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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28. Problems with Authority

On Monday morning, Harry was sure that Snape's remains had been discovered. The dour Death Eater rarely set foot in the Great Hall during the weekends, presumably having his meals delivered by house-elf to his rooms, but as soon as the school week started, he would again be sitting at his usual place two seats to the right of Dumbledore's ornate throne. Today, however, that chair was empty, as were the other four at the center of the table belonging to the headmaster and the heads of houses. Still, I thought we would at least get through breakfast before they noticed something was amiss.

"What are the chances he calls in the DMLE?"

Harry turned to fix his blonde lover with a confident gaze. "Considering he covered up unicorn poaching, basilisk attacks, Sirius breaking into the dorms while everyone was asleep, and Malfoy nearly killing several people while failing to assassinate him? Practically zero."

She grimaced in an attempt to smile and nodded at that bit of logic. Before they could start back in on their breakfasts, the subject of their discussion strode into the Hall, his gait stiff from some emotion, though exactly what that was Harry could not tell. Dumbledore stopped at the front of the room and faced the student body. "Early this morning," the old man began, his voice shaking in restrained fury, "Professor Snape was found severely injured in his private quarters. He has been transferred to St. Mungo's for treatment, and I am confident he will make a full recovery."

Dumbledore waited for the hubbub to die off; his affect was not improved by the muted cheering coming from three of the tables. "That said, the conditions in which he was found are well beyond the farthest boundaries of good taste. This was no prank, but rather outright assault. If you are responsible for this act, I recommend that you come forward and confess. The punishment you receive will be harsh, but should I have to learn the facts of the matter from Professor Snape once he regains consciousness, I will have no choice but to expel the student or students who had a hand in this and turn them over to the DMLE for prosecution. If you have any information about the identity of this perpetrator, I ask that you also come and speak to a member of staff. Whatever you have to say, we will hold your name in strictest confidence.

"Finally, all classes have been cancelled this morning due to the investigation, though our normal schedule will resume after lunch. Anyone who wishes to contribute a small token to wish Professor Snape a quick recovery may leave them in his office." His announcements made, the headmaster swept out of the hall again, robes flapping in a similar fashion to the late Potions professor's.

Harry turned back to Luna, who he noted was looking a mite pale. He whispered, "Don't worry, it was all a bluff. We're perfectly safe."

"Are you sure?"

"One hundred percent. I had Dobby check on him last night, and he was most definitely dead and undisturbed. Even if he weren't, I memory charmed him before I left. The old man's just trying to scare us into incriminating ourselves."

She nodded and straightened, just in time to catch sight of the regular flock of owls enter the Hall through the windows cut high in the wall. "I wonder what today's news will bring."

"Your guess is as good as mine," Hermione replied, looking up from where she had been slumped over between them with her head resting in her hands. She blinked rapidly, her eyes clearing and a frown appearing on her face. "Actually, isn't today when Umbridge is supposed to get her big promotion?"

He shrugged and removed one of the avians' burdens. "Let's find out." Unrolling it, he immediately caught sight of the Prophet's headline.

MINISTRY SEEKS EDUCATIONAL REFORM
DOLORES UMBRIDGE APPOINTED FIRST-EVER "HIGH INQUISITOR"

"I'd say that's a yes," he answered, skimming through the article for highlights. "'Concerns voiced by anxious parents', 'immediate success', 'revolutionizing the teaching of Defense Against the Dark Arts', 'Dumbledore's controversial staff appointments', Marchbanks and Ogden resigning… Nothing that immediately pops out as different from last time." He passed the paper to the now-fully-awake brunette and leaned back to look around her at Luna again. "So, what's the plan for this morning since we have two free periods?"

She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Well, it's not like we have any pressing assignments to take care of. I'll probably keep working on the outfits, so you might as well finish off that Potions book you've been flipping through. Hermione… I have no idea, though she was complaining on Saturday that she was bored and might start up her experiments again. Do you think the Room can make popcorn?"

He snorted at that; Hermione in the midst of a research project was a sight to see. For all the scheduling and color-coding in her normal life, she had a bad habit of starting ten totally unrelated experiments at once, and though she was skilled in multitasking, at least two of them would inevitably interact badly to create explosions, strange smells, unusual charm effects, transmogrified rabbits, or some other unpredictable and chaotic result. He had been shocked the first time that happened, but over time he had noticed two recurring patterns: first, it never failed to provide a diversion to occupy the blonde and him for a short time, and second, the projects that blew up were always the least difficult or important ones. In fact, a curious glance over some of her notes at one point indicated that they were highly unlikely to pose any sort of threat when they eventually 'failed'.

Though he never sought confirmation, he was sure she was only ever working on eight things at a time; the other two she set up purely for his and Luna's amusement.

"What outfits are you talking about?" Neville asked quietly as he plopped down across the table from them.

"Nothing," Harry quickly answered, though he frowned at the meek shift in the boy's frame at his tone. He had told himself that he would pull the Longbottom scion out of his shell now that the D.A. was not in the cards, but he had forgotten just how timid his fallen friend had once been. An excuse coming to mind, he continued in a softer voice, "Luna asked Hermione and I if we would join her Nargle-hunting this weekend. She didn't expect us to agree, though, so she's been busy making the outfits we'll need to sneak up on them." He cut his eyes to her and smiled slightly. "We've really got to work on your expectations."

Luna chose the incredibly mature action of a mentally twenty-four year old woman and promptly stuck her tongue out at him. Only Hermione sitting between them prevented his customary counterattack of trying to catch it with his own. That might not be a bad idea, to be honest. Our normal games would certainly give Neville an education.

"Er, aren't Nargles, you know," Neville made a vague hand gesture, apparently unsure how to phrase what he wanted to say in a polite manner, "not real?"

"Technically, they're undiscovered. They may or may not be real, but we'll never know for certain if we don't search for them, will we? After all," the blonde drew herself up and looked exceedingly smug, "before this year, everyone thought I was crazy for believing in Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, but Daddy and I found them. If Snorkacks are real, who's to say Nargles and Slashkilters and Heliopaths aren't?"

Harry grinned. "Very true, love, though not everyone thought that about you. After all, I only found out about dragons, phoenixes, and trolls when I was eleven years old; it was quite a shock considering I had been told my entire life that they were complete fantasy. I bet any Muggleborn or -raised would be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Well, the majority of them, anyway," he added, thinking of Hermione's instant and condescending dismissal upon meeting her for the first time. "You're absolutely right about Clyde shutting up the nay-sayers, too. It's hard to call something imaginary when it's sitting there in front of you.

"Admittedly, Neville, I would be lying if I said I expect us to see Nargles around here, if for no other reason than the sheer number of people who have spent time in this area over the centuries, but the finding isn't really the most important part, I don't think. The company is. Even when we come back empty-handed, we will still have had an enjoyable afternoon together."

"I couldn't have said it better myself."

Neville nodded seriously as he pondered what they had said, and other Gryffindors who had been eavesdropping seemed to share his newfound understanding. Harry appreciated this thoughtfulness; it was despicable how Luna had been isolated and viciously mocked for four years simply because she kept an open mind and looked at the world from a different angle than the average individual. He had not been lying about the hunts, either; every year prior to Voldemort's second resurrection, partly in memory of her father, the amateur cryptomagizoologist had dragged him and Hermione off on a tour of some empty part of Europe for a week or two to piddle around and keep an eye out for unusual creatures. She may have billed it as an expedition, but it was more of a vacation than anything else.

He absolutely adored those trips. For a brief time, he was free from the unreasonable, ultimately unfulfillable expectations the British placed on him as their precious 'Man-Who-Won' and was just a no-name nobody trailing after two pretty birds. It was a chance to relax, have a little fun, and drive their mutual lover spare as she tried her best to pretend she wasn't enjoying the time off from her Healing apprenticeship just as much as they were.

Maybe the three of us and Xeno can all go on another one next summer. Voldemort and Dumbledore will both be gone, the Pureblood supremacists will be defanged, and we'll have plenty of money to throw away. It will just be a matter of stealing Hermione away from her parents, though there is no reason they can't come along as well. He winced briefly as just such a reason crossed his mind. Then again, do I really want all three of my, for all intents and purposes, in-laws hanging around at the same time, especially since I doubt we're going to be willing to pretend we aren't shagging each other silly every night?

No. Definitely not.

"Ugh, why am I not surprised?" Hermione balled the Prophet up and tossed it away in disgust. "The editors wrote an opinion piece detailing our dear High Inquisitor's voting record in the Wizengamot. Any ideas what they were saying?"

He sighed. "I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it was full of praise for her work isolating and degrading the werewolves, centaurs, merpeople, Muggleborns, so-called 'half-breeds', and anyone else who can't trace their magical ancestry back ad nauseam."

"Got it in one."

"You know, I see a serious flaw in her supporting that particular philosophy," Luna commented idly. "After all, they might not be magical, but I'm pretty sure having a toad as a parent makes her a half-breed, too. It would have to be an exceptionally large toad, of course, and the actual mechanics would get rather strange depending on exactly which parent said amphibian was —"

"Luna, please stop. I really did not need or want those mental images." He pushed his plate away, all appetite gone. A quick glance at the staff table was enough for him to see the wide grin on Umbridge's face. So she's that happy about her new position? Well, that just won't do. She enjoys having power, but even more than that, she essentially feeds on the fear others feel for her as the result of that power. If she weren't so short, fat, and pink, I'd think she was a Dementor. I wonder, though; what would happen if someone stopped that fear before it could really take root? If every time people looked at her, they remembered something happy or even funny?

A smile appeared as a plan sprouted in his mind. It would take a little bit of time to look things up, but with morning classes cancelled…

"Regardless of potential hypocrisy, it infuriates me that the main news source for this country is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the cesspool of bigotry and corruption that calls itself our government. If Magical Britain is ever to drag itself out of the Dark Ages, an independent and factual press has to be one of the biggest priorities."

Luna bristled at her girlfriend's declaration and reflexively defended her only living parent. "Hermione! I'll have you know that the Quibbler has always considered truthful reporting to be one of our most important duties to our readers."

"Sorry, sorry," Hermione sighed. "You know I didn't mean it like that. I suppose I should have said an independent, factual, and widely read press. Like it or not, your father's paper is a bit of a niche publication."

"Well, yes, you're right about that. Honesty should not be limited to magizoology."

What Hermione left unsaid, and what only two others at the table knew, was the real reason she took the Daily Prophet's incendiary comments personally. When the story of his relationship with the two girls was leaked to the masses by a spurned Ginny Weasley, the resulting firestorm raged for weeks, fueled primarily with the immature jealousy of his fangirl hordes that the women decorating his arms weren't them as well as the common magical's obsession for news about their hyphenated hero. Luna had weathered it with a grin and a dismissive shrug; after almost a decade of her family's name being dragged through the mud by the whole country, being called a 'vapid invalid who should be sent to St. Mungo's permanently' was nothing to her.

As bad as the blonde had it, the attacks on the brunette were even worse. It seemed that not a day went by without some comment or other, both in articles and letters to the editors, to the effect of how an 'uncivilized, stupid, gold-digging Mudblood whore' could not be allowed to continue thinking she was good enough for the darling of Wizarding Britain. New rumors detailing her presumed use of love potions, Imperius Curse, and good old-fashioned blackmail to keep him by her side sprang up hourly. The Aurors had even taken those claims seriously and once came to Grimmauld Place to detain her while they investigated, though that plan was scuppered shortly afterwards, mostly due to him taking offense, stunning them all, throwing them through the Floo back to the Ministry Atrium, and then spending the next two hours screaming at Kingsley Shacklebolt.

He had been a little upset.

For all that it got the DMLE off their backs, nothing else came of the impromptu meeting; the Minister had apologized but also admitted that there was little anyone could do. Apparently, the reason the Prophet got away with their continuous libel is that there were no laws to prohibit it, and a charge of defamation of character only applied when an individual was 'falsely' accused of a crime. That certainly explained why they had been fined so harshly after Lord Greengrass bribed the Wizengamot to drop the attempted murder charges against Daphne. So long as the newspaper merely implied that Hermione had broken the law rather than outright stated it, they were not actually accusing her, hence why Skeeter had gotten away with all her muckraking.

The more Magical Britain's laws were looked at anyone by with a modicum of logic, the less sense they made.

Hermione nodded. "I think I'll go ahead and get some work done since we have the morning off. Feel free to join me in the library later if you want."

"Actually, Hermione," Neville began cautiously, and she turned to look at him squarely. "I'm having a little trouble with the essay Flitwick set out for us. Would you be all right with helping me out a little?"

She blinked in surprise before nodding. "Sure, I don't mind a bit." The two departed, leaving Harry and a pensive Luna to themselves.

"What's wrong, love?"

"Hermione's birthday is coming up next Tuesday," the blonde replied. At his confused look, she explained, "I really shouldn't have gone off on her like that; we both knew what she meant. I have an idea for a good present for her, but I'll need help setting it up."

Harry quirked an eyebrow. "Oh? Do tell." She slid over and whispered her plan into his ear; the more he heard, the wider his eyes grew. By the time she pulled back, there was only one answer he could possibly give.

"Count me in."

His plan for bringing Umbridge down a few pegs took a little longer than he had anticipated, but Harry was finally ready as he walked calmly to the staff table, the Cloak of Invisibility an unnecessary precaution in the empty Great Hall. And all it took was skipping lunch and most of Divination. I knew there was a reason I didn't drop that class last week. Stopping in front of the staff table, specifically her regular chair, his wand waved in a quick dance. "Adnecto finite impedimenta," he murmured. Just enough magic flowed into his charm for it to activate once; any more and he would have to worry about the spell being traced back to him. With this little energy, however, the charm would dissipate after a single use, leaving no signature.

With the trap set, he quickly retreated. He had just under fifteen minutes to get to the Toad's class, and it would not do to be late.

It's amazing what charms can do, he thought idly to himself as he watched Umbridge stomp into the Great Hall midway through the dinner hour. For instance, straight transfiguration is all well and good, but what if I don't plan for the spell to activate right when I cast it? What if I want to set a delay of some kind? People like Dowager Longbottom can call it a 'soft option' all they want, but I maintain that Charms is the basis of all wandwork.

The woman had been exceedingly smug that afternoon, even going to far as to needle him persistently in hopes of landing him in detention. That she was trying so hard told him that she had yet to discover that her blood quills had been destroyed, but he had to wonder if her behavior meant she had worked out how to circumvent the compulsion he placed on her during the Sorting Feast. Ignoring her taunts, he instead took advantage of an opportunity she presented and vanished an innocuous pebble into the collar of one of her tiny boots. With how fat her legs were, there was little chance it could slip further down and make itself noticeable under her foot.

Turning her nose up at Flitwick's greeting, she sat in her chair and pulled herself closer to the table. That brought her in range of the spell he had cast a few hours earlier, and he had to smother a grin as the charms on the pebble activated.

A loud pop drew everyone's attention. Umbridge clutched her clothing in distress; what had been a skirt and cardigan was now a fluorescent pink cassock robe. Having visualized it in detail while casting the transfiguration, he knew it wrapped tightly about her like a leotard and could not be removed. Her hairstyle was also altered and now lay flat on her head with a wide circle centered on her crown being cut out to make it reminiscent of a monk's tonsure. The best part, however, was that her feet were bare, locking the magic in place as the pebble was no longer physically present but was instead tied up in the transformation just as her shoes were.

"Who did this?!" she screamed, but her voice was not her own. Instead, a deep baritone issued from her mouth. Unable to stand the pressure any longer, the dam burst, and the students practically fell over themselves laughing. He, too, gave into his chuckles. Hermione and Luna, while also enjoying the show, squeezed his hands and gave him a look. He had not informed them of his plan, but obviously they had worked out who was responsible.

Seeing that no one was willing to turn themselves in, Umbridge turned to the quarter-goblin she had just snubbed. "Undo this!"

Flitwick's shoulders shook for a few moments before he lowered his hand from his mouth. "Why haven't you gotten rid of it yourself?" he asked innocently.

"It is in my handbag, which is also caught in this getup!"

Harry's eyes widened, and his laughter increased. Oh Merlin, I got her wand, too? That's even better!

"I suppose I can help," the Charms professor reluctantly agreed. "Finite." The outfit shifted back to her regular outfit for an instant before returning to its transfigured state. He frowned. "Finite incantatem." Again the robe flickered, and Flitwick lowered his wand. "Well now, a self-renewing transfiguration? How clever. Stand."

Don't waste your time, Flitwick. No matter what you do to get her out of that ensemble — dispelling, cutting, even vanishing — the spells on the pebble will constantly renew it. She's going to be stuck like that for the next three days.

The tiny man had apparently already figured that out, for when Umbridge shuffled awkwardly out of the way, he aimed his wand at her chair. "Magicus revelio." There was no effect from his spell, and the same proved true of her silverware, plate, goblet, and the table itself. That he did not do the same to the Toad's outfit did not surprise Harry; transfigurations did not 'radiate' magic outwards like charmed artifacts did, instead focusing all their power inwards to maintain the difference between an altered object's appearance and its essence. He fruitlessly tried dispelling the transformation again. "Professor Umbridge, did you receive anything from a student today? Something small or innocent, perhaps? Maybe something you confiscated?"

"I most certainly did not!"

"Then I am at a loss to explain how it happened. It is a shame that transfigurations don't allow for identifying magical signatures, but this is certainly seventh-year work." Flitwick grinned and turned to the Gryffindor table. "Oh, Misters Weasley!"

The jaws of the incorrigible pranksters dropped before they shouted in unison, "It wasn't us!"

"Of course it wasn't. Come with me, boys." The two teachers marched the terrible twosome out of the Hall to much whispering and giggling from the rest of the student body.

Should I feel sorry for letting them take the blame for this?, Harry wondered for a moment before the variety of jokes the pair had played ran through his mind. Nah.

"How wonderful, dinner and a show!" Luna remarked. She pushed her empty plate away and continued, "Well, I'm full. Harry, would you mind accompanying me to the library?"

"Me, too," Hermione agreed.

Harry shrugged and stood. After making their way to an empty room, the same one he and Hermione had been in immediately following — or perhaps proceeding, he wasn't quite sure — his first prank on the Toad, the brunette cast a bevy of privacy spells on the doorway. "That was fantastic, Harry. Now how in the world did you do it?"

He preened for a moment. "It wasn't too hard, actually. While the two of you were in the the library and the classroom Luna's been using to work on our disguises, I was in the Room of Requirement looking through some books on Transfiguration and Charms for the spells I needed. Of course, I wound up having to tweak both the depilatory charm and the clothes-to-robe transfiguration, but as you saw, they worked out just fine. After that, it was a simple matter of linking them to a mounting charm and putting them on a little pebble."

The girls nodded. Spells generally worked immediately on the item they were cast upon, which was all well and good much of the time, but if that object was just supposed to be the medium through which a spell was relayed, things became a little more difficult. That was what the mounting charm was made for; once appended to another spell and cast, it turned whatever it was applied to into, essentially, a temporary secondary focus.

In this case, the pebble.

"That makes sense," Hermione said after a moment. "I suppose you put it on her chair. But then how would it keep going after she stood up?"

"The pebble wasn't on her chair, but in her shoe. I slipped it to her during class."

"Then why didn't it work until now?"

Luna's eyes lit up. "Wait a minute, you were telling me about an article you read in Challenges in Charming this summer. A new use for the impediment jinx?"

He smiled; Impedimenta was the most important part of his trick. "That's right, I'm glad you remembered. During an amateur duel in Russia, one of the competitors misaimed his jinx and hit the scoreboard. The officials got it working again, but there was a Charms Master in attendance who became curious and tried it out on several charmed objects when he returned home. It turns out that much like the delay charm, it stops other spells from functioning without completely removing them. With that in mind, I used the jinx on the pebble once I had the charms I wanted on it so that they wouldn't immediately activate. After that, all I had to do was Adnecto the floor in front of Umbridge's chair with a Finite specific for the impediment jinx and then vanish the rock into one of her shoes. Her foot comes close to that patch of the floor, the finishing charm ends the jinx, and voila, she's a monk."

"And that's probably the part I understand least," Hermione commented. "Why did you choose that costume?"

"If she's going to start an Inquisition, she should at least look the part."

Both girls rolled their eyes, and Harry would forever deny that he pouted. No one appreciates my jokes anymore. Where's Sirius when you need the fleabag?

"Sure, sure." The brunette strode over to the door and dispelled the security charms. She opened it only to come face-to-face with a long white beard. "Headmaster. Is there something we can help you with?"

Dumbledore just looked at her seriously, an unusual expression for him. "I certainly hope so. Harry, would you mind coming with me, please? We need to have a small talk."

"I suppose not. Either of you want to join us?" he asked his lovers.

"This really needs to be a private conversation, my boy."

He quirked an eyebrow. "Professor, the last time we had a 'private conversation', I wound up having to declare blood feud and would have been killed if not for an inherited life debt and my own reflexes. Forgive me if I feel the need for someone to watch my back."

"Mione, you got to go with him last time," Luna stated, coming up and wrapping her arms around one of his own, "so I get tonight's date in the Headmaster's office. You don't mind, do you?"

"That's fine. I can give it a miss once in a while," Hermione answered lightly.

"Well, now that that's settled," Harry said, motioning to the hallway, "shall we?"

Once in his office proper, Dumbledore waved them to the chairs in front of his desk. While Harry took one, Luna did not, instead choosing to situate herself on his lap and lean backwards into his chest. He was not sure which part caused the largest part of Dumbledore's distress: the blunt claim by someone the old man had no influence over, his arms wrapping around her waist too naturally for someone who was abused for his entire life, or their gazes being directed at the chin hidden behind the excessive beard rather than his eyes to prevent him from finding a hint of their thoughts.

The three of them sat in silence for a full minute before Dumbledore finally prompted, "Is there anything either of you would like to tell me?"

"I have something, if you don't mind," Luna began. At the headmaster's nod, she said, "I've always heard that you offer lemon drops to people who come to your office, and yet I am still without candy of any kind. I must profess myself disappointed."

Dumbledore was dumbfounded for a moment, but he waved a hand at the dish on his desk. "I do apologize, Miss Lovegood. Would you care for one?"

"No, thank you, but it is only polite to ask," she chirped.

"I… see. Harry, my boy, I just came back from St. Mungo's, and I'm afraid I have some bad news. Professor Snape has accused you of being the one who attacked him."

"Why am I not surprised?" he replied with a shake of his head. Not surprised that this is still your strategy even when you should have realized by now that it's never going to work, that is. "And just what evidence has Snape offered to support his claims, or is this another case of 'He's a Potter, it must be his fault!'? Because honestly, I'm getting more than a little tired of being constantly picked on by someone who is too immature to let go of a twenty-something-year-old grudge."

"Harry, I assure you that Professor Snape would never make such a serious accusation without proof."

He scoffed. "Fine then, let's call the DMLE in and have them sort this whole thing out."

"I'm afraid that won't be possible." Dumbledore let out a grandfatherly sigh. "Professor Snape died of his injuries a few hours ago."

Wow, old man, you're really laying this on thick. "Now that's just a damn shame. And with him soon to be six feet under, he can't testify on what he claimed he saw. Oh well, no skin off my nose. Was that everything you wished to discuss, sir?"

"Do you feel no regret for this man's death?!" the headmaster thundered.

He hummed for a moment, not frightened in the slightest by Dumbledore's 'outburst'. Impulsive actions were out of character for the man, making this seem contrived. Unless he actually expects me to worry about losing his approval enough to confess, or at least take the blame for it. After all, I very well might have my first time through this. "Nope, not really. I have no love for Snape; in fact, all I feel for him is a great deal of enmity. This should not be such a big surprise to you. That he finally brassed off someone who was willing and able to beat him to death is no concern of mine. Hell, I'm tempted to search for who offed him myself so I can send them a basket of Honeydukes candies or something."

"This lack of remorse is not helping your case, Mister Potter."

"Wow. 'Mister Potter', really? I think that's the first time you've addressed me like that the entire time I've been here." He rolled his eyes. "Unfortunately, your premise was flawed from the onset. If a lack of remorse is proof that I killed the bastard, then three quarters of the school implicated themselves this morning by celebrating when you announced the attack. Not to mention, without Snape's 'testimony', there is no case to begin with. Second-hand stories don't hold much legal weight in our world, no matter how well they can raise up and lay low heroes in the public's eye."

His indignation card played and trumped, Dumbledore switched tactics. "If you had no hand in this attack, you would surely not mind telling me what were you doing last night after curfew."

He doesn't even know when Snape kicked the bucket? That's just pitiful. What's even worse is that the bat's dead and yet Dumbledore is still taking his side over mine. He grinned as a throwaway comment from their last meeting came to mind. "Wanking."

"Can anyone…" The headmaster trailed off, looking confused, embarrassed, and totally unprepared for this shift in the conversation. Mission accomplished. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Wanking," Harry repeated slowly. "I'm a fifteen year old boy with two sexy girlfriends. I think I'm entitled to toss one off once in a while." Luna nodded and wiggled in his lap, much to Little Harry's delight. He poked her belly to make her stop before she could distract him too much. "Sorry, sexy and mean girlfriends. I had a few charms up, so no one can verify that directly, but I was certainly in my dorm. I would have gone up to do that tonight if you hadn't interrupted our private time."

"About that… just why were the three of you in that classroom when I came over in the first place?" Dumbledore asked cautiously, almost as if he was afraid of the answer.

Luna, sensing weakness, refused to give him any quarter. "When was the last time you were in a broom closet? Actually, don't answer that; for the sake of my sanity, I'm just going to assume the answer is 'not since I was a lad'. Well, let me tell you, those things are cramped, and that's with just two people inside. All three of us are far too much for them, so we've been using empty rooms for our fun." She pursed her lips before adding, "In fact, we'll probably keep doing that from now even when it's only two of us. The closets just don't have enough space to maneuver in, and tripping over robes and knickers is a brutal mood-killer."

"Now Luna, there's no need to titillate him so. Headmaster, if those are all your questions that do not pertain to our romantic escapades, we will take our leave." The two stood and made for the door, leaving the old man's face as white as his hair. "I'll be more than willing to resume this discussion about Snape's death if you are able to provide actual proof that I was involved. Until then, my answer remains the same: I had nothing to do with it."

They were at the foot of the stairs when Luna finally remarked, "That was fun. What do you want to wager that Hermione's already waiting for us in the Room of Requirement?"

"Please, love, do you take me for a fool? That's a sucker bet."

Draco could not eat breakfast the following morning, too busy glaring at the trash who had taken away his respected — not beloved; sappy emotions like love were for blood-traitors and Mudbloods — godfather. Oh, Dumbledore hadn't said who was responsible, but everyone who mattered knew the old man would never let his precious Golden Boy get what was coming to him. That scarhead Potter had to have had a hand in killing Severus.

He probably snuck up on Severus and cursed him in the back like the coward he is, he thought. A Slytherin would never do something like that; he would curse his victim in the back and then make it look like there was never an attack to begin with. Much like he was going to do to Potter.

Well, it was high time Potter learned that Dumbledore couldn't protect him from everything. He would pay for Severus's death! It wouldn't be quick, either. Potter would be begging for forgiveness by the time he was through, but Draco would refuse to give it.

He slouched in his seat at the Slytherin table and began to plot. This would take cunning. It would take skill. It would take stealth. It would take a wizard of pure blood, backed by a pair of thugs to do the dirty work.

Too bad for Potter, the Prince of Slytherin house had all of those.

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