Chapter Thirty-Four: Potions and Desperation
*** Disturbing Content Warning: Non-graphic but
disturbing nonetheless. Death Eaters and Voldemort
are psychotic and evil. ***
Percy Weasley followed his father into Gladys Binks' office, more than a little confused as to what business his father would have with the High Judge of the Domestic Court and what that business could possibly have to do with him. He was further confused when he saw that his mother, Amelia Bones, Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson--well, Pansy Malfoy now--and another gentleman he didn't recognize were also present.
"How on earth could Dumbledore think to get away with that?" Percy frowned when the explanations began with Dumbledore's petition for Pansy and Draco's annulment.
"He filed on behalf of Pansy Malfoy."
"I did not ask him to, nor did I have prior knowledge of it," Pansy spoke up.
"And you haven't said two words! I doubt you're here of your own will. That little Death Eater probably forced you--" Molly began.
"Just because I am not screeching like a harridan does not mean I am not making my own decisions, Mrs. Weasley." Pansy said coolly. "Slander myself or my husband one more time and I will see you in court."
"Very well, Dumbledore's stretching his duty to act on behalf of the students of Hogwarts a bit much, but why are my parents here? And yourself, Madam Bones?"
"Mr. Morrigan asked for my presence here as well due to relevant background information he discovered when preparing his case," Amelia spoke up.
Percy could accept that. Also, as she was chair of the Wizengamot, Amelia's witnessing whatever these proceedings were would greatly curtail any objections from Dumbledore or those that Dumbledore encouraged to complain.
"And my parents?"
"A custody suit was also filed, petitioning that Penelope, Persephone, and Patience Parkinson be remanded to the custody of your parents."
"My own siblings are not residing with my parents, from what I understand," Percy objected. "They are in hiding, with Dumbledore as secret keeper, because it was too dangerous for them to stay with my parents, yet itís safer for three little girls to be taken from Hogwarts and put in my parents' care?"
Amelia's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Arthur?"
"There was a specific threat, now dealt with," Draco answered. "I do know that much, Madam Bones. While I firmly believe that Dumbledore manipulated the Weasleys into this, it was not by duress of their spawn's well-being. He has absolutely nothing to gain by allowing anything to happen to the Weasley children and quite a lot to lose; they're perfectly safe."
Arthur looked at the young man, surprised. He had hated Lucius Malfoy like poison, and his children's descriptions had painted the younger Malfoy with a brush that was just as black if not blacker. "You sound quite certain of that."
"Dumbledore needs Potter. Potter would never forgive him if something happened to the -- Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger while under Dumbledore's personal protection. It is that simple. They're likely safely tucked away for Potter's sake rather than their own."
Molly looked ready to start another tirade, but was headed off by Percy. "Why is my presence required?"
"You are the secretary of Education. We need you to sign off on what was drafted up here while we were waiting, and we need you to convince Fudge to approve them."
Percy held his hand out for the paperwork, and began thoroughly reading it through. "I just put in my resignation. It is effective in three weeks. However, this will be signed by this afternoon. Minister Fudge will be delighted at an ironclad way to spite Dumbledore." He wondered for a moment exactly how that would affect his own position as part of the teaching apprenticeship, but this did need to be done; he already had his contract signed, and this would limit Dumbledore's influence to a point...
"I cannot believe you all are so willing to let that Malfoy continue unchecked in his abuse of --"
"Do not call me your sister." Pansy headed Molly off before she could complete the sentence. "You did not bother to lift a finger to help us; my mother came to you for help when she was pregnant with Philomena. I was with her, I might only have been four but I remember it. I fell and scraped my knee and Percy cleaned it for me while my mother begged for help. You kicked us out before Ron and Ginny got up from their nap, and the twins came back from playing with Cedric Diggory. And do use what little brain you have; the petition was for an annulment not a divorce. My entire focus has been on taking care of my sisters. Draco's has been on his studies and assisting me when he has the chance. We both expected this marriage our entire lives. The only shock is the circumstances of the last month. No one is being taken advantage of any further than our fatherís manipulations. The contract was cursed. I will die if the contract is broke or the marriage voided in anyway; my father put the curse on the contract. That manipulative old fool is unwittingly trying to kill me with meddling in things that are not his business and he does not possess knowledge of. Again. As he almost killed all of us with his last manipulation of Potter. Just shut your mouth, you stupid whinging cow. You have no place to talk; you have no say in any of this. You denied me and my mother as kin over a decade ago; you cannot suddenly change your mind and expect to be met with anything but disgust." Pansy said coolly.
"Molly?" Arthur frowned.
"I remember that," Percy said, quietly. "You had on blue robes and violet and blue ribbons in your hair. You also had lash marks on the back of your legs far worse than your skinned knee but you wouldn't let me try to do anything with those because your father would have been very upset."
"Molly!" Arthur demanded.
"No, I never said anything. It was pointless..."
"Pointless?" Arthur stared.
"It would have put you and the children at risk!" Molly defended herself.
"If your stepmother had come to me for help I would have readily agreed," Arthur told Pansy. "We would have found a way," he said firmly.
Luna concentrated, oblivious to anything but her connection to Hogwarts and the wards. Dumbledore was trying to manipulate the castle's magic, and that was holding most of Luna's and Hogwarts' attention.
Hogwarts wanted to seal Dumbledore in his office and leave him cut off from the rest of the school and everyone else for the day. While Luna agreed that would make things much simpler in the short term, she just couldn't quite bring herself to tip their hand so openly. Dumbledore might try more than he already had if they did that. He might convince McGonagall, who was at least listening to them, that they were out of control and dangerous. He could go to the Ministry and try to get them on some kidnapping or involuntary confinement charge...
No, if it came to that, they would have to imprison Dumbledore in his quarters. Luna really hoped it would never come to that. Until there was no choice, at least, it really wouldn't do to show him that they could keep him locked in like that.
Keeping Dumbledore stymied on his attempts to manipulate the castle's magic and working the warding around Karkaroff's rooms was wearing on the girl. As it was on Hogwarts itself--herself. The Castle wanted Dumbledore neutralized as thoroughly as possible to alleviate the threat to her babies. Hogwarts was beyond frustrated that dealing with the meddling fool was keeping her from shielding her Heir, as she should.
Theoretically, it should have been possible to do more than what Luna was managing. However, Luna couldn't understand half of what the castle was trying to "say," in the form of images shoved into her mind at an incomprehensible speed. Thus, Luna didn't notice Millie enter the tower or Blaise's return from the dungeon. Likewise, she didn't notice Tynan, Draco and Pansy's return.
The image of Hermione was shoved into the front of Luna's mind again. "Well what about her?" she snapped, drawing odd looks from the others. More images were shoved forth. "Slow down. I can't think that fast." Luna said aloud. The images slowed, and she began to laugh.
"Has she cracked?" Draco looked at Blaise.
"Hermione, the Weasleys and Dean are in Hogwarts," Luna answered.
Draco and Blaise exchanged a look. "Where are Longbottom and Finnegan?" Draco asked Blaise.
"Neville's with Karkaroff. Seamus is watching Harry," Blaise answered. "We could use Granger, at least. The rest of them can stay where they are, but Granger would be helpful."
"The Professor hasn't returned. Lupin's taken his Wolfsbane."
"Well?" Luna prompted.
"Have Hogwarts bring Granger here." Blaise decided.
"And do what with her? Wait on Granger til Potter's awake," Draco argued. "We know where she's at when we need her and we know we can get to her..."
Luna frowned a moment, but it was Pansy who said, "Extra hands won't hurt."
"Again, what do we put her to doing?"
"Crystal of what?" Draco countered. "If we had something solid to set her on, we also don't have any access to the schools library--well, not for her just yet. It also gives Dumbledore more of a clue of what we can manage with the castle. Or what Lovegood can, at any rate."
Blaise frowned. "Fine. We wait for Harry to wake up."
"Well, Dumbledore needs to be dealt with now; he's been casting spells all morning, trying to break through the tower's warding."
Draco smirked. "C'mon, Zabini. We need to go pay the headmaster a visit. Lovegood, can you have Hogwarts move the Gargoyle for us when we get there so we're not wasting an hour on guessing sweets? Pans, check on the girls and see about lunch."
Pansy gave Draco a sneering look.
"Please," Draco rolled his eyes. "And just shut up, Zabini"
"I didn't say anything." Blaise grinned.
"You're smirking and breathing."
"Not getting squeamish, are you, Severus?" Bellatrix LeStrange whispered in the Potions Master's ear.
He ignored her. He kept his eyes trained on the grisly scene before him. One of the most horrendous potions he had ever even read of, and he had been ordered to make it. It would grant Voldemort even more power. A step closer to complete immortality.
He had no doubts that Bellatrix or the other woman in the crowd whose face was well hidden could likely make the potion. He could make it the best, but he wasn't the only one that could. The Gryffindor thing to do would have been to refuse outright, but that would have gotten him killed quickly, if he was lucky; killed slowly, if he wasn't. The potion would still have been brewed, and the Order would have no knowledge of it or any chance of finding a way to counter it until it was far too late.
He blocked the Muggle woman's screams from his mind. He couldn't be distracted. The blood and hearts of a dozen... creatures... were needed. Unborn infants of each manner of creature. He managed just barely to push it all back. His concentration on the precision of how the ingredients were... obtained... He forced every detail to memory dispassionately. Finding a counter potion or developing one was that much easier if one knew the actual making of the potion.
If worst came to worst and there wasn't a counter potion or curse, he might have to repeat the brewing of this for Potter to even the playing field. Of course, the Gryffindor wouldn't knowingly take such a potion. Moreover, it would be difficult to procure the ingredients and brew such a thing under the ever knowing watch of Dumbledore--and Potter, who was going to outstrip the meddling Headmaster soon enough.
He pushed the contingency plans to the back of his thoughts. Concentration was needed now. One mistake and it would be his death. It would be a relief, he thought, when it came, but his death just now would be a waste... the order would need the information he'd gained last night and this morning. If the Order didn't have it... well, dead would be a good thing to be because Voldemort would be one step closer to unstoppable and the Light would be none the wiser.
Clumsy. But then McNair was doing the--butchering--to garner the ingredients. The man had no finesse. And that wasn't the only... distraction.
"If you are in heat, go find someone else to scratch your itch, unless you wish to explain to our master why his potion was botched," Severus snarled, grabbing Bellatrix's hand and removing it from his pants. The woman was obscene and insane, but shrewder than he remembered seeing her since her escape from Azkaban.
She didn't leave. She bit him.
Obscene insane bitch.
"I need to keep my attention focused, Bellatrix."
"I'll have to be patient then. Our Lord said I could play."
Severus suppressed a shudder, but steeled himself to the necessity of going from the brewing of this potion to the servicing of the Dark Lord's whore. With any luck, the potion would at least restore Voldemort's virility and he would be spared the honor of indulging the madwoman who was setting herself up as Voldemort's queen. He only hoped that the numbing spell the werewolf had put on his hands would hold out for the course of this, and that any of the damage incurred using his hands today wouldn't be a permanent set back.
Tynan had argued that he should be the one to go and talk to Dumbledore. Blaise, Luna, Draco and Pansy had all disagreed unanimously: under no circumstances was Tynan going to be sent to confront Dumbledore at any time. They needed him too much. His quick clear thinking the night before and deft handling of matters at the ministry that morning had proved it without a doubt.
Dumbledore couldn't find a way to get rid of them. They were bound to the castle, and even if they hadn't been bound for life, they were still tied there for fifteen years as Apprentices. He'd already tried his stunts using what little influence he had on Hogwarts as Headmaster, a title that was magically tied to the school even if the active holding of the wards was now in the hands of the apprentices. If they weren't constantly vigilant and continuously doing something with the wards rather than just having the connection, Dumbledore had already proven he could manipulate things to temporarily bar Tynan from Hogwarts. It didn't last once they found out, of course, but that wouldn't stop him from continuing to try to slip things past them.
Nor could they completely disconnect Dumbledore from Hogwarts magically. It would be unrealistic to nullify the magical tie the castle had with any headmaster. As headmaster he had to have some ability to manage the school... which left the apprentices open for subtle attacks that would undermine their position until the Apprentices bowed to Dumbledore's will or they booted Dumbledore from Hogwarts entirely. The old bastard was far too smug in thinking they wouldn't.
"Longbottom?" Draco blinked as the Gryffindor appeared next to him in the corridor near Dumbledore's office entrance.
"Millie's with Karkaroff. This takes four. He'll be counting on a stand off if I'm not with you. Majority rule," Neville said quietly.
Blaise and Draco merely nodded. Neither Slytherin needed any more explanation than that. Let Dumbledore think he still had a slight hold on Harry and that it was the others, including Neville, against him. That it was their "bad influence" turning his precious darling away from him.
"We control the castle, remember?" Blaise sneered.
Albus looked at them coldly. "Where is Harry?"
"Harry isn't the problem, you are." Neville was the one that spoke, startling Albus.
"Listen, you muggle loving old fool, what you tried to pull this morning has been dealt with. You nearly killed my wife," Draco interrupted.
"I did no such thing," Dumbledore glared
"You didn't pay a bit of attention to the marriage ceremony or the contract. Pansy will die if the marriage is dissolved, for any reason. Her father put that curse on the betrothal agreement. Don't play games with me, you muggle loving old fool. That was nothing short of attempted murder of my wife, though what you hoped to gain from killing her is beyond me." Draco sneered.
"Nonsense," Dumbledore began.
"Did you even look into the spellwork put on the original marriage contract?"
"Draco, you are being--" Dumbledore started once again.
"He didn't," Blaise snorted. "Not at all."
"I demand to speak to Harry--"
"No," Neville glared. "The Alliance Bond. We do things by majority rule. Harry is barely willing to give you the benefit of the doubt; the rest of us aren't."
"You have absolutely no ability to file any legal suit on the behalf of any Hogwarts student any longer. In future, it must be done by unanimous agreement of the heads of the four Houses and the Heirs of Slytherin and Gryffindor, as they are bound to the castle. You simply concern yourself with the school budget and class schedules. All apprenticeships are entirely out of your control." Draco smirked. "Don't cross us, old man, you'll lose."
"Don't bet on that, Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore glared coldly.
"Oh yes, you should bet on that, Professor Dumbledore," Neville said coolly.
"Definitely bet on it." Blaise glared.
Whatever Dumbledore might have said was lost in the arrival of Cornelius Fudge, Percy Weasley and several members of the Hogwarts School Board. "We shall continue this later, boys."
The three didn't say a word as they left, which unsettled Albus even more. By the time the group from the Ministry and School Board followed, Albus Dumbledore was shaken. Harry had to regain control of the others! Albus had studied under Nicholas Flamel, and though he had excelled at Transfiguration, he had learned a thing or two at the hands of the alchemist. Harlan's suggestion potion perhaps... he had worked too hard to have his careful planning undone.
Harry had his destiny. Harry had to stop Voldemort, and the boy was not going to be distracted from his path or hindered on it by the mistakes his mother had made. What in Merlin's name had Lily been thinking? She'd always been a foolish headstrong thing, though, that girl. Undermining Albus' plans as often as she could with James, Remus and Severus. From the grave, the foolish meddlesome little witch was causing trouble even now.
Fawkes gave an indignant squawk and flew out the window.
Harry was pulled from the vision by the castle. Images were still slipping through now and again, but the majority of the link was blocked. He could feel Hogwarts' apologies.
All right, Harry mouthed after trying to speak the word a couple times.
"Voice gone eh?"
Harry shrugged. That was a rather stupid question, of course he hurt, but Seamus looked nearly as bad as Harry felt. Harry winced as Hogwarts shoved an image of Dumbledore into his mind.
Harry mimed writing. Seamus scrambled off to find quill and parchment.
Everyone? Harry wrote.
"Luna's still working with the wards, between Karkaroff and Dumbledore--"
Harry held up his hand. Dumbledore?
"Was trying to mess with the wards anyway he could," Seamus answered. Having not yet held the wards, he didn't understand exactly what Luna had babbled on about. "He kept trying to mess with the spellwork on the castle all morning."
Harry scowled and nodded.
"Are fine. They got everything sorted by the sound of it."
"Hogwarts says Harry's awake and wants us up there," Luna blurted, interrupting Draco's tirade.
Tynan blinked as the group who had been in the Common room went barreling above stairs.
Albus Dumbledore found himself wandless and suddenly in a room warded against all magic. All that was in the room were a cot against one wall and near it a small table with a basket holding a loaf of bread and a couple of jars of jellies. An empty glass sat next to it. On the wall opposite the cot was a toilet and sink.
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