You're my Density

Just Suppose Harry hadn't heeded his godfather's advice, and actually lost his temper at his trial? Time travel fic and title is 'Back to the Future' joke.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11033616/1/You-re-my-Density

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26. A Powerful Curse

They had deliberately held back on going down to breakfast this morning, not wanting to be sitting there when the newspapers were delivered. That everyone in the hall were gathered around those who had copies of today's newspapers was expected, Neville verbally pouncing on them as soon as they sat down was not.

"You two were Dumbledore's apprentices and didn't even tell me?"

It was Harry who tried to put an end to that story, amongst their friends at least, before it grew arms and legs. "Nev, the first we heard of that was when the Minister mentioned it in his speech yesterday. After spending last night looking up what an apprenticeship involved, neither Hermione nor I would have anything to do with one of those."

His intended instantly agreed. "You're basically signing control of your life away to someone else, becoming an indentured servant until your master thinks you've learned enough. No way will we be signing a contract like that - no matter who is offering it."

Parvati's answer of 'that's the way it's always been' left both Harry and Hermione shaking their heads.

"My mum and dad intend to cover this in their class later on in the year. In the muggle world you still pick your options like we do here, and then go on to higher exams while at school. After that though it's an entirely different matter. Assuming you worked hard enough to get the passes you needed, you would then start applying to universities that offered the course you wanted. Both my parents are dentists, a type of specialised healer dealing with teeth and your mouth. They attended university for five years, then worked almost as a trainee before becoming fully qualified."

"Before discovering I was a wizard I always fancied working in veterinarian medicine, healing animals."

Their conversation had of course drawn a lot of attention. That last remark from Harry though had left some of them flabbergasted.

"You're on the front page of the Prophet, being proclaimed the new 'Leader of the Light' and yet you want to be Hagrid? That's just …nuts!"

While Lavender's tone was one of disbelief, hearing his favourite phrase used against him had Harry almost choking. Trying to laugh while eating porridge is not recommended. As Hermione hit him on his back, Harry found Dean rushing to put the rest of those listening straight.

"Being a vet in the muggle world is a very highly respected position, and takes someone with brains to even take a shot at a career like that. As Hermione said, it's five hard years of university followed by on the job training. I'll be honest and say I don't think I've got the smarts - or the dedication - to pull something like that off."

His eyes may still be watering but Harry had his vocal cords back under control. "Thanks for that, Dean. Hermione and I also think it's unlikely every country has the same apprenticeship scheme as Britain. We intend to do some research on magical means of higher education, knowing that we also have the muggle system available too."

It was a puzzled Luna who probed further. "You would return to muggle education? What would you study there?"

A smiling Hermione answered that one. "We would have a vast and varied choice of courses - from astronomy to zoology, with all the other letters in-between being well represented too." Trying to personalise the discussion, and take some of the focus off them, she highlighted a few things Hermione knew their group of friends were interested in."There are courses on designing clothes, usually combined with art. Photography is another profession that you can study, as is journalism. By the way, Luna, we met your father yesterday."

This certainly switched their little blonde friend's attention from today's newspaper headlines. "How was he? What did he say?"

"He was chatting with us and my parents, just trying to get to know the people his daughter will be spending Christmas with."

Hermione wasn't for mentioning their friend's father seemed far more interested in the Hallows than Luna. Xeno wore his Hallows medallion to the funeral, claiming that Albus was a lifelong quester - and enquiring if the headmaster had left any information on his searches with his apprentices. Harry mentioning that these Hallows sounded like nothing more than stories for children had Xeno leaving in a huff, and left the rest of them biting their cheeks to stop laughing. With only her father's influence in her life, it was now easier for Hermione to see how the original Luna could have arrive at Hogwarts and be considered strange. If admiring Hermione Granger helped their friend become a more rounded person, it merely reinforced their opinion that yesterday's decision was the right one to make.

By the time the first bell sounded, most of their friends had moved onto a different subject than this morning's paper. Their first potions class with Sirius helped a good few more along the same track.

At the end of his class, again they delayed. This time however it was to speak with Sirius, rather than avoid anyone.

"That was quite the speech you two pulled off yesterday. Would you like to tell me why you shifted your position so radically?"

"We'll tell you and Amelia everything, just not here. What we wanted to talk to you about was defence training. I can teach Harry the spells, and neither of us are lacking magical power. What we are lacking is experience in magical fighting. We have our defence self study today and were hoping you could help us with that?"

"Of course I will. Remus is a defence specialist though…"

"…who couldn't fail to notice something wasn't right the instant we started casting." After cutting Sirius off, Harry further explained his reasoning. "I also need to start practicing with the wand Dumbledore gave me, not something we want known. I'm sorry Sirius, but neither of us are comfortable bringing anyone else into our group at the moment."

"Harry, Hermione must have told you that Remus can be trusted…"

"Actually Sirius, I agree with Harry. I thought I knew you, then you go and pull this wedding on us. We're very happy for you, and both of us really like Amelia, but it kinda proves our point. Things are so different this time around, my knowledge from before is becoming more and more useless. Let's give it some time for all of us to get to know this Remus again, then we can look at where we go from here. We like Remus but this is just too big to blurt out right after just meeting him again. After all, it took us months to tell you our secret."

A sighing Sirius consented. "Okay, I'm looking forward to teaching you two but not happy about hiding this from Remus. What am I supposed to say if he finds out?"

"What we need is somewhere we can't be found…"

With a light pop, Dobby appeared beside them with an answer to Harry's question. "Dobby has heard of a room that you can use, and not be found. The castle elves call it the come and go room…"

-oOoOo-

While all the students of a shocked Slytherin house had quietly read the news that morning, one had his gaze glued to the entrance doors instead. After having a long talk with his mother yesterday, Draco had expected today's Prophet to be full of Potter and his pet mudblood. What he didn't expect was the Gryffindor couple coming down late to breakfast and looking almost embarrassed at all the furore the Prophet had stirred up. There was no grand entrance, no basking in the notoriety of again being front page news. While his mother had gone to great lengths to explain that things were changing, and that they would have to at least appear to be changing as well, Potter's behaviour puzzled Draco.

Looking over toward the Gryffindor table, Draco's eyes were drawn to the closer Hufflepuff one. Sitting there was a perfect example of how much things had changed. The Weasley / Potter duo had been incredibly easy to rile, only luck had saved them being caught by Filtch in the excellent trap he'd set with that midnight duel ploy.

The Potter / Granger partnership though was a whole different animal, one that appeared to be at least two steps ahead of everyone since that troll ran amuck last Halloween. Weasley had loudly and publicly opposed the formation of that partnership, even taking steps to try and shatter the bond the couple clearly shared. That Weasley had gone from notoriety within Hogwarts to now being a total nonentity - a first year Puff to boot - graphically illustrated what could befall those who opposed Britain's new golden couple.

McGonagall had stood at dinner last night and announced that their potions lesson would now be taught by Potter's godfather, Lord Black. Draco knew his own godfather was now out of prison but there had been no contact between them since Severus got carted out of Hogwarts in irons by the aurors. With yet another supposed friend of the Potters, Professor Lupin, now teaching them transfiguration, this was simply more indicators of the startling changes his mother was warning him about.

Draco honestly didn't know if he could change that much. A mudblood Order of Merlin holder being praised on the front page of the wizarding press, and receiving plaudits from the Minister of Magic, was way beyond anything he thought acceptable for magical Britain. To please his mother though, Draco was sure he could at least play the part of one who was changing to suit the circumstances. His mother didn't want him going up against Potter, something that her son had already come to realise was not in his best interest. Every time since that Halloween he had done so, Draco had come off the worse. It was now time to be a Slytherin and wait to see what happened next.

With patience, he might actually figure out a way to get back at Potter - harming his pet mudblood would certainly do that. Doing so and not getting caught was always going to be the problem with that course of action but Draco could wait, and seeing him waiting would also get his mother off his back.

-oOoOo-

After spending half their time gawking at what this room could do, Sirius then put them to work. He wanted to see what level they were at, and what he needed to help them with. As usual, Hermione had been spot on with her assessment. They had the power and a wide range of spells at their command, they just had very little experience of how to use these assets in a fight.

The room actually provided them with sofas and refreshments after they finished, Sirius waited until the couple had at least sat and sipped their drinks before breaking the bad news to them.

"What you've been doing up until now gives us a solid foundation to build on, but there's a lot of building to do. While what you're doing here will easily be enough to see off any school fights against students, this won't do against death eaters or Voldemort. I understand you both holding back on your choice of spells and power, not wanting to hurt each other. That's a very bad habit to get into, and a hard one to break if you do. In a fight, you hit whoever is standing against you with everything you've got. Holding back could get both of you killed."

His godson nodding in agreement told Sirius they were all on the same page here. Harry's comments certainly lent credence to that point.

"We know that, Sirius, that's why we came to you for help. Hermione is a genius, and a brilliant teacher. She would be the first to admit though that she's no warrior. So, where do we go from here?" Sitting on the sofa the room had provide, Harry had his arm around Hermione - taking any and all sting out of his words.

"Well I know you both like your books. I'll speak with Ami and we'll work some kind of training program out for you. Is it okay to involve Ami in this?"

Hermione was all over that one. "Of course it is. She's going to soon be your wife, we don't want you to have secrets between you because of us. Apart from liking her very much, your fiancée has also trained aurors. We'd be really stupid not to want her involvement in this. We also need to get together for a talk on where we go next with our plans for defeating Voldemort."

Stupid was not something Sirius could see being associated with these two. "She'll be busy with the Crouch case for a while, the ministry are going for a quick trial. How about scheduling next weekend for a meeting, and I'll certainly get some books to you quicker than that. She might even send a couple of auror training manuals along. There's some stuff in them I'd like you to start with, and we'll then take it from there. Now I think we need to get down to dinner before questions start getting asked. The last thing we want to do is draw attention to this training."

With offers of help and at least a framework in place for moving forward, it was a much happier Harry and Hermione who headed toward the great hall for dinner.

-oOoOo-

They knew it would take something rather sensational to push the supposed new leaders of the light from the front pages of the papers. Thankfully, the following Saturday saw that happening. The trial of a top ministry official who had sneaked his death eater son from within Azkaban's secure clutches easily managed that task.

Barty Sr. had magically expanded the internal dimensions of a closet in his home, keeping his son a prisoner there by means of repeated use of the unforgivable imperius curse and watched over by their family's house elf.

The uproar Barty Jr.'s outing from the closet caused amongst Britain's witches and wizards had absolutely nothing to do with his sexual preferences. Compared to the fact that Barty Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment in the secure wing of Azkaban, and was reported to have died there a decade ago, sexual preferences didn't rate a mention. Either father or son could have been photographed having sexual relations with the goat of their choice outside Buckingham Palace and it wouldn't have rated a mention when faced with the other facts of this case.

Barty Sr. might have been able to garner a smidgen of sympathy for how he came to be entrapped into this situation, a vow made to his dying wife. When, under truth serum questioning, Barty revealed he hated his son for costing him the chance of ever being Minister of Magic - any sympathy vanished almost as fast as free whisky at a Highland ceilidh. That a father could leave his only flesh and blood imperiused and locked in a windowless box hardened hearts and minds against the person who was already considered a callous, cold-hearted character. Details of him memory charming the few people who discovered his secret sealed both Crouches' fates.

The son's fate was actually never in any doubt. He'd already been tried, found guilty and then escaped from the prison he'd been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in. Barty Jr. was sentenced to be kissed by a dementor. His father would be spending the rest of his life residing in the same Azkaban cell he'd previously orchestrated his son's escape from.

That the young Gryffindor couple were being forgotten about for the moment pleased them greatly. Walking through the corridors, Harry and Hermione noticed someone who appeared just as happy. Susan's smile widened as she was greeted by them.

"Hi Susan, your aunt is really making a difference in cleaning up this country. First Malfoy, now Crouch..."

Although blushing, the pride Susan was feeling easily shone through her reddening cheeks. "Thanks, Harry. It shows that whether you're a death eater or ministry official, the law's the same for everyone. That's something auntie always prided herself on. Now the entire country can see that, with her in charge of magical law enforcement, that's what they're going to get."

Her blushing actually increased as Susan attempted to ask Harry something. "Although she's my auntie, she's really more like my mother. I was only a year old when death eaters murdered my parents and auntie stepped in to raise me. What I was wondering, with auntie marrying Sirius - and you both knowing him better than me - him teaching in Hogwarts will help..."

Hermione was sure she knew where the girl was going with this but Susan was tying herself in knots trying to ask her question. "Just ask, Susan. You know we'll help you any way we can."

With her head down, Susan blurted out the question she was desperate to know the answer to. "When Sirius marries auntie, do you think he'll want to be my uncle?"

Hermione loved her more mature, more confident Harry. He used both of those qualities as he stepped forward and embraced Susan in a hug.

"I'm certain he would love nothing more than for you to think of him as that. With me being his godson, this wedding will make us family too. If I get an auntie and a sister out of it, then I might be just as happy as Sirius at the wedding."

Still held in Harry's arms, a trembling Susan lifted her head and gazed into the greenest pair of eyes she'd ever seen. Unsure whether she had actually heard Harry correctly, Susan whispered that magical word back at him. "Sister?"

Smiling and kissing her forehead, Harry spoke from the heart. "When Sirius and Amelia officially become married, I think sister best describes the way I feel about you. Are you okay with that?"

By way of an answer, an excited little squeal was mostly muffled by her hugging Harry tighter than she thought possible. It took a moment for Susan to get her thoughts back in order, she was standing in a corridor hugging Harry Potter after all. Remembering who else was in that corridor had Susan finding her voice. "I always wanted a brother or sister, now I'm getting both. Thanks, Harry - you too Hermione."

Embracing Harry and her new pseudo sibling, Hermione jokingly enquirer if Susan understood what she was letting herself in for. "Are you sure about this, Susan? Being attached to Harry Potter comes with it's own health warning, and can you imagine the glares any potential boyfriend of yours is going to receive?"

Playing along with Hermione's jokey theme, Harry also kept it very light. "My sister will have the crests of houses Bones, Black and Potter on her robes. Anyone messing with her is going to be in more trouble than they know how to handle."

Laughing along with them, Susan was still blushing as she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind. "Who can say no to those green eyes. I don't know how you manage it, Hermione."

"Who says I do?" Hermione's flippant comment seemed to suck all the air out of the corridor for an instant before it was replaced by loud laughter. Hermione was laughing at the two shocked expressions facing her while Susan thought she'd just been had.

Changing the subject, Hermione mentioned something that had been on her mind since spotting today's paper. "Harry, we really need to spend some time with Neville today, the news about Barty Crouch Jr. will have shocked him to the core. Susan, you want to come along?"

"Oh I'd love to. I'll need to let Hannah know first though, we Puffs tend to look out for one another. She would have me posted missing and the search parties out before dinner time."

"Harry will do it, he's been dying to try this out anyway."

The witch in question was sitting inside the Hufflepuff common room chatting to Ernie when she suddenly found herself the centre of attention for everyone there. That wasn't exactly true though, the ghostly stag that had just passed through the wall had every pair of eyes currently in the common room fixed on it. When the stag began to speak to Hannah in Harry Potter's voice, no one was quite sure what to make of this.

"Hi Hannah, just to let you know that Susan's fine, and will be spending some time with me and Hermione." That Susan's giggles could clearly be heard along with Harry's message raised more than a few eyebrows.

The stag fading into nothing restarted all the conversations that its appearance had halted, only this time all those conversations were centred around what had just happened. Leaving his chess game, Ron stormed out of the common room. He so wanted to loudly rant and rave about Potter bloody showing off again but had learned behaviour like that didn't go down too well in his new house. Sometimes Puffs were just too bloody sweet to be wholesome for the former Gryffindor.

The Puff walking along the corridor with the Gryffindor couple was still giggling. "Harry, have you any idea the interrogation that will be waiting on me when I get back to my common room after that message of yours? Hannah will be putting at least a dozen different slants on that short sentence."

"Just imagine the fun you can have by saying you were with your brother and sister." Harry's reply brought on even more giggles from the bubbly girl. Susan entered the Gryffindor common room between Harry and Hermione, and no one even commented on this highly unusual occurrence.

Hermione quickly spotted the person they were looking for, and she was actually pleased to see Parvati almost glued to Neville's side. "Hi Nev, we're taking Susan up to our rooms for a chat. You and Parvati would be more than welcome to join us."

Neville was still taking his relationship with Parvati slowly, thus didn't want her running about their room whenever she felt like it. He was more than happy to have Parvati there along with Harry and Hermione however. He'd been sitting in the common room feeling like shit but didn't want to disappear up the stairs himself - nor take Parvati with him. He jumped at the chance however of joining his friends, Neville was now also happy for his girlfriend to come with him. Taking Parvati by the hand, he followed the other three up the stairs.

Entering the room, they all took seats while butterbeer and some snacks appeared on the table.

Looking around the room, and checking out the amazing views through the large windows, a clearly impressed Susan let out a low whistle. "If this is how the Gryffindors live, I think I want a transfer."

Sitting cuddling into Neville, Parvati put the Hufflepuff straight. "Oh it's only these three that live like this. These rooms were McGonagall's bargaining chip to keep these three in Gryffindor. Then again, I think they earned them." She was supporting her boyfriend as best she could but Parvati was also curious. "So Susan, what brings you into the Lions' Den?"

"Just visiting my brother and sister..."

This perked Neville up. "Of course, Sirius marrying your aunt. Are you going for siblings?"

"That's what Harry offered, and what I always wanted."

"Me too, though that's something I never thought about. Gaining siblings due to a wedding..."

"I've got a sister you could share..."

Neville smiled at his girlfriend before another thought had him bursting into laughter. Seeing his girlfriend's hurt expression, he immediately explained his actions. "Sorry about that, I certainly wasn't laughing at you or Padma. I just had the crazy thought enter my head that whoever marries Ginny Weasley also inherits six older brothers."

This had all of them laughing, and started Neville down the road of leaving his grade one funk behind. Sitting having fun with his friends and girlfriend was just what he needed to get over the fact that one of the people who had tortured his parents managed to escape from Azkaban. That Crouch Jr. had been caught and would now never harm anyone ever again was helping him relax, as was the company he was currently in.

They even had dinner brought to their room, Harry and Hermione only leaving when it was time to take Susan back to Hufflepuff before curfew. As they left, a now smiling Neville thanked them for keeping him company today. He then went on to thank Parvati rather more personally as she wasn't allowed up here after curfew.

As Susan had expected, there was a welcoming committee waiting for her as they approached Hufflepuff. Playing to the crowd, she hugged Harry and Hermione - thanking them for a wonderful day. Both had trouble holding their laughter in as Susan winked at them, her housemates would certainly have a few questions for her.

Walking back to Gryffindor, Hermione had Harry's arm and lent her head on his shoulder. "I actually enjoyed that today. It's so tempting just to be twelve and thirteen."

"Only for a while, love. I really can't wait until we're older. Also days like today are only possible because Voldemort doesn't currently have a body. We need to stop him getting one, so everyone can have a lot more days like that."

A certain someone was listening, deciding that it was time to help.

-oOoOo-

When the kitchen of Hogwarts was full of elves, the place was normally a hive of activity. Tonight not one of them moved, they were all too busy staring at the two house elves standing side by side on the table.

"You all know our family, and that family has vowed to fight the dark one."

Both elves standing there in probably the finest robes ever worn by a house elf was a massive clue who these elves belonged to. The Potter and Black house crests worn on the chest of those fine robes put any doubt to bed.

"As good house elves, Dobby and Darla will protect their family. Our family knows why dark one won't stay dead, house elves have helped our family find these sick and evil things the dark one made. With every one we find, the dark one grows nearer his end."

"A Black house elf had one that killed his former master, Kreacher watched as Dumbledore destroyed it. Dobby and Darla helped their family find one more, Dumbledore destroyed that one too. It was another one of these that killed the Headmaster, but not before he destroyed it. Our family will now destroy any that are left, but we need to find them first. Dobby and Darla are asking for your help to do this."

The oldest elf in the castle shuffled forward and asked a question. "What are you asking us to do, young one? Like you, we too have bonds that we must live by."

Bowing to the old elf, Dobby signalled to Darla to offer the diary. "Respected elder, be it Hogwarts or a home - no one knows what goes on in that building better than a house elf. This book once held the taint of the dark one, it has been removed. If any elf has felt a taint like this before, or feels one later, we ask only to be told. We all know there are ways around instructions and bonds, if we wish it to be so..."

This started murmurings which, for house elves, was practically a riot. Dobby cut right across those murmurings, the powerful young elf being an imposing figure to those gathered. His words also had the ring of truth that couldn't be disputed.

"The dark one and his followers treated us worse than vermin, who wants to go back to those days? The young wizard and witch that stood at the Headmaster's burial and promised to stand against the dark one call Dobby and Darla family - they call Dobby and Darla friend. Dobby would give his life to help them defeat the dark one, so they could then go on to make lots of little Potters."

Dobby had tears running down his cheeks as he proudly stood wearing his family's crests on his robes, waiting to see if anyone doubted his word. Darla handed the diary to the ancient house elf before standing beside Dobby. She'd watched as all the female elves had eyed Dobby up, She now stood beside him.

"Darla would also give her life for her family. Darla's new family got her away from the Malfoys, and bad former master is now on the island of the soul suckers."

The shiver that went through the other elves wasn't just because Darla mentioned dementors. The diary was getting passed around, with no elf holding the disgusting thing for more than a few seconds.

The oldest elf was rubbing his hands up and down his pillowcase, as if to try and remove the taint. "Never has Pappy felt such evil, such wrongness - this should not exist. These things must be destroyed. Any Hogwarts elf feeling such a taint will inform Pappy, Pappy will call for Dobby or Darla. Hogwarts elves will spend any free time from their duties scouring the castle from top to bottom, we don't want one of these in our home. Your family is really powerful wizards and witches if they can destroy these."

Having now achieved what they'd asked for, Dobby and Darla began to relax. Dobby also gladly accepted the opportunity to talk about his family. "Dobby watched as his family destroyed the dark one's host, Quirrell, before chasing the spirit of the dark one from the castle with a curse."

This really impressed all those listening. As the diary was passed back to Darla, Pappy asked a question. After all, it was their duty to protect Hogwarts.

"What was this curse that chased the dark one out of the castle? Could an elf cast it?"

"Harry Potter used the 'fuck off' curse, before his golden animal pushed the dark one's spirit away. Dobby doesn't know if an elf could cast it, but it worked really well. Perhaps Dobby and Darla should ask their family to teach them this curse. If elves could use it, the dark one would no longer be feared."

This time the murmur that went around the room was one of anticipation, and appreciation. Even the mere thought of a defence against the dark one had them excited, and ready to search for items that had the dark one's disgusting taint.

-oOoOo-

As things quickly got back into the routine of classes, homework, looking forward to the next quidditch match and then the Christmas Holidays, Hogwarts began to settle down to its new normal. With one thing and another keeping getting in the way, it actually took another two weeks before all the family was gathered in the Grangers' quarters for their meeting.

When Dobby explained how the meeting with the castle's elves had gone, Sirius was on the floor with laughter. There was no laughter coming from the Granger girls, Hermione's tone was stern as she stared at her intended.

"Harry Potter, no child of mine will be using language like that. So their daddy better start practicing not using it now, then he'll have mastered it by the time they come along. Dobby, Harry will also explain to you those are not magical curse words, they are not a spell. No one is laughing at you, it's just the misuse of those words some uncouth people find funny..."

Sirius was climbing back into his seat, the loud laughter now somewhat under control. He was still sniggering at his godson though as Harry led Dobby off to a corner for a quiet word.

Harry was thinking he'd gotten off lightly, considering he didn't have to explain this to Darla as well. He really should have known better as Dobby just broadcast the gist of what he'd said to the entire room.

"You told the dark one to leave Hogwarts and perform a sex act on himself? Harry Potter is indeed a great wizard."

With both elves now looking at Harry in awe, and his shocked expression to their reaction, Sirius was back on the floor. Dan may have stayed in his seat but he was laughing just as loudly as the marauder. As Harry looked around the room for help, Amelia lost her battle for control and started laughing too. Seeing her mother beginning to crack, Hermione rose and approached the lost pair in the corner.

Putting her arm around her intended, Hermione tried to explain. "Dobby, when Harry gets angry, he says things that shouldn't be repeated in polite company. The muggle world calls these curse words, and using them is called swearing. I can see how this could be confusing but there is no magic involved or summoned by using them. They are merely insults, used to relieve the stress of the person saying them. Do you understand?"

"Dobby thinks so. Like telling another elf they need to go and wash their pillowcases?"

"Dobby Potter!"

This rebuke being shrieked by Darla indicated to the rest of them Dobby now probably had the gist of swearing. Emma tried to get the meeting back on track.

"So the castle's elves will check Hogwarts for any more of these. Where does that leave us?"

"Unless we get lucky, all it will tell us is the castle is safe. Then again, the elves won't have access to the chamber of secrets - Tom Riddle clearly did. If he hid one down there, only Harry can open it. Neither of my Harry's are prone to exaggeration. When Harry told me the basilisk down there was humongous and terrifying - I not only believed him but never wanted proof."

Mulling all that information over, there was only one conclusion Harry could come to. "It makes sense for one to be down there. It's called the chamber of secrets for a reason - no one knows where it is. Add to that you need to be a parselmouth to open the chamber, and it's protected by one of the most deadly creatures on the planet - why would he not put one down there?"

"Just the thought of that place has a shiver of dread running down my spine, but I can't disagree with a word of that. Let's leave discussing the chamber until the rest of the school has been searched. Having to go down there will be a last resort..." Hermione found herself being interrupted by her mother.

"I thought fighting Voldemort was your last resort? How many last resorts do you have, and how many don't your father and me know about?"

"Mum, we're training to fight in case we have to - not because we want to fight this nutter. It's always better to have skills and not need them, rather than things being the opposite way around." Hermione rolling her eyes like a thirteen year old didn't help their case, or do anything to ease Emma's worries. Knowing this was something both Emma and Dan strongly objected to, the idea of them fighting rather than the training, Harry moved the meeting on.

"I think we're all agreed that any family dark enough for Voldemort to entrust with one of his horcruxes is unlikely to have a house elf willing to help us. If they tell their master what we're looking for then our chances of getting our hands on it drop drastically. I think it's time to call Albus and see if he has any information that helps us go forward with this."

After witnessing James and Lily's appearance amongst them, the group were somewhat prepared for Albus' return - though none of them thought they would ever reach the stage where this would become routine.

A smiling Albus soon greeted them. "Hello everyone. I'm glad to see you took my advice, adding Sirius and Amelia to the group will surely help with this task. I would also like to thank Harry and Hermione for that lovely eulogy…"

"You were there?" It was only after she said the words, Hermione realised how stupid that sounded.

It actually put grins on everyone's faces, and helped bring things to an almost normal level. Like the Potters though, Albus had no more information on any locations of horcruxes. He did have an idea however, and even a plan to take that idea forward.

"We are working on the assumption that, since Voldemort trusted one of them to Malfoy, he might have done the same with another of his followers. I also agree with the point made earlier, that we can't trust any approach to a dark family's house elf wouldn't backfire on us. There is another option - what if it wasn't hidden in their house?'

It was actually Amelia who guessed where Albus was going with this. "Of course, it could be locked in their family vault in Gringotts."

"Yes, and Harry's speech at my funeral was very well received by the goblin contingent that was present. An approach to Gringotts from the ministry would almost instantly be rejected. A personal appeal from the person who just swore to stand against the dark lord has a far greater chance of succeeding. It will be turning that request around to show the goblins how this could benefit them that will be the key to achieving their assistance. We can provide a method of destroying any horcrux they find, without even taking the item out of the vault it's secured in."

It was Dan who asked what he thought was actually a stupid question. "Surely it is in everyone's interest to see this monster destroyed? Will the goblins support him if he returns?"

"From our point of view, there really is no thought necessary - Voldemort needs to be stopped. When dealing with other species and cultures, one always needs to remember their views on any given situation will almost certainly differ from ours. It's all about finding the common ground, the points we agree on, and then taking things forward from there. Dobby and Darla's presentation to the Hogwarts house elves was devastatingly effective, gaining their complete support. Getting the goblins to scan vaults may be a harder nut to crack but I can't help thinking a witch or wizard would believe their Gringotts vault would be safer than their house."

This saw an audible groan coming from Harry. "I suppose we should have expected things like this to come our way, after being promoted to 'leaders of the light'. Dobby and Darla are certainly coming to Gringotts with us - though no cursing allowed."

This put the grins back but Hermione was looking a little further ahead. "Augusta's Christmas Ball will now be a nightmare…"

"Not if I'm on the dance floor with you the entire night." Both liked that idea, then Albus threw something special into the mix.

"Your parents are really looking forward to talking with you over the Christmas holidays."

Knowing he had that spectacular event to look forward to, neither discussions with the goblins nor the thought of all the people who would be trying to buttonhole him at the ball could affect the grin Harry now wore.

Hermione asking Albus if he could tell them any more about Harry being 'Master of Death' saw Albus' expression instantly change. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I have been expressly forbidden about discussing that topic. Anyone Harry calls will be under the same restriction. I'm in Death's realm now, I can't disobey that order - even to the 'Master of Death'."

While that introduced a bit of a downer to the meeting, they at least now had some plans for moving forward. The castle's elves would search Hogwarts and Sirius would approach Gringotts to hopefully arrange a meeting for Harry during the holidays. Harry and Hermione meanwhile would continue with their new defence lessons. Hoping for the best - but preparing for the worst.

They did have to promise Emma and Dan that they wouldn't go searching in the chamber of secrets without sitting down and discussing it with the group first. Since neither Harry nor Hermione wanted to go anywhere near the chamber, they were more than happy to give their word on that.

After the meeting broke up, Sirius and Amelia escorted both Gryffindors back to their dorm - just making curfew. They had barely said goodbye when Remus appeared, obviously patrolling the corridors.

"Hey Moony, no rest for the wicked. Can I have a word?"

Amelia gave Sirius' arm a squeeze and told her fiancé she would wait at the entrance hall for him. Once she had gone, Sirius got right down to business.

"I wanted to ask if you would be best man at my wedding?"

This question did not get the reaction Sirius was expecting. "Why me? I thought you would have asked Harry. Did he turn you down?"

"You're my best friend, why wouldn't I ask you? And Harry would never turn me down…"

"Yeah, a best friend who you like to keep in the dark. I thought we were marauders? Didn't you get a bellyful of keeping secrets from your supposed best friend? I thought you would have realised by now where keeping secrets can lead?"

A shocked Sirius took a step back, before the Black temper asserted itself. "The marauders - yeah we were a shit hot bunch. One murdered, one unjustly imprisoned, one hiding as a rat while the fourth just disappeared off the face of the planet. What I learned from that experience is the problem doesn't lie with the secrets you're keeping, it's who you tell those secrets to that causes the grief. You're my best friend, no question about that. The people I was with tonight however - they're my family. It's taken me my entire life to find a family I can be proud to be a part of, nothing and no-one is more important to me than that family."

Remus was getting angry too though, he'd hardly seen Sirius since starting working in the castle. You didn't have to be a genius to work out Sirius was far closer to the people he had been with tonight than his oldest friend. That Remus also appeared to be getting deliberately excluded from this group was what really hurt, and brought his temper into play as well.

"You talk of family, yet are marrying a witch who's probably too old to provide you with one…"

Remus never said anymore, Sirius' fist connecting with his mouth put a stop to anything else he might have said. The rage Sirius had put into that blow would have knocked a normal wizard unconscious. Even although Remus was a werewolf, the blow still landed him on his arse. He looked up into the furious eyes of his best friend, a best friend whose wand was now trained on him.

"You sanctimonious, sorry-arsed excuse of a friend. You've had a hard life - big deal! Stop with the pity parties and start making the best of what you've got. Talk about Ami like that again and you'll get far more than a punch in the mouth."

A couple of deep breaths brought Sirius somewhat under control. While still very angry, at least he wasn't about to start firing curses.

"Forget about being best man, Harry will stand with me. My godson is twelve, got me set free from Azkaban, yet not only understands that Ami is the most important person in my life - he insists that's the way it has to be. Compare your actions to that twelve year old boy's, Professor Lupin, then ask yourself who is right. Here's a big clue, it's not you!"

With that, Sirius stormed away. His best friend lay on the cold stone floor, neither marauder knowing whether their friendship was left lying there too.

Amelia missed nothing, a sometimes lifesaving byproduct of being an auror for so many years. While she didn't need those enhanced powers of observation to determine Sirius was angry, spotting his skinned knuckles as he hugged her helped paint the picture of what had happened after she left.

"Do I take it Harry is now best man?"

"The one thing my godson and I have in common is that we both love scarily smart women. Hermione was right, we've all changed..."

"My fiancé has certainly changed, which is why I said yes when he asked me. Remus is back at Hogwarts, and perhaps expected things to go back to the way they used to be. You are his only friend..."

"Yet he can't be happy for me? Sorry but I'd rather spend my nights with you, rather than sitting in some old castle reminiscing about my teenage years. The next move is his to make, it will also decide whether we still have a friendship."

Amelia healed his hand, before taking it in one of her own as they walked from the castle to the edge of the wards.

 
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