Chapter 30 : Pawns in the Game.
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Pawns in the game.
They were woken by Winky the next morning before dawn, she brought them a mug of tea each. Harry had woken in time for dinner the evening before, they had eaten, then when Kingsley had left they had all retired to bed, knowing they had a very early start this morning.
“Morning Winky” Ginny yawned, as the elf walked round the bed to place Harry's mug on the bedside cabinet. “Don't worry, I'll wake Harry. Are the others up yet?”
“Kreacher is waking Mistress Hermione and Master Ron, he says Master Ron requires some persuasion to wake up, so he will do it. Your parents are up and downstairs already.” The elf bowed then grinned conspiratorially. “Your Mum has given Kreacher permission to do what ever is necessary to wake her son..”
Ginny smiled, wondering what Kreacher had planned, Ron was notoriously dificult to wake. For a moment she was tempted to go and watch, but she thought better of it. She leant over to Harry and kissed him.
“Mmm, wa's up” Harry muttered, as he slowly rolled towards her and opened his bleary eyes to look at her.
“Time to wake up my love, there's a drink for you next to the bed.” she whispered.
Harry sleepily pulled himself up in the bed, then once he was sat up against the pillows he reached for the mug, just as he touched the handle the blast of a loud horn sounded closely followed by a yelp and a thud.
“What the hell was that?” Harry exclaimed, suddenly wide awake.
They heard Ron's voice shouting “Bloody hell Kreacher, I was sleeping.”
Ginny giggled “Sounds like Kreacher's managed to wake Ron, mum did tell him to make sure Ron was awake, I think he has.”
There was a frantic knocking on the door. “Come in.” Harry laughed.
The door burst open and in staggered Hermione, doubled over with laughter. “Oh you two, you should have seen it.” she spluttered between laughs. “I opened the door to let Kreacher in, he whispered that he had been ordered to wake Ron at all costs, so I let him. First he whispered in his ear, nothing, then he spoke gently, then more loudly shaking his shoulder. None of that worked so Kreacher climbed up and jumped up and down on him, still nothing. Well I was laughing by now and he turned to me, winked, put his fingers to his lips for me to be quiet, so I stood wondering what was coming next. Kreacher stood right next to Ron's ear on the pillow and suddenly there was a bugle at his lips and he produced the loudest note I have ever heard from one. Ron yelped and literally ran across the room in his underpants the wall stopped him. Then he started swearing at Kreacher who bowed , said good morning and left the room. It was brilliant, I've never seen Ron move so fast.”
All three of them were rolling with laughter when Ron walked in, still only dressed in his underpants. “Harry your elf is bloody mad. I know we had to be up early, but has he ever heard of subtlety?”
Hermione stopped laughing long enough to splutter “You should have seen your face.” then resumed her laughter.
“Besides.” Ginny added. “Kreacher was only following orders.”
“You mean you put him up to it?” Ron fumed, glaring at his sister..
“No, Mum told him to wake you by whatever means it took.” Ginny laughed. “I like your pants Ronniekins, I wonder if mum will too?”
Ron looked down, realising he was wearing only a pair of boxer shorts. Hermione had bought him them as a joke, they had “Hot stud” written on the front. Ron went bright red, muttered something incoherently and turned to flee the room, revealing that on the back of them, was printed a hand on each buttock. Ginny saw them and burst out laughing again. “I hadn't realised they were so handy” She called at Ron's rapidly retreating back.
“Who got him those?” laughed Harry.
“I'd better go and sooth his nerves.” Hermione blushed, she had not intended those pants to be seen by anyone, but her. “See you downstairs.”
Harry stopped her, “You didn't Hermione, not you surely?”
She blushed even harder and fled the room.
“She did.” Laughed Ginny.
An hour later they were ready to leave, Arthur was not involved in this morning's plan, so was going to his office, but Molly was going with the four. Arthur went first, wishing them luck, then it was their turn to use the floo.
“You first, hot stud” giggled Ginny to Ron, who blushed again.
He muttered something under his breath as he reached for the powder.
“Ron that is no way to speak of your sister young man” Molly told him sharply.
“Sorry Mum.” He muttered as he entered the flames and disappeared.
“What was all that about Ginny?”
“Nothing Mum.” she grinned innocently, “come on Harry.” and they followed Ron into the floo.
“I despair of my youngest children sometimes.” Molly smiled shaking her head. “You next Hermione.”
She watched Hermione disappear, muttered “Oh well, here goes, I hope this plan works.” then stepped into the flames herself.
The twins met in the cool watery green light of the early morning in the deserted Slytheryn common room, they should be summoned soon if the plan had been successful. They smiled a greeting to each other as they joined each other in the room, then made their way, silently, out into the dungeon corridors, up to the Great Hall for breakfast. Words between them were unnecessary, they both knew what the other was thinking. If the plan had succeeded, they hoped the pressure of trying to achieve their Aunts aims would disappear and they would be able to enjoy their time at Hogwarts as their classmates did, they feared their Aunt would not allow that. On the other hand if the plan had failed then they feared that they would be captured or worse, their Aunt would punish them. They had discussed much since the attack on Saturday, yet had tried to appear as usual to the rest of the school. The only thing they were sure about was, that they were scared of both success and failure of the plot. They had spent the day before masking their nerves during lessons, trying, unsuccessfully, to concentrate on their work. Their house mates had noticed their distraction and that neither had earned any points that day, for the first time that year.
The entrance hall had a few students in it, greeting their friends from other houses cheerfully before going into the Great Hall for breakfast. The twins kept themselves appart as usual, they had not made any real friends amongst other students, knowing Aunt would disapprove of them showing such trust in anyone but her. No matter the twins yearning for the friendship of their peers, they knew it was impossible. They followed the chatting students towards the great wooden doors of the hall, almost reaching them when Professor Slughorn spotted them and made his way towards them.
He greeted them as jovially as usual. “Ah twins, I hoped I would see you, I am glad I caught you before you went in. You have a visitor this morning, I’m afraid breakfast will have to wait. You are to go to the headmistress’s office at once, you will be allowed up no need for a password. Just wait by the gargoyle until it lets you in, I understand your visitor is having a meeting with the headmistress, but is most anxious to see you. Off you go.”
“Yes Professor.” they chorused, trying to hide their fears by responding as their Aunt had trained them to respond to adults, polite compliance unless they proved untrustworthy. Whilst Slughorn was certainly not to be trusted with the plan, he was in authority as their head of house, so Aunt demanded their obedience to him, in public at least. They turned away and headed up the stairs towards the entrance to the office, picturing in their minds what their Aunt was doing to McGonagall, hoping a similar fate did not await them.
When they were on their own in the corridor Tarquin spoke.“Success for Aunt sister?”
“Indeed my brother.”
“She will be pleased, I hope.”
“I expect she will be, at the victory at least, I am not sure about the rest though.”
“Surely her victory and new position will be enough.” he looked to her hopefully.
“I hope so brother, I hope so.” Delilah responded nervously. “I hope it is an end to our pain.”
They reached the gargoyle, which looked at them, not moving
“We are expected” Delilah told it.
“You are, however please wait a moment, those within are not quite ready to receive you.” The carving told them bluntly.
They waited for a few moments until the Gargoyle moved aside, and they stepped onto the revolving spiral staircase.
“I hope Aunt is well following her ordeal.” Tarquin commented. His nerves beginning to show, his sister read the hidden message his words contained.
“As do I.” his sister replied. “If she isn't, her suffering too great or she believes we deliberately delayed the plan, then the punishment.....”She didn't voice the rest of her thought, she didn't need to, her brother shared her look of terror.
“We must appear as she trained us” He said to fill the silence and try to control their nerves. “We must be composed when we appear before her.”
They reached the top of the revolving stair case, as Delilah nodded and attempted to calm her appearance, they approached the door and knocked.
“Come in” the familiar voice they had not heard for so long called.
They both took a deep breath, pushed open the door and entered the office apprehensively, almost succeeding in not letting it show. They took in the sight before them, Professor McGonagall was stood in front of the desk, blocking the view of who was behind it, her head hung down, her hair a mess, looking dishevelled instead of her usual neat appearance.
“Minerva move aside, meet the ones who have engineered the downfall of the myth of Potter from right under your nose.” The familiar voice ordered sharply. The twins could not yet tell whether their Aunt was in a good mood or not from the tone of her voice. They kept their guard up, knowing from practise how to prepare themselves for her onslaught, if it came.
Professor McGonagall shuffled to one side and there behind the desk dressed resplendently in pink, familiar wand in hand, was their Aunt.
“Aunt it is good to see you.” Said Delilah cautiously.
“As it is both of you, faithful twins. It has been a long time.” Umbridge replied formally.
The twins glanced at each other, perhaps she thought that was their fault. Surely she would not punish them in front of a stranger, no they could not count on that, not now she appeared to have won.
Tarquin gulped, “You have success Aunt?” he asked
“I have complete success my dears, I couldn't be more pleased. Come and join me in our victory.” she held her arms apart and the twins, still unsure of her intent, but knowing to well what she expected, ran to either side of her, and into her embrace.
“We have missed you Aunt.” They said together dutifully and with some relief, she hadn't struck them, yet.
“As I have you. You see Minerva I value children as much as you yourself, which is why you are to remain as Head teacher here. There will of course be changes, the ministry will be keen to ensure the best education is given at the school.” Umbridge told her.
“As am I.” said Minerva meekly under Umbridge's glare.
“Now twins, you have been busy these last few months, tell me what you achieved of the plan.” Umbridge looked kindly at the twins, still in her arms.
“We have achieved your vengeance Aunt, just as you wished, despite many set backs caused by the clumsiness of the soldiers. ” Began Delilah cautiously though trying to appear formal. “Most recently last Saturday the soldiers killed Weasley and Granger as you wished Aunt.”
“Really, if that is the case, then please tell me who these two people are.” her hold on them tightened.
The twin's eyes followed her gaze, then widened as Ron and Hermione walked in from the study behind their Aunt and coolly walked to stand in front of the desk. They had failed, their Aunts tight embrace could only mean she meant to punish them.
“But, Aunt we received the signal of success.” Delilah pleaded desperately, fear rising in her, a darkness began to cloud her confused, frightened mind.
“It is of no matter they are easily dealt with, as long as you were successful in your other endeavours.” Umbridge stated without emotion.
Tarquin shook his head, trying to clear the dark haze closing in on him, he succeeded enough to tell her nervously.“Our repeated attacks on Potter and his girl friend, on your behalf Aunt, resulted in his madness, father confirmed that to us from St Mungo's. Neither has been seen for three months, it appears he has no sense of reality left, by all reports. No one seems to know where he is hiding.”
Their Aunt tightened her grip on them further, the twins glanced at each nervously. “But my dears it is you who do not see reality, I know exactly where they are, they are also with us, Harry, Ginny you may reveal yourselves my dears.”
The twins watched with horror as Ginny and Harry appeared, removing an invisibility cloak that had concealed them, next to the table. Had their Aunt really called the couple my dears? What was going on? How could they have failed so badly? Their Aunt had warned them of the price of failure, she had contacts which would see to it that her displeasure would see them punished. She wouldn't need them, she would inflict the terrible pain herself. The twins were terrified of her wrath, after what they had done, no one in the room would stop her, they were sure of that, they steeled themselves for the onslaught. It didn't come.
“You should have listened to your house seventh years when I taught them not everything is as it appears, I know they told you about that lesson.” said Harry calmly.
They felt their Aunt shaking, assuming it was from rage, they tensed, this punishment would be the worst they had suffered. They had almost completely failed her. To the twins, held firmly in her arms, it felt like her flesh was shrinking as she continued to hold them tightly.
Delilah was first to respond, to their Aunts reaction. Without looking at her, she desperately said “the soldiers and warriors are to blame Aunt not us, they failed to carry out our instructions we remained loyal Aunt, or you would not have the Ministry. Please Aunt don't punish us, I don't want you to hurt us, please you have the ministry.” she pleaded starting to struggle, her brother following her, trying to get free of the arms of the person they feared most.
“No my dear, I raised twins so you will not get free.” said an unfamiliar voice gently, holding the twins tightly.
Delilah looked up at the face of the person holding them, her fear increased at the strangers face “ You aren't my Aunt, what have you done with her?” she cried out
Tarquin looked up, “No,” he screamed. “You cannot punish us, please, no Aunt was bad enough. She told us anyone else would be worse.” he thought they were in worse trouble than if their Aunt had been there, his terror at being held by the stranger grew. The darkness grew in both of them, their despair feeding it.
Harry had seen the nervousness of the twins, the fear in their eyes as they had entered the room. He had noticed their trepidation grow to terror as first Ron and Hermione then he and Ginny had been revealed. Had they not feared their Aunt, those things would not have been evident, he knew they were pawns in their Aunts game, thanks to their fathers confession and what he had seen they now knew enough about them to be certain of that. He had hoped that when they knew their Aunt wasn't really there they would be relieved, as Kingsley had hoped too. However, as he and Ginny had feared, when the Polyjuice potion had worn off it had scared the children even more. He had to try and calm them, reassure them, some how help them.
Harry sat in front of the desk, leaned towards them and spoke gently but firmly “You won't get free of Molly twins, but don't be scared, we aren't going to punish you. If you settle down we shall tell you what has happened and what we would like to do next, if you agree you will be free to live your lives for yourselves.”
The twins suddenly stopped struggling and looked up at him, Harry hoped this was a good sign and they had been reassured enough to listen to him. He did not notice their eyes were not focused fully on him, the twins were hardly aware of anything around them now. He continued to speak gently to them, barely keeping his anger hidden.“Your Aunt is where cruel toads like her belong, she is in the most secure hole in Azkaban and soon your father will join her for his part in this. You do not have to fear her anymore, she can no longer hurt you. She can't force you to do her dirty work for her any more and we certainly won't harm you. If we had known what she was doing to you two before, then we would have been able to stop her, no one should have to suffer like you have. What your Aunt did is unforgivable, she will stand trial for her crimes and probably spend the rest of her life in Azkaban. We want to help you two though, you can have a new life, if you'll let us.”
His anger had risen as he had spoken to the twins, though he had not shown it. The anger was not with them, but with their Aunt and Father for putting these two children through all this. Ginny had sensed his anger, and gently put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, he stood up at her touch. She moved her arm round his shoulders and calmed him, though she shared his anger at the way the twins had been used by their Aunt.
The twins had hardly heard a word he had spoken, only the last sentence had registered in their minds. They did not feel relief, they were scared, their Aunt had warned them that failure meant they would never have true freedom, yet Professor Potter had said he would help them. They knew this must be a deception, hadn't Aunt drilled into them that no one would want to help them, no matter what they told them. More likely, as their Aunt had convinced them, it was a ruse to punish them as she did, it would be what they deserved. They knew what that meant, pain and injury. The professor had seemed so sincere though, could he be trusted?
The darkness was closing over their consciousness, snuffing out their awareness, yet something in the professors words rang true, held the darkness back. A soft female voice spoke to them, it sounded distant, but familiar they barely heard the words, as if hearing them in the distance.
“Twins I promise we won't harm you, Harry and I really want to help you. You really are free.”
They looked at each other “Brother can we really be free?” whispered Delilah, her voice sounding weak and distant, they both felt a glimmer of hope spark alive amidst their despair, just as the darkness took them both completely.
Kingsley and three Aurors removed the disillusionment charms they were concealed with, Minerva was restoring her normal neat appearance. He looked towards her. “We saw it all Minerva, we have enough to ensure the twins get the help they need.” He told them, then his voice became gentle, caring as he turned to the children. “Twins, we saw everything, you have nothing to worry about, we are going to take you to the ministry, you will be held in our secure wing for now, until we can find a foster home for you. We have discovered you have relatives in Whitby, perhaps they will give you a home.”
The twins did not respond, but stared blankly into space, they hung almost limp in Molly's arms. They looked like the helpless children they were, all the bravado they usually had was gone, their world had collapsed around them all the hate their Aunt had fed them gone. In fact they seemed totally unaware of what Kingsley had said to them. They did not answer they did not seem aware of their surroundings at all.
“Are they all right?” Ron asked.
Hermione looked round to them, “Oh Merlin, it can't be.”
Minerva rushed round the table and examined the twins. “I don't know, they don't seem to be responding to anything. I'll get Poppy, we'd better make sure they are all right before they go anywhere.” She moved to the fireplace to summon the healer.
Ginny walked to the twins, knelt in front of them and looked into their eyes. “My god. It’s no good, Minerva. The shock has been too much for them, their essence is broken. There is nothing we can do. Their eyes are the same as Harry’s were, we can only wait for their essence to fall back into place if it ever does, we don’t know who holds the key for them as I did for Harry. It must have been what Delilah said, that must have been the final straw. They realised they were free of Umbridge, the failure of the plan, fear of their Aunt and us, it all must have been too much for them. I don't think their father has confessed to everything, they must have really been traumatised to make this happen. The poor kids, Merlin knows the damage their Aunt must have done to them, there must be more to this than we know, it’s unforgivable.” Tears appeared in her eyes.
Harry went to her side and put his arm round her, “Kingsley, I think we had better get them to the secure wing of St. Mungo’s, I’m afraid. I only hope they can do more for them, than they could for me. At least we have what we learned about my condition to help them, they deserve a proper life. Tell the healers we shall help as much as we can, they will need Pensieves, one each, we shall arrange that. Arrange a private room for them if you would please, keep them together.”
Kingsley nodded sadly, “Of course Harry, we‘ll tell them and make the arrangements. I wonder what their memories will reveal. As Ginny says they must have been through a lot more than we know for this to happen, going by what Dumbledore said about you anyway my friend.”
Harry nodded then looked at Ginny, “We will help them through this Gin, there must be another way we can bring them back.” He reassured her, though he had no idea how they would achieve it.
The aurors conjured two stretchers, just as Poppy appeared and took the twins from Molly and laid them on them. She examined them quickly and confirmed that the twins were in the same condition Harry had been. The mood in the room was sombre, as the Auror’s gently carried the twins to the fireplace and took them to St Mungo‘s, Poppy followed them into the floo. All the women were crying, Harry was still cuddling the tearful Ginny, he knew seeing the twins like that had brought back the despair she had felt during the past three months, he could feel it along with her anger at Umbridge and Wolfe.
It was several minutes before anyone felt like speaking, Minerva dried her eyes and looked up at Kingsley who held her and smiled then looked over to Harry. “That was not the end you hoped for Harry.”
“No, I had hoped we could give them another chance straight away, they're only kids after all, but dear Delores must have been in too deep. Mental abuse, that’s what I would call her actions, Merlin knows what their memories will reveal. Those kids were victims as much as any of us were, what chance did they ever have. It‘s Umbridge and their father, that I would like to get my hands on for that cruelty. The twins do not deserve this, no one does.” Harry was angry, disappointed and frustrated.
“No Harry they didn't” Kingsley said sadly. “You know we had no idea she was responsible for those two before this, I can't imagine what they have been through. We know what she was like here, but I can't begin to imagine how cruel she could have been to them. I promise we will do everything we can for them.” Kingsley put his hand on his shoulder reassuringly. “I know it’s a bit of an empty triumph, but Harry the direct threat on you and our world is now over, that is something to celebrate. You can’t carry this burden my friend, you have a life to get on with, for a change it’s your own and not ruled by events or prophesies, let me carry this, yes?”
Harry smiled a little “All right Kingsley, I know I need to recover, rest and get on with things. That doesn‘t mean we will abandon them though, we want to be kept informed, we will search our library, I want them given a chance at life if we can. Lets contact their relatives in Whitby, hopefully they will help too. We are not going to leave those twins on their own, not if I have any say in it anyway.” Ginny looked up at him, pride in her eyes.
“I don’t think we would expect you to abandon them Harry, it’s not your nature. “said Minerva kindly, “But remember we aren’t going to either, but we need you back fully too, you know. I think it’s time the school knew you all are recovering don’t you, would you all join me for Breakfast in the Great Hall, before we go to Grimauld Place”
“I would love to Minerva, but I had better get some rest really, I am tired.” said Harry.
“Come on Harry, it will be fine don’t forget Minerva and Kingsley are coming home with us, and I don't want you brooding over this, I know you will so don't object.” Ginny said firmly. “Besides I know you want to see our students desperately, you miss them.” She was keen to see their students again too, of course.
“And I know they and the staff are itching for some good news about you. Come on Harry you can't be here and not let them see you, they would be most let down.” said Minerva smiling.
Harry gave in and soon they were all heading towards the Great Hall. Harry with his arm round Ginny, he was looking forward to seeing everyone again.
“Thank goodness that’s over.” said Molly relieved, “I am sorry Minerva I really hated being that evil crone, even for only an hour, she tasted foul too.”
“I know Molly, you did well, I almost thought it was actually Delores sat there instead of you, it was most convincing well done. We couldn't have done it without you, you know.“ Minerva assured her. “Kingsley is there any other news.”
“Actually yes, the interviews are going well. We have discovered where their base was, a team of curse breakers are making their way to Snowdon to secure it now. It seems the owners were wizards, but they fled last year, we don't know where they are but we have people starting to search for them. We have a busy few weeks ahead. Oh and preparations are well under way for what we discussed Minerva.”
Harry looked at Kingsley questioningly. “Sounds ominous Kingsley, do I need to do anything for this?”
“Yes my friend, your participation is essential, I would say. We'll talk later, we are trying to keep it quite from the students for now. There will be an announcement soon though.” Kingsley grinned.
“Not more fuss about me, I hope.” Harry looked at his friend seriously. “I have enough of that, thanks.”
“No Harry, but it is important, I think this is something you would insist in taking part in, anyway I need you to help organise it. No one better, we don't have much time left to finish arrangements though, so we ought to get you involved fast..”
Harry looked puzzled for a moment, then the penny dropped. His face fell, “Yes Kingsley, I understand. They deserve it, and yes of course I will help, it's the least I can do for them all.”
Ginny held him tight as they walked towards the staff entrance, everyone thoughtful and silent until they reached the door. An elf bowed at their approach “Madam head mistress, extra chairs have been placed for your guests. Master's Potter and Weasley with Mistress Weasley and Granger's chairs are still there waiting for them of course. The entire school is present, eating breakfast.” The elf squeaked.
“Thank you Annod, I think we are ready.” Minerva smiled.
Breakfast had begun, as usual, quietly as students slowly made their way down stairs from their dormitories. Eventually the whole school was there and the noise level rose. Three of the tables were full as always, however the Slytheryn table had a number of students missing and had since the attack in February. The ministry were still trying to unravel the layers of control these students had been under, they knew some had not needed the control and needed to sort these out from the others. None had, thus far, been able to return to the school.
Despite the continued absence of some of their number, the atmosphere in the hall was as charged as usual, the food as good as ever and the noise level high. On the Gryffindor table, however, the students were somewhat subdued. The rumours were still circulating the school, about an attack on Professors Granger and Weasley, their continued absence was not good. This had been the first weekend the students had not been able to get messages to, or from Professor Potter and Madam Weasley. They could not believe the bad luck their house was having this year, at least they were ahead of Slytheryn in points, but only just, thanks to the Wolfe twins. Conversation at the table revolved around the loss of the golden trio and the girl who had lead the resistance in the school , they wondered what would happen now. Professor McGonagall had made no announcement, other than that the house prefects should report to her, yesterdays Defence against the dark arts classes had been cancelled, as had muggle studies. No reason given, or indication of when they would resume. Professor Longbottom had avoided any questions and it was no use asking Luna Lovegood, she might be a hero, but she was still loopy. Worst affected was little Dennis Creevy, he was sullen and tearful, the other students comforted him of course, but they all needed some good news for a change.
Hagrid and Flitwick were watching the students of this table with concern, they knew the staff shared their feelings as well as those of the students. There had been much discussion amongst the staff regarding Minerva's apparent reluctance to fill the Muggles and Defence post, some of them thought she must know something that they didn't. Hagrid trusted her and whilst he was not sure if she knew something about the latest attack, he was sure she had the interests of the school and his friends at heart. The empty chairs next to him, where Harry and Ginny would have sat, depressed him. Now there were two more empty seats, he could not believe that the four had survived battle with Voldemort and the Death Eaters, only to lose against some crackpot band of malcontent's. At the moment, that was exactly what seemed to have happened though. Apart from teaching, Hagrid's best times in the last week had been with Grawp and the now active Buckbeak, He was sure the Hippogriffs recovery was not simply that the beast had forgotten about Harry, he was sure that it indicated something. He hoped it meant his friend was out of danger and would be back soon, but as the week had worn on, he began to wonder if his hopes were too optimistic. He turned his attention back to the Gryffindor table and watched Dennis not eating, he would have to take the boy under his wing. He didn't notice as the elves added some extra chairs to the table, then moments later the staff door open.
Annod opened the door and stood back, the rumble of chatter from the students washed over them as they walked through and into the Great Hall. The staff turned, to see who was coming in so late, only the headmistress was missing. When they saw Harry and Ginny walk in, they stood up, wide eyed, with smiles appearing on their faces. They started to applaud while the couple walked along behind the table and took their seats. Hagrid, still methodically eating, keeping an eye on Dennis, turned to see who had arrived at the chairs next to him, a smile grew beneath his beard and his eyes twinkled as he stood and joined the other teachers in the applause. Slowly the students noticed the teachers standing, then they saw Ron, Hermione then Harry and Ginny at the table. It was like a distant rush of water moving quickly towards them as more and more students, nudged by their neighbour, noticed who had arrived and joined the ovation for the couples. Only the Slytheryn table had a few students who did not join in, but even they looked surprised and a little happier. Cheers and whistles mingled loudly with the standing ovation that welcomed them back, it lasted a full ten minutes before finally the teachers retook their seats followed by the students and excited chatter rose.
“Now then Hagrid, how are you?” said Harry grinning at his friend who was retaking his seat.
“Harry it’s so good to see you.” he said loudly tears running through his beard. He glanced back to Dennis and was relieved to see a broad grin on the boy's face, mirrored on those of his house mates. Professor McGonagall made her way to the podium in front of the table, the students cheerful banter died away.
“I am pleased to see all of you enthusiastic about our visitors,” She smiled at the students at the Gryffindor table. “I am sorry to tell you that Professor Potter is not yet well enough to return to his duties in school, however it is good to see him well on the mend, hopefully it will not be long before he is back with us.
Yesterday a group named Vengeance, which was responsible for the series of attacks in our school and spreading the wild stories you may have heard about our Professor was defeated. They were attempting to take over the ministry in an effort to reintroduce the restrictions we endured during the war. The group spread a smoke screen of lies about the blame for last year’s battle to cover their real plot. The person behind the group was Delores Umbridge, whom many of you will remember was exposed by Professor Potter three years ago, It was her desire for revenge for that, which acted as a diversion from the groups real aims. Of course they thought their ambitions would be easier to achieve, if our Professor was not in the way too.
She trained her own niece and nephew to carry out her revenge from within the school, recruited death eaters to her cause and brainwashed many people to her cause. Umbridge has, it seems, systematically, physically and psychologically abused her young relatives to ensure their obedience. So effective was this cruelty that when they learnt of the absolute failure of their Aunts plot, and the capture of their entire support army that they entered a state which has necessitated their admission to St Mungo’s indefinitely. Sadly, we do not know whether they will ever recover from the trauma. Such cruelty to young children is incomprehensible to myself and the others involved in the actions of last night and this morning including Professor Potter and Madam Weasley. Though some of you know first hand the cruelty and torture Umbridge was capable of, we can only imagine what those poor children endured. Vengeance was a fake organisation set up to satisfy the needs of a bitter and twisted woman.
Despite being the target of this group, it was a discovery made by our Professor and Matron, which showed us the truth behind the group and how the twins were being controlled. Close monitoring of the children has added to the evidence of their suffering, sadly their condition means they will not be in school for some time. It is my hope they will return, I know that is a hope shared by the head and matron of Gryffindor House.
The threat from Vengeance is over, their influence will fade and be forgotten, however their actions demonstrate that whilst the war is over, there are still those who wish to prolong it for their own ends. We should not put any blame on those who believed their propaganda, which poisoned our society, rather we should remember to exercise, as an old friend of mine might say, constant vigilance, to guard against such threats again taking hold.
However I am sure you will all want to wish Professor Potter a speedy recovery and we look forward to welcoming him back to the school. You will also see that the rumours of the deaths of Professors Weasley and Granger were greatly exaggerated, they have been assisting with the capture of Vengeance and through necessity of the task, have been in a secure location here at Hogwarts since the attempt on their lives. Now all this has delayed the start of lessons so the school day will now not start until after morning break time as a treat. In the meantime please continue to keep your absent Professor in your thoughts, until such time as he is able to return again.”
The room responded with loud applause, Harry jerked awake at the noise, Minerva saw him and laughed “Thanks Harry.” her eyes looked to the ceiling. “I didn't think my speech was that bad.” she teased.
“Sorry Headmistress” he grinned and began to devour the bacon, egg and Sausages that were on his plate.
When breakfast was over and the plates had disappeared, many of the students came to wish Harry well and speak to them all. Dennis was first in the line of Gryffindor's who all enthusiastically welcomed Harry and Ginny back. The welcome continued until the belated bell for classes sounded, and the students reluctantly filed out of the hall. Harry was overwhelmed by the support from students, even those not in his house. He felt very emotional as they left the Hall, having eaten a good breakfast, he was glad he had agreed to stay, but felt very tired. He fought his exhaustion as they walked back to Minerva's office. It was with relief that he felt Ginny guide him into the fire and the spinning sensation that meant he was on his way home.
Happy 2009 to you all.
Once again I thank those of you who have posted a review. I look forward to reading what you think of this chapter. If you haven't left a review before then please do, I have found all reviews most useful as I continue to edit this story.
Next chapter will be up as soon as I can, I am still editing it and the ones that follow it, improving dialogue, description and punctuation (I hope, many thanks AriesGirl40, your help via reviews, on this is invaluable).
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