Party time - Part Two
Chapter 26: Party time - Part Two
Bertram and Marvolo pretended to help themselves to more Crystalized Peaches, though in reality they couldn´t care less what object is being placed into their mouths at the moment. Their eyes and ears were on alert, as they were finally close to their target. Finally, they managed to sneak-up nearby to a large snack table, where a group of witches and wizards surrounded Algernon Rosier and Cassandra Carrow - two members of the Vigilante Task Force. The boys grinned at their luck as they spied Caractacus and Melania join them as well. They pretended to simply sample more of the various sweets on their table, as they turned their backs to the group and drew in their breaths as the very topic they were interested in was being discussed.
"How the hell did he do this?"
"Well... its hardly surprising. Afterall, he´s a tricky one."said Cassandra with a shrug.
"But he can´t escape us whatever."said Algernon.
"Hm... I wonder Algie... the fellow is proving to be even more ellusive than He Who Must Not Be Named. I´m just gratefull, that you all come home in one piece."said Algernon´s mother, Alicia.
"Which is kind of odd. I mean... I spoke to Kingsley Shacklebolt and several other Aurors, who fought him during the Ministry Breach. The way he was duelling... he could have easily killed you, if he really wanted to."said Natalie MacDougal, who was a junior member of Wizengamont.
"It mystifies me as well... I mean... the times we encountered him, the REAL him... it seemed to me as though he merely defended himself and would rather escape than fight us."noted Melania thoughtfully.
"And it wasn´t by the our numbers. Me, Mel, Deianira and Cass fought him at ONCE and he held his own..."said Caractacus shaking his head.
"Even Boss Malfoy was having difficulty. I mean... Draco is one of the best duelists I have ever seen. And this masked person was fighting him on equal footing before using a witty trick to escape us again."Algernon said, shaking his head.
"But... given that he only ruthlessly fights against Death Eaters, it can be speculated that he is on our side."offered Marius Cornfoot.
"We HAVE evidence showing, that he had been fighting the Death Eaters since You-Know-Who returned."noted Melania.
"But as the VTF... we have to catch him. It simply does not do well for someone to be running around the country in a mask like that... these fake-masked wizards are one of the results. People try to imitate him, not knowing the dangers they are placing themselfs into."said Cassandra, her voice slightly stern.
"Or try to MAKE people imitate him for whatever ends. This makes it an even higher priority for us to catch him."said Caractacus seriously.
"Not to mention... he is one veeeery juicy challenge."said Melania happily, lightening the mood a bit.
"No offence, dear... but I think you sure have your work cut out for you."said Amanda Slughorn with a small giggle, liking her daughter-in-law´s attitude.
"She can say that again."
"They´ll never catch HIM."nodded Bertram with a grin.
"I think all of us are positively dying to know just WHO the Masked Wizard really is. If nothing else, to know which wizard has such amazing skill."came the slightly awed responce from Bertram´s older cousin Albert.
"You can say that again, Albert. I mean... those Golden Flames."said Daniel Fawley.
The two fifth-year boys held in their breaths - The Masked Wizard was rumored to be able to cast brilliant golden flames, which the public had recently come to think as his signature magic, particuraly after the Halloween Inferi Incident.
"I don´t understand though... I mean... Golden Fire is not exactly unheared of."said Hector Slughorn.
"Not the way HE casts them, Hector. I should know... I saw them myself. Never seen anything like it. "said Gervaise Ollivander.
Marvolo and Bertram shared an awed look, even as they were joined by Hestia, whose Slytherin neutral-look masked the eagerness she felt. She did however drop it for a second to shoot a small smile at Bertram as he passed her the bowl of Crystalized Peach almost absent-mindedly while the crowd gasped.
Everyone was well-aware, that Gervaise Ollivander - the son of the old wandmaker - was a renown magical theoretist. If something left HIM startled, even after his fourty years in the field, it must´ve been something extraordinary.
"You can say that again, Gervaise. I saw if myself... turned the Inferi to dust on contact, while doing nothing to that poor little boy they surrounded."said Cassandra.
"Then it turned back to the Masked Wizard, shielding him from the Death Eaters´ curses. It looked almost as though those flames were... alive."nodded Caractacus.
"Correct. I´ve never heared of fire magic being capable of something like that. There is only ONE thing merely remotely similar to that... and that´s a Patronus Charm."concluded Gervaise to general astonishment.
Even Hestia couldn´t help but exchange a look of confused awe with the two star-struck boys.
"Even Dumbledore couldn´t identify it."said Algernon, shaking his head and recalling the VTF´s visit to Hogwarts the very next morning after the incident.
"Or even your father, Gervaise. We questioned him and ol´ Florean Fortesque, since they met him when..."said Melania.
"When the Masked Wizard resqued them from the Death Eater´s clutches after they kidnapped them. I know. Father told me."said Ollivander with a smile.
Bertram and Hestia exchanged another awed look, while Marvolo (hardly containing himself) mouthed "SO COOL!".
"We hoped your father would be able to identify him trough his wand or magic. But he told us, that the Masked Wizard´s wand is no creation of his."revealed Cassandra, much to the awe coming from the crowd.
"We spent over a week, questioning other wandmakers around the country and just to be sure, we even went trough the Emigration Records for the past two decades."added Algernon, a grumpy note to his voice.
Melania and Cassandra giggled, while Caractacus snickered.
"TONS of paperwork - something my darling fiance so dearly loves."teased Cassandra slyly, making most of the crowd laugh.
Hestia let out a small giggle in the wake of her beloved cousin´s playfullness as Marvolo and Bertram snickered quietly, catching sight of Algernon´s blushing face.
"Well excuse me... I´ll have you know dear, that not everyone is as diligent at doing paperwork as our Boss Draco."he said smugly.
Caractacus, Melania and Cassandra practicly roared in laughter.
"Well... Deia DID ask for that one."giggled Cassandra.
"Priceless, that was."chortled Caractacus.
"I haven´t seen her so annoyed in years."nodded Melania.
Catching sight of the questioning looks they were recieving, the foursome smiled at eachother in agreement before turning back to the eager crowd.
"When we saw the giant ammount of paperwork, Deianira at once rounded on her dear fiance, saying that he is expected to do his share of it."Cassandra started to explain.
"So... the Boss divided us in pairs, to make sure that we get trough it efficiently."nodded Caractacus, reaching for his sweet wife´s hand.
"Thanks to that, the time AND work passed on quite pleasurably."smirked Melania, who was of course paired with her sweetheart.
"Deianira insisted to be paired with Draco to "make sure he is not slacking off". And he took out his Special Reading Glasses."said Algernon with a chuckle.
Marvolo and Bertram quickly slapped their hands on their mouths, but they couldn´t exactly surpress the snorts of laughter.
They knew very well of the prank glasses Draco had gotten from his best friend as a birthday present - ones which he expressly used during Binns´ and Umbdrige´s classes at Hogwarts.
Hestia looked at the pair of them questionedly, when suddenly she heared Torie´s voice out of nowhere, giggling softly and uttering "Slacker" in an ever-so quiet voice. Looking around franticly, Hestia found that she was nowhere to be seen.
"Again?! I swear... the entire Auror Office could take tips on dissapearing from this girl..."she thought, as the crowd behind her asked curiously about Draco´s Special Reading Glasses.
"Yes. Ones, we found that project the wearer´s eyes to everyone else, while providing the user´s with dim, pleasurable darkness."explaine Cassandra with a giggle.
The crowd gasped in understanding.
"So you mean...?"asked Amanda Slughorn as a series of giggles threatened to escape her already.
"While Deianira was working, it took her two hours to find out, that our beloved boss didn´t touch a single paper because he was taking a "power-nap" as he called it."finished Melania, launching the enitre crowd into a fit of laughter.
Hestia chaught her girly giggle just in time, while holding the famous Slytherin mask in place. A pair of chocked snorts came from beside her and she fixed a mildly stern look at her compagnions, whi had their hands holding their mouths as they were trying to hold the imminent explosion of laughter.
"You are Slytherins for Merlin´s sake!"she hissed at them scoldingly, but already knowing that she was fighting a lost battle.
She couldn´t however help but crack a small amused smile as she saw their faces turn red, looking as though they were about to explode. Quickly she pulled out her wand and muttered "Silencio". Just in time too... the two boy´s resistance gave out and they were now practicly howling in pure laughter.
Rolling her eyes she flashed them an affectionate smile, even as the conversation of the crow once again moved back to the Masked Wizard.
"You two are SO immature sometimes."she mock-scolded as she shook her head.
"Honestly... what d´you expect to hear if..."
"Hear what?"came a voice, she had no trouble of recodnizing.
Bertram and Marvolo instantly stopped laughing as Deianira Kellen came closer. Judging by her not-so-friendly expression, she must´ve spotted them so close to the older group behind them and she was already furious for some reason.
"What are you three doing?! What DID you expect to hear...?"she asked sternly, looking from the boys to the girl.
"The boys gulped silently, but visibly.
It was one of the old, iron rules of the the Wizarding High Society, that underage witches and wizards are to keep a distance, when a group of adults is discussing a topic and they were not invited to join in. Such behaveour was considered as lack-of-respect and punishable by their own families, if someone from the leading Noble families deemed it neccessary. Marvolo shared a small glance with his best friend, who by the looks of it agreed. Both of them knew, that Deianira was a heavy believer in the High Society rules - meaning that they were done for.
"I was just saying, that they can´t expect to hear a positive answer from a girl, if they ask her to dance in such a childish manner."said Hestia in her ussual, bored voice.
Deianira raised an eyebrow at her.
"Marvolo..."came a new voice and Marvolo´s eyes went wide, as he felt a small gentle hand take his.
Quickly turning his sights on Flora, who wasn´t meeting his gaze, instead looking at their joint hands with her brilliant long hair hiding her blushing face, Marvolo felt his cheeks burn.
"...c-come with me..."she all-but whispered.
Hestia giggled at her twin sister´s shyness as she watched Marvolo bob his head up and down like a goofy clown, quite certainly forgetting the Silencing Charm still on him for the moment. Wordlessly he obeyed her pull and allowed his dream-girl to lead him away.
"Impudent! The boy is supposed to make the first move!"sneered Deianira, watching the retreating couple with a cold glare.
Hestia quickly acted, clearing the distance between her and Bertram. She saw his eyes go wide as she took his hands into hers.
"Dispite your... charming manner of asking, I WILL take you up on your offer, Bert."she said confidently, starting to draw him away.
"If you´ll excuse us, Miss Kellen."she said to Deianira respectively.
Dragging her momentarily stunned friend away, she breathed a silent sigh of relief at getting away. She could tell, that Bert was similary relieved.
"Wait just one moment, you two!"exclaimed Deianira, making them stop in their tracks.
The pair of them exchanged a swift, fearfull look before turning around to face the Deputy-captain of the Vigilante Task Force, slightly afraid of what was coming next - they could already tell from her expression that she was in a very foul mood.
"Have any of you seen Draco?"
Both of them masked their relief as they shook their heads.
"I´m afraid we haven´t, Miss Kellen."said Hestia politely, and thistime quite truthfully.
Deianira´s eyes flared and it looked, as though her rage only multiplied.
"That... urgh! Where IS he?! I´ve looked all over the ball-room for him! Probably sleeping somewhere, I bet!"she growled, positively stomping away.
Hestia waited for her to move well out of their sight, before letting out a sigh of pure relief.
"That was brilliant! Thanks for the save, Hes."came Bertram´s voice.
Looking at him, she saw that he had his wand in his free hand - the one she didn´t have her hold on. She instantly knew, that he had quickly performed the counter-spell on her Siliencing Charm.
"You´re quick to act, Bert."she commented, her voice catching on an affectionate tone.
He gave her a wide, boyish grin.
"Nice to know, we have something in common."
She rolled her eyes.
"I think, I like you better WITH a Silencing Charm."she said with a small giggle.
Bertram´s grin grew even larger.
"So you DO like me?! You admit it...!"
She sighed, as though in defeat while fixing him a smile.
"As long as you don´t get too cocky."
Before Bertram had a chance to respond to it, she closed the distance between them again, brushing his lips with hers in a small, but loving kiss.
She couldn´t help but laugh as she saw his face adapt a positively goofy grin in the wake of the little peck.
"Come on, you..."she said, tugging him by his hand.
"I wasn´t kidding about the dance, you know."she added, answering his questioning look.
"Hes... what exactly brought THIS on...?"asked Bertram in small wonder as he allowed her to lead him towards the dance-floor.
"Oh... let´s just say, that it was high time I heeded a certain friend´s advise."she answered in a mysterious voice.
Ussually he would´ve enquired more, but now Bertram Shafiq found, that he didn t really care. He DID however have a shrewd idea who should he thank for this, but that could wait. Amidst the dancing couples, he found that nothing else mattered for the present, other than this lovely girl who was dancing so close with him. Nothing... not even the Masked Wizard.
The garden of Slughorn´s manor was simply a work of art. Gigantic in size, it even contained a small stream, which ran all over it in several circles, flowing into a marvelous pond in the very center of the garden. The Slughorns, being a family of renowed Potioneers had practicly stocked it with plants, so much in fact that it had to be devided into sectors - a Muggle would easily mistake it for a botanical garden.
It had simply everything - benches on various places, four large arbors and even two greenhouses, which were - due to a contact at Granger´s Potions Farm - supplied fully with Solaris Charms among everything else.
To supply maximal comfort, several warming wards were added over the years, ensuring that the garden was a virtual paradise even in the coldest of winter. It also held home for a great ammount of small animals, brilliant magicly-animated statues - big or small - that made sure, that a stroll in it was never boring.
It certainly had its charm... holding a calming, soothing effect... especially during a fine, moonlit night.
"Tell me something, sweetheart... why don´t WE have a luxurious garden like this?"asked a lovely redhead teasingly as she strolled hand-in-hand with her black-haired husband.
Harry Potter chuckled, while wiggling his eyebrows.
"If you like it so much sweetheart... something could be arranged."
Ginny grinned at him before fixing him a cheeky grin.
"No thanks. If I leave the task to you and Angus, we´ll have a ZOO and not a garden."
Harry fixed her a shocked look as they came to a halt.
"D - d... don´t you trust me?"he asked in a perfect imitation of the Lion Daddy´s "heartbrocken" voice.
Ginny grinned as her free hand instantly found her way onto her husband cheek, her finger caressing it with gentle care.
"With my life, heart and soul - OF COURSE. With household matters and things around the house - NOT A CHANCE."
Harry pouted, playing along.
"You see... just like my dear old Dad, you DO have this...ah, troublesome creativity. Who knows what you´d transform our garden into, if I just left you to it."she said in a matter-of-fact voice.
At his small moan, accompanied by a hanging of the head, Ginny gave him a long, sound kiss on the cheek.
"Awww... my poor, sweet, darling husband... how can he EVER put up with such a mean, cruel, teasing wife like me?"
Harry grinned as he turned slightly, wrapping his arms eagerly around her.
"Weeell... its not exactly easy... but... (he gave a theateral sigh) I´ll live."he said, as though he were a first-year trying to be brave.
Ginny simply couldn´t resist any longer.
"My brave Harry..."she cooed, quickly catching his lips in a deep, passionate kiss.
As they kissed, Ginny felt something behind her move. Startled, she separated herself from Harry, looking around. Instantly she was met with a sight, that she would not have believed of, had she not seen it for herself - a TREE was walking several meters from where they were standing, settling down comfortably a few steps away.
"Tibetian Living Trees, love. Nothing to worry about."said Harry soothingly, not being able to surpress a small chuckle.
Ginny fixed him a startled look, before returning her gaze at the tree, which shook its branches and moved as though settling itself for a nap.
"I´ve never heared of them."she breathed as she felt Harry´s arms come around her waist from behind.
"Well... they´re extremly rare, you know. Plus, Herbology at Howgarts barely even mentiones them... and ONLY at the begining of the seventh-year. Professor Sprout had told us, that they are very difficult to take care of."he explained in the same matter-of-fact voice she used moments ago.
"Amanda brought them in at a great expence years back and looks after them... or so I´ve heared from Caractacus and Hector. She is quite the ace in Herbology, well... being a born Abbott and all - Hannah´s eldest and now only living Aunt if I recall correctly."
Ginny´s face now took on a curious look as she watched the three in front of them shake its branches as though making itself more comfortable in its new position.
"Are they... usefull?"
She felt him chuckle into her neck.
"Their fruit, apart from being very tasty CAN be used in a potion or two... but other than that, they merely brighten a place up. But afterall... not all treasures are made of gold or silver..."he finished sagely.
She smiled in understanding, seeing a few other trees walk by. Once you got used to the first sight, it is very easy to appretiate their curiously shaped leaves, which seemed to flash in different colors even in the moonlight.
"I see... this garden holds many great trasures of its own."
Harry grinned while kissing her neck lovingly.
"You bet. And not just rare potions supplies. Old Ollivander is known to drop by on occasion for wandwood."
Ginny giggled dispite herself - she had come to observe, that during the party many Nobles exchanged what looked like business-talks.
"So... basicly, its just like YOU with Naja´s scales or Hazumi´s and Feher´s rare snake-venom."she said, knowing of her husband´s business ventures at Diagon Alley by now - no wonder he has so much gold in his (theirs now - as he always reminds her) personal vault at Gringotts.
"Yeeees... but unlike the other families, I prefer not to make it so public. Wouldn´t want everyone to know how our Snakeconomy works."
"You´re horrible..."she said with another giggle, as she turned in his arms.
He grinned at her, his eyes shining with admiration.
"And YOU´RE amazing. You sure handled yourself incredibly with Deianira in there. You´ve won a LOT of respect among the Nobles with that, that´s for sure."he said lovingly.
Moments ago, when Deianira Kellen was strutting in front of a group of other Nobles, showing off her hyena (very fitting indeed) Patronus, she had put the older girl in her place very smoothly. Most of the Nobles (Ginny had been slightly startled by it) do not know how to perform a Patronus Charm and view the people who DO with much respect.
In respence to Deianira´s claims, that the misguided Noble boys had foolishly married unworthy poor witches and that a powerfull witch can produce one with ease, Ginny had responded with casting her own Patronus, instantly flipping the table on the eldest Kellen sister.
While everyone around was incredibly impressed by it, there was one thing that startled HER.
"By the way, love... I have been told, that your Patronus is a horse. But that sure didn´t look like a horse to me..."said Harry gently, smiling radiantly at her.
Ginny was stunned when instead of her trusty Horse Patronus a much different animal took the silvery shape - a Bouncehop Viper.
"Yeah... Dora told me, that the same happened with HER Patronus when she fell in love with Remus. He told me, that a Patronus responds to the user´s deepest emotions and in such cases changes forms, if they are strong enough."
She was slightly pleased by the look on Harry´s face - for once it looked as though she knew something HE didn´t.
"I´ve heared about that..."he said quietly, his face adopting a very thoughtfull look as he replayed the ordeal in his mind.
"That Bouncehop looked a bit bigger than they actually are..."he said, more to himself.
"I was determined to beat her stupid hyena."
She couldn´t help but grin at the ordeal - Deianira´s Hyena Patronus was growling at her Bouncehop one, but it sprang suddenly as if obeying her thought, blowing the hyena to the ground where it exploded in a wisp of silvery smoke.
She could tell, that Harry was replaying the very same set of events. She saw his face go from puzzled, to thoughtfull, then calculating and finally an overjoyed look.
Before she could say or do anything, Harry had kissed her. Though surprised, she quickly gave into the loving, passionate kiss, recodnizing that Harry was very overjoyed about something.
"You...are... a... genius..."he breathed in awe as soon as they separated.
Ginny felt her cheeks redden.
"What are you on about? It... it was just a Patronus..."she muttered almost shyly.
Harry however shook his head, looking at her in awe.
"You´ve just given me a new project to research into."
She rolled her eyes good-naturedly.
"Not another one, Harry... Don´t you have several under work currently? The Founders´ treasures, the Horcrux research, your Alchemy studies with Albus (she knew, that he attends Albus´ Alchemy class at Hogwarts, positively loving the demanding subject), the secret activities among them, and now THIS too? You´re not super-man, you know..."she scolded gently and affectionately, recalling one of her husband´s favourite childhood cartoons - she now knew, that superhero cartoons were his most favourite.
Her heart purred again as she saw the look of boyish eagerness on his face.
"One can still TRY, sweetheart."he said, drawing her affectionate laugh.
"You are incorrigible, Harry."
He gave her his most radiant smile - one that he had reserved ONLY for her.
"You´re also forgetting the MOST importaint project in my life as well. And right now... I don´t want to work on anything else."he said with a loving sigh, once more glueing his lips onto hers.
"You know..."she said as they separated.
"... Mel had told me, that this garden has its secret attractions... Ones, that are most enjoyable during moonlit nights such as this one."she whispered passionately.
Harry goaned slightly.
"Damn... of ALL the times, I don´t have my Dad´s trusty old Cloak with me..."
Before she could respond to that, a sound came from the nearby arbor - a deep moan and a girly giggle.
Harry and Ginny fixed eachother a knowng smile.
"You were saying, my love...?"asked Ginny mischievously.
"Great minds think alike, it seems."he answered with a grin.
Just then they saw Marvolo Flint being led to another one of the garden´s sectors by Flora Carrow.
"And it looks like the younger generation doesn´t fall behind either."said Ginny humorously, before going in for a yet another soul-melting kiss.
The dinner, that followed an hour later was nothing short of extravagant. There were a lot of special, first-class dishes that many of the newbies haven´t even heared of before. There were several tables in the room, seating the guests mostly by their class. The table, that stood-out for all to see was of course the one, where the Heads of Noble families were sitting. Many of the younger members of the Noble families, who were sitting at the lesser table narby couldn´t help but envy the two girls, who were sitting at the Noble table along with their significant others. Though flashing aprooving smiles at Ginny Potter and Luna Zabini, they were also casting hateful ones at the fifteen year old Corvin McLaggen, who was sitting besides his new fianceé, flashing them back a positively superior look.
"Pompous git."growled Natalie Thurkell, glaring her fellow fifth-year Gryffindor.
"You can say that again, Natalie."nodded Parvarti, also knowing him.
"Heh... that little idiot thinks he lucked out, but I´m not so sure."said Basil Bullstrode.
"Bet you anything, that he´ll want to marry her right off. Just to be different from everyone else. Love or no love."sneered Bertram darkly.
"Which will serve as a tremendous boost to his already overlarge ego."agreed Hestia, who was sitting beside him.
She would have expected Marvolo´s comment on the subject way before this, but his seat - along with that of Flora´s - remained empty. She and Bertram already shared a few knowing looks over the course of the last fifteen minutes. Torie, who returned looking extremly happy mere moments ago - right before the dinner began - also seemed to know, that Flora took her and Rebecca´s suggestion deeply to heart.
"I don´t think much of his ego, if he is willing to be dominated by his dear mummy-in-law. Also... I´m not sure, that taking on his wife´s surname upon marrying will do much for the lad´s self-esteem."said Ernie Macmillan to general humor.
Almost everyone was present about half-an-hour ago, when Athena Kellen announced that Orphea ( who was thanks to Blaise´s marriage left without a partner) had just been newly engaged. To the fifteen year old, younger son of Octavius McLaggen - Cormac McLaggen´s little brother.
However controverse this move was, both the Repopulation Act AND the Pure-blood Noble Family Law have made this perfectly legal and possible.
It had also been announced ( in a bit of a Noble family-style propaganda ) by Octavius McLaggen, that his family will stand by the Kellens staunchly, even offering their younger son in order to help them continue the family line, in full accordance with the old traditions. The fact, that something like this hadn´t been used for over half-a-century instantly went straight to the young McLaggen´s head. Hestia however couldn´t help but notice Blaise´s triumphant smirk as the engagement was announced.
"Sweet Merlin... just look at the pair of them..."moaned Basil.
They certainly made for an odd couple.
The tiny, short-haired boy next to the tall woman. However there seemed to be something present they have obviously in common. Corvin was acting in a most noble-mannered way, something that was earning him Orphea´s warm smile.
Torie growled as she saw Deianira shoot Draco a look, that said quite plainly "SEE?!".
She instantly started to giggle as she watched Draco ingore it completly, while helping himself to some more food without a care in the world, something that earned him a death-glare from Deianira. Most of the table was still watching Corvin and Orphea.
"Interesting... those two already look, as though they are made for one another."noted Parvarti with a humorous tone.
"Yup. A match made in Kellen."said Torie brightly, sending most of the table into a fit of laughter.
Unlike the lesser table, the Noble Table didn´t seem to mind this controvercial match-up at all, save for a few exceptions.
Eldrich Macmillan exchanged a meaning look with his wife, Narcissa shared a small glance with Callidora and Kingsley, and Cassiopeia was looking from Blaise to Harry as though expecting them to say something.
Athena Kellen however was flashing the new couple her warmest smile, as she exchanged a small toast with Octavius McLaggen, his wife, his brother and Cornelius Fudge. A moment later, her steely-eyes fell on the Potters, who seemed to be enjoying much of the bright interest of the other families.
Athena personally couldn´t believe what she was seeing - a wretched Weasley was sitting at their table... and no one seemed to mind it one bit!
Well did she remember the old history of her family, how her grandfather worked hard to cast the family of "blood-traitors" out of the Noble circle. How a devious plan had been formed along with the Lestrange and Nott families and working SO well, that William Weasley, his wife and children were left without a single Galleon, and not even their friendship with the Potters, Longbottoms, Crouches and Macmillans were able to save them from losing everything in a single night.
"Honestly... am I the only one disgusted by the fact, that this... this... filthy little blood-traitor had been allowed to rejoin our circle?! All because a certain someone here had to be too stubborn, too ignorant, too besotted and simply downright rude!"she thought, surpressing a heavy need to glare at the young Potter couple.
With a small gasp, she remembered the ordeal during the Relationship Counsil - the sheer, untamed power radiating from the Potter boy.
She quickly shook it off however, remembering the power SHE wields.
"This is NOT over, Harry Potter... Not by a long-shot."she swore silently, shielded by her Occlumency as she watched the pair of them laugh along with Narcissa and Callidora.
"Oh, laugh while you still can. But now that your father is not the Head of Auror Office... punishment will be all the sweeter..."she thought maliciously.
Harry was just excusing his father´s absence to everyone, saying that given the circumstances, his father wished to simply have a good time with the family.
"Oh, if there is one thing your father and my cousin know how to do best, it is to have a good time."said Narcissa fondly.
"Sirius is also present there, right?"asked Daniel Fawley with a grin.
"Actually... no."said Ginny, surprising everyone around - James and Sirius rarely go on a celebration seperately, and that goes double for family celebrations.
Harry nodded at his wife´s answer and continued.
"Sirius and Amelia are spending time with her niece and her husband. At Lennox Manor."
The Nobles all knew, that Amelia Bones ( Black now) had always considered her niece to be her daughter, especially because since the death of almost the entire Bones family, the two only had eachother. They also knew, that Susan had married a muggle-born and that Amelia is most fond of him. Most of the Nobles were very astounded however, when they heared that a muggle-born lives in a Manor.
"How is Angus these days?"asked Caractacus brightly, not seeing him in a while.
"Busy."answered Ginny at once, making Caractacus boom with laughter and Cassiopeia giggle dispite the cold glares from her sisters and mother.
"I´d bet."muttered Lucius Malfoy with the smallest hint of amusement - he wouldn´t admit it openly but... the boy DID kind of grow on him over the years, muggle-born or not.
"In any case, I must say that I have been troubled when Potter and Black resighned their positions in responce to the... incident."said Rex Rowle thoughtfully.
There was a murmur of agreement at that and Fudge tensed greatly.
They were already approaching the painfull subject and he was greatly nervous about what the young Zabini will ask as compensation. What was worse, most of the Noble families were talking about the Auror resignations with a level of respect, mixed also with a small ammount of worry.
Even Rowle, who didn´t particurally have a pleasant relationship with either of them, had made his point about respecting their abilities. Only a rare few Nobles (like McLaggen) were looking skeptical.
"James Potter was a good Head of the Auror Office. Also very experienced with fighting the Death Eaters, which now roam free around the country."said Hector Slughorn with a frown.
"Which seems to me to be a much higher priority than some masked... Vigilante, as you call him Athena?"noted Eldrich Macmillan, while shooting a small glare at the Minister´s right-hand.
"The Masked Wizard IS a dangerous vigilante, Eldrich - even more dangerous than some runaway Death Eaters. But we have the Task Force to handle HIM. As for the matter of the Auror Office - new leadership is already being taken care of. The Death Eaters will not escape us again."said Athena Kellen folding her arms.
"I hope, that the new Head Auror is up to scratch. Because he sure won´t have an easy job. Especially with James and Sirius off the force."said Kingsley in a deep voice.
"True. I don´t feel happy about those two not being Aurors anymore. Their resignations were unneccessary. No one wanted them to take responsibilities for anything."remarked Mauricius Bletchley in a low voice, folding his arms.
"Yes. Besides... I am sure, that Blaise does not hold them accountable for what happened."said Daniel Fawley, looking at the Head of the Zabini family.
Blaise smiled and shook his head.
"Of course I do not. I know that the three Imperiused Aurors was no fault of theirs. I did not demand their resignations. As far as James Potter had told me, it had been his own choice in responce to a situation, that has been building up for a while now."
Athena barely surpressed the glare that was threatening to come over her face, while Fudge almost gulped. He had a sneaky feeling, that the boy had been saving his compensation demands for THIS occasion specificly. It was proven right, when Blaise stood up and cleared his throat, drawing all attention to himself.
"I have also given great thought about the demands I shall make right now."
The heads of the Noble families nodded mostly, giving the young man their fullest attention.
Ginny took a small glance at Harry, remembering what he told her about the issue, then flashed a look at Lucius Malfoy, Athena Kellen, Eldrich Macmillan, Rex Rowle, Cadabrus Flint and Daniel Fawley - the Heads of the most importaint Noble families known as the Top Six, that held the most influence. Though the other Noble families had their say and voting rights in the matter, it was largely dependant on their support for Blaise´s demands to be fufilled.
Ginny knew, from her dear husband, that the Potters have been members of the Top Six until James married Lily and the family lost their position, their place being taken over by none other than the Kellens, although... as Harry said, the make-up of the Top Six had been altered several times over the years and right now only a member or two were from the original families that made it up centuries ago.
"I could demand something for myself or my family, but I have decided not to do such a thing. Instead I shall take the oppoturnity to have two wrongs righted..."
The Nobles shared a confused look.
Athena narrowed her eyes - she hated, when she did not know what to expect.
"Long ago, an importaint family had been degraded from its prestene position in our ranks - the time has come to rectify that."said Blaise, dramaticly gesturing to Harry and Ginny, while looking at the other Nobles.
"My first demand is for the Potter family to be reinstitated to their former position among the High Society."
Tha table gave out a shocked gasp. Deianira stood up, slamming her hands on the table, a death-glare fixed on Blaise.
Many Nobles were stunned, some shook their heads, agreeing with the eldest Kellen sister.
Ginny had to conceal a grin - the stunned look on Athena Kellen´s face was priceless. Similary amusing was the expression on Octavius McLaggen´s face - Ginny remembered her mother-in-law´s explanation, how the Potter and McLaggen families have had a history of animosity.
"James Potter can NOT be reinstitated into his former position at this table, I´m afraid."said Rex Rowle, shaking his head.
"Exactly. Though the family had not lost its contacts and maintained a good deal of its former influence and wealth, its Head is not married to a pure-blood."nodded Cadabrus Flint.
Blaise smiled - it was time to strike another death-nail into Kellen´s schemes.
"I am of course fully aware of that. There is however another Potter, who IS married to a pure-blood."
Ginny was fully aware of the entire table turning their heads on them, but she was stunned for a moment.
When Blaise revieled some of his intentions an hour ago, she thought he would demand some higher level of protection for them, but this...?! What stunned her further was the fact, that several Nobles (including the super-pure-blood Lucius) were looking as though they weren´t exactly opposed to the idea.
"S...such a thing is not unheared of in our Noble history... although..."stammered Mauricius Bletchley, flashing a small look on Ginny.
"He´s a HALF-BLOOD!"exclaimed Orphea in shock, pointing at Harry.
"If I recall correctly, we - the Top six have had a private discussion on the issue merely a month ago, right Athena? You were the one to propose something like this in the first place."asked Daniel Fawley.
Athena Kellen´s face was now almost pure-white - her old plan for the boy... the plan that she was laying carefully but dropped, the moment he had come trough the door with the Weasley girl, the moment she realized that he had married her.
"I remember. You proposed, that the Potter family - if it had a young, open-minded Head - as you said, would be allowed to rejoin. You said, that as long as Harry Potter married a pure-blood, it might be possible to bend a few rules, overlook his half-blood status and allow the Top six to become Top seven."said Lucius with a small smirk.
"I still like the idea. Its time our top Noble circle has seen new blood."said Eldrich Macmillan.
"Agreed. I know both of these young ones and I agree to this view wholeheartedly."nodded Kingsley, gesturing to Harry and Ginny.
"This boy has earned much of my respect. If my son - who has the other half of my voting right - agrees to it, I shall support this."
Athena Kellen´s had turned in shock at Lucius´ remark. Deianira instantly fixed Draco a "Don´t you DARE" look, but Draco kept his eyes on his best friend.
"Of course I agree to it."
"DRACO MALFOY!"exclaimed Deianira in pure rage.
"The Slughorn family also agrees."said Caractacus, his wife, father, mother and old Horace nodding in agreement.
"We agree as well."said Daniel Fawley with a smile at the Potter couple.
"Let us all vote on it to be sure. All in favor..."announced Blaise happily, raising his hand into the air.
Ginny watched in amazement as over half of the Nobles at the table - the Slughorns, the Fawleys, the Macmillans, Kingsley, Callidora, the Malfoys, the Shafiqs, the Yaxley couple, the Carrows, and even Rex Rowle half-heartedly - raised their hands.
Fudge was opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish out of the water - he could NOT believe this to be happening. The last thing he needed right now was a Potter (even worse - THIS Potter) holding more power.
But even HE, the Minister for Magic himself could not do a THING right now - coupled with the support of four out of six of the Top Six, it was as if this demand was instantly met... and with great aprooval.
"Of course... my demand is to be fulfilled immediately."said Blaise with a smile.
"But of course."nodded Lucius, standing up.
With a wave of his wand, a small golden chest appeared out of nowhere - the Malfoy family (an original member) had always had the exclusive right of keeping and handing out the rings of the High Noble Circle. Opening it, Lucius pulled out a golden ring, which had a small crest on the top of it, as he made his way to Harry, who had stood up as well.
"This ring had been taken from the Potter family upon losing its position. Now... allow me to return it to you."
Blaise smiled radiantly as Harry bowed slightly, taking the ring from Lucius´ palm, placing it on his finger. A small, golden glow encased him - signifying, that his position had been acknowledged. Blaise started to clap as soon as it passed, something that other Nobles started to do as well. Bowing everyone in thanks, Harry sat down and immediately took his wife´s hand.
"You know, what THIS means, love...?"he asked happily, showing her the new ring giving her a wink.
Ginny grinned, knowing full-well what it means, though she couldn´t say it aloud. She flashed another look at Athena Kellen, who looked as though someone had just died right in front of her.
"Yup. We don´t have to worry about crossing your parents anymore."she said with a grin.
"Exactly. THEY have to worry about crossing US - we´re the Heads of the family now."added Harry with a mischievous grin.
Most of the Noble Table at once roared in laughter - they could only imagine James´ face once he found THAT out.
Everyone fixed a look on Blaise, who remained standing.
"My second demand concerns a wrong which had occured not too long ago."
Athena barely chaught the furious look her daughter was shooting the young Zabini. Her head was spinning and she had to take a small gulp of her Elf-made Wine. All her plans on how to get back at the Potter brat were now out of the question - he had the full-scale protection provided by the Noble laws, along with his family. Her original plan for Harry Potter had backfired straight into her face in the most unpleasant of ways.
"What ELSE can go wrong...?!"she thought miserably.
"I am aware that one arrangement, made by the Repopulation Act and concerning two of my greatest friends also needs to be fixed. Madam Kellen..."
"I believe, that by engaging your eldest daughter to Draco, some kind of a deal had been made between your family and the Malfoys."
Athena´s mouth fell open and she instantly took another sip of wine before composing herself.
"T-that´s true... "she started weakly, but her voice quickly picked up on strength.
"An agreement WAS made with the Malfoy family. Just like it had been made with several other families as well."
"The Zabini family could have benefited much from just such an agreement. But no longer."said Orphea Kellen in a calm voice, though her eyes had been narrowed at Blaise.
Blaise flashed a small look at Luna before turning to Orphea, shaking his head and smiling politely.
"There is no need for anything of the sort. I am perfectly happy with what I have."he said, his polite tone having a cheerful ring to it.
Orphea humphed and turned away. Corvin at once fixed Blaise a cold look before mimicking his fianceé and turning away.
"However... I am also aware, that one of my dearest friends, present at this table right now, does not share that good fortune."he said, looking meaningfully at Draco, who had to mask a smirk.
"What are you implying, Zabini? Draco IS happy."growled Deianira, flashing a glare at her fiance for good measure while missing several barely concealed snorts.
"To you, it may seem so."offered Blaise kindly.
"Those of us who know Draco best though, CAN see that he is not exactly happy with the arrangement."said Harry, looking at Deianira calmly.
"No matter how much he tries to pretend otherwise."added Narcissa helpfully, narrowing her eyes on Deianira.
"I will NOT dissolve the agreement with the Malfoys. I´m sure Lucius also doesn´t wish for something like that."said Athena, her voice now having all its strength back.
Blaise however shook his head smilingly.
"I am not demanding you to dissolve the agreement, Madam Kellen. I am demanding you to improve it."
He allowed a moment for the stunned silence at the table to linger, before going on, looking straight into Kellen´s eyes.
"I demand Draco´s engagement with your eldest daughter to be cancelled and replaced by a new one."
The table was at once filled with surprised gasps and startled looks. Ginny once more observed reactions as different from what she expected from some people. Caractacus, Melania, Algernon and Cassandra fixed Blaise a look of mixed awe and happiness. Many other like Eldrich Macmillan or Daniel Fawley looked mightily impressed. Parents of those, who were members of the Vigilante Task Force were also looking aproovingly - no doubt they must have heared of Draco´s real relationship with Deianira. Orphea at once glared him, while her mother was looking as though someone had slapped her.
Deianira was looking at Blaise, as though she would love nothing more than to curse him on sight.
"You can throw THAT idea straight out of your head, Zabini!"she growled, once more on her feet.
Blaise raised an eyebrow at her.
"Why are you so opposed to it, miss Kellen? I was under the impression, that you certainly do not applaud the arrangement yourself."
"You have the incorrect impression then!"she growled, barely able to contain her rage.
"I do not think so! From what I´ve seen, you certainly hold no love, nor affection for him."said Narcissa, her glare on the young woman.
Deianira held in another death-glare just in time as she turned to Narcissa. She, like her mother expected Lucius to say something, but he didn´t. Instead he merely sipped his wine and simply looked on as his wife stood up as well.
"I have no desire for my son to be part of a loveless marriage. I have debated this with Lucius a fair ammount of times, but I had been told, that the deal cannot be altered. Now that such an option is possible... I strongly support this demand."she said in a strong voice, that other mothers among the Nobles could easily relate to.
"I only ask for this particural piece of the agreement to be altered. I am only looking out for my friend´s well-being."said Blaise in earnest.
"We agree to it as well."said Melania Slughorn swiftly, for once immune to Deianira´s death-glare.
Athena Kellen looked in amazement at the members of the Task Force, all of whom were looking at her daughter, clearly on Draco´s side. She swiftly recalled, that each and every one of their families had closed a deal with her - she couldn´t punish them for taking his side... not without...
She swiftly summoned all of her willpower to compose herself again - she could not afford to lose her head now.
"Even IF this demand would be fufilled... as per the Repopulation Act, Draco has to be engaged and as far as I know, every single witch or wizard from sixteen to fourty years of age had been paired already."said Athena carefully, ignoring for a moment Deianira´s rebelious look.
Blaise smiled pleasantly again and bowed his head slightly in agreement.
"How right you are, Madam Kellen. Luckily this matter is of little importaince to what I am about to demand."
Athena raised an eyebrow, along with most of the Noble Table. Blaise cleared his throat again before continuing.
"You see... before the Repopulation Act, those closest to him saw, that Draco had fallen in love with a lovely younger witch. I had been slightly concerned about touching a small area of controversy, but once more Madam Kellen, you had assured me, that it is no problem. When you engaged your middle daughter to the young McLaggen."
Ginny had to hold in a giggle as Kellen´s face took on the same white, shocked look, she had during the first demand.
"Who is this younger witch, you´re talking about?"she stammered weakly.
"She´d better be pure-blood."growled Deianira as she was sitting down.
Blaise shared a smile with Narcissa, Callidora, Harry, Luna and Ginny.
"She is. She is also in this very ball-room."
The entire table looked to where Blaise had been gesturing. Ginny grinned as at the younger table, Torie´s face took on a most brilliant blush, as though signifying whom Blaise had been talking about. And no wonder - the entire younger table turned to her in amazement. Hestia and Bertram were looking at her as though they have finally come up with an answer to something and that answer made them extremly happy.
Draco´s cheeks were red too, and he could feel his heart pump in excitement, an excitement which he felt was being shared with his beloved.
"In full accordance with clause 7 and 8 of the Repopulation Act, I demand Deianira Kellen to be replaced by Astoria Greengrass."
Athena breathed hard as a loud bang echoed the Noble Table - Deianira slammed her fist onto it in pure anger. The rest of the table however barely noticed - most were very favorably impressed.
"The Boss and little Torie?"breathed Caractacus in wonder.
"Awwww... that´s adorable."cooed Melania happily.
"Fairly cute indeed."nodded Luna cheerfully.
Harry grinned at his best friend, whose face had been reddening with each and every comment.
"Haven´t EVER seen him go so red before."whispered Ginny to him, grinning like crazy.
"Doesn´t do that very often, you know."he whispered back happily.
"It also doesn´t look as though the parents are happy about this."whispered Luna to them, drawing their attention to the other side of the table, where the Greengrass couple was sitting.
Hyperion and Silvaterra had been sitting there as though stupefied, however both of their faces had a stony, furious look as they watched their younger daughter obey Blaise´s beckoning and appoaching the Noble Table.
"Don´t WE have a say in this, Zabini?!"growled Silvaterra, glaring both him and her daughter.
"The same say in the matter, that ALL parents had gotten upon the enactment of the Repopulation Act?"asked Daniel Fawley with a glare at the pair of them.
This comment made most of the parents at the table, save for a rare few turn on Athena Kellen and Cornelius Fudge. Just then Draco had come to Torie´s side, immediately grabbing her hand, smiling radiantly at her and recieving the same smile in return. Blaise smiled at the pair of them before turning to the Noble Table in general.
"So... those in favor, raise your hands."he said, raising his into the air.
Deianira shook in rage as almost the entire table raised their hands - save for the Greengrass parents, her family and the McLaggens. The Potter couple at once used their voting right, raising their hands and even Lucius raised his hand while smiling at Torie. Many had chuckled as Torie grinned cheekily and raised her own hand into the air too, as if to join in on some game.
Ginny positively relished the look on both Fudge´s and Kellen´s faces as they saw, that they lost the round.
"There you go, Kellen... You´re losing two - zero now. That´s what happens when you mess with these five snakies."she thought proudly.
"You can think that again, love."whispered Harry to her, surprising her slightly.
"Lousy Legilimency."she purred, kissing his cheek.
"There we go..."said Blaise cheerfully as the hands came down.
"Of course I demand this to be fufilled immediately as well."he said pleasantly to a defeated-looking Athena Kellen.
"All right... you win, Zabini..."she breathed, pulling out her wand and conjuring a few documents.
"MOTHER!"exclaimed Deianira in shock, getting to her feet again.
"Mother, I protest... I...!"
"Deia, SIT DOWN!"growled Athena warningly and her daughter, though looking rebelious, obeyed.
Torie grinned happily at Draco as Kellen started to write on the forms. Draco´s eyes looked strangely watery as he turned to their friend.
"Blaise... I..."he whispered, clearly touched.
Blaise smiled good-naturedly and shook his head.
"As another of our friends would say - Save it, Dray."he said modestly, waving his hand airly.
Draco´s famously cheeky grin shone on his face as he wiped a small tear from his eye with his free hand.
"Or simply... Bingo."he breathed happily, as his eyes fell on his... now former fianceé, who was sitting at the table, shaking from surpressed rage.
"All finished. The two of you of course do not need to be informed of this by a letter."said Athena Kellen as she rose up and beckoned the three of them to her.
"You can double-check it, so you can be sure."she said in a low voice.
As Draco, Torie and Blaise passed, they chaught the looks the Greengrass parents were shooting them. Torie bit her lip slightly - somehow, she didn´t think that her parents would go along with this easily, even if there was nothing they could do now.
However, she made up her mind once and for all as she saw her name written besides Dray´s. Gripping his hand tighter, she steeled herself - it was time to take a stand.