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Chapter Seventeen: Obfuscations and Explanations

The group of teens made their way quickly through the castle back to their tower. The quickly unfolding pandemonium they had left behind in the Great Hall was not something any of them wanted to even begin to contemplate. Even Harry, fed up as he was with being kept in the dark and treated like a child, was more than relieved by being in effect sent to his room to let the Headmaster deal with the fallout. He could have handled Fudge and the Ministry, but he simply did not have it in him to cope with the Weasleys and Hermione just now.

Harry and Seamus sprawled on one of the three sofas grouped together near the hearth in the Apprentices' Common Room. Blaise plopped himself down the second sofa. Millie settled on the third. Luna shoved Blaise's feet off the sofa he was on and sat on the other end of it. Malfoy stood awkwardly, unsure of his welcome. Pansy tiredly looked at Draco as if waiting for permission to do anything.

Harry winced slightly as the buzz of Hogwarts' wards took on an irritated note that made a miserable counter point to the itchy-not-quite burning feeling in his scar. The Castle itself seemed to be irritated, and the source of that irritation coming from the Great Hall.

"You okay, Harry?"

"Yeah, Seamus," Harry nodded. "Just worn out. Oh, sit down, Malfoy. We're not going to give you an engraved invitation. Sit."

"I don't have to take your orders, Potter," Draco glared.

"That was an invitation, git," Millie snorted. "C'mon, sit here, Pansy." Millie patted the sofa next to her. With a slightly mutinous look at Draco, Pansy sat by Millie. Draco glared and settled in an armchair close enough to listen to the conversation but apart from the rest of the group.


"Cornelius, are you quite well? Your color is looking a bit off," Dumbledore asked innocently.

"I demand you hand over that monster at once!" Fudge huffed, outraged.

"Whoever do you mean, Cornelius," Dumbledore asked pleasantly, blatantly faking confusion.

"That--that piece of filth! He's the Heir of Slytherin!" the Minister spluttered.

"Being a descendant of a Founder of Hogwarts is a crime now, Cornelius? I cannot say as it surprises me, given the Ministry's latest round of mandates, but I do believe I would have noticed that one. I myself am a descendant of Helga Hufflepuff, through my great-grandmother on my mother's father's side of the family."

Fudge stammered incoherently and looked as if he was near to going into fits.

"Don't you have to take that to the Ministry and file it, or something?" Dumbledore asked Fudge, merrily nodding to the copy of the marriage contract. "I shall see that Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy get their copies and the witnesses as well, and of course Professor Snape." He took all but one copy right from Fudge's hands, all the while smiling merrily with twinkling eyes.

"Where is Snape?" Percy inquired snidely, back on his feet after an Ennervate spell from another of Fudge's undersecretaries.

"Neville Longbottom had a most unfortunate accident with a fertilizer potion he was attempting to brew. Professor Snape managed to get Neville out of the way of the explosion with little more than a bump to the lad's head. Unfortunately, Professor Snape's hands were badly burned in the process. It will take some time to heal, but he's expected to make a full recovery." Dumbledore smiled at Percy. "I'll be certain to let him know you were asking after his health."

"I'm leaving, but you and I will have words soon, Dumbledore," Fudge declared angrily. He knew very well that he needed to retreat and regroup. No one got the better of Albus Dumbledore on Hogwarts grounds; Fudge had learnt that lesson a few months before, much to his humiliation.

"I'm sure we will, Cornelius," Dumbledore smiled mildly.

"Come along, Wimbly," Fudge snapped, and stalked from the Great Hall with Percy Weasley trailing behind him.

"Headmaster!" Mrs. Weasley was working her way through the various people, mostly the Regis Isle refugees who had little idea of what to make of the morning's ceremony or the little dramas and shouting matches dotting the hall. About all they could be sure of was that they had witnessed one of the shortest and most cold-blooded marriage ceremonies that had had taken place in centuries.

"Ah, Molly my dear lady, why don't you join me in my office? The house elves can bring our lunch up there. Certainly Bill or Charlie can keep watch over the younger ones. I have more than a few things I wish to discuss with you. Come, my dear." Dumbledore cut her off before she could even begin.

"What's with this?" Harry asked, touching his still-lengthened hair. "I don't get it."

Blaise shook his head. "Potter, you are truly a piece of work, you know that? Do you have the slightest clue about anything remotely connected to Wizarding Tradition?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm Muggle-raised, Zabini," he said, as if that explained it all. It would have explained it all if he were not Harry-Potter-The-Boy-Who-Lived. Great Gryffindor Hero that he supposedly was, or even raving lunatic depending on the mood of the Prophet that week, it seemed he was to know all these things without even being told.

"Well, you need to start learning it or you're going to embarrass the rest of us, and make the whole Apprenticeship program look bad," Blaise retorted. "Also, Fudge is looking for any way to hang you and Dumbledore out to dry. The quickest way for that to happen is through the apprentice program, which will take the rest of us down with you."

"What a Slytherin way of offering to explain things," Harry snorted tiredly, amused.

"Least you have enough sense to realize you need them explained, even if you are a Gryff," Blaise shot back with a smirk.

Draco sat quietly in his seat, his face schooled carefully closed and blank but his attention caught by the conversation between the other Apprentices. When in Merlin's name had Zabini taken up bantering with Potter? When had Zabini bantered with anyone? The only person Draco knew more sarcastic than the usually silent and enigmatic other Slytherin boy was Severus. Severus likely only had the edge on the sarcasm because he had twenty years' practice on Blaise.

Potter truly knew nothing. Draco could not believe how the boy that everyone seemed to think would save the Wizarding world was so positively bloody ignorant about the simplest things. What Blaise was attempting to explain Draco had learnt along with his alphabet and counting to ten, for Merlin's sake!

There were many subtle indicators of a person's place in Wizarding society. Potter shook his head and muttered that Slytherins had surely thought this rot up, but gamely attempted to commit the various facts to memory. Boys kept their hair short. Many men might when work required it; after all, there were simple charms to lengthen hair properly in mere seconds. Only when a man was finished with his education and mastered his trade was it acceptable for him to grow his hair out, the exception being all five of the Apprentices. Seamus was the first of the Finnegan line of Wizards, his father being Muggle. Therefore, as eldest male wizard in his direct line he could grow his hair long within the bounds of propriety. Same for Blaise, as his Father was Shadowyn, not wizard, and Blaise was technically the eldest male Zabini Wizard. Draco and Harry by rights could, as they were both the Heirs of very old and notable dynasties, the last of the dynasties. Technically Neville could grow his hair out as well, being the default head of the Longbottom line; his father may as well be dead, or at least was not ever going to regain his wits.

The intricate braid Millie's hair was in now was reflective of a girl who had had a marriage contract finalized. Luna's loose hair was appropriate for a proper girl underage, with no marriage contract. Even McGonagall gave her nod to traditionalism, though like as not the woman would never admit it. The braid wound up into the bun she wore as her usual style was that of a woman whose betrothed had died before the wedding could take place.

It was not just Slytherin families who kept the traditions, Blaise pointed out. Predominantly Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff pureblood, even mostly pureblood families did. Most Gryffindor families kept the traditions as well, at least when it came to weddings, funerals and suchlike. Look at Dumbledore with his hair to his backside and his beard that could be tucked in his belt! Look at McGonagall's hairstyle, whether the woman would admit it or not. Granted, it might not be conscious for her, simply practical, but still fell in line with the traditions. Lupin had his hair long as was traditionally correct.

In all actuality, the Weasley's were in the very noticeable minority in eschewing all traditions held by the Wizarding world. Their refusal to pay the least attention to tradition even when invited to some affair that was traditional in bent made them rather outcast in most decent circles, and was the biggest reason Arthur Weasley was still piddling in the Muggle Artifacts department rather than having an actual career within the Ministry. Which was a shame in Blaise's opinion, since the man was mostly levelheaded and rational, just severely hen-pecked. Arthur Weasley at least had half a brain, which put him far above the highest officials in the Ministry.

"I could take grave insult to Charlie Weasley--" Draco sneered.

"He's still learning," Harry shook his head. "He has another year or two 'til he is considered a Master at Dragon Handling. You could probably take offence against Percy, though. He's married and on his own. His education is complete and he can't count kissing Fudge's arse as any sort of apprenticeship or training, so?"

"You learn quick," Blaise grinned.

"I'd be within my rights to demand satisfaction from Percy Weasley for offering such an insult at my marriage," Draco sneered, just to see what Harry's reaction would be. He was trying to sort out what to make of this changed Boy Who Lived. Or maybe not so changed; Potter had always gotten away with things that he shouldn't, though he did not seem to realize it.

"Malfoy, it was a Ministry-forced farce and a reading of a contract more than anything that resembled a wedding to me. What would be the point other than pissing a lot of people off? It isn't as if Percy has anything you want. But embarrassing the hell out of Fudge because his right-hand bootlicker broke protocol and ignored your wish to honor tradition has possibilities. Come at it from the Ministry angle rather than the Weasley angle and I imagine you'd get farther." Harry rolled his eyes.

Draco raised an eyebrow speculatively. That was his only outward sign of any reaction to the Gryffindor Golden Boy's relative shrugging off of the thought of a move against the Weasleys.

"Farce or not, I can't finish school. That Muggle loving idiot Dumbledore--I could slap him for saying so," Pansy glared.

"Why not?" Harry frowned confused.

"Would look bad," Seamus snorted. "What y' need to do is pull a S.P.E.W. sort of stunt in the Prophet. Fudge'll look like an arse, Malfoy will come off smelling like a rose, and Pansy can at least finish school without it looking like her husband kicked her out."

"Pull a WHAT?" Draco squawked.

"Hermione's free the House-Elf campaign. S.P.E.W." Harry bit his lip. "You're on to something there Seamus. Malfoy could write this big old pissy editorial rant about the Ministry wronging his dear beloved wife, and then adding insult to injury by the flagrant disregard of tradition by Fudge's unnamed aide with short red hair."

Seamus grinned. "And Malfoy can say he prizes his dear wife so much he wants her to finish school, after all, they might just home educate the next generation the way things are going with the Ministry interference with the school and what not. IF it is benefiting him--and his future heir--then no one is going to think twice about that. Won't be looked upon as him kicking Pansy out."

"No one will mistake the unnamed aide with short red hair. You can get your dig in to the Weasleys without looking like a whining arsehole--and since it's Percy, after the crap he's pulled hurting Mrs. Weasley with his own wedding, I really don't care." Harry nodded in Malfoy's direction.

The Slytherins gaped.

"How the hell did you two get into Gryffindor?" Millie wanted to know. "You can think up lies so quick it makes my head spin. I thought Gryffindors were supposed to be all noble and righteous."

"We took divination," Seamus snorted. "We've had four years of comparing notes on how we're going to get killed or injured every week to make sure none of us are getting offed the same way and make that loony old bat suspicious."

"Alright then, you two do some Divination Homework and figure out what we studied this week because Fudge is going to go ape after Malfoy sends in a letter like that. We need everything covered before that's owled off," Blaise ordered.

"I don't take orders from Potter, Zabini," Draco snapped.

Blaise rolled his eyes. "You have any better ideas that won't have all of us suffering for them?"

Draco glared petulantly. "I still hate you, Potter."

"I'm heartbroken," Harry snorted. "The day you start being nice to me is the day I stupefy you and start checking you for any kind of mind-control or insanity."

"We're not friends, and we're not allies."

"Malfoy, I'll take politically neutral pain in the arse," Harry snorted.

"You can compose the letter yourself, Potter, I'll copy it and sign it if it's worthy. You can sort out this mess on our study as well. I am going to my rooms. Pansy you can stay with whoever you like, as long nothing is said outside this tower." Draco stood, sneering imperiously. Inwardly he wanted to run; everything was converging in on him.

"No one's going to say anything 'bout where anyone sleeps." Harry shot back, irritated.

"What--you shagging Lovegood?" Draco sneered. Damn Potter. Damn Dumbledore. Damn his mother. Damn everyone remotely connected to the nightmare his life had become; he needed out of this room now. The walls, no, the whole world was closing in on him.

"Not shagging anyone, but Mrs. Weasley's got it in her head I'm shagging Seamus. Just waiting on the bloody damn Prophet to catch wind of that."

Draco gaped a moment.

"Watch what you say, Malfoy." Blaise's eyes glittered dangerously. "I'm Gift Born, in case you've forgotten. And nearly half Shadowyn with a bit of Vampire and Sidhe blood. You don't want to piss me off."

Draco tossed his head and stormed out of the common room up the stairs.

Pansy gratefully accepted Milicent's offer to share her rooms and went to lie down as well a few moments after Draco's brattish exit.

"Are you going to kill me if I ask?" Harry ventured, giving Blaise a curious look after Malfoy and Pansy had left the Apprentice's Common Room. "I'm not trying to be rude. I just don't know."

"Magic can't overcome biology. There is an ancient spell though, Greek in origin, that Shield-Mates, the warrior Wizards that often protected the small Wizard enclaves, used. It allowed the sister or close kin of one to carry their child. The one whose relative volunteered to carry the child more or less is considered the 'mother', the other the Father, and the child takes that one's name. It's a dangerous spell if done wrong, and not many are powerful enough to cast it. My Dad and my Father are my biological parents, but Aunt Aisling is the one that carried me and gave birth to my brother and I. The effect of that is that I have three parents magically because Aunt Aisling's magic bonded with mine before I was born."

"Ancient Wizard version of artificial insemination would have been good enough," Harry said.

"Of what?"

"Muggle--never mind. Doesn't matter." Harry shook his head. "What are Shadowyn?"

"A very rare and nearly extinct magical race, closely related to Veelas; plenty of texts will call them Dark Veelas. Shadowyn originated around the Mediterranean coast." Millie answered.

"Bloody hell," Harry groaned. "Watch--the Shadowyn are next on the Ministry's hit list."

"There are barely a thousand Shadowyn in the entire world," Millie rolled her eyes. "Not worth anyone's time to try to regulate them even if they were a threat, which they're not."

"And one who is at least half-Shadowyn is now front center and within the Ministry's grasp." Harry sighed.

"Not quite; you're forgetting Dad's side of the family. Uncle Brandon is the Duke of Morrigan. My Grandpa Morrigan is his Heir, Marquis of White Shoals, and the Ambassador to the American Ministry. Grandma Morrigan is a world renowned Potions Mistress--Wren Three Stars. There are plenty of other connections. Dad and Aisling are the youngest two of thirteen children. My Uncle Dylan is Seeker for Killearny. I have the Morrigan side of the family to protect me, and Father and my little brother Brendan. My uncle Kelly is married to a daughter of one of the most powerful Spanish Wizarding families. My uncle Shane is engaged to an Italian heiress whose family is quite powerful in both financial and political circles. Even Fudge is not stupid enough to try to take on the entire Morrigan family. That twit's family only dates five hundred years. The Morrigans are among the eldest surviving Wizarding families, a nearly four thousand year old unbroken line of Wizards and Witches. Too much power, too noted. It isn't like your friend Professor Lupin. You've got a point, Harry, but I don't think that Fudge is that stupid."

Harry raised a slight eyebrow, noticing he was back to Harry rather than Potter now that it was just the apprentices. Draco might officially be an apprentice, but he wasn't one of them yet, and might not be at all if his attitude didn't change.

They settled down to make notes on what they would put as their lessons studied for the past week. Really, Fudge was absurd. Harry ventured a few other questions; after getting shocked disbelief, the Slytherin contingent answered.

It should have been painfully obvious why Pansy was disowned; at least Blaise, Millie and even Luna seemed to think so. Petrus Parkinson did not want Draco to see a knut of Parkinson money after the way the whole situation had ended. The Parkinsons were still bound to the old Inheritance Laws like many of the older families, and as such, Pansy would inherit all being the eldest and not having any brothers. By disowning her, it left Pansy's 10 yr old sister Penelope as the Heir. Petrus Parkinson's first wife had managed to get him quite good; by proving violation of marriage contract she had managed to get herself and her daughter away from him. Took her maiden name back and changed her daughter's name as well.

Harry's other question had to do with Luna being the Heir-Regent of the Dyfed line. That seemed odd; would she not just be the Heir? The Heir of the Dyfed line had to be male, Luna explained patiently. Luna was Heir-Regent, as her mother had been; if Luna had a son, he would be able to claim the entirety of the Dyfed inheritance, but until then Luna had a generous trust as Heir-Regent and saw to the keeping of the Dyfed Inheritance until there was a Proper Heir. Her father had done most of the business end until recently; Luna, at almost sixteen, was now old enough to start taking a more active role in things.

Blaise was the most vociferous in his disgust. "Didn't anyone ever bloody teach you anything?" the dark-haired Slytherin shook his head. "Dumbledore and McGonagall should be strung up a tree! Lupin--"

"Is a werewolf, and wouldn't cross Dumbledore's wishes," Harry shook his head. "Dumbledore could have kept him from me if he thought Remus was any sort of threat. He has gone overboard in trying to protect me in some ways. And he is ridiculously lax in others."

"Know-it-all Granger--" Blaise began.

"Don't insult Hermione," Harry said quietly. "She's--she can take a bit to get used to. Her and her books, but she is nice--"

"The girl attacking you this morning--nice," Millie huffed. "You're too soft."

"Lay off," Seamus glared, defending Harry. "Got to give Hermione credit for standing with him pretty much since first year. Weasley got his knickers in a twist and refused to talk to Harry plenty of times, but Hermione always stuck by him. 'Til now, anyway. I think she'll get over it. She's with the Weasleys at the moment and that's just fueling her temper."

"Hermione is a creature of logic," Luna spoke up. "She's Muggle-born, Muggle-raised, too used to looking for the new and the explainable. Her curiosity is the only reason that she ever came to Hogwarts. She has to know everything, learn it all. It is just her make-up. I think it's more that she is being told things that make more sense than the facts of Apprenticeship. Whoever is spouting the nonsense is likely telling her that the Apprenticeship is all evilness and Pureblood Supremacy."

"Which sounds a lot like Mrs. Weasley's opinion," Harry sighed.

"There you have it. Trusted adult telling her what initially makes sense without all the facts." Luna shrugged. "Give her time to sort her facts. I'm sure she will come around. She's too smart not to put her own opinion together--at least once she has access to the Library after school starts and is able to actually get proper information. There's a difference between studying Ancestral Magic, Ancient Magics and traditionalism, and being a Pureblood Supremacist. Vast differences."

"We'd better get to work on something to shut Fudge up," Blaise sighed. "Are you going to explain about that Shacklebolt fellow, or Snape?"

"I would if I could." Harry shook his head. "But the fewer who know anything, the better Snape's life expectancy. You already know more than you probably should."

Blaise studied Harry hard for a moment, then nodded, coming to the conclusion that he was going to accept the Gryffindor's judgment on the matter.

Millie seemed to come to the same conclusion. "Tell Professor Snape we wish him a speedy recovery, if it won't upset him."

The subject dropped, they began "Divination Homework" style sorting of their "lessons" the past week in earnest. The sooner done the better. They all were very suspicious of the over-interest the Ministry had shown in the Apprenticeship Program. They all wanted Shacklebolt out of the castle as soon as possible for Snape's sake.

Harry could only hope that the wedding guests left quickly, as he was worried about Neville being left alone so long with Snape and Lupin while Shacklebolt was possibly still about. He was extremely relieved that Blaise, Millie, Luna, and Seamus were letting the Heir of Slytherin bit rest. True, he had known he was the Heir of Slytherin. At least he had had a few days warning from the Lineage Potion before this came out. His blood would have revealed that on the contract with or without the performance of the Lineage Potion beforehand.

It was odd to think, but he was grateful to Snape for making him brew that potion. He still thought it had been just a way for Snape to get him out of his hair for the afternoon, but it had kept Harry from keeling over next to Percy when his name and, well, titles were read. Were titles even the correct name? He wasn't sure.

"I'm hungry," Blaise announced. "Go get that Invisibility Cloak of yours, Harry. You and I can sneak down and get lunch."

The House Elves met the two boys excitedly. The odd little creatures were ecstatic at having so much to do with the refugees and the wedding, as they were normally miserable in the summer months with so little to do.

"Are you going to hold it together, Potter?" Blaise asked while the elves were scurrying about, packing a lunch for them to take back to the Apprentices' tower.

Harry shrugged. "I've known the Slytherin and Gentry bits since these were uncovered." He touched his cheek. He noticed he was back to Potter. Anywhere that could evidently be construed as "public" he was Potter, and House Elves counted as public to Blaise. Harry could understand that; after all, Kreacher had--he shoved his thoughts away from anything that had to do with the night Sirius died. He was slowly beginning to catch on to Blaise--maybe. At least he had vaguely sorted out the "Harry" and "Potter" differences enough not to be annoyed. Slytherins were odd at times. Still, he followed Blaise's lead and called the other boy "Zabini" in return for the "Potter"; no doubt there was some bizarre Slytherin reasoning behind it.

"Is masters needing anythings else?" an unoccupied House Elf asked hopefully. "Noddy is being needing something to be doing."

"Er, could you take a regular meal down to Professor Snape's quarters for Neville. Uhm, beef broth and toast for both Professor Snape and Mister Lupin I think. Tea as well." Harry managed.

"Noddy will be doing it right away, sirs."

"Zabini, what's the big deal about the O'Malley family? That had Ron going off?" Harry ventured.

"The O'Malleys are nearly as old as the Morrigans. Both families originated with the Sidhe. In both cases a Sidhe woman and a Wizard. The O'Malley name didn't come about until about 1700 years ago, but the line dates back unbroken 3600 years. The Morrigans date back almost 4000. Far as I know, Morrigan and O'Malley are the two eldest surviving family lines in Britain. Slytherin and Gentry both come close. You're going to have to sort out a proper wife or come up with some sort of Heir," Blaise answered.

"My cousin Dudley is a Squib. Then again, mum and I came out of the same line of Squibs," Harry said, eyeing Blaise uncertainly. He didn't think the explanation of the families just being so old quite covered Ron's outburst, but let that go. Married? Heir? "And besides, the Apprentice Program and all the rot with Malfoy ... the School Board decided that was a one-time instance due to extreme circumstances."

"That should buy you a bit of time, enough that you aren't forced to take a wife of Fudge's choosing, or even Dumbledore's. You need to think in the lines of a Pureblood Heir, not a Muggle urchin, Potter."

Harry snorted. "Hard to wrap your mind around Heir of anything when you were raised as I was, Zabini."

"Well, you're not going to have a choice," was Blaise's assessment, and that seemed to close the subject and all conversation as they waited on the House Elves.

Harry wanted to just start screaming and never stop. He wanted to make a bee-line for the dungeons and wake Remus, who was all Harry really had left that resembled any sort of family or father-figure and ask Remus to help him sort all of this out. So much crammed into his head, and who the hell could he even trust?

Dumbledore, yes, at least Dumbledore's intent. Dumbledore's methods were questionable--and irritating as hell. Seamus, yeah, he could trust Seamus, and Neville. Maybe Blaise, though he was still wary of the Slytherin having his own agenda. The same could be said for Millie. It was a really scary realization when you put Snape in the top four people you could trust. Harry couldn't deny it though--Snape, Remus, Seamus, and Neville those were the only four that didn't seem to have any other agenda for him. Dumbledore certainly did. Dumbledore was trying to stop a war, or win it if he couldn't head it off, and Harry was one of the key players in Dumbledore's game of wits with the universe.


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