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Fics begun in 2003 (post-OOTP)

Author Notes:





With the MacLeish purchase of the Daily Prophet last year, wizarding Britain lost its voice. For the last several years, Britain's Wizarding Wireless Network has been a front for the Minister and his administration. Mr. Odd Lovegood's Quibbler cannot be taken seriously as a publication despite the occasional newsworthy article.

Mr. Keith MacLeish asserts that his Daily Prophet remains a wizarding newspaper, yet it now resembles the newspapers that one of his many businesses sells to London's Muggles. In addition to MacLeish's foreign sensibilities, there is another influence to consider.

Mr. Harry Potter is now a silent partner in the Daily Prophet. Few people recall that Mr. Potter's great-grandfather invented the wizarding wireless, and that the Potter family at one time owned and operated the WWN. Today, although Keith MacLeish does not control Britain's wireless network, his holdings do include the networks in more than twenty countries around the world. There are credible reports that MacLeish has sought the WWN but has thus far been rebuffed. The Potter family holdings are amongst the largest in Britain and are able to easily finance such efforts. Has the Potter family been an invisible hand upon the news for decades? Is it possible that Harry Potter now controls, whether directly or indirectly, all of the news that Britain's wizards read and hear?

At a time of great consequence for our world – facing the threat of war from both within and without, a faltering economy, a seemingly corrupt and incompetent government, and the slow but constant disintegration of our very way of life – we could no longer sit silent and beg for an occasional morsel of thought from the Prophet or the WWN.

Unlike the rest of today's press in Britain, we do not rely on the generosity of advertisers and questionable partners. This journal represents the opinions of The Gazump Family Trust, which has supported wizarding causes for eleven generations.

We are not a tool of the Ministry.

We will not bury our views amidst fanciful tales and absurd rumours.

Rest assured that we will speak the truth, and you will read it here first.


Reginald Gazump, publisher

Barnabas Cuffe, director for publications

Tobias Elsinore, editor

The Watcher, inaugural edition, March 3, 1997



March 8, 1997

One good thing came of Harry's ongoing arrangement at the Three Broomsticks, at least: he had a private meeting place always available to him, thanks to having leased the garret for the entire year in advance. Luckily for him, the inn was one of the few buildings in Hogsmeade that had remained largely undamaged.

As was his custom on Saturday mornings, he spent at least two hours helping Hogsmeade residents rebuild. On this particular weekend – a Hogsmeade weekend for the students – he was able to cajole a dozen of his friends to join him. Some of the properties seemed to be cursed in the same way as the Burrow – the building materials just wouldn't hold together by magic. However, as one of Keith MacLeish's squib builders had pointed out to him, none of that stopped a nail. By mid-February, they had found that homes rebuilt manually on the cursed sites were safe, and magical items within the homes functioned in the expected way. So, Harry had hired builders through MacLeish and set them to work. After nine weeks, all but seven families were returned to their homes.

Detheridge joined Harry on occasion. The two had discussed the overheard conversation on the night after Tiberius Ogden's death several times. For some reason, the Defence professor was unable to tell Harry his intentions directly, but Harry eventually sussed it out: the purposes were for Harry to know that Hermione had forged some sort of breakthrough, and that at least the Marquis and Dumbledore believed that there was something alchemical about the prophecy regarding he and Voldemort. Detheridge promised that he would be able to share more in the future; in fact, he specified 'the afternoon of April 6, unless it's rainy the previous day', without further explanation.

On this particular Saturday, Harry had arranged to meet with Madam Bones and Ted Tonks regarding financial concerned. Madam Rosmerta had already admitted them to the garret by the time Harry arrived. Mr. Tonks had arrayed several stacks of parchments at the small dining table and Madam Bones was picking through her valise as he entered.

“Ah, good morning, Harry. Rosmerta left some hot cocoa at the counter. It's positively bitter out there,” Mr. Tonks said.

“Even with a warming charm, you look chilled completely through, Mr. Potter. Are you still spending time with the reconstruction?” Madam Bones asked.

Harry shrugged and said, “It seemed like everyone else started quitting on them. That doesn't mean the work is finished.”

“Very admirable,” said Mr. Tonks.

Madam Bones said, “Admirable, yes, but also terribly expensive. Mr. Potter, it's not your responsibility to pay for these squib workers to reassemble Hogsmeade. The Ministry provides assistance – ”

Harry cut her off, “The Ministry didn't offer any help until the end of last month. Were people supposed to pitch tents in the snow?”

“You can't solve every ill in our society by throwing your money at it,” Madam Bones sighed.

“She's right, Harry. Now, we could have interceded – you did enter into a contract with the workers without a sign-off from either of us – but frankly, it would have made you look badly,” Mr. Tonks said.

“And you've more than enough help with that, unfortunately,” added Madam Bones.

Harry ground his teeth at that, before he grumbled, “Yeah, The Watcher... tell me about this Gazump, would you?”

Mr. Tonks said, “Reginald Gazump is an old-line pureblood. The Gazumps composed a House at one time, centuries ago. Before they could be absorbed, the heir at the time took all of the family monies and put them in trust. Mr. Gazump descends from a cadet line of the family. Somehow or another, his grandfather obtained control of the trust and started spreading largess. As for Gazump himself... he's in the neighbourhood of ninety, wouldn't you say, Madam Bones?”

“He's at least that... perhaps a hundred by now,” said Madam Bones; “Reggie is the solicitor-of-record for the Hogwarts Board of Governors, which means nothing more than a spot of prestige. I haven't sought an opinion from him in the entire time that I've chaired the Board.”

“Why would he start a newspaper?” Harry asked.

“Reggie was a part-owner of the Daily Prophet at one time, so he probably fancies himself a newspaperman. The important figure here is Barnabas Cuffe,” Madam Bones said.

Harry said, “I recognised the name... he used to run the Prophet, didn't he?”

“Cuffe was the editor and a part-owner at the time MacLeish purchased it. Rumour has it that he didn't want to sell, but he only held about a quarter of it. You would think that MacLeish set up some sort of arrangement to prevent Cuffe from operating another paper, wouldn't you?” said Mr. Tonks.

“If Cuffe couldn't establish another paper, perhaps he wasn't kept from editing or writing? That makes for a reasonable theory: Cuffe persuaded Reggie that it would be a good thing to compete with the Prophet,” Madam Bones speculated.

“Well, it certainly doesn't bode well for you, Harry. Cuffe’s always taken more pleasure in cutting people down than raising them up,” said Mr. Tonks.

“How lucky for me,” Harry deadpanned.

“One of his people has been enquiring into the Runcorn and Bagman killings. Something is about to be stirred up, that much is certain,” Madam Bones said.

Mr. Tonks reached for one of his stacks of parchment. He said, “All right, Harry, let's begin with a few items that need to be addressed in the short term. I'll warn you straight away: you'll be signing your name more than a few times. After that, I think it's high time we review your limitations on entering into contracts.”

Madam Bones nodded in agreement and summoned an expression that put Professor McGonagall's pursed lips to shame. Harry visibly winced. He hoped otherwise, but it seemed that the next hour or two were shaping up to be rather detention-like.




In the last three months, four well-regarded members of our community have been brutally slain. The first was the former Quidditch star Ludo Bagman, on December the fourteenth. The death of Rupert Starling, a warder for Gringotts, followed fifteen days later. Ministry official and philanthropist Jonathon Runcorn was killed on January the third. Two days ago, Leander Vaisley, a sundries and cauldron importer, was murdered near Diagon Alley.

Each of these men was killed in a similar manner. All four were stabbed with a large blade, and in two cases repeatedly so. An employee of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement shared with this writer that the blade is believed to be a sword, and some suspect that it was the same sword in each case.

If four upstanding wizards have been killed by the same means in such a brief period, then why is the Department of Magical Law Enforcement behaving as though these were four separate crimes? Common sense suggests that there is a brazen killer in our midst, preying upon the good people of wizarding Britain. If, as that employee of the Department told this writer, the killer is almost certainly a wizard, then how difficult can it be to apprehend this butcher? How many wizards can brandish a sword? Once the leaders of noble families are excluded – as all such men are instructed in fencing as a matter of comportment, but would have no reason to engage in such horrific acts – few potential killers remain.

The Watcher urges the Ministry to take swift action, before our community is once again struck by this terrifying menace!

The Watcher, March 10, 1997



March 11, 1997

Professor Tonks stopped Harry in the corridor as he made his way toward the Great Hall for breakfast. “Ted's trying to reach you,” she told him; “It's something to do with the Prophet.”

“I haven't seen it yet this morning – have you?” he asked.

“No time today, I'm afraid. The third years are supposed to be testing on the concept of computers and it's shaping up as a debacle. Did you know that I had to spend two entire sessions convincing many of them that such a thing exists?” the Professor sighed.

Harry winced at that. He promised, “I'll try to make it down to Hogsmeade and give him a ring, but it might be in the afternoon.”

“He made it sound like an emergency, Harry. Do your best to reach him, all right? Oh, dear! I'm going to be late!” Professor Tonks called out, already on her way toward the north tower.

As soon as he entered the Great Hall, Hermione leapt from her seat and headed toward him, Daily Prophet in hand. “You need to see this,” she said.

The front page was a blaze of colour and large headlines in angry fonts:



WWN threatens action over 'Ministry front' accusation

Ministry accuses upstart paper of post owl tampering,

nonpayment of tariffs, and failure to file business registration

Cuffe in breach of contract with Daily Prophet ?

Flourish and Blotts turns away Cuffe at the door


Four wizards killed since December all tied to You-Know-Who

Upstart paper declares that purebloods are above suspicion in killings


“MacLeish doesn't do anything by half, does he?” Harry muttered.

“Did you know he was going to declare war?” Hermione asked.

“No. This isn't good, is it?” Harry sighed.

Before he made it halfway across the hall, he was bombarded by two owls – one with a Ministry for Magic tag – and a raven. The birds jockeyed for position to deliver their post, and the raven won out of sheer nastiness.

- - - - - - - - - -

Mr. Potter,

Apologies for the short notice, but a significant business issue has come up with regard to the Daily Prophet. If you've followed the headlines recently, then you probably have a good idea of things.

We will be meeting this afternoon with the principals from The Watcher, and Mr. MacLeish wanted to offer you and the other partners an opportunity to attend. Your man Ted Tonks can certainly sit in your stead, given the notice and the demands of your schedule.

If you can take us up on the offer, the meeting is scheduled at the Daily Prophet offices on Diagon Alley beginning at 3 PM.


J. Charles Royston

Vice President, Special Projects

The Vox Corporation

- - - - - - - - - -


MacLeish has gone off his nut. I took a call from his man Royston at six o'clock this morning. It was a warning about today's Prophet and an invitation to a meeting with Cuffe this afternoon. I'm of two minds about this meeting. You have every right to participate, but I don't know that you necessarily gain by being there. If this is the start of a battle royal between MacLeish and Cuffe, and if Cuffe sees you as being on MacLeish's side, then you'll be drawn into the muck. On the other hand, if you stay away, you lose the opportunity to influence the outcome and Cuffe probably comes for you out of sheer habit.

I will be attending the meeting. When you decide on attendance, please inform me.

Ted Tonks

- - - - - - - - - -

Mr. Harry James Potter

Address unknown

Berwickshire, Scotland


Apprentice's Quarters

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Perth and Kinross, Scotland

Dear Mr. Potter,

This is to inform you that you have been named as a defendant in the following complaint:

Barnabas Cuffe and The Gazump Family Trust d/b/a The Watcher


Keith MacLeish and limited partners of Vox Publications England d/b/a The Daily Prophet

and as a plaintiff in the following complaint:

Keith MacLeish and limited partners of Vox Publications England d/b/a The Daily Prophet


Barnabas Cuffe and The Gazump Family Trust d/b/a The Watcher

We will issue instructions with regard to these actions no later than thirty days from the time of this notice.

Kind regards,

Rupert Malaprop

Senior Clerk

Wizengamot Administrative Services

The Ministry for Magic of England and Scotland

- - - - - - - - - -

Harry gathered up the three posts and the copy of the Prophet in one hand and rubbed at the bridge of his nose with the other. “I don't need this,” he said to himself. He figured on calling Mr. Tonks at around one o'clock, after he conducted practical Defence lessons for the second year 'Puffs and Snakes and the fourth year 'Claws and Gryffindors. His head and his gut were in disagreement about whether to attend the meeting.





Purpose: Harry seeks advice about whether or not to attend meeting between Keith MacLeish and Barnabas Cuffe (rival newspaper editor, used to edit the Daily Prophet)

  • Harry is leaning toward going to a meeting that's probably about lawsuits – he's involved because of his part-ownership in the Prophet
  • Dumbledore plays politics with his response – tries to remain mostly neutral but comments on the merits of each side (MacLeish vs. Cuffe)
  • Make sure to include Dumbledore comments on what Cuffe's eventual impact on the stability of the Ministry might be (likely to lead toward Fudge's dismissal and a dangerous power vacuum); could have him make a rare favorable comment about MacLeish (at least the man's smart enough to prop up Fudge in the absence of an alternative)
  • Harry decides to go to the meeting
  • Dumbledore is concerned about secure transportation
  • Harry suggests that he has a secure way to get to Diagon Alley, but backpedals when Dumbledore begins to press about how Harry can seemingly come and go from Hogwarts undetected
  • Dumbledore suggests that Fawkes might take Harry directly to the Daily Prophet offices, points out the value of going in style – the phoenix agrees



Harry squeezed shut his eyes and was enveloped by the strange warmth of travelling with Fawkes. There was a trilling sound for a few moments and then a rush of cold air. He opened his eyes to a room of panicked wizards, two of whom were rather large and had their wands drawn and aimed.

“Erm... hello, there. I thought he'd, uh, take me to the entry,” Harry said.

The only smile in the room was on the face of a very old man with a thick moustache and bushy sideburns. He said happily, “Oh, that's smashing! Dumbledore's pet gave you a lift!”

Harry shook his head and returned, “It doesn't work quite like that. I asked Fawkes whether he was willing to bring me, and he agreed.”

Fawkes let forth a song just then. The two security wizards relaxed their postures but kept their wands at the ready. MacLeish and his man Curly Royston also relaxed. Ted Tonks took on a bemused expression. The Minister and Percy Weasley were also there, to Harry's surprise – the Minister looked to be annoyed, while Percy seemed almost wistful. Harry wondered if seeing Fawkes brought back memories from Percy's Headship. The unknown old man seemed to be on the edge of laughter. The man to his right was so bland as to be nearly unnoticeable, and Fawkes' presence seemed not to register for him at all.

The man to the old man's left had dark hair styled into a wave and the sort of dark facial hair that needed shaving by mid-afternoon. His reaction to Fawkes was a look of distaste; “Tell it to go on its way,” he said.

Harry was immediately suspicious of anyone who responded that way to a phoenix. He strode directly toward the man with his hand extended and said, “Harry Potter. And you are...?”

“I'm Barnabas Cuffe, of course,” the man huffed as he briskly rebuffed the offer of a handshake.

The bland man cleared his throat and everyone turned to him as though he'd just been noticed. “My name is Rupert Malaprop and I am the senior clerk for the Administrative Services of the Wizengamot,” he said in a voice as nondescript as his face; “I am here at the request of the Minister since everyone present at this meeting is in some way a party to two competing complaints filed with the Wizengamot. If everyone would please take a seat...?”

Far from leaving, Fawkes perched himself on the back of Harry's chair. Cuffe looked ready to rebel, but said nothing. Ted Tonks sat to Harry's right, and MacLeish and Royston took up places adjacent to Mr. Tonks. Cuffe, another man who had been partly hidden from Harry by one of the security wizards, and the old man, all took up places opposite Harry and MacLeish. The bland fellow sat at one end of the table. The Minister hesitated for a moment, and then directed Percy to sit at the opposite end; he then seated himself to Harry's left.

Cuffe crossed his arms and said, “It figures you'd sit on that side of the table, Mr. Fudge. I'd have made you party to our complaint if I thought it would be allowed.”

“You haven't exactly gone out of your way to build a working relationship with the Ministry this time, Barnabas. What am I supposed to do when you fail to take the barest steps to legally operate this new venture of yours?” Fudge returned.

The new man seated next to Cuffe said, “So what's your stake in this, Ted? I know you've been representing Potter...”

“I'm here for Harry, Devlin Whitehorn and Roddie Burnside. All three are minority owners in the Prophet,” Mr. Tonks said.

The old man crooked an eyebrow and confirmed, “Roddie's put money into Mr. MacLeish's operation, has he? I hadn't heard that before.”

“I thought Potter was the only partner,” said Cuffe.

Malaprop placed his hands on the table, palms down, and said, “Perhaps we should introduce all of the parties?”

Cuffe blustered, “Do you have the impression that you're in charge of this meeting? If you think I'm letting one of Mr. Fudge's minions take charge –”

Malaprop cut in; he said evenly, “Mr. Cuffe, I am not a minion. I am a civil servant, and as such have no reason to take sides. In fact, it is better that I do not. I was in the employ of the Ministry before Mr. Fudge was appointed Minister, I am in the employ of the Ministry now, and I will be in the employ of the Minister after Mr. Fudge leaves the Ministry. If you know the first thing about the civil service, sir, then you surely know that I would have to lower my trousers in the Wizengamot chamber whilst singing “God Save the Bean” in order to stir up the slightest threat to my continued employment.”

“Er... 'God Save the what'?” Harry said quietly.

Cuffe persisted, “Fine, you're not a minion. Still, you seem a bit... ehh... how shall I put it...?”

“Bland?” Mr. Tonks offered.

“Yes, yes: bland – not the sort to run a meeting,” said Cuffe.

“I work in the judicial system, Mr. Cuffe, and thusly I swim in shark-infatuated waters each and every day,” said Malaprop.

“Infatuated...?” Harry muttered. Mr. Tonks caught his eye and gave a slow negative shake of the head.

“You'll do, Malaprop,” laughed the old man.

Malaprop gestured to Royston, who introduced himself, “J. Charles Royston's my name. I work for Mr. MacLeish, as a Vice President for Vox Corporation.”

“Keith MacLeish, chairman and chief executive officer of the Vox Corporation Worldwide, and publisher of the Daily Prophet.”

“Theodore Tonks, QC. I am a barrister admitted to the Muggle's Honourable Society of Kendall's Inn and to the Magical Inn of Court as well as a practicing solicitor in both worlds. As I said before, I represent the interests of Mr. MacLeish's three minority partners in the Daily Prophet, to include Mr. Potter.”

Harry thought for a moment about how to introduce himself, then cleared his throat and said, “Harry Potter... apprentice to Professor Albus Dumbledore, 13th Head of the Most Noble and Courageous House of Potter, and 21st Head of the Most Ancient and Pure House of Black.”

The Minister was noticeably flustered by that, but quickly regained his bluster. “I am the Right Honourable Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic of England and Scotland,” he declared.

Percy said, “My name is Percy Weasley, and I serve as Undersecretary for Ministerial Affairs of the Ministry for Magic.”

The man who had earlier exchanged with Mr. Tonks said, “Harcourt Bellows: barrister affiliated with the Magical Inn of Court with dual practice as a solicitor-at-law. I represent The Gazump Family Trust in this matter.”

The old man smiled directly at Harry and said, “I'm Reggie Gazump, an old meddler with a bit of money and an interest in public discourse. I must say, Odd Lovegood and Wilton Asbury should be here as well if we're going to set the bounds for the media.”

“Barnabas Cuffe, director of publications for The Gazump Family Trust, and the injured party in these proceedings,” Cuffe snapped.

“Oh, please...” MacLeish scoffed.

“I would like to begin with the Ministry's position on this matter, as it speaks to issues that extend beyond the competing complaints,” Malaprop said.

The Minister waved his hand negligently and said, “Weasley...?”

Percy opened a binder, peered at a page inside, and then stated, “Mr. Cuffe and Mr. Gazump's publication, The Watcher, began its existence when Mr. Bellows opened a business vault at Mr. Gazump's direction in order to support the venture. Mr. Cuffe issued a solicitation for hire on January 8, let space for offices and printing equipment on January 14, received the first shipments of equipment on January 22, and carried out a list of business activities too long to state at this sitting prior to the first printing for distribution on March 3 and distribution on that day. As of this morning, the Ministry has received no registration of business, no filing for business tariffs, no documentation of persons employed... in short, we have received nothing at all. The lease was filed with the appropriate Ministry office but did not state the name under which business would be conducted, nor the purpose of business or its ownership. Mr. Cuffe, there's no getting around it: you have failed to carry out the most basic requirements to legally engage in a business in wizarding Britain.”

“Mr. Cuffe, do you care to respond?” asked Malaprop.

“I don't own the publication and I've carried out the duties of my employment. I'm not saying anything else in this setting,” Cuffe said.

“You must admit that this is a rather damning list. It almost seems as if you can't see the oblivious,” Malaprop said. Harry snorted, and Malaprop squinted at him for a moment.

Gazump chuckled for a moment before he said, “Sounds like we really stuffed it up, eh? I haven't run a business in over forty years. For Merlin's sake, Cornelius, is there really this much to it these days? It almost sounds as if the Ministry doesn't want anyone to do business at all.” Cuffe immediately grunted in agreement and MacLeish said quietly, “Hear, hear.”

The Minister said, “The thing is, Reggie... did you and Cuffe skirt all of these requirements to gain an advantage? Think about how it looks! I think a reasonable person would look at this and decide that you just didn't want anyone to know about The Watcher until the owls went out.”

Mr. Bellows said, “Don't speak to that, Reggie. There are fair competition clauses in the Ministry's business regulations. The Minister's fishing for treble fines.”

“Bah,” said Gazump; “If I hadn't had poor Barnabas running in circles, how much would it have cost to meet all of these requirements? Five hundred galleons? A thousand?”

“The filing fees total fifty-four galleons and eight sickles, Mr. Gazump. Fines for non-compliance are calculated on a daily basis. As of this morning, the fines totalled just under three hundred galleons,” Percy announced.

“If my maths are still in working order, one thousand galleons will cover the fees, the fines, and treble damages – is that right, young man?” Gazump asked Percy.

“With about seventy galleons to spare, sir,” Percy replied.

Gazump grinned and declared, “Cornelius, I'll provide you with a draft for one thousand galleons. Bellows, stipulate to everything. There, was that so difficult?”

MacLeish chuckled and said, “Now that's a man who knows how to do business.”

Malaprop said, “That did go rather nicely, didn't it? It would be nice if the Administrative Services Office weren’t required to process a hearing on this situation. Perhaps you could simply indict each other to supper?”

Royston nearly choked to keep from laughing, Harry began one of Covelli's calming meditations, and Gazump let forth a child-like snicker. Malaprop eyed everyone at the table; “Pardon?” he said.

“Get on with it,” the Minister ordered.

Malaprop nodded and said, “Mr. Cuffe, are you willing to state your complaint here, or shall I ask Mr. Bellows to do so?”

Cuffe's lips thinned and he began, “Firstly, the Prophet made statements both yesterday and this morning with regard to Ministry complaints against The Watcher –”

“ – to which counsel just stipulated, Mr. Cuffe,” said Royston.

“No one said a blasted thing about interfering with post owls, did they? We did no such thing!” Cuffe spat.

Mr. Bellows nodded in agreement; “Yes... what's that all about, Weasley?” he asked.

“If I may?” Mr. Malaprop cut in; “That is actually a Ministry response to Mr. MacLeish's counterclaim. It does appear that for reasons unknown, the March 3 edition of The Watcher was delivered via post owls owned by the Daily Prophet.”

Cuffe's brow furrowed. He said, “We're booked with Telester's, and we only had about seventy advance subscribers – although that's already up to four hundred in a week's time. Are you implying that owls from the Prophet delivered our bulk drops as well?”

“We're not implying anything. We're telling you that it happened, because it did. We have the tracking charms to prove it,” said Royston.

“If that's true – and we'll want documented proof – then we'll make good on the costs,” Cuffe said.

“It happened again on the 10th,” Royston added.

Gazump steepled his hands and said, “Isn't that fascinating? Something is drawing your owls over to our presses, MacLeish. Let me ask you this: How is it that you call in your owls? How do they know to pick up your papers?”

“They're keyed to particular employees – three of them in a descending order, so that the paper still gets out during illness or scheduled holiday. That's generally how everyone does it, at least when one owns the owls. I imagine Cuffe has something similar with Telester's,” said MacLeish.

“Another question, if you'll indulge me...? Is your managing editor one of those three persons, per chance?” asked Gazump.

“The first, of course,” MacLeish said.

“Bugger,” Royston said immediately.

Malaprop looked at him askance. “Whom or what is to be buggered, exactly?” he asked.

“Curly, you can't be serious...?” MacLeish insisted.

“I doubt it was ever done. He's not supposed to be working in the trade, so I suppose they didn't consider it a priority,” Royston pointed out.

Gazump cackled, “Barnabas, you're still keyed to their owls.”

Cuffe said flatly, “Impossible. Firstly, no one is that big a bungler. Secondly, I'd think it would interfere with the Telester's owls, and they appeared as expected.”

“And how would you have known if they were Telester's owls?” asked Gazump.

“Because that's who we're doing business with, of course... oh, bugger all!” Cuffe grumbled.

“Looks as if that one's a scratch,” Mr. Tonks said.

“Agreed,” said Mr. Bellows.

“I would like to discuss the counter-complaint from Mr. MacLeish for a bit, if you please? Mr. MacLeish, what are the perpendiculars of the situation, from your perspective?” Malaprop asked.

MacLeish looked at him oddly. “The what...?”

“I'm sorry...?” Malaprop said.

MacLeish said, “You were asking me...?”

“The particulars of the situation, if you please?” Malaprop returned.

“Good grief...” Royston muttered.

MacLeish said, “First and foremost, there's the matter of Cuffe's severance agreement. He is prohibited from owning any portion of any media outlet in the United Kingdom for five years. He is also prohibited from being employed by any media outlet in the United Kingdom for three years. At minimum, he's the editor of The Watcher. Therefore, the agreement has been broken. Q.E.D.”

Bellows nodded. “You're partially correct,” he allowed; “Barnabas cannot own any portion of any news outlet in the United Kingdom. To the best of my knowledge, he does not. The Watcher is not a media outlet as defined in the severance agreement. It is the weekly official publication of the Gazump Family Trust –”

“Pull the other one, mate. Nice try,” MacLeish said.

Bellows returned, “You just told us the agreement was with regard to media outlets, but it is not. The agreement says, and I quote: 'Mr. Cuffe shall not own any interest in any outlet focused on presenting current news to the public.' The Watcher is a journal of opinion, Mr. MacLeish. It is so named in the masthead; it is so described within its own pages. Did you actually read Mr. Gazump's manifesto on the front of the March 3 issue? You might want to read it again. The Watcher is not a newspaper by your definition. Therefore, a news outlet per the agreement does not employ Mr. Cuffe. However, let us assume that The Watcher did, in fact, meet your definition. The Watcher does not employ Mr. Cuffe; The Gazump Family Trust employs him. He is the director of publications for the Trust. Toby Elsinore is the editor. It's there for the reading in the masthead, sir... Q.E.D.”

MacLeish crossed his arms and said, “Hmph... clever of you. We can pick that to pieces at trial and you know it. Let's move on to the string of defamations.”

Gazump held up his hand to Bellows and then leant forward in his chair. He said amiably, “Mr. MacLeish, there's been enough dancing in circles here. You believe that you were defamed. Fair enough: you're entitled to your opinion, as is The Gazump Family Trust and its members, of which there is me and myself. However, the mother country's common law thwarts you in this instance.

“Has this supposed defamation caused you a loss in trade? Even if you could demonstrate that fewer people are reading your newspaper, you would still have to demonstrate that it was solely as a result of the opinions printed in The Watcher. Perhaps people simply no longer care for what your people are writing?

“Has this supposed defamation caused reasonable Englishmen to think worse of you? It would be quite a trick to further damage your reputation, Mr. MacLeish. Those who don't think you evil instead think you misguided or dangerous.

“Is anything that was printed untrue? Were they views that could be attributed to a reasonable person? I believe that we could prove our statements true to the satisfaction of a Wizengamot panel. We alleged nothing.

“Even if you were to prevail, what would you gain? Do you honestly believe that you could prove malice or reckless disregard? There would be no compensatory damages. There would be no public vindication for you. In fact, I suspect you would be viewed as the heartless oligarch that most people already believe you to be. Now, you and I doubtless agree that Barnabas would not be a sympathetic defendant. Can you say the same about me, I wonder?

“I've not set out to hurt anyone. What I want is for the people of England to receive more than one point of view. I don't think that's been the case since you purchased the Daily Prophet. If Cornelius were to let Wilton Asbury sell you the WWN, then I know there would be only one voice. I meant what we printed on our first front page, Mr. MacLeish. The Daily Prophet suffered its biases, especially in the last handful of years before its sale. Barnabas knows of my concerns and I will be keeping a mindful watch.

“So, young man, here's what I believe is going to happen. We're going to withdraw our respective complaints. We're also going to set aside your contract with Barnabas. If you wish to discuss recovery of some portion of the associated galleons, then the two of us can indict each other to supper, as the gentleman from the Ministry put it. We're going to make certain that Barnabas is no longer linked to your post owls, and I trust that will be carried out today. I'm going to provide Cornelius with a draft to remedy our business errors. We're both going to continue publishing. I'm going to counter your views on wizardry, which I find extreme and which noticeably colour your reporting of the news. On the whole, the two of us are going to get along famously... unless you insist on owning the WWN. At that point, I regret to say that hostilities will commence. What say you?”

MacLeish sat very still for several seconds, obviously studying Gazump's face. Then he broke into a wide smile. “Oh, I like you! You've got style,” he said; “Curly, lift our complaint by close of business. Cuffe, watch yourself: I know your type. I'll let you throw your handfuls of mud, but if you take matters too far I'll have a warehouse of mud to drop on you.” Cuffe sneered at him but otherwise kept his thoughts to himself.

“And what about Mr. Tonks? Are your interests addressed?” Gazump asked.

“I knew you weren't as far gone as you like to pretend,” Mr. Tonks said.

Gazump grinned at him and said, “At my age, I'm not suited to practice on a daily basis. Still, I do like to think that my faculties haven't completely escaped me.” He turned to the Minister and asked, “Cornelius, do you have anything to add...?”

“If both complaints are withdrawn and the fees and fines are settled, the Ministry has no remaining interests,” the Minister said.

“I'll be certain the draft gets to your man Weasley shortly,” said Gazump; “And you, Mr. Malaprop...?”

The bland Ministry man shrugged and said, “I'm pleased that this is reaching resolution without a formal hearing... without more than a trifling of paperwork, actually. You can't imagine how many filings we receive, and most of it is suitable for nothing more than a good binning. Frivolous complaints have been deflowering our budget for years.”

“Oh, dear Lord...” Royston choked out.

“Er... you're dismissed... move along now; we've private business to conduct!” said the Minister quickly. Malaprop exited the room and as soon as the door was firmly closed, everyone present – even the irritable Mr. Cuffe – burst into guffaws.





  • Gazump asks to speak to Harry alone, Ted Tonks reluctantly leaves
  • Gazump's temperament is generally mild although he's not afraid to be directive
  • Gazump is a traditionalist: not a pureblood booster per se, but generally supportive of the wizarding way of life as-is
  • Harry brings up the comment from The Watcher that the sword killer couldn't be the son of a noble house, Gazump reiterates that someone of a noble house would have nothing to gain
  • Harry brings up the Prophet observation that all four men who were killed had or were suspected of Voldemort/Death Eater ties, Gazump says he knows the Starling family well and didn't believe Rupert Starling had those sort of connections on his own – basically he was two degrees of separation away
  • Gazump chides Harry about introducing himself as Lord Potter and Lord Black, says that Harry needs to “behave like a nobleman if you're going to bandy those titles about”
  • Gazump says that he liked the Potters, especially Harry's grandfather Alexander, and that he likes Harry based on their conversation. He also says that Harry may not feel the same about him by the end of the week, but hopes that time will change that. Harry presses to find out more but is rebuffed.
  • Gazump's last statement is to reiterate that Harry needs to begin acting like a nobleman, and adds that this starts by being cautious with one's words even in casual settings



March 13, 1997

Harry sat on the veranda of his quarters. A handful of students were making use of the courtyard despite the early hour. Spat had brought him a light breakfast, and he nibbled at a bit of bread while paging through a text recommended by Detheridge. An unfamiliar owl swooped down and perched upon the railing. He thought that it was bearing the Daily Prophet, which he still didn't take regularly despite his partial ownership. The owl skittered impatiently from talon to talon, so he rose from his chair and took the paper; it flew off without waiting for payment.

Harry was perplexed. “What's this? The Watcher...?” he thought aloud. He had understood The Watcher to be a weekly. He unfolded it and sank back into his chair at first sight of the front page:




The recent killings of four upstanding wizards have had one common element: the use of a large blade, believed to be a sword, as the instrument of murder. Setting aside the unlikely possibility that a house-trained nobleman is responsible, where could a person find the greatest concentration of swordsmen?

Surprisingly, the answer is at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts has this year revived the art of the sword as part of a Duelling Club. The Club is preparing Hogwarts students for the European junior duelling circuit, from which the school withdrew nearly sixty years ago.

It is no surprise to find Mr. Harry Potter at the centre of this venture, as he seems to be closely associated with most of Hogwarts' most unlikely and unusual events. Mr. Potter has been personally trained by three legendary duellists: Hogwarts own Professors Flitwick and Dumbledore as well as school's current Potions Master, the legendary Marquis de Maupassant. It is frightening to consider the damage that someone such as Mr. Potter could inflict with a blade, particularly with such expert schooling. Mr. Bill Weasley directs the Club. Mr. Weasley is a former Hogwarts Head Boy and hardened curse breaker, who was fully qualified for the masters duelling circuit a decade ago.

Consider the timing of these murders:

The first took place in the very early hours of December 14, the start of an open Hogsmeade weekend for Hogwarts students. The second and third took place on December 29 and January 3. December 29 was in the midst of the school's Yule break. January 3 was an open Hogsmeade day for upper-form students so that they could assist villagers in their recovery from the events of January 1. The most recent murder, that of Leander Vaisley, took place on March 8. March 8 and 9 were an open Hogsmeade weekend for Hogwarts students.

Could Hogwarts' new Duelling Club have trained this savage killer to wield his weapon of choice?

The Club's membership includes the scions of the Bones, Greengrass, Longbottom, Pucey and Zabini families. One of the Muggle-borns participating in the Club has ties to the Muggle's nobles, and was trained in fencing as a youth similarly to the scions of our own senior houses. As with the sons of our world's leading families, this young man seems unlikely to put his position at risk.

One would like to say the same of Mr. Potter, who heads two ancient houses by dint of birth and inheritance. However, he has killed before in the defence of persons and property. Last month, Mr. Potter told a group of Hogwarts students that “if we're going hunting, let's do it with clear heads”. What or whom is Mr. Potter hunting?

One would also like to say the same of Mr. Draco Malfoy, who now leads the house of his birth by virtue of his father's ineligibility. Would the younger Mr. Malfoy turn to violence as a means of revenging himself? Could he be tainted by his father's recent unseemly behaviour?

Nine other members of this Club have no such history or encumbrances. We urge the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to take this possibility seriously. The members of this Club, even those who would ordinarily be above suspicion, should be thoroughly investigated. Professor Dumbledore and the Hogwarts Board of Governors should consider whether the Club should be disbanded in order to eliminate even the appearance of complicity in these crimes most foul.

The Watcher, March 13, 1997



Harry stood at the back of the classroom next to the Headmaster. Rufus Scrimgeour stood at the lectern and said to those assembled, “Please identify yourselves as I call your names: Abbott; Betancourt; Bones; Bruce; Cadwallader; Entwhistle; Finch-Fletchley; Goldstein; Goyle; Greengrass; Longbottom; Malfoy; McDougal; Weasley, Ginevra; Weasley, Ronald... I see Mr. Potter is here... Miss Tonks, is that Mr. William Weasley with you? Detheridge, there you are... Filch, is it? Mr. de Maupassant, thank you for coming; I assume that's your apprentice? Excellent – everyone has arrived.

“As some of you know, the newspaper known as The Watcher printed an opinion this morning regarding the recent string of killings. They made a reasonable point about where a fellow might find swordsmen in this day and time. I decided to follow their recommendation and make some enquiries here at Hogwarts.”

He inclined his head toward a group of red-robed Aurors and continued, “These are my associates, Aurors Dawlish, Ettinger, McElvoy and Staunton. They will be conducting interviews on my behalf. Professor Dumbledore, I would like to examine all of the equipment used by the Duelling Club as well as any swords that the Club's members may have in their own possession. Would you and the castle's house elves facilitate that, please?”

“We will of course assist in your investigation,” Dumbledore said.

Scrimgeour pointed to Harry and gestured for him to come forward. As the students followed the four Aurors to other rooms and the teachers left to gather Club equipment, Harry was directed into a chair next to the teacher's desk.

The Head Auror waited until the room cleared, and then he sealed the door and glared at Harry. “Did you actually suggest to someone that you were 'going hunting'?” he demanded to know.

Harry started, “I think I know what they meant. I was talking about the Head Boy's – ”

Scrimgeour cut him off, “That's unimportant. Did you use the words, or not?”

“Something like them,” Harry admitted.

Scrimgeour pounded his fist against the desk. “Dash it all, Potter! Think of how this looks to the average wizard! You're the Boy-Who-Lived and a highly visible opponent of You-Know-Who. You're overheard telling people that you're ‘going hunting’. Then Keith bloody MacLeish does you no favours by suggesting that all four of the dead men had ties to You-Know-Who. It looks bad, Potter, that's how it looks: very, very bad.”

“May I finish now?” Harry asked tersely. When Scrimgeour waved a hand, he went on, “Adrian Pucey was going on about starting an open war with Voldemort's sympathizers in Slytherin House, and I was trying to talk down the idea. There are two dozen people who can vouch for that.”

“Obviously one of them vouched for it to The Watcher, didn't they?” Scrimgeour countered.

Harry sighed and asked, “So what happens now?”

“Well, this is when I ask you for your whereabouts between the hours of 10 PM on December 13 and 4 AM on December 14,” said Scrimgeour.

“I was here,” Harry said.

“Presumably you were alone or asleep,” Scrimgeour added.

“I was with Hermione – Hermione Granger – until sometime around midnight, and in my quarters after that,” Harry added.

“And between 10 PM on December 28 and 4 AM on December 29?” asked Scrimgeour.

“I was in St. Ebb... that's where I live when I'm not here. It's on the coast. I have a tower house there,” Harry said.

“Can anyone back that up?” Scrimgeour asked.

“The twenty-eighth... we had a party that night... I stayed – er – at that place – sorry, I can't say. I stayed there with Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom that night,” Harry said.

“You're unable to tell me where this was?” Scrimgeour clarified.

“I can't tell you,” Harry said.

“Is this place near your home in St. Ebb?” asked Scrimgeour.

“Yes,” Harry managed to say.

“I won't press, then,” Scrimgeour said, and he stopped to scribble something on a parchment before him.

“I guess January 3 is next, then? I was here in the castle until just before 6 AM, which is when we went down to Hogsmeade and worked until 10 PM,” Harry said.

“And before 6 AM, where were you? In your quarters? Can anyone confirm that?” Scrimgeour asked.

“Erm... Hermione can,” Harry said.

Scrimgeour raised an eyebrow. “She can account for the entire time between 10 PM on the 2nd and 6 AM on the 3rd?” he asked.

“That's right,” said Harry.

“That leaves March 8, between 6 AM and noon,” Scrimgeour said.

“I was in the Great Hall for breakfast at 7 AM, then in Hogsmeade working on the Gamp's house from 8 until 10, and then I was with Madam Bones and Ted Tonks at the Three Broomsticks until lunch,” Harry said.

“How do you wake in the morning – do you use a clock?” Scrimgeour asked.

“I used a clock when I was in the dormitory, but the house elves wake the staff. Spat must have come in at 6 that morning,” Harry answered.

“ 'Spat', you say? A specific house elf is assigned to you?” Scrimgeour clarified.

“That's right. I'm stuck with Spat, probably because I'm an apprentice,” said Harry.

“I take it you'd rather have your alarm clock back?” Scrimgeour asked.

Harry nodded and said, “I feel like a poncey git having a house elf wait on me. Besides, Spat has a bit of a nasty streak. Every time I stop him, he comes up with another evil scheme for getting me out of bed.”

“I should be able to confirm your comings and goings through the elf, then. Dumbledore can arrange that for me. The Watcher was right on one thing: this is likely the work of one person. Assuming your presentation holds up, I'd say it's nigh unto impossible you're that person,” Scrimgeour said.

“Can I help you with anything else?” Harry asked.

“Do you think one of your schoolmates is doing this?” Scrimgeour returned.

Harry said, “Look, I have the freedom to come and go without trouble – I pass a note to the Headmaster, and then it's out the gates. For students, though, it's quite a chore. Even on Hogsmeade weekends, it would be hard to leave the castle before eight in the morning without a faculty escort. I've had students leave the castle with me from time to time, but March the eighth is the first time since I was a fifth-year that I've gone on a Hogsmeade weekend. Usually the Headmaster has had me on watch in the castle. So, you're saying that a student has gotten out of the castle three times in the middle of the night, then made his way from here to the south of England, killed someone, tidied up or whatever, and snuck back into the castle afterward? It's hard to imagine, isn't it?”

“It would take a lot of help, certainly – both inside and outside the castle,” Scrimgeour admitted, “but I stand behind the decision to investigate.”

“Oh, I'm not disagreeing with you, sir. It’s as likely as anything else,” Harry said.

“I will promise you this much, Potter: to the extent that I can prevent it, this won't be left to linger in the press. When we can clear someone from suspicion, we'll announce it straight away. The Ministry isn't out to get you this year... well, that applies to the DMLE, at least,” said Scrimgeour.

“Glad to hear it,” Harry said; “Is there anything else, then?”

Scrimgeour put on a crooked smile. “I have to ask you: what's it like to duel with de Maupassant?” he said. Harry laughed aloud at that, and the mood in the room lightened considerably.



As Harry passed the Fat Lady's portrait, he could hear a commotion from the direction of his chambers. He let his wand drop from its holster and into his hand.

Ron's voice carried down the corridor: “You've lost it, mate. Harry would never do that, not to anyone,” he insisted.

“That horrible man tried to convince me that Harry had given up my name as part of some sort of conspiracy to commit those murders. I still don’t know why they interrogated me: I've never even held a sword in my hands!” Hermione protested.

“Weasley, they had my comings and goings recorded. They knew things that they couldn't have. Potter's one of a pretty small number of people who could have given all of that up,” Rob Cadwallader countered.

“When an Auror is making a case for not associating with someone, what's a person supposed to do?” asked Morag McDougal.

Harry wondered if the entire Duelling Club had met in his quarters. He slowed his pace and continued to listen.

Anna de Flandres, the Marquis' apprentice, returned, “These Aurors, they set out to create confusion, Mlle. McDougal. Into four groups we were divided. The interviewing, it was done one at a time, yes? M. Cadwallader, the Aurors... they could have spoken with all of us as well as all of the professors before they spoke to you.”

“That's a good point,” said Adrian Pucey. “Bets, did anyone come and go during your meeting?”

Pucey's friend Elston Betancourt said, “That Dawlish fellow pulled McElvoy out of the room for a bit.”

“I was with Auror Staunton. Auror Dawlish interrupted my meeting, too,” Neville chimed in.

Greg Goyle said, “It was Ettinger for me. Dawlish came in.”

“Even you should see that there's a pattern here, Weasley,” Blaise Zabini said with a smirk.

Ron shot back, “Oi! I didn't say a thing! Oh... and Dawlish broke in on my meeting as well, for what it's worth.”

Harry turned the corner and leaned against the door frame leading into his quarters. “Keep in mind that Dawlish was one of the four Aurors who almost killed Professor McGonagall during the OWLs,” he said. The entire Duelling Club was indeed in his living room, even Malfoy. “Fancy meeting all of you here,” he added.

There was an uncomfortable silence, which was broken by Holly Bruce. “I'll ask it if no one else will. Were you spinning stories to the Aurors to get yourself out of a scrape?” she said.

“Absolutely not,” he said immediately.

“Who interrogated you?” Anthony Goldstein asked.

Harry said, “I sat down with Scrimgeour for a few minutes. He asked where I was during each of the killings. The rest of it was a few questions about my apprenticeship. That's all there was.”

Malfoy snorted. “Isn’t it obvious? You're supposed to turn against one another. That leads to justifiable suspicion by the DMLE. Then, the Ministry can order the Duelling Club shut, thereby appearing to have accomplished something in the matter. Scrimgeour is political; he's looking for a way to jump the queue. This may be his chance to throw the Boy-Who-Lived off a cliff and then catch him on the way down. As for Dawlish, it's well known that he's dirty. He could be stirring the cauldron on his own, or for someone other than Scrimgeour. But please, feel free to draw your blades, form a circle, and plunge them into Potter. Much as I'd like to help, I'm afraid that I have prior engagements. Now, if that's all...?” he said, and then sauntered to the door.

“Thanks for the warning,” Harry said evenly. Malfoy gave him a stiff nod in return and took his leave.

“Don't worry, mate – I didn't let the ferret touch anything,” Ron said immediately.

Blaise Zabini shook his head. “Charming as always, Weasley,” he said.





(“Asleep in the dorm” doesn't qualify unless this can be documented by means other than self-reporting during the time period in question)

“Persons of interest” in bold

Hannah Abbott: 3 of 4 (Susan; parents; Ministry examiner)

Elston Betancourt: 2 of 4 (Pucey; public setting)

Susan Bones: 2 of 4 (Madam Bones; Hannah)

Holly Bruce: 3 of 4 (roommate; Hogsmeade villagers; parents)

Rob Cadwallader: 1 of 4 (parents & family - extensive)

Kevin Entwhistle: 2 of 4 (Goldstein; parents)

Justin Finch-Fletchley: 1 of 4 (parents)

Anthony Goldstein: 1 of 4 (Christmas)

Gregory Goyle: 2 of 4 (Pucey; mother)

Daphne Greengrass: 1 of 4 (Parkinson)

Neville Longbottom: 0 of 4

Draco Malfoy: 2 of 4 (Pucey; Narcissa)

Morag McDougal: 2 of 4 (Lovegood; parents)

Adrian Pucey: 2 of 4 (Goyle; Betancourt)

Ginny Weasley: 1 of 4 (Christmas)

Ron Weasley: 2 of 4 (Christmas; Granger)

Bill Weasley: 1 of 4 (Christmas)

Tonks: 1 of 4 (Christmas)

Harry Potter: 4 of 4 (Christmas; Granger; Hogwarts elves x2)

Hermione Granger: 2 of 4 (Potter x2)




Vicious Death Eater's body found on Knockturn Alley

Was he the fifth victim of the Butcher?

Azkaban escapee and infamous Death Eater Rabastan Lestrange has been killed. Lestrange's body was found early this morning behind a trash heap on Knockturn Alley. For the fifth time in recent months, a wizard has died at the end of a blade. The Daily Prophet has obtained heretofore unreleased details about the gruesome efforts of the so-called Butcher, the unknown person believed to be responsible for all five deaths.

In all five cases, the wizards were killed by near-decapitation. According to a DMLE source, each man was laid on his back and sliced at the neck in a sawing motion until the blade reached roughly halfway through. In three of the five cases, there were additional slicing wounds believed to be evidence of duelling; these wounds were considerable in the case of Ludo Bagman. In the cases of Lestrange and Rupert Starling, there was only the cut at the neck. In all five cases, there is evidence that the men were at some point physically tied at the wrists and ankles, apparently by a coarse rope. Three of the men – Runcorn, Vaisley and Lestrange – are believed to have been killed in locations other than where the bodies were found.

Perhaps the strangest element of these murders lies in the cryptic note left at each scene. The identical notes, produced by a Muggle device called a type-writer, list three numbers: 35, 18, and 19. The DMLE has no theory regarding the significance of these numbers.

Based upon evidence obtained from each killing, investigators believe that the Butcher is roughly the same height as Ludo Bagman or Rupert Starling – approximately 5 feet and 10 inches. The blade used to slash the wizards' throats was between 12 and 18 inches long and extraordinarily sharp. The other blade wounds, particularly those on Mr. Bagman, were likely caused by a longer and narrower weapon; investigators presume that this was a sword. The very precise nature of the killing cuts suggests to DMLE investigators that this person may engage in a livelihood where skilled use of knives is customary, such as butchering, horticulture or potions making.

There are few who will miss Mr. Lestrange, who was a scourge upon wizarding society during You-Know-Who's first rise and was known to be in his service once again. DMLE officials do not expect the body to be claimed and will provide for a pauper's funeral rite after seven days have passed. Mr. Lestrange was not believed to be married or to have children. He is reportedly survived by his infamous brother and sister-in-law, Rodolphus Lestrange and Bellatrix Lestrange nee Black.

the Daily Prophet, March 14, 1997



March 14, 1997

Harry winced as he slapped a murtlap poultice onto his shin. Flitwick had been particularly brutal, and even though Madam Pomfrey's ministrations took care of cuts completely and bruising to a great degree, they never seemed to resolve the lingering pain from burns. He was utterly spent, and Flitwick had been kind enough to cancel the rest of his lessons on his behalf.

“Why does Professor Dumbledore let him work you over like this?” Hermione fretted.

“It's the sort of training I need. I can handle it,” said Harry. To distract her, he added, “What is it you're doing there?”

Hermione was poring over a sheet of parchment covered with runes drawn in concentric circles. She said, “I'm trying to understand the runic construct for the Sending ceremony. The secret is in that spiral. I wish I could recall which runes the spiral crossed...”

Harry held out his hand for the parchment and said, “Let me have a look, would you?”

Hermione was dubious but reluctantly handed it over. “If you're sure...?” she said.

He followed the innermost circle of runes with his fingertip for almost half the circle before he said with certainty, “Here; it was this one... and here it is again in the second circle. I'll bet that it meets the same one all the way out. Look...” He drew his finger across the circles in a spiralling move, crossing the same rune where he met each successive circle.

“You're right...” she said quietly.

He grinned at her and said, “What? I'm not a complete idiot, you know? I'm finding that I've a pretty good memory for runes, as well... should have taken Runes instead of stupid sodding Divination.”

She reviewed the parchment and said slowly, “So... these are charging runes... which means... the ritual triggers a particular circle of runes... and directs the resulting energy through the charging runes – one sending and one receiving – to the next circle... it's a bit like building a ward to intentionally collapse but feed a second and larger ward as a result. Honestly, it's remarkable that the Sender isn't killed...”

“There was a lot of magic flying around. For a moment there at the end, I felt like I could do anything,” he admitted.

“Well, I have to admit that I still don't understand the ritual per se, but there's a lot to be learned from this rune arrangement,” she said absently.

The door to Harry's quarters abruptly shot open and he was instantly to his feet – and instantly in pain. “What's going on here?” he ground out.

It was Auror Dawlish, with Filch skulking in the corridor behind him. “Potter, I'm here about last night. Where were you?” he snapped.

Harry eased himself back onto his chair. “Wondered when you lot would show up,” he said casually; then he raised his voice and added, “Filch, you're not supposed to open staff quarters for anyone without permission from the Headmaster. You could have set off the staff wards doing that. I'll be telling Professor Dumbledore about this.” The irritating caretaker grumbled under his breath and walked away.

Without invitation, Dawlish closed the entry door and sat himself in a chair opposite Harry. “Get on with it, Potter – where were you?”

“Last night? I had rounds with Professor Vector from ten until midnight, and then came back here to read until one... that's when Spat came to check on me and set a waking time,” Harry said.

“Spat? Who is Spat?” Dawlish demanded.

Harry answered, “Spat is a house elf. There's one assigned to each of the staff. They know where we are at all times. I went over this with Head Auror Scrimgeour, you know?”

Dawlish sneered, “Isn't that nice? Well, he doesn't have time for the likes of you. This elf is responsible for knowing where you are and waking you up, is it? I suppose it tucks you in, does it?”

Harry said evenly, “He performs the same services for me as he would if he served the Headmaster... or Professor McGonagall. You remember Professor McGonagall, don't you...? I suppose she was your Transfiguration instructor, too?”

Dawlish growled, “That's not your business. Someone will be checking on that elf, mark my words. Who left the castle last night? How did they do it? How have you been aiding and abetting this person?”

Harry began a calming mantra silently, even as he returned, “Head Auror Scrimgeour – you know, your superior? – he was dead certain that I'm not connected to these killings.”

Dawlish hissed, “The Head Auror likes to calculate things. People seem to like you right now. Me, I figure that just because we were wrong about You-Know-Who last year doesn't mean we had you wrong at all. You're an attention-seeking troublemaker, Potter, and you're a killer – that's a fact. It stands to reason a bloke like you would have no trouble offing someone like Lestrange.”

“Well, I'm not going to lose any sleep over him being dead. Are you?” Harry snapped despite his best efforts.

Dawlish's voice grew less harsh; he said, “Of course not – he was murdering scum, just like the rest of his family. Look, I can understand it. You've got a lot of reasons to hate anybody associated with You-Know-Who. And Lestrange... well, I can understand why you might decide to help the Longbottom boy –”

Neville? You think Neville Longbottom's been doing this?” Hermione said incredulously.

Dawlish glared at her and growled, “I don't recall speaking to you, little girl. If we're investigating dark rituals, though, you'll be my first stop. Don't think that I've forgotten your stunt in Hogsmeade – that Compact woman was covering for you, and we both know it.”

“I'm going to fetch the Headmaster,” she said and then stood to leave.

Dawlish drew his wand. He spat, “You're not going anywhere until I've finished with Potter. Sit down, shut up, and remember your place!”

Before either Harry or Hermione could react, Dawlish was pulled over the back of his chair by forces unknown; the door exiting Harry's chambers flew open on its own; and the Auror was thrown against the corridor wall opposite the door, where he remained stuck – and terribly angry. Harry stood and cast a silencing charm in Dawlish's direction and then stalked toward the trapped Auror. Just as he was about to enter the corridor, Spat popped into existence in his path.

The house elf gave a malicious and excessively toothy smile and said in a simpering tone, “Spat sees that Nasty Auror Man is sticking to the wall, Harry Potter sir. Spat thinks Nasty Auror Man needs his mouth scrubbed most thoroughly, Harry Potter sir. Just this morning, Spat overheard Nasty Auror Man talking to Smart Mister Goldstein and calling him a freak and saying that Dark Lord Grindelwald should have wiped out all of his kind... and Spat overheard Nasty Auror Man trying to make Strong Mister Goyle draw his wand and calling Strong Mister Goyle a cretin and a Death Eater in training... and Spat overheard Nasty Auror Man calling Nice Miss Bruce a mudblood... and Spat overheard Nasty Auror Man telling Not-Quite-As-Nasty Auror Man that the only reason he played nice with Noble Miss Bones is because Old Madam Bones is one mean bitch. Spat is happy to take care of the scrubbing, Harry Potter sir, as he is excellent with soap and a stiff brush... or Spat is happy to fetch the Headmaster so that Nasty Auror Man can be ejected from the premises, if Harry Potter sir prefers.”

“Do it – bring him here,” Harry growled.

“Spat wonders if Harry Potter sir might destroy Nasty Auror Man before Spat returns with the Headmaster?” the house elf mused aloud.

“Well, Spat had better make it quick, then,” Harry snarled.

“Spat sees that Harry Potter sir is making the stone wall ripple with magic, and Spat would not like to be digging Nasty Auror Man from the rubble,” Spat said hesitantly.

Harry clenched his fists hard enough to draw blood with his nails. Hermione came up from behind and put her hands on his shoulders. “I'll keep Harry from flattening the nasty Auror, Spat – I promise,” she said lightly.

“You're trapped by the staff wards, Dawlish, and only the Headmaster can let you loose. The wards expel anyone who means harm to the persons keyed to the rooms. You drew your wand on us and meant to use it... and I have proof,” Harry hissed.

Dawlish gritted his teeth and tried as hard as he could to free himself, but he barely managed to shift his arms. He silently swore a blue streak as Harry drew closer; for her part, Hermione tightened her grip on Harry's shoulders.

Auror McElvoy entered the corridor from the stairs at a dead run. “Drop your wand now, Potter!” he shouted.

Harry calmly handed his wand to Hermione and then crossed his arms; he said, “Thank you for coming so quickly. Place Dawlish under arrest, please.”

Spat reappeared next to Harry, followed by a flash of flame that marked the entrance of the Headmaster and Fawkes. “What do we have here, I wonder?” Dumbledore asked calmly.

Harry turned to the house-elf, gestured toward McElvoy, and asked, “Spat, is this one the 'Not-Quite-As-Nasty Auror Man'?”

“This one is the very same, Harry Potter sir. He was with Nasty Auror Man and Noble Miss Bones,” said Spat.

The Headmaster said, “You can let Mr. Dawlish down now, Harry.”

“I didn't put him there, Headmaster. Auror Dawlish set off the staff wards and was banished from my quarters,” Harry said.

Dumbledore crooked an eyebrow at that. “I see... Mr. McElvoy, I am curious as to why one of my house-elves would refer to you as – ahem – 'Not-Quite-As-Nasty Auror Man'? I take it this relates to young Miss Bones in some fashion?”

McElvoy flushed at the neck. He said, “Er... Auror Dawlish may have been a bit harsh with Miss Bones, sir, although he didn't agree with me on that.”

Dumbledore turned to Spat and directed, “Young elf, please relate the circumstances under which you came to call Mr. McElvoy by that name.”

Spat scratched his head and tugged at one ear before he said hesitantly, “Spat does not understand all of the Headmaster’s words...”

Harry pointed at Dawlish and said to Spat, “Tell the Headmaster the same thing you told us about the Nasty Auror Man.” Spat nodded furiously and repeated his accusations.

Dumbledore dispelled Harry's silencing charm from Dawlish with the waggle of a finger and barked, “Explain yourself, immediately!”

Dawlish narrowed his eyes at the Headmaster, which had all the effect of a stare-down against a rock. “I followed interrogation procedure at all times,” he said, with as little respect in his voice as he could give.

“Is that so? In your understanding, who sits in loco parentis for the students of Hogwarts?” Dumbledore asked coldly.

Harry could feel a shudder of nervousness in the Auror, who replied with much less certainty in his voice, “That would be the Headmaster, sir.”

The Headmaster said, “Yes, it would indeed. So, why is it that I was first notified of your activities today by one of my house-elves?”

McElvoy piped up, “We failed to notify you, sir. I should have done that while Auror Dawlish proceeded with his orders.”

Dumbledore's attention shifted palpably from one Auror to the other. “Who is the senior Auror present?” he asked.

“That would be Auror Dawlish – ” said McElvoy.

Dumbledore cut him off, “Then it is Auror Dawlish's failure entirely. What were your orders, Auror Dawlish?”

“We were ordered by the Head Auror to confirm the whereabouts last evening of those students with questionable alibis for the four prior killings,” Dawlish said.

“Then why were you in my apprentice's quarters?” Dumbledore asked.

Harry heard and felt the hint of danger in the Headmaster's voice, but Dawlish did not. “Potter can freely come and go from Hogwarts. He's a known killer. That makes any alibi he offers a questionable one. He's either responsible or knows who is,” the Auror said.

“And does the Head Auror agree with your conclusion regarding Mr. Potter?” Dumbledore asked.

“As the Auror-in-charge of this investigation, it is my responsibility to interpret the Head Auror's orders and to implement them,” said Dawlish.

Dumbledore snapped his fingers and Dawlish fell to the floor. He then let loose a pulse of magic that hinted at enormous power, and said, “Get out of my castle, Mr. Dawlish. Get out and do not return unless I give permission for you to do so. I will be in contact with Mr. Scrimgeour and Madam Bones regarding disciplinary action. Is there anything in my order that requires interpretation?”

Dawlish made a show of straightening his robes, and then took two attempts to free his wand from the stone wall. He said to the Headmaster, “You won't always be there to protect Potter, sir. He's bad business, and he'll eventually come to a bad end – mark my words.”

Dumbledore radiated so much magic into the corridor that Harry could actually feel the pressure of it. As he advanced on Dawlish, the Headmaster said in an even tone, “You would be unwise to make an enemy of my apprentice, Mr. Dawlish; he will be one of the greatest wizards of his age, if not the greatest. Also, if you ever again treat any of my students as you treated them today, then you will make an enemy of me – and though I am nearing the end of a long life, I assure you that I am a most formidable enemy.”

McElvoy took his shocked colleague by the arm and managed to say, “We'll be going now, Headmaster... our, uh, apologies for the disruption...”

“I had previously planned to do a bit of tinkering with the castle wards today, Mr. McElvoy. It would be for the best that you exit the building in ten minutes or less,” Dumbledore said. McElvoy merely nodded and dragged Dawlish for a half-dozen strides until he recovered his senses enough to keep pace.

Hermione squeezed Harry's shoulders and said, “Breathe...,” so he did.

“I am sorry that you were subjected to such treatment, Harry... and you as well, Miss Granger. There is no place for such behaviour in a civil society,” Dumbledore said.

Hermione shrugged. “This was nothing. I've been called a mudblood by other students for five and a half years, Professor. This wasn't the first time I've been belittled, and it won't be the last.”

“It is nonetheless cruel and entirely wrong-headed,” Dumbledore countered.

Hermione said, “I really can't be bothered with it. This is a bankrupt culture, so it's no more and no less than what I expect.”

Dumbledore took on a vaguely grandfatherly expression; “Surely you don't believe that,” he said amiably.

Hermione said, “If it weren't for Harry and for our friends, I doubt I'd be willing to take part in this war. I certainly won't do it to defend the status quo. V-Voldemort can have wizarding Britain, if it's to stay as it is.” That took Harry aback.

For his part, Dumbledore was shocked into silence. It took several seconds for him to ask, “You would leave people to such fates as they would face under Voldemort's rule?”

“England isn't the only country on Earth. My family has already left and it wouldn't bother me to follow. Anyone else could do the same,” said Hermione.

Dumbledore said, “It's not so simple as that, Miss Granger. During his last rise, Voldemort was essentially able to seal our borders.”

“Are you saying that if I were to stop using my wand, to purchase a ticket for the Chunnel, and to head across to France, that somehow V-Voldemort would make me fall from the train halfway across the Channel?” Hermione asked.

Dumbledore began, “Certainly you could avail yourself of Muggle transportation, but –”

“Then the borders weren't sealed, Headmaster – not to anyone with a bit of sense, a bit of Muggle currency, and some help from a Muggle-born,” Hermione cut him off.

“Firstly, it isn’t quite as simple as all that for a wizard with no Muggle propers to obtain a passport. More importantly, Voldemort’s men attacked Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Normandy coast, Belgium, and Holland during the last rise. He shan't stop with Britain, of course,” Dumbledore insisted.

Hermione said, “That was twenty years ago, and things have changed a lot in the Muggle world. He could never do that again without altogether ignoring the Statute for Secrecy, and if he does that, then the entire magical world will come for him.”

Dumbledore smiled slightly and said, “I believe you are overestimating the magical world's resolve.”

“Harry told me that the Prime Minister threatened to tell other people in the government about us. Even if my parents and me usually disagree with the Tories, there’s no doubting that Mr. Lowell isn’t afraid of a fight. Look at what he’s done with the Irish and the Scots – do you really think he'd hesitate to take us on? My mum and dad say that the Queen’s even more stubborn than Mr. Lowell. It wouldn’t take long for the Muggles to deal with us. Three good-sized bombs could bring magical Britain to an end,” Hermione observed.

“And how would the people with these bombs locate us?” Dumbledore asked; “Muggles cannot identify or approach Hogwarts. Diagon Alley is Unplottable; like the house at Grimmauld Place, it is effectively outside of the Muggle world. The Ministry for Magic is at the heart of London and heavily warded.”

“Are you familiar with dynamite, Headmaster?” asked Hermione.

“I am familiar with it, yes. I have even seen a few sticks of dynamite exploded,” Dumbledore said.

“Magic interferes with electricity, but ambient magic can't interfere with chemical reactions; if it did, about half of all potions ingredients would fail to work. That means that the Floo or portkeys can transport dynamite without harming it. What would happen if a few tonnes of dynamite were exploded inside Diagon Alley?” Hermione mused.

Dumbledore blanched, but still countered, “Such a plan would require the help of quite a few wizards, and I find it hard to imagine that many would aid or abet such an act.”

“What if it were to keep Diagon Alley out of the hands of V-Voldemort? What then?” Hermione asked.

“It is no less horrific,” Dumbledore said.

Hermione went on, “As for Hogwarts, you're thinking in two dimensions, Headmaster. A Muggle bomb would be delivered by aeroplane. All it would take is one wizard or even a Squib with his hands on the trigger. For the Ministry, the Prime Minister could call a terrorist alert and clear the area, and then bomb the building atop it…”

“... and you would condone such things?” Dumbledore whispered.

“If he were to take over and there was no other option to be rid of him, then yes, I believe that I would,” Hermione said plainly.

“Bombing Voldemort from the air has a bit of appeal, actually. If I were to push the button, would he die by my hand, I wonder?” Harry mused.

“If you were to explode a bomb atop Voldemort, you would kill one or more members of nearly every house of long pedigree. Wizarding Britain would never recover from that,” Dumbledore said.

Hermione shrugged her shoulders and said, “Then so be it. They’re the ones deciding to side with him.”

Dumbledore looked her directly in the eyes and said, “You do realise, of course, that anyone who conceived and carried out such barbaric acts would be considered the worst sort of criminal by wizards across the entire world. Such a person would be hunted down, tried and executed.”

Hermione returned without flinching, “I'm merely discussing the worst case scenario, Headmaster. Any plan should be tested by the worst case – it's no different than a scholar's writings in that way. I can't imagine that anyone would actually intend to destroy the institutions of wizarding Britain, not even V-Voldemort himself; if it happened, it would be a last resort because the war was lost. As for being hunted down...? Honestly, I think the wizarding world would be a bit preoccupied, since wizards would be more or less revealed to the world at that point.”

Dumbledore steepled his hands and stood quietly for a time that seemed endless to Harry. When he let his arms fall, he said, “Miss Granger, I believe that you and Dr. Covelli may be exploring the arcanum more deeply than is appropriate. I can think of no other explanation for such radical views, even when presented as speculation or theory. It is beyond reason that you would suggest any society deserves to be razed to the ground, no matter the extent to which you or others have been wronged by it. The overwhelming majority of wizards and witches in Britain want nothing more than to live a common life; they have little if anything to do with politics or governance or blood feuds. If we do not stand up for them, then who will?”

“If they'd stood up for themselves twenty years ago, Headmaster, then we wouldn't be facing a war; the prophecy would be moot; and Harry and Neville would have their parents,” Hermione snapped back.

Harry finally spoke up, “Professor, if things aren’t changed quite a lot after this is all over, we'll be back in the same place again. Are we supposed to have one Dark Lord after the next?”

Dumbledore sighed; he gave Hermione a pointed look and said, “There will always be those amongst us who will seek any means to an end, no matter whether that end is worthy or otherwise.”

“That doesn't mean we have to make it easy for the next Dark Lord,” said Harry.

Dumbledore said, “Be that as it may... Miss Granger, for the foreseeable future, rather than attending your regular research period with Dr. Covelli, you will come to my chambers. We shall spend some time exploring the dark underbelly of history – both the wizarding and Muggle varieties. If you wish to indulge such brutal end scenarios, then I prefer you do so fully informed. I also demand somewhat more respect than you have shown to my staff and me in recent months. Now then, I should see after Misters McElvoy and Dawlish, as they are not making great headway toward the exit. Alas, I may have frightened Mr. Dawlish beyond his ability to keep a good pace. Good day to you.” With that, he and Fawkes disappeared in a flash.

Harry's brow furrowed. “Dynamite...?” he asked Hermione.

“Are you upset with me?” she asked him.

“Upset? I suppose I'm not upset exactly... a bit freaked out, though. Explaining how to blow up Diagon Alley isn't exactly normal conversation,” said Harry.

Hermione huffed, “Even the Headmaster could stand to think more broadly, Harry. If I can scheme all of that, then others can do it too.”

“I'm still surprised he let you go on like that, you know? He wouldn't tolerate that much pushing from me; he probably wouldn't take it from Croaker or the Marquis, for that matter,” Harry chided her.

“...and I'll go right on pushing. I should have started in on the school itself, I'm sure he would have loved that. Croaker's considered a top-notch scholar, for pity's sake! What does that say about the study of magic? Have you ever stopped to think about how horrid our instruction has been, overall? Once you look beyond Transfiguration, Charms and Arithmancy, so much of it has been hopeless. Herbology's all right... Professor Sprout's capable enough, and the Hufflepuffs love her to pieces, but even she says that Neville's near to surpassing her. Professor Sinistra was a fair Astronomy teacher, I suppose, but Muggle science extends so far beyond what she knows. Honestly, sometimes I wonder how many wizards still think that the Earth is flat – ” She stopped abruptly and her eyes widened.

Concerned, Harry said, “What is it...?”

“Flat... they think the Earth is flat... it's flat...” she mumbled as she dashed back into Harry's chambers.

By the time he caught up with her, she was at his table and combing over her parchment of runic circles. “Flat-Earth thinking... that's why they have to intersect the rune circles with a spiral... it's so obvious, someone has to have tried it before...” she murmured.

“Erm... are you all right...?” Harry asked.

Hermione shook her head as though to clear it, and then assured him, “No, no, I'm fine. It's just a wild hare, that's all. I should run this past Dr. Covelli, though... maybe Anthony Goldstein – he knows quite a lot about it... perhaps a post to Madam McIlvaine...?”

“Oh! I'm supposed to contact her in April, actually – she's abroad until then,” Harry said.

“Is it about her family Grimoire?” Hermione asked.

“Yeah, that's it. She's convinced I should have a look through it,” Harry said.

Hermione nodded and said excitedly, “There must be such a wealth of information in there – can you imagine? Some of the spells and rituals are well over a thousand years old!”

“It can't hurt to have a look,” Harry said; “Now, if I could figure out what to do about Gazump's stupid paper...”

“What does MacLeish have to say about it?” Hermione asked.

“Dunno... didn't really have a chance to talk to him,” said Harry.

Hermione smacked him on the upper arm. “Then send him a post! You own part of the Prophet, after all. I should think he'd be your ally on this,” she said.

Harry looked to a mounting pile of books to read and papers to grade. “I'll wait to see what comes out next,” he said.

Hermione rolled her eyes, but was quickly absorbed again by the circles and spirals of runes. Whatever she'd seen had completely engaged her. Harry couldn't remember seeing her quite so taken in a long time. She was radiating the intensity of revision for the OWLs, but she had a maddening little smirk on her lips that he had an unreasonable desire to kiss away except for the fact that she'd likely hex him for the distraction. He gathered up a stack of third-year essays for Detheridge, and hoped that they wouldn't be quite as pathetic as the last set he'd marked.




On the third of November, 1981, You-Know-Who had been gone for three days; magical Britain was in a state of happy disarray; and the Death Eaters were desperate to know how their leader had been defeated. Senior Auror Frank Longbottom and his family were known to be targeted by You-Know-Who, and so Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband and brother-in-law, and other Death Eaters broke through the wards protecting the Longbottom’s home.

Frank and Alice Longbottom were tortured by the unforgivable Cruciatus curse for as long as one hour, according to healers at St. Mungo’s Hospital. To this day, the Longbottoms are residents of St. Mungo’s long-term ward. Mr. Longbottom’s mother, Madam Augusta Longbottom, was severely injured by a cutting curse and required months to recover. The Lestranges were captured at the close of a lengthy pitched battle against a dozen Aurors and Madam Longbottom’s great-uncle, the infamous Algernon Croaker. Several Death Eaters escaped that night.

In the midst of this chaos sat Neville Longbottom, aged sixteen months.

At the beginning of his studies at Hogwarts, young Mr. Longbottom was not much of a wizard by all accounts. There were rumours in the late 1980s that he had been rendered a Squib. Some family friends to this day suggest that he was damaged by a poorly cast memory charm on that disastrous night.

The Neville Longbottom of 1997 bears little resemblance to his 1991 counterpart. Mr. Longbottom accompanied Mr. Harry Potter and four other schoolmates to a shocking encounter with suspected Death Eaters who were holding several members of prominent families under their control. According to DMLE sources, Mr. Longbottom had his own experience with the Cruciatus Curse in the Department of Mysteries. This year, Mr. Longbottom is a member of the Duelling Club at Hogwarts. He is reputedly a gifted herbologist, and is often seen handling the most dangerous plants Hogwarts has to offer. Between the duelling floor and the greenhouse, he is obviously expert with a blade.

Like Harry Potter, Neville Longbottom lost his parents to You-Know-Who and his followers. Like Mr. Potter, he has become a potent wizard. One Hogwarts student described Mr. Longbottom as a ‘brutal duellist’ who ‘beats carnivorous plants into submission’. Another said that students are afraid to face Mr. Longbottom in Defence practicals. Like Mr. Potter, Mr. Longbottom has a powerful incentive to despise Death Eaters, to wish them dead.

The Daily Prophet has reported that all five men murdered by blade in the last several months were intimately connected to You-Know-Who and his operations in the 1970s and early 1980s. Who knows the identities of the Death Eaters who escaped from the Longbottom house that evening? One source is Algernon Croaker, Mr. Longbottom’s great-uncle, who is currently teaching at Hogwarts. Another source is retired Auror Alastor Moody, a known associate of Mr. Potter.

Could Neville Longbottom be hunting down the former Death Eaters and their associates who were responsible for the incapacitation of his parents? Could Harry Potter be aiding his revenge? Most wizards could understand their desire for revenge, and frankly many wizards would join them in their desire.

Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour has investigated the members of the Hogwarts Duelling Club, to include both Mr. Longbottom and Mr. Potter. The Daily Prophet reports that Mr. Potter has been cleared of committing the killings, but a source within the Auror Corps hints that Mr. Potter’s actions are nonetheless suspicious. Mr. Longbottom is one of eight persons associated with the Duelling Club who remain under investigation, according to the same source.

Our very way of life depends upon keeping good order. Without it, we risk the revealing of our existence to the Muggle world. Our society cannot tolerate vigilantism, no matter the reasons and no matter the stature of the vigilantes. If Neville Longbottom is in fact avenging his parents and if Harry Potter or others are somehow aiding him, then all must be stopped and all must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The Watcher, March 15, 1997




Several students already cleared, more to follow

Members of the Auror Corps, led by Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour, paid a visit to Hogwarts on March 13 in order to question members of the school’s Duelling Club. “Given that a sword or similar blade has been used in all of the killings, it was logical for us to investigate the largest concentration of accomplished swordsmen in England,” according to Mr. Scrimgeour.

As part of the enquiry, Aurors spoke with Miss Hannah Abbott, 17; Mr. Elston Betancourt, 18; Miss Susan Bones, 17; Miss Holly Bruce, 18; Mr. Robert Cadwallader, 18; Mr. Anthony Goldstein, 17; Mr. Gregory Goyle, 17; Miss Daphne Greengrass, 17; Miss Morag McDougal, 17; Mr. Adrian Pucey, 18; Mr. Ronald Weasley, 17; and five under-aged wizards or witches. In addition, Aurors interviewed Club manager Mr. William Weasley, 29; and Club instructor and former Auror N. Tonks, 23. Mr. Scrimgeour also met with Mr. Harry Potter, 16; and Miss Hermione Granger, 17.

Mr. Scrimgeour reported that most of those interviewed could not have participated in one or more of the killings, and are thus unlikely suspects at best. Specifically, the Head Auror announced that among the students, Miss Abbott, Mr. Betancourt, Miss Bones, Miss Bruce, Miss Granger, Mr. Pucey and three under-aged wizards or witches were immediately ruled out as suspects. Mr. Harry Potter has also been ruled out as a suspect by the DMLE.

Mr. Scrimgeour would not confirm whether Mr. Neville Longbottom was one of the under-aged wizards in question, or even if Mr. Longbottom had been interviewed. Mr. Longbottom is known to be a member of the Duelling Club and has been the subject of wild speculations in recent days.

The DMLE expects to conclude the Hogwarts phase of its investigation in the next two weeks.

the Daily Prophet, March 15, 1997



(He didn't put a date on this one but it has to go mid March to mid April - AMP)

Harry reached the last step and walked out onto the top of the Astronomy Tower. Just as he'd been told, Neville was leaning against the parapet and staring off into space.

“Scared off the snoggers, eh?” Harry said.

“Looks that way,” Neville returned without turning away from the stars.

Harry said, “Er... it's a long way down, isn't it?”

“I'm not going to jump,” Neville laughed.

Harry braced himself against the parapet next to Neville. “It's pretty cold out here,” he said.

Neville blurted out, “It's better than being in there. It was like this for you during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, wasn't it?”

“It's always been like that for me. Everyone expects something from me, and they don't like it when I do something unexpected,” Harry said.

“I didn't do it, not any of it, and I don't know who did,” Neville told him.

“I never thought you did,” Harry told him in return.

“Doesn't mean I'm not glad they're dead,” Neville added.

Harry said, “I suppose I can understand that. For what it's worth, I didn't do any of it, either.”

“Never thought it, not once. Besides, you wouldn't bother with a sword – you'd melt them or blow them to bits or something,” Neville said.

“Let's go inside. We'll go to my quarters; you won't be bothered there,” said Harry.

Neville mused, “Maybe I should go and find Susie. She... oh, bugger. Now, don't you say a word, Harry – ”

“Me? Who do you think I am: Finnigan?” Harry teased him.

“Fair enough. It's just that... I swear, Harry, just spending time with Susie sees me right! She's... well, she's perfect. I figured you'd understand, what with Hermione and all...” Neville said unsteadily.

Harry thought for a moment and then said, “I suppose I do, but I doubt it's quite the same. Hermione and me, we've known each other for such a long time... it's like... it's like she's the old cloak you'll always pull down first because it's warmer than all the rest, or... I don't know...”

“Shut it, Harry,” Neville said quietly.

Harry went on without missing a beat: “'s... it's like she's a really comfortable pair of trainers, the kind that are all broken in and you never want to take off...”

Neville whispered forcefully, “For the love of Merlin, shut it!”

“She's right behind me, isn't she?” said Harry. When Neville gave an ashen-faced nod, he added, “Well... it's a good thing she knows I'm pants at talking about feelings and that sort of thing, eh?”

Hermione said, “I'm an old pair of shoes, am I?”

Harry did his best to keep his shoulders from reflexively rising. “Er... I meant it in a good way – you know that, right...?” he said cautiously.

“I do know what you were trying to say. Honestly, a pair of trainers...” she huffed.

“Am I forgiven?” he asked.

“I suppose so. You're like... like... oh, I don't know. I'll think of something horrid, just give me a few minutes,” she returned.

“I'm ready to go inside now,” Neville said with a sigh.

Hermione gave him a chaste hug and told him, “No one who knows you is taking this seriously, Neville. There are a few people at Harry's rooms, but they're all the right sort.”

Harry frowned; “You were there for quite a while, weren't you?” he asked her.

“I might have been. Now, let's get out of this chill,” she said.

The first person to rise from a chair when they walked into Harry's front room was Susan Bones. She quickly pulled Neville into an embrace and said, “Don't you disappear like that!” Harry quickly looked away to hide his grin; with the Marauder's Map available, it wasn't as though Neville could actually hide away in the castle.

Justin Finch-Fletchley looked up from a book and said gamely, “Good to see you, Longbottom. Don't let the jackals around here get you down, right?”

Neville eyed him suspiciously and said, “You don't think I did it, then?”

Justin set his book down on Hannah Abbott's lap – which drew a flustered harrumph – and returned, “Of course I don't – it's ridiculous on its face... not that you haven't got the will or the skill, but it's just not something you'd do. Look, I made a mistake in second year: I bought into the rumours about Harry, and look how that turned out. I'll not make the same mistake twice.”

Morag McDougal, who was poring over a series of incomprehensible parchments on the dining table, said matter-of-factly, “Whomever is killing these men is more cold-blooded than you'll ever be, Longbottom. If you'd done it, you'd be wallowing in guilt. Tony and Holly and I have been quick to jump on the rumours in our common room, and we'll keep on doing it.” With that she returned her attention to the reams of mind-boggling formulae.

Anthony Goldstein stood next to her, with one of the parchments in hand. “It's not fair you're caught up in this, Neville – you don't deserve it,” he said.

“I asked Ron Weasley to fetch your books. I don't know about you, but I'm behind on my Herbology paper,” Susan said to Neville.

Neville put on a satisfied grin. “I should be able to help you with that,” he said.

“I'll get back to marking these papers, then. Have fun with the Ravenclaws, Hermione,” Harry said with a smirk.

Without looking up from the table, Morag said, “At least we have a variety of pursuits. It's all brooms and battles with your lot.”

“Don't forget marking papers,” said Justin; “I see a lot of red ink there... whose papers are they?”

“Fourth-year Defence, and they're rubbish,” Harry said.

Anthony smirked, “You aren't exactly a scholar, Harry. They must be really awful.”

“Oi! I had the best Defence OWL score in 150 years, so I'm not the village idiot, either,” Harry protested. He vanished the student's name from the paper atop the stack and waved it at Anthony.

“What, you want me to look it over?” Anthony asked.

“See for yourself – this one's classic. I don't know if it's because they didn't learn anything last year, or if they're just dunderheads, but most of the papers have been like this,” Harry said.

Anthony quickly read through the paper, and then read it again. “Dunderheads,” he concluded.

Justin said, “Gads, you both sound like Snape! I wonder how the old bat's doing, anyway? A few students are claiming he's still lurking around in the castle.” Harry resisted temptation and kept his mouth shut; he did cast a brief but sharp glance at Hermione.

The room quieted after that, as everyone descended into their work. Harry was putting the finishing red check marks on the twenty-second parchment from the fourth-year Gryffindors and contemplating the value of a repeat year for the whole lot, when Morag let loose a long huff of frustration.

“Granger, I actually want to give an opinion on your work, but I can't. I don't like to admit I'm over matched, but there you are. Ask me again when I've completed a Mastery in runes,” she said reluctantly; “Haven't you asked Croaker to review it?”

“Croaker loathes me,” Hermione said bluntly.

Morag said, “That's a problem, isn't it? Tony, you're our rank expert... can you follow this?”

Anthony sat up stiffly in his chair and said, “Yeah, I think I can, actually... I've seen some of these sequences before, but the architecture... it's unheard-of. It's so obvious, though. Hermione, if you're right about this and it works, it could change the whole practice of warding. I've got about a million questions, but you've got my attention. Is this the work that Professor Croaker made you quit?”

“It's a variation on it,” said Hermione.

Anthony looked back to one of the sheets on the table and asked, “When can I start asking questions, then?”

Hermione made eye contact with Harry and then replied, “Let's take this to the library or the Great Hall, all right?”

Harry caught Neville as he was about to leave with Susan and the rest of the students, and quietly asked him to stay behind. As soon as everyone else had left and the door was closed, Neville asked, “Now what's this about?”

Harry wasn't sure how to begin. He settled for saying, “It's not easy to be a friend of mine, Neville, and it's only going to get worse. The Marquis had a talk with me before the Yule break, and the Headmaster's told me more or less the same thing. You know that some of the papers have been calling me The Chosen One. The goblins call me that, too –”

“Are you trying to find out if I'm on your side? 'Cause if you are, then the answer's 'yes' – of course I am,” Neville said.

Harry pressed on, “It's a bit more than that, actually. When the Headmaster defeated Grindelwald, he had a group of wizards and witches who helped him. They were a team, see?”

“I know my dad was an Auror, but... Gran hit the sherry a bit hard once, and... well, she said that my mum and dad were part of another group back in the day, some sort of Order...? That's what you're doing, isn't it?” Neville returned.

“That's it exactly,” Harry said.

Neville immediately said, “If you're asking, then I'm in.”

“It's going to be hard. The sodding Watcher already thinks we're killers, the both of us. Can you imagine what they'd say if they found out about this? I can see it now: 'Longbottom joins Potter's army'. Do you really want to get crossed up in that?” Harry asked him.

Neville said, “I'm not letting some stupid paper decide for me what's right and wrong. Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah, sure,” Harry said.

Neville asked, “I figure this Chosen One business is the truth, it makes too much sense not to be. V-Voldemort was after your parents and mine at the same time. It could have been me, couldn't it?”

“It was going to be one of us, yeah,” Harry admitted.

“If it was me, and not you... would you have been on my team, part of my Order?” Neville asked him.

“Yes,” Harry said without a moment's hesitation.

“So why's it any different for me? Like I said, I'm in,” said Neville.

Harry felt a small weight lifted and said, “Thank you.”

“How big is this Order going to be?” asked Neville.

“Me and twelve others,” Harry said.

Neville said, “It's an honour. Is it all right for me to ask who else is in?”

“I've only talked to Ron so far,” said Harry.

Neville's eyes widened; he said, “Really? Er... wow... it really is an honour. I'd have thought you would have been to Hermione first, though.”

Harry said, “Hermione isn't part of it. She'll be there alongside, but everyone says she has something else to do.”

“Makes sense, I suppose,” Neville said with a shrug; “So what's this Order called, then?”

“The Knights of St. Peter,” said Harry.

Neville goggled, “Knights? Gran will be surprised by that – me, a knight, and to Harry Potter no less!”

Harry chuckled and said, “It's not as though I'm allowed to knight people, but that's the name we're using. There will be an oath, Neville, and I'd rather you didn't talk about this until that's done. We'll do the oath after everyone's on board. The Marquis says it's bad luck to take the oath last, so it's arranged that none of us will know who that is.”

“I'll take whatever oath you ask, because I know it'll be a fair one. I'm in this to the end, Harry,” Neville promised.

“If you're willing, I'd like five names from you, of people who you think should be part of this,” Harry said.

“You'll have it by morning, but... I have to ask you something: whom do you think is talking to the papers?” said Neville.

"I haven't thought about that; I probably should, though," Harry admitted.

"It has to be someone in the Duelling Club, but I can't imagine who.  I don't think it's Malfoy, though - the papers haven't been very kind to him this time," said Neville.

"I don't think it's Malfoy, either, but you're right - it has to be someone from the Club," Harry agreed; then he realised there was one more important thing to bring up: “Um... there's one more thing, and you might not like it...”

Neville gave him a curious look and said, “All right...”

Harry said uneasily, “It's like this: with knights and orders and such, there's a token – something everyone is given, right? Well, erm, it's not the best thing, but the Marquis sort of did it on his own...”

“It can't be that bad, can it?” Neville asked.

“It's a sword,” Harry said quickly.

Neville paled and managed to say, “Rotten luck, that...”

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