Chapter Eighteen: The Fallout Begins
"Tea, Molly? Sherbet lemon?" Dumbledore offered the irate woman pacing on the other side of his desk.
"No, thank you," Molly said sharply, stopping and glaring at Dumbledore. "What on earth is this madness? It's--"
Dumbledore shook his head sadly. "The wards at the Dursleys were not going to be able to hold much longer, as they were based on Harry being a child in need of protection. He is nearly sixteen and has seen far too much to be considered a child any longer. The Master Apprenticeship is also a perfect way for Harry to learn things outside the Ministry-prescribed curriculum. The others chosen for the Apprenticeship program have talents that the regular curriculum does not help them properly develop."
"Molly, my dear, there simply isn't any other way that would suit, and I dare say that a Master Apprenticeship is something that will be invaluable to Harry. I myself am an Apprenticed Master--I studied under Nicholas Flamel, along with Harlan Gentry, who was apprenticed a few years after me."
Molly huffed and resumed her pacing. "Those--those tattoos!"
"Lily's protection spell--"
"Dark Magic!" Molly spat out furiously.
"Not at all. Unconventional and ancient magic yes, but not Dark," Albus countered. "Nor should the Master Apprenticeship program be that shocking; I spoke with you about it in concern to Bill years ago. You and Arthur declined to allow him to be apprenticed."
Molly drew herself to her full height stiffly and glared. "You knew better than to even ask, Albus. You know how I feel about the traditional practices--"
"And because of those same practices that you eschew so vehemently, your sister is now safely within Hogwarts and away from your father," Albus pointed out.
"SAFE!" Molly huffed. Not that she considered any of Petrus Parkinson's spawn kin, but truly--safe? Married to a Malfoy? Not hardly.
"Now do calm yourself, Molly ... this is for the best. Now, about your children, with Voldemort stepping things up--the headquarters simply isn't a fit place for children."
Molly drew a deep breath, preparing to let loose a scathing retort.
"Molly, my dear, I'm only concerned for the children's safety. It has come to my attention that the Order has been compromised."
Molly deflated. "What?" she asked, wide-eyed.
"It seems we have at least one, and perhaps more, within the Order that are working against us or have been compromised. I spoke with the Thomases and the Grangers last evening about finding a more secure place for the children to stay. Mr. Thomas and Miss Granger were to have spent the whole of the holidays at the headquarters, being such prominent Muggleborns, and close to Harry as they are. They have already agreed to what I am about to ask you. I would like the twins, Ronald and Virginia to join Mr. Thomas and Miss Granger under the Fidelius Charm; I have a location set up and a house elf to keep an eye on them, as well as wardings to keep anyone from the wrong bedroom. Certainly, they are all quite old enough to manage well enough on their own. You may join them if you wish, but we do need you at the Headquarters, Molly; you have kept the house marvelously tended and running smoothly so the others can do their tasks without impediment."
Molly reluctantly agreed that her four youngest would join Dean and Hermione under the Fidelius until the beginning of term. She realized she was being distracted from her arguments about the Apprenticeship but Merlin, if the Order had been compromised ... Harry would at least be safe at Hogwarts, safer than at the Order Headquarters, and her youngest children would be as safe as they possibly could be under the Fidelius with Albus as their secret-keeper. She wasn't finished on the subject of the Apprenticeship, though. She would have her say, if not now then soon. Albus wasn't going to prevent her from saying her piece indefinitely.
The owl arrived with a letter and seven shrunken packets; it landed directly in front of Harry.
He reached for the letter cautiously.
Miss Granger, Miss Weasley, the three youngest Messrs. Weasley and Mr. Thomas are going into seclusion under the Fidelius Charm for the remainder of the summer. I have spoken to Mr. And Mrs. Thomas, as well as Dr. and Dr. Granger previously; Mrs. Weasley agreed just a bit ago. Any post that you, Mr. Finnegan, Mr. Longbottom or Miss Lovegood would care to have passed on to them will be delivered by Fawkes, so please bring it to my office by 9am on Mondays.
Professor Tonks and her parents will be remaining at Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall and I must return to London and see to Professor Sprout's defense. Mrs. Tonks will oversee the Refugees; the first group of them should be able to return to Regis Isle within the week. Mr. Tonks has volunteered his time for a bit of Muggle Studies. Do avail yourselves of this opportunity.
Madame Pomfrey has assistance in the Hospital Wing as of this afternoon, so Mr. Zabini and Mr. Finnegan shall be free to resume their studies without impediment.
Do inform Miss Bulstrode that Hagrid will require her assistance after supper this evening at the stables. 7 PM sharp. In addition, if Mr. Longbottom could manage to prune the Strangle Vine in Greenhouse 3 in the near future it would be most appreciated. Miss Weasley and Mr. Thomas discovered the vine had grown quite out of hand when they went for a stroll earlier today. The packets have essay assignments to keep you all occupied for the next few days. If you would be so kind as to distribute them...
I shall expect Professor Snape's decision by tomorrow night at the latest, as well as your summations of what you have studied these past few days. With luck, the trial of Professor Sprout will be cleared up posthaste and Professor McGonagall and I will be back in residence at the castle within the next few days. Things should be quiet at the moment with the last of the wedding guests departed.
Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry read the note aloud after a quick skimming. Nothing that the others couldn't hear, really; they knew Snape was injured. It was Millie who wanted to know Snape's decision on what. Harry sighed. "He's going to need an assistant for teaching practicals. He nearly lost his hands."
The packets of assignments were passed out, enlarged and quickly looked at.
"This is--impossible!" Seamus gaped.
"Is that old man out of his mind?" Millie asked incredulously.
Harry flipped through his own assignments. Seven foot essay on the Slow Flesh Decimation curse. Thirteen feet on the Wolfsbane Potion. Four foot review essay on werewolves. Another seven foot essay, this one on Veritaserum. Eighteen inch parchments each on the properties of aconite, unicorn blood, phoenix tears, dragon scales, gillyweed, and mandrake. Three sketches, subject of choice. Twelve feet on Occlumency, another eight feet on the Shielding Charms. A dozen impossible looking Arithmancy equations--even more daunting due to the fact that Harry hadn't taken Arithmancy as one of his electives during the past few years and was starting from scratch with that subject. The reading list was nearly as long as his arm, and two foot long summaries of each title were required.
No problem, not at all, he thought sarcastically. He could easily do this while sorting out his inheritance--which Dumbledore had mentioned in another note as needing immediate attention--and while taking care of Remus and Snape. Was Dumbledore insane? There was no possible way, without massive abuse of a time-turner, to even begin to manage all of it.
"I'm going to change and then head down to the dungeons," Harry sighed.
"Need help?" Seamus asked.
"I'll be alright. I'll floo you if I need help. You best get started on your assignments. If your list is anything like mine you are going to need about a month to get done," Harry shook his head.
"Ain't that the truth," Seamus muttered. "Here, you'll need these for Dumbledore." Seamus gathered up the summaries of what they had "studied" over the past week.
Harry sat quietly in Snape's dungeon bedroom. On his lap was the Estate Manager's book McGonagall had given him for an early birthday present. His completed essay on the Hospitium Veritas--that Snape had assigned what seemed a year ago though little more than a week in reality--was tucked safely into it, as were his notes on the Lineage Potion, a short essay on what he'd learned brewing it, and his study proposals, ready to be turned into Snape whenever the man was remotely up to dealing with it. Neville had said that Remus had been awake most of the morning, and Snape up for an hour, almost two. Harry glanced at the clock. If they didn't wake soon he'd have to wake them to get their bandages changed and next dose of potions in them.
Dumbledore was off his rocker with that list of reading and the "essays summarizing the volumes". Harry snorted softly at that. A book report was a book report, but Dumbledore couldn't even manage to assign that flat out. At least the castle seemed to calm with the wedding "guests" gone. The buzz was still there in the back of his head, irritating him to no end, but the agitated ring to it had gone away.
He had to wonder just where the devil he was to find half the texts on the list. There were fifty-seven books he was to read and have a two-foot summary on--he'd counted. Several authors were repeated. H. Tralfagar, who had several biographies on The Founders and their contemporaries. Dahlia Smythe had numerous volumes on the list ... Harry had to wonder if those were all her published works or just what Dumbledore put down. Titles by Dahlia Smythe included Mathilda's Memories: The Making of the First Pensive and A Concise History of the Lords of the Isle of Shadows, amongst a good dozen others. There were volumes by AJ Morrigan on Matrilineal Families, on Shadowyn, Wizarding History of Ancient Erin, on the Sidhe, on Veelas ... AJ Morrigan's and Dahlia Smythe's books all looked quite interesting actually, on merit of the titles and what the titles suggested as subject matter. The volume The Greatest Aurors of the Past 300 Years by Charles J. Potter only looked vaguely interesting for the fact he assumed it was a relative of some sort who had written it.
Tonks was staying. Why didn't she get the damned wards buzzing in the back of her head? The burning itch in his scar hadn't settled down in the least. And what the hell was with Zabini and his mentioning of marriage and an heir?
"YOU IS NOT DISTURBING THE MASTERS!! MASTER HARRY IS SAYING SO!!" was shouted from the crystal spelled to eavesdrop on the hallway. Snape had insisted on it--Remus had managed to charm it.
Snape and Remus were both now up. Snape reflexively reached out for his wand and bumped his hand on the nightstand, then screamed.
"SEVERUS! GET OUT OF MY WAY, YOU STUPID ELF!" came from the crystal.
"Sir?" Harry asked worriedly. "Remus, you keep an eye on him; I'll be right back." The thud from the crystal and Dobby's "You is not disturbing the masters" seemed more urgent. Little could be done for Snape's pain. Dobby, however, had no compuctions about going to extremes to carry out his orders.
Harry hurried out to the hallway. He stiffled a groan when he saw Malfoy pinned against the wall a good two foot off the ground. "Dobby, put him down." Harry sighed.
"If you is saying sos." Dobby said doubtfully. "He is being a nasty wizard..."
"He's a prat yes, but he isn't Lucius yet. Put him down, Dobby." Harry ordered, hoping Dobby didn't take it in his mind to save him from Draco as he'd once tried to save him from Lucius.
Draco landed in a jumbled pile as Dobby simply released him from whatever sort of magic was pinning him up against the wall. "OW!"
"My wrist and my knee," the blonde glared. "Wait a minute--DOBBY?" Draco stared at the House-Elf, dressed--if you could call it that--in mismatched garish socks, a putrid yellow sweater with orange and lime green polka dots, and an odd knitted purple beret.
"The Great HarryPotter Sir got Dobby's evil old master to sets Dobby frees! Dobby is a free Elf! Dobby is working for paying!"
"PAID!" Draco gaped. "You got that house-elf from my father and are paying him?"
"Dumbledore is paying him. Dobby works for Hogwarts." Harry sighed, wanting to beat his head against the wall. "What are you doing down here Malfoy?"
"I demand to see Severus--"
"Fine," Harry groaned, cutting off the imperious tirade Draco seemed to be working up. "You can help with their baths and changing bandages. Where's Winky? I thought she was with you, Dobby?"
"Winky is getting tea for sirs. Winky is thinking sirs is wanting tea soon. Sirs is being wanting tea this time almost every night this week. Winky is a clever elf." Dobby beamed.
Harry merely nodded tiredly. "Thanks, Dobby, you're doing a good job guarding the hall."
The House elf beamed. "Oh thank you--"
"I've got to get back to Snape and Remus, though. C'mon, Malfoy."
Harry didn't so much as bat an eye at the sight of Remus propped up on one elbow on his side leaning over Snape, almost petting the potions master's hair while murmuring quietly to the other man. The fact that Snape was in so much pain yet from bumping his hand that he was allowing it was more disconcerting. Snape's eyes were squinted shut, his jaw clamped tight, his breath coming in deep hissing gasps as he tried to ride out the last of the agony in his hands.
"Go start filling the big tub in the bathroom, Malfoy. Soaking will do them both some good. Seamus said that he managed to make the potions for the tub last night while I was dealing with Dumbledore and everyone else; there should be three cauldrons covered up in the bathroom. Pour those in the tub once you have it filling up," Harry ordered quietly.
"I don't take orders from you, Potter."
Harry rolled his eyes. "No, but I'm the one that has been dealing with their injuries and at least have half of a clue what we're doing to treat them. You want to help Snape."
Neither boy missed the slight nod the still obviously agonized Snape gave. Draco headed into the bathroom wordlessly, which was a relief. He returned, silently sullen, as Harry was removing Remus' bandages. The blonde Slytherin could only gape at the horrific wounds.
"Another couple days and I think you'll be good as new, Remus. These are healing up nicely."
"Faster than usual," Remus agreed.
"Mediwizard you are not," Harry smiled sadly. "You've got better care than usual."
"Think you can get up and sit in the chair a minute?"
Remus nodded and allowed Harry to help him.
"How about you, Professor, are you feeling any better?"
"Don't be an imbecile, Potter."
"I'll take that as miserable but slightly better, you've got energy to start with the insults right off." Harry snorted.
Draco was pale and shaky, gaping openly.
"Malfoy, at least stay out of the way," Harry said, gently moving the Slytherin to the bathroom and sitting him on the closed toilet seat. Then he moved Remus and then Severus to the huge tub.
"What--what are those potions?" Draco finally asked.
"Mild wound cleansing and skin restorative potions," Harry said, then cast the Aqua Contorqueo spell on the water.
"What sort of spell is that?"
"Er, according to Professor Snape it's used to wash clothes." Harry looked at Malfoy a bit oddly for a second, then shrugged. Draco had had House-elves his entire life to do everything. Why should a laundry spell be remotely familiar to the blonde Slytherin?
"What's been going on?" Severus demanded, shooting worried looks at his godson. Dumbledore had written Draco off long ago and only allowed him in the Apprenticeship as sop to Severus and to limit, at the very least, the Dark Lord's access to one of the most powerful and talented Wizards of this generation.
Potter dutifully recounted the day, at least as far as the wedding and what the Apprentices had made up for their study reports to shut Fudge up for a bit, including the letter to the Prophet which would enable Pansy to continue classes without it seeming as if Draco had booted his wife out immediately after the wedding. He then glanced at Draco. "Can you go back in the bedroom for a few minutes?"
"Why, Potter?" Draco managed. His voice was completely devoid of his usual arrogance and venom.
"Because--it has to do with the situation that led to your godfather's injuries. It is safer for him that you don't know all of the details just yet. Safer for you as well. I only know the full details because there was no one else here to patch him up."
"Pretty much all. Rather unavoidable, and some of this concerns him as well."
"Draco, just trust me on this, just this once. I'm already going to get blasted for bringing you down here. Most of the people around here have you written off as a Mini-Death Eater, and no doubt the Death Eaters have you written off as a traitor, so you're rather between a rock and a hard place all the way around. Especially since Fudge thinks your continued access to your Gringotts accounts is a personal offense to him. I know what it's like to have absolutely no news and have no idea what's going on with the few people you have in your life other than knowing they're in a dangerous position. I only had Siri around for three years--and he was a fugitive for all of it. I do get it, Malfoy. Which is why I'm risking my own arse and letting you stay. But you have to go out for a minute."
Draco looked worriedly at Severus.
"Go on, Dragon," Severus managed with a small nod.
Draco gave a glare to Harry. "I still hate you and I'm listening to Severus, not you."
Harry rolled his eyes and waited for Draco to leave. He sighed when the door closed behind the other boy and quickly cast the silencing charms and spell-locked the door. "Remus, you can't go back to the old crowd's place for a while. There was an accident involving water balloons filled with Silver Essence Potion and silver dust. Snape, Dumbledore wanted to know what you were reporting to Riddle over all this. That man gets more--" Harry shook his head. "Told him you were giving the truth more or less. Shacklebolt hit you with some obscure curses, that it was sheer chance and a ghost that saved you. If you need more, hell, you've managed to manipulate me into a quasi friendship and you're going to try to pump me for information since Dumbledore's so good at stonewalling."
"Dumbledore agreed to using you--" Remus frowned.
"He agreed to Snape giving Shacklebolt to Voldemort." Harry swallowed. "The other bit I didn't mention. "
"But--" Remus protested.
"He's a risk to the Order. He's a risk to everything at the moment. You, we can't afford to lose." Harry cut Remus off.
"I have garnered precious little information and now am next to worthless," Severus said tightly.
"Oh, quit the self-pity bit. You can damn well tell me and Seamus and Blaise how to make the potions. Malfoy, too, if he pulls his head out of his arse. You've got Malfoy to raise, and you bloody well are going to keep him alive, or at the very least yourself, because I'm named gaurdian of the future Malfoy Heir after you--I don't want to raise Draco Jr., thank you!"
Remus smiled at that. Severus snorted.
"Oh, and you're to sort out an assistant at your convenience by tomorrow night. I've got to tell Dumbledore then," Harry grumbled. "Though why he didn't just tell me who he had in mind for your assistant rather than--twinkling--"
"Lupin is obviously to be my assistant. He can't go back to the--house at the moment," Snape muttered.
"You," Snape sneered.
Harry rolled his eyes, took down the silencing spells, then called out to Draco to summon an elf for some supper. He requested a regular meal for Remus but he insisted that Snape get another meal of soft foods and liquids despite the Potions Master's glare.
"I presume Professor Tonks is now holding the wards?" Snape inquired.
Harry shook his head. "Me, still."
The glare Harry received in response to that was lethal. Harry hadn't been so happy to see a murderous expression in his life. That was a full Snape expression. The Potions Master had to be on his way to recovery if he was back to using the Snape patented glare #264--I am going to hex you so hard your ancestors will feel it.
"I do not want any sleeping potion."
"Sir, just another day or two," Harry insisted. "Sleep's best for healing. You need to rest."
"Potter," Snape began his customary protest.
"You need to rest."
"You either drink it nicely or I'm pouring it down your throat and at the moment you can't stop me," Harry glared.
Snape growled but drank down the potions Harry insisted on. Despite the man's grumbling he didn't need sleep, the mild sedative had him out almost instantly.
Upon sight of his godfather's unbandaged hands, Draco barely made it to the bathroom before losing his supper. He unsteadily came out of the bathroom a few moments later. "You should summon a house elf to clean up," he said, nodding toward the sitting room, avoiding looking at his godfather's rebandaged hands.
"No. Snape has his research out there. Don't know what he was doing but best to leave it as is."
"Are improving far more quickly than we'd dared hope." Harry assured the Slytherin. "We need to get him some dictoquills for his work."
"I'll owl order them in the morning," Draco nodded.
"Does Flourish and Blotts accept owl orders, if I request my account at Gringotts to be billed?"
"Of course, Potter," Draco sneered. "Is there anything that you actually do know about the Wizarding world?"
Harry rolled his eyes.
Morning found Draco still sitting in the corner of Severus' bedchamber, and Harry quickly put him to work organizing breakfast while Harry helped them to and from the bathroom and checked bandages and potions.
"I'll be all right if we have a House-Elf we can send for assistance," Remus said quietly.
Harry reluctantly agreed. Remus was much improved.
Harry and Draco joined the other Apprentices, Tonks and her parents in the staff room for breakfast.
"Bloody hell!" Harry groaned at the sight of the Daily Prophet, and Witch Weekly. Likely Tonks' or Pansy's, as it didn't seem the sort of thing either Luna or Millie would read.
"The Heir of Slytherin--Harry Potter" was one of the headlines on the Prophet's main page. There was also Draco's outraged letter of complaint about the Ministry over the cruel treatment of his dear wife Pansy.
The cover of Witch Weekly proclaimed, "Hearts of Witches break all over Britain, the Boy Who Lived in love with the Heir of Clan O'Malley."
"Bloody hell," Harry muttered again, glancing at the article with dread, though not quite able to stop himself from reading it. Morbid curiosity. "Seems it was love at first sight, Seamus, and we've been shagging practically since second year." That was an exaggeration, though not by much.
"End of fourth year, started snogging in second," Pansy spoke up disdainfully. "Page 52 has an exclusive interview with some Colin Creepy who caught you in the Quidditch showers. Isn't that the little oddball with the camera?" Pansy was obviously feeling better, more her usual nasty self than the shellshocked girl that she had been the day before.
Harry rolled his eyes.
"Well, shoot, why didn't anyone tell us that before? We're missin' out on all the fun we're supposed to be havin'," Seamus grinned a moment later, relieved he hadn't lost Harry's friendship over this latest debacle.
"You get an owl off to your folks last night?" Harry asked Seamus.
"Yeah, expecting a Howler from mum any second." Seamus nodded. "Right on schedule, here comes Stoffy now."
The brown barn owl swooped in but didn't go to Seamus, instead it landed in front of Harry with the Howler clamped firmly in its beak. Harry warily opened it and stood blinking in disbelief.
Seamus cursed softly in Gaelic, his face burning, as his mother's voice raged from the Howler, chewing Harry up one-side and down the other for dragging her baby boy into this scandal. And, by Merlin, if there was truth to it, the two of them best not be shagging when they should be studying. And she'd send some recipes for some good lubrication potions later that afternoon. She didn't even want to begin to imagine what sort of shoddy stuff the boys had procured on the sly.
Seamus groaned. "Someone shoot me now." He put his head down on the table.
"Shoot? With an arrow?" Draco frowned.
"Muggle gun," Harry corrected.
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