Chapter Thirty-Two: Of Headmasters and Headaches
Harry sighed as he entered the Apprentices' common room late that evening. Snape had been in a mood all day, and now the others all seemed to be waiting for him with an array of expressions on their faces that could simply be summed up as not good.
"What now?" he asked.
"I got an owl from Uncle Ty; Dumbledore banned him from coming to Hogwarts," Blaise answered.
Harry's eyes narrowed furiously. He had had enough of this. "What is he playing at? Where's Dumbledore? Luna, does the castle know?"
"Phoenix ... Black ... ?" Luna frowned.
"I know where he's at then," Harry groaned.
"Hogwarts says she can send two of us."
"Neville?" Harry glanced at the other boy, who nodded.
"Why Longbottom?" Draco demanded.
"Because Neville's going will cause less protest than any one else," Harry snapped, then turned to Blaise. "Have your uncle apparate to the gates. You, Seamus, Millie and Draco all go down. Make sure he is who he is supposed to be--that includes a full hour and ten minutes in a body bind to make sure that he isn't someone Polyjuiced. Understood?"
"Malfoy, you Finite Incantatem him good if he's proven not to be Polyjuiced; use any revealing spell you can think of, including the glamoris purgis. Got that?" Harry demanded.
"Why me?" Draco frowned.
"Because you're the one who has been drilled in Dark magic since birth here, I figure you'll know the counter-curses better than any of the rest of us." Harry sighed.
Draco's eyes narrowed and angry color rose to his cheeks.
"Oh bloody hell, Malfoy, that was a compliment, you idiot! Have Snape present so he can think of anything you might have missed. If he could hold a wand, I'd say have him do it."
"And if it is Polyjuice or a glamour?" Pansy wanted to know.
"Veritaserum. Have at least three dicto-quills writing on truth-spelled parchment to get the interrogation copied down word for word in triplicate. Have Snape help with that, too. Then we have to decide if we find some way to keep them locked up until the war is over, or..." Harry swallowed and struggled to form the words, "kill who ever it is and leave the body for the acromantulas in the forest ... or we turn them over to the Ministry." Harry said barely able to force the words out. "Let's hope it's Blaise's uncle and we just look like a bunch of little children scared of our own shadows. Luna, you go tell Snape what's going on. And he's going to disapprove and argue all through it."
"And Snape will go along with it just like that?" Millie frowned.
"This he will, because it's his arse, too," Harry snapped. "And getting to watch an Inquisition might put the git in a better mood."
Draco nodded slowly. "Didn't think you had it in you, Potter. Since when does Dumbledore's Perfect Little Gryffindor consider killing anyone?"
"I don't have a choice, do I?" Harry glared back. "We turn a Death Eater over to the Ministry after we've interrogated them, we'll be arrested for illegal administration of Veritaserum at best. And I'd much rather keep them locked up somehow and then turn them over to the Ministry after this is all over. How do we explain not turning them over now? Especially if Fudge, or someone even worse than he is, is in charge?"
"Harry, calm down a bit. Right now it's just maybes. You've got a point, and we'll have to sort something out, but if you go popping into wherever Dumbledore is and making a scene, you'll just make things worse." Seamus said.
"Finnegan should go with you. He can keep you calm better than Longbottom." Draco announced.
"I'd feel better with Seamus along." Neville said quietly. The idea of being left as likely the only one to calm down Harry if he lost his temper was unsettling.
"Finnegan goes," Blaise agreed. "Three to one, Potter, we outvoted you."
"Can Hogwarts manage the three of us being sent?" Harry looked at Luna, not arguing that proclamation.
Luna got a bit glassy-eyed for a moment, then nodded. "She can do it."
"Hogwarts, give the wards to Luna for now while I'm gone?" Harry said, then almost sighed as he felt the oppressive presence of the wards leave him. He'd get them back soon enough. Hogwarts seemed to prefer him or Neville holding the wards, though Luna was closing in as a favored alternate to one of the Heirs.
Harry had his wand drawn and nearly reflexively cast the shielding spell as several stunning spells were shot in their direction.
"It's us, Moody." Harry called out, catching sight of the grizzled auror who was the most likely to be able to quickly verify who they were.
"Well, you two I know," Moody frowned as his fake eye whirled up and down, studying Seamus after giving Harry and Neville a once over and deciding they were themselves.
"This is Seamus Finnegan."
"Ah, so that's your sweetheart?" Moody cackled.
Harry narrowed his eyes at Moody. Seamus put his hand on the smaller boy's shoulder. "Focus, mate," Seamus said softly.
"Harry, what are you doing here and why have you brought Neville and Seamus? How have you managed--" Minerva McGonagall said sharply, once she recovered from her shock at the boys' arrival
"Hogwarts agreed to help us get here and back," Harry snapped in answer to McGonagall as he glared at Dumbledore. "You know? Hogwarts? The big stone castle you nearly killed us all with by forcing me to bond with it when I had no clue at all, and was already tied to an allegiance bond you had no clue about?"
"Allegiance bond? Who? How?" Moody and Arthur Weasley demanded in near unison. Molly's frown deepened as she stared at the boys disapprovingly.
"It's hereditary down the line of the firstborns. Mum, Alice Longbottom, Narcissa Malfoy and Aisling Morrigan did it," Harry answered, not taking his eyes from the headmaster.
"Harry, this isn't the place--" Dumbledore began.
"Why did you attempt to forbid Tynan Morrigan entrance to Hogwarts? He is our solicitor..."
"Wait a bloody minute, I thought you said Bigsby was Harry's--" Bill Weasley growled in Dumbledore's direction. He had become more and more disturbed by Dumbledore's handling of things from the few brief glances he'd had of the Apprentices and the way his youngest siblings had been packed off so abruptly. Also, Harry had said that Shacklebolt was the one who was compromised, and Dumbledore knew it, yet Shacklebolt had been present for every Order meeting that Bill had attended.
"Mister Potter, am I to understand that you have not agreed to my acting as your solicitor?" Bigsby demanded.
Harry blinked at the solicitor in question. "Exactly. It's nothing against you personally. It has absolutely no reflection on yourself or your skills. I haven't the slightest bloody idea who you are. It's just that I don't trust Dumbledore not to play as fast and loose with my inheritance as he has with my life. Tynan Morrigan, on the other hand, is Blaise Zabini's uncle. Blaise is Aisling Morrigan's gift son and qualifies as her first born, which makes him the fourth of us stuck in this Allegiance Bond and now thanks to Dumbledore, bound to Hogwarts against our will and without our having the slightest bloody clue what was happening. Even Malfoy agreed that the Morrigans were so clannish that if anything they might try could possibly hurt Blaise, they never would consider it in a million years. He's one of their own. Tynan Morrigan, on those credentials, is going to be our solicitor."
Bigsby nodded. "Sound reasoning that should serve you well. I know of young Morrigan's reputation. He's one of the younger ones of the bunch, but a good head on his shoulders by reputation. I will make sure that it is well known that you have a solicitor, a Morrigan kin-bound through your mother, and that any attempts to recruit a solicitor on your behalf are bogus, Mister Potter. I am truly sorry."
"Not your fault," Harry nodded.
"Harry, this is not the time or the place," Dumbledore tried again.
"I've told you how many times now? Ask me. Ask all of us. Don't play games with me. I've had enough of your bloody games. We need to stand together and all you're doing is alienating us." Harry glared, his voice tight and dangerous. Then his attention was distracted by movement out of the corner of his eye.
"PETRIFICUS TOTALIS!" Seamus turned his wand on Kingsley.
Harry pointed his wand at the curtains. A quick shredding spell had them lying in strips on the floor and a horde of irritated doxies zipping about. Neville set to stunning the doxies while Seamus kept his wand trained on the shocked group of Order members. Harry transfigured the shredded curtains into poisonous snakes.
~~Bindsss himsss to hissss chair~~ he hissed at the snakes.
"Potter!" Moody demanded loudly, jumping to his feet, his enchanted glass eye whirling about in his head wildly as it surveyed the room.
"The Order has been compromised and Kingsley Shacklebolt is the traitor. We already knew that, but need to find out if it was willing on his part or not. Snape has already given the accounting of what happened to Voldemort, so Shacklebolt and his wife both are targets for injuring of a Death Eater, even an out of favor one. Tell me what spells to use, Moody--"
"Harry!" Dumbledore shouted.
"No, Albus, let's see what the boys have here," Moody glared. "Old friend, you're not infallible. And sometimes you think you know more than you do. Potter, some of them are delicate spells. They could kill him if you botch it."
"Then you do the spells, and just explain what you're doing," Harry said.
In under ten minutes the Imperius curse on Kingsley was broken and it was, through a spell illegal for anyone but a licenced mediwizard to cast, proven that he had massive amounts of memory-fogging potion and suggestion potion in his bloodstream.
"You would've made a fine auror, Potter, if you weren't bound to the castle," Moody nodded while Mundungus Fletcher and Deadalus Diggle were working on finding the antidotes to the potions in Kingsley's system from the emergency stores that had been heavily stocked by Snape.
"It was what I dreamt of for years. Down the drain now, along with everything else," Harry snorted. "Professor, you are our best chance of keeping as many people alive as we can and getting Voldemort taken care of, but I will not be a pawn. Tynan Morrigan will be allowed entrance to Hogwarts if I have to make a scandal and go to the bloody Prophet and tell them the headmaster of Hogwarts is in violation of the Apprentice Contracts 'because it's all for the best'."
"Well, it is for the best that you boys return to Hogwarts, now." Albus said sternly.
"We'll go. For one simple reason: the assignments given here, need to stay among those here," Neville said quietly, in a chilling voice that was all the more unnerving for the fact it was 'quiet little Neville' that used such a tone. "But no more playing puppet master. We're not putting up with it."
"Harry, get rid of your snakes," Seamus reminded his friend.
Harry did so only a second before they disappeared with a thunderous ~~CRACK~~ which left the Order members a bit stunned and Albus Dumbledore smiling contently to himself. A look that was caught by Moody, McGonagall, and Bigsby.
Tynan Morrigan's head felt as though it would explode from the multitude of spells that had been cast upon him. He was stiff and aching from the uncomfortable position he had been bound in and still had not completely gotten feeling back into his legs even after twenty minutes.
"Sorry, Uncle Ty, it's not that we don't trust you. We just had to be sure that it is really you," Blaise apologized for what had to be the twentieth time.
Tynan tried to reign in his outraged curiosity over what had caused his normally nearly laconic nephew to become such a paranoid person. He was going to find out. If he had to pummel that damned bastard Snape to a pulp to get his answers once they were away from the kids, he would do just that without a second thought. Snape knew much more than he was playing at. Tynan would have believed the sneers and insults directed at the boys if not for the fact that he knew that Snape had been one of Aisling's small circle of friends. This was a man his sister trusted with the secrets of her Aura Talent, whom Aisling called her other brother. Aisling didn't make a claim of kinship lightly. Snape's act was obviously part and parcel of what had Tynan's nephew acting so uncharacteristically paranoid.
"What if I wasn't myself?" Tynan wanted to know.
"We would have interrogated you with Veritaserum, assessed the risk and most likely fed you to the acromantulas Potter says are in the forest." Draco shrugged with seeming nonchalance.
"They're there. I've seen them. Back in second year, Ron and I barely got out of their lair alive. The patriarch of the acromantula colony doesn't eat humans out of respect for Hagrid because Hagrid raised him from a baby. Aragog doesn't deny his children 'fresh meat' though, as he put it, and will cheerfully sit back and watch them dine on people."
"You know the patriarch of a bloody acromantula colony by name, Potter?" Draco stared incredulously.
"Long story, Malfoy. Not the time for it now." Harry sank back into the couch he was on exhaustedly.
"Everything's a long story with you," Pansy shook her head.
"Luna, can you get the castle to set up some rooms for Uncle Ty near our tower?" Blaise wanted to know. "He's going to have to be around for a while, at least until we get things sorted. Basically a full out flat and an office. Heavy security. No one and nothing gets in there."
"Does your family have house-elves, Zabini, or should I have Dobby get one of the Slytherin elves?"
"Get a Slytherin elf," Blaise decided quickly, before Tynan could even register half of what the boys were saying.
"We'll have the floo connected only to your home, so you can come and go as you please with that little loophole through the wards. It will be keyed to you and only you, Mr. Morrigan. We would prefer all documentation referring to us or our holdings remain in this office unless absolutely necessary. It'll be no different than any other commute, though if you are too tired to go home or want to stop and have a meal you'll have the flat to use. And a house elf to keep it and the office in order."
Two hours later Tynan, thought he might be moving to Hogwarts. These kids had no bloody clue whatsoever. The Kendallwood Inheritance had pretty well sat untouched and unorganized for over a decade. The Slytherin, Potter and Gentry inheritances were in the same condition, though the Slytherin and Gentry parts had been neglected even longer.
The Black Estate was nothing but a snarled mess lacking a clear-cut Heir. Andromeda Black Tonks was the eldest surviving member of the Black Family not on a Ministry wanted list. She would, under normal circumstances, have been the logical heir. However, the Blacks favored male heirs, which put Andromeda's two grandsons on the possible heir list along with Draco Malfoy. If Sirius Black's name ended up being cleared posthumously and he had a will, then in all likelihood anything not bound to the estate could very well be bequeathed to Harry or to Remus Lupin. For now, it seemed, Remus and Andromeda had agreed that Harry would be 'estate executor' until it could be sorted who actually would inherit what. Draco had protested on principle, so the two boys were currently sharing managerial duty of the estate, which was presently ensnared in probate at the Ministry, as it had been since Sirius Black's arrest nearly fifteen years before.
The Malfoy and Parkinson Estates were not nearly as straight forward as they should have been, either. Lucius Malfoy and Petrus Parkinson had both been extremely creative in how they arranged their assets to keep many things hidden. The dubious accuracy, if not legality of some of the paperwork Tynan had glimpsed told him that the two estates that by rights should be simple and straightforward were going to be as much of a headache as the rest.
"You do want the job don't you? If you don't want it, we'll understand. None of us are looking forward to our part in sorting out the messes dumped in our laps. But ... well, could you at least help us find someone if you don't want to tackle this?" Neville spoke up.
Tynan was shocked; in his mind, it was a foregone conclusion that he would take this job. It was enough to keep him busy for the rest of his life. It was also the most fascinating job offer he could have imagined. The family inheritances involved belonged to some of the oldest existing families in the wizarding world. A chance to see some of the legendary estates and the libraries and artifacts housed in them was not going to be passed up.
He'd also be able to keep close watch on his nephew and his nephew's Bonded Kin, which was what this group of teens were, in Tynan's opinion. To him it was like being the proverbial kid in a candy store. There was no way he would turn down this post. That it was family was only a bonus.
The meeting had dispersed. All but a handful had left. Moody was glaring across the dining room table at Albus. "What game are you playing, Albus?"
"What was your opinion of Harry before tonight?" Albus asked mildly.
"A likeable kid. A bit excitable, but a good lad."
Moody's eyes narrowed. "He's sharp. He's learning from every mistake. He's damned powerful. I wouldn't want to be on the business end of his wand now, and Merlin forbid five years from now."
"Albus?" Minerva frowned.
"I'm an old man. I have no plans of dying soon, Alastor, but I have lived more than my fair share of years. Harry is going to have to step up and take charge, hopefully later rather than sooner, but ... he must prove himself now."
"I don't appreciate being used in this, Grandfather," Bigsby glared. "What if--"
"Your reputation wouldn't have been harmed at all, my dear boy. I'm your great-grandfather, of course you would trust me." Albus said mildly.
"I cannot believe I am hearing this!" Minerva said, outraged.
"You're forgetting something though, Albus. You keep this game up with that boy and he just might end your life that much quicker for it. He's not one to push too far."
"Nonsense, Alastor. Harry will surprise you. He's a remarkable boy," Albus said confidently. "And even so ... he needs this. Harry does not want to take charge. He doesn't want to be the one responsible for the decisions. And he doesn't take the position of leadership often. Only when he is forced to."
"He won't forgive you for this though, Albus," Minerva told him with a frown. She was uncertain if she could either, though that thought was not voiced.
Albus nodded tiredly. "Time is too short, I cannot think of another alternative."
"I'm not so sure I can forgive you either, Grandfather," Bigsby said tightly. "What would have happened if I had gone to Gringotts and attempted to--"
"Matthias, it would not have gone that far," Albus tried to reassure his great-grandson.
Matthias Bigsby could only stare at his grandfather in disbelief. It was not his grandfather's reputation that would have been destroyed and left him unable to practice law. It was not his grandfather who could have possibly faced time in Azkabanů He shook his head and left without another word, before he said something he would regret later.
Moody shook his head and stalked out of the dining room, the clunk of his wooden leg on the stairs heard as he made his way through the house.
"I'm returning to Hogwarts. Good night, Albus," Minerva said coolly, anger and disapproval in her eyes. Surely Albus could have come up with a better way. How could this possibly be better than involving Harry in what was going on and letting the rest of the Order see for themselves?
Albus was confident his course of action was the best. The Order no longer saw Harry as the upset boy of the summer before. The boy's obvious strength and power had shone brightly tonight. His handling of the situation with Kingsley was perhaps a bit too public, but it did have the effect of keeping the others on their guard for themselves and for each other. It also had Kingsley safely out of the grasp of those who were controlling him, though the fate of his wife remained unknown.
True, it hadn't gone quite as he had planned. Then again, Harry and Severus both had a knack for disrupting the most carefully made of Albus' plans, and things turned out all the better for their willful hard-headedness more often than not.
The Order had got a glimpse of a young man who was one day going to be a very powerful leader, and already was a powerful wizard even though he was not fully trained. When raw power and desperation were tempered with knowledge, young Harry was going to be truly formidable, which was exactly what the Order and the wizarding world needed Harry to be.
He'd made so many mistakes with Harry. A foolish old man's wistfulness to spare a child. It was far too late to correct that now, nor was Harry much of a child any longer. They couldn't afford for Harry to be a child.
No, he was certain. This was the best. It was the only course of action that he could see.
Even better, young Neville had been there right beside Harry. It cast him in a new light as a young man that would be a force to be reckoned with as well, not the shy clumsy boy who was hopeless. Neville, like Harry, preferred the quiet of the corners and being left unnoticed but just in case he was wrong... Well, Neville was right at Harry's side, and one way or another the prophecy would be fulfilled, Merlin willing the light would prevail.
"He's gone dark, Arthur," Molly Weasley insisted for what had to be the tenth time in as many minutes.
"Molly," Arthur Weasley said sternly to his wife.
"He has. You saw him with those ... those tattoos! And that hair and those snakes!"
"Molly. I do not think for a second Harry has gone dark." Arthur disagreed calmly.
"How can you say that?" Molly demanded outraged.
"Mum," Bill began, then shook his head with a sigh. "Never mind. Goodnight, Mum, Dad."
"You should stay, it's late," Molly insisted as she turned to look at her eldest.
"And I want to be home in my own bed," Bill agreed.
"Let him go, Molly. I'll see you tomorrow, Bill," Arthur cut in.
"Alright, Dad," the younger man nodded and apparated from the Burrow.
"Molly, listen to me, love. You're not seeing things clearly."
"I'm--" Molly began angrily.
"Hear me out, love," Arthur interrupted his wife. "Harry isn't a child."
"He's just a boy! The same age as Ron!" she shouted.
"Ron is still a boy. He's had that luxury. Harry hasn't," Arthur said with a firm certainty.
"Molly, love, listen to me. Harry is Harry. He's a pureblood aristocrat, the Heir of some of the oldest families still about. He's fulfilling the role he has to, for who and what he is. Molly ... love ... he's nothing like your father. Not any more than Bill's hair and earring are going to turn him into another Petrus Parkinson. Love, you've got to let the past go and see who's here, now. Harry ... Harry is Harry. And as much as you love him, as much as we both care for him as if he were one of our own, he's not. He's the Heir of Slytherin and Gentry. He's also quite obviously Albus' chosen successor as Head of the Order and quite possibly also going to be Headmaster of Hogwarts eventually, before he's forty I wouldn't doubt."
"If he lives that long," Molly swallowed.
"We have to believe he will. You can't stop it. You can't change who and what he is by trying to keep him a child, by acting as if he were Ron and needing to be sent to his room."
"Careful tonight, girl, you sure you don't want to stay here? Death Eaters have gotten to Kingsley." Moody frowned at Hestia Jones as the young witch made to leave 12 Grimmauld Place. She'd arrived late after her shift at the Ministry and hadn't been present for most of the meeting. If she hadn't needed to report on the progress of searching for Petrus Parkinson she wouldn't have came at all that night.
"What?" Hestia whispered shaken.
"He's been under the Imperius, as well as being fed several potions to keep him easier to control. His wife's like as not still alive because someone's been polyjuicing themselves to take her place. Hopefully we can find her and get her back before the Death Eaters kill her. Constant vigilance, girl."
"I'll be careful," Hestia assured Moody, wide eyed.
"What are you doing here?" Bellatrix LeStrange hissed at her sister-in-law. "Are you insane? It's too risky. Voldemort is displeased enough about Kingsley acting on his own against Snape."
"That was an accident. The potions eroded his inhibitions and reasoning enough to allow him act on his own wish to see the traitor dead. It couldn't be helped, we couldn't have known he would do that and, besides, we have far bigger problems to worry about," the black haired witch snapped. Her pink-cheeked, youthful appearance made her seem a good ten years younger than her actual age, and as the LeStrange Family had never sent daughters to school or even admitted daughters existed unless they were needed for a marriage alliance, the existence of Antonia LeStrange was little more than a vague, long-forgotten footnote. Almost no one realized Antonia LeStrange had ever existed, let alone wondered what became of her.
"What?" Bellatrix glared.
"Dumbledore has figured out that Kingsley's been compromised."
Bellatrix began to curse loudly, then suddenly stopped and hissed as she clutched her arm. "He calls. You're coming with me, dear sister."
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