Chapter Twelve: Fortune Days
Harry forced down the uncomfortable feeling of unease as he marched up to the door that lead to Tom's study and yanked it open. He paid no mind to the lateness of the evening or the man himself who was slouched in his armchair with a glass of brandy. He ignored all of those things that made him want to hit Tom, instead Harry just allowed the dam which had been holding his emotions break. He had much more important issues to attend to, dealing with the Dark Lord's tantrums had to wait.
"I don't care that you're here wallowing and getting pissed, I have to talk to you about something rather important."
Tom was surprised to see Harry standing in the doorway, with a halo of rage surrounding him. Yet he wasn't ready to face Harry. "Can't you see I'm busy?"
"Busy avoiding me or busy getting drunk? Busy with million other things that stop you from being a decent human being? But that's not why I'm here, you can enjoy your pity party later when I'm done speaking to you. So shut up and do not interrupt me." Harry glared, not moving from the doorway. "Narcissa was kind enough to perform the blood test, even though I remember you offering to perform it. Never mind that and your obvious gift of breaking promises, this is about something that is much bigger than whatever is going on with us."
"You aren't making any sense." Tom stated.
Harry ran a hand through his hair, messing it up. "There is no doubt that I am the child of Regulus Black. It was confirmed and you yourself said that it does not lie. However, there were complications."
Leaning forward and resting his elbows on the desk, Tom inquired. "What sort of complications?"
"The complicated sort." Harry said. "I think we might have been wrong in assuming that Dumbledore killed my mum. I have a nearly hysterical Bellatrix in the other room, mumbling about things that can't be right. Severus confirmed what we found. You need to see this."
"Harry, you are still making little sense."
The teen couldn't reply, seeing as Narcissa and Snape had decided to follow him and were now standing behind him. Both acknowledging their Lord with a slight bow, they remained silent, hesitant to speak.
"Could one of you perhaps explain this intrusion? And stop cluttering the doorway." Tom sneered, unable to hide that he was indeed a bit drunk. He was still capable of getting thoroughly smashed by drowning himself in the bottle. If anyone noticed, they didn't dare to show their amusement. Instead, Severus and Narcissa stepped into the study, the witch standing behind the teen and gently grasping his shoulders as a sign of reassurance.
Severus was the one who spoke first. "My Lord, we believe that Regulus Black might still be alive. The Black Family parchment showed no sign of his death as it did with James Potter. It is enough proof to suggest that Regulus is still among the living."
Tom was shaken out of his half-stupor and narrowed his eyes. "How is that possible?"
"His body was never recovered, no one even knew where he stayed all those months leading up to the birth of his child and there is no way for us to know." Narcissa said. "My Lord, it is entirely possible that my cousin is alive. The parchment never lies, it is true to our family."
The Dark Lord leaned back in his chair and rubbed a hand over his forehead. Nothing was going as planned. He was at odds with Harry, reluctant to admit that he needed the young man. Hogwarts wasn't his, even though they were getting closer to obtaining it. He had wished for a quick end, his victory like a slash of a sharp dagger, plunged into the heart of the Order. Now, he had yet another issue that required his attention. If Regulus Black was alive and out there, he needed to get to him. He had to find him and bring him back, for Harry's sake as well as his own. He knew that he wouldn't rest easy until he had returned Black to his family and the young green-eyed wizard.
"I won't stop looking until I find him." Harry stated firmly.
"I will assemble a search party." Tom soberly assured the teen.
Snape, however saw it a bit more grimly and said. "Forgive me, My Lord, but what use will it have? How will they be able to find a man who has been missing for more than a decade when many have failed before? We searched for him when he first disappeared, yet there was nothing to go by. It is no different now, we still have no leads. I doubt Dumbledore's portrait in Hogwarts would provide us with any kind of information."
That seemed to be the bucket of cold water that lessened everyone's enthusiasm. Narcissa spoke with fading hope lacing her voice. "Perhaps there is someone who knows, someone Dumbledore told."
"He has a brother, right?" Harry asked, remembering something he had heard. "Abe something?"
Severus gave a brief nod. "Aberforth Dumbledore, he owns the Hog's Head Inn. He was the one who interrupted me and threw me out before I could hear the last part of the prophecy."
"Is it possible that he knows something?" Narcissa inquired.
With a shake of his head, Severus drawled. "Aberforth didn't get along with his brother, as I understand they have a rather rocky past and relations between them went sour after the sudden death of their sister."
"How come you know all of this?" Harry asked with a quirked brow.
"You would be surprised how chatty Albus could be after downing a few glasses of sherry. He shared many things."
Tom cleared his throat and said. "Now is not the time to discuss Dumbledore's obvious shortcomings."
"My Lord, maybe it is best to discuss this in the morning." Narcissa suggested, her reasoning was solid and she knew that they were all tired. "I believe it would do us all good to sleep on it and try to come up with suitable solutions in the morning when we're all rested."
"Indeed. No one will be told for the time being." Tom said and waved everyone out. Meaning, he waved Narcissa and Severus out. When Harry made a move to leave, Tom wandlessly slammed the door shut, preventing the teen from following the others.
"Let me out." Harry grumbled.
Tom kept his expression neutral but unwavering.
With his teeth clenched, the green-eyed wizard faced Tom. "I'm tired and I would like to get out of these clothes. Let me out, Tom."
"I wish to talk."
Harry all but sneered. "I don't want to talk, I want to leave and go to sleep."
Standing up, the Dark Lord rounded the desk and ghosted his fingers over Harry's arm, not quite touching. The almost touch sent shivers down Harry's spine, his skin tingling. "I would very much like to apologise, for my earlier behaviour."
"Why didn't you attend the party? It was an important step towards winning this war and gaining support."
Pulling the younger man closer, Tom ran his finger down the teen's cheek. "I was thinking."
Harry snorted with disbelief. "Avoiding me sounds more accurate."
"It needed to be done in order for me to gather my thoughts without distractions. And you are a very tempting distraction." Tom said and sighed. "You confuse me, Harry."
"Funny you should say that. You have done nothing but confuse me these past few days."
Tom tilted the teen's chin and traced the curve of his lips with his thumb. It was all he could do to restrain himself. "Would you believe me if I said that I confuse myself as well? You bring me an overwhelming sense of peace, you make me feel and I'm not sure whether I despise it or crave it."
"You would rather push me away than admit that I mean something to you. I never took you for a coward." Harry said softly, knowing that his teasing would antagonise Tom.
"I am many things, Harry." the man began. "I will not deny that I would rather have you stay away. But I do not fear admitting your importance in my life, it has more to do with my unwillingness to let sentiment ruin me."
Harry gaped and recoiled from the man. "You would choose to send me away rather than deal with your issues over feelings that you don't know what to do with? You would rather be alone and bitter than admit that you do feel and are as human as the rest of us."
Tom felt his voice get stuck in his throat. Why was it so hard for him to tell Harry all the things he had mulled over in his study while trying to smother it all with a stiff drink. "Never before has something made me ache from inside out. No curse could ever burn my insides as does the curse you have me under. I can't think if you are far from me, I can't stand it when you are not near enough for me to touch you. I want to keep you with me, lock you up and claim you as mine and mine alone, ravish you and own you. I can't bear the thought of losing you, yet I can't stand the thought of needing you. You make me want things I have never desired, you undo me completely."
Harry stood, speechless and with a familiar warmth spreading through his chest. He was oddly proud that he had reduced the Dark Lord into such a state, but at the same time, Harry was proud that the man had admitted it to him at all. He offered Tom a small smile, meant to show his admiration but the man took it as a sign of mockery and turned away from Harry.
"Please look at me." said the teen.
When Tom didn't move, Harry wrapped his arms around him and pressed his face against the man's shoulder blade. "I wasn't making fun of you, Tom. Please don't be like this, you're terrible at moping and it's not very becoming of a Dark Lord."
"I can sulk all I want."
"Would you please look at me, I would rather tell you that I love you to your face." Harry said.
With his shoulders slumping a bit and relaxing, the older man slowly moved to look at the teen, who was staring at him with earnest eyes that made Tom's heart constrict. "You can't possibly love me, Harry."
"I bloody well can and oddly enough I do." said the green-eyed teen. "It hardly matters what was, I know that now. I really wish that we could be two normal people without a horrible past haunting us, but I can't change who we are and neither can you. You might think I'm a fool for forgiving you, but I can't continue to cling to the things you did. I can't keep blaming you for the choices you made, in a way I understand why you made them. What I'm trying to say is that, regardless of your flaws and sweet disposition, I want to be with you."
Tom lowered his head, his breathing even yet tense when he took in Harry's words. The teen's arms remained around his neck, caging him and preventing him from bolting out the door. "I always considered sentiment to be trivial. Temporary madness which will bring nothing but misery and be nothing more than a mere inconvenience."
"There is always a bit of madness in love, but there is also some reason in madness." Harry chuckled. "Do you think we're both mad?"
"Undoubtedly so." Tom said with a slow smirk. " I desire you, beyond all reason that exists."
Snorting, the teen asked. "So are you going to stop being an idiot?"
"Pardon?" said the man with a slight frown.
Harry raised a brow and tutted. "Don't tell me you forgot already? You were being a right prat this morning and then you avoided me. Left me alone to endure a stupid party with your stupid minions."
"My minions are not stupid, they wouldn't be in my ranks were they anything but intelligent and cunning." said the Dark Lord with a huff.
"That's not the point, Tom." Harry all but whined. "Instead of being there with me, you chose to sit here and be 'indisposed'."
"It was not my intention to keep away from you, but I was rather conflicted, I had to make sense of my inner thoughts. My feelings for you." Tom said, spitting out the word 'feelings' as if it was poisonous and burning a hole through his tongue. "I am not familiar with the concept and I had to gather my thoughts on the matter before I could feel confident enough to deal with them. I wanted to apologise for hurting you, my behaviour towards you this morning was despicable."
Nuzzling his nose into the crook of Tom's neck, Harry hummed. "I accept your apology. And you're right, it was pretty hurtful."
"Will you stop torturing me now? I will forcefully remove you from the guest bedroom and drag you back into our bed if you refuse to obey me."
Harry laughed. "You just want my arse. Admit it."
"Can you blame me for missing your lovely attributes? I long to have your legs wrapped around me as I sink into that delectable arse of yours. I want to hear you beg for it, beg for my touch and beg for me to fuck you harder. I want you to scream my name as I take you over the edge and fill you up."
With a shudder running down his back, Harry moaned. The coiling in the pit of his stomach only tightened as Tom slid his tongue into his mouth and raked his long digits down his sides, pressing their bodies closer. With a pant, the green-eyed youth gasped. "Take me to bed, right fucking now."
"I could just bend you over my desk, my little lion. Would you like that?" Tom asked with a husky tone and pointedly squeezed Harry's arse, kneading the flesh.
"Bed, Tom." Harry moaned out. "I want you to fuck me into the mattress. Besides, we can't sleep on your desk."
Curling his arms around the boy's waist, Tom smirked and Apparated them into the room upstairs. It was already nearing midnight, if not already past it, and no one was awake. They didn't bother with the silencing charms, Tom hardly cared who heard him in his own home.
With the coming of morning, Harry felt anxious and almost panicky when he thought about the possibility of Regulus still being alive. The more he thought about it, the more he wanted to go out there and look for the man. Severus had been right, they had nothing and it would be hard to even begin looking for the wizard, but Harry wouldn't accept it. He couldn't just sit and do nothing while Regulus was out there somewhere. It had hit him upon waking up, with Tom's arms wrapped around his middle. There was a real chance for him to actually get to know his mother, his real mother who he thought was dead and lost to him.
The dining room was occupied by many. When Harry shuffled into the room with just a oversized shirt and boxers, no one paid him any attention. Hermione was multitasking, eating waffles drizzled with honey and writing something into her notebook. There was a thick book next to her which seemed to annoy Lucius, who tutted the witch and pulled her plate away from the ancient tome. With a sheepish look, the girl muttered an apology. Merlin forbid if she actually smeared the sticky liquid over the book which she had borrowed from Malfoy Manor. The elder blonde had settled for freshly pressed juice and fruit, but instead of eating it, he was leaning over Hermione and observing her scribbled notes. Harry deducted that they were working on something or just being weird together as usual.
Severus was flicking through a magazine, most likely something about potions or whatever made Snape happy. He briefly acknowledged the teen with a small nod before continuing with his reading.
After seating himself down, Harry could practically feel Tom's presence in the doorway. He was his usual self and immediately spoke of business. "Lucius, have you done what I asked?"
The blonde nodded. "The new members of the Board of Governors were all approved by the Wizengamot and the Board will be useful in helping our cause, My Lord."
"Good. I trust you were chosen as the head of this organisation?"
"Yes, they needed little persuasion." Lucius smirked.
Severus didn't lift his eyes from the pages of the magazine, but snorted nevertheless. "You need only flutter your eyelashes."
"It's more effective than an Imperious." Rabastan muttered and masked his snigger behind a cough.
"The Ministry will be undergoing an inspection, Bartemius will weed out those loyal to the Light and if they are not agreeable to our terms, they can choose to change their mind or suffer for their stupidity." Tom said as he too took his seat next to Harry and poured himself coffee.
Hermione hummed. "Percy Weasley works in the Ministry, he is under the Order's thumb and will not be of any use. He might change his mind once a better offer come along though."
"Percy was always sucking up to Fudge, trying his hardest to impress the man." Harry said.
Lucius wrinkled his nose. "Why would anyone try to impress Fudge? The man was as spineless as a Flobberworm, not to mention held no real power in the Ministry."
"Weasley wasn't aware that Fudge was completely under your control." Rabastan pointed out with a smirk.
"Be that as it may, Percy might be willing to convert if he is offered something that will boost his own personal influence and power. A high ranking job in the new Ministry will do the trick." said the girl.
Tom mulled over the witch's words and said. "He could be useful to us, if he is privy to the Order's secrets. I will have Bartemius make him an offer he can't refuse."
"If you say it like that, it almost sounds as if you want Barty to pimp himself out." Harry raised a brow, but his smile was playful.
"Percy has a girlfriend, Penelope something." Hermione stated. "If you wish to entice him with sex, you're better off sending a witch."
"Are you offering, 'Mione?" asked the green-eyed teen. Then Harry made a face and said. "Bellatrix might have the right equipment, but I'm not sure Percy wants to get rabies."
Severus drawled. "Perhaps Weasley will be more interested in a business proposition. Last I checked, providing escort services was not part of our job description."
"Sev's right." Harry grinned, ignoring the man's annoyed expression. "You're the Dark Lord's Death Eaters, not the Dark Lord's Prostitutes."
Tom pushed a forkful of pancake into the teen's mouth to prevent him to speaking any further. Harry moaned around the food, making the Dark Lord's groin twitch.
"My Lord, forgive me for the interruption, but Remus Lupin has arrived."
Harry's eyes went wide and he jumped up from his seat. Before Tom could reply to Rodolphus, who had delivered the message, Harry was gone.
"Remus is here?" Hermione also perked up."Will he be staying, I want to ask him about a few things regarding the new creature laws."
Tom shrugged. "He can stay as long as he desires."
"Harry sees Remus as a father figure." Hermione said. "I suggest setting up a room for him, Harry won't let him leave now that he is here."
"Remus." Harry cheerfully tackled the man, making it hard for the man to stay on his feet. The teen released the man and instantly inquired about his health and whether he had been harmed in any way.
The man chuckled, taking a seat on the sofa. "Cub, calm down. I'm perfectly alright."
"You're staying here, I don't want to hear any kind of objections."
"Doesn't Voldemort have a say in who resides in his house? I wouldn't want to impose or get hexed."
Harry waved it off and said, "He's the one getting hexed if he doesn't allow you to stay."
From the doorway, a velvety voice asked, "Is that so?"
The werewolf was immediately on edge upon seeing a daunting man stepping into the room. He was tall and enthralling, commanding the attention of everyone in the room. The wolf in him was already growling, protective over his cub but also distressed over the fact that he was forced to submit to this wizard.
"Mister Lupin, I don't believe we've met." Tom said, stalking forward like a predator. Extending his hand, he waited for the other man to take it. When the werewolf didn't take it, Tom noticed Harry poking the man's side and having a wordless conversation. It was incredibly rude to leave the Dark Lord hanging. With an almost fearful expression, Remus took the offered hand. Not many got to shake Voldemort's hand.
Harry let out the breath he had been holding and said. "Remus is going to stay here."
"As if I have any say in this." Tom chuckled. "A room will be prepared. I'm sure Harry will fill you in on the rest. I have a meeting with Bartemius, I cannot stay."
Smiling, Harry gave a nod. He pecked the man's cheek, simultaneously embarrassing and arousing Tom. As the Dark Lord cleared his throat and fled the room, Harry almost toppled over with laughter. Remus wasn't sure if the teen had finally lost his marbles or not.
"I'll be paying for that later." Harry said as he watched Tom close the door. He turned back to Remus and sighed. "I'm glad you're here, Remy. I have much to tell you, I'm not sure where to start even."
"Perhaps a cup of tea will help." the man suggested.
After the elf had brought a tray with tea and scones, Harry snuggled into the pillows on the sofa and tried to figure out the best way to begin. He was afraid to tell Remus about everything that they had discovered. But he had to. "I have to tell you something but I'm scared that you'll leave me when you find out the truth."
The man placed his cup on the table and asked with a worried expression, "Cub, what's wrong? Why would I ever leave you?"
"I'm not who you think I am." Harry said, biting his lower lip. "Everything has changed."
With a frown, Remus said. "Harry, whatever it is, please tell me."
Sighing, the green-eyed teen spoke. "When we cleaned out Grimmauld Place, Hermione found something in the room that belonged to Siri's brother. It was a chest with pictures and just stuff, but there was a hidden compartment. I found this picture."
Harry had the photograph of James and Regulus with him and handed it to the man. Remus' brow was set in a frown, not quite understanding what he was looking at.
"It's James with Regulus, Siri's brother." Harry told the man.
Lupin was confounded. "I don't understand."
"Neither did I, until I read the letters." the teen said. "They started dating, secretly of course, in my dad's Seventh Year. Regulus was in the year below. After my dad graduated, they continued to exchange letters but then James married Lily."
"But...None of us even knew they were friends. James was always going on about Lily, he was completely in love with her."
Harry explained. "James broke up with Regulus after graduation, he married Lily because that's what Dumbledore wanted. I can show you the letters if you don't believe me. Siri probably knew about it, he was actually close with his brother and Narcissa. There's something else I have to tell you, Remy."
The man looked up from the picture in his hand, meeting Harry's anxious eyes. "What is it?"
"After James had married Lily, he received one last letter from Regulus." the younger wizard began explaining. "It was dated just a few weeks before Regulus disappeared, at least according to Narcissa."
"The Order and Dumbledore claimed that he had been killed by Voldemort."
Harry shook his head. "That's a lie, something Dumbledore said to cover up his crimes. Regulus went into hiding, just weeks before the Potters were supposedly sent into hiding by the old coot."
"It wasn't safe for Lily to appear in public, she was pregnant and Dumbledore was certain that they were going to be targeted by Voldemort."
With a sad smile, Harry said. "Lily wasn't pregnant, Remy."
The man listened carefully, not saying a word.
"She was never pregnant." said the boy. "Lily Potter didn't have children."
"Cub... I don't understand." Remus asked with confusion. Surely the teenager was joking.
Of course Remus was sceptical, trying to comprehend what Harry was saying. He couldn't blame the man for not believing a word. However, Remus needed to know the truth. "James fathered a child, but not with Lily. Regulus Black is my real mum, I'm his son with James."
"No, that can't be...I saw Lily, she was pregnant..." the man stammered and then ran a hand through his tawny hair with frustration. "I couldn't smell it...I thought the Wolfsbane suppressed my sense of smell because I couldn't smell it. And James...he lied to us."
"I understand if you want to leave." the smallness of Harry's voice echoed in the silence of the room. Remus was quiet as well, but then he stood. Harry's insides twisted and burned, this was it; Remus was going to leave and abandon him like everyone else who had mattered. Unable to keep tears at bay, Harry felt one or two slip down his cheek.
Instead of walking out of the door, Remus joined Harry on the sofa and pulled the lithe wizard into a hug. "You're my cub, it doesn't matter who your parents are. I'm upset, as expected, but none of this is your fault."
Mumbling into the man's shoulder, Harry said, "I can't lose anyone else."
"You won't, I promise." Remus told the teen as Harry sat back and wiped his eyes. "I just can't believe James and Lily lied. I think you better tell me everything."
And Harry did.
Blinding light assaulted Draco's rest and he groaned, trying to bury his face into the pillow. But his pillow wasn't particularly soft and it was moving.
Lifting his head and squinting, the blonde found himself draped over a familiar redhead. His leg curled around the other's. There was a weight on his back, an arm wrapped around his middle and something distinctive poking his backside. In the mess of tangled limbs and sheets, Draco felt his cheeks heat up. His arse was tender and a certain stinging ache travelled up his spine as he tried to move, there were various hickeys and bite marks on his pale flesh. Not to mention the pleasurable ache in his chest, the warm feeling enfolding his heart.
"Well hello there, Gorgeous." the body behind him moved and a purring voice sent shivers over his skin. George shifted and stretched, trying to work out the kinks in his muscles. The flimsy sheet pooled around his thighs and Draco couldn't stop himself from eying the redhead's lean form.
Suddenly, the young blonde felt awkward. What was he supposed to say? The three of them had done more than enough last night, Draco hadn't thought he could be that flexible.
"Who turned on the bloody lights?" Fred grumbled as he blinked and shielded himself from the invading sunlight.
"It's morning, you idiot." George chuckled and sneaked an arm around Draco's waist. Pulling him down again, the redhead caged the blonde's body with his own and smirked before leaning down for a kiss.
Fred, having adjusted to the light, turned on his side and watched. "Oi, where's my kiss?"
The other Weasley sat up, leaving Fred room to capture the blonde's lips with his own eager mouth. After a perfectly adequate snog, Draco mumbled. "I need a shower, I can't stand being sticky."
Rolling away, Fred inquired with a sly smile. "How about we share that shower?"
"Fine, but if either of you tries anything other than washing my back, I'll hex you. I have to sit on my arse, you know."
George cooed. "We'll make it all better, little dragon."
"We'll take good care of you." Fred added. "Now that your ours."
"I didn't agree to anything yet." the blonde said with a haughty look but failed miserably. "I require dates."
Fred grinned. "We'll wine and dine you."
George smirked. "Snog and shag you."
They said in unison. "Adore you"
Unable to stop himself from smiling, the blonde hummed. "You're both barmy."
"Absolutely barmy." Fred said. "But you love us anyway."
"We'll see about that after you're done courting me. You still have to get permission from my father, it's not obligatory but he'll appreciate the gesture."
George grinned. "Your dad will love us."
"Of course he will, we're so lovable he won't be able to resist." Fred agreed.
"Right you are, brother dear." George chuckled.
Draco sat up and grunted. "Do you ever shut up?"
"Only when we're ravishing you." they said together and jumped on the blonde, who let out a undignified squeak.
Knocking on door of the Dark Lord's personal study, Ginny felt very small and apprehensive. Usually, she had Harry with her when facing Voldemort, but now she was all alone, with Bill and Tonks waiting in the sitting room. She gave a few more shaky knocks and slowly pushed the door open when she heard the man call in whoever was out there.
She saw the Dark Lord and two others, Barty Crouch Jr. and the elder Malfoy.
"Yes, Miss Weasley?" Tom asked.
Ginny gave a greeting nod and said, "I didn't mean to interrupt. I can come back later."
"Seeing as you already have my attention, perhaps it's best if you continue." Tom told the girl.
"Okay, well...Do you remember me telling you about my suspicions over my dad? I thought I heard my mum cast a spell and it sounded like the Imperius Curse?"
Tom gave a wordless nod.
Ginny went on. "The thing is...We sort of brought him here because Bill had to stun him after trying to find out if he was cursed or not. And Harry said that you could reverse it, Sir."
Tom seemed deep in thought. He said pensively. "Lucius, go with Miss Weasley. I'll be there shortly, after we're done here."
The blonde didn't complain, though he wanted to. He stood, albeit stiffly, and followed the redheaded girl. Lucius vaguely remembered the girl as the same little brat to whom he had slipped the diary. While the girl's face was hazy, Lucius remembered the pain from the Cruciatus rather well. Severus had labelled it as his 'blonde moment' which clearly annoyed the wizard.
"I still think you're a bastard, even if Hermione claims the opposite."
Lucius drawled with obvious indifference, "Should I be offended by the opinion of a silly little girl?"
"Not particularly, no." Ginny shrugged. "It was just an observation. I assure you, the dislike is mutual. I would rather not spend time in your pompous presence any more than I have to."
They walked into the sitting room where the rest were waiting. Bill was watching over his father's unconscious form and Tonks was just pacing.
"He said he'll be here when he's done with his Dark Lord business. He sent Goldilocks." Ginny told her brother.
Lucius was fuming inside. The girl was beginning to seriously get on his nerves. Bill couldn't blame his sister, he really couldn't, but they needed to keep good relations with everyone around and the redhead knew that Lucius could easily make Ginny disappear.
"So how do we do this?" Tonks asked.
"Once we wake him, the curse must be lifted immediately." Bill said. "Mum definitely cast the Imperius on him, not sure for how long though, but I think he's fighting it and removing it might not be as simple."
Lucius had always loathed Arthur Weasley, who had been a few years above him in Hogwarts. The redhead had never missed a change to hex the blonde, mainly messing with his hair. Arthur used to love making Lucius' hair curly. Then the feud continued in the Ministry, the Weasley Patriarch being all Muggle-loving and moral.
"Wake him." the blonde said, though it sounded more like an order.
"We were meant to wait for the Dark Lord." Ginny countered.
Lucius sneered at the girl.
Tonks sighed and crossed her arms. "Would you two stop acting like children and concentrate on the more important matter, like the fact that Arthur Weasley is currently knocked out of Voldemort's sofa."
They didn't have to argue long as Tom appeared and cast a Reviving spell on the sleeping man, who jolted upright on the settee. Looking around, Arthur saw his son and daughter, then Nymphadora. He tried to reach his wand which had been in his pocket when he laid eyes on Lucius who matched the loathsome stare with his own.
"Mister Weasley, I don't believe we've met." Tom said with his usual Dark Lord tone that meant serious business.
"What is this, where am I?" Arthur questioned, sending a look towards Bill. "What have you done to Molly?"
Tom raised a brow. "Unfortunately, your wife couldn't join us. But perhaps it is better if she's unable to attend."
Arthur was very confused. He didn't recognise the man, but neither Bill or Ginny seemed worried. Lucius Malfoy was standing beside the stranger, wearing an almost cruel smile that made Arthur's insides freeze up. Something was pushing against his mind, the pleasant fog was starting to leave.
Tom said to Bill. "Your mother would have done well in my ranks. Her use of Unforgivables is rather notable. Aside from the Imperius, she has cast the Cruciatus as well. I can remove the curse placed on your father, but I'm afraid after doing so, he will experience the pain of the Cruciatus."
Ginny was instantly alarmed. "What do you mean, Sir?"
"The Imperius counteracts any kind of pain the victim may feel while under the curse. Once the Imperius is eliminated, the pain will be experienced as a reflection of the curse that was cast during the mind control." Lucius explained.
"So dad will be in pain?" Ginny asked to be sure she had understood.
Tom gave a nod. "Yes, but not for long. Severus has various pain potions at hand."
Arthur was just staring at everyone, part of him fighting against the Imperius. He slumped against the sofa when Tom ended the Imperius and freed Arthur from his wife's control.
"Dad?" Bill asked as he sat next to him and waved his hand in front of the man's face. When the man blinked and looked around, Bill asked. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Arthur frowned. "Coming home from St. Mungo's. It was Christmas and we were at Grimmauld Place. The Order went to the Ministry, to help the children. I tried to stop Sirius, but he wouldn't listen. Tonks told me what happened in the Department of Mysteries."
"But that was in Fifth Year." Ginny muttered to Tonks.
"It seems that the Imperius was cast multiple times, each time it was cast, it meddled with his mind. He might not remember anything subsequent to the Imperius." Tom mulled over the findings.
Bill was about to speak to his dad, when Arthur collapse in pain. The delayed Cruciatus raked over him, setting each nerve ending ablaze. Ginny and Tonks rushed to the man's side, fussing over him. Tom remained where he was, blankly observing. Lucius picked invisible lint from his sleeve, not caring in the slightest. Eventually, Tom took pity on the man in pain and had an elf bring some pain relieving potions. "He'll need rest and time to replenish his magic. An elf will set up a room for your father."
"Thank you." Bill expressed his gratitude.
"Harry is due to arrive back from Malfoy Manor, you can fill him in once he gets back." said Tom and swept out of the room.
"So he doesn't remember anything that happened after Molly cursed him?"
Ginny, sitting near the green-eyed teen, said. "No, he seems to have gaps in his memory but he has recollections of stuff that may or may not be memories. Professor Snape brought potions to help with the weakness, Dad's magic is depleted at the moment. Once the Imperius was lifted, it released a large portion of his magic.
Harry sighed. "We can't let him leave. Not before I can be sure that he won't report everything back to the Order."
"He won't be leaving any time soon, he needs his rest and to cope with everything Mum put him through. She cursed him with the Cruciatus, Voldemort saw it in his memories when he had a look around. She used it to weaken him, so once she cast the Imperius, Dad wouldn't be able to fight it."
"The new term the day after tomorrow, Tom wants Hogwarts to be his by tomorrow morning." the teen said. "With Arthur here, will you return to Hogwarts?"
Ginny shook her head. "Bill and Fleur will take care of him, Charlie too. He's not sick, just drained and weak. Neville and Luna are both going back to Hogwarts, though Nev's grandmother was dead set against it. Parvati and Padma are going back for the new term and so is Lavender. Nev said that Dean and Seamus will be back too. Mum doesn't want Ron to go, that git has done nothing but whine and complain. I think you should talk to the Gryffindors, explain everything to them before Voldemort takes over."
"I can't go back to school before the last of the Order is either captured or lose all interest in me, bastard Dark Lord is once again right. I'm supposedly hiding from the Order, no one knows that I'm on the Dark side now, so turning up in Hogwarts would sort of but a damper on my plans to stay out of the Order's sight. Besides, nothing is set in stone and we'll just have to wait and see how Tom handles the takeover."
"I heard that Bill and Tonks are going with the Minister and Professor Snape. It makes sense, McGog won't fly off the handle if they explain things." said the girl.
"The twins and the Lestrange brothers are infiltrating the school, the Vanishing Cabinet works. Dobby helped them test it."
The girl smirked. "I think they promised him your underwear."
"That's not funny." Harry narrowed his eyes.
"Doesn't make it less true. Draco said that Dobby used to steal his mum's knickers, apparently your number one fan is an underwear stealing pervert. Probably nicked Malfoy's too, Merlin knows what he did with them."
Harry grimaced. "Stop talking. Just leave Dobby alone."
"Looks like you did them a favour when you freed him."
"Back to the subject." Harry said, ignoring Ginny's laughter. "Tom doesn't want me to go with him. But I think if I told McGonagall everything, she would be more accepting of the change. Besides, it's not like Tom plans to turn Hogwarts into a Death Eater training camp. Nothing really needs to change, except for the curriculum and some teachers."
"Charlie was offered a job as the Care of Magical Creatures teacher. He's good with creatures and animals, especially the weird and dangerous ones."
Harry gave a nod. "He mentioned something about staying."
Standing up, Ginny motioned Harry to follow her out of the room. Arthur was asleep, but the girl felt better if they didn't speak in the room. She started walking them towards the hallway that led to the second floor balcony. "I'm a bit worried about Charlie."
Ginny sighed, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Well, Bill said that Charlie has been acting weird this past week or so. Mostly just brooding and stalking around Shell Cottage like a pissed off hippogriff. They got drunk the other day, well Charlie got drunk while Fleur switched Bill's whiskey for a butterbeer, anyway the point is that my idiotic brother is nursing a broken heart. Or a bruised ego. Bill said he couldn't tell which."
"The poor sod went and fell in love, didn't he?" asked Harry.
"Charlie isn't the type to be all mushy and romantic, but Fred and George always said that he's a gentle giant. Minus the giant part obviously but you get what I mean." the girl smiled, but added with a frown. "He's still an idiot for wanting to bugger Malfoy. Sure, he's an attractive bloke and a pretty skilled wizard, but he's also pretty damn evil and a right git. I don't care what Hermione says, he's still a prat and treats people like they're dirt under his shoe."
Reaching the balcony, Harry took a seat in one of the deckchair. Ginny flopped herself down too and groaned. "Everything is so messed up. Mum's gone completely round the bend, I haven't been able to find out anything since they haven't had any meeting at the Burrow and to top it all off, my lovesick brother is drowning his sorrows in Firewhiskey. Mum doesn't want me to go back to Hogwarts, she said she wouldn't allow it. I can't live under the same roof with her, her meddling is suffocating and I can't stand Ron."
"Move here, everyone else seems to." Harry smirked. "Seriously, Tom wouldn't mind, he's used to seeing my friends around the manor.
"I think he wouldn't like teenagers taking over his centre of operations."
Harry dropped the matter for now.
The small group had Apparated near the gates of Hogwarts, disguised and hidden Death Eaters covering the area and keeping out an eye for any Order members. They couldn't just waltz in, the anti-intruder jinxes stopped them and anyone else from entering. Barty shared an incredulous look with Severus as they reached the gates. There were no guards, nothing to stop them from tearing the gates down and walking through the gateway. But they were there for official business and it would show good manners to ask before barging in. Only problem was that there was no one to ask.
Tonks and Bill were among the group and the witch stepped forward. "I could send my Patronus. They will send someone to meet me, seeing as I am still in the Order."
"Very well." Barty hummed.
Nymphadora released her Patronus and they all watched as it sped towards the castle. Now they only had to wait. Argus Filch arrived a few moments later with his usual disdainful expression.
"State your business." the man grunted, his wily eyes scanning the area and landing on the people behind the gate.
Barty was waiting, scroll in hand and sneered in his most politely mocking tone. "We're here on official business."
Argus wasn't interested in having any part of the war or picking sides, he just wanted to do his job. He eyed the man and his companions, recognising some of them. With a shrug, he stuffed the key into the hole and turned it, allowing the gates to open. He had to get back to his cleaning anyway.
"That went too well." Bill said as he leaned closer to Tonks.
"Something isn't right." Tonks muttered. "Why would they send Filch? For all they know, I could be standing here with Voldemort."
Argus led them towards the castle, the narrow path and the quietness making everyone suspicious. It was all going too well. The school was practically empty, they saw no teachers and even the ghosts were missing.
"Is it just me or does it feel like something is seriously wrong here?" Tonks asked.
"This place looks deserted." Dolohov said from the witch's left.
Deciding to split up in two groups, Tonks along with Bill and Dolohov went to search the castle. Barty and Snape went to see the Headmistress in her office.
Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange ran into the group, making Tonks draw her wand on the two. Both held up their hands and grinned, Rabastan said. "Easy now, we're all friends here."
Putting away her wand, the witch hissed. "What the devil are you doing here?"
"The same as you I reckon, searching this bloody castle." Rodolphus explained. "We haven't seen anyone, just portraits and an elf or two."
"Where are Fred and George?" Bill asked.
Rabastan spoke. "Took off with that cloak of theirs. They were supposed to check the dungeons and the hidden passageways."
"We should head down there as well. This place is giving me the creeps." Rodolphus looked around with mild scorn. "Something isn't right."
"Maybe McGonagall decided to leave the school closed. Many of the wizarding families aren't sending their kids back for a new year, it's too risky with Voldemort out there." Tonks said with a questioning look.
"I don't think McGonagall plans to keep Hogwarts closed. It's something else." Bill shook his head.
Rabastan followed his brother's lead and said. "We'll head down to the Slytherin common room."
"What's the matter? Too close to Gryffindor territory?" Bill chuckled.
Not bothering with a reply, the two Lestrange brothers started walking towards the staircase. The trip wasn't long, the dungeons close by. As expected, the Weasley twins were down there and pulled off Harry's Invisibility Cloak when they saw familiar faces.
"What took you guys so long?" Fred asked upon seeing Rabastan and his brother. "We already pinched all the good stuff from Filch's office."
"Did you see anyone?" asked Bill.
"Not a soul." the twins said together.
Fred continued by saying, "We found a scary-looking portrait though."
"There was a rumour that Salazar Slytherin built dungeons under the Slytherin common room. A prison of some sort, to keep his enemies down there." Rabastan told the group. "But no one knew how to access it or even if it was real. But they said that it was guarded by a portrait of a serpent."
"The portrait is right around the corner." said George and dragged everyone with him. There was indeed a picture of some kind of monstrosity placed in an otherwise empty dungeon wall. It resembled a lizard-like dragon, but with long fangs that dripped venom and scales that looked sharp like the edges of a dagger.
With a hushed voice, Fred said. "We were under the cloak, so it couldn't see us."
Rabastan looked around and said. "No one was allowed to enter this corridor, at least when we were in school."
The redhead pulled the cloak over his shoulder and slipped under it, George motioned everyone to move back and stay quiet. They all tired to peer around the corner. The snake in the frame was resting and unaware that someone was approaching. Suddenly the large portrait flung open and Fred stuck his head out from the cloak.
"How did you get it open?" Rabastan asked as they all walked closer
"Simple." George grinned. "The thing was asleep."
"I meant how did the portrait just open like that? If it's Slytherin's creation, doesn't it need Parseltongue or something?"
Fred shrugged. "I guess not."
"We're wasting time." Dolohov grumbled. He waved his hand over the gaping hole in the wall and asked. "Who's going first? Would the Gryffindors like to leap into the unknown as usual "
Bill snorted. "I may be a Gryffindor, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid.
"How about we all go? It's a team effort, right?" Tonks suggested.
"We'll go." Fred and George hollered over the arguing. Fred added with a smirk. "Honestly, you call yourselves Death Eaters."
The staircase leading down was narrow and dim, as usual when dealing with shady cellars and Slytherins. With their wands lit, the twins made their way down. Tonks and Dolohov followed. Rabastan, Rodolphus and Bill came last.
"What is it with Slytherins and eerie dungeons?" Tonks asked, not waiting for an answer.
The flight of stairs ended and bright light shone from torches that lit the entire area.
Bill was the last one to arrive. "Looks cosy."
"Hey guys." Tonks' voice echoed in the hollowness of the cellar. "I think we have a bit of a problem."
Rabastan and Rodolphus appeared next to the witch and raised a brow. They came face to face with a number of people. Professors Flitwick and Slughorn, Sprout and Hooch, all sitting in dusty and grim cell with magically strengthened bars.
"Hi." Tonks awkwardly waved.
"A little help would be appreciated." Flitwick said.
From the next cell, they found Alastor Moody and McGonagall herself. Tonks was caught off guard upon seeing her friend and mentor. "Mad-Eye, what the bloody hell are you doing here?"
"We'll chit-chat later, now help me out of there." Moody was in no mood to converse.
Rabastan asked. "Hold on. If McGonagall is down here...who's up there?"
"Now that is an interesting question." said Rodolphus.
McGonagall stood and spoke sternly. "We have been down here for days. I would very much like to get out of here and see the daylight."
"It's the Order." Moody said. "Kingsley decided to make Hogwarts his new headquarters and those who weren't in agreement got tossed down here."
"Well, of course we weren't in agreement. This is a school, not a place for charlatan and usurpers." Minerva growled. "I had words with Shacklebolt, but he claims that Albus Dumbledore would have agreed to this and then banished my staff into this prison cell for not being cooperative enough."
Bill asked. "The Order is here in Hogwarts?"
"Afraid so." Moody said. "I told Kingsley what I thought of his plan, that landed me in here with the rest of the troublesome individuals."
"How is it that you are down here?" Minerva asked with a raised brow. "With questionable company if I may add."
The eldest redhead said. "It's a rather long story, one we will tell you once we get everything sorted."
"If the Order has Hogwarts, one of us has to notify the Dark Lord." Rabastan said. "Those fools won't care about Barty's title, they obey no one and the Ministry can't control them if they're working on their own."
Minerva and probably everyone else stiffened at the words leaving one of the Lestrange brother's mouth.
"We'll figure out a way to free everyone." Tonks said and the Lestrange brothers nodded along. "Bill, take Dolohov and go back up. Chances are that Crouch and Snape are in trouble. Fred and George will use the cloak to get back into the Vanishing Cabinet, then Apparate back into the manor."
When no one made a move to leave, the witch inquired with a sharp edge to her tone. "Well, what are you waiting for?"
"We like it when a woman takes the reins." Rodolphus chuckled.
"These bars are reinforced with magic, meaning more work for me." Rabastan sighed.
"But you can do it, right?" Sprout asked from her place in the cell.
The man hummed. "I'm the best there is."
"Get to work then." Moody snapped.
"Isn't he the bloke Barty stuffed into a trunk?" Rodolphus asked with a smirk. "We had a good laugh over it."
Tonks barked out. "Stop fooling around and let's get these people out of those cells. I swear to Merlin, you're even worse than Fred and George."
Minerva was unsure how to act. It was clear that they were going to help them out, but what would happen after, when Voldemort arrived. She sat back and shared a confused, if not worried look with Mad-Eye.
"I'm coming with you."
"We discussed this, Harry."
Tom stopped adjusting his cuffs and met Harry's eyes in the mirror. That particular conversation had started almost an hour go. They were taking Hogwarts tonight, but Tom couldn't put Harry at risk my letting him come as well.
"You have minions in Hogsmeade and Greyback's pack will be near the edge of the forest. If the Order shows up, you have enough people to take care of it. I'm only asking that you let me talk to McGonagall." Harry argued. "I get it why you think I should stay here, but I'm asking you to trust me. McGonagall won't just hand over Hogwarts. She won't trust Barty, a known Death Eater who was presumed dead and she definitely won't trust Snape, who sent Dumbledore flying from the Astronomy Tower."
With a resigned sigh, the man said. "Fine."
"Really, I can come with you?" Harry asked brightly. "I'll stay out of trouble, I promise."
They both reached the foyer when the twins Apparated in front of them and one of the redhead's gasped and panted. Out of breath, Fred said. "Your Lordness."
"It seems we're in a bit of a pickle." added George.
"Speak." Tom ordered, eying both young men with his narrowed eyes.
Fred said. "The Order has Hogwarts. They locked everyone into some kind of prison under the Slytherin common room. McGonagall was there too, she must have refused Shacklebolt's demands."
Tom's featured darkened. "I see."
"We were sent to give you the message, Your Darkness." George said. "As we slipped out of the dungeons, we saw Aurors in the Great Hall."
"So much for a legal takeover." Harry sighed. "We have to go now."
With a pointed look, the Dark Lord said, "I will not risk with your life, Harry."
"I'm pretty good with a wand, you know. I was meant to defeat you, so you can't say that I'm incapable of defending myself."
"You will stay here, I will not discuss it further." Tom said. "That's my final word."
He strode away, leaving Harry with the twins. The green-eyed wizard was furious. "I'm not his bloody dog. Stay here, Harry, be a good boy, Harry...I'm going, he can't stop me."
With that, Harry stomped off too. Fred and George shared a look and went off to find Bella, she would never forgive them if she missed out on all the fun.
Summoning his Death Eaters, Tom stood with his back rigid and face set in a deep scowl. Nothing was ever easy, he couldn't have it easy because he was the Dark Lord. It meant complications, pesky opponents and one infuriating teenager with the power to drive Tom crazy.
His minions responded to his call and his Inner Circle trickled in one by one, clad in their Death Eater robes and masks.
"Since we are no longer hiding our true nature, you may remove your masks. We no longer need to hide our identities."
The masks shimmered away, Tom was not surprised to see Bella's eager face. Draco was standing next to his aunt, his face filled with anticipation. He never got to go on raids or join in on the more dangerous stuff.
"Where is Lucius?"
"In the Ministry with the Granger girl." Bella replied.
He had sent them himself, only now remembering the task he had given them. "My attempt to take Hogwarts without a fight has failed. The Order members have set up their little organisation inside the school. This is our chance to eliminate our enemy and put a stop to their efforts. This is a simple mission, we won't be taking prisoners. The staff of Hogwarts are not to be harmed. We will have Hogwarts by tonight."
Severus Snape was not having a good day. He had busy fighting two Aurors when more of his Lord's forces arrived and started a duel of their own. Barty was actually smiling, enjoying his little battle with Kingsley Shacklebolt. They had been ambushed by the small group of Order members, who couldn't give a toss about an official Ministry sanction or the new Minister himself. Wands had been quickly drawn.
Somehow, it had turned into a battle. Then more Order members showed up and Severus was feeling as if his day wasn't going to end with a pleasant note. He saw Bella going up against Molly Weasley, the witch's dark curls messy and instantly recognizable. Molly was firing spell after spell which Bella deflected. The cackle that left Bella's curved lips made most shudder. Having backed the redhead against a wall, Bellatrix was about to whisper her favourite curse but she was stopped by Bill, who simply knocked out his mum and said something to Bellatrix which made the witch pout and stomp off to find her next victim. It was surprising that the redheaded witch had landed a few good hits, Bella's cheek had a bleeding cut and her sleeve was torn and arm oozing blood. The cutting hex that Molly had thrown had hit the other woman quite badly, but Bella wasn't about to let that stop her.
For a moment, Snape's dark eyes scanned the room, but he didn't see what he had been hoping to find. The only glimpse of blonde hair belonged to Draco.
Hermione appeared in Snape's line of vision and the man was surprised to see the witch fight with vigour. Her wand moved with a certain grace, her spells never missed the intended mark and Snape was even more shocked to see the young witch use dark and deadly spells no innocent Gryffindor would never even dare to say out loud. The girl had become a serious and lethal witch with a vast array of curses at her disposal.
"Is that Granger?" Barty, who was close enough to Snape, asked with a grin. "Luce didn't hold back when teaching her. She's good."
The girl in question was working her arse off to hold back a nameless wizard who had tried to hit her with an Entrail-Expelling Curse. The man was driving her towards the open field in the courtyard. The courtyard had its fair share of fighting wizards and witches, but she was focused on the fight in front of her. She saw Tonks and Fred from the corner of her eye, both with their own wizard to duel with. It was strange, Hermione thought. The Order had vast numbers, more than she thought possible with the constant danger. The Light Side, or as they claimed, was equipped with former Aurors, wizards and witches who were half-bloods or less. All of them afraid of Voldemort's reign. Hermione recognised Cedric's dad and many more who had supported Dumbledore. Yet they were vicious and there was anger in their eyes. Anger that was filled by lies most likely. It was wrong of her to blame those people, but at the same time, she had to repel spell after spell that was aimed at her. They had all made a choice and now they had to live by it or die because of it.
Hermione vaguely heard someone calling her name, but she couldn't turn her eyes away from the man firing curses at her. Before she knew it, someone had cast a Protego over her, blocking someone's spell. With a quick flash of green, the man who had duelled her was dead on the ground.
"I was handling it, you know." said Hermione, but her glare turned softer and she said with a small smile. "Thank you."
Lucius was about to say something but had to cast another Shield Charm when someone shot a jet of red towards them.
"We're like sitting ducks out here." Hermione said, but then something caught her eye and she half-growled and half-gasped. "Is that Harry? That idiot...I'm going to kill him when get back to the manor."
"Potter can take care of himself." Lucius shrugged.
It was indeed Harry, who had slipped out of the Manor, ignoring Tom's orders. He had managed to get inside the castle, but tried to avoid seeing Tom. He had no such luck and ran into the man when he came down the stairs like fury descending. He flicked away attacks with his wrist, an easy task for the Dark Lord. When he saw Harry, he narrowed his crimson eyes and pinned Harry with them. "I see you decided to disobey me."
"Did you honestly think that I was going to sit at home?"
Reaching the bottom of the staircase, Tom grabbed the teen by his arm and dragged him along, Many of the Order members and their supporters recognized Harry and it spread like wildfire. In their eyes, Voldemort had Potter and the Saviour couldn't help them now. Tom made no move to release Harry from his hold, no matter how much the teen protested.
The courtyard seemed almost silent as Tom walked into the midst of it all. Harry saw Draco holding Ron at wand point, the blonde's expression was victorious and Ron couldn't stop snarling at the blonde. His eyes briefly met Harry's and the green-eyed teen was surprised to see open hate in Ron's gleaming eyes. He couldn't remember the boy who he had met all those years ago, he couldn't even feel bad for not feeling any sympathy towards the youngest Weasley boy. It just left him numb.
Seeing their enemy with their believed saviour stilled the battle. A number of people fled upon seeing Voldemort, though he wasn't the hideous creature people had whispered him to be. Yet he injected more fear with his cold and handsome features than with scaly skin. Of course Tom loved the terror he induced, the frightened looks he received.
"Your precious Saviour isn't coming to your aid. There is no victory for the Light, nothing to be gained by fighting against what has already happened. You have fought in vain, with false hope and under the delusions of triumph which is nothing more than a figment of truth." the Dark Lord spoke, his voice echoing around the courtyard and reaching each and every wizard and witch. People were wearing defeated expressions, tired and sore from fighting against someone they all knew was far too powerful to beat. What they harboured in their hearts was a flimsy shred of hope that perhaps they could restore peace. "I am a merciful lord. Cease resistance and I shall grant you all a quiet existence and a place in this new era. There is no point in fighting against me, I am far more lenient with my allies than with my enemies."
Harry noticed a few lowering their wands, some were looking contemplative.
"Why should any of us believe you?" someone from the crowd shouted. Similar questions were asked by a few others, all wanting to know why they should believe a word of a Dark Lord.
"I am a man of my word, I do not lie." Tom said, his voice even and with no hints of anger.
Harry spoke, attempting to help Tom. "Look, no one can blame you for not trusting the word of Lord Voldemort "
He wasn't allowed to finish, Ron's protest interrupted him."How can you stand there and do nothing? You were supposed to kill him, but you're a coward because you ran. He killed your parents, but instead of doing what you were meant to do, you're siding with him. It's what you were meant for, what good are you now if you can't even do what you were told. You've gone Dark."
Draco, tiring of the redhead's rant, kicked him in the gut. Ron was already on his knees and groaned when the blonde's hit made contact.
"I didn't go Dark just for the fun of it, it was a choice I made after learning the truth. You only needed a weapon, none of you cared about me, only what I could do for you. I was meant to die for the lot of you, but none of you asked me if I wanted to sacrifice myself. All of you placed your hope in a teenager, a broken and inexperienced teenager who no one cared about until you needed me to do something. You all believed me to be a liar and just an attention seeking brat or that miserable orphan boy who brought everyone unnecessary trouble. I have found more understanding and certainty with the people you call Dark than with those who called themselves my friends and family. You all followed Dumbledore blindly, as if the sun shone out from his arse. The entire Order consists of trained wizards and witches, but they let kids do their dirty work. There is no longer a war to win, it's all over."
Tom couldn't help himself and pulled Harry closer, tightly against his side. They were equals and Tom wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around the teen and snog him senseless. His arm did sneak around Harry's waist and he felt the boy lean into his side.
Molly Weasley, who had been stunned by Bill earlier, had entered the courtyard as well, her eyes immediately zoomed in on Harry. " Harry, what are you doing?"
"He's gone Dark, Mum." Ron shouted.
"That can't be true. Harry wouldn't do that to us, Albus said he has to vanquish You-Know-Who." Molly spluttered. Then she saw Fred and George standing nearby, both Bill and Charlie had their wands trained on Kingsley. She saw Hermione with Lucius, the girl wasn't bothered by the fact that she was standing side by side with a Death Eater. Molly saw Severus, the wizard smirking at her with something cruel shadowing his expression. Anger rose in Molly and she screamed, "Why are you all just standing there? Bill...Charlie...What are you doing?"
"Mum, shut up." Charlie said. "You'll get yourself killed."
"How dare you, Charlie Weasley. I'm your mother, do not disrespect me."
Tom flicked his wand and the woman's voice caught in her throat. She was red-faced and shouting, but nothing came out. Harry shot a thankful look towards Tom and said quietly. "She has a talent for giving people headaches."
Addressing the crowd who was standing motionlessly and with confused expressions, Tom said. "Either accept this, accept my rule and authority, or face the consequences of treason which you will be committing if you do not consent to my terms in this new world we are creating. The choice is fairly simple."
Harry watched Lee Jordan and Oliver Wood lower their wands, both looking curious. Harry hadn't even known they were in the Order, but they had recruited a lot of new members during the last few months. The Order members who had stayed were looking around among each other, trying to decide if it was better to join this new regime or die for the old.
Aside from Kingsley, Molly and three of Kingsley's cronies, most lowered their wands and just stood with confusion and fear reflecting in their eyes and stance. McGonagall and the other teachers were standing on the steps. Mad-Eye wanted to have a few strong words with Kingsley, but he could wait a while longer. The battle was over, everyone waited for the Dark Lord's next move with bated breath.
"I will take your surrender as a sign of compliance." Tom said and added with a more sharper tone. "Those who wish to leave, may do so. Go home and forget all notions of resistance. There is only one side. I have far better things to do than hunt down your families and fill my dungeons with rebels."
It didn't surprise anyone when half of the keen Order members and their allies took off. They were just puppets and Tom had no real interest in killing them, he was willing to let them live their lives. But he had plans for the leaders of the pesky organisation that had been a thorn in his side for years. Harry detangled himself from Tom and gave him a tired smile. He knew that he wasn't off the hook for disobeying Tom, but the man had other things to deal with. Mainly Kingsley and then McGonagall.
The Great Hall was made into a makeshift infirmary. Both sides had lost no more than three people. A few Death Eaters Tom didn't know by name and didn't mourn. No one of importance had died and that's what mattered to the Dark Lord.
Bellatrix was checking the twins over like a worried mother hen, the sight of it making Harry snort and a bit glad that they had taken Molly, Ron and the rest of the Order members into a secure classroom. The Weasley Matriarch would have spluttered and gone a horrible shade of purple.
Rabastan and Rodolphus were chatting with Bill and Tonks, Severus was tending to Draco's arm that had a rather nasty looking graze running from his elbow to his wrist. He kept wincing as Snape examined it, making both Fred and George fidget. At some point they couldn't stand so far away and escaped Bella. Draco looked positively glowing as the two started fussing over him, even though he tried to keep a cool and detached expression, it was obvious that he was happy to see the redheads.
Just a few feet away, Hermione was sitting on one of the benches. She had a small gash on her temple and a forming bruise near her collarbone, but she looked to be in no pain. Lucius appeared with a cup of something steaming and Hermione took it with no hesitation. There was this strange protectiveness both displayed. It was funny how such a small amount of time could forge a friendship. An odd and very unlikely alliance, but Harry had no reason to complain. His best friend was obviously content and he had no room to judge since he had forged a far more intimate relationship with Voldemort of all people.
"Harry, you alright?"
The green-eyed teen turned to see Charlie standing behind him. The dragon tamer was looking relatively unscathed, aside from his shirt that was torn from various places.
"I'm fine." the teen replied.
Charlie gave the Great hall a look and said. "I'm not sure Hogwarts is ready to start a new year. There's quite a lot of damage that needs to be fixed before students arrive."
"How long do you think it would take? To fix everything." Harry asked.
"Three or four weeks maybe, but I'm just guessing here." the redhead shrugged. "The courtyard is a mess and some of the towers too. The insides are mostly intact, the Great Hall not so much, but none of the classrooms are out of order. Tonks said that they had to blast away some walls in the dungeon where the teachers had been held."
Harry sighed. "Tom's not going to like this."
"I heard you sneaked out after being told to stay home." Charlie grinned.
"Bloody twins." the teen groaned.
The Headmistress of Hogwarts was tired; wary of what waited ahead and weary from what was behind her. He office housed wizards she did not trust and had always considered her enemies, the schools enemies since she didn't want any part in the war and only wanted to protect the place she loved most. Now she was unsure in her beliefs and everything she had known.
Barty Crouch Junior had somehow escaped the Kiss and was standing before her as the new Minister for Magic. She was afraid to think what would become of Hogwarts now that Voldemort and his forces had secured their victory. The scroll in her hands was burning and she dared not open it.
"You have to open it at some point, there is no need to delay what will undoubtedly happen." Barty said, his tone smooth and professional. "You will find all twelve signatures belonging to the members of the new Board of Governors. Decisions that affect Hogwarts and its staff will now be made by the Board and the Ministry."
McGonagall unwrapped the parchment and fear filled her as she read the lines. She was helpless and Hogwarts was slipping into the hands of Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort himself. She found the signatures of all the school governors, each and every one of them approved by the Wizengamot. She knew that it was all legal. Minerva almost let out a humourless laugh when she saw the elegant script belonging to Lucius Malfoy, the head of the board.
The witch was silent. No words left her and Barty was getting worried that the old witch had been shocked out of her mind. He stepped back from the desk when Tom stood and walked over to the window. The wizard spoke. "I know this school means a great deal to you, to all of the teachers here. Hogwarts is mine now, this Ministry sanction is only a formality. Hogwarts will be going through some adjustments."
McGonagall raised her worried eyes upon hearing the news she had been dreading. "You plan to ban Muggle-borns from Hogwarts."
"No, I was advised to change my more radical views." Tom said to calm the witch. "Miss Granger is very vocal about her beliefs, it would be rather hard to keep Muggle-borns away from this place. I fear she might start a new war if I tried. It is no secret that Dumbledore allowed Hogwarts to become a disgrace, a school that taught wizards and witches how to be more like Muggles. I will purge this place from all that nonsense." said Tom and produced a few sheets of parchment. Handing it to the woman, he continued, "This is the new curriculum. Approved by the Board of Governors. It was a joint effort of many, but mostly put together by Miss Granger and Lucius Malfoy."
Minerva read through the new subjects and lists of improvements that were going to take place. She had a hard time believing that Hermione Granger would consent to being anywhere near a Malfoy, but she had witnessed the friendly interaction between the two just before she had been asked to accompany the two wizards into her office.
"Nothing will change, at least not drastically." Tom said. "Hogwarts will be a school that will teach all aspects of magic, there won't be a difference between Light and Dark. I won't tolerate any kind of prejudice. I will give everyone a choice, if they choose to remain then I will allow it. There will be a new Head of Hogwarts of course. I heard from Severus that the school chooses the Headmaster or Headmistress, neither you nor Dumbledore have the school's blessing."
Minerva was about to say something when there was a knock on the door. Harry peered inside and asked. "Am I interrupting?"
"Would you care if you were?" Tom retorted.
"Not really." Harry came in and shut the door. "Could you give us a minute, Tom? You promised that you would let me talk to Professor McGonagall."
Tom raised a brow. "I am inclined to break my promises to you when I've been defied."
"Do you really want to have this conversation now?" inquired Harry.
"Fine." Tom sighed and dragged a hand over his face in frustration. "I will pay a visit to my prisoners."
Harry stopped Tom before he could slip out of the door. "Try to control yourself and don't kill them. At least keep Molly Weasley in one piece, she's still the mother of five of your supporters."
"Offensive woman." Tom grimaced. "I'll cast another silencing charm if she gets on my nerves."
"That's all I ask." Harry smiled lightly and gave the man a soft kiss, making Tom want to throttle the teen.
Closing the door, Harry leaned against it. McGonagall was silent but she was just too bewildered to actually speak. The teen in front of her was one of her lions, she had watched him grow from a small gangly boy to a teenager who was no longer a child. She had never approved of the boy's treatment, she had lost her trust in Albus with each incident that had placed the boy in harm's way. The boy's Muggle family couldn't even take care of a house-cat, let alone a small child. Minerva had never believed that the boy was safe and she had been right, each year something had happened to Harry and his friends.
"What am I going to do with you, Mister Potter?"
"Hopefully forgive me for abandoning the Light." Harry said, letting the witch see his worried expression. "I didn't exactly plan on it, you know. But the Order changed after Dumbledore's death. Suddenly, I was just a means to kill Voldemort and I had no other use. Snape told me the truth everyone else kept from me, about the real meaning of the prophecy and about Dumbledore's plans to have me die in the end. He never told me the things I needed to know, he just told me things that would make me want to sacrifice myself. I had already lost so much and I was one step away from depression. It's not a nice feeling, finding out that you're just a pawn in a game Dumbledore had no intention to lose. The Order did everything they could to keep me locked up."
Minerva knew that they were wrong to use Harry. She said. "You abandoned no one, it seems we abandoned you. Albus had no right to take your childhood from you, to force you into this war. How could anyone believe that a child could be a match to a wizard who wields magic like no other. An enemy with vast knowledge and power, and our only chance of beating him was a child. We were all fools; Albus in his meddling and twisted sense of greater good and the rest of us in our blind faith in Albus. I can only hope that you forgive me, Harry, for never putting a stop to this madness before it was too late."
"You had no reason to doubt Dumbledore."
"I had many reasons to mistrust him, but I chose to ignore my own suspicions."
Harry pushed away from the door and took a seat across from the woman. "I would rather not talk about Dumbledore. I'm not here because of purely selfless reasons, I actually wanted to talk to you about Voldemort. He is different from what you may remember, he isn't a mindless killer. His sanity was affected by his resurrection and by something I can't tell you, but he is better now. He truly wants to make the wizarding world a better place. It sounds unoriginal, I know, but he plans to restore rights for werewolves like Remus. And teach Muggle-borns our customs and our ways, not the other way around. He has Hermione in his team, that wouldn't have happened if he was still a lunatic obsessed with blood purity. I support his ideas and plans with Hogwarts. I trust him."
"What about the prophecy?"
"We made a vow." Harry told the woman. "Both of us will forget the prophecy and neither will ever try to kill the other. If either of tries to break the vow, we face the consequences."
Minerva wasn't sure what to believe at that point. "I can't bring myself to believe any of this, but I have no other choice than to trust you."
"Everything will fall into place if you give it time. It's one of those things you need to see in order to believe."
"And is it true about the Weasley boys?" asked the witch. "Fred and George were always inclined to cause trouble, but the older ones?"
"Bill supports me and Charlie was already Dark when I chose to leave the Order. Fred and George supported me as well, now they have other reasons. They are both being mentored by Bellatrix Lestrange and the Lestrange brothers. Hermione was ready to follow me wherever I ended up going and she supports the choices I have made, even if she doesn't fully understand them. Ginny is much the same."
McGonagall asked. "What of Arthur?"
"He's staying with us in Voldemort's manor. Turns out Molly had him under the Imperius for the past few years. He's resting at the moment, Ginny is with him."
"I never expected such a thing from Molly, but appearances can be deceiving as I have come to understand." said the elderly witch. "Am I to understand that it was Severus who helped you distance yourself from the Order?"
Harry snorted. "Not exactly, but he did help me see things for what they really were. An unexpected ally, so to speak."
"He played his role rather well, had us all believe that he was firmly Light." Minerva said with an annoyed huff. She had thought that Severus was her friend, she had been very upset after finding out that Severus had been the one who cast the curse that ended Dumbledore's life. "He was a spy all these years."
"He was only loyal to one Master, to the Dark Lord." Harry smirked. "He did try to protect me, even though he wasn't that fond of me, but he never stopped being loyal to Voldemort."
They sat in silence for a while, Minerva thinking about everything she had seen and heard over the past few days.
Harry asked. "How did Kingsley know about the Slytherin dungeon under the common rooms?"
"I have no idea. He knew to cast the Disillusionment Charm before appearing before the portrait of the drake. Albus once spoke of the prison cells under the school, perhaps he shared that information with Shacklebolt."
"It doesn't matter, Kingsley won't be alive much longer." said the teen, making Minerva scowl. "I won't stop Tom. It's his business what he does with people who irritate him."
"Will you be returning to Hogwarts?" asked the aged witch.
With a nod, Harry said. "Of course, I still have my Seventh Year to finish. The Order is mostly gone now, there's no one chasing after me and no one is stopping me if that's why you're asking. Tom doesn't treat me as a follower, I'm not one of his Death Eaters. We're equals."
While hard to believe, Minerva found herself trusting the young wizard sitting before her. She would give it time and hopefully learn to work together with former foes.