Chapter Twenty-One: Things Said and Things Seen
Andromeda Tonks could simply throttle Albus Dumbledore. She did not believe that he had tried to fight this travesty. The three younger Parkinson sisters should have been turned over to Molly and Arthur Weasley. The fact that Molly and Arthur had not attempted to get custody of the girls bothered Andromeda as well. Molly and Andromeda had gone to school together and kept in touch over the years. There was no way on earth that Molly Baines Weasley would have turned away a child in need of a home. Everything about the situation smacked of Dumbledore's manipulations as much as Fudge's stupidity.
She cracked the door to look in on the girls. Pansy was in the center of the bed with her two youngest sisters curled against her. Ten-year-old Penelope had curled up tightly next to two-year-old Patience. The girls all needed someone to look after them, and Pansy was in no condition to take up mothering her younger sisters. Draco ... the boy was lost in his own problems, he would be no help to the wife he had not wanted.
She smiled sadly, feeling her husband's hand on her shoulder. She shut the door and followed William back to the sitting room of the suite they had taken up residence in.
Remus watched Harry's hasty exit amused. Lady Ygraine had agreed that Severus could be brought out of the healing sleep earlier. Severus had awoken furious and demanded to know how long he had been in such a vulnerable and defenseless state. The healing sleep seemed to have done wonders for Severus' over-all physical condition, save for his hands, which were healing slowly as expected.
"I repeat, what in Merlin's name has been going on? How long have I been sleeping? What has happened? Potter just lit out of here like a Hufflepuff first year! And that brat doesn't have sense to back out of anything."
"Severus, you shouldn't get yourself worked up..."
"Lupin--" Severus growled.
"I'm not telling you anything until you calm down, take your potions, and at least drink some broth." Remus said firmly. "And if you get yourself too worked up, I will stop."
Severus listened to the recounting of everything that had transpired while he was unconscious with growing unease. Fudge and Dumbledore were playing a dangerous fools' game. The maneuvering over the staffing requirements. Absurd, really; a thousand years of tradition and in that time not a single professor had had 'official teaching credentials' of any sort. Other than the rather shoddy string of DADA professors the past decade, which was primarily due to ministry interference and the likes of Lucius Malfoy intimidating qualified applicants away, there had never been any trouble with staffing at Hogwarts. Even that idiot Trelawney knew her subject inside and out, and had three true predictions to her credit. She was a fool obsessed with death omens, but she did know her subject. As far as Divination went, one had the talent or one did not. Teaching the subject was nothing more than keeping tools of true Seers from being lost rather than providing anything useful to the majority of the students that passed through that class.
That Dumbledore had allowed himself drawn into this nonsense and let it go on so long was even more disturbing. Albus Dumbledore did nothing without a half dozen reasons. What could he possibly gain by playing political cat and mouse with Fudge over staff certifications? His attention was drawn back by what Remus said next.
"Those little dunderheads did WHAT?" Severus snarled.
"The entire lot brewed the Lineage Potion in the Great Hall, as Harry was the only one qualified to supervise according to the mandate Fudge attempted to slip by. Pansy Malfoy and Tonks brewed it with them."
"A wonder one of them didn't bleed to death and Longbottom didn't blow up the entire castle," Severus muttered darkly. Then he demanded with a growl, "Why the bloody hell did you let them, Lupin? That little twit Tonks might not be able to exert any authority over them, but Potter listens to you and he could have got the others to listen."
"I didn't know of it until after the fact," Remus shook his head. "Or believe me; I would have put a stop to it."
"Draco, Longbottom and Zabini have the same marks as Potter, don't they?" Severus demanded.
Remus raised his eyebrows in shock. "Not exactly, but very similar. How did you know?"
"Those four..." Severus shook his head tiredly.
"Five." Remus smiled. "I seem to remember a certain Slytherin boy who was quite often with them."
Severus snorted. "Couldn't escape them. Hellion and that blasted menace of a Viper decided to adopt me. The Hellion said she missed having a little brother and I would do nicely, and the blasted menace decided having one more brother wouldn't make a whit of difference."
Remus chuckled. "I take it Viper is Morrigan?"
Severus nodded. "Hex was Alice Kendalwood and Ice was Narcissa. I have no idea what they did. It is entirely possible the four of them arrived at the same idea separately. Their twisted little minds followed the same direction more often than not. And I truly despise this pain potion; I babble like an idiot."
Remus continued his tale, watching Severus closely for signs that the potions master was becoming overtired.
"BLOODY HELL!" Severus bellowed when Remus got to the fact that Petrus Parkinson was now a fugitive. "I am going to kill Albus! He could have pulled this bloody card when Petrus was forcing the marriage issue! Why in Merlin's name didn't he and stop that farce!"
Remus swallowed and debated going further.
"What?" Severus glared.
Remus sighed. "Draco and Pansy have provisional custody of the three younger girls. With you and Harry overseeing all five of them until Draco is twenty one."
"In other words, Albus has saddled me with six children!" Severus growled. "If Draco dares procreate any time soon I'll hex him into the bloody moon!"
"Calm down, Severus."
"Calm DOWN!" the Potions Master bellowed.
Remus pointed to the sleeping draught on the nightstand. "I'll use that if you don't."
Severus glared at being threatened with his own potions.
Remus sighed. "I'm not--never mind. Harry's rather determined that Blaise Zabini and Draco learn to brew the Wolfsbane."
Severus scowled. "How is this Potter's decision? Don't tell me there isn't a staff member in charge..."
"Now, Severus, she's--"
"Actually capable of instructing the subject she was hired to teach, which sets her ahead of many recent occupants of that post," Severus interrupted with a sneer. "However, there is absolutely no way you can convince me she is managing to take charge of that lot in the slightest."
Remus shrugged. When he had been talking to Harry earlier, it certainly had not sounded as if Tonks was taking charge of anything.
"Where are the girls?"
"Andromeda and William Tonks are still here, as there are a couple of dozen Regis Isle folk that haven't left. Andromeda got the girls up in their rooms. I'm under the impression that the younger ones are here for good."
Severus' blood boiled. Potter, Draco, Draco's wife and her three little sisters. Once again, he had to wonder which madman was going to be the death of him, for Dumbledore seemed to be having as much a go at indirectly killing Severus as Voldemort.
The week that had passed since Draco and Pansy's wedding might as well have been a year in the opinion of the Apprentices gathered in their common room with the addition of Tonks. Harry didn't give a damn that technically she wasn't supposed to be there, nor that the House-Elves weren't supposed to have delivered the spread on the low table in the center of the four sofa's they'd arranged to make an inward facing square.
Millie tiredly trudged into the Common room. "Thank Merlin, my rooms are only one more flight up," she grumbled to herself.
"Bulstrode! You reek..."
"Oh shut up, Malfoy, see how good you smell after a day in the stables and barns. I'll be back down in a bit, Harry," Millie grumbled, trekking straight through, not so much as glancing at the rest.
"You didn't smell too pretty this morning," Seamus snorted.
"After almost forty eight hours straight of brewing potions for Madam Pomfrey--" Draco glared.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Can you stop being an arse for just five minutes even?" He shot in Draco's direction. Then he asked, "Did you get everything for Pomfrey?" as he looked from Draco to Blaise, hoping for a straight answer from one of them.
"Yes," Blaise spoke up. "Got the order list for the student supply cupboards. I think we got it all. "
"And here's the supply list for Transfiguration and Charms classes. Oh, and Filch needs a few things," Tonks spoke up.
"You have your list of what you'll need for defense class supplies?" Harry took the papers from Tonks and passed them over to Seamus.
Fawkes had been popping in and out of Hogwarts almost continuously this last week with ever increasing lists of things to do. The School letters needed to be sent. Supplies needed to be ordered. Dumbledore seemed to have found a way out of dealing with the inventory for the upcoming school year by dumping it on the apprentices entirely. They had tried delegating some of that to the House-Elves, but that had not worked out at all, since the House-Elves had some very interesting ways of gauging the amount of things. Tonks, despite being the actual professor on staff, seemed more than content to let him sort everything out. That inclination was reinforced by the fact that Fawkes was continuously seeking Harry out, not Tonks.
"Remus is getting Snape to tell him where the instructions for the Wolfsbane Potion are -- Tonks, you're going to have to go to Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley tomorrow for anything we don't have. Someone has to start the potion by tomorrow night to be done in time for the next full moon. Blaise, Malfoy, you two are the best with potions."
"Of course we'll do it, Potter," Draco nodded, earning slack-jawed looks from the others. Draco hadn't agreed to do anything without complaint or argument since his return to Hogwarts. "What? A werewolf with human consciousness is an improvement over a vicious monster," Draco huffed. Though closer to the truth was how disturbing the wounds he had seen on the werewolf in Severus' chambers had been. Now that he had recovered, Lupin had been taking good care of Severus.
"There might be hope for you yet, little Cos," Tonks smiled approvingly.
Draco gave her a vicious glare.
Harry glanced over the lists Dumbledore had been sending, two and three times a day at the very least. Tonks asked them for help with her lesson plans every time they turned around as she tried to remember what she had studied each year in school and asking their opinions if they thought the younger years could manage this or that. He was nearly ready to send a Howler demanding to know where the rest of the staff was. Wasn't there anyone that could come back and--at least talk Tonks through making lesson plans?
They had all been keeping notes on what they had been "studying", however much of a stretch the lessons they were supposedly doing were. Some things were easy to write off, like taking care of Snape as Mediwizardry study, and the potions for Pomfrey as simply Potions study and brewing. All of Neville's time in the greenhouses and Millie's time with the various creatures in the stables made perfect sense; those two at least would actually be there anyway if they were actually covering some sort of lesson plan. Seamus, Harry and Luna had all put in hours of charms and transfiguration in the form of magical repairs to assorted things that were resistant to House-Elf magic. Filch couldn't do the spell-work being a squib, and for some reason or other the House-Elves couldn't or were forbidden to.
On top of everything else, they fit in their assignments from Dumbledore as they could. Harry had completed what Snape had assigned what seemed ages ago and a surprising six of the book reports Dumbledore had assigned.
Seamus snickered at the supply orders he was looking over to make sure they had not missed a class or area of the castle, checking off on another parchment as he went.
"What?" Blaise frowned.
"Cornish Pixies for the fourth years." Seamus answered, putting the supply lists together.
"Oh, Merlin," Neville shuddered slightly.
"Wot? Fourth years should be able to handle pixies."
Neville was the one that recounted their class on Cornish Pixies with Lockhart.
"My uncle Tynan owled today," Blaise suddenly spoke up.
Harry looked at him tiredly. Blaise could give Luna a run for her money with strangely random comments, though Blaise generally had a point even if it had no bearing on the current subject.
"Uncle Ty thinks it best you get your book done and have an heir designated as soon as possible, Harry; Fudge isn't going to give it up."
Fudge and the "Secretary of Education" had demanded a review of all current staff of Hogwarts credentials, which the School board was going along with, thus keeping Dumbledore and McGonagall in London, though why they couldn't floo or apparate back and forth, Harry did not quite get. It wasn't as if they were restricted by Muggle means of travel. Harry groaned. "We're going to have to get the books done soon or we're going to end up re-making the potion."
"Tomorrow?" Luna suggested. "First thing in the morning."
"You haven't heard from your Aunt yet, have you?" Neville asked waving vaguely at the rune marks he, Harry, Blaise and Draco had.
Blaise shook his head.
"Gran said she'd send mum's school trunk as soon as she got round to finding it in the attic" Neville sighed. "Malfoy, you have any clue--"
"No. I can't begin to fathom--" Draco began sneeringly.
"I know they were friends. Snape said as much. Mum, your mum, Neville, Blaise's Aunt and Draco's mum. When I brewed the potion myself he said that." Harry cut off Draco, not wanting another of Draco's rants set off. "My Aunt Petunia gave me mum's trunk but I haven't gotten a chance to look in it yet. Tonight maybe."
Blaise said something about his Aunt, but Harry didn't hear as he hissed, pressing the ball of his palm against his scar at a sudden eruption of pain.
"Harry, mate?" Seamus asked worriedly, scooting a bit closer to Harry on the sofa the two of them were seated on, putting his hand on Harry's shoulder and massaging lightly in an effort to comfort. "Shut up, Zabini," Seamus grumbled. He didn't take his eyes off Harry, but he knew the Slytherin was smirking at them.
"Potter?" Draco frowned. "What's wrong with him, Finnegan? Longbottom?" Harry's eyes glazed over completely and he began to shudder violently.
"Vision," Neville murmured, sickly.
Harry began screaming. His scar darkened in color and finally began to bleed.
The large room was mostly empty. One end was almost completely cloaked in shadows, with only the flicker of a lit fire breaking the darkness. The other end of the room was brighter with spelled lanterns but shadows still claimed the edges of it. Three stood forward in black robes, hoods down. Another three or four watched from the shadows.
"Bellatrix, did you learn where the crystal is?" An eerie, mesmerizing voice demanded from the heavy shadows not far from the fireplace. The owner of the voice seated in a large stuffed chair giving the impression of a thrown.
"No, my lord," Bellatrix LeStrange answered in a frightened and hesitant tone.
"But ... my lord, the crystal is only a myth..." a man next to Bellatrix tried to plead.
"CRUCIO!!! Failure will not be tolerated!" Voldemort raged. "I need that crystal! FRIGIS OSSIS!! CRUCIO!! I MUST HAVE THAT CRYSTAL!!"
Curse after curse rained down on the handful of Death Eaters present, each more vicious than the last.
"Harry--Harry?" Seamus said worriedly.
Harry slowly eased his way out of the haze of pain left from the vision. "Shut up, Zabini," he muttered, realizing he was, of all places, on Seamus' lap. The Irish boy was all but cuddling him. Evidently, enough time had passed that Millie cleaned up and was back, her hair still wet from her bath. He wanted to crawl in a hole and just die with all of them staring at him with mixed expressions of concern and horror as they were.
"You'll be fine, then," Blaise managed shakily. He had needled the two of them incessantly the past few days. If either had gotten truly upset he'd have left well enough alone, but both had a fairly thick hide and could take a fair amount of ribbing and from him they both seemed to realize it wasn't done with malice. None of the others had seen anything quite like Harry's horrific vision. Blaise, like the rest, was pale and terrified but if the first thing Harry said was to tell Blaise to shut up at least he would be okay.
"Harry, what was it?" Neville swallowed.
"Bellatrix LeStrange. Her husband, too," Harry gasped out weakly, the aftereffects of the vision-echo of the curses burning along his nerve endings. "Cruciatus. She didn't find out where some crystal was."
"You ... you feel the curses," Tonks stared, horrified and shaken. It was not a question. The answer to that had been obvious by the screams and physical manifestations of the curses Harry had displayed. She had seen a couple of seers struck by visions before, one had moaned and carried on, but Harry had seemed as if he were being tortured before their eyes.
"Some. Echo of them sometimes," Harry swallowed shivering.
"Luna, get a blanket or something for him," Seamus ordered cradling Harry tighter.
"Don't even attempt to say that you're fine. We can finish this in the morning," Blaise glared when Harry tried to extricate himself from Seamus' hold. "Put him to bed, Finnegan."
"Bring up what you do get sorted here before you head to bed, and can y' cast a light-weight charm on him?"
"He still has a functioning brain." Harry muttered darkly, still weak and shaky, in fact too weak and shaky yet to hex Luna as she tucked a blanket around him fussily. Or hex Zabini for being ... Zabini.
"You're outnumbered. Seamus is taking you to bed." Millie snorted. "Blaise can handle sorting most of this." She cast the light-weight charm. "Put him to bed, Finnegan, and stay with him."
"Mum raised me never to argue with a lady." Seamus offered with a weak grin.
Draco snorted. "Especially not a lady who could beat you up."
Millie gave Draco a dark look. "You want to make a trip to Madam Pomfrey to have her fix your broken nose?"
Aisling Morrigan looked at the letter again. What should she write? How could she possibly answer her nephew's questions in a letter?
The owl flew in the open window. Aisling chuckled at the glaring bird; it had much the same demeanor as its master. On first sight, it was the most bland non-descript owl that could have come from any post office, such a plain bird was an unlikely pick for a personal owl. The bird's cranky personality however made it a perfect match for its owner.
The handwriting was not familiar but the words rang true. It was not out of character for that suspicious pain in the arse to disguise his writing.
What did you and those other three twits do, Blasted Menace?
There was no help for it. She had to speak with Blaise and Severus both, which meant leaving her sanctuary, something she almost never did, and then only to visit small groups of her family. Lily had granted her sanctuary on the Isle of Shadows years before; the isolated magical island had offered Aisling the isolation to keep her sanity in the face of her rare gift that was more curse than blessing.
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