Defense - Part II
Chapter 29 - Emancipated Minor - Defense - Part II
Harry spent the first part of Saturday studying and completing assignments. He not only had to manage Hermione's nagging, but now also Severus' expectations of his academic performance, if he wanted to be left at peace. He inwardly knew he could choose to defy them both, but the past week of successes with high marks had felt good. He needed as many opportunities to feel good as he could get. Besides, he'd always hated that moment when taking a test and realizing he hadn't properly prepared. Now he had solid conviction he could avoid that situation altogether by just doing the assignments his professors were setting.
After lunch, he went down to Severus' quarters to see Remus in action. The actual introduction of a new interior space required a combination of transfigurations: first expansion, then reconfiguration of walls, and insertion of doors. All of this needed to be indelible. Merlin forbid he create a bedroom for Harry that could be eliminated with a simple finite.
"Please make sure it's really permanent, Remus," Harry said, "or someone might get in a snit and cancel all of the charms."
Remus chuckled but held his tongue while Harry tried to pretend he was unaware of Severus' annoyed expression. After a moment he felt the potion master's warm hand on his neck, and then a firmer squeeze than normal. They stood watching while Remus worked. For Harry, observing an adult wizard exerting that much magical power into an exercise was a good opportunity to recognize the difference between a fully grown wizard practicing magic and a still-developing one attempting to explore his power.
He supposed if he thought of things that way, he could understand what Severus might be basing his fears on when he started throwing out threats of chasing Harry with the paddle. Harry was small. His frame was still narrow, and he was shorter than many of the boys in his year, but more importantly, he was just plain skinny. He had lean muscle tone, but it was minimal. That's got to change soon though, now that no one gets to starve me any longer, he acknowledged.
"There," Remus said with a final flourish of his wand. "Now, Harry, you just need to do a little decorating and it will truly be your space."
Harry flashed a look at Severus, who had stepped into the room to have a glance around. It was complete with charmed window that currently revealed an unusually sunny day, casting a warm glow into the room. Harry stepped inside too, seeing that there was enough room for a decent sized bed, side table and perhaps a chair. Perfect.
"It's brilliant, Remus," Harry said, suddenly feeling awkwardly touched that such efforts were being made on his behalf.
"It's cozy enough," Severus agreed. "Not so small as to feel like a cupboard, I assume?"
Harry shot a look at Severus. He was not about to elaborate on his "room" at Privet Drive. "You clearly have never spent years using a cupboard for a bedroom," he said flippantly.
Severus held his stare for a few moments, probably weighing the merits of pushing the subject with Harry. But he did not, he turned to Remus instead. "I appreciate your service, Lupin. Well done."
"Coming from you, Severus, that is practically soaring praise," Remus said, smiling especially broadly when Severus told him not to inflate a simple compliment into a badge of honor.
The Ministry Ensemble headed outdoors into the crisp, sunny day for a mid-afternoon walk around the grounds. It was cold enough that they needed to keep moving, but everyone was willing to weather the chill to get some much needed time outdoors. Harry told Ron and Hermione what he'd just found out from Remus as they walked, taking advantage of the gap between them and Neville, Ginny and Luna to relay information only for their ears.
"Remus has to appear before the Wizengamot tomorrow to testify about Wormtail. Dumbledore's going too. They're hoping maybe this will also accelerate getting Dumbledore reassigned as Headmaster," Harry told them.
"That's good news," Hermione said with obvious relief. "It's going to be a busy week for Remus. The full moon is coming up in a few days."
"Yeah," Harry said. "I'm going to help Severus with the Wolfsbane Potion, if you can believe that." When Hermione looked envious, he added with a smirk, "I think it will really be more like me keeping him company. I also found out that Tonks and Severus will be covering the DADA classes."
Harry struggled not to smile as he watched Ron battle himself at that news. Ron had been quite impressed by the way Severus had taught them so many spells, so quickly and so efficiently the previous night.
"So Harry," Ron asked, as if he hadn't given what Harry had just said a second thought, "if you're about to be emancipated, does that mean you could sign your own permission slip to go into Hogsmeade?"
"I think so," Harry said. "What happens when students turn seventeen while still in school?"
"Dunno," Ron said. "Huh, never thought to ask any of my brothers."
"You have to sign a form that says you realize you are responsible for your own actions," Ginny told them as she and the others caught up. "The twins had to do it on the day of their birthdays. I remember hearing McGonagall saying the sooner the school was no longer liable for their antics, the better she'd feel. And that was before she was Headmistress."
They all chuckled. They'd reached the foot of the incline they'd randomly hiked down.
"Well?" Neville asked. "Up? or left?"
"Left," they all said in unison, taking a path towards the lake to put off having to hike back up the hill.
Severus stood contemplating the expanded space that had lengthened one of his walls enough to leave a large part of it undecorated. He summoned the Map and took the next few seconds to open it fully and magically adhere it to the wall. He smiled smugly at how utterly convenient his monitoring of Young Harry would now be. As usual, the scrawny teen was the first person he sought as he scanned the visual of the school, and he found Harry surrounded by the friends he'd dashed off to the Ministry of Magic with just a few short weeks ago. He hoped they were all giving the subject of Harry's deceased godfather and abusive relatives a wide berth.
Thora Breckin glared at Mabel Dawlish. "You're not helping at all! You told me you'd help me!"
Mabel glared right back, but she caved when the bigger girl stepped closer to tower intimidatingly over her. "I don't know what else I'm supposed to be doing!" she complained in a babyish whinge.
"I want to get into that big room we saw last night, stupid! I've told you that!" Thora snapped cruelly.
"Yes, you've told me," Mabel said, voice breaking, feelings hurt. "But I don't know how to find it, any more than you do!"
"Well, ask Harry Potter, idiot!" Thora said. "You said you made friends with him, like I told you to."
Mabel's face crumbled. She wished she'd never said she'd help this terrible girl.
Severus moved over slightly, arms folded over his chest while his eyes wandered over the school corridors, eyeing the clusters of students at virtually every turn of the interior. All potentially volatile encounters waiting to erupt. Severus' brow furrowed suspiciously when he noted that a familiar pair of second year girls were on the fifth floor, in the vicinity of the Room of Requirement. Alright, that is likely not a coincidence. He wondered what those two could be up to. He would caution Harry about letting anyone under third year into the DA. Those two little girls were just too young and small for that level of magical practice. Eyes narrowed, he watched them hover in the same spot for a few long moments before they apparently decided to move along.
He looked back at Harry's group and saw that they were currently heading toward the lake. Further away, but potentially concerning, was a cluster of seventh year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs moving along the open grounds. The names of the students, whom both Sprout and Flitwick had already written up this week, were clustered in that group that now bobbed along towards Harry. And as if that were not disturbing enough, another group of six upper year Slytherins were following them.
Dominick Belkin of Hufflepuff stalked cockily onward, his point-me, Harry Potter spell showing him exactly where he wanted to go. "We'll catch up to him soon. Get ready, that little blighter can be very slippery," he said over his shoulder to his cohorts.
Corey Mullen and Maxwell Stoner of Ravenclaw, and Betsy Charron and Mandy Sorrell of Hufflepuff, snickered in amusement at Dom's note of caution. Harry Potter was the little prince of the school. Someone always helped him out, that's why he escaped. This time, he was going to have to fight his own battle.
Harry felt a nagging tingle in his scar, just as the Lucius-made galleon warmed and vibrated against his chest. He stopped walking and pulled out the coin. The others continued along, unaware.
Two messages came through, both from Severus. The first was directly to Harry: I'm watching the map….five seventh years following you….another group behind them….I don't like it….I'll be there as soon as I can.
Harry messaged him back: Use my broom….it's on my bed….Severus, my scar….
Then the full message to all of the coin holders: Trouble on the grounds near the lake….seventh years vs fifth years….Harry's scar hurts
"Guys! Wait!" Harry called ahead. He motioned for everyone to come back, noticing Ron and Hermione pulling out their coins. His scar still only tingled, but it was growing more intense.
"What is it, Harry?" Neville asked, recognizing his tension. Ginny and Luna closed in behind him.
"Something's wrong," Harry said quickly and quietly.
"We're about to have company," Hermione added. "Snape's bringing help."
They moved into a more open area. Everyone gathered back to back, wands out. "If you feel overpowered," Harry said in a harsh whisper, "don't try to duel, just shield yourself!"
"And there he is! Ah! There they all are!"
Harry turned to see the five seventh years advancing on them very deliberately. He and his friends pressed their shoulders together, keeping their circular formation for now, until their assailants gave a hint at their plan of attack.
"What do you want?" Hermione demanded sternly.
One of the older girls laughed harshly. "We want to give you lot a bit of payback," she said hostilely. "You see, we all know you broke into the Ministry of Magic and wreaked complete havoc there, destroying several of the departments on the lower level. Departments that our parents work in, and they have been forced to be on unpaid leave until repairs are done."
Harry swallowed down shame, choosing his words carefully. "I could see why you'd be bothered about that-"
"Don't try to defend yourself, Potter!" the boy named Dominick snapped condescendingly. "We all know you'll just blame it on You-Know-Who, trying to claim he was behind everything."
"Well, he was," Harry said matter-of-factly. All of a sudden, his scar seared with pain. "Ahhhh!" he yelled, collapsing to his knees in agony.
Somewhere beneath the searing burn in his scar, Harry was aware of spells firing off all around him, and yells of fear and rage. He was also aware that pain like this meant Voldemort was close by, in whatever form he happened to have achieved for himself… The snake! He forced himself to raise his head and look around for her, just in time to see Luna take a horrible curse he didn't recognize, which knocked her off her feet, causing her to hit her head hard and lose consciousness. Heart in his throat at the sight of his friends in peril, again, Harry rose to his feet and visualized his magical field, weaving itself between his friends and their assailants.
It had nearly circled them all when Nagini appeared from the wooded section behind the seventh years, slithering so fast she appeared to be flying as she launched herself with jaws wide open into the center of their brawl. Betsy Charron was right in her path and in a flash, was horribly bitten and trapped in the snake's jaws. Enemies and friends alike all turned to cast hex after hex at Nagini in a panic to get her off of Betsy, who was screaming in terror and agony. Harry had to drop his field of protection in order to cast at the snake. Nagini sustained several powerful blows to her hide, but was not persuaded to let Betsy go. Finally, Harry did the only thing he could think of.
"Ursa giga!" he yelled, both pleased and terrified when an enormous bear erupted from his wand and barreled toward Nagini. The snake reacted to the roar of the phantom animal, dropping Betsy and slithering away, but was now heading right toward Ginny.
"No!" Harry yelled in unison with Ron, who raced toward his sister, firing off every disabling hex they'd just learned from Severus the previous night. Nothing was working and Nagini was rearing up with open jaws to strike Ginny, who'd stumbled back and fallen onto her bum, and was now crab crawling in a desperate attempt to get out of the snake's path. Hexes were flying everywhere, dangerously going wild and unchecked.
Harry's eyes widened as he watched Nagini's mouth in terror. And then, there was no mouth, only a confused giant snake, shaking its enormous head and poking it fiercely into Ginny's abdomen. Harry could see help approaching from the air via broom, but the help was being attacked from somewhere else, by hexes firing upward from the ground. One flyer broke away though. It was Lucius. He cast a vicious slicing hex at Nagini while still in flight, which wounded her enough to stun her. Lucius then flung his arm up, and in an arc over his head, sending the snake into the air, and propelling it far out into the lake.
Harry heard Hermione yell, "Finem!" to get rid of the bear, and the level of noise dropped dramatically as Lucius rushed over to check on Ginny.
"Leave her!" Ron roared at Lucius, who stepped back with a grim expression. "You leave her to someone she can trust!" Ron's voice broke as he dropped beside his sister, hands on knees, looking at her fearfully.
"She's bleeding, son," Lucius said from behind Ron, keeping a careful distance, but concerned nonetheless.
"I don't think it's her blood, sir," Neville called over. "It's that girl's."
Severus circled the violent display of poorly managed magical battle, immediately taking in the fact that Granger and Harry were still on their feet, together holding Mullen, Belkin, and Stoner at wand point while Lucius rushed to Ginevra Weasley, who was on her back, staring at the sky, covered in blood. Longbottom was wounded, his arm bleeding profusely, but he was also still on his feet, wand at the ready. Lovegood appeared to be out cold, bleeding from a head wound, and Mandy Sorrell was weeping over a badly wounded Betsy Charron.
And damned if there wasn't one of his bears running amuck in the midst of the mayhem. He would not grin, it was way too inappropriate. No grins.
Back over the nearby ridge, Minerva and Remus turned the errant Slytherins they'd just captured and restrained over to newly arriving Ministry Aurors. Remus had flown himself and Minerva down here on his own Firebolt, which he carried with him as they approached on foot, along with Kingsley Shacklebolt, John Dawlish, and Tonks.
"Poppy is on her way," Minerva said as she rushed over to Betsy Charron. Remus made his way over to where Severus had knelt near Luna, and found that she'd been revived. Severus had a diagnostic charm hovering over her, which the blond girl was watching with fascination.
"Apparently I have a minor concussion, but no skull or brain damage," Luna announced as Severus chanted a healing charm to seal up the cut that had bled so dramatically, followed by a scourgify to eliminate most of the collected blood.
Harry was over with Ron and Ginny, while Lucius still stood close by. "I think she got hit by a disabling hex, Ron," Harry said. "And the snake wiped her face on Ginny. This isn't Gin's blood."
"Uhhhggh," Ron complained, but he cast a finite and a finem over Ginny and she came out of the paralysis she'd been hexed into. "Ginny?"
"I feel like I got punched in the stomach by a giant snake," Ginny said.
There was a snort of amusement from Lucius. He turned his back to them and put his hands on his knees. "Leave it to you, Harry, to render it mouthless."
"It was all I could think of," Harry protested, but he smiled in spite of himself. He squeezed Ginny's hand. "Alright, Gin?"
Ginny was glaring at Lucius, but she softened her look when she nodded and managed a smile for her brother and Harry. Ron helped her sit up and then stand.
Harry turned to find that Severus was with Hermione, a few yards away, head bowed lower towards hers while he spoke quietly to her. She was rattled, but it was fierce anger that made her eyes shine. Harry couldn't hear the conversation, but it concluded with Severus giving her shoulder a squeeze. By now Remus was looking after Neville, and the adrenaline was starting to drain from Harry. He waited to see if he would be hit with exhaustion, but it never came this time. Only shaking, which calmed after Severus had cupped a hand around his head and pulled him close for a few moments.