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Chapter Twenty-Eight: Dumbledore Returns

"I really, really, hate you," Harry muttered at Luna.

The Apprentices had spent the morning taking care of the necessary jobs about the castle. Millie had gone to the stables, Neville to the greenhouses. Harry and Seamus had taken care of the next stage of the Wolfsbane potion while Blaise tried to get further information from his Aunt. Luna had taken it upon herself to drag the little Parkinson girls, whom she was supposed to have been watching, all through the castle talking to the ghosts and portraits to try to find more information about the bonding of an Heir to the castle. Tonks had been stuck in the Apprentices' tower ordering the last of the general supplies for the coming school year. Draco and Pansy had both been busy with Mr. and Mrs. Tonks finalizing the funeral arrangements for Mrs. Parkinson in the rooms where the elder couple were staying at Hogwarts.

Pen, Persephone and Patience were now down with the elder Tonkses while the Apprentices, Pansy, Tonks, Severus and Remus were trying to sort out how they were going to not throttle Dumbledore when the man finally deigned to show himself in the castle. Luna had been sharing what she had learned.

"She's got a point," Blaise grumbled, not any happier than Harry about Luna's reasonable arguments. He was in the far corner of the room, reluctant to move toward his usual place near Harry and Finnegan. He was still trying to avoid the inevitable discussion of what his Aunt had told him that morning. The Dumbledore Problem was no more welcome, but it bought him time to sort out his thoughts.

"I know. That's why I hate her," Harry grumbled.

Draco and Neville looked equally unhappy, silently agreeing with Luna's assessment.

Severus raised an eyebrow. Potter was being cautious? Maybe Black's death had taught the brat a thing or two. Though Severus put the blame of Sirius Black's death on Black's half-insane dead self and on Dumbledore and his manipulations. If the boy had had half a damned clue what he was dealing with, what was going on, why the measures Dumbledore was insisting upon were so necessary, then perhaps he would have behaved differently. He knew the werewolf pacing around the Apprentices' common room felt the same. Lupin held Sirius and Dumbledore even more responsible than the brat.

Especially now, when he saw the brat was more of Lily than the Marauder that sired him, that he could be reasoned with -- if one bothered to give the brat at least some of the facts. Dumbledore had mishandled the boy badly. Severus had argued that since the day the boy had entered Hogwarts. It was not often Albus Dumbledore was proven wrong, but when he was -- it was in spectacular fashion.

"Well I don't see the blasted point of it at all!" Tonks argued. "What right has he--"

"Dumbledore is Dumbledore and Potter's Potter," Draco said darkly. "The rest of us just got sucked in it this time, rather than Weasel and the Mudblood."

"Don't call Hermione a Mudblood!" Harry snapped.

"Touchy, touchy. Planning on cuckolding your Irishman already?" Draco shot back.

"Draco!" Severus snapped. "If you and Potter want to bicker and hex one another, kindly do it later when the rest of us don't have to listen to it."

Draco slouched lower in his place on the sofa with a petulant glare.

"It's still--"

"Oh, grow up," Draco sneered at Tonks, who at least seemed to be an acceptable target for his venom. And she was being a twit. "Potter's Potter. He's the Boy Who Lived and the one who's supposed to Save Us From Voldemort."

"Do I have to draw you pictures?" Millie glared. "Loony there just got done explaining what the ghosts told her. An Heir bound to Hogwarts makes the castle that much stronger and that much safer -- and it makes the Heir that much stronger. It's in all of Britain's best interest to have an Heir bound to Hogwarts just now."

"Harry would have done it, I would have done it. It's the how that's got me mad." Neville spoke up in a tight tone at odds with the boy's normally gentle demeanor. Then he looked over at Millie and added warningly, "And don't call Luna 'Loony'."

"Lupin, SIT!" Severus snarled at the other man, who was pacing back and forth behind the chair Severus was seated in.

"I'm not a dog, Severus," Remus growled, but he did sit down on another chair pulled up next to Severus'.

Severus caught himself before the automatic retort of no the mutt got himself killed escaped his lips. This situation was enough of a powder keg without that thrown in the mix. Severus was surprised and slightly annoyed at himself for even thinking that, but it was the truth, and Merlin help them all; the best hope of the Wizarding World was this motley group of children. Keeping them at least projecting some semblance of sanity seemed the best course of action.

He supposed he should be surprised by the lineages of the group in this room. However, other than Potter being the Heir of Slytherin, he wasn't ... not really. As bizarre as it might seem for Neville Longbottom to be the Heir of Godric Gryffindor, it was not that shocking if one had known Alice Kendallwood Longbottom. This group was, after all, descended from amongst the oldest families in the Wizarding World. Most of the family lines that had existed more than a half dozen centuries had at least one or two remarkable Witches or Wizards to claim as ancestor. This lot was from the eldest surviving Wizarding families of the British Isles. That they had rather more colorful family histories than most was not that surprising when their family histories were measured in millennia.

It wasn't coincidence. Dumbledore knew very well that Selene Dyfed had been Luna Lovegood's mother. The Malfoy, Potter, Longbottom, Kendallwood, Bulstrode and Morrigan and O'Malley families were all well known, families that traced their roots back easily 700 years or more with connections to even older lineages. It was a calculated move on Albus' part, and the only coincidence was that these families had children of an age, not that the families' offspring were of a level of magical ability suitable to be chosen for Apprenticeships.

Dumbledore was quite obviously trying to make a well-connected, magically powerful counsel group for his Boy Wonder. The theory was admirable; the actuality was -- strained. At least the children were making an attempt. That was a relief; it had been a very risky gamble on Dumbledore's part. This lot could just as easily wreak more havoc and destruction than Voldemort if they took it upon themselves to make war on Dumbledore. They could tear Hogwarts down to the foundations with not one but two Heirs bound to the Castle.

"I say we don't tell Dumbledore," Blaise spoke up.

"I don't know how we're going to manage that, he's the one that's responsible," Harry snorted.

"Potter, sometimes you are such an idiot. He expects you to be bound to the Castle, not the rest of us."

"And when he gets some brilliant idea for the Heir of Gryffindor that will catch the three of us in it, too, because of our mums?" Harry shot back. "What then, Malfoy?"

"He has to know. If only to drive home the fact how badly this was--" Severus broke off, trying to come up with an appropriate description.

"Ballsed up?" Tonks offered petulantly.

Severus gave the young woman a glare. "Nymphadora, if you cannot contribute to the conversation as a supposed adult, kindly do not say a word."

"You're not the one tied to this castle for life, if not eternity!" Tonks snapped back.

"You're not the only one stuck," Pansy snapped at Tonks.

"Stop it. We only have a little bit before we have to open up the floo to send the Regis Isle people home and Dumbledore comes back. We don't have time to fight," Harry ordered.

Ron stared in horror at George as he read the letter from their mother aloud. It had been specially delivered despite the fact that it was not post day. It explained the long complicated story of their grandmother Baines -- and her ex-husband Petrus Parkinson. It also told of Petrus Parkinson's current fugitive status, his second wife's death, and that a Portkey would be sent for them first thing in the morning to attend their step-grandmother's funeral.

"It can't be true!" Ron immediately protested.

"Mum, wouldn't have written this if it wasn't," Fred snapped.


"Oh, just ... shut up, Ron, if you can't say anything intelligent," Hermione snapped. "I can't take listening to anymore of your ranting! Harry is NOT a Death Eater; I can't believe that. I'm not leaving you, whatever that is supposed to mean. Pansy's your mother's half-sister and therefore your aunt. As her husband, Malfoy is your uncle. Now SHUT UP and just get over it!" She stormed to her room and slammed the door behind her.

"Mental that one," Ron gaped. "What brought that on?"

"YOU!" Ginny glared. Ron had not stopped his griping once since they had been sent to ... wherever they were. They had only been there a little over a week but already Ron was driving them all up the walls. He had not stopped haranguing Hermione about the Teaching Accreditation program since she had first told them about the owl. Even after Hermione had said she just wanted to drop the subject, Ron harped on. Dean hadn't been much better, egging Ron on a bit with snide comments about Seamus, which seemed to fuel Ron on about Harry, which carried around back to Hermione and the Teaching program.

"I'm not too thrilled about that prat being our Uncle by marriage either," Ginny continued. "And Pansy Parkinson being mum's sister is making my head spin but ... SHUT UP ALREADY! And you too Dean Thomas! I'd have thought you would have gotten this stupidity out of your system about Seamus by now. And if Seamus and Harry are together, what do you damn well care anyway?"

Dean gaped.

Ginny exited the main room in much the same manner as Hermione had, storming to her bedroom and slamming the door.

Fred and George exchanged a look. Fred went and knocked on Ginny's door, George on Hermione's.

Ron swallowed as once again his brother disappeared into Hermione's room. He clenched his jaw and stormed to his own room, slamming the door behind him, leaving Dean in the central room alone.

The last of the refugees from Regis Isle had been floo'd out of the Great Hall. Well, three were left in the Hospital wing, though those three like as not would be sent to St. Mungo's that evening. Madam Pomfrey and St. Mungo's were arranging transport on the Knight Bus, which had been decided upon as the best way to move the three, rather than by floo or Portkey.

"Ah, Harry, my dear boy."

Harry glared at the man that had entered the Great Hall. "Headmaster," he said tightly.

Severus gave the group of teens an approving smirk as they moved to stand together. He included Tonks in that description. For all that she was technically older, she had more of an innocence and inexperience in many ways than the group she was standing with.

Potter stood just a bit in front of the others. Finnegan and Longbottom were to his right, Malfoy and Zabini to his left. Pansy, Luna, Tonks, and Millie stood in a row behind them.

"Hello, sir." The honorific was made to sound as though it were an epithet.

"I told you, Albus!"

"Well, if you told him, why didn't you send a bloody owl and tell me!" Harry snarled.

Minerva blinked at that. Going behind Albus' back and alerting Harry of what had been planned for him was apparently unthinkable to her. She never would have considered it, and that was plainly written on her face.

"Thought so. So don't play innocent," Harry glared.

"Why don't you come up to my office and we can discuss this..."

"We can discuss it here. Be a bit crowded with all of us up there, anyway," Harry glared.

"Now, Harry." Dumbledore stared intensely at Harry.

"Get out of my mind!" Harry snarled. He unconsciously drew on the castle as he felt Dumbledore touch his mind and attempted to close himself off as Snape had tried to teach him during their Occlumency lessons. His rage and desperation gave an added burst of strength to the blocking of Dumbledore from his mind.

Dumbledore physically staggered back.

"You bloody fool!" Severus snarled. "NOW you want to try Legilimency on the boy!"

"I don't trust you," Harry said flatly. "I refuse to go into a room alone with you. Your manipulations have gone way too far. "

"Harry, I'm only trying to protect you--"


Dumbledore frowned. "Now, Harry, you have responsibilities, and..."

"Responsibilities to do what? Save the arseholes that left me in a cupboard for ten years? The ones who make my life a living hell with newspaper and magazine articles? The ones who declare me insane the minute I don't fit their perfect little hero picture?"


"You almost killed Pansy, did you know that?"

"That's nonsense, I would never harm a child," Dumbledore snapped.

"You would -- WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE TO ME! TO ALL OF US!" Harry shouted. Seamus put a hand on Harry's shoulder.

"Calm down, Potter," Draco said tightly.

"Mr. Potter, baseless accusations--"

"Baseless?" Harry glared at McGonagall. "Baseless. He nearly killed Pansy. Why didn't you pull the 'Molly Weasley is Petrus Parkinson's daughter' card and implicate him as a Death Eater before Pansy and Draco were forced to marry? That did threaten Pansy's life. We could have killed her without meaning to. You see, Lily Evans, Alice Kendallwood, Aisling Morrigan and Narcissa Black cast quite a few spells, including an Allegiance Bond hereditary through the first born line -- me, Malfoy, Neville, and Zabini."

Minerva gasped in shock.



The Gray Lady made her presence known. "If the Bond with the castle is not entered into willingly, knowingly, and the person is not prepared, it is quite easily fatal -- that is why there are so many stipulations, and why the Heir has to make contact with the castle. The castle took Harry's holding the Wards as Intent."

Dumbledore stood straight, "Harry, I was only trying to do what I must--"

"Did it occur to you that if it was explained to us we would have agreed? We would have at least had some warning. I don't know if we would have managed to keep Zabini and Malfoy out of it but we surely would have kept Tonks, Pansy, Luna and Seamus out of it. The Allegiance Bond came first -- it could have killed us all during the Castle's bonding. Likely, the only thing that saved us was Neville."

"How on earth would, Mr. Longbottom ..." Minerva frowned.

"The Heir of Gryffindor is bonded to the castle as well as the Heir of Slytherin," Severus sneered.

Dumbledore looked calculatingly at Neville.

"I'm the one that was marked. Neville wasn't. Forget it. "

"Harry?" Neville asked.

"You fit the prophecy too -- up to the point of being marked by Voldemort's own hand." Harry touched the scar on his forehead. "Boy born the last day of July to parents that faced Voldemort three times and lived, from a powerful, ancient family."

"I'm glad he decided to try to kill you first, Potter." Draco snorted.

"Sorry, Harry, but so am I," Neville agreed. His voice was a bit unsteady, but Severus was quite impressed by the way the boy was handling that revelation.

"We've discussed it and voted." Harry met Dumbledore's gaze, his green eyes as cold as any Severus had ever seen. "We stand against Voldemort, which means -- we'll tolerate you. One more manipulation of us or our families and friends, though, and it will be the last thing you ever do. This is war, and what needs to be done isn't going to be pretty. But if we can't trust our leader not to play chess games and cause more strife within our ranks, then it is time for a new leader. Is that understood?"

Dumbledore shakily tried once more, "Harry, child--"

The group led by Harry stalked out of the Great Hall, leaving a shaken Dumbledore and Minerva behind with Severus and Remus.

"You can thank Merlin and all your lucky stars that brat has a sense of honor and justice, Albus, or Tom Riddle would be the least of your worries if that boy went dark and took the rest of them with him!" Severus hissed.

"My position--"

"The only reason they didn't tear you limb from limb like they were ready to last night is because they do see your position!" Severus snapped. "That brat is NOT a thing like James Potter!"

"No, he's Lily's son when it comes down to it," Remus agreed, quietly. The man and reason were back firmly in control over the wolf's outrage at the harm inflicted on "his cub"; that had been helped along by Harry's having no lasting physical effects from the bonding with the castle and his having come to the conclusion it was for the best. The how of it wouldn't be forgotten or forgiven anytime soon, though. "He looks like James, but he's Lily's through and through. And you're handling him all wrong, Albus."

Once in the Apprentice's common room, Harry took off up the stairs that led to their apartments as fast as he could run.

"I'll go after him," Seamus said and followed slowly.

"I--I'm going to go lie down a bit," Neville said shakily. The revelation that he could have been The Boy Who Lived, and Dumbledore's speculative look when he found out that Neville was the Heir of Gryffindor, ran through his mind at a dizzying speed.

Seamus entered the rooms they now shared and followed the sound of retching to the bathroom. "Harry, you all right?" Seamus knocked on the door.

"Go away."


Harry came out reluctantly a few moments later, water dripping off the tips of his hair and chin from where he had quickly splashed it on his face.

"You okay?"

Harry shook his head. "I just threatened to kill Dumbledore, and I'm pretty sure I meant it."

"It won't come to that," Seamus reassured him quickly.

"Really? You believe that? Can you say that for one hundred percent sure?" Harry demanded, with a frantic edge to his voice that frightened Seamus a bit. Harry was close to finally cracking, and Seamus couldn't blame him at all.

"How about ninety-eight percent sure?" Seamus offered.

"Expect that's as good as it gets," Harry swallowed.

Seamus nodded. "Expect so," he agreed.

"I just want to be alone a little while," Harry said a long moment later.

Seamus nodded again. "Just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Think so," Harry shrugged.

"Okay, I'll check on you in a bit then."

Harry opened his mouth to protest that he didn't need to be watched; he wasn't going to go off the deep end. The protest died unspoken, however, as he was simply too drained to argue. He nodded and headed for his bed.

Seamus gave him a worried look, then without any idea what else to do that wouldn't make things worse, simply left.

Albus Dumbledore sat in front of the fire in his office late into the night that evening. Fawkes crooned worriedly at his human.

Dumbledore sipped at his tea, and wondered more than once if he might not need something stronger to take the chill from his bones that night. He was tired. For so long, everyone had expected him to have all the answers. He had second-, third-, and fourth-guessed himself a million times. He was simply an old man who was trying his best.

He sighed heavily yet again.

Fawkes trilled questioningly.

"He's so different than James," Albus finally spoke a long while later. "More of Lily in him, as Severus said. He's a remarkable boy."

Fawkes trilled his agreement.

Dumbledore smiled sadly as he allowed himself an old man's fancy that Fawkes was carrying on his end of the conversation with his noises. After all, such an ancient and magical bird as Fawkes very well could be. "I'm afraid I've done irreparable damage to his trust this time."

Fawkes made another agreeable trill.

Dumbledore snorted wryly. "You needn't agree so quickly."

Fawkes stared silently, more damning than any tirade from a person could be.

"He seems to have made some sort of truce with Severus. That is something at least." Dumbledore continued. "My boys could accomplish great things if they ever got along." He smiled wryly. "Though perhaps not too well, they might arrange my demise sooner than I would wish, and tonight I think I might deserve it. They're both capable of it. Voldemort's darkness has tainted them both."

Fawkes made a series of trills that could be interpreted only as a good telling off.

"Severus isn't Dark. Neither is Harry. You know that, you foolish old bird." Dumbledore scolded. "They know the Darkness, though, and can grasp it and use it if need be. Damn Tom Riddle." Dumbledore said in a tone of weary anger. "Harry's so young. Damn me, for being a blind old fool. Yes, I should listen to Severus more when it comes to Harry ... he might be blind in many ways about Harry's motivations, but he's far better at predicting Harry's reactions than I am."

Fawkes began a soothing song, which continued well after it lulled Dumbledore to sleep.


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