Scion of Gryffindor
35 - Fight at the Leaky Cauldron
Harry / Tonks ship
At Cissy's words of the danger to Draco, Harry hesitated for only a moment. "Sonorus. Tonks, Remus, Shack! Get your armor on. We're going into a rescue mission immediately. Front hall in two minutes. Quietus." By the time Harry finished his orders, he was approaching his bedroom door at a run. He hardly blinked as Nim came rushing out of his room, holding a robe closed with one hand. She spared him a quick smile as she sped past on her way to her own room, a lot of bare leg showing under the Gryffindor Hogwarts robe she was wearing.
Harry threw on his own armor in record time and got to the entrance hall just as Godric floated in. "What's going on?" the ghost asked.
"According to Narcissa, Draco's under attack at the Leaky Cauldron right now."
Godric nodded. "He's family. Go and bring him back. You might consider bringing Miss Black and the two Tonkses as well."
"Good idea," Harry acknowledged.
Harry turned as running footsteps approached. Once the other three, now clad in full armor, joined him, he said, "Cissy just contacted me. Draco used the com crystal and said he's under attack. He's staying at the Leaky Cauldron over break. We'll apparate to Diagon Alley and approach from that direction."
Shack shook his head. "Remus and I will apparate to muggle London. There's an alleyway just around the corner from the Cauldron." He looked at Remus with eyebrow raised. Remus gave a tight nod of acknowledgment. Shack turned back to Harry. "We'll hit them from two directions."
Harry nodded in agreement. "Okay, we'll do it that way. Guys, don't get hurt. Rescue Draco and pull him back here. Questions?"
"Are we taking prisoners?" Shack asked calmly.
Harry frowned. "Stun if you reasonably can, but don't endanger anyone just to get a live prisoner." Like his letter to the Prophet had said, he preferred to get information out of prisoners, but he wasn't willing to take unnecessary risks just to get one.
Shack and Tonks nodded tightly. Remus looked unhappy but didn't argue the point.
Harry glanced at Tonks, and they apparated to the incoming apparition zone of Diagon Alley.
Before his senses fully took in the new surroundings, his instincts put up a shield just in time to intercept an ugly, dark yellow curse.
Tonks had the caster stunned in a blink.
Harry was too busy staring at his right hand, raised in a protective gesture.
Tonks finished binding their newest Death Eater prisoner and summoned his wand. She then looked over at Harry. "What's wrong?"
"I don't remember casting a shield."
She shook her head. "Instincts. Don't knock it. Learn to trust 'em, Potter. Come on, Shack and Remus will need us to do our part."
Tonks turned to him with a growl and an impatient look.
"I've got an idea."
Marcus Flint and Clifford Warrington were standing in the destroyed seating area of the Leaky Cauldron. They were tasked with guarding the ground floor while their team leader went upstairs with the two other Death Eaters to take care of the Malfoy brat.
Both of the young Death Eaters were feeling good about themselves. The entire group had entered the mostly empty taproom and promptly killed the bartender Tom and the two people eating a very late dinner. The three senior Death Eaters had then gone upstairs quietly to take care of their primary mission, leaving Flint and Warrington behind.
It'd been a few minutes since the spells had started upstairs, so there was no longer a need to remain quiet. With nothing else to do, the two were amusing themselves.
"Hey, Cliff. Watch this one." Flint turned to an only partially damaged part of the room and cast a wide area Blasting Curse. He chuckled at his handiwork.
To the shock of both young men, Bellatrix Lestrange walked into the room from the direction of Diagon Alley. More shocking still, she was leading a visibly sulking Harry Potter by wand point.
"Idiots," Bellatrix hissed. "We're here to get the Malfoy boy, not to do random damage to a bar."
"Yes, ma'am," Flint squeaked, clearly petrified of the woman.
Cliff, however, wasn't quite so easily cowed. "I thought you weren't going to be on this raid," he said suspiciously.
She shoved Harry toward Flint and advanced on Warrington. Once she was close enough, she backhanded him across his face. "Question me again, and I will make you beg for mercy."
Harry, meanwhile, fetched up against Flint from the force of the shove. Grabbing the former Slytherin quidditch player, Harry held onto his arm to remain upright.
Flint, feeling that he had a dominant position, raised his arm to punch the Boy Who Lived.
Harry, still holding onto Flint's wand arm, cast a silent stunner through his armband.
For no visually obvious reason, Flint collapsed against him, causing both of them to go crashing to the floor.
This, of course, drew Cliff's attention. With too many things going on in the room at once, he made a fatal mistake. He took his full attention away from the witch standing in front of him.
It was less than a second later that it wasn't his problem any longer.
"Are you okay?" Tonks, back to her more normal look, asked as she bound both of their new captives.
Harry climbed to his feet. "I'm fine. That guy's heavy."
"I could say something about how thick he is, but I won't."
Harry rolled his eyes.
Shack jumped into the room, wand raised. Remus followed suit a moment later.
"Hi, guys," Harry greeted them calmly.
Remus looked around the destroyed room. "Well, if you don't need me, I'm going to go back to bed."
A scream of agony came from upstairs.
"Or maybe not," Remus amended with a wince
Harry, Remus, and Tonks immediately moved quickly but quietly up the stairs. Shack stayed below, disillusioned. Fortunately for their peace of mind, the scream stopped shortly after it had started.
The hallway above contained two dead wizards, apparently innocent folk who had been startled out of sleep by the fight and killed the instant they made it out of their rooms. A third doorway was standing open, the door itself lying on the hallway floor. Harry stepped over the scorched and smoldering door and looked cautiously into the room.
Just in time to watch the end of Draco Black's life. "Avada Kedavra!" Lucius Malfoy, looking haggard from his time in Azkaban, was suddenly standing over the body of his son.
Harry snarled, stepping into the room. "Reducto!"
Surprised by the unexpected voice, Malfoy turned to Harry, giving the younger wizard a momentary view of the eye patch over one eye and the twisted sort of light shining from the other. Before Harry's spell reached him, Lucius vanished from sight.
Harry's spell continued onward, finally intersecting Vincent Crabbe's right shoulder, turning it into a fine, red mist that splashed across the wall. Crabbe collapsed with a howl and started to reach over with his remaining arm but passed out before completing the motion.
Remus and Tonks darted into the room, wands out and looking for targets.
There weren't any to be found.
The room had clearly endured a fight. Scorch marks, small craters on the walls and ceiling, overturned furniture, and blood splashes bore mute testimony to the valiant fight Draco had put up. In addition to Crabbe's unconscious, rapidly bleeding form and Draco's utterly still body, Gregory Goyle was also in the room, apparently stunned.
"Shit," Harry whispered, looking around at the carnage.
Remus stepped over and cast a battlefield cauterization spell in Crabbe, probably preventing the young Death Eater from bleeding to death within the next minute.
Harry sighed. "Cissy, Andy, and Ted need to hear about this. Tonks, I hate to do this to you, but -"
She nodded. "I'll go and break it to them. I'm family, after all. Where will you be?"
"After the aurors finish questioning me, I'll be at the Keep. Try to get them, all three of them, to agree to move there. If Malfoy was willing to kill Draco, he'll want to kill Cissy, too. We can't keep her safe unless she moves in with us, and Andy and Ted are now on his hit list." Harry turned his head. "Remus, go with her. Shack and I will deal with this mess."
Remus nodded and closed his eyes for a moment. He opened them again almost immediately. "Anti-apparition ward," he announced. He and Tonks moved toward the stairs.
Harry also stepped out the door and called downstairs, "Fight's over, Shack. Please contact the aurors. We'll need a medical team, an investigative team, and someone to deal with the bodies. Three more dead up here, including Draco."
Harry heard a muttered vulgarity. "Who's wounded?" Shack asked as Tonks and then Remus flooed out.
"One of the escaped deez, Vincent Crabbe. Remus did some battlefield healing on him, so hopefully he's not in immediate danger of dying, but he'll need a new arm if he ever gets out of prison."
Harry moved back into the room and bound Goyle before floating both deez back downstairs. Laying the two prisoners near Flint and Warrington, Harry righted a chair from the general mess of the room and waited for the aurors to arrive.
It was close to dawn before Harry and Kingsley finally made it back to Gryffindor Keep. They found everyone in the parlor, Laura asleep on her mother's lap. From her expression of relief, it appeared that her daughter was the only thing keeping Kelly from jumping up and running to Kingsley. Instead, he sat down beside her and pulled her into a one-armed hug.
Andy was sitting next to her sister; Ted was in an overstuffed chair by the fire talking quietly with Godric. Harry raised an eyebrow at the two and looked a question to Remus. The werewolf's nod told the young wizard that the newest guests had been told of Godric's identity.
Cissy's eyes were bloodshot, and her nose was red, both clear indications of her grieving. When she saw Harry enter the room, her eyes found his, asking a question that she couldn't bring herself to voice.
Harry sat down next to Nim on a couch. "I'm sorry, Cissy," he whispered.
A sob was choked off before it could completely escape. "What can you tell me, Baron Black?" she asked in a brittle voice.
"The room showed evidence of a good fight. He'd stunned one of his attackers before he was disarmed." Harry took a breath. "I witnessed him receive the Killing Curse."
"Who?" she asked, voice even softer than it had been before.
Another sob nearly made it past her defenses, and her eyes started leaking tears again. "Did that bastard torture him?"
Andy, concern for her sister written all over her face, asked, "Why are you doing this to yourself, Cissy? Why does it matter?"
Cissy's eyes never left Harry. "It matters to me, Andy. Please, Baron Black. I must know."
"Yes, he did," Harry admitted quietly. That's one of the things the investing teams discovered before Harry had left. Evidence of the Cruciatus (as well as more pedestrian cutting and bludgeoning curses) was all over Draco's body.
Cissy screwed her eyes shut. She took several shuddering breaths before opening them again. "Could someone please show me to my room?" she asked, looking like she was going to fall completely to pieces the instant she was alone.
"Dobby," Harry called, his voice still a whisper.
Dobby popped, his sad eyes on Cissy.
The appearance of her former house-elf brought what was almost a twitch of a smile from the woman. "Hello, Dobby. It's good to see you again."
"Mistress Narcissa," Dobby greeted her with a polite nod. "Yous room is being this way, Mistress." The little elf led the woman out of the room.
Harry closed his eyes and leaned back on the couch, letting out a sigh. Nim reached over and rubbed a hand along his arm.
"Are you okay?" Ted asked.
Harry half-shrugged without opening his eyes and said, "Well as can be expected, I guess. None of us got injured if that's what you're asking."
"What can you tell us?" Andy asked.
"Five captured deez, but they're all low-level, foot soldier types. Two of them were classmates of Draco, at least until they were arrested at the beginning of this year. Before this yea, I would've called them his henchmen. Lucius killed Draco, saw me enter the room, and escaped by a portkey. Five dead other than Draco: Tom and four guests of the Leaky Cauldron. They probably just got in the way and were killed for it. Aurors showed up reasonably quickly after Shack notified them. Amelia showed up half-way through the investigation. I let her see a pensieve memory starting from the time Tonks and I apparated to Diagon Alley.
"You'll have to go in and make a statement," he added to Tonks in an aside. He turned to Remus. "You probably don't. You were with me or Shack the whole time and didn't fire any dueling spells, so they don't need to question you for the time being. Amelia said she'd let me know if that changes."
He frowned for a moment in thought. In a change of subject, he asked, "Andy and Nim, as the only real Blacks in the room don't take this the wrong way, but why do I care so much about Draco? I mean, he was a pain in the arse at school. Why did I feel so obligated to run off to his rescue?"
Godric answered. "You are - well, were - his Patriarch. The magics involved compelled you to protect the Blacks."
"So when I accepted the title of Patriarch, I also had the equivalent of a magically binding oath placed on me?"
Everyone nodded, looking at him in concern.
He thought it over for a few seconds. He wasn't terribly concerned about the protection portion of that. As Hermione had phrased it, his "saving people thing" would compel the same reaction out of him anyway. "Why didn't I notice anything when it went into effect?"
Nim answered, "You were already the Patriarch of the Potter line, so you didn't have anything new added to your magic at that point."
"Does that mean that my feelings toward you, Andy, and Cissy are only because of the spell?" Harry asked, looking at Nim intently.
"No!" Nim, Andy, Godric, and Shack all barked.
Harry looked taken aback.
"Sorry," Godric apologized. "Your personal feelings toward Nymphadora," he ignored her growl, "and the others are genuine. At the most, the bond will cause you to be protective of the individuals when they're in physical danger. You'll also instinctively protect the family as a whole. A comment directed at the family name without any individuals specified, for instance. Over the long run, it will give the family a reputation that matches the morals of the Patriarch. The downside is when one of the family acts against those morals. That's why you legally and magically have authority over them."
Harry absorbed all of that. "Okay, I suppose that makes sense."
"Now that we've covered your latest lesson in pureblood society," Ted asked in obvious amused irony, "what's the disposition of Draco's body?"
"I asked, actually. As Baron Black, I can take custody or Cissy can. I'll let her decide that one tomorrow. Either way, someone else will have to make the other arrangements. Burial, service, whatever is appropriate. I certainly don't know anything about it."
Andy nodded. "I can deal with that. The Blacks have a family cemetery out near Blackpool. Depending on whether he had a Will, anyway."
"I asked about that, too. Cissy and I will have to go and talk with the goblins about that and his vault."
"I wonder how the school will deal with it," Remus wondered aloud.
Harry winced. "Actually, it is the responsibility of Cissy or me to tell the school since he was still a student. Amelia told me the ministry will keep his name out of the Prophet until one or the other of us officially tells the Hogwarts staff that he won't be going back."
"Albus will know," Godric pointed out.
Harry frowned. "He'll announce it at the welcome back dinner, won't he? 'Three students lost to poor choices,' or some such sentimental and watered down drivel."
"There's only one way to get the honest version out," Godric said.
"What's that?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"Tell it yourself."
The evening before the resumption of Hogwarts classes, Harry Potter strode into the Great Hall. Tonks and Shack took up guard positions at the door as Harry continued forward.
Silence fell upon the students as the commanding figure, wearing the Sword of Gryffindor, dragon hide armor, two signet rings, and battle robes with the Black and Potter crests stitched upon the chest stepped toward the head table.
In truth, he was more than a bit uncomfortable with what he was about to do.
Not that he'd admit it, of course.
Once Harry stopped in front of the seated Dumbledore, Snape drawled out, "Arrogant as always, Potter. What do you want with us this time?"
Harry ignored him. In a voice that carried to all the students, he said, "Headmaster, it is with a heavy heart that I officially inform you that Draco Black will no longer be attending Hogwarts."
Dumbledore showed no surprise at this news, nor did any of the professors, but Harry heard multiple gasps from the students.
"You lie!" a female voice accused him from the Slytherin table. Harry turned to see Millicent Bulstrode standing and glaring at him.
Harry shook his head. "I'm afraid not. I witnessed Draco Black -"
"It's Malfoy, you idiot," she snarled.
"It was not," Harry calmly retorted. "I'm sure you read the Prophet article that announced that he abandoned the Malfoy name. He became Draco Black. As I was saying, I witnessed him being murdered by Lucius Malfoy."
Several gasps met this announcement. The most vocal response was from Ron Weasley. The Gryffindor folded his arms, smirked, and announced, "Good. Serves him right."
Angry muttering came from the Slytherin table. Several dark looks came from Ravenclaws and a few Gryffindors. Confusing Harry slightly, Hermione glared at Ron from the Ravenclaw table. Ron ignored them all, keeping his attention on Harry.
Harry was glaring at Ron, the Patriarch bond rising to the fore. "I just told you that he was a Black. I am the Black Patriarch. Did you just tell me that you consider it a good thing that a member of my family was killed, Ronald Weasley?" Harry intentionally used Ron's full name to indicate it was a formal question. He could not afford to act as Ron's former friend; the situation forced him to act the part of his social station.
Ron's look melted into confusion. "But, Harry, he was a slimy git. Ow! What was that for?" Ron suddenly exclaimed as Ginny smacked his arm, hard.
Ginny explained as if to a five year old, "By publicly celebrating the death of a member of his family, you insulted the Patriarch of that family. He could call a blood feud between the Blacks and Weasleys over your idiotic opinion!" She stood and turned so that she was facing Harry. She bowed her head and spoke in a formal tone, "On behalf of the Weasley family, I apologize for my brother's words, Baron Black."
"Accepted, Miss Weasley. Thank you." Harry smiled and relaxed his stance. "Nice to see you, Gin."
Not giving either Weasley a chance to respond, Harry turned back to the room as a whole. "It's no secret that Draco and I didn't get along, but he turned his back on the Dark. He was killed by his own father for doing it. In addition, my friends and I captured five Death Eaters that evening, including Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle."
"What will happen to them?" an anonymous voice asked from the Slytherin table.
It was a fair question. The Prophet had run Harry's letter to the editor on the second page, after the first page was taken over describing the Leaky Cauldron attack (minus Draco's death). Fudge, predictably, had reacted badly and was spending more time doing damage control than actually trying to do his job.
"They are re-captured Death Eaters. My opinion on that subject is pretty clear, I think. Neither Minister Fudge nor the Wizengamot have decided the issue for sure, though," Harry answered the question. He took a breath and continued, "I am not trying to alarm anyone, but Draco is the perfect example of why we must all stand up to Voldemort and his Death Eaters. If Voldemort isn't stopped, more and more people will die. People who simply want to live their lives." He paused for a moment. "Perhaps people like your parents."
Harry turned from the absolutely silent student body. "Headmaster, I only wished to give you formal notice of the death of Draco Black. Thank you for your time, sir."
Dumbledore stood. "May I have a moment of your time before you go?"
Seeing no reasonable way out of it, Harry nodded his head in acceptance and waited as the ancient wizard rounded the end of the table and led the way out of the Great Hall. To Harry's annoyance, Snape and McGonagall joined the small parade.
When the doors to the Great Hall closed to a room full of whispering children, Dumbledore said, "Did you have to alarm all of the students, Harry?"
"Again, Headmaster, I ask you not to use my first name. As for what I just said, I'm painfully aware that you would prefer to keep the truth from everyone under the age of eighteen. I disagree. I think they can't be expected to make a reasonable, informed decision unless they know all the facts, not just those that someone in authority deems to be 'appropriate'."
Walking as he was beside McGonagall, he noticed her lip twitch, but he couldn't decide what that meant from the normally impassive professor.
Dumbledore audibly sighed at Harry's words. Snape, walking beside Dumbledore, momentarily turned to sneer at Harry.
"Great Merlin, is he EVER going to grow up?" Harry asked quietly.
Not quite quietly enough, though. McGonagall made a muffled noise. When Harry turned to her, her face was in her normal, impassive mien.
The group of six continued in silence to Dumbledore's office, the gargoyle jumping aside without a word needing to be spoken. Dumbledore sat at his desk. Snape took to hovering in a corner behind him. Professor McGonagall took a chair to the side, symbolically not taking sides in the meeting. Harry took one of the chairs in front of the desk, and Shack and Tonks stayed flanking the door.
"While we are all here, Harry, perhaps you can explain what happened to the House point system?" Dumbledore ordered in the form of a question.
Harry stared at him for a moment. "Headmaster, how many times must I say the same thing? I reserve the use of my first name for my friends. You are not in that category."
"Of course. I shall endeavor to remember that."
"Try harder," Harry stated flatly.
"Arrogant brat," Snape growled.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Headmaster, if your defense professor can't behave himself and contribute something useful to this discussion, then please remove him."
"I have more right to be here than you do, you insufferable Gryffindor."
Harry laughed outright at the irony of Snape's statement.
Harry then felt a tickle in the back of his mind. Reacting instinctively, Harry attacked the intruding consciousness. Simultaneously, his right arm came up, and he cast several spells. Snape ended up pinned against the wall, spread-eagle and chin tilted as far up as his neck would allow, forcing his eyes to the ceiling.
At Harry's first movement, Tonks and Shack both drew their wands. Tonks covering Dumbledore and Shack covering Snape.
"Release him immediately," Dumbledore demanded, half coming to his feet.
Teeth clenched, Harry asked, "Why would I want to do that? He attacked me." Harry took a calming breath and looked over at the Headmaster. "Are you going to punish him?"
Snape made an infuriated noise, about all the sound he could produce from his position.
Dumbledore didn't answer but slowly settled back down into his chair.
"I didn't think so," Harry said in disgust. Silently, Harry stunned Snape and let him drop to the floor. Dropping back into his seat, he said, "Fair warning, Headmaster, the next individual who tries to rape my mind will get far worse." He turned his head. "Alistair, can I modify the wards to prevent Legilimency from being performed on any students without their knowledge?"
The tear in the tatty old Sorting Hat opened, and it said, "Yes, Lord Gryffindor, you can. Please place me upon your head, and I shall assist you."
Feeling that summoning the sentient artifact would be demeaning, Harry stood and walked over to the hat. Taking it carefully, he placed it on his head.
It was the work of less than a minute to modify the wards the way Harry wanted. After they were done, Harry heard, "May I poke around in your mind, Harry? It isn't often that I have the chance to examine a mind so long after sorting."
"Go ahead, I guess. Just please keep anything you find to yourself. Dumbledore doesn't need to know any more about me than he already does."
Harry felt Alistair sifting though his mind. It was similar to Legilimency, but with an undertone that was totally unlike any of the other mind touches Harry had ever felt before. "Oh, I totally agree," Alistair communicated as he worked. "Fear not, Harry. I shall keep what I find in confidence, sharing information only with Hogwarts herself." After a few more moments, he said, "Quite a mind you have, Harry. Thank you for letting me look around in here. As recompense, I give you three memories. There are more memories I expect you'd enjoy, but the others are getting restless."
Harry felt the peculiar sensation of three memories being implanted into his mind. It felt similar to re-integrating a pensieve memory. He briefly examined each of them, finding himself with a completely unique point of view of the sorting of eleven year old Sirius Black, Lily Evans, and James Potter.
Grinning, Harry removed the hat from his head. "Thank you," he said to it as he placed it carefully back onto its shelf.
"You're quite welcome, Harry," it said aloud before relaxing back into its immobile state.
Still smiling, Harry looked around at the conscious magicians. Shack and Nim were again relaxed and now fighting grins, McGonagall looked slightly disapproving, and Dumbledore was unsuccessfully trying to hide his hurt look.
Rapidly reviewing what he'd said to Alistair, he innocently looked at Dumbledore. "Sorry, did I say that out loud?"
Nim made a noise of amusement from behind Harry.
Harry's expression dropped into neutral. "Be advised, Headmaster, that Legilimency is only allowed in one room on the third floor. There is a plaque above the door. Alistair and I set that room aside just in case a student wishes to learn Occlumency while at the school. Any attempt to cast a Legilimency Spell outside of that room will have . . . unpleasant results."
"I understand. Now perhaps we could get back to the topic of the House point system?"
A hint of a smile appeared on Harry's face. "I distinctly remember Alistair telling you and Snape at Halloween that the point system was unbiased. What more could you want?"
Dumbledore took a moment before asking his next question, "And would you know why Professor Snape seems to be incapable of giving detentions?"
"Is he incapable of giving detentions, or only unjustified detentions?" Harry asked in return.
"I do not understand," McGonagall said.
Harry turned to her. Based on Ginny's letter, he didn't quite believe McGonagall didn't know exactly what was going on, but he was grateful for her playing the part of the foil so he could explain as little or as much as he wished. "Has anyone asked him or the students the cause of the detentions that he cannot enforce? I'm just wondering if they're unjustified and therefore not being enforced the same way the points are."
"You did do something to the point system and Severus's ability to give detentions," Dumbledore stated in an accusing yet mild tone.
"Of course I did," Harry said in exasperation, finally fed up with trying to play innocent. "Like Alistair and I keep telling you, the point system is now fair. None of the professors can give or take points OR DETENTIONS that are unjustified."
"Justified by whom, Harry? If we use your -"
Harry interrupted him, "Headmaster, you DO realize it is a sign of disrespect not to refer to people by their preferred names, don't you?"
Dumbledore blinked in confusion. "Well, yes."
"Then for the last bloody time, stop calling me by my first name."
McGonagall thinned her lips in disapproval of the language but didn't utter a word.
"Me, too," Nim piped up.
Dumbledore looked sad. "Very well, Lord-Baron Potter. As I was saying, if we used your moral set, that could possibly bias the points and detentions, could it not? No matter how well intentioned you may be?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, if it used my sense of right and wrong, and we'll ignore for the moment that you're admitting that my morals coincide with everyone else's' whereas Snape's do not, the system could indeed be biased. However, we're not using my opinions on the matter at all."
"Then what is being used?"
Alistair spoke up, "Albus, without putting too fine a point on it, as a founder's heir, he legally and magically could do anything he wanted with the school. Just to ease your mind, I assure you that the points and detentions ARE fair, but I will not tell you how it was done."
Harry let the comment hang for a long moment before asking, "Was there anything else, Headmaster? I'd like to get back home in time for dinner."
"Yes. Would you reconsider coming back to Hogwarts? We can help you and keep you safe."
Harry stared at him for a few seconds before giving a grim laugh. "I have tutors in the subjects that are useful and are the most likely to save my life in the battle we both know is coming. I don't have anyone, student or professor, actively trying to injure me. I'm learning more and faster now. I'm safer than at this so-called 'safest place in the wizarding world.' Tell me, why would I want to come back?"
"We can help. No matter what protections are over your home, Hogwarts is safer for you."
Harry shook his head sadly. "You just don't get it. Headmaster, I trust half of the people I'm living with with my life."
"Only half?" Dumbledore grasped at the qualifier.
"The other half I trust with my soul," Harry finished his previous thought calmly, dashing Dumbledore's hopes of finding a wedge in Harry's statement.
"You can trust the staff here with your life," Dumbledore insisted.
Harry looked over at the unconscious Snape just long enough for Dumbledore to get the point before bringing his gaze back to the Headmaster. Aloud, Harry said, "Of the current staff of Hogwarts, I only trust three with my life." He turned his head. "My apologies, Min, but I don't know you well enough to say the same for my soul."
She nodded. "I understand, Harry, and I'm humbled to be included in that three."
Harry stood. "Good day, Headmaster. Bye, Min, Alistair."