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Chapter Thirty-One: Decisions and Motivations

Minerva McGonagall gave a small gasp at the group of apprentices when they entered the staff room for breakfast early the next morning. The stony faced group could not have appeared more hostile had they drawn their wands and taken dueling stances.

Harry, gracious what on earth had gotten into the boy? she wondered. She could only stare in worry and disbelief as he coldly informed Albus that the young Parkinson sisters were being tended by his newly acquired house-elves, Dobby and Winky.

"My dear boy, you must see reason. Draco, Pansy, all three of you must surely see that Molly--"

"With all due respect, Headmaster, there is no way I'd trust Mrs. Weasley with a cat just now with her prejudices." Neville was the one who spoke up. "She will do little but badmouth Pansy, their parents, and basically everything they have been familiar with in their lives thus far. The girls need to be with Pansy."

"Harry, you at least must see reason--"

"About what?" Harry snorted. "Mrs. Weasley has attacked me the last two times I've seen her--for my hair, which was grown out to acknowledge the traditions important to Malfoy and Pansy, for the runes from the protection spells my mother put on me, and for the Prophet's latest round of codswallop. I agree, Mrs. Weasley isn't fit to take care of two little girls who have been so badly traumatized. Not with her mindset on the situation."

"At least reconsider--"

"Don't," Harry cut him off, already sure what Dumbledore's next topic would be. "That portkey was to take us to the Apprentice's Tower. NOT your office. I will chose my own solicitor--one that knows the meaning of attorney client privilege, not someone you fob off on me that is so completely under your thumb that I am basically turning all my properties over to you to do what you will with. I do not trust you. If you keep on as you are, I will never trust you again, and you won't have the safety of Hogwarts protecting you any longer--quite honestly, you'll be out on your arse if I have to close the bloody school to do it."

"Albus, you didn't!" Minerva gasped.

"Of course, he did. Bloody do-gooder Potter wouldn't be in such a snit if he didn't," Draco sneered.

"Mister Malfoy this doesn't concern you. Minerva, if you would be good enough not to interfere," Dumbledore said threateningly, his eyes locked with Harry. "You do not know what you are doing. . .You must. . ."

"Like HELL I must do anything but the accepted course of study of Apprenticeship, and Professor Snape has control of the when and what of that."

"You do not know--"

"Right, I don't know, and evidently I'm not supposed to know. Why isn't your arse out there? You talk all this rot of destiny and knowing what is for the best while sitting in your cozy little office with your sherbet lemons!"

"I must demand the wards back--"

"Impossible. We hold the wards. We're bound to the castle and she to us. You can't separate the wards from the binding, since I was holding the wards when you FORCED US TO BIND WITH HOGWARTS and NEARLY KILLED US ALL IN THE PROCESS."

"He is correct, It is impossible for the wards to be forcibly taken from those bound to the Castle," Binns spoke up.

Dumbledore glared at Harry, "You have to trust me. . ."

"I don't, and you've proven time and time again that it is hazardous to my health to trust you," Harry said shortly. "Blaise's uncle is arriving this evening. He's staying for a week to help with the Parkinson Estate and the Malfoy Estate; the solicitor you picked for Draco has already been dismissed. The Heads of the Morrigan and O'Malley families, as well as Mrs. Longbottom and Mr. Lovegood, have been owled that we've chosen Tynan Morrigan as legal representative for all of us. Any other solicitor contacting them about us is to be reported to the Ministry as fraudulent. Owls have gone off to the Ministry and Gringott's officially noting that Mr. Morrigan is our attorney, and any inquiries from either the Ministry or the Goblins is to be directed to him and only him. Never you."

"We will discuss this again when you are in a frame of mind to be more reasonable," Dumbledore said firmly.

Harry clenched his teeth, but Seamus' hand on his shoulder kept his tongue in check. There was no point in continuing the conversation; it would simply turn into a screaming match, and Merlin only knew what Dumbledore would then decide was for the best to get his little tool back on the proper path.

"Have you had your breakfast?" McGonagall asked, changing the subject. "The staff is nearly done. . ."

"We've eaten," Neville answered.

"Then report to your supervisor's classrooms."

"Yes, Professor," they chorused.

"Open this blasted door, Morrigan!" Snape shouted. He really had little other recourse other than to kick said 'blasted door'; he couldn't knock, after all. Thankfully, Morrigan had been put in the dungeon and there was no one about to witness the Potions Master shouting at his old classmate's chamber door.

With a sigh, Aisling stood and went to let her friend in. The conversation could be put off no longer, and she felt she had enough of her wits this morning to deal with the questions Severus would undoubtedly have. At least, as much as she was going to. She needed to get back to the Isle, safely within the wards that Lily, Narcissa and Alice had woven to provide as much anchor and shielding as they could. Wards which would begin to deteriorate further now that Narcissa was gone. But she had some time yet; hopefully enough time. There were pensieves, several filled with visions, and even more lined up waiting to be used. They helped some, but not enough.

Between the pensieves and the journals she'd kept over the years, which would be passed to Blaise, hopefully enough would be explained when the time came.

"Good Morning, Severus, have you had breakfast yet?"

"Yes," he bit out, not at all in the mood to be reminded he'd had to suffer through being fed by the blasted werewolf that had taken up residence in his chambers. Then he watched with narrowed eyes as Aisling fixed herself a cup of strong tea as well as her morning mixture of potions.

"That is a dangerous mixture--in that dosage."

Aisling merely nodded. He didn't need to elaborate what he meant. She knew he was referring to the high doses of Clarifying Potion and Calming Potion.

"You're addicted." It wasn't a question, nor was it quite an accusation.

"In the manner that I cannot function without them, yes. I'm an Aura Seer, Severus," Aisling sighed.

"That much?"

"If I hadn't had Lily, Alice and Cissa anchoring me with the Allegiance Bond we made, I would at best be drooling across the hall from Alice and Frank."

Severus demanded, "Why?"

"We--we couldn't stop you from taking the Mark. Too many lives depended on it. It was Easter Hols of our fourth year. You were twelve bloody years old, Severus. Lily knew, but Alice and Cissa didn't; Lily asked them not to ask, so they didn't. Merlin, Sev, you were a baby yet. We couldn't. . . We couldn't risk you knowing. The bond prevented us from betraying it and endangering the other three, but if you had known you wouldn't have had that geis. How do you tell a twelve year old that sorry, you can't be included because you have to take the Dark Mark in order for all this to go so there's the best chance everything isn't lost? Your own life depended on you not knowing. Sev, please, believe me."

Severus clenched his jaw and walked to the window.

"You're our little brother, Sev, we loved you. Gods, we were fourteen. We did the best we could."

Aisling downed her potions in a hurried gulp and went to him.

"Tell me what you saw in the tower the night you arrived."


"Why not?" he demanded icily, pointedly staring out the window and not looking at her.

"Your not out of his reach yet, Sev, I won't risk you and the boys."

"Morrigan," he hissed in a soft deadly tone.

"The spells don't work anymore, Sev. Tynan's already been instructed to bring the bulk of my things to you. They're mostly for Blaise, but some for all of them and you."

Severus swallowed. She was referring to the series of spells that he and Lily had unearthed his second year, only a couple of months after the group of hellions had 'adopted' him. They were ancient magics, found in the restricted section after hours with the aid of an Invisibility Potion to keep them from getting caught by Filch. The spells were almost forgotten and possibly far enough on the edge to be classified as dark. When cast upon oneself they could stop visions, or at least block many of them, but if miscast could cause madness at best or more likely a slow and excruciating death.

"How long?" he demanded.

"I haven't dared cast them in nearly four years," Aisling answered quietly. "I nearly killed myself the last time."

He let out a deep ragged breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. Then he stiffened momentarily at the hand she laid on his back. They had never cared how little he liked to be touched. They'd always petted and hugged and treated him. . .like their little brother.

"You still have Remus--" she began.

He spun and glared down at her.

"Oh bloody hell, are you still being a stubborn git? He's your soul mate. Stubborn, stubborn bastard! Why toss aside what happiness you can have because James Potter and Sirius Black were a pair of arses twenty years ago! He told you! Lily told you! I told you! Hell, even James told you that Remus didn't know anything, he wasn't in on it. Sev, he was just a boy, and he was put in as much danger as you. What would have happened to him if Sirius' prank had gone the way he wanted? Sirius was too much of a reckless idiot to have thought that far, and you are such a blind bitter fool you refuse to see it."

"It's too late."

Aisling stood toe to toe with Severus and glared right back up at him. "You're both still breathing, aren't you? There are spells and potions, Merlin knows you know that, to make everything work if that's the problem--"

Severus clenched his fists. His pale face flushed a violent and very unbecoming red as he glared down at her. "Mor-ri-gan," he drawled out, in a tone that would have made even Dumbledore think twice.

"Sev-ver-rus," she mocked, not even flinching in reaction to the waves of anger that poured off of Severus. It was the tangle of other emotions below the blood red fury she saw around him that she was concentrating on. Severus was far too stubborn for his own good. The only way to get anything through his thick skull was to beat it in.

"My personal life is none of your concern," he bit out.

"What personal life? I don't think your right hand is going to protest too much if you actually get one," she shot back. "Damnitall, Sev, you have a chance at some happiness. Go for it, you damned coward." Then she added softly, "I don't want you alone. You deserve more than that. For me, try? Please."

He glared.

"Please, Sev, just try. I can't bear the thought of you all alone. Lily and Cissa are gone, and Merlin knows it would be better if Alice hadn't survived. I don't have much time, I know it. I've gotten to see our boys mostly grown, though. And all of them together as they should be. And their Uncle Sev--"

"Merlin, you're insane," he snorted

"Watching out for them," she continued.

"Raving bloody lunatic," he muttered.

"Shut up and listen!"

"Continue with the sentimental drivel by all means," he snarled.

She could count herself lucky his hands were still in such bad shape; he might have strangled her, otherwise, when she laughed at that. "At least consider it, for my sake," she said.

With all the enthusiasm of a condemned man headed for the gallows, he reluctantly agreed. "I'll consider it, nothing more than that."

She beamed as if he'd announced he would propose to the wolf within the hour.

He glanced around the room. "You're leaving?"

"The kids have asked the castle to block what it can, but there's just too much here. Too many people, too much. I have to."

He nodded slowly with a scowl.

"Sev, you have a future," she said softly.

He wasn't sure if he liked the implication that he would survive the war with Voldemort. Death had loomed over his shoulder for more than two decades--he was honestly surprised he had lived as long as he had. His life thus far made the prospect of a 'future' more daunting than reassuring.

"Don't waste it, Sev."

He snorted and reluctantly accepted the hug she seemed determined to give him.

"Potter will be showing up any time."

Aisling laughed and kissed his cheek. "I'll floo you when I arrive home so you needn't worry. Have a care with yourself, little brother. More people do care about you than you might think."

He snorted again and stubbornly insisted, "I'll do what I must."

"In other words, you'll run yourself into the ground and be a right miserable bastard about it unless someone has stones enough to force you to take a break," she smirked.

"Morrigan," he said tightly.

Aisling smiled. A smile which grew wider when she hugged him and he allowed it. "I have to get finished packing and leave while the potions are still at their most effective. You have a student due soon. I'll floo you. "

"What do you think, Penny?" Percy Weasley asked his wife.

Penelope Clearwater Weasley looked at the offer on Hogwarts stationary. "It's safer at Hogwarts than it is here."

Percy nodded, swallowing. "I'll put in my notice today."

Penelope gave an inward sigh of relief. She knew it had to be hard for Percy to do that when his career had taken off so wonderfully in the last year, but it was the truth. Hogwarts would be safer, and she was terrified.

"Bloody hell! I've got to get out of here!" George Weasley paced back and forth in Hermione's room, where he, Fred, Ginny and Hermione had retreated.

"You're not the only one!" Ginny glared. She had had another blow up with Dean first thing that morning.

"Yeah, well, what are we going to do?" Fred asked his twin.

"Send a note you're going to take Dumbledore up on his offer on Monday when Fawkes shows up."

"Offer?" Hermione frowned at Fred.

"Mum said Dumbledore will take us back into school, repeat seventh year." Fred answered.

George nodded. The code they'd developed to hide their formulas and the majority of their plans from their mother was known to exactly two living people, the two of them. They'd made a Wizard's pact to never tell it either. It was as safe a form of communication as any and no one would think much of them sending nonsense in the middle of their post back and forth.

"Here, Kingsley, have your tea."

"Thank you, dear," he smiled at his wife. The headaches and foggy memory were getting worse by the day, it seemed.

"Imperio," was whispered softly behind him. He didn't hear the curse as the drugged tea took effect.

Kingsley was given his orders for the day and sent off to work through the floo.

Antonia LeStrange Black gave a sigh of relief as the Polyjuice wore off. "Good Morning, Bella," she smiled at her sister in law.


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