Scion of Gryffindor
44 - Training and Wolfsbane
Harry / Tonks ship
Sorry for the delay in getting this out, but the vagaries of the dreaded "Real Life" keep interfering.
Harry limped into the dining room of Gryffindor Keep. His robes were cut in multiple places, the faint odor of smoke spoke of a recent brush with a fire, and small cut over his left eye was oozing blood.
This appearance wasn't all that unusual after a training duel.
What was unusual were the six different shades of splattered stains on his skin and clothing: vibrant orange over half of his face, lime green over his neck and a shoulder, pink centered over his upper chest, purple on one hip, red over the other leg, and blue on the foot.
Even this Technicolor image wasn't what got everyone's full and immediate attention.
Harry's wide grin and happy attitude did that.
After studying the bright student, Kelly Shacklebolt leaned back in her chair. "Okay, what happened to make you so cheerful?"
Harry didn't have time to answer before Kingsley stormed into the room. Everyone except him immediately burst into laughter.
Most of Shack's head had been turned a white so pure that it hurt the eyes, his nose had become cherry red, and over the top of his head, where most people had hair, his smooth scalp was an acid green. His robes had something that was almost a pattern, too many colors to count radiating out from the middle of his chest.
The tall, stoic, former auror looked like he'd become a clown that had been attacked by a psychotic, tie-dye happy hippie.
Laura, drawn by the noise, entered the room and stopped in surprise at her father's appearance. "Daddy, what happened to you?"
After glaring evilly at all the laughing adults, Kingsley answered, "Harry and I were practicing dueling. We were using a spell that marked us with different colors. Don't worry, the color will fade soon."
Godric, finally gaining control over his amusement, came over and looked at Kingsley closely. After a bit of examination of the multi-colored man, he turned to Harry with a raised eyebrow. "This looks too specific to be anything except deliberate."
"Of course he meant it," Kingsley growled. "What I don't understand is how he could be this accurate!"
Godric looked amused. "You realize that it is possible to slightly change the direction of one of your spells after it's been cast?"
Everyone else stared at him for a moment before turning to Harry.
Harry tried (and failed) to look innocent.
Everyone turned to Tonks in surprise. She caught the camera that came floating in a moment later and started to bring it up, a truly disturbing grin in place.
Shack, a little wide-eyed, hurriedly said, "If you take that picture, I'll tell Harry the story about the mishap you had in covert surveillance training."
Tonks paused for a moment and then shrugged, lowering the camera. Kingsley was just beginning to relax when she handed it to Lupin. "Okay . . . Here, Remus, you take the picture."
Shack glared at her before turning to the werewolf. "I'll give you a hundred galleons if you don't take a picture."
Remus nodded agreeably before he handed the camera to Harry. "Okay… Here, Harry, you take the picture."
Shack rolled his eyes and pointedly ignored the snickering coming from all around the room. "I'm your teacher. Do you really want to get me angry at you?"
Harry looked torn. He glanced over at Kelly.
She held her hands up. "Nope. That's my husband. I'm not going to get into this." Her grin never wavered while she was talking, however.
Cissy, Andy, and Ted all shook their heads, grins firmly in place.
Harry nodded and handed the camera over. "Okay . . . Here, you take the picture, Grandfather."
"Gladly." The ghost brought the camera up and took the image just as Shack opened his mouth to protest.
Harry looked up from the parchment. "Hey, Tonks. Is it time for my morph training?"
She dropped into a chair across from him. "Yep, so put away that junk."
He chuckled as he stacked the parchment and put away his things. "I'll let Shack know your opinion of his potions assignment."
She waved it off and conjured a mirror. "Hair short and blonde, eyes gray," she commanded. She waited a few seconds while Harry gradually changed his appearance. "Still slow, but you finally got there."
Harry looked at her for a moment in clear aggravation. "I hate you," he drawled out.
In Draco Malfoy's voice.
Her eyebrows shot up. "Very good."
He nodded and went on in his regular voice. "Grandfather taught me a Voice Emulation Spell. I can cast it wandlessly."
Her eyes brightened. "Oh, you've got to teach me that one. It'd be so useful in undercover work."
He grinned lecherously at her, reverting to his usual appearance. "You know that I prefer you as yourself when you're undercover with me, thanks."
She rolled her eyes. "You know what I meant. Lock that libido up, Potter. Now, have you gotten any further in re-arranging your facial appearance?"
He frowned. "Not really. I keep trying, but I can't get beyond very small changes."
She nodded. "I was afraid of that. Sorry, but I think we've reached the end of what I can teach you."
He frowned again but nodded in resignation after a moment. "I was afraid you were going to say something like that. I don't think I've made any real progress in months."
She smiled sympathetically at him. "Even with just hair and eyes, that's still more than what ninety-nine percent of wizards can do."
"Yeah, well, I was hoping to be able to have a full disguise."
She shrugged. "Get contacts or rimless glasses, change hair color and length, eye color, and cover that scar with a hat. Carry yourself different by standing more erect. Wear robes that you'd never wear normally. I bet we could put together a good disguise without any effort. We'd just need to give you some acting lessons and then you could have your alter ego."
He laughed. "Mild-mannered Clark Kent of the Daily Prophet?"
She frowned in confusion for a moment before her face cleared. "Ah, yeah. Dad told me about that one."
"So, acting lessons?"
She nodded. "Yep. For small stuff. We'll erase, or at least identify, your mannerisms. That hair ruffle thing you do, for instance. Then we can teach you all sorts of new little habits for you to use as appropriate."
He looked a little dubious. "Do you think that'll really work?"
She grinned. "By the time Shack and I are done with you, not even Hermione or Ron will be able to recognize you."
In response to your correspondence:
Professor Snape has reported to me on Tom's reaction to the failed attack. The purpose was not so much to win but to sow panic. Except for the actions of the D.A. it would have succeeded, I fear.
Tom is not terribly upset at losing the dementors themselves. Severus reports that Tom considered them more trouble than they were worth. They were sent off as a single attack with the expectation that they would be lost. It seems that the only part of the attack that annoyed him was the low casualty figure.
I have researched the dementors in the Hogwarts library and am afraid that I have little new information to offer. To answer your specific questions: Their origins and social hierarchy are still unknown. It is unknown whether they understand human speech or they simply read the intent of the speaker. In either case, they can follow basic instructions. All known dementors are currently at Azkaban Island. There is no known way to destroy a dementor.
I believe I have answered each of your questions. If you have more, please feel free to contact either myself or Madam Pince, who was of enormous assistance with the research.
On a more cheerful topic, Misses Granger and Patil have already been awarded "Special Services to the School" commendations.
Your suggestion of co-Head Girl positions is an interesting one. Confidentially, few of the male sixth year students we have remaining fulfill the requirements. Misters Finch-Fletchley or Boot are the two most qualified, however having co-Head Girls, especially two as well known, respected, and qualified as Misses Granger and Patil are, may well be a better solution. I shall bring it up at the next staff meeting and perhaps at the school board meeting if the staff's reaction is favorable. I shall endeavor to keep you informed.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
I am writing to ask what will be done with the dementors.
I had several ideas and asked Professor Dumbledore some specific questions about them.
Just so you're aware, my thought processes centered on how to prevent a repeat of their mass attack on Hogwarts.
My first suggestion is to determine a way, or if it is even possible, to destroy them. This, obviously, is an extreme measure. However, knowing if it is possible could be important. In joining forces with Voldemort, even temporarily, they crossed over the line of acceptable behavior. We need to know if we can deal with them decisively if they ever do so again.
Another suggestion is to split them up. Send some to other wizarding nations for use in their prisons. The fewer there are in any one location, the less likely Voldemort will try to get them all back again, I suspect.
My final suggestion is to place them all in a cave somewhere very remote and physically seal them in. This may result in them "starving" to death, however.
I admit that I'm very ambivalent about dementors. On one side are my own experiences with them and my godfather Sirius Black's near-destruction by them. Against that is my very non-Gryffindor wish to let them at the Death Eaters. For all of the same reasons.
Thank you, sir, for your time.
Harry J. Potter
The Minister of Magic routed your missive to a new sub department. I shall endeavor to answer your suggestions individually.
The Department of Mysteries has reported that they have conducted experiments in destroying dementors. They claim to have been unsuccessful. Further information on that topic is unavailable.
Your second suggestion of offering them to other ministries has met with approval. Letters have gone out. To date, only a handful have returned. I am happy to report that several eastern European ministries have expressed interest. Apparently the Ministry of the States, more commonly referred to the U.S. Department of Magic, has laws against "cruel and unusual punishment" under which dementors and their effects apparently fall.
Your last suggestion of sealing them off was discarded for two separate reasons. First, it would run the risk of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named finding them and recruiting them again. Second, Minister Abbott flatly rejected the idea of attempting to eradicate the species.
Thank you for your interest. Do not hesitate to owl me with any further queries.
Percy I. Weasley
Vice-Director of Dementor Affairs
Sub department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.
Remus was pacing back and forth. "Get the Wolfsbane, get to this safe room that Harry promises is there, and lock me in. All in," he checked his watch, "thirty-five minutes." He continued to pace for a few more seconds before he bellowed up the stairs, "Are you ready to go yet?"
On his way down those same stairs, Harry let the slightly rude question slide. The full moon later that night had been causing Remus to get progressively more anxious as the day had worn on. "Yeah," Harry answered instead, glancing over at Tonks and Shack, who were also going along for the trip to Hogwarts.
With a nod from Harry, all four apparated to the Hogsmeade train station and then started walking toward the distant school.
"Explain to me why we have to go to him," Tonks grumbled.
"Because he's a lazy git who wants to take a measure of petty revenge on us by making us come to him. It also feeds his egotistical - and blatantly flawed - sense of superiority," Remus answered shortly.
"Crossing the ward boundary is painful to him, and he was late getting this batch of Wolfsbane complete. It'll save time for us to go to him," Shack said from Harry's other side.
"Isn't that what Remus just said?" Harry asked innocently.
Shack tried to look chastising, but one corner of his mouth curled up against his will.
Tonks and Harry just grinned.
Remus, prowling along ahead of the other three, stumbled and fell to one knee. He stayed there for a few seconds as the others caught up to him.
"Moony?" Harry asked in concern.
Remus's voice was ragged. "I'll be alright, Cub. The moon'll rise in a few minutes, but I'll have the Wolfsbane before then." He slowly straightened back to his feet, visibly expending an effort to do so. "I'll be alright," he repeated, moving toward the castle doors again.
Harry, Tonks, and Shack shared a concerned glance before following him.
The quartet were quickly to the Entrance Hall doors and found the surly Potions Master standing there with a steaming goblet. Snape thrust the goblet at Remus. "Drink it now. I have no wish to be anywhere near you any longer than I must, werewolf."
Remus grimaced but took the goblet, gulping down the contents as quickly as possible.
After he got the goblet back, Snape turned to Harry. "Your tame werewolf liaison has already been through, taking the rest of the batch I made. I expect the payment in my vault by end of the day tomorrow." He turned back to Remus, smirked, and then strode away toward the dungeons in a swirl of robes.
Tonks rolled her eyes. "What a snarky git."
Shack was looking after the retreating Master Brewer, frowning. "Something was wrong with that," he muttered. He turned toward Harry only to receive a shrug in response to his unasked question. "What do you think, Remus?" he asked next, turning toward the werewolf.
When the three turned toward Remus, they found him standing in the doorway, looking at the rising full moon and shaking uncontrollably.
"Remus?" Harry asked hesitantly.
A low moan was his only answer as the shaking grew in intensity.
"Harry, back away slowly," Shack said in a calm tone as he silently drew his wand.
Having been part of a scene much like this some three years previously, Harry recognized that what he saw in front of himself was definitely not good news.
Knowing that Remus wouldn't be dangerous for several more minutes, Harry first fired off a Messenger Spell to Auror Chris Drake, the liaison with the werewolves. Wolfsbane apparently ineffective. Quarantine them!
His second action was in an effort directed at the situation at hand. "Hogwarts, full lockdown immediately!"
Even as every door in sight slammed shut (and siege bars dropped into place to further secure most of them), Harry then cast, "Mobilicorpus."
Harry's spell lifted Remus off his feet just as he curled up into a ball, harsh breathing giving way to a growling howl that sent shivers down everyone's spines.
With the floating Remus trailing behind, Harry started running toward the seventh floor. "Hogwarts, open up my route to the Come and Go Room."
As he saw a couple of the staircases move to accommodate his latest order, he heard Shack pant out, "Dammit, Harry! I hope you know that this is a bad idea!"
"I'll going to protect him, Shack, even from himself," Harry snarled back, not even slowing in his movements. "Hey, better yet, you two get Snape and take him back to the Entrance Hall. I think we have a few things to talk about."
"Potter!" Tonks objected.
Visibly conflicted, she stopped. Shack - not looking very happy either - grabbed her shoulder and started to pull her back down the stairs.
"Harry!" she called out.
"I'll be fine, Nim! Go!" He didn't slow to watch what the two former aurors did. He panted out the revised instructions to the castle as he moved, worry and full-blown panic fighting for his attention.
It was halfway down a hallway on the fifth floor that his luck ran out. With a hair-raising howl, Remus began his transformation.
Harry's Body Movement Spell failed. As it was designed to handle only non-resisting bodies and Remus was, at this point, anything but, the spell's failure didn't surprise Harry. Fortunately he had a backup plan. "Lycanardium Leviosa."
The writhing form - now visibly changing - unsteadily rose into the air. It was taking most of Harry's concentration to hold the spell. There was no way he could continue on with his burden. Pacing back and forth and envisioning what he needed all the while holding the irate werewolf aloft would be well beyond his powers of concentration.
With the little attention he could spare from holding his pseudo-godfather aloft, he tried to think of what to do.
No rooms - even classrooms or cupboards - were close enough to shut him in even momentarily.
Transfiguring or conjuring something to help the situation would take too much attention from holding him at bay.
Werewolves were notoriously resistant to stunning or binding spells of any kind.
He briefly considered trying a stunner anyway, but decided that pouring enough energy into one to be reasonably sure it worked would exhaust him, rendering him defenseless if it didn't in fact work.
Sticking Remus to the wall or ceiling would work only if the werewolf wasn't willing to lose some skin or fur for a shot at a human. Harry wasn't willing to bet his life on that one.
The ceiling was too low to stick himself to it and stay out of the werewolf's reach.
House-elf magic didn't work against werewolves. They'd had that conversation with Dobby long since.
Standing and waiting for Shack and Tonks - the only two who knew where he was and that he might need help - wasn't an option. Holding this spell on the now raging and thrashing werewolf was draining him rapidly.
"Hogwarts, I could use some help, here," he said, not knowing what else to do.
"If I may make a suggestion, Lord Gryffindor?"
Harry nearly lost control of the spell in surprise. He carefully looked over to find a portrait of some aristocratic-looking wizard looking at the floating werewolf in concern. "Please," Harry said, voice tight under the strain.
"Ask Hogwarts to isolate part of the hallway and put the werewolf in there."
Not knowing what else to do, Harry said, "Hogwarts, please isolate Remus in part of this hallway."
Looking like a reverse of the effect when the gateway to Diagon Alley was opened, blocks seemed to materialize and shift into place to form a solid barrier further down the hall. Once that one was completed, another wall started to form between Harry and Remus. When Harry lost sight of the hovering werewolf, the spell failed. Fortunately, the wall finished forming before the lycanthrope could do more than fall unceremoniously to the ground.
Relieved of the spell, Harry slumped over, panting. After a moment to recover, he looked up at the portrait that was now wearing a satisfied smile. "Thank you . . ."
"Baron Horatius Cadogan, My Lord," the portrait introduced himself, bowing slightly.
Harry blinked and looked at the painting closely.
The older man sighed. "I see you've met my great grand-nephew."
Harry's mouth twitched. "Yes, sir. Thank you for the suggestion." He looked at the stone wall that was previously a corridor. "I hope there aren't any portraits down there."
"Fear not, my lord, there is nothing of interest in the closed-off area. You should have an easy time of it tomorrow when you bring down the walls and take the werewolf into custody."
Harry shook his head and sighed, ignoring the muted sounds coming from the new prison cell. "He is a friend. This situation is no fault of his."
Cadogan looked outraged. "Of course it is his fault! He knew it was a full moon, and he knew of his affliction, did he not?"
"He did, but we are at Hogwarts so he could take a dose of Wolfsbane Potion."
The portrait calmed considerably at Harry's words. "It doesn't seem to have worked," Cadogan remarked dryly.
"I noticed," Harry returned in a similar tone. "Rest assured, I'll be speaking with Snape on that very subject in a short while."
Cadogan nodded firmly. "Very well then, sir. I shall spread the word of what transpired and post a portrait guardian somewhere at the far end to prevent any students from trying to remove the wall."
Harry gave the portrait an abbreviated bow. "Thank you, sir, for all of your assistance. If you ever have a request of me, feel free to speak it."
Cadogan waved that off. "Thank you for the offer, My Lord, but I'm happy enough where I am and can go visit other portraits when the urge strikes me."
Harry nodded and walked back the direction he'd originally come from, wishing that he could do something more for Remus but knowing that he was beyond assistance for the time being.
It was only one corridor later that Professor McGonagall came racing up to him and stopped in front of him. "What's wrong?" she asked, wand out and panting to get her breath back.
He blinked at her in surprise. "What?" How'd she know anything was wrong?
"I was already supremely concerned over the unannounced lock down when one of the portraits said you were down there," she pointed back along the path he'd just taken, "and needed immediate help."
A small smile came to Harry's face. Reaching one hand out, he laid it flat upon the wall. "Thank you, old girl. I owe you one for all the help tonight." Nothing visibly changed, but Harry somehow felt comforted for a moment.
Smile ratcheting up a notch, Harry turned to his former head of house. "Remus started an uncontrolled transformation." She paled as he continued calmly, "I asked Hogwarts for help, and apparently she sent one of the portraits to you. One of the others, a Baron Cadogan, helped me isolate Remus. He's blocked in on the fifth floor. Baron Cadogan said he'd post a portrait at both ends to prevent anyone from messing with the new walls until tomorrow morning."
Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, the Gryffindor house ghost, floated around the corner and came to a halt in front of Harry. "I bring news, My Lord. Your two assistants caught Professor Snape and restrained him after a short duel. They are on their way to the Entrance Hall on your order. Baron Cadogan informed us of his situation and I've invoked your name to dispatch the Fat Friar and the Grey Lady to both ends of that corridor for the duration."
Harry nodded, relaxing slightly. "Thank you, Sir Nicholas. With both a portrait and ghost at both ends, I sincerely hope the walls will remain undisturbed until tomorrow."
"Harry?" McGonagall asked, confusion etched onto her face.
He sighed, rubbing one hand over his face. "I suspect that Snape intentionally botched the Wolfsbane, Minerva."
She sucked in a breath sharply, her lips disappearing entirely as she scowled deeply.
Waving the ghost and professor along with him, Harry continued his trek toward the Entrance Hall.
When they arrived, they found an unconscious and bound Snape on the floor, a rigid Shacklebolt standing guard over him, and Tonks nearly vibrating in rage.
"This utter bastard tried to kill us!" she seethed when she saw Harry.
Even Sir Nick made an angry noise at that.
"What happened?" Harry asked tightly. He idly wondered about the trickle of blood coming from Snape's nose.
Shack reported flatly, "We caught up with Snape just outside the dungeons. He had the gall to smirk at us and asked if your pet wolf was sick. He then made a comment of a bitch like Dora literally having puppies if you were still around Remus. She drew her wand. So did he, and they dueled for only a few seconds before I joined in. We got him quickly and brought him back up here as you requested, sir."
"Are you okay?" Tonks asked, looking Harry over.
He nodded. "I'm fine. He's trapped on the fifth floor. A couple ghosts and portraits are guarding him until tomorrow."
The former aurors nodded.
"Oh, Severus, what have you done?" McGonagall asked sadly.
Shaking his head at the situation, Harry cast a Messenger Spell. Headmaster Dumbledore, your presence is required in the Entrance Hall immediately.
Harry saw McGonagall cast two more Messenger Spells a moment later. At his raised eyebrow, she asked, "I presume you contacted Albus?" He nodded, and she explained, "Filius and Pomona."
He nodded again, recognizing that the senior staff needed to be on hand. "Who's the senior Slytherin professor?"
"Slughorn," Shack stated, wand still trained on the unconscious man on the floor.
McGonagall waved her wand and then nodded to Harry after the small, silver form disappeared.
"While we're waiting, I respectfully request that you remove the castle-wide seal order, Lord Gryffindor," Sir Nick said respectfully.
After a startled moment, Harry grinned sheepishly. He looked up, and everyone heard a series of clicks as all of the doors unlocked again.
Sir Nick and the portraits had apparently been busy spreading the word as most of the resident ghosts floated into the room, forming a perimeter around the group to keep the now flowing students from getting too close. Seeing the very unusual sight, even by wizarding standards, none of the students seemed to want to leave the Entrance Hall.
Presently, Headmaster Dumbledore and the remaining senior staff arrived. "May I ask what happened?" Dumbledore asked calmly, taking in the entire situation with one glance.
Shacklebolt repeated the sequence of events, followed by Harry telling his side of it.
The listening students were grumbling amongst themselves by the time Harry was done. Remus was remembered fondly by most of the student body, it seemed.
Dumbledore nodded sadly when the students settled down again. "Very well. I will speak to Severus about this. Please release him."
Harry snarled, "Speaking to him has never made a difference, Headmaster. I've warned you and warned you, but you continued to ignore me. You will allow aurors to arrest him for three counts of attempted murder just as soon as Amelia can get them here."
Dumbledore shook his head slowly. "Miss Tonks and Mr. Shacklebolt, based on what he has said, could it be proven that he intentionally tried to cause the death of the three of you?"
Tonks scowled deeply but shook her head. "If he claims the Wolfsbane was faulty only by accident, then we can't prove he did it intentionally. We don't have the legal grounds to demand Veritaserum, either."
Dumbledore shrugged and spread his hands as if to say, "There you go."
There were sounds of outrage from the student audience that the main participants ignored.
Frustrated that Snape would apparently get away with attempted murder, Harry ground out, "As heir of Lord Gryffindor, I hereby permanently expel Severus Snape from Hogwarts grounds. So mote it be."
"So mote it be," echoed all the ghosts and portraits present.
Three house-elves popped into existence and floated the still unconscious and bound Snape out the doors very rapidly.
A cheer went up amongst the students.
Hearing them, Harry smirked slightly.
Dumbledore frowned at Harry. "Was that necessary?"
Harry rolled his eyes and turned to the four senior professors. Speaking loudly enough to be heard over the audience, he said, "If the four of you want him back, bring a petition to me, and we can discuss it. Otherwise, congratulations on your promotion, Professor Slughorn; you're the new head of Slytherin House. Please be more fair and even-handed than your predecessor was."
Slughorn bowed slightly. "Thank you, Lord Gryffindor. I was head of Slytherin in Severus's time here, you know, and I shall endeavor to do my best for Hogwarts once again."
Dumbledore spoke up, "May we discuss this in my office?"
Harry led the other seven magicians into the Headmaster's office and took one of the guest chairs without waiting for an invitation. Tonks and Shack stood behind Harry, flanking the door. The four professors arranged themselves around the room, not clearly siding with either Harry or the headmaster. Dumbledore himself was behind his desk.
Before Dumbledore could say anything, Harry said, "We have to get through this, Professor."
"I agree, Harry."
Harry sighed. "It can start by you doing what I have repeatedly asked and not using my first name."
Slughorn and Sprout looked surprised, but nobody else in the room reacted.
Dumbledore paused before nodding. "As you wish.
"On the matter of Professor Snape -"
"Mister Snape," Harry interrupted firmly.
"Severus," Dumbledore went on. "It would be better for all involved if he were to remain here."
Harry gave a short bark of laughter. "Better for whom? Not the students, certainly. Aside from their obvious opinion on the matter, due to your attempts to ignore it, he has poisoned an entire generation of students against Slytherin House and potions. I know I complained repeatedly about his actions toward me. Nothing was ever done. Now something has finally been done about it."
Dumbledore frowned disapprovingly. "With your new authority, you are getting revenge for the imagined slights he has perpetuated against you?"
Harry sighed softly and shook his head. The man is still refusing to see the truth even when it's laid out before him. So much for his promised change of attitude.
Before Harry could respond, McGonagall spoke up, "You're fully aware, Albus, that there is nothing imagined about it. You heard them cheering as well as I did. Harry is not the only one to complain about Severus's actions. How many hundreds of complaints have I brought to you over the years?"
"I, too," Flitwick agreed. "Albus, we have counseled you for years to replace him. You have not listened. Well, now someone has finally done something about that blatantly biased man. I for one am not going to mourn his loss in these halls."
Harry watched with unconcealed amusement as the two senior teachers made their positions abundantly clear: Not on Snape's side.
Sprout cleared her throat. "Much as I dislike speaking ill of a colleague, I must agree with Min and Filius. Albus, even you must recognize the problem that Severus was to us all."
Slughorn, though fidgeting uncomfortably, nodded agreement.
Dumbledore sighed. He turned to Harry. "Lord Gryffindor, I implore you -"
Harry waved a hand, cutting off the older man. "No. His attempt to poison Remus and kill the three of us was the last straw, Headmaster. You may think he's redeemable. I do not. For your sake, I will not pursue things any further than this, but if I ever see him again I will treat him as the Death Eater he is. Do you understand?"
Dumbledore suddenly looked his age. "Severus has put himself at risk for the Light since before you were born. He has spent years reporting on Voldemort's movements, saving innumerable lives."
"Like my parents'?" Harry asked coldly. Dumbledore winced but didn't respond to the pointed retort. Harry went on. "Besides, do you have any proof of what you're saying?"
Dumbledore frowned slightly. "I do not understand."
"He claims his life has been endangered by his spying. Do you know that, or are you taking his word for it? You claim that his reports save lives, but do you know that these instances aren't set up by Voldemort to let Snape get closer to you? Could the raids he's helped you foil have been setups? Have any high ranked deez been caught or killed on his information alone?"
An uncomfortable silence held for a short time before Dumbledore finally answered, "I am afraid I have no answer which will satisfy you."
That answer did not surprise Harry, so he simply continued. "Absent proof to the contrary, I have to act on the information I have. All I know about the man is that he's unthinkingly biased, a Death Eater, and he was directly responsible for the deaths of my parents. Based on those facts and in the interests of the safety of the school, I think I did the only thing I could, long overdue as it is."
Dumbledore sighed again. "At your age, you have yet to make such a life-altering choice in a moment of weakness. Some day Severus may tell you his story. Then you may find sympathy for him."
Harry ignored the blatant attempt to make him feel guilty for his actions. "I sincerely doubt that I could have anything more than pity for that man," he answered instead.
"Now," Harry went on, clearly changing the subject, "we need to decide what to do about the Defense position." After a moment of thought, he gave a half-amused, half-ironic snort. "The curse against the position is holding strong, it seems."
He shook his head and turned to the professors. "I admit that I don't have any ideas. The only decent Defense professor I had was Remus, but his condition would prove problematic for all involved."
McGonagall nodded. "Agreed. Though there has been a second recent teacher in the field that I hear was more than competent."
Harry thought through the Defense professors he'd had. Crouch Jr. and Quirrell were dead, Lockhart was in the long-term care ward of St. Mungo's, he'd helped imprison Umbridge, and they had already agreed that Lupin couldn't take it again. Realizing what she probably meant, he fixed a stern look on his former Transfiguration professor. "I certainly hope you aren't referring to me."
Flitwick chuckled at the overt look of innocence on McGonagall's face. "She was, and I was going to point out the same thing." The diminutive professor held up a hand to Harry's gathering frown. "I'm not going to suggest that you take the position, Harry. Much as I think that you can relate to the students and that you're a competent teacher in your own right, I don't feel that you should have the job. This is no reflection on you, but rather the fact that you're simply too inexperienced to handle it for long periods of time. Perhaps in a few years you would have the proper temperament, but for now . . ." He trailed off with a shrug.
Harry couldn't decide whether to be relieved or slightly insulted. He settled on amused. "Thank you, Filius. Even if it were offered to me, I don't think I'd want it."
Flitwick nodded to him before turning to the rest of the room. "I admit that I am also out of ideas. Placing an advert in the Daily Prophet, perhaps?" He grinned sideways at Harry. "In the meantime, perhaps a temporary, guest professor for Defense?"
Harry raised his hands. "No, no, no. Not me."
Tonks, McGonagall, and Sprout grinned at the byplay between the two men.
"Actually," Shacklebolt said slowly, "I have another suggestion for you all."
"What's that, Mr. Shacklebolt?" Filius asked his one-time student.
"Me," Shack answered simply. He turned to Harry. "No offense to you, Harry, but Kelly and I aren't all that happy about how Laura is growing up in your Keep. Despite everyone living there, there's nobody near her age and really nothing for her to do. We've been talking about moving back out, and this opportunity seems to be too good to pass up."
"As a former auror instructor, your qualifications are certainly sufficient," Dumbledore said.
The other professors nodded in acceptance.
Shacklebolt turned to Harry. "With your permission of course, Lord Gryffindor."
"Stop it," Harry admonished him. "You certainly don't need my permission, Shack. You're your own man. My only concern is what you've been teaching me."
Shack shook his head. "Your Occlumency is as far as I can take it, Harry." Neither man looked over to see Dumbledore's reaction to this tidbit of knowledge. "You have the basic potions knowledge already. Now it's just a case of practice if you want to get any better. Honestly, I don't have anything more to teach you."
Harry nodded and stood, offering Shack his hand. "Good luck, Professor Shacklebolt."
Tonks, Shack, and Harry were walking away from Hogwarts when the silvery form of a Messenger Spell impacted Harry's head. He relaxed.
"What's up?" Shack asked.
"That was Auror Drake. I got the warning to him in time about the bad Wolfsbane. All of the werewolves have been contained. Several people got scratches, Drake included, but nobody was bitten."
The two former aurors breathed a sigh of relief.
"I don't get it," Tonks said.
"Snape. It's not like we wouldn't know who messed up the Wolfsbane. Hell, he was nearly gloating about it."
Shack nodded. "While he was distracted by taunting you, I quickly peeked into his mind. There's . . . something in there when it comes to Remus, Sirius Black, and James Potter. And by extension, Harry."
Harry was not surprised. "The man is clearly intelligent. It's not like Potions Masteries are given away in Christmas crackers. He's functioned as a spy for Dumbledore for nearly two years as well. Yet when it comes to me, he's never acted rationally. Hating me just because I look like my father? Even after what he called Occlumency training, he still accused me of living a pampered, attention-seeking life. It's like whenever he thinks of Remus, Sirius, or me, he's filled with unreasoning hatred, overriding everything else. I recognize it, I just don't understand it."
"Something Riddle placed?" Shack suggested.
Harry shrugged. "I dunno. Whatever the problem, I plan on staying away from him for the rest of my life."
Tonks said, "Another thing: Why sabotage the potion now? I mean, this is not the first time he's made Wolfsbane for Remus. Why wait until this month to do this?"
"This is the first month that the Ministry representative wasn't watching him, wasn't it?" Shack asked.
"I guess," Tonks agreed. Her expression made it clear that she wasn't happy with the answer, however. "I just wish there was more we could do. I know he picked on you Gryffs pretty bad, but in his own way he messed up us Slytherins just as bad."
Her two companions merely nodded agreement.
The three reached the train station before Harry turned to Shack. "Are you three moving to the castle tonight?"
Shacklebolt shook his head. "I need to talk with Kelly and Laura about it first. Like I said earlier, Kelly and I have discussed it, so there shouldn't be much of a problem. We'll probably move in tomorrow morning unless something comes up."
"I need to come early to release Remus, but otherwise just let me know if you need help with anything."
"Will do, Harry. Oh, and if I forget to say it tomorrow, thanks for everything."
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