In this World and the Next

Not for Weasley fans, dark beginning and rating is for safety. A Re-do with payback on the menu H/Hr Complete

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5627314/1/In-this-World-and-the-Next

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11. Chapter 11

Dumbledore was also conspicuous by his absence as Severus Snape was led into the Wizengamot chamber, things were not looking good for the potions master.

He, along with the rest of those present, received the explanation for the old wizard's absence when Minister Fudge stood to make a statement.

"Albus Dumbledore will play no part in today's proceedings, his word alone was enough to see the accused escape Azkaban without the necessity of a trial. Clearly a conflict of interests exists here."

Snape couldn't hide his shudder at these words, he was counting on the headmaster to ride to his rescue once more.

Fudge continued with his prepared statement, "I also contacted Lord Potter regarding the level of his involvement in today's proceedings, I have here a letter that I intend to read aloud to this chamber."

Dear Minister, I have placed my faith and trust in you, so far I have been delighted with the results. My intention is to do the same with that most august body of witches and wizards, the Wizengamot. I trust they will carry out their duties like the honest and fair-minded people that they are, requiring no input from me in determining what must be done in this case.

Snape could see most of the Wizengamot members sit just that little bit straighter and thought he was royally screwed, that little bastard Potter had managed to claim the moral high ground yet still ensure he was shafted. The minister's next statement left Snape thinking there could be no other result than a cell in Azkaban.

"Many of you will be aware Lord Potter has organised a Hogwarts outing to a muggle attraction as part of the Lady Hermione's birthday celebrations. What you will not be aware of is that he has contacted me with a request for a reciprocal outing to the ministry of magic so the muggle born may receive a better understanding of how our world works. This is a request I can assure you I took great pleasure in granting."

The nods greeting this news indicated that they all thought this was a good idea, Amelia Bones thought it was such a good idea that it should have already been in place for generations.

Fudge then held them with a steely gaze no one knew he possessed, "When all those children arrive here I for one want to be able to look them in the eye and honestly say I'm doing my best."

Instead of anger, Snape had to admit to a grudging admiration. The lad had managed to get the ministry and Wizengamot on his side with a move worthy of any Slytherin.

The Wizengamot then heard the entire story, how Snape strayed to the dark side and became the death eater's potion brewer. That an overheard interview led to the dark lord discovering there would be a prophesised child. His remorse with the discovery that child belonged to his childhood friend Lily Potter leading to his confession to Albus Dumbledore in the hope of preventing the attack. Snape's claims that the dark lord started to distance himself leaving Severus with no warning of the planned attack that Halloween had to be believed due to the truth serum.

The entire Wizengamot was in a quandary, here was a man who had committed crimes yet tried his best to atone for them. Taking into account the part of the prophecy they heard, it could even be argued that Snape assisted with the demise of the dark lord.

Amelia though had two more questions remaining. "Can you tell this chamber how you earned your dark mark?"

This question was met with total silence until the accused started speaking in that emotionless voice so indicative of testimony under truth serum. What was highly unusual were the tears that ran down his cheeks.

"A muggle family had been captured, I was allocated a boy who appeared to be about fourteen. My orders were to publicly torture the poor creature before killing him, his murder was used to bond the dark mark that placed me under the dark lord's control."

The silence was eerie as the majority of members tried not to picture the inhuman scene just described, Amelia's last question fully opened the magical world's eyes to the blight of the death eaters.

"Is it possible to be under the imperious curse and forced to take the dark mark?"

The chamber held it's collective breath as Snape answered, "It's not possible, you have to want to take the mark or it won't bind to your soul. The dark lord uses these marks to summon his followers and can administer excruciating pain through them as well. Changing your mind at a later date usually met with a public and painfully prolonged death, there was no retirement plan from being a death eater."

This new information hit like a tsunami, and contained the power to be just as destructive. It destroyed into microscopic pieces the 'I was under the imperious' myth once and for all. People who had used this as a defence for their crimes would soon be finding their non-death eater friends giving them a wide berth. While they may have had their suspicions before, here was public confirmation they had been played for fools. Whether they believed in the pureblood agenda or not, the upper echelons of British wizarding society could not stand back and allow this mockery to continue. Most would not have spoken openly against the dark lord while he lived, that was a one-way ticket to an early grave, but with him vanquished they could fight their own type of battle against his former supporters who were sullying their better breeding.

Patronage and invitations would immediately dry up, gold tainted with the blood of innocents would never again become acceptable currency to the British wizarding elite. This single change may have done more to drag their community toward respectability than any other.

-oOoOo-

Dumbledore was still missing from the staff table at breakfast the following morning as the owls delivered papers using banner headlines to proclaim Snape's fate.

The fact that the former potions professor had shown genuine remorse had went a long way to deciding his future. There were large wounds in the wizarding psyche that Snape's revelations had pulled the scab off, exposing the rotting flesh underneath that needed to be cauterised.

Neither was it felt the best use of a resource was to lock a potions master in a cell at Azkaban for a decade, rather make use of his talents to help those in need. Snape was sentenced to ten years working in the potions research labs in St Mungo's, spending his nights in a holding cell at the ministry. They had also placed an annual review on his case to determine the impact he was having while researching cures for wizarding ailments.

There was a possibility of early release but, should he breach the terms of this sentence, he had a twenty year stretch in Azkaban hanging over his head. The Potters were quite pleased with this solution, they didn't necessarily want Snape to die again, just be out of their hair.

Hermione was just voicing her surprise that the ministry had discovered the 'carrot and stick' approach when her hand was a blur as she drew her wand, she'd caught sight of Dumbledore approaching Harry from behind. There was nothing she could do if the more powerful Dumbledore chose to act, it didn't mean she couldn't let him see she was ready for it though.

He stood directly behind where Harry was sitting and theatrically cleared his throat, "Mr Potter, I detect your hand in Severus's sentence and I would like to publicly say thank you."

Hermione had her wand held at her side though her words were as cutting as any curse, "We had nothing to do with it, instead my husband showed faith that those in power knew how to do their jobs and left them to get on with it. You should try that approach sometimes headmaster."

Albus ignored the young girl with the rose pinned to her robe, he'd heard the story of how a white owl had delivered them to her yesterday at breakfast. Instead he spoke directly to Harry, "You have displayed great maturity in dealing with these difficult situations and I must commend you for it."

The maturity comment had both Potters waiting on the hammer falling as they wondered if the old wizard had discovered their secret.

Albus regarded this as a sign of encouragement so continued to woo his prey, "I also feel that I must apologise for my behaviour the other night, I hope you will accept it."

Harry nodded, more in relief than anything else.

Again Albus thought he was on a roll, "We apparently got of on the wrong foot and never seemed to recover, I'm hoping this will allow us to move beyond that and build at least a working relationship. Your treatment of Severus has shown your true, forgiving nature." Dumbledore realised he was laying it on a bit thick, he was counting on the boy being flattered enough not to outright refuse him in front of the entire great hall. This would give Albus the toehold he needed to start bending the boy to his will.

Harry couldn't believe the arrogance of the old bastard and thought he'd better answer quickly before Hermione blew a gasket. "Mr Snape committed crimes for which he showed genuine remorse and will now receive punishment for. I think his sentence is not only fair but fitting."

This brought a smile to the face of Albus Dumbledore, blindly assuming he'd just been forgiven all transgressions against the boy. The part of the prophecy Snape had heard was accepted by everyone as having been fulfilled that Halloween night, only Albus knew different. With Severus also avoiding Azkaban, yesterday had went about as well as it possibly could for the headmaster. Now the way was clear for Albus to begin to become the boy's mentor and confidant. Harry's next words evaporated Dumbledore's hopes, exposing them for the mirage that they were.

"You on the other hand have committed crime after crime, without displaying one shred of remorse. The laws of the land are not your own personal playthings headmaster, something you can do as you please with, rather a set of rules laid down to govern us all. Surely as Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump you are aware of this?"

This was a rhetorical question that Albus had no intention of answering, he was too busy wondering just how much the Potters knew. Harry didn't keep him wondering for long.

"You sentenced me to a decade in hell, an existence so bad that without my Hermione I would probably have walked in front of a bus to put an end it. I now have a loving family and friends, something that you, and you alone denied me of. A simple 'I'm Sorry' isn't going to cut it."

Albus was now regretting his public play as the gasps of horror around him indicated who was being believed here, what more was he expected to do? Why couldn't the lad just do what Albus wanted him to do, after all it was for the best? Dumbledore was finding it extremely difficult to play chess when the pieces suddenly had minds of their own and wouldn't follow his commands.

He hadn't realised that Harry wasn't quite finished yet.

"You also played a major part in my godfather being illegally imprisoned for a decade, by actions and inaction you have cost us a combined total of twenty years. Neither Sirius nor I are vindictive though, we both feel that a twenty year sentence for you would be too harsh. Our lawyers tell us they are confident that by the time they're finished preparing charges, you'll see the inside of a cell for the next ten years. Both Sirius and myself could live with that."

Dumbledore stood rooted to the spot as the Potters and their friends headed off to class, the glances as they walked past left no doubts where their loyalties lay. Unfortunately for Dumbledore, it wasn't just the Gryffindors giving him dirty looks.

Albus had never known children like these two and was at a loss on how to proceed, the mere fact that he, Albus Dumbledore was talking to them should have seen the pair swooning to do his bidding. The lawyers were no idle threat, if they could prove any of their accusations then Albus would be in a world of trouble. As the proof wasn't too hard to find, Albus had to get the Potters to change their minds. That was proving to be easier said than done.

Quirrell had sat avidly watching the latest episode in the saga that surrounded the Potters, his master studying every nuance. There was now a realistic chance that they might permanently remove the old fool from the castle without him having to intercede. The biggest problem with that scenario was that Dumbledore was sure to take the stone with him.

His plans were set for Halloween, regaining a body exactly a decade after losing his own should empower his new one. Aided by one of the most powerful nights on the magical calendar and Tom decided his original plan would stand. Halloween would be when the dark lord came out from behind this turban and Voldemort proudly stood once more.

-oOoOo-

The Potters were about to leave for home after another busy week at Hogwarts but they had a slight problem to deal with first, namely one Percy Weasley. The problem was not ensuring the redhead got what he deserved, rather they couldn't be connected to it and that it didn't screw-up their other plans. With the map and cloak in Hermione's bag, they put their scheme into operation, the rest would depend on Percy.

The silently following former prefect was well aware the Potters were due to leave for home, so when they started heading in the other direction Percy knew they were up to something.

As they headed toward for the forbidden third floor, a scenario began to take shape in Percy's mind. Catch them doing something they shouldn't be and their little jaunt into London this weekend would be cancelled, due to their resulting detention. Penelope wouldn't then be spending the day with Wood and Percy might even get his precious prefect's badge back. When he heard the girl speak, his mind was instantly set. Thoughts of Penelope on his arm and a shiny badge adorning his lapel saw Percy throwing any doubts into a cold, dark, lonely corner.

"Are you sure about this Harry? We could be killed, or even worse expelled!"

Harry was desperately trying not to laugh as his wife was making faces at him while she spoke those words from another life, "Hermione love, when have I ever led you wrong?"

The young girl's 'harrumph' could clearly be held around the corner by the stalking redhead. Wand in hand Percy sprang into action, only to find himself faced with an empty dead-end. The only escape was the slightly open door, thinking that the time for caution was long gone Percy burst into the room with a curse already on his lips.

It was to Percy's great misfortune that was where the curse stayed, due to being hit with a wandless silencing charm as he passed an invisible Harry Potter in the corridor.

Percy's entire universe had shrunk to three sets of staring eyes and the fang-filled slobbering jaws underneath them. He slowly and very carefully retraced his steps, away from the now growling heads toward the door. Finding it not only closed but locked ended all rational thought, banging the door with fists and feet while silently screaming his lungs out for someone to save him.

His vain attempts at escape and calling for help came to a painful and abrupt end. One set of jaws clamped on his shoulder while another grabbed Percy by the leg, he was up in the air still trying to scream when the tug of war was violently ended. The third set of jaws crushed his stretched torso as all three heads now fought against each other over this tasty morsel. Percy was ripped to pieces, though mercifully was dead before this happened.

The Potters entered with Hermione's little jewellery box playing 'Greensleeves' for some unknown reason. Harry was gazing in astonishment at all the mess when his wife promptly added to it.

The sight of all the blood combined with the horrendous smell saw Hermione barf everything she'd eaten since the day she was born all over the room. Harry was by her side in an instant, supporting her as the dizziness threatened to overtake Hermione. Harry led her back outside the room before she even realised, only when her lungs drew in air that wasn't tainted by the smell of blood and ripped intestines did Hermione's eyes come back into focus. She decided there and then that she'd rather face her death by dementor, anything was better than that!

"Oh I'm sorry Harry, I just couldn't ..."

Harry gently placed his finger on his wife's lips to prevent her saying anymore, "Hermione, put the cloak back on and check the map. I have to go back in there and need you to stand guard."

Normally this would have drawn a different response from Hermione, this time she could only look toward her husband with gratitude. She didn't think she could go back in that room today.

Harry worked quickly, using his wandless magic he soon had the entire room clean. Any leftover Percy was transfigured into fertiliser and made its way down the hatch to a welcoming devil's snare. In less than ten minutes there was no sign Percy had ever entered the room, this was necessary to preserve their other plans.

If it were discovered that a student had met their death in here, Dumbledore would be arrested, the stone would be removed and Riddle fade back into obscurity. This was not what they wanted so Percy had to disappear. With the castle-wide excitement over the trip tomorrow he probably wouldn't even be noticed as missing tonight, when he couldn't be found and with no traces of foul play Percy would hopefully be classed as a runaway.

Harry left the room to find an anxious Hermione waiting on him, they stayed under the cloak until escaping from the castle therefore not having to explain to anyone why Hermione was chalk white. They were through the gates and on the path to Hogsmead before Hermione gave a voice to what was on her mind.

"I'm sorry Harry, I thought I was stronger than that. I'm even beginning to doubt if we're doing the right thing."

Harry was not about to let Hermione think she had failed him, it just wasn't possible for his wife to do that.

"Hermione there is no shame in being upset at a sight like that, you're still the strongest person I've ever known. Remember this wasn't just the man who passed sentence on us, he was also waiting in ambush the other night. If there has to be blood splattered all over the walls then I would just as soon make sure it's not ours or anyone we care about."

Harry now had his arm around his wife, "You know I would do anything for you but please don't ask me to spare Ronald Bloody Weasley. I don't know how I would react to that or even if I could let him live."

Hermione leaned into him as the couple made their way toward the village, "I think it was just the shock Harry, we've both seen more than our share of death but that was something else. We engineered the whole event and Percy never stood a chance."

Harry squeezed her shoulder that his arm was already around, "That's the way it's supposed to be Hermione, only a fool gives the bad guys a chance. We take them out coldly and cleanly, well alright, I suppose that wasn't very clean!"

"Harry how can you try and joke about this? I'm worried we may be going dark and you're trying to insert humour into a situation that doesn't have any."

Harry stopped and turned his wife around to face him, "Do you think Voldemort or his death eaters lose their breakfast every time they kill someone? I will never go dark as long as I have you, your love wouldn't allow it. By the same token I will not be able to rest until those who did you harm have been made to pay. That Ronald still draws breath is only sufferable because I know it wont be for much longer."

It was a thoughtful Hermione who answered as they continued their journey, "I'm glad we decided not to deal with Ginny, I don't think I could have done that. It's going to be hard enough spending the weekend with her while knowing we arranged Percy's demise."

Harry had to agree with her on that point, "I know the timing couldn't have been worse but it was Percy who forced the issue, Ron was supposed to have been first until he tried to ambush us the other night. We've discussed this on many occasions love, though I will admit seeing the result is an entirely different matter."

Intellectually Hermione was aware Harry made sense, these people had hurt them before and seemed only too willing to do so again at the first opportunity. It was the sights, sounds and especially the aromas that made it oh so real, no longer a mental exercise in meticulous planning.

Ron was scheduled to meet a similar fate, with Ginny becoming their friend the dynamics of their revenge was changed. His death would have to look like an unfortunate accident, preferably an accident they appeared to had nothing to do with. Even the magical world weren't stupid enough to believe two Weasley children running away. Hermione wondered if Ginny would be so quick to offer hero worship if she knew the truth.

"I know your right love but that won't help me when I have to face Ginny shortly, they'll both be waiting for us in the Leaky Cauldron with mum."

Harry was desperate to cheer her up so changed his intentions there and then, hopefully giving Hermione some time to herself and a soak in the tub at home would see her feeling better before tonight. All he needed now was for mum to be quick on the uptake, Harry wasn't expecting any trouble with that since neither of the Granger women could ever be accused of being slow.

Flooing to London found them once again with Emma Granger's arms around them, Harry certainly thought he could get used to this.

After also greeting both their excited friends Harry sprung his surprise, "Mum could you take Ginny and Luna shopping and we'll meet you back at the house? I have a little something for Hermione's birthday that she'll be able to show you once we get there."

Emma had instantly noticed her daughter's demeanour when she exited the floo, if she didn't know better she would have suspected they'd had a massive fight. The way Hermione was clinging onto Harry dispelled those thoughts before they could take root.

"Harry, you got me Crookshanks, sent me roses and have organised this whole weekend, I feel as if you're spoiling me."

Harry gave her a quick peck on the cheek, "You deserve it! What I'm after will mean a quick trip Gringotts and we'll make our own way home from there."

Emma could read the pleading in Harry's eyes so played along, she would hear the explanation later.

"Ok girls, have either of you been to Harrods before?" Two blank looks drew a smile from Emma. "Oh good! I guarantee you will enjoy this."

They had spoken about getting the girls some muggle clothing for the weekend, and especially for the trip on Saturday. Originally Harry and Hermione were going to accompany them, Emma understood it must be serious for them to pull out.

Emma led both girls to the car as Harry and Hermione left for the Alley.

Ginny was a little disappointed that Hermione headed off with Harry, that disappointment ended the instant she laid eyes on the biggest bloody store she'd ever seen.

The entrance alone was enough to take her breath away, by the time she found herself and Luna being shepherded into the changing rooms with a selection of new clothes Ginny was actually shaking.

Little Ginny Weasley had never had anything that wasn't at least second hand, pre-owned as the shops were now calling it but it didn't lessen the stigma of being poor. Ron hated it when he received something that had been passed down from his brothers but Ginny would have preferred that, at least he knew where it came from. It wasn't that Ginny was a materialistic little girl, more the result of a particular nightmare that had haunted her since she was about seven.

Ginny was walking down a busy Diagon Alley when a young girl's voice rings out loud and clear, 'Oh look mummy, that little redheaded girl is wearing my old dress'. This led to a flood of little girls taking back all the clothes Ginny was wearing, leaving her standing in the middle of the Alley in only her knickers.

It was totally illogical, absolutely mortifying and woke her up sweating and in tears every time.

Here was this practical stranger, buying her new clothes and taking them into their home for a weekend. Ginny began to understand why Hermione was the extraordinary young witch she was, with Emma Granger as her mother she couldn't really be anything else!

Both girls were being given the opportunity to see firsthand how this family operated, Ginny was probably looking forward to that as much as any of the adventures they had planned for the weekend.

Luna's reactions were slightly more complicated, she really liked Emma and loved to shop. While her father hadn't a clue how to shop for a little girl, being here with Emma was reviving some bittersweet memories of afternoons spent with her mother. It was never about what dress or blouse they eventually returned home with, more about enjoying each other's company and spending girl-time together.

Those were some of the best memories Luna had of her mother and she didn't need to stretch her imagination any to see her mum and Emma being very good friends.

It would appear to Luna that friendship with Harry and Hermione came with an admission to their family included, this was a whole new experience to Luna and one that she certainly welcomed.

Emma was also enjoying herself, the expressions of wonder and awe as both girls stared in astonishment at the most common of things had her chuckling in amusement. When they headed off to the changing rooms with a couple of pairs of coloured jeans and a few tops each Ginny had appeared ready to pass out. As fun as this was Emma just wanted to have a talk with Hermione, something had clearly happened and Emma was desperate to know what.

-oOoOo-

Harry had placed a specific order with a jeweller the day he bought Crookshanks, it was now time to revisit the shop. He was going to wait until Monday morning but Hermione needed cheering up now.

Hermione soon found herself being presented with a black velvet box, on opening the lid she discovered a bespoke piece of jewellery that sent her pulse racing. It was a gold heart shaped locket that had two sets of the intertwined initials HJP carved into it. The initials surrounded a diamond that sparkled in the centre of the piece, it was exquisite and Hermione fell in love with her gift immediately.

"I know there is probably loads of jewellery in our vault that now belongs to you, I wanted this piece to be something special. I wanted to give you something no one else has, my heart is your heart in this world and the next."

This earned Harry a kiss before Hermione gushed, Oh Harry, it's so beautiful and I love it. Could you put it on for me please?"

Harry knew he should have spoken to Hermione about this next bit but didn't think he was going to be in too much trouble, "In a moment love, we need to go to Gringotts first. The Goblins have been carrying out a special job for me and this is part of it."

Half an hour later Harry and Hermione portkeyed into their bedroom in Crawley, his wife had a thoughtful expression on her face that usually meant there was something she didn't quite understand.

"Would you care to explain to me just how the Goblins were able to turn my necklace into a reusable portkey that takes us directly into our bedroom?"

Harry decided it would be better if he only had to do this once, "Let's go downstairs and I'll explain it to dad at the same time."

Why they were home before mum and by extension what happened to Percy were the stories that had to be told to Dan and Sirius first, then it was time for Harry to come clean.

"In the muggle world Mum and Dad are going to become my legal guardians, in the magical world as usual it's very different. Both come under the protection of house Potter, namely Hermione and me."

Hermione was becoming impatient, not a good sign. "I know this Harry, it still doesn't explain the portkey into our room. To accomplish that degree of accuracy the Goblins would need to have an intimate knowledge, not only of the location but the building as well."

As usual his wife was correct, she was just missing the obvious. "The Goblins do know the exact location of this house, right down to every piece of furniture in it. At my request they warded the entire house."

Dan didn't know what Harry was talking about, leaving him unsure whether to be happy or angry. He glanced at Hermione for a further explanation.

She was staring at Harry with an expression torn between wonder and love, "Thanks Harry! Dad it basically means the house is protected against intruders, fire, that kind of thing. Knowing my husband like I do, I would be willing to wager this is the best protected house in England, if not the entire UK. He would have paid for the best where you and mum are concerned; I now have a beautiful necklace that will take us directly from our bedroom to just outside the Hogwarts wards. That should save someone having to continually drive us to and from London."

Dan was in agreement with his son-in-law, when it came to the safety of his girls then money was no object. He still dreaded to think how much Harry had spent protecting a house they would be moving out of soon.

"Harry, while we're on the subject of guardians, our lawyers inform us that the unopposed custody hearing will be Tuesday morning. They don't foresee any problems but would like you both to be there in a 'just in case' basis. It should be a mere formality but why take a chance when we don't have to."

The smile that crept over Hermione's face was terrifying, "Good, then I can start on those bastards. It's time for some payback on the Dursleys for all the abuse they heaped on my husband."

One glance told Harry it was a lost cause though he felt obliged to make the attempt. "Sweetheart, is that really necessary? I'm quite happy knowing I never need to see them again."

If Hermione had used this expression earlier they wouldn't have needed a music box, Fluffy would have taken one glance and then been found cowering in a corner. "Did you honestly think I was going to let people who were deliberately cruel to my husband just walk away without being made to pay? You obviously don't know me as well as you think you do. I have a few things in mind and have yet to decide which, or even how many of them I will use on the Dursleys."

The tone of Hermione's voice caused an involuntary shudder to run down the three male's spines, "Now I'm going to have a relaxing herbal bath, I would prefer to smell of rosemary than Percy's remains."

They all watched as Hermione climbed the stairs before Sirius felt obliged to say something, "After hearing how you pair dealt with Percy Weasley I had already made my mind up never to mess with you two but Merlin Harry, your wife is one scary girl! I think I might actually feel sorry for the Dursleys."

Dan wore an expression that matched his daughter's from a moment ago, "Don't waste your sympathy Sirius, I saw the cupboard they forced Harry to live in. Hermione has my complete approval and support for anything she does to those animals. The only reason we didn't involve the police was to get Harry out of there as quickly and cleanly as possible. After Tuesday when Harry legally joins our family the gloves can come off as far as the Dursleys are concerned."

Sirius was looking at his godson strangely, wondering how Harry turned out the way he did after being 'raised' like that.

Harry decided to follow his wife up the stairs, "I just hope Hermione remembers we planned to use the Dursleys against Dumbledore, I would rather see him get what's coming to him than the Dursleys."

Sirius waited until his godson had left before asking Dan the obvious question, "Do you think he stands any chance of changing her mind?"

Dan snorted, "Not a snowball's chance in hell!"

-oOoOo-

Luna couldn't help but smile at how happy her best friend appeared, Ginny was sitting on the other side of Hermione and wearing the new 'party dress' that Emma had bought earlier, she looked ecstatic! Luna was also wearing a new party dress and sitting beside Harry at a table that was positively groaning with wonderful food.

Hermione apparently had no close relatives and no other friends she wished to invite, this left the four youngsters and three adults at a table in the birthday girl's favourite Italian restaurant. Luna had at first thought the food looked too good to eat, her first mouthful told her how ridiculous that idea was, she quickly decided Italian cuisine was her new favourite thing.

Luna noticed Harry watching her, he smiled before leaning over and whispering in her ear. "This is why you're such a good friend Luna, apart from not having a jealous or deceitful bone in your body, your friend's happiness means more to you than your own. Never doubt that Hermione and me will always want your friendship and will try to be the best friends we can in return."

Luna's smile probably outshone Ginny's as she answered her new friend, "Thanks Harry, you have no idea what that means to me."

Harry put his hand on her arm, "Trust me Luna, we both do! It's been very difficult for Hermione and me to make friends though I know we've made some really good one's now."

The sparkle in Luna's eyes had nothing to do with light reflected off the candles on the beautiful birthday cake that the waiters delivered to their table, sitting in a restaurant with friends managed that effect all by itself. Sitting here singing happy birthday to a new friend made Luna Lovegood a very happy young witch.

-oOoOo-

Oliver Wood was also very happy, he was spending tomorrow outside the castle in the company of a lovely young woman. McGonagall's assurance that the boy who organised the event was not only superb seeker material, but was prepared to play for Gryffindor, set Oliver's heart racing almost as much as thoughts of Penny.

The only cloud on Oliver's horizon was the empty bed in their dorm, Percy Weasley was rapidly becoming a right bloody jealous prat.

Oliver had never expected the prefect's badge, being more than happy to be Quidditch captain. His first night of rounds with Miss Clearwater had gone some way to have him revaluating that opinion. Percy's jealousy couldn't have been more pronounced if he'd taken a full page ad in the Prophet to announce it, Oliver was of the opinion that was Percy's tough shit. Sometimes during a Quidditch match the game could throw your team an advantage, his job as captain was to ensure his team grasped any advantage they could.

The unattached Miss Clearwater had practically landed in Oliver's lap, he now intended to use every advantage he could to woo this lovely witch. If Percy was trying to screw-up their day out tomorrow then he was going to be disappointed, Oliver had no intention of playing his games and just went to bed early.

The young wizard was hoping he dreamed about Penny again, Oliver Wood was discovering there were other things to do at Hogwarts that didn't require the use of a broom. He was looking forward to exploring the various cupboards where they were stored though!

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