Chapter Twenty-Four: Surmising and Summons
Severus Snape quickly studied the marks each of this motley group had from the Lineage Potion. He still could not wrap his mind around the fact that Longbottom had managed that potion without killing himself, or someone else, from the typical explosion that usually accompanied the boy's potions brewing.
It was somewhat disturbing how sensible their answers were. They had not waited to see if Dumbledore was going to be able to get the mandate from Fudge on the brewing of the potion revoked. If they had waited, and Dumbledore had not managed, or bothered, to see to the repeal of the mandate they would not have had the time to complete the potion. Every last one of the little imbeciles--and he was including the incompetent twit who was letting children do her job as one of the imbeciles--had put potion to skin, as to have irrefutable proof that the potion had been brewed. None of them trusted Fudge and Dumbledore's game. Perhaps there was hope for them after all.
That they were so concerned about making the books, was also sensible. The Apprentices would need their Lineage books when they got around to studying Ancestral Magic. If the Potion was not used within a few weeks of brewing it would have to be brewed a second time, which was something none of the youngsters wanted to imagine doing.
He had seen Potter's marks before of course--the Heir Marks of the Stag, Rowan Branch and Serpent. The marks that showed his parent's lineage. The band of marks underneath, that showed his "magical inheritance"; unusual in the sheer number of marks in the band and the fact that usually there was only a thin line with one or two symbols. Potter's band was solid, pearl-like in color, and had no less than nine marks in it.
Tonks did indeed have the sword mark that was the Black Family mark, and a Rowan Branch of the Gentry line. The band beneath those two marks had no less than six marks in it--the Black family Sword, the Gentry Rowan Branch, the same Blue Lightning that Potter had and Severus could not place. The Dyfed Ram was as expected. The Arrow was another that Severus was unfamiliar with and the Oak Tree that Potter had as well.
Draco's marks were somewhat expected. The Malfoy fleur-de-lis and the Black Sword, both of those being Heir Marks. The band beneath was an unusual silvery blue; Severus had all he could do not to groan at it. That was too unusual. That one had the strange solid band was remarkable ... that at least two of them did, was horrifying. Draco carried the Arrow in the band of marks he had beneath the "parent marks"; Severus assumed that came from the Black side of the family, then. The lightning and oak tree that Potter and Tonks shared had to come from the Gentry line somewhere. Pansy had the Parkinson kestrel and the Rohan family Thestral. To be expected; nothing too unusual about the band of "magical inheritance" marks on her either.
Bulstrode's marks were unexceptional, excepting for the fact she too had a solid band for the magical inheritance marks. Finnegan had the Wolfhound of the O'Malley Crest boldly indicating his Heir status on his arm, and the band beneath was a solid brilliant Kelly green. Luna Lovegood had the Dyfed Ram and a Willow Branch. Expected. The solid band of magical inheritance marks on her was a pale cream color. Zabini had the Morrigan Raven, again expected, the band that held his magical inheritance marks was solid black.
Longbottom's marks had Severus bellowing "BLOODY HELL!" The Longbottom crossed longbow and arrow was there on his arm, an Heir Mark as it should be. That was wholly expected. The other ... the golden Lion of Godric Gryffindor. It too was an Heir Mark. The Gryffindor blood had to come from the Kendalwoods, who were amongst the almost wholly Gryffindor-sorted families that disdained use of the potion. Neville Bloody Longbottom was a Founder's Heir, and Gryffindor's at that!
Not a one of the Apprentices had less than five "magical inheritance" marks in a solid-colored band. Severus was too stunned to take complete note of what all the marks were. Add that to the runes sported by Potter, Zabini, Longbottom and Draco, and Severus would have started hexing anything in sight if his hands had been in condition to hold his wand.
Severus glared incredulously as Harry announced that he had been up and about long enough and started dragging him out of the tower.
"Can we leave her there, mate?" Seamus pointed to the unconscious Tonks on the floor.
Harry shrugged. "Just don't step on her." His newly discovered cousin and her constant questions on what they thought each year capable of had pushed them all to the end of their collective rope.
Severus allowed himself to be drug off by Potter for the simple reason that he wanted the boy alone. What the bloody hell was the little imbecile thinking, blurting out half of what he had in the tower?
"Just don't step on her?" Severus inquired in his most deadly, silky tone once they were out of the tower.
"I think Blaise is ready to try some experimental charms on her or at the very least transfigure her into a rock. Neville petrified Millie yesterday. She was going to brain Tonks with a copy of Hogwarts: a History. Even Luna's muttering about hexing her into next year."
Severus snorted, then asked with deceptive calm, "Where are you dragging me off to?"
"Don't know about you but I'm starving, never did manage to get near the breakfast trays the house-elves brought and it's nearly lunch. Didn't figure you'd want everyone gawking at you while you had your lunch."
Severus was momentarily taken aback. The pair walked in silence through the castle, Severus watching the boy closely trying to sort out the difference in him. When they reached Severus' chambers Harry was all business, he ordered Severus to sit so his bandages could be changed and summoned a house-elf for some lunch.
"Draco?" he demanded after the meal, as Potter stubbornly had refused to discuss anything until after Severus had been fed. Galling as it was to have Potter feeding him since he could not manage the silverware on his own, he was thankful the boy at least had the decency not to do so in front of the others, or even argue about it.
"Is a snide complaining pain in the arse. He doesn't like me and I'm not the boss of him. Dumbledore is a senile Muggle loving fool and he hates it here, hates everything and everyone ... but he is at the moment neutral and is starting to think beyond what tripe Lucius spoon-fed him all his life. Do I trust him? No more than I have to, but he is not in a position to really cause any damage just now either. He's been terribly worried about you. You say you trust Dumbledore then that might send him over the edge, you back up the gospel according to Lucius then that will certainly set him over the edge and off to get a new tattoo," Harry offered, knowing exactly what Snape was demanding to know. He didn't have an answer. "He's playing nicely with others--well for Malfoy, anyway. And he seems to be thinking which political stance is most going to benefit him."
Severus nodded at that assessment. It was as much as he could hope for from Draco just now. "This vision? What was it? And do you think it remotely wise to discuss it in front of Draco and Mrs. Malfoy?"
"Well, they were present for it," Harry snorted. "Rather hard to deny it when they saw it. Voldemort was hexing Bellatrix LeStrange, her husband and a couple of others for failing to get a crystal--I felt most of it. I didn't catch any more than that; I was too busy being in extreme pain."
"House-Elves aren't allowed in the Apprentices tower."
Harry rolled his eyes and began pacing.
"Potter, you and your disregard for rules--"
"My disregard? How about Dumbledore! I still have the bloody wards driving me batty. Damned Castle's trying to adopt me or something. At least Hogwarts managed to cut off the vision and block the worst of it from seeping back through. Didn't stop the rest of them from cooking up the room rearranging though. It makes sense to have Pansy's sisters on one of the lower floors so the little ones don't have another four or five flights of steps to go up, but even I am not as stupid as that. Seamus is getting moved into my rooms to be my keeper 'cause they think I'm going to die or go insane from a vision or some godforsaken thing. Really, there are at least four more floors to the tower that could be opened up. It's not like we're short on rooms. More convenient to put the little ones on a lower floor, yes, but bloody hell."
"Language, Potter." Severus snapped coolly. "Finnegan? Why Finnegan?"
"He's less likely to panic than Neville and I've already shared a room with the two of them for five years, after all. And Zabini has decided that the papers got it right for once or at least the right idea."
Severus frowned and demanded impatiently. "Just what does that mean?"
"Oh, right ... you missed some of the most spectacular write-ups. And all the wedding drama. Mrs. Weasley had a conniption. Dean took offense to Seamus being gay. Mrs. Weasley started accusing me of a number of things. Basically, what she went off about was me being a tattooed hooligan, consorting with Seamus, and being all around indecent. All sorts of gossip rags have been sending requests for interviews with the Malfoys--Draco and Pansy--and the Potters--meaning Seamus and me. Got Seamus walking on egg shells round me half the time lately every time something sets off reminders of that, because he's afraid I'm going to hate him for a bunch of rubbish in the bloody paper." Harry snorted. "Now I've got to figure out what to do about Hagrid's blasted Cockatrices!"
Severus raised an eyebrow as the boy literally growled.
"Cockatrices! Wasn't it bloody enough that we got stuck in the Smuggle-Norbert-to-Romania plot? Now it's bloody Cockatrices!"
Severus watched as the boy paced and gave near-rant answers to questions put to him. Certainly more informative than his conversation with the werewolf the night before.
Potter and the rest had been studying the Wolfsbane. It seemed Potter, Zabini, Finnegan and Draco were all intent on learning it now. They had been reading up as much as they could find.
Severus nodded slowly. It would be illegal to teach them, but that wouldn't stop him. Technically, one had to have at least a Ministry issued Level 8 Apothecarist Brewing license from the Ministry. When Severus pointed out as much to Potter:
"I think Dragon smuggling at the age of eleven set off my criminal career quite nicely, aiding and abetting an Azkaban escapee at the age of thirteen is also on the list of crimes the Ministry would get me for if they knew, so we may as well add unlicensed potions brewing. Rather tame compared to what I started out with."
Severus snorted. Insolent whelp. He did concede that Potter, if he ever bothered to pay attention to his work, could like as not manage a Level Nine Apothecarist license. Draco and Finnegan with a little tutorial could manage a Level Eleven license, and if Zabini did not manage a Level 13 License, which was the Ministry's highest rank, then he would be most displeased.
Potter had changed in the last few weeks, grown up. Exhausted sarcasm was taking the place of childish insolence. The boy's derision when he spoke of Albus was understandable, though a bit worrisome. August the first was the day the staff normally returned from their summer holiday, two more days--Severus assured the boy that Albus or at least Minerva would be back to the castle by then. Silently, he was thinking he damned well better be. The boy ranting and pacing in Severus' sitting room was near to breaking.
Remus Lupin sighed as he listened to Petunia Dursley once again launch into a spiel of utter denial. Surely, Voldemort would have no interest in herself and her precious "Duddykins" as they had none of that freakish magic to them.
"You might be ignored, but your son certainly won't," Remus said firmly. That Voldemort would ignore Petunia Dursley was a slim to nothing hope. She was a legitimate blood descendant of the Slytherin Heir line, Squib or not. Her son was even more at risk than she was; after all, he could have a number of children who could turn out to be wizards or witches.
"What do you mean?"
Remus gave an internal sigh at having finally gotten through to the woman after hours of trying to convince her that it simply was no longer safe for her and her son to return to their home. Not after the Daily Prophet had posted the address 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. Like as not, the house was already under watch for Petunia Dursley and her son. "The Slytherin line is one of the most famous and important lines in the Wizarding world. Salazar Slytherin was one of the four Founders of Hogwarts. Hogwarts is technically Slytherin property--Slytherin land, to be used in perpetuity on the good will of the Slytherin Heirs as school for the Wizarding world. The Dark Lord Voldemort calls himself the Heir of Slytherin. He is a descendant of Slytherin, and thought to be the last for a time, but there are three others standing in his way of being the Heir of Slytherin. One is the true Heir--Harry. The other two are you and your son."
"Mrs. Dursley, your husband is facing charges for the murder of your daughter. His safety is the Ministry's concern. You and your son are what's important now."
"How dare you say that, you freak! Mummy! Make him take that back!"
"Dudley, hush, now." Petunia ordered shakily causing her son to stare at her in disbelief, as his whine did not bring the least bit of attention from his mother.
"Voldemort will come for the both of you. It's merely a matter of when," Remus said quietly. "Dumbledore has arranged for you and your son to go under the Fidelius charm and be relocated to safety."
"His schoolwork can be kept up easily enough through correspondence. Dumbledore doesn't miss a trick," Remus assured the aggravating woman.
"I'm not hiding in some Freak place."
"You'll do as you're told, Dudley." Petunia cut off her son's complaint.
Dudley gaped at his mother in shock.
Remus bit his tongue to keep from shouting "Thank Merlin!" at the ceiling. He had thought he was going to have to hex Petunia Dursley and her son unconscious and kidnap them to get them to safety for Harry's sake. Remus knew Harry bore little love for his relatives, but also knew their deaths at Voldemort's hands might be one blow too many for the boy.
Hermione retreated to her room confused, defeated, and not a little heartbroken. She had tried talking to the others about the offer from Dumbledore. Ron had exploded. First Harry was going to be a Death Eater and now Hermione was going off, being all-important and brainy, and rubbing it in his face that he was just plain old Ron. She had tried to defend herself, explain it wasn't like that at all, and things had just gotten worse from there.
Dean and Ginny hadn't had much to say. Ginny thought it silly, that Hermione should just forget it for now and do the program in a couple of years when she was finished with school. Dean heartily agreed; case closed as far as they were concerned. Hermione, however, did not think that it was that simple though she did not bother wasting her breath. The offer was made now. She'd done a good amount of thinking the last few days and could not come up with one truly random thing Dumbledore had actually ever done. Hermione had concluded it was a now or never offer.
"Can I come in?"
Hermione frowned at Fred, who was standing in the doorway of her room. "The wards..." She raised an eyebrow as Fred slipped into her room. "How?"
Fred looked exceedingly uncomfortable.
Hermione quickly caught on. "Oh hell, please wait a few weeks to tell Ron that one..."
"Dean is the one that's more likely to cause a problem." Fred shrugged. "George went to see if he could get some sense in that prat's head."
Tears welled up. Hermione didn't know what she would do without Ron and Harry. Well, actually she did. Her first two months at Hogwarts had been miserable and lonely. It wasn't until after the three of them had become friends on Halloween that she truly began to love going to Hogwarts. She had loved the classes and what she was learning but that had been a far cry from actually enjoying school.
Fred went over to the bed, sat by Hermione and hugged her. Hermione broke down into full-blown sobs. Fred stroked her hair and held her as she blubbered out all the stress of the last few months. She was scared because as a Muggleborn and friend of the Boy Who Lived she knew she was a target fairly high up on Voldemort's list, and that made her parents prominent targets as well. Everything was changing so fast. Everything was so much more dangerous now. Even after all they had been through, it hadn't quite been completely real until the battle at the Department of Mysteries. She was so worried about Harry. He hadn't so much as blinked since Sirius' death. Since the TriWizard Tournament, Cedric's death and Voldemort's re-embodiment Harry had been changing. The visions last year that Voldemort had sent through Harry's scar and the link between the two of them that was made when Harry had managed to survive the Killing Curse. Harry's letters from earlier in the summer had seemed so ... so un-Harry-like. And the Harry they had seen at Malfoy and Pansy's wedding wasn't her Harry. He had seemed so old and so ... so Pureblood with the long hair and those odd tattoos and his eyes had been so tired and old!
"'Mione, you can't think that all this isn't going to change Harry. The prophecy and Sirius and Voldemort back..." Fred reasoned gently.
"I know," Hermione sniffled.
"Ron's thinking the same thing, you know."
"He's just being an utter prat about it." Hermione hiccupped.
Severus glared, watching the boys carefully. They were surpassing his expectations. No bickering, none of Draco's usual antics in trying to sabotage Harry, which was as disturbing as it was welcome. Even Longbottom's presence was surprisingly useful. The boy might be absolutely hopeless when it came to brewing a potion but he had an unerring eye for the most potent herbal ingredients and managed to show a competency that Severus had never before seen in handling the herbs.
Longbottom's knack for picking the most powerful of the dried and fresh plant ingredients had to be a factor in his spectacular explosions and cauldron meltings. Sprout had always insisted that once he was through being petrified he was the most gifted student she had ever taught in Herbology. Severus finally had to acknowledge that that claim had to be based in fact. Longbottom was not allowed anywhere near the cauldrons though. He could sort out the ingredients and prepare them, but Severus was not tempting fate and allowing him to so much as pour water in a cauldron at the moment.
Severus gasped and pressed his left arm to his chest. Five pairs of eyes immediately were on him. Green and icy gray-blue eyes clouded with worry and instant understanding. The other three were confused, though the light quickly dawned in their eyes as well.
"Let's get you dressed, Professor. You can't answer a summons in what you have on," Harry sighed. Loose trousers, tunic and open robe were not standard Death Eater "uniform".
"We've only to add the powdered willow bark and stir, and then it needs to simmer 24 hours." Blaise spoke up. "Seamus and I can manage."
"I am going to..." Severus hissed.
"Yes, professor." the boys all nodded.
If he had been able to use his wand, he just might have hexed them all on the spot.
Severus glared at the group that followed him to the Apparition point. He was quite certain that wherever Lily and Narcissa were they were laughing at him. If Alice had the wits to and Aisling knew, they would be laughing as well. The utter absurdity of being helped dress for and seen off to a summons from Voldemort by his godson and the Boy Who Lived was beyond comprehension. Zabini and Finnegan followed as well, with Longbottom taking up watch in the Entrance Hall. The world had truly gone mad.
Remus Lupin apparated into the clearing at Hogwarts. "What are you doing out here?" he demanded, seeing the four boys who had leapt to their feet, wands drawn, when he appeared. Their reaction time was sadly impressive--they were scarcely more than children, with the reflexes of Aurors.
"Waiting on Professor Snape to get back," Harry answered simply.
Remus paled. "I'll join you." He wanted to rage why they had let him go, as he was in no condition to answer a summons, but logic held his tongue. Severus could not have not answered the summons, and even in the condition he was in now, Remus strongly believed it would take more than four teenagers to stop Severus Snape. "How long has he been gone?"
"Ten minutes or so," Blaise answered after casting a Tempus spell.
"Bloody hell, is that all?" Seamus muttered.
The *crack* of someone arriving by apparition had Remus spinning on heel, his wand drawn. "Morrigan?" Remus frowned at the woman standing there.
"Aunt Ais!" Blaise said almost simultaneously.
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