PLUMMET

Wed. 10 July

“Point of order!”

Earnest Forthright was standing up. Not just literally—though he was—no, more to the point, he was standing up to the insanity of an archaic, bloated system. Lord Nott—now residing in the chair of the chief warlock—recognized him.

“There is an administrative office specifically vested with the duty of carrying out the judgements that are being sought by the motion. That would be the Office of Dependants Welfare which has a generous outlay. Since the legal guardianship of one boy needn’t rise to the consideration of the full Wizengamot I ask general consent that the issue be remanded to the existing administrative body and the injunction lodged by the representative of the house of Longbottom be revoked.”

Now of course Lady Longbottom would object, but at least then the consent request and objection would be on record.

“Objection!”

That wasn’t a woman’s voice.

The speaker recognized Lord Malfoy. Why was Lucius objecting to this?

“I object to the general consent motion and lodge my own point of order. All proper procedures were followed in the submission of this motion, thus no rule has been broken. The member’s point of order is invalid and thus his general consent request is out of order.”

“Lord Malfoy, you cannot both object to the consent request and argue that it is out of order.”

The new chief warlock was annoyed. Great. Lord Nott rubbed his cheeks in thought.

“Lord Malfoy, your point of order is affirmed thus the original point of order is out of order, the consent request is denied, and the objection by nature withdrawn. Now. If we have wasted enough time complaining about how we waste time...”

~ diffindo ~

Harry wrung his hands. He was nervous—partly about the prospect of speaking before the entire Wizengamot—but mostly because he feared the ire of Lady Longbottom. He had been ushered into the centre of the chamber and asked to sit in an absurdly Gothic throne-like chair. His back was to the gallery, so he couldn’t see Hannah or Susan or Neville. Harry was relieved that Neville had finally decided to attend a session now that he was walking again. The rate of his recovery was spectacular in Harry’s opinion, but of course he wasn’t a doctor of any kind.

Harry was shocked out of his thoughts by the speaker.

“You may proceed, Master Potter.”

Harry nodded and stood up. He had no intention of sitting in this ridiculous throne any longer than necessary. He hadn’t asked for permission, but better to ask forgiveness—right?

“Greetings—”

Harry cut off as he heard his voice echo through the chamber. He spotted a young ministry official pointing his wand in Harry’s direction. It was Percy Weasley who nodded in encouragement.

Harry reset.

“Greetings and salutations to the members of the chamber. I am profoundly grateful for the countenance that you have afforded me. I seek to explain only what I know. May I have your ear?”

He had practised that formal introduction with her ladyship. It grated on his sensibilities. It smacked of privilege and deference which Harry had no intention of affording.

“Your petition is heard and answered. Speak your mind.”

“Thank you.

“I would like to begin by thanking the honourable Lady of Longbottom by whose hand I am able to petition you today. Thank you, m’lady.”

That part he had practised with Amelia Bones. She had been different lately. Ever since his date with Susan, she had been more kind and maternal. It was the exact opposite of the reaction that he had expected, but he took it as a sign of her approval of his association with Susan. Harry’s heart swelled at the thought that soon this chapter of his life would close and another one would open. One that he hoped would include Susan.

“Okay. Formalities aside. Please understand that I do not mean to offend. But ceremony does not come to me naturally.

“Her ladyship—um, Lady Longbottom—has informed me that I must at all cost choose a new guardian, but that beforehand I would be allowed to present an alternative.”

Harry turned to the acting speaker with a question.

“How— how long can I speak?”

“Take your time Master Potter, but the rule is five minutes. I can make allowances if necessary, but do be considerate of the chamber’s time.”

Harry nodded nervously.

“I think it might help if you knew a bit about my history after the night my parents’ were killed.”

He considered invoking the name of Voldemort and would have if he weren’t desperately dependent on the good will of his audience.

“Professor Dumbledore had identified that a special magic had been employed to protect me, but that it would only work as long as I stayed with blood relatives. He was right about that, so I don’t hate him for it. But they were terrible people. They treated me as a servant. I cooked, I cleaned, and never heard an encouraging word from them. They isolated me from friendships and made sure I knew why.

“They treated me no better than some of you treat your house elves. Please consider how they must feel when you get home tonight. It would be a kindness to me if you would try.

“I don’t share my story in this way to play the victim. I don’t want your pity or your handouts, but I do need your understanding. I have never been allowed to run my life, but I have nonetheless been expected to be self-sufficient.

“When I turned eleven and learned I was a wizard—yeah, they hid that from me, too—my master changed, but I was just as shackled to a fate beyond my control. Unlike my relatives, Dumbledore was kind, so I don’t hate him—I really don’t, but gaining his attention was like shouting from the base of a hundred foot tower.

“I have fought evil wizards, killed mythical monsters, mastered spells well beyond my years, threaded the eye of time without fraying it, and I have brought many of my peers along with me on my journey of self-reliance.

“I ask you to overlook the meagre years that adorn my skin for a much older soul now inhabits it. I know that I can care for myself. I have done so for more than a decade. I have never needed someone to run my life. And for those who know me, they know that I don’t put up with it.

“I do not intend to sound defiant, but only to give you insight into the person who stands before you.

“I turn sixteen in three weeks.

“I have lived my life bound to guardians who couldn’t or wouldn’t be parents. I have been trapped—weighed down—like a kite tied to a boulder... Cut my string. Set me free.”

Harry closed his eyes and swallowed deeply. That speech had come out in much more profound tone than he had practised. Hopefully the Wizengamot would see it his way. He looked back up scanning the chamber.

“I ask for unanimous consent to proceed to consideration of a motion to grant Harry James Potter the full rights and vestiges of majority. Thank you.”

Harry turned to sit, but the speaker stopped him.

“Point of inquiry, Master Potter. Do you intended to finish you statement without specifying a preferred permanent guardian.”

“Other than myself?”

“Yes... other than yourself, Master Potter.”

Harry took a deep breath and looked to Lady Augusta whose look of accusatory intensity bore into Harry. She would not be happy if he left it here, but she was going to be less happy about what came next. Harry had reviewed the language of the guardianship statute and there were other requirements, but none that precluded his choice.

“If I am not to be set free, than I could trust my life to no better soul than this.”

Harry raised his hand and with some drama snapped his fingers. And waited.

Nothing happened.

Harry snapped again.

Nothing happened.

The chamber began to be restless.

“Greatest apologies, Harry Potter.”

Gasps circulated the chamber as the members identified the newly extant voice that now stood next to Harry on the floor of the Wizengamot.

“Dobby is sorry, sir. Dobby has failed again.”

Harry communicated quietly out of the side of his mouth.

“Not now Dobby.”

Dobby turned to the chamber recovering his composure.

“Dobby, as a free elf, has accepted Harry Potter’s request to become his legal guardian.”

Harry snuck a glance at Lady Augusta and regretted it immediately. Her eyes could have lit fire to ice. Amelia looked more confused and worried. But Harry had read the statute over and over again... Dobby was eligible. Harry most wondered what Susan would think.

~ diffindo ~

“Of all the stupid— inconsiderate— what does he know of law and regulation— just throw it all away.”

Susan was worried at how enraged Lady Augusta was. She had seen her angry and passionate before, but she was worried the venerable woman would do herself in if she didn’t calm down.

Auntie Em had agreed to retrieve Harry. And Susan had hung back, because the only thing scarier than a berserk Longbottom was a tragically smitten Potter. Hannah and Neville had wisely gone their own way.

“Is it that bad?”

“Is it that bad?! Is it that BAD, she says?!”

Augusta stopped pacing and looked directly at Susan.

“Yes, it is that bad. He’s given up his only chance to be put with a sympathetic guardian. Foolish.”

She went back to pacing.

“— a house elf?! — as a guardian?! — a ridiculous stunt.”

Susan had secretly thought the idea brilliant. Dobby knew the value of liberty and while she didn’t remember the exact wording of the statute she was pretty sure that a free elf would qualify to the letter of the law. And there was a certain poetic justice in a free house-elf serving as legal guardian to a famous wizard.

~ diffindo ~

Amelia’s headache was bad. She didn’t know where these were coming from. She absolutely had to get to a doctor next week.

“Harry, do you know why what you did was foolish?”

“Because it was disrespectful?”

Amelia shook her head.

“No, because now you have no chance to influence who you will be placed with.

“But Dobby is absolutely eligible to be my guardian. I checked... repeatedly.”

“Yes, I actually think he might be. But you don’t get to choose your guardian, the chamber does. They won’t allow Harry Potter to be placed in the care of a house elf. Their constituents would fry them for it—not literally of course.”

“Okay, well then they can emancipate me.”

“That’s not how it works. You don’t have any actual power, I’m sorry Harry, but that’s the way it is. How would you like to be placed with Abelsted Nott? Or be a foster brother to Gregory Goyle?”

Harry who had been joyously disengaged finally stopped and paid attention.

“Those aren’t likely outcomes, but they are more likely now that you haven’t given them a viable alternative. We’re going to do what we can, but you should consider what you just did to Augusta. She put her neck out for you and you made a circus on the Wizengamot floor.”

Harry looked down.

“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. But it’s my life, and no one seems to care or acknowledge that.”

“I do, Harry. I— my history isn’t important. But I can understand some of what you are going through. We’ll just have to see what happens tomorrow, but I would suggest staying clear of her ladyship for the rest of the day.”

~ diffindo ~

“You have to tell him!”

Hannah couldn’t believe her best friend would be so cruel to someone she cared about.

“I can’t, Hannah. His future is up in the air right now. I can’t go in there and pull out one of the legs his life is balanced on.”

“You have to! How is it going to be better? How are you going to do it? He’s leaving for a week at the burrow on Sunday. He’s attending a will reading on Saturday. You cannot let him leave thinking that you are still dating when you have known for days now that you can’t be.”

Susan hugged her legs to her chest and rocked lightly back and forth.

“You have to tell him. I’ll arrange a time for you two to be alone, but you can’t blow this. I am tired of running interference between my best friend and her ex who doesn’t even know he’s an ex.”

Susan burst forth from the chair.

“Okay! I got it! There’s no template for this. But if you get me ten minutes alone with him. I’ll do it.”

“Swear to me.”

Susan’s eyes showed a betrayal of her trust.

“I swear.”

“Okay.”

~ diffindo ~

It was a new day and a new cup of coffee. It was the same café. It was the same classmate and the same problem. Daphne had agreed to meet Pansy for lunch again. It wasn’t weird, really. It was networking... usually. But not today.

Something was wrong with Pansy. Daphne knew her as both a vast resource and a powerful rival. If Pansy was royalty than Daphne was the chief aspirant to the throne. Among slytherins this was the state most closely analogous to friendship.

Rivalries had value. They allowed two entities in competition to hone their skills against each other so that each might grow more powerful, influential, and eventually successful. Daphne didn’t want to be on top of the pile—not yet. It drew more attention than a carefully cultivated second place which held nearly equal influence.

But... for more than a year Pansy hadn’t been keeping up her end of that bargain. Sure, she could handle a social event with deftness and turn a phrase with the best of them. But the real power was in initiative and Pansy had done nothing but react through the whole nightmare with Dolores Umbridge. She had only joined the inquisitorial squad when the alternative had been offending the rest of Slytherin.

“Pans, I would never believe this of you, but I think you should know, Lavender has been spreading a rumour that you’ve given up. That you’re not even trying to be a prefect this year. She is always spouting off about things she doesn’t know. But you should tell her off before it spreads.”

That wasn’t true. Lavender hadn’t said anything at all, but Pansy and Daphne had developed a coded language for such things. The truth was that Professor Snape had mentioned to Daphne that Pansy wasn’t registered for prefect duty. Framing the question as rumour from a third party provided a way to ask the question without implying an expectation of weakness.

Daphne had catalogued about three different groups of responses to this. When Pansy broke eye contact she got something entirely different.

“Lavender is a good person. I understand what you’re trying to do, but you have no idea what you are talking about. You can tell Professor Snape I’ll have my registration to him by the end of the week.”

What was wrong with her!? Daphne’s frustration was mixed with worry. Daphne had a lot invested in Pansy’s position in the house and if she was just going to sit back and let opportunities float by then Daphne needed other plans.

“I’ve also been thinking about our study group. You are so far ahead in Potions and Arithmancy that I thought we should reorganize. Tracy Davis has been struggling in some classes. I think I could help her. She has ideas about an inter-house social club that could be going places.”

Pansy had been a surprisingly pleasant person to associate with. She could be petty at times, but there was an odd streak of loyalty that ran through her. Daphne really wanted to know if their association was coming to an end. Study groups were rarely about academics. Mostly they served as venues for coordination and social planning.

Upward social mobility among girls came with a language and Daphne knew that “reorganizing” was a polite way to ask if she should bugger off. She would already have done so, but Pansy was in the dominant position and so she controlled the relationship.

Daphne was forcing the issue which was risky. Pansy could attack her for her show of dominance and cut her off from social resources, or she could reconcile which would shift the power dynamic in Daphne’s favour. But the status quo was no longer tenable.

“Why don’t you ask her to join us? There is plenty of room in that classroom. A social club sounds interesting.”

No! She’d given up. Pansy had given up. Or something. If given the opportunity, Tracy would wrap the slack Pansy was giving around her neck and strangle her with it. You could not be Slytherin and idle. You lead, followed, or got crushed.

Daphne relaxed back from her forward leaning position adopting a more neutral posture. This was a well-known signal between the two that the conversing parties were temporarily disarming. Again risky, because Daphne was still playing the game and Pansy might pick up on that. But maybe if Pansy were more at ease...

“So did you find time to see Draco?”

Pansy frowned.

“Why...? Did he ask for me?”

“Well, I—”

No, he hadn’t as far as Daphne knew, but Draco’s contacts through his father’s business empire were extensive and valuable and Pansy could still leverage them if she would just try. The far-away look that crossed Pansy’s mask at the mention of Draco was the exact mirror of the one she had seen on Draco’s face when Pansy had been mentioned.

“I didn’t think so. It really isn’t your concern.”

“I just want what’s best for you.”

The shape of exasperated disgust that took up residence on Pansy’s lips communicated crystal clear that Daphne had gone a step too far.

“Really! ... You just think I would be happier if I took your advice. It has nothing to do with his economic resources.”

This was bad. The language of social mobility did not have a word for forthright which was how Pansy appeared right now. The earnest frustration came out in her voice.

“I understand that you think an alliance with Draco is wise. I understand that you believe his influence to be critical. I know that you wish me to use my former relationship with him to garner support for you. I see that you are challenging the manner in which I maintain my position. If you want to seek another set of coattails to ride upon, feel free. Right now, I would rather just sit and drink this cup of tea with a friend.”

The small downward tilt of Pansy’s head as she closed her statement held the implied question. ‘Are you my friend?’

Shit. How do you answer that? Pansy was better at social engineering and Daphne knew it. Was she being played? Daphne had three choices. One, challenge Pansy by professing zero understanding of what she was accusing. Two, assent to this new more direct arrangement by declaring her friendship and try to turn it to her advantage. Or three—and this was the most disturbing option—just sit and enjoy her coffee and treat Pansy as a true friend.

The third option shouldn’t feel so hard. Pansy hadn’t asked any personal or private information or for any mutual assurance of vulnerability. And Daphne missed the simple nature of her childhood friendships. Devoid of the complex calculus that governed decisions today, they had been natural and warm.

So if Pansy was playing her, then Daphne would murder her. Actually murder her. In cold blood. Socially.

Daphne nodded. She could still choose later whether or not to be genuine, but she would consider it a trial period.

“Have you been able to get a hold of Potter yet?”

Pansy shook her head.

“He gave a speech to the Wizengamot which my father neglected to tell me. On purpose, I’m sure. No... at this point I’ll have to talk to him just before the will reading. I would hate to do it after.”

Actually Daphne had a question about that, and if they were on honest terms...

“Did your father... you know... with the invitation?”

“No. I asked him directly. He was angry that I would suspect him of it and his indignation seemed honest, so I have to assume that Dumbledore actually wanted me there.”

“Why do you think?”

Pansy shook her head but then her eyes locked onto empty space.

“I... I’m not ready to share what I think yet.”

~ diffindo ~

Thu. 11 July

As Susan closed the door to the ministry work office, she felt as if she were closing the door of her heart. A part of her had wanted to rebel and throw caution to the wind. To take Harry’s hand and run. Run and not stop until they were both hopelessly lost. That’s what would have happened in one of Lockhart’s books. The protagonist always got his love.

But Susan knew that life didn’t work that way. Auntie Em’s words echoed in her mind. ‘He’s the last of the Potters just as you are the last of the Bones.’ So they had been doomed from day one. She had even considered that they could make a special arrangement: they could have at least two kids and grant each name to each. But the entitlement laws didn’t function that way and she knew it.

And it would be a huge risk.

She had to be the future Lady of Bones before she could be Susan.

“This isn’t going to work.”

She had a script. She’d actually written it down with forks predicting certain responses she would need to handle. Harry’s face was concerned. He thought he had offended her...

“I know the Occlumency is boring and I’ll completely understand if you want to stop. It might get awkward anyway.”

Yep, that was one of the expected misunderstandings. The funny thing was Susan still wanted to practice Occlumency. If not for his benefit then for her own. Now that would be unlikely.

“No, Harry. The relationship that we are starting. It isn’t going to work. I am ending it before we get hurt worse.”

Now Harry looked betrayed.

“Why? We’ve barely started dating. Tell me what’s wrong. Maybe I can change it.”

This is the point in the flowchart where Susan had put a box with ‘it isn’t you it’s me’ and crossed it out in a big scribbled ‘x’.

“Some things just can’t be changed. It would make this easier if you would respect my autonomy and let this go. I would like to continue to work together, but it has to stay that way.”

“So you don’t even want to try?”

He just stared at her now. Susan was breaking inside. A continuum that contained this conversation did not deserve to exist. It was wrong. Susan would not answer his question because one of the answers wasn’t allowed and the other was a lie.

“Okay then.”

His voice was quiet. Disappointed.

Harry turned and walked out of the room.

Susan melted into a goo of sadness. She didn’t feel it when her legs buckled or when her bottom hit the floor. She didn’t feel her face collapse into her palms. All she felt was an all encompassing sense of abandonment. He’d fucking left. He didn’t want anything to do with her.

It didn’t serve as consolation that she’d met the goal she’d set. She’d reached the end of the flowchart.

Goal achieved. Five fucking points to Susan Bones.

~ diffindo ~

Harry stormed through the Wizengamot. A cloud of anger and frustration trailed behind him. She had wanted to try going out. She had said ‘yes’. They’d had gone on one date and now she just declared that it was over. He had no say in the matter?

‘No’. The reasonable part of Harry knew the answer. Relationships were mutual. Little was worse than forcing a person to associate against their will. It was this voice that had led Harry to leave rather than yell and scream.

But now he couldn’t keep it in. It wasn’t fair. It was working and she damn well knew it. Harry stopped and banged on the corridor wall.

As he approached the Wizengamot chamber, he saw Hannah and Neville waiting outside the entrance. He didn’t want to talk to them. He didn’t want to talk to anyone.

“Not now!” He barked at them trying and failing to regret those words.

He stormed into the witness waiting area and sat down in a huff. She didn’t get to do this.

Why would she do this?

Because he was dangerous. As the anger cooled into despair, the conclusion seemed obvious. He might be fun to toy with, but Harry Potter would never be stable enough to be a husband. To be a father.

Harry tried not to think about the children but he couldn’t help but visualize them. He and Susan and their children all playing quidditch on a sunny afternoon. Just a few days ago, he had told her that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his new life.

Now he did. And it was already too late.

Stupid. What did he do? When did he do it? He did something wrong.

Was she disappointed that he hadn’t kissed her after their last date? Harry had thought about it, but it had seemed too forward and he had feared rejection.

Look how that had worked out.

“The Wizengamot calls upon Harry Potter.”

Harry hadn’t even noticed the session starting. He got up and proceeded out of the waiting area and down a short ceiling-less corridor. He walked around the witness ‘throne’ and sat down.

He didn’t even really care any more. What was freedom when you were undesirable?

“Master Potter. Thank you for appearing voluntarily upon request. Before the chamber begins consideration of your situation, there is an issue that has been raised to me. Can you summon the house elf who has agreed to serve as your guardian if requested?”

Harry nodded sadly.

“Dobby?”

A beat passed with the Wizengamot in anticipatory silence.

“Yes, Harry Potter. Dobby is at your service.”

Harry lifted his hand to point the newly apparent Dobby to Lord Nott.

“Oh! My apologies, good sirs and madams. How may Dobby be of service?”

“Dobby, you have agreed to serve as Master Potter’s legal guardian is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you believe that you are eligible to do so?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dobby, are you free?”

“Dobby is a free elf!”

“Tell me Dobby, where were you just now prior to apparating within this chamber?”

“I was working in the Hogwarts kitchen, sir.”

“And you heard Master Potter summon you? Across all that distance?”

“Yes, sir?”

Dobby was less confident with that answer. Harry didn’t really see why. House elves seemed to be aware of many things across great distances.

“Have you answered the summons of any other person or creature recently?”

“Recently, sir?”

“Let say, in the last year.”

“No, sir.”

“Interesting... Tell me Dobby; five years ago, were you bonded to a wizarding family.”

Dobby stopped and thought about the maths for a while.

“Yes, sir.”

“Which family?”

“The Noble House of Malfoy, sir.”

“But you are no longer bonded to them?”

“No, sir. Dobby is a free elf.”

“Did Master Potter play a part in gaining you your freedom?”

“Dobby cannot say, sir.”

“Cannot say or won’t?”

Dobby just stared the speaker down.

“Fine. Dobby, have you bonded yourself to Harry Potter?”

What an absurd question. Of course Dobby hadn’t. His freedom was more important to him than anything. Probably more important than his life.

But Dobby wasn’t answering.

“Dobby. I can and will compel you to answer truthfully if I must.”

Dobby looked back to Harry.

“Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter.”

He turned back to the chamber.

“Yes, sir. Dobby is bonded to the good wizard Harry Potter. His will is my action. My life is his.”

Audible gasps could be heard throughout the chamber. Harry’s mind was blown. Why?

“Thank you for your honest testimony, Dobby. You are dismissed.”

Dobby turned to Harry for permission.

Harry nodded vacantly.

Dobby disapparated.

“Master Potter, I now have a very important question for you. I must remind you that it is a punishable offence to lie to the Wizengamot. If I feel that the answer to this question is a lie or that you are evading the truth, I will call for you to testify under truth serum.

“Master Potter, did you know that the elf Dobby had bonded himself to you?”

He hadn’t. He really hadn’t.

“No.”

Lord Nott considered this carefully. Harry waited as his fate hung in the balance. He did not want to testify under truth serum.

“I am inclined to believe you, but understand Master Potter, Dobby is your legal dependent. He cannot be your guardian.”

“Then don’t give me one. Let me take care of myself.”

“Master Potter. Thank you for your testimony. Out of respect for the impact that the next votes will have on you personally, I will allow you to remain in the witness chair while we consider the matter. Do not disturb the proceedings or I will throw you out and dismiss Lady Longbottom’s motion summarily and with prejudice.”

Votes. Plural. Lord Nott was assuming that he wouldn’t get his way.

“The chamber will stand open for consideration on the matter. Members will be recognized in order and will be given five minutes to either ask questions or make statements. At the end of that time the chamber will vote on the motion raised by Master Potter to the matter of his legal majority. The speaker recognizes the Lord to house Parkinson.”

Harry’s head swam. It was too much. His statement, then Susan, then Dobby, and now this sterile discussion of his life. He absently noted that Lord Parkinson had said something affirming which some part of his mind found surprising.

What was he going to do? How long had Dobby been bonded to him? What did that even mean?

Dobby had always been a loyal soul with a servant’s heart, but to agree to this knowing that he would be found out. He was clearly driven to seek affirmation and destructive to himself when he didn’t receive it. Saying ‘no’ to Harry must be almost impossible for Dobby.

He would remember that, because if the elf was his dependent than it was Harry’s responsibility to ensure his health and liberty at the same time.

Harry noticed that Augusta had been speaking for some time.

“... This young man has been assisting me in my home for weeks now. He is responsible, considerate, and motivated. I have studied what notes I have found regarding his upbringing with care. And his determination to stand before you should be enough to grant him his desire. In a few days he will be sixteen. In a single year this proceeding will be moot. There is no person who has any business caring what young Harry does with his life. Anything other than this is an abrogation of common sense and a wicked waste of time and resources.”

He was ashamed. Lady Augusta had championed his interests from the very beginning. She’d put her power behind his voice and he had made a mockery of her.

He resolved to apologize to her... somehow.

There were several other statements, but they all seemed generic and hollow like they didn’t refer to a living breathing person who sat in front of them. It was pathetic and Harry was numb to the proceeding.

He didn’t care any more.

~ diffindo ~

Amelia felt for Harry. She saw so much of her roots in him. His determination and anathemic response to injustice spoke to his character. She had never wanted to be a parent. Her service was her life. It always had been and always would be, but life as it was wont to do had interjected upon her plan and given her Susan.

Susan was the dearest thing to her heart and the intercision between her young spirit and Harry’s was nearly breaking Amelia.

There was another card to be played. But Amelia wasn’t sure she was brave enough to play it.

~ diffindo ~

“Master Potter, your motion has failed. By necessity we will now continue on to the matter of your legal guardianship.”

Harry had known this was coming. It was obvious from the tone of the Wizengamot, but somehow it hurt more when it was said. Harry was a failure. He had obviously failed with the Wizengamot. He had definitely failed with Susan. He was still failing to understand why he had failed with Susan.

But most damning of all. He had failed at fulfilling his destiny. Whatever was in that prophecy, it couldn’t have been this. He had missed his turn off the freeway of life and now he was cruising without a destination and dangerously low on fuel.

“Your preferred guardian is ineligible. As a matter of fairness, I think the best course of action is to return your case to the O.D.W., so before we open the matter to the floor for discussion. I will ask for general consent to remand the case to the Office of Dependants Welfare.”

Harry looked to Augusta to see if she would object. She closed her eyes in a grimace but did not stand. That’s okay. He wasn’t worth any more of her political capital. Sometimes you rolled all ones.

“Objection!”

What? Harry spun to see the speaker, but he knew that voice. That voice haunted his dreams. It echoed among the image of a million glowing orbs.

“Harry Potter’s service to wizardkind deserves more than a passing moment of the Wizengamot’s time. In fact, I for one would benefit from an adjournment to research the best possible outcome. No less will do for the boy-who-lived.”

Lucius Malfoy was smiling. It wasn’t a kind smile. It was a cruel smile filtered through a sieve of saccharinity.

“Lord Malfoy. It is still early in the second hour. An adjournment would be unprecedented.”

Lord Nott was scared of Lucius. Harry could hear it in the Chief Warlock’s voice.

“Was not his defeat of the Dark Lord unprecedented? Has not his accomplishment earned him the respect and dignity of your time?”

“But what of the matter of young Master Harry’s guardian?”

“I move to reinstate Lady Longbottom’s injunction.”

“Second.”

Lady Amelia wasn’t going to let that opportunity pass by.

Lord Nott was scrutinizing Lord Malfoy. It looked weird, but Harry suspected that the speaker would bend his knee.

“Without objection the injunction is reinstated. The Wizengamot will stand adjourned until tomorrow morning.”

~ diffindo ~

“It doesn’t make any sense!”

Augusta and Auntie Em were not arguing, but to any casual passer-by the din was indistinguishable.

“He’s up to something. I’m telling you.”

Susan quietly watched her elders discuss the unexpected turn of events.

Em was convinced that Lucius was going to try some trick, but she couldn’t articulate any method or opportunity that made any political sense. Augusta, for her part, believed that it was a public relations strategy, both demonstrating his control of the Wizengamot and attempting to get on the record as an ally to Harry Potter.

Auntie Em was right, though. Susan hadn’t come up with a political opportunity either, but Harry had spoken enough ill of Draco to motivate any father to revenge. He probably wanted to make Harry as miserable as possible.

Well it was too late for that.

Harry was already miserable.

“Sue, are you going to be okay if Neville and I head back.”

Hannah was worried about her. No surprise there. She had gone to find Susan after Harry had stormed by into the witness waiting room. She was so intuitive. Susan wished things came to her as naturally.

“No, Han. Go ahead. I’ll be fine.”

She wanted to be alone anyway. She was only waiting to see him one more time. Before she left for the Bones residence and her bed, which she would have no reason to leave for the rest of the summer.

He was taking a long time, actually.

“Auntie Em...?”

The two adults just kept talking.

“Auntie Em!”

Amelia held up a palm.

“Can it wait, Sue?”

“Sure. But where’s Harry?”

The three all stopped and looked around the rapidly emptying corridors. The witness entrance was right in front of them.

“I’ll check.”

But Susan knew—deep down she was absolutely sure—that they wouldn’t find Harry anywhere in the Ministry.

~ diffindo ~

Harry bolted down Knockturn alley. He would not let them come to him. He could not tolerate their comfort. And if Susan was with them... Harry’s heart had turned inside out. He yearned to hold her, but also could not conceive of seeing her. His anger and longing mixed with horror and pain.

He didn’t know where he was going. But also didn’t care.

When he had slipped from the witness room after the disastrous hearing, Harry had beelined for an external floo station. He had problems and they were his own...

Except for Susan, she had a part in this, but due to that very reason he couldn’t possibly face her. He had done something wrong. He didn’t know what, but no matter what she claimed, it could only have been his failure.

Harry stopped. A part of him wanted to return and another part to tear on. He had always known anger. It was as familiar as a childhood friend. He had grown and learned to care for it. To manage it properly—sometimes. But this empty tragic feeling that ate at his core, it was unbearable. He needed to exterminate it, extinguish it, quench it.

Harry looked up a set of stairs ascending to the top of a tattoo shop. A small wooden sign held the name White Wyvern. He could see a carving of a mug on the door to what must be a pub.

He had seen this drama play out. Not least of all with Aunt Marge’s beau. Alcohol didn’t fix problems. But no one claimed it didn’t take away the pain... for a while. And in this moment, as this person, Harry needed an escape. Just for a few hours.

He took a first step up the stairs and knew he was making the right decision. He couldn’t go back upstream and going forward might lead to more violent rapids. Best to row ashore for the day.

Harry was thinking himself clever for his analogy, when the door burst open and ejected a supremely drunk witch. She was dishevelled, but she wore a shimmering dress of crimson satin. She turned to yell back into the establishment.

“Fuck you, Gary.”

She turned taking note of Harry for the first time.

“Hey, looks like fate might be smiling on me yet. How do you feel about an evening of reckless fun? I’m free... and willing... and as yet unaccompanied...”

He considered it. He actually did. She wasn’t unattractive, but a moral part of Harry’s mind that still functioned signaled a deep understanding of how wrong that would be.

“I— I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Oh, so another little fucking dick thinks he knows what I need. When your in bed alone tonight, I want you to imagine this.”

The woman—for Harry still did not know her name—attempted to look sexy even pulling down one sleeve of her dress to show more of her cleavage. This might have had its intended effect upon the virginal boy, but he had noticed on his way up that the top step of the stairs was loose and had chosen this moment to all but dump the drunk down the stairs.

Shit. As she fell, Harry knew that she would be hurt. It was too uncontrolled, too sudden. As her body came to a halt at the bottom of the stairs Harry saw that her head sat at an ugly angle.

Please don’t be dead.

Harry rushed down the stairs. He knelt down and checked for a pulse. He wasn’t really confident about doing that on another person, but he didn’t feel anything.

“Oh, for the Mojal’s filthy balls. Remy! Remy, are ya’ dead?”

He didn’t get it. She was gone. She had been alive just seconds ago and because of a stupid accident she was gone. She was vibrant...

“Fuck off, Gary!”

Her harsh voice took Harry by surprise.

“Okay... shit. That hurts.”

She looked up into Harry’s concerned eyes.

“Merlin... I’m not dead, ya’ twat. Next time check for breathing.”

Harry’s eyes widened with recognition.

“I know you!”

“I don’t think so.”

“Yeah, from the hospital.”

This was the witch Harry had talked to when he first woke from the ordeal at the Ministry. Her expression shifted from confident to anxious.

“Look. I don’t need my co-workers treating me like a basket case ‘cause Harry-bloody-Potter told them I got pissed, okay? You keep this to yourself.”

“Damn it, Remy.”

The man—who Harry now knew was Gary—turned to him.

“Son, help me get her back up the stairs. She’s too drunk to go home right now.”

“Like I would go back to that fucker.”

Remy was heavy. Okay, she wasn’t ‘heavy’, but adults were heavy. Gary took Remy’s torso and Harry picked up her lower half. This became awkward because the most logical position for carrying her up the stairs was for Harry to grasp her thighs which put him right at the apex of her legs. It felt dirty—not least ways because she was semi-conscious.

What would someone think if they came by? Two guys carrying a passed out woman in a dress into a private area.

Of course, this was Knockturn Alley. No one gave them a second glance. That made Harry more sick than anything.

“Alright, lad, put her down over here.”

He couldn’t get over the sight of Remy lying at the bottom of the stairs looking completely lifeless. He hadn’t actually seen Dumbledore die or Sirius really—he had simply fallen through the veil, nothing had been left behind. People had a presence, a light, and to see that extinguished—even if he’d been wrong. He couldn’t get over it.

“Okay, there.”

Gary set Remy into a booth towards the back of the pub. She slumped awkwardly, but didn’t seem to mind. Gary offered his hand to Harry.

“Mr. Potter, it is an honour to meet you personally, but I must leave the pleasantries there for the moment. I have some food in the oven that I am readying for when we open tonight. Just don’t let her leave. She’s in no fit state.”

Harry expected another ‘fuck you’ from the highly intoxicated woman, but instead she stayed silent. He thought he saw her tearing up, but maybe that was just the booze. She went to the trouble of sitting up and slouching onto the table as Gary went to attend his kitchen.

“You know, they have no idea what he did to you.”

That was relatively clear speech compared with before.

“What do you mean? And why are you suddenly less drunk?”

She scoffed and looked downward with eyes closed.

“Don’t tell Gary, but I fake most of it. I come here now to pick up one-nighters and the whole drunk routine seems to keep the good boys away. They’re a waste of time usually.”

Harry had never met anyone quite like Remy. She was so forward with everything.

“Don’t look at me like that. I gave you a shot to fuck me and I told you you’d regret not taking it. Now I have a headache, so you’ll have to use your imagination instead.”

“What did you mean that ‘they have no idea what he did to me’? Who?”

“The doctors. Dumbledore did some fucked up magic the night you were brought into the hospital. And a part of it seemed to centre on you. They were supposed to tell you—it’s an ethics violation not to. But someone with connections wanted it hidden from you.”

“Do you know who?”

Remy just shook her head. Harry felt himself well up.

“I’ve completed destroyed my life.”

Why would he tell her that? She was a drunk stranger who liked picking up other strangers for the odd afternoon tryst.

“A young man of good breeding wanting to get pissed in a pub in Knockturn Alley in the early afternoon. I’d wager half my clitoris that you have a girl problem.”

Eeeek. Too much. But she was right, and what other chance was Harry going to have to talk to someone he would likely never need to see again.

“Susan. Things were going really well, but then she just ended it. She wouldn’t even explain why.”

She took a deep breath and nodded in thought.

“You need to get shit-faced. And here’s my advice on your girl problem... fuck her. You can take that advice one of two ways. Or—if you’re a real ass-hole—both.”

~ diffindo ~

“We have to find him! Who knows what state of mind he’s in?”

Susan was frantic. Panic cascaded upon a keel of guilt. Harry was god-knows-where and it was her fault. He could be hurt... or hurting himself.

Susan and Amelia stood on the threshold of one of the Ministry public floo stations. They had checked the entire complex—at least those parts that Harry would have access to. It had been early evening when Amelia had agreed to check the floo logs.

“You could use the trace!”

She rounded on her Aunt.

“He’s a minor, you can track him.”

Amelia placed a hand on her shoulder attempting to soothe her. It didn’t work.

“Sue, I can only ping his location if he uses magic. And it would be a violation of countless regs to do so without articulable cause.”

“There’s plenty of cause. He could be hurt or alone. He might need help.”

Now she was hyperventilating. An excess of oxygen was filling a void of thought as her brain short-circuited her reasoning.

“Or—Sue—he may just want to be alone. According to the floo logs he went to Diagon Alley. He’ll probably just take a walk and eat dinner. He’s asking to be treated as an adult. Shouldn’t you respect that? Let’s go home. He knows how to get there or to Longbottom manor.”

Auntie Em turned to collect her bag.

It was Susan’s fault. The panic began to subside. But more subtle emotions flowed as it ebbed. Guilt. Shame. She could have told him the truth. That she wanted him—desperately—but that fate had determined otherwise. He would fight it, but that was only harder for her, not for him.

This had been easier for her. She didn’t have to face the truth that she was making a choice. Amelia couldn’t force her to satisfy the contracts. She could just say goodbye to the House of Bones and let the name die.

But she didn’t want to.

She’d made a choice and taken the easiest way out for herself.

The hearing would’ve hurt. The realization of what Dobby had done would be disturbing. But Harry wasn’t a coward. If he ran, it was because she had rejected him and refused to tell him why.

“No.”

Amelia turned back to Susan.

“I’m sorry... ‘no’ what?”

“No, he’s not an adult. Not tonight.”

She turned her back to her aunt and walked into a neighbouring floo station picturing her desired destination.

~ diffindo ~

To Susan’s advantage, tracking Harry Potter was easier than about anybody. It must be infuriating to have every magical soul constantly watching what you do.

If panic was the product of energy, then despair was the product of weariness. Three separate people had seen Harry Potter enter Knockturn Alley. That was a place that Susan did not go. That good people did not go.

Asking whether the natives of the darker corridor had seen Harry was nerve racking. How do you evaluate who is a threat when everyone is broken, worn, and dirty? With the exception of a few mentally deranged, she had been surprised by how helpful they had been.

She catalogued that evidence of her bias for later analysis.

But the trail had run cold.

He had been sighted not a hundred meters back, but now no one had seen him. It was as though he had just disapparated in the middle of the alley. But unless Harry was lying about his skill, he didn’t know how to apparate.

If you eliminate the impossible...

If only it were that easy.

As usual the decision came down to forward or back. Susan considered the case for each. Forward: the witnesses had missed him and he had continued on (or become invisible somehow?) Back: Harry had stopped at one of the less seedy businesses.

If Auntie Em had come along, then she might suggest splitting up, but the logical course of action was to check this area before moving on.

As Susan tracked back up the alleyway, she wasn’t sure what she would say when she found him. Should she confess the truth? Or would that make it worse? Her mind couldn’t focus enough to decide. The only thing that mattered was finding Harry and making sure he was safe.

Wait.

She’d passed it on the way down thinking it was a residence, but there was a warm light from a window illuminating the sign of the White Wyvern.

Susan looked around.

None of these other establishments were open. If she had fled down Knockturn Alley, she might select a pub to retreat to too.

Well there was no time to delay. If he wasn’t here then she would have to move on. She grasped the heavy wooden handle at the top of the stairs and pulled open the door.

The interior was dim, but she knew his outline well enough to recognize him sitting in a corner booth across from an older but still attractive witch.

As she approached the table, Susan wasn’t sure what she was more jealous about—that Harry was having drinks with an attractive woman... or that he was flat-out pissed and Susan wasn’t.

“Harry?”

His response was slurred and tired.

“Susan? How did you find me?”

The woman in shimmery red cut in before she could respond.

“Susan? The bitch? Why would the bitch who dumped you come looking for you in a pub down Knockturn?”

“Rem, for the last time, she’s not a ‘bitch’. I said she’s a ‘witch’.”

“I heard you fine, Har. I’m telling you—and you...”

Rem drunkenly pointed at Susan.

“That you’re a bitch!”

Rem giggled. Susan was not amused.

“Harry... I think you should come home now.”

“Fuck off, bitch witch... witch bitch...”

Harry didn’t respond but he did get up to leave.

“Why did you come get me? You don’t want anything to do with me.”

Susan wanted to tell him. But now wasn’t right. He was barely conscious and she didn’t really want more interference from ‘Rem’. Merlin, he was drunk.

“Come on. I promise I’ll explain everything.”

Susan gave a nasty glare to Gary on their way out. He had no business serving a minor in this state of mind.

“He’s only fifteen. I should have you arrested.”

Gary just shrugged.

“I didn’t sell to him. I sold to her. What she does with it after that is her business.

Susan just shook her head in disgust. She had to get Harry somewhere safe.

~ diffindo ~

Amelia had been relieved to see Susan arrive back at home even it is was with a very drunk Harry in tow. All-in-all it could have been worse, but Amelia was extremely curious as to where he had been found.

Susan had greeted her and then proceeded to lie Harry down in her room. In her bed.

Sigh.

Amelia was now just outside her bedroom door at the end of the hall trying to hear what was happening.

“Harry. You didn’t have to do this. I know that the hearing upset you. And I know that I did too. So I’ll understand if you want me to leave you alone.”

There was a pause and Amelia almost cast a one-way transparency charm on the door. When Harry replied it was deeply slurred.

“What the hell do you want? This morning it was all cold ‘respect my autonomy’ and now you want to talk? I know girls don’t make sense, but if you don’t want...”

“Harry, I—”

“What happened? What did I do?”

“It’s... it’s not something that I should tell you.”

“This morning I thought I could accept that. But I can’t. I can’t. I need to know.”

“It really wasn’t anything you did.”

“So there’s something wrong with me. Did you decide that I’m too dangerous to be around? I wouldn’t blame you for that.”

“No, Harry, it isn’t about you...”

“No! You don’t get out of it that easily!”

Harry must have tried to stand up because the bed creaked loudly as a body collapsed back onto it.

“Just sit, Harry. If you don’t want to lie down, then just sit. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“A little late...”

This time the pause widened with pregnancy. Harry was polite, but with the alcohol damping his inhibition he wasn’t going to go easy on Susan. Amelia was a little worried he might become belligerent.

“It’s a house rule. A by-law of my house.”

No. Don’t tell him. She mustn’t tell him that. If he knows he’ll never let it go.

“What...?”

Harry was sounding more tired now.

“After our date to The Bower, Auntie Em told me about it. That’s why I was so awkward.”

“How can there be a law...?”

He was having trouble understanding. Amelia was quietly thankful for this. If it came to obliviation, she might do it. It would be highly illegal—obliviation had only escaped the status of unforgivable curses because of how often it had to be used on muggles to protect the secrecy statute.

But maybe he would just forget as intoxicated as he was.

“Harry. Please lie down. You look like your going to be sick. I’ll tell you the whole story. And then I’ll leave you alone... from now on if that’s what you want.”

As Susan related the whole story, Amelia resolved to let the matter be. She would step in forcefully if necessary, but the casual use of memory charms was too horrific even if it was to save her house and name.

“... so Caliculus basically made a rule that since I am the only heir and a girl I can’t marry you. Only a muggle, so I can keep the Bones— Harry? Harry are you...?”

So he was asleep. Good. Lord, please let that boy forget the whole evening. Amelia needed to go since Susan would be out soon and she didn’t want to be caught dropping at the eaves.

She needed to get to her own bed. Tomorrow would be a landmark day for her influence in the Wizengamot. The House of Bones had never gone to political war with any other noble house. It had always been far better to lay low and network slowly. But the truth was her predecessors had just been scared. And she knew this because she was scared.

It had taken only a hour of thought to see the purpose of Lucius’s recess. He needed a specific document. So Amelia had gotten a similar document. The question is whether she would use it. Lucius was ascendant in the Wizengamot and challenging him at this junction could destroy the influence of Lady Bones.

But it could work.

~ diffindo ~

Fri. 12 July

Harry’s head hurt. He’d left Hannah and Neville at the door to the witness room but Susan hadn’t come today. He wished he could remember what happened yesterday. He remembered Remy and the stairs and then drinking. Then he remembered waking up in Longbottom Manor.

There were flashes in between. Of Susan. Of her room. Her bed. But it was all so fuzzy. Why would she come after him? He felt like he should know. Like the information was hidden somewhere in his mind like a lost ring of keys.

One thing he definitely had lost was his self-loathing. Perhaps he just reacted oddly to a hangover, but in the morning he had been ready to move on. Ready to step forward and stop dithering over what life would or would not grant him.

Harry didn’t know what was going to happen, but after Lucius Malfoy had come to his aid, Harry had been sick at the prospect of what he must be planning. He had an idea. Lucius might intend to declare himself guardian, but Harry could not figure out why he would want to except to make them both miserable.

He smiled at the thought of Draco learning about the new arrangement. But it wasn’t funny, really.

Harry had waited for almost an hour before they were ready for him. He didn’t even bother sitting in the stupid chair this time.

“Before I open the floor to discussion of the guardianship of Harry Potter, I would like to remind the members of this chamber that four days is enough time to devote to this issue. There will be no further recesses or adjournments.”

Lord Nott was annoyed at the antics... good.

“Members will be recognized at the will of the speaker or with objection in priority order. The floor is open.”

Lucius rose and was recognized.

“Honourable colleagues, first I must thank the chief warlock for his consideration of my untimely request for adjournment. I would like to assure the chamber that I called for it with the greatest necessity upon a matter of gravest importance.”

Listening to Lord Malfoy speak was sickening. His earnest seductive timbre induced a terrible cognitive dissonance between the words and their intent.

“In many ways my family was fortunate during the conflict with he-who-must-not-be-named. I am grateful everyday for that fact. And of course I owe deepest gratitude to the young man before us today by who’s person the Dark Lord was defeated. We all owe the boy-who-lived a debt and very likely our lives.

“This is the reason—and I will explain fully—why I asked for the adjournment yesterday. Because I desperately needed to set in place an opportunity for this hero of our community.

“It has long been a privilege of noble wizarding houses to grant assistance to those in need and in times of greatest need to take individuals into our homes and under our protection. I desired to offer this protection to Mr. Potter. He deserves the best our community can offer, and I would have him as a member of my house... as a second son. But there was an obstacle that needed to be removed.

“Ward-ship—under the law—is a contractual matter and thus requires the consent of both parties and in the case of a minor—the case that stands before us—the consent of his legal guardian. Since Harry has no legal guardian, as we consider his plight, it would seem that none can consent to benefaction.

“I could not stand before my wife and child and declare to them that I did not do all that could be done to protect the soul that stopped the Dark Lord. In that manner of thought, I sought out the Minister for Magic and requested a writ of noble privilege to permit me to speak on behalf of the government—who in the absence of an ostensible individual—serves as Mr. Potter’s authority.

“The Minister, who is also very fond of Harry and recognizing the sense in my request, saw fit to approve it. It is no small thing to extend the rights and privileges of a noble house, but it is the least I can do for the Dark Lord’s bane.

“I have taken enough of your time. Chief Nott, I yield.”

The contents of a Harry’s stomach scrabbled at his oesophagus. He had been told that he had no say in the matter, but for some reason he thought he would be given a choice. Lady Amelia had been right. He had played himself directly into the hands of his worst living enemy. Was he even a person? Did he have any authority over his life?

No. The answer was no.

He couldn’t live with Draco. He couldn’t live with it.

“If there is no further discussion upon the matter I will declare issue closed and dismiss the witness.”

“I object.”

It was quiet and much unlike the normally confident and crisp voice of Amelia Bones. Harry wasn’t sure what she could have to say about it; but unlike Lucius whom Harry couldn’t listen to without feeling sick, he hung on every word.

“With leave of the chair, I have a statement regarding the matter.”

Harry saw that Lord Nott couldn’t avoid catching the eye of Lord Malfoy. Yeah, what does he tell his master now?

“The floor is still open, good lady. Please, proceed.”

Amelia’s voice grew in confidence.

“I would never seek to cast any doubt upon the intentions of my colleagues, but I do not believe that Lord Malfoy’s house is the best fit for Mr. Potter.

“I have come to know him quite well over the past few weeks. He is good man with a strong sense of justice. A person that I can respect. He is loyal and brave and forthright.”

She let these words hang for a moment. Each compliment produced a burst of warmth in Harry’s chest. If only the thought of Amelia did not lead his mind down the path to Susan.

“I don’t think the Malfoy family is the best home for the witness. Therefore, during yesterday’s adjournment I too acquired a writ of noble privilege allowing me to speak on Harry’s behalf and I do not consent to his warding to the house of Malfoy.”

“Speaker!”

Harry couldn’t muster a smile, but his eyes did widen in wonder and the sound of indignant frustration in the voice of Lord Malfoy urging the chief warlock to intervene.

“Lady Bones, Master Harry has been assigned a guardian you cannot remove consent after the fact. Also, it would be a pernicious problem to permit multiple final authorities on Master Potter’s matter.”

“My good lord and speaker, there are not multiple final authorities to Mr. Potter. There is only one person who is vested with the duty and that is I the Lady of Bones.”

The speaker shook his head.

“Lord Malfoy’s writ was entered into record first.”

Lady Augusta, in an uncharacteristic outburst, shouted from her seat.

“Potentia auctoritatem inducit.”

Now Lady Bones was smiling as she laid out her position to Lord Nott.

“Preference among writs of noble privilege is given to the house of highest nobility. Within the walls of the Wizengamot this is determined by vote seniority and unless the House of Malfoy has acquired some hitherto unknown votes, the House of Bones is still five votes the senior.”

Lord Nott’s mind had broken. He was surely unable to avoid Amelia’s conclusion but feared the blow-back from his puppet master.

“And unlike Lord Malfoy I will afford Harry the chance to direct his own choice. Mr Potter, I will consent to whichever warding you choose or, at your direction, I will consent to neither and send your case back to the ODW.”

Harry felt moisture on his cheeks. Stopping Malfoy would have been enough. He had created his own mess at least in part. But he wasn’t prepared for how deep his gratitude would run to the great lady for extending him a piece of true autonomy. A slice of recognition for his own destiny.

“I would be honoured— honoured to accept an offer from the House of Bones.”

“Lord Speaker!”