Chapter Twenty-Seven: Early Morning Musings
Harry groaned and reluctantly opened his eyes. "What happened?" he asked the dark figure looming over him as he struggled to focus through the overwhelming headache.
"I have no idea. What did you do, Potter?" Severus asked sharply.
"Me? I didn't do anything," Harry snapped back.
"Anyone get the license of that truck?" Seamus groaned, sitting up.
Harry looked around. Tonks had her eyes open and was conscious but obviously not willing to move and sit up yet. Neville was up. Draco and Pansy were both still on the far sofa. Luna and Blaise were tangled on the floor. Millie was still struggling with Pansy's little sisters. "It's over. Its okay, Millie," Harry said.
"You know that how?" Severus demanded.
"I don't know, but I do." Harry answered.
The three little girls made a run for their sister.
Harry winced in sympathy at Draco's yelp of pain as two-year-old Patience scrambled across his lap to get to her sister.
"Any of you have any idea what happened?" Luna demanded weakly as she looked beyond Severus, Remus and Blaise's shaken Aunt. "Blaise, get off." She shoved at the dazed Slytherin.
Blaise groaned and sat up, dizzy, nauseous and eyes slightly unfocused.
"Hogwarts claimed her Heir." The Baron frowned, his explanation met with blank confusion. "An Heir of the Founders can bond with the castle. The Heir has to initiate the Bond, though..."
"What did you do, Potter?" Severus demanded again.
"I didn't bloody do anything!"
"Severus, Harry," Remus said warningly to both. "Baron, how does the Heir initiate the bonding? And what other specifics are there?"
"The Heir needs to touch the wards on one of five specific birthdays: sixteenth, twenty-first, twenty-fifth, thirtieth or thirty-fifth."
Realization crossed the features of the Apprentices, Remus and Snape.
"I am going to kill Dumbledore! He bloody knew!" Harry growled in a deadly tone.
"You may have what's left when I'm done with him," Severus snarled.
"The Alliance Bond pulled it to the other three..." Remus frowned. "That makes sense."
"Especially when one of the three bonded to The Heir of Slytherin is the Heir of Godric Gryffindor." Harry groaned. "But Seamus, Luna, and Tonks shouldn't have gotten pulled in. Pansy almost makes sense...she's magically bound to Draco through their marriage contract."
"Unless the castle decided since I got my wife, you three did too. They were the ones that reached you first and touched you while the bond was forming." Draco reasoned with a bit of vicious humor.
"I am going to kill the next person who decides to do something for my own good." Harry muttered darkly.
"This shouldn't have happened, it shouldn't be possible..." the Gray Lady frowned.
"It's Potter, Longbottom, and Malfoy." Severus muttered.
Remus nodded his agreement weakly.
Harry lay awake as the first streaks of dawn began to brighten the night sky. He had finally gotten to bed little more than an hour before. Despite the fact he had been up for nearly 24 hours, sleep was elusive.
The nightmares of Sirius, which had kept him awake the better part of most nights at the Dursleys, had not been present since his arrival at Hogwarts but the chaos that had taken over his life in the weeks since had hardly been a preferable replacement. He didn't think he'd actually slept so much as passed out cold for a few hours since he'd become an Apprentice.
He wanted to...something. Go flying until he was too tired to hang onto a broom, hex everything in sight into tiny pieces, something. Anything.
He hadn't missed the vagaries of the explanation on what the rune tattoos were. He knew Snape hadn't either. He sincerely doubted that fact had slipped by Remus, Draco, or Blaise. Seamus and Neville... well, they surprised a person sometimes. Seamus with his boisterousness actually noticed a lot more than one would expect, and underestimating Neville was a habit that Harry was trying to break.
After the whole debacle of the bonding with Hogwarts, the eight of them now bonded to the castle could all feel she/its regret. Hogwarts was indeed an almost sentient being. Almost was the key word, though. The castle might sense emotion, even intent, but rationalization was beyond the ancient stone building. An Heir touching the wards on the correct birthday was intent to Hogwarts. An Heir holding the wards on the correct birthday was strong intent, and Harry hadn't had the knowledge of how to make it known to the castle that it was not intent but simple necessity.
Dumbledore had betrayed him again with his manipulations. Dumbledore had bloody well known.
The ghosts had been able to tell them some things about the Heir-bond with Hogwarts, but that still hadn't been enough. They knew little more than that they were effectively stuck at Hogwarts for the rest of their lives and possibly longer as ghosts. Oh, they could leave for a bit, up to a fortnight--perhaps eventually, once the bond was long settled, as much as a month. For all practical purposes, they were stuck at Hogwarts for life...and possibly forever. Lady Ygraine and the Fat Friar were both still at Hogwarts, after all, and they had once been bonded Heirs.
Rage boiled up. Dumbledore HAD KNOWN! Why had he done this to him? He was sick to death of the games played with his life by Dumbledore. Happy fucking birthday. Another manipulation. Another betrayal.
He tried to force his thoughts into another direction. If he thought about this too much longer, he would start screaming, breaking things, crying, or something. Seamus was asleep across the room and Harry didn't want to wake him. Another performance of near insanity by the Boy Who Lived--no, he couldn't do that to Seamus. Could not stand risking worry or pity or even worse, fear, in another friend's eyes.
He had at least learned a little about the Isle of Shadows. To Harry's Muggle raised thinking it sounded like an endangered species game preserve. There was a 'clan' of Vampires, a few handsful of dragons, and some creatures that Aisling could not identify - she said she had not the slightest idea of where to even begin to research about them. The Gentry Family had been guardians of the Isle and its strange creatures since the days of Merlin; some thought that the island was possibly a remaining piece of Atlantis, or perhaps the unknown creatures there had once been residents of Atlantis.
Harry could not care less about the supposed mythology. The fact was that rare plants and beasts dwelled there that were potentially dangerous, or extremely useful and powerful in potions and spells. If the Gentry line ever ended, the Ministry could make a play for control of the Island. That would be an unequivocal disaster. A Gentry Heir was an absolute necessity to prevent that. At least he had technical heirs in Tonks, her nephews, and even Dudley for the Gentry line until, or if, he ever had a child of his own.
A child which would be tied to Malfoy's kid, Blaise's kid and Neville's kid, and then their children, and so on. That was too much to contemplate just now.
His mother's actions years before he was born were still disturbing him. Not so long ago he could have seen Ron, Hermione and himself taking some sort of similar measure if they were convinced that was the best and possibly only option to protect their families in the future. He wasn't mad about the spell work - that wasn't the problem. He was completely furious that Aisling Morrigan hadn't bothered to tell him, Neville and Blaise!
Blaise was her responsibility to tell already. Harry's mother was dead and Neville's was out of her mind; they had no one else to tell them, since there was simply no way post from Narcissa Malfoy would have gotten to either of them. Not with Neville's overprotective grandmother hovering over him and Dumbledore's wards on the Dursleys. Then again, had Morrigan tried and Dumbledore managed to prevent that as well? Mrs. Longbottom would not have let anything unusual near Neville, and a letter that came unexpectedly from her mad daughter-in-law's strange recluse friend who had been in Slytherin house would be considered unusual and destroyed unopened. Dumbledore had a way of letting nothing near Harry that he did not want.
Keep Harry ignorant. Keep him distracted. Let the good little puppet come out and take care of his problems when it was time. Everything seemed to come back to Dumbledore one way or another.
Dumbledore had realized what was going on with the Chamber of Secrets. He could have sorted out how and destroyed the diary. He could have! After the contact Harry had been forced to have with the wards of Hogwarts, and now forever tying him to Hogwarts, he knew there was simply no way Dumbledore wouldn't have been able to pinpoint something very, very wrong with Quirrel, if not twig on that Voldemort possessed him. The castle recognized magical signatures...
The bastard had let them go fight Voldemort. Three little first years. Snape had gotten there in time... Snape and Dumbledore. Which implied that Dumbledore was simply letting him face off and see where his little puppet stood against Voldemort? The whole Goblet of Fire thing. Dumbledore certainly could have played that differently. The castle was like the Marauder's map, in a way. It couldn't be fooled. He could have found out who had put Harry's name in the goblet. Crouch would have been exposed that much sooner and Voldemort possibly would not have been resurrected. The castle might not have been able to tell him directly but certainly, he would have gotten enough to do something. Investigate? Actually make a stand rather than offer platitudes and nonsense?
What had Dumbledore actually done? Oh, he had protected Harry last year with the DA. But why? To reinforce his heroic mentor status? A move to keep Harry following blindly?
That wasn't fair, not completely, Harry knew that. He did not doubt Dumbledore's intent really...in as much the crafty old bastard wanted Voldemort defeated and the Wizarding World at peace. Dumbledore's actions toward reaching that goal were another thing entirely.
Seamus stirred in the other bed and groaned.
Harry looked over worriedly. He wasn't the only one with nightmares. The black eye Seamus had given him when they had fell asleep down in Snape's chambers was proof of that. Seamus had been fighting and struggling in his sleep.
Another soft groan had embarrassed color rising on Harry's cheeks. No ... Seamus wasn't having a nightmare. Harry reached for his wand, intending to close Seamus' bed curtains and toss up a silencing charm, but he stilled at the name Seamus moaned and then darted from the room as quickly and silently as he could. He absolutely could not deal with that now, not on top of everything else.
"What are you running from, Potter?"
Harry squinted into the shadows of the tower common room. "Malfoy? Why are you here?"
"I asked you first, and does it really matter?"
Harry shook his head and plopped on the sofa across from Draco.
"What? Expect a nice little chat?"
Harry ignored the baiting tone. "Couldn't sleep. Didn't want to wake Seamus." Or deal with Seamus' dream, he added silently.
"Since the rest of them will jump off the highest tower of the castle if you tell them to--what are we doing about this?" Draco asked scathingly, a long while later.
"I didn't ask for this any more than you did, Malfoy." Harry snapped, not taking his eyes from the window and the sunrise.
Draco glared a moment then asked again in a tight, quiet voice. "At least you're stuck with friends, not enemies."
"No one here is your enemy, Malfoy, not anymore. We're stuck for life; we've all got to find a way to tolerate each other, at least," Harry snapped. He was too tired, too confused. "I don't have the answers. I don't even understand what exactly they did yet, though everyone else does."
"What is there to understand? It's an Alliance Binding hereditary through the First Born line, primarily based on Fealty and Allegiance."
"I get that much, Malfoy, that we're basically stuck being the Four Musketeers..."
Harry groaned. "Muggle expression. Never mind. I get that whatever they did means any magically binding contract we all have to okay, and we're all now stuck here for life...I love Hogwarts. But a choice would have been good...if it had been just me, I probably would have done it if the explanations were good enough. But what happened..."
"That's the basic gist of a normal Alliance Bond..."
"But." Harry snorted.
"Yes, but." Draco agreed. "You don't believe she's telling everything."
"Blaise's Aunt?" Harry frowned thoughtfully. "I think she's told us what she's going to. She did promise to explain to Blaise in private what all the spells she put on him were. He'll tell us which ones we need to know. It's just, what did our mothers and Neville's do? Two dead women and a madwoman aren't so easy to ask."
Draco flinched at the last words. "True. But unless they did something truly strange, you've the Alliance bond sorted well enough."
"Morning Harry, Malfoy," Neville said softly, entering the common room.
"You don't have to whisper." Draco snorted rolling his eyes.
"Morning, Neville, couldn't sleep either?"
"No." the other boy shook his head. The three sat lost in their own thoughts for a long while then Neville asked, "What are we going to do about Dumbledore?"
"I don't know," Harry shrugged fatalistically. "I know what I want to do."
"String him up from the Quidditch Goal posts?" Neville suggested.
"Feed him to something of Hagrid's?" Draco snorted.
"For starters." Harry agreed vindictively.
"So you are going to consider still standing with Dumbledore?" Draco sneered.
"We stand, as you put it, against Voldemort." Harry snapped.
"Which means as long as there's Voldemort, we have to put up with Dumbledore," Neville said bitterly. He didn't see an alternative any more than Harry did.
Draco simply glared out the window, lost in thought.
"Are the little ones okay?" Neville attempted to break the silence after awhile.
Draco shrugged. "Not really,"
"Tonks' mum should be back with --well, you know anything about the funeral arrangements?"
"Burying her on the Parkinson estate, I think." Draco shrugged. "Potter, remind me to ask Severus about sleeping potions for Patience and Persephone."
"I'll try," Harry snorted. "It's not like I haven't anything else on my mind."
"Fuck you, Potter--"
"Malfoy, I'm just tired. I didn't mean it the way it came out. I'll try, but I doubt I'm much good for reminding you."
"Quit fussing, wolf!"
"Stubborn git," Remus snorted, ignoring the continued complaints, and gently prodded the grumbling Severus into the tub.
"I can manage," he protested, knowing full well he couldn't, not with his hands still in the condition they were. Every fiber of his being rebelled at not being able to feed or bathe himself. Relying on anyone was anathema to the stubborn Potions master. Severus had to admit, however, that the wolf and the brats were surprisingly less annoying than they could have been, and certainly preferable to Pomfrey or a stay in St. Mungo's.
"No, you can't," Remus glared. "I'm not going to--for Merlin's sake, Severus, I won't--"
"I hate this."
"Of course you do," Remus agreed mildly as he slid into the massive tub Seamus had managed to have created in Severus' bathroom. "Say what you will, Severus, but they did you a favor with this tub." Remus grinned and added the potions to the water before starting it churning.
Severus groaned softly in appreciation as the warm water and potions began to do their work on his assorted wounds.
"Want to get cleaned up first or just soak?"
Remus nodded and slipped under the water himself, wetting his hair.
"Must you cavort?"
Remus snorted. "For Merlin's sake--" He merely shook his head and set to cleaning himself while Severus glared.
"Lupin," Severus snapped.
"The boys will be down to take care of the next stage of the Wolfsbane before too much longer. Albus will be back this afternoon, as well as most of the returning staff. And there's still Karkaroff to deal with."
Remus flinched at the anxiousness in Severus' tone. "Yes, Igor Karkaroff. He's here, in Hogwarts has been since the night Regis Isle was attacked. He's been locked in one of the south tower rooms with House Elves feeding him. You were a much higher priority. None here knew where the Veritaserum was or had enough experience with the side effects to administer it."
"Veritaserum is a controlled substance, one does not simply have it lying around."
"Severus, as useful as that potion is, do not try to convince me you have less than a score or two of doses stashed away somewhere here. I've known you since I was eleven. You won't convince me otherwise."
"Igor's safe though? Unharmed?" Severus demanded.
"He's fine as far as I know. Unhappy about being relegated to default prisoner because no one could deal with him, but physically fine." Remus said sadly.
"Why do you sound so upset over that?" Severus sneered hostilely.
"You obviously care a great deal for him...I won't make trouble for you but you can't expect me to be happy at watching you with another."
Severus' jaw dropped. "Not that again!"
"That hasn't changed since I was thirteen and won't change, ever. You know that...Just forget it. Let me get your hair washed."
Severus silently tolerated Lupin's ministrations. His hair was washed with a thorough gentleness, then the rest of him was cleaned in the same manner. As much as Severus could have gladly whiled away an hour or more in the warm churning water, Lupin was right that the next stage of the Wolfsbane needed attending to shortly.
Dried, trousers, socks and shoes on, Severus waited as Lupin quickly dried and dressed himself. "The boys left the salve for your back."
Severus nodded. "Get it done then."
"Hard to believe--Never mind," Lupin began a while later as he applied salve to the last of the lash marks.
"What, Lupin?" Severus demanded, irritated at his own helplessness and Lupin's dredging up of that subject again after all these years.
"Why a whip?"
"Voldemort's paranoia has increased since the Department of Mysteries. He has the place where he summons his Death Eaters warded against use of magic, and he himself sits just outside the warded area. Besides, Avery, MacNair, and Goyle have never been known for anything but brutality. Complex spells are beyond those imbeciles."
"So he sends you back a bloodied mess? And expects that you won't create suspicion by your condition?"
Severus snorted. "He's a delusional psychotic. He doesn't have to make sense. Merely be obeyed."
"Severus, you will wear this robe and that's it. No shirt, no jacket with ninety buttons."
"It's best on your back," Remus pointed out. He received a glare in reply and couldn't resist grinning. "You're cute when you pout."
"When I am able to hold a wand again I will hex you into oblivion, wolf."
Remus ignored that. "I can summon Dobby and see where Igor is being held if--give you a chance to see him alone before the boys get here."
"Lupin, you are a melodramatic idiot."
"I do not want to hear that rot about my being your mate again..."
Remus glared. "It is not rot. It is not a joke. It is not a prank. It is not some plan of Sirius' and James' to embarrass you. It is the damned truth, Severus."
"Lupin, I was eleven years old the first time you came up with that. Then you stood by and let Black and Potter--"
"I didn't realize you were younger then. And you rejected me so completely, all I had left was them. They were the only friends I had. The only people that accepted what I was."
"Some bloody friends, one was going to use you to kill me!"
"I didn't know! I tried talking to you!"
"Dumbledore--" Severus growled.
The Headmaster's name stopped the old argument cold as it brought more recent events to the forefront of their minds.
"Dumbledore," Remus muttered darkly.
"You will have yourself under control or you will not go near him, Wolf," Severus glared. "That obnoxious brat will truly go mad if he loses you due to your being executed for strangling Dumbledore."
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