Dumbledore, the only way to actually succeed would be to follow Harry. Agent K nodded. Now, do you think Agent D would mind if we went to a strip bar next? Agent K blinked. Why? Because every man should have a stripper on his stag night, Fred grinned. And, on a more serious note, it will really make him appreciate what he has with Daphne, when he finds out that his wife is better looking and better built than the professionals. Harry, Agent K said. Id like you meet our equivalent of the Minister for Magic, Arthur Mulder. Harry blinked, and turned to glare at Fred for a second. Excuse me, he said. I thought that K was an employee of the hotel. And that my being here and alive was a secret. Not to worry, Arthur said cheerfully. Not many people know you are alive, and it is placed on the Top Secret list. And we have a team of Agents ready to Obliviate your Muggle friends after the party. Oh, and please, all my friends call me Art. This was supposed to be a quiet wedding, Harry groaned. Youll appreciate it more when you see Daphne, George said, as he joined the group. Youre going to have an amazing wedding, all courtesy of the Weasley twins. George, Fred said. This is the Secretary for Magic over here. Ahh, George said, offering his hand. The man responsible for all our bodyguards. What bodyguards? Harry asked, looking lost. Pre-wedding jitters, Fred said conspiratorially. Chris and Ed walked up to the group slowly. Were going to be ready to start in about five minutes, Chris said. The cake is arriving as we speak, and the chefs are creating a wonderful feast for the party. What party? The party youre giving in your new suite to thank everyone, George said cheerfully. You can thank us later. Harry shook his head slowly. Well, youre going to bloody have to stand up there with me then, as Best Men. Fred looked at George in horror. We forgot something. We did. But how? Theres only one way. You didnt have to watch the male stripper earlier. Fred nodded. Thank Merlin this is Vegas! Keep Harry and the secretary entertained. George nodded, and with a familiarity that made the Agents twitch, he slid an arm around Harry and the Secretary. While I have your undivided attention, lets talk expansion plans. Chris, Fred said. I need a dress, quickly. For who? Me. Chris stopped dead. Im going to regret this, he muttered. Why? Daphne needs a maid of honour. And as we have no women we know that well here, Im going to do it. I do regret it. So you want me to find a dress that suits a 5 foot 6 inch tall red-head male in less than five minutes? Problem? Fred asked cheerfully. Why dont I take care of this, Agent D said, interrupting. I know just the place, and if we hurry Fred nodded and grinned at Chris. Take care of the guests, he smiled.

Just one question, Chris said. Why are there a load of Secret Service agents suddenly around? Harrys got friends in very high places, Agent D said quietly. And some of the guests are very important. Chris nodded. Thank you for choosing our hotel, he said seriously. Fred smiled. We like to see friends get on in the world, he said cheerfully. And now, Agent D, let us depart forth and fifth with. They stepped into the original boutique, where Agent D took a dress off the rack and made Fred pay for it. What about fitting? No time, Agent D said, running back to the hotel. Change, quick. Fred did as he was told, and laughed hysterically as he saw himself in the mirror. The dress only came to his upper thighs. Agent D smiled, pulled out her wand, and started to cast spell after spell after spell. The skirt lengthened, the bodice tightened, the colour changed, and somehow Fred acquired a distinctively female figure. His shoes changed from black dress shoes into seafoam green sling-back heels. His socks gave him a case of the heebie-jeebies when they turned into stockings and crawled up his legs, getting far too friendly, he thought, with his manly bits. He also acquired longer hair and a makeup job that de-emphasised his freckles and his masculine jaw line while drawing attention to his eyes and lips. Youre really good at that, Fred noted. If you ever want to leave the Bureau, give us a call. We can always use talented people. You mean that? Fred nodded. Agent D looked thoughtful. Agent K and I have been thinking about it, she confessed. The Bureau frowns on relationships between Agents. Were going to be here for a few days; come see us after we get Harry and Daphne on a plane. Youre done, Agent D said. Fred looked at himself in a mirror. Wow, Id date me, he grinned. They ran out and across the hall Fred remarking that only in Vegas would a cross-dressing redhead in a bridesmaids dress be treated as normal and burst into the room where Daphne was waiting. Whoa! Fred said, blinking repeatedly. What he said, Agent D agreed. I look okay? Daphne said nervously. This was supposed to be small and easy, she mumbled. Okay? Agent D asked. If we dont have to pick up Harrys and every other male in the buildings tongues, Ill eat my hat. Daphne smiled nervously, and then seemed to focus on him directly. Why are you wearing a dress? You need a maid of honour, and since George had to watch your stripper earlier, its my turn. You two are certifiably insane, Daphne said flatly. Agreed, Agent D muttered. Guilty as charged, Fred agreed. But you look great, youre having fun, and youre about to have the wedding you secretly dreamed of. True, Daphne said slowly. She looked up and for the first time, smiled directly at Fred. Fred felt his heart speed up a little, and he shook himself. Daphne leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. Thank you, she said. Youre welcome, Fred squeaked, feeling his face heat up. Now, come on, Harrys waiting. Daphne nodded, and steadied herself. Lets go. They walked out together, a hotel employee handing them both flowers as they walked past, and entered the hall. As they entered, a forty-piece orchestra in the corner took up the traditional wedding march. Slow down, Daphne whispered without moving her lips. Walk with the music. The room, decorated in white with enough flowers to keep a small florist in business for a year, looked fantastic.

Fred walked with Daphne, concentrating on keeping his balance, not used to walking in heels, and smiled as he looked at Harry. Harrys new tuxedo emphasised just how good he could look, and he could only be described as awestruck as he looked at Daphne. The white off-the-shoulder dress she was wearing made her lightly tanned skin glow; her eyes, emphasised by the Muggle makeup, were sparkling; and her hair seemed be giving off its own light. Fred looked at her and smiled softly. This girl was so in love with his friend that there could have been a million men in front of her, and she would have only had eyes for him. He sniffed a little, suddenly feeling a little sorry for his sister, but one look at Harry made him realise that he felt the same way about Daphne. Fred took his place next to Daphne, and winked at George as the minister started the ceremony. It was five in the morning, Harry and Daphne had just left for the airport in one of the Hotels limos, and the party was finally winding down. There were people crashed all over the suite. The Secretary, with his wife, was asleep on the couch, several fresh Agents surrounding them. Agents K and D, or former agents, as they soon would be were spooned up together on a couch in a way that left no one in doubt about their relationship. Chris and Ed were snoozing with the two girls from the dress shop, and around them, everyone seemed very happy. Good wedding, George said softly. Yep, Mums going to kill us when she finds out we were here and she wasnt. True, worth it though. Absolutely. As we always say, if you want something done, you can pick anyone off the street, but if you want something done properly, with style and panache, then you really have to choose a Weasley. By the way, where did you send them on honeymoon? Bora Bora, in the Caribbean. Nice. What are we going to do now? Fred grinned. Everything is paid for, and Harrys winnings from earlier are just sitting around doing nothing. Poker? Breakfast first, then poker, then business, then the Ministry, then more poker, and then we can Portkey home. Busy day. No sleep? Were young and good looking, who needs sleep? They looked up as two stunning girls finished their drinks and headed toward them. Maybe breakfast can wait, Fred said softly. Absolutely! A/N: Yes, I know where Bora Bora is)

Matryoshka Vignettes Into the Abyss

Adam Sage looked over his desk at the young couple in front of him. His tactic was an old one, designed to make them nervous by not actually saying anything to them. The problem was neither of them seemed to be bothered in the slightest by it. They didnt even look at each other for support; they both simply looked back at him, meeting his gaze evenly, as if they were merely here to amuse themselves, and not because they had been arrested. And, if the stories hed heard had any grain of truth to them, they probably were. The looks they were directing at him were very different. Hers was cold, very cold, as if he, and by extension anyone with him, was not really worth her time. His was warm and curious, as if he had experienced a freedom that couldnt be explained by anyone other than those who had reached the abyss, and stepped back. She was, simply put, gorgeous. The sort of girl that da Vinci would have spent hours painting, trying to get her nose right. Her long dark hair redefined the term lustrous, and the outfit she was wearing spoke of taste and money not to mention great legs. He was more informal, in a pair of khaki shorts and a matching t-shirt. His hair was spiked up a little, in a way that left nothing to detract from his piercing green eyes. From his records, he knew that the male was wearing contacts, and he kind of wished he wasnt. Maybe glasses would have muted the effect those eyes were having on him. Okay, he sighed, knowing that he wasnt going to make them uncomfortable. Why dont you tell me just why you felt it necessary to Obliviate a group of Muggles three times? Well, the male, Harry, started cheerfully. Why dont you let me tell him? the female, Daphne, interrupted. But No, dear, and for the first time, he saw the person under the ice. Its part of the deal; you get to see me naked, and I get to tell your embarrassing stories, in the hope that you wont do them again. That seemed like a pretty damn good deal to Adam. Hed willingly confess everything for a chance to see her naked. Although, judging by her husband, he didnt think that offer would be met with success. A slightly plump forty-year-old Auror probably wouldnt be a match for a seventeenyear-old Dark Lord defeater. It was also obvious, through the hand she had placed on Harrys arm that she was teasing him gently, in a way that said that if it was truly embarrassing, she would never tell anyone. The young man smiled at her, and Adam felt like he was intruding on something he had no right to be near. Okay, Harry sighed, his eyes dancing merrily. You tell him. She turned to look at him, fixing her eyes on him. The look she had given Harry was gone, and her original coldness was back in place. It was almost like she was two people. One warm and caring, the other cold and hostile. And the way she could change, was, frankly, scary. We were married four weeks ago, she said, her voice as smooth as silk. And some friends of ours decided to send us on holiday to Bora Bora, in the Caribbean. Bora Bora isnt in the Caribbean, Adam pointed out. I know, she said, in a way that quite firmly told him not to interrupt again, if he fancied getting out of the room with his testicles intact. Like most wizards, she continued calmly, they have no idea of geography. But we really liked the place. We thought about buying an island there, but decided we wanted to see more of the world first. He tried hard not to blink in surprise. It was such a different lifestyle to even be able to say those words so casually, as if buying an island was somehow analogous to buying a loaf of bread.

He was really out of his depth here, and wished his boss hadnt taken one look at the report and gone for a long lunch. So we decided to do a bit of a world tour, she continued. New Zealand was our first stop. We rented a small place for a few weeks, and arranged for Dobby to come over. Dobby is your house-elf, right? No, and this time it was Harry who was cold. Dobby is an employee and friend of mine, with all the rights and benefits that entails. He nodded reflexively; he hadnt actually heard of house-elves that were employees before, but he didnt think it was relevant at the moment. So we had a good look around the country, Daphne continued, and were enjoying ourselves. Then we made the mistake of going to Kawarau. He nodded. That was where they had been arrested. As we got there, we saw all these Muggles jumping off a bridge with some ropes tied to their legs. Bungee jumping? Adam asked. Yes. Well, my darling hero here couldnt let such a challenge pass him by. He spent a good thirty minutes trying to persuade me to join him. I refused while I like to fly, I prefer it to be under my own control, with a good broom. Adam nodded. But I allowed him to take part, and promised to take pictures. We paid the money, and waited our turn. They explained everything to Harry, as normal, and attached that Bungee thing to his legs. Adam nodded again. And, on the count of three, he jumped. And? Her lips twitched. Dobby appeared in mid-air, caught him, and transported him back to the top. It wasnt his fault, Harry protested playfully. He thought I was in danger, and he was just rescuing me. Adam hid his smile as he made some notes. That was another thing he didnt know about house-elves. He had never heard of an elf transporting another person or one risking his own life to save someone who wasnt his master in the normal sense. And even then, the reports of elves saving masters generally were few and far between. So, she continued. Harry had to Obliviate them, as seeing a human appear again once they had dropped was a little unexpected for them. Their story made sense so far, and the Obliviating was definitely for the right reasons, and they could hardly be blamed for it. Harry then climbed on to the ledge again, and jumped. This time he managed to get nearly a third of the way down. And? Harry and Daphne exchanged an amused look. A phoenix appeared and grabbed Harry by the cord, and carried him back to the top. Adam blinked. He shook his head. He wished he had some alcohol he could drink. Im sorry. Did you say a phoenix? She nodded regally. Fawkes is an old friend, Harry explained helpfully. He didnt realise that it was just for fun, he was just trying to help out. He wrote it down. So again, you had to Obliviate them? She nodded once more. The appearance of a mystical creature confused the Muggles. Harry had to talk very quickly to Fawkes to stop him crying. A headache was slowly forming behind Adams right eye. There was no way that they could be blamed for Obliviating this time, either. And the third time? This time, Harry jumped, and neither Dobby nor Fawkes appeared. Unfortunately, Fawkes had damaged the cord, and as soon as some tension was applied to it, it broke. Adam gasped. What happened then? I did the only thing I could, Harry interrupted, shaking his head. I cast the first charm I could think of, and survived. We then had to Obliviate the

Muggles one last time, and that was when the Aurors arrived. Adam started to write that down, when she said, Oh no, no, no, Harry, why dont you tell him just what charm you used? Adam paused and looked up hopefully. Harry winced and looked away. Adam turned to Daphne. She smiled at Harry, and then turned back to him. He didnt have his wand on him, so he tried to Banish the river. He used a little too much power though, and while you cant move the earth, he tried hard enough. The backlash threw him into the air, and he somersaulted and twisted as he flew up, and landed back on the platform. The Muggles gaped at him, and I looked down over the side of the bridge. What did you see? he asked eagerly. The canyon had a new floor, another two hundred feet down, and there was now a new waterfall half a mile up the stream. So Harry took back his wand, fixed the canyon and Obliviate d the Muggles again, and gave up on the silly idea of jumping off the bridge. Let me get this straight, Adam said slowly. After an elf and a bloody phoenix try and rescue you, the bungee cord broke, and in saving yourself, you managed to create a hole in solid stone thats been there since the dawn of time, and blast yourself back on to the bridge. They both nodded in unison. He sighed and tore up the paperwork dramatically. No judge on the planet was going to prosecute them. Well, Adam continued, as youre both here, we were wondering if youd be able to help us with a little problem. Oh? Harry asked. Adam looked at him, ignoring, as much as he could, Daphnes glare. We have a small Death Eater issue, Adam confessed. A few people over here dont believe that Voldemort is really dead. And, well, with the person who killed him in front of us, we hoped you could help us capture them. Weve tried, but, well, were not used to fighting that way. If we do it, Daphne said, her tone was sharp and decisive, you will ensure that no one will ever reveal that Harry is alive. He nodded in agreement. And of course, we would pay you. They both snorted her with disgust, him with amusement. My darling hero is a Gryffindor, he a) wouldnt accept your money, and b) had agreed to help as soon as you mentioned Death Eaters. Which is why I tend to do the negotiations for our services. The offer of money is largely irrelevant, she continued. However, we would both like New Zealand citizenship. That can be arranged, he said in surprise. It was a lot less than they had expected to pay. Okay, Harry said, and leant forward, somehow managing to take charge with the simple movement. What have you got on them? If youll come with me, he said, a little intimidated, Ill show you what we have. Harry nodded, already on his feet, and offering an arm to Daphne. Adam climbed to his feet and followed them out of the room. A room with a door that unlocked itself with a casual wave of Harrys hand, reinforcing the point that if they had decided to leave earlier, they could and would have. To the left, Adam directed them, and trailed after them. He tried to remind himself that he was the second highest ranking Auror in the country, that he had years of experience, and that they should be following him. It didnt work. Harry entered the room with a burst of power that had nothing to do with magic and everything to do with personality. Dont worry, Daphne said softly, appearing next to him. Hes been very good on our honeymoon, and not done any training at all, so hes got a little too much energy at the moment. Adam nodded. Thanks, he whispered, but she was already gone. Daph, Harry called. What do you think of this? Amateurs, she sniffed as she looked down at the map on the table.

The map was something they were proud of. It magically showed the location of the Death Eaters, and all the traps they had set up to defend themselves. She looked at her watch. If we hurry, we should still be able to make the restaurant. Err, what restaurant? Adam asked, suddenly feeling lost. It was a feeling that the rest of the room seemed to be experiencing as well, judging by their expressions. We have a table booked tonight in Wellington, Harry explained. In three hours and fifteen minutes to be precise. Daph was just saying that if we didnt hang around, we can still make it. What do you mean by not hanging around? Adam asked. Surely the initial planning would take more than three hours, but they could always reconvene in the morning. Capturing the Death Eaters, Harry said cheerfully. Adam gaped. What? he managed to squeak out. Daph and I will Apparate to here, he indicated the driveway on the map. Walk into the house, arrest everyone we can. Kill those we cant, Daphne continued coldly. And be finished in time to get changed for dinner. But but Adam stuttered. Have we missed something? Harry asked politely. But you cant just walk in and do that! he almost shouted. Why not? Daphne inquired. What about backup, weapons, tactics, training? Youve got your wand, havent you, Daph? She nodded and pulled it out of the side of her skirt. Ive got mine. Thats the weapons dealt with. Backup, theres six Aurors here and you, thatll be plenty, youll only be doing the paperwork anyway. Tactics. We walk in and start casting spells, stop when were done, and training. Harry paused. Wait for our signal, Daphne said to the Aurors. Do not come in beforehand, or we might hit you by accident. Thank you, Harry said cheerfully. There, were done. The headache was now approaching migraine strength. Err, sir, Dave, one of his Aurors said. We should let them do it, while the Death Eaters are all in one place. Okay, Adam sighed. Lets go for it. Well see you there, Harry grinned, as he wrapped an arm around Daphne and vanished. Sir, Dave said. Just who the hell are they? Adam looked up. You wouldnt believe me if I told you. Is that why they got through our Anti-Apparition wards? Adam nodded again. Hed known for some time that the wards needed updating, but even then, he hadnt thought anyone would get through them so damn casually. Well, what are you standing around for? Get to the Armoury, get the shields and weapons, and form up at the Apparition point. It took them thirty minutes before they were ready, and Adam was already fortifying himself for the disappointed glare he just knew that Daphne was going to give him. A quick trip to the medi-wizard had dealt with his headache, and he had been given a warning to take some time off, advice he was going to be happy to take. He arrived and looked around. Harry was to the left, sat on the ground, leaning against a tree. Daphne was leaning against his chest, his arms were around her, and they looked like a couple of teenagers in love. Harry whispered something to Daphne, and for the second time, he got the feeling he was intruding on something special, and he turned away to find that his Aurors were as well. Now thats love, one of them muttered. Tell me about it, mate, another one said. I can almost bloody taste it. So, Harry said as he and Daphne joined them. Are we ready?

The Aurors nodded, and Adam felt a burst of pride. His Aurors, despite not being used to this sort of thing, looked determined to go ahead with it. Wait here, Daphne said flatly. Oh, and we set up anti-Apparating wards thirty minutes ago, so once you are on the property, do not try to Apparate; you wont like what happens. The two of them took out their wands. Daphne went first, and cast what looked like an extremely powerful cutting curse at the security gates. Harry cast the same spell immediately afterward, but his spell seemed to merge with hers, changing its colour. The spell hit the gates, and rather than cutting a small hole in it, or bouncing off, as was expected, it destroyed the gates, and continued in a straight line, busting a hole in the side of the house. Adam gaped again, and then made a firm mental note to try and find out how on earth you could merge spells like that. Harry and Daphne walked through the destroyed gates, both of them moving smoothly, their wands at the ready. Dave sighed, and then took a seat against a tree. What are you doing? Adam asked. Taking it easy, Dave replied. Theres nothing else for us to do. Adam went to protest, but then realised that Dave was right. He couldnt see anything from the house; there was a lot of shouting and the sound of things breaking though. They had been given some rather explicit instructions, so he sat down himself. Harry Potter, right? Dave asked casually. Yeah, Adam sighed. But thats top secret. I thought he was dead, one of the others said. Im guessing he faked it to get out of the U.K. You know what their Ministry is like. The Aurors snorted in near unison. Makes ours look immaculate. Exactly, Adam agreed. Theyre married as well. I cant decide which one is luckier, Dave grinned. How much are we paying them for their help? Cash-wise, nothing, Adam grunted. Daphne just wanted citizenship. Why? No idea. I didnt exactly question her. The sound of fighting stopped abruptly, and all the Aurors got to their feet and started to walk down the driveway. Harry and Daphne, walking hand in hand, appeared in the doorway and strolled towards them. Two dead, seven captured, and one who will never have children, Harry said cheerfully. Have fun. Wait, Adam called after the retreating Harry and Daphne. They turned and looked at him quizzically. Thank you, he said seriously. On behalf of a grateful New Zealand. No problem. Harry shrugged with an easy smile. One more thing, Dave called. What did the Death Eater who will never have children do? Daphne smiled in a chilling fashion. He grabbed me and tried to use me to distract Harry. Harry shook his head and winced in an exaggerated fashion. And let that be a lesson, that when Daph says No, she really means it. She laughed softly, and the two walked off down the road. Adam laughed to himself and entered the mansion. They found the Death Eaters, still in their robes but unmasked, stuck to the floors, walls and ceiling. Theyve been Obliviate d, Dave said, looking up from one of them.

Adam nodded. That made sense; after all, it wouldnt be good if prisoners started to talk about being captured by a dead man. Well, he said cheerfully. Lets get them out of here. He walked over to the Death Eater who was still on the floor, curled up in a foetal position. Lucas Rajai, he whispered. On behalf of all of those Muggles you raped and killed, Im awarding Daphne Greengrass the highest honour we have for teaching you a lesson that you will remember while you spend the rest of your life as the bitch of the nastiest Muggle prisoner I can find. Adam whistled to himself cheerfully as he looked through some paperwork. His job was so much easier with the Death Eater cell being wiped out so effectively. Rumours of a new squad of crack Aurors had circulated through the criminal underground, causing an unprecedented drop in crime. Sir, his secretary said. Ive got a visitor for you. Send them in, he said. The door opened, and the world-wide familiar figure of Albus Dumbledore strolled in. Can I help you? Adam asked. I was wondering if you could help me locate some students who have run away from school, Albus said. I believe they are in New Zealand at the moment. Adam looked surprised. Youve lost some students. Thats a little careless. What are their names? Daphne Greengrass and Harry Potter, Dumbledore admitted. He raised his eyebrows. I thought Harry Potter was dead, he said in surprise. Im afraid not, Dumbledore said. I have reason to believe that he is very much alive. Well, that does change things, Adam said. He opened a book and placed it in front of Dumbledore. This is a list of every foreign national in the country. No one can get in or out without showing up in here. Albus scanned the list eagerly, and then sighed. Are you sure this is accurate? Adam pointed to Albus name in the list, which had the time of entry to the country underneath. Well thank you, Albus said, looking disappointed. I wont take any more of your time. No problem, Adam said, standing. Was there anything else? Just one thing, Dumbledore said, and whipped out his wand. Obliviate ! You will forget that Harry Potter was ever alive. The only person I asked about was Greengrass. The Headmaster turned and walked out of the office, leaving Adam to settle back into his chair. His damn headache was back now. Blocking an Obliviation was always painful, but Harry had warned him that Dumbledore would do it, when Adam had told Harry that Albus had arrived in the country. Still, Daphnes request was now making sense, as he hadnt had to lie to Dumbledore at all. Harry and Daphne Potter were no longer foreign nationals, and would no doubt enjoy the rest of their time in New Zealand, as the personal guests of the Prime Minister.

Matryoshka Vignettes True Bravery

Neville strolled through the doors to Hogwarts, feeling confident in the school grounds for the first time. He headed toward the Gryffindor Common Room, and wasnt really surprised when the Headmaster appeared alongside him. Mr Longbottom, Albus Dumbledore said. Did you have a good day? I did, thank you, Neville said politely. Its really nice to be able to go home, now that Voldemort is dead. Tell me, the Headmaster said, were you able to call Voldemort by name before his death? I tried. Harry always told me not to be scared of a name, Neville said sadly. Quite true, quite true indeed, Dumbledore said. Did you go anywhere nice? Just to see Gran, Neville said. Im sure she was pleased to see you, Dumbledore said with a smile. I was wondering if you would be willing to do me a favour? Oh? Yes. Im in need of a new Head Boy for the final few weeks of school. Neville stopped dead in his tracks. You want me to be Head Boy? Dumbledore nodded, his eyes twinkling. Neville put his hands on his hips hips that had lost a lot of baby fat, especially after spending most of the last few weekends on Harry and Daphnes island. I hardly think that is appropriate, he said in a very low voice. Harry sacrificed everything he had for this school, and I will not insult his memory by taking over his position. I would expect that the position would remain unfilled for the rest of the school year. Now, if youll excuse me. He turned and walked away, laughing to himself internally. As if he would step into Harrys shoes. Dumbledore was obviously looking for someone he could control, and Neville Longbottom was his own man now. He mumbled the password to the Fat Lady, and entered the Common Room. It seemed to be separated into two halves. In one, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were arguing furiously, in the other, the rest of the students were trying to stay out of the way. With two senior prefects involved, and the personalities, no one seemed to want to interfere. Before, he would have been the same. But the time he had spent with Harry and Daphne, and, more importantly, facing down Snape, had changed that. He pulled out his wand and concentrated, casting Silencio on them. One day he hoped to be able to cast spells like Harry did. It wasnt the spells themselves that were impressive as the style in which they were delivered. Harry made spell casting look as natural as breathing, and it surprised people every time. There, he said cheerfully to the others. Did you all have a good weekend? Nev, Seamus said, I could kiss you for doing that. But, erm, not to be blunt or anything, I think you just drew their attention on to you. He turned and looked at the two Weasleys and Granger. They were all glaring at him. They can continue to destroy their friendships later, Neville shrugged. I really doubt that Harry would want to see them arguing like that. It was the closest he was going to get to warning them about their behaviour. Harry was still very unsure about the loyalties of his old friends. Where once he would have trusted them with anything, this time around they had all proved to be firmly attached to Dumbledore a man he did not trust in the slightest. He could see that all three were trying to shout at him, and he turned his back on them. Theyd find it very difficult to curse him without being able to say the words. Not that Harry would have had that problem. He smiled internally. Harry had shown him the extent of his wandless magic, and it wasnt that much, but then Harry had done something with it, and hed understood. It was the flair again. Hed walked up to a door and unlocked it with a wave of his hand. And it was the wave that did everything. It implied so much

more than a simple unlocking charm. It implied absolute mastery of all forms of magic. So, Seamus, what did you do this weekend? I went to church, the Irish student said, taking a seat on one of the many couches. Dean sat with him, Lavender and Parvati sat on one of the others. Lavender and Parvati exchanged a look, and then shifted to one side, leaving a space for Neville. According to some of the conversations hed had with Daphne, this was probably a test to see how much hed changed. He felt like hed been some sort of experimental subject for the female Potter during their stay, and hadnt realised until it was time to leave just what she had done. If he could be comfortable with Daphne Potter, even when she was wearing a bikini, Lavender and Parvati held little fear for him. He sat between them and crossed his legs comfortably at the ankle, leaning back. Church? he asked Seamus. Yeah. It was kinda interesting. Id not been since I was six. Pretty much everything was said in Latin, but Mum was proud that I was there. What about you, Dean? Any new girlfriends? Dean laughed and shook his head. Nope, I spent the weekend surfing. Cool, Seamus said. Ive always wanted to do that. I didnt think you could swim though? Not that sort of surfing. Dad got a computer a few months ago, and its hooked up to this thing called the internet. Its kinda like a giant library with loads of books that you can look through without leaving home. Looking through it is called surfing. The others nodded. Lav? Break a thousand boys hearts by returning to dreary old Hogwarts? Neville knew he was laying it on a bit thick, but for the first time he was able to act like he wanted to. Hed seen Harry be the centre of attention a thousand times, and wished he had the ability to do it as well. Harry and Daphne had worked hard to make sure he could do so. And the main thing was realising that if you made a mistake, you shrugged it off, and continued, remembering not to do it again. It was strangely simple, but he suspected it was all down to self-confidence, something he had never really had before. And while he didnt have much of it at the moment, it was growing every day, and he was determine that he would keep it growing. She giggled, turning in her seat so that she could bring one leg up, which had the dual effect of making her more comfortable, and showing a lot more of her legs. Nope, me and Parvati just spent time with our families. It was good, you know? But enough of that, Parvati said. Just where did you go, Mr Sun-tanned? The Caribbean, he smiled. Sometimes obscurity worked, and the fact that Bora Bora was the other side of the world was irrelevant. Spent some time on the beach, met a gorgeous girl, and then returned to happy Hogwarts alone. Youre not seeing her again? Id like to, Neville sighed. And he would, the next time he got to go to see Harry and Daphne, but this would put the idea in their heads that a holiday romance had caused the changes in confidence. Dont worry, Parvati said brightly. Your friends will help you get over her. Yeah, Lavender agreed. He didnt feel the need to point out that their offer would not have been made before the end of term. He looked up, and shifted to pull his wand out, and cancelled the silencing spell on the three dumb students. What the hell do you think Ginny started, her voice rising above the other two who were also shouting. Neville shrugged and cast the spell again. If theyre good, Ill take it off them in the morning. He grinned suddenly. Seamus, can you do that piercing whistle of yours? He put his fingers in his ears, as Seamus put two fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly. Silence swept over the Common Room as everyone turned to face him. Im enacting a new rule, he said, as he stood on the sofa so everyone could see him. No arguing in the Common Room. If you want to act like childish idiots, you can do it where the rest of us dont have to put up with that sort of crap. Shouldnt a prefect be suggesting that? one of the fourth years asked. Probably, but as our senior prefects are the ones doing most of the arguing, Neville said with a shrug, Im standing in. He was pleased that Hermione was blushing at the charge of dereliction of duty. We all miss Harry, he said, deciding to address the loss everyone in the room was feeling, but not talking about. The faces he could see all seemed to dim a bit at the mention. But I can say without doubt that he would have wanted everyone to enjoy the fact that Voldemort is dead. He would have hated to see everyone down and Gryffindor arguing. Its been four months. Weve mourned enough, now its time to celebrate his life! Nevs right, Seamus said, standing as well.

Yeah, Dean agreed. Harry never wanted anyone to make a fuss over him, and that includes now. Well never forget, but we dont let it take over our lives. Neville sighed at the stubborn looks in the eyes of Ron, Ginny and Hermione. Still, it was their choice. He sat down with the others, and the continued to talk about their Easter holiday. A few hours later, they all separated and went to their separate rooms. Ron and Hermione had gone on patrol now un-silenced again. Nev, Seamus, Dean said, quickly casting a silencing spell around the room and charming the door shut. He took a deep breath. Harrys alive! What! Neville spluttered. How do you know that? He groaned as soon as he said it. Seamus and Dean both turned and stared at him, and he felt himself starting to blush. He closed his eyes for a second he had to handle this. He had to deal with it. He would not backslide. He shrugged. Whoops, he continued with a grin. So, how do you know, Dean? I think the question is, how do you know? Dean replied dryly. But I asked first, Neville replied, now determined not to let this conversation get away from him. Seamus looked from him, to Dean, and back to him again. Yeah, spill the beans, Deano, Seamus said. Dean nodded slowly. Okay, so I might not have said exactly why the internet is cool. You can find pictures of all sorts of women on there free! Seamus eyebrows seemed to hit the ceiling. Im just a poor Irish catholic boy, he said, exaggerating his accent, these wouldnt be being naked girls, would they? Dean smirked. So, I was chatting with some guys in America a few weeks ago, and they were going nuts about this new model not a naked one, by the way and someone pointed me to the store that was selling her posters. Well, I looked at it for about two seconds, before I borrowed Dads credit card and ordered it. It arrived yesterday. Dean reached into his trunk and pulled out a long cardboard tube. With reverence and care, he opened the top and eased out a large sheet of rolled out paper. He carefully unrolled it the look in his eyes saying he was deliberately increasing the tension. With a final flourish, Dean grabbed his wand and attached the poster to the wall. Rather than look at it directly, Neville watched Seamus face, and smiled. The Irish boy blinked, and then his jaw dropped over and a stunned expression took over. Neville laughed softly and looked at the poster. The background was a gorgeous white beach, with deep turquoise water behind it, but he doubted anyone would ever really notice it. In the centre, crawling out of the surf was Daphne Potter. Her hair was swept over one side of her head, and hung down the other side, the tips just brushing the water. She was wearing a simple white bikini, and was looking at the photographer with an expression that got to him every time. Shit! Seamus said. That is Daphne Greengrass! And we went to school with her for how long? Six and half years, Neville said dryly. Seamus shook himself. Well he stuttered. Neville laughed and slapped him on the back. The great ladies man, Seamus Finnegan, struck dumb? Daph will be pleased. Daph? Seamus and Dean asked together. Neville shook his head. So, how did this tell you that Harry was alive? Dean pointed to the bottom corner, and Seamus and Neville leaned into see it.

Copyright: Magic Productions. Model: Daphne Potter.

Now, Dean said with a grin. The one thing Daphne didnt say at the funeral was that they were married. So that means that they got married afterward as society tends to frown on marrying dead people. But thats my story; I think that Neville has a much more interesting one. Have you told anyone else? Neville asked Dean. Of course not, Dean replied. Without hesitation, Neville pulled his wand out and pointed it at the two boys, backing away slowly so that hed have a chance of getting both of them. Ill take a vow on your magic now, gentlemen, he said seriously, that you will not reveal that Harry is alive to anyone, until he does so himself. Nev? Seamus said. Were not playing games any more, Neville said firmly. This is more serious than you can know. Now, you either swear, or Ill Obliviate both of

you. Seamus moved first, taking his wand in his hand. I swear on my magic that I will not reveal that Harry Potter is alive to anyone. Dean shrugged. Id rather know what was going on, than not. I swear on my magic that I will not reveal that Harry Potter is alive to anyone. Neville smiled and relaxed, putting his wand away. That picture was not supposed to be made into a poster, he said, a frown on his face. Daph is going to be very upset with the company. Youve seen it before then? Dean asked eagerly. Along with the rest of them, Neville nodded. Ive spent the past few weekends on their island. They have an island? Yeah, in the Caribbean. Vow or no vow, he wasnt telling anyone the true location. But it was nice to have someone at Hogwarts he could talk to. And Harry knows about the posters? Not about this one due to a situation I cant go into, a Muggle company arranged permission to use a picture of Daphne in her wedding dress to promote their wedding dresses. The photo got syndicated around the country, and it became really popular, and Daphne decided to do a few more, she quite enjoys modelling. The deal was that these posters would only be available in America, and that they wouldnt have her name on them. The American Bureau agreed to help keep it out of the Wizarding press altogether. Well, that worked, Neville continued. But the new pics didnt exactly work as intended. Shes now got standing offers to appear on numerous TV shows, magazines, and sporting events in the States. All shes agreed to do is a calendar next year, and do it properly, as the need for secrecy should be gone by then. He paused for a second, and smiled slightly. The marketing company is desperate for Harry to do one as well. But you know what hes like. The other two laughed and nodded. No chance, Seamus stated. Well, Neville grinned. He will be appearing, he just doesnt know it yet. Huh? Dean asked. Daphne is planning on doing one shot, for December that has her wrapped around him, displaying her wedding ring. Shes just not told him yet. So, theyre happy? Neville laughed softly. Very much so. Theyve found their island, and once they have their problems here sorted, theyll be fine. Problems here? Yeah, Neville sighed. You know about the Malfoys? Both boys nodded. And they were the ones who dealt with Snape as well. Hes alive, but he wont be coming back. All right! Dean yelled, and high-fived Seamus. And theyre laying some pretty deep plans for the Ministry as well. Im helping them with Hogwarts, and they have others in different circles reporting to them. Can we help? Dean asked eagerly. No idea, Neville replied. Ill let them know youre interested and youve promised to keep their secret. It is fun watching them work. Daphnes very direct, and Harry is pretty circular, but together they bounce ideas off each other and it works. So theyve been corrupting you, taking away that sweet innocent boy Neville and replacing him with a man? Neville grinned. Absolutely. Well, mainly Daphne. I think my blushing every time she wandered around in her bikini irritated her. There was a bang at the door, and Ron shouted, Oi, let me in! Acting as if rehearsed, Neville grabbed the cardboard tube while Dean pulled the poster off the wall and rolled it up. As soon as it was out of sight, Seamus cancelled the spell. What were you doing? Ron asked, obviously in a foul mood. I I Neville stuttered deliberately. I kinda like Parvati, he continued. And we were giving him some advice, Dean said amicably.

Take my word for it, Ron snorted. And stay away from bloody girls; theyre more trouble than theyre worth. He grabbed his towel and stomped into the bathroom. Nice cover, Seamus whispered softly. Neville shrugged. Harry doesnt know who theyre loyal to, he said quietly. And seeing the way theyre tearing into each other, Im not either. Dont worry, Dean said. We swore, and neither of us has any particular wish to become a squib. Neville nodded and changed, before climbing into bed. You know, he said thoughtfully. Parvati is pretty. Seamus laughed. And single. And definitely in need of spending more time with the new and improved Neville Longbottom. Neville laughed. As Daphne said, it was always inside me, she just showed me where it was. You really like them, dont you? When you see them, you wont believe it. Harrys more confident than before, and carries himself like a man, and well, Daphne, she looks just like in that poster. Youre a lucky man, Neville. Night, he replied. He rolled over and went to sleep; they didnt need to know what had happened with Snape. ---

True bravery is shown by performing without witness, what one might be capable of doing before the whole world. La Rochefoucauld

Matryoshka Vignettes A Gilded Cage

I am dead. Oh, I still breathe. I still have a heartbeat. I still eat and sleep. But all the same, I am dead. Death isnt so bad, really, and I have a sneaking admiration for the way they killed me. Id never tell them that, but then, they probably know. And you know the really strange thing? Im happy being dead. Well, almost. If I had someone to insult, I would be happy. As it is, I guess content is the correct word. And I would have never thought you would be able to use that word to describe me. But I suppose I should explain why I am here, dead, before going into that? It all started when I woke up from an endless sleep. Or rather, was woken up. Harry Bloody Potter and Daphne Greengrass had cleverly forced me to create my own doom and I thought that was it sleep til death. Not a bad way to go, really, considering that I had always thought that I would go screaming in agony at the whim of Voldemort. So I woke up, and felt like groaning. Neville Bloody Longbottom, of all people. I wasnt thinking straight, and when he stood up to me, rather than smack him as should have, I agreed to his silly demands. Or rather, their silly demands, because he was obviously coached by a Slytherin. I didnt think through these silly demands; I couldnt, I was not awake yet. Something Greengrass, and probably Potter, would have known, but not something that Longbottom would have. They must have plans for him, as theyre making him grow up. Something I can approve of, really. So he bought me here. To heaven. Or at least, what originally seemed my idea of heaven. The potions chamber was obviously designed by an expert, and even more obviously with a lot of money involved. I know exactly how much most of this stuff costs. I had it all priced out when I still worked at Hogwarts, and was trying to save for my retirement from dealing with the annoying insects that were there for a poor mockery of an education. Potions were the only subject where the students learnt anything that would be of use in the outside world: discipline and how to think. Unlike the other pointless classes, I never gave the idiots the correct answer (well, unless they had a rich father I wanted something from). They had to work it out for themselves. So, while they ruined ingredients supplied by the lowest-bidding potions supplier, I sat at my desk and planned out how much money I would need. It was far more than I was ever going to earn, sadly. And then it was handed to me on a plate. And Salazar is probably rolling in his grave at the moment I just accepted it. I didnt ask the questions I should have. And I didnt even notice for a few months, maybe more. When you finally have access to Powdered Griffin Claw, you want to actually use it, not worry about other unimportant things. Oh, the potions I was now able to create. So beautiful, so perfect, and with Fried Banshee Blood, they were even tasty.

And so I did. I cured the werewolves properly, this time. I was promised ownership, and I wanted it, more than I hate werewolves. I cured Longbottoms parents, stupid Aurors; theyll probably want to go back to insanity when they wake up. Oh, your kid? Now a useless grown up. Welcome back! And Greengrass and Potter kept their side of the bargain. I received ownership papers and my wand. These items appeared like my food does. I walk into a room, and something is there, waiting for me. There was also a request for a new potion with the ownership papers, but I ignored it. I was going to go and rub my new-found wealth in Lucius Malfoys face. I knew what had happened to him, I get the Prophet every day. Its my connection to the outside world. He was now a pauper, working for anyone that would hire him. Narcissa tried to divorce him, but he managed to successfully fight it after all, he was still a pureblood. And they now had a small apartment they shared. And to finish off the humiliation, Malfoy Manor is now an orphanage for half-bloods and Mudbloods. When Daphne and Harry Potter hate, they hate with style. But I never drew the parallel. I Apparated to Diagon Alley or at least I tried. And couldnt. I tried again. And still couldnt. So I walked out of the small castle, down to the gates, and couldnt get through them. Thats when; finally, I drew the parallel. Harry and Daphne gave me exactly what I wanted: potions ingredients I used to dream about and nobody to annoy me. And then they locked the door. Ironic, isnt it? I own my own glorified mausoleum. Well, I did lose my temper. I ranted and raved, unsure if they could hear me, and I even destroyed some of the other rooms not my potions chamber, never that in the hope that it would get their attention. Well it did. I guess. Because when I woke up, everything was fixed, as if it had never happened. So I sulked. For a week. And that got me nowhere at all. Except for the fact that I didnt get any new potion supplies. Behaviour management? Oh yes. If Im a good boy, I get what I want. If Im a bad boy, I dont. Im a slave, a prisoner. But its not too bad, really. Oh, I know I should do something, but what? Kill myself? I dont think so. Escape? How? Cant Apparate, cant create Portkeys, I have no Floo, and the shields around this place are better than anything I can do with stupid wand waving. They were no doubt designed by the best Slytherin. Oh yes, I call her the best Slytherin, because she did what the rest of them dreamed about doing. She took a chance, found someone powerful, and then took control. By whatever measure you want to take use, shes the best. Riches? Her fortune, plus Potters, plus the money that is coming in from the partnership with the Weasley twins, plus the money my potions must be making them. That is some serious wealth. Power? When she talks, people listen, and listen closely. It might not be official, like the Minister of Magic, but her suggestions are nearly always

acted on. Happiness? Not something most Slytherins will admit to wanting, but whats the point of the first two without the happiness? And thats something she seems to have down as well. I might disagree with her choice Harry Bloody Potter but she seems happy about it. That was when I gave up and accepted my situation. Then they visited me. They just appeared in my living room one day, completely at ease. They were both wearing Muggle clothing, as if they were going out for the evening, and had stopped by as to enquire about my health. Which is just peachy. Thanks for asking. Afternoon, Severus, she said calmly, her voice changed from when I had last heard it at the funeral. It was content now. Daphne, I nodded, and then looked at him. Potter. He grinned at me, that damnable grin that could almost be his fathers, if it wasnt clearly his own. How are you? she asked, sitting down near me. He was leaning against the fireplace, with the sort of casual elegance that I tried so hard for when I was young, and still cared about that sort of thing. All things considered, not bad, I remarked. If she wanted casual, Ill give her that. Is there anything you need? Freedom? Harry laughed under his breath. Im afraid not, Severus, Daphne said politely. Youre here for life. As your slave. If you want to think of it like that, yes. You always taught us the benefits of revenge, and we merely applied them to you. It was quite Slytherin, I grunted. So why should I continue to work for you? You dont have to, she said. You are now the master of your own destiny. To a degree. Qualified freedom if Ive ever heard it. Oh? I sneered. She looked at me with pity, and I felt embarrassed. I guessed face saving sneering isnt a good idea when you have nothing left to save. Its totally up to you, you can work on potions, or not. But? No buts, Severus. You work with us, and you will continue to get the ingredients you love. You dont, and you will be able to do what you like, inside the grounds of your home. You will continue to be fed, and there is an extensive library well, without any Dark Arts books. What if someone finds me? I asked, changing tactics, trying to surprise an answer out of her. She smiles gently at me. Youre under the Fidelius Charm. She told me. I didnt trick it out of her. Whos the secret keeper? I asked, looking at Harry. Why, you are, my dear Professor, Harry said politely. I froze and then slowly clapped my hands. How very Slytherin. The only person who could tell, cant tell. I am, in effect, my own jailer. Daphne smiled again. You wanted an interesting retirement. You can have that here. We will supply you with work that will test the limits of your ability, and the ingredients to do it. I nodded. I know when I am beaten. This isnt the posturing of Voldemort, or the cloying sentimentality of Dumbledore. These are people who have planned, who have executed those plans, arranging all the pieces to the point where fighting them simply isnt worth it. Daphne stood, and moved over to Potter, who placed his arm around her. She nodded at me, and they vanished, leaving me alone. Alone, once more, in my gilded cage. I picked up the paper with their request on it, and walked into my chamber.

On the worktable was the crystallised Dragons Breath I was going to need. Being dead really isnt so bad.

Matryoshka Vignettes A Lawyer's Tale

After breakfast with my wife, I walk the dog, take a shower, get dressed and walk to work. Its a terrible commute, really, involving a long arduous walk along the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay from my house to my office; a walk of about 15 minutes when Im walking briskly. When I vary my route it takes all of 20 minutes, but that involves a detour to procure my second cup of coffee for the day. My secretary was out on a well-deserved vacation for the week. I had no clients scheduled for the day, having reserved the time to close out the billings on the last case. The client was very satisfied, but no job is over until the paperwork is done, which in this case involved sending them a very hefty bill for services rendered. Given the fact that said services a) kept the client from financial ruin and b) left their business in a very satisfactory position, I expected the bill to be paid promptly, if not cheerfully. I opened up the office, which occupies the better part of a lovely restored house on the main street of the little town on the Bay where I work and live. Theres a paved parking lot behind the building and a small brass plaque next to the door, which gives the particulars as to the fact that this is a lawyers office, but there is no sign on the lawn, no advertisement in the yellow pages. There is a discreet listing in Martindale-Hubbell and an even more discreet webpage which gives motivated clients the particulars of how to get a hold of me, neither of which gives the street address of either my home or my office. Id reached the point in my career where I didnt particularly want new clients or new cases; most new work was referred to me from old clients or other attorneys. Id been plugging away at the raft of work, placing a few phone calls, answering and deleting e-mail and actually producing a spreadsheet that captured most of what I was going to include in the final bill, when I heard the outer door open and close. The sound was not unusual, in and of itself, except for the fact that my secretary wasnt here today, and the tenant that rents out the upper stories of the building was away for the week. I should have paid a bit more attention to that sound, but I was wrapped up in the task at hand. The next thing I noticed was a whiff of perfume, not one I recognized. When I looked up, there was a woman in the client chair. Good morning, I said brusquely. Good morning, she said, gracing me with a very small smile. Whatever irritation I had at being caught unprepared dissipated; Id always been a sucker for an English accent, and the fact that it was produced by a pretty girl with a lovely smile was just so much bonus. Im looking for a barrister. Sorry, cant help you, I said. She gave me a perplexed look, which given her otherwise serious and polished demeanour looked somewhat cute. Head east-by-northeast for a few thousand miles if youre looking for a barrister. All you can find on this side of the Atlantic are lawyers. She smiled again, catching the joke, crossing her legs as she got comfortable in the chair. They were exceptional legs. Jane Talley recommended you, she said. How do you know Jane? I asked, hoping that my intuition was wrong. Jane was a barrister with offices in London. Wed worked together in the past on a most unusual case. My husband is an investor in a business in London, she said, tossing her hair back a bit as she talked. The owners of the business have retained her in the past with good success. And where might this business be? I asked, smiling defensively. Number ninety-three, Diagon Alley, she said sweetly. Jane says that if you take my case that shell consider it a personal favour. Against my better judgement, I cleaned off my desk and brought out a notepad. I learned that the lovely lady sitting in the client chair was one Daphne Potter, nee Greengrass, heir to the Greengrass fortune, and general manager of a newly established holding company that included a small portfolio of modelling photographs, including one particularly stunning photo of her wearing a white bikini, dripping wet, in which she was looking straight into the camera lens. For all the good it was doing, she might as well have skipped the bikini it wasnt covering much. And so you see, that photograph was never authorized for the shoot. It was supposed to be a present for my husband, she said, probably not noticing the very subtle blush and minute dilation of her pupils when she talked about that photograph. I see, I said noncommittally. What is it that you want? An apology, money damages, the photographers head on a pike? I suggested. She smiled at the last suggestion. I want the negatives, the lithograph plate, and every single lithograph that was printed. After that, Ill leave it to your discretion and imagination. Im quite able to pay, she said, flicking her hair again. Do you have a dollar? I asked.

Im certain I have something in my purse, she said, with an amused expression. Ill consider taking your case, but Ive got to look into the particulars a bit before I can commit myself either way. How do I get a hold of you, as I dont have an owl? She reached for her purse, digging into it for a slim wallet. She extracted a dollar bill, which was worn, and a business card, which was not, leaving both on the edge of my desk. I stood and we shook hands, something I normally do when I escort clients from my office. Her grip was firm, though her hand was small. She closed the clasp on her purse and Disapparated from my office. I put the dollar into the petty cash box, opened an account in my general ledger and put the card into a file folder along with my note. My morning was shot, so I closed the office and walked to lunch. Itd been twenty years since Id had any dealings with the magical world; evidently that world thought I wasnt through with them yet. Lunch was adequate. I started making phone calls, spending hours chasing some facts on the internet and scheduling a trip to Delaware to visit a courthouse tomorrow morning. Two days later I had enough basic information to determine that I wanted to take the case, I was able to take the case, and it was something I could enjoy doing if I didnt get killed first by the players involved. I picked up the phone and dialled the number. She answered on the first ring. Yes, she answered. I can take your case, I announced. Excellent, she replied. May I bring my husband by on Friday before lunch? Yes, although Im not sure how much progress Ill have made between now and then, I warned. I have faith in you, she said before she rang off. I slept six hours in the next fifty hours of life. I was on a roll and didnt want risk the momentum. Friday morning came as it always did, sneaking in after the dregs of Thursday evening. After the usual breakfast, dog walk, shower and stroll to work, I was back in the office, working out of my war room" which held the boxes and boxes of documents I was trying to push into order to make sense of what Id learned that week. I sincerely hoped that theyd be late, which, given the fact that they were newlyweds, had a better than fifty percent probability. I kept working until I heard the door chime, at which I called out, Ill be with you in just a bit. When I walked into my office, my client chair was gone in its place was a leather loveseat of similar design. I raised one eyebrow. I dont mind the magic, so long as its what it was before when you leave, I said, looking over the rim of my glasses as I pointed to the chair. Mr Potter just stared back at me, a game face that Id seen time and again during my career. Mrs Potter was gracious enough to smile and nod before she too put on a cold mien. I sat behind my desk, tapping the expanding folder of loose-leaf paper Id been working on all morning before I turned to face my clients or rather my client, as Mr Potter was looking decidedly unfriendly this morning. What can I do for you? I asked. Daphne crossed her arms and shifted in the loveseat. Her body language, if I was reading it correctly, was saying go ahead, dear, in the manner of wives throughout the ages. My wife says that shes hired you to do some work for her, Mr Potter began. Yes, I replied. Well, what have you accomplished? he asked. I turned to look at Daphne. She raised one elegant eyebrow in reply. I remained silent for a longish spell. It was one of my better negotiation techniques. Learning how to be comfortable in silence has served me well over the years. I need permission from my client before I can divulge any information beyond the fact that you have retained me, Mrs Potter. But of course, she said. I have no secrets from my husband. Proceed. I did not offer an opinion as to the veracity of that statement. While that is an admirable sentiment, Mrs Potter, as you have retained me in your personal capacity, I must be careful. You could retain me as a couple, you could retain me to work on behalf of your holding corporation, or you could retain me in your individual capacities. In the absence of a more explicit retainer agreement, I always consider the individual to be the client. That being said I cleared my throat and pulled out my short stack of papers. I first recited my understanding of the facts as Mrs Potter presented them to me in the first meeting, watching them nod at the salient point of the narrative. I then went on to explain what I had learned about the photographer, the modelling agency, the advertising firm, the printing company that made (and distributed) the posters, and the corporation behind the printing company, News Corporation. Mr Potter waved his hand, asking me to stop. Im confused, how did Rupert Murdoch end up in this story? he asked. I was asking myself that question on Wednesday of this week, Mr Potter. Let me briefly recap the players. The photographer is a free lance operative he does a bit of repeat business for both the modelling agency and the printing company. The photographer turned all of his negatives and photographs over to the modelling agency. The modelling agency separated the photographs into two files, those that had been approved for publication, and the other file, which had not. Both files were sent to the printing company. The printing company is owned by BJH Enterprises. This is a private corporation; the majority of their business involves the operation of a number of unsavoury internet web sites. The printing company is more or less a hobby of one of the principal shareholders. News Corporation entered into negotiations to purchase what we will call for the sake of

convenience BJH. Part of the negotiations was a performance bond in which News Corporation guaranteed performance on BJHs projects and contracts for a one year period while it was being acquired by News Corporation. Why would News Corporation do that? Mr Potter asked. I havent a clue, but Ive seen it before. BJH was no doubt trying to finalize a number of transactions before it was acquired. The performance bond was more or less money in the bank for them, any company doing business with them could evaluate their prospects of success not based upon the resources of BJH, but those of News Corporation, I said. Are those significant assets? Mr Potter asked. Mrs Potter smirked. Fifty five billion dollars as of today, I said, roughly twenty to thirty billion pounds sterling, depending upon the exchange rate, and I dont know how many Galleons. BHJ, on the other hand, has very little in the way of tangible assets, violating one of the cardinal rules of civil litigation. And that rule might be? asked Mrs Potter. Never sue poor people, I said with a smile. I contacted an old acquaintance of mine, Professor Dinh, of Georgetown University, who is on the Board of Directors of News Corporation. He in turn put me in touch with Lawrence Jacobs, whos the General Counsel. I explained the situation to him on Wednesday. On Thursday morning I received the lithograph plates and approximately three thousand of the outstanding 5,012 lithographs printed. This morning I received the balance of the prints, bringing my count to five thousand and eight. So where are the other four prints? Mr Potter asked rhetorically. You know where one of them is, Daphne said, inconspicuously poking him with an elbow. Yeah, according to Neville, Dean has it, Mr Potter said. The twins each have a copy, and I have one, Daphne volunteered. Why do you have one? Harry asked quizzically. I was going to give it to you as a present, remember? Daphne asked, sparks flying behind her ice blue eyes. So theyre all present and accounted for? Mr. Potter asked. How much did that cost? Directly? Not a penny News Corporation paid for that. I persuaded them that it was in their best interests, I said. You must have been very persuasive, Daphne said warmly. I have my moments, I said. So thats the first part of your charge, Mrs Potter. The second part you left to my discretion. The shareholder at BJH responsible for the unauthorized printing has been bought out of the corporation. In return for going away quietly, hes going to be allowed to keep his vested retirement funds. Im still negotiating a settlement with News Corporation. Why them? Mr Potter asked. The acquisition became final before the lithographs were printed. BJH was a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corporation. I really must applaud whomever you used to draft up the contract for the modelling, its quite clear and the terms and conditions were very favourable to Mrs Potter, I said. Daphne giggled. That would be me, she said. Well, if you ever tire of your own business, come look me up, I could always use brilliant help, I said, not mentioning my fantasy of adopting her. So, when will you finish things with News Corporation? Daphne asked. If you dont mind, how about we give them a call? I asked. Mrs Potter looked like she was purring. Mr Potters demeanour was substantially warmer. I no longer was worrying that he was going to gut me with a letter opener on the way out of the office. I looked up the phone number and punched it into the speakerphone. Mr Jacobs office, a female voice answered on the first ring. I stated my name and then said Mr Jacobs is expecting my call, using my very cold voice. We were put on hold for a moment, and then a scratchy voice growled Jacobs. Hello Larry, its me, I said. I have my client with me on this phone call. Damnit! I cant come up with that amount of cash in 24 hours and you know it, Id have to have a full meeting of the Board of Directors, and theyd never approve it. It would tank our quarterly earnings, he said. I didnt say anything for a long, long time. Have you considered equity, Larry? I cant just give away stock in News Corporation! he barked.

Mr Murdoch could, I suggested, smiling broadly. Thats never going to happen, he said after an equally long silence. Equity swap, I said. Whats your equity? he asked, a note of relief in his voice. Godrics Hollow Holding Ltd. It should make your boss happy, its a New Zealand corporation, I said, looking up to Daphne, who was holding five fingers up. Five percent equity swap. Daphne nodded happily. My client is getting ready to go out of town, Larry. How long do I have? Jacobs asked. Daphne was miming five days to me. Tonight after the Exchange closes would be a good time for me, I said. Bastard, he said. I could hear him hitting something in his office. Ill call you tonight. No, Larry, Ill call you I plan on eating dinner with my wife tonight. You New York types think that 9:00 p.m. is when everyone finishes their day. Im living on the Bay for a reason, Larry, I said. And as a technical point of correction, Im an orphan, Larry, not a bastard. Mum and Dad were married when I came along; I have the paperwork to prove it. The phone line went dead. If it goes through, it will be most satisfactory, Daphne beamed. It will go through, I said confidently. You wont get five percent through, probably more like three. How much do we owe you? Mr Potter asked. I havent a clue. When the transaction is all signed and sealed, Ill work up a bill and send it to you. When youve paid the bill, youll get the lithograph plate and the prints. I expect that well wrap it all up in another week, two weeks at the most. We broke for lunch. Mr Potter paid, which was only fair insofar as Id spent most of the week working for $1.00. After lunch Daphne explained the mechanics of an equity swap to her husband, who after the first explanation was trying to do currency conversions in his head. You mean to tell me that we made about a five and a half thousand percent return on this transaction? he finally asked. Closer to six if it comes in at three percent, I said. 5,928 percent, Daphne corrected us both quietly. We shook hands all around and I walked back to my office. Sometime during my stroll my clients disappeared. Literally. The rest of the afternoon was spent finishing the billing on the job that got interrupted when Mrs Potter came to visit on Monday I definitely need to look up the rules on adopting an adult domiciled in New Zealand or maybe even France, whichever was easier.

Matryoshka Vignettes By the Light of a Silvery Moon

Harry Potter was a very smart bloke. Remus Lupin had known this fact from the day Harry was born. Of course, just because James had told anyone who had ears and would listen that his son was brilliant, didnt really factor into this. Remus had always thought that Harry was destined for greatness. From the time that he had first held the baby and looked into his green eyes his mothers eyes Lupin was convinced. Even though Sirius had been named godfather, Remus was always considered an honorary godfather. He had flat out turned James down when he had asked Remus to share the official position with Sirius, telling him that Harry would need the voice of reason in addition to Padfoots fun-loving. And even though Remus had strong feelings for Harry, he stood his ground. No, a werewolf was not an appropriate choice for a godfather. And even though a werewolf wasnt an appropriate choice, Remus was there with his friends, watching and growing to love the child Harry was becoming watching the child that would become the man the Wizarding world would need more than any other. And then that fateful day happened. Remus world was turned completely upside down. James and Lily murdered. Peter murdered (or so it seemed at the time). Sirius carted off to Azkaban for murder. Remus life was turned completely inside out his only friends either dead or in prison, and the boy he had grown to love like a son placed with Muggles. How he would have loved to have raised Harry, and now, knowing what the Dursleys were like, he wondered if he wouldnt have done a better job overall. But of course, he was a werewolf. And dangerous creatures do not make good parents. Remus sighed heavily as he readjusted himself in bed. The lump curled up at his side stretched languidly and rubbed her eyes. She blinked at him, her eyes still heavy with sleep, and smiled. Morning, love. Cant sleep again? Remus shook his head and tightened the arm encircling his girlfriend. She laid her head on his chest and drew lazy circles across his stomach with her finger. They had started dating shortly before Dumbledores supposed funeral. Even in their grief over losing one of the greatest wizards they had ever known, they were happy. They were an unlikely pair he was thirteen years older than she, and a werewolf. She was young and a bit on the wild side, and an Auror to boot. It had taken her a bit to convince him that they needed to explore their feelings for each other, and he was glad she had. He most certainly was the happiest he had been in years when he was with her. Their world seemed perfect for a while. Once Dumbledore had revealed the little secret about his supposed death, everything seemed perfect. He had a loving and wonderful girl who didnt give a rats arse that he was a werewolf, Dumbledore was alive and back in control of the situation with Voldemort, and Harry would be safe back at Hogwarts, following Dumbledores plan. Unfortunately, perfection isnt always what its cracked up to be. In his perfect little world, Remus failed the one person he had secretly vowed not to let down all those long years ago. He blindly followed an old fool who had no business running the show. He turned his back on the boy who had been like a son to him for one brief year. He had betrayed James and Lily more than he ever thought possible, and he was certain they both were rolling over in their graves. He should have realized, once he found out how the Dursleys had treated Harry, that Dumbledore really didnt have the boys best interest at heart. He should have seen what was going on. But instead of looking with his mind and heart, he blindly followed the one man he thought had everything under control. The one man who he assumed would defeat Voldemort and protect Harry. The man who would become the grand puppet master. The old man who was still in charge of Hogwarts. And now Harry was dead, thanks to that manipulative idiot. It wasnt until Harrys funeral that it all clicked for Remus. It took Harrys girlfriend Harrys secret girlfriend to explain what had happened and why. All of his friends Harrys supposed friends, him included turned their backs on him, whether they realized it or not. Dumbledore had convinced everyone who was remotely close to Harry that he had the Voldemort situation under control. That in Harrys best interest, it would be better to provide a united front and convince him to stay at Hogwarts. He wanted to control the one and only weapon that could be used against Voldemort. And that was Harry. And Dumbledore had used Harrys own friends against him to try to reel in the loose canon. Dumbledore wasnt as concerned about Harrys safety as he led everyone to believe. Quite the contrary; the old man knew he would sacrifice Harry for Voldemorts demise without Harry ever knowing what the true plan was. But Harry saw through the old fools plan, found a friend who actually believed in him, and went and finished off Voldemort with his girlfriend at his side. And the price that he paid was his life. But at least it was on his own terms. After Harrys funeral, Dumbledore had tried to contact Remus, but at that point Remus had finally understood. Remus knew what that git had done.

He spoke to the old man, but only out of politeness. When Dumbledore asked Remus to join him for a meeting to discuss the events of the day, Remus had refused. He knew Dumbledore well enough to know that he would try to use Remus to fix the situation of his reputation, something Remus had no desire to assist in. doing. It took Tonks longer to realize that Dumbledore had set the whole thing up. She still believed that the old man was what he said he was. It had caused the only real stumbling block in their relationship, and for a short time, they had separated over it. She had met with Dumbledore, believing he was better than he was, and came away convinced that he had truly manipulated everyone around him. Once she realized it, she came back to Remus, apologizing, and they worked out their problems. Dumbledore continued to try to sway Tonks into helping him, but she politely refused to follow him. Still, even knowing that the old man had manipulated so many, something didnt quite add up in Remus mind when he thought on the whole situation. Thinking of Harry? Remus thoughts were interrupted by the woman who shared his flat, who, with her hot pink hair, was staring intently into his face. He wasnt sure when she had raised her head to look at him, but the concern she had for him was evident behind her eyes. The last full moon a week ago had taken a huge toll on his body. His transformations had become harder and harder as he got older, and he knew that at the rate he was going, hed be dead by the time he was forty. It had taken him a while to get used to the idea that someone actually loved him for himself, but now that he was used to it, he wanted to keep it no matter what. And now that he had Dora, he didnt want to die. Yes, he replied, smiling slightly at her. What exactly about Harry are you thinking about? I can tell you are very deep in thought. Remus sighed, a weary sigh. The usual; how Dumbledore used us, tried to use him. How I should have been there. How disappointed James and Lily would" He stopped speaking as Tonks laid a finger across his lips. We were all idiots, Remus, she said softly, looking deep into his eyes. James and Lily would not be disappointed in you for following Dumbledore. They were staunch Dumbledore supporters when they were alive. Yes, but they would have seen through him. Would they? Theres no way of knowing for certain, Remus. You know that. Remus sighed again. I know, Dora. I just wish theyd been here. I just wish Sirius had been here. I just wish I hadnt turned my back on Harry. I know, Tonks said. We all do. But we cant change the past, can we? Remus tightened his arms around her. No, I dont suppose we can, he said, smiling sadly. But something just doesnt add up in the story that Daphne gave. I cant quite put my finger on it, but somethings not right. I know what you mean, Tonks answered. Ive been thinking the same thing. But what is it? Well, lets go through it, Remus suggested. What happened that evening? I was with Kingsley, and we had just finished meeting with Dumbledore, when the magical flares went off. I think everyone in the country felt them. We Apparated to the indicated spot immediately, our wands at the ready. And what did you find? Harry, Voldemort and the two Death Eaters all dead. Three, Remus corrected absently. Three what? Tonks asked. Three Death Eaters. No, there were only two there. But didnt Daphne say she killed three of them and then went over to watch Harry fight Voldemort? I didnt hear that, Tonks said. But I was on crowd control outside the church, and with people trying to cause riots, I didnt hear much of the service. Daphne said she killed two Death Eaters with a cutting curse and one with the Killing Curse. But there were definitely only two dead Death Eaters there, Tonks said excitedly as she sat up, the covers bunching around her. So that means That either theres a Death Eater alive that knows exactly what happened, Tonks said.

Or Harry faked his own death and is alive somewhere, Remus finished, smiling slowly. And Id bet a thousand Galleons Harrys alive somewhere. But where is he? And has anyone else worked it out? Remus asked. I dont know for sure, but Im betting Dumbledore has worked it out, Tonks answered, grinning broadly at Remus. He really wanted me to go with him to New Zealand a few months ago, and he gave me some lame excuse about a rogue Death Eater living there. You dont suppose that Harry and Daphne are in New Zealand, do you? Could be, Remus mused. With her Slytherin talent, they could be anywhere in the world. Tonks lay back down next to her boyfriend. So what are we going to do with this knowledge? How about we send an owl to Daphne? See if shell meet with us? She may trust you, Remus, but she probably wont trust me, Tonks said, sighing. Im still an Auror, you know, for the corrupt ministry? If Harry truly is alive and wants to stay hidden, he probably wont be too keen on seeing me. Well, Im not convinced that shell be thrilled to see me, either, Remus said dryly. Remember me? Deserter of my best friends only son? Somehow, Im not sure that shell want contact with either of us. But we do need to let them know that weve figured out that hes alive, and that well keep his secret to our grave. Tonks got up and grabbed a quill and parchment. Scribbling a note, she read it to Remus.

Daphne, We have reason to believe that Harry is alive and with you. While we also have reason to believe neither one of you has any particular desire to see either of us, we do solemnly swear on our magic that we will keep your secret until our dying breaths. Whether you choose to believe us or not, we do sincerely hope that both you and Harry are well. Remus and Tonks
She woke their owl and tied the parchment to its leg. Take this to Daphne Greengrass. The owl fluffed her wings importantly and flew out the window that Remus had opened. A day later, their owl returned, the letter undelivered. Bugger, Tonks sighed. How are we going to contact them now? Remus chuckled and shook his head. We should have known that they would be heavily warded. Youre not disappointed? No, Remus said, smiling. Harry is the son of a Marauder, and knowing that, Id expect him to make it difficult, but not totally impossible. So, if I was the son of a Marauder, and Id left clues that I was alive, Id leave a route to me open, so that people could contact me, but not anything that could be done accidentally. He thought for a few seconds, and then smiled at the owl. Take this to Hedwigs owner. Remus and Tonks were sat reading the Prophet the next day when there was a rap at the window of their flat. Remus opened it, and their grey barn owl flew in and stuck her leg out to Tonks. Tonks smiled and lightly kissed Remus, Clever git, she murmured as she untied the parchment, opened it, letting the Portkey bounce onto the table, and spread out the parchment so both of them could read it.

R and T We need to talk. D.

The partners looked at each other, shrugged, touched the Portkey and felt the familiar tug behind their navels. They landed on a beach, somewhere, though neither was certain where. They saw a stone path ahead of them, and holding hands, began the long trek through the dense, green foliage. The island was paradise beautiful, warm, and inviting but both realized that they might not be entirely welcomed there. They followed the path for a long while, walking in silence as the sun set for the night. Passing a lake and waterfall, they came upon a very large glass house, complete with a large swimming pool. As they stood looking at their beautiful surroundings, a house-elf appeared with a pop. Dobby? Remus asked, an amused look in his eye. I should have known youd be here with Miss Greengrass. How are you?

Dobby smiled and bowed low silently. The house-elf led the couple into the most spacious living room either had ever seen. The sofa alone was big enough for the entire Gryffindor House to sit on. He gestured for them to sit, before he vanished with a pop. Remus and Tonks sat at one end of the sofa, hands still entwined, and neither had pulled their wand. Remus figured that if Daphne was as powerful as she appeared, he wouldnt stand a chance. While Tonks might be a match for her, he doubted very seriously if even shed be able to keep up. Daphne came into the room, dressed in a short, white silk sundress that hugged every curve of her body. Remus stood as she entered, smiling slightly. He was quite sure that she wasnt wearing much of anything underneath it, as her curves were accentuated in ways hed never seen. Her long jet-black hair was tied loosely back away from her face a pity, really, as hed like to see her with it down. He had figured out at the funeral exactly what Harry had seen in her a natural beauty with a brain to match. Any man would have killed to be in Harrys shoes. Sit, Mr Lupin, she said. It wasnt a command or a request, but basically a statement. The man sat at once. She sat down opposite them on the other end of the couch and stared hard at them. The look of steel in her eyes proved to Remus that this was a woman who meant business. She was certainly not one to cross. But he also knew that neither he nor Dora would back down. He matched her stare as he looked back. So, you think Harrys alive, do you? Daphne said. It wasnt accusatory, but rather more questioning. What makes you think so? Well, Tonks began, once Remus and I sat down and talked about what you had said at the funeral and compared it to what I found at the scene of the final battle, we realized that there was a body missing. There was a body for Voldemort, Harry, and two Death Eaters. And from that, how did you come to the conclusion Harrys alive if his body was present and accounted for? In your eulogy, you said there were three Death Eaters that died. Only two bodies were found, Tonks said. Meaning that either one of the Death Eaters was still alive and running around, or " Remus started. Or Harry faked his death, and the other Death Eater is spending eternity looking like Harry Potter, Tonks finished. And with your Slytherin know-how, were betting on the second, Remus said, smiling slightly. Plus, you honestly dont look like someone who lost their love recently. You just dont appear to be in mourning. Excellent deductions, you two, Harry said sardonically, clapping as he stepped into the room. Remus and Tonks turned and looked at the man. He was wearing a pair of navy shorts with no shirt. His torso, while not huge, was more muscular than Remus had ever seen it. He was tanned, not dark and fake-looking, but a nice medium brown that gave him a healthy glow that made him look just like his father had after his honeymoon in the Caribbean. Harry, Remus called, as he stood up again. As much as he had hoped, he hadnt allowed himself to truly believe that Harry might be alive. I dont know whether to hug you or hit you for putting us through this. Id suggest the first, Daphne said icily. The second will see you ejected before you can finish the movement. Remus gulped. Hug it is, he muttered. He approached Harry, offered his hand, and said, I owe you an apology. I should never have listened to Dumbledore, and I should have been there for you. I wasnt. And for that, I will be sorry for the rest of my life, as Im sure Ive disappointed your parents and Sirius, wherever they are. Im just glad you truly are alive, so that I can actually apologize properly. I just hope youll accept it. Harry grabbed the hand that was extended to him and shook it before pulling the man into an embrace. Remus wrapped his arms around the young man and hugged him back. As they pulled apart, Harry looked at Remus and whistled under his breath. You look like crap, Remus. Is it the transformations? Tonks stood and walked over to Harry. Embracing him, she said, Yes, it is, although Mr. Im Fine over here wont admit it. Hes getting weaker as the months roll by. Dora, Im fine, really. Besides, were not here to talk about my transformations Well, actually, Daphne interrupted, you are here so we can talk about your transformations. Oh? Remus said. I thought we were here to discuss that we know about you two and what to do to keep it a secret. If we didnt think you would keep it a secret, you would not have been invited, Daphne said coldly. Harry smiled at her, and then turned to Remus. The real reason we brought you here is because we need to talk about loyalty, trust and your transformations. Harry extended his hand out, and motioned for the couple to sit back down. He took a seat next to Daphne, and lightly took her right hand, playing with her fingers. Now, Daphne said. We have your vow on your magic that you wont reveal that Harrys alive. We want to know how you feel about the Wizarding world at this moment. Whom do you support? To whom are you loyal? What do you think about whats happening?

Well, Remus began. I dont like what Im seeing. The Wizengamot is trying to push through some pretty ridiculous laws at the moment. I certainly dont support Scrimgeour and Dumbledore, Remus paused. I figured out exactly what Dumbledore did, thanks to your young lady there, he continued, motioning to Daphne. Her eulogy made it clear to me what exactly he had done. He no longer has my support in anything he tries to do. It took me a bit longer to work it all out, Tonks confessed. I met with Dumbledore after your funeral. Remus and I had argued about Dumbledore and we actually broke up for a few days over it. I went and met him and, well, it was like I was looking at him with new eyes. I could see how he was trying to manipulate me. He connived and convinced everyone to help him keep a leash on you, Harry. Tonks looked the young man directly in the eye. For that, I am sorry. I have come to realize that I cant believe a word that comes out of Dumbledores mouth. We have no idea what youve got planned for your life, but whatever it is, you have our support, Remus continued. We will keep your secret for as long as you want, taking it to our graves if we need to. We wont make the same mistake twice and betray you again. You have our support and our loyalty. For life. Harry looked at Daphne. You owe me, honey, he said smoothly. I told you that theyd figure it all out. Damn Gryffindors, Daphne grumbled. Remus and Tonks looked at each other and then at the other couple. They could tell that the two of them connected so easily on many, many levels. Okay, Harry said. I do believe you and trust you both of you. But now comes the time to see if you do honestly trust us. We have a proposition for you, Remus. Oh? Remus asked. We have what we believe to be the cure for lycanthropy, Daphne said simply. Excuse me, Remus sputtered, his heart suddenly seemed to pound in his ears. Can you repeat that? We think we have the cure for lycanthropy, Harry said. Weve had the best Potions Master available to us and he has worked on a cure for the werewolves. Wha-who-how-How can this be possible? The best Potion Master around was Snape and hes gone miss" Remus eyes lit up. Wait a minute are you telling methat Snape is not really missing, but that you two have him? That is exactly what we are saying, Daphne said. Well, that, and the fact weve got a cure for lycanthropy. Tonks shook her head and chuckled. Do you know how many Aurors have been sent out on Dumbledores orders to find Snape and bring him back? Dumbledore is furious that Snapes gone. He thinks his own cover will be blown! She laughed outright. This is even better than I thought! Snape is alive and well, however, he is under house arrest and will be for the rest of his life. His home is under the Fidelius Charm, and he is his own Secret Keeper. Wait, Tonks interrupted. If hes his own Secret Keeper, how do you know where he is? Imperius, Daphne said. When we cast the spell on him, we ordered him to tell us where he lived, and then we Obliviate d it from his memory. Getting the conversation back on track, Harry said. He has made a potion for lycanthropy, and while weve tested it for toxicity, weve not been able to test it for effectiveness. In other words, Daphne continued, while Snape has made this potion, and he is the best at this type of thing, we dont know for certain if it will really cure lycanthropy. The only way to tell " Is for a werewolf to try it, Remus finished. Okay. Ill do it. Wait a minute, Tonks broke in. How do we know its safe? How do we know that Snape hasnt done something to it to kill all the werewolves? Severus knows what would happen if he did that, Daphne said coldly. And, once you understand how a man thinks, you can control him, if you are motivated enough. He tested the potion on himself, to make sure it wasnt poisonous, and he would not take anything that might endanger his health. What if it doesnt work? What if it doesnt cure lycanthropy? What will it do to Remus? Tonks asked, still looking alarmed. Even if it doesnt work as a cure, were fairly certain it wont do anything to the person ingesting it. After all, Snape tested it for toxicity on himself and nothing happened. We just dont know that itll cure the ailment, since Snape isnt a werewolf, Daphne said. But I did watch him create the final batch, and it is probably the biggest advance in potion-making in a century. I have every faith that it will work. And Remus, looking at you, even I can tell that you wont survive much longer without a cure, Harry said. When was the last full moon? A week ago, Remus said. Im willing to try it. What do I have to do? Wait, Remus, Tonks said, turning to him and grabbing his hands. Are you sure about this? I dont think I can bear to lose you. I dont have a choice, Dora. If we dont find a cure, Harrys right: I wont be around much longer. Remus squeezed her hands and looked into her

eyes. The transformations are getting harder and harder on me. I want to try this. I need to try this. Snape, for all his faults, was the best Potion Master around. He brewed perfect Wolfsbane Potion for me, month after month, four years ago. As much as I hate to admit it, I do trust his potionmaking abilities. I have to do this. Tonks looked at him and shook her head. Im only agreeing to this because Harrys involved. I trust him above all else that he wont let anything happen to you. Good, Remus said, placing a kiss on her cheek. Now, Harry, what do I have to do? Three nights prior to the next full moon, you need to come back here. Tonks, you are welcome to join him, Harry said. You must ingest the potion for three nights prior to the full moon. The night of the full moon, we will put you in a very sturdy glass guest house, which will be bathed in full moonlight once the moon rises. We will need to observe whether you transform, and youll be safe in there, while well be safe outside. The guest house will have a bed, sitting room and a fully stocked kitchen. If you dont transform, you will have very comfortable accommodations for the night. If you do transform, youll have plenty to tear up. Harry grinned. We do expect the potion to work, and that youll sleep peacefully like you do any other night. Tonks will stay with us in the main house, just as a precaution. Okay, then. How will I get here? Another Portkey? Yes, answered Daphne. We will owl you a Portkey the week before you transform. Well have you both come and relax a bit on the island before you start the potion. Great, Remus said, standing up, with Tonks following his lead. Shall we shake hands on it? Daphne stood, with Harry rising behind her. Remus first shook her hand, then Harrys, and saw how very lucky they were. He noticed a ring on Daphnes hand and realized that the couple had at some point got married. He made a mental note to ask about that next time, perhaps when Daphne had gotten to know them, and wasnt quite as frosty. He and Tonks would be there for a few days prior to taking the potion, so theyd have plenty of time to get to know her better. He was quite looking forward to it. This potion might actually give him the chance at a normal life, a life that didnt revolve around the moon. A life with a lovely girl and good friends friends hed never turn his back on again. Friends who, he hoped, would allow him to help them change their world.

Matryoshka Vignettes A Promise Made is a Debt Unpaid

Minerva McGonagall strode purposefully down one of Hogwarts many corridors, one that had been, for the past week, relatively quiet. The Easter break was one she always looked forward to; few enough students stayed behind that there was no real stress dealing with them, and yet enough remained to ensure that nothing like boredom ever set in. Ahead, the object of her search was speaking with one of her own students. Albus, who had become increasingly infuriating to deal with in recent months, was discussing something with Seamus Finnegan. The seventh-year Gryffindor had a very familiar expression on his features, one that tickled a memory from long ago, yet so very similar to those she had seen on many people who had conversed with the Headmaster since the funeral. An expression of polite defiance. McGonagall pursed her lips, a disturbingly familiar response to a situation she found unacceptable. She had a strong suspicion about what Albus was speaking to Neville about, and it was something that should have been discussed with her first. Although, judging from Seamus polite, yet obviously negative response, whatever machinations Albus had hoped to set in motion had been dealt a blow. The young man swept away from a suddenly sombre Headmaster and headed off towards Gryffindor Tower. McGonagall took Seamus place in front of the ancient wizard, who didnt appear to notice her presence, and remained staring at a spot on the wall. That disturbed her more than nearly anything else. Albus? Dumbledore blinked twice in rapid succession, looking up at her. Minerva! What can I do for you? Organise the preliminary exam timetable for our OWL and NEWT students, she said evenly. The old wizard actually had the grace to look abashed. Ah, of course. I normally have that done before the Easter break, dont I. My apologies, I shall have it ready for you to confirm the examiners availability by the end of the week. McGonagall didnt move. Albus, what is wrong with you? Youve been wool-gathering for months now. The paperwork on your desk is forming disturbingly large piles. There will be snow on some of them one morning. And you were gone from the school for a great deal of time over the break, yet you pleaded off your duties to the Wizengamot and the Confederation. Where have you been? Dumbledore shook his head. Im sorry Minerva. Ever since young Harrys funeral, I just havent been myself. McGonagall frowned, but interrupted as the Headmaster took his leave. No, its more than that, Albus. The last time I saw you anything like this was just after youd left Harry at those awful Muggles as a child, and even then you were soon back to your usual, bewildering self. Dumbledore actually looked uncomfortable, but continued to make his way down the hall. McGonagall walked with him, not prepared to give up on the conversation, not when opportunities to bring up her fears were so few and far between. I have been concerned for Miss Greengrass. I have been attempting to locate her, to persuade her to return. McGonagall frowned. Surely you have managed to divine her location. As bright as she was, and even with the family resources she can now call on, she alone couldnt keep you from finding her. Dumbledore hesitated. She appears to have found herself a powerful patron. That surprised her. A patron capable of hiding her location from yourself? Dumbledore agreed quickly. Exactly. McGonagall stopped short in her stride. Then why are you so worried about her? Surely her new patron has accepted responsibility for her safety. Dumbledore stopped walking also, half turning to face her. I am always worried for my students, Minerva. Especially those who do not finish their schooling, he said quickly. McGonagall narrowed her eyes as she glared at her old friend. You had no such worries for the Weasley twins when they left school early, she said in an almost accusing tone. A flicker of irritation crossed Dumbledores features. Minerva, you have quite clearly pointed out that I have neglected my duties here. If you dont

mind, I shall undertake to get myself up to date. Do I have your permission to withdraw? he snapped. McGonagall blinked. She had never seen her old friend like this before. Of course, Albus, you know you dont need to ask. He grunted, and stormed off. McGonagall stood as still as a statue, watching him go, a feeling of dread in her stomach. Albus had changed. Mind you, so had the entire world, after Harrys funeral. Public confidence in the Ministry was as an all time low, following Miss Greengrass public oration. Albus popularity had likewise taken a hit, and once more his positions as Supreme Mugwump and Chief Warlock were under threat. McGonagall shook her head slightly as she made her way back to her quarters. The defeat of Voldemort had not brought about the utopia in the Wizarding world that many had hoped for, or even expected. So many people, the same people who had vilified Harry in the past, could not see past their own bigotry to see that they were just as hypocritical as those in the Ministry. It would appear that Harrys death had brought about changes that no one could have foreseen. Who would have thought that Harrys friends at school would tear apart their incredibly strong bonds? Bonds that they had built and developed over nearly seven years of adversity and trial. And even though Miss Greengrass had obviously severed her ties with the Wizarding world, in the United Kingdom at least, she was still manipulating people, if Hedwigs occasional appearances at Hogwarts were anything to go by. And Albus. The man had been a rock around which the dark events of recent times had crashed and dissipated. While he had taken everything upon himself, he had made mistakes. And it was obvious that the mistakes he had made regarding Harry had seriously changed him. She had only seen him in a similar mood rarely, and then only for short periods of time. Usually it was when Harry was in serious danger as a child. McGonagall blinked. Was it possible? With a sudden burst of acceleration, she stormed towards her office as fast as her long legs would take her. Since she had made walking swiftly an art form, anyone else would have had to run to have kept up. She reached her quarters, absently said the password, and entered. She shut and locked the door behind her, sat down at her desk, and began making some notes. Several hours later, McGonagall had come to a number of conclusions. One, Harry was alive. She didnt know exactly how she felt about this. Her initial burst of relief had quite quickly been overtaken by anger, which surprised her. On analysing the emotion, she discovered that she was more angry at herself than at Harry. For several different reasons. She was angry at him for acting rashly, putting both himself and Miss Greengrass in mortal peril, but that was overshadowed by anger at her own failures: failure to notice that Harry needed support, failure to notice that Harry had been chafing at the restrictions Albus had put upon him. But what angered her most was that she had failed as the head of Gryffindor, had failed to be someone one of her students could come to for help. Two, Albus knew. She wasnt sure how she felt about this either. Albus had been a colleague for three decades, a comrade through two wars, and a great friend for over half a century. And despite the fact that he had a reputation for being too trusting, he knew how to keep secrets (notably the prophecy regarding Harry and Voldemort). But the information he kept to himself didnt usually affect his behaviour, or at least, his ethics. Three, Harry and Miss Greengrass were still involved with the Wizarding world. Hedwig had made a few, irregular trips to various people at the school, a fact which most people took to mean that Miss Greengrass had taken the snowy owl as a pet. Though, knowing the intelligence of the owl in question, it would have been more likely that Hedwig would have chosen Miss Greengrass. The pairs continued interest in the affairs of the Wizarding world indicated that they either wanted to extract revenge on selected individuals (something that would explain Albus worry), or that they were trying to change things. Four, they definitely wanted their privacy. Owls sent to Miss Greengrass had returned rather confused. From this, and the way they disappeared from the country, this conclusion was a simple one to make. It did cause her some concern, but it was something that could be worked around. Five, she still had a chance to fulfil a promise. More than one of the school owls started awake with a disgruntled hoot at McGonagalls entry. The Owlery was one of the few places in the school where everyone was permitted to visit, at least before curfew. Thus, her midnight visit. Selecting an owl at random, she attached a short note to its leg. Im quite sure that Mr Potter and Miss Greengrass have warded their location. Id like you to take this to Dobby the house elf.

The third-year Gryffindor-Ravenclaw Transfiguration class was progressing nicely. All of the students had their heads down, each with an expression ranging from studious industry to baleful desperation to bowel-loosening terror. The test McGonagall had sprung on them was not incredibly difficult, but it certainly wasnt designed for third-years to get full marks. Over the years, she had discovered that finding out what students didnt know was far more informative and useful when planning coursework than discovering just how many students could get full marks. Miss Granger, of course had severely disrupted that particular method of examination, and it had taken McGonagall three years before she realised that she should stop trying to find out exactly what the bright Gryffindor witch didnt know. She returned her gaze to her own desk, where she was marking the same test, which she had given to the Slytherin/Hufflepuff third-years earlier in the day. She had marked nearly half the pile when a soft scratching off to her left caught her attention. McGonagall started, barely managing to keep from giving out a small cry of surprise. Hedwig stood patiently on her desk, looking directly at her with amber eyes so deep that McGonagall suddenly doubted that even Harry understood the true intelligence of this bird. The snowy owl shifted her weight slightly, and presented the professor with an avian leg. McGonagall blinked, and untied the attached note. Without waiting for a response, the owl turned and silently drifted out through the open window. Not a single member of her class had noticed the owls arrival or departure. As silent as she had been, even one of the many ghosts in the castle would have made more of a disturbance. It wasnt without trepidation that she unfurled the small parchment scroll. A small, copper ball with a button on top rolled out of the note and into her palm.

Professor, We need to talk. D.

McGonagall glanced at her timetable. It was an instinctive action, since she had long since memorised this years schedule. After this class finished in less than twenty minutes, she had the first-year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, then lunch, then a double NEWT class with Harrys old friends. No free period for her to duck out. Even if she had one, she mused, it probably wouldnt be long enough. Not for the discussion she had in mind. And probably not for any discussion Harry had in mind either. There was nothing for it. Duplicity didnt come easy to the old witch, but sometimes it was simply necessary. The Portkey dumped the Transfiguration Professor at the base of a wonderfully manicured path, which lead up to a simply astonishingly gorgeous dwelling. Though simply referring to it as a dwelling somehow detracted from the sheer scale and artistic merit, not to mention the size. The building looked to be nearly a third the size of Hogwarts. Though it had been daytime when she left Hogwarts, it seemed to be late evening here. The stars shone brightly above, not dulled by cloud or light pollution. Orion was aligned differently, something that signalled louder than words that she was in the Southern Hemisphere. She took a deep breath, and began marching up the path. A house elf appeared with a shimmer, and it took her a moment to recognise Dobby. The elf was dressed impeccably, if a little out of date, in an outfit that would not have been out of place on a Muggle butler. Hello, Dobby, she said with a small smile. Dobby bowed, but couldnt hide his pleasure at seeing her. With a gesture, the little elf signalled for McGonagall to precede him up the path. With a nod of her head, she did as instructed. Dobby led her to a wonderfully appointed conservatory, complete with table, summer chairs and parasols, obviously for when the sun was up and about. The prim and proper teacher sat rigidly in one of the chairs, carefully hiding just how comfortable it was. Dobby appeared at her side and held his hand out, his eyes looking at her hat. McGonagall raised both hands and grasped the brim of her ever-present pointed hat. It was something she wore at all times when away from her quarters; it was nearly a part of her. She gently lifted it off her head, and placed it in the waiting hands of the house elf. Please just let Mr Potter know that I am here, she said to the house-elf. Dobbys face fell and he shook his head. McGonagall frowned. Could she have been wrong? Could you inform Miss Greengrass of my arrival? Dobby tilted his head to one side, his sad expression still in place, and shook his head again. McGonagalls frown deepened. The two statements seemed to be mutually exclusive. If Harry was not alive, then Miss Greengrass should be. After all, who sent the note with the Portkey?

The answer popped into her head. Well then, would you please inform Mrs Potter that I am here and waiting at her convenience. Dobbys face split into a massive grin. Before McGonagall could respond, Daphne Potter, nee Greengrass, walked into the room. McGonagall stood, observing the young woman closely. It was perhaps later in the evening than she had expected, Daphne appeared for all intents and purposes to have been roused from sleep. While it was obvious that she had tried to repair the damage done in the few moments before joining her old teacher, her slightly puffy, red-rimmed eyes showed that she had only recently been awakened. Professor, she said evenly, without warmth or welcome. I was not expecting you until tomorrow morning. McGonagall gave a slight, stiff bow. Mrs Potter. Congratulations. Thank you. How did you figure it out? McGonagall raised an eyebrow, but silently gestured towards a chair next to Daphne with one hand, and her own chair with the other. At the younger witchs nod, both women sank into the waiting chairs. I began to suspect a while ago, when the Headmasters behaviour began to change, just after your revelations at Mr Potters funeral. Just after school resumed after the Easter break, Albus and I had a conversation which convinced me that something was amiss. I began to think about recent events and the effect they were having on people around me. Albus has only ever been so deeply and personally involved with one person. Daphne nodded. Harry. McGonagall nodded too. Yes Miss Gr-, Mrs Potter. The Slytherin witch scowled and waved the correction away. Call me Daphne. Im no longer your student. Perhaps. That is one of the things I need to speak to the two of you about. At any rate, the change in the Headmasters behaviour told me something was not as it seemed. Hes been a little distracted trying to track us down, Daphne said, a little coldly. He didnt make any friends in New Zealand. McGonagall hid her surprise. Just where is Mr Potter? Dobby gave the impression that he was dead. Daphne smiled again, this time at Dobby, who was waiting unobtrusively in one corner. Yes, the little rascal has become rather adept at misdirection. Not bad for someone who is incapable of lying and wont talk. Dobby blushed crimson at the praise. May I ask why Dobby is not talking? McGonagall asked. Were teaching him to speak properly, and at the moment, his speech patterns are a bit of a mess, and hes embarrassed about it. Daphne is correct, Dobby said hesitantly, as if he had to think about each word and its placement carefully. I am learning to speak like a normal person. Daphne smiled warmly at Dobby, who flushed with pride again. Harry is in London at the moment, discussing some investments with the Weasley twins. As I said, we werent expecting you until tomorrow morning, which would be evening at Hogwarts, Daphne said, neatly drawing the attention away from house-elf. McGonagall blurted, The Weasley twins know Harry is alive? when the man in question walked into the room, his gait, stance and demeanour exuding confidence and ease. They do, as they acted as best man and maid of honour at our wedding. Good evening, Professor, Harry said, just as evenly as his wife had. The lack of any warmth in his voice pained the older witch, but she refused to let it show on her face. Mr Potter, good evening to you, McGonagall replied, mentally filing away the information about a fiery-haired, male bridesmaid. Shed get the full story from the twins later. My apologies for arriving outside of your expected hours. Harry, dressed in navy Muggle slacks and an open-necked, light-blue shirt, dropped down next to his wife, and absently interlaced the fingers of his left hand through the fingers of her right. You will need to leave soon, to get back to your classes. McGonagall shook her head. That wont be necessary. Harry and Daphne raised their eyebrows in silent surprise in perfect unison. Oh? he asked. McGonagall cleared her throat, more than a little ashamed at what she had done. Im afraid I tricked Miss Granger into believing that I had transfigured myself into an object in my classroom. My NEWT class have been left instructions that they are to take a short test, and then spend the

remainder of the period trying to locate me. Daphne actually laughed, while Harry simply tilted his head to one side in amazement. Sorry? You tricked Gryffindors golden girl? Daphne blurted. McGonagall raised her chin haughtily. I needed time to meet with you, and I preferred not to wait until this evening. She blinked. Tomorrow. She shook her head. Whenever. Harrys features hardened. Well, now that you know about us, what do you intend to do? Do you mean, what do I intend to do with the information that you are alive, or what I intended to discuss with you now? Harry gave a lazy gesture with his hand. Start with the first. McGonagall studied both of her former students thoughtfully before answering. Both had an unconscious sense of presence, a calm, air of confidence that no other current student of hers had. Nothing. You obviously want your privacy. And while I think it is a mistake, I will certainly not allow anyone to suspect that you are still alive. Two pairs of teenage eyes narrowed. A mistake? Daphne growled. McGonagall gave a curt nod. A mistake. Why? the Slytherin snapped. As young as you are, you have no way of really knowing what your disappearance will do. Harry smirked. Oh, I have a few ideas. McGonagall focused on him. Do you? Do you really? To Harrys credit, he didnt immediately claim omnipotence. Most adolescents, when confronted by an older, authority figure, preferred to believe in their own preconceived notions. He took a few moments to think deeply before responding. I do, but it is obvious that you have others. Your defeat of Voldemort signalled the end of a dark time for people. Much of your experience has been with people your own age, who have only lived under the threat of a Dark Wizard for a few years. There are a great many who lived through Voldemorts first reign. And your point is? McGonagall took a deep breath. That your death or disappearance will be used by others for their own benefit. You are aware that, after Riddles first fall, Bartemius Crouch Sr. went on a spree, hunting down those who had any association with the Dark Lord at all, no matter how inconsequential. More than once, he justified his actions using your name. Oh, it was nothing much, but when people questioned his actions, or at least those more ethically-challenged, he often diverted their argument by saying something like, Im sure Harry Potter would agree with me, or Lets ask Harry Potters parents, shall we? Now, Im sure that when you decided to go after Voldemort, you did so for many reasons. Knowing you, one of them would have been a better world for your friends. That is admirable, but there are people whose positions are not secure, people who have no scruples, people who will simply use your name to further their own agenda. Daphne snorted. You mean, theyll try. McGonagall shook her head. No, I mean they have already done so. That brought Harry up short. Who? When? McGonagall sighed. What sort of funeral would you have wanted? she asked rhetorically. Certainly not a big, showy, media circus. But thats what happened, because people who wanted to look good said to others, Its what Harry would have wanted. Harry leaned back in his chair, a smile returning to his face. It was just a funeral. Nothing to worry about. The old witch raised an eyebrow. So youre fine with the twenty-foot marble statue? Both teens blinked. Statue? McGonagall pressed on. Additionally, there is debate on whether or not to have Harry Potter Day celebrated on the day you defeated Voldemort or on your birthday. What? Harry Potter Day? What are you talking Of course, Ive already turned down a petition to rename Gryffindor House to Potter House. Harrys face went blank, but Daphnes eyes narrowed, and her expression turned hostile. Youre lying, she spat. McGonagall nodded. Well, not lying as such. Arthur Weasley managed to convince the Wizengamot to veto plans to erect a statue in your honour, claiming, quite forcefully mind you, that it certainly wouldnt be what you wanted. The Minister himself turned down plans to turn your victory into a

holiday, since the Ministrys inaction isnt something he wants the public to remember. And I myself told a second year witch that her idea to rename Gryffindor was not one that would succeed, no matter how many signatures she got. My point is this, Harry. Disappearing may have brought you privacy, but your memory will be abused by those who think both that you are dead, and that they can use your name to manipulate others, or bring them around to a new way of thinking. Something they couldnt do if you were still in the publics eye. Harrys lips pursed in a manner reminiscent of his Head of House. Well then, it is a mistake that Im prepared to make. McGonagall looked into the young mans emerald eyes for a long moment before nodding. As is your right. I respect your decision, and I shall endeavour to do all that I can to ensure your name isnt sullied, she said sincerely. Thank you, he replied quietly. His smile suddenly changed, a tinge of impish humour appeared in his eyes. Of course, he grinned, Ive already arranged for the Ministrys plans for Diagon Alley to be renamed Harry Potter Lane to be disrupted. She blinked slowly at him. Arranged? He offered a faint bow and shot a fond look at his wife. Ive found that when you combine just the right amount of Gryffindor and Slytherin, the results are rather unique. We knew about the statue we have our own contacts in the Ministry but we didnt know about the Gryffindor House rename that will change soon, mind you. You have contacts in Hogwarts? Please, Professor, Daphne said with a hint of impatience. Of course we do. McGonagall felt a little embarrassed. She hadnt anticipated just how far their interaction was stretching, and it gave her pause for thought about what their long-term goals were. A secret shared is a secret no more. True, Daphne agreed, giving her husband a sideways glance. But we never really intended it to be a big secret. Fred and George worked it out within a couple of days. The people who know for certain are either loyal, or under oath not to share the information. And speaking of which, Harry continued. You might want to inform Dumbledore that hell be needing a permanent replacement for the position of Potions Professor. Snapes not coming back. McGonagall sighed and shook her head. What have you done with him? Were going to give him to Neville as a present, Harry said. Neville needs to face his demons to become a man. Snape is safe at the moment, and will be safer once weve given him to Nev. McGonagall sat silently for a few seconds, partly to digest the information she had been given, and partly to see how they would react. It was another technique polished from many years of teaching. Unfortunately, it didnt seem to be working, they both looked completely comfortable. Something was different about both of them; it was a level of maturity that she had not seen in people so young. She didnt know, and wasnt sure she wanted to know, what had caused it. With an internal sigh, she decided to get back to the reason for her visit. Now, as to the reason I did need to see you. Daphne crossed her arms. Something about a promise, you wrote to Dobby. McGonagall nodded silently. Harry knows to what promise I am referring. Harry frowned briefly, before bursting into laughter. I hardly think that it is necessary any longer, Professor. McGonagall sat even more stiffly erect. On the contrary, Mr Potter. I believe it is necessary. Daphne turned to her husband. What promise? Harry grinned at her, a smile that showed McGonagall just how much he loved his wife. The Professor here promised that she would do exactly what it took to ensure that I could get the grades in the required subjects to become an Auror, saying that she would tutor me herself should I not be accepted into the correct classes. The fact that she was shouting at Umbridge at the time made it something I didnt think she meant at first. Oh, I meant it, Mr Potter. Then and now. I know you may not believe me, but I do put my students first. Daphnes face darkened. You didnt stop the detentions. McGonagalls eyes narrowed. I did not know what that woman was doing. At the time, I rather hoped that Mr Potter would learn to keep his temper under control. Nevertheless, it was failure on my part, one that I accept, and that I have taken steps to ensure will never happen again. Harry nodded, absently rubbing his scarred hand. I dont blame you, Professor. I didnt tell anyone what she was doing. But that is in the past, why do you think I need to get my NEWTs? I assume you mean, beyond the usual reasons, finishing an education, proving that you are capable of assuming the responsibilities of being a wizard in our world? He grinned. Yes. I mean, I think weve both proved that, havent we, Daph?

McGonagall nodded once in agreement. There are other reasons, of course, though you would not be hard pressed to give counter-arguments to most. Financial? You are independently wealthy, and have probably taken steps to ensure that what you did to the Malfoys cannot be done to you. Respect? The name Potter is probably the most respected on the planet now. Pride? Your accomplishments to date far outshine all but a few in the whole of recorded history. Harry grinned again. You know, for someone who is trying to convince me to do something, youre doing a heck of a job talking me out of it. McGonagall shook her head. There is only one reason I feel that I can give you to which you would listen. Daphne frowned, waiting for the answer. Harry simply looked curious. McGonagall closed her eyes briefly. So that when I finally pass on, I can look your parents in the eye and tell them that I did not fail you. A few months later, in one of Hogwarts many comfortable meeting rooms, Professor McGonagall and the board of examiners sipped tea and discussed the examination timetable for this years OWL and NEWT classes. Normally, this was a simple, even social meeting, a means of catching up with old friends not seen for nearly a year. It had been nearly a decade since the timetable had been significantly modified. This year, things were a little different. Minerva, youve been rather distant today, and you look simply exhausted. Is there anything wrong? Professor Marchbanks asked. McGonagall swallowed a sip of tea. We have two fewer students doing their NEWTS at Hogwarts than who did their OWLs two years ago, she said. There were a series of nods around the room. Ah, yes. Mr Potter and Miss Greengrass. Mr Potter was one of your students, wasnt he? McGonagall nodded. Yes, hes a Gryffindor. They should be doing their NEWTs next month. One of the examiners frowned. That sounded like the present tense. Mr Potter has passed on. McGonagall raised her gaze to lock eyes with her old friend. I didnt misspeak. Each of the elderly witches and wizards in the room began murmuring to each other. Minerva? Has the stress of the past few months been getting to you? Griselda is correct, you look simply exhausted. McGonagall sighed. I assure you all. I am in complete command of my faculties. And while I admit that I have not been sleeping as much as I should, I am in no way working beyond my capabilities. Then what? McGonagall took a deep breath. I have been Portkeying every morning to Miss Greengrass location, to tutor and teach. I am determined to ensure that she is capable of an exemplary performance on her NEWTs. Again, the board exchanged glances. Minerva? You have had classes here every morning, one member pointed out. McGonagall sighed again. I have been rising at three in the morning to Portkey to her location. It was the only way to perform three hours of daily tutoring outside of my duties here. Professor Marchbanks cleared her throat. Goodness Minerva, no wonder you appear so tired. Youve been doing this for how long? Since the first week after the Easter break. Professor Marchbanks frowned. But even with three hours of personal tutoring a day for a whole term, someone who has missed the better part of their seventh year of schooling has little chance of a good showing on their NEWTs! Perhaps it would be better to have her sit them next year. McGonagall shook her head, and took another sip of tea. I am not alone in this endeavour. Mr Longbottom, along with Bill and Fleur Weasley, has been assisting me. Neville Longbottom has started to tutor in Herbology, while Bill has been working with Defense and Charms. Fleur has worked with them on Arithmancy, Astronomy and Charms. I have been helping with both Potions and Transfiguration. The rest they have taught themselves. The examiners all glanced around at each other one more time. I am surprised that young Miss Granger isnt also assisting, one offered tentatively. My grand-niece told me that she does not turn down any request for assistance that comes her way. McGonagall raised an eyebrow. Are you? Are you really? Yes, Miss Granger is undoubtedly the most intellectually gifted witch we have had for generations, but Im afraid that Mr Potter does not trust her any longer. Half of the elderly examiners were shocked into stillness, while the other half nodded sagely, taking a sip of tea. One by one, each of the slower examiners coughed into their tea as they realised what McGonagall had said. Mr Potter? shrieked Griselda. Minerva, what on earth are you talking about? McGonagall waited for each of her guests to calm slightly. As I said earlier, I did not misspeak. I will require an oath from each of you, an oath that

you will not divulge to anyone the secret you are about to learn. McGonagall gave a little sigh of relief as the final NEWT exam finished. The sigh was easily dwarfed by the explosive cheer the seventh-years gave at the conclusion of their last exam. The members of the examination panel were not looking as exhausted as she had been during the term, since only two of their number had been visiting the Potters on any particular day. Every member of the exam board had instantly given an oath of silence, each of them keen to ensure they could do whatever was in their power to help the people who had given them their freedom from oppression. The two on-duty examiners would Portkey to the island at three in the morning, give an exam, and then Portkey back in time for their seven oclock breakfast call at Hogwarts. Over the course of two weeks, each of the examiners had visited the elusive pair of students twice, giving a written and practical exam. The Deputy Headmistress did not habitually press for information on the performance of various students during the exams. This year, however, she had been unable to keep her face from showing curiosity as she met each examiner as they returned to Hogwarts to begin their official testing. Judging from the smirks, smiles and nods she had received, Harry and Daphne were performing up to her unreasonably harsh expectations. Once the examiners left, McGonagall knew it was just a matter of time before Albus received the official results, which would then be forwarded to each student. She just hoped she could handle whatever reaction he exhibited. McGonagall rapped on the Headmasters door, waiting patiently for his offer to enter. Usually, the powerful wizard already knew who was at his door, and often invited them in before giving them the opportunity to knock. Come in, Minerva. Albus voice was cold, even angry. The Transfiguration Professor calmly opened the door and entered, ignoring the hurt look her old friend was giving her. She briskly strode over to the Headmasters desk, and sat down in one of his armchairs. Minerva, I have just received the OWL and NEWT results, he began, failing to offer her one of his ridiculous lemon sweets. McGonagall nodded. As I suspected. You receive them at this time each year. Dumbledores expression darkened. Perhaps youd be able to explain why there are two more sets of results listed than there are students who sat their NEWTs? McGonagall raised an eyebrow. May I see the list? Dumbledore duly passed her the long roll of parchment. With a great deal of care, she began unrolling it, pausing at the letters G and P to read in detail some of the results. What she saw forced a smile onto her features, something rare enough for people to mark it off on a calendar. Quickly, she skimmed down and counted names. Im afraid you must have miscounted, Albus. The number of students who sat their exams matches the number of results you have received. Dumbledore was quiet for a long while, glaring at her with intensity. Why, Minerva? McGonagall stared back without emotion. Albus, I made a promise to that young man two years ago. When I discovered that he was alive, I simply made contact and asked that I be given the opportunity to fulfil that promise. Dumbledore rose to his feet. You made contact with Harry and didnt feel it necessary to inform me? To what end, Albus? McGonagall demanded, rising to her own. The young man has expressed in actions far louder than words that he wishes to be left alone. Revelations at his funeral showed that he had absolutely no desire to ever speak to you again. He doesnt trust us anymore, Albus. He doesnt trust you. I will not have another student of mine turn dark! Harry is powerful enough to make Tom look like a passing cloud! McGonagall was quiet for some time. Finally she said, That is not what you are afraid of, Albus. You may have convinced yourself that those are your reasons for trying to find him, but you have permitted conditions to exist in this school which created the likes of young Mr Malfoy, someone who actively supported the Dark Lord. No, you are not afraid he will turn dark. Anyone who has seen him with his new wife could tell you that there is no danger of that. He is happy, content and enjoying the freedom you refused him his entire life. It is simply the idea that you do not have any control over someone so powerful that you find abhorrent. Dumbledore snarled. Get out! he thundered, pointing a quivering finger at the door to his office. McGonagall nodded sadly and turned to go. Of course, my friend; I shall take my leave. But I beg of you to consider just one thing. She gestured towards the empty perch that dominated his office. A phoenix chooses to live with someone whose heart is good. Perhaps you should think on just

why it is that Fawkes has been living with Harry for the last few weeks, and hasnt been seen at Hogwarts for months. She gently closed the door behind her, leaving a suddenly pensive Headmaster alone in his office to think. Minerva appeared at the base of the manicured path, making her final early morning trip. She stood there silently, lost in thought. From the results held in her hand, the efforts she, Bill, Fleur and Mr Longbottom had invested in the pair had paid off handsomely. Specifically, she had surpassed her promise to ensure Harry could become an Auror. The young wizard had performed admirably on his written exams, but had shocked and stunned his testers during the practical tests. Not that Daphne had performed inadequately in any way; indeed, she had in most cases surpassed her husband in the written exams. But Harry had shown a control over his magic that had been impressive to say the least, but was more accurately described as sublime. McGonagall shook her head. Albus fears that Harry could become a powerful Dark Wizard were valid, though anyone who had spent any time around him and his new bride could see that the odds of it happening were so remote as to be nil. Harry had been happier than she had ever seen him; indeed, he had confided in her that the memory he now used to create his Patronus was the instant he had seen Daphne walk down the aisle, looking like an angel. The only thing she was worried about was the anger and hatred the young man still held towards the young Malfoy. Subjecting the blond Slytherin to months of psychological torture was not something she felt comfortable in accepting, though she knew that both Harry and Daphne had moved beyond her influence. Taking them to task for such an act would be counter-productive. And, in the hidden depths of her soul, McGonagall did admit to herself that seeing Draco taken down a peg during the year was most satisfying. Minerva scanned the house in the distance, noting that the signs of a rather large party were rather evident. She let a small, sad smile appear on her usually stern features. It had become obvious to her over the past few months that Harry had not made a mistake in leaving the Wizarding world. He had made limited contact with some few people he trusted, who would not betray or manipulate him. It was also obvious that he had made friends with others, from all over the world. No, continuing to be a part of his life would be wrong. She had links to Hogwarts that she could not, would not, break; links that meant that Harry and Daphne could never fully trust her, could never fully accept her into their new life. Dobby? she half-whispered. The elf appeared in front of her in a flash. You are not going to join us at the party? he asked, his speech was less hesitant now. She gave the elf a smile. Im afraid not. Here, would you please give these letters to your employers. Tell them tell them that She cleared her suddenly thick throat. Tell them that I am proud no. Tell them that, her smile turned sad. Tell them both that their parents would have been so very proud of them. So very, very proud. Without waiting for the suddenly sombre elfs response, McGonagall activated the Portkey Harry had given her for the last time, taking her away from, and out of, the lives of two extraordinary students.

Matryoshka Vignettes Wings of Fire

It all began July 31, 1980. Well, that was the date as humans reckon it, anyway. A so-called Child of Prophecy was born. I went to visit him late that night. Nobody saw me, as was my wont during these visits. Knowing, at least in vague terms, the fate of this child, I cried a single tear for him. Unknowing child that he was, he simply smiled at me. With one soft croon, I left. Fifteen months later, Magic felt the results of what the Very Dark One attempted to do to the Potter hatchling. And as Im a magical being, living in a magical dwelling and surrounded by other magical beings, it took only moments for all of us to know exactly what had happened. The prophecy was unwinding in human events. Wizards, on the other hand, took far longer to learn even the most basic facts of what had occurred. Even Albus didnt know anything about the extinguishing of James and Lily until he was told by another. It would be another decade before I heard any more of my Harry. Not that a decade means all that much to one such as I. Until that day eleven years later (and Im quite embarrassed at what I did not three minutes into our first meeting, I can assure you), life went on much as it had. Students came and went, and Albus happily went about offering his lemon drops to anyone and everyone who visited the office. Once that boy entered Hogwarts, though, that was when the turbulence started. Oh, not with him, so much. Poor Harry did the best he could with the situation he was given. He even did quite well for himself leading his flock in the ministry. No, I was referring to Albus. It started with subtle acts. First asking Minerva to keep an eye on him. For his own good, of course. Then it was the other professors. Then each of the new Defense professors. (How Albus could ignore me when I tried to tell him about the disguised Crouch, I dont know.) Eventually, he had just about everyone except Peeves watching and reporting on Harry. My apologies. The story is getting away from me. One disadvantage of living as long as I have I tend to ramble a bit in my stories. I was willing to overlook Albus first mistake, leaving him with the Muggles. His arguments made sense, after all. Growing up the savior of the Wizarding world would give anyone a big head. On the other wing, a nest where he was belittled and underfed wasnt healthy by any measure. After he came to the castle, though, things started happening. Albus making the protections on that stone so easy that three fledglings could get it? I wont even go into the fight I had with the basilisk. My Harry handled the Soul Eaters well enough without help the next summer, fortunately. His extra lessons with the Wolf came in useful after all. Then we had that whole tournament that Albus was absolutely gleeful that Harry had been entered into. Never even tried to find who had entered him, despite my best efforts. After the night that the Very Dark One began to burn again, Harrys nightmares became much worse. Id Travel to his nest sometimes, just to Sing to him and help him sleep. None of his nest-mates ever knew I was there. My comfort was for my Harry alone. The next year was even worse. First that dark Umbridge person went around torturing the students (including my Harry). Hogwarts had a high old time thwarting her for that, I assure you. But then before the end of the school year my Harry had watched his male-parent-protector be extinguished right in front of his eyes. Then, he attempted to give Pain to the one who did it. Fortunately for my Harry, it didnt work. Did Albus do anything to help my Harry? Minerva told him. Filius told him. Remus told him. Alistair told him. The images told him. For Flames sake, even Hogwarts told him. The fledgling needed a new nest and someone to care for him. Of course, nothing was done. I hadnt bothered to tell him. I was beginning to realize that I was losing Albus by this point. And that hurt. I spent more and more time watching Harry. Not that he ever noticed, of course. The hiding skills of my kind are legendary for a reason, after all. Then the next school year. Things were, for the most part, stable. At least until the end. I felt it when Albus cast the Control spell on that Dark One.

It tore at my soul that my human could and would cast that spell. I watched and listened as Albus and Snape made their plans. Then the fight in the hallway, the anger and hatred flowing within the halls of the castle. Very disturbing, to both me and Hogwarts. Afterwards, Minerva came into the office, looking distinctly ruffled, very nearly catatonic. Instinctively, I started to Sing, calming her mind. It worked, but only to a degree That was the first time Id ever seen her cry. It confused me, momentarily, until I recalled that she thought shed just seen Albus extinguished. Not so, of course, but she didnt know that. I did the only thing I could. I continued Singing until shed calmed herself. It was only days later that she learned the truth. I was kept busy during this time as messenger between Albus and Minerva. I didnt mind the role so much. While I was with Albus, I could study him and make a decision that was long overdue. While I was with Minerva, I could talk about it with Alistair and Hogwarts. Though theyre both younger than I, they do have their own perspective on the world, and I value their advice. None of us were happy with the conclusions we were reaching. We had time, though. What are days or even months to such as us? Then the next year started. Minerva was Headmistress at the beginning, though Albus was in the castle almost all the time. He wasnt acting as the Headmaster, though, which pleased Hogwarts. She was becoming as protective of my Harry as I was, and by staying extinguished, Albus gave her the excuse she wanted to not tell him everything that he wanted to know. And he most definitely did want to know everything about my Harry. I watched in amusement as he courted the Greengrass girl in his own way. She was not as Light as he was, but thats okay. She didnt have to be, so long as she didnt try to make him Dark. No, all she had to do was make my Harry happy. Fortunately for all involved, she seemed to be doing that very well, once she accepted his advances. Despite her best attempts, Id felt Harrys heart growing ever heavier as time went on. He wanted to extinguish the Very Dark One, but Albus forbade it. Harry asked his nest-mates and his flock for help. They all refused him in favor of believing Albuss words. Finally, about one lunar cycle after the winter solstice, Harry had enough. He and his only ally left and extinguished the Very Dark One. That fight concerned me for two different reasons. Harry nearly didnt realize how to vanquish the Very Dark One until the very last moment. Fortunately, he knew what to do when the time came. Then he was nearly extinguished himself. I was about to intervene when his mate did something that brought his Flame back up. I heard them later describe it as a Muggle technique. Ill have to study Muggles later if they know how to do such things. Silent and invisible, I watched them change one of the Dark Ones to appear to be my Harry. It didnt surprise me that they would try to do something like this. After all, theyd watched Albus do much the same to grand effect. I stayed near Harry for the following week. They were practically inseparable until my Harrys Solemn Goodbye drawing strength from each other as my Harry recovered from his exhaustion. During that time I could almost see them grow, as humans and as mates. Through this time he was occasionally depressed, but he seemed to be getting better as time went on. The feelings he had whenever his mate touched him or consoled him convinced me that she was all he needed to continue healing on his own without my constant supervision. I watched in high amusement as Albus was forced to deal with the fallout from his own actions. Various Ministry fools came and went. I was especially impressed with how all of Harrys old flock turned on Albus. Serves him right. I also looked in on Harry and his mate from time to time. After some time in a busy and loud place they called Las Vegas, they went to a small island and then started looking for a nest of their own. I was glad when they settled on a warm island. Drafty old castles in the north are not a comfortable place for Fire Birds. One of their visits does come to mind, though. Harry seemed to want to jump off of a bridge with a stretching string attached to his foot. Why he would do so is beyond me (he can fly on a perfectly good broom if he has a mind to), but he seemed to think it would be fun. I was there, again silent and invisible, as he was given the safety instructions. Then he jumped. I nearly fell off of my perch laughing when the elf whod bound himself to Harry rescued him. After a long talk with the elf and a Memory Wipe of the Muggles, he jumped again. Its generally unrecognized that Fire Birds have a mischievous streak. I gave in to mine at this point. Knowing full well that my Harry was in no real danger, I rescued him mid-air anyway. This was something of a shock to the Muggles, unsurprisingly. I was laughing so hard at them and Harrys explanations that I was crying. Finally signaling that I understood, I left. Or appeared to. I wanted to see how this ended. Harrys third jump started out well enough. He wasnt rescued by any magical beings this time. Unfortunately, in my rescuing him previously, I had damaged the cord. Oops. Before anyone gets all huffy at me, I was going to rescue him again if he really needed it. He didnt. With no help apparently coming (hed convinced both Dobby and I that he didnt want to be rescued from falling), he rescued himself. I suppose that that means that technically he was rescued by a magical being, after all. Of course, he inadvertently did some geological rearrangements in the process.

I left before my laughter caused a Burning. Life settled into something resembling normal for my Harry and his mate. They put their new nest together and appeared to be very happy. Albus, on the other hand, became more erratic and desperate in his dealings with others. With a heavy heart, I began the long process of abandoning him. He was no longer the young Light Wizard I had met after his defeat of the Very Dark One called Grindelwald. Albus continued desperately searching for Harry. Minerva even accused him, very directly, of not liking it that Harry was out from under his control. I was quite proud of Minervas insight. Nothing would dissuade Albus from his course, however. When I listened to him conspire with Scrimgeour to steal from Harrys mate, well, that was the final break. Our bond, thinned by his actions and further thinned by my choice, parted completely. I looked at him and chirped a sad farewell. Ignoring his attempt to convince himself that his actions were actually for the best, I left, calling a goodbye to Hogwarts as well. I would be back, not in the same way, but I do not abandon my friends. Friends who live as long as we do are rare in this world. But for now, a new adventure beckons, new places to explore, new vistas to view. But where shall I go? Well, Ill start with a visit to Harry and his mate. Perhaps I can find something to occupy my time there.

Matryoshka Vignettes Sing A Song of Sixpence, A Pocket Full of Weasleys (3/4)

If there was one thing Bill hated, it was wearing a suit. If there was one thing Bill hated more than wearing a suit, it was being called to speak to the chief goblin. Bill took a deep breath and tried to control his nerves. He absently polished the front of his shoes on the back of the legs of his dress robes and tried to remember that he wasnt fourteen and about to see Dumbledore. Come, a sharp voice barked, and he entered through the ornate doors and into the large office. Take a seat, William. If there was one thing Bill hated above everything else, it was being called William. He took a seat, restraining the urge to ask where the Goblin might want it taken. Rawshank, his ultimate boss, fixed him with a steely look. Youve worked for us for quite a few years now. Yes, sir, Bill replied. And in that time, you have done remarkably well; you are one of our top curse breakers. Thank you, sir. Now, I have a new challenge for you, however, it is of the utmost confidentiality. If you tell anyone, even your wife, about this job, you will have your magic stripped from you, and you will be sued into abject poverty. Bill gulped; hed heard one or two stories about Goblins doing that in the past, but had thought that it was rumour and hearsay. I understand, he said. I will allow you to decline, if you so desire. Bill thought about it for a few seconds, balancing his curiosity against the threats. The curiosity won. Ill do it, sir. Good man, Rawshank said approvingly. If you succeed, you will be promoted. Bill nodded. A client of ours has recently purchased an island near Bora Bora, the Goblin explained, and during the construction of their new house, they discovered a heavily warded Egyptian crypt that they believe dates back to around the time of Qaa and the first Egyptian Dynasty. Wow, Bill said excitedly, do we have confirmation about the dates? The Goblin paused and stared at Bill. If this particular client is wrong, it will only be by a year at the most. Sorry, Bill apologised, wondering just who the hell the client was. There werent many people in the world that the Goblins respected enough to take their word on things. And while I am sure that the client could break the wards, given enough time, the client decided to bring in the experts. Okay, Bill nodded. Can I ask who the client is? Daphne Greengrass. Oh! Bill said, suddenly understanding the need for secrecy. I understand. I thought you would, the Goblin said, and placed an object on the table in front of him. A Portkey to the island. Miss Greengrass is a highly valued client of Gringotts, and as such, everything you see on the island is to be treated with the same confidentiality I mentioned earlier. I understand, sir, Bill repeated. If you need any further resources, ask for them immediately. I will, Bill promised, starting to wonder just what pull Daphne had with the Goblins. This sort of mission was practically unheard off.

Every member of Gringotts who arrives at the Island will receive the same warning, and that includes your wife - if you decide she would be of help. Thank you sir, I wont let you down. No, you wont, Rawshank agreed, and indicated the Portkey in front of him. To active it, simply say island. Bill nodded and stood, recognising the dismissal. He pocketed the Portkey, bowed to the Goblin and walked out. As soon as he was out of the office he pulled at his tie, sighed in relief, and walked to the Apparation point. Bill? Fleur asked, as she walked out of their kitchen. New mission, Bill said with a grin. Could be a promotion in it for me. Oooo, Fleur said happily. What is it? I cant say. Mr Rawshank told me that if I did, I would be turned into a squib and sued into oblivion. Its not just a rumour then? Nope, not at all. How long will you be? I dont know - I really dont know everything. But if I can, Ill ask permission from the clients to allow you come along. Ive been given carte-blanche to do what is needed to please the client. It looks like the Goblins are finally realising that anyone can do a good job, but if you want it done right, you really need a Weasley! His wife laughed under her breath. Then you must go immediately, she said in a solemn voice and kissed him gently. Let me know what you can when you can. I will, Bill promised, before dashing into the bedroom to get dressed in his favourite curse-breaking outfit - a brown corduroy pair of trousers, a thick brown cotton shirt, and a nice wide brimmed brown hat. He picked up a battered old suitcase with his curse-breaking and identification tools and activated the Portkey. He arrived in paradise. Or, what he presumed paradise would look like. Everything seemed more colourful especially compared to the dusty landscape of Egypt he was used to. A house-elf appeared in front of him, and silently led him down a garden path to one of the most impressive houses hed ever seen. It looked like it was a natural extension of the lush foliage around and it looked big enough to house the annual curse-breakers convention. He was shown to a seat on a long L-shaped couch by the elf, and sat down, suddenly feeling a little overwhelmed. The elf reappeared and handed him a drink, before vanishing again. The silence was a little unnerving. He looked up as a door opened, and Daphne Greengrass entered, and he swallowed hard. He reminded himself that he was married, happily so, to a beautiful Veela and that the girl was far too young for him. She looked like shed been in the gym, as she was glowing with energy, and just a little sweat. She was wearing a pair of pale blue shorts with a light and dark blue stripe down each side and a matching crop-top that emphasised the assets shed mentioned at Harrys funeral. I didnt expect you so early, she said without apology as she sat comfortably near him. Sorry, Bill muttered, and made a mental note to see if Daphne had any Veela blood in her background. She shrugged elegantly. What do you know about why you are here? That you discovered a tomb that you think dates back to Qaa, Miss Greengrass. A flicker of amusement appeared in her eyes, but it was gone before he could work out what it meant. Please, she said dryly, call me Daphne. Bill nodded. And you have been told about the secrecy I desire? I have, Bill said. The Goblins were most clear on that point. Rawshanks such a nice guy, Daphne said absently. Bill nodded, trying to hide the turmoil in his mind. No one, not even the other Goblins, called Rawshank by his name. This was the Goblin that ran Gringotts global efforts their de facto ruler and yet here was Daphne talking about him like he was a personal friend. In that case, you may now know the first secret, a new voice said, causing Bill to look up.

It took him a few seconds to realise that the man in front of him was Harry Potter. He remembered the picture Daphne had shown at the funeral with Harry just out of the shower. Harry was dressed the same way now, as if hed just stepped out of the shower. The differences between now and then were obvious hed acquired a deep tan, and must have been putting a lot more effort into the gym, because like Daphne, he was glowing with health and vitality. Harry? he croaked. Rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated, paraphrasing Mark Twain. Bill got to his feet and smiled; he walked over and stuck out his hand. Im sure youve got a killer story about all of this, but for now, Ill just say that it is really good to see you alive! Thanks, Harry replied, shaking his offered hand. Now thats out of the way, Daphne said, Ill have my own shower and meet you outside later. Harry nodded and smiled as Daphne kissed him on the cheek and walked through a door to the side. Well, let me show you the tomb, Harry said and walked back outside. Nice place you have here, Bill said, a little surprised to find he wasnt sure how to talk to the young man in front of him but then, he had never really known him that well, more as his brother and sisters friend, and of course, as the prophecy boy. Thanks, Daph and I fell in love with it when we saw it, so we signed the contract to buy it that afternoon. Cost much? A few million galleons, Harry said dismissively, as if it wasnt worth even thinking about. Bill shuddered to a halt. What? About seven million pounds, Harry said, pausing and looking at him. What? Bill laughed softly and shook his head. You do know that there arent many people who can drop that kind of money on a whim? A whim? Harry asked, I dont think so. We plan to spend the rest of our lives here. Of course, its just our luck that we stumble across one of those things that you shouldnt find on an island like this. So, can I ask why youre alive? I think its that lack-of-death that I experienced that would do that. Bill groaned. Bad question; let me try that again. Why fake your own death? Originally, it was to get away from everyone so that Daph and I could live in peace. But, well, as I keep saying, you dont gain self respect by becoming what you despise. Dumbledore faked his death and I hated him for it and while Daph has pointed out the different circumstances, I still dont like what I did. Besides, one day Daph and I will want to send our kids to Hogwarts, so we have to sort it out first. Sort it out? Sure, Harry agreed. You know, remove Dumbledore, place McGonagall in charge, remove Rufus and place Percy in charge. Bill stumbled and grabbed a passing tree to keep his balance. Percy? But he vanished... Nah, we found him, gave him a reason to live; he works for us now. He does? Yeah, good man, Percy, made a few bad decisions, but havent we all? Im going to need to sit down, soon, Harry, Bill said weakly. Were almost there, Harry smiled and turned the corner. In front of them was a circular hole in the ground. I went down there to see what happened with the water, and found the tomb. Bill nodded and sat down on the edge. Percy? He was drinking himself to death. I know what guilt feels like, so we decided to bring him here, make him realise what he was missing, and put him to work at the same time. Hes going to go and see Molly and Arthur tomorrow. What about Ron, Ginny, and Hermione?

What about them? Harry asked coldly. Do they know youre alive? No. Can I ask why? He felt Harry looking at him, and wished he hadnt asked the questions. Because at the moment, Im still mad at them, he whispered. Despite everything we went through together, despite the fact that they knew me better than anyone else, despite the fact that they knew what Dumbledore had put me through, they still chose to follow him, and not me. That sort of betrayal really hurts. I am trying to get over it, because I dont like being angry, but at the moment, they are tearing each other apart at Hogwarts and acting like children. They are children, Bill pointed out. And Im not, Harry agreed. Do I want to know how you know what is going on at Hogwarts? Bill asked. Probably, but Im not telling you. That was blunt, Bill said, grinning suddenly. Look, Harry, my siblings, and everyone else, are fully capable of making their own decisions and living their own lives. Im not going to judge or ask any more questions, I promise. Im just glad youre alive and living well with your girlfriend. Wife, Harry corrected gently. Congratulations. Thanks. Where did you get married? Vegas, funny story about that well tell you later, it ended up with Fred and George as best man and maid of honour. You know, Bill said slowly. I think I might need some fire whiskey soon especially if these surprises keep coming. Well, the only other surprise I have is that Charlies coming over later today; we need him as well. Like you need me? Pretty much. Wed have pulled you on board even if we didnt have this tomb down below. Why? Harry looked at him for a long moment, and then shrugged. Daph and I have a plan, and were getting the people we need involved. How do you know I want to be involved? Because youll tell us if you dont, well Obliviate you, and move on. Blunt, again. I find that it cuts through the boredom, Daphne said as she joined them. Shed changed into a tight light-blue t-shirt, a khaki coloured pair of shorts, and some sturdy looking boots. Shed braided her hair so that it fell down her back, over a small brown backpack. Harry smiled and offered her a hand down so that shed sit next to him. So, a revolution? Bill asked. Nothing as dramatic as that, were just changing what we want changed so that our family can go to school without worry, Daphne said quietly. He couldnt help laughing at the simplicity of the statement. Well, if Fred, George and Percy are already in, you can count me in as well. Harry smiled. Shall we go Tomb Raiding? Bill blinked and then looked at Daphne again as a memory stirred deep in his mind. Daphne looked at Harry fondly. He picked up a Play-Station a few weeks ago. A Play-Station? Bill asked, unsure about the unfamiliar terminology. Ill show you later, Harry offered. Daph was referring to a Muggle game called Tomb Raider, about an expert who gets into adventures while

doing exactly that. And, well, lets just say that we share a few characteristics, Daphne finished smoothly. In a flowing movement, she stood and dived into the well, somersaulting gracefully on the way down. She wears that outfit just to tease me, Harry said quietly, but damn, its good to be me. With a grin, Harry stood, turned, and back flipped into the hole. Bill shook his head in amusement that had been a pure man-to-man moment, and he found himself envying Harry. He didnt even want to think what Fleurs response would be if he asked her to dress up like someone else, but it seemed that Daphne was self-confident enough to do it to tease her husband. With a nervous sigh he pushed himself off the edge and grabbed his wand, hoping he remembered the levitation charm in case he needed it. At the bottom of the well, he felt some magic slow his fall and smiled in relief. Come on, Harry said excitedly, and took off down a well-lit path. The light was coming from crystals, which Bill presumed were charmed to stay bright. Harry was almost vibrating with excitement, while Daphne looked cool and collected, as if she was merely out for a stroll. It was only the fond looks that she gave her husband that hinted at the relationship they might share in private. They rounded a corner, and Bill stumbled to a halt. Qaa? Daphne asked. He nodded. Youre right. Daphne nodded while Harry looked proudly at her. You want the good news or the bad news? Bill asked. Good, Harry said, at the same time that Daphne said bad. The good news is that Ive seen this before, Bill said with a smile. These three figures here represent Ra, the Sun God who was later combined with Amen to become Amen-Ra, the most important of the Egyptian Gods. The bad news is that it took a long time to get through it. On my own, were looking at maybe six months. With Fleur, we can get that down to three- three and a half. With more people, we can do it faster. There are a lot of charms to disable. I dont want a lot of people here, Daphne said firmly. Me neither, Harry agreed. Ill go and tell Rawshank to send Fleur over. Invite him to dinner next week, Daphne added, as Harry grinned at her, and bounded off back the way they had came. Hes like a puppy at times, Daphne said fondly, almost to herself, before looking at Bill. What are we looking at here? I have no idea, Bill admitted. Nor any idea what the hell it is even doing here. Theres no reason for it, and I dont know of any documents that refer to it. But I can almost guarantee that it will be magical. Im not allowed to tell you what was in the last tomb like this I opened, but it was something very impressive. Daphne nodded slowly. Can I ask a question? If I dont like it, I wont answer. Bill smiled slightly. Who are you? Youll have to explain the question. You invite the chief Goblin for dinner, as if inviting an old friend... He is a friend, Daphne interrupted coolly. Okay, Bill said with a small grin. Youre friends with the chief Goblin and invite him around to dinner, you live on a beautiful island, but at the same time you are playing in the Wizarding world back in England, youre cold when dealing with me directly, but youre wearing some sort of costume to tease Harry. You make me jumpy, because I feel like if I do something wrong, youll do something about it - but Harry is completely in love with you, and it shows, and he doesnt seem to mind. Daphne looked at him for a few minutes, and he thought she was going to refuse to answer, but then she started to laugh. I am Harry Potters wife, she eventually said, just as he is my husband. Harry knows what I am, he knows that I have killed more than he has, and he isnt concerned about it. He knows why I act the way I do, and he has accepted that.

Just as I have accepted that I have married a Gryffindor, who is honourable, brave, courageous, and everything else implied in the statement. And just as I am affecting his outlook, I find that, grudgingly, I am accepting his as well. So, to answer your question, I am Daphne Potter, and very happy to be that everything else is superfluous. Bill nodded. It didnt really answer his question, but he understood that was the only answer he was going to get. He opened his suitcase and pulled out his reference book. He could feel Daphne as she stood to one side, learnt against a wall, and watched him. As he had thought, the tomb had a massive amount of security facing him, and he felt the same excitement he always did. Hed never found a door yet he didnt like to be on the other side off. He didnt know how long he worked, but he was interrupted by Daphne placing a hand on his shoulder very nicely. Its lunch time, she said. Your wife is here as well. Bill nodded and placed his book and notepad down, and followed her back through the cave. As she approached the light streaming down, she took a few quick steps forward, and jumped into the centre the magic then lifted her straight up she twisted gracefully as she flew up. Bill shook his head and followed her movement, landing in the same spot. He shot straight up, as if exploded out of a cannon, and flew into the light. He blinked and floundered as he started to fall down, only to be grabbed by a fist grasping his shirt. With a deceptive ease, Daphne pulled him to one side and placed him back on terra firma. He looked at her with new respect and she shrugged. Harry introduced me to the gym, she explained, and we both like the results in each other. Bill nodded and followed her down the path. Inside the main room, Fleur was sitting close to Harry, who was lounging comfortably. Daphne opened the door and sat next to Harry, taking his hand. Daphne, this is Fleur, my opponent in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and Bills wife. Fleur, this is Daphne, my wife, my love, and my saviour. That is a gorgeous ring, Fleur said, looking at Daphnes hand. Thank you, Daphne replied. I was surprised when Harry chose it. I had help, Harry admitted cheerfully. The first ring we chose was thrown off a balcony in disgust. It is wrong of me, Fleur said, still looking at Daphne, but I did enjoy your speech at the funeral and now that Harry is alive, I can enjoy the memory even more. Oh? Daphne asked. Bill felt Fleur look at him and he shrugged, having no idea what his wife meant. I do not like Ginny, she explained. I do not like the nickname Phlegm, and I did not think her worthy of the man who saved my sister. You, on the other hand, appear more so. Daphne slowly smiled at Fleur. Thank you. And you have a lovely home, Fleur continued. Will you show me around? Ten minutes til lunch, Daph, Harry said. Daphne nodded. We can see the ground floor in that time, come on. Bill watched as his wife and Harrys walked out. Were very lucky men, Bill, Harry said quietly as he watched them. Theyre almost complete opposites, Bill agreed, as the tall elegant pale blond followed the shorter, curvier, brunette, but both gorgeous. I didnt know that Fleur knew about that nickname. Nor did I, Harry agreed. And Ill apologise later. I think she suspected I was alive, because she didnt show any surprise when I welcomed her. Fleur is like that, Bill said with a smile. Some people fall for her vapid-blonde routine, but underneath that is a highly competent witch. She wouldnt have been Beauxbatons champion otherwise, Harry pointed out easily. Im glad she seems to be getting on with Daphne. Shes not really had any female friends before. And youre worried about that? A little, Harry sighed. At some stage Ill get over my problems with Hermione, and Ill want to be friends with her again.

And if Daphne doesnt get on with her? Shell try to, for me, Harry said. But in the end, Hermiones my best friend, but Daphnes my life. Theres no comparison. Bill nodded slowly. To be honest, I think Fleur would like a friend as well - we spend too much time on the road to allow her to make any grown up friends. What about us, Bill? Bill looked at Harry and opened his mouth, before stopping and looking at him again closer. He nodded and smiled, offering his hand. Harry took it, and they shook. Just one thing, Bill said. Oh? Yeah, dont call me William. Harry just laughed.

Matryoshka Vignettes Sing A Song of Sixpence, A Pocket Full of Weasleys (4/4)

Yo! Charlie, get your scrawny arse over here. Just a minute! Charlie yelled, deciding that the only way to deal with a cantankerous dragon was the direct way. He swayed back and then launched a punch at the dragons nose. The dragon reared back in shock and sat down heavily. Bad dragon, Charlie scolded firmly, crossing his arms and staring up at the male. The dragon looked faintly embarrassed, while Charlie reached up and rubbed the side of its head affectionately. Now, are you going to be good? The dragon nodded once, and then turned, plodding off back toward the food area. Charlie smiled and turned, jogging the length of the field in double-time to his boss. Whats up, boss? Got a new mission for you, shrimp. And if I dont want a new mission? Tough, I said youd do it already. You need a holiday. This will do it. I dont, Charlie protested. No, youre naturally this ornery, arent you? Charlie smirked. We all have our talents. Like I said, its tough. Youre going off to Bora Bora. First, where? Second, why? Bora Bora, an island in French Polynesia. As for why, the owners want some charms done. So why me? Because anyone can do it, but if you want something done right, you need a Weasley? Isnt that your catchphrase? Charlie blushed. His boss looked amused. Seriously, its because youre the best weve got at hiding dragons, and thats the sort of scale were looking at. They want the entire island covered with the same charms we use here the this land is empty, but dont ever walk across it that you specialise in. Right, Charlie sighed irritably. Protecting some rich gits assets? Who is the client? Buggered if I know. Orders came from so far up the chain I get a nosebleed thinking about them. All I know is that they have the sort of clout that makes the likes of you and me appear very unimportant. Bugger, Charlie groaned. And I cant get out of it? His boss pulled out a piece of paper and slid it across the table. Charlie picked it up and looked at it closely. He blinked and read it again. Is that a telephone number? No, its what they agreed to pay for a good job. Charlie gulped. Maybe I was a little hasty, he acknowledged. Thats what I thought, pipsqueak, his boss agreed. Youre a lucky bastard, Charlie, take the job, have a holiday in paradise, and dont screw up. Right. How do I get there?

His boss tossed him a Portkey. Get a shower, shave, put on some clean clothes. Portkey activates in an hour. Thanks, boss. Get the hell outta here, shorty. Charlie grinned, tossed off a sloppy salute, and walked out of the tent, whistling to himself. He walked into his own tent, and had a quick but cold shower, thinking that the idea of hot water wasnt such a bad one. After a shower, he examined his clothes, and on the idea that the clients might have a cute daughter, he pulled on his best leather trousers, dragon hide boots, and a sleeveless top. He glanced at himself in the mirror and grinned. He looked like a young dragon tamer just a little wild and perfect for any attractive unattached girls he might, or might not, come into contact with. With a cocky grin at himself, he waited until the Portkey activated and felt himself tugged through the space. As he arrived, he realised that he might have made a tactical error. First, it was hot. Really hot, in fact it was far too hot to be wearing leather trousers. Second, he was on sand, and there was no way he was going to be able to look cool while walking on the sand in these boots. A pop attracted his attention, and he turned, to see a well-dressed house-elf look at him solemnly, and then indicate a path. A little bow-legged, Charlie walked up the beach, relieved that the path was a more normal surface, and that he could walk normally. As he looked around, he couldnt help but be impressed, and he absently pulled out his wand to have a look at the charms concealing the place. Although done by amateurs, they werent bad at all. He could see a few places he could make improvements. A faint cough caught his attention, and he looked around to find the elf waiting for him patiently. Fighting the urge to blush, he followed the elf the rest of the way up the path, and into a living room that could have housed two of his biggest dragons and still had room for a party. The elf indicated a sofa that could double as a bed for a thin dragon and Charlie wandered over and dropped heavily into it, his legs stretched out in front of him. It made him realise that he really needed a cool hat to complete his look. Please make your self at home, a cool, but familiar, voice said dryly. He looked up and smiled slightly. Daphne Greengrass. Indeed, she agreed, moving over to sit opposite him. She was wearing an outfit that made him wonder exactly how long someone was supposed to wait before asking a person whod lost their love out on a date. Its good to see you again, he said. Thank you, Daphne replied, sitting elegantly on the couch opposite him. He looked at her closely, trying to detect any lingering sadness. It was a technique he used on dragons and with varying success on females of his own species. As far as he could tell, she wasnt grieving, so she must be somewhat over what happened. It had been a while now, and this sort of island would certainly help. So, he asked, offering her his most charming Im a naughty boy smile, what can I do for you? Wards, Mr Weasley, Daphne said coldly, reminding him that at one stage she had been the Ice Queen, before Harry. Never one to step back from a challenge, Charlie leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees, a pose that just happened to emphasise his muscles, and the cool scars hed got from working with a dragon. First, please call me Charlie, and second, what sort of wards? There is going to be a lot of magical traffic, Daphne said in a clipped tone of voice, in and around this island over the next few months. There will also be some Muggle friends coming and going. I value my privacy, so we need a permanent charm that will discourage people from coming within a few hundreds yards of shore - without an invitation, of course. That I can do, he said smoothly. Have you thought about the Fidelius Charm? It would be easier. We already have that in place, Daphne replied. However, it is far too inconvenient. Right, Charlie nodded, wondering why he hadnt spotted that earlier. He smoothly stood, turned, and dropped down next to her, pulling out a notebook from his pocket, using it as an excuse to sit nearer her. She had a light perfume that did funny things to his mind, distracting him. He shook his head, and when he had looked again, she had moved away from him slightly.

Not wanting to press it too far, right away at least, he didnt move any closer to her. With a quick spell to familiarise himself, he started to sketch the layout of the island. He was pretty proud of his artistic talents, and practised - both because of the love of drawing, and because chicks dig a rugged man with a sensitive side. What I suggest, he said in as smooth a voice as he could. Is base charms here, here, and here, he added small dots to the map, hoping that it would draw her closer again. It didnt. And then, he continued. We use this building as the main focal point. Daphne nodded. Deciding to give it one more try for the day, before pausing, he twisted, adopting the most casual pose he could, and grinned at her. It shouldnt take long, a day or two. Do you want me to stay over night? Will you please stop hitting on my wife? an amused voice asked from the doorway. Charlie turned, the voice sounded familiar, but because of the shadows caused by the slowly setting sun, he couldnt see who it was. I had it under control, Daphne said, sounding irritated. I know, love, the voice said, but I kinda like Charlie and I think hed appreciate leaving here with his bits fully intact. You dont let me have any fun anymore, Daphne whined playfully. I wasnt going to hurt him.... much. Charlie turned to look at her in surprise, to find himself staring down her wand. He looked at her blank expression and gulped. Err, would it help if I said that Im sorry? There wasnt a flicker of either amusement or pity in her eyes, and he started to think that as bad as things were, they couldnt get any worse. Unfortunately, they immediately did. Do you think we should mention it to Mum? an unmistakable voice asked. I dont know, brother mine, perhaps we should just take notes after all, he is an expert, a second unmistakable voice replied. Fred and George. All those stories, a third voice added, about twelve oclock Charlie, because hed always pulled by midnight. He heard a derogatory sniff from Daphne. Ive been chatted up by a lot better without any success, she said coldly. Except for me, the original voice said, walking into the light and settling down next to Daphne. Bugger, Charlie groaned. Theres that charm again, Fred, George said. Are you taking notes? I am, Fred agreed. Step one: hit on someone who supposedly lost their love recently. Thats the step weve been missing, George said in a stunned voice. Weve always been hitting on girls who arent in mourning. Daphne isnt in mourning, Charlie retorted automatically. She wasnt sad, I checked, like I do with the dragons. He paused and blushed, really wishing he hadnt said that. Step two: treat a lady like beast. This is fascinating, Daphne added coldly. Please feel free to continue. Charlie gulped. I think that its time for us to display some sibling loyalty, Fred said with a sigh. I guess, George agreed. But cant we let her curse him first? Nah, the carpets too nice. But theyre rich. True, but think of the hassle. I guess.

Charlie watched in shock as Fred and George walked over to Daphne and grabbed her arms, heaving her to her feet. I ought to hex you two as well, Daphne muttered. But you love us, Fred announced, come on, well show you the plans weve had done. Theyre ready? Daphne asked, sounding interested. Yep, but we cant do anything with them with the current regulatory climate. Well sort that out, Daphne said absently, and walked with the two men out of the room, leaving Charlie alone with his elder brother and a supposedly dead man. Im not going to live this down, am I? Charlie asked. Nope, Bill and Harry said together. And if I were you, Id think yourself lucky, Daphne was telling Fleur some stories of what she used to do to persistent idiots who couldnt take a hint, back at Hogwarts, Bill added. Charlie groaned. Fleurs here as well? Harry and Daphne arranged for Gringotts to send me here to deal with a problem sound familiar? Arent you supposed to be dead? Charlie asked Harry. What, and disappoint my press? Harry asked dryly. Boy-Who-Lived, remember? Charlie stood, walked over to a wall, and banged his head into it a few times. He looked at Harry, I really did think that you were dead and that as she wasnt sad, she might be open, and she is a fox. I know, Harry agreed, which is why Im amused and not showing you just why I was the person to defeat Voldemort. Charlie gulped; the last bit had been delivered in a cold voice that matched Daphnes from earlier. Word of advice, Chuckles, Bill said. Treat Daphne like I do and not how Fred and George do. As far as I can tell, she considers them friends, she considers Harry everything so, because were friends of Harrys, we get politeness and the occasional smile. You dont want to know what comes after that. Right, Charlie said, rubbing the back of his neck. Id be more shocked at you being alive, but Im far too embarrassed at the moment. Dont worry about it, Harry said with a shrug. You got away with no permanent damage. Would she really have cursed me? Sure, Harry said. Daph believes in direct action to people who stand in her way. Charlie nodded. And Charlie, Bill added serious. Its really bad taste to hit on a widow, even if shes not showing any visible signs of mourning. Yeah, Im getting that, Charlie agreed. Sorry, Harry. Dont apologise to me, Harry said with a laugh. I knew you werent going to get anything more than a cursing. But a direct and honest apology will help with Daphne. Right, gotcha. So, why are you alive? Short version? Daph decided that shed invested far too much in me emotionally, and that she wasnt going to let me die. I had a choice of going to heaven alone, or returning back to earth with her. It wasnt really a decision. Ill get to heaven eventually, but I wasnt going to wait a hundred years for Daph to show up and there was no way I was going to run the risk of some other lucky bastard getting her attentions. Bill, Charlie, I hope youre paying attention, Fleur said as she joined them. Thanks for letting me have a nap. Youre welcome, Harry smiled at her. I am, dear, Bill added. Good, Fleur said, smiling widely at him, reminding Charlie that Bill was a lucky git as well. Harry smoothly slid to his feet and sat on the other side of the couch, nearer Charlie so that Fleur could sit with Bill. Shall we get to point? Harry asked. Or tease Charlie some more?

The point, please, Charlie said before Bill could say anything. Well, Harry said, crossing his legs at the ankles. The general plan was to bring you on board slowly, like we did with Bill you are here to work, we want those charms, but we want more from you as well. Unfortunately, your Casanova attempt, while amusing, has put a slight clink in that, as I need to talk to Daph before telling you anything more. So, Bill, Fleur, can you tour guide Charlie for an hour or so, while I go and check out what Fred and George have come up with, and decide what were going to do about it? Sure, Bill nodded. Come on, Chuckles. Charlie found himself on his feet and out the door before he could agree. You screwed up, Charlie, Bill said seriously. Cant you keep it in your trousers for just half an hour? Im sorry, Charlie sighed. Honest. Ive been on duty for six weeks; the only females Ive seen in that time have been dragons both literally and figuratively. I know I was pushing it a little, but youve seen what Daphne looks like. Bill sighed and looked at Fleur. I can understand, I guess, he said. Oh? Fleur asked. She is good looking, Bill replied meekly. Not as good looking as you, of course, but I did wonder if she had any Veela blood inside her. She doesnt, Fleur said. And she is good looking. And I like her attitude. Bill gulped audibly. Fleur laughed under her breath. So, now that we have that out of the way, let us show him the crypt first. The crypt? Charlie asked. Yeah, its why were here, Bill smiled. Were actually going to be living here for the next few months. It is much nicer than back home, Fleur agreed. As they approached the well, Fleur cart-wheeled ahead and launched herself into a back flip off the edge. Charlie blinked. I think shes having a competition with Harry and Daphne to see who can make the best entrance, Bill explained. Theres magic at the bottom to slow you down, so its perfectly safe, he finished, jumping of the edge. With a shrug, Charlie launched himself in to a double-front somersault with twist. As he landed, he looked around and followed the brightly lit trail. Isnt that Egyptian? he asked as he joined Bill and Fleur. Yep, and warded to the ceiling and back. And there are probably all sorts of booby traps. Whats it doing here? No idea, hopefully well find out when we open it. And thats fun for you? As much fun as chasing an errant dragon, Bill replied. Point taken, Charlie said dryly. Any clue as to whats going on? Nope, were in, youre not. As much as youre my brother, until youre in, were not saying a word. I thought you might say that, Charlie grunted, not really surprised. What I can tell you, is that Percys in as well. Percy? Charlie asked, shocked. Yeah, dont know what happened exactly, but hes going to see Mum and Dad soon. Damn. Pretty much what I thought, Bill agreed.

We should show you the rest of the island, Fleur said, turning and walking back toward the building. He followed her with Bill, and smiled as she elegantly jumped and bounced out the roof. Try not to go straight up, Bill advised, as he jumped in the centre. Charlie laughed to himself and followed Bill up, somersaulting out and landing on his feet perfectly. Youre a git, Bill sighed. Charlie grinned at him cheerfully and followed as his brother and sister-in-law led him around the island which was bigger than he had expected. What are we doing about Ron and Ginny? Staying the hell out of it, Bill said firmly. Ginny was in love with him, Charlie said pointedly. And she blew it, Fleur said firmly. Daphne is as good for Harry as he is good for her. Sorry, Charlie said, raising his hand defensively. She is still our sister. Bill turned and leant against a nearby tree, looking out to sea. She is, he agreed. And youre closer to her than I am, but things didnt work out. Neither of them are blameless, they both made mistakes, but Harry broke up with her, and Ginny moved on from there. As far as Im concerned Harry acted honourably. You do know why they broke up, dont you? Yeah, Charlie agreed. And? I agreed with him doing it, all right? Charlie sighed. I didnt like Ginny being a target, like Harry said, and thought he did the right thing, at the time. So how can you be upset that he moved on? Because shes my sister, and shes hurting. I know, and Harry does as well. But he also deserves to be happy, and Daphne does that. And when Harrys worked through his anger with her, and the others, Im sure hell tell them hes alive. Anger? Oh, because they followed Dumbledore, not him. How would you feel, Charlie, if your best friends turned you down like that? Pissed off, Charlie sighed. Damn it. What happened to the Bill who punched first and did the logic later? He grew up and married a beautiful woman. You are paying attention to Harry, Fleur said teasingly, and lightly kissed Bill on the lips. Besides, Bill continued. What do you want Harry to do about it now? Hes happily married to Daphne. Charlie paused shook his head. Damn it, he did say that, didnt he? I wasnt exactly paying attention at the time. That makes everything moot, doesnt it? Bill grinned and looked back at Charlie. Its a trust thing, Charlie. Harry doesnt trust them not to go blabbing to Dumbledore, and hes not ready for Dumbledore to know that hes alive. Charlie nodded. I guess that make sense but how can he trust me? Because if Fred, George, Percy or I tell him he cant trust you, youll be Obliviate d. What!? Were not playing games here, Chuckles. Weve got Harrys trust because were Weasleys. Well Percy and I have anyway. Fred and George have always been closer to Harry than we have, and they did something for them and whatever it was, they got Daphnes trust as well and were benefiting from that. Youre in for the same reason, youre a Weasley youve got a chance at being in on this from the start. And if any of us doubt you, well drop you. Do you? Nope, wouldnt have invited you if I did, Bill grinned. Right, Charlie nodded. So, its important?

Depends on what you call important, Harry said, appearing from around the corner. If you mean money and the acquisition of more of it, youd be off track. If you mean changing the world, then youd be about on track. Charlie blinked a few times. Excuse me? he croaked. Daphs willing to give you another chance, Harry said brightly. So come on, were going to tell you whats going on. Okay, Charlie nodded, and preceded Bill and Fleur back to the house. Fred and George were already sitting with Daphne, who looked a lot more relaxed; she was laughing with the two of them. As he entered, he managed to watch as she softened for a second as she looked at Harry, and then seemed to freeze as she noticed him. It was almost like she was two very different people, and he found himself curious to know what she was like when she was alone with Harry. So, Charlie said, sitting down. I know why the old man and Fleur are here, why are you two here? Fred smirked. We applied our natural genius to the whole scenario, and worked out that Harry was alive within a few days. How!? Oh, when you know the recipe for a lie, detecting one is pretty easy, George replied. We contacted them, and got an invite to meet them. Where we helped them as wed been to Vegas before. And Fred wore a dress. Charlie shook his head, suddenly feeling like he was sixteen again, and listening to the twins explaining why they had turned his dragonfly pink. He turned to Fred. So, why, exactly, were you wearing a dress? Because Daphne needed a bridesmaid and George had already seen the male stripper. You know, I think that is actually the most bizarrely logical thing youve ever said. Why, thank you, Fred replied simply. Actually, Daphne said in a cool voice. They did a lot more than that. They arranged our wedding in less than five hours. Charlie whistled under his breath. Mums going to kill you when she finds out you were at his wedding and she wasnt. Weve got a lot of pictures, George said. She shouts, she doesnt get to see how good Fred looks in a dress. Or how hot Harry looked, Fred added. What about Daphne? Fleur asked. We like our testicles in place, thank you very much, George said solemnly. We would never describe Daphne as jaw-achingly beautiful in her presence. Absolutely, Fred agreed. And wed never admit to talking about bonking Harry over the head and seeing if one of us could take his place. Or that feeling, when she walked up the aisle, when you just had to thank God that you were a man, George finished. Charlie looked up, to see Daphne smiling fondly at the two of them, and Harry laughing. He shook his head, amused, but also amazed at just how well Fred and George had managed to get close to the couple in front of him. Can I see the photos? Fleur asked eagerly. Daphne nodded. Later. Right, back on target, Harry said, seizing the attention in the room as if it was natural. Charlie looked at his siblings, and realised that they were serious about being in, with whatever Harry was doing. Fred and George had stopped playing, and Bill had his Serious face on. Charlie, Harry started, Daphne and I left the Wizarding world because we were both pretty irritated with it, the corruption, the incompetence and the short-sightedness. We decided wed never go back, and were happy with that. But then Fred and George showed up, and I started to remember the good times, and while not many, there were a few. And we started to talk about it. He started to talk about it, I wasnt convinced, Daphne said dryly. Harry grinned at her. So, while we were doing a bit of a world tour, we started to look at other Wizarding cultures, and realised that good ol Blighty was an anachronism. So, we had a choice. We could abandon it, find a place like this, and never go back. Which had my vote, Daphne interjected.

Or we could do something about it. To start with, I was with Daph, but then we kinda realised that wed already made our decisions. We still had our fingers in the pie, dealing with the Malfoy family, removing Snape, that sort of thing. And as we hadnt really left, well, we spent a week talking about it. He spent a week talking, Daphne interrupted again. I spent a week listening and trying to decide if he was insane. And the result, Harry finished, was that we decided wed live here, but wed fix it. Fix what? Charlie asked, confused. Everything, Harry said brightly. Were going to put Percy in charge of the Ministry, McGonagall in charge of Hogwarts, and a friend in charge of the press. Just like that? Charlie asked. Of course, Harry replied. Youre insane, Charlie said bluntly. No, hes not, Daphne said quietly, her tone a little icy. Hes a foolhardy Gryffindor who wouldnt know a long-term plan if it bit him on the arse. But hes got the Slytherin Ice Queen, and she can plan, Harry said cheerfully. And he persuaded her that he was right, Daphne agreed, lightly touching Harrys arm in a gesture of apology. Harry threaded his fingers through hers and met her eyes for a second. What do you need me for? Charlie asked. Hed already decided he was in, having Percy as Minister sounded like a good plan to him especially if his younger brother was over his git stage. First, Harry said. We need people we trust. There are going to be things that need doing, and we cant do everything. Second, there are quite a few Death Eaters who are still around Lucius Malfoy, despite being broke, is one of them. Were pretty sure we know where they are. And? he asked. We want a few dragons to convey an object lesson, Daphne said coldly. Charlie gulped. But dragons are pretty indiscriminate when you get them in the right mood. Good, Daphne said. Two lessons. The small one is that being a Death Eater is a bad idea. And the big one? Daphne smiled, only it was a smile that sent chills up his back. That hurting Harry is the easiest way of committing suicide this side of casting a certain spell at yourself. Charlie settled back, a little surprised at the amused look on Harrys face, and even more surprised by the way Fred and George were nodding in complete agreement. If you need some time to think about it, Harry said, we can give you until tomorrow. What? Oh, no, I joined ages ago, Charlie said with a grin. Youve got Bill on your side, if he trusts you, I would anyway as it happens, Id be on board without him. Not us? Fred asked. Were devastated, George agreed. Charlie ignored them. And I know just the dragons you want. Theyve got the intelligence to know its a one off, and the personalities to enjoy a spot of Death Eater barbequing. Harry smiled and stood, offering his hand. Charlie stood and shook it, looking into the most famous green eyes in the world, and came to the realisation that Harry and Daphne were playing a role, that this whole plan was something they had come up with together, to achieve the effect they wanted. He just hoped that one day theyd feel comfortable enough around him to be themselves. But for now, he was content to join his brothers in starting a revolution and more importantly being in the position to end the archaic laws the United Kingdom had on keeping dragons as pets.