One moment all the Weasleys were staring down at the map with their jaws hanging, the very next they had let out a string of hexes at each other.
The seven now stood staring at each other, clearly dumbfounded, their wands out pointing to another in the group. Everyone around had noticed and people were looking at the group in a curious manner. Only Arthur and the twins stood calmly and were watching the others bewilderedly.
Hermione was the first to react. “Who are you?”
“Ron, of course! What are you doing? What is ‘Nascondpi-whatever’ supposed to be?” Ron replied, looking at Hermione suspiciously.
“But you are in there… you can’t be…” said Hermione and her voice faded out as she looked at the map again and noticed their group clearly separated from the crowd in the Great Hall. All seven were clearly marked. She looked back at the Headmaster’s office and gasped yet again.
“It was your name out there. I thought I saw…” Hermione mumbled to a stop. By now everyone had lowered their wand and was looking at the map.
“What just happened?” Arthur asked no one in particular, sounding extremely worried.
“It said Ronald Weasley in there, so I thought this must be an imposter,” said Hermione pointing at Ron. “I am sorry Ron. It was a reflex action. And it’s Nascondersi Uscito, it can overturn almost any Impersonification charm. Don’t Aurors have to read the Super Book of Anti Charm Hexes?”
Before Ron could make a suitable remark he was interrupted by Ginny, who had exclaimed “But I saw your name Hermione!”
“And I guess Ron saw Arthur’s name and Molly saw Fred’s. Who did you guys see?” asked Hermione, while looking directly at Fred and George.
“Dumbledore,” both said simultaneously.
“Me too,” said Arthur, taking a seat and looking amused. “And now I see a face showing me its tongue!”
“Fred, George!” Began Molly, but both cut in before she could go on.
“This is not a prank Mum, the map never lies. It is supposed to work. We have never seen it do anything like this.”
“How does the map work?” asked Hermione.
Fred and George looked at each other, exchanged a glance that clearly said it’s a secret, before relenting to Hermione’s stare and gave a quick explanation. The map was a copy of the one the Marauders had made. It was charmed to have a fingerprint matching the Castles magic. So much so, that the Castle thought it to be a part of itself. The Castle in turn was tuned to magically track everyone inside and every inch of the Castle knew about every other inch. You just had to tune the map to display what the rest of the Castle was communicating.
“The map can only be wrong if someone manages to fool the Castle,” finished George.
Hermione looked at them thoughtfully and said “Or if someone can control the Castle and the magic it passes on to the map. I think Hogwarts has found its Headmaster. The only question is who it is.”
“But then the person controlling it would have to know about the map and about us, and would have to will the Castle to make the map go wrong,” said Ginny and gasped.
But Hermione just gave Ginny a yes-I-know look and patiently sat down, effectively closing the conversation and turning towards Amelia Bones who was now walking in with the others in tow.
Harry followed the others into the Great Hall, reflecting on what had just happened.
The Councilor had told the others the amazing story of the last three years. McGonagall had almost been in tears at the part about how Dumbledore had died defending Harry and how Harry had died, and yet returned. The occasional question from the listeners had stopped the very moment the story had reached the part of Harry’s journey through death and back. The Councilor had clearly avoided the topic of what it was that Harry and Dumbledore had been protecting, and Harry wondered why no one asked. By the end however, all anger and surprise was gone. The others were now a part of the trusted few who knew that Harry Potter had risked his life to save the world yet again, and had returned to Hogwarts successful.
It was towards the end of the story that Harry had felt the map connecting to the Castle. He had been prepared for it, of course, but he had not thought it would happen so soon. A single moment of distraction had caused him to push the thoughts that came to his mind back to the map. The thoughts had been of the people he could feel standing by it and of Dumbledore. He had regained control soon, however, and made it a little joke. He knew it was only a matter of time before one of his friends discovered who he really was. He was banking on it being Hermione. He only hoped he had not cut short his little facade by too much.
He had been distracted by the whole thing and had not heard McGonagall when she had asked her question.
“Harry, why do you want to remain unknown?”
He had given the same answer he reserved for everyone. He needed time to attune to the Castle before the defenses could be up again. His return would cause unwanted publicity and there was a possibility of attacks before he could control it fully. He wasn’t sure if anyone had bought his argument, but the Councilor had moved on, and Harry really did not want to give away his real reason.
His friends. He needed them, he missed them. Death had been the final straw that had changed the hot headed, self focused Harry Potter to the one who sat here now. Matured beyond his years, this Harry realized the importance of friends and happiness. Of love.
But first I need to be more prepared with this whole creating magic thing, thought Harry. Three years of relentless training had not prepared him for what the Castle now offered. He wondered how the other great wizards had felt when they had connected to this magnificent piece of magic. Of course, the other Headmasters had had a much longer time to get tuned to the Castle and Harry was only going to have one year of being a professor before he had to control it completely. One year before he would have to reveal to everyone as to whom he really was. One year to mend old friendships and build bridges. One year to figure out his heart and one year to figure out Ginny.
The thoughts of Ginny reminded him of the first battle when he thought of her as just Ron’s little sister.
Harry had met Mustang the next day on the streets of London and with one look had known something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Harry had suddenly become alert. His wand out, he had approached his friend of barely a week. The joyous laughing face was now nothing but filled with sadness and death. The clothes were torn and there was blood everywhere. On seeing Harry, a look of dread had come into his eyes as if willing the scarred boy to go away. With a final effort, Mustang had breathed out a sorry and another friend had died in Harry’s arms. He had had no time to grieve, however, for as his eyes had followed the blood trail that had probably been made as Mustang had dragged himself across the street, he had found himself looking at a dozen Death Eaters and approaching flashes of red and green.
He had no time to react. His reflexes from years of danger had kicked in and he had jumped out of the way just in time. An entire section of the street had blown out moments later. They were here for the kill.
Harry had started to run, he knew his protection had somehow been broken. Dodging spells, Harry had run into the nearby subway entrance and hid at a corner he was sure would not be easily noticed. He soon heard pops of Apparating wizards and then the clear sounds of an ongoing fight.
Someone had come to help him. Before he could move out, he had seen a wizard in Auror robes appear in front of him, but a green light had struck the wizard and the Auror had fallen. A chain had fallen off the wizard’s hand and Harry had done the first thing that came to mind, he had jumped on the chain and felt the familiar force of a Portkey being activated. His last thought had been a prayer, hoping that he landed somewhere safe.
It seems the gods were not in a very giving mood that day. He had arrived at some kind of an office. The first thing he noticed was bodies of Aurors and other law enforcement officials lying around. The second thing he had noticed was the lift.
He was at the Ministry of Magic; it had probably been some kind of a safety Portkey for the Auror. But it was hardly safe, he thought, looking at the pile of bodies. He moved out to the corridor, a battle of wizards unlike any he had seen raged all around him. He had seen the lift door open and had made a run for it, reaching the lift just in time. He realized he had to have a plan; he needed to reach someone of the Order somehow. He looked at the floors he could go to. He noticed the first name that caught his attention, the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, and shouted for the lift to take him there. He knew some of the Aurors, as well as Arthur. He hoped someone he could trust was there.
On entering the office, all his hopes had been completely shattered. The entire office was in ruins. A battle raged with what he thought were a group of Aurors hiding behind the desks, and a group of Death Eaters very near the exit of the lift. He had thought of retreating to another floor, but a shock of red hair caught his eye. He gasped in fear as he saw a group of tall men, about five or six of them wearing black robes, make their way towards a desk. He could see Ginny behind the desk, trying to fight back. She didn’t have much time, the Death Eaters would be on her in a matter of minutes.
Harry picked up the hood, from a wizard lying just outside the lift, and pulled it over his head. He didn’t want to be recognized. He then quickly staked out his options. He saw another one of those chains hanging just beside the desk that Ginny was hiding behind. He had no time, he just hoped that it was another Portkey, and that it would activate on touch.
Harry saw Ginny fire some spell and one of the Death Eater’s robes caught fire. For a moment, there was chaos, the burning Death Eater began to send curses wildly and his group quickly split, dodging the randomly flying spells. Harry saw his moment and dashed towards Ginny, took a leap across the desk, and fell on a startled girl. Just as Ginny recovered and pointed her wand at Harry, he rolled over and his hand touched the chain. He thought he saw a wizard with a silver hand Apparate into the room just as he felt the familiar tug of a Portkey. He let out a breath, and before he knew, he had landed on the floor of a room he now recognized. In a heartbeat, Ginny had rolled on top of him, and stunned him.
When Harry gained consciousness, he saw the bruised, bleeding but alive face of Ginny Weasley over him. She looked horrible, he thought, but seeing the look of panic on her face, he realized he probably looked no better.
“What are you doing here?” asked Ginny.
“There was an attack at home, what are you doing here?” Harry asked back, sounding equally surprised.
“The Burrow was attacked too,” said Ginny. “Dad brought us here… Ron…” at the sudden look of dread on her face, Harry got up and shook her. There was no time for sorrow yet; he could hear the battle outside, moving towards the room.
“We need to get out of here Ginny. It looks like a war…” said Harry but he had barely finished when an entire corner of the room blasted off. Harry jumped out of the way, taking Ginny along, and could see a gaping hole where moments ago a cupboard had stood. A couple of Death Eaters were backing into the room fighting. Just to the corner of the new hole, Harry saw a number of broken broomsticks. The cupboard must have stored them; he thought and began to think of some way to get out.
“Harry… look here…” whispered Ginny, she was pointing to a broken door of the cupboard that now stood leaning against a desk close to them and offered a very good hiding place. They slowly shifted into the place, barely fitting in.
“How did you arrive at the Ministry, Ginny? Is there anyone of the Order here?” Harry asked her in a whisper.
“Dad brought me, Ron and Mom here and then left,” Ginny began. “At first there were many Aurors, but then they left, and the Death Eaters appeared from the wall. A door just appeared out of nowhere. I saw Tonks pinned alone at one corner along with Ron and Mom just before you came.”
As she finished, Ginny could see Harry debating with himself.
“You can’t save them Harry. There are too many of them, they will manage. We need to get out of here! And you are not sending me away and fighting either. I won’t let you!” exclaimed Ginny, giving Harry a fierce look.
Ginny had pulled herself up straighter, and looked at Harry daring him to defy her. He knew he could not do much here, even though he wanted to stay and help. But this was Ron’s sister; he had to save her first. With that thought he came to a decision. He needed to get to the entrance, and get out.
“Lets go,” he whispered and dragged himself out of his hiding place. A couple of Death Eaters stood to one corner hiding behind the debris from the blast, fighting against an enemy Harry could not see.
Harry pushed Ginny towards the exit that led to the lift, shouting for her to cover him, while he ran full speed into the two wizards, trying to identify a broomstick that was not broken. He rammed into one, picking up the broomstick, and heard Ginny stun the other. The Death Eaters had been caught unawares, and before they could react Harry and Ginny were running directly towards the lift. He just hoped one of the lifts was on his floor. As they dashed ahead they heard curses going off behind them, but they had turned the corner to the safety of the corridor where the lifts stopped.
The lift he had used was still at another floor, a second one had been blasted away. His only hope was the third lift which was just a floor above him. But they could not wait outside the doors; there was no place to hide. Harry quickly summoned a small boulder lying on the side and hit the lift button with it, while Ginny -- realizing the need for cover -- was shooting spells at a large shelf trying to tip it over.
A lot of things happened next. The lift button clinked and it began to move, the shelf tumbled giving them some protection, but several Death Eaters started running towards them. Harry reacted on instinct, pulling Ginny and himself on the broomstick, and flew straight into the lift sending a powerful hex at the chandelier in the corridor, hoping to delay the Death Eaters. They flew into the lift just as the doors opened and slammed into the two Death Eaters standing inside, knocking them over and falling behind them. As the doors were about to close, some one sent a green light into the lift, and it hit one of the Death Eaters right in the chest. Almost immediately, they had both stunned the second.
Harry asked the lift to take him to the main hallway, already deciding that he needed to fly straight out. They were mounted on the broom ready to go, and as soon as the doors opened Harry flew out directly towards the exit. He could hear a flurry of curses everywhere, and could hear Ginny sending out several. He concentrated on flying to the exit, ignoring what he thought was Kingsley Shacklebolt on the side. Suddenly, Ginny gave out a cry and leaned into him. Blood covered his neck and he hoped to god that Ginny was alive. Harry just dodged the spells and flew straight at the entrance, concentrating on getting out. When he thought he was near enough, he blasted the final obstacle, sending the telephone booth flying in the air and flew out. He turned to see how badly Ginny was hurt when a flying piece of wood hit him and pierced his shoulder. His eyes began to close and darkness filled him. He felt Ginny take control of the broom and they flew away.
It had been the first of many battles, thought Harry. He wondered even today, how he and Ginny had managed to fly the broom in their pathetic state, alternating the control, half conscious. But they had survived through that and through the next couple of weeks. With a start Harry realized he was sitting on the staff table, staring directly at Ginny. She was staring back at him, confused. He turned away, and saw Draco Malfoy give him a look of contempt.
Draco. He had bought his way into the Board of Governors after inheriting his fathers wealth and a little help from Harry. Who would have thought that of all the people, Draco would be the one to stand by Harry through it all and not Ron and Hermione. Harry smiled back at Draco, causing him to choke on his drink. Harry chuckled at him, and turned his attention to the Headmistress.
“… With Professor Evans clearing all the other tests in the Castle, and with several of us agreeing that he is the perfect choice for us, it is time for the final step ...” McGonagall was saying
“… but before I seek people who plan to challenge him,” and her look gave a clear indication that it would be the worst thing that anyone could do, “I would like to ask the Professor to say a few words.”
At that the Headmistress smiled at Harry and sat down. Harry calmed his nerves, and quickly went over all that he wanted to say. There was a lot to tell, a lot to achieve and a lot to hide. He needed the confidence of the people in this room, he needed their respect and above all he needed it without using his famous name. He hoped someone would challenge him, he knew if these people witnessed a duel he could show them that he meant business.
“A very good evening to you all” Harry began in the most Dumbledore like voice that he could come up with.
“I know you are all surprised to see me here instead of a vampire or some other powerful wizard that you have all heard of. I also know you are all deeply skeptical of my identity. I can see Mrs. Hermione Weasley’s mind trying to figure out who I am. After all, I look to be in my late twenties, and if I attended Hogwarts, most of you should have recognized me. Just know that what you see isn’t always what you get.”
Harry smiled at the look of deep suspicion that had formed on Hermione’s face, and looked at her directly. He had prepared this part especially for her.
“I know I would have to grow out of the shadows of Professor Dumbledore and the Boy-Who-Lived before I can achieve your respect. I plan to begin that today.” At this there was a loud murmur. Harry was right, the two names had been foremost on most minds in this gathering.
“I would like you all to trust me. Looks can be decieving, and few things in the world really look like what you see. Several senior wizards know me very well from my school days …” and Harry bowed to Snape and McGonagall “… and from the times later …” at this he gave a nod to the Council. “… and I deeply appreciate their trust in me.”
“I will leave long speeches for later. Just know that what you see with me might surprise you all. I plan to teach for a year, getting to know your Castle better as its guardian, and only then will I be giving a firm commitment on taking up the challenge. I hope as we all get to know each other better, we will learn a lot and become better people.”
With that, Harry gave a bow and sat down. There was applause and Harry could see that most people had not expected what he had said. But it quickly died down as McGonagall got up again. She took out an old scroll, and turned to the last page.
“And now, if there be anyone in this Hall or beyond, who challenges the appointment of Professor Evans as the new Headmaster of Hogwarts, as decreed by the board, the Ministry and Council of the Wise. I say to thee, rise and proceed to the ring, where thy shall have the chance to defeat him. And so decree the founders of the Castle of Hogwarts.”
At this, the ring began to buzz, and shields went up on all sides, leaving a small opening for those who wished to enter.
The first to get up was Draco Malfoy, with a cocky grin Harry knew so well. Harry smiled back. So he knows who I am, thought Harry as his eyes followed Draco towards the ring.
The next entrant surprised herself, as well as the others around her. Hermione Weasley stood up and walked to the ring, bringing about a gasp from the hall. She was a formidable witch. Leave it to you Hermione to figure this out, thought Harry and suppressed his chuckles. He did not fear the duel, he knew he was destined to win.
Slowly a smattering of other wizards walked up. About ten Aurors from the Ministry, a few wizards looking for quick popularity and a few who stood for other hopefuls had joined in. Harry risked a look at Snape. He had correctly guessed Snape knew Harry would win and was not going to put himself up for defeat.
McGonagall looked at the group in the ring, clearly unhappy, and was about to speak as another wizard walked in. This time the gasp from the crowd was almost a cry. The Councilor had just gotten up and walked into the ring. No one had seen anyone in the Council duel. This was getting stranger. McGonagall looked at Harry, and thought she saw a hint of doubt, before the look of amusement returned. Harry walked to the ring, and stood in the center, surrounded by about twenty five wizards.
“For only the second time in the history of Hogwarts a Headmaster will have to duel to reach his due post.”
The crowd held their breath.
“At the count of three, cast your spells. All curses allowed, except the unforgivables.”
Ron stood on the side his mouth open. Why the hell had Hermione done this? Why does she not tell us first? He was furious.
Ginny was confused. The look this Evans had given her had not just been of recognition; it had been almost of love. She felt her heart skip a beat, as she suddenly realized why Hermione had walked on. This could be Harry, and a duel may just be the way to find out.
Harry looked around him. He was not worried, but suddenly the stakes were higher. He knew his style of dueling could expose who he really was. He knew Hermione was writing a book on him, and would know every little thing of how he would fight. He would have to win here, without letting on who he was. He also did not want to offend anyone. He had to just stop them all quickly. He was worried only about Hermione and he still did not know why the Councilor had challenged him.
He heard McGonagall counting and closed his eyes, connecting to the Castle and feeling the magic around him. He remembered what his teacher had told him. The greatest wizards did not learn a long list of curses, they learned how to feel incoming magic, and built an intuition on what magic to create in return.
At the count of one, Harry felt an explosion of magic around him. He could feel several stunners, a few advanced hexes, an Expelliarmus and at least two unforgivable curses. He knew Hermione, Draco and the Councilor had not cast any spell. Just as he felt the curses getting near, he willed the shield surrounding the ring to split and surround him. He smiled; he knew this would work out fine.
Hermione saw all the wizards cast a curse at the man, while he stood with his eyes closed. She knew how this worked, and knew that casting spells at him was not going to work. She was not here to beat him, she was here to find out who he was.
She noticed the shield splitting, and stopping the spells, noticed that the Councilor and Draco were standing back looking at her instead of fighting Harry. Hermione also noticed all the other wizards lifted from their place, wands leaving their hands, and then she watched as all of them flew back to their seats and their wands flew to the Headmaster's table.
Harry stood still, his eyes closed, as the three remaining wizards surrounded him. He could feel all of them waiting for another to start. He could almost hear the crowd grow silent. He felt Hermione lift her wand and turn towards him. He smiled, as long as she cursed him, or the Castle, she would not know what hit her.
But Hermione had another plan, she created a magical shield in between her and Harry and sat down calmly to watch the other two battle him. She saw the Councilor smiling at this and doing the same. Draco looked at them bewildered and turned towards Harry. He waved his wand and a scene started to play out in front of them.
Harry had realized what Hermione was doing. She wanted Harry to make a move to defeat her. She knew, as long as she did not attack the Castle, Harry could not use the Castle's magic. He could also not draw this out for long. He was going to have to attack her without letting her know who he was. His thoughts were interrupted as he saw what Draco was doing, there was a magical scene being played out. Harry knew the scene could not be seen by those outside the ring. He concentrated on what Draco was trying to show him. Suddenly, anger filled him. How dare he? Anger and jealousy filled Harry for an instant... Harry turned and looked straight at Draco. He knew the moment he saw Malfoy’s face that Malfoy had gotten what he wanted. Harry had shown the emotion in his eye for a moment and Draco had caught it.
Draco Malfoy knew for sure this was Harry Potter, and he just smiled and did not offer any resistance as he saw Harry flick his wand and laughed as he was chucked out of the ring and hung upside down in the hall.
Harry now turned to Hermione and the Councilor, he was sure she had not seen the look in his eye. He thought of how he could beat her without hurting her, and then realized that was exactly what Harry would be expected to do. He was now starting to get worried. Even he could not fight as someone else. But his hand was forced when the Councilor suddenly got up and cast a huge ball of fire directly at Harry. A full inferno, thought Harry, just as the Castles shield broke into thousands of pieces and flew into the inferno, hitting everything on its way, including Hermione and the Councilor, but strangely avoiding Harry. The inferno was now contained in the shield -- and Hermione and the Councilor were unconscious.
The Councilor had once again protected Harry’s identity. Harry smiled. Obviously he still had a thing or two to learn from his teacher.
Nascondersi Uscito, Rivelisi are both in Italian. I thought it would be better to have curses which were actual words.
And I don’t know if I am confusing you guys too much, but things will start making some sense from next chapter onwards.
Once again many thanks to Arnel and Katie for helping me with this chapter.