Chapter 31: The Vote
"NO! HARRY! PLEASE STOP!"she roared at the top of her lungs.
She bolted in her bed, looking franticly around.
The calm, pleasurable darkness of the room failed to diminish the sence of dread she felt.
Looking around, she saw that the surroudings had nothing to do with the scene she just saw... or thought she just saw.
"Nightmare..."she said quickly, as she shook her head as if to clear it.
Almost instantly, she saw a bright golden glow on the left side of the bed, moving towards her.
"It´s okay, Naja... just a bad dream... that´s all."she said, as the Royal Queen Cobra slithered towards her, her golden scales blinking in the dark, resembling that of a beacon.
With a small bouncing sound, Ginny felt another form come close to her.
"It´s all right, Hazumi... I´m fine, really."
She could almost feel the two snakes´ concern... but was, for some reason, soothed by Naja´s glow. However... the thing that she just noticed, made her sence of dread return at once. The object of her nightmare - her husband - wasn´t in bed with her.
"Naja... is Harry in the house?"she asked the cobra at once, knowing she could sence him around the Cottage easily.
Naja bobbed her head in affirmation and Ginny felt some of her worries subside. Although she found it highly... attractive, when Harry went into action as The Masked Wizard, with what was currently happening... she couldn´t help but worry a bit... okay, A LOT.
In any case, if Harry was in the house and wasn´t in their room...
She double-checked the time on the bedside table clock - two in the morning.
"Don´t bother Naja... I´ll go get him."she said, already rising from the bed, knowing the Cobra would go after him in a matter of moments.
Quietly making her way to the door of their room, she walked barefoot out of it, already having a shrewd idea where to go.
The party, though a very promising one, had indeed ended in a very confused and worried mood.
About one hour after Harry left for the Ministry, a message from someone in the Order had arrived - a message that ruined the enitre evening for her.
A group of Junior Death Eaters had attacked some small Muggle Music-club in London.
Just as several of the Order members in the room were preparing to leave and assist - during which time she was arguing about joining them as well - the said Order member, Dedalus Diggle had appeared on the Cottage´s doorstep.
He described, what he saw and everyone in the room thought, for a small moment, that he´d simply lost it.
No one in the room was keen to believe that the Juniors ( Voldy-jugend, as Harry, Angus and Lily jokingly call them) had all been stopped by a single wizard, before the Ministry lot could arrive... and this one wasn´t wearing a mask.
On the contrary, he wasn´t bothering to hide his face... but was presenting it like crazy.
Though her Mum had swiftly told the room about Audrey´s latest visit to the Burrow, and though everyone was surprised by Gilderoy Lockhart being disharged and deemed completly healthy once more... no one was able to believe, that it had been HE, who stopped the Juniors.
It simply MUST HAVE been a fluke.
It was an hour later, when Harry returned from the Ministry along with Blaise and Albus, when they all learnt, that it had certainly been true.
The thing that worried Ginny the most was, that she had never seen Harry in such a towering temper before. She got a taste of it during the Relationship Counsil a few months back, but it seemed that the experience had merely been a small taste.
Although he didn´t even shout, he looked as though he was in an constant battle with his boiling anger.
She could now understand, why Alice and Neville had been worried that he would turn into a Dark wizard... the menacing look on his face, as he, Blaise, Albus and Amelia went over several issues from the meeting... for a few moments there... he looked really terrifying. Pacing up and down numerous times furiously, his eyes flashing during their joint discussion, and she knew, that he was responsible for several smaller objects that exploded in the room.
"That must´ve been the reason for the nightmare I´ve just had."she thought, shuddering a bit at the memory.
In her nightmare she saw several of her fellow-students from Hogwarts... many faces she knew... come and attack him. She wasn´t able to remember what the issue was, but knew it had something to do with the Repopulation Act... Harry, with a hate-filled, menacing expression on his face attacked them, killing one opponent after another, as she watched in horror. No matter how much she screamed and cried for him to stop, it was as if he just couldn´t hear her, as his robes, hands and face were becoming more and more drenched in the blood of those he had just murdered...
"STOP thinking about it, Ginerva! Your husband is NOT some kind of a monster!"she roared at herself in her mind, feeling the need to shake her head in disbelief.
No... Harry could never... never become so brutal... so cold... so... heartless.
"Sometimes... what lies within is the REAL problem..."
Albus´ sad comment from the Slughorn Party rang in her mind - the comment about a person, who allowed his power to overcome his heart.
Her dread at once returned with avengance.
What if...? What if in the wake of all this...? What if he...?!
She shook her head again and entered the library - the only room in the cottage, where the light was presently shining. As soon as she stepped inside, she heared the loud music that was playing in the room - no doubt Harry had cast the Silencing Charm around the room, to make sure he would not be disturbing anyone´s sleep - VERY rightly, she might add.
"Of course... Harry´s way of dealing with his anger - play equally, if not more, angry music. Scratch that - CREEPY angry music."
She surpressed the need to cover her ears and tried hard not to listen to the brutal voice singing, especially since she had no way of understanding the lyrics anyway - how Harry and Angus could find this kind of music "cool" was beyond her... well, they could speak German afterall...
She however failed to surpress a giggle as she saw him by the large table, his head laid on the table among the open books and papers.
"Well... I DID warn him."she thought amusedly.
She saw something of the sort coming for a few days now. Hardly surprising - with all the work he had been doing since the Slughorn Party, it was merely a matter of time, before his body demanded some real sleep. And to think HE told HER not to overwork herself... well, he did get a talking-to for it...
She could tell, even from this distance, that he was in a blissfull dreamworld, looking troughoutly adorable. However...
"Bloody hell... how CAN he sleep in this racot?"she asked herself aloud, at once moving to the muggle contraption, that was playing that creepy mixture of sounds her husband called music.
"Let´s see now... push the... square button."she said, remembering the instructions for the "boombox" he taught her and pushing the said button.
The room at once sank into blissfull silence - extremly blissfull, as far as she was concerned.
Approaching him carefully, she couldn´t help but look over the work he had been doing before he fell asleep. There were a few open books of Modern Wizarding History, one containing records of the past twenty years and the papers around him included some of his notes. She was startled to see the copy of Gilderoy Lockhart´s Magical Me there as well.
Looking at his notes, she found it very difficult to understand. There were lots of known names (Fudge, Kellen A, Kellen D, Dray, Caractacus, B, Peia, Lucius, Eldrich, Rex, Greengrass, Al, Blaise, Kingsley, idiot - which she took to mean Lockhart - and a lot more), scribbles here and there, lots of scratching-out, crossing-out and pointers from one place onto another.
It looked to her, as though he was trying hard to predict what was going to happen... as though he was trying to form some sort of a battle plan.
He stirred and she saw one of his emerald eyes open slightly.
"Hm... G-Ginny...?"he mumbled sleepily.
He straightened himself up in his chair and looked at her trough half-closed eyes. She felt all her fears and concerns evaporate instantly, and in the same moment they were replaced by love and care.
"Yes, its me. Come on, sweetie. You need your rest."she said, her voice as gentle as a feather.
He was about to shake his head in negative, but was halted by a massive yawn.
"See? Even your body says so. So do us all a favor, Harry... and come get some sleep."
The gentle and caring note to her voice, plus the soothing feeling of her smaller hands on his shoulders seem to have done the trick.
"Y-yes... you´re r-right..."he said thickly, nodding as he tried to stand up clumsily.
She kept her hands on him, in case he would have to be supported - he looked really exhausted.
"M-my... my wand... Accio."he said tiredly, looking around the table, raising his hand.
She noticed something twitch among the papers, that layed here and there over the table. Quickly reaching among them, she uncovered his wand and took it into her hand, her other hand not leaving the place where she was touching him.
"See? You´re too tired to perform any magic right now. Much less wandless magic."
With another yawn, he allowed her to steer him from the library. She quickly flipped the light switch, shrouding the library in darkness, but also the rest of the house.
"Lumos"she quickly cast and Harry´s wand lit up.
As she steered him towards their room, she felt the strangest sensations from the wand in her hand. Really... she could tell, how it was different from her own wand... and not just in length or handle... she almost closed her eyes as she felt something... she couldn´t discribe it herself, but the simplest way to put it would be, that it was like a part of the person she now loved with all her heart. In a strange way... she felt, she knew, that this person had very far from his nightmare-counterpart.
She snapped back to reality as the door of their room gave out its riddle. Damn it,... what was that secret password again...?
"Chair."he mumbled and the door opened at once.
She couldn´t help but admire the fact, that even in his half-asleep state, he was still able to answer questions or riddles.
She steered him to the bed, where she saw Naja slither down from it and hiss something to a joyfully bouncing Hazumi. The little Bouncehop at once calmed and bounced down to her, setting himself calmly right by her side.
Ginny couldn´t help but grin - Naja must´ve already senced how tired Harry is and wanted him to get his rest as much as she did.
"Thanks, Naja."she said thankfully as she set her husband on the bed.
As soon as she placed his wand on the bedside table, it extinguished itself on its own, as though it knew it needed to do so. Not for the first time, she thought back to Gervaise Ollivander´s comments on wands - they really seemed to... well... feel for their owners.
Reaching for her own wand, she waved it, opening the covers over the large window and the room was instantly bathed in moonlight. She turned and saw Harry placing his glasses on the bedside table and trying to pull his shirt over his head, but failing miserably in the wake of his sheer exhaustion.
"Here... let me do it."she said gently, reaching him and accomplishing the task for him.
"You... are... amazing, my lovely Ginny."he said in a touched, albeit tired awe, as she magicly removed his sneakers, socks and pants and leaving him only in his underwear.
She wasn´t able to keep the happy grin off her face.
"I know I am... but now, bed, young man."she said, pointing to his side of the bed and playfully imitating Lily´s stern voice.
He gave her a weak chuckle and obeyed, goaning with relief as he laid down under the warm covers. She quickly joined him, at once wrapping her arms around him. She felt him snuggle into her embrace and her fingers immediately found their way into his hair.
"Thanks Gin..."he mumbled quietly.
"... I really needed that."
The statement was at once awarded with a kiss on top of his head.
"Get some rest, my love... I know you´ll have a busy day tommorow. Or should I say today."she said, already knowing that he was due to attend - as all Noble Heads - the morning meeting at the Ministry, where the Reinforcement Act will take its vote.
Harry goaned in an almost childish manner.
"I´m really not looking forward to it... I´m not sure how well I´ll be able to handle it all..."
She of course understood , Kellen, McLaggen and Lockhart all at once... it will definitely demand a LOT of self-control. It all the more affirmed her in her decidion to ask him the question.
"Harry... do you... do you want me to come along with you?"
He looked up from her arms and met her eyes, thistime his eyes opened widely, as though he had just taken a healthy dose of a Wideye Potion.
"W-would you?"he asked in amazement.
"Of course. But only if you want me there."she said with such sincirety, that he squeezed her tightly.
"But... but what about school tommorow? Can you just skip class for the day?"he asked, sounding like a little boy, who was hopefull, yet still frightfull.
She grinned at him, kissing his forehead again.
"Albus was the one, who suggested it to me, before he left today. He seemed to think that you may need my support. I also agree with him - you don´t have to do everything on your own every single time."
Indeed, before departing the Cottage, the Headmaster had quickly took her aside - he seemed to be very concerned about him too.
"He said, that as long as we let him know in the morning, it won´t be a problem. He will excuse me from class. Just so I can give you... um... moral support."
She saw a relieved look come across his face and he gave a weak chuckle, his eyes twinkling happily, looking into hers with unmistakable love.
"Good old, Al. Of course I want you there."
With that, he once more snuggled into her, sighing contently. It seemed as though some weight had been lifted off his shoulders already.
"G´night, Gin..."he mumbled quickly, shuddering a bit in pleasure as she resumed strocking his hair, the gesture relaxing him even more.
In a matter of seconds she could feel him falling asleep.
For a while she was content to simply remain like that, just watching him sleep, as she ran her fingers lovingly trough his jet-black locks. She was happy, that he had listened to her, and that he wanted her to accompany him - a part of her was slightly surprised, that he did.
As she watched him slumber peacefully, her thoughts lingered for a moment on the nightmare she had had.
"Its not possible. I know it isn´t."she thought calmly, cradling his head in her arms.
She wondered briefly, how the current situation will develop and what role will Harry play in it.
Harry mumbled something in his sleep and snuggled into her even more.
It was funny, she realized just now - the mighty Masked Wizard, the terror of Death Eaters as well as the Minister for Magic, seemed so vunerable right now. He can do so many things, few wizards in the world can, but at the end of the day... he is just an ordinary boy... no... man.
Albus was right - no one should shoulder all of this alone. They both agreed, that Harry would probably insist on doing just that - with or without a mask on his face.
A smile played on her lips as she came to a decidion - she will always be here for him. In any possible way she can...
With that thought she laid her head on top of his and closed her eyes, sighing contently and following him into dreamland.
The morning athmosphere in the Great Hall was very pleasurable and cheerfull. Most were chatting away happily and only a rare few students took notice of the fact, that the Staff table was completly empty.
Students were grouped together, the four House tables once more seating members of other Houses as well - even Slytherins at the Gryffindor Table (and vice-versa) was a common sight nowadays.
Ron, Hermione, Neville, Hannah and a couple of others, who were present at yesterday´s... um... spying mission, couldn´t help but glance at those, whom they have seen at the secret meeting. Many were not able to mask the frowns on their faces.
"I was wondering... d´you think we could simply talk to them? I mean... they´ re our friends too, right?"asked Dennis Creevy uncertainly, as their group - grouped very tightly together, flashed a small look at the Ravenclaw table, where a large group of the secret rebels were.
Most of them were quite hurt, when they found out, that several of these rebels were not only members of their Houses, their classmates, even room-mates in some cases, but also... a few fellow members of the Dumbledore´s Army.
"I´m not sure, if that´s a good idea, Dennis. That would mean, that we would have to admit, that we have been spying on them."said Hannah, shaking her head sadly.
"So what do we do...? There has to be something we could do to help."asked Demelza with a frown.
"I think its best not to do anything at the moment."said Hermione quietly, knowing that the rebel group also included two of HER old roommates.
They all fell silent for a while, everyone recalling the details of the secret meeting that Neville and Torie relayed to them in the Room of Requirement.
"I just can´t understand... I wasn´t all that wild about the Repopulation Act myself at first. But overtime, I saw that it wasn´t all that bad."piped up Colin.
Most cast him small smiles and Ron couldn´t help but clap him on the shoulder with a grin.
"Well... you see, Colin... not many have the luck to find such a match, like you have."he said, wiggling his eyebrows.
The boys mostly chuckled, while the girls giggled - all except the Head Girl, who administered a sharp poke in her husband´s ribs. Everyone present - since the members of Dumbledore´s Army often spent time together - were of course well aware of Colin´s engagement.
Though slightly scared upon first recieving his letter from the Repopulation Act Office - especially upon learning that his fianceé is eight years older than him and is part of the Noble, pure-blood Shafiq family, Colin had at once decided to give it a try.
The moment he saw the beautyfull witch he had been engaged to, during their first meeting in the Three Broomsticks, it was love at first sight. Many boys in Gryffindor - his classmates and even the boys in the lower years - were... um... "slightly" envious of him, having such a beautyfull woman for a fianceé - inspiring quite a large wave of gossip in the Common Room.
Aurora Shafiq had found her tiny fiance extremly adorable and in no time at all, their romance grew - the pair was due to marry, as soon as the Christmas Break begins.
She was also very warm to his brother, and the Creevy brothers were very surprised by the acceptance of the Shafiqs. Apparently - and contrary to what many would believe - the Noble pure-blood family (well-known for holding members of each House at Hogwarts) had taken a shine to the two muggle-born brothers. They were even befriended by Aurora´s younger cousin, Bertram - especially since they discovered, that they share many fascinations, the most prominent of course, the Masked Wizard.
"Speak of the devil... look, Colin."exclaimed Dennis, just as owls began to deliver the morning mail.
Colin´s face looked as though it had been hit with a ray of the purest sunshine, as the beautyfull yellowish owl with several golden feathers landed in front of him, a letter tied to its leg.
"Thanks, Amber."he said happily, at once untying the letter and passing a goblet of his juice to it.
Looking like a child opening his Christmas present, he opened his letter at frantic speed, his eyes at once started to read.
"My tiny... ha ha... WHAT?"came the Head Boy´s voice along with a chortle, no doubt he had read her pet-name for him over his shoulder.
Colin blushed deep-red, as Ron continued to chortle.
The others grinned as they watched the Head Boy massage his ribs, looking confused in responce to the Head Girl´s death-glare.
"What´s the big deal? I was only teasing..."
"Ronald!"she growled acidly.
Dennis´ question turned all attention on the pair of them. Colin wore an expression of confusion, as he read the letter.
"Something happened?"asked Dennis urgently, at once looking over his brother´s shoulder to scan the letter.
Colin placed down the letter, looking at all of them, even as other owls dropped the newspapers and other letters on the table.
"There was another Death Eater attack yesterday. The Juniors attacked some muggle music club in London."
The girls at once placed their hands on their mouths in horror. The boys at once shared glances, and Neville at once breathed in, a strange feel of contentment intruding on his shock.
"A Muggle music club? What´s the point in attacking THAT?"asked Ernie Macmillan, feeling his wife take his hand into hers.
"Rorie says, that apparently the club in question was a place, where many muggle-borns who follow the Act spend time with their partners."said Colin, shaking his head.
"Even with You-know-who gone... these guys just don´t give up."muttered Justin, his voice betraying his anger.
"But... but it doesn´t make any sence..."muttered Hermione, shaking her head.
"But anyway... it caused an uproar at the Ministry. Rorie says, that they are having a special meeting this morning. Something major is about to go down."
This revelation caused both Ron and Hermione to look at the Slytherin Table, right to a familiar corner, where their brother-in-law is always seated when at Hogwarts. They at once shared a quick glance and exchanged another glance with Neville and Hannah, who looked to the same corner and noticed too - Harry, Draco and Blaise were not present at the table.
"Look at this!"exclaimed Parvarti, pointing to the Daily Prophet that just arrived.
The many gasps from other students all around the Great Hall surprised them. Looking at the students, all they saw were the looks of utter confusion on their faces. Some however were changing into looks of bewildered happiness. Siezing the many copies of the newspaper, even making one or two copies with their wands, the group gave a collective gasp.
Grinning at them, showing their toothy smile was a picture of a good-looking wizard with wavy blonde hair and bright blue eyes - a person they never expected to see again.
"Lockhart?!"muttered Ron in sheer disgust.
December 2nd, 1997
The Heroic Comeback
Though many were certainly lulled into a false sence of security thanks to the exploits of the despicable Masked Vigilante, and indeed many were under the impression - as many witches and wizards had said - that they "have nothing to fear from the Death Eaters, as long as the Masked Wizard is here", their ill-informed impressions have been proven wrong yesterday night.
At around 8 pm yesterday, a group of Junior Death Eaters had attacked The Diamond Club in Muggle London.
The Club, as Muggles call it for unknown reasons, is a place where many teenage adolescents (as well several older, but obviously equally teenage-hormoned people) ussually enter to indulge into their favourable activities, which involve drinking themselves into a comatose state (not an uncommon sight there), or risking dreadfull injuries in the wild compleation of strange moves that Muggles so conveniently call "dancing". Or at the very least, risk becoming deaf from the loud racot, that the local kids call "music".
It however became the favourite place to visit for several muggle-born and half-blood witches and wizards, who like to "unwind" with their significant others. This may be one of the reasons, why the Junior Death Eaters, who do not seem to be as appretiative of the place had decided to attack it.
The infamously known Juniors - Pansy Parkinson, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, Miles Bletchley, Adrian Pucey and Milicent Bullstrode - had engaged, in what was sure to be a yet another Death Eater-style massacre, if not for a hero, who had been nearby, enjoying a reunion with his family.
Gilderoy Lockhart - a famous hero of our Wizarding World, a hero who had been incapacitated during the famous incident at Hogwarts almost five years ago( the details of the Chamber of Secrets incident still remain vague) had returned.
The wizard, famous for his battles against Dark creatures and Dark Arts in general, had been confined to the Janus Thickey Ward at St Mungo´s ( a place for patients with pernament Spell Damage) had been healed and deemed fully fit once more.
As the Head of the Hospital, Edwin Blacklock, 54, half-blood had informed us, the hard-working med-wizards at the renown Dilys Derwent Institute had been able to find a cure for the Memory-related Spell Damage dealt to Gilderoy Lockhart by an unknown party.
"Unknown to most."whispered Hermione to her husband, who grinned.
He knew, that back in their second-year Lockhart´s real nature was a real shock to her, and was happy to know that her school-girl fascination of that idiot was no longer present, the Chamber scene from Harry´s diary only cementing her opinion of him.
He, for his part, felt a wild surge of pride at his brother-in-law, remembering the non-verbal Shield Charm, that placed Lockhart in St Mungo´s to begin with.
Thanks to their hard efforts, Gilderoy Lockhart was healed and not a moment too soon.
At once responding to the situation, he proved that he had not lost not a bit of his old brilliance. Tearing into the club, at great risk of his own life, Lockhart proceeded to overpower the group of young criminals, before the Ministry´s reinforcements from the Auror Office could arrive, effectively lowering the chances of a fatal attack on the poor, innocent people in the Club.
Though the Obliviators had certainly had their fair share of hard work following the incident, it is, in all-effect, a tiny price to pay in exchange for the lives of the people, who could have been dead by now, if not for the marvelous hero.
"No way! LOCKHART saved those people?!"breathed Ron in amatement, sharing a look with Neville.
"It HAS to be a fluke!"said Neville, shaking his head in bewilderment.
Our great Minister for Magic had at once responded to the situation, not taking this situation lightly indeed.
"It was the greatest fortune, that such a hero returned in a time, when we had needed him the most. The Chosen One, as great as he is, is sadly not capable of being everywhere and our community should be happy, that we have another protector of the weaker and innocent...
They all quickly looked at Neville, who was staring at the news in mild disgust. All of them well remembered Fudge´s attempts at gaining him to his side, following the Department of Mysteries Incident.
"So... it looks like Fudge DID get his poster-boy afterall. Can´t say, that I´m sorry."he said coldly.
Neville had turned down any and all offers from Fudge, as well as the "Medal of Honor" he wanted to present him following the Battle of Hogwarts.
The Minister for Magic however said, that he can no longer be as lenient to the security issue, that the Death Eaters that escaped Azkaban present.
"This attack only further strenghtens the arguments, that some of the honorable Heads of the Noble families have been presenting since the Azkaban breakout. Since it has become extremly clear, that the Death Eaters are very active, violent and dangerous. This security issue calls for greater measures. Rest assured, that the Ministry is taking all the neccessary precautions."
The measures, the Minister spoke of are still a secret, however we have been assured, that the precautions are to be discussed and taken today, at the Ministry, where a special session is held. One of such magnitude, that every single department is involved. The Noble families are also reported to take their participations in this importaint meeting. Rumor has it, that many of the Nobles did not hesitate to bring the support of their family members as well.
We can only hope, that the precautions, that will be voted on during the day will help bring the devious Death Eaters to justice and make our country safe once more.
(Gilderoy Lockhart´s take-in on the Incident, as well as the official statement on his illness and cure can be found on pages 3 to 6)
"A special session?"
"Their family members?"
Ron, Neville, Hermione and Hannah swiftly scanned the Gryffindor Table, then scanned the Slytherin Table´s corner once more. Suddenly their attention came to the Staff Table, where the teachers were slowly sitting down. Each wore a sombre expression on their faces and the Headmaster was nowhere to be seen.
The foursome shared a meaningfull look. The Snakie corner of the Slytherin Table only held Angus, Susie and Torie. The absence of Luna was somewhat to be expected, but not the absence of Ginny Potter - but they knew at once, where the girls in question must be.
"Blimey... I never thought, that Harry would take Ginny along for such a thing."murmured Ron.
"This is serious."said Neville quietly.
Ron and Hannah looked at him in question, but Hermione seemed to know, what he meant.
"Its very good that she´s there with him then."she said with a small smile.
"What do you mean, Mione?"asked Ron confusedly.
Neville smiled at her, nodding and looking very relieved for some reason.
"It means Ron, that even the mightiest hero is still only human."he said with an enigmatic tone, that could rival Albus Dumbledore himself.
Ignoring his best friend´s even more confused look, he secretly breathed a sigh of relief.
The Ministry Atrium was rarely so filled with people. Every single employee of the Ministry was on their feet, the Prophet´s reporters, as well as reporters from the smaller newspapers were jumping from side to side, though they knew full-well that they will NOT be allowed the access to the large conference-room, where the vote will take place. Several Nobles had also arrived, some making their statements for the press already. The reporters, almost as one jumped to one side, where the most-known party had arrived.
Percy Weasley breathed a sigh, watching the Minister´s party walk trough, answering the questions as they went.
He was actually happy for the fact, that following the Battle of Hogwarts he had been excluded from it and brought back to the Department of Magical Co-operation.
"All right there, son?"came a well-known voice, and he felt a warm hand rest on his shoulder.
"Yes, Father."he said meekly.
The father and son watched quietly, as the Minister´s party passed them. Fudge didn´t even bother to make eye contact, neither did Thicknesse who looked extremly dreamy, Runcorn shot them a scrowl and Athena Kellen gave them a superior look.
A small moment of silence endured, during which time they greeted and waved to the people around, who DID acknowledge them.
"I´m so sorry, Father."said Percy in a small voice.
Arthur didn´t have to guess twice, to know what his son meant - dispite the fact, that it was in the past, he knew that there was still some measure of guilt that would always remain.
"We all make mistakes, Perce. What really matters is, that we learn from them."he said kindly.
Percy nodded, a small smile on his lips. Suddenly however Arthur felt his son tense.
"You HAVE to be kidding!"he growled and without another word walked forward to a crowd of people nearby.
Looking in the direction where his son was walking, Arthur almost gasped for a moment. Quickly putting two and two together, a smile spread on his lips. There, among the women was... oh no... she spotted Percy. At once, she excused herself politely and came to meet him.
Arthur swiftly started to make his way towards them, hoping to catch them off before something happened.
He already saw Percy came to a halt and fold his arms in an authoritative manner.
"Ginerva."he said coldly.
Ginny at once mimicked his gesture and gave him a cold look.
"Percival."she replied in an equally, if not more cold voice.
"What are you doing here?! You should be at school!"he chastized.
"I took a day off."she said coldly.
"Oh, is that it?! A day off?!"
"Aprooved by the Headmaster, I may add."
"Be that as it may, but you have your duty as a student..."
"I have an even greater duty as a wife."
Arthur couldn´t help but crack a smile, knowing full-well the reason why she was here, and proud of it.
"Now see here, Ginerva..."
"Call me that one more time and I´ll hex you."she growled dangerously, her fingers itching for her wand.
"Now, kids... "Arthur started, but...
"What do we have here...? A family quarrel?"came a voice, that all three now knew, and did NOT particuraly like.
Rita Skeeter was looking at them, as though she had just spotted some kind of a sensation, her Quick-Quotes Quill at the ready.
"You seem to find eachother on the opposite sides of today´s issue. This certainly looks interesting..."she commented, the Quill already writing.
All three redheads glared her, but before anyone could say anything, another voice rang out from behind Rita Skeeter.
"What looks so interesting?"
Rita´s eyes went wide and she spun around the moment she heared the icy-cold voice, a look of sheer terror was instantly on her face.
Both Ginny and Arthur had to surpress a laugh, as they saw that Harry´s "Predator look" was leaving the "terror of journalism" shaking in fear.
"N-nothing. Nothing interesting to report here, Mr Potter. If - if you´ll excuse me..."she stammered, at once starting to move away.
"Rita."he called, making her freeze in her tracks and turn fearfully to him.
He simply pointed to the tiny notebook, that the Quick-Quotes Quill was writing on. In one instant, Rita siezed it, tearing the page away and ripping it into pieces in front of their eyes.
Harry gave a nod and the "journalist" had dissapeared as fast as she possibly could, her Quill having trouble to follow her in the sea of people, who seemed to be oblivious as to what was going on.
"Blimey, Harry... what did you do to her?"breathed Percy, his amazement making him forget to be angry at Ginny being here.
"Nothing out of the ordinary, Percy."he answered calmly and neutrally.
This was too much for both Ginny and Arthur, who exploded in laughter.
Unlike Percy, they knew - from the scenes from his diary - how he had settled the score with her in his fourth-year, right after the article about Neville being "disturbed and dangerous" had appeared.
Ginny´s laugher only doubled, as she remembered Hermione positively howling with rage when seeing how easily he found out about Rita´s unregistered Animagus status - while SHE researched like crazy for almost two months, HE was simply told straight away by Daphne Greengrass and Pansy Parkinson, after she had interviewed them. Furthermore, he had not only had his way with her with the Levicorpus spell (she remembered her Mum and Mum-in-law actually share a hi-five upon seeing it), but also made her get chaught easily by Hermione in the Hospital Wing after the Third Task (he had dropped subtle and secret hints to her in the library) effectively making it appear, as though it was Hermione, who had discovered her secret.
"You snake!"exclaimed Hermione pointing at him with a death-glare in her eyes, doing an extremly good Alice-impersonation, much to the amusement of everyone around.
"Guilty as charged."he replied cheekily, to the hilarious laughter of the entire room.
Percy was still looking confused, as their father was trying to get his laughter under control and his sister embraced her husband lovingly.
"I love you, you know that?"she asked, still giggling slightly.
"I´ve noticed..."he said cheekily, and had only a moment before she chaught his lips in a kiss.
"Must you two do that in here? Of all places?!"growled Percy, once more looking stern.
"Is there a problem, brother dearest?"growled Ginny, her brown eyes glaring him as soon as she and Harry separated.
"Yes, if you must know, there is. It is completly inappropreate for such a time and place."
And off the siblings went yet again.
Arthur sighed, but looking at his son-in-law, who moved queitly towards him and placed his hands in the pockets of his robes as he watched Ginny and Percy exchange one argument after another, he couldn´t help but crack a smile.
"You´re enjoying this, aren´t you?"he asked with a small chuckle.
Harry responded with a cheeky look, his father would be proud of.
"Well... me and Alice can´t be responsible for all the sibling-quarrels around here, now can we?"he replied conversationally.
Arthur grinned, knowing the reasons and reading between the lines perfectly - both of them had no reason the interviene into the argument, so long as it didn´t go too far, which was a sure shot since Percy wouldn´t dare take it so far and Ginny only responded with equal fire.
He placed a hand on his son-in-law´s shoulder, happy that he and Ginny had such understanding for eachother, and he could tell that Harry had read the gesture perfectly.
However, catching sight of several people waving at them, Harry turned to the bickering siblings and cleared his throat in a meaningfull way.
"I hate to interupt, but the party over there would like a word with me. Gin, shall we?"he asked politely, holding out his hand for his wife to take.
Ginny instantly fixed him a radiant smile and took his hand.
"We´ll see you in the conferece room soon, I expect."she said, as though the entire argument with her older brother simply didn´t happen.
Arthur grinned and nodded at his beloved daughter, as Harry gave them a nod that said "bye for now".
"Daddy."she said lovingly giving her father the very same nod along with a happy smile, before turning her sights on her brother, her eyes narrowing at once.
"Percival."contrary to the loving tone she used at her father, this one was about two-hundred degrees colder.
Percy huffed and straightened his glasses as he watched his sister and brother-in-law depart hand-in-hand and moving towards a group that included the young Slughorns, his boss - Azrella Fawley, Aurora Shafiq and several other Ministry workers from the Noble families.
"Ginerva is far too rebelious. And her husband only supports it."growled Percy, shaking his head.
Arthur chukled, not really wanting to comment on that - he wasn´t in the least opposed to it, but felt that he did not need to say it aloud, especially in front of Percy.
His eyes twinkled as he saw Ginny and Harry with the other Nobles, seeing that Ginny was certainly on excellent terms with them.
Suddenly there was a disturbance on the side and most of the people looked towards that corner.
There, among all the reporters, accompanied with loud camera clicks and flashes, stood a wizard with wavy blond hair, dressed in his forget-me-not blue robes, throwing radiant smiles at the crowd and positively soaking up all the attention like a little child.
"... of course. I have spoken with the Minister, and he told me, that he wishes for my help. I will of course be only to happy to assist in any way I can."said Gilderoy Lockhart, obviously happy about the looks of awe he was attracting.
Arthur swiftly directed a look at his son-in-law and he could see, even in the distance, that his green eyes flashed dangerously. His jaw was working as furiously, as he saw it work yesterday at the Potter Cottage, as his narrowed eyes tracked the celebrity, who was passing and walking towards them.
"Oh no... I DO hope they keep their temper in check."breathed Percy, at once moving closer, as though hoping to stop a scandal.
Arthur followed in an instant, though truth-be-told, he would not exactly mind if Harry cursed Lockhart on sight. He saw, trough Harry´s diary all the times, that Harry and Lockhart had a fair share of differences during his second-year.
"Well... it has been quite some time, Harry Potter."said Lockhart, standing now right before Harry and Ginny.
Quite like the times from the diary, Arthur saw a completly blank look appear on his son-in-law´s face. Upon closer look, he saw that Ginny had taken his hand into hers, standing purposely in such a way, that it would not be seen.
"It certainly has, Professor."replied Harry, offering his right hand in a handshake.
Accompanied by the loud clicking of the cameras, Lockhart gripped Harry´s hand, shaking it like crazy for the benefit of the photographers.
"I heared, that you have come a long way, since I last saw you."he said grandeously as he let go of his hand.
Arthur and Percy exchanged a glance, even Percy could recodnize the fake, automatic smile that came over Harry´s face.
"Oh, and this young lady here... of course, I remember you from my first-year classes. Ginny... Weasley, if I´m not mistaken."he said jovially, looking at her and flashing a charming smile at her.
Arthur surpressed a growl of his own - of course he should remember her, since as Ron had informed him, he had been fully prepared to leave her to her fate in the Chamber of Secrets, had Ron, Neville and Alice not forced him down there. He had a half-mind to curse him, before Harry or Ginny could have the chance to do so themselves.
Percy took in a breath, his face going white, expecting his sister to lash out at Lockhart and Bat-Bogey him instantly... under the eyes of all the reporters and the Nobles all around. He spotted Deianira and Orphea Kellen, along with their fifteen-year-old fiances Robert Scrimgeour and Corvin McLaggen (who had likewise been excused off their Hogwarts classes for the day) looking at the scene, as though expecting to see something JUST like that.
Ginny however responded with a smile, offering her hand in a gesture befitting of a Noble Lady. Lockhart at once responded, taking her hand, bowing and kissing the back of it charmingly.
Arthur noticed from his position, that Harry´s hand gripped Ginny´s other tighter and that she squeezed back with equal force.
"Ginny Potter, Professor Lockhart."she answered, her voice showing quite clearly to everyone around, that she was proud to be called that.
Arthur´s eyes twinkled again and he once more spotted Harry´s hand squeeze Ginny´s hand, thistime with less strength - in an affectionate manner.
"Charmed. I must say, it warms my heart to see my two former students become so close."he said jovially and several of the reporters, women mainly "awwed" as the cameras clicked away like crazy, the reporters writing down every detail they possibly could.
"I hear, that you are back in action, Professor."said Harry in a friendly voice, apparently ignoring the curious looks of the reporters.
Lockhart´s eyes twinkled and he turned to look at him.
"Yes, Harry. You are correct. I see, that a LOT has been going on, since I´ve been away. I´ve been hearing something about a masked vigilante. You wouldn´t happen to know anything about that, would you Harry?"he asked in a suspitious sort-of voice.
Arthur held in a small gasp and could tell, that Ginny surpressed her reaction too, affirmed by Harry´s squeeze of her hand. For a small moment, he was actually happy for the fact, that Percy didn´t have a clue about Harry´s secret identity. Looking at his son-in-law´s face, he saw, that he was completly calm as he looked Lockhart straight to his eyes.
"Is he using his Legilimency powers?"he thought to himself.
"No, I´m afraid I do not have any more information, than what is available at the moment. You aren´t... by any chance, suspecting me... are you, Professor?"asked Harry in an innocent voice.
"Of course not, Harry. I know, that during the time I have taught you at Hogwarts, we had our ups and downs, but I´m sure you know, that I am no enemy of yours."said Lockhart smilingly, the smile making sure, that all of the reporters would believe what he had said.
"I know, Professor Lockhart. Its all in the past."said Harry earnestly, offering his hand once more.
"I agree, Harry. Let bygones be bygones."said Lockhart jovially, taking his hand again and the cameras clicked like crazy.
Percy shared a yet another look with his father, Arthur seeing that his son was very surprised and impressed by what he just witnessed.
"Well, I must be off. I expect to see you in the conference room soon enough. The Minister is expecting me, so goodbye for the moment, Harry, Ginny..."said Lockhart, waving them slightly in a gesture of farewell.
The Potters waved back and in a flash, Lockhart had spun on his heel and moved away, the reporters following like flies, at once bombarding him with questions, Lockhart not even bothering to keep his voice down.
"... oh, of course. They are my former students afterall..."
Arthur moved closer to them, seeing the two of them looking quite calm, but knowing that it was only an act.
"So... suddenly he´s on first-name terms with us? Especially you?"growled Ginny in anger, watching Lockhart and the reporters move towards the conference room.
Harry gave out a long sigh.
"What do you expect? We´re members of the Top Noble Seven afterall and he DID... um... teach us afterall. Of course he would act that way in front of the press."replied Harry in a mild-disgusted tone.
"Can´t say, that I blame you for... um, disliking the fellow, Harry."he said supportively, looking at his son-in-law.
"Thanks, Dad."he said quietly, breathing a sigh and (as Arthur very well noticed) keeping a tight hold of Ginny´s hand.
"And thank you as well, fireball."he added, looking at Ginny.
Ginny gave him a loving smile and kissed his cheek.
"Harry... I was wondering..."started Arthur, but Harry held up his hand.
"Don´t worry. I checked."he said at once, confirming his suspitions about Legilimency and assuring him, that Lockhart was none the wiser.
A magical tune suddenly sounded troughout the Atrium, signalling that the meeting was about to start. The people at once started to make their way towards the conference room.
Percy at once fell in step with his boss, Azrella Fawley and started to chat with her and Aurora Shafiq. Arthur was suddenly called by some of the workers, working underneath him in his Department that were already beckoning him towards the conference room.
As they passed trough the door,he noticed that most of the seats were already filled, a large chatter filling the giant conference room. Already he spotted several of the people he knew, even waving at Sirius and Amelia Black. Looking brightly around, he suddenly spotted something among the Noble Top Seven Table.
"Excuse me for a moment, Herbert. I´ll be right back."he said to his collague politely.
Swiftly exiting the conference room, he looked around the empty Atrium. At once he surpressed the need to laugh.
The Atrium was completly deserted. Save for a pair, who were in a tight embrace, kissing eachother passionately - he almost felt bad, to disturb them from it.
Clearing his throat meaningfully, his voice echoing trough the Atrium and making the pair separate, he fixed them a radiant smile.
"Come on, you two."he called to his daughter and son-in-law, pointing to the door of the conference room over his shoulder.
"Round two is coming up."he said brightly, though in fact, slightly worried for his son-in-law.
"... and there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. More proof, as if it were needed, that people are calling for security and protection."boomed Fudge´s voice an hour later.
Ginny watched her husband sigh and run a hand trough his hair and goan.
"You´ve just discovered America, have you, you moron?!"he breathed so quietly, only she could hear it and had the situation not been so serious, she would have giggled.
Fudge had taken points to read some of the letters from the people, that have been sent since very late in the night yesterday and during the morning. Naturally, the letters were filled with pleas for help from the common-folk and some - undoubtably from those, who had been present in the incident - even celebrated Lockhart´s actions during the incident.
"We are therefore pressed to solve the situation and get the remainder of the Death Eaters behind bars. We cannot allow them any chances to escape - too many mistakes have been done in that area, no doubt by my predecessor."came the voice of Octavius McLaggen - the current Head of the Auror Office, the last part of his sentance coming in a sneer.
Ginny heared a thud beside her and at once grabbed Harry´s hand, seeing that his other had come into contact with the handle of the chair he was sitting on, and that he was doing all he could to remain calm. Though she certainly did not like the way, McLaggen had just openly insulted James, she knew that Harry was the issue of greater importaince right now. The contact having a soothing effect, she saw that he eased up a bit, but that did not include the glare he was shooting on McLaggen. She of course knew, that Harry was very carefully biding his time, trying to think trice before actually saying anything. With some luck, he won´t even have to respond to the idiotic comment.
"This accusation is unbaised, McLaggen!"came the voice of Wizengamont elder - Tiberius Odgen.
"The Auror Office was doing much progress in the issue, under James Potter´s leadership."said Eldrich Macmillan from the Top Noble Table.
"I noticed, that since YOU took the Office, McLaggen, your Aurors have not chaught a single Death Eater. The ones arrested since the last breakout are only the Juniors chaught by Gilderoy Lockhart and the one chaught by Draco Malfoy."said Hector Slughorn from the lower Noble Table One.
"I also noticed, that your Department is no close to tracking down the rest of them, until they attack again."said Draco from the Vigilante Task Force table.
"No closer than your little group is to capturing that masked lunatic, boy!"roared Hyperion Greengrass from the lower Noble Table Three - the table placed the closest to the Governing Table, where Fudge, Kellen, Thicknesse, Runcorn and Mafalda Hopkirk were sitting.
"Says a pompous High Class bloke, whose only real work in life is to help govern a school, but retreats as soon as something happens there too?!"roared Sirius Black in anger and Ginny saw him being calmed down by his wife.
"SILENCE!"came a magicly magnified, strong voice, resonating from their table and she turned in wonder, looking at Blaise who had stood up, pointing his wand to his throat and bringing all the bickering and chatter, that had endured in the room for the past hour to an abrupt end.
"I was under the impression, that we are here to solve the situation and NOT shift blame for it from table to table."he said rationally, as though he was a father-figure, trying to sort out a group of bickering children.
Ginny grinned, looking at Harry, who cracked the first REAL smile in more than half-an-hour.
"Good old Blaise. About time this pointless bickering and posturing came to an end."he murmured to her, with some measure of relief.
Blaise was attracting many stares indeed - from the Ministry workers, the reporters, from the Task Force, the Nobles, several angry looks primarly from Greengrass and McLaggen, aprooving smiles from Albus, Amelia, Kingsley and the Top Seven Nobles and of course the look of utter admiration and affection from his darling Luna.
"I believe, its about time to stop playing games of prestigue and come to issue at hand - The Reinforcement Act."
Blaise´s comment had certainly sobered several of the bickering people around. Only McLaggen and Greengrass seemed to think, that this fight was certainly worth to go on.
Fudge seemed to have come out of a stupor and at once started to read the newly drafted Act, as it was written down. Ginny listened very carefully, and she knew that Harry had been listening twice as much.
Each point had been adressed by several parties - from Amelia´s Table, right down to the Table seating the various Ministry Departments. Once or twice, she even saw some of the Noble Ladies, who have been there to accompany their husbands - the Heads of the families - voice their opinion.
"You are free to have a say in this too, Gin. On behalf of our family."said Harry to her quietly, as another point went on.
Though very touched indeed, she shook her head.
"Thanks, sweetheart. But this is your arena mostly."
She could feel Harry´s hand tighten on hers and he placed his other one on top of hers.
"Okay. But anytime you will want to say something to the case, don´t hesitate. You´re my wife and I deeply respect and appretiate your opinions."
She fixed him pretty much the same admiring and loving smile, Luna gave to Blaise. Hell... she had a half-mind to snog him senceless right here and now, but knew, that thistime it was certainly nor the time or place.
"Oh, wait till we get home, Potter."she whispered into his ear - doing the next best thing - and could tell, by his shudder that he was already looking forward to it.
"...and the Ministry will employ those, who follow the Repopulation Act faithfully, to serve as reinforcements to the issue. Be it border partol, OR the local area partols. In short, those who help the Ministry during these times, will recieve help from the Ministry in turn."
Though the argument had left several, if not most people in aprooval, there were those (incuding them) who breathed out a gasp and shared a look. Albus actually gave out a deep sigh.
"So, what you are saying, Cornelius, is that you are planning to involve the common-folk who follow your Act into reinforcing your laws?"
She swiftly traded a look with her husband, knowing full-well what this means AND where the roots of the idea originated.
"Exacly, Dumbledore. It won´t be for free of course. Just like Mr Potter and Mr Zabini proposed, the pairs that inforce..."
"Hang on."said Ginny, standing up at once and drawing all attention on her.
"If I´m not mistaken, and IF my memory serves me correctly, Harry and Blaise proposed assistance from the Ministry in the form of funding and housing the newly-founded families that result from the Repopulation Act - those who are not financially secure - as a means of helping them! NOT turning them into outposting employees of the Ministry for Magic!"
There was a murmur among the entire conference room. Ginny turned her sights slightly at her husband as was almost startled to see such a fierce, supportive look on his face. In the Tables on the other side, she spotted her father´s affecionate smile, as well as Percy´s look - he was white-faced and looked as though he had just been pertrified by a Basilisk.
"You are right of course, Madam Potter. However, what these... commoners must learn is, that there is nothing for free."said Athena Kellen at once.
"So basicly, they are to work their share for the Act that has been forced upon them?"asked Ginny in a calm voice and once more inviting more talking among the tables.
"No one is forcing them to take the positions offered, Madam Potter. The Act merely gives out the oppoturnities, that the families can use to promote their wellfare."said Fudge.
"And make those, who do not wish to do so, but still follow the Act, worse off in the matter, Cornelius."pointed Albus, flashing her a small smile before turning his sights back at the Minister.
"Our proposals were in order to promote the Act-followers and not exploit them, Minister."said Blaise, standing up as well.
The statements were taken in large regards by the opposition, who at once started to protest.
"SILENCE!"called Fudge, banging his table like crazy.
"What everyone, including the general public simply MUST understand is, that the positions have changed. The Repopulation Act is the only way to get our community back into its Glory days. And the Reinforcement Act is the way, to secure and guard the community from the Death Eaters and the Masked Vigilante. As soon as these issues are dealt with, this governing body will once more reopen the borders and lessen the levels of security."said Fudge.
Ginny could see, that a great deal of people were really not opposed to the idea - especially if it meant, that the Death Eater threat has been dealt with, the Incidents that happened in the past few months had only affirmed them of it.
"And what of those, who do not WANT to follow your Acts, Fudge?!"asked her husband, standing up at last.
"What of the people, who do not wish to see it your way? How will you act against them?!"
Fudge shurnk back somewhat and Ginny could see, that several of those who were for the Act had looked to eachother - they never even considered such an option.
"These rebelling teenagers will be handled by the law and by our Department of Magical Law Enforcement."said Athena Kellen, standing up too.
"They are more than some mere children, from the intel we have. There are quite a few adults as well as families, who are opposing the Act."said Amelia Black.
"They need only one thing - a strong, charismatic leader to unite them - and we are left with a big problem on our hands. Do you really wish to start a civil war in our country, Kellen?"Harry boomed and had certainly made an impression on great many people in the room.
"That is proposterous, Potter. The commoners would not DARE to stand against the Ministry!"roared Deianira Kellen, much to Draco´s annoyance.
"Such a thing had never happened before."added Orphea Kellen.
"Meaning it cannot possibly happen NOW?!"asked Blaise.
"By OUR information, these... rebels as you call them pose not an immediate threat at the moment."said Albert Runcorn.
"Exactly. These commoners are nothing to be afraid of. The Security Issue we are dealing with is much too greater."said Pius Thicknesse.
Harry fixed the Governing Table a look of utter disgust.
"You are underestimating the common-folk. As you have underestimated the Death Eaters in the past. As Head of the Potter family, I want my family to have nothing to do with this business. I hereby use my right and speaking for the entire family, abstain from the vote."he said in a powerfull voice, dramaticly standing down and seating himself.
Ginny sat down simultaniously with him and wasted no time in grabbing his hand. She saw several other Nobles flash them a look of utter respect, dispite the fact that he had abstained.
"You did the right thing, Harry."she said, seeing that several other Noble families had called for exactly the same.
"I know you did. And I stand beside you. No matter what happens."
"I love you, Ginny."he said, giving her a look of loving gratitude, just as Fudge called for the official vote.
Unsurprisingly, the opposition - both Noble and the Ministry - had voted against, but as it turned out, Lucius Malfoy was right. Fudge WAS able to get enough votes to pass the Act. She felt Harry tense considerably and had to fight down the urge to gather him into her arms.
"Oh, Gin... That idiot has no IDEA what he just caused."she heared him say miserably, his voice also lined with a level of anger.