Mayhem - Part I
Chapter 38 - Emancipated Minor - Mayhem - Part I
Apparently, Harry had fallen into a hard sleep because when he next opened eyes he hadn't realized he was closing, the Infirmary was empty except for the slumbering patients and a few dedicated visitors, and the lights had been dimmed. He looked anxiously around and saw that Severus was dozing in a transfigured chair beside him. He woke when Harry sat up to look over at Hermione's bed.
"She's in an induced sleep, and should be halfway back to normal when she wakes, later tomorrow," Severus told him quietly.
"And the others? Will everyone recover? Will Thora?" Harry whispered, not bothering to hide his angst as he searched Severus' face for the truth.
"It appears that they will," Severus said. "All physical injuries will heal. McClaggen was in the worst shape of all, but he'd rallied enough for transport about an hour ago, so Madam Pomfrey sent him to St. Mungo's. Miss Breckin was taken there as well, by her mother, who insists that the girl was mishandled today."
Harry gulped. Shaking his head in disbelief. "That's not good."
Severus stood and waved his wand to return the bedside chair back to it's simpler, spindle-back status. "Let's go down to our quarters, shall we?" He didn't miss the way Harry's eyes darted up to his when he'd said our quarters. "Come, Young Harry, we both need our quiet space, do we not?"
"Yeah," Harry said, climbing off of the bed and putting his arm around Severus' waist when his guardian pulled him close to support his still weakened state.
"We can use the floo in Poppy's office," Severus told him quietly.
Severus sat in the leather armchair while Harry took his shower. He had no idea how to begin to process the complicated set of circumstances now in play. Thank Merlin, he and Harry seemed to be perceiving events in the same vein. Severus kept his eyes on the flames while he waited for the boy to attempt to wash away the horrific experiences of the day. He knew there was no use, because he'd snuck away while Harry had slept earlier, and had had a go at it himself. The sweat and grime were gone, but not the lingering unease.
He sighed heavily, recalling the way Albus had allowed the rattled parents to demand assurances that their children were safe, until the Headmaster of Hogwarts had held up his hand and said,
"I beg your pardon, but you should be aware that our Ministry of Magic is not particularly up to the task of ensuring our security. They have never had a handle on any of Voldemort's activities, nor on his followers' antics. It is widely known that the Ministry employs a good number of his supporters. The staff of Hogwarts has more than demonstrated their unfailing commitment to your children's safety. But we have our limits. At this time, I will close the school and send all students home, taking the coming week to reset the wards and do a thorough sweep of the school for the presence of dark magic. There is little else that can be done. This castle is a thousand years old, and many a dark wizard has spent time within these walls. There is bound to be lingering hazard."
"This is all about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Dumbledore! You're the one who said he'd been killed off-"
"I have said repeatedly that his corporeal body was destroyed, once again, but Lord Voldemort has an ability to linger without said body. We have yet to determine how Miss Breckin came to be controlled by a cursed object, but we do know that it operated under Lord Voldemort's Magic."
"And what about the older kid? Goyle? His dad's a known Death Eater! What about that boy?"
"It has been determined that Mr. Goyle was under the influence of the Imperious curse for at least a portion of today's events," Dumbledore had responded to Norman Greengrass. "Until this time, other than random bullying and poor academic performance, Gregory Goyle has never demonstrated this level of malice. I am inclined to grant him the benefit of the doubt that the ongoing remorse he has demonstrated since the attack has been genuine."
Severus snapped out of his reverie as he heard the shower turn off. He stood, somewhat uncertain of what to say to Harry next. His own emotions were extremely tumultuous, and if he wasn't careful with the parameters of their discussion, he would lose control. He couldn't imagine that letting Harry see how fearful he'd grown over the prospect of destroying the horcrux in his scar would be beneficial to the boy. He stood and distractedly summoned a light tea from the kitchens via the floo.
The bathroom door opened and Harry emerged in pajamas, jumper and slippers, hair still wet from the repeated application of shampoo that had indeed failed to wash away his disquiet. He summoned his pillow from his bed and tossed it over the back of the sofa as he came into the room, but continued straight over to Severus and wrapped his arms tightly around the potions master.
"It might at least help to consider today's events as one step closer to the end of the Dark Lord's reign of terror," Severus said, casting a wandless drying charm on his ward's hair.
"I don't know how I would have survived everything that's been happening without you, Severus," Harry said, and his suspicion that Severus was deeply unsettled about things was confirmed by the way the older wizard hugged him back. "I know something's bothering you, but instead of trying to protect me from it, you should just tell me."
A sob of misery threatened to surge upward into Severus' chest, nearly getting the better of him as he circled his arms around Harry's shoulders and rested his chin on the top of the boy's head. He took several calming breaths, but finally admitted in a voice strained with distress, "I'd been contemplating applying the basilisk venom to your scar as a means to rid you of the horcrux, just as I did with Miss Breckin today. I'd expected it to be traumatizing, but the degree to which she suffered was quite troubling."
Harry was gobsmacked. He leaned further into their embrace and tightened his arms around his guardian. "You've already began working that out?"
"I want to set you free of that bastard, Harry," Severus rasped, "so that you can finish your childhood with nothing more concerning than quidditch and the angst of teen romance. I want to threaten you with consequences if you skive off of your studies, and proudly watch you graduate from Hogwarts, healthy and whole."
Harry could feel by his movements that Severus was wiping his eyes. Severus is crying. Over me. Surprisingly, even as his heart swelled enough to tighten his chest, Harry's own emotions held strong while he recognized Severus was telling him that he wanted to continue to act in the formal role of father figure to Harry. And it was completely up to Harry to let him, without anyone else's interference. "Well, so in the meantime, we'll just have to make do with these circumstances, won't we?" Harry said. "I'll still have to stop myself from apparating so that I won't catch it from you, and you'll have to play more guitar."
The reaction in Severus was pretty satisfying as an inadvertent bark of laughter escaped him, and he reached a long arm down to land a playful swat on Harry's backside. "If you so much as-"
"I know, I know!" Harry said, laughing. He pulled away and looked up at his guardian with affection. "I want whatever we can manage in that regard."
Remus settled back onto the loveseat he'd just transfigured out of one of his squashy armchairs, oddly at ease with the way Dora sat beside him and leaned into him. He liked the way she pressed her head into the arm he'd casually thrown across the back of the small couch, while they listened to Abbey Road. Remus had had The Beatles on the brain since he'd heard of Severus' guitar performance. He was damned sorry he'd missed that.
"Long day for you, wasn't it?" she asked as they both stared at the flames.
"Quite," Remus agreed.
"Starting with the Prophet article about my cousin," Dora surmised.
"Yes," Remus said. "That was… upsetting. Harry came down and we had some time to talk before all hell broke loose."
"You came through that hell part unscathed, again. I can't help but be impressed," Dora said, a smile in her voice. "How about Harry? How bad was it for him?"
Remus cleared his throat. "It's hard to tell with Harry. He experiences excruciating pain in his scar when he's near anything enchanted with Voldemort's magic. He definitely suffered in that regard today," he smiled then, thinking about how proud James would be of his son. "He has excellent instincts in battle, that boy."
"He's a survivor, our Harry," Dora said.
"Yes," Remus agreed. He was aware that they were having a moment, here, and that he could certainly have initiated a more intimate connection between them, but his instincts cautioned him to take more time. He'd found himself thinking about Nymphadora Tonks quite regularly in recent weeks. It was clear that Dora was interested in him, but he didn't believe that she really understood what she'd be taking on by getting involved with him.
Dora released a small sigh of disappointment, but was not dissuaded away from her intentions. She sensed the boundary that Remus was keeping, and believed she understood why it was there. I won't push yet, but soon. "What do you think will come of our Order meeting tomorrow?" she asked, instead.
"I believe we are on the verge of an intensive hunt, to forage for any remaining items that could be enchanted with Voldemort's darkness," Remus told her. "This will not end until we remove his influence, once and for all."
Aurora Sinistra, a veteran Slytherin Head of House, and the current professor of Arithmancy, had offered to handle the oversight of getting the Slytherins on the train Sunday morning, and that had been a great relief to Severus, who truly needed the quiet time with Harry. They both had a lie in, not rising until nearly nine, which was extremely unlike Severus especially, and taking their breakfast while still clad in their sleepwear. Severus had at least smoothed down his hair, but Harry's was about as rumpled as he'd ever seen it. He suspected the boy had mussed it up on purpose, but refused to comment.
"I have a couple of questions for you," Harry said in between bites of eggs and toast, and sips of pumpkin juice.
"Very well, ask them," Severus responded, sipping his coffee carefully.
"Why did you use my broom yesterday? Why didn't you just fly after Breckin and Goyle?" Harry asked, and he could see an immediate shift in the older wizard's demeanor.
Severus stared at the table for a long moment before he responded. "The Dark Lord taught me that particular skill. I'd been resistant to receiving any sort of tutelage from him, but will admit I'd had trouble resisting that particular lesson." Now he raised his eyes to meet Harry's. "I've refined my style to be my own, but I've a reluctance to giving him the satisfaction of seeing me employ magic he initially taught me. I felt his presence yesterday."
Harry swallowed hard. "I get it," he said softly. "You have an awful lot of integrity, Severus."
Severus smiled reluctantly. "I've no such thing, young man, but regardless, it's difficult to take anything seriously that comes from your mouth when you're allowing your hair to scream insanity at me from across the table."
"Oh!" Harry laughed and used both hands to tame his hair to some degree. "That. I'd forgotten."
Harry grinned and resumed eating for a few moments before he asked his second question. "And the basilisk fang? Why did you have me summon it?"
"I would have thought it was obvious, Young Harry," Severus said, the smile struggling to return to his austere features. "I didn't trust my own abilities to summon such a delicate package from such a distance."
"Blimey," Harry said in shock.
The first of a series of planned meetings occurred in Dumbledore's office. Harry walked up from the dungeons with Severus, meeting Remus and McGonagall en route. When they arrived, they found Lucius, Draco, Narcissa Malfoy and Andromeda Tonks, who, were it not for her overtly sane features, was a dead ringer for Bellatrix Lestrange. They were already seated and waiting.
"Ah, I see we've all arrived," Dumbledore announced, waving the new arrivals towards the available chairs. "Please be seated." He looked around, expression solemn, but his tone was soft and caring as he made eye contact with each of them. "Those of us who have gathered are to be tasked with retrieving the stolen cup of Helga Hufflepuff. Lucius?"
Lucius caught Harry's eye and gave him a wink of reassurance. "My family and I were having a discussion last evening," Lucius opened, "and Draco realized, upon confirmation that it was indeed the cursed diadem of Ravenclaw which caused yesterday's events, that he might know of the location of the long disappeared Hufflepuff artifact."
"Yes," Draco interjected, his smile not too pompous, "I'm Aunt Bella's favorite confidante, and I have a strong recollection of her telling me that she'd been entrusted with the keeping of a prized possession of the Dark Lord's. A golden cup. And she'd originally kept it in her own vault, but after she'd escaped from Azkaban this last time, had decided to move it to the Black Family vault."
The room was quiet for a stretch. Madam Malfoy took it from there, saying, "Harry, as Sirius Black's heir, you become a key holder to the vault. It cannot be accessed by any singular heir, but must be entered by three of us. My sisters and Sirius were the current key holders."
"Oh," Harry said, a lump rising in his throat at the same time as his adrenaline picked up. "I don't have a key, that I know of. Where would I find it?"
"It will require a visit to Gringotts. We can go together," Andromeda Tonks told Harry. He tried not to stare at her, but it was a challenge. He did manage to see the resemblance between her daughter and her, however, and also to Draco's mother.
"And we've arranged for this to occur on Wednesday, Harry," Dumbledore concluded. He lowered his head and held Harry's gaze above his spectacles, and Harry realized he wasn't to ask why they were waiting three full days. "Draco also recalls Madam Lestrange going into extensive detail about the terrifically dark curses the cup is laden with, to protect it from confiscation. We will need to prepare for the safest method of retrieval."
Harry nodded, remembering that Dumbledore had said he'd believed there to be an appropriate order to the timing of the destruction of the horcruxes. Well, at least we know where another one is. "I'm wondering if there is any other treasure like this that we might look out for?" he asked.
Dumbledore smiled. "I believe there is, and I believe we may need to employ muggle channels to search for it."
Harry frowned at this until he met Severus' eyes and saw that his guardian might not have been ready for Harry to know this yet. "What?" he asked carefully.
"I thought we'd pay Madam Chase a visit, a follow-up, if you will," Severus said to Harry.
Severus kept Harry in Dumbledore's office after the others had left.
"I told you last night that I'd begun developing a plan for dealing with your scar, son," Severus told Harry. "I've nothing set yet, and am still searching for options."
"Okay," Harry said warily. "I've been thinking about it, too."
Severus leaned forward in his chair. "I would never proceed without both of us having full confidence, mind you," he said. He could see Harry's fear and it was feeding into his own. "Madam Chase made a suggestion, not knowing what we were dealing with, but under the assumption that I'm worried about interior damage to your brain or skull from the scar, because of your headaches." He paused until Harry had nodded. "She has arranged for you to get a procedure called an MRI tomorrow. Have you ever heard of that, Harry?"
"Yeah, but I'm not clear on what it is," Harry said. He was starting to shake.
"It is painless, and it will utilize a magnetic field to image the interior of your brain," Severus explained.
"You want to see if there's some sort of, what? a container? for the curse behind my scar?" Harry asked.
"Correct," Severus said. "It is ultimately the equivalent of a diagnostic spell, and would reduce the sense of blindness to the parameters we are working within."
Harry nodded. "Alright. What time?"
"Ten o'clock," Severus said, relaxing significantly now that Harry had agreed. "We will also spend some time with her in the muggle records office, and for that purpose will be bringing Miss Granger along for the journey."
Harry smiled, nodding again. "That's a brilliant idea."
Harry wandered up to the Hospital Wing to check in on Hermione and Neville. He found Hermione sitting up in her bed reading voraciously, her color normal except for the dark circles beneath her eyes. Neville had been sent home an hour prior. No sooner had Harry walked in, but Severus flooed through, shortly followed by Dumbledore. Hermione narrowed her eyes as if she'd already worked out what was going on.
"We have a quest that requires utilizing muggle resources," Dumbledore announced to the group, but his eyes were on Hermione's. "Severus and Harry have a connection to a muggle who works within the government in London, and she could have access to records via her computer. We are specifically interested in Tom Riddle's muggle family heritage." He paused, smiling widely at how intensely Hermione was listening. "I believe, Miss Granger, that you would be quite an asset, in that regard as well."
Hermione beamed. "I'm happy to help," she said, looking at Harry, who was biting his lip.
"You'll need to go into another magical sleep, then," Severus told her, "to accelerate your healing. We need to do this tomorrow."
Hermione frowned and Harry laughed, saying, "You can study when we get back. I'll even join you."
Harry stayed with Hermione for a short visit before she drank the potion that would induce her sleep. He needed to hear about her experience, and once she'd described the life-threatening slashes she'd received to both her femural artery and her sternum, Harry could scarcely believe she'd survived.
"I was lucky," Hermione said. "The Head Girl, Melinda Bankhead, was right there. She's planning to go into healing and knew what to do until Madam Pomfrey got to me." She looked at Harry. "Remember when this used to feel like it was all up to you to handle?" she asked softly.
"You mean last week?" Harry snarked, but he grinned at her. "I'm glad you'll be coming tomorrow. The procedure I'm getting done sounds like an X-Ray, but I'm still a bit nervous, since I've never had one of those done either."
"My dad had one after a skiing accident last year," Hermione said. "It's nothing, Harry. You'll be fine."
"No shots, then?" he asked, finally revealing the one thing he'd feared he'd be surprised with when it was time for the procedure. The only experience Harry could remember with muggle medicine was getting a series of shots for school, and they'd been rather unpleasant.
"No shots." Hermione said definitively. She drank her potion and slipped into sleep.
Harry stayed with her for a few minutes, feeling unsettled but not really certain why. It's probably a bit of everything getting to me just now.
There was one final meeting underway when he exited the Hospital Wing, an Order meeting, which took place in the Great Hall. Dumbledore had managed to gather what appeared to be the entire Order of the Phoenix to perform a thorough sweep of the school. He also formed a six person guard to be posted around the clock when school resumed, until further notice. Harry was aware that the Headmaster had said nothing specific about what to look for during the sweep, or what circumstances would conclude the need for the additional school security.