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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32. Christmas Cheer

The ship's steward thought he'd seen everything in his nine years working aboard ferries, he was wrong. Christmas Eve in Rotterdam was a new first. The basketweave bathchair looked as if it should be in a museum. Then again, its occupant and the person pushing this forerunner to the modern wheelchair wouldn't have looked out of place as exhibits in the same museum display.

The confundus charm on their documentation ensured they passed muster though so he showed them to their cabin, informing them they could ring for cabin service if they didn't want to make their way to the dining area. He couldn't see any way that antique chair would fit around any of the tables upstairs, it nearly didn't fit in the cabin.

With thanks, but certainly no tip, the steward was dismissed.

Severus was sure his use of the confundus charm would not be picked up, it was too innocuous for any ministry to scan for. By comparison, he had cast the imperius on his charge just before apparating them away from the forest. His master's host, Severus refused to call him Troy, now missing a leg necessitated the transfiguration of the chair. Their clothes too had been transfigured to more muggle appropriate attire.

Casting a sleeping charm on the chair's occupants, Severus then stretched out on the cabin's bed. While time-consuming when compared to magical methods, the muggles had refined travelling to an art form. The cabin was very comfortable and they would get a meal delivered later.

The increased vibrations running through the ship indicated the ferry was getting ready to depart, and the crossing to Hull would take twelve hours. They would be arriving in Hull at around eight on Christmas morning. Severus didn't think there was any chance whatsoever of the Ministry having Hull ferry port watched, especially not for incoming traffic. Severus Snape returning to Britain was utter madness, and he was counting rather heavily on that fact above everything else so there would be no reception committee on the dock.

While confident the Ministry wouldn't be there, he had to hope there was no bounty hunters who had taken a gamble on him doing something crazy like this though. His disguise as an old muggle pushing an invalid friend around should stand up to everything except the most severe scrutiny. Severus would just have to be extra vigilant and not give himself away.

-oOoOo-

The atmosphere inside number twelve Grimmauld Place on Christmas morning was certainly a lot merrier than anything the Black residence was used to. The experience of meeting their family spirits last night had been a positive one for all involved. Luna was practically bouncing off the walls with happiness, Petunia wore a wide smile that nothing was going to shift and Susan was currently wedged between Amelia and Sirius. Susan's parents had actually approved of Sirius becoming the father figure their daughter needed, giving the marauder another reason to smile - not that he needed one. Compared to previous Christmases, the only one that came anywhere close to being as good as this was Harry's first.

When presents were being handed out and unwrapped, the party atmosphere just increased in intensity. Dobby popping away and returning with a regal owl caught everyone's attention, as did the seal on the letter it was carrying.

"The owl would not let Dobby remove its letter, only Harry can remove and open it."

Leaning forward, Harry untied the letter and offered the magnificent bird an owl treat. Its acceptance of both acts saw Dobby taking it back to the owl delivery point of number twelve. In the silence that had developed, the sound of the Gringotts wax seal being broken was clearly heard. As was Harry's intake of breath as he read the letter.

"Harry, is everything okay?"

Harry's voice was barely above a whisper as he answered. "No, Sirius. Things are not okay, they're bloody fantastic!" Harry handed the letter to his godfather before reaching for Hermione.

It wasn't long before Sirius let out a whoop of delight, grabbing Amelia and Susan while dancing about like someone had dropped a live crab down his trousers. He soon announced to the entire room why he was so happy.

"The goblins found one and it's gone - they're all gone!"

This really did kick the party into high gear until Sirius noticed Susan and Luna didn't have a clue why everyone was so happy. He tried to tell them what had just happened, without giving too much away.

"I know these two trust you both, but this is a massive secret that can't be spoken of except with the people currently in this house. The reason Voldemort didn't die when he attacked baby Harry, and again at the summer in Hogwarts, was because he had carried out dark rituals to anchor himself to this plain of life. These two had been working with Dumbledore to destroy them, and the goblins just finished the job for us. Next time Voldemort becomes a wraith there's no road back for him - it'll finally be all over."

While madness was breaking out all around her, there were even two house elves kissing under the mistletoe, Luna's gaze fixed on her best friends. Like a rock jutting out from a raging torrent, the madness seemed to pass over or around them without any visible affect. Even Dudley patting both on the back to congratulate them didn't appear to break the bubble of calm that surrounded the couple. They were oblivious to everything and everyone around them.

Hermione was sitting on Harry's lap, their foreheads touching. The enormity of what they had achieved was crashing over them, blocking out everything but the person in their embrace. Both had tears forming in their eyes as they spoke softly to each other.

"'You're sure that's the last one?" They had gone over this many times but Harry just wanted confirmation. Hermione saying yes once more would be good enough for him.

"Albus was certain. All the research he'd done in the years he had studied this problem pointed to that being the last one. If we can't trust that to be right, then we need to head to Black Island before the New Year. I have nothing else, Harry. I just can't believe we've pulled it off."

"Do I still need to fight Voldemort?"

"With no anchors left, I think his spirit will cross over. If he's currently possessing something or someone, the next time he leaves should be the end of Voldemort. I want him to die alone and unmourned, and not just for revenge. If that happens then we have a chance at a semi-normal life. If you have to fight him, the Ministry will be coming up with a new award to present you with. The Noble Order of the Harry?"

The absurdity of that suggestion, and the possibility there could even some truth in it, actually had him smiling. "If they called this supposed award after you, I would gladly accept it and proudly tell the world why. After all, you are by far the bravest person I've ever known. While we can't broadcast the real reason, the amount of lives you've changed and people you've saved deserve you to be recognised in some way…"

"I'm not looking for recognition, Harry, never have been. All I ever wanted was to be able to spend the rest of my life with the person I love, anything other than that is simply a bonus. If you publicly become the boy-who-conquered, none of us will ever get a moment's peace again."

An exuberant Emma finally intruded into their private little world. She had her arms wrapped around both of them and the tears she was crying were clearly happy ones. She and Dan had spent many an evening discussing this exact situation with the pair, they were well versed on what they thought the outcome would now be. The mere suggestion that Voldemort could be gone, without Harry having to fight him, was the reason for her tears of relief. Everyone in the room understood Hermione would be right beside Harry if that fight ever took place. The relief Emma was feeling that neither of them might have to face that awful outcome was overwhelming.

The crowd from Grimmauld would be attending the Longbottom Ball tonight in the mood to celebrate.

-oOoOo-

Sitting in the Hogwarts Great Hall, surrounded by professors, was not how Draco had envisaged spending his Christmas morning. Looking at the two older Slytherin students though, he wasn't for complaining. They had left on the Hogwarts express, only to be met on platform nine and three quarters by aurors. Since their parents had been arrested, and no one had come forward to take them in, the Ministry had eventually returned them to Hogwarts. Their tuition was paid until the end of the summer term, giving them, the school and Ministry of Magic some time to sort out what happened next.

His mother had been relentlessly harping on at Draco, reiterating at every opportunity how much things were changing. Given the evidence presented daily in the Prophet, and the two Slytherins left with nowhere to go bar Hogwarts, Draco's arguments against his mother's constant rants were crumbling like a sandcastle on a beach left facing an incoming tide.

Draco had heard from Pansy too, and that letter brought those changes home like nothing else before it. Her father had been arrested and aurors had escorted Pansy from the platform to a Ministry holding cell that contained her mother. She had spent a couple of hours there before they were both released. Her father had already confessed under truth serum to crimes that would see him spend the rest of his life in Azkaban.

Everyone who had been convicted also had their Gringotts vault frozen while the Ministry deliberated on imposing fines against them too. The Parkinson mother and daughter weren't having a very merry Christmas either.

All in all, Draco had to concede that he had a lot less reason to complain than most of his friends. His mother's job had at least allowed her to buy him a gift for Christmas, and they would both sit down together to a sumptuous Hogwarts feast later. His father's behaviour over the last year meant that neither Draco or Cissi missed his presence today, or any other day for that matter. Compared to most of the darker purebloods, Draco thought he and his mother were actually doing quite well.

-oOoOo-

With a corsage in his hand, Dudley took the elf express to pick up Amanda for tonight's ball. His first sight of his girlfriend though had Dudley's brain closing down.

"Miss Amanda, Dobby thinks you look lovely tonight. Dobby is sure Dudley thinks that too, and will say so soon."

That Dobby's elbow then dug into Dudley's thigh started Amanda giggling. it was this, more than the dunt from Dobby, that finally rebooted Dudley's brain.

"I certainly do think you look lovely tonight, you took my breath away." Dudley then kissed Amanda on the cheek, wished her a Merry Christmas and offered his corsage for her wrist.

George watched this scene with a mixture of pride and apprehension. He let his pride show, saving his apprehension for when they both left. He really wouldn't settle until Amanda was back home safe and sound.

-oOoOo-

Severus was starting to actually believe he was going to pull this whole improbable thing off. He'd wheeled his charge straight through the meagre muggle authorities' presence in Hull, they were barely given a second glance. Slipping in between two parked large lorries hid them from sight long enough for the portkey to do its job and whisk them to their final destination. Trying to enter the country illegally by this method would set off all sorts of alarms and see the D.M.L.E. trying to track them. A portkey leaving Hull Harbour for another part of England wouldn't even raise a ministerial eyebrow, especially on Christmas Day.

Discovering the potions ingredients Severus had previously prepared and hidden, along with all the equipment needed, undisturbed and waiting on him was another major worry that could be crossed off his list. Severus had carefully considered the 'blood of an enemy' problem and was quite pleased at his proposed solution. He was ecstatic that getting his hands on the wizard he'd chosen to represent the enemy had proven to be child's play, leading to his current state of heightened optimism.

Now if only he didn't think a silencing charm would interfere with the ritual, Severus might actually be looking forward to this.

The memoryless Lockhart had still been terrified while being wheeled through an old graveyard in the pitch darkness. The only source of light visible appeared to be a fire they seemed to be heading for. He was appalled though at hearing what he was required to do next. "You want me to take ALL my clothes off? Are you mental - it's bloody freezing!"

"It's not that bad…"

"Shut it, Hubert. It's my bits that will be dropping off with the cold."

Severus keep thinking this must be what having twin toddlers was like, he tried to humour them as such. "I've set up a large hot bath for you. It has special potions that will help heal your stump. I'm then going to try some magic that will hopefully get your memories back too, and get master a body of his own."

"A hot bath - why didn't you say so. Wheel me right to it."

"Just remember I'm back here when you're soaking in the tub. I don't want to drown while you're washing the little hair you've got left."

After levitating the now naked host into a giant cauldron full of gently bubbling potion, Severus did his best to tune their banal banter out. He had a ritual to concentrate on.

"BONE OF THE FATHER, UNKNOWINGLY GIVEN, YOU WILL RENEW YOUR SON!"

"What did you say? Bloody Hell - that grave is opening. Don't put that shit in here - are you crazy?"

"What's going on? Turn round so I can see…"

Gilderoy did turn around, there was no way he wanted to watch what was happening in front of him. The soil covering an old grave had erupted and a bone shot out the hole that had been created. For some reason Gilderoy recognised the bone as a humerus but there was certainly nothing funny about this situation as it splashed into the hot water. He spun away from what he was seeing and, firmly gripping the rim of this rather strange tub, began to vomit over the edge. This now gave his visitor on the back of his head a perfect view of exactly what else was happening.

Severus had spent many, many hours carefully considering this next section of the ritual. While he was willing to sacrifice a bit of himself to see his master return, he really didn't want to sacrifice a bit that he might actually need. Sacrificing a hand was out of the question, he certainly needed both of his to brew even the simplest of potions. He drew the sharp knife from its sheath while steeling his resolve.

"FLESH OF THE SERVANT, WILLINGLY SACRIFICED, YOU WILL REVIVE YOUR MASTER."

The face growing out the back of Gilderoy's head was now wishing that he could turn away. Voldemort's voice became higher and shriller as he witnessed Snape deliberately mutilate himself.

'What are you doing with that knife? Oh no, he is crazy. The silly fool just deliberately cut off his own ear. Don't put that in here…Aggh…"

Gilderoy really didn't want to ask the question but also needed to know the answer. "Is…is there now an ear floating in here with us?"

Voldemort couldn't take his eyes off the ear that was now floating on the bubbling water. The panic in his voice was unmistakeable. "YES! And I can't use your hands to get it out of here. You need to turn around…"

Gilder's eyebrows shot toward his receiving hairline. "You want me to turn around and scoop his ear out of here - not a bloody chance. We need to get ourselves out of this tub but I can't seem to get anything to work…"

The pain he was experiencing from cutting off his ear was a lot more intense than Severus had expected, and he wasn't impressed with the ritual's reaction to his sacrifice either. The ritual should at least have shut these two up by this point. He had no other option however than to see this through to the end. Severus made his way over to collect the final ingredient.

"BLOOD OF THE ENEMY, FORCIBLY TAKEN…" Severus wondered if cutting his ear off had a far more severe reaction that he thought possible, since an impossible voice just stopped his knife before it reached the figure on the ground.

The loud and angry command rang around the graveyard. "Severus Snape, don't you dare touch him."

-oOoOo-

Amanda was having a wonderful time, she actually felt like a princess in a fairy tale. The 'house' this ball was being held in would easily qualify as a mansion in any description Amanda would later give of it. What house had its own ballroom?

She met a lot more of their friends and every single one had greeted her with a smile. They all knew Dudley and being introduced as his girlfriend was all it took to be instantly accepted. Amanda was a smart girl and soon noticed the family keeping an eye on her. That this was purely to ensure she had a good time, and therefore her father's worries would be groundless, allowed her to relax and really enjoy herself.

Amanda was actually dancing with Harry, further enhancing those fairy tale notions. Here was she, little Amanda Kettering, dancing with a handsome Lord with his society's highest award for bravery pinned to his stunning robes. Again though, just being Dudley's girlfriend had Harry as interested in her as she was in him. Amanda smiled as her own price danced past with his mother when the evening began its journey to hell in a hand basket.

An angry Dobby popped onto the dance floor, right beside Harry, and wasn't too bothered who else heard his message.

"The trap has sprung, it's Snape. Dobby needs to take you there quickly before he gets away. Snape attacked Dobby's family, Dobby want's him caught and punished."

Hermione had been dancing with her father but has instantly made her way toward Harry. "Dobby, can you change my dress to something less conspicuous…"

A snap of the elf's fingers saw Hermione's light blue dress become black jeans and a roll neck sweater. Her high heels were now black trainers and Hermione's Order of Merlin was rather emotionally handed to her mother for safekeeping. Harry's was also handed over to Emma while Dobby changed his white shirt to black as more of the family joined them.

Sirius and Remus were also transfiguring their clothes to something more suitable for sneaking up on someone, Amelia was doing the same as she asked a quick question. "I'm assuming I don't have time to call for backup?"

Harry was every bit as angry at Snape as Dobby, he wanted there to be no chance of the bastard getting away tonight. "Amelia, we have the chance to end this entire thing tonight. It's a chance that will only be available for a moment or two. Once Snape discovers he's been played…"

No more needed said, the death eater would be out of there as quickly as he could. Hermione and Harry were more than ready to end this tonight.

"There will be five of us, and our secret weapon. This will only work if we go now - and stick to the plan."

The dance had of course stopped as all the guests were now watching what was unfolding in the middle of the floor. There wasn't even time for hugs from their family, a few pats on the back for encouragement and support having to do for now - though Harry spotted Neville next to them.

"Nev…"

Harry didn't need to say any more to their best friend. "It's Snape, go! We'll take care of your family."

As the five cast disillusionment charms on themselves, Darla popped in to help Dobby take the five of them away to the graveyard.

This seemed to leave a hole in the middle of the ball as Augusta began to get things back under her control. Basil thought this was his opportunity, probably the only one he was going to get. Approaching Amanda, he asked his question.

"Excuse me, Miss. I hope you don't mind me asking but where did you get that necklace?"

While neither Lords Black or Potter were present, Basil was still not going to have an easy time of it. Augusta was not about to let one of her guests be harassed, especially since she had some idea what the group who had just left were trying to do.

"Basil Ketteridge, I want to know why you're asking one of my guests a question like that. I'm telling you now, I'd better like your answer."

"Forgive me, Madam Longbottom. I only wished to enquirer why this lovely young lady was wearing one of my family's heirlooms around her neck."

A faint smile tugged at Augusta's lips as she provided the information that was being sought here. "Perhaps, Basil, had you asked to be introduced you might have saved yourself the embarrassment of putting your foot right in your mouth. Basil Ketteridge, may I introduce Amanda Ketteridge."

While fingering her necklace, Amanda answered the man's original question. "My father gave me this necklace, he said his mother gave it to him as a keepsake..."

It seemed to hit both of them at the same time. Basil held out his hand and Amanda cautiously took it, only to have her hand gently turned around and her knuckles kissed. "That necklace deserves to be worn by a beautiful girl, you, Miss Amanda easily do it justice. Could you please tell your father that his Uncle Basil said hello. George was always one of my more sensible nephews. Actually, he is the only nephew I have left. Those that brought disgrace to the family by following a certain madman have been disowned. Please also tell him I'm now head of the family, and I couldn't be happier with the company his daughter is keeping."

Releasing Amanda's hand, Basil returned his attention to their host. "Madam Longbottom, I hope you understand my enquiry and will forgive my breach of etiquette. In my defence I will say that those house crests Miss Ketteridge is proudly wearing are intimidating enough, without Lords Black and Potter actually being here. I don't know where they've gone but I'm delighted and relieved not to be the person they're targeting. Those were some pretty intense individuals who just left..."

Basil had trailed off as the group had just been approached by a pair of aurors.

"Excuse me, Madam Longbottom, is Madam Bones here?"

"She just left. Is there anything I can help you with?"

Looking at the Longbottom matriarch, the lead auror's stomach fell. He had hoped his boss would pass on this terrible news. "I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, Madam Longbottom, especially on Christmas Day, but St. Mungo's security has been breached. While your daughter-in-law is fine, your son is missing - presumed taken by persons unknown."

Neville let out a croak more akin to Trevor before his knees appeared to give way. His arm had been around Parvati and she struggled to keep him upright until Dudley and Vernon grabbed an arm each. Parvati led the group over to a chair where they got Neville settled.

Dan, Emma and Petunia were trying to comfort Augusta, seeing her grandson in such distress though pulled her back from any form of breakdown. She led all of them over to Neville.

"Gran, we just saw them this morning. How could this happen? Why would anyone want to take my dad? Haven't they suffered enough?"

Those were the final clues that allowed Dan to be the first to put it all together. He was well aquatinted with the trap that apparently had just been sprung, and the components needed for the ritual that was obviously being attempted. "Oh shit, Snape!"

That name alone was enough to galvanise Parvati into action, she was now kneeling in front of Neville. "Nev, listen to me. If Snape has your dad, he'll soon be back with you. We know what Harry and Hermione can do, and this time they have plenty of experienced help. Whatever Snape has planned, they're already a step ahead of him. He's going down and your dad will be safe..."

It was actually Augusta who sought reassurance from that. "Are you sure..."

Neville replied as he drew Parvati up and onto his lap. "Gran, if Snape has dad then Harry and Hermione will bring him home. And here was me thinking I couldn't hate that greasy bastard any more than I already did."

Augusta wrapped both in a hug, thinking more and more that Neville chose his friends and girlfriend well.

Basil made himself useful by passing the news that Frank Longbottom had just been kidnapped from St. Mungo's around the guests. While a few of her close friends made a point to stop and offer Augusta their support, everyone accepted that the ball was now over and made their way home.

Augusta sat with their group around her as they offered support to each other, it was now a waiting game. They could only wait on the rest of their group returning safely, and hopefully with some very good news too.

-oOoOo-

A single rivulet of blood had negotiated its way from Severus' mutilated ear, worked under his collar and was now running down his back. It was strangely spreading warmth as it went along, strange because Severus thought that voice had chilled his blood to ice. Turning his head, there was the only woman he'd ever loved - standing with her hands on her hips and a grade one Evans scowl on her face.

"Lily?"

"Don't you 'Lily' me. What were you thinking, using an unforgivable on my future daughter-in-law's parents to try and murder Harry and Hermione. If that wasn't bad enough, you're standing there with a knife ready to attack poor, helpless Frank. What the fuck happened to the boy who used to be my friend?"

Severus really had only one answer to that. "You left..."

He never said another word as seven stunners slammed into the death eater from all different directions - one actually passing right through Lily. Dobby and Darla soon had Snape disarmed and trussed up so tightly he could barely breathe.

Remus checked on Frank while Sirius and Amelia responded to the pleading cries of help that were coming from the giant cauldron. Harry and Hermione took the time to thank Lily for helping.

"That was great, mum. We could have rode in here on the backs of elephants and Snape wouldn't have noticed."

"I am just glad of any opportunity to help you both..."

"Harry, Hermione, you need to see this." Sirius' shout had Lily tagging along to see what had gotten the marauder so excited. The Riddle bones had been replaced so there was never any danger of the ritual actually working. They discovered a wizard they both still recognised sitting leaning against a headstone while wrapped in a conjured blanket.

"How did Lockhart get mixed up in this?"

"Wait, Hermione, it get's better." Sirius' words had barely been spoken when he was interrupted by an unseen voice.

"Stop hogging the front. I want to thank our rescuers too."

As Gilderoy turned around, they got a look at Voldemort.

"Thank you so much. That nutter was throwing bits of body in beside us, and even cut off his own ear to do the same with. He was approaching that other gentleman with that vicious looking knife, you got here just in time. I heard you say Lockhart, do you know us? My sharing friend here called me Hubert while that nutter called me master. Do you know who we are? Please say if you do, we can't remember anything."

A shocked Harry managed to get a few words out. "Your name is Tom..."

"Tom? Really? Oh I like that so much better than Hubert. What about him, I assume it's not Troy?"

Again it was Harry who answered, everyone else was too busy savouring the delicious irony of Tom liking his name. "Close, but no. It's Gilderoy."

At that, they were then faced with the king of the obliviators who was grinning like a loon. "Gilderoy, oh I like that. Hi Tom, I'm Gilderoy."

They took a few steps back while the two faces sharing one head chatted away to each other.

"Is this for real?"

Harry's question hung there until Hermione attempted to answer. "Obliviate was the only spell Lockhart could really do, but he was also incredibly good at it. He actually managed to wipe every memory he ever had when trying to cast the spell with a broken wand. Those memories were lost forever."

Shaking his head Harry voiced their problem. "I could end this just by touching Tom. To be honest though, right now that would feel like I was murdering someone who was helpless. Please give me some other options because we can't walk away from here without them."

Knowing this was really aimed at her, Amelia did her best to ally their genuine concerns. "First, we get this checked to see if those memories are really gone. Second, sharing a body like this is unsustainable for any prolonged measure of time. There's no way we'll be feeding unicorn's blood to Riddle so they can maintain this. Any research will be to see if they can be separated, sparing Lockhart's life. Personally I think this problem will solve itself in at most a couple of months."

"Neither can live while the other survives, I can live with a solution where my son doesn't have to murder someone..."

Hermione had been wound tighter than any watch from the instant that Dobby had appeared at the ball. Hearing Lily say 'she could live with' started a bout of giggling that soon was out of control. While joining in the laughter, Sirius caught Lily's eye and realised she'd done that deliberately to ease the tension. He made the gesture of doffing his hat to Lily while she concentrated on the young couple currently wrapped in each other's arms.

Remus led a shuffling Frank, now also wrapped in a blanket, over to them as Lily sighed. "Sometimes I think James and I got the better of the bargain. We're together, can talk with our family and I got to help them tonight. My time is up though so I need to go. I hope to see everyone next Christmas so have a good year.

As Lily faded away, it was time to get down to business.

"We're taking Snape in, and really need to take the memory-less twins with us. Frank should really go straight back to St Mungo's..."

Harry wasn't happy with that last bit. "Amelia, I think we should take him back to Augusta and Neville, just in case he's been reported missing. I would also like to thank Remus for being here tonight. I was so angry my stunner missed Snape. Good shooting, Moony."

Catching on immediately, Hermione confirmed her stunner had missed too.

The big smile Dobby wore was in complete contrast to what he was saying. "House Elves would be in great trouble if the ministry discovered they had fired spells at a wizard. Dobby and Darla hope no one is going to say they hit Snape with stunners..."

Trying to hold back his laughter, Sirius added to the conspiracy. "Really well done, Moony. There's no way I could have held myself to just a stunner, I would have taken Snape's head off. That's why I didn't fire any spells."

Amelia then gave what would become the official version of tonight's events. "I certainly hit Snape with a stunner. As Head of the D.L.M.E. however, I must disqualify myself from any reward. I was only doing my job. That leaves Remus John Lupin as the capturer of the wanted death eater, Severus Snape. I will put his name forward for the corresponding reward..."

"What..." Sirius and Harry slapping Remus on the back and offering their congratulations had Remus almost growling. "This is bullshit..."

Hermione logically tore that to shreds. "None of the rest of us can claim it, it has to be you. Harry and I have had quite enough of being held up as the heroes, it's someone else's turn. While this is not an Order of Merlin, Remus, fifty thousand galleons can certainly change your life."

"Moony, this is not charity. Both Harry and I would have been happy to see that money go to anyone who captured Snape, we're delighted to see it go to you. We saw Susan's parents, Luna's mum, James and Lily - if that doesn't tell you life is short then I don't know what will. Take the gold and live the life you want..."

With the decision made, Remus would need to accompany Amelia and Sirius back to the ministry with their two prisoners.

Dobby and Darla took their charges and Frank back to the ball.

-oOoOo-

The group left in Longbottom Manor were sitting conversing in whispers, if at all. Time seemed to move very slowly until a couple of house elves arrived bearing very welcome guests.

With a shout of 'Dad!', Neville flew out his seat and was the first to reach them. His arms were wrapped around his father and Neville didn't seem to be for letting go anytime soon.

While hugs were being exchanged, Harry made straight for Susan. "Everyone is fine. They're taking the prisoners to the Ministry, that's why they didn't come back with us. It's over, Susan. Snape and Voldemort are now in a Ministry cell."

Augusta led them all through to a comfortable sitting room, not quite managing to hold back the tears as she sat her son in his once favourite chair. Neville approached his two best friends and pulled both of them into a hug. "Guys, there aren't any words that can say how much this means to me..."

"Nev, your dad was taken because the ritual Snape was trying required an enemy of Voldemort. Even in his current condition, your dad still qualifies. That's what the name Longbottom means, and we're proud to have you as our friend. We had an idea of how his followers could bring Voldemort back. We made sure it couldn't happen and Dobby had elven wards up to warn us if someone attempted it. Tonight, we ended it."

As they were now all sitting, Harry and Hermione began to tell the story of what had happened tonight. They had an attentive audience until a gasp from Amanda alerted them something was wrong.

"Look at the time, my dad will be starting to worry..."

Dobby immediately offered to take her home, with Dudley saying he would accompany his girlfriend. After their goodbyes, a Luna who had sat quietly listening offered a suggestion.

"We all know Harry and Hermione hate the limelight. Everyone who was at this ball tonight saw them rush away, people will put those facts together to paint whatever picture they want. What if we painted a different picture?"

Now that she had everyone's attention, Luna pitched her idea. It was greeted with total silence, right up until Hermione burst into a fit of giggles for the second time that night. As more and more laughter joined Hermione's, suggestions embellishing Luna's original idea kept being put forward. Darla eventually supplied the little blonde with parchment and ink to note the best of these suggestions down. Figuring out what the best suggestions were was rather easy, they were greeted with howls of laughter.

Her father was expecting Luna to write a story about spending Christmas with Harry and Hermione. Instead, she intended to give him one that would rock magical Britain to its very foundations - and sell every copy he could possibly print. All this, while helping her friends too, would make this a great Christmas for Luna.

 
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