You are currently viewing The Legacy of Merlin Chapter Forty-Three

The Legacy of Merlin Chapter Forty-Three

Harry picked at his food, his appetite gone. He could feel the eyes of the other students on not just him, but Hermione and Draco as well. ‘How could they not after last night, and what took place this morning?’ he thought. Transfiguration classes had been canceled, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they arrived to lunch late, with both the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall in tow.

He had grown a lot over the last few months, but the one thing he had never truly felt comfortable with was all the attention he received. He spent most of his life before Hogwarts in the background and wasn’t sure he would ever get used to the attention he received now.

Harry looked at Hermione, frowning, as he saw the worry in her eyes. He promised himself that he would stop her from getting expelled, no matter what it took.

Ron caught Harry’s eye, silently asking him what happened, but he shook his head. The last thing Hermione or Draco needed now was for someone to overhear them talking about it.

As he thought about everything that had happened over the last few weeks, he couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt for dragging his friends into this mess with the study group. They were nowhere near ready to face them, and if he was being honest with himself, neither was he, not against all of them, at least.

The study group had both the numbers, and the magical power. It was only a matter of time before one of his friends got seriously injured, or worse.

Hermione looked up as she saw an own fly into the great hall, and land on the Headmaster’s desk. She put down her fork, staring down at her unfinished meal nervously. ‘This could be the last meal I ever eat at Hogwarts,’ she thought, standing up silently.

Harry and Draco did the same as they followed the professors out of the great hall and back to the Headmaster’s office, doing their best to ignore the curious stares of the other students.

Minerva did her best to maintain her decorum as she made her way to the Headmaster’s office, hiding the nervousness she was feeling. Her palms were sweaty, and she could feel her heart pounding in her chest. She didn’t know what she would do if she lost her job. She had been teaching for almost thirty-five years. It was the only thing she ever wanted to do.

When they arrived in the office, they found Lord Nevin waiting for them. “I’ve come to my decision,” he said, looking at Minerva. “Professor McGonagall, I would like to speak with you first,” he said, his expression revealing nothing.

Minerva nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat as she followed him into the meeting room, and closed the door behind her. She stepped forward, sitting in the chair across from Niven.

“Professor McGonagall,” Lord Niven began. “You’ve been a professor at Hogwarts for a long time. You were even my professor when I attended, and for all those years your performance has been nothing short of exemplary,” he said, holding up her teacher evaluations as proof. “But after what happened… it calls all of that into question,” he added regretfully. “Is there anything you would like to say before I give you my decision?” He finished.

Professor McGonagall thought hard, trying to get her thoughts together. All throughout lunch, it was all she could think about. How she could explain herself? Why didn’t she bring this to the Headmaster’s attention as soon as she found out what happened? But as she looked across the table at Lord Niven, her mind went blank. None of the excuses she’d thought of seemed to matter anymore.

“…I don’t have any excuse for my actions Lord Niven,” Minerva finally answered. “It was a lapse in judgment that I deeply regret, both for allowing the test to be stolen in the first place, and my actions both before and afterwards.”

“I appreciate your candor,” Lord Niven replied honestly. “There are many in your position that would make excuses and shirk responsibility, I’m glad you’re not one of them, but this is not something that we can simply sweep under the rug. It wouldn’t be fair to the other students who depend on the student ranking system to be both fair and above reproach.”

Minerva nodded along, waiting for the axe to fall. She had no illusions about getting away with any of this, knowing she would likely end up as a cautionary tale for the other professors.

“I looked through your records,” Lord Niven said, nodding towards the stack of parchment on his desk. “And I think I see the root cause of this incident. You’re the Deputy Headmistress, Head of Gryffindor House, and Transfiguration Professor, which as you know is a core subject, also requiring a great deal of your time.”

“It’s simply too many jobs for a single person to manage, no matter how talented or experienced they are,” Lord Niven continued. “You’ve done an admirable job considering all that, but I think even you can even admit that you’re spread too thin, and for far too long.”

Minerva listened to Lord Niven, digesting his words. The conversation was taking a turn she hadn’t expected. She wanted to deny what he was saying, that of course she could manage her workload, her temper flaring up, but she also couldn’t deny her own lapses in judgment, and the hard truth of his words.

How many transfiguration prodigies had graduated under her watch? When was the last time she published a paper? When was the last time she conducted an experiment testing the limits of her craft? How many gifted students did she inspire to find work in her field?

“That’s why I can’t have you stay on as Deputy Headmistress, or head of Gryffindor House,” Lord Niven explained, knowing he was delivering a harsh blow to her.

Minerva felt faint as she heard his judgment. Losing the positions she had worked so hard to earn, but there was still a glimmer of hope. “Does that mean I may stay on as a Transfiguration Professor?” she asked, hoping she hadn’t misheard him.

“Yes,” Lord Niven replied. “But I don’t want you to leave here with any false expectations,” he reminded her. “After what happened, you will no longer be considered for the position of Headmaster, nor will you regain either of your former positions. If you choose to stay, it will only be as the Professor of Transfiguration.”

Minerva nodded, absorbing the bitter news. She wouldn’t be able to achieve her dream, but was at least comforted by the knowledge she wouldn’t lose everything. “I would like to stay,” she decided. “But what happens now?”

“That’s a discussion I will have with Headmaster Dumbledore,” Lord Niven explained. “It is traditionally up to him to choose who teaches at Hogwarts, but I will make an announcement to the students about what has happened, and your new circumstances. Headmaster Dumbledore will have to make do without a deputy headmistress for the rest of the school year, but he will have to decide who will become the new head of Gryffindor house over the next few days.”

Minerva nodded, getting to her feet with as much dignity as she could muster. She had lost nearly everything. She had no idea how she was going to face her colleagues, let alone the students, after Lord Niven’s announcement.

Worst of all was the guilt she felt, knowing that she’d let Albus down, especially after all the trust he placed in her, and all the time he spent preparing her to take his place.

“Before you go, Professor,” Lord Niven said, standing up as well. “I want you to know this was not an easy decision to make, nor was it something I wanted to do, but I can’t ignore what happened. I have to act in the best interests of the school and the students. I hope you understand that.”

Minerva nodded stiffly as she made her way to the door, not trusting herself to speak. Her mind swirling with too many emotions to stop herself from saying something she may regret later.

Hermione watched as Professor McGonagall left sadly. She could tell by the look on her face she hadn’t received good news. No one tried to stop her as she left, remaining quiet as they waited for the next person to be called in.

“Mr. Potter,” Lord Niven said, appearing at the door. “Please come in. I would like to speak with you next.”

Harry stood up, followed by Ted as they walked into the meeting room, and closed the door behind them.

They both sat down in the chairs opposite Lord Niven, waiting patiently for the man to start.

“I won’t sugar coat this for you Mr. Potter,” Lord Niven began. “There have been some troubling inconsistencies with what you’ve told me.”

“Such as?” Ted asked, wondering where Lord Niven was going with this. Harry had more than proved himself when he answered the question Lord Niven gave him.

“Mr. Potter has been friends with Miss Granger, and possibly even Mr. Malfoy, for quite some time,” Lord Niven stated. “It’s no secret they’ve all been meeting together before classes and studying together. I find it hard to believe that someone as intelligent as Mr. Potter wouldn’t have known about their plans, or possibly even helped them.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed suspiciously as Niven mentioned things he couldn’t possibly know, not for someone that just arrived today.

“That’s preposterous,” Ted denied flatly. “Mr. Potter had absolutely no knowledge of any of this. Just because he’s friends with Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy doesn’t mean they would tell him their plan or even include him. He has several friends he shares with Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy, none of which have been accused of cheating.”

“You’re quite right about that,” Lord Niven replied, keeping his expression neutral. “And I’m not making an accusation, just illustrating a point.”

“And what point would that be?” Ted asked. “Because from where I’m sitting, it looks very much like you’re insinuating something about my client that I don’t like the sound of.”

“I remember from my school days that the Hogwarts rumor was a powerful thing,” Lord Niven explained. “Sooner or later, someone is going to make that same connection I did,” he said, locking eyes with Harry. “Proving a negative is not an easy thing to do, Mr. Potter.”

“And here you are, with the solution to my problem. Isn’t that right, Lord Niven?” Harry asked, putting the pieces together.

Ted looked back and forth between Harry and Lord Niven, wondering what was going on. Clearly, they were having a separate discussion, one that he knew nothing about.

“I may be able to assist you, yes,” Lord Niven replied shrewdly. “Normally, the department of education doesn’t issue comments to the general public, but I can make an exception on your behalf. Something to the effect of: after an extensive investigation, and re-testing you thoroughly, the department of education concluded conclusively that you earned your grade legitimately.”

“I don’t imagine you’re in the habit of doing favors for free, Lord Niven,” Harry replied. “So, what are you asking for in return?” He asked, wondering how far Niven was willing to go.

“Mr. Potter,” Lord Niven said, glancing at Ted meaningfully. “I believe we understand each other, but what about your solicitor? Does he know what we’re discussing?”

“Anything you have to say to me, you can say in front of Ted,” Harry replied. “He already knows everything,” he lied, knowing that Ted would play along.

“Very well,” Lord Niven replied. “As you’ve no doubt surmised, I’m an Alumni, and all I’m asking is for you to hear me out.”

Ted maintained his composure, pretending to follow along as less and less of this conversation made sense to him.

“Alright,” Harry replied, curious to see where this would go now that he had his suspicion confirmed. “I’m listening.”

“I know you parted ways with Andre and the rest of the study group on less than favorable terms,” Lord Niven started. “I want to apologize to you for that personally. We weren’t happy with Andre when we found out what he’d done, either. It’s not our way. Andre took a shortcut to recruit you. He should have been truthful with you from the beginning.”

“Truthful about what exactly?” Harry asked, being careful not to let anything slip about what he and his friends found out on their own. “I know next to nothing about your study group, but I can’t imagine you’ve existed for as long as you’ve had without some goal in mind. So what is it and why do you need me to accomplish it?”

“You’re very intelligent Mr. Potter,” Lord Niven said. “Not just from what you pick up from the books you read, but also how intuitive you are, those leaps of logic you make. It’s a rare skill to have,” he complimented.

“You haven’t answered my question,” Harry replied, seeing through the attempt to distract him.

“No, I suppose I haven’t,” Lord Niven smiled. “You’re right. The study group, as well as the Alumni have a goal, something we’ve been working towards for a very long time. Unfortunately, something happened we hadn’t planned for. It’s moved up our timetable. That’s why Andre recruited you the way he did, instead of taking the time to get to know you, and doing it the right way. We’re running out of time, and we need your help.”

“With what?” Harry asked, playing along with Niven’s attempt to recruit him. “I’m just a first year. What help could I possibly be to you?”

“We’re trying to save someone,” Niven replied. “Someone very important to the magical world that’s in a very dangerous place. If we don’t get to her in time, it will be bad, not just for her, but for all of us.”

“Then call the Aurors,” Harry replied, pretending not to know what Niven was talking about. “I’m sure they can help your friend.”

“No Mr. Potter, they can’t,” Niven stated. “They’re not on this plane of existence,” he revealed. “We have a way to reach her, a sort of bridge that will temporarily connect our plane of existence with the one she’s on.”

“Ask him why they need you,” Merlin said, speaking up for the first time.

“Another plane of existence?” Harry asked, pretending to be skeptical.

“Yes,” Lord Niven nodded. “I know it’s hard to believe, it was for all of us, but it’s the truth.”

“Alright, let’s assume I believe you. Why do you need me?” Harry asked, repeating Merlin’s question. “It sounds like there’s a lot of you already, more than enough to help your friend.”

Ted did his best to school his features, but the more Harry and Lord Niven revealed the more fantastical it became. Other planes of existence? Some type of organization dedicated to rescuing her? If it wasn’t for how seriously Harry was taking the conversation he would think Niven was crazy.

“I wish it were that simple, Mr. Potter,” Lord Niven continued, shaking his head sadly. “But there are very specific requirements for something as delicate as this, and unfortunately, my magic won’t suffice,” he explained. “As we get older, our magic becomes stronger, but also less flexible, less malleable, and it’s exactly those properties that are required to save her.”

“What exactly are you asking me to do?” Harry asked, fishing for more information.

“I don’t have the time to fully explain it to you,” Lord Niven replied, staring at the door meaningfully. “But speak to Andre again, and the rest of the study group. They’ll explain everything to you. No more secrets. Then you decide for yourself if you want to help us.”

Harry fell back on his occlumency training to keep his face neutral at the mention of Andre and the study group. The last thing he wanted to do was speak to Andre again.

“You’re going to have to,” Merlin said. “We still don’t know enough about the ritual to stop it. We can’t pass up this opportunity to find out what’s going on.”

“How do you even know this person you’re trying to help is even who they say they are?” Harry asked, hoping to at least get them to take a step back and consider what they were doing.

“You’re asking questions we’ve asked ourselves many times before, Mr. Potter,” Lord Niven replied patiently. “But the person we’re trying to help has proved themselves time and time again. We have no doubt she is who she says she is.”

“How?” Harry asked, his brows furrowing in confusion. “You said they’re trapped. Are you saying you’ve talked to them? How is that even possible?”

“I haven’t personally,” Lord Niven replied. “But she has a way of communicating with us. It takes a lot of her magic to do, so she can’t do it very often. Our senior members have met with her multiple times, though.”

“And what did she do to earn your trust?” Harry asked, hoping to learn as much as he could.

“There have been times when the lives of our members have been threatened,” Lord Niven explained. “Sometimes the things we do to improve the world threaten the wealth and power of the people that have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. It happened a lot in our early history. The person we’re trying to help, her warnings, saved many of our lives. A great deal of the healing spells and potions used to this day can be traced back to what we learned from her.”

“I can’t say anything more,” Lord Niven continued. “Not without your professor’s getting suspicious of why this is taking so long, but Andre will answer all your questions. Please, give him another chance,” he implored.

“Take the offer,” Merlin suggested. “We won’t learn anything more about their plans any other way. They’re prepared for that.”

‘I know,’ Harry thought back. He couldn’t risk searching the rest of the study group’s trunks, not after what happened the last time. “…Alright, I’ll speak to him, but I’m not making any promises.”

“That’s all I ask, Mr. Potter, and once again I’m sorry about how Andre handled things,” he said as Harry and Ted got up to leave.

Ted quickly cast a muffling charm before he pulled Harry aside. “Harry, I don’t know what’s going on, but I can’t do my job if you’re keeping me in the dark. What were you and Lord Niven talking about?” he demanded.

“I know, I’m sorry Ted,” Harry replied. “I’ve been looking into something that’s turned into something much bigger than I expected.”

“From what Niven said, it sounds dangerous. Is he telling the truth?” Ted asked pointedly.

“Yes,” Harry admitted. He knew he should have brought Ted in on this sooner, but with Merlin’s distrust seeping into his actions, he put it off far longer than he should have.

“Then, as your barrister and your friend, I’m advising you to let this go. Hear what Andre has to say, then decline his offer. Stop looking into them. Lord Niven has powerful friends. He’s not the type of person you want to be on the wrong side of,” Ted said.

“…I can’t stop,” Harry shook his head. “Not after what I found out.”

“Then I need to know everything. I can’t help you otherwise,” Ted said, giving his ultimatum.

“I know,” Harry replied. “I promise, I’ll send you a letter tonight explaining everything I know.”

“Alright, I’ll be waiting for it,” Ted said as he took one last glance at Niven before they walked out.

“Miss Granger,” Lord Niven said, coming to the door. “I would like to speak with you next.”

Hermione nodded nervously as she stepped forward.

“Don’t worry, Miss Granger,” Ted said, moving to stand behind her. “I’ll be there with you every step of the way. You’re going to get through this, I promise.”

“Thank you,” Hermione said gratefully as they stepped into the meeting room, closing the door behind them.

“Miss Granger, Mr. Tonks, please take a seat,” Lord Niven said, gesturing to the chairs in front of him as he regarded the soon to be former Hogwarts student, and member of the study group. He had read the reports from Andre about how promising a witch she was and how she would make an excellent addition to the group, and couldn’t understand how he could be so off the mark about her.

News of her and Draco Malfoy had caught all of them by surprise, leaving their plans in tatters. He could only hope his efforts to bring Harry Potter, and perhaps even the other promising student Ron Weasley, back into the group would be enough to get things back on track.

“You’ve already admitted to stealing the test, Miss Granger, and your reasoning behind it,” Lord Niven began. “So I don’t have any questions I need to ask you. Is there anything you would like to say before I give you my decision?”

Hermione looked up, meeting Lord Niven’s eyes. She couldn’t tell if he’d already made his decision, and was just being polite, but she knew she couldn’t just remain silent.

“Lord Niven, I never really fit in anywhere,” Hermione began. “Every other school I attended, I felt out of place, but things are different here. It took me some time, but I’ve made my first real friends here, and I’ll never do anything like this ever again… Please don’t expel me, punish me for what I’ve done. I deserve it, but please give me the chance to make up for it.”

Lord Niven kept his face impassive. The decision had already been made to expel both Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy before he arrived. It was far too risky to have them in the school. They would just bring unneeded attention and scrutiny to the study group.

“Miss Granger, while I appreciate your candor, the only option in your case is expulsion,” he revealed. “What you’ve done, it’s made a mockery of the entire student ranking system. If I let you get away with this, other students may attempt the same thing in the future. So I wish you well in any other school you wish to attend, but Hogwarts is not the right place for you,” Lord Niven said, feeling a small amount of satisfaction for the trouble she caused.

Hermione felt her heart break, and her eyes well up with tears as her nightmare was realized. She worried for her friends, wondering what they would do. The study group wouldn’t stop, and neither would Harry and Ron. She thought about all of Harry and Ron’s injuries after they fought them. How could she live with herself, leaving them to face them on their own?

“I suggest you reconsider,” Ted spoke up, enacting the plan he crafted the previous night, adding in what he learned from the previous meeting.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Lord Niven explained, looking regretful. “This is not something I can just sweep under the rug.”

“When Harry asked me to represent Miss Granger, he gave me one very specific mandate, and that was to make sure she remained a student of Hogwarts. If there’s no way to do that, he will reconsider attending Hogwarts himself as early as the end of this term,” Ted revealed.

“Mr. Potter reconsider attending Hogwarts?” Lord Niven asked in disbelief. “Hogwarts is the premiere magical school in the world. Why would he want to go anywhere else?” He asked, the idea sounding completely alien to him.

“I’m glad you asked,” Ted replied with a predatory smile, pulling out four letters from his robes, placing them on the table. “These are letters from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, Durmstrang Institute, Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Mahoutokoro School of Magic. When they found out about Harry’s scholarship program, they all reached out to me, asking if Harry would consider attending their schools instead. They’ve even offered discounts on tuition, not just for him, but for any scholarship students he brings with him.”

Lord Niven looked at the letters in surprise, opening the one from Beauxbatons first, and skimming through it. His eyes widening when he read about the twenty percent discount on tuition they offered. “…I don’t understand,” he said, unable to keep the confused look off his face. “Why would they offer such a large discount for only three students?”

“It’s three students now,” Ted revealed. “But Harry and I planned the scholarship program from the very beginning to expand it to as many students as we could. All the other magical schools saw that from the very beginning. Their revenues increase with each student that attends, that allows them to modernize, hire better professors, expand their course offerings. Who knows? With enough time, they may even rival Hogwarts itself.”

Lord Niven gulped nervously at the thought of losing Harry. He needed to be at Hogwarts to help with their plans, and when the reason he left Hogwarts came to light, he would be the one they blamed for it.

“Think about it,” Ted pressed. “Harry is only going to become more influential as time passes, and he’s young, so he’ll be a fixture in the public eye for decades. People will naturally associate his accomplishments with whatever school he attends, and they’ll draw their own conclusions about why he chose not to attend Hogwarts. How long before the other parents decide Hogwarts isn’t the right place for their children either?”

Lord Niven felt a bead of sweat roll down his forehead at the mental picture Ted was painting, backing him into a corner. The worst part was he wasn’t sure how or even if he could turn it around on him.

“…I assume you have a proposal,” Lord Niven said, biting back his frustration.

“I do,” Ted replied. Now that he’d revealed the stick, it was time to show the carrot. “Miss Granger needs to be punished for her actions. There’s no disagreement on that, but expulsion is off the table. A loss of house points and detentions are what we’re willing to accept.”

Lord Niven nodded. “…You leave me little choice…. Alright, Miss Granger, you will be deducted 200 house points. You will also serve a full day detention every Sunday until the end of the school year, and finally you will be placed at the bottom of the student ranking for the remainder of the school year.”

Hermione’s eyes widened at the loss of house points. It would bring Gryffindor house to last place with only 53 points, but she was relieved as well. She wouldn’t be expelled.

“Are those terms agreeable to you, Miss Granger?” Ted asked.

“Yes!” Hermione immediately replied. “Yes, I agree.”

“Good,” Lord Niven said, unamused. “Please send Mr. Malfoy in on your way out,” he said, dismissing them.

“Actually, there is one more thing,” Ted said, standing up. “I expect Mr. Malfoy to have a similar punishment to Miss Granger. Expulsion is off the table.”

Lord Nevin nodded in agreement, knowing that he had little choice in the matter now, not without looking like he was favoring Miss Granger over Mr. Malfoy. He would need to have a talk with Andre before he left, and make it clear to him that the study group was to no longer have any ties with them for any reason.

Draco looked up as the door opened and Hermione, and Potter’s barrister walked out. He stood up, knowing he was the last one left. Taking one last look at Potter and the encouraging look from Hermione, he followed his father into the meeting room.

“Lord Niven,” Lucius said pompously, taking his seat. “My family carries a lot of weight within the Wizengamot. As a new member yourself, I think you should understand value in not rocking the boat,” he said, leaving his obvious threat unspoken.

After his discussion with Tonks, Niven was no longer in the mood to draw this out, and play any power games with the former death eater. “Lord Malfoy, let’s be frank. Your son stole the test. We both know that’s what happened, and his answer to my question more than proved that. His guilt is obvious, and no amount of threats on your part is going to change that.”

Lucius stared at Niven shrewdly, not used to anyone being so direct with him, giving him pause as he wondered how to proceed.

“I’ve already handed out Miss Granger’s punishment,” Lord Niven continued. “It’s a deduction of 200 house points, a detention every Sunday until the end of term, and being placed at the bottom of the student ranking until the end of the school year. The same punishment will apply to your son.”

Lucius looked at Niven strangely, fully expecting him to expel Draco, forcing him to spend quite a bit of political capital to walk him back. The only thing he could think of to explain it was Potter’s barrister. Whatever he said put Niven on the back foot, forcing him to give the same punishment to Draco to avoid accusations of favoritism.

He glanced down at his son, considering pushing Nevin for a lighter punishment before quickly changing his mind. Why waste the political capital when he didn’t have to? That’s all the boy’s mother wanted anyway, and the detentions might just give him the motivation to not get caught the next time.

“Fine,” Lucius said, standing up and walking out of the meeting room without a backwards glance.

Draco quickly got to his feet, following his father out, hoping to speak with him, only to stand and watch as he stepped into the fireplace and left immediately.

“Professor Dumbledore,” Lord Niven said, coming to the door. “I’ve made my decision regarding the matter, and would like to make an announcement to the school.”

“That’s not necessary Lord Niven, I know you’re a busy man,” Albus said. “If you inform me of your decision, I’ll make the announcement to the school on your behalf,” he offered, hoping to put his own spin on it, and put himself in Harry’s good graces.

“Actually Headmaster, I would like to make the announcement myself,” Lord Niven said, knowing that he had to make good on his promise to Harry and at least salvage something from this mess.

“The students are in classes now,” Albus said, trying again. “The earliest you’ll be able to make an announcement will be at dinner.”

“That will be fine, Headmaster,” Lord Niven said, walking to the fireplace. “I will return then.”

Albus watched the man leave, grinding his teeth, knowing there was nothing he could do to stop him. The Department of Education oversaw the Ministry funding for Hogwarts, and picking a fight with him needlessly wasn’t worth the effort, but it still grated on him to be left out of the loop on the goings of his own school.

“I’ll be off too, Harry, Miss Granger,” Ted said as he walked to the fireplace. “I’ll schedule another meeting for us, Harry,” he said on his way out, subtly reminding Harry to send him the letter he promised.

Knowing there was little else to do, Albus dismissed the three students. He idly wondered if he should talk to Minerva, but from the way she left, he doubted she would have much to say. His only option was to wait until dinner like everyone else to find out about Lord Niven’s decision.

After classes ended for the day Hermione and Harry met up with Ron, making their way to the abandoned classroom to meet Draco, dogging the questions from the other students as best they could.

Everyone knew something was going on, but not what exactly. Professor McGonagall’s classes being canceled for the day, along with the disappearance of the three first years had not gone unnoticed.

“What happened?” Ron asked as soon as the door closed.

“We don’t know what happened to Professor McGonagall yet,” Harry started. “When Lord Niven returns at dinner, he’s going to make an announcement.”

“What about you?” Ron asked his friends.

“He asked me one of the questions they didn’t include in the test,” Harry explained. “I answered it well enough that they knew I didn’t cheat.”

“What about you and Draco?” Ron asked, turning to face Hermione, feeling relieved that Harry wasn’t suspected.

“…They docked me 200 house points,” Hermione said in a small voice, still feeling the sting of her punishment.

“That doesn’t seem so bad, all things considered,” Ron said, knowing how much of a hit it was against the house points, but compared to getting out of the study group, it was a small price to pay.

“There’s more,” Draco jumped in. “A full day of detention every Sunday until the end of the school year, and we’re both going to stay at the bottom of the student rankings for the year. Even after that, I don’t expect we’ll get very many internship offers after this.”

“The important thing is you’re out,” Harry reminded them. “The study group won’t come near you after this. It’ll draw too much attention to them otherwise,” he said.

“There is that,” Draco agreed, feeling at least a small amount of relief as that weight was lifted off his shoulders. He still had his father’s reaction to deal with, so Christmas vacation would not be easy, but it was better than the alternative.

“By the way Potter,” Draco said, “you were in there a long time with Lord Niven. A lot longer than the rest of us. Did anything else happen?”

Harry thought about how much he wanted to reveal, wondering if it was better to keep this part to himself before he thought about Ted’s reaction. He hadn’t said it out loud, but he didn’t like being left in the dark, and truth be told, he didn’t enjoy keeping this many secrets from his friends either.

“He’s one of them,” Harry admitted. “He called himself and Alumni, but he’s a member of the study group.”

“What did he want?” Hermione all but demanded. She couldn’t believe she was in the same room with him, and never noticed.

“He wants me to talk to Andre,” Harry revealed.

“What?!” Hermione and Ron exploded at the same time.

“Their trying to get me to rejoin the study group,” Harry revealed. “After losing you and Draco, they’re desperate for replacement members for what they’re planning.”

“You can’t Harry,” Hermione denied, fearing for her friend. “Draco and I just got out. You can’t let them sink their claws into you.”

“It won’t come to that,” Harry promised. “Lord Niven said he just wanted me to hear Andre out. I’ll walk away after that.”

“You still want to find out what they’re up to,” Draco realized. “That’s why you agreed to this.”

“What else is there to know?” Ron asked. “They want to open a portal to another dimension.”

“A lot,” Harry replied. “We still don’t know who they’re trying to bring here, when they’re going to do it, or even what she’s going to do when they she gets here.”

“She?” Ron asked, latching onto the new piece of information. “Was there anything else you found out?”

“No,” Harry shook his head. “Everything else we already knew.”

“What can we do to help?” Hermione asked. “We’re not going to let you face them alone.”

“…That’s the other thing I wanted to talk to you about,” Harry said, thinking about all the close calls they’d had since all this started, and how close they all came to dying. “I think you should all take a step back from this.”

“What are you talking about?” Ron demanded. “You said it yourself. Lots of people are going to end up hurt or worse if we don’t stop them!”

“I don’t want any of you to get hurt. You didn’t sign up for any of this,” Harry tried to explain.

“And you did?!” Hermione asked, furious that Harry was trying to cut them out of this after everything they’d been through together.

“Actually… I did,” Harry said, revealing more that he’d intended, but saw no other way to get his friends to step back.

“Careful Harry,” Merlin warned. “You don’t know what they’ll do with that knowledge.”

‘I know what I’m doing, Merlin… I hope,’ Harry thought. ‘They deserve to know something after I dragged them into all of this.’

“What are you talking about, Harry?” Hermione asked, feeling incredibly confused now.

“When I solved Merlin’s cypher, I didn’t just win a bag of galleons. I inherited a responsibility,” Harry explained. “The vault is full of items too dangerous to be out there in the world and too powerful to simply destroy. As soon as I stepped inside the vault, it became my responsibility to stop the study group and find whatever magical object they’re going to use to open this portal and either lock it away or destroy it.”

“No Harry,” Hermione shook her head. “I know you’re strong, but you can’t beat them on your own. You’re just one person.”

“So was Merlin,” Harry replied.

“It’s not the same, and you know it!” Ron said incredulously. “Merlin was the most powerful wizard that ever lived. We all heard the stories growing up, and even then, Merlin never had to face something like this. You’re going to get yourself killed if you do this on your own!”

“It is the same!” Harry denied with more force than he intended, stopping Hermione and Ron short. “There’s always some secret organization hiding in the shadows waiting to strike, some madman trying to destroy the world, or just a monster that wants to watch the world burn. This is nothing new,” He finished quietly.

“How do you know all of this Potter?” Draco asked, speaking up for the first time.

“You saw the things I can do,” Harry said. “I didn’t just pick them up from books I found in Potter manor.”

“Then where?” Hermione asked. “How do you know all the things you do?” she asked.

“The vault,” Harry replied, knowing that he couldn’t tell them about Merlin, but they at least deserved some version of the truth. He couldn’t risk someone looking through their minds and finding out the truth about him, but it would at least give them some answers. “When I stepped inside, it dumped a bunch of knowledge into my head. Spells, techniques, training exercises to prepare me for this.”

“The invisibility spell,” Draco realized, “that’s where you learned it.”

“Yes,” Harry nodded.

“Then teach us too!” Hermione demanded. “We can do this together. We can still help you!”

“Count me out,” Draco said as he walked to the door, surprising both Hermione and Ron.

“What? Draco, where are you going?” Hermione asked in shock. “You can’t just leave.”

“Can’t I?” Draco asked. “Like Potter said, I never signed up for any of this. He’s right, by the way. If you keep pushing this, you’re just going to end up dead,” he warned, closing the door behind him.

“Draco!” Hermione called, ready to go after him.

“No!” Ron said, grabbing Hermione’s wrist. “Let him go. I knew we couldn’t count on him,” he finished, glaring at the door.

Hermione looked at the door helplessly. She knew Draco was better than this. He wouldn’t just bury his head in the sand and forget about all this. Would he?

“I don’t know if it’s a good idea to teach them,” Merlin added his opinion. “You have no idea what they’ll do with that knowledge. What if they turn against you?”

“Hermione’s right Harry,” Ron said. “You can’t do this on your own.”

“You don’t know what you’re asking,” Harry replied. “You’ll be in danger, and I can’t promise any of us will come out of this alive.”

“We’re in danger anyway,” Hermione pointed out. “They’re not going to stop, and they don’t care about the people they hurt or even kill along the way. If you teach us, at least we’ll be able to defend ourselves, and maybe even save some lives.”

Harry sighed, looking back and forth between his friends, knowing they had a point, and in a way he’d already been training them with all the exercises they’d been doing. “…Alright,” he relented. “But just the two of you, no one else.”

“What about Sally and Neville?” Ron asked, not wanting to leave the rest of their friends behind.

“No,” Harry shook his head. “The best thing for them is to keep them in the dark. The last thing we want is for them to draw the attention of the study group. As soon as they move up the rankings, they’ll take notice of them.”

Ron nodded reluctantly, seeing Harry’s point, but still feeling uneasy about it.

“We should go,” Harry said, looking down at his watch. “It’s almost time for dinner.”

“…You two go ahead,” Hermione said. “I think I’ll skip dinner,” she said, not wanting to face the rest of the school so soon after Lord Niven made his announcement.

Harry nodded understandingly. “We’ll bring you back something to eat,” he offered.

Harry walked into the great hall with Ron, feeling everyone’s eyes on him. Lord Niven was already sitting at the teacher’s table, and with Professor McGonagall still missing, along with Hermione and Draco, all their attention was focused on him.

He sat down beside Ron at the Gryffindor table just as Lord Niven stood up to make his announcement.

“Hello everyone. I am Lord David Niven,” he said, introducing himself. “I’m here from the department of education. As you’re all no doubt aware, Professor McGonagall’s classes for the day were canceled, and a few of the first year students have also been absent. This was due to an anonymous tip I received, and subsequently investigated.”

“Rather than let the rumors spread, I’m choosing to be direct with you. The first year standardized transfiguration test was stolen,” he said to the shocked murmurs of the students.

“Professor McGonagall was entrusted with the security of the test, and due to some lapses in judgment on her part, the test was stolen. Something like has never happened before, and it took some time to arrive at an appropriate course of action. Taking into account Professor McGonagall’s many years at Hogwarts, and her previously exemplary record, the board has decided to be lenient with her. She will keep her job,” he said, watching as the students digested the information.

Albus watched on, breathing a sigh of relief that Minerva would be allowed to stay on. Over the years he had grown dependent on her to manage more aspects of the running of Hogwarts as his other duties outside of the school expanded.

“But there are consequences,” Lord Niven continued. “Professor McGonagall will no longer be deputy headmistress, nor will she be head of Gryffindor house. She was spread too thin and had been for years. Teaching a core subject, along with her other duties, was too much, something Professor McGonagall agreed with as well,” he added, helping his former professor save a little face. “To ensure something like this doesn’t happen in the future, new rules will be put in place.”

“Going forward, no professor of Hogwarts will hold more than two jobs within the school. Any professor teaching a core subject, this includes Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, Transfiguration, and Charms, may not be a head of house and Deputy Headmaster.”

“I will leave it up to Headmaster Dumbledore to choose a replacement for the head of Gryffindor house, but the Deputy Headmaster position will remain open for the rest of the school year. In the summer before the start of your next term, a candidate will be chosen, and properly vetted by the board.”

Albus did his best to hide his scowl. This was the worst possible news he could receive. He had spent years grooming Minerva as his replacement for when he eventually retired, and now it had all been a waste. All the extra duties he assigned her would become his responsibility again. He would have to cut back on his work at ICW and Wizengamot to handle everything. Something his political rivals would pick up on quickly and capitalize on. Then he would have to start all over again with the new deputy, taking even more of his time to get them up to speed.

“The students that stole the test have been caught as well, and after a thorough investigation there can be no doubt that they cheated. Those students are not here, but they’ve been punished accordingly,” he said as the house points counters updated.

Many of the students gasped at the sudden drop in point for both Gryffindors house and Slytherin. Gryffindor had been leading with 253 points, but now sat at only 53. The same could be said for Slytherin, who formerly had 236 points, but now only had 36, leaving Ravenclaw in the lead with 195 points followed by Hufflepuff with 180 points.

It didn’t take the students long to put it all together as they all looked at Harry suspiciously, knowing that he had been absent for most of the day, along with Hermione and Draco.

“There is one last thing I would like to add,” Lord Niven said, looking at Harry. “Some good news. As you know, Harry Potter was also absent, but not for the reason you think. It is my honor to announce the first ever student to attain a perfect score on the first year standardized transfiguration test. I met with Mr. Potter alongside Professor McGonagall, going over his results, asking him questions well beyond what was covered in the test, and he passed them all with flying colors. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he achieved the score he did based on his own merits.”

The clapping started slowly, but worked its way around the great hall as the students accepted Lord Niven’s words, made easier by the fact they had seen firsthand the number of points Harry was able to rack up, along with his student ranking even before the test.

Harry stood in his mind with Merlin, practicing his iron skin technique.

“You’re coming along well,” Merlin offered. “It should give you a lot more protection than the last time you faced the study group.”

“I hope so,” Harry agreed. “Like you said, it’s only a matter of time before they get another tome, and they can do the ritual again.”

Merlin nodded in agreement. “Do you already know what you’re going to teach your friends?” He asked.

“I was thinking about teaching them how to locate the different magical points on their bodies, and after that, iron skin,” Harry answered.

“Those are some very powerful techniques,” Merlin pointed out. “They may even figure out how to draw in magic to augment the power of their spells after that. Are you sure this is something you can trust them with?”

“You saw them,” Harry pointed out. “They’re not going to stop, just because I asked them to, and they’re already on the study group’s radar. If I don’t teach them, sooner or later they’re going to end up in a situation they can’t get out of.”

Merlin nodded, coming to the same conclusion, albeit reluctantly. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“You were quiet today,” Harry said, changing the subject. “I thought you would say something sooner when I talked to Niven.”

“You were handling it well enough on your own,” Merlin replied. “I didn’t see a need to step in.”

“It’s still bothering you,” Harry observed. “What happened with Morgan.”

Merlin nodded. “It’s still not something I want to talk about.”

“I know,” Harry replied. “I can’t imagine what that’s like.”

“I hope you never do,” Merlin replied sincerely.

“Can I ask you about Thulsa?” Harry asked.

“…What do you want to know about him?” Merlin asked, surprised by the change in subject.

“He went out of his way to teach so many people magic. Why did he do it? I would have thought he would have horded the power for himself. Isn’t that what a dark lord is supposed to do?” Harry asked.

“Dark lord,” Merlin repeated, “that really wasn’t a term we used back then. There were so few of us. We had very few labels for our kind, but if you’re asking me if I think he was a dark lord, I can’t really answer that.”

“Why?” Harry asked curiously.

“Thulsa was a man of conviction, and he truly wanted a better world for our kind. He saw the injustices heaped on magicals, how muggles hunted and killed us, and he wanted something better, but it was the way he went about it that was the problem. He wanted both revenge and justice, but you can’t really have both.”

“You sound like you respected him,” Harry observed.

“I did,” Merlin confirmed. “So much of what I learned, especially in the early days. I learned from him, and in his own way, he cared about his followers. When we turned against him, I could see the pain in his eyes behind all the anger.”

Hi! Thanks for reading. What did you think of the chapter? To date it’s the longest chapter I’ve ever written for the story clocking in at over 8,200 words.

How did you feel about Minerva’s punishment? It’s another major break from the cannon, and will have far reaching consequences not just for her, but many of the other characters as well.

Lord Niven shed some more light on the study groups ultimate goal, and there will be more revelations coming over the next few chapters. I’ve got some feedback about the study group not being very interesting. Has that changed with the events of this chapter?

If you can, please take the time to review. It’s helped a lot with improving the story.

Thank you for supporting me,


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