Faery Heroes

Response to Paladeus's challenge "Champions of Lilith". Harry, Hermione, and Luna get a chance to travel back in time and prevent the hell that England became under Voldemort's rule, and maybe line their pockets while they're at it. Lunar Harmony; plenty of innuendo, dark humor, some bashing included; manipulative!Dumbles; jerk!Snape; bad!Molly, Ron, Ginny

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8233288/1/Faery-Heroes

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30. Cause and Effect

Harry looked up at Hermione's muttering. "What was that?"

She sighed, her eyes still focused on the parliament of owls floating overhead. Considering it was lunch being served at the moment rather than breakfast, such an sight was an odd event indeed. "I said, this is without a doubt the most unique birthday present you two have ever given me."

"What about the twenty-foot-tall peanut-butter-and-chocolate bunny statue we made you?"

"I'll admit that one was different," she told the blonde sitting on Harry's other side, "and tasty, too, but it just isn't the same as wrecking a million-or-so galleon business and blaming it on a terrorist group that is doing their best to stay hidden from the public eye."

It was at that moment that Neville rushed up to their seats at the Gryffindor table, puffing as he tried to catch the breath lost during his sudden sprint. "Did you hear?"

"Hear what?" Luna asked, not a hint of guile appearing on her face.

"Death Eaters! They burned down the Daily Prophet office last night!"

Hermione let out a fairly-credible gasp of surprise, and Luna ducked her head, but not before Harry glimpsed the faint grin she was hiding. Smiling in the wake of what the rest of the country honestly believed was an actual attack by Voldemort's forces was sure to create suspicions that they would rather not deal with just now. Quietly clearing his throat, he inquired, "Are they sure?"

"According to my gran, it was definitely the Dark Mark floating over the building," the young Lion replied, waving the letter clenched tightly in his hand. "She said that it was probably in retaliation for denying that You-Know-Who was back. They were never shy about who they killed or what they destroyed last time. The Ministry's facing serious backlash from this since, you know, they spent the entire summer covering it up and calling you a liar."

"That's… that's terrible. I need to tell my parents right away," Hermione finally managed. She rose and fled the room, Harry and Luna nipping at her heels. She eventually stopped in an empty room on the fourth floor immediately off the stairwell, placing it just a few minutes' walk from McGonagall's classroom for the fifth-years and Binns's room for Luna. The brunette locked the door and cast a quick silencing charm over it before laughter spilled unimpeded from her mouth. A minute later, finally calm again, she explained, "Sorry, sorry. I just couldn't sit there any longer with a straight face while Fudge and Umbridge's plans went up in smoke like that. I mean, three months of libel to destroy your reputation, and it took one spell to turn the tables on them?"

Luna smile faded away, replaced by a sharp frown. "Oh, bloody hell."

"What?"

"I just realized that we've also completely cocked up our own plan. This is as bad for Fudge as when he and the other department heads saw Voldemort after we broke into the Ministry. If he gets ousted like last time and Scrimgeour takes his place, we'll be in serious trouble. Even minor crimes were enough for suspicion of being a Death Eater and therefore spending time in Azkaban."

"I don't think we'll have to worry about that, necessarily," Harry answered slowly, calling forth his memories of the summer in question. "I may be totally wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure he only got the job because Madam Bones, his boss at the time and now, was assassinated. She's still alive, and while I've only met her the once, she didn't have that whole 'slimy politician' feel like Fudge and Scrimgeour do. If she does get offered the job, I suspect she'll turn it down, and I doubt Mr. Chuck-Em-All-In-Azkaban would immediately be considered after that. I have no idea who will take his place, though, and that's assuming that Fudge even looses his position."

"It all comes down to Dumbledore."

"What?" both Harry and Luna asked.

"I thought it was obvious," said the brunette with a shrug. "The old man lost his international post and his position as Chief Warlock, but his real power base always came from being the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Last time, Fudge ran him out and replaced him with the Toad, but thanks to our meddling, that didn't happen. His pride is intact. Will he get rid of Fudge or keep him around as a known quantity? Also, Voldemort wasn't spotted in the heart of the Ministry, so the powers that be, whoever they are, might not be as frightened as they were. How closely they'll follow Dumbledore's recommendations about what to do next is impossible to predict.

"What we do know for sure is that we helped Dumbledore out when we needed him overwhelmed and preoccupied. He is going to be busy in the short term, but in the long term, he'll come out stronger than he was in the old timeline. We got too clever for our own good and cursed ourselves in the collective foot."

Harry sighed and paced for a minute, thoughts whirling furiously through his head. At last he said, "All right, we'll just have to be even more careful what we do in the castle. I know we were tossing around the idea of offing Umbridge, but that plan will have to be shelved for the time being unless Dumbledore gives her the boot." Both girls groaned. "I know, I don't like having her around longer than absolutely necessary either, but the farther from Hogwarts we can keep his attention, the better position we'll be in. We might have to manufacture some Death Eater attacks if they won't cooperate, just to make sure he's too busy to pay us much mind."

"Attack the Black Gates so Sauron won't notice the two hobbits scurrying unseen through his lands," Hermione joked.

"Exactly. This situation isn't as bad as we're making it out to be, or at least it won't be so long as we play it smart. Let's keep our heads down for the next few weeks, see which way the wind is blowing, before we make our next move. Assuming Fudge is tossed out on his ear, I say we rob his home… first weekend in October?" he suggested.

The girls both nodded. That bit of business settled, Luna grinned. "So, now that we've got the boring stuff out of the way… Pressie time!" She pulled a small but brightly-colored item from her bag and set it on the floor. A wave of her wand enlarged it until it stood six feet tall. "This is your major gift from the both of us."

"Oh, you shouldn't have," the brunette said in a mockingly high voice, though her smile revealed her amusement. She stepped closer to rip the wrapping paper from the mystery object. "It will be hard to top letting me trash the Prophet offices… Seriously? You're giving me something I need to fix before I can do anything with it? You better have kept the receipt; I want to return this at the first opportunity."

"Sorry, love, but that's just not possible. I'm afraid the shop we found it in kind of… burned to the ground last night," Harry replied.

Hermione nodded. "So that's what that noise was." She looked over the black and gold cabinet critically. Vanishing Cabinets were rather uncommon artifacts, and since the trio had been in the general area the previous night and already had access to the matching unit, her lovers felt it foolish to leave it where the Death Eaters could get their grubby paws on it.

Reducing Borgin and Burke's to ash in the process was just gratis.

"Don't complain," Luna chastised playfully. "All it needs is a couple hours' work, and then you'll be able to visit your parents whenever you want without worrying about sneaking out of the wards. I'll even help with the repairs."

"You better," replied Hermione. She gave her girlfriend a swift kiss in thanks, then repeated the favor for her boyfriend. Shrinking it and summoning it into her bag, she said, "Lunch is ending soon. If we want to avoid suspicion, we'll need to act like perfect angels for a while, and that includes being on time to our classes."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Probably a good thing Snape's deader than a doornail, then."

In Hogwarts, finding bullies was not an overly difficult task. Perhaps because of the stone halls' acoustics, perhaps because of the brats' abundance in this corner of Scotland, perhaps because magic was just strange like that, their jeers would echo throughout the building, allowing them to be stalked from half a castle away. The blonde time-traveller rounded a corner, ebony wand out and tapping against her thigh in readiness for some fast cursing.

Luna despised bullies.

Sure enough, there were three girls laughing and shoving a fourth against a wall. One of them taunted, "Still think you're too good for us, huh? Think you're so special?" She whipped out her wand and caught their victim with a stinging hex. "Well, let me remind you of something. You're poor now. You're nothing! You should have come back to us on your hands and knees, and maybe we'd have ignored you after letting some of the older boys have their fun with you. But no, you didn't; you pretended everything was still the way it used to be. Well, Greengrass, it's time to teach you a lesson!"

That line told Luna exactly who they were talking to, and her anger flared even higher. With a nonverbal incantation and a simultaneous flick of her wand, the bullies found themselves with empty hands as their foci flew past her and down the empty corridor. "A couple of lessons, actually, which you need to learn as well. First, never get too comfortable with your level of skill. There is always someone better. Second, there are people in this school who may not have a prefect's badge but will still put a stop to disgusting displays like this one. Now, this little party is over; move along before I decided to do some bullying of my own."

"We'll be done when we're done, not when—" The ringleader's diatribe was cut off as a jet of lemon-yellow light slammed into her belly. Her mouth opened again, but it was solely to allow a torrent of slugs to pour forth.

Her cronies grabbed her arms and began hauling her away. One of them turned back and shouted, "You'll be sorry! We'll make you pay for this!"

"Sure, sure. Snape's not here to protect you anymore, and I can take all of you on in my sleep." Swallowing the rest of her mutterings, Luna stepped closer to the fallen child and knelt beside her. "You all right, kiddo?"

Astoria Greengrass looked up at her savior in confusion and not a little residual panic. "Why? Why would you help me?"

"There are many possible answers to that question, the simplest of which is that I hate bullies, having been their play toy myself for far too long. Come on, up you get." She helped her fellow blonde to her feet and began walking, her hand never releasing its gentle grasp on Astoria's own. "How long have they been treating you like this?"

"They've never acted like that before."

Luna turned her head to look at the younger girl with one eye. "You see the blue trim on my robes? I'm a Ravenclaw; don't treat me like an idiot. Physical intimidation doesn't just come out of nowhere, at least not with us girls, and there's much more to bullying than just hexing people. Try again."

They traveled down several corridors before Astoria spoke again. "Since last weekend. They've never liked me much because I wouldn't join in their 'fun' with our yearmates in other houses, but they didn't move beyond insulting me behind my back until my family was robbed."

Her gut twisted uncomfortably. "Fun, huh? You mean they didn't like that you're not a blood purist," she asked rhetorically, carefully not looking at the girl whose life she and her lovers had knowingly made difficult.

"How did you know that?" Astoria gasped, feet grinding to a halt.

"Wasn't hard. Ravenclaws are jeered at for disagreeing with what's written in books, Gryffindors for not charging recklessly into danger, and Hufflepuffs for being introverted or self-sufficient. Why wouldn't Slytherins be ridiculed for daring to have a sense of decency?" She tugged the stupefied girl back into motion, traversing halls and stairs until they stopped in front of a painting depicting a bowl of fruit. "Know where we are, Astoria?"

The isolated Snake spluttered at the uninvited informality for a moment before responding, "No. Should I?"

"Probably not. Can you keep a secret?" At the other teen's hesitant nod and the tiny beginnings of a smile, she grinned back and reached out a hand. One tickled pear later and the frame rotated inwards, granting the two passage. "Welcome to the Hogwarts kitchens."

As if by, well, magic, twenty house-elves appeared in front of them. "Missy Loveygoody! Can wes be helping you?" the lead one asked.

Luna looked over Astoria and nodded to herself. "Some hot cocoa, I think, and maybe a few biscuits if there are any available." The pair were rapidly seated at the table set up for this precise purpose and handed their refreshments. As was becoming common, several minutes of silence followed.

"So… The house-elves know you by name. Do you come here often or something?"

She smiled at the cliched pick-up line, even though she knew that was not how the younger blonde meant it. "I started visiting late in my first year. It gave me some time away from my housemates, where I didn't have to worry about embarrassing spells hitting me from behind or having my belongs mysteriously disappear. If I hadn't had this place of peace, I think I would have snapped and either gone on a murderous rampage or withdrawn so far into myself that no one could get me out." The latter of which came far too close to reality for comfort.

"Hogwarts was a sanctuary for me, too, even if it was confusing at first," Astoria admitted finally. "My family is all about proper composure and blood purity and 'reclaiming our world from the Muggleborn infestation'. Mother and Father are… like statues or something, never happy or anything like that; the only emotion they ever showed was disapproval when I acted out. Until I came here, I thought that was how everyone behaved, that I was just some kind of freak, so imagine my surprise when I found out that wasn't the case. Other kids get to have fun with their friends and not worry about keeping up a mask all the time. I wanted that, want that, but I can't seem to find it."

"That's because you've been looking in all the wrong places," Luna replied gently. "You need people who understand where you're coming from, even if they aren't necessarily from the exact same place. Take me, for instance; until this year, I was just that crazy girl who believed in a bunch of imaginary creatures and wandered about in a daze all the time."

"But you're not anymore! Everyone's at least heard about your Snorlaff, if not seen it."

"Snorkack. My point, though, is that I know what it's like to be ostracized for no good reason. Harry and Hermione, my…" lovers, my life "…best friends, would understand, too."

"Harry?" Astoria asked quietly, a blush staining her cheeks pink. "You don't mean Harry Potter, do you?"

Luna laughed in her mind. Uh-oh, somebody's got a cruuuuush. Makes sense; for a girl from a supremacist family, he's the ultimate 'boy her parents would never let her date'. Too bad for her he's well and truly taken. Choosing to ignore the obvious puppy love, she replied, "Well, I'm certainly not talking about Harry Hartwell, the first-year 'Claw. Is it so hard to imagine he would be able to relate to you?"

"But… but he's the Boy-Who-Lived!"

She nodded solemnly. "Yes, some days he's the vanquisher of Voldemort." She let the younger girl get her squeak out of the way before she continued, "On others, he's a Dark Lord in training. He's the 'Golden Boy of Gryffindor'; he's a Parselmouth. He won the Triwizard Tournament, but everyone and their mother was convinced he cheated to get in. And just yesterday, he was either deluded or an attention-addicted liar, but as soon as the Dark Mark was seen in the sky, he was the lone light in the darkness. He once told me that public opinion was like a coin-flip: he's loved when it comes up heads and hated when it lands on tails.

"Don't you think he would understand what you mean when you talk about how your house and your family act like there is something wrong with you, even though you did nothing to deserve it?"

"Oh." Astoria looked down at her lap in embarrassment.

"But we're rather far afield from what I brought you here to discuss. How much danger do you think the Slytherin dorms pose to you right now?"

The green-trimmed girl sighed, her resignation obvious. "Why are you so interested?"

"Didn't I just tell you that? I'd like to be your friend. If you'll have me." She smiled softly at Astoria's wide eyes. "And do you want to know one good thing about friends? They'll do whatever they can to help you out of bad situations."

Harry certainly had tried to do that for her. Considering how it was her and her lovers' actions that had caused Astoria's problems, it was only right that they help put a stop to them.

"It… It could be worse, I guess. It started off as just more insults, nothing I can't handle, but some of my essays disappeared this morning, and then Roberson and her dogs just now. I… I'm scared about how the house will treat me in a few weeks if it's like this already."

"What has Pince been doing? I'd have expected her to lay into anyone causing trouble with one of her volumes of Annals of Wizarding Genology. Half a stone of parchment and binding should have straightened most of your housemates out." As the lone Slytherin alumna on campus, the crotchety librarian had been obligated to take the reins of her old house, at least temporarily. Obviously she was not the best choice for the permanent position.

"She comes down once every three days, right after dinner. It's a free-for-all otherwise, with the prefects and Quidditch team being the worst out of everybody."

And knowing Snape, of course the positions of authority all went to the biggest bigots. Malfoy was evidence enough on that one. A thought taking root in her mind, Luna said, "Well, we have about an hour until fourth period. It's not much, but I can teach you some good charms for protecting your belongings from would-be thieves. Protecting your person, on the other hand… that will be a little more difficult. Do you already know any basic dueling spells, by chance?"

"Protego, Stupefy, Locomotor mortis, basic things like that," Astoria answered. "My father taught me and David when we were younger."

"That should be enough for the next few days. Let me talk to a couple of people, and we'll see what we can do about the long term. So, here's how you cast the Ankle Noose hex; I'll show you how to turn it into a paling, a sort of temporary ward, once you've got it down…"

The thump of glass inkwell on wood drew Hermione's eyes from her book. "What do you want now, Ron?"

"I need help with my essay," he answered, dropping a roll of parchment onto the table. "McGonagall said it has to be done by tomorrow, or I'm going to get a T for it."

She blinked in surprise. "What essay? McGonagall didn't assign any homework on Tuesday."

"Er… Effects of Latent Attributes on Inanimate Conjuration," he read from the top of the parchment.

"Ron, that was due last Friday! Are you seriously saying that even after missing the deadline and being given an extra week to work on it, you're still not done?"

"Well, no. I've been busy with, er, prefect stuff."

"You mean playing chess with Seamus and ogling Lavender's tits," she corrected sternly. The other occupants of the common room grew quiet; said girl was not present, though knowing the Hogwarts rumor mill, she and the rest of the school were sure to hear about this in short order. "Why should I spend my time helping you when you're perfectly content wasting your own?"

"Because if you don't help me, I'm going to fail," he replied, the barest hint of a smirk on his lips. In the previous timeline, he had used almost the exact same excuse, and she had predictably caved. Come to think of it, that wasn't the first or last time he pulled that trick, either. What a fool I was.

Of course, there were major differences between then and now. First, she was not the lonely sixteen-year-old who considered grades to be the end-all and be-all of life. Second, Harry, who had always been a better friend to her than Ron ever dreamed of being, wasn't with the redhead asking for her help in that hangdog way he had possessed as a teen. That had always tugged on her heartstrings, and she was rather glad that he hadn't taken it back up now that they were in the past. There was no telling what he would be able to convince her to do.

Third, she still had a bit of an axe to grind with the youngest Weasley boy.

"Okay." She lifted her book and resumed reading; she had finished two pages and was halfway through a third before he seemed to figure out her message.

"Hermione, I'm serious! I need you to help me!"

"Oh, I am just as serious, Ron. You had your shot at getting my assistance, and you squandered it. Don't come crawling to me now because you're too immature to keep track of when your assignments are due."

"But you always work on my essays for me!" he cried.

"I did," she admitted, "much to my shame. Like a mother coddling a whiny brat, I gave you whatever you demanded just to shut you up, but now it's time for you to stand on your own two feet. You're fifteen; if doing your own work in preparation for the OWLs is too much for you, you don't deserve to be here."

"You want me to fail?!"

She shook her head though she knew it was a half-truth at best; she didn't care if he passed or failed. What she wanted was him to be far, far away, no longer a possible future threat to her or the ones she cared about. "No, I want you to take responsibility for your own actions. It's something my mother told me this summer: I won't always be by your side, especially not with how you've been treating Harry and me lately. I have many things that I would much prefer to do than drag an inconstant friend through three more years of school just because he doesn't care enough about it to put in the effort himself. Well, no more; I wash my hands of you."

"Huh?"

"You're no longer my problem," she explained shortly. "Find someone else to bother, fail, or grow up. I don't give a damn which."

He snarled and stomped off. Out of curiosity, she unrolled the parchment and glanced at what he had done so far. That utter prat! This is so like him! He hasn't done a bloody thing! What did he expect, that I would just let him copy my essay so he could continue coasting through?

This won't be the last time he pulls this stunt, either, not when he's too lazy to even try, she thought seething. But his biggest problem was always that he expected things to be handed to him. Homework, Quidditch, Head Boy, Triwizard Champion, me, it didn't matter; if he wanted it, he thought it was owed him. He's not willing to put the work in to earn it, and no one ever did anything to disabuse him of that notion.

It's time he learned that he's no more entitled than anyone else, and less so than most people.

Harry, sitting across the common room from his lover, turned back to his Herbology assignment now that confrontation between the two was over. Why were we ever friends with that leech? Oh, that's right, we both had childhoods so starved of companionship that like beaten puppies we latched onto the first person to show us the least bit of affection. Throw in how we're both introverts, and what reason did we have for expanding our circle to include other, better people?

He shook his head. That had been one benefit of the DA; he had finally gotten to know people he had been in classes with for four years who he had never spoken to before then. And it was only then that they realized that I had never meant to snub them. I wonder how much of the denigration I suffered those first few years was the result of everyone else in the castle thinking I was some self-absorbed git who was too busy looking down my nose at them to give them the time of day?

Oh, well. Funnily enough, it's only now that I know what the problem is that I am intentionally ignoring them. Just like the general population, the majority of students are cowards who would rather be ruled by a madman than risk anything resisting him. I have no reason to waste my time with such contemptible sheep.

Now, where was I? He glanced over his writing, barely withholding a sigh. Sprout, fair-minded Hufflepuff that she was, had added a potions component to her lessons, detailing how certain plants would react in brews and how to prepare them. It was fresh, interesting, and much more informative than Snape had ever been, but that new material also made its way into the essays she wanted them to write. Of all his classes, this was the one he could not simply copy down his papers from the previous timeline.

The jury was still out on whether it would change back to normal when Dumbledore found a replacement Potions professor.

Actually, I hope the old man convinces Slughorn to return. Not only was the walrus a half-decent teacher, he deserves some karmic retribution. If that greedy bastard hadn't spilled everything he knew about Horcruces to a teenage psychopath, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. I doubt that was the first or last such discussion between them, either. How much special attention did Voldemort receive from the head of Slytherin in return for boxes of candied pineapple?

Shaking those thoughts away before they appeared on his face, he reread the previous paragraphs, and an idea unfurled as he took in what he had written about jasmine. That's… that's perfect. I'll get Dobby — no, better be Winky; Dobby would be guaranteed to go overboard — to make just a little adjustment to Molly's potion ingredients. A few ounces should do the trick. If she's different in this timeline in that respect, it won't affect her whatsoever, but if she's not…

Well, she'll deserve it then, won't she?

Waking up from a raunchy dream involving two sexy ladies, a hot tub, and enough whipped cream to drown a whale to an all-boys dorm was bad enough in Harry's opinion. Having the first thing he saw being Peeves's face was just adding insult to injury.

"Ahhh!" he screamed, batting the faery away. It took a couple of breaths to slow his pulse from one a frightened rabbit would envy. "Peeves, what the bloody hell do you think you're doing?!"

"Do you know what today is?" the semi-corporeal prankster asked, ignoring Harry's discomfort entirely.

"Er… Saturday?"

"It's the Autumnal Equinox." Peeves loomed and leered. "You have an audience with Her Highness at noon, and you. Will. Not. Miss it."

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