Clashes of Power - Part III
Chapter 35 - Emancipated Minor - Clashes of Power - Part III
Hermione smiled a secret smile as she watched Professor Snape drape an arm around Harry while they walked out of the Room of Requirement.
"What just happened?" Ron exclaimed to the group of thunderstruck housemates who'd apparently witnessed hell freezing over.
"Professor Snape just showed us his cool side," Dean said with grin. "I wonder if he was trying to show up Professor Lupin from the battle today?"
"It's not like he had to try very hard, is it? Snape flew into the middle of everything!" Seamus shouted, adrenaline from earlier resurfacing with gusto.
"We've got to get Harry to show us how to do that as soon as he learns! You know Snape will show him, won't he?" Ron declared. "He's completely stepped in as Harry's mentor. It's only a matter of time until Harry is as good at dueling as the lot of them. Even ol' Lucius was pretty impressive!"
"That's what I said!" Dean threw in.
"We've got to get Snape to play with us again, with more instruments!" Colin said, his voice carrying a nervous, giddy quality to it. "Dennis plays drums- he knows all of the Beatles hits! We call him 'Ringo' at home!"
"I wouldn't count on it," Hermione interjected calmly. "That was all for Harry. Professor Snape's not going to form a band with you lot." She smiled again, though. Seeing Snape express himself musically like that had been quite an enlightening experience. She'd seen his humanity, and now she could worry less about Harry. He was finally being looked after by someone with power, who really cared about him.
Tuesday was a remarkably event-free day for Hogwarts, other than the focused brewing going on in Severus' lab. He'd decided to invite Draco and Miss Granger back for the second stage of preparation for the Wolfsbane Potion. Once this was completed, it was portioned into thirds. Stage three would be brewed daily, by Severus alone, for the following three days, timed to be finished just as dusk was settling in. Lupin would floo from his quarter's to Severus' quarters to receive the dose each evening.
Harry stayed in close proximity to Severus, using the opportunity to get in some 'normal time' with his guardian whenever the older wizard was unoccupied. Harry also set up a timeline for studying a list of concepts he'd need to know for his OWLs. He was determined to get the highest possible marks. He wanted Severus to teach him to fly, but more importantly, he wanted to please his guardian. Harry was hyper-aware of his attachment to Severus, and how deeply it had intensified after the attack by Nagini, and the fight with Thickeness. He knew that Severus genuinely cared for him, but still didn't know what he should expect, nineteen days from now, when his long awaited Emancipation was locked in. Would it still be okay for him to use his bedroom in Severus' quarters? Or would it be time to cancel the charms?
Thoughts like these had Harry's emotions running the gamut between feeling exceedingly touched, and feeling extremely worthless. He was touched that the former Greasy Bat of the Dungeons had transformed himself so dramatically, and was actively making things better for Harry. But then, he would reflect on how brilliant and accomplished Severus was as a potions master and an intellect in general, and Harry's own sense of worthlessness would kick in. Add to this, Severus' absolutely stellar battle skills and the unbelievably fantastic way he'd joined in with Harry's friends, playing a guitar, of all things, and with Gryffindors, to boot, and Harry felt like he could never possibly measure up. McClaggen's suggestion that Harry was inconsistent with his powers, being unable to handle his abusive muggle relatives, but facing down a dark lord and his minions, had settled in on Harry to add to his inner turmoil.
And then, of course, there was the ever present Dark Lord and his bloody horcruxes that had a remarkable knack for turning up just when Harry was starting to relax again.
Wednesday saw the student body resume a normal schedule, and even Harry felt like he might possibly be falling into a routine he could get used to, by the time Friday rolled around. He had rejoined Gryffindor for classes, meals and sleeping, but had sneaked away to be in Severus' quarters when Remus came to get his doses of Wolfsbane each day.
"You don't look too bad, considering everything," Harry told the wan older wizard on Friday. "Actually, you look far better than yesterday."
"That's entirely due to this potion," Remus said, grimacing as he downed the foul liquid, before handing the silver goblet back to Severus. "Thank you, Severus. I am very much in your debt." He smiled a small smile when Severus bowed in response. "You'll be glad to know I've written you into my will," Remus added, winking in good humor at Harry, but actually looking like he needed to lie down.
"You shouldn't tell me such things, wolf," Severus said, but his tone lacked his habitual disdain. "I should think you might worry you're giving me incentive to slip up while brewing."
Remus shook his head slowly, "No, now, you see, that's where you are wrong. I know you better than you realize. You're far too much of a perfectionist to ever compromise your work."
Severus smirked. "True." He waited for a beat and when Remus didn't elaborate further, sighed dramatically, "Very well, indulge me: what have you left me in your will?"
"Everything I own by The Cars, and Steely Dan," Remus told him promptly. He grinned as Severus' raised an eyebrow that seemed to say, is that all? "Oh, and The Best of Bread."
Severus snorted. "Do stop there," he drawled. "You've spoiled me already." But his light sarcasm barely veiled his reluctant amusement.
"The Best of Bread?" Harry repeated.
"Bread had some lovely hits," Remus said, still smiling, but he turned back to the fireplace. "The transformation is nigh. I'll see you both in the morning."
SIRIUS BLACK, INNOCENT!
Saturday morning's Daily Prophet had front page coverage on Sirius, announcing he'd been posthumously cleared of all charges, and going on to give a small blurb about how he'd been framed for mass murder by a childhood friend, Peter Pettigrew. The article kept referring to Sirius as 'the escaped convict' who had been part of a small organization of volunteers who had banned together to fight He Who Must Not Me Named. Harry Potter was named as his godson and heir, and the article went on to tell the tale of the horrible, tragically wasted life of a wrongly imprisoned wizard, turned most wanted fugitive, and dying under mysterious circumstances.
Within minutes of scanning the article, Remus had excused himself from the staff table. Harry hadn't been able to hold it together either, and had left the Great Hall to walk off the horrific wave of sadness that had washed over him. There was just no other way to see this than for what it was: a pointless tragedy. Harry hoped Sirius was with his mum and dad, and at peace with the friends he'd cherished the most. He couldn't swallow past the lump in his throat and became desperate to distract himself, so he walked faster and without aim until he found himself in front of the Room of Requirement. He stood there, trying to decide whether or not to enter, when the door opened and Mabel Dawlish and Thora Breckin headed out. Harry quickly swiped at his wet eyes, not really sure what to say to them, but thinking it was not a good idea for them to go into the ROR on their own.
"Hi, Harry," Mabel said in surprise, clearly seeing he was upset. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Harry said quickly. "Listen, what were you two doing in there?"
"None of your business," Thora said nastily.
"You wouldn't happen to be related to Pansy Parkinson, would you?" Harry asked, glaring at the snotty little second year. He turned to Mabel. "Why do you hang out with her?"
"We-…I-…" Mabel's eyes filled and she ran off.
"Mabel!" Thora screeched after her, "You stop right now! Come back here!"
Harry snickered as the second year stomped her foot in temper. "Why are you always so angry?" he asked Thora.
Thora glared at him, holding hostile eye contact for so long that Harry grew alarmed, and had an odd feeling of déjà vu. He looked into her eyes, half expecting to see familiar, reptilian red ones glaring from behind her brown irises. But there was really nothing there, other than a very surly preadolescent witch.
"Go to hell," she said nastily, sneering hatefully and walking off.
Harry sputtered in shock, shaking his head and turning to go the opposite direction.
Well, that had worked for a short time.
He'd been distracted from thoughts of Sirius for all of five minutes. And now those thoughts were returning, along with concern for Remus. He thought again about how Remus had told him not too long ago that he'd already lived through his glory days, and didn't hold out hope for more good times. A part of Harry knew how Remus felt, being the last of the Marauders, because Harry was the last of the Potters. He headed down to Remus' quarters and knocked softly.
When the older wizard opened the door, eyes red and facial pallor still pasty from his transformation, Harry did the only thing he could think of. He threw his arms around Remus.
A summons to Dumbledore's office came via the Lucius-galleon after Harry and Remus had composed themselves and been sitting and talking for a while. The message asked that they appear in twenty minutes, so clearly it was not an emergency.
"I wonder what is happening now," Harry worried, before a thought occurred to him for the first time. "Do you think this could be about the fight with Thickeness?"
Remus indicated he imagined so, and led the two of them from his quarters. He was still secretly reeling from the spontaneous show of affection from Harry about thirty minutes prior. Remus had long ago initiated the practice of keeping people at arms length, simply due to their fear of his condition. And Harry had always respected that firm boundary prior to now. Remus put a hand on the boy's shoulder as they walked, and kept it there for several long moments, monitoring his own comfort level, and realizing that between Harry and Dora, he was very slowly dismantling his perception of the world which used to be one that kept him on the periphery.
Harry was not indifferent to Remus' inner battle, and he'd been aware that he'd made his older friend uncomfortable when he'd cried into his chest earlier, but somewhere in the middle of the awkward, gruff reception of Harry, Remus had let down a barrier that was still down now, as they walked along. In an odd way, this was all thanks to Severus.
"The competition has heated up, you know," Harry said.
"Uhm hmm. For coolest professor," Harry said with a grin. "You've been in the lead, but then Severus was sited in flight going after ol' Pius, and that's stirred up some conflict."
Remus barked a laugh. "I can hardly compete with Severus, in that regard," he said with a smile. "I hear he brandished a guitar and led a jam session as well."
Harry laughed too. "It wasn't quite like that in reality, but it may as well have been. The best part is, it was all Gryffindors who saw him in action. Draco told Hermione that the Slytherins are fit to be tied."
Remus laughed again, thinking about what he was about to reveal. "I'd kept that little tidbit about his guitar playing to myself, but of course your mother had told me about each and every one of the songs he'd played for her," Remus said. "It was probably one of her most cherished things about their friendship."
"And that Best of Bread record you've willed to him?" Harry asked.
"Lots of guitar," Remus said. He squeezed Harry's shoulder and then dropped his hand, just as Mabel Dawlish stepped out of an alcove and into their path.
"Hi, Harry," she said uncertainly.
"Hi, Mabel," Harry said. He looked up at Remus. "I'll be along in a mo', Professor."
"I'll let the others know," Remus said easily, bowing his head slightly to Mabel and continuing on.
Harry turned to the small second year witch. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings earlier," he told her.
Mabel struggled to get a grasp on her emotions before she could finally squeak out, "Harry, something's not right with Thora. She didn't used to be like that, last term. We were best mates and always laughing. Now she's obsessed with finding some sort of treasure."
"Treasure?" Harry said, finally drawing lines between the odd appearances of the two girls in the vicinity of the Forbidden Forest and Nagini, and then the ROR, where Wormtail had been caught on his quest for a horcrux. His stomach plunged heavily. "Mabel, I have a friend named Ginny Weasley in fourth year. Do you know her?"
"No," Mabel said warily.
"Will you come round to the Gryffindor table at lunchtime, and I'll introduce you to her? I think it might be good to talk to her about that treasure hunt that your friend is on, okay?" Harry knew without a doubt that Thora was responding to the pull of a horcrux. She had to be. "Don't worry, alright? I'll help you out. Just come see me at lunchtime, alright?"
"Am I going to get in trouble?" she asked shakily. "You're close to Mr. Malfoy and Professor Snape, and they're both very scary."
Harry grinned at her. "Yes, they are, but they're kind enough when you go to them for help, and they're fair if you're honest with them." Mabel still didn't look convinced. Harry thought better of leaving her to her own devices at this point. "Actually, come with me, alright? I'm going up to Dumbledore's office right now."
"What?" she shrieked, loudly. "No!" And with that, she spun on her heels and took off running.
Harry ran too.
He burst into Dumbledore's office in a state of agitation. "There's one in the Room of Requirement!" he said, completely interrupting the discussion currently engaged by the Headmaster, Remus, Lucius, and Severus.
Severus frowned at Harry, crooking his finger at the boy and indicating he should come sit in the open seat beside his guardian. "Sit," he instructed slowly as Harry shakily complied. "Breathe." He waited a beat while Harry rolled his eyes and nearly cracked a smile. "Speak."
"Those two girls, the ones that showed up after the DA meeting last week?" Harry started, directing his comment at Severus, but then turning to see if Lucius had caught on. He had.
"Yes, Miss Breckin and John Dawlish's little girl, Mabel," Lucius responded.
"Yeah," Harry said. He launched into a quick recap of his encounter with them earlier, and then again just now with Mabel. He told them he was seeing the connection between their odd behavior, and their choices of destination for their odd roaming habits. "I don't know what they asked for when they went into the Room of Requirement, but at the moment, they're thinking of it as treasure. What do you reckon it's one of the missing Founder's artifacts?"
There was a heavy silence for several minutes. Finally Dumbledore interjected. "It's interesting timing, Harry. We were just discussing some theories on what other possible items Voldemort could have hidden a piece of his soul within."
"Something with the antithesis of sentimental value," Severus supplied. He was watching Harry with his customary concern, taking in the still visible signs of the boy's distress over the Prophet article that he was now having to deflect, to focus on yet another development. A flick of his wand and Harry's chair scooted closer so that Severus could lay his hand on the back of the boy's neck.
Harry smiled a small smile, lost in reflection but his eyes moved up to Severus' and held there for a little while. "I drove Riddle out of his last possession of me by letting him see how I felt about you," Harry said quietly, eyes locked on his guardian's. "I let him see that I saw you as a father, and he squirmed in revulsion and left."
Severus was blinking rapidly, struggling with what he was hearing as much as he was assimilating the information Harry was giving them. He gently squeezed Harry's neck, unable to address the sentiments that were trying to clog his throat, and so moved on to finish the thought Harry had just interjected into their data gathering. "Voldemort clearly had issues with his muggle father," he said.
"He used the man's leg bone to resurrect himself," Lucius noted. "He desecrated a burial site with pure disdain."
Dumbledore was nodding his head, thinking. "I believe we might be onto something," he said. "The other parallels to draw, if indeed these other Hogwarts artifacts are horcruxes, are that they are items of immense value, both historically and monetarily. I will look into the Riddle family line and see if there is anything of value that is known to others." He lowered his head and smiled warmly at Harry. "Well done, my boy."
Harry smiled back, feeling a slight return of the affection he'd held at bay from the elderly wizard.
"In the meantime," Severus said, "I believe a search of the Room of Requirement is called for. Immediately." He looked at Harry and read the dread in his young charge's eyes. "Bearing in mind that any sudden changes in demeanor among us will be an acute sign of proximity to the item."