Chapter 1: Blood in the Great Hall
Hedwig hooted pitifully. Harry barely managed to scramble out of his seat and catch the wounded owl as she fell more than flew to her master. Harry's eyes flashed with rage as he slowly turned to look at Umbridge's smug face. Luna calmly approached from the Ravenclaw table and gently took Hedwig before starting to work on healing her. Harry paid attention only long enough to ensure that his owl would be alright in the hands of his friend before turning towards the teachers' table. A mask of rage and thunderous fury had his face snarling as he spat the summoning charm.
"Accio Umbitch's Ankles!" Harry snarled, intentionally dragging her by her ankles under the table and aiming for her to land roughly on the floor a few feet away. Her wand had been left behind on the table when she had been summoned away from her meal in the Headmaster's seat. Dead silence broken only by the furious screeches of his victim echoed around the room.
"How dare!" Umbridge began only to get silenced and bound by the spells sent by a pair of redheaded demons who had swiftly moved to stand with Harry.
"I'm going to introduce you to a few things that my relatives use on me," Harry told her with a calm that spoke of absolute fury. The Weasley twins exchanged worried looks, tipping Snape off to the fact that what was coming might not be something that could be classed as a harmless childhood punishment.
"Uh, Harry? You think we should send away anyone under fourth year first?" George asked quickly.
"And anyone who doesn't want to see you draw blood on the toad?" Fred added even more quickly. Both of them knew there was no way to actually stop Harry short of knocking him senseless now that he had finally reached his limit.
"Send away anyone who doesn't want to see Death Eater level torture," Harry ordered, his voice deadly calm as his cold eyes never left the form of his prey. Umbridge was slowly catching on to the fact that Harry was deadly serious about the matter.
"Potter," Severus warned, his voice threatening but with enough concern buried within the word to make Harry look up and meet the man's gaze. Severus swallowed hard. He didn't even have to go looking in the mind hidden by those emerald eyes to know that the threat of torture was more of a promise than anything else.
"She attacked my familiar," Harry said calmly. He may not know the laws surrounding familiars but he knew that they were valued among wizards and that the bitch had pushed too far.
"Minerva, get everyone out of here but don't try with Potter or Umbridge," Severus ordered after he swallowed dryly, his onyx gaze never dropping the link to the emerald orbs. Everyone moved towards the exit, avoiding passing between or near the two wizards and bound pink clad witch.
"I want to see what useless things Potty's relatives use on him," Draco Malfoy said evilly, smirking as if he had won something and oblivious to the threat hanging in the air.
"You will return to your common room, Mr. Malfoy, or face the loss of 50 points and a week of detentions," McGonagall shot back.
"Let him stay. Let anyone who wants to watch stay," Harry countered, gaze never leaving Severus' stare down.
"I can't let you kill her," Severus warned carefully. "Even if the law says you can retaliate for the attack."
"At this point professor I'm more interested in taking the payment for wrongs done out of her hide and asking Voldy if his offer from first year is still open. I'm not sure she's worth using as my first human kill beyond Quirrellmort. Self defense might have been a large part of fighting him off in first year but I didn't have to jump on him after he backed up when we both saw my skin burning him. Then again he was still actively trying to kill me even with the bad magical burns," Harry said flatly. His eyes were slowly going dead even as gasps arose from his fellow students at his words. People started to leave even more quickly than before.
"Perhaps another arrangement can be made? If only to avoid the mess she will make and the stains that the stones will acquire?" Severus offered carefully. He would address the Quirrellmort comment later and if possible get the brat's version of his so called yearly adventures directly from him and his memories. Severus was very clearly missing vital details.
"Does he condone hurting children?" Harry asked shortly. An idle curse silently left his wand to hit Umbridge with the loud crack of breaking bone. The sound had Draco Malfoy going pasty white as his smirk slowly slipped off his face with the dawning realization that his school yard rival hadn't been kidding. The next bone breaking hex landed on the other leg swiftly followed by some sort of crushing curse used on the woman's hands. By now it was clear to everyone who remained that if the twins hadn't silenced Umbridge her screams and shouts would be echoing down the corridors of the castle.
"No, your case is unique because of something Dumbledore insists on keeping from you and everyone else that I can not speak of... yet, due to a vow. I am more than willing to act as your go-between in this matter if you so desire," Severus informed him almost gently. He didn't like the woman but Harry was one of the people he especially tried to protect. He knew he would have to get a great many facts from the green-eyed imp before everything was said and done but for the moment keeping him from committing murder in front of the entire school was at the top of the list.
"Would you mind delivering her as an act of good faith? Or a peace offering if he will accept her as such? I'd offer my relatives but they aren't currently to hand," Harry said casually. He had switched to very carefully shredding the pink cardigan while not harming Umbridge beyond a few bloody nicks from the cutting spell warning her of how much damage he could do to her flesh. "If she happens to be one of his she's on my to-kill list next to Pettigrew but my renewed interest in his original offer stands... depending on his actual aims and plans."
"I shall see that he gets the message," Severus said, gracefully moving and silently stunning the bitch as eye contact was finally broken by unspoken mutual agreement. A few medical charms were used to prevent further damage during transport but nothing was done to lower the amount of pain she was experiencing.
"I'll start opening the defense club into a school wide weekend defense session then shall I?" Harry offered calmly.
"It would be much appreciated," Severus agreed, taking charge of the unconscious witch. "Should I arrange for helpers among the staff or are you wanting to keep it strictly students only?"
"You and anyone else you deem competent when it comes to defense and combat are welcome Master Snape," Harry said formally.
"Then expect myself, Flitwick, and McGonagall at your next meeting," Severus told Harry before sweeping out of the room and heading for the edge of the wards with the openly injured Umbridge floating along behind him. He had a message and goodwill present to deliver after all.
Harry calmly walked past the wary and suspicious student body, his rage still burning bright and high sending his magic into seething turmoil. They shied away from him as he approached a calm Luna holding an openly concerned Hedwig who was mostly healed by now.
"Keep her with you for a few days. She needs to be sure that her sacrifice and warning protected you. Did you know she sees you as not just her wizard but as her chick?" Luna instructed dreamily.
Harry very gently took Hedwig from Luna's arms and cuddled her close while being mindful of the mostly healed injuries.
"She was my very first friend ever and my first birthday present," Harry told the blond absently as his petting of a cooing Hedwig slowly calmed him. He wasn't even aware that he was speaking out loud and had eyes only for his familiar. "I had a hard time feeding her during the summers. The Dursleys only gave me a can of soup each day, if that, but she wouldn't ever let me give her all the food. She would smack me with her wing if she could until I ate at least half of the food. Sometimes, if I wasn't healing from something, I would try to give her some of my magic to try and make it better. She usually scolded me for it, because I'd often wind up hurt for longer or getting a bit sick afterwards. I doesn't happen when I do it here at Hogwarts but she does fuss a lot after."
The magic of the school had frozen almost everyone and locked them in place to silently witness Harry's confession to Hedwig more than to anyone else. It was clear to the staff that the school was furious over Harry's mistreatment and was demanding that something be done about it.
"Why would she fuss so? Was she chasing away wrackspurts? Or pennypounds? Or did she just know you were leaking too much red juice?" Luna asked in airy curiosity. Harry was too out of it to pick up on the dark undertone that made her seem like a vengeful Fae gathering information or attempting to trick those they spoke with.
"Hmm? Oh probably the red juice I suppose. Blood can be a bit difficult to clean up when you are still bleeding and it smells terrible when there is that yellow and white stuff in it that makes the injury hot and tender. My Aunt always made me throw out anything that it got on with the yellow and white stuff mixed in or she made me wash it in water that was still bubbling from the heat with a bar of soap that always burned my fingers when I touched it. It always made my skin red and hurt for hours after doing that wash," Harry said absently, still unaware that he was speaking aloud.
The horror of the surrounding staff and students being released from the magical freeze lock brought Harry back to reality. Harry sighed deeply, refusing to look at anyone but still gave Luna a nod of thank you before wandering off.
"Minerva, I don't bloody care if Albus demands Mr. Potter returns to those creatures. I'll adopt him myself if need be," Pomona Sprout said firmly once Harry was gone.
"I honestly feel the same but I haven't found a legal recourse or something that would protect him better than the blasted blood wards Albus claims are at his Aunt's place," McGonagall explained wearily. "I feel the same. I'd adopt him in a heart beat but Dumbledore sent Black to Azkaban specifically to keep Potter at his Aunt's. He knew the man was innocent as he was the one to cast the Fidilus charms for the Potters. Severus was magically bound by Albus to be especially nasty to him and the old fool thinks he's stolen or sealed all my memories of these things! I can't even report it properly with some of the release restrictions!"
"Then why can you speak of it now?" Pomona asked with a frown.
"Because I'm talking to a fellow staff member about his safety and the reasons why you can't simply adopt the lad. I am perfectly well convinced that anything but the full truth would only make you more determined to thwart Albus and adopt him any way. It's not my fault if I don't see anyone listening to us. I cast the privacy charm after all. I can only guess I'm overly tired from having to counter that pink bitch on matters of student safety," Minerva shrugged carelessly, pointedly ignoring everyone but her fellow teacher.
It was clear to everyone that they needed to rethink what they knew about one Harry Potter. Classes were canceled with the stern warning to leave Harry alone and not touch his owl. Rumor had it that the teachers hadn't interfered because it was connected to some familiar based law that Snape had mentioned before he left with Umbridge. The other rumors centered around Snape keeping the teachers from stopping Harry. The news that McGonagall let slip in the middle of the crowded hall also made the rounds. The obviously open revolt against Dumbledore and the Professor's reasons for it had the students discussing it furiously with the purebloods actually teaching both half bloods and muggleborns why certain things must have happened and what laws were being used. To say that there was open dissatisfaction bordering on fury on behalf of Harry was an understatement.
Had Dumbledore returned that night the building storm of magic and emotion within the castle would have shocked him.
Chapter 2: Peace Offering
Severus had transported the witch to Malfoy Manor, pondering what he had learned from the confrontation. The fact was her nearly fatal attack on Hedwig, Potter's familiar, made Harry's actions not only acceptable but perfectly legal. Familiars were companions and helped with not only maintaining the health and mental well being of the witch or wizard but also helped with their magic. Had she killed the owl it could very well have killed Harry as well if their bond was strong enough. To attack a wizard's familiar was to attack the wizard themselves. It was rare but sometimes exceptionally strong wizards found themselves with more than one familiar bonded to them. Such multiple familiar pairings were more common with witches because the familiars helped with pregnancies, childbirth, and child rearing. Healing a sick familiar could also heal hidden illnesses or injuries in their bonded wizard.
All of this made the "gifting" of the perpetrator to a mortal enemy a very potent peace offering. Severus' own position as messenger was very highly respected and showed that Potter, for all their differences, respected the spy highly as a fellow wizard. Severus hoped he could finally get the damned hatred encouraging spells off him and build a proper relationship to the powerful young wizard. He had to repress a shiver at the memory of feeling power rolling off the youth in waves.
"Severus? Why on earth are you here with Madam Umbridge?" Lucius asked in a mix of concern and confusion.
"Lord Malfoy, I seek to deliver a peace offering to one currently residing within your home. Will you allow me to pass and present it to the recipient?" Potions Master Severus Snape, Lord Prince, formally requested. His slight tilt of the head indicated a respectful bow without actually giving one.
A myriad of emotion flashed across the blond aristocrat's features before he dropped back into the pureblood mask he favored so with outsiders.
"Certainly. Might I inquire who the peace offering is between?" Lucius asked as he briskly allowed his friend beyond the entrance hall.
"The Dark Lord from Potter," Severus smirked wickedly as his friend stumbled in shock. The bound form of the pink witch floating along behind them as they moved further into the Manor.
Half an hour later Severus knelt in front of the Dark Lord waiting for the verdict on the peace offering.
"So, young Potter has finally been pushed to his limit by the so-called light," Voldemort mused, ruby eyes narrowed in thought as the vile woman whimpered from where she lay. He had been curious to know what campaign she had used against his young foe and had browsed through her memories before casting crucio for her gall at seeking to take his retribution from him.
Young Harry's response to the attack on his familiar though, that had broken his mask and some of the control of the obvious brainwashing that had been done. If he could be turned, as his inquiry about the first offer indicated, then the threat would disappear. He would no longer need to seek the young wizard's death and be able to claim, through Harry, the support of much of the wizarding youth.
"He also instructed me to ask if your offer from his first year was still open," Severus informed the Dark Lord with a smirk. "I don't know what you offered him but the attack on his familiar has apparently caused him to re-think his position on the matter. It makes me wonder how much information I am missing on his yearly adventures and if I could possibly discover more without the damned hatred spells binding my actions."
"Oh? And who has cast these spells upon you my sly serpent?" Voldemort asked, his long fingers griping his pale yew wand tightly as he breathed hard through his slit nostrils.
"Dumbledore. I am surprised that I can speak of it now when I have always been punished by the magic for even trying in the past," Severus admitted with a frown.
"If it was tied to the magic of the blood feud between young Potter and myself or at least our enmity... the peace offering would have released the binding on your tongue," Voldemort pointed out with a growl. "It makes me wonder exactly what else was bound by the old goat using that method and thus what else was released by my acceptance of this peace offering."
A harsh slash of the yew wand nearly made Severus flinch as Voldemort scanned him for foreign magics. A power-filled flick removed the spells twisting emotions of both the kneeling man and any who approached him.
"See that you wear your Lordship ring from now on to allow its protections to guard you properly," Voldemort instructed sternly. "I expect you to build a proper relationship with young Potter with the spells now gone. My return gift... will need some time to arrange. For now you will inform him that I formally accept his peace offering and declare that he may approach me for safety if the need arises. Let there no longer be conflict between our families. So mote it be."
"So mote it be," Severus intoned in Harry's place, sealing the end of the conflict between the two powerful wizards. A notice magically informed those involved in the fight directly linked to either wizard. Dumbledore would be horrified when he read the paper to discover that a previously unknown blood feud between Harry Potter of House Potter and Tom Riddle of House Gaunt was formally resolved.
"My lord, if I may be so bold? Might I suggest that to at least give a reason for my first attempts that part of your own gift be a potion of his choice brewed by myself? As a gift?" Severus suggested carefully.
"Exactly how well did you fight those twisting magics?" Voldemort asked with a smirk gracing his serpentine features.
"Not well around others," Severus admitted sourly. "In the privacy of my own quarters though, I may have begun to grow... interested."
"If you can build a solid enough relationship that it would be worth the risk to you personally, not to the cause mind you, then I will permit it. No trickery that would incite a feeling of betrayal," Voldemort warned. "If your relationship with Potter conflicts with any orders I give you then you are to report the issue and otherwise use your best judgement. Now that we are no longer at war with each other I find myself disinclined to resume such feuding with the young wizard."
"His magic feels...magnificent when he isn't subconsciously shielding," Severus said, relishing in the memory of the taste of Harry's magic from earlier. Dark sweet chocolate and bitter dark coffee with savory rotisserie chicken and the sharp bite of garlic. It made Severus wonder if the flavor mix had been due to Harry being in a raging fury that was barely controlled or if it was the normal flavor of his strong magic. After all Harry's normal sickeningly light flavor was of overwhelming peppermint, drowning out all else. Now that Severus knew there was a shield in place hiding the truth of the wizard he was eager to discover what lay beneath it.
Voldemort gave him an amused look but dismissed him to return to Hogwarts as he started plotting what to send to request an audience under a flag of truce. After all he wanted to talk to the wizard meant to vanquish him and clear up a few things. If he didn't want it turning into a blood bath thanks to the jumpy light side it would have to be in public and under truce magics. Perhaps the goblins would consent to using the bank as neutral territory? Then again a very public meeting might set the public and both sides somewhat at ease. Something which would be especially effective if he let the idea that he was contemplating offering a truce get out.
The only other question in the Dark Lord's mind was how exactly had Umbridge's harassment campaign combined with her assassination attempt via the Dementors lead to all of this? What went through Potter's mind to bring him to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that he should not only attack the pink clad witch in the open but also gift her to Voldemort of all people? Things were not adding up to the sickening little light warrior he had thought young Potter to be at age eleven.
Evil can not flourish in the light of truth. It was time to strip away the lies surrounding the so-called light's little savior and allow his own need for truth to strip the concealment away from whatever had hurt young Harry badly enough that he would act so. Dumbledore would regret trading in lies and evil while supposedly hiding within the light of the "good" side.
What was that warning bible passage again? The one about the world seeing good as evil and evil being seen as good? Voldemort couldn't remember even if it had been thrown in his face often enough as a child when they accused him without proof of being demon spawn or demon possessed. Truth was the only thing that could strip away the twisting lies even if one did not worship the Christian god.
"~Master?~" Nagini hissed, bringing him out of his musing as she appeared in the doorway, obviously looking for him.
"~What is it Nagini?~" Voldemort hissed back curiously in parseltongue.
"~The rat-human was snooping again. Why can I not simply eat it and be done with its threat to the nest?~" Nagini whined pitifully.
"~He still has some uses but mostly you can not eat him because he has not given enough cause. If he is killed without reason than the others will start to see us as a threat to them and their nests. We can not fight all of them and it isn't worth the risk of needing to simply to kill the traitor... not yet,~" he answered with rueful regret. Nagini hissed disconsolately before wandering over to investigate the now unconscious Umbridge, who had fainted in her bonds at the sight of the large snake.
"~Why does the scent of the hatchling you promised to feed me linger on this female?~" Nagini asked curiously.
"~She is a gift to appease our anger and end the fighting between us,~" Voldemort explained in open amusement at his familiar's antics. "~I was just thinking about what to give him in return and wondering why he thought to gift her to me. Severus delivered her and the message. I think he is finally letting go of the thought that Harry is simply his father re-born.~"
"~Good, that one's poison lingered far too strongly for so long after their battles had finished. I will give him pets and venom when next that one visits to help heal the venom damage from the hatchling's sire,~" Nagini said, nodding her head firmly in a very human fashion. "~Now it is time for good bonded wizards to stop playing and come let the squeaky things feed them. You may be part magnificent serpent but you still have a human feeding schedule.~"
"~Yes dear,~" Voldemort hissed back, laughter dancing in his eyes and voice as he played along. A quickly summoned house elf delivered the captive witch to the holding cells as the Dark Lord wandered towards the dinning room for lunch.
Chapter 3: Gift Shopping
Severus stalked down the cobblestones of Diagon Alley in thought. If he wanted to have Potter take him seriously about starting over at least in so much as actually trying to get along somewhat then he had to get the perfect apology gift for the young wizard. The end of the school year was looming as was Harry's sixteenth birthday.
The sixteenth birthday of a young witch or wizard was important because it was the day that already arranged marriage contracts came into effect. It was also the day that a witch or a wizard could legally consent to an intimate liaison with someone. That wasn't to say there often wasn't intimate explorations before that with like minded schoolmates. Although, such actual intimacies were heavily discouraged until after graduation unless there was a contract already in place. One could date all they liked but naked nookie was generally reserved for one's spouse unless used specifically for sex magics. Needless to say the teenage hormones that ran rampant across the school every year made such monitoring by the teachers not only vital but also tiring.
Now what to get the imp to prove his sincerity? A book on the absolute basics of potion making for his OWL review would help him to understand the difference between instructions and why certain things worked the way they did in potions. If he added an ingredient reference with the ingredient properties both books would help Potter immensely. They would work better for after his apology as a follow up showing that he actually did want to help the imp learn. He would also need to see about a birthday gift. On the other hand the Potion Master would be damned before he encouraged Harry to continue risking his fool neck for a shiny gold ball in Quidditch. No, nothing sports related. Pranks were also out as he didn't want to encourage the idea of what the Marauders had done to him as being acceptable. A general spell book in one subject or another or one on advanced Defense might work.
Severus wandered past the first layer of shops that Diagon had and started window shopping at the shops most muggle parents never saw. These shops were for those who stayed in the wizarding world and while easy enough to find didn't cater to anyone without magic. There was a crystal shop that sold all things crystal from goblets to plates to figurines and trinkets with a little cafe across from it. There was a jewelry store a little further on across from a leather shop.
Wandering into the crystal shop Severus glanced across the rows and rows of crystal wares. From tiny animated crystal dragons roaring silently at him to life sized animated crystal owls to crystal goblets of varying colors and enchantments of all kinds. The jewelry section held a range of different crystal pendants and the occasional smooth generic piece that would morph into the perfect form the first time it was worn.
Severus was deeply tempted to purchase a goblet that would change colors while delivering a light sting of warning in the drinker's hand if the drink was tainted with potion or poison. It would make it easier to keep certain people from being dosed with something. Then again the miniature crystal snitch figurine or the equally miniature hydra figurine or a crystal pendant of the shifting type might work just as well. Sighing in resigned acknowledgement that such delicate gifts would just get broken by the imp's school enemies if they weren't taken away by Dumbledore the Potions Master left the shop.
Just as Severus approached the leather and jewelry shops he paused, a thought flitting across his mind until he finally managed to grasp it. Potter always found himself in trouble and usually needed healing afterwards. The injuries could be lessened or even completely prevented if the green-eyed imp had some sort of protection beyond ragged clothing and whatever cover he could scramble behind at the time. Silver jewelry was well known for holding protective enchantments and Dragon hide vests were common every day armor for purebloods over and under other clothing. Conclusion, Severus might need to buy more than one in the future but it would help keep Harry alive during his stupid stunts if he bought them with the right enchantments.
An hour later found Severus debating heavily between a deep blue bracer/wand holster combination set and a dark green Dragon hide vest with the third option of simply getting both.
The leather wand holster/bracer set could also have the silver buckles and rivets enchanted. Severus knew that Lucius had been gifted a version by his father for society parties enchanted to detect potions, poisons, and other things. The enchantment would detect the magic, potion, and/or poison in any nearby food or drink as well as on surfaces. Upon detecting the unwanted magic or compound a colored symbol only visible to the wearer would be displayed on the back of the hand. The generalized symbol of which type (potion vial, spell sparking off of a wand, or poison skull and crossbones) appeared as a much smaller symbol to the upper right of the main symbol. Love potions (pink) or their reverse hate potions (black) showed up as a broken heart. Some sort of compulsion tended to show up as a coiled rope with various colors. Blue for loyalty, light blue for friendship, lavender for some sort of emotional manipulation, and red for a specific action.
Severus seriously considered the wand holster/bracer set and wondered if he could get a disillusionment charm and an automatic return charm for the wand added. Then there was the enchantment which would restrict who could actually remove it or the wand. For basic hygiene and durability reasons there would need to be a self cleaning charm on it and an imperturbable charm to keep it from being damaged by water. A fireproofing spell wouldn't go amiss either. Then again most of those spells would need to go on the Dragon hide vest as well... this was going to be expensive.
As Severus was considering the idea of combining the vest and wand holster by requesting the wand pocket at the waist of the vest he had an epiphany. Harry had no private place of safety to call his own. All the protection he could wear in the world would do nothing without a safe place to rest, recoup, and simply be himself. It was for that very reason that Severus himself viciously fought to keep his quarters private against anyone and everyone.
Well, Severus did need two gifts for the troublesome imp and his many potions patents gave him quite the income even with Dumbledore demanding 25% of the profits because of his use of school supplies. How he hated the teaching contract the old man forced him into and everything that came with it. Still it was better than Azkaban... supposedly. In any case while it would definitely make a rather large dent in his vault contents he could in fact afford both things that Harry desperately needed. Severus would need to fill some of the more expensive potion requests on a private brewing basis if he didn't want Dumbledore to catch on to his actual resources but it wasn't anything he couldn't handle.
The sight of an embroidered Snowy Owl on one of the leather jackets halted Severus' gift plans in his tracks. The Potions Master felt incredibly stupid. The owl was Potter's familiar, the bitch Umbridge attacking the owl was what had set the imp off in a bloody rage, protecting the owl was obviously important for Harry's sanity. Apparently, he would be picking up a book on Familiar Spells and one on spells for Secure Owl post to go with the two potions books. The books to protect the owl would work as a gift for requesting a formal audience from Lord Prince to Heir Potter. The post script could point Potter at Longbottom for answers on what the devil that meant if the imp didn't already know. The potion books would work as a teacher acknowledging his failings with a student. The vest could stand for his status as the imp's protector, (Damn you Dumbledore!) no matter how unwilling he had originally been to take up that mantle. The trunk with its various compartments and enchantments could stand for his honest concern and recognition of Harry while allowing James to fade away from who Potter was. It would also be an apology for mistaking Harry for his father for so long.
Wryly, Severus silently acknowledged to himself that he would have to write his reasoning down and add it to the pile of gifts rather than assume Harry would understand the implied meanings. Most magically raised students could have eventually deduced what he was trying to say but Harry very clearly wasn't raised in the Wizarding World. Then again with that thought in mind perhaps he should swap the vest for a protection pendant that only Harry and Severus himself could remove? Get a wand holster or the bracer/wand holster set to keep the imp from loosing his wand? It was quite the puzzle to sort out appropriate gifts for Harry.
Whatever happened the gifts were going to cause quite the stir.
Finally making a firm decision Severus set about his gift shopping and other errands before returning to Hogwarts.
Chapter 4: Tea & Gifts
The next morning Harry was eating breakfast next to Neville firmly ignoring anyone (mainly Hermione, Ron, and Ginny) who had told him that he should leave Hedwig in the Owlery. The teachers had taken one look at his stubbornly protective expression and told him Hedwig could stay with him if she didn't disrupt whatever class he was in. Harry quickly agreed.
Harry was shocked when a school owl delivered a formal invitation to mid-morning tea from one Lord Prince and only the pointed post script about getting Neville to help at the end of the formal note had the note shown to anyone at all. As soon as Neville read the note he flagged down Professor McGonagall.
"Yes, what is it Mr. Longbottom?" McGonagall inquired, hurrying over to the pair. Neville silently showed her the note and both looked at the very confused Harry. "Yes, I see the problem. Very well, take Mr. Potter and get him ready for his meeting. I will assume that his relatives did not teach him any of our customs and that you will be needed as an intermediary. Your teachers will be informed of the lack of attendance today while you handle family matters."
"Whot? But Harry doesn't have any family! Why does he get to skip?" Ron protested. This earned him several dark glares from Neville and McGonagall as Harry fought not to show the familiar pain from being reminded of his lack of family that would claim him as such.
"20 points for lack of common sense and another 15 for insulting a fellow schoolmate!" McGonagall told him firmly before ushering the two requested Gryffindors back towards the tower and the Gryffindor common room.
"Nev? What's going on?" Harry asked as he practically cuddled Hedwig while watching his dorm mate tearing through his trunk and clothes looking for something.
"Harry, where are your formal robes? For that matter where is something that bloody well Merlin will actually fit you?" Neville demanded, incredulous at Harry's wardrobe.
"I just have the robes from last year," Harry said, uncomfortable at the questions over his wardrobe.
"And something that at least fits? Something other than your school robes?" Neville demanded. Harry looked away in shame, unwilling to admit that he didn't have anything like that.
"Shite, alright we can adjust one of mine for you to wear for now but after this meeting we are getting you new clothes," Neville said firmly.
"I can't. I just have the one vault. If I wear anything but what my relatives give me not only will they destroy it the moment they see it but if they know about my vault they will take it," Harry pleaded with his roommate, begging for understanding.
Neville paled and his eyes went round as he understood his friend was only telling him this because he had no other choice. It was clear to both of them by this point that the meeting that day was going to be important. Not only that but Neville had just been told that his most famous classmate and fellow noble believed himself to be almost completely without funds. The truth could only be known by going to the bank but they didn't have time to investigate. The issue would have to wait.
Neville hurriedly got the pair of them sorted out using his own wardrobe. This was a formal meeting between a Family Lord and two Family Heirs. The only hint the pair of them had as to who Lord Prince was had to do with the fact the meeting was going to take place in Professor Snape's Quarters. From that alone the man had to be a Slytherin or at least the parent of one.
They were greeted at the door to Professor Snape's office by the man himself, dressed just as formally as Neville expected. Severus observed the two family heirs carefully as he led them through his office and into his quarters via a secret door. Leading them to his humble private dinning area they sat down with him at the head of the table. Through all of this Harry was silently watching them warily, knowing that he was badly missing something important.
Snape watched Harry hold Hedwig in his lap with intent onyx eyes as he conjured a perch next to Harry for the owl to rest on during the coming discussion. Harry took the hint and hesitantly placed his familiar on the very nice perch. Hedwig crooned consolingly at her human chick before settling down to watch the proceedings.
"Thank you for accepting my invitation and for taking my advice in recruiting Heir Longbottom to aid you in this meeting today Heir Potter," Professor Snape began. "As you might have surmised I am Lord Prince. It is not something that many know and I would thank you to keep that information to yourselves."
"Er, sorry sir but you said Heir Potter... what exactly am I supposed to be Heir too?" Harry asked tentatively.
"He doesn't know," Severus said with blank horror. He had so hoped he was wrong about the lack of Heir and Lordship training even if it made the imp unspeakably rude to his fellows. The fact that the wizard didn't even know a Lordship even existed for him to claim though had been inconceivable.
"Not a bloody clue," Neville agreed, equally horrified. "How the bloody hell did he know to send a peace offering if he's this clueless?!"
"Er, I'm not entirely sure what you both are talking about but the peace offering just made sense? And my magic told me it was a good idea... was that wrong?" Harry asked awkwardly.
"No, it was actually very right," Neville told him firmly. "Once you graduate you can always choose to fight him again if you want but still being in school you should have tried a peace offering as soon as you knew he was able to receive it. It would have made it safer for you here at Hogwarts."
"To my knowledge I never reconciled with your parents but my fault was in seeing only your father when looking at you. My nastiness was only allowable due to my position as a spy between the Light and Dark factions as well as my ongoing feud with the Marauders. As one of your Professors it was highly unprofessional of me to continue it but as a spy with a certain reputation any change could have had deadly consequences. Your actions not only brought me to my senses in regards to you not being your father but freed me from having to maintain my cover so viciously. My favoritism towards Slytherin house won't end but unless I need to meet with you privately any future undeserved detentions will be more likely an attempt to help you in some fashion. I trust that neither of you will spread that news about?" Severus said expectantly.
"No, sir," both teens agreed quickly, happy at this turn of events.
"Sir? Might I suggest you add me to at least some of those detentions? I can help Harry catch up with his Heir training," Neville suggested, still nervous in the face of the stern Professor. "He obviously needs it if he didn't even know he has a Lordship waiting on him."
"Yes," Severus agreed faintly.
"Aside from the new lessons you both are obviously plotting for me... why exactly are we here today?" Harry asked, blatantly trying to change the subject.
"I have several gifts for you and I had hoped to formally present them to you to show my sincerity and lack of ill will," Severus admitted sheepishly. "But a formal presentation and its meaning are lost on you simply because you weren't taught about them in the first place. I would still like to give them to you and if you are willing I can explain why I picked them and what they would have represented from my end."
"Okay?" Harry agreeing despite his lost state.
"Its a good thing Harry," Neville encouraged.
Seeing Harry's reluctant acceptance Severus rose and fetched the presents he had picked out.
"This is gift to thank you for the formal audience as a Family Lord and another Family Heir having been at odds but not in a full blood feud," Severus explained as he handed over a set of books and a plain silver bird band. "The band goes on your owl's leg. There are protective enchantments laid on it to keep her safe and heal her in case someone tries to attack her again. The books have other spells and enchantments you can place directly on her or on whatever she carries for you. I didn't think you would be willing to let me cast anything on her after the way Umbridge viciously attacked her."
"Thank you," Harry said, stunned at the thoughtful gift. He immediately turned and put the band on Hedwig ignoring her normal habit of cleaning his hair whenever she got close enough to do so.
"This next set of gifts is an apology as your teacher for being an inconsiderate git. It is also an apology for thinking that you were your father re-born rather than your own person," Professor Snape said ruefully. Harry received several potions books, two basic ones and one specifically for OWL levels, and a shrunken trunk. "The books are to acknowledge my failings as your teacher and will hopefully help you as you study for your OWLs. The new trunk has, as you can see, a shrinking enchantment. It also has multiple compartments, one of which has been set up as a sort of cozy safe zone for you to retreat to when things get to be too much or you need a safe place to think. Alternatively, you are welcome to come to me for aid or simply a safe place to stay and no judgement when discussing things if you so choose."
"Thank you," Harry said looking at the trunk as if he had been given some golden medallion or a drink of water deep in the desert.
"This last piece is harder to explain. Simply put it stands for my place as your protector. Originally the position was forced on me but I have found that given the chance I will not give it up to another. Suffice it to say that while I was first forced to protect you I now choose to do so," Severus said carefully as he gently placed a pendant around Harry's neck.
Harry picked it up so that he could look at it better. The dark stone was smooth and cool against his skin. It was carved in the shape of a kitsune. The Gryffindor looked up at the older wizard in shock, mentally reeling at the implications of choosing a trickster and known prankster creature.
"I may not appreciate having to corral pranksters here at Hogwarts but it is a part of your heritage and kitsune are known to be very protective of their kits. Now that I know you aren't pure lion I expect you to employ your cunning and bravery more in line with the more kind kitsune except against your enemies," Severus smirked. "No more hiding behind that lion's fur pelt you've been wearing, imp. That pendant will protect you from minor hexes, boost your healing a touch, and will act as an emergency portkey to bring you to me or to my home if it can't reach me for whatever reason."
"Thank you," Harry said, completely stunned.
"Incidentally, the Dark Lord accepted your peace offering and sent a message in return. Should you find yourself in need of safety you have permission to approach him for it and he will grant it. His formal return gift for the peace offering is taking some time to arrange. It is likely he will want to meet with you face to face somewhere neutral to present it too you," Severus told Harry. Upon hearing this Neville gasped in shock only to briefly choke on his swallow of air before recovering. "I apologize for not bringing the information to your attention yesterday."
"That's fine. At least he's no longer trying to kill me," Harry said wanly, clutching at his gifts as if they were a life line.
"As long as you don't break or ruin anything you may stay until lunch. I have no classes this morning," Severus offered with a kind smile.
"Thank you, I think I'd like that," Harry agreed happily. The rest of their time together was spent chatting over tea.
Chapter 5: Of Feathered Serpents
Voldemort pondered what gift would be fitting for the young Potter Heir, the wizard said to be born as his match. He had been thinking about it for very nearly a full week. As the students would be taking their OWLs next week he had to come to a final decision. The goblins had agreed to allow the use of the lobby for the public meeting on the grounds that they were included as participants. The Dark Lord saw no problem with that and doubted that his former nemesis would have an issue with it even if the rest of the Light might protest and the Ministry most certainly would object.
In point of fact Lucius was hand delivering invitations to the bank lobby to Potter, Amelia Bones, Minister Fudge, Albus Dumbledore (who would receive his via a Gringotts owl), and a number of reporters. The stated intent was a combination presentation of the responding peace offering gift and of the subject of peace talks. There would be no way to hide that he was back, equally there would be no way for the Light side to claim he only wanted death and destruction. No, this time the Dark Lord planned to be more mindful of his enemy's media use and of his idiot followers going off partying without permission or sense.
Unfortunately, on the front of choosing an appropriate gift Voldemort was still somewhat stumped. The link into the other wizard's mind was of little help especially now that he had forgone using it to bait the Gryffindor into rash action. Nagini was no help, simply insisting on being at the meeting so that she could "meet the young hatchling properly". If Potter were a Parselmouth then he knew what he would give the teen. It was unfortunate but as far as the Dark Lord was aware he was the only living Parselmouth, or at least he was the only one in the UK.
It wasn't like he could just give the teen a wand holster and be done with it. No, Harry had gifted the Dark Lord with his legal kill, one who had attacked his familiar. Such a gift was priceless in the Wizarding World, largely due to the offense the attacker had given even with the slight battering before arrival. The familiar laws were the one thing no wizard would dare to try and destroy, resulting in protection from both the Light and the Dark factions. He had to give Potter something of equal or greater value as his return peace offering gift. He would also seek an alliance with the teen for his gift had wiped away all grievances between them and their houses whether Harry knew it or not.
The only thing of remotely equivalent value would be an adoption. Children were precious. It had taken years for Voldemort to realize why no one had believed him to be in danger at the muggle orphanage and by that point he had been an outlaw. The Wizarding World had almost no concept of child abuse or of the danger that the bombs from the London Blitz represented. They presumed that any place which housed large amounts of children would be well protected and the children themselves well cared for. It was one of the very reasons why Hogwarts had such strong wards and acted as a safe haven for the populace during times of extreme danger.
Dumbledore was one of the only exceptions to that lack of understanding. The man had covered up such incidents among the muggle raised and muggle born ever since he had become a teacher at Hogwarts instead of helping as a part of his duty and job. Every single Death Eater had seen or been shown the horror that was child abuse, although only the Elite Inner Circle had been shown the danger that was muggle weapons. The blindness of the Light was what caused the clashes to be so vicious when rescue missions and raids against the traitors who broke the Statute of Secrecy caused the two sides to clash.
Voldemort would try for peace, for Harry's sake, but he would not give up the demands to make all magical children safe and loved. Part of that required an earlier proper introduction to their world of magic and regular check ups on the children with removal of any found to be abused to a new family. He would also not back down on equal rights for all sentient beings nor the right to practice all forms of magic. If the magic was taught properly and you had to get certain certifications to qualify for using some of it that was more than reasonable for the more dangerous and morally ambiguous forms such as Necromancy. The return of their celebrations and traditions though was one of the things his people, the so-called Dark, desperately wanted back.
Voldemort firmly dragged his thoughts away from the anger inducing restrictions and back to what he might gift to Potter. Everything but the actual gift to be presented was in place. The meeting would occur two days after the end of OWL testing to give Harry time to recover from his tests. It also had the bonus of making it impossible for the Ministry to say Potter wasn't certified and thus had lost the rights to magic. The timing was specifically arranged in case Harry needed to formally withdraw from Hogwarts or defend himself during the meeting. It also had the added bonus of giving the Dark Lord enough time to come up with an appropriate present.
The Dark Lord huffed moodily, why was it so hard to come up with a damned present?!
"~Are you still brooding on what to gift to the hatchling?~" Nagini laughed, slithering into the room to coil comfortably at his feet on a stone spelled to radiate warmth.
"~Yes,~" Voldemort admitted grumpily. "~I truly don't know him well enough to gift him something appropriate.~"
"~You already told me that the only matching gift is to accept him into your nest. Why are you fretting so? Accept him into your nest, make certain he is growing well, and teach the hatchling what he needs to know. You took his parents and this is more than acceptable in a clash of nests. You will simply be joining nests,~" Nagini said, uncomprehending why it was so difficult. "~This will make both your nests stronger, you will have the hatchling to care for that you want so much, and he will no longer seek to destroy your nest. You can teach him why you fight so with the other nests to protect the hatchlings and he might even help.~"
"~Adopting someone, especially since I don't plan to just ignore him afterwards, is a big step,~" Voldemort tried to explain.
"~Are you scared that you will not be able to raise the hatchling even though he is nearly grown?~" Nagini asked, peering at him suspiciously. "~Do not worry. I have raised many hatchlings and I will help you with this one.~"
"~I'll have the paperwork drawn up and request volunteers from my followers who might also like to offer Potter a place in their family. I know many of them want another child but can't have any more or even any at all,~" Voldemort agreed ruefully.
"~Good, now give me pets!~" the serpent demanded, making her human laugh as he complied with his pushy familiar's demands.
"~There is a chance that he won't want to be adopted,~" Voldemort pointed out as he practically cuddled his familiar.
"~Then we will find him another familiar to bond with that will protect him for us,~" Nagini said firmly. "~There is a nest of those irritating flying ones on the grounds. They will listen to a speaker but they are not bound to obey.~"
"~Irritating flying ones? Not a bird?~" Voldemort asked with raised eyebrows.
"~Not flying prey,~" Nagini agreed. "~I allow them to nest in our nest area because I know many wizards value them and their eggs. I have brought many eggshells to your favorite who watches over hatchlings as they learn. He uses them in many things and the irritating flying ones are happy that I help guard their nest while the eggs are still only eggs.~"
"~Please fetch the owner of the nest that I might speak with them. I warn you though that unless they are some form of serpent you will have to translate,~" Voldemort requested carefully. He knew better to try and elicit the nest location from his familiar if she wasn't just dragging him there in the first place to show him her find like a pleased puppy.
When the Dark Lord saw the creature that Nagini was respectfully escorting his mind flashed to the magical creatures summary he had been reading last month.
Occamy - class XXXX Beast - A flying feathered serpent that can shrink small or magically grow up to 15 ft in an instant as natural talent. They are highly protective of their eggs. Their eggs have shells of the purest and softest silver. Aggressive to all who approach them or their nests. Their diet consists of Rats, Birds, and the occasional Monkey. Their natural habitat range is the Far East and India.
Appearance: Bird-like face/beak, feathered serpentine body, feathered crest, 2 legs (supposedly), and greatly resembles one of the Aztec Gods - Quetzalcoatl.
The feathers of this particular Occamy was something of a blue-green mix with a barely there iridescent sheen. She was beautiful.
"~Be welcome. I thank you for agreeing to meet with me,~" Voldemort hissed, banking on the use of Parseltongue to make the meeting easier.
"~Your familiar has defended my nest more than once meeting with her wizard is no hardship,~" the Occamy told him haughtily.
"~I would ask for you or one of your eggs to be given to another wizard as a second familiar should he not agree to being adopted. He is young and we have recently ended a long feud,~" the Dark Lord told her bluntly. "~I understand if you do not feel you can aid me in this and will seek another solution if you choose not to allow yourself or your hatchlings to become his familiar.~"
"~You said second familiar...~" the Occamy said accusingly.
"~He has a snowy owl for a familiar already but the owl can not guard him the way that one of your kind can. In this I ask that you at least meet the wizard. It may be that he cannot bare to have another familiar for whatever cause and I will compensate you for your consideration. Nothing will be required of you beyond what you choose to grant of your own free will,~" Voldemort explained cautiously.
"~You will transport and protect my nest for this meeting. If this wizard is unworthy you will protect us for a full set of seasons until my hatchlings are strong enough to venture forth on their own,~" the Occamy demanded.
"~Agreed,~" Voldemort conceded. The Occamy nodded and took flight, returning to her nest.
"~If the hatchling is some how a speaker you will claim him for our nest,~" Nagini instructed firmly. "~You were not given proper care as a hatchling and if he is a speaker he will not have been cared for properly either. This we will fix.~"
"~I can only try. If he refuses... I will not be like those who would force him to their whim,~" Voldemort hissed in warning.
"~Then I will explain to him why he will be our hatchling if they have not taken proper care of him,~" Nagini said firmly. Deeming the subject dropped she put herself in his lap and curled up to cuddle with her wizard whether he wanted to or not.
Chapter 6: Formal Apology
Severus watched with hidden concern as Harry walked to stand in front of the doors to the Great Hall and waited for everyone at dinner to look at him. This was something the three of them had discussed once Neville had explained that Harry had actually insulted most of the purebloods at the school. The normal version of what Harry was about to do was normally done at the start of being seen in public officially as a family Heir and thus the start of learning their public duties. The shock that was about to race through the school would be because of how old Harry was and its implications. Let the chaos begin...
"Yes, Mr. Potter, what is it?" Minerva McGonagall asked regally as the school fell silent, trying to figure out what was going on.
"I have an apology to make to the school, Professor. I, Harry James Potter, swear that I did not intentionally offend any person or family while attending Hogwarts except in retaliation to what I saw as an offense. I also swear that at no time did I wish ill beyond school yard antics during my time here to my fellow schoolmates. I have had no knowledge of my heritage in any form until I was recently informed of certain facts by Heir Longbottom and Lord Prince when they realized something was wrong. As such I formally apologize for any insult or wrong I may have inadvertently done to those I have interacted with," Harry announced giving a bow of apology before quickly making his escape from his shocked audience. The uproar that followed from those raised magical was deafening.
Harry quickly made his way back to his dorm, firmly ignoring the chaos happening in the Great Hall. They had discussed what was likely to happen when he made the formal apology. The decision had been made jointly to have Harry not exactly hide afterwards but to at least get him away from the hall and the majority of the school. Neville and Snape knew this was going to be worse than 2nd and 4th year combined for Harry. They had planned accordingly up to and including if Ron or the rest of Gryffindor tried to throw Harry out of the tower or attack him.
The wait until after exams to announce it had been strategic planning. This meant that the fallout didn't screw with the test results and it only gave the school a week afterwards to actually do something to Harry if they were of a mind to it. The hope was that the apology its self would short circuit a great many of the social and direct attacks on Harry. It also had the nice side effect of giving Harry two weeks to get somewhat caught up on the very basics of his Heir training while studying for his OWLs. As a part of that Hedwig was safely hidden away in Professor Snape's rooms as a precaution.
Harry was exhausted from the emotional roller coaster of the apology and closed his eyes on his bed for just a moment only to fall asleep. He woke to shouts and pain. Instinctively rolling off of his bed as the second and third spell hit Harry tried to remember where he was as the shouts and pain combined with a memory of the Dursleys. The shouted words of liar and freak combined with the landing a kick to his fallen form sent him into a full out flashback just as Neville finally pulled Ron off of him. Harry never heard the words traitor and slimy snake as Neville and the Weasley twins forced Ron out of the room.
"He's gone mental!" Neville breathed heavily as one of the twins finally just stunned their younger brother.
"The apology helps the Slytherins and gives them a reason to take Harry away from Ron," Fred explained grimly. Ron's hatred of anything remotely Slytherin was well known across the school.
"The git doesn't realize that most of us wont put up with him chasing everyone away from Harry for much longer. It doesn't help that Dumbledore strokes his ego and sense of entitlement when it comes to Harry," George agreed in disgust.
Harry's quiet whimper sharply reminded them why they had gone after Ron in the first place as the trio quickly moved to check on him.
"I didn't do it Uncle! Please!" Harry muttered as he rocked slightly, curled up tight on the floor, shielding his head and vital organs from remembered and expected blows.
"Shite!" Fred cursed as he looked at their informally adopted little brother.
"We knew it was bad," George pointed out grimly.
They had seen the cupboard at the Dursleys, the little carving of Harry's Room, as well as the locks on both cupboard and room to match the bars they had pulled from the window. Both twins had regularly helped send food to Harry during the holidays and, unlike Ron, had tried to get the so-called adults to help. Dumbledore usually stopped those official attempts cold with excuses and supposed explanations. The twins really didn't like or trust the old man at this point with how he had handled, read: constantly endangered, Harry. They had plans to permanently kidnap their dark haired brother for the summer once the shop and apartment above it were livable. They also planned to magically adopt him as their brother or son depending on what Harry wanted.
"What are you talking about? What's wrong with Harry?" Neville demanded. All three of them were staying back so as to not freak Harry out further
"It doesn't matter right now. We need to get him somewhere safe," Fred insisted, forestalling the coming barrage of questions.
"Professor Snape promised him safe haven as part of his apology for the shite he's pulled since first year," Neville told them, putting his questions on the back burner in favor of getting Harry help.
"Then we go to Professor Snape. Fred get his invisibility cloak or hell any cloak. We can use it to cover him and make like we are setting up a prank while we get him to the dungeons," George ordered, taking charge. Fred immediately grabbed both Harry's normal cloak and his larger invisibility cloak, gently wrapping the invisibility cloak around Harry before putting the regular cloak on top. Harry calmed down a bit once he was wrapped in fabric but didn't come out of the flashback. Instead he slipped into a different memory of being wrapped up and left in the cold after his parents died.
"I'll deal with Ron and try to hide Harry's stuff for him. You two just get him to the Professor. If the Slytherins try to stop you claim santuary," Neville told them firmly.
"Yes Captain!" the pair shot back cheekily as they set up Harry to be carried by them as part of the so-called "prank".
"No spells on him if you can help it. We don't know what will make whatever this is worse," Neville said looking at his fallen friend worriedly.
Fred and George nodded their agreement and used the normal cloak as a hammock/bag to carry their invisible little brother. One look at the pair openly carrying something large in a cloak that also happened to be invisible had most people staying out of their way. The pair moved purposefully down the corridors, confidence in their stride, as they headed for Professor Snape's office.
Unfortunately, the man wasn't in his office. The pair looked at each other in dismay.
"We could purposefully set off his wards on the potions cupboard," Fred suggested. They had very carefully set Harry down on the floor and were now protectively standing over him.
"Worth a shot," George agreed. He quickly darted into the potions lab next door and proceeded to "steal" several expensive and dangerous ingredients. Returning to the office he helpfully set them down on the Professor's desk and returned to his brothers' side. It wasn't long before the Potions Master showed up. The pranking duo were surprised to note that it had not been the potion cupboard that drew him but rather the obvious finding spell keyed to Harry.
"What happened?" Snape demanded as he absently summoned the invisibility cloak off of Harry to get a look at him.
"Ronikkins went mental, attacked him while he was napping," Fred summarized quickly. By this point Harry was actually asleep some how but the twins were still worried about him. "We pulled the idiot off of him and stunned the git."
"Once we dealt with Ron we checked on Harry since he wasn't moving. Then he started to tell his Uncle no about something," George explained helpfully. "We think he's locked in a memory but weren't sure what was safe to do to bring him back. We didn't even levitate him to get him here, we carried him in his cloaks."
"20 points to Gryffindor for effectively using common sense," Snape told them absently as he checked Harry over. A couple of counter spells were needed and used but what really pissed the three of them off was the nightmare curse. The curse would cause horrific nightmares while turning any and every memory the person had against them. Once the nightmare curse was removed Harry visibly relaxed in his slumber.
"He's too light," Snape murmured in shock as he lifted the imp, intending on putting him to bed in the Potion Master's own guest room.
The twins said nothing, grimly exchanging a glance and a silent promise to try and get their dark haired brother healed or at least up to a proper weight with enough food over the summer. It was just one more thing to add to their plans to kidnap him away from his relatives.
Once the obviously exhausted Harry was put to bed Snape amused himself by trying to intimidate the twins into leaving and was impressed by their stubbornness in wanting to watch over the younger Gryffindor. Eventually, he grew tired of their wariness and conjured sleeping bags for them so that they could sleep on the floor of the guest room that they stubbornly refused to leave unguarded. Their actions were unknowingly setting a trend with what was to come.
Chapter 7: Preparations
Okay, for those who have been following the evolution process of this chapter on Bunny Farm 2 I have to admit that 1) I split up the chapter - possibly into 3 parts or more, 2) Irritatedbookworm and a few others give lovely ideas while being very good at breaking writer's block at times, and 3) I need to know how far you think I should take some of this.
The fallout, socially and politically, from Harry admitting that he had no fucking clue that he had offended anyone beyond stupid kid stuff was massive. Ron's unprovoked attack? That got Ron sent home immediately with a scorching letter to his parents. It also, incidentally, got Harry moved permanently into Severus' guest room with the Weasley twins as very stubborn and vindictive bodyguards sleeping on his bedroom floor. Outside of Hogwarts questions were being raised as to exactly how Dumbledore had discharged his self-assigned duties as Harry's magical guardian and everything related to that. The only problem was that even though an official inquiry was launched no one could find a damn thing. This was in large part because they could not question Harry or, more preferably, Dumbledore himself.
The only thing that derailed the public and the papers starting to bay for blood over the situation was the published announcement of public peace talks. The fact that it was being combined with a question and answer session afterwards as suggested by the Dark Lord, who would be there personally, rather stumped most of the public. The invitation to come and watch was heavily implied as was the pointed information that the talks would happen in the Diagon Ally Gringotts branch bank lobby.
The Dark Lord had received positive responses of attendance from the Quibbler, the Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly, and the Wizarding Wireless Network. Voldemort wasn't really surprised that most of the news publications had agreed to send someone since he had included a list of the invitees with a promise of his own peaceful attendance. In point of fact he had sent a wand oath on truth paper that if any incident was started that caused danger he would not be the direct cause.
The quiet request to move back the actual meeting date to the day that the Hogwarts train arrived so that both Harry and Luna (the Quibbler's reporter) could simply walk from the train station had been a bit of a shock. It was one he had graciously agreed to when he realized that moving it back a bit would allow everyone a chance to be there without exception. It would also allow Harry's schoolmates to be present if they so wished without risk. This prompted another press release changing the date and time while quoting the reason as "allowing the students to attend the public function should they so wish". Voldemort didn't really expect too many magical families to actually allow their children to attend but he used it as his excuse anyway.
Voldemort looked over the list of confirmed attendees once more. Some people would be attending in multiple capacities so he had just left it as a list of names for the moment.
Ragnok of Gringotts
Harry Potter + 3 (Neville Longbottom, Fred Weasley, George Weasley)
Voldemort was incredibly tempted to bring Wormtail and hand him off to Madam Bones but such a lack of loyalty without cause might make his position tenuous with the other Death Eaters. Even if most of the Dark thought the rat was a pathetic traitor not worth the air he breathed there were still basic social protocols for safety and loyalty to follow. No, giving up Pettigrew wasn't an option even if both sides really did just want the little rat bastard gone. It was a show of loyalty to his other followers, one that tried his patience on a regular basis but it wasn't something his was willing to budge on. He couldn't have his people afraid of simply getting dropped in the pot with no rhyme or reason. The punishments for failure or for treason against their cause were there for a reason and set up based on traditional punishments from the last legally recognized Lord of Magic who had vassals.
Perhaps he could request an investigative team from the DMLE? If the team were willing to swear an oath of secrecy or allow a secrecy spell to be placed upon them he could get some answers to several questions that had been bothering him. If the Dark Lord was the one to issue punishment for the wrongs done and decided part of that was facing the more normal justice as well... yes, that could work. It might even give him solutions to other problems.
As his vassals they fell under his complete authority but that also left him with the burden of punishing them appropriately when someone brought a valid grievance against them. Making amends with Heir Potter also meant he should try to make amends with Heir Longbottom... and punish the three Lestranges for the attack. Well, he was going to have to do that at some point in any case now that his mind was clearing up because of the return of the diary piece. Merlin, he had been stupid! Voldemort, born Tom Riddle, knew without a shred of doubt that he was going to have to reclaim most of his soul shards. Without one's soul one apparently becomes a monster and abomination of the worst sort and he had never wanted to be that.
"~Tom! Stop thinking so hard,~" Nagini scolded as she approached him, taking note of his thoughtful yet half dressed state. He hadn't put on the false serpent look yet that had become an ongoing joke between the two of them of him being half serpent once he had regained a more human form. Speakers, after all, were already considered serpents in human form and only a Basilisk could gain say them as an equal rather than a subordinate. Nagini was blessed to be bonded as a speaker's familiar and was accorded great respect for securing him and guarding him on behalf of all serpents.
"~Hello my dear,~" Voldemort murmured back in parseltongue. Shaking himself the rest of the way out of his thoughts he slipped on his black button down shirt to match the black trousers he would be wearing underneath his robe and collected the serpent into his arms for a brief cuddle.
"~We will go claim the hatchling today and explain why we fight to protect the hatchlings,~" Nagini reminded him with pointed confidence.
"~Only if he chooses us to be his new home,~" Voldemort insisted firmly.
Nagini gave a snake equivalent of an amused eye roll as she plotted what she was going to teach their new hatchling. Noticing his familiar sinking deep into mental plotting the Dark Lord sighed, set her on the bed, and finished getting dressed. The robe that he chose for the peace treaty/meeting was cut in a duelist style so as to not bind or trip him up if spells started to fly. It was also a dark blue with swirling silver embroidery and deep hunter green edging that suggested tree tops against a night sky. A quick collection of Nagini, the Occamy and her nest, as well the few other possible presents he had arranged saw them leaving. The group of Dark Lord and serpents would meet up with Lucius at Gringotts a number of hours early to take care of other business before the official peace meeting. The day way going to be interesting to say the least.
Chapter 8: Train Trouble
Harry walked unsteadily off the train with his snowy owl Hedwig cuddled safely in his arms and Luna Lovegood skipping along at his side. Behind the pair Neville, Fred, and George followed close on their heels. Both redheads had shrunk everyone's luggage for them as the only graduates in the group and were now watching for more people acting like idiots such as their younger brother. None of them thought they would be able to get past everyone and head to the bank without a confrontation with at least Mrs. Weasley and probably Dumbledore's pet Order as well. Nearby were the four heads of house who had traveled in the teachers car, opting to take the train rather than the faster floo or apparation.
"You really think the teachers took the train with us just because?" George murmured in Harry's ear with a smirk as he eyed the four teachers with mischief dancing in his eyes.
"Not a bloody chance," Harry muttered back. "I heard about what McGonagall managed to spill after I went after the pink toad. I think that I'm not so disappointed in her now that I know she has been trying to help. It does make me wonder if the times she ignored me when it was really important at school though were actually her fault or whatever Dumbledore did to her."
"Nah, or at least not all of them. We've fed Ron a sleep talking potion once or twice to get some blackmail on him. Apparently, he's hit you with spells a couple of times. Sometimes it was compulsions to do stuff and sometimes spells to make people pay less attention to you or dismiss what you say. Ron's a real prat, he is, thought it would get him more of your fame, the idiot," Fred snorted with a laugh aimed at his stupid brother.
"I wonder how much the bumblebee paid him," Luna said dreamily. Fred and George scowled at that thought but didn't bother to try and argue that their brother was too honorable to take coin in trade for something to do with Harry, jealous little git. His lack of loyalty often bothered people but especially the twins and Harry.
A witch with blindingly bright pink hair firmly stepped in front of the group of five. Three of them recognized her and the twins shifting slightly in preparation for a fight tipped off Neville that this might not be good. The Longbottom Heir immediately upgraded it to definitely not good when the witch was flanked by Mad-eye Moody and a dark skinned man. All three were in Auror robes.
"I'm sorry Harry. Dumbledore said to make sure you got home to your relatives and didn't go near the Ally or the bank," Tonks said, truly remorseful.
"You would interfere in the completion of an exchange of peace offerings to end a blood feud and possibly end the war before the Death Eaters even get the chance to start raiding again?! Are you bloody mad?!" Neville demanded, gaping at the three in shock. His words also happened to carry well enough to silence the entire platform as everyone focused on the group.
"The Dark Lord only agreed to the public meeting because of Harry. If Harry isn't there despite having been specifically invited do you really think he won't just go back to trying to tear everything apart again so that we can start over from scratch?" Luna asked dreamily. "How many people do you think Professor Dumbledore will be willing to sacrifice to his idea of the greater good? How many people will die trying to stop someone who just wants to help now that he's sane again? Besides Gellert Grindlewald and Adolf Hitler kept saying their plans were for the greater good. It makes me wonder at the actions taken to ensure the greater good. Will Dumbledore, if he gets his way, start insisting on prison camps too? Re-education for those who don't follow him blindly? Will he start hurting the rest of us too young to say no or know better like he did with Harry? Placing us with people who would rather see us dead than live to adulthood? He did it with Harry. It makes me wonder if he did it too anyone else."
"Luna!" Harry protested, his face was burning red with shame, guilt, and embarrassment as he clutched a suddenly concerned Hedwig tightly to his chest.
Hedwig cooed worriedly. She wanted to comfort her chick but the golden female chick was saying some things that Hedwig herself had wondered over. The snowy owl might not have managed being able to talk to her chick directly yet be she could still sometimes see through his eyes and understand. It was a trick the honored phoenix Fawks had taught her. The firebird had also left the owl with some cryptic comments about Hedwig possibly having a burning day in the future and new hatchlings being cute before they were gifted enough magic by their first bonded.
A thought occurred to the owl. Her Harry-chick needed to go to the bank. The other familiars had been complaining about the stubbornness of wizards recognizing a threat ever since she had told them what her chick had witnessed and escaped from last warm season. If her Harry-chick was going to meet the one that hurt him before to end the hurting that was good. The old one did not want her Harry-chick there to end the hurting. This was a golden chance to show the other stubborn familiar bonded magic users that her Harry-chick only wanted to warn and protect while ending the hurting. Having worked all this out while the two groups were arguing about where her chick needed to go Hedwig decided to act.
Hedwig gave out a piercing whistle-scream sound that quickly rose to ear rending levels before swapping to a series of rapid hoots, hisses, and occasional whistle. Hedwig ended her shocking speech with several agitated clacks of her beak. In response every single animal in the station started freeing the others and heading for the exit or surrounding the five students as an escort. The fires spell cast to try and contain the flood of escaping familiars had the wizard dog piled and his wand snapped. Before it devolved further a Budgerigar Parrot, often called a Parakeet, of all things called a halt.
"Stop! STOP!! Humans, the familiars want to see this Dark Lord person and the young serpent speaker has been summoned to talks about ending the killing of nests so quit trying to stop him from going! Familiars, no hurting the humans. All of you know the rules about being bonded to one so no excuses!" the parakeet flatly told his audience from on top of the train announcement sign. "Any human that tries to stop this will find their wand quickly snapped!"
"Huh, actually it kind of makes sense that a magical parrot can talk since normal ones can," Harry said in bemusement. Hedwig puffed up, proud of her chick and glad that he was feeling less gloomy with the distraction. She never wanted her chick near those bad humans who hurt him again!
"Actually, Madam Bones sent an escort for the attending students," An Auror that the five students didn't recognize spoke up from near the exit. "We were told it was important and not to let anyone stop us from at least getting Mr. Potter there. We were even told that we could arrest up to half the people here to do it on the grounds of threatening the safety of the Wizarding World, being a public nuisance, and obstruction of justice."
"Whot?!" Ron cried in outrage from next to his shocked mother. He had been very smug about being told that Harry would be not only staying with his Aunt and Uncle but that he would be there until the 1st of September without reprieve.
"That's our cue!" Fred and George said in unison as the pair grabbed their three fellows who couldn't apparate and aimed for the bank apparation point. The distinct crack of their disappearance in front of everyone set most of the familiars to laughing or sitting their smugly as the humans just stood there in flabbergasted shock.
"Finally those unrepentant pranksters are of some use!" Snape announced. "I'd best make sure they actually arrived intact."
Following that announcement the four heads of house followed the example of the twins and took the previously discussed back up escape method to the bank.
For the next hour the Aurors and the parakeet, who was graciously translating for various familiars, sorted out who was going to the meeting and who was going home.
Chapter 9: Advice of the Moon
This one is definitely for Luna fans!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry stumbled as they landed roughly and tried not to be sick. He had never had to deal with apparation before much less the side-along variant. Thus far no mode of magical transport except flying by broom had ever agreed with him yet he refused to allow any of them to make him actually sick. Hedwig clacked her own displeasure at the mode of transport. Realizing exactly how sick her human chick was apparently feeling she cooed at him and didn't fight his uncomfortably tight hold.
"^That was a horrible way to travel. I'd much rather arrive on my own wings in the future, Harry-chick,^" Hedwig complained. She clacked her beak in open agitation and knew that no non-familiar within ear-shot could actually understand her complaining. The goblins that approached the group were eyed suspiciously by the overprotective owl but allowed to approach peacefully and guide the group to another room.
"May your gold overflow and the blood of your enemies salt the earth of their strongholds," Neville greeted the manager they were taken to meet.
"May those who wish you harm feel but never see the edge of your blade," the goblin greeted.
"Um, sorry if this is rude but have I been unintentionally insulting at any time I have spoken with one of your people? I haven't been able to find anything about working with you honorably," Harry asked sheepishly. "I've never heard anyone greet a goblin the way Neville just did so I thought I should better ask before I say something stupid and mortally offend you or something."
"With your luck that's probably for the best," George snorted as his twin nodded fervent agreement. "Even if its rude its better than accidentally issuing a challenge to the death or accidentally conquering them somehow."
"Thanks," Harry said sourly. Hedwig hooted in obvious amusement.
"See? Even your owl agrees with us!" Fred cackled.
"You were not taught?" the goblin asked in clear surprise.
"No," Harry admitted, starting to get confused in the face of the goblin's surprise.
"I shall inform the injured parties that you have not been taught basic protocol and offer your apologies but expect to need to provide some form of reparation," the goblin warned.
"I understand. I don't know how much I can spare from my vault since I don't know how long I will need to make it last past graduation if I even survive that long. However, if there is a service I can perform instead I am certainly willing to make the attempt," Harry offered earnestly.
"Harry you don't make offers like that to anyone!" Fred scolded as the twins both tensed, ready to defend their chosen little brother. "Whoever you offer that too could demand your absolute servitude for a thousand years!"
"Oh," Harry said softly, looking down at his owl in his arms.
"You only offer something like that when you trust them enough as both friend and ally not only to not abuse it but to see your life and the lives of your children safe in their hands. When you make offers like that you are potentially putting your whole family at risk even if they aren't born yet," George explained a bit more calmly than his brother.
The goblin muttered something in gobbledygook that had any of them been familiar with the language and culture would have roughly translated to "an abandoned one with no clan and failed caretakers". Silently he made a note to update the files on this young wizard. Depending on how the wizard dealt with what was to come during the investigation which would be launched within the week he might be offered an internship at the bank or, more rarely, the chance to pass the goblin citizenship test allowing him to be adopted into one of the clans.
"Lord Ragnok will be with you shortly," the goblin told them gruffly as the four heads of house were ushered into the waiting room with them before leaving them alone.
"Well done on the platform," Severus told them all with open approval. "I would risk my reputation to give a scant few points to you for it but thankfully with school out for the summer such a gesture would be useless."
His three fellow heads of house stifled their laughter as their eyes danced in amusement. It wasn't often that Severus let his more playful side out and the fact that these five had gotten him to let down his guard was a priceless gift. Of course they had also seen his shift in how he reacted to Harry and the long thoughtful looks ever since delivering Umbridge to the Dark Lord as a peace offering. He had been more settled too as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"Thank you for your kind words Professor," Luna said happily while the boys all gave him wary looks. "If you really want to hunt the lightning bolt you had best be ready to accept it, bite and all, and to strip away the false halo from the sky filled with bumblebees. Especially since the darkness will guard the lightning jealously once it lays claim."
"Yeah, there's no way she's not some kind of seer," Fred said flatly into the suddenly frozen silence of the room.
"'Cor she is. Tell us little moon how do the three of us fit with yon lightning bolt?" George asked playfully, his grin slightly feral at the thought of them being taken from Harry.
"That depends... Would you claim him as lord? As family head? Simply as brother? As General? As only a business partner?" Luna asked, eyes crystal clear as she focused on the twins with haunting violet eyes. "Harry is still under the bumblebee's control even if he is already breaking it a little so you have time to decide. Choose well."
"That's not potentially disturbing at all," Harry muttered ruefully. Sometimes he really hated how strange his luck tended to run. What was wrong with a year where he could just relax and be normal?
Neville narrowed his eyes at his oblivious friend. It was clear that Harry didn't fully understand the implications of what Luna had announced both for what she gave to Professor Snape and for what she had granted to the Weasley twins. He also hadn't missed the fact that George had asked on behalf of the three of them in relation to Harry. It seemed that he had a choice to make and they jointly had a friend to rescue from Dumbledore.
"Thank you for the warning Miss. Lovegood," McGonagall said tightly.
The teachers weren't stupid but during the school year they were responsible for the entire student body. This was especially true since Dumbledore tended to ignore most every student with a few rare exceptions. Something which included pointedly exacerbating the conflict between Gryffindor and Slytherin while hiding it behind the facade of encouraging house unity and cooperation. No, the teachers weren't stupid they just had so much on their plate on top of having to counter Dumbledore's attempts at manipulating the children that it was a wonder they weren't dropping dead from the effort.
"Miss. Lovegood, might I inquire as to some clarification? Just for our peace of mind?" Professor Flitwick asked politely.
"Certainly Professor, none of you mean Harry harm and I follow him," Luna declared, smiling at them warmly.
"Ah, right then. I think we would first like to know of this darkness," Flitwick inquired carefully.
"The darkness no longer poses a threat to the lightning and will protect it even from the naughty shadows hidden within the cloak of night," Luna answered simply. "The risk comes from the bumblebees for they are cuckoo bumblebees claiming the nests of others and ruling those of the nests not their own. You need to decide if you are bumblebees, sparks, or shadows."
"You forget that badgers eat entire bee nests," Professor Pomona Sprout pointed out with a smirk.
"But will the mother badger ally with the lightning or the Cuckoo Bumblebee?" Luna asked pointedly.
"Its not a matter of being allied or not but a matter of confirming the alliance without the Cuckoo realizing that he has lost the leash on his mother badger," Pomona answered calmly. "You've no doubt heard about my inquiry in the hall. I have no problem adopting him so what makes you think I would have a problem simply allying with him?"
"Momma badger is feisty," George murmured as both twins smirked their approval.
Harry just looked bewildered as his eyes clouded with something all four teachers noted which wasn't natural.
"We don't have time to get him checked and purged," McGonagall murmured fretfully.
"I'll not leave the halo in place for long but it is too dangerous to forcefully strip it away now," Severus murmured right back.
"Chase the lightning Professor but beware you may not tame the lightning but be tamed by the lightning instead," Luna warned cheerfully.
"I have no issue with that as long as the final claim is mutual and exclusive," Severus told her flatly.
"Then take care not to shatter the bolt," Luna told him.
Before things could spiral even further into the strange wonderland discussion the door to the room opened again to admit an obviously important goblin.
"I am Ragnok. You are early for the meeting," the goblin, Ragnok, said bluntly. "It will take another hour or two for the enchantments to finish settling and the tables and things to be set out. You will be provided refreshments while you wait."
"We thank you for your consideration to our needs," Neville said politely. "May your gold grow beyond the bounds of your vault."
"Well spoken. May your enemies tremble at the sound of your name," Ragnok said cheerfully. He was suddenly less eager to get the whole thing over with if only to observe these people more closely. If they proved their worth well enough they might even be offered the chance to win goblin friend status in the arena.
"I wanted to give something to the goblins but I'm afraid it was never returned to me," Harry told Ragnok somewhat sheepishly. He had forgotten to tell the other goblin so he was bringing it up before he forgot again.
"What might that have been?" Ragnok demanded gruffly.
"In my second year I found Gryffindor's sword and used it to survive against something trying to kill me. It wasn't until long after Dumbledore had taken it away from me that I found out it was made of goblin silver. It was a while after that that I found out it should have been returned to the goblins since the person it was forged for isn't alive anymore. I need to apologize for loosing the sword instead of returning it since I don't know where it is and I don't think asking for it will get it back. So, yeah, I'm sorry I can't return it too you just now," Harry offered up sheepishly. Ragnok gave him a long look and headed for the door, almost in a daze.
"A wizard who respects goblins enough to think of returning a master work and apologizing for not being able too. Will wonders never cease?" Ragnok muttered in clear surprise as he left the room.
After that they received refreshments and comfy chairs to sit on while they waited. There were a great many bewildered looks discretely aimed at Harry by the goblins who brought them things and guarded them and talk was light between the humans. It was by unspoken agreement that anything touching on Luna's strange words would wait until after the peace meeting.
I looked up the stats for this story and was quite shocked to find 225 bookmarks and 500 subscribers. Do you guys really like this one that much?
I'm going to be nice and give you a translation key.
Shadows - followers of Voldy
Sparks - followers of Harry
Bumblebee(s)/Cuckoo Bumblebees - Dumbledore/Order of the Phoenix
Darkness - Voldy/Tom
Lightning/Lightning Bolt - Harry
False Halo - false reputation that DD built for Harry
Bumblebee nest - lordship/house/family
Claiming nests of others and ruling nests not their own/Cuckoo Bumblebees - stealing lordships/acting as guardian of orphans from powerful families but not in their best interests/stealing from or misusing family authority of orphans
Naughty Shadows - dissenters/traitors/people against Harry/Voldy in the Dark Faction
Cloak of Night - Dark Faction as a whole
Chapter 10: Of Familiars and Nests
As expected the actual meeting had to be split up. Enjoy the first part!
The bank lobby had been magically expanded before being split in half to separate the public meeting from the normal bank operations. A platform had been magically raised from the marble for the actual meeting participants. The platform was warded to both keep the audience and their magic out while also practically trapping all the participants with their own magic on the platform. This would keep the crowd from being attacked or accidentally hit if things got to the point of drawn wands or, alternatively, would keep anyone in the crowd from attacking the participants.
Harry, when he was finally brought to the negotiating table, thought that it looked like they had stacked circles of actual marble cakes. Of course with magic being involved they very well could have baked a multi-teir cake, enlarged it, and turned it to marble but he rather doubted they would do something so fun and simple. Then again that might be a good idea for a future project, using baked goods or clay or something to form the shape and practice turning it into marble or steel or something that was hard to shape. If nothing else it would be a good way to have fun while practicing his transfiguration spells.
The goblins had insisted on Harry, Neville, and the Weasley twins moving from the waiting room to the negotiating table covered in black cloaks with their hoods up for some strange reason. It was also heavily suggested that they not remove the cloaks at all if possible except for putting down the hoods when the meeting officially started. The encouraging nods from the four Professors had the for Gryffindors agreeing despite their confusion on the matter. Hedwig was kindly granted a very nice perch next to Harry when they finally got to the table.
The table and chairs were heavy thick oak stained almost pitch black. Harry only knew that the stain was called onyx because one of Vernon's bosses had gotten the same stain done for their new desk at work causing his Uncle to go on about it at home. Aunt Petunia tended to prefer light cherry stain when ever she managed to talk her husband into buying good wooden furniture. What fascinated Harry about the furniture used for the meeting though was not its black finish but the silver, copper, and brass designs and runes inlaid into the wood.
At the table Dumbledore and Voldemort were already eying each other with great disfavor and so absorbed in their duel of various looks and glares that they hardly noticed everyone else arriving. Minister Fudge was sitting there puffed up and trying desperately to hide how pale he was with Madam Bones present as the Head of the DMLE. Lucius was present mostly as a Wizengamot member but secretly also as the Dark Lord's right hand. The four Hogwarts Professors were mostly present to stand for the children in the upcoming meeting but both Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall sadly also had affiliation with some of the major players. As a result Snape stood as spy for both major sides of light and dark as well as the so called Left Hand of both, a position normally occupied by the official spy/spy master/assassin of the ruler. Ragnok was also present as the official representative of the technically neutral goblin nation and hosting party.
The reporters consisted of Rita Skeeter and Luna Lovegood. The little copper ball with holes that was place in the middle of the table by a brightly smiling Luna was apparently a magical voice relay similar to a microphone for the Wizarding Wireless Network. The entire meeting was going to go out live on the air waves.
"^Poor Harry-chick, you do not deserve the weight of what these humans expect from you,^" Hedwig cooed in concerned sympathy. This meeting was not going to go well and she knew it. She was determined to protect her chick. When she met the very brief but direct gaze of the Dark Lord she knew that she was not alone in this task and that the man had somehow understood her comment. Things were about to get very interesting and the old one who kept hurting her chick was in for one nasty surprise.
Once the containment wards were up the four teens were motioned to put the hoods of their cloaks down. They were also in turn given a furious glare promising detentions and painful conversations by Dumbledore who obviously just barely refrained from either yelling at them or scolding them. It was obvious to everyone that he didn't want the four there and equally obvious he had decided that voicing such a thing was unwise at this moment in time.
"~Is this the one you wished to present to me and my nest for consideration?~" the proud Occamy hissed as she slid out of the pocket that had been expanded and protected to house her nest.
"~The one with green eyes and a white owl at his shoulder,~" Voldemort hissed helpfully, slightly glad that she had choosen to investigate before anything really got going.
"^Why do you wish to look at my Harry-chick?^" Hedwig asked shrewdly.
"~The speaker wished to give him to me or one of my hatchlings to better safeguard him,~" the Occamy told Hedwig with her equivalent of a shrug.
"^I could definitely use help keeping my Harry-chick out of trouble,^" Hedwig hooted cheerfully. "^You have no idea the ridiculous things they demand of him. Our bond is strong enough that I can sometimes see through his eyes but he can not understand me for some strange reason. At least with two of us bonded to him we might have a chance to keep him from being tricked into entering yet another predator's nest who wishes to gobble him whole.^"
"~He entered a predators nest without concern?~" the Occamy asked suspiciously.
"^I wouldn't say without concern but more like one of the old full grown ones decided he should be pushed into the predator nest repeatedly without even asking him if he was willing,^" Hedwig said derisively. "^If I could safely go after the ones I know are involved without risking leaving my chick unprotected in their talons I would! As it is I can barely protect him during the warm months from his supposed caretakers. I would scratch their eyes out and eat their livers and hearts if I could for what they've been doing to my chick! Sadly even though my chick keeps pushing magic into me I am trapped in a small cage and unable to help him when they hurt him. Otherwise he tends to send me away so that I am not killed in front of him as I defended him. Harry is a good chick but very wounded by those who should have been his nestmates and caretakers.^"
"~How strong is he?~" the Occamy asked eying Harry intently.
"^Very strong. He came back to me some time ago stinking of Basilisk Venom and Phoenix Tears. It was quite disconcerting. Before that he had gotten unicorn blood on himself somehow but was not the one cursed for taking it. I could only guess he tried to help the pure one despite being such a small chick. He is smaller than the other human chicks he nests with most of the year,^" Hedwig answered honestly. "^If I could get away with staying at his side all the time I would if only to see that he was better taken care of. Human chicks are harder to raise than owl chicks.^"
"~I would help you raise this one but I have a clutch that I must think about first. If he is being pushed into predator nests as you say than I can not bond with him and aid you until after my clutch is off building their own lives. It is too dangerous for my hatchlings,~" the Occamy said honestly. "~If they were somewhat grown instead of still in their eggshells it would be different and I would ask your wizard-chick to try bonding with my full clutch and myself as an honor. Right now they are too young.~"
"~Thank you for at least considering him,~" Voldemort said respectfully. Summoning a house elf he passed over the Occamy and her nest with instructions on how to take care of them until the clutch was grown enough to set out on their own. The elf merely bowed and took the Occamy and her nest away with a pop.
"Now I understand what it feels like to only understand half the conversation," Voldemort muttered ruefully. Harry tried not to snicker as he quickly hid a smile in response to that quiet comment despite his own rueful agreement. It had been nice to be considered by the Occamy but it was almost too dangerous just to keep Hedwig. Harry never wanted to put anyone in more danger than he could manage. Intellectually he knew his life was more dangerous than it should be but it was his life and there wasn't much he could do about it.
"If that is finished I would like for us to get underway," Ragnok said pointedly.
"She was pretty," Harry pointed out.
"Yes she was but she was not here as a member of this meeting," Ragnok said, his voice disapproving. "Shall we begin?"
There was a round of murmured agreement before Voldemort spoke up.
"Before we begin I need a few things established," Voldemort said firmly. "Heir Potter, have you completed your OWLs regardless of whatever the grades may be?"
"Yes," Harry answered cautiously, uncertain what his OWLs had anything to do with this meeting.
"Good, that means that should you require the ability to use magic during this meeting you can simply inform the Headmaster that you withdraw from Hogwarts. This will prevent the Ministry from taking away your wand and magic should you be forced to defend yourself. This is especially true combined with your participation in the Tri-Wizard Tournament and the illegal trial over your action of self defense during the past summer. Both of which declared you a legal adult due to the proceedings involved," Voldemort observed pointedly. "I want this entire situation completely above board and legal in case something should go wrong."
Harry's poorly hidden look of shock and confusion prompted Severus to comment. "I do not believe that Heir Potter was aware of those facts and unless new legislation has been passed specifically to turn Heir Potter into a leashed puppet they still stand."
"Thank you Professor," Harry said quietly, grateful for the confirmation as he quickly composed himself.
"Indeed? Then I will need to address the thieves who have apparently been stealing from the Potter account," Ragnok growled unhappily, glaring daggers at Dumbledore across the table. "This public meeting is already most illuminating."
Dumbledore completely ignored the irate bank manager and Goblin representative. The boy would simply have to confirm those withdrawals as for the Greater Good a little sooner than expected was all, no harm done. A simple announcement to the press afterwards would fix the busily scribbling quills taking down the incorrect information.
"We should probably get your statement of intentions out of the way before anything else," Harry suggested neutrally. Yes, he didn't want this man constantly trying to kill him anymore but if the Dark Lord really advocated genocide for all of humanity besides pureblood families Harry couldn't work with him. Insanity, depending on manifestation and type, was possibly workable and definitely better than the Dursleys. If he was a Psychopath or a Sociopath... well magical oaths, vows, and contracts existed for a reason and counseling could come later.
"Certainly," Voldemort agreed amicably before proceeding to outline his goals and explain both types of raids his group were instructed to go on. He proceeded to list the goals of the Dark Faction, forcing the goblins to briefly silence Dumbledore so that everyone could actually hear the list.
-Protection and care for all magical children but especially removing them from dangerous and/or abusive situations. Depending on relation status or other bonds formed with magical children non-magical children might be eligible under this as well but provisionally classed as squibs. Any non-magical children which fall under this would be highly encouraged to accept blood adoptions from purebloods for future revival of the magical bloodlines if it didn't immediately manifest in the adoptees in some fashion.
-Enforcement of the Statute of Secrecy
-Preparation for the technology to break down/bypass wards that hide magicals
-Equal rights for all sentient beings
-Repeal of the laws/blanket banning of old traditions and magics
-Establish proper legal definitions separating Dark magic from Black magic and ensure free use of Dark magic with medical safety checks while limiting or banning Black magics after full review of their various uses
-Legal contracts to keep any muggle relatives from outing magic
-Find way to keep squibs as full members of magical world with education in Runes/Potions/Arithmacy/Astronomy/History/Herbology/Care of Magical Creatures
-Check and/or prove muggleborn heritage, answering the question on if they are actually born from revived squib lines
-Get Divination banned as rubbish or qualified as established Seer-specific magic only for those with proven ability
"I am not kind in any sense of the word nor am I some sort of demonic figure you attempt to make me out to be. Yes, I use dark magic and have used the occasional forbidden art. I recognize their power and the dangers that are a part of using them. I want to see many of them taught to keep people from falling to their dangers when people inevitably dabble and to recognize our cultural heritage," Voldemort informed them all flatly. "My claim to the Slytherin Lordship is honorable and I discovered that my father was a squib. I am a pureblood raised as an orphan muggleborn. I worked hard for everything I have and I tried to make the changes to increase our world's safety legally in the first place despite the affects of the dark compulsions which will be addressed later. Dumbledore just decided I was evil incarnate at age eleven and has harassed me ever since. I could kill him but why should I give his dangerous supporters a martyr? Why should I encourage the loss of magicals by making him out to be a saint? I am Dark and I am a Lord of Magic. Make of that what you will."
A break was called so that everyone had time to process what they had learned and get a drink from one of the servers. This was going to be a long night.
Chapter 11: History's Transformation
Some of you will note that for the last chapter (and part of this one) the rough drafts landed on the bunny farm first. Please note that since the bunny farms are test run territory that if I find it to not need further tweaking between there and here or any other of the official stories it may look if not identical than nearly so. I try to avoid letting that happen so that you only see the final product on the actual story unless its being particularly ornery.
On that note... Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Rita Skeeter for the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly Mr. Potter. How do the revelations in today's peace talks affect you? Are you sad that the murderer of your parents might get away with it due to an insanity plea? What effect exactly will any of this have on you? Are you going to side with the dark faction?" Rita demanded, practically bombarding him with question after question.
"Skeeter," Voldemort's deadly cold tone froze most people within hearing distance. "Young Harry doesn't have enough information yet to answer those questions As I have not yet given him my return peace offering present to finish sealing the end of our blood feud the matter is hardly settled enough to be badgering him over it. Kindly keep your questions until the end so that you can actually hear the answers and other information this meeting will be providing to the public. And Skeeter? Twisting of the truth into something unrecognizable will not be tolerated. This meeting is important enough that it could potentially lead to the breaking of the Statute of Secrecy or strip everyone of their wands. Unless you don't want to get blamed for pushing this meeting into agreeing on something so life changing and drastic. Something like an order to hunt down all of the unregistered animagi to be kissed by the Dementors for lack of registration or something equally as dangerous? I suggest you keep to the actual facts and pose your speculations in a separate article that is clearly marked as such. Are we clear?"
"Crystal!" Skeeter squeaked before scurrying off to badger Dumbledore.
"You do realize that she is an animagus?" Harry asked, completely forgetting that everything they were saying was going out live.
"Yes," Voldemort chuckled evilly. "I've had to throw her out of a number of meetings to avoid people showing up that would try to kill us, forcing us into a lethal response when there isn't an actual need for it. She's just lucky that her free rides on the robes of random Death Eaters happened after I stared to regain some sanity otherwise she would have been very dead."
"Sanity?" Harry asked, cocking his head slightly in curiosity.
"No doubt Dumbledore will bring up the subject at some point in an attempt to discredit me," Voldemort waved the inquiry away. "I'll give a full explanation at that time to avoid having to repeat it."
"~The hatchling smells hurt,~" Nagini hissed in concern. Harry opted to remain silent in case the pair actually didn't know he could understand Parseltongue, wondering exactly what they discussed in front of everyone.
"~We can ask about it after everything else is settled or if he shows signs other than what you found on his scent. As much as I want him to be healthy what you scented could be as simple as a bruise from bumping into a heavy trunk too hard,~" Voldemort hissed back quietly. A slight petting at his chest told Harry that Nagini was likely wrapped around the Dark Lord nice and warm under his robes.
"~Do you believe I would warn you of something so small?~" Nagini hissed back indignantly.
"~Yes,~" Voldemort answered blandly before choosing to ignore the scolding of his familiar in favor of watching the quiet goings on of his fellow representatives and the shocked discussion occurring in the crowd. He knew their would be even more shock when he finally reported exactly why he had been insane and what eventually fixed it.
Hedwig gave the Dark Lord and hidden serpent a look of amusement but refrained from saying anything. She turned back to watching Dumbledore and Fudge suspiciously, convinced they meant her Harry-chick harm. The poncy blond one who's young often harassed her chick was also hovering around the dangerous ones making her consider dive bombing the group just for the hell of it.
The meeting resumed twenty minutes later.
"I'd like to start this time if you don't mind," Harry said curtly.
"Harry, my boy, perhaps you should leave such things to those who are trained in them," Dumbledore said congenially but firmly. His sky blue eyes warning Harry not to fight him on this.
"Considering this meeting was only possible because he allowed his magic to suggest a course of action, namely sending a legal kill off as a peace offering, I hardly think this isn't his business," Severus said snidely. "Let him reap what he has sowed. If you've done your job right and he has been trained in our ways as you keep telling everyone than this situation should be easily handled."
That stumped Dumbledore and the sour look of barely suppressed fury he aimed at Severus in return had Harry wondering exactly what side the man was on, discussion in the waiting room not withstanding.
"Then let me begin once more. I received your inquiry about my earlier offer from two separate sources. I sent Master Snape away without an answer so that I could give it to you myself along with my return gift to further seal the peace between us. Yes, that offer is still open and it is not contingent on anything else accomplished today. I must, however, specify that certain parts of it are no longer feasible and we would need to discuss the needed changes in relative privacy. I would rather come to a mutually beneficial arrangement than try to fulfill one that is no longer possible," Voldemort told Harry with a smirk. "I can, however, guarantee that anything further promised as replacements should be possible."
"~What parts aren't possible anymore?~" Harry asked, switching to parseltongue. He wanted answers and it wasn't like anyone else could understand the serpent tongue any way. Voldemort's look of utter shock was priceless.
"~Hatchling!~" Nagini cried gleefully and immediately shot from within Voldemort's robes to wrap around Harry in a giant body hug. "~Oh, you are so thin! Why are you skin and bones? I can feel your bones through the human false skins! Tom! They are not taking proper care of the hatchling! He is coming home with us!~"
"Er, is she always like this?" Harry asked in English, ignoring their suddenly twitchy audience. Hedwig was obviously laughing from her place on her perch and was thus going to be of absolutely no help.
"A mother hen? Not always but often," Voldemort answered in exasperation as he resisted the urge to facepalm. "I'm afraid that now that she knows you are a speaker there is no way that my familiar will let me leave without you. She just adopted you and she wont take no for an answer. The fact that she can apparently feel your bones without doing more than giving you a light hug and her comment about them not taking proper care of you means that she will now kill to protect you as one of her young. As far as she is concerned, regardless of any legalities or anyone else's opinion, we just adopted you."
"Er, I'm not sure how I feel about that... Will it get me away from my muggle relatives?" Harry asked with a sort of desperate hope that was barely hidden behind his eyes as his face displayed doubt. That desperate hope set off alarm bells in all four heads of house, one dark lord, one serpent familiar, and one DMLE Head.
"Actually, I was going to offer to adopt you in any case as an equal gift to your peace offering. I assembled a list of families who would love to adopt you if you didn't feel comfortable becoming my son. I only know of one or two other things which might be traditionally acceptable for a return gift. I just don't have any female relatives to offer as a wife to one of your family. Neither did I think you would want me to arrange someone's assassination and immediately dismissed both as bad ideas," Voldemort shrugged. He would investigate exactly why Harry wanted to escape his relatives so badly later, for now he would settle on getting him protected within the Dark Faction. "If there are any other equivalent gifts no one ever informed me of the matter. Its a bit of a moot point since a familiar adopting someone on behalf of their witch or wizard is legally binding."
"Are you going to keep trying to kill me?" Harry asked a bit apprehensively. Hedwig wanted to smack her chick over the head with her wing. What sane being offered to join nests and adopt someone simply to try and kill them?
"Of course not. That was the entire point of accepting the peace offering in the first place and I don't attack family without a damned good reason," Voldemort said with an are you insane look. "Even if I wanted too the family magic of the Slytherin line prevents lethal attacks from working without just cause. Pranks and family or parental punishments are one thing but active assassination attempts are quite another. I had every intention of giving you a blood adoption potion if you allowed me to adopt you and the same is true now that Nagini initiated the adoption without consulting us."
"Then what do you call the murders of the Riddle family and the framing of Morfin Gaunt?" Dumbledore demanded harshly. Hedwig hissed angrily and clacked her beak, wanting to fly at the old sly predator that hunted her chick and gouge his eyes out.
"Retaliation for an assassination attempt which circumvented the magical protections. I didn't know we were related until later," Voldemort explained flatly. "I briefly went insane due to the magical punishment for it afterwards but it wasn't longer than a month as it was a form of self defense in both cases, not premeditated murder. I don't know where you got your information from but the Riddles heard about me being in town, claiming to be looking for any remaining family, and had me dragged to them. They ordered me beaten almost to death in front of them as some sick form of entertainment because I might be related. I killed them all with accidental magic and panicked. Uncle Morfin tried to kill me soon after for being able to speak parseltongue but looking like my birth father and I managed to oblivate him. His own mind likely filled in the blanks after stumbling on their bodies. I was just happy to get out of there with my life and a ring I found next to me after he stumbled away."
What the Dark Lord didn't say was that the month he spent insane had made him vulnerable to the dark compulsions on the Horcrux tome. The vulnerability was so great that there was no way he could have fought the damn thing off without powerful outside help. It had been a miracle that had managed to do anything other than what the tome wanted. Myrtle's death had been the first personally recognizable warning sign that he was being affected by something dangerous but the month of family magic induced insanity had stripped him of his remaining resistance. Without that resistance he was an active threat to anyone who even appeared to oppose him until baby Harry had finally stopped him.
"Have you been stalking him?! Have you been stalking me?!" Harry demanded in snarky open anger. He was still wrapped in Nagini's coils and thus looked a tad ridiculous in his anger but no one doubted his sincerity. "No, wait, with me you just keep me locked up and starved at the Dursleys until you need me for something."
"Oh really?" Voldemort asked, eyes glittering darkly with sudden malice. He did not like the implications of Harry's words much less what they hinted at when combined with Nagini's earlier comments. "I think that as Harry's new father I will be insisting on a Gringotts healer and a full medical history from birth until the current day with the potential to press charges. Something which will happen both before and after the blood adoption potion is administered."
"Your family loves you Harry. You really need to stop exaggerating your minor disagreements with them, my boy," Dumbledore said disapprovingly, disappointment practically dripping from him. He was blatantly ignoring Voldemort as he desperately tried to bring Harry back under control once more before things spiraled out of control. "You should be more grateful for all that they've done for you. Your parents would have wanted you to get along with them. They died to protect you and you've gone and joined the Dark, the very people they died to protect you from. What a waste of their selfless sacrifice. Your parents would be ashamed."
"Laying the guilt on a bit thick isn't he?" Voldemort snarked sarcastically. The old man's tactics were sickening to him but the only way to actually disrupt it was to poke holes in the logic and give sarcastic commentary. Severus was more of an expert at that than he was but he didn't trust the old man not to some how threaten the Potions Master into silence.
"To my knowledge Lily at least would have wanted a few answers but otherwise would have still loved the imp even if they found themselves on opposite sides. She wasn't a saint, especially with her fiery temper and ability to hold a grudge, but she also loved deeply," Severus mused, on the edge of sarcasm himself in response to Dumbledore's over loaded guilt trip. He did not like what the man was trying to twist his imp into doing. No doubt the next step would be to point out that Harry needed to avenge his parents or some such nonsense.
"And what of the Horcruxes you've made!?" Dumbledore demanded triumphantly, briefly turning away from his blatant manipulation attempts in regards to Harry in favor of verbally attacking Voldemort.
"You mean the things that blasted book used a dark compulsion to force me into making? The same compulsion that was finally ended when Potter stripped me of my body the night his parents died?" Voldemort drawled, twisting Dumbledore's supposed trump card into something less than triumphant. "The one that encouraged a certain amount of insanity that Potter has mostly managed to fix however inadvertently? The same one I managed to hold back for a time after it forced me to kill Myrtle Warren in school if only by accident when visiting the Basilisk meant to defend the school against attacking armies?"
"Wait, what?!" Harry asked in startled shock. The shock was over the compulsion forcing Voldemort into levels of insanity. Although, the new information about the Basilisk being a siege engine and thus more than just Salazar's familiar actually made sense in a sort of deadly practical paranoid way.
"The diary piece found me in mid-May," Voldemort shrugged. He dramatically dropped his glamour and revealed his now twenty-something version of himself with ruby eyes to match the sixteen year old memory from the diary. Keeping the ruby coloring for his eyes was a price he had to pay for having cast such dark magics and being idiot enough to split his own soul. "I have a better idea of exactly what happened now and how stupid I've been. A great many things that were disastrous for the Dark before you were born were largely due to my people either going overboard or as a side effect from the compulsion and what it forced me to do. Again, I'm not as pure as the driven snow but few people involved in active warfare are, regardless of what side they fight for. War is the process of trying to do as much damage of all sorts as possible to the other side as one can manage. It is never truly clean or simple."
"War is the process of trying to do as much damage of all sorts as possible to the other side as one can manage. It is never truly clean or simple." Those words echoed painfully, almost throbbed, in Harry's head. He knew this intellectually but those exact words were what sharply shifted certain things into crystal clear focus in that moment even as something inside him snapped. The war had been continuing across the Wizarding World even while Voldemort had been out of commission, allowing Dumbledore to draft Harry. He had been raised as a weapon and puppet of war with Dumbledore controlling everything from behind the scenes. An unseen control rune placed just before he was left on the Dursley's doorstep flared with power on his chest before fading away, its magic and effect destroyed, as blackness started to close in.
"~Hatchling? Are you alright? Hatchling?! Tom! Something is wrong with the hatchling!~" Nagini hissed in panic. She had scented the hatchling's disfavor when the old one had scolded him about not liking his caretakers but as he was coming home with her and her Tom Nagini hadn't been overly worried about it. The scent of shock and pain combined with the scent of dying magic that had preceded this attempt at toppling though had greatly alarmed her.
"Damn it! We need a healer!" Voldemort ordered as he shot forwards to catch Harry and Nagini as they fell out of their chair. Harry had dropped slowly, as if his strings had been cut. By the time he landed in the arms of the Dark Lord he was out cold, his body spasming briefly as if having a seizure before finally laying still.
"~Tom, the hatchling...~" Nagini hissed worriedly as people scrambled around them and Severus quickly started casting diagnostic spells in an attempt to help. Nagini carefully unwound herself from around Harry to give people access to the unconscious teen as she set herself to guard the precious speakers.
Hedwig hooted as she flew from her perch to land next to her Harry-chick. Seconds later their bond flared with power, forcing it into a visible light that was bright enough to sear eyeballs. Harry's magic had begun to overflow and Hedwig was having trouble controlling the extra magic. Less than 10 seconds later Hedwig herself was beginning to glow brightly as she let out a fierce cry of warning before bursting into violently purple flame. Hedwig burned for a good five minutes before the obviously magical flames abruptly faded away. The only things left behind from the magical fire were ash, a scattering of burnt feathers, and a baby chick with white and blue coloring that resembled something like a blizzard in deep winter.
"~You did not tell me the hatchling had bonded to a hatchling ice-firebird,~" Nagini hissed reproachfully, somehow giving her wizard a disappointed look.
"^Peace, serpent, peace. All birds of prey can become a phoenix if the right conditions are met,^" Hedwig scolded in high piercing chirps. She didn't do much more than try to cuddle up with her wizard after that, exhausted from her very first burning day.
Hedwig quickly joined her wizard in blackness, forced to trust the serpent and her wizard to guard them in their sleep.
^If that serpent and her wizard let anything happen to my Harry-chick there will be hell to pay.^ Hedwig mentally grumbled as the blackness took her.
Yes, I know some of the threats wound up fairly heavy handed so sue me. I've been working on these chapters diligently for more than a week for all of you.
Chapter 12: Radio Entertainment
Silence echoed through the Leaky Cauldron as everyone listened intently to the events happening down the street over the wireless. Tom didn't like what was happening in the bank lobby but he was equally wary of the increasingly ugly looks of his patrons as they waited for news on the Potter boy's condition. It was clear from what they had already heard that he did not know Dumbledore the way he thought he did. Unseen by all his allegiance slid from Dumbledore to Harry as he went about his business, carefully watching the pub's patrons for potential trouble.
Across St. Mungeos' hospital healers and medi-witches either did their best to calm their upset patients or grimly prepared for the influx of injured people that was bound to break out. If the Potter boy was seriously injured or died from today's events there would be fighting in the streets as both Light and Dark factions blamed each other for it. If any of their specialists were called in by the bank to help with the Potter case they would be ready.
Shock echoed across Britain as it was announced that Potter's Owl had transformed into a beautiful blue and white Phoenix chick, controlling his overflow of magic and protecting everyone there.
"Now that the lovely Hedwig has finished falling asleep next to Harry I'm going to let you simply listen to what is happening. With any luck no one will remember about all of this being broadcast live. Please refrain from rushing over here as I suspect events will be quite revealing today and everyone needs to witness it without risking it being silenced," Luna announced quietly. "A complete summary of all events will be provided by the Quibbler in the next issue."
"What do you mean someone put a block on his core?!" Tom in full Voldemort mode demanded over the radio of the on site Healers checking Harry.
"Exactly what I said now let us work or we might loose him," demanded the gruff voice of one of the healers.
"I think that we should get him to Hogwarts and our medi-witch, who is far more familiar with..." Dumbledore began only for the sound of flesh and cartilage being crushed to echo over the air waves. The revered Albus Dumbledore had very obviously been given a broken nose.
"I will not let you try to make Poppy into your damn scapegoat, Headmaster! I am perfectly well aware of how you've been restricting her healing of certain students or making Poppy give them different treatments because of whatever game or politics you happen to be playing. No more! If I didn't think resigning would put my Hufflepuffs in more danger from you I would do so in a heartbeat!" Pomona Sprout hissed in fury. "As it stands I can barely keep from doing it anyway to challenge you to a duel over your disgraceful and dangerous behavior!"
"You think any of us like what he does?! My Gryffindors take the brunt of his dangerous adventure plots! How many times has Harry been in the hospital wing over some situation Albus has either set up or related to the same? I'll tell you! At least once a year and sometimes more! I have no idea what injuries he's taken from Albus forcing him on those ghastly relatives of his either, not with the way they hate magic. I may have been there when Harry was delivered to them but I certainly never advocated for it! I went back less than an hour later to make sure that Albus' insistence on leaving him on the outside stoop on a November night wouldn't be the death of little Harry. Do you know what happened? I couldn't get within a block of the place! He could have died!" Minerva complained loudly.
"Minerva! Now is not the time," Severus' voice snapped out across the airwaves. More than one person flinched at his harsh tone or experienced a flashback to a scolding or detention from the man. "Once the imp is healed and safely away with the Dark Lord as his new father then we can express our displeasure to the Headmaster. The adoption was legal and you can be certain he wont let the old fool do this to Harry again."
"Professor Sprout broke Dumbledore's nose!" the Weasley twins said with audible awe. Unseen by the listeners they were keeping between the old man and Harry, living up to their self appointed task as his bodyguards.
"After all of this it makes me wonder how many life debts are now owed to this young warrior. Mr. Potter has quite the number of supposed victories under his belt and I've been itching to get them confirmed with my cousins," Filius chuckled evilly. There was still concern lacing his voice that easily came through over the wireless. Still his voice broke enough of the tension combined with the twin's audible awe to avoid immediate bloodshed or a siege on either side of the broadcast.
"Besides, if there is no proof, then there is no case," Lucius tossed in distastefully. "Believe me we've been trying to get him away from the children for some time. We almost had him three years ago with the chamber mess. I'm still not quite sure what he used to trick Mr. Potter into doing what he did nor am I even aware of all the details. I would dearly like to know what actually all happened during each of his yearly adventures. Even with the fragmented pieces the Dark Lord was kind enough to provide this past month from the '92-'93 school year there isn't nearly enough information."
The words of the Hogwarts Heads of House and the Malfoy Lord over the wireless stunned the wizarding world and made many a parent angry. The day's events and the things broadcast live over the radio would spark a change in how Dumbledore was viewed. It was the beginning of the utter destruction of the man's precious reputation along with the perks that came with it.
"What adventures?" Voldemort demanded darkly, sending a shiver down the spines of people listening across the country. Wisely Dumbledore had kept his mouth shut and tried to fade into the background.
"Quiet! Our patient needs rest," one of the healers working on Harry silenced the room with those scolding words and an overpowered silencing spell so they could work. What followed being announced across the airwaves was a chilling medical history to anyone with medical knowledge accompanied by the sounds of treatment and cursing. Something which was quickly followed by a rapid back and forth between the healers as they worked to repair the damage. It would be three hours before the silencing spell was lifted and Harry was allowed to wake...
"Merlin! How did you get everyone to forget that you admitted to living through what you did to Umbridge every summer?!" Neville demanded horrified. A demand that was the very first thing that Harry heard upon waking up after collapsing in front of everyone.
Off to one side Luna smiled grimly. She might be afflicted with a version of the Cassandra Curse but she had still managed to get the attention of people who could help Harry. He had been so sweet and genuine for their date to the ball during the tournament in her third year and had been such a truly loyal friend that Helga Hufflepuff would be proud to call him one of hers. Things were in motion and Luna would do her best to see Harry survive them. She had discretely checked that the Wizarding Wireless transmitter was still working and undetected while everyone was distracted by Harry's collapse, knowing he would be fine.
"S'rry, didn' mean ta be a b'rden," Harry slurred out. His head was throbbing and he just wanted to go back to sleep. A hand made its way into his hair and began carding it while a thick cool water hose of some kind that felt suspiciously like scales pressed against his left side. His right side was apparently taken up by a baby bird chick of some kind in a rough nest made from robes.
"Go back to sleep, hatchling. We will wake you if anything important about you needs to be decided," a familiar dark voice crooned in his ear. The fingers in his hair obviously belonged to the voice and Harry was feeling safe for once. Accepting the voice at his word he dropped back down into the arms of Morpheus with no qualms what-so-ever. A silencing bubble assured that he would not be woken early.
"Now then, as much as I want to address what the Professors were complaining about I need to know first if my new son is alright," Tom, very much in Voldemort mode, demanded. He was scarily calm as his eyes randomly flashed bright ruby red in anger.
"He will need several months of potions to counter the malnutrition and monitoring to discover what exactly the Phoenix Tears and Basilisk Venom are doing to him... He should be dead! He'll need a full purge for the love potions slowly poisoning him along with a purification ritual for the compulsions and loyalty spells that have been slowly breaking down. If his magic weren't so bloody strong not only would he be dead he would have been little more than a mindless puppet," the lead healer complained. "The bindings on his core need to come off today. I would dearly love to compare his clean power levels to Merlin and Morrigan Le Fay. There is no way in hell that whoever has been supposedly raising him has been doing it properly, not with his raw power levels and the signs of abuse. He needs someone of at least the same rough power level simply to help him with basic control. Learning control under those ghastly binds and beginning to force them into a new shape is the only thing that kept them from strangling his magic and stopping his heart before he hit age 3."
"I want the head of whoever did this!" Severus hissed in absolute fury alongside his equally furious fellow heads of house.
"Binds and bonds and lies woven within threats... Will you still chase the lightning Professor when you know those answers?" Luna asked airily. Her eyes were clear as she projected such a sense of potential, protection, and waiting thunder that the people who didn't know her as a friend paused. George, Fred, and Neville grimly shifted their stances so that they were protecting both Harry and Luna.
"He did it to himself?!" Severus concluded in sick shock. All of the teachers and healers looked ill at that thought, knowing what kind of effort and trauma might be necessary to cause someone to do that to their own magic.
"What do you do when faced with someone who hates your very existence and you don't know why as a young child? A child is taught by the world so why are you surprised?" Luna asked bluntly. "Our view of the world and our place in it first forms from what we are told our value is as young children. So what does one raised as practically a slave see themselves as?"
"The cupboard under the stairs," George recited sickly. Bile was rising in his throat as he looked at the frankly disturbing information in his mind's eye once again.
"The multiple locks on his room, the cat flap in the inside door with no cat, the bars on his window," Fred recalled in a nearly dead tone.
"Asking if Hogwarts was a dream while half asleep for months after the start of first year," Neville said grimly. "Harry joining the Dark is better than him going back to those bastards. Getting adopted by the Dark Lord himself though... well that's pretty normal for Harry's luck, so is trying to survive nearly getting killed each year... To be Harry's true friend you have to be able to adapt and survive things that kill Unspeakables. He can teach you how but if you play him false his luck might just catch you in a nasty situation."
Tom, once and still the Dark Lord Voldemort, regarded these fierce protectors of his new son levelly. He had understood the unspoken threats just fine. Either he treated Harry well or they did their damnedest to kill him for his betrayal. What sent a real chill down his spine was the truth that echoed in their words about how Harry had been treated. If he ever crossed paths with those wretched beasts masquerading as Harry's muggle relatives they would become little more than a gory mess.
"I hear your warning and swear on my magic that from this day forth he is as my own son. Nagini already adopted him for both of us legally but I say to you as his friends and defenders that I no longer wish harm upon him. I eagerly accept him into my house, home, and family," Tom told them bluntly. A silent lighting of his wand showed his words to be truth.
"The only reason we aren't marked as his liegemen is that we haven't gotten around to teaching him about it yet and then talking him into it," George said, his smile sharp-edged and predatory.
"He doesn't care about debts or politics or fame and glory. He just wants to be Harry," Fred added seriously. "He is only just figuring out that most everyone else wont let him. If you can teach him to at least ask for what he needs then... you have our blessing."
Tom inclined his head in acknowledgement before rising. He gathered up his new son and their familiars before silently heading for the exit. No one dared try to stop him.
Chapter 13: Home Remedies
The first thing Tom did when he got them home to Slytherin Manor was perform the unbinding ritual on his son, removing any and all binds on Harry including the trace. The second thing he did was a combination purification/purging ritual before putting his own limited medical knowledge to use in double checking his son. The last thing he did was summon both Severus, a genius Potions Master, and Lady Narcissa Malfoy, a certified Healer, to help tend to Harry. The thought of what had been found health wise in regards to his new son made him feel sick.
"~Calm, my Tom, calm. We rescued and claimed our hatchling in time,~" Nagini hissed soothingly. She was coiled at his feet where he sat watching Severus and Narcissa work on Harry from an arm chair.
"~They hurt him, Nagini. They hurt him very badly and he's been having to deal with it all alone,~" Tom said in agitation. He was both hovering nearby as Harry was checked again by two of his most faithful and carefully holding the sleeping baby Phoenix in his lap as Nagini tried to sooth him.
"~They did,~" Nagini acknowledged. "~Now you know that he was hurting and you can fix it. You can guard him fiercely as our hatchling and teach him to hunt and bite his foes. Keep him close until he is strong again. He might even choose a mate from among your minions...~"
"~It is too soon for mating and I will not take the choice from him,~" Tom said sternly, breaking from his melancholy to scold his familiar. Nagini just smirked triumphantly, glad that her Tom was no longer sulking.
"^Harry-chick?^" Hedwig asked with a sleepy yawn. Nagini and Tom exchanged a slightly startled look as they realized they could both understand the baby phoenix.
"~Hatchling is sleeping,~" Nagini finally answered after a moment of silence. She silently debated with herself before adding a bit more information. "~Two of my Tom's minions are healing him.~"
"^Good. I can not protect my chick always but at least this year he is away from the bad humans he thinks are nestmates during the warm months. I checked, they share no blood with my chick. Stubborn chick insisted on protecting me when I could not defend him,^" Hedwig groused sleepily, still not quite awake yet.
"I accepted him as my own chick," Tom told the bird softly. "He need no longer fear me and I wont let him go back to those... monsters."
"^Good. Harry-chick needs more than I can give him,^" Hedwig complained before falling back asleep.
"He mostly needs rest, my lord," Narcissa finally reported. She had watched not only her patient but also the Dark Lord and the two familiars while she worked. She didn't need to watch Severus as he had been complaining about young Potter in a way that showed his oblivious interest for almost six months before the delivery of the peace offering.
Harry was a bit young but not by much for Wizarding laws and culture. Both Malfoys had despaired at Severus finding a partner and while Harry had still been technically listed as an enemy they were delighted that their friend was finally showing an interest in someone. This change in status from enemy to ally could not come at a better time as far as Narcissa was concerned.
Narcissa knew that she would be looking up the familiar translation spell from her personal copy of the Black Family Witch's Grimore and plotting with both Nagini and the new phoenix familiar. If nothing else the two familiars should be willing to help her get Harry, Severus, and the Dark Lord to a more healthy state. Honestly, for grown men both took terrible care of themselves and only the fact that Harry was obviously abused excused him from the same accusation. She was distracted from her plots on how to get the three men in the room to actually take care of themselves by Severus speaking up.
"I believe I discovered at least in part why Harry decided harming his familiar was the last straw," Severus declared in a pained voice.
"Oh? And why might that be?" Tom asked, immediately interested. Instead of answering Severus picked up Harry's hand and showed them the scars. A silent spell outlined the words in a temporary bright green, I must not tell lies.
"Why was this not removed?" Tom scowled, wondering what the connection was between the scars and his pink clad prisoner.
"Because it was inflicted by extreme over use of a cursed Blood Quill. It isn't removable unless you cut off and regrow the whole hand, possibly the whole limb," Severus explained grimly. "I swear to you we had no idea. I cannot speak for Dumbledore. Harry may believe that Minerva knew because of how she needed to cut him off when he was trying to report something about Umbridge near the start of the year but I can assure you that she didn't know. To my knowledge every staff member bar Filch and possibly Dumbledore would have gone after her with wands drawn had they known about this."
"Any other scars?" Tom asked in a dangerously calm voice.
"Yes," Narcissa said curtly but refused to elaborate on the matter as she met his burning gaze. "He will need regular check ups and monitoring for the Basilisk Venom/Phoenix Tears mix in his blood as well as special nutrition potions that Severus can brew to counter the signs of starvation. No Quidditch for at least the next six months if not longer depending on how he reacts to the bone strengthening treatments. Something which is also contingent upon how he heals when we finish re-breaking or vanishing and re-growing his various mis-healed bones. Flying, without stunts, should be fine after the talks are wrapped up or suspended or blow up in everyone's face."
"I checked his trunk, aside from his school uniform and those hand knit sweaters... all he has are oversized rags," Tom admitted. "I already sent off an elf with his measurements to get him a new wardrobe while I used several rituals to break the power blocks, purge, and purify him. The elf has also been instructed to pick up a nice blanket and a few extra warm robes. If he's anything like me he likely gets cold even in the summer. Its a side effect from not getting enough to eat at times."
"So you did listen to the Gringotts healers and just wanted us to double check since you did the recommended rituals yourself," Narcissa commented. Her blond eyebrow was arched in a mix of fond amusement and slight exasperation. Tom just nodded his agreement and went back to watching Harry sleep.
"If I ever get my hands on whoever the old fool placed him with..." Severus growled, clearly upset.
The damage wasn't irreversible yet but they were cutting it damn close on healing Harry even with magic. The Potions Master now knew where the extra daily nutrition potions had been going when Poppy went behind everyone's back. It pained him to admit to himself that it had been for the best especially with how Pomona had revealed that Dumbledore had been interfering with several student's medical treatment. Still, now that he knew Harry needed them, the imp would only recieve potions made by Severus' hands and no others.
"I am heavily tempted to pull him from Hogwarts and have him taught at home," Tom finally admitted, staring at his sleeping son.
"The problem with that is that you just publicly admitted that you are the Dark Lord. The adoption was unexpected and the public as well as the Ministry will want assurances that you aren't hurting him," Narcissa murmured thoughtfully. "Weekly outings to public wizarding locations can help with that, especially if you invite his defenders along. Actually, if you allow them to perform the vassal binding oath and make it publicly known it will give you and them a lot of leeway in the eyes of the public. They would be trusted with his safety and you would be seen as something less than a monster which would also build on what happened at the meeting."
"It would also help the imp adapt to his new life," Severus tossed in his two knuts worth. "It will give him trusted help in case someone chooses to be an idiot and attack him regardless of pledged protection. You need to help him build up safe locations, his health, and give him the ability to defend himself... even against yourself. Help him stand on his own two feet if he chooses to do so."
"That's more than reasonable, especially with our... less than pleasant history of interacting with one another," Tom agreed with a wince. "I wont be letting him move out until he is at least 25 unless there is a verifiable reason that he would be safer elsewhere. If such information does come to light then he will be sent to live with one of his vassals or someone I trust implicitly such as one of the Inner Circle."
"Reasonable," Severus agreed, just a bit too quickly and casually. He was already plotting to be the best option if such a scenario came to pass. Tom narrowed his ruby eyes at his friend and minion but didn't pursue whatever Severus was hiding... for now. Narcissa gave her friend a look but said nothing. In that moment both of them knew they would be discussing Harry and Severus later, in a more private setting than Harry's new room.
"In any case nothing can be done until he wakes up in the morning," Narcissa said primly. "He isn't allowed to skip meals or the nutrition potions. I recommend the calcium potions for his bones be taken with food to limit the nausea and we can start vanishing or re-breaking bones after we've talked to him and he is more comfortable with his new situation. He will either need the eye repair potion that Severus still wont admit to having created or a full vanish and re-growth of both of his eyes and the optical nerves to fix his eye sight. Any re-growing of things has to wait for at least a month if not longer simply because his body doesn't have the resources to support the treatment right now."
"His hands and arms especially need to be taken care of as well as several ribs," Severus put in. When they looked at him expectantly he explained. "His movements in class, around the school, and on a broom indicate that he is in pain and compensating for something. I just never noticed properly with how Dumbledore tried to keep me focused on his birth father whenever I dealt with him. Looking back not only were his potions sabotaged, largely by Draco, but his hands have never moved quite right which makes fine potion preparation difficult. I have seen him twist around quickly but pause right afterwards to briefly favor his ribs on one side. I have no way to check his skull despite knowing how often bludgers and other things knock him silly."
Narcissa sent another round of more specialized diagnostics at her patient, muttering about stubborn males. This caused Severus to briefly flash back to a time when she and her sisters routinely kidnapped him to check what damage the Marauders had done this time and put him to rights.
"You're not wrong," Narcissa admitted once the results came back. "There are very fine lines of fractures in his ribs, the back of his skull, and riddling his hands and arms to go with the mis-healed breaks. Nothing that is immediately life threatening but it wouldn't surprise me to find that he is usually in some form of pain. The fractures are old but unhealed. I know, intellectually, that this can happen to anyone but I'm still not happy to see my patient with injuries so old that have just never healed or never finished healing."
Both wizards let out unhappy sounds that bordered on growls at the confirmation and Nagini was forced to herd Severus over to stand next to her wizard. Serpent and witch looked unimpressed at the pair as Nagini kept them in place. Hedwig made a grumbling cooing sound of sleepy inquiry that distracted both men nicely as they turned to checking on the baby Phoenix since they couldn't get near Harry for the moment.
"~They will need watching and I will have to gift you with serpent tongue if we are to keep them whole,~" Nagini hissed absently to the witch at her side as they watched the men fuss over Hedwig. Narcissa wasn't sure of the exact details of what the serpent had said but she was fairly certain it was grumbling over the three wizards in the room in some fashion and heartily agreed.
In the end they just watched over Harry, taking turns, until he woke for breakfast the next morning.
Harry found the next morning to be highly surreal as he was given breakfast in bed with the Dark Lord, Professor Snape, and Draco's mother eating in chairs next to his bed. The only thing less strange was Hedwig's new baby Phoenix form and Nagini's odd mothering which said something about the situation. Yet he still felt less burdened than he had in a long time. Only the memory of what happened at the bank kept him from freaking out and trying to escape but it was a very near thing.
Hedwig cooed and trilled happily when Harry said her name in appreciative shock as she groomed his hair before breakfast was fetched for everyone by an elf.
"^My Harry-chick,^" Hedwig said fondly. Harry's look of shock when he realized he had understood his transformed familiar had been priceless. Both older wizards smirked at him while Narcissa smiled in amusement, guessing what had happened, and Nagini laughed her tail off on the floor.
As they all recovered from the surprise Nagini turned a considering look on the blond woman and the dark Potions Master.
"~Minion who watches learning hatchlings likes our hatchling, female healer-mother needs help healing these stubborn ones...~" Nagini hissed quietly to herself. Making a decision she struck, sinking her fangs deep into Narcissa's arm and feeding a special venom into her victim. The serpent familiar ignored all of them and their cries of alarm as she focused on keeping her fangs deep in the witch's flesh while the venom took hold. The deep blue, almost black, venom dripped from her mouth wrapped around the blond's arm as Narcissa slowly sunk to the floor, feeling weak.
"~Nagini... why?!~" Tom asked in open distress. He and Severus stood between the bedding trapped Harry and the serpent with her victim. Narcissa looked up in shock, having easily understood the question spoken in parseltongue.
Nagini ignored them in favor of very carefully disengaging her fangs from flesh and cloth alike to sluggishly collapse in a heap.
"~New Speakers need much prey and rest. Leave the speaker venom to fester for a day for only the one bitten to gain the speech. Leave it for three moon rises, no more than four sun passes, to allow any new hatchlings you may have to also gain the noble serpent tongue,~" the obviously tired familiar instructed. "~My Tom is to give me many pets and plump rabbits and share his speaker tomes with new healing speaker. Pale female mother-healer is now speaker and will heal our nest better.~"
"Of course," Narcissa stuttered slightly before dragging herself into a nearby chair. She conjured a clean bandage, vanished the ruined sleeve of her clothes, and very carefully wrapped the wound without cleaning it. As a healer she knew this was potentially dangerous but she could also tell that this was important both magically and for the openly exhausted serpent. If one had to leave the venom in place after being gifted parseltongue then it was no wonder so few British magical families had the powerful magical gift.
"~Don't think that we wont be talking about this!~" Tom warned his familiar forbiddingly.
Nagini just snickered as she sank into an exhausted sleep. It would be a week or more before she was back to normal. Unless the Ice-Firebird gave her some tears to drink it would be close to six months before she could attempt to bestow Parseltongue on a human again. That was presuming this attempt took and settled in the woman's blood to be passed on to any future hatchlings.
"I don't understand," Harry said softly as he held a cooing Hedwig close. The Phoenix chick and serpent had waited until everyone was either asleep or had stepped out to the bathroom to discuss what Nagini had tentatively planned. Both familiars had come to the very firm conclusion that Narcissa should be granted parseltongue, soon. They had eventually concluded that Severus should also be considered for the honor as either or both receiving it would help their wizards.
"^Nagini gave her serpent tongue so that she can heal you better, my chick,^" Hedwig said cheerfully. "^We are still deciding if we should give your Snape serpent tongue, bird tongue, or both. I want you healthy and there are things they can not know unless we tell them.^"
"That is... eminently reasonable," Tom concluded with a considering look aimed at the two familiars.
"How can we understand Hedwig? I never could before," Harry asked, focusing on the act of understanding rather than anything else such as the pair of familiars giving away his secrets.
"That is likely due to her previously incomplete transformation into a phoenix even if it doesn't explain how the Dark Lord can understand her," Severus said pointedly, giving his friend and Lord a look.
"Don't ask me. I was shocked to realize I could understand her when Narcissa was tending to my new son," Tom shot back with a snort of self-derision. Unknown to all of them Harry's status as a Horcrux had shared the language of their familiars between the two wizards permanently. Even should the soul piece be removed and the link broken both would retain serpent tongue and bird tongue to pass down to any future children.
"So you really did adopt me, it wasn't a dream," Harry said quietly.
"Yes, I did. Even if Nagini hadn't preempted both of us I would have happily adopted you if you had been willing. As you didn't get the chance to actually answer I will assume that I would not necessarily have been your first choice for a new family. I will, however, promise that I wasn't originally going to force you to choose me. If you will remember I had a whole list of people willing to adopt you assuming you wanted nothing to do with me," Tom answered curtly. He wanted to reach out to Harry but was afraid that it would do more harm than good, for the both of them.
"^Stop acting like you don't want my Harry-chick and come cuddle him,^" Hedwig ordered in exasperation. Her Harry-chick needed many cuddles and if anyone was willing to give them to him then she would not stand for them holding back.
Tom hesitated for a moment but when Harry gave no sign of objecting he happily came closer and hugged his new son. Harry closed his eyes and reveled in the caring touch while it lasted. No one, not even his own relatives, had ever been willing to touch him like this. Molly Weasley's crushing grip that she called a hug didn't count with the way she left bruises that mirrored what was left behind whenever Uncle Vernon grabbed him. The twins had learned to be careful and hadn't taught him about proper hugs yet even though they had long since promised to do so once he could stand casual touching without a sign of flinching.
Tom could tell from the moment he touched his son that Harry had been denied physical affection and thought he was going to be hurt even from a hug. All too familiar with this mindset he clung to the younger wizard, wrapping himself around the smaller form as Hedwig prudently moved to the headboard of the bed.
"You're drinking the blood adoption potion as soon as its ready. I'll not have you taken from me," Tom said quietly. Hedwig cooed reassurance and approval from her perch. "It will take time to trust each other with our conflicting pasts but you will always have a home with me."
"Okay," Harry said in a small voice and then he cried for the first time since he was very small.
Ron was furious. He had been promised that the Potter whelp would be "corrected" over the summer by his relatives. Instead what did precious Potter get? Adopted! By the Dark Lord no less! Potter needed to be compliant and marry his sister. Once Ginny, raised completely on tales of becoming Lady Potter and Harry's destiny to defeat the Dark Lord, married the ungrateful prat they could let the Dark kill him. Ron would be the soul of sorrow for a fallen brother and the Potter fortune would go to them as Harry's closest magical relatives and In-Laws. But did Potter follow the plan? No! Now almost nothing that they did would keep the Dark in its place under the Light's heel and the Potter fortune would leave the light. Ginny would need to marry him sooner than they thought and get a brat off of Harry.
Ron was in an ugly mood and his older twin brothers watched him with great suspicion. They had come back to the Burrow with their disappointed parents soley on the grounds that they might be able to nip a few problems in the bud. Sadly it was looking more and more like they would have to renounce the Weasley clan and ask Harry to adopt them rather than the other way around. They had been planning to adopt Harry until the Dark Lord had beaten them to the punch with only Harry's agreement and the last few pieces of paperwork in the way. The only thing they could honestly think of when it had happened in the bank was that at least their dark haired little brother was away from his monstrous relatives. Now they had to wonder if keeping him away from the other redheads wouldn't be a good idea as well.
They would not allow their blood family to harm Harry. William (Bill) and Charlie, who had returned from their various jobs abroad for a visit and to see the Twin's graduation, watched their family curiously. It would take them a few hours to kidnap their twin brothers and get answers about Harry but by the end of it four of the seven Weasley children were Harry's men.
For those aware (and not aware) this chapter is not an answer to the poll placed on Bunny Farm 3 - ch 22. I simply had it nearly ready and the poll is still open until Trickster32 summarizes the answers for me since I'm edging on writing burn out. I actually was forced to stop and consider how long I've been writing near constantly. I am quite chagrined to realize my almost burn out is caused by writing almost constantly for 3-4 months (or more) for all of you. I can only apologize and try to take better care of myself since I was being an idiot. *sheepish*
Chapter 15: Dinner of an Odd Sort
This is a bit of fluff and might count as filler but I can't be sure with the introspection lacing the chapter. This is also the promised update from the poll conducted during December. Ideas for the next step are welcome....
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The evening after the first meeting attempt had been quietly agreed on for the second meeting and a semi-public health check. The uproar from the public over what they had announced on the day before had been tremendous and volatile. Personally, Harry was just shocked so many people seemed to remotely care when they hadn't cared before. Intellectually, he knew it had less to do with his fickle popularity and more to do with the fact that they had been informed a child had been hurt under their watch. It really didn't matter to anyone that he wasn't a small child anymore only that he had been one during the majority of the injuries and was still suffering from them. Adults can mostly take care of themselves after all but someone who isn't an adult yet? That's a different kettle of fish. Harry vaguely supposed it probably linked into something close to species and family survival from a science point of view but he had never really thought about it.
"~Hatchling, pay attention,~" Nagini scolded, bringing Harry out of his musing to see everyone at the peace meeting looking at him expectantly.
"I'm sorry, my mind drifted, what was the question?" Harry asked softly. He felt rather secure with Professor Snape standing at his back and Nagini resting at his feet. He saw no reason to cower or placate these people, not with the promise of never having to go back to the Dursleys again. The fact that earlier Voldemort had hugged him... him! simply made him glow with happiness at random moments.
Hedwig trilled in amusement from her perch at his shoulder on the back of his chair before setting to grooming his hair for the second time that evening.
"What would you like for supper? We had all overlooked needing to eat before hand and I am betting that you've never had some of the dishes served at wizarding restaurants," Tom asked in open amusement.
"Whatever is fine. I'm not a picky eater," Harry offered. He saw Tom's eyes darken in grim understanding but the Dark Lord chose not to comment. Food was food and when there wasn't enough for whatever reason you learned to eat what you could get. It was something they had both learned in childhood.
Severus sighed and placed a nutrition potion in front of the intriguing, troublesome brat.
"I don't need a nutrition potion," Harry said quietly to the towering bat of a man.
"Yes, you do," Severus said grimly in a no nonsense tone of voice. "You can take it with your meal as it needs some form of food or drink to go with it to work correctly. Now, was there a food you've never tried but always wanted to have?"
"Yes," Harry admitted but didn't elaborate.
"I suppose if you aren't going to pick we can always order you bland cabbage soup with hot peppers on the side," Tom teased gently. It wasn't something that anyone he knew of would eat if something else was available so was a safe bet to get Harry to actually pick a food.
"No thank you!" Harry yelped before frantically sorting through foods he knew about in his mind for something suitable. "What about Spaghetti? Or Pizza? Or even just fish and chips? I figure you won't be willing to get something from McDonalds..."
"Would a creamy potato and ham soup in a bread bowl be acceptable?" Severus suggested dryly. He made a mental note to get food from the named fast food restaurant or one of the other listed foods for the imp at a later date when he had a better idea of the younger man's food preferences.
"Actually, that sounds really good," Harry admitted after a moment of due consideration. The thought of potatoes, ham, green beans, carrots, and spices in a rich creamy sauce with a loaf of bread as a bowl had his mouth watering.
"That's settled then," Dumbledore said genially, not so subtly attempting to re-take control of the meeting even in so minor a matter as their supper choices.
"Food has been arranged for," the goblin representative ended the power play with his blunt statement but one of the goblin aides had been taking notes on Harry and his preferences. Simple sandwiches were quickly provided along with empty goblets for conjured water and sealed bottles of butter beer. The goblins were being extra paranoid about possible outside contamination so everything was sealed in some fashion.
Harry shrugged and opened a pre-packaged sandwich, recognizing the muggle storage style from the corner store in Surrey. Everyone else followed suit now that they had been shown how to open the food.
"Out of curiosity did you introduce this type of packaging to the muggles or did you adapt it to your own needs?" Harry asked the goblin representative as the purebloods at the table tried not to choke on the sandwiches they had just bitten into.
"A bit of both. Mostly we realized they were using simple sealing methods involving heat to weld the plastic together or a variant of sucking the air out of the container to maintain freshness. We had our own methods that could do the same thing but hadn't been applied in that manner before. A few of our people set up one or two companies on the muggle side. Eventually they managed enough influence to get others to limit the use of harmful chemicals by not using them on their own products and raking in the profit. We have more interaction between the two sides of humanity than most muggleborns," the goblin representative shrugged.
"I bet you make sure everyone who works on either side knows what not to do and how to dress," Harry said with a snort of amusement. He took a bite of his chosen ham and cheese sandwich and, with a pointed look at the Potions Professor, quickly downed the nutrition potion.
"Of course! Its bad for business not to know at least the basics of who and what you are dealing with," came the reply, complete with a toothy smile that made Harry snicker in agreement.
Supper proceeded mostly quietly after that as everyone reoriented and prepared for the second day of the meeting.
So do we talk about Harry's medical history first? His yearly adventures? His accounts? The various methods people have been trying to use to control him and his resources? Or something else?
Chapter 16: Year 1
Luna considered her friend as they ate supper. She knew many thought that she was insane because they couldn't see what she could see. She also knew that exposing the Bumblebee and nudging Harry towards the Dark faction could only help her friend. In another reality, time, and place Harry would have kept his temper with Umbitch while an insane Dark Lord plotted his death. That world would have led toward the death of thousands of their small community and would have eventually caused the revelation of magic to greedy men across the globe. Right now though everything had shifted. Her friend needed her to make sure his story was known.
"Master Goblin, don't you think the healers should check Harry again? To put everyone's mind at rest since the Dark Lord took him away with him yesterday?" Luna asked airily as dinner was cleared away. Once again the little ball that acted as a remote magical microphone had made its way out of her pocket and on to the table to pick up every word spoken and broadcast it to the rest of their world. "After all if we get his identity and health checked first then no one can argue that Harry isn't acting under his own choice or argue anything really based on his health state."
"Acceptable. All present will be examined fully for health and their identity verified to prevent legal issues," the goblin agreed.
"I don't see why that would be necessary," Dumbledore protested. His idea of Harry being under dark control meant to be presented later would be useless with such a check.
"I would really rather not," Harry put in hastily as he saw people starting to agree with the goblin. "I have no problem checking who I am and that I'm not under anyone's control. If... if its not announced then I don't mind as much. I hate landing in the hospital wing."
Severus rolled his eyes and hit Harry in the back of the head with a set of diagnostic spells. He casually handed the results over to the goblin healer who had quickly arrived once the idea was broached. A quick glance through the results and a goblin spell to check his identity cleared Harry first before the goblin healer moved on to the next person until everyone was checked and cleared.
"They are clean of anything that doesn't hide from a deep scan," the goblin healer announced. She took a seat off to one side to go over the collected results more thoroughly while they moved on to deal with the any other issues.
"That was a bit anti-climatic," Harry murmured under his breath only to get laughed at by Nagini who was still resting protectively at his feet.
"Harry would you tell us about what happened to Professor Quirrell in your first year? And your other adventures? That is if you don't want to speak about your health and home life?" Luna asked airily. Only the lead goblin representative, Snape, and the Dark Lord noticed the sharp glint that quickly disappeared from her gaze. Dumbledore was too preoccupied with trying to copy the health reports unnoticed to pay attention to the possible implications of her question.
Harry considered his friend warily and reluctantly admitted to himself, if no one else, that addressing his yearly "adventures" and their weirdness was probably the better option. He just knew that being forced to sort out the normality of the Dursleys was going to be an utter nightmare that he wasn't going to be able to get out of. He figured that it was best to try and put it off as long as possible.
"Before we start on that I want it clear that I was insane from sensory deprivation. Not having a proper body for extended periods puts a strain on the mind. The issue has since been corrected," Tom put in quickly. He did not want to be judged as completely unstable over his actions without a body.
"Noted," the goblin representative acknowledged, making a literal note on a piece of parchment in front of him. The goblin healer came back over to him and did another couple of scans on him which the Dark Lord manfully ignored.
"What made you three try the forbidden corridor?" Severus asked carefully. He figured that Harry would have an easier time answering questions instead of trying to tell it without some sort of prompting. Harry giving him a half wary, half grateful look as the man finally took a seat next to him.
"Mostly it was because we figured out what Dumbledore hid there. When we tried to warn Professor McGonagall that a Professor, we thought it was you originally, had gone out of their way to figure out how to get past all of the defenses she told us to go play. I admit that having eleven year olds tell you that one of the adults you've worked with all year if not longer was going to steal something important wasn't really believable. When we told her we were sure we were right and we were sort of desperate because we had figured out how important the stone could probably be," Harry admitted. He was focusing on telling Snape the story and didn't see when Dumbledore was ruthlessly silenced. As far as Harry was making himself be concerned about his only audience was the Potions Professor. "We all thought Dumbledore was barmy to keep it at the school and then tell everyone not to go there or risk dying. Especially, since we landed in the corridor completely by accident the first time. It was always sort of strange to me that so many of the pieces we needed to get past the defenses were just there... except the mirror. Ron and I were the ones who found it but he didn't keep coming back to it until Dumbledore moved it. Anyway, Ron and Hermione couldn't make it through all of them and we decided that I had to be the one to make it to the end if possible."
"Well that certainly explains why they weren't with you when you came upon Quirrell and I that day," Tom mused, internally wincing at what was about to be discussed. He had not presented himself well during that confrontation.
"Tom and I talked, Quirrell threatened me. Tom was insane and ordered Quirrell to kill me when I wouldn't give him the stone after the mirror dropped it in my pocket without a by your leave. Quirrell touched me and then started burning. I saw that and... used what was to hand. I still sometimes have nightmares about him turning to charcoal then ash under my hands," Harry admitted with a shiver.
"What did the Headmaster tell you was the cause of that, I wonder?" Tom mused aloud.
"Dumbledore told me after I woke up in the hospital wing that it was mum's love that did it, that I wasn't a killer," Harry said, going carefully blank. He mentally forced the terror from both memories and nightmares away from him as he fought himself to tell the tale of his first kill.
"Quick question, the dragon Draco complained about you moving in first year?" Severus asked keenly. His mind was busy with the implications of what Harry had already told them but the Dragon incident had always rather puzzled him.
Harry latched on to the new subject with visible relief.
"Oh, that. Tom had tricked Hagrid into a card game to learn about Fluffy, his Cerberus, and lost a dragon egg to Hagrid even if he did get to know what he wanted from talking to Hagrid. You have to ask him how he even got a dragon egg and why he let Hagrid actually have it. Hagrid hatched it and tried to raise it in his wooden hut. We had one hell of a time talking him into sending the dragon to a sanctuary with actual dragon handlers, away from crunchy students to munch. Ron still got bit in the hand though," Harry admitted sheepishly. "Draco saw us at the hatching and decided to stalk us when we were getting the baby dragon out of the school. He got us caught after and I lost my father's cloak during that trip with the dragon but it turned up again suddenly on my bed with a note not to loose it again."
"Firstly, in my defense, I was an insane wraith and secondly, I wasn't aware that the egg was actually viable," Tom defended himself from the incredulous looks Harry's little story earned him.
"Time for a tea break I think," Luna said airily. Taking the hint everyone quickly agreed. They had a lot to think about and it hadn't even been an hour yet since the start of the day's meeting.