The Games They Play
An hour later after being given his orders, Kreacher popped back into Severus' quarters, where only two people currently occupied it. The large frame was floating in mid-air in front of the House-elf, obscuring him from view completely, so small he was compared to the large picture frame. It didn't obscure Kreacher for long, who stepped aside from the frame, bowing to his Master, "The portrait you requested, Master," he answered, without the usual glum or disgust coating his voice. If anything Kreacher sounded quite happy at his success, as he should be.
"Thank you, Kreacher, you may return home now," Blake replied, giving the House-elf a small barely discernible smile. Showing the House-elf he was proud of him, he believed treating House-elves with kind intentions was a good thing, they were more loyal in the end, happier to serve. Dobby had proven that time and time again, and hopefully, he would get the chance to see what would become of Kreacher when treated right.
The portrait levitated towards the wall before Kreacher disappeared with a pop.
"How often have you actually been teaching Harry?" Severus asked as cups, sugar, milk, cream, biscuits on a large platter made its way through to the living room via Severus' magic. Speaking for the first time since Blake had suggested that Harry go do something before Dumbledore comes down, and he might with a meeting having happened the night before. He knew it happened at least once a week, but by what he had just seen…he suspected it was much more frequent than that. The duel had been quite spectacular, especially for a mock duel for a fifteen-year-old.
Even Filius would have been impressed and that was a wizard who had been involved in the dueling circuit for longer than two decades.
"You don't have anything stronger?" Blake asked, staring at the cups of coffee as if they had personally offended him.
"No," Severus denied, he wasn't going to let Blake drink not after perhaps getting a concussion, it may well end up covering shock, even if he doubted such a thing could actually send him into a shock. Better safe than sorry in his mind, so he was going to prevent, while he could at any rate, Blake from drinking.
Blake grumbled under his breath before accepting the coffee half-heartedly. "Thank you," remembering his manners.
Severus' lips twitched in amusement at the sight of what was probably a 'pout' on Blake's face.
"As you know, teaching someone one on one allows them to become quite…proficient and very quickly, especially going at their paces." Blake shrugged, sipping the coffee, before continuing, "It also helps that I know Harry, I know all the tricks that will help him learn at a brisk pace."
Severus nodded to concede the point.
"He's always been brilliant at Defence, he learned the Patronus charm with only what…perhaps nine lessons, I think, maybe a few more," Blake continued as if he wasn't speaking of himself. "Even most adults cannot produce a fully fledged patronus, so yeah, he's always been a prodigy at Defence. He was happy at being a mediocre student, he had nobody to will him to do better. He also learned very quickly that Granger became incensed when he did better and Weasley got jealous. He preferred to keep the status quo."
Severus' lip curled, the thought of anyone deciding to do less than their best when it came to their education was idiotic and that was him kindly phrasing it.
Blake laughed, "Yeah, I know what you're thinking, but we all do stupid things as children, don't you agree?" arching an eyebrow in Severus' direction.
Severus deflated, grudgingly nodding, "Indeed," listening to Black and going down to the Whomping Willow had been utterly stupid. As had joined the Dark Lord at the urging of his so-called 'friends', when in reality Lily had been his only friend and had seen what was happening when he'd been blinded to it. The ultimatum she'd given him…no doubt she'd expected him to come out of the funk he'd been in, but the opposite had happened, it had drug him further down into their hold.
"Anyway, I usually taught him two to three times a week, sometimes more, due to the fact working here had been a last minute decision, I thought I wouldn't have much time to teach him as much as possible. It's twice right now, scheduled in when we can do it, once at the weekend though." Blake finally answered Severus' question. "Phineas Black," he called out to the portrait, now it was a waiting game to see whether the wizard would show up - hopefully soon - he was too curious for his own good, especially for a Slytherin. He definitely had the attitude of one though, that's for damn certain.
"I assume you are going to continue them even after the Dark Lord has been defeated?" Severus summarised, and honestly, he wasn't surprised. He doubted people like himself or Blake would ever get out of the suspicious mindset, they would remain paranoid until the day they died.
"You know it," Blake replied immediately, pouring a little more milk into the coffee so he could drink it properly without scalding his tongue. Which he promptly did, "There will still be Death Eaters around, continuing their Lord's work, they will assume that he will come back again…he has quite managed to make them see him as…immortal due to the grandiose display he put on during his resurrection ritual."
"What is your so-called 'plan'?" Severus questioned, upon seeing the look he received, "Don't give me that look, you already have tentative plans made, I wasn't born yesterday," he informed him sardonically.
Blake smirked wryly, "Two actually, but I'm unsure of which would have the best overall results, for both myself and the magical world on whole." he finally confessed, his brow slightly furrowed, showing his confliction.
Severus stared blankly, surprised by the show of mental struggle that Blake was obviously experiencing. A lot of thought must have gone into this for him to actually be conflicted. He couldn't say he was surprised by the fact he had thought of at least two ideas to deal with the conflict, he and Blake were a lot alike and thought numerous scenarios to deal with an abundance of things. From everyday problems to more severe things such as any happenings that dealt with the Dark Lord. "I would be more than happy to lend an ear should you wish to discuss it," he said slowly, not one hundred percent certain that Blake would wish to share his ideas, although if experience had taught him anything lately when it came to Blake he seemed to relish the idea of having someone to talk to. He could only imagine how bleak the future had been for him that he took such solace from his presence.
Blake's dark jaded green eyes flicked towards Severus' own jaded black ones, narrowed in contemplation before a single nod showed that he had made up his mind.
"On one hand, having the duel in say Malfoy Manor would give at least a modicum of privacy so that the Dark Lord doesn't have…much in the way of using hostages or means of distraction. I can of course, after the duel, albeit if I survive, take his dead body back to the Ministry of magic and give them the pensive memory and it can be written about and probably dramatized to oblivion. Which can have one or two results, having the public terrified of me and thinking I could be the next Dark Lord or in awe of me, I actually prefer the latter especially if I want to accomplish what I need."
"Which is?" Severus asked, "The Muggles?" he guessed as the most likely culprit.
"Got it in one," Blake stated sharply, just remembering what it was like having both the Muggles and the Dark Lord and his legion of Death Eaters after one small group trying to stay ahead of both. "They technologic advance too much for most wizards to understand, even for wizard raised Half-Blood's."
"I cannot see how the outcome can be changed unless you sabotage their technology," Severus admitted pensively, it was rather concerning, to be honest. "Even then that may not work long term." it seemed inevitable that magic would be exposed by the things that have been described. It was enough to give him nightmares.
"Welcome to one of my many dilemmas," Blake replied cynically. His mind wasn't a pretty place to be at the best of times, and coming back should have eased his worries but the fact of the matter was…it had increased them significantly. He felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, he was just but one man, one wizard, as powerful as he may be, he wasn't omnipotent, he didn't know what to do for the best, and it weighed him down.
"And your second option?" Severus prompted a few moments later.
"Having it be a public spectacle, so that people will know what really happened and not the Ministry propaganda or the Prophet exaggerating is what they hear of what happened. It's an old practice, one that isn't done today, but with both of us having founders blood…it's conceivable that I can use the ritual and force the Dark Lord to participate in a duel."
Severus' eyebrows rose in shock, "Lest he loses his magic,"
"If he fails to show he will indeed lose his magic," Blake confirmed. The ritual would make it seem as though he was issuing the challenge right in front of him, but it will be a mere shade, a projection if you like.
"But on the downside, he has people who he can use as protection," Severus mused thoughtfully, and as cold and emotionally distant Blake seemed, he would never see an innocent hurt if he could help it. That was the one thing that hadn't changed in both Harry and Blake from what he could see. "There are barriers that can be erected, I'm sure Filius would know dozens, they use them during the championship dueling tournament. They certainly seem to keep everyone safe from stay hexes and curses."
"Ah, but they don't use the Unforgivable Curses," Blake pointed out wryly, and they both knew from experience that the Dark Lord certainly loved those spells above all others.
Severus grimaced, as his cheeks went a little red in embarrassment at his insipid oversight, and it was a stupid bloody oversight, especially for a man of his intelligence and smarts.
"You called?" drawled a voice causing both men to flinch, fingers drawn to their wands before it dawned on them, Phineas Black. The wizard was watching them with a narrowed look, unable to fully conceal his curiosity at them.
Blake leaned back, shooting Phineas a calculating speculative look. "How would you describe your connection to Hogwarts, your bond if you will while you were Headmaster?"
Severus shot Blake a look, suspecting that Blake actually knew or had a theory as to what had happened and why.
"Now why would you want to know that?" Phineas questioned suddenly looking bored, their defacto settings when they were actually truly curious.
Blake chuckled in genuine amusement, tapping the end of the sofa arms, just waiting the Headmaster out.
"Well?" he drawled, trying to sound bored but it came out more frustrated than he probably liked.
"I'll tell you what, if you answer all my questions…I'll tell you something about your current dear old Headmaster that not many others know." Blake bargained, 'Got ya' he thought seeing those grey eyes flaring in sadistic amusement.
"Alright, you have my attention," Phineas acknowledged. "What do you want to know?"
"Has Hogwarts ever communicated with you in any way, using pictures as a way of communicating what she wants, even with the best of mental shields at your disposal?" Blake commanded.
Shock appeared on Phineas' face, "Once, to both myself and the Hogwarts healer at the time, Healer Walsh,"
"What were the circumstances?" it was Severus who spoke this time, deeply curious.
"A student was grievously injured in the greenhouse, stupidly and willfully disobeying the professor's orders, but that's Gryffindors for you," Phineas said derisively.
"Who was the student?" Blake enquired.
"Armando Dippet," Phineas answered, wondering once more at the way the questions were being asked.
"It seems Hogwarts is more than just a little sentient," Blake said, a smug look on his face.
"Meaning?" Severus questioned cautiously.
"It looks like you're still set to become the Headmaster of Hogwarts, its no coincidence that Hogwarts herself has come to the aid of two of the future Headmasters Hogwarts will or ever had." Blake quietly explained, the smirk never leaving his face. "I…honestly don't think that meeting happened before, in fact, it cannot have since he had nothing to concern himself with regarding Nagini…" he felt extremely guilty for it.
Phineas was clearly trying to listen to the two wizards and failing to hear what was being said judging by the annoyed frown crossing his features.
Severus grimaced and rubbed the back of his neck.
"I'm still slightly baffled as to why she chose me…Dumbledore was at the school last night, wasn't he?" Blake spoke loud enough for Phineas to hear this time. "There is no way he would risk his spy…not unless…he thought he was compromised…" swallowing thickly, definitely his fault then.
"He remained in the school, he didn't leave his office until two am even then it was straight to bed." Phineas imparted.
Blake sighed tiredly, pinching the bridge of his nose, "Perhaps I was a bit too hopeful that he would wait for the curse on the job to do its business. I can scarcely believe he would risk his spy just on the off chance…" exasperated beyond belief. He shouldn't have underestimated just how strongly Dumbledore would feel against him and Severus being friends.
"You're looking too much into this," Severus pointed out, "We have no idea if Hogwarts even showed Dumbledore anything." he wasn't just trying to give Dumbledore the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Hogwarts just didn't trust Dumbledore, and thus did not inform him of what happened. He couldn't believe he was living in a world where that damn sentence made sense.
"Dumbledore didn't pause from working at all, so if he saw anything he didn't give any subtle indications," Phineas told them, with a negligent wave of his hand. "When it happened to me I stood up so fast my head and the chair was spinning."
Blake nodded in agreement, it was very disconcerting at the time, but once he accepted it, accepted her the feeling did fade.
"Agreed," he pursed his lips in thought, perhaps he was right in his decision to take Voldemort out then focus on Dumbledore instead of waiting. Without Voldemort then the Ministry and the public wouldn't have any qualms about deriding Dumbledore. They all would focus on the fact Hogwarts, their children, the future was safe with Dumbledore under her roof. They wouldn't want to do too much to him for fear of the possible retribution that may occur.
"You've come to a decision," Severus deduced, seeing the subtle relaxing of Blake's shoulders as if a weight had been taken off him.
"I have," Blake confirmed Severus' deductions.
Severus glanced at Phineas and held his questions in, there was no way either were going to discuss their plans with a Slytherin in the room. Or rather should he say an unrelated to the situation Slytherin who may take advantage of the situation? No doubt he was already deeply curious about what was going on as it stood without adding more fuel to the fire.
"Well, what's this about Dumbledore that nobody else knows?" Phineas demanded, he wanted the juicy titbits and he deserved them. "A deal is a deal," he added when Blake didn't open his mouth immediately.
Blake just grinned ferally, leaned forward and told him about Dumbledore's past that he kept so tightly guarded.
Severus just listened in amusement, Blake was having too much fun with all this information. He was impatient, he wanted to know what Blake had decided, so he couldn't wait until the conversation was over so they could talk privately.
Thankfully Phineas was too shocked at the information he was receiving to ask too many questions and thus making the conversation that much longer.
There we go! another chapter and I am sorry about those who were excited about Voldemort surviving in this one...I just couldn't get the muse to cooperate...perhaps if I had made the war more about the Muggles than Voldemort and 'Blake' it may have been possible but I'm definitely not going back and editing it...so if you really want to see a sane Tom and a Tom/Harry relationship that's a story of mine you can read Lord Of Time which is probably next on my update list! R&R please