Roy received his berating with stoic serenity. Molly Weasley had the kind of terrifying air that came with being the mother of seven children, some of which were truly unruly, and this air served her well in dealing with anyone she believed had stepped out of line. Roy, however, was used to having Riza Hawkeye looking over his shoulder, with her disapproving glares, words and gun ready for whenever he did something she didn’t like —which was often enough. Molly’s scolding over the reckless move that had been Roy’s fake date with Tonks tonight —and she was all the more horrified because they had run into Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy— was positively refreshing in comparison.
Having Sirius stand behind her and childishly mimic her gestures proved harder to withstand, as it meant both Roy and Tonks (who was being scolded for having agreed to the date) had to put a lot of effort into keeping straight faces throughout the hour-long scolding,
Once satisfied that she had said everything she wanted to say, Molly announced she was returning home and stepped into the floo with one last baleful glare at Roy.
“Well,” Roy said after a short silence, “she certainly didn’t take that well.”
“She’s adopted you,” he said, “and you know how she is.”
Roy sighed. Yes, he had noticed with Potter and her children. It was both a downside and the desired effect of his current mask; having Molly dedicate so much time to express her worry over his safety meant Roy was doing a good job of appearing as merely a scholar, but at the same time it was galling because Roy was certain he could take on most of the Order without any real trouble.
“Okay, boys, I’m going home,” Tonks said, stretching her arms over her head. She was still in her Andrea disguise, because —as she had grumbled before they returned to Headquarters— she had forgotten to take a more comfortable change of clothes and she was no good at transfiguring them. “Are you going back to Hogwarts, Roy?”
“Oh, no. I’m not expected at the castle until tomorrow. Late, I’d say,” he replied with a smirk. Lunch had been fun.
Sirius barked out a laugh.
“I want that story,” he said.
Sirius blinked. There was a hawk perched on one of the kitchen chairs.
More accurately, there was a patronus-silver hawk perched on one of the kitchen chairs, looking up at him unnervingly while Roy sat on another chair and twirled his wand lazily in his right hand.
“A hawk, really?” he asked.
“Yes, it seems so,” Roy said with a pleased smile, and dismissed his patronus with a wave of his wand.
“About time,” Sirius said with a laugh, happy to see that Roy had finally managed it. “Let’s eat something and I’ll show you what we use patronuses for in the Order.”
“Did you know that Mustang encountered Lucius and Narcissa on Friday?” Severus asked, sitting on his usual armchair in Albus’ office.
“Yes, Roy told me when he returned yesterday,” Albus replied calmly, as if this encounter couldn’t have gone horribly. “Should I assume that is why Tom summoned you last night?”
“He wanted me to inform him of everything I’ve noticed about Mustang, even the smallest of details,” Severus said after a curt nod.
“Oh? And what did you tell him?” Albus asked, his eyes twinkling with mirth.
“What I always do. Mustang is, as the students have so helpfully put it, a slave-driver in his classes,” Severus had once overheard a group of fourth year Hufflepuffs comparing him to Mustang, which he wasn’t sure if he should find hilarious or offensive, “a very focused scholar, careless about his safety... I did add some new information, of course, like how most of the staff seem to think he is too formal for someone his age, and the fact that toad Umbridge seems to like him for some reason. I also mentioned how he appears to be pretty vain, which you can’t argue after that performance he put on Friday.”
“What about Roy’s role within the Order? I imagine Tom insisted on that aspect.”
“He did. But there isn’t much to be said about it, now is there? Mustang just sits back and watches.” In fact, Severus hadn’t seen Mustang contribute anything to a meeting since he had disagreed with the Order’s decision not to train Potter back during the summer holidays. “After hearing what Lucius had to say, the Dark Lord seems oddly convinced that he could sway Mustang to his side if only he had a chance to meet him,” Severus said, and let the unasked question linger in the air.
Was the Dark Lord right?
Nobody knew much about Roy Mustang, after all, other than the fact that he could create the Philosopher’s Stone. For all his polite small talk, Mustang had never revealed anything about himself or his life before Hogwarts. And Severus wasn’t blind. Mustang was good, very good, at putting on his oblivious scholar front, but Severus wouldn’t have lived this long if he didn’t know how to spot deception; Mustang’s intellect wasn’t limited to the scholarly arts, Severus had seen the calculating glint in his eyes more than once.
Albus’ amusement moved to the line of his mouth now as well as his eyes.
“I assure you Roy has no interest in following Tom,” he said, with the same voice he used to tell the Order that Severus was trustworthy. One that few people believed in that second case, but which Severus knew was Albus being truthful about what he thought despite what others might think.
Severus almost opened his mouth to ask what made him so sure that Mustang was worth so much faith, but in the end didn’t. Aside from the fact that he doubted Albus would reply when he had been so deliberately vague about Mustang so far —even if nobody else seemed to have noticed— Severus wasn’t in a place to ask when he himself had requested his own reasons be kept secret.
“Answer me this at least,” he said instead, “how competent is Mustang in a fight?” While, as an auror, Nymphadora Tonks made for a good bodyguard if the Dark Lord decided to make a move, it would be a disaster if Mustang had no real combat experience.
“I have never seen Roy fight,” Albus said. “However,” he continued, cutting off Severus’ scathing and incredulous comment, “Alastor tells me that Roy has very good reflexes, and you know that Alastor doesn’t give compliments easily. Besides, Roy is awfully paranoid for someone who has never been in a life-threatening situation,” Albus added with renewed amusement.
Severus knew that was as much as he was going to get on the topic of Mustang. He nodded.
“Did you need anything else? I have a pile of abysmal essays to mark waiting at my office.”
“Just one more question. How is your other task coming along?”
“I haven’t overheard anyone boasting about the Dark Lord entrusting them with a special task, nor have I found any memory of such an event so far.” Albus hadn’t explained why such a thing was so important, but he had gone to the length of procuring a pensieve for Severus so he wouldn’t have to depend on the one Albus had in his office, which spoke volumes of the importance of whatever task the Dark Lord could have given someone.
“I see... In that case, I wish you luck with your essays.”
“Those dunderheads would need far more than luck,” Severus said, much to Albus’ amusement.
The remainder of October passed in what Roy couldn’t help but to think of as a period of calm before a storm.
The effort his students put into studying was starting to pay off, showing which of them might do well in alchemy and which wouldn’t. He hadn’t lied to the Malfoys about their son, it was clear that Draco was paying attention in class and studying, and his results in the daily exams reflected this, just as they reflected that the other two Slytherin students —Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle— weren’t giving the class a second thought and would fail the theory exam miserably. Hermione’s prodigious memory was showing in her results, as well as her refreshing skill to use that art so many wizards and witches ignored called logic. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley weren’t showing nearly as good results as Hermione did, but they might pass the exam depending on how things went. Roy assumed their attention was focused elsewhere, probably divided between the defence group and quidditch training if he had to bet.
A surprise, at least according to the other members of staff who occasionally asked about how his classes were going, was Neville Longbottom. Roy had been warned about Longbottom and his ability to botch even the simplest of spells, and yet he was grasping the concepts Roy taught with far more ease than many of the more studious students. Roy had been very displeased to overhear a group of students speculate about how Longbottom could have managed to cheat in the daily exams, and that was the first time he assigned a real detention. He had the students, who weren’t even in any of his classes, write ‘I won’t spread baseless rumours’ until they had filled an entire scroll of parchment each and were rubbing at their wrists in obvious discomfort, then he gave them a very stern and thorough speech about how nobody cheated in his classes because he had ensured it wasn’t a possibility.
Roy’s reputation amongst the students had taken another turn for the worse after the story of that detention, which had taken four hours —and which Roy had used to revise all of that week’s exams and some spells he had been reading about— spread amongst the students. “Arrogant bastard” had joined slave-driver as a way to describe him now.
Longbottom wasn’t the only surprise amongst his students, though. Despite all the warnings, Fred and George Weasley had behaved ever since the fake detention, and they seemed to regard Roy with a level of respect that he hadn’t seen them give other professors. They took the class seriously, which Sirius speculated was because they believed it could be useful for their joke shop. As long as they didn’t attempt anything reckless, Roy was fine with this.
But the most puzzling surprise to Roy was a fourth year Ravenclaw named Luna Lovegood. Lovegood didn’t seem to even know what logic was —Roy had given up on trying to figure out half the things she spoke about very early on in the school year— and yet it was clear she understood, not just memorised like many students attempted to do, what Roy explained in class.
Alchemy classes aside, Roy had finally finished his work on Al and Barry’s arrays, and had started to devise a way to achieve the opposite effect. Which would then be followed by creating a means to distinguish the different souls in a single body to expel only one of them. Slow, but it was progress.
He had gone on one more fake date that he had spent at Grimmauld Place, perfecting the art of sending messages through patronuses with Sirius’ and Lupin’s help.
As for the events taking place in the school, Umbridge seemed oddly content without implementing any new measures, which only increased the feeling that something would happen soon.
With the end of October and the arrival of November came a bubbling excitement over the first quidditch match of the year. Roy had no intention of attending it, he didn’t fancy watching as fourteen teenagers flew around on broomsticks while pulling off death-defying stunts. That didn’t mean he managed to stay out of the events preceding the match.
Gryffindor and Slytherin were facing each other, and Roy had long since learnt that the rivalry between those two houses was far beyond unhealthy. After Alicia Spinnet, member of the Gryffindor team, was cursed by Miles Bletchley from the Slytherin team, Roy decided he wasn’t going to deal with childish behaviour over sports in his classes.
He walked into his first class after the incident announcing that if anything the slightest bit funny happened to anyone, the entire class would have detention at the time of the match. And no, he didn’t care that some of his students were members of the two quidditch teams about to face off. It didn’t do much for his popularity, but it ensured the Alchemy classes leading up to the match were uneventful.
Finally the Saturday of the match arrived. Roy declined the invitations of the other professors to go with them to the quidditch pitch, claiming that he wasn’t a fan of quidditch —and earning a few odd looks because of it.
Roy settled on the plush carpet he had transmuted in his study for the sole purpose of being more comfortable and spread his notes around. The entirety of the school, with perhaps a handful of people who, like himself, had no interest in quidditch, were outside the castle at the quidditch pitch, which promised at the very least a calm morning for work. Perhaps longer, given how Roy had heard these matches could stretch even for days, though he had been assured such an occurrence was highly uncommon with school matches.
The calm lasted until Roy entered the Great Hall for lunch. He had hoped the match would stretch for the entire day, but not only was it over already, something had clearly gone wrong. The students were whispering furiously all over the room, some with worry, others with anger and others with glee. Roy noticed the gleeful ones were mainly Slytherins, and the angry ones, Gryffindors. A quick scan of the tables proved that the Gryffindor quidditch team was nowhere to be seen. Roy took in the faces at the staff table as he walked up to his usual seat. Albus appeared grim, Minerva had the look of someone who had bit on a lemon and Umbridge sported a worryingly pleased expression. The rest of the professors appeared to be between worried and cautious.
“Did I miss something?” Roy asked in a low voice as he took his seat next to Pomona, far enough from Umbridge not to be overheard.
“You mean aside from a brand new educational decree no one was informed about?” Pomona said in an unusually harsh voice, something Roy had never heard from her before. “Some things, yes.” And she proceeded to tell Roy about how Umbridge had gotten herself the authority to override everyone, including Albus, when it came to administering punishments, to the point where she could even change what other professors had deemed an appropriate punishment. An authority she had used to ban Harry Potter and Fred and George Weasley from playing quidditch ever again.
Well, that’s a problem, Roy thought, deliberately not looking in Umbridge’s direction. This decree ruined the possibility of Roy using another detention to talk to Hermione and her friends because he doubted Umbridge would pass the chance to take control over a detention involving Harry Potter or any of his close friends.
Hagrid was at the head table for breakfast on Monday. It was an unexpected sight given that, as far as Roy knew, he hadn’t warned anyone about his return. The Order had received word from Madame Maxime months ago about the giants’ refusal to join them —no surprise there— but she hadn’t given a concrete explanation about Hagrid’s delay and had simply told Albus that it was likely he wouldn’t make it for the start of term.
Looking at Hagrid now, Roy wondered what exactly had kept him so long. Hagrid looked as though he’d gone a round or two against a homunculus, covered in wounds and bruises that ranged from anywhere between freshly-acquired to nearly healed.
He didn’t have a chance to ask, not that he would have done so in the Great Hall of all places, when Hagrid grinned at him and leant over the back of the table to wave at him without any bodies in the way. Roy smiled in greeting, sat down and proceeded with breakfast as usual, acting as though his brain wasn’t running a mile a minute attempting to figure out how Hagrid’s return would feature in the current climate at Hogwarts. Not well, Roy could tell as much. Umbridge was a massive racist who wouldn’t simply accept the change from polite, agreeable Professor Grubbly-Plank to a half-giant. The way she kept darting calculating looks at Hagrid across the table confirmed as much.
It took all of one day for Roy’s theory to be confirmed. Umbridge inspected Hagrid’s class on Tuesday afternoon (fifth year with Harry Potter, of course), and the stories that came from it weren’t good. From what little had made it to the staff table by dinner, Pomona and Professors Sinistra and Burbage were certain that Umbridge would do everything she could to have Hagrid fired as soon as possible, even more than she was already doing in Trelawney’s case.
As unfair as the idea was, it was no surprise, and all three of them seemed to agree that Hagrid wouldn’t withstand Umbridge’s harassment very well. He was a good guy, they said, but very easily flustered. From what little Roy had seen of Hagrid a few months ago he was inclined to agree with them.
During the month of November Roy started to introduce his students to the basic concepts of mathematics and physics that they would need to even start approaching the practical uses of alchemy. He ignored the whining and eye rolls, but whenever he heard one of the frequent comments about how muggle things were beneath Hogwarts’ standards Roy was quick to stop before the one who spoke.
“Tell me, Mr. Warrington,” Roy said the first time, whirling on the seventh year who had been muttering to his friends, “if you think these subjects are so simple,” he repeated the word Warrington had used —simple muggle silliness, “then what is the issue? Shouldn’t you be able to learn them easily?”
He wasn’t able to, nor were a good deal of the other students. Mathematics were barely looked at in most Hogwarts classes, and physics were nonexistent, which meant most of Roy’s students found themselves struggling with this part of the subject far more than they had with chemistry and the memorisation of alchemical symbols.
At one point Roy was exasperated enough by the decline in exam results that he had told Albus he should really consider adding basic science to the school’s curriculum. Albus had laughed, taking Roy’s comment as the joke it was not, and reminded Roy that he was hardly in a position to make such suggestions to the School Board of Governors when the Ministry was looking for a chance to have him sacked.
The only good thing to come out of the students’ complaints was that, due to how nearly everybody in the wizarding world saw muggles as less than wizards, they were offended by the mere thought of being unable to master something that muggles could do. Roy hadn’t lost a single student since he had started countering the complaints, and it was clear more than one person had taken it as a personal challenge to prove they could learn the class syllabus for the exam. Unfortunately for them, their usual method of memorisation for theoretical content might not prove as useful as it did in other classes, because Roy intended to make them apply their knowledge in as much of a practical way as possible. He didn’t care about how well a student could memorise the basic laws of alchemy, he wanted them to understand what they learnt.
Tonks found Roy’s predicament hilarious. They went out on one of their dates on early December, taking the chance to do some Christmas shopping —Christmas didn’t exist on Amestris, but it was so obviously widespread here that Roy acted as though he knew what the fuss was about. He could do presents, they were just like buying birthday presents, and as long as he wasn’t asked to partake in any strange rituals things should be fine.
Tonks asked for Roy’s opinion about some of her choices, and Roy did the same with some of the presents he bought, though a few he had decided beforehand. He chose the most horrid, eye-scarring set of robes he could find for Albus —a petty way for him to get back at the school— bought the simplest ‘cooking made easy’ book for Sirius, who was still struggling with his culinary pursuits (Roy and Tonks made a bet on whether Sirius would be more amused or offended by the fact it was a children’s book) and convinced Tonks to venture out into the muggle world to find Hermione a suitable present. It might prove unnecessary, but Roy thought the defence group could use a decent book on how to best defend a castle, which was how Roy spent an hour checking the middle ages history section of a large bookshop near the Leaky Cauldron.
He pretended he didn’t notice the grumpy old man in mismatched clothes that was a very badly disguised Mad-Eye Moody.
Roy had set the exam for the last week of classes in December. It had taken him two weeks to get the questions ready, and during that time he had worried over a small detail he hadn’t considered up until he had to work on the exams: he wanted to use the same questions for all the years, to hold them up to the exact same criteria, but he needed a way to prevent the students from revealing these questions to the other classes.
Filius was the one who gave him the solution. It was a difficult spell that took a few attempts to master, but it was positively devious and a task he enjoyed immensely.
“I have no doubt,” Roy started on the last Thursday, addressing his group of fifth years, “that many of you have unsuccessfully attempted to gain some... assistance from the students who have taken this exam before you.” He smirked at the frowns that crossed most of the faces. “I hope their reluctance to cooperate didn’t dissuade you from studying. As you are the last group to take the exam, I saw no reason to curse your parchments. You’re free to discuss your answers once you leave the classroom, as will be your fellow students.”
Filius’ solution had been to curse the parchments so that he would know if any student spoke about the exam. It was a complex spell, as the magic needed to pass onto the student, but it would light up the parchment of whoever so much as mentioned what a question was about, and Roy had made it clear that if a single parchment light up before the fifth years were finished, every single Alchemy student would have to retake the exam upon their return in January, and he wouldn’t be nearly as lenient then as he was being now. Roy had a long list of questions he had discarded because they were too difficult for his classes’ current level, and those questions would become the January exam if he was forced to write it. He had also made this point very clear, and the students had behaved like any student who didn’t want to deal with extra, more difficult work would.
“You have the duration of the class to complete the exams. If anyone writes an answer after the bell rings, they will automatically fail. You will be informed of your results when you return from the holidays.” He flicked his wand to send a copy of the exam and an empty scroll of parchment to each student. “You may begin.”
Breakfast the following morning had a strangely strained air about it. Albus was grim under his calm outer appearance, Minerva looked as though she hadn’t slept at all the previous night and Umbridge was visibly annoyed, but nobody else in the staff seemed to know what was going on; many puzzled glances were exchanged, though no one asked.
Roy swept his gaze over the student tables in search of an explanation. Most of the students had the cheerful air around them that was expected of children about to go home on a break from school, but it didn’t take Roy long to spot the anomalies. Harry Potter and the four Weasley children were nowhere to be seen, and Hermione was frowning in concern as she exchanged a whispered conversation with an equally frowning Neville Longbottom.
Whatever had happened, it must have something to do with the missing students.
Roy threw a quick glance in Albus’ direction. He needed an excuse to corner him.
Albus stopped on his way out of the Great Hall to wait for Roy to catch up. He had wondered how long it would take Roy to realize that something was wrong.
“Yes?” Albus asked with his best impression of his cheerful mask. It was hard to maintain under the current circumstances, but everybody at Hogwarts knew that Albus Dumbledore loved Christmas, and it would be suspicious if he was anything but cheerful with the holidays upon the castle.
“Do you have a minute? I’ve just realised I overlooked a very important detail in regards to my classes,” Roy said, his face the perfect reflection of shy embarrassment.
“Of course. Would you like to accompany me to my office? I’m afraid I have some paperwork waiting there for me,” Albus said with a put upon sigh.
Roy nodded and they started walking.
“What can I help you with?” Albus asked politely after a short silence. There were students and portraits around, some glancing at them and some ignoring them altogether.
“Well... do you remember how I intended to test my students before the holidays?”
Albus felt a spark of genuine amusement light up despite his worry over Arthur Weasley’s condition. Watching the alchemy students struggle over the class was one of the few sources of entertainment he’d had over the past few months.
“I hear your students weren’t very happy about it,” Albus said with an amused hum.
Roy smiled in amusement.
“Oh, not at all. However, I’m afraid I forgot to set up a way to notify them of their results. I know this is usually Minerva’s job, but she has classes most of the day, so I figured I could ask you about it.”
They had reached the gargoyle guarding Albus’ office.
“That’s easy to arrange. Fizzing Whizzbee.”
The gargoyle moved to the side and they stepped on the ascending staircase. Once the door to Albus’ office was firmly closed behind them, Roy turned to face him.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Do you remember when, the day we met, you asked me if there was any way to ascertain whether or not Harry is an horcrux?” Roy nodded. “I’m afraid I now have proof of it. You should sit down, this will take a while.”
“What will you do now?” Roy asked, reclining in the armchair, once Albus was done explaining last night’s events, from Potter’s dream connecting him to the snake they had suspected to be a horcrux to the fact that Arthur Weasley was now fighting for his life at St. Mungo’s.
“After last night it is very likely that Tom became aware of his connection to Harry. I doubt he will guess the nature of it; he is far too arrogant to believe he could have created a horcrux by accident, but the knowledge alone is far too dangerous. Harry needs to learn to guard his mind.”
Guard his...? Roy shook himself mentally. Magic, this was magic.
“How will you teach him to do that?”
A strangely surprised expression crossed Albus’ face for a moment.
“Occlumency, obviously. I cannot teach him myself, it would take our esteemed High Inquisitor no time to jump into some bizarre conclusion for me meeting Harry regularly and that could be potentially disastrous. Which leaves me with few options.”
“Either Severus, who is a superb occlumens himself, or yourself.”
“Me?” Roy asked, for once his mouth moving faster than his brain. He blamed this utterly ridiculous talk about protecting Potter’s mind on it, but the fact remained that he had slipped. Yes, slipped, because that same surprised expression flashed over Albus’ face for a moment before he reigned it in.
Albus smiled sheepishly.
“I’m afraid I have this regrettable habit of brushing over the minds of those whose intentions I don’t know for certain.” Roy froze, the implications of those words whirring and burning in his brain. “I apologize, from your reaction I gather that you didn’t notice. Though I must say your shields are the best I’ve ever encountered.”
My...? Roy started to think, trying to process exactly what Albus had just said.
The answer hit him suddenly and Roy relaxed back in his seat.
“I’m afraid I can’t teach Potter,” he said, maybe a little colder than he would have liked. The knowledge that there was a way to read people’s minds didn’t sit well with him.
“Why is that?”
“The shields you encountered,” Roy started, giving Albus a pointed glare, “aren’t mine. In fact, I was unaware of their presence until you mentioned them just now.” Albus opened his mouth, but Roy cut him off. “I don’t know how they got there, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has something to do with Truth.”
“Why would Truth give you such shields?” Albus asked with genuine curiosity, like every time Truth and the Gate came up in conversation —which was far more often than Roy liked.
To keep people from gaining knowledge without paying a toll.
“I don’t presume to know how Truth works. In fact, I’d rather not dwell on it.”
Albus nodded in understanding. He may not have been through the Gate, but he knew that some knowledge was best left untouched.
“I assume you’re not staying for the holidays?”
“No,” Roy said, and let a silly grin slip over his face, “I’ve made sure people overheard my plans to spend the holidays with my girlfriend.”
Albus chuckled. He had warmed up to Roy’s outings over the months, as it became clear that Umbridge didn’t suspect there was anything off about them.
“I believe you should start packing then. Or do you have anything else to do at the school today?”
“Nothing at all. Advantages of not teaching on Fridays,” Roy said lightly as he stood up to leave.