Chapter 29: Superhero Complex
The early days of December were always well-known to students of Hogwarts, as a period that was very demanding - no matter which year you attended.
Thistime however, not even the increasing workload before Christmas Break could distract anyone from what was happening. The story of the Masked Wizard´s fight in the Slughorn´s Garden had swept trough the school like wildfire almost before the Sunday Prophet even had a chance to arrive. The ordeal had been discussed so many times, everyone knew the details by heart. Those students, present at the party were interrogated by the other students and in the case of Professors Flitwick, Sprout and Snape (Professor Charity Snape to be exact), even they couldn´t help but ask the details from Marvolo Flint and Flora Carrow. Marvolo of course, who was still on cloud nine from the encounter with his great hero, did not hesitate for a second to re-tell the story over and over again.
The take-in of the news however was different to groups of students and the disturbing Psychological Profile of the Masked Wizard sure didn´t help. It had been apparent, that there were as many students thinking the Masked One a hero, others a menace and a great ammount of people unsure what to think.
Some seemed to agree with Fudge´s claims of the Masked Wizard as a "lunatic with a Superhero Complex", while others were very bitter that he did not attack Fudge and Kellen during the fight.
"I thought, that if everyone knew the truth about the Slughorn Party, everyone would see him as a hero."muttered Ron, as the Herbology Lesson came to an end.
Hermione sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Oh Ron... don´t you remember, how it was when Fudge tried to discredit Neville and Professor Dumbledore? How many people believed his lies, simply because it was written in the papers? Some people feel the need to follow the Ministry and others just don´t know what to think with the news offering little to none information. Also... as Blaise said, there is another problem brewing these days."
The last statement was confirmed, as Ron and Hermione spotted several students of their class in deep conversation. Approaching them, they saw that Susan and Hannah exchanged a worried look, as Zacharias Smith folded his arms angrily, glaring Ernie and Neville.
"I´m telling you, that there HAS to be something done about this! The Deadline is almost here!"he said stubbornly.
"Look, Zacharias... its not as easy as you think."said Ernie, trying to explain.
"What are the Top Seven doing then at their little meetings, then?! Don´t tell me your father doesn´t have any say in this, when he sits there with Kellen."
"He just told you, that Kellen´s Repopulation Act still has much support among other Noble families as well as the Ministry itself! You can´t expect his father to do something on his own!"said Parvarti staunchly, defending her husband as well as her father-in-law.
"I know, that there were several meetings of the Top Seven at the Ministry in the last few days. I thought, that Fudge didn´t have as much support with them after the Slughorn Garden Incident. Clearly I was wrong."said Zacharias stubbornly.
"That´s not true! Harry and Blaise have been trying to soften the Repopulation Act´s penalty!"said Ron hotly.
Hermione, Susan, Neville and Hannah nodded - they knew about the meetings this week, always waiting for them along with Angus, Ginny, Luna and Torie and discussing it in the privacy of the Come-and-go Room.
"At the very least, they are trying to stop the Act penalties and try to improve its terms. The thing is Smith... that it cannot be done as easily as you think."said Hermione.
Zacharias snorted angrily.
"Improve the Act! But NOT get rid of it! I expected nothing less from those two miserable snakes - they take absolutely no consideration to those of us, who are suffering under it!"
"Rubbish, Zacharias! Why would they even bother to do anything then?! They´re all working to at least make the Act a lesser evil than what it is now."said Neville.
"Oh...? Defending Zabini and Potter, are you?! Harry and Blaise?! So NOW you´re all boosom friends with those slimy snakes, you hated for the past six years?"snorted Zacharias, looking at Ron, Hermione and Neville in disgust.
The statement rang with the truth - neither of them could deny it. Ron´s pride however had yet to give up.
"Yeah. Yeah, we are. Especially since we saw, that they are not what we thought them to be. And in the case of one of them - we´re family."
The latter point had made Smith snort in derisive laughter.
"Like THAT was ever a problem for his half-brother over here."he said, pointing his thumb at Neville.
"We´ll leave my past conflicts with Harry out of this, if you´d please."said Neville hotly, going slightly red in the face.
"Fine. But what about you?! I thought that the person, who was sure to be on our side would be the Chosen One! What´s the matter, Longbottom?! You can vanquish Dark Lords but you can´t handle one stupid, fat politician?!"
Hannah glared her house-mate hard.
"He´s not a superhero, you idiot! He can´t just stand up to the governing power, only because you feel like he should! The laws apply to him as much as the apply to any of us!"exclaimed Hannah angrily, being very protective of her husband.
Zacharias shook his head in disgust again.
"But he should still try and do something! You´re soft, Neville Longbottom - that´s the problem! Even worse than that masked lunatic running around. True, he won´t do a thing for us either, but at least HE has balls!"
Neville looked visibly stung by what he had just heared. Though he had been trying to keep it a secret, but since he had come to know his brother´s secret identity and his role in the Second Wizarding War, there had been a burning feeling of envy, coupled with shame and jealousy - he felt, that he should have done more... besides simply serving as bait for Voldemort.
Zacharias smirked slightly before his expression turned serious again.
"I can easily see, that the Chosen One is quite all right with the Repopulation Act. I´ve been a fool to think, that you would even care. Nevermind. If neither you NOR that masked idiot will do something about it... we´ll just have to find someone who WILL!"he said, turning on his heel and leaving the Greenhouse.
Ron, Ernie, Parvarti, Justin and Susan looked disgusted, while Hermione was looking thoughtfull. Neville however was watching Smith´s retreating form, a shocked look all over his face.
"Neville... sweetheart. Don´t listen to him."whispered Hannah, immediately taking her husband´s hand.
A small look of doubt had crossed his features.
"B-but... what if he´s right, love? What if I should try and do something?"he asked.
"He´s wrong, Nev."said Ron at once.
"Is he? I mean... look at us - all of us."said Neville, gesturing with his free hand to everyone of them.
"All of us here are lucky to be matched with those we love. We completly forgot, that there are those who haven´t. Or those, whose family members haven´t."said Neville miserably.
The others all looked at eacheother. True, they were so chaught-up in their happiness, that they failed to percieve a growing problem. With the Deadline of the Repopulation Act fast approaching, it was becoming apparent just how many students were against the thing, post-poning their marriages and refusing to follow the act. And those were just the sixth and seventh-years at Hogwarts - there were bound to be more people outside.
"As much as I hate to admit it... Smith´s right! We should try and do something."
The others all shared a glance.
"You do realize, that there might be a limit as to how much we can possibly do, Neville. Don´t forget... we are still at school."said Justin earnestly.
"Let´s talk with Angus and the other snakies."
Susan´s suggestion was met with small looks of skepticism from Neville, Hannah and Justin. Ron, Hermione, Ernie and Parvarti however nodded.
"Good idea. Harry will know what to do."nodded Ron with a smile.
Neville felt a twinge of jealousy hit him again.
"And Professor Dumbledore as well."suggested Hermione.
This suggestion was once more met with aprooval.
"I agree, Hermione. Afterall, this truly IS a complicated problem. We have to stand united in order to solve it."nodded Ernie fiercely.
Neville smiled slightly at the idea. Standing side-by-side with not just Dumbledore, but also Harry - he couldn´t help but think, that he should have done something of the sort a long time ago.
As they all stepped out of the Greenhouse and headed back into the castle for their next lesson still chatting, he felt a sharp burn from his good old scar.
"Nev!"breathed Hannah, as his right hand flew to it.
Ron and Hermione also fixed him concerned looks, to which he responded with a brave smile.
"Its nothing. It twinges from time to time lately, but I´m all right."
Hannah nodded with a smile, before reaching for his head with her hands and placing a gentle kiss on his scar. Neville´s heart warmed over and he leaned into the feeling.
"That always makes it better."he said to her smilingly, making her giggle.
Unbeknowst to even him, deep inside his scar, the piece of Tom Riddle´s soul had been on alert.
If he had a mouth of his own now (or at the very least the possesion of Longbottom´s body), an extremly pleased smile would appear on it, in the wake of the scene he had just seen trough the Chosen One´s eyes.
"Daphne was right. The sides are being drawn and the events are in a motion that cannot be stopped. It is merely a matter of time now."he thought, carefully keeping his thoughts well-separate from those of Neville Longbottom.
Daphne´s plan will soon be ready to be put into action. He knew, that Daphne was now most likely, making the final preparations to it within the next few days. He could hardly wait to see, what chaos and mayhem will his beloved´s ingenious plan cause and was looking forward to see, how it will bring all his enemies to his knees while he will have more than enough time to fully regenerate.
"And there we go... all fine now."said Audrey Weasley happily as she finished the final Healing Spell.
The five-year-old boy, she had been healing looked at his previously disfigured arm, running his other hand over it and marveling over the fact that it was back to normal again. He instantly looked at her and fixed her an incredibly sunny smile.
"Thank you, Madam Healer."he said with such sincirety, that it brought a smile to her face.
"Oh, its all right, Michael. But next time, just be sure you stay away from your Mummy´s cauldron when she´s brewing Potions. Can you do that for me?"
The boy nodded his head fervently, still smiling happily.
"Allrighty then... off you go."she said gently, guiding the boy towards the door where his anxtious mother had been waiting.
Audrey couldn´t help but smile affectionately as the happy little boy found himself in his mother´s bear-hug, the woman being positively relieved to see her son fine and well.
THIS was why she chose to become a Healer all those years ago.
Though she was still a traineé and even now, the job offered quite a few challenges that are bound to increace, as well as quite a few sad moments where no help was possible, it were moments like these when she was affirmed that she had indeed chosen the right career.
"Audrey! There you are!"came the voice of her fellow traineé and best friend since their first days at Hogwarts - Ruth Easterbrooke.
Audrey raised an eyebrow, largely used to see her best friend come and relay her any gossip she might come across, even in the Hospital. Thistime however, she looked extremly eager to do so - judging by the breathless expression on her face, something serious had to happen.
"Come on upstairs to the Thickey Ward, you won´t belive this."
Audrey gasped. The Janus Thickey Ward was the place where patients with permanent or long-lasting Spell Damage were hospitalized.
Quickly bidding goodbye to her little patient and his mother, she swiftly followed her best friend up the stairs.
"What´s going on, Rutie?"she asked quickly, evan as they ran.
Ruth however didn´t answer and quickly hurried trough the fifth floor, stopping before the door leading to the ward. Ruth quickly gestured her to be quiet and she opened the door slightly for them to see and hear.
"I saw old Blacklock welcome a small visit to the hospital."she said with a small growl.
Edwin Blacklock was the Head of the Hospital and it was no secret, that the middle-aged man was very unpopular. Excessively authoritative, concieted and very overbearing sometimes... well... almost always. Thistime however it was clearly not the case, given the company he was in.
Audrey gasped at the sight of the three figures with Blacklock.
Pius Thicknesse was certainly a surprise to her, but it was nothing compared to the two members (judging by their robes) of the Dilys Derwent Instutute - the prestegeous institute that since its founding two-hundred years ago had only accepted the most elite Healers of their time. It is a place, where several of the new breaktroughs and theories in Healing Magic were and are made and then introduced to the Healers everywhere. For over the two centuries, its members had been able to find many cures to the most troublesome diseases and ailments, that plagued the Wizarding Britain. Was it possible, that something of the sort had happened NOW?
With held breaths the two traineés stared at the pair of them. One was a woman in her thirties with reddish hair and the other was slightly younger with a mop of straw-colored hair.
"I have to say, it is quite an honor for us."said Blacklock, positively sucking-up to Thicknesse.
Thicknesse smiled and waved his hand neglectedly.
"On the contrary. It is an honor for us at the Ministry. We have given a chance to the research of the Rowley siblings here and they have been sucessfull. We can now help in a case, which up until now had no help possible."
Audrey and Ruth shared a glace - did this mean...?
Blacklock gasped and looked at the two happily and started to positively sing their praises. Both Audrey and Ruth shared a disgusted look - Blacklock was such an oily, slimy...
"... and of course I have tried myself, oh so many times, but even I..."
"Mr Blacklock?"came the voice of Healer Miriam Strout, who just opened the door to the ward and came out holding the hand of a blonde-haired man in his thirties, who looked curiously at them.
"Ah... here´s our patient."said Thicknesse brightly, smiling at the pair of them.
The man´s face broke into a smile and he nodded.
"That´s me, I guess. Who are you, by the way? I don´t remember having the pleasure of meeting you. Then again... I really don´t remember much, do I?"he asked pleasantly.
The reddish-haired woman´s eyes twinkled under her glasses.
"Apparently you don´t. And its time to fix that."
Healer Strout gasped happily, as her most-favourite patient looked on curiously.
"You... you found a way to cure him?"she breathed, her eyes at once watering with joy.
"Obviously. They´re from the Derwent Institute for Merlin´s sake."grumbled Blacklock, rolling his eyes.
Healer Strout didn´t take any notice of the comment, instead she siezed the blonde-haired man´s hands.
"Did you hear that, Gilderoy? You´re going to be all right again."
Audrey and Ruth gasped before looking at eachother.
"Woah... But I thought, that Lockhart´s memory had been completly wiped. I mean... even Dumbledore said so after the Chamber of Secrets Incident."whispered Ruth.
Audrey thought back briefly to her sixth-year at Hogwarts, the whole Heir of Slytherin issue. Back then she, Ruth and almost the entire Hufflepuff House had only one suspect to blame.
"You know... I never understood something, now that I think about it. Lockhart was struck by his OWN Memory Charm. But why would he try and use a Memory Charm? Among any other spells? What was he trying to do?"said Audrey, as the two of them watched Lockhart being leaded into one of the rooms on the side.
"It ALL seems strange to me. And I still can´t shake off the feeling, that Potter had something to do with it."said Ruth, remembering the intimidating little Slytherin.
"Don´t be ridicilous, Rutie."said Audrey quickly.
Ruth fixed her a doubtfull look. She knew that her best friend, trough her marriage with Percy, was now family with the kid, whose single glare was enough to make most of the Hufflepuffs shake in fear during their time at Hogwarts.
"He´s not what we all thought him to be. I´m sure he had nothing to do with Lockhart´s accident."
Ruth looked very surprised, but Audrey merely shrugged.
During the time she had come to know her brother-in-law better, she knew that he was anything but the cold-hearted little Dark Lord in the making, that her entire class thought him to be.
"Still... he´s a Slytherin. Just like old Blacklock over there."said Ruth darkly, pointing her thumb at their boss, who was now sucking-up again, wanting to see the procedure himself.
"Oh, don´t insult real Slytherins."grumbled Audrey, her eyes narrowing as they saw that Blacklock had suceeded.
Really... trying to compare a slimy, oily careerist like Blacklock with the Slytherin Squad was simply laughable. Though, thinking about the five snakies AND knowing of Ron´s, Hermione´s and Alice´s involvement in the Chamber incident... she couldn´t help but think whether Harry and his friends HAD been involved in this in some way.
"Just lie down and relax, Gilderoy."said the lovely witch, gesturing to the bed.
Like a little boy, Lockhart did as he was told, although slightly fearfully.
"It... it won´t hurt, will it?"he asked innocently, his eyes darting to the wand in her hand.
She merely smiled at him warmly, coming closer and putting her other hand on his shoulder as if to calm him down before pointing her wand on him.
"Of course it won´t, Gilderoy. Now relax..."she said in a kind, almost mothering voice.
"Somnus"she said gently.
The Sleeping Charm had worked instantly. Lockhart´s eyes closed and her was out like a light. In the back of the room, Blacklock gave a small gasp.
"This is new... I mean under normal circumstances..."
Before the man could even say another word, the witch had turned as quick as lightning, her wand flying as she did.
The other wizard had barely finished casting a non-verbal Silencing Charm on the door he had just locked, before Blacklock fell to the floor with a thud. He swiftly fixed his compagnion a large grin.
"Nice one, Daph."he commented, turning the stunned man around with his foot.
The woman had returned the grin, but she was already reaching inside her robes, pulling out a tiny bag, before Transfiguring a nearby bed-side cabinet into a larger one with an operating tray. With another wave of her wand the contents of her bag were flying out of it, gently landing on the tray. Most of them were jars with some strange silvery substance, each of them labled. A large book had flown into Barty Crouch´s hands, even as he couldn´t hide the astonished look on his magically changed face.
"Wow. When you work on a project, you really go all-out."
Daphne Greengrass also couldn´t help but make an smug smile appear on HER changed face.
"I ussually do. But we should hurry up. In case someone gets suspitious and Wormtail´s puppet will run out of excuses."she said busily rearranging the jars and conjuring a chair for Barty.
As Barty sat down he looked at Lockhart, remembering him from his time at Hogwarts.
"I can´t help but wonder... why HIM?"
Daphne rolled her eyes slightly.
"Because right now the Ministry needs to get the public view on their side. You know we need Fudge in his office. Kellen´s stupid attempt on Blaise Zabini has really made things worse for them... Thanks to Wormtail´s puppet we know of the opposition brewing towards Fudge´s side at the Ministry under Amelia Black. And thanks to the opposition in the Noble ranks led by Zabini and Potter, his position is shaken and he can´t rely on the Nobles much. Thanks to MY puppet there we know, that he has as many Noble families against him as those that support him. Right now, though we could perhaps do something about it, its best not to draw so much attention to us. We need to somehow give our Lord the time the execute his plan for regeneration."
Barty nodded at the explanation, but once more looked at Lockhart.
"Still... using this idiot seems strange. I remember how he was during school."he said with disgust.
Daphne however smiled sweetly.
"And I thank you very much for telling me all you knew about him. And provided a few memories of his antics."
Barty fixed her a curious look.
"Well... the people have shown, dispite how much they tried to deny it, that they adore someone with an... how does Fudge call it... Superhero Complex. But even more, when they have a hero with a face."she said with a smirk.
"But this idiot is nothing of the sort. Dispite those books of his."
Daphne´s smirk did not slide off her face. In fact it only grew.
"The people think he is. That´s good enough for it to work."
"Oh... so he´ll be performing acts of heroism while WE will guide him trough it step-by-painfull-step?"Barty asked, already shuddering at the troublesome prospect.
Daphne actually giggled, shaking her head.
"Not really. You see, his muggle sister at that Party had only confirmed what I thought all along, since I began to delve into his history. During his upbringing he was actually a very talented wizard. However, thanks to his vanity, he would not bother to try anything, if he knew he would not be the best at it. I think we can easily cure him of that trait to some extend."
Barty looked extremly surprised and fixed the numerous jars another look.
"So... it won´t only be memories, that you will be placing into his empty mind?"
"Exactly. I did not spend two solid nights configuring and recombining memories for nothing, you know."
Barty smiled - he was catching on.
"You are a genius, Daph."
Daphne´s eyes twinkled.
"You´re not the first person, who tells me that."she said, carefully shielding her thoughts to hide WHO told her that mere days ago.
Lockhart suddenly snored, bringing them out of their small silence. Daphne at once moved back to him, wand at the ready.
"Well... I should get to it. Accio."she said, summoning one of the jars on the tray - a jar labled "Early childhood".
"You keep telling me the order of the jars that come after the first one. Its importaint I insert them in the correct order."she said to Barty.
He at once nodded smilingly, already looking forward to see this marvelous project in work. Daphne uncovered the jar and took a deep breath.
"Okay here goes. My first step in getting revenge on that miserable superhero-complexed bastard."she thought, her eyes flashing with anger at the very thought of Harry Potter.
A part of the reason, why she chose to recover Lockhart was, because she remembered full-well how angry and annoyed he used to make him. She knew, that with proper guidance and the right circumstances, Lockhart could prove to be an extremly valuable piece that could maybe even lure Potter to his doom. Oh, she hoped dearly that her beloved master will be there to see the look on Potter´s face at the news of Lockhart´s return - she was sure the look would be priceless.
"Just you wait, dear Harry... I´m sending your most favourite little friend straight back to you."
With a sinister grin she waved her wand over the sleeping Lockhart and started to work.
"Excellent, Ginny. Really great!"boomed James happily.
Ginny breathed, quickly sitting down into the nearby chair of her father-in-law´s large study as she felt her legs give out from exhaustion. Smilingly, James waved his wand and summoned two bottles of Butterbeer. He pulled up a chair and sat next to her, handing her the bottle. She took it gratefully and drank, feeling as though she had just ran a considerable distance without stopping.
Once her lessons for the day ended, she at once called Fidus to take her home. She knew, that Harry was staying in the castle longer for his Alchemy lesson with Albus and Lily was away at Andromeda´s house. In other words, the perfect setting for her secret project with her father-in-law. She used the chance to approach him with it, during the Sunday at the Burrow, when her husband was clearly preoccupied by his favourite ritual.
Eversince seeing him in action again... she felt that SHE herself should try and do something as well. She knew, that if a fight broke out again, she will definitely want to be a part of it, rather than sit somewhere in safety.
"That was hard..."she breathed, shaking her head.
James fixed her a small smile.
"The first steps are always the hardest, kiddo. But I´m aftaid, that you´ll find that the next one will be even worse. Sure you don´t want to back out?"he asked slightly cheekily, already knowing the answer.
He knew he was right when Ginny looked at him, determination blazing in her chocolate-brown eyes.
"Nice try, Lion Daddy. But no! I wouldn´t have approached you with this, if I wanted to back out as soon as we began."
"Hear, hear..."replied James happily, lifting the bottle up in a toast.
They allowed a moment of silence to linger, during which time they sipped the Butterbeer together.
"Still... you obviously seem to have a knack for the thing. You got trough the first stage quite fast. But just be sure to keep this a secret. Unless you want Harry to know, that is..."
Ginny gave him a cheeky look.
"No, I DON´T want him to know. If my little snakie can have his little secret projects, why can´t I have one too?"
James chuckled - he knew he loved this kid for a reason.
"In that case, I hope you mastered your Occlumency then."
Ginny smile now turned into a very sly one.
"No I haven´t. Harry tried to teach me, but I just can´t seem to get the knack of it yet. But what on Earth makes you think I need it, when your son is concerned?"
James fixed her a curious look.
"My husband knows better, than to probe in MY mind."she said with dignity.
Actually, Harry learnt that the hard way, about three weeks ago. His use of Legilimency had been the reason for their very first argument - one that she had won, when she stressed the importaince of trust in their marriage. She was well aware, that he can still sence her surface thoughts and that he can tell, when he is being lied to, but they agreed (he came up with that proposal after she refused to speak to him for a day) that even if they don´t neccessarily have to tell everything to eachother, they would trust one another regardless.
James could tell, that there was more to it than she had just told him, but decided NOT to ask.
"Anyway... I know, that you have a fair ammount of workload from school, even in the absence of your project with me, as well as the Patronus Project with Harry."
She smiled at the thought of the Patronus Project, remembering last Sunday´s activity in the Burrow.
Harry really surprised all of them (including her), when he asked for EVERYONE´S assistance with it. He wrote down quite a few observations and to everyone´s even larger surprise, he asked those who were watching the Sunday Morning Cartoons with him to conjure a Patronus there - though everyone was mystified by the plea, she understood as soon as she brought her husband a large bowl of Chocolate Milk. His Patronus, which next to Naja looked like her silvery twin, had shone more brighter when Harry took the bowl and fixed her a loving smile. Another activity with the Patronuses later on was very amusing and it turned into a kind of a game for the entire family.
"Just be sure not to overwork yourself, Gin."said James, bringing her back from her memories.
Ginny chuckled at the small, but concerned note to her father-in-law´s voice.
"You´re just like your son. He tells me not to overwork myself and HE is doing the EXACT opposite. I know, you and Sirius go out every night, snooping around for the Order - Lily and Amelia are not exactly happy about it lately, you know. But how´s it going by the way? Anything new?"she asked curiously.
James sighed and took another swing from the Butterbeer.
"Not really. Its been quiet since the Slughorn Garden Incident. Too quiet."he breathed with even more concern.
She bit her lip - the situation was starting to be as uncertain as during her fourth-year, when Voldemort had been laying low... if not even more. Though thistime, there was certainly a smaller ammount of fear present, some was still there. There was still some of that sickly feeling, that the nightmare could begin all over again. This, among other ones was the reason, she began working on this project with her father-in-law. As well as practicing with her friends from the DA and joined in by the snakies...
"However... me and Sirius overheared some very interesting things in the pubs up at North - very quiet though, ol´ Padfoot really came trough. Looks like the Repopulation Act has really left a great ammount of people... um... disatisfied - in a much more serious way, than we first thought. And several of them, those that aren´t attending Hogwarts are grouping together. That´s definitely NOT a good sign, Ginny."
She nodded, already knowing that if something of the sort was happening outside, it was bound to happen at Hogwarts eventually.
"Harry, Blaise, Draco, Eldrich and the other Nobles on the opposition are already stressing that point to Fudge and Kellen´s side. They´re trying to calm the situation down as much as possible. But with the Deadline fast approaching... I´m afraid, that they just won´t make it in time. No one can be sure, what will happen then."
Ginny was about to reply to that when the Sensory Charm, James had cast gave out an animalistic sound - something quite like a cow mooing. She instantly giggled and shook her head.
"Really cute, James."
James grinned and bowed his head slightly, as if she had been praising him, before both of them stood up. The Charm had announced, that either Lily or Harry had come home. Coming downstairs, they were surprised to see that it had been BOTH. Glancing at the grandfather clock in the hall, Ginny and James shared a look, realizing that their project had taken up much more time than they thought. Ginny was slightly surprised - she expected Harry to be home A LOT sooner.
"Where did you two meet up?"asked James brightly, as they all greeted in the kitchen.
"At Andromeda´s."said Lily, smiling at her son very proudly.
"Awww... I see, that someone just had to visit his little Godson straight after school."cooed Ginny, watching her husband blush and roll his eyes, now knowing the reason for his late arrival.
"Well... what kind of Godfather would I be, if I didn´t? But I´ve also had a different reason for dropping by. Which is why I waited at Hogwarts for Remus to finish his final lesson, after my Alchemy class."
James and Ginny shared a curious glance before James blushed under his wife´s radiant smile.
"Jamie... I´ll have you know, that our children are absolute trasures. They suceeded, where you and Sirius failed, oh so many times..."she said, pride prominent in her voice as she ruffled Harry´s hair.
Harry folded his arms in a satisfied way, looking overly proud of himself, while James gave out a happy gasp as he looked from one to the other.
"Wasn´t only OUR doing, Dad. Well... Remus needed A LOT of persuading by not only Dora, but also his mother-in-law - you know how stubborn he is in such matters. In the end, he gave in mostly for Dora´s and Teddy´s sakes. You know she really doesn´t fancy much, him being so far away at Hogwarts. Plus, as you all know - Remus turned down your offer of staying here in the Cottage with us, and he doesn´t want to be at Andormeda´s forever. So... Alice and I cooked up a small plan at the Burrow on Sunday. She messaged me before noon today and told me, that she and Fred were able to locate a house for sale in Hogsmeade."
Ginny gasped happily as well.
"You bought it for them?"she asked, at once knowing the answer from the satisfied look on his face.
"Not just me, love. I gave the gold for the Potter family, Alice and Fred gave a bit as well for the Weasley family, and Blaise had insisted on contributing the rest - he was by my side when Alice´s Patronus message came in - for the rest of the Slytherin Squad."
Ginny grinned, coming closer to him and wearing the very same proud smile, Lily did.
"Looks like the Superhero Complex works on many different levels, eh Harry?"she teased, ruffling his hair while his parents laughed.
Harry scrowled a bit - Ginny was very fond of teasing him in the privacy of the Cottage about the Psychological Profile of the Masked Wizard, claiming in no uncertain terms, that Fudge´s term for it had been the only thing correct about it.
"I think I liked it better, when I was a villain."he said grumpily, inviting even more laughter.
"You know... I think this calls for a little celebration."said James brightly, pulling out his wand.
Before anyone could tell anything, he conjured a piece of parchment, sat down with all the excitement of a little child, and quickly started to scribblle a message.
"Daaaad... I don´t want to be mean or anything, but me and Ginny DO have homework to finish, you know."
"I don´t."said Ginny, surprising him.
"I was able to finish my Transiguration Essay early yesterday..."
James at once tried to look innocent as both his son´s and wife´s looks fell upon him.
"...aaand since I´ ve made it a point to complete the small piece of homework we got today... I´m free for the evening."she said with a smirk at her husband, she could tell from that small scrowl, that HE wasn´t.
"You know Harry..."said Lily as James swiftly multiplied the message and called Fidus to have it delivered ASAP.
"... I´m not sure you did him a favor, freeing him from all the Auror work. All that free time certainly doesn´t do your father good."
Harry cracked a tiny smile.
"Definitely doesn´t do good for us either."he murmured, making both her and Ginny giggle.
James didn´t even hear it, because he was so chaught up in the cheer, giving Fidus and Apricie instructions. As soon as the two House-elfs dissaparated, he turned back to all of them, wearing a very playfull expression on his face.
"We have some time before the first guests will have a chance to arrive, so... anyone up for a game of Patronus Battle?"
Lily and Harry shared an exaspirated look, while Ginny giggled and waved her hand in the air, already pulling her wand out with the other.
"You know, Mum..."started Harry with a small smile, as Ginny practicly raced after James.
"... the thing about superheroes, that they never write in the papers is... that they always live to regret the concequences of their deeds."
They shared a laugh before James´ head peeked from the living-room´s door.
"Hey... don´t be such killjoys - let´s have a two-on-two..."he said, quickly ducking as Ginny´s Bouncehop Patronus flew over his head.
"HAHA! Miss me!"exclaimed James, at once returning to the game.
Sharing an eye-roll, the mother and son drew their wands and followed into the living-room.
Cassiopeia Kellen bit her lip once again. She was never fond of the meetings with her mother´s closest allies, however since the Slughorn Party the meetings were on at a daily basis. The things had really taken a turn for the worst since then.
She looked at her mother, who was listening quite attentively to the day´s report read by Albert Runcorn. Just as much as Deianira, who had her arms folded and was looking very sour. Well... she HAS been looking sour and was extremely grumpy since her engagement with Draco Malfoy was put off. Instead she got engaged with one of the young members of the Repopulation Act Office. The timid man was obeying her every single wish, but Cassiopeia suspected that it was maybe the lack of arguments, that she had been missing in a way - she was always a most combative type.
But Orphea was also starting to turn more serious - apparently she took the fiasco with Blaise Zabini as a personal insult and was eager to get HER compensation. Not that she wasn´t happy with her match-up...
Cassiopeia found it almost hard to believe, but as Orphea told her during yesterday´s tea, she was glad to be matched up with fine, well-mannered young gentleman.
As for HER engagement... she had been even more surprised. When she came to her mother with the plea, she told her that she already thought of the very same thing. But on the other hand, she had wondered WHY her mother engaged her with...
"Peia? Are you allright?"whispered Broderick with concern, reaching for her hand under the table.
She turned to look at her new fiance and nodded gently with a smile.
However happy she was with the arrangement, she couldn´t help but ask, whether her mother had an ulterior motive for the match-up.
Quickly shaking the feeling off, she once more turned to look at all of the people in the room - Runcorn, who was reading the report, Mafalda Hopkirk, Pius Thicknesse, Minister Fudge, Octavius McLaggen, Hyperion Greengrass and Lucidia Montague. All of them were attentively listening to the report.
"... for now, it seems that the Psychological Profile of the Vigilante had been a sucessful step. However we have to build up on it."said Runcorn, finishing the report and sitting down.
He winced as he did so - his side still hurt sometimes, eversince he woke up in St Mungo´s.
"Passing around this issue... we should also work on eliminating the opposition in the Noble ranks - this is, I believe a crucial step. Those little...forgive me... brats should be taught their place."said Hyperion Greengrass.
"I agree with that point."nodded Orphea.
"They are already influencing younger members of the other families, practicly teaching them disobedience - something that does not surprise me, since its a Potter that´s causing the trouble. It has to be stopped before its too late."said Octavius McLaggen, uttering the name as though it were a disgusting swear-word.
Peia knew, that although he had gained a small victory, gaining the title of the Head of the Auror Office, the age-old rival family was once more one step ahead of him.
Her mother sighed. As much as she had agreed with the point, there was now a more serious issue at hand...
"Right now, what´s importaint is to get the public view on our side."piped up Cornelius Fudge.
Everyone looked at him and he cleared his throat importaintly.
"As all of you well know, both the Ministry opposition AND the Noble one has been approaching me with warnings of the heightned tension among the... ah, commoners. I believe, that the situation is not nearly as dramatic as they claim it to be, but now would be the ideal time to somehow try and turn the situation to our advantage."
Pius Thicknesse stood up smilingly, calling for attention.
"Minister, I already have thought about this. And I had been able to find a solution."
Cassiopeia quickly shared another look with Broderick, while the others in the room didn´t bother to mask their astonishment. Thicknesse either didn´t notice it, or he pretended he didn´t, and went on.
"The problem with the Vigilante is, that there are still people who view him as a hero, fighting... what they view as injustice in this country. These people are essencially against us, because HE stands against us. However, those views CAN be changed in quite a hurry. All we need on our side... is a hero of our own."
McLaggen and Greengrass shared a incredulous look, Mafalda Hopkirk looked confused, Runcorn skeptical, Deia and Orphea shared an amused look, while Peia saw that her mother had actually been thinking about it.
"I am aware of that Pius."said Fudge with a sad sigh.
"I have tried to give the public true heroes in the Vigilante Task Force, but I am afraid, that no new hero we present will be good enough, next to that masked lunatic."
Pius however smiled even brighter.
"You are quite right of course, Minister. However I was talking about an "old" hero, rather than a new one."
Now, the entire room was able to hide their astonishment. Peia, herself quickly exchanged a look with her eldest sister, who wore the very same look of utter confusion, just as Pius moved across the hall to the door, explaining further as he did so.
"I have approached the Derwent Insitute about the research they have been working on and I have given them a chance to cure one of our fallen heroes. I am pleased to report, that they have been sucessfull. Once our patient was well again, I approached him and explained the situation to him. He agreed to help us. To work with us. He will help us get the public back on our side."
"Wait a minute, Pius. What will he - whoever he is - want in return?!"asked her mother in a hurry.
Pius fixed them all a radiant smile.
"He wants only one thing in return, Madam Kellen. He wants to be a hero for our new order. A hero, the likes of which this country will never forget."he said as he opened the door and gestured the person to enter.
In came a man in his thirties, with wavy blonde hair and a large, toothy-smile. Peia was certain her jaw would drop. She never thought, she would see him again. She could tell, that many of the others in the room shared that opinion.
The man stepped closer to the lot of them, his brilliant lilac robes flying dramaticly as he stepped infront of the Minister and bowed.
"Gilderoy Lockhart... "he said dramaticly, and quite unneccessarily.
"...,at your servise, Minister Fudge."
Peia saw the Minister´s shocked look transform into a smile. A smile, she knew that couldn´t mean anything good.