Harry Potter and the Gemini Curse @ghostandmiracle42
Act IV, Chapter 4

Disclaimer:

Authors Note: For those of you asking where Crystal has been, the answer is blowing off exam study to re-read the Percy Jackson series. Which inspired her recent trip to Earth 36742.

"Shit," Crystal whispered, dodging a falling lump of scrap metal. Well, it might have been scrap metal, she wasn't quite sure, it could have been an MRI machine or an automaton. You could never be sure here.

She heard an even louder crash and lunged for cover. Sure, she'd come back to life if she died, but dying wasn't fun, and getting a new body involved so much paperwork it wasn't funny. Ghost and Miracle would never let her hear the end of it. The tell-tale scream of someone in agonising pain tore through the junkyard, reminding Crystal of the whole reason she was here.

She had to time this perfectly if she wanted to both live and get the person she'd come for before they drifted off. Hades was always protective of what he considered his, but in this time immediately after death, was when Travellers did their best work. Well, in Crystal's opinion anyway. It was when some of their best agents had been recruited.

Crystal waited an extra breath, just to be sure that everyone had left the junkyard, and then began sprinting. The giant robot, not fifty feet away, didn't detect her, of course, it didn't. When she'd rewritten herself into this exact moment, she'd made very sure it was too preoccupied to notice her. The automation exploded, and Crystal slid into action. She dove beneath the rain of falling scrap metal and caught the hand of a transparent young girl before she hurtled to the ground.

"Annabeth?" the dark-haired girl of no more than twelve whispered, staring in shock as Crystal hurled her away from the exploding robot.

"No, not Annabeth. Just a resemblance," Crystal said with a smirk, shoving her charge's discorporated spirit beneath a car. A few metres away, an almost perfect replica of the spirit girl now beside her crashed into the earth. Only that body was heavily burned and was most assuredly dead.

"Who…" the girl caught sight of her body lying amongst the wreckage and swallowed hard. "How are you alive? How am I alive?"

"I'm Crystal. I don't die like most people do. And sorry, but you are dead. Can't stop that. But you don't have to stay dead if you take my offer." Crystal said with a blinding grin, patting a fire out of her hair.

"Offer?!" The girl had begun hyperventilating.

"I'm here to tell you that we don't own Harry Potter, Marvel Comics, or anything else recognisable for that matter! But Will and Clarissa O'Neill, the Dragon Force and the Federated Kingdoms of the Druids and Mer, and all its inhabitants are solely the creation of Ghost, Miracle and I. And my offer? Bianca Di Angelo, I'm here to recruit you as a Traveller."

"A what? Now I know you're crazy," The girl, Bianca, stated, beginning to tug her hand away.

"You'd be surprised how often I get that. Come with me," Crystal said with a sigh, and she disapparated, pulling Bianca in tow.


Act IV, Chapter 4: Fire and Blood

Behold the Mighty Defenders! By Rita Skeeter

Harry Potter – the Boy-Who-Lived and Triwizard Champion – strode into the Ministry of Magic with an aura of power and fierceness I've never seen before. His face was no longer that of a boy. This was the image of a man destined to change the world. A real hero. He walked, clad in an elegant red cloak, scar shining proudly on his forehead, into the seat of our government to allay the fears abounding after the attack on his home. And flanking him were fourteen others wearing the same cloaks, but each with their hoods drawn so that none could see their faces.

Nobody knew what was happening. Nobody knew what was going on. Only that Mr Potter seemed completely unharmed, and in as good health as ever.

After Harry and his comrades vanished into the depths of the Ministry, this reporter and numerous others, as well as over five-hundred civilian Witches and Wizards all stood inside the Atrium waiting for his reappearance. And what a reappearance it was! Harry strode out with the Minister of Magic himself and, demonstrating incredible control of wandless magic, elevated himself above the crowd. His voice was powerful and full of passion, and it reached every corner of the atrium without even using a Sonorous Charm.

Harry, a cocky grin on his face that had even this strong-willed reporter infatuated with him, thanked us all for our concern over his disappearance and related what really happened.

"My home was attacked a few days ago. The perpetrators were the same people that abducted Peter Parker, Claire O'Neill and I at the end of the Triwizard Tournament. Thankfully, I was able to escape my captors with the aid of the good men and women you see behind me." Harry's saviours were an organisation he founded sometime over the summer of 1993 if my sources are correct. In fact, I even speculated about the existence of such a group after the start of the Triwizard Tournament. The group, named the 'Defenders' are, according to Mr Potter's statement, "like-minded warriors dedicated to fighting for the good of all magical beings…" Throughout his speech, Harry seemed genuinely concerned for the safety and well-being of the ordinary witch and wizard, something often lacking from statements from the people in power. If his organisation is based on those same principles, I'll feel much safer at night.

The Defenders are keeping their identities a closely guarded secret to protect their loved ones, an admirable goal. Instead, they have adopted code-names for use in the field. Those I have heard so far are, "Firefly, Iron Fist and Alias." But who are they? If Harry is the leader of the Defenders, it's a fair assumption that his Wife via Soul-Bond Ginny Potter is also a member, but who else could be under those crimson cloaks? Harry was reportedly good friends with the other Triwizard Champions, are they members? We'll just have to wait and see.

Say what you will about the idea of the Defenders or the possibility that some of its members may be underage, they've demonstrated their prowess in rescuing Harry himself from the hands of the mysterious new threat that has abducted him twice now. Harry stated that the Defenders will be working with the Auror Office to investigate and take down this "terrorist organisation," before they begin to "turn against the public." It's nice to know the Defenders will be working within the law, and not beyond it.

My fellow Witches and Wizards, there is a new threat out there, and we must all be prepared to face it, but with Harry Potter and his Defenders protecting us, I have faith we'll make it through to the other side.


The Defenders: The Danger they Pose. By Corban Yaxley

Harry Potter's Defenders. An organisation supposedly intended to "protect and defend the people." An organisation founded by a schoolboy with a penchant for arrogance and danger. Forgive me if I'm a little sceptic.

There's no denying that Harry Potter is a talented wizard, but do we really think putting our safety in his hands and his hands alone is a good idea? We know nothing about his Defenders. They keep their identities hidden, cowering behind anonymity instead of coming out in full support of Potter.

I'm not the only one who lived through the last Wizarding War. When wizards with hidden faces and black cloaks attacked us across the country on behalf of a powerful and dangerous leader. I can't help but think that the situation we find ourselves in now is eerily similar.

Harry Potter is using his fame to begin amassing power. His Defenders are just the start. He has the Minister in his pocket and the public behind him. What happens if Potter decides that the Werewolves and other threats to Wizarding society should be befriended and treated as equals?

If we don't stop Harry Potter now, we could be creating a new evil the likes of which we haven't seen since Grindelwald. I hope Headmaster Dumbledore takes the necessary steps to reign Potter in once the school term resumes. If he doesn't, those of us immune to Harry Potter's charismatic charm will do what we can to spread the word that he cannot be trusted.


Harry Potter: The-Boy-We-Failed. By Pete Wisdom

When Harry Potter unveiled his Defenders for the first time in the Ministry of Magic this week, I couldn't help but notice something he said when answering a reporter's question. Despite all of us being told that Harry was in the loving care of his relatives after his parents' deaths, it seems this was far from the truth, as Harry himself indicated that his childhood was "Loveless" and "without family or friends that cared for me." This comment, while heartbreaking to hear in the moment, sparked a trail of thought I was loath to find myself travelling. "What could have happened to Harry Potter in his childhood that would cause such a response? Why was his childhood, "Loveless?"

Harry is a national hero, and the idea that he might have grown up unloved is a disturbing one. So, I made a trip to Harry's home address, Number Four Privet Drive, to discover just what his comments meant. The neighbourhood I arrived in was anything but what I expected. It was an entirely Muggle suburb, without a degree of magical energy that I could detect. I'm no Curse Breaker, but I can perform a decent magical detection charm. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the property in question (which has been rebuilt since the events of Harry's abduction) and discovered not even the most basic Anti-Apparation ward! Assuming I had to be incorrect in my assessment, I called in some friends of mine. Brian Braddock – Deputy Chief Auror – and his sister Head Gringotts Curse Breaker Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock.

Together we revisited the property, and Brian and Betsy confirmed my original discovery. There were no wards surrounding the home at all. There was some evidence of Blood Wards, but they had been inactive since mid-1993! 1993! According to Betsy, the only thing that could have broken the Ward would have been the occupants of the House actually kicking Harry out, or Harry himself declaring that the location was "no longer his home." With this revelation, I attempted to interview the occupants of the House, Mr Vernon Dursley and his wife Petunia – sister to Lily Potter. Mr Dursley, a very overweight and ugly looking man, called me a "Freak" and told me to "get out of (his) home." Then he threatened to fire upon me with a muggle weapon known as a "Firearm."

After this reaction, you can imagine Brian, Betsy and my horror. So, we headed into Gringotts for some clarification. Thanks to Betsy, I was able to gain a meeting with Ragnok, head of the British branch of Gringotts. Ragnok had little to say, as Gringotts maintains its privacy very seriously, but what little he did say praised Harry and his wife via Soul-Bond Ginny. He said both were "highly courteous" and showed "incredible respect to the Goblin Nation, particularly after our blunders concerning the Potter clients." When I asked him what blunder he referred too, the old Goblin merely grinned at me and had me led from the room. But the most important thing I learned was that Mr Potter's first visit to the bank occurred in 1991. After he turned eleven. Is it possible Harry Potter didn't know he was a wizard before receiving his Hogwarts letter? The very thought makes one sick.

Brian, as Deputy Chief Auror, went to the Head of the DMLE Amelia Bones to report our findings. Madame Bones was quite concerned by our observations and immediately requested a warrant to investigate Number 4 Privet Drive. A request that was denied by Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore himself, the same person who told us that Harry was with his loving relatives in the first place.

Not to be dissuaded, Madame Bones went directly to Minister Fudge, who granted the warrant immediately.

Betsy and I accompanied Madame Bones and an Auror team consisting of Brian, Rufus Scrimgeour, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and newly reinstated Auror Sirius Black – Harry Potter's Godfather – back to Privet Drive, and this time we didn't knock. After setting up Muggle-Repelling Wards, we entered the property, and Mr Dursley and his son Dudley attacked us. They were quickly subdued. We investigated the house and, if I wasn't disgusted already, I was feeling the need to vomit by the time we left. Harry's room was covered in broken toys, his bed was thinner than something a House Elf might sleep on, and there were metal bars on his window. His bedroom door and the door to the cupboard under the stairs had exterior locks.

The extent of Harry's unloving home life was much worse than we feared.

The only problem? There was nothing to prove Harry had ever been in the home in the first place. There were no pictures or photographs of him, or of his parents. There were no clothes or belongings of Harry's anywhere in the house. The cupboard under the stairs was perfectly clean, except for the old camp bed, threadbare pillow and the spiders on the ceiling. Someone had cleaned out every scrap of evidence in the House, leaving the Aurors with nothing to incriminate the Dursleys. And it was clear that it was a Wizard who did it, as even the Dursley's themselves had only vague recollections of their nephew's existence. It didn't take Betsy long to determine that they'd been Obliviated.

Auror Black was despondent during the whole investigation. When Madame Bones asked him why he hadn't brought Harry's home life to her attention sooner, he could only respond with, "I didn't know. He never talks about it. I knew they didn't like him… I never realised it was this bad. God, what would James and Lily say?"

And what would James and Lily Potter say if they were here to see just how their son was raised? No one bothered to check up on Harry after the events of that tragic night. He vanished from the Wizarding World. Nobody, myself included, thought that his lack of response to any attempts to communicate with him was confusing? No one thought to see how he was doing at all. And I will take that guilt with me to my grave.

Mr Black and I took a trip around the suburb of Little Whinging interviewing people about the boy known as Harry Potter, and almost everyone came to us with a similar response. "Harry Potter? I remember him. Dodgy he was. Always wearing baggy clothes like a hooligan. Constantly covered in bruises and cuts. Mixed up in fights, I reckon." That response was from Harry's fifth-grade teacher.

The Dursley's are immune to prosecution thanks to the tampering of wizard or wizards unknown. I have my theories, but I can't prove them, so they will remain unsaid in this piece. Rest assured I will continue researching. Harry, if you happen to read this, I know it doesn't mean much, but on behalf of the Wizarding World, I'm sorry we forgot about you when you needed us most.


Jessica rolled her eyes as she sat on the Hogwarts Express, staring out the window at platform nine and three quarters, a copy of the Daily Prophet in hand. The last few weeks had been seriously hectic. She wished she'd been able to visit the mass protest on Privet Drive before the Aurors had dismantled it, but her mother was keeping an annoyingly close eye on her this summer. The first month had been magnificent. She'd had the entire house to herself! She'd Flooed over to the Greengrass's every few nights to grab some food, and the rest of the day was spent searching through Jones Manor for that infernal Cup. But nothing! The Cup was nowhere to be found. It had completely vanished. None of the old hiding places were still in use, even the cloakroom was empty.

The entire place had been cleaned out, and she had no idea why. She'd finally given up in early July and instead had focussed on learning to Apparate. It wasn't easy. At all. She'd splinched herself thirteen times. At least she could take it better than anyone else could, thanks to her abilities. Was it a good idea? No. But she'd had Dittany and her strength. They'd compensate for it. And she'd come out victorious in the end. She could now comfortably Apparate on her own to anywhere she needed. That would be a significant advantage in the future she knew.

Her gaze flitted to the portal as the unmistakable jet-black hair, and round glasses of Harry Potter stepped through, trolley in hand. Beside him was Susan Bones. Jessica suppressed a smirk. The girl was standing closer than was strictly necessary, and Harry seemed as oblivious as ever. He really was adorable like that. Sirius Black and Amelia Bones stepped through after them, and seconds later the press was all over the four.

The door to Jessica's compartment slid open of its own accord, and a voice she'd recognise anywhere let out a very unladylike groan. Jessica reached over and pulled the hood of Harry's invisibility cloak off Ginny Potter's head and elbowed her in the ribs.

"Hi to you too Alias. Good to see you're still as grumpy as ever," Ginny quipped.

"Very funny Firefly. I thought you'd be with Mr Handsome and Famous out there. Miss Bones looks to be quite comfortable." Ginny scowled and grumbled something about 'Hufflepuff flirts' under her breath.

"Bitch," Ginny muttered darkly.

"Suck up," Jessica retorted. The two girls glared at each other for a few seconds, before both burst out laughing. If Jessica had told her younger self that her best friend would be a Blood Traitor Weasley, she honestly didn't know what she might have done. Pitch herself from the third floor, maybe? But now she couldn't imagine herself without Ginny Potter as her best friend. The red-head was the exact opposite of her. Fiery and passionate where she was cold and calculating. Ginny was bold and beautiful. Jessica was sly and plain. Maybe that was why they were best friends, she wondered. Opposites attract. Either way, Jessica was just glad she'd reached out when she did. She still held her guilt over not helping Ginny with her possession in her first year. She had known full well the signs and had ignored them because she was afraid that the same thing might happen to her. Again.

"If you're going to sit in here and spy on us, you might want to get onto the luggage rack before anyone comes in," Jessica said. Ginny poked her tongue at her, before pulling the cloak back around her and jumping up onto the rack with much less effort than she should have needed. Jessica sighed and went back to the Daily Prophet.

It didn't take long for the Greengrass sisters to sit down beside her. While Jessica wouldn't particularly call them friends, they had helped her in the past, and Jessica herself was one of the few who knew the family was not as Pureblood orientated as they tried to appear. Though that was more through her skills at not being an idiot like the rest of the Wizarding World rather than them entrusting her with any specific secret.

Astoria sat down beside her and glanced at the Daily Prophet in her lap, still held open to the story about Harry's home life. Harry had not been pleased when Sirius had asked him to come in to speak to his boss without even warning him first.

"Reading about Potter, hey Jones? Didn't pick you for a fangirl," Astoria said, elbowing Jessica in the ribs. Jessica, as usual, didn't feel a thing, but she was very good at faking pain.

"Say what you will, it's certainly an eye-opener. The champion of the light grew up in an abusive household, probably because of Dumbledore. Maybe he isn't as squeaky clean as the Gryffindors like to think he is?"

Astoria shrugged, "I don't know. To be honest, I hadn't really thought about it like that. Are we sure it's even true?"

"It's true," Daphne said, "I read the article, this guy, Pete Wisdom, he's legit. He went through all the right hoops, did all the right research. Potter of all people was abused by Muggles, and he still defends them."

"Hey, not all muggles are shit heads." The trio turned their heads to the compartment door to see Lance Hunter, a Slytherin Half-Blood in Daphne's year, swagger inside and drop down into the seat next to the blonde haired, blue eyed girl.

"Just most of them," Jessica amended, rolling her eyes. Astoria opened her mouth to say more, but before she could, Tracey Davis all but barrelled into the compartment and slammed the door shut. She cast a locking charm on the door, pulled the shades down, and cast a silencing charm. Jessica leaned forward; this just got a whole lot more interesting.

"Tracey?! What are you doing?!" Daphne exclaimed, grabbing her friends jacket sleeve.

"Umbridge. Dolores Umbridge. She's been appointed by Minister Fudge as 'High Inquisitor' at Hogwarts. It's not out yet, but I doubt it'll be much of a secret by the evening feast."

Jessica's heart froze stiff in her chest for a few valuable seconds.

"What the hell does that mean?" Lance asked a look of confusion etched across his face.

"It means Fudge is upping his war against Dumbledore. He's going to have Umbridge monitor the school, and him, for anything he sees as a threat. You've all read the articles in the Prophet; Fudge is convinced that Dumbledore is after his job. This is his chance to undermine the codger in his own seat of power," Daphne fumed, leaning back and slamming her head into the wall.

"It's worse," Jessica said softly, glancing towards where Ginny lay hidden underneath the Invisibility Cloak. Harry and the rest of the Defenders (she'd finally relented and started using the name) should be talking about the same thing at that very moment, "Lupin."

Tracey and Daphne both shuddered.

"I don't understand…" Astoria began.

"Professor Lupin is a werewolf. That's why he always looks ill. And Umbridge has access to the national werewolf registry, so she'll know exactly what he is. If Lupin gets kicked out of school…"

"Kiss our O.W.L's goodbye," Lance concluded. His head fell into his hands.

"Exactly," Daphne groaned.

"Yeah. That's… I can see why that's bad," Astoria lamented, "But if he's a werewolf why was he allowed into the school anyway? He could attack someone."

"He's a brilliant teacher, and it's not as if he's going around mauling people. So long as he takes the necessary precautions, I don't see why he shouldn't be allowed to teach," Tracey said with a shrug. She dropped down on Jessica's other side and snatched the paper away from her. Tracey, Jessica knew, was very gossipy. She may not be as good as Jessica herself was at deductive reasoning… or simple common sense, but she certainly had a way to get information. Jessica suspected the buxom brunette wasn't above using her figure to draw the juicy news out of the unsuspecting.

"So, what happens now?" Astoria asked.

"Depends, I guess. Umbridge will need motive to get rid of Lupin. With as positive results as he's had the past two years, not to mention his popularity with the other houses, simply outing him as a werewolf probably won't cut it. The Board of Governors don't have Lucius Malfoy to act as a spine anymore, but most of the members are still Sacred Twenty-Eight. If she has a sufficient reason, they'll back the call, especially if Fudge manages to get complete control of the Daily Prophet. From what I've heard, both the light and dark families are pumping the paper full of galleons to counter Fudge's budget cuts. The only plus side is it's relatively equal at the moment, so both light, dark and Fudge are getting their opinions heard. That's bad for the Dark and Dumbledore, and great for Harry Potter and his Defenders. It's almost Slytherin of him," Tracey observed.

"Potter is an enigma I'm telling you," Lance exclaimed. When he was met with a bunch of frowns, he elaborated. "Think about it. Really sit back and think about it. He's a Gryffindor, rushes into everything, average brain, decent bloke, mopes a bit, breaks so many rules it makes even me impressed and saves the day. Only how much of that is actually true? Yes, he's a Gryff, but he doesn't really act like you'd expect a Gryff too. Spells first ask questions later sort of thing. If you've noticed, he only resorts to violence when twats like Malfoy piss him off. Unlike the little spitfire he got himself hitched too, and I'll get back to her later. He's not stupid, he's near the top of the class in almost every subject…" Daphne scowled at that. She was still sore over Potter beating her at Ancient Runes. "… sure he might have Granger to help him, but all of it can't be cheating, can it? Then there's the rule breaking. Potter became so legendary for rule-breaking first and second year that now everyone just assumes he's breaking the rules all the time, but since then how many rules has he actually been caught breaking?"

Everyone frowned again, and Jessica had to try very hard to suppress her smirk. Ever since she'd started hanging around Harry and Ginny, Jessica had become a bit more open-minded about everything, and she had tried to make some of her friends think along the same lines. Clearly, it had worked.

"He hasn't really. Is there something I'm missing?" Daphne asked, scratching the back of her head.

"What are you saying, Hunter?" Tracey prodded, eyes narrowed.

"I'm saying he's getting smarter. He's not getting caught. And not to mention he's seriously famous after whole Tournament thing. What did that get him?"

"Power, resources, recognition and attention," Daphne breathed. Jessica couldn't help noticing that Ginny fidgeted slightly on the luggage rack.

"Exactly. Then there's the Defenders. We all heard the rumours last year. Ginny yelled the name out for everyone to hear the day of the trials when she put Chang in her place. Lavender Brown was going on about Ron Weasley mentioning the name after he knocked the littlest Weasley into a bookcase. And then Skeeter, even she'd heard about it. But then it disappeared. Poof. Gone. You didn't hear any more about it. Until this month of course, when fourteen people in red cloaks strolled into the Ministry of Magic. Why all the silence?"

Jessica was impressed. She'd always thought Hunter was more brawn than brain, she'd have to be more careful around him in the future.

"Potter was at Alcheringa and Ilvermorny for the rest of the year…" Astoria muttered.

"Exactly, and I'll wager he didn't waste that time. He was recruiting. He was pretty chummy with the other Champions if you remember, and Will O'Neill loved the guy. They were chatting it up during the Yule Ball…"

"And don't forget that O'Neill is a lot younger than he wants everyone to believe." Daphne pointed out. Astoria suddenly looked very confused, and Jessica quickly adopted a similar face. This was fun!

"What?!" Tracey exclaimed.

"That's right, we never told you. Hunter and I were in the Hogwarts Delegation, and when we were at Alcheringa, O'Neill flew – yep flew – into the dining hall one day, missing half his arm, and looking no older than eighteen. He had a massive scar over his face as well. It was just after he got eaten by that Kraken if you remember, and he just right landed in the middle of the room. Then he ran up to one of the girls at Alcheringa, a seventh year I think, and snogged her in the middle of the room! The whole thing had me super intrigued, so I went to the Library at the Academy and went through old newspaper issues. There, plain as day, was the article about sixteen-year-old Will O'Neill stopping a meteor from colliding with Mt Kīlauea, in 1992. 1992. Which means the older version we were all dealing with was a façade meant to protect his credibility. Think about it, if I told you that a sixteen-year-old stopped a meteor, you'd have laughed your head off. But the Will O'Neill we all saw. You'd have no problem believing that he stopped a meteor. Especially after what he did to Professor Snape."

"That's kind of awesome actually," Jessica admitted. Astoria was looking at her sister in total disbelief. Hmm. Maybe Alias was a good name after all? She'd have to thank Matt… Those annoying butterflies reappeared in her stomach, and her mind flashed to the memory of the two of them on the couch in the Home… MURDOCK! His name is Murdock! Not Matt. Just Murdock. And nothing else. Keep yourself together, Jones!

"Back to my point," Hunter said, drawing the attention back to him, "Also notice how not all his friends went with the delegation. Rand, Murdock and Cage. They all stayed here, who knows what they were doing."

"But why them?" Tracey asked suddenly, "They're nothing special. Granger, I get, but why the others? Wouldn't Bones or some of the other big heirs be smarter?"

Lance smirked.

"Let's think about it. Granger, as you said, is a no brainer. She's a fricken genius, and everyone knows it. But what about the others. I'll admit, he does seem to genuinely be in love with the Weasley girl – sorry, Potter girl now. And I bet her Mum's probably pissed, but notice how he hasn't looked at any of the dozens of girls trying to cosy up to him? Either Potter's child bride is really good under the sheets…" Ginny shifted on the luggage rack again. "Or he's seriously loyal. Either way, by not looking at the other chicks, it gets the brothers on side. Bill Weasley is a Curse-Breaker, a seriously good type of person to have on hand should you need them. Charlie is a Dragon Tamer. Not entirely helpful, but he has international contacts. The Twins can be crazy smart when they put their minds to it."

"And Ginny's really powerful," Astoria added. Everyone turned towards her, and she blushed a bright red, "We have Defence together, and she's top of the class. Easily. Her spells are super powerful too."

Jessica sighed, "She's right. The girl is not someone you mess with. I saw her cast a perfect Bat-Bogey Hex on someone once. Looked fucking painful let me tell you."

"I'll keep it in mind," Hunter agreed, "So you can see, smart choice of allies. As for the others. Cage is a tank. The guy could easily take out Crabbe and Goyle, and he also has a brain in his head, so twice as deadly. Murdock's dad is an Auror, and a good one too. That gives Potter two Aurors he can call on, Sirius Black and Jack Murdock, both of whom are good at their jobs. Also, let's not forget he has the Black family fortune behind him too. Lovegood. She's an oddball I'll admit, but her Dad runs the Quibbler. If Potter does lose control of the Daily Prophet, he has a fall-back media advantage. Plus, both Murdock and Loony are Ravenclaws, and they can give him info on what's going on in their tower.

"What about Rand? He's not exactly very useful," Daphne pointed out.

"That's where you're wrong. I'm Half-Blood, which means I know a fair bit about the Muggle World. Would it interest you to know that Rand Enterprises, a company run by Danny Rand's parents, is a seriously wealthy business with lots of connections in the Muggle world?"

"That is interesting," Tracey admitted, "Plus it gives him an in with Hufflepuff."

Astoria bit her lip, "But he doesn't have anyone in Slytherin." Jessica suddenly felt very self-conscious. She made extra sure to keep her features schooled. This was the dangerous part of her game, and she knew it.

"Who's to say he doesn't?" Hunter said.

"You think Potter has a spy in Slytherin?" Daphne asked.

"I'd put money on it. Let's him keep an eye on Malfoy and the other Death Eater families. Kid probably knows Dumbledore's claims about You-Know-Who being back are hogwash thanks to said spy. That's why he's distancing himself from him." Suddenly, Jessica had an idea. Whether it was a good one or a bad one, she wasn't sure yet, but it was an idea. Let's see where it went.

"He's not lying," Jessica muttered, her head dropping down into her lap, hair obscuring her face.

"What was that, Jones?" Astoria asked, placing a hand on Jessica's back. She looked up, adopting a frightened demeanour.

"Jones… what do you know that we don't?" Tracey asked hesitantly. Jessica swallowed hard for effect.

"Dumbledore. He isn't lying. V… You-Know-Who is back."

Lance opened the car window and spewed outside. Daphne, Astoria and Tracey were all much paler than usual.

"You know how I kept coming over every couple of days?" She began, and Astoria and Daphne nodded their heads, "Well. That's because my mother was gone for the entire first month of the holidays. Not only that, but every dark object in the house had vanished. Even… Even the Darkhold." There. It was done. She couldn't back out now.

"Darkhold?"

"The Book of Sin. The antithesis to the Book of Vishanti. Your Mum had that!?" Hunter exclaimed.

"It's a Jones family secret. We've had it hidden for generations. Mum must have given it to someone, and given how insane she is, there's only one person she'd give it to. That's why I've been checking the papers. Potter never mentioned that He isn't back. Just that there's a new group out there, and that he's dedicated to fighting it. I think the Dark Lord did come back at the end of the Triwizard, and he did attack Potter's house…"

"He's just not stupid enough to turn the whole world against him. No one wants to believe the Dark Lord's back. If Potter says that he is, then he gets painted with the same brush that Dumbledore is," Daphne muttered, slumping back in her seat.

The rest of the train ride was spent in silence as each member handled the realisation that Voldemort had returned their own way.

When they finally reached the station, Jessica ignored the Thestrals and climbed into a cart bound for the Castle. The welcoming feast was as elaborate as usual. She kept a subtle eye on Harry at the Gryffindor table, which turned out to be an excellent idea, as she saw the entire spectacle that resulted when Lavender Brown tried to sit in his lap. Unfortunately for her, Firefly chose that moment to enter the hall, and a Bat-Bogey Hex was in the air before anyone even saw her move. Actually, come to think of it, maybe Ginny had sent the spell with her eyes. That would be cool. Either way, poor Lavender ended up on the cobblestone floor with overgrown bats pouring forth from her nose. Harry then began profusely apologising as a giggling Hermione lifted the spell. Ginny simply swaggered into the Hall, all eyes on her, and sat down in Harry's now vacated lap. A not so subtle reminder of their married status in Jessica's opinion.

Aside from that, she noticed a few other things in her observations. Ron spent the entire time looking at Harry's group, which consisted of Hermione, Ginny, Luke, Colin Creevey, Neville Longbottom and Demelza Robbins, with longing. She made sure to file that away for later. Fred and George were demonstrating their prank products to Alicia and Katie (Angelina having graduated the previous year), Cho Chang spent the entire night staring at Harry, or more accurately, his ass, and Malfoy was whispering amongst his little gang of followers. The big point of note, however, was the Staff Table. Hagrid was absent on his mission, and his seat was taken by Professor Grubbly-Plank. But next to her was a short, dumpy woman with short curly brown hair that had way too much product in it wearing a fluffy pink cardigan. Her face resembled that of a toad. She knew instantly who it was, Harry had described the foul woman in great detail. It looked like Tracey was right. Fudge was trying to take over the school. This was bad for a dozen different reasons.

The Sorting Hat's song was also interesting. That was a sentence she never thought she'd say.

The hat's warning to unite was something unexpected, and very powerful if you paid any attention, as most didn't. It wasn't wrong either. She wondered if Dumbledore had a hand in it.

"Now that we have all finished our magnificent feast," Dumbledore announced, "I have a few start of term notices I must impart before you all depart. First years ought to know that the forest in the grounds is out-of-bounds to all students – and a few of our older students ought to know by now too. The caretaker Mr Filch has asked me to remind you that magic is not permitted in the corridor between classes. Finally, we have two changes in staff this year. We are very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures until Professor Hagrid returns from personal leave; and Madame Umbridge, who will be filling a newly created post of High Inquisitor and Curriculum Overseer. Now I'm sure you'd all like to go to sleep…" Dumbledore trailed off and gazed behind him.

Jessica frowned. Why had he… Oh. This couldn't be good. Professor Umbridge had cleared her throat and was now getting to her feet. She was going to say a speech. Dumbledore stepped aside, though the look on his face was one of well-controlled panic. Jessica glanced at Harry and realised he was looking right at her, a look of fear matching Dumbledore's own on his face. He mouthed the words, 'Fire and Blood,' then turned back to Umbridge. She bit her lip and did the same. Fire and Blood. That was not something she wanted to hear. It was one of the emergency codes Hermione had come up with. She had based them on a fantasy book series she liked, so no one would ever guess what they meant. Jessica had to admit it was a smart idea. Fire and Blood was code for "we've got a big ass problem, and we need to meet up asap." And that meant she and the other Defenders would be making a trip to the Home that night. Hopefully, Sirius and Ginny's brother Bill had anti-Dumbledored the place by now. If not, Matt would know, thanks to his powers.

"Thank you, Headmaster," Umbridge said as she stepped up to the lectern, "for those kind words of welcome. It's lovely to be back here at Hogwarts, and also to see such happy faces looking up at me." Jessica couldn't help snickering into her plate, and almost all the other Slytherins were doing the same. The other houses seemed to be in states of shock and horror.

"The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured by careful instruction. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching." Professor's Snape and Flitwick glanced at each other with bewildered looks, looks Jessica found herself sharing. What?

"Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for, without progress, there will be stagnation and decay. Then again, progress for progress's sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. Old habits must be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, both old and new, must be abandoned. Let us move forward then into a new era of openness, effectiveness, and accountability, intent on preserving what must be preserved, perfecting what can be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited."

Suddenly everything made sense. As if a veil had been lifted. A quick look along the Slytherin table revealed a sharp divide. Some, like her, had realised the implications of the toad woman's speech and were now holding back their panicked expressions. The others, like Malfoy, were grinning like idiots and applauding, just like their parents told them to no doubt.

"This is so not good," Daphne moaned into her pudding.

Jessica made sure she was in the middle of the crowd moving down to the Dungeons. That way, she was safely hidden once they reached the common room, and Draco Malfoy stood up on a coffee table in the room to hold court.

"Listen up, everyone," he said. Everyone ignored him, instead talking in their own hushed voices.

"Everyone listen!" Malfoy tried again. This time he might have got everyone's attention, but his voice broke, resulting in numerous sniggering.

"This is the chance we've been looking for!" Draco proclaimed, "Finally the Ministry has sent someone in here to clean up Dumbledore's mess and purge the Mudblood filth from the school. That means we are going to help Madam Umbridge in her crusade to get rid of Dumbledore. We are going to make damn sure she knows just which teachers are filth, like the werewolf Lupin, the fraud Trelawney, and the half-breed scum like Flitwick and that stupid oaf Hagrid. And we are going to make damn sure that she knows who are helping her in her mission. Do I make myself clear?" There were a few mumbled yes's, and the group started breaking up.

"I said, do I make myself clear?!" Draco shouted. This time everyone ignored him and began trudging down the dormitory corridors.

"My father will hear about this!"

Jessica followed Daphne, Lance and a couple of other people from the upper years into the sixth-year boy's dormitory and stood still in the shadow of the door.

"Well. We're screwed," Cassius Warrington, a seventh-year prefect said, slumping on the fireplace.

"No kidding," Maria Hill, another seventh year admitted.

"Who's willing to bet we get all new curriculums for at least Defence and Transfiguration tomorrow?" Emilie Brindle – a sixth year – asked.

"You bet your ass," Cassius said with a sigh, "Care of Magical Creatures and Charms too probably."

"I liked Hagrid. The guy was super eccentric and slightly mad, but he knew his stuff, a lot better than Grubbly-Plank does. She's scared of fricken everything. I got an Outstanding on my O.W.L thanks to Hagrid, I wonder where he is?" Emilie moaned.

"No offence, but I'm more worried about Lupin and Flitwick. Without them, I won't even pass my O.W.L's. You know if Umbridge gets them fired it'll be Ministry toadies that replace them," Daphne said.

"True."

"I'm going to have to do so much extra study for my N.E.W.T's it isn't funny. They won't be compensated if Hogwarts won't teach us what we need to know. I want to be a Warder. If I can't pass my exams…" Cassius trailed off, looking very defeated.

"I've got a really bad feeling about this."


Jessica was late to the Home. By the time she reached the Duelling Chamber, Sirius was already attacking a training dummy, and Remus was eating what she guessed was not his first chocolate bar that night. The other Defenders were scattered around the room, watching as Harry paced in the centre of the room, a scowl on his face.

"What have I missed?" She asked, plonking down next to Ginny and the twins.

"Well, Gin-Gin filled us in on everything she overheard in your train compartment, then Harry was 'invited' up to the Headmaster's office after the feast, and Mrs Firefly gave us a play by play of the boss' meeting with our esteemed headmaster," Fred supplied.

"How'd that go?"

"Better than I expected," Harry admitted. "He told me that this was the only time he'd be able to meet with me during the year. I told him I was more than fine with that, then he told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to, "put my differences behind me." Love how he still thinks I do what he says. Anyway, then he explained that Umbridge was watching him like a hawk and that he'd have to distance himself from me to protect me from her interference. I said I agreed that it was a good idea, which it is. Then he said that we shouldn't use the Home, because if Umbridge finds it, the results could be catastrophic."

"He's not wrong. As much as I hate to admit it," Jessica said.

Harry sighed, "I know. That's what makes this all the more annoying. Sirius will lock the door when we leave tonight, the password will be changed, and he'll be staying at Andromeda's. Just in case. We'll keep this place secret for use in High as Honour codes only."

"Anything else Dumbledore mentioned?" Danny asked.

"Not really. He started to say something, but the Sorting Hat berated him. Not sure what that was about. He did try a bit of Legilimency when I entered the room…"

"I love my mental bazooka," Ginny said wistfully.

"…but it didn't do anything, thanks to miss trigger happy over here."

"What? My bazooka protects our collective brain, you're whining?"

"Of course not, dear," Harry amended, throwing his hands above his head in defeat.

"What about the Defenders?" Hermione cut in. "Umbridge is bound to be onto us, and you specifically after your grand entrance into the Ministry. If she finds anything to pin on you, she will, and all the goodwill you have with the Minister will be evaporated," Hermione said, chewing a piece of hair in her mouth. Harry's scowl returned in full force now.

"We have to curtail our public meetings. Jess, I'm sorry, but you'll have to limit your contact with us. If Umbridge or worse Voldemort catches wind of you…"

"I'm dead. I know the risks. Fortunately, I think Slytherin is where I can do the most good right now. Malfoy might think he has the House under his control, but there are plenty of people from multiple years that care about passing their exams and getting solid careers after school a lot more. If Umbridge puts that in jeopardy and I play my cards right, I might just be able to stake the fires of a Slytherin revolution. Or at least get them to the stage where they'd be willing to cut a deal with you to get rid of her. And if we can do that…"

"We make some friends in a place we don't have very many," Ginny concluded. "Just don't put your neck on the chopping block, Jess. You're one of us, if you need help, you shout. You understand?" Ginny turned her blazing look on her, and Jessica had to use her considerable willpower not to flinch. Damn that girl was good.

"I will. Promise." Jessica couldn't help noticing the smile that creased Matt's lips at that statement. The butterflies started gnawing at her stomach lining again…

"What about us?" Luna asked, gesturing to her, Matt and Danny. It was Matt himself who answered.

"We don't have to completely stop communication. That would look even more bizarre. But we have to be careful."

"What about the teachers?" Luke asked, folding his arms.

"He's right. Malfoy was going on about how the Slytherin's need to do anything they can to get rid of Mudbloods and Half-Breeds. No offence guys.

Hermione waved her off, "None taken."

"I'm fine. I can handle myself," Lupin said, an air of finality to his words that brokered no argument.

Harry smiled at him, "I know Moony, I know. But you also have an escape plan if things go sour. If Umbridge comes after you, you get your ass up here. Understand?"

"Giving me orders now, Harry?" Lupin said, a smirk creasing his lips.

"Well, Mum's not around to do it, so someone has to keep the last Marauders safe," Harry said, winking at Sirius, who promptly burst out laughing.

"Well played. Well played," Remus said, shaking his head as he held in his own laughter.

"I was thinking more about Flitwick," Luke amended.

"He's on Malfoy's target list. Along with Hagrid when he gets back. They need an evac plan too." Harry ran a hand through his hair and looked to Ginny for a few seconds, before nodding his head.

"Brains, Mystery, Murdock. Flitwick is your job," Ginny said, standing up and walking to stand beside Harry, "Bring him up here sometime in the next week or so, let him know that if he gets in trouble, he can come here. If he's still undecided, the chance to research this place should swing him over."

"Cage, Iron Fist. You need to keep an eye on McGonagall. If she does get in trouble, she won't back down without a fight, so you'll need to be ready to extract her if she gets caught up in a fight she can't win. Harry and I will watch over Hagrid when he gets back," Ginny said.

"That sum everything up?" Harry asked.

Hermione raised her hand again, "Um, I've got one more thing."

"What is it?"

"Well, if we can't use this place, we're going to need to look for a new hideout to use."

Harry pursed his lips, "Good point. Everyone keep an eye out." They all nodded before scattering back to their respective common rooms. Just as she was about to leave, Harry pulled her aside and pushed something into her palm. She frowned at him before looking down at her palm. It was his amulet, the one with the Home Rune on it.

"That Amulet will bring you back here in case of an emergency. It's not a portkey, so it'll work through any ward, including the school wards. Say 'Home' while holding it to come here, and say 'Return' while you're in here to go back to the last place you used it. Okay?" Jessica swallowed her pride and nodded, silently thankful that he'd give something so important to her for the off chance she'd need it.


With the benefit of Hindsight, Jessica was sort of glad that she missed most of the things that happened to the rest of the gang the first month of school. Hindsight, however, is, as they say, 20/20, and at the time, she was incredibly annoyed that she missed most of the action.

The first thing she missed was Hermione's blow up at Fred and George in the Gryffindor Common Room. According to the detailed re-enactment she got from Ginny and the twins a few weeks later, Hermione had begun lecturing the duo on how they weren't allowed to advertise for test subjects for their products on the Gryffindor Noticeboard, despite the fact they were offering fair pay for willing participants. Luke had only been able to diffuse the situation by asking her if she preferred they test on unwilling subjects instead, which hastily silenced Hermione's arguments. The second thing she very much would have liked to see was Professor Flitwick's visit to the Home. Matt had cornered the Charms professor after class a few days after their meeting and asked to show him something odd he'd discovered on the Sixth Floor. Hermione had been waiting for them and opened the portrait into the Home conspicuously to allow them in. Hermione said the look on Flitwick's face was priceless. He had absolutely gushed over the promise of being able to research Lily Potter's construction of an entire parallel pocket dimension. He even revealed that Lily had come to him with help on the subject of Transcendental Charms in her Seventh Year and proclaimed she was one of the best students he ever had the honour of teaching. As for Harry's offer, the diminutive teacher with Goblin ancestry agreed to their escape plan but refused point blank to join anything Defenders related for the same reason he wouldn't join Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix. His obligation was to his students, nothing more, nothing less. Jessica had to admire that.

The third thing she had wanted to see was Harry, Hermione and Ron's first Defence Against the Dark Arts Class. With Professor Lupin – and Umbridge. It quickly became the stuff of legend across the entire school. Jessica had been sitting in Transfiguration, focussing on transfiguring a school provided gerbil into a pocket watch when all of a sudden, Ginny – who was on the other side of the room with the Gryffindors – had sat bolt upright, cursed in the middle of class, and rushed out the door, wand in hand, books and gerbil discarded. McGonagall had called after her, but Ginny was already gone. McGonagall quickly rushed after her, leaving the entire class in disarray. Everyone knew what had happened by the end of the day. But Jessica wasn't sure what was the truth, and what was an exaggeration. With Harry, you could never tell.

She was finally pulled out of her funk when Luna had skipped into Potions in the last week of September and started handing out free copies of the Quibbler to everyone in the room, Ravenclaws and Slytherins alike. Most binned them – or set them on fire when Lovegood wasn't watching. But she slid hers into her bag, only retrieving it late that night in the safety of her curtained off four poster bed in the Slytherin Fourth Year Girls Dorm. The article was the usual insane drabble one expected from the Quibbler, but one of the pieces was titled: The Defenders – Mischief and Marauders. She rolled her eyes and pointed her wand at the page.

"I solemnly swear I'm up to no good," she whispered, and the words rearranged themselves into a brief note.

Alias,

Sorry for the lack of communication, but as you've probably figured out, Umbridge is watching my every move. The situation is far worse than we feared. Bring as many Slytherins as you can trust to the Hogs Head Inn at Noon on the first Hogsmeade visit next week. We have a plan.

Stay safe,

Harry.

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