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Chapter 9: The Speech
It was the day of Harry's oral potions test and he surveyed the vial that Ron had presented him with the night before. It trembled in his shaking hand. "This had better work Ron. My nerves are already shattered."
"I checked it over and over and I know I got it right. The colour looked right too as described and there was a minty odour for a few seconds that evaporated away. It stung my eyes. The book said that was the confirmation it was correct." affirmed Ron.
"And you got the incantations right?"
"Yes, yes. They come before that so if you get the minty odour then everything's right." insisted Ron.
"And it lasts indefinitely? I mean, I can't drink this in class."
"The book is vague but yes, see for yourself." Ron flipped through the library book and showed it to Harry with his finger pointing at the text.
"Whosoever drinketh, let him assuredly know that when needful this magicked potion will fill him but once from his own emptiness." quoted Ron. "You see it says 'when needful'. It makes sense that whoever made this potion wouldn't expect anyone to be able to drink it immediately before a speech would they?"
"I don't like the sound of that 'emptiness' bit..."
"There's no choice now is there? Come on, we've got Charms soon then Potions. You can't be sure of another chance before then." urged Ron.
"Oh well, guess so." Harry opened the vial and sniffed the clear liquid carefully. "No mint. Smells like cauliflower and nuts."
"The minty bit was only for a few seconds after I made it. I told you it evaporated off. It was like a clear spirit on top. Woof - it was gone." Ron waved his hand up.
"Woof eh? Good enough for me. Here we go then." He upturned the vial and drank it empty as fast as possible. He'd learned from experience that if a potion was to taste foul then it was easier to get it over with quickly.
"Well?" said Ron.
"Cauliflower and nuts." said Harry. "I've tasted worse."
"How do you feel?" asked Ron after a few seconds.
"Let's see now, wide staring eyes, chattering teeth, shakes, trembles, palpitations, nausea, white face, wet pants. Yep, no difference whatsoever."
"Give it time. By Potions class you'll be strutting I'm sure." encouraged Ron.
As the potions class started, Harry definitely was not strutting. Crawling might be a closer description. He felt worse than ever as his test came closer. He felt physically and mentally shrunken. Snape began with a lesson on various kinds of droppers. Big droppers, small droppers, and some tiny almost microscopic droplet droppers that were like a hair, all lined up on Snape's desk. On the wall a chart displayed even more exotic droppers. Harry pretended to himself that perhaps Snape had forgotten the oral test. The acid-tongued teacher soon disabused him of that notion.
"We shall just have time to cover the basic droppers today and so leave time for today's potion presentation." He eyed Potter severely. Harry's heart shrank. He actually began to feel ill. His mind started to blank out and he almost panicked. He felt worse than he ever had before. He thought to himself, "Guess this must be the emptiness then. Woohoo aren't I the lucky one. I think I would have just preferred the normal fear and humiliation."
"It is essential that you use the correct equipment at all times for correct potion making." Snape droned on for another thirty minutes about droppers: coloured droppers, clear droppers, fat droppers, impervious droppers, you-name-it droppers. It seemed to last forever yet was over far too quickly.
"Hermione, quick, in Corbin, which comes first the blegrish root or its leaves?"
"Mr. Potter!" glared Snape. "I have warned you before. Are you discussing with Miss Granger the weather? Or perhaps something else? Since you are so eager to chatter to your fellows I'm sure you are now ready and eager to give your presentation test?"
"Erm... that is..." Harry faltered.
"Let me make it easier for you then since clearly you are struggling to understand how you might explain to the class how to make Corbin's Revenge." He paused. "I suggest instead you explain the making of rawlglas."
"But sir, that was last year..."
"Yes indeed. A very simple 5th year potion and one you should know thoroughly. Come forward! Your class awaits you!"
Harry shuffled his papers, dropped one as a delaying tactic, then rose very slowly struggling to remember what rawlglas was.
"Cures nausea, Harry." Hermione faintly whispered out of the side of her mouth.
Harry recalled now the unpleasant experiment where he was compelled to first drink vomitio and then his attempt at rawlglas failed utterly to relieve him and he spent the rest of the day feeling utterly sick. "Much like now." he thought to himself.
Harry walked like a dead man to the front of the class. "Well, Oratio, time to inspiratori me." he thought to himself hopefully. Harry turned to the class and began to speak.
"Raw glass is... that is. Today we shall be preparing..."
"That's 'rawlglas' Potter." sneered Snape as he settled in his chair to enjoy the show.
"You will need the following ingredients." Harry painfully and slowly recited four ingredients with his eyes on Hermione's reassuring but near imperceptible head nods.
Malfoy sniggered. Harry squirmed, trying to squeeze out a faint memory from that day when he had been so sick. Then he remembered. He had got the potion wrong that day. And he had no idea what was wrong. What use was it trying to remember. And what use was that stupid oratio potion that Ron... That Ron prepared. He glared at Ron.
"and finally ten drops of pentham's essence." Harry added, thinking since he had no idea of the amounts he might as well say anything rather than remain silent. Perhaps by amazing chance he might be right. Perhaps oratio might make him right! Possibly that was how it worked. Trust the potion! Of course!
The Slytherins almost fell on the floor laughing. Most of the class were chuckling. Even Ron couldn't supress a smile even though he had no idea what the joke was.
"If you include TEN drops of pentham's then you had better be prepared to evacuate." smirked Snape.
"Twenty ... erm ... five. I meant twenty-five."
The class shrieked with laughter and Snape made no attempt to regain silence. "Are you trying to teach your class Potter ... or to disembowel them?"
There were shrieks from everywhere. Even Hermione had to smile.
Harry's torment continued from bad to worse. "Control your class Potter!" loudly from Snape.
"Quiet please, class." croaked Harry, his voice barely audible.
By the end of the class Harry was reduced to a pathetic rag of embarassment. He converted this to anger back in the Gryffindor common room.
"What did you do Ron!" he shouted.
"Don't take it out on Ron just because you utterly failed to learn your lesson. He did his best." Hermione interceded.
"His 'best'? His 'BEST'? Good job it wasn't his worst then! They would have had to carry me out to the hospital for loony failures." stormed Harry. "Perhaps they did. Perhaps that's where I am now? Excuse me Doctor Granger. I'll be in my straight jacket if you need me." and he vaulted upstairs and threw himself on his bed.
After an hour, Ron was apologetic. "Sorry Harry but I could have sworn I got everything absolutely perfect."
"It would have worked wouldn't it if you had got it right?" fumed Harry.
"Well make it yourself then!" shot back Ron.
"I will. Look. Listen. I want to be prepared if we ever, ever have to do anything like that again. I will not go through that again. You said you had more than enough of the ingredients?"
"Easily. Probably enough for three or four potions. They're still down there in the cupboard along with the instructions. But I'm not doing it."
"OK. I'll do it myself. See where you went wrong. We'll know next time."
"What ... is ... this." asked Snape, looking around at the various ingredients Harry had assembled. "Doing a little extra work for ourselves are we Potter?" The words dripped one by one from his lips like venom. "Let me see... Antiryhm, Pellus of Cloves, essence of... Where did you get all this Potter?"
"Mostly from the apothecary. The rest was gathered or grown by Neville Longbottom sir..."
"Indeed? And what..." Snape paused as he spotted the tiny rock. "Pumice? Is this living pumice Potter? We have been..." his face indicated a dawning realization. "You have been cheating Potter! This might produce Oratio inspiratori am I right?" he turned to Harry. "You dare to use magic to cheat in my class tests!"
"Silence!" shouted Snape, furious, yet with a sense of victory. "You can be expelled for this Potter. This is all confiscated. Come with me." and he strode out.
They ascended the spiral stair and Snape knocked on the headmaster's door. "Come in!" came the headmaster's voice.
The headmaster listened patiently to Professor Snape's accusations and then he turned to Harry.
"Is this true? Have you..." he held up a hand to silence Harry's attempt to interrupt then continued. "Did you improve your performance during a class test by use of magic?"
"But I..." Harry paused as he thought of how Professor Dumbledore had worded his question. "No sir! Absolutely not!"
Dumbeldore turned to Snape and asked, "Severus, I seem to recall a story going around recently that Mr. Potter made a complete idiot of himself describing to the class how to make rawlglas. Is that correct?"
"And is that his only oral instruction test conducted recently?"
"Yes ... it ... is." the words were now spitting out slowly again. Snape could see which way this was going.
"And in fact, Mr Potter was preparing this potion just now, AFTER the said test?"
"Then it would seem strange that..."
Professor Snape whirled around to face Harry. "Perhaps you could enlighten us, Potter. What exactly were you planning to do with those ingredients?"
"I was so disappointed in my performance in the test that I resolved to improve. I wondered if I made a weak variation of the potion and speak to a small group of friends privately then I might practice and gain confidence." replied Harry, with such conviction it surprised Harry himself.
Dumbledor spoke to them both, "I think we should leave it at that. But Harry, please do not use the potions equipment in future except under the supervision of or with the agreement of the potions master. Is that understood?" Dumbledore frowned, but with a half smile.
Snape swept out of the room without a backward glance. Harry started to follow more slowly.
"Harry, would you wait a moment, please?" asked Professor Dumbledore.
Harry turned and walked back. Dumbledore stood there looking thoughtful for half a minute. He stared at Harry. Harry waited. "The council of the Order are having a meeting tomorrow. It will be held in a private ministry meeting room for convenience."
"At the ministry? But I thought..." began Harry.
"Yes, Now that Rufus Scrimgeour has replaced Cornelius Fudge as Minister there is an acceptance of the Order - at the least for the time being - that we are working towards the same ends. However, it is an uneasy alliance which I personally suspect will not last." said Dumbledore.
"Why sir?" asked Harry.
"The Order of the Phoenix works best as an underground organization just as Voldemort and the death eaters do. The Ministry of Magic is bound by official protocols. I suspect that it will not be long before the Order has once again to operate covertly." said Dumbledore. "But, for now, we can operate openly and our meeting tomorrow is permissible. I'd like you to be there please." said Dumbledore.
"Me sir?" queried Harry.
"It's just a general review. So far we have been treading water, being defensive. The council of the Order have been asking members to propose ideas and discuss what more we can do to combat the gathering dark forces. Your direct experience with Voldemort might be useful knowledge for us to draw on. Have you had any more ... dreams recently?"
"Only vague, unpleasant sensations of fear; of a ... of a voice in the dark since I've been back at school. I wish I could relax; get some proper rest. Are you sure there is nothing we can do about them because..."
Dumbledore interrupted, "You said 'since you've been back at school.' Harry, did you ... were there any dreams during the holidays?" Mr. Weasley did send me an owl concerned about a bad night you had."
"I'd rather ... that is, yes. There was one dream. Voldemort - it must be him - recruiting more death eaters. Nothing special. Something about sacrificing."
"Sacrificing? Do you mean his death eaters will sacrifice someone? A ritual?" asked Dumbledore intently.
"No it was the new death eaters I think he was to sacrifice. He was going to sacrifice death eaters."
"Why ... Harry, can you remember any more? Try to remember, it's important." asked Dumbledore.
"I'm sorry that's all I can remember right now. It was cold and dark - yes, It was Yaxley he was speaking to I'm sure but it was Lucius Malfoy's idea."
"Ah yes, we know about Lucius. Harry, if you remember anything more before tomorrow then tell me, anything at all. We should speak of this at the meeting tomorrow anyway, even though we have little to go on. Come to my office tomorrow at 10:00am and we shall use the floo network to go to the ministry together."
"Was there anything else?" Dumbledore asked, noticing Harry's hesitation.
"Professor, what was that spell that Sephany Dell cast on me?" asked Harry.
"It was a little known spell called Stasis Temporalis that places the recipient in what has been called a stasisphere. It is outside of time and space yet it still looks into it; still has a window as it were into our time and space. You no longer relied on physical eyes or ears to see and hear. You no longer had a functioning human mind or physical body at all so it was not visible. Time is needed to see physical objects, Harry. You had no human feelings or thinking at all. You were just aware; an observer with only the highest feelings and abilities left. These are independent of time and space: love, compassion, integrity, wisdom, and many others. You even stopped ageing because you were in a timeless state. You are now many minutes younger than you would have been!" Dumbledore smiled and continued.
"The caster of the spell defines how long, relative to time, you would remain so suspended. The spell caster himself, and only the spellcaster, can undo it before that time. It is said that long ago, a great wizard often used to cast the spell upon himself for a few hours and gaze out from his tower. The story is that one day he forgot to declare the duration and is still trapped therein, centuries later. Nobody can ever free him and he cannot free himself because he cannot function to undo the spell. We do not know however if the story is true."
"I think Miss Dell probably gave you protection for thirty minutes or so knowing that she had called the order beforehand using her coin so we would arrive well before you came out of it naturally. Why did she not make the time much longer to make sure? The answer I think Harry, is that Miss Dell expected to die or possibly be driven mad in the hands of the death eaters. She wanted to be certain you would come out of in a reasonably short time and not be trapped for months or years, perhaps forever."
"But sir, my body was restored..."
"No, you never lost your body or human mind, Harry, only the functioning of them in time. They were still there but without time and space a physical body and mentality has no function, no meaning; not even any visibility. All of these rely on time and space. Once time and space were restored to you then we all could see you again."
"But how could I be conscious without a human mind?"
"Ah! That is indeed one of the great mysteries." answered Dumbledore, "known by wizards for centuries, but never explained. It just is so. Perhaps it is that our minds are normally timeless but time makes them function humanly." Dumbledore smiled, then quickly changed the subject to something less philosophically slippery.
"Bellatrix Lestrange is completely mad but she is a sly one." mused Dumbledore. "I think she suspected an instant before we arrived that Miss Dell had been delaying her and the other death eaters. Miss Dell was enduring the unendurable to give us time to get there. Bellatrix slipped the net yet again."
"Sir, I think of it every day. Every day since then I have thought through the experience. Not merely remembered it happening briefly but actually thinking it through. I can't relate to it. I've never known such devotion. Sephany... Miss Dell, is not 'family' - not my sister or wife. Yet she suffered that... Yes I know it was not just for me personally but even so... Why would... How does anyone withstand that and not surrender to protect someone not related to them? Of course, I've spoken to her since but it is hard. I am so indebted; so grateful. How can you talk to... I think she understands. I hope she does." Harry was almost tearful as he struggled with the enormity of the experience.
"I'm sure she does understand, Harry." Dumbledore said quietly. "At least, I am certain she knows the depth of your gratitude yet feels that you need not be in debt to her. Do not dwell on that."
"Time is one of the strangest forms of magic, Harry. I am sure that eventually you will change and come to terms with this ... or at least accept that you cannot if you see what I mean." Dumbledore smiled.
"Harry, you must not experiment with this spell, especially on others. It can affect people in different ways. Many find it stressful; others, the worst kind of people, find it terrifying. Only the higher feelings remain in stasis - the timeless ones - and those of a lowly nature have nothing but a terrible void."
"I understand sir. I think once was enough for me anyway."
"Hello Harry!" Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Remus were already at the meeting as Harry walked in behind Professor Dumbledore. "Got your speech well prepared I hope?" said Remus. Harry stared, turned to stone.
Remus looked at him. "Surely you have not forgotten we are all expected to contribute some proposal, some plan for consideration? That is the main purpose of the meeting."
Harry tried to say "Nobody told me. Dumbledore never told me." but nothing came out of his open mouth. Speak to the council! About what? He had no idea how to defeat Voldemort. His body began an unusual contraction. He felt physically shrunken. His mouth and throat dried. His mind raced and he floundered and drowned in the flow of his terrified thoughts. This was not merely a potions class. This was for real. The ministry room was large and grand - larger than they needed - and it gave an air of imposing splendour and grandeur that dwarfed the people in it. "What great events had been held here?" thought Harry.
The chatter faded to silence as Professor Dumbledore turned to Lupin and raising his voice, said to the group in general "Remus, perhaps you would start proceedings?"
Remus Lupin rose and began to address the gathering.
"Gentlemen ... Ladies, perhaps our first thoughts should be to anticipate better what Voldemort will be trying to do next. Professor Dumbledore's magical authority supports both Hogwarts and the ministry. It seems inevitable that Voldemort is exploring all possibilities of breaking down those defences. In addition, we know he fears the potential of our good friend here, Harry Potter, so he is almost certainly wondering how he might defeat him. His own arrogance hinders him there. He feels he must do the job personally to affirm his superiority not only to his slaves but probably to himself. It must irk him greatly to have failed previously. The 'Boy who lived' is the only one who has done so and even on its own, this situation symbolises that Voldemort is not infallible."
"May I suggest we send aurors to investigate the Hogwarts' defences for any weaknesses, for surely that is what Voldemort will be doing. He will be looking for some forgotten tunnel, some imperfect ward, and if there be such, we must find it first. Second, I recommend we assign two aurors to guard Harry continuously."
There were both negative and postive murmurs from the assembly. Professor McGonagall spoke up. "Remus, we review Hogwarts' defences yearly. I hardly think..."
"But fresh minds might turn up something that hasn't been thought of." interrupted Lupin.
"Yes but who better to know the school than our own headmaster..."
Again Lupin interrupted, "But Voldemort will be thinking as an outsider, and that is how we must think."
Moody was nodding his head in agreement. Dumbledore raised his arms to quieten the group. "While I think it astonishing for anyone to get through our wards without raising an alarm, perhaps it would be a good idea to set everyone's minds at rest by challenging a few aurors to spend the next few months trying to break in undetected." Lupin's grim face softened.
Dumbedore continued, "However, until such an entry is proven, and since security even within the school perimeters is very high, I see no reason to have Harry followed around the school by bodyguards. Life is difficult enough for any schoolchild anyway - much more so for Harry. Let us, as far as possible, allow him to lead a normal school life at least. Remember, Hogwarts has a great many wizards highly skilled in magical defences already. I will tell our own teaching staff to be extra vigilant concerning Harry and this will be a more subtle protection and not distract other students as would extra bodyguards in every class."
Professor McGonagall was nodding in agreement. "The Hogwarts environment is probably the safest place in the magical kingdom and be assured that Harry Potter is safe within its perimeters. However I certainly recommend that Harry continue to be protected on any travels outside of Hogwarts and that Hogsmeade continues to be patrolled by aurors."
Alastor Moody rose unannounced. "This meeting was called not to review our defences but to hear suggestions how we might overcome the dark lord. The magical world seems to be looking to Harry Potter as the only one who can defeat Voldemort. If there really is a prophecy and the rumours are true about its meaning, then why are we keeping Harry in a box? He should be at the forefront of our plans not just a package to be hidden away. I'd like now to hear from Harry himself. He must have some idea of how he is to accomplish this. He is our only hope."
The entire group fell silent and all turned to Harry.
Almost sick with fear, Harry stumbled to his feet. Staring down at the table top he struggled to speak.
"A little louder if you please, Harry." voiced Dumbledore.
Harry began in a trembling voice. "I'm sorry. I have no idea how to defeat Voldemort. I think I have simply been lucky to survive so far..."
As he forced himself to look up and saw their sinking expressions and broken hopes absurd thoughts suggested themselves to him. He tried to remember some old stirring quotations. It seemed to Harry that was what they needed. He thought about croaking out something about fighting on the beaches. Everyone would smile in sympathy and they could all go home and he could pretend this nightmare never happened.
But instead, he could not speak at all. His mind froze with despair. The wizards and witches gathered around stared at him. They waited. Moody began to look annoyed. Harry felt his mind shrink even further and further until it seemed nothing was left but a dark void of fear. Then even that, even his terrors and doubts and confusion, all the clutter in his mind, went, as it were, down the plughole, until nothing at all seemed left. Nothing that is, except Harry himself. And Harry heard something. A voice speaking from within him, gathering in volume and clarity and authority. It was his own voice.
"No, I do not have a plan that we can use. But great events are unfolding and it is they that will use us. Destiny needs no plan. It does not wait upon human schemes. Circumstances will compel us how to plot our course. But let us not rely on our charts and compass. Let us trust our good intentions and seize each opportunity as it arises. And use it well to our utmost.
"There is always something we can do. There is always something we can do even when all seems hopeless. We can try. We do what we can in the moment.
"There will be dark times. But the light of our convictions, our determination, and our persistence will show the way as we proceed as far as we are able each day.
"There WILL be opportunities. They might come in our very worst moments. Be ready." Harry was now hitting the table top with the flat of his hand to emphasise his words.
"Refuse to be discouraged. The very heavens stand against evil! How then can it survive?" He paused.
"As I look around at your faces I see in each of you a willingness to sacrifice themselves that others may continue. When I look at our enemy I see but a cowardly hope that others will sacrifice for them. And none more terrified of death than Voldemort." He spoke the last sentence very loudly and slowly, word by word.
"Let him tremble as we stride forward with stout hearts and strong wills."
"This is not mere rhetoric. I do not give you empty words merely to lift your spirits for a day. I give you a promise. I give you MY promise. I give you my promise that the enemy SHALL be defeated. We SHALL win through. And we shall find happy days again."
Harry sat down as a sea of people rose to applaud him. Faces lit anew with hope and excitement. Spirits refreshed with a new certainty. He hadn't given them tomorrow's plan today but he had imparted to them a tremendous conviction that ideas would occur to them as they persisted in trying. Others were now enthusiastic to put forward their ideas. Someone suggested an illusion distraction, a lure to draw Voldemort away for a while so they could mount a big attack to reduce his death eaters. Two people had separately thought they should recruit a larger number of less qualified aurors to patrol secretly to map and plot where death eaters were seen to be moving about most often. This might suggest some common locations where they might have headquarters hidden. Many other ideas were raised in the positive atmosphere generated by Harry's speech and the meeting declared a great success.
Towards the end of the meeting, Professor Dumbledore caught Harry's eye. Did Harry see a mischievous wink in Dumbledore's eye? Surely not.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley walked back from the meeting with Harry along a corridor he had not seen before on the posh side of the ministry buildings. He looked around thinking they must be taking a shortcut to the floo network. Others from the meeting were ahead of them and looking back Harry could see others coming up behind. In front, Harry saw a small group of people collecting outside a large mahogany double door and recognized Tonks and Sephany as well as Professor Dumbledore, Alastor Moody, Remus Lupin, and several aurors. Then he saw Rita Skeeter who was smiling ingenuinely at him as usual.
"Erm... Excuse me Mr. Weasley, but where exactly are we going?"
"Oh it's in the older part of the building, we ... Ah Angus! How'd it go?" he had spotted a ministry friend.
As Harry and the Weasleys greeted those they had not yet met already, some officials approached with a large iron key and opened the doors. The room inside was very grand but rather small. There was a tiny stage and seating for less than twenty or thirty people. No doubt Moody would be addressing Order members but why here? Harry found a seat next to Lupin and Tonks and Sephany but had little time to talk before heads turned and Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic himself, swept grandly in along with another official.
He wasted no time and took up position on the podium and started to address the group as someone closed the doors behind them.
"I apologize for the brevity of this meeting due to extreme pressure of work in light of recent developments but that in no way detracts from the importance and relevance of the occasion." He paused. "It is actually second to none in importance in my view." He looked over the group of people and smiled. Despite his statement he did not hurry his speech but articulated each word slowly and with great care.
"We are here to honour a very great auror; one whose name will be remembered through history. And perhaps history will come to show that this person has contributed more than any of us." He turned to the official on his right who was removing a small box from his case. Scrimgeour took the box, opened it and examined it for a moment.
"Would Auror Miss Sephany Louisa Dell please step forward please!"
Sephany's astonishment was genuine. She was looking around in confusion for a moment. But a nudge from Tonks and her trained obedience to authority brought her to her feet and towards the platform. Her reeling mind found an explanation but it made no sense. If she was to stand as official guard to protect a VIP why had she not been informed beforehand? This seemed to her to be very irregular.
"Please stand here Miss Dell." one of the assistants whispered to her.
The Minister took something glittering from the small box with his left hand and retrieved his wand in his right. He then turned to Sephany. He smiled at her but spoke seriously and reverentially.
"Miss Sephany Louisa Dell. It is my privilege to award you the Order of Merlin First Class, being for outstanding valour and courage well beyond the call of duty. In living memory I know of nobody more deserving than you to receive this honour. Your quick thinking and self-sacrifice saved not only one person, but the hopes of the entire magical kingdom and inspires us all."
He took a step forward and with his wand, wafted the shining decoration into the air, light as a feather. It hesitated, then seemed attracted naturally towards its owner as the Minister's wand curved out a graceful blue light that swept over the medal and it settled and affixed itself to Sephany.
"This, the greatest of our awards, is no mere attachment, but recognizes its true bearer and binds itself thereto magically."
He stood back and saluted which Sephany instantly returned. Everyone in the room stood, with aurors saluting her then all rapidly broke out into loud applause and shouting. Sephany faced the group with such astonished delight on her face as can hardly be described. Her shining eyes took in the whole scene as a tear broke loose and slipped down her cheek. Tonks' hands were clapping higher than anyone's for her friend. Some of the men whistled loudly and Harry quietly bowed his head forward when he caught the blonde girl's eyes. She had no idea where to place herself but just stood there turning left and right and looking at everyone as if someone would tell her what to do. She sought Moody's face and found him smiling and nodding his reassurance and approval.
The crowd moved forward with him and soon all were all surrounding her and congratulating her. There were wine glasses filling up and passing themselves around and some grand, elevating military music softly playing, mixed with the many joyful conversations that sprang up. And no one beamed more happily or more proudly than Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody.
"You lucky git - you got practically the whole day off to go to an Order meeting." grumbled Ron, "How'd it go anyway?" He was in the Gryffindor common room with Harry, Hermione, Ginny and Neville.
"Seph got a medal! She got Merlin First class. It was bloody brilliant!" said Harry excitedly. "I hadn't really thought of that. She was great!"
"She deserved it. First class! Not many get that except perhaps toadies with money. Wish I'd been there" said Hermione.
"Skeeter was there and a photographer. It should be in the Prophet tomorrow. Front page spread if there is any justice."
"What did Seph wear?" asked Ginny.
"Dunno. Auror uniform I guess." He thought for a second. "Yes, that's right - she was on duty and told me she thought she was being asked to guard some VIP!"
"What a laugh! She IS a VIP. The V-iest, most I-iest of them all." laughed Ron with Hermione and Ginny joining in.
"I thought you said it was an auror meeting. I mean an Order council meeting?" asked Hermione.
"Oh that was before. That was just..." Harry stopped.
"What is it Harry?" asked Ginny.
Harry turned to Ron. "Ron, I owe you the biggest, most humungous apology of all time. Sorry mate." said Harry. There were stares all round.
"I had to make a speech..."
Ron interrupted, "It worked didn't it? My bloody potion worked?"
"Worked? Did it hell! It was fantastic! I was like, Napoleon, and Churchill and Alexander the Great all rolled into one. It was easy when it happened - like somebody else. Yes it was a cheat but it lifted everyone's spirits. Thanks Ron! Great work! It must just take time to have its effect. I could never do that." Harry was exultant remembering the inspirational feeling of the speech and the wide-eyed faces.
"But you did do it Harry." said Hermione quietly.
"I looked into it some more. Oratio does not do the speech for you. It just draws out the best in you at the right time. It was YOUR speech Harry. They were YOUR words and convictions. Snape's stupid classroom test wasn't needful enough - not needful enough at all."
New character coming up in the next chapter. Already in it actually but you never noticed! Haha! That is intended. You have all been charmed.
As ever, your comments and reviews are welcome even if you don't like the story I'd like to learn from your feedback. Thanks. :)