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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23. Chapter 23

Arthur Weasley had been through the emotional wringer by the time he rejoined his wife at the hospital bedside of their sleeping new daughter. Molly's enquiry of "How did it go?" left the shattered wizard with the task of having to relive the traumatic morning.

"Dumbledore is either the most evil man on the planet or a very sick wizard. The Wizengamot couldn't decide which so gave him an either – or sentence. They found him guilty and, depending on the healers evaluation of his mental health, he will either spend the rest of his life in a secure facility here or a cell in Azkaban. The sentence was for crimes against the Potters, Blacks and Weasleys." Arthur had to take a pause as the painful memories kept surfacing, "They were forced to take Hagrid's memory of the night he was sent by Dumbledore to fetch baby Harry from Godric's Hollow, he couldn't stop crying long enough to speak. Watching Sirius kiss his godson goodbye and knowing what happened over the next ten years had most of the chamber in tears."

"What did they say about Percy and Ronnie?"

"The revelation that Percy was not the only one to look inside that room really shook them up, a lot of people in that chamber had young relatives inside Hogwarts. Dumbledore was held responsible for both our boys. He knew Voldemort was out there but told no one. Instead he set a deadly trap inside Hogwarts and then employed a wizard who was possessed by the dark lord to teach our children. As part of the sentence, the Wizengamot ordered Dumbledore's vaults seized and shared among the three families most affected. We won't have to worry about paying Tom's bill at the Leaky Cauldron, it should easily be enough to move our plans forward. We will certainly be able to have the new place ready for the summer."

Molly was now quietly crying, partly in relief that their family now had a brighter future but mostly at what it had cost two of her babies to pay for it.

Arthur continued speaking, he wanted to get it all out. "They called for a Gringotts witness to confirm that Lord Potter had done what Lord Black had claimed. That boy has spent an absolute fortune ridding our world of Voldemort only to be rewarded by Dumbledore now trying to kill him. Fudge swore he would be repaid every Knut and not one voice in the chamber was raised against the minister. The goblin approached after the trial to inform me how much the Weasley family would be receiving as compensation from the seized assets, it's more than we got for selling our land."

Arthur was now in the same emotional state as his wife, fat salty tears ran silently down his cheeks. The money would ensure their business was a success, provide a good home for their family and pay for the potions regime Ronnie would have to undergo for the next few years. In one fell swoop all the Weasleys' financial worries had been swept away. As head of the Weasley family Arthur had to give thanks for that. As a father, Arthur Weasley would curse the name of Albus Dumbledore until his dying day. He personally didn't care if the old bastard was sick in the head, he cost Arthur two sons and there wasn't enough gold in the world to make amends for that.

-oOoOo-

Tonks had been dismissed from the witness box and was now waiting with a very anxious Hestia, they both spied Sirius as he left the Wizengamot chamber and the auror held back as the couple nervously greeted each other. She led them into a quiet room that Amelia Bones had placed at her disposal for this very purpose. Tonks kissed both of them on the cheek and reminded her head of house and friend that she would just be outside the door before quickly getting out of there.

Sirius was a bundle of nerves, his pre-arranged speech had sounded fine to him this morning when he'd practiced in front of the mirror. The problem here arose because it wasn't his reflection staring back at him but a beautiful woman who he cared deeply for. "Hestia, I really like you but..."

"Oh Merlin, I knew it was too good to last. Meet the perfect guy, fall head over heels and then he dumps you!"

Before she could say any more Sirius had kissed her into silence, it was a few moments later before the marauder's lips were available to resume talking. "It is my sincere wish that no one here is getting dumped today, I certainly don't want to say goodbye to one of the best things I've ever had in my life."

The kiss had settled her nerves a lot more than the words, you didn't kiss someone like that if you were planning on dumping them. Hestia felt so sure she was even able to tease him a little. "Only one of the best things? I have competition then?"

"Afraid so, in the shape of a couple of kids I couldn't love anymore if they were my own."

This comment earned Sirius a searing kiss as the nerves left the room. Neither wanted to split and both were now confident they would work their way around anything else.

"Hestia, I'm leaving for Australia with the kids and the Grangers. With Dumbledore seeking to murder Harry, Britain is no longer safe for the Potters and I need to get them out the country. It's been wonderful having you as my girlfriend and I hope in time we can grow into something more. What I'm really asking is if you feel the same, enough to come to Australia with me and give it a try?"

Hestia didn't answer him, she just pounced on Sirius and kissed him senseless. This went on until a voice interrupted them. A concerned Tonks had poked her head in the door.

"It was too quiet in here and I was getting worried."

She was answered by a rather flushed but definitely excited Hestia, "I'm going to Australia with Sirius. Don't know where, when or for how long but I'm going!"

The wave of relief and elation that swept through Sirius told him he was now ready for the next step, the mere thought of Hestia not being in his life twisted his innards and dropped his spirit to an all time low. He also had a feeling Hestia was at least a few steps ahead of him. "Perhaps when we're down there, we could start looking in some jewellery stores."

The silence that followed his remark left Sirius wondering if he'd misread the situation, that thought died suddenly as he was set upon by two joyfully screaming witches.

After the ladies had calmed down a smidgen Tonks gushed, "Oh I'm so happy for you both, please don't forget about us. We have no idea how long it's going to take to catch Dumbledore, you could be in Australia for a while."

It was Sirius who answered, "I promise that won't happen, we'll be in touch as soon as we're settled. Right now I need to go visit a couple of young girls who will be just as worried as you two were. I'll be leaving to go back to Harry today but we're all heading out on Wednesday by muggle transport."

Hestia was again a few steps ahead of him, "I can collect Luna and Ginny, we'll meet you wherever you need us to be."

Sirius hugged Hestia, more sure than ever he'd just made the right decision. Smart and beautiful was a combination that was hard to resist, especially if you didn't want to. "Thanks love, I don't even want to chance bringing Harry back into Britain to catch a plane. We're all flying out of Paris and I've got a portkey that will take you there. The goblins are arranging all the travel documents and I understand its approaching summer in Australia so pack light."

After Tonks had hugged them both at least another twice, the couple then headed off to the Lovegoods.

-oOoOo-

The minister and the head of the DMLE were meeting with the Deputy Head of Hogwarts to attempt a workable solution to their problem. Hogwarts had been searched from top to bottom and was now considered by the ministry to be safe. Amelia though had honestly stated she had no idea when Dumbledore would be apprehended. At the moment the old wizard appeared fixated purely on Harry Potter but what if that changed?

Cornelius now had a really difficult decision to make, he couldn't run the country under the auspices of 'what if's. He would have to make the decision based on the best information he had, also monitoring the situation and have contingency plans in place.

"Minerva, I think we should open Hogwarts on Friday. That will give everyone the weekend to settle in before classes begin on Monday. I would also like you to take over as headmistress on a temporary basis for now, the entire Hogwarts situation is going to have to be watched closely until Dumbledore is no longer a threat. Have you any thoughts on replacements for the defence and transfiguration professors?"

"I intend to continue teaching, though perhaps employ someone else to take the first and second years to free up some of my time. The defence position has an outstanding replacement already in the castle, would I receive ministry backing for employing someone suffering from lycanthropy to teach the children?"

Cornelius didn't hesitate in the slightest, "I have heard nothing but good reports about Remus Lupin, from ministry employees and children he's already taught. I can help you also with the security position if he moves. I want to station aurors inside the castle to continue that function, at least until Dumbledore is caught"

Both witches present were delighted with this solution, should Dumbledore change tactics then a visit to Hogwarts was bound to be high on his to-do list. Having an auror presence in the castle would aid with detection and hopefully keep him occupied until reinforcements arrived. All three were worried about the effect today's revelations and judgement might have on whatever sanity the old wizard had left. A crazy rogue Dumbledore was every bit as big a threat as any dark lord.

-oOoOo-

A beaming Sirius had Hestia on his arm as they watched two ten-year-olds come racing down the path toward them. The girls must have been keeping watch for the first sight of him, a quick hello was greeted by a constant barrage of questions, almost all of them concerning the health of their two missing friends.

"Hey you two, Harry and Hermione are fine, they're missing you both but hope to see you later this week. Before I can say any more, I need to speak with your father Luna."

Xeno was waiting on them in the house, he'd missed attending the trial as he was told the girls would be contacted about their trip to Australia today. Luna's happiness was way more important to Xeno than any story.

"Hello Xeno, I assume you know why I'm here?"

Xeno nodded enthusiastically, "To give the Quibbler the exclusive on when the Hobgoblins are getting back together again."

That took the wind out the marauder's sails until Xeno laughed, "Only joking, I know it's about the girls going to Australia and my answer is yes."

Two hyper girls were now trying to contain their excitement, they weren't helped by Sirius and Hestia being just as excited as he laid out the details.

Ginny was almost hyperventilating. She'd never been further than Diagon Alley yet here she was, portkeying to Paris before climbing in a giant flying thing to the other side of the world. She would have to remember every little detail to tell her dad.

Hestia was taking the girls to Gringotts tomorrow where all the travel arrangements would be finalised. They would all meet in the airport at eight o'clock on Wednesday evening before they boarded the plane. Neither Hestia, Luna nor Ginny expected to get much sleep before then, the excitement levels were sky high.

After saying goodbye to the girls and Xeno, Sirius and Hestia headed off to 'check the house'. Really they just wanted some time alone before Sirius had to return to Harry on the island. Hestia would have loved to return with him but there would be barely enough time to accomplish what she needed to get done before setting off on Wednesday evening.

-oOoOo-

The five were sitting under the shade of a parasol as Sirius explained what happened at the trial, it had gone pretty much as they expected. When he told them about his conversation with Xeno and the fate that had befell the youngest Weasley boy, none of them were sure what to say to that revelation.

It was Hermione who finally spoke, "I can live with that result, I was really worried at how I was going to face Ginny on Wednesday with two of her brothers gone. The main thing is he will never hurt anyone again."

If Hermione could live with that, then Harry would too. "I think you mean 'she wont hurt' love. Do you think it would be taking revenge a step too far if we set her up on a date with Crabbe or Goyle, or even both?"

Hermione tried to look sternly at her husband, she really did but when the giggles took hold she couldn't help herself. A lot of anxiety and tension eased from her body as she dissolved into laughter with the thought of Ron Macho Weasley in a little flowery print dress. Like Neville putting a dress on his bogart image of Snape, this exorcised the last of her fears away. He'd received what Hermione considered poetic justice and she didn't have killing him on her conscience. Yes, she could live with Ronda Weasley living out the rest of her life in Egypt.

It was Emma though who brought up another point, "Do you think the changes you made turned the old man mad or was it there all along and this just exposed it?"

It was a thoughtful Harry who answered, "We may have hurried him along the road a bit but I think he would have gotten there anyway. When you look at some of the decisions he made, there really had to be something wrong with him. The whole 'trap Voldemort' stunt was doomed to failure, three first years were able to beat his traps. Then to give a twelve year old the ability to alter time was crazy, irresponsible and anything else you want to add in there. The heir of Slytherin / basilisk fiasco was followed by dementors around the school, don't even mention that bloody tournament. Then for a full year he doesn't speak to me but allows Snape into my head. I told him what Draco was up to, he put the safety of the entire school at risk trying to save one boy who'd already made his choice. His final gifts to us were all a sick joke, I can imagine him chuckling as we nearly got killed on numerous occasions trying to solve the bloody clues."

Harry's voice had gotten quieter as he'd went on, it was now barely above a whisper. "He'd arranged my whole life so I would walk into that forest and let Voldemort kill me. There was no back-up plan or 'what to do if you survive' in place. I had a piece of that bastard's soul in my head and he never told me, far less did anything about it. I need to believe he was going senile, otherwise I have to really, really hate him. I don't want to do that, I just want to live my life in peace with my family. That shouldn't be too much to ask, surely?"

Hermione had her arm around Harry and her head resting on his shoulder, "It's like when you made that list Harry, it's only when you see it all together that you realise that everyone was passing off the old man's craziness as eccentricity. He won't get anywhere near us love, we won't be returning to Britain until he's no longer a threat. We didn't take down Voldemort just to let Dumbledore beat us."

Sirius quickly agreed with the young girl, "When we leave here, Harry will be wearing the portkey to Black Island at all times. In the highly unlikely event of Dumbledore tracking us down, get yourself out of there. This isn't Voldemort who would murder the rest of us, Dumbledore is fixated on you and will ignore us if you escape."

It was Dan who interrupted Sirius before his children could, "Much as I agree with your plan Sirius, there is one major flaw in it. The Dursleys will win parents of the year before Harry or Hermione would portkey away and leave us to face Dumbledore. I'm not saying they wouldn't run if the situation demanded it but they would stand and fight before leaving anyone behind."

Sirius could see the truth of that argument though it was Emma who had an alternative suggestion. "That would only work if we all had portkeys we could use in an emergency. They don't need to bring us here, just get us away from where we are."

The group began to thrash this idea around and came up with a workable plan, they would get portkeys made that would drop them all at different parts of a major city where they would make their way to a predetermined rendezvous point. With Hestia, Luna and Ginny, that would be eight portkeys being activated within seconds of one another to all different destinations. That should confuse anyone trying to track the portkeys long enough to allow them time to get a bus, taxi or tram out the area. It wasn't perfect but at least it would provide some degree of protection from an attack, however unlikely that may seem. They had no intention of underestimating Albus Dumbledore.

-oOoOo-

Albus was reading the sensational news splattered from cover to cover over today's Prophet, he'd taken a risk to get his hands on a copy but information was everything to him at the moment.

The information he craved was actually giving him a headache, part of his brain rejoiced at the demise of the dark lord. It recognised the truth of what was printed in the paper. Tom Riddle using Hogwarts founders items to store his horcruxes made perfect sense and as to the goblins having a procedure to destroy them, Albus was embarrassed to admit he never even thought of that solution.

Unfortunately, accepting this as the truth would mean admitting that the great Albus Dumbledore was wrong about so many things. This was something his mind couldn't concede. Albus could only live with the many questionable deeds he'd carried out in his life if he could justify them as being for the greater good. To admit he was mistaken about these events would lead to him having to re-examine events in his life that he had hidden away in his subconscious. There were events there that the old wizard had no intention of reliving to see if his intentions actually were as light as he'd painted them.

If Albus wasn't wrong then the article had to be lies, simple really. Albus began to chuckle, "Oh Tom, this is sheer genius. It put's you in the clear while painting me as the villain. You really are a worthy opponent but I'll get you in the end."

Even with his deteriorating mental capacity, Albus understood this was going to make it much more difficult to get close enough to the boy to carry out his task. He would have to bide his time and await his opportunity. Reading that Hogwarts was reopening also put a smile on his face. Albus Dumbledore was a wizard who had steps in place for every eventuality and was certain one of those plans would get him the boy.

Once he had done the deed, the wizarding world would soon see how badly they had been deceived. Albus wasn't one to hold grudges though, once they recognised the truth he would forgive them, eventually.

Wizarding Britain though was a changed country, the ministry was becoming efficient and pushing through reform after reform. The revelations about just how much, and for how long, Dumbledore had kept this to himself would totally destroy his reputation. It also forced wizards and witches to face up to their problems and pass laws declaring that never again could one person hold so much power.

The whole story was now there for everyone to read and it shocked them to the core. One they trusted above all others had deceived them and put their children's lives at risk. That another, who'd been imprisoned without trial for a crime he didn't commit, had helped his godson engineer the demise of Voldemort emphasised just how wrong they were.

Changes usually happened very slowly in the wizarding community but the pace of these events left everyone reeling. Pureblood pillars of their society had been proven to be murdering death eaters while the supposed leader of the light had just been convicted of criminal activities and gross negligence that led to the death of a minor. In all this, only one person stood without reproach. Harry Potter may have been idolised before as the boy who lived, his actions now elevated him even higher in the public's opinion. There was no debate about who the leader of the light was now, Lord Harry James Potter stood unopposed in the minds of the magical community.

His treatment as a baby under the orders of Dumbledore was the final nail in the old wizard's coffin. Should Albus succeed in his quest he would get his wish to never see the inside of Azkaban, the magical public would tear him apart in the street.

-oOoOo-

Long haul flights can be mind-numbingly boring, that was never going to be the case on this one. With this being the first time on a plane for Harry, Sirius, Hestia, Luna and Ginny, it became an adventure from the instant they portkeyed into a quiet corner of the airport. With the number of things the groups had to catch-up on, the time flew past. Their seating arrangements were fluid as they swapped regularly, allowing everyone the chance to chat.

Emma and Hestia were chatting excitedly with each other, both ladies were on their way to start new lives in a place they'd only seen pictures of. Setting up home in a different country maybe a daunting task but they both welcomed the challenge for different reasons. Those reasons were all on this plane though.

Sirius was sitting chatting to Dan, more certain than ever that he'd made the right decision. When he'd left Hestia the other day a little doubt had set in that perhaps he'd acted a bit compulsively, the very thing he was trying to fight against. One glance at Hestia in the airport and his doubts vanished quicker than free beer down the pub. When Hestia had said she would come with him to Australia, the elation he had felt was overwhelming. Just her smile in the airport gave him such a good feeling, he was grinning the entire flight. He was forced to face facts, Sirius Black was in love and he didn't care who knew it. This feeling was wonderful.

Harry was also having wonderful thoughts as Luna's laughter washed over him, the musical tone of her laughter was a sound he would never tire of hearing. Their friend had blossomed due to the simple act of having friends, good friends who she could trust to be there for her. Harry and Hermione had long suspected the persona that became loony was part defence mechanism against people who wanted to hurt her but also a way to keep people at arm's length so she couldn't be hurt by them leaving.

This Luna had seized the opportunity of having close friends and was quickly becoming a bright, beautiful young witch that many more people would want to know. She would always have a room in any house the Potters owned and a special place in their hearts, Luna was family. Dobby was posting a letter they'd written to Neville, Harry would have loved for him to be here as well but that wasn't possible at the moment.

Ginny was currently using Hermione like a confessor, the young witch was filled with conflicting emotions and was desperate for Hermione's approval for her actions. She was feeling tremendously guilty that her family was in turmoil yet she was having the time of her life. Her parents had told her it was ok for her to go but it was Hermione's opinion she valued the most. She was babbling without noticing the effect it was having on Hermione.

"Ronnie doesn't appear to mind that she's a girl, she's adapted really well. The only thing that upset her was the thought of never being able to play Quidditch again, she cried for hours about that. Mum said it's the potions that have her taking mood swings. Dad just wanted to talk about my trip, you should have seen his face when I said I would be travelling as a muggle. He gave me some gold to share with Luna and I want to buy a camera so I can show him every bit of it."

Ginny was hardly taking time to breath between sentences. "Ronnie said she was so glad to be leaving Hogwarts, she didn't care if she had to be a girl to do it. She didn't want to end up dangling by her ankles from some tower, we asked her what she meant but Ronnie wouldn't say. The twins told me that's what happened to the Slytherin who tried to attack you and the rest of them were terrified they'd be next. The rumour is that Harry did it but he wouldn't do something like that, would he?"

Hermione had been dreading this entire conversation but it was unavoidable considering they were going to be staying in the same house. Now Ginny was asking a question she didn't want to lie about, Hermione wasn't sure how to answer though as the last thing they needed was to raise any suspicion. They heard Luna's laughter from the seat in front where she and Harry were catching up, this gave her the opening she needed. "Ginny, what do you think Harry would do if someone attacked Luna?"

Ginny's eyebrows shot up so high they almost disappeared into her hairline, the answer was obvious.

"That Slytherin arranged for us to be ambushed and set about by beater bats. He was never in any danger hanging from that tower but we're pretty certain he'll never try anything like that attack again. We considered the matter closed and were not after anyone else concerned with that attack. I think it is well known where we were when that troll was let into the castle…"

Ginny realised how her question had been construed and apologised at once. "Oh Hermione, I didn't mean anything by that. Everyone knows you were both fighting Voldemort when the troll found Ronnie. I think this might actually make her a better person, she wasn't jealous in the least about me coming on holiday with you. The old Ron would have thrown a tantrum and them moped about it for months."

An improved Ron was not their intention but Hermione figured they would just have to accept the rough with the smooth. This was the beginning of their new life and while everything hadn't worked out as well as it could, they were all here in one piece and Voldemort was gone for good. They had to be happy with that.

Ginny then asked about whether they would be starting school in Australia and Hermione was back on safer ground. They had looked at brochures for two and planed on visiting them before making any decisions. They wouldn't be starting until the New Year at the earliest, it wasn't as if they would fall behind. Attending another school didn't hold the attraction it once did, they really missed their friends but that was out of their hands at the moment.

-oOoOo-

Petunia waved goodbye to their new friends as they headed off to Muscat for the day, with Vernon feeling under the weather they were giving this excursion a miss. There wasn't actually anything wrong with Vernon and both Dursleys would have loved to be with their friends but they had encountered an unexpected problem. All their food and drink on the ship was free so they never needed cash on board, the excursions were also included but when they left the ship it cost real money for anything they wanted.

This they hadn't factored in to their plans and, on a one hundred and ten day, round the world cruise, these expenses were beginning to add up. Of course they hadn't told their new friends the only reason the Dursleys were on board this luxury liner was that Petunia had won a competition. Their son was in an exclusive private school, Vernon was a company director and, with these slight embellishments, they had been welcomed with open arms by people they had previously only dreamt of mixing with.

Petunia could see it taking years to pay off their mounting credit card debts but neither she nor Vernon cared. Her birthday had been spent at the Captains table, drinking champagne and they would spend Christmas in Australia with New Year being celebrated while cruising the New Zealand fjords. This was the life both felt they deserved, if they were forced to spend the next few years paying for it they would still think it was worth every penny.

-oOoOo-

Neville waved goodbye to his gran as he boarded the express with Millie, she had been waiting on the platform for him and he had politely greeted her parents. The pair had no sooner settled into a compartment than the first of many enquiries was made as to whether any of them had heard from the Potters.

Neville answered Susan and Hannah, sure that this would not be the only time he told the story today. "I got an owl from them yesterday. They're fine and were travelling to Australia as muggles so the old man couldn't track them. Both said they would keep in touch but couldn't return to Britain while Dumbledore was still a threat."

They had been joined by the twins as Neville was answering their friends, "Yeah that's right, Ginny and Luna are travelling with them for a holiday."

Fred continued where his brother left off, "They didn't risk entering Britain even to pick them up, Hestia Jones portkeyed the girls to Paris where they were all meeting."

Everyone in that compartment was wishing they were with their friends in Australia, rather on a train to the Scottish Highlands in November.

-oOoOo-

The Toyota eight seater was hired under the name of Wendell Wilkens, just to confuse anyone trying to follow them and because it brought back some good memories. The drive to their new home was over two hours long but with the last half an hour along the coast road, they arrived in high spirits. Those spirits received a major boost as they entered their new home for the first time. This wasn't déjà vu, this house didn't just look familiar, it was an exact copy. Right down to Crookshanks napping on their couch and Hedwig hooting from her perch in the corner, everything they owned in Devon had been moved here.

A rather nervous Dobby popped into the living room and was immediately hugged by Harry with a line forming behind him. "Dobby, this is beyond brilliant. We thought we were going to have to buy all new stuff for here but we can now sleep in our own beds today."

He received a kiss on the forehead from Hermione, "I asked you to bring Crookshanks and Hedwig and you brought the entire contents of our home. Dobby, you are the best!"

It was a blushing Dobby who finally got a word in. "Harry Potter sir, the builders were leaving but I asked the owner to speak to you. I hope that's all right?"

"That's fine Dobby." Harry didn't understand why but he wasn't about to say that to Dobby at the moment. This would save them days of shopping and they were all ready to crash into their own beds. He and Hermione walked outside to see the owner of the building firm looking rather apprehensive. "Lord Potter, I hope you don't mind. I used this build as an opportunity to reward my workers and had them bring their families here for a wee bit of a holiday. When you activate the wards none of us will remember where this house actually is so your safety isn't affected. They stayed in the accommodation I provided, not your new home. I was about to take them down when your elf asked me not to without speaking to you first."

There were two rows of ordinary looking garden sheds tastefully placed amongst the trees of their new back garden, both Potters were at a loss until the had a look inside one. They were like a more permanent version of the wizarding tents both had seen used at the Quidditch World Cup, the couple got what Dobby was suggesting in an instant. They were getting used to the little guy anticipating their needs but this took that whole thing to a new level.

"Sir, I love both my houses and thank you for doing such a fine job. I would also like to purchase these wonderful huts from you as we could make use of them."

"Lord Potter, I had already agreed a price with the people I bought these from. You come anywhere near that with an offer and I'll quite gladly leave them here."

A minute later both shook hands on the deal.

-oOoOo-

Sunday morning breakfast in Hogwarts was progressing normally, Minerva was talking with Remus until the sudden drop in the noise level inside the hall alerted the headmistress that something was happening. That something was the instantly recognisable snowy owl that was making its way toward Neville Longbottom with every pair of eyes tracking its progress.

She landed on the Gryffindor table in front of Neville and Millie, "Hello girl, I didn't expect you. What have you got there?"

Hedwig held her leg out so the boy could remove her burden, Dobby had released her outside Hagrid's hut so she hadn't exactly flown far. Neither Potter wanted it known that Dobby could appear inside the castle.

Neville opened the thick envelope to find himself staring into a mirror, Millie noticed the small sticker on the back. "It says speak your friend's name."

With the attention of the entire hall on him, Neville said "Harry Potter" before nearly dropping the thing as his reflection was replaced by an image of his friend.

"Hey Neville, glad we caught you at breakfast. It's eight in the evening here."

Neville was struggling for words when Millie came to his rescue, this also allowed her to hold her head very close to Neville's. "Hi Harry, good to hear from you. Glad to see you got there without any trouble."

"Hey Millie, good to hear from you too. Can I assume that just about everyone is trying to listen in?"

Harry was answered by two well known voices, "Hey Potter, we resent that."

"You're right George, we're not trying to listen in. We ARE listening to every word."

"Yea but so far you haven't said anything worth listening to!"

"I'll try to do better guys. Listen Nev, I want to invite you and some others over here to spend Christmas with us."

You could have heard a snowflake falling in the silence following that remark. Before Neville could say anything though, Oliver Wood was at his side and talking into the mirror. "Harry, McGonagall has rescheduled our games until later in the season. We will have to play three games in quick succession but we'd rather do that than play without you."

Harry was really touched at that gesture and delighted to be able to reward his teammates for their loyalty. "Oliver, you and the entire team are invited to spend the Christmas holidays here. Did I mention that it'll be summer and we have our own Quidditch pitch? Oh and of course Penelope is invited as well."

The female squeals of delight were soon identified as the three Gryffindor chasers pushed their captain out the way. "Harry, we love you. We can't kiss the mirror so we'll just have to kiss Neville instead but be ready because when we arrive, you will be receiving the same treatment."

It was hard to tell whose blush was deeper, Neville's or the girl sitting by his side. Millie's change of complexion though wasn't from embarrassment. Harry continued, "Right well of course our Gryffindor year mates are also invited."

This led to more squeals and kisses for Neville from Lavender and Parvati. Even from Australia, Harry could see Millie was about to explode. "Millie, I hope you can come to and keep that boyfriend of yours under control."

That was all the encouragement the girl needed, Neville had the mirror snatched out his hand by Dean seconds before he would have dropped it. Millie had both her arms around him and her lips locked on his, she was claiming Neville as her boyfriend in front of the great hall to much cheering.

Dean's face now appeared in the mirror. "Hi Harry, Neville might be a while and I think you broke the twins, they're just sitting staring at each other with their mouths hanging open."

This had Harry laughing, "Dean, make sure our friends in Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin know they're invited too. Millie looked ready to rip the head off the next person to kiss Neville so I thought I'd better put her out her misery."

"You certainly achieved that, they haven't come up for air yet. It's now pandemonium in here so the professors have more to worry about than two students kissing."

"There will be goblin representatives coming to the school on Thursday to handle all the travel arrangements and get everyone the proper documents. We're doing this the muggle way Dean so you might want to start filling our friends in on what that means."

The boy let out a low whistle, "Harry, this must be costing you a fortune!"

"That's the best bit Dean, it's not. Dumbledore ensured all my previous Christmases were miserable so I'm using his money to fly you all over here so I can enjoy this one. I didn't want his gold but this way we all benefit."

Harry found himself once more talking to Neville, a beaming Neville who had Millie's arm around his shoulder. "Thanks for everything Harry, my girlfriend and I will definitely be there."

Dean had once more to grab the mirror as Millie showed her new boyfriend how much she appreciated that last comment.

"Harry, I think Neville is going to be busy for a little while longer."

"Ok Dean, everyone is going to have to owl home to see if they can come anyway so tell him I'll call at breakfast in a few days. It's great to see you guys again and I hope you can all make it down here for Christmas."

With lots of shouted goodbyes, the mirror was deactivated.

-oOoOo-

Ronda Weasley was lying in her new room in Cairo and thinking it was much nicer than the one she had in Devon. The healer had said that, because of the potions she had to take, Ronnie would be fourteen or fifteen before discovering if her magical core had repaired itself to any degree. All the changes her body would be going through would prevent any regeneration before then. This meant she was going to be home schooled, not in magic but how the new family business operated. Since mum, dad and Bill were all still learning themselves, it should be fun and no homework to worry about. There would also be no bats tied to her wrists while she dangled off a tower or clubs with trolls on the end of them, Ronda Weasley could live with that.

-oOoOo-

There were just too many people involved for the story of the Potters Christmas offer to remain a secret for long. When the story broke, Amelia spoke for the ministry and Hogwarts.

"Yes I can confirm that Lord and Lady Potter have invited their friends to spend the Christmas holidays with them. The children in question will be accompanied by a few Hogwarts professors and a squad of aurors. We don't anticipate any trouble but see no reason not to be prepared just in case."

Albus read this and smiled, he himself had made preparations that would now bear fruit. He intended to arrive on Christmas Eve and expected to complete his task before anyone else had time to react. They would be enjoying their holiday and not expecting a visit from Albus Dumbledore. He was rapidly reaching the stage where he didn't care what happened to him afterward, Tom Riddle could not be allowed to see another Christmas Day. Harry Potter had to die!

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