AN: Thanks again to all those reviewing regularly! For all the short reviews (Each time I read the "FAN" from SoulMore I simply have to smile!) and for all the long and insightful ones! Thanks to everyone who writes reviews almost every chapter! (Rori Potter, DarkRavie, Riddle-Snape, sunsethill, Hektols, randomplotbunny, atymer, Sailor Pandabear... and all you countless others!) And to everyone that writes one at all!

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For your convenience ;)

It is Monday the 25th of September

The adoption took place on the 11th of July

So it has been roughly two and a half months since the adoption.

oooOOooo

Rising Tension

Rabastan made his way back from the shower in the attached bath to the room he shared with his younger brother. The house his Lord had acquired as Headquarters was quite nice. It clearly had been the house of a wealthy pureblood family. The number of rooms with attached bathrooms attested to the fact that it had been intended either for a big family or as a place to house quite a few guests.

Rubbing his hair dry – he had to conserve his magical strength for the exercises they would start later that day – he walked over to his bed, while his brother got up to take his turn in the bath.

They both were taking extra care this morning, as they would be meeting with their father soon.

Rabastan took up the trousers and shirt laid out on his bed and started to dress. While he listened to the water from the shower next door, the haggard wizard tried to get some semblance of order into the information he had so far gathered.

Somewhere his father had found a girl to replace him as heir. Somehow he was happy that the family would not die with him and his brother. He would have expected to be angry about being replaced seemingly so easily. But there was hardly a chance that either Rodolphus or he had any children they didn't know about, or were to have any children in the future.

After all, Rabastan was rather sure he never had fathered a child. He had always been careful, and he did prefer wizards over witches beside that. Because of that fact – leaving aside that he was a convicted criminal and now an escaped felon – it was unlikely he would father a child anytime soon.

Starting to button up the nice shirt – the style was a much better fit than the one he had found in that muggle house they had used as a hiding spot – Rabastan once more remembered with fondness the fact that his father had never pressured him into marrying early. Under the influence of the Dementors, he always had remembered the summer he finally had realized that, while he certainly was attracted to women, the attraction to his own gender was much greater. He had been devastated over his fears of either failing in his duties to his family, or being shackled to a woman for the rest of his life.

Now that he was away from that horrible place, he could clearly remember his father's reaction and the reassurances that he had time, and that a child of his brother's could be appointed heir if Rabastan should never find a woman accepting of his tastes.

Shortly after that, Rodolphus had graduated and married almost at the same time. Rabastan had been relieved and had continued with his escapades and his service to the Dark Lord. He really hoped that his Lord would have a task for him, even though he could never be seen in public again.

Shrugging into the dark blue robe as the last piece of clothing, Rabastan turned to watch his brother walk out of the bath, dripping water all over the floor. He always had been the messier of the two.

"We'll meet down in the kitchen?" They had been told the previous evening that they would get their meals in the kitchen, and that Healer Greengrass would be by again to conduct more thorough exams.

Rodolphus nodded his head, "I will hurry. Do you know where we will meet with Father?"

"Not yet, brother. I guess we probably will meet here, in this house. It would be the safest solution," Rabastan answered, before he opened the door and walked down towards the stairs. He was rather hungry by now, and the delicious smells of fresh tea, freshly baked bread, and hot bacon drew him down to the kitchen and the others already there.

ooOoo

"A hot bath! Really, I was dreaming of taking a hot bath while sipping on a glass of elf-wine. And I think that is precisely what I will be taking after breakfast: a bath!" Mulciber almost shouted animatedly from the other end of the table. The mood was generally a happy one, now that they were back in a wizarding house, surrounded by magic, eating dishes they had not had in ages.

Not one of them was really affected by the fact that three of their ranks had been killed the night before, just because Bellatrix had lost it.

Rabastan glanced over at his brother. And it didn't seem as if his brother was particularly bothered by the fact that his wife was currently forced to stay in her room, her wand – or rather, the one she had taken from the lowly wizard on the island – confiscated by their Lord. But maybe that was not really so surprising. It had been years since the both of them had given up hope of having a child, and the witch had turned her back on her husband. Rabastan was fairly certain that she had made her way through the ranks of the Death Eaters, and that she had used her looks to help recruitment for their Lord.

He certainly could understand the other's resentment towards his wife.

Just as he was draining his second cup of excellent tea, the door opened, and the imposing figure of Xerxes Lestrange came in. He wore robes of high quality and had a bag floating behind him. His eyes roved over the assembled wizards, who were all looking at the one standing in the doorway.

Both Rabastan and Rodolphus stood and made their way over to their father. Short greetings were exchanged, and they left the room.

When they finally reached a small parlor, Xerxes cast a silencing ward on the room, and enveloped his sons – one after the other – in hugs, only to give them two more right after.

"I'm so happy that you two are safe now. I was worried sick when I heard of your escape." Rabastan could see the relief in his father's eyes and smiled. Seeing him again after all these years was a wonderful feeling.

"We have seen that there is a Lestrange Heiress now, father," Rodolphus asked, curious and smiling. "How came that to be?"

They sat down near the fireplace and their father started to tell the story.

"It all began when Marvolo adopted Henry to get the Slytherin Lordship," their father began, prompting Rabastan to look over to his brother, mouthing "Marvolo?" with wide eyes, only to get a shrug in response.

The brothers listened with rapt attention as their father told about his sister – they had known they had an aunt, but up till now they had not heard much more – and her son. That this son had married, and that their sole daughter was a witch, now going to Hogwarts in the same year as the adopted son of their Lord.

It was a fantastical tale. Of lost lines originating from Squibs cast from their families, of Muggles and a young, intelligent witch and her insatiable thirst for knowledge.

"I have met the Grangers. Polite and cultured people. They have studied to achieve something that equates with a Healer's Mastery. They are successful with their own business, caring for teeth… I'm glad I took the risk to meet with them, because I have learned so much about the life of Dorcas. And they have been really helpful in planning the school I have founded."

It was hours later before Rabastan and Rodolphus said farewell to their father and went up back to their room to be examined like the rest of the escapees.

While the Healer set up the ritual around him, placing the runestones on his chest and hands, Rabastan thought about everything father had told him.

Hermione was quite intelligent and willing to learn everything needed to fit in with her world. That was promising. She might have been born to people without magic, but she was willing to learn and adapt. What their father had told them about the Dark Lord's plans and the reasons for them was quite another matter. It was a little hard to wrap his head around. Especially because there was not really a place for them in those plans. Their father no longer needed them to continue the family. In fact, they could not go home, because the heiress had promised the heir Longbottom that the House of Lestrange would not give shelter to him and his brother.

Only the reassurance that their first priority for now would be to get well again helped Rabastan to lay his doubts and fears to rest.

No need to worry unnecessarily, after all.

At least not at the moment. He sighed and closed his eyes.

oooOOooo

Walking with purposeful steps to the floo room in Malfoy Manor, Lucius checked one more time that the stack of parchment scrolls and folders was tidy under his arm. He was nervous as he had not been for a while now when on his way to face his Lord.

But his lovely, easily irritated – he was sure he must have asked someone to obliviate him after Draco had been born, because he had no recollection of such behaviour from her – wife insisted that she wanted to see and speak with her sister. So it fell to Lucius to ask his Lord for this favour. The blond wizard was not sure it was such a good idea. Neither to ask his Lord for this meeting, nor to allow his wife to go and meet Bellatrix.

By what he had seen the day before, Bellatrix Lestrange had no restraint left. She would curse anyone denying her something she wanted to have, whoever said something she didn't want to hear was in danger from her. With maybe the exception of the Dark Lord.

Thinking of the man – one last time checking his appearance in the full-length mirror – Lucius wondered why Bella had not been cursed after she had killed three of them, three of the Dark Lord's followers, through her careless actions.

Not having a reason for dawdling further, Lucius took a pinch of floo-powder from the ornate silver box with golden inlays sitting on the mantle, throwing it into the flames. Stepping into the now green-glowing fire, Lucius called out "Gryffin House" and was whirled away.

ooOoo

Marvolo stood waiting for Lucius, who would come to prepare for those other Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot who would be meeting at his home today. By what he had been told by Xerxes and Lucius, these meetings before actual sessions of the Wizengamot were the place where the actual work happened.

Groups of people close in political views would come together, trying to convince each other to vote for laws or against them. Most of the time, the host and his – or her – allies would invite a small number of those opposed to them, offer refreshments, and begin arguing.

It seemed the art of this was to know who to invite. One would not want to offer a stage and opportunity for one opposed to what should be lobbied at the meeting, so staunch opponents were usually not invited.

And as Marvolo had been out of the loop – so to speak – for some time, Lucius was coming over early to help him get a feel for those that would be by later in the afternoon.

The fire suddenly changed colour to a vibrant green, and Lucius stepped out of the flames in his usual elegance, an alarmingly big pile of paperwork under one arm.

They exchanged short greetings – a polite nod from Marvolo and a deeper bow from Lucius – and started to walk over the short way to the formal reception room. "Is all this paperwork needed for today?"

Lucius inclined his head. "Sadly, it is, my Lord. The next session is the budgetary session we have this time of year, every year. Deciding which departments will receive what amount of money is a great influence on the direction the Ministry will be taking for the next year. But with all the money and bookkeeping involved, it is maybe the most tedious session of all."

They sat down in two nice armchairs, Lucius placing the papers on the table between them. In those few moments Marvolo noticed the small tremor in the man's hands, the signs of perspiration on the aristocratic face, and the nervous glimmer in the blue-grey eyes.

Marvolo pursed his lips. "What is the matter, Lucius?" He was sure that he sounded irritated, but didn't really care. He was irritated.

The blond wizard swallowed, before taking a fortifying breath. "My wife wants to speak with her sister, my Lord. She insists I ask you for permission to visit her." At the end Lucius had bowed his head in submission, waiting for the verdict, or a curse to hit him.

Marvolo sighed. "You think it wise to let Narcissa anywhere near Bella? Bella's state of mind, and with your wife expecting…" he trailed off. It was not exactly acceptable, speaking of pregnancy this early.

Lucius nodded, not daring to raise his eyes to meet his Lord's red gaze.

"You have my permission to take Narcissa to Headquarters, and for her to visit with her sister. Be sure to keep Narcissa safe. And Bellatrix is not to leave her room!" Marvolo took up the topmost piece of paperwork. "Go now, Lucius," he dismissed his Death Eater. "I will read what you have brought me in the meantime."

As commanded, Lucius rose from the chair, bowed, and left without another word while Marvolo started to read the file he had grabbed from the top. He had a lot to read before those people would be visiting.

ooOoo

Narcissa was nervous as she landed beside her husband in a house that had a decidedly gloomy feel to it. In a way the décor – discounting the places on the wall where portraits had been taken down – was familiar, and it took her all the way down a corridor to piece together that this must once have been a house belonging to the Black family.

"How did the Dark Lord manage to get this house, Lucius?" she whispered, curious and willing to take every opportunity for a distraction.

"He never said, love. But ever since he attained a public face, we've been called here." They took another flight of stairs up to another floor, and another hall with doors on both sides. The long dark runner in the middle of the hall had seen better days, and Narcissa delicately lifted the skirt of her dress as well as the hem of her robe. Had the Dark Lord no house elf able to clean this house up?

They stopped before a door that looked no different, to Narcissa's eyes, from those on both sides. Seeing the dark, brooding look on Lucius' lovely face made Narcissa's heart clench. She had almost called him back this morning when she had seen the spark of fear at her plea to see her sister. But she needed to see Bellatrix. They had been so close once. And then Narcissa had been expected Draco, and her sister had distanced herself. The blonde could not let this stand. She had lost one sister to an unsuitable marriage, and one to prison. Now here was a chance to get one of them back, and she just had to take it.

"I will not leave you alone with Bella, my love." He raised his hand to forestall her protests. "She killed three men last night with wild-flying spells, because she objected to the Healer's instructions. You will not be alone with her!"

Narcissa nodded in defeat – but she had to concede that this first meeting had best be with Lucius at her side – then followed her husband into the room.

Her eyes fell on what had to be Bellatrix. The witch hunched on the bed looked barely human. Her hair was badly matted – just looking at it made Narcissa's scalp itch with the thought of fleas and lice – her eyes sunken deep into her face, the skin pale and pasty. There was nothing left of her oldest sister's good looks, and the spark of insanity in her eyes hinted at a loss of personality as well.

"What are you doing here, Cissy? Here to belittle me like that blasted healer? Lucius, take me to our Lord! I will not let you keep me from serving the Dark Lord! I, who went to Azkaban for him! You denounced him, traitor!" The voice falling from those chapped lips, that once had been so wonderful, that had spoken soft words to a frightened little blonde girl during a severe thunderstorm…

It felt like a dagger had been thrust into Narcissa's heart. "Bella, I just wanted to see with my own eyes that you are free at last. Free from Azkaban. I have missed you so much, my only sister." Now she knew why Lucius had been so reluctant to grant her the wish of visiting her sister. His big, warm hand found hers, and they twined their fingers together.

With a heavy heart, she thought about a way to leave without setting the clearly mentally unstable witch off. Then the door was opened and the younger brother of Lord Greengrass stepped into the room, wand in hand.

Suddenly Bella jumped up from her bed, hands curled into claws, snarling at the wizard, who just stunned her with a silently cast Stupefy.

Lucius had dragged Narcissa by her arm out of harm's way and was now standing between her and her clearly passed-out sister.

"It seems that she has not gotten any better with one night of sleep," Healer Greengrass drawled, walking over to levitate the witch onto the bed. "Our Lord wants me to assess wether she is able to understand the consequences of her actions, or if she has lost the last of her sanity." The healer gestured for them to leave, and without a word Narcissa and Lucius left the room and the house. Glad to be away from the madness.

Back in the safety of their home, Narcissa turned to her husband, grabbed his robes, and buried her face in his chest. Silent tears slid down her face. Her sister was lost, she was sure of it. There only remained the question of wether the Dark Lord would kill her himself, or if he would cast her back to the Aurors to further his plans and make his public face more believable.

The strong arms of Lucius around her gave her something solid to hold onto, while she let herself grieve for the sister she had lost to the Dementors.

oooOOooo

Monday morning – before breakfast would begin – the four Heads of House met in the teachers' lounge for a first cup of tea – or coffee – and a little bit of plotting.

"I have not found any more of my students that have had detention with the toad," Severus started the exchange of information, sipping on his honey-sweetened coffee.

"I found two of my Gryffindors harmed. A first-year and a fifth-year. All others have valiantly resisted temptation and her baiting," Minerva added, a scowl etched on her face.

"Five of my Ravenclaws have been targeted by the toad," Filius growled, showing for all to see the fierceness of his goblin ancestors, normally deeply buried under his cheerfulness. That got him surprised looks. "They took exception to her not teaching anything useful. It is quite obvious that she suffers critique quite badly."

That had everyone nodding in agreement. They all had noticed that she was not receptive to any suggestions or ideas to organizing homework assignments, grades, or a lesson plan, shooting their experience down with an air of superiority.

"Quite a few of my Badgers had detention with… her. All in the first week. After that they started to avoid detention, but it seems she makes it hard. Changing rules and making up new ones, just so she can send someone to detention or at least take points," Pomona said, a sour expression on her face.

"Are all affected students agreeable to talking about what happened?" the Deputy Headmistress asked of her fellow Heads of House.

Nods all around were her answer.

"Good." She nodded herself, her stern bun preventing her hair from moving at all with the motion. "I will talk to Poppy so she can arrange for exams for all of them. Taking evidence. Filius," she turned to the Charms Professor, "if you would be so kind as to speak with the Aurors? I believe the Ravenclaws are the next group to be interrogated?" It came out as a question, because she really was not sure.

The short wizard nodded solemnly. "Of course, Minerva. I will inform them and ask what else they need from us, to speed up the process."

Minerva held out her hand, accepting the small scrolls with the names of the students subjected to the torturous methods of Dolores Umbridge. With a grim expression she stood from her seat. "Make sure that this goes no further than us. No need to give her time to prepare some sort of defence, or get rid of any evidence."

The others nodded in return, equally grim expressions on their faces. They were each quite different from one another, but one thing they all had in common: they guarded the students put under their care as fiercely as any parent would.

oooOOooo

"Mr. Slytherin, stay back for a moment," Severus spoke over the usual chattering and noise at the end of class, while the students gathered their belongings and cleared away their disastrous attempts at today's potion.

He watched, leaning back against his desk, while Slytherin sent his friends ahead of him, shouldering his bag and walking over to his teacher.

He noticed with satisfaction that the potions he was supplying for his Lord's heir were doing their work. The boy looked healthier than in past years, and he had grown another inch. Maybe the healer should re-evaluate the strength of the nutrient potion the boy was taking. He would suggest such the next time he had time to speak with the man.

Knowing that this would be the best opportunity to deliver the packet he had been carrying around since the previous evening, or rather night, Severus had planned to have a reason to speak with the Gryffindor.

"You wanted to speak with me, sir?" asked the boy, looking up to Severus through glasses that no longer looked as if they would fall apart any moment.

"Yes. First, your father asked me to deliver this to you," Severus began, handing over the small packet wrapped up in parchment. "And second, I wanted to confirm that our lessons in remedial potions," he let a brow rise, suggesting he was talking about more than Potions, "will continue on Wednesday evenings in the next weeks."

A head topped with unruly dark hair bobbed in an agreeable nod. "Thank you, sir. And I will be here on Wednesday for our next lesson." The boy hesitated a moment, visibly gathering his courage, before he spoke once more, fiddling with the strap of his bag. "Will the girl be okay? And what are you going to do…"

Holding up a hand, effectively shutting the boy up, Severus gave a quick and quite explanation. "She will be perfectly fine. And let us professors handle the situation. It most likely will take some time, but we are working on it. And that should be enough for you. Keep avoiding her baiting, and help the other Gryffindors to do the same. And now you should hurry up before you miss a meal."

"Yes, sir," was the curt response, delivered with a short half-bow from the neck, and then the boy was gone.

Now Severus would wait for Minerva to confirm that Filius had spoken with the Aurors so he could report some progress to his Lord.

ooOoo

Dolores sat in her chair at the high table, watching over the four house tables slowly filling with students. Today the aggravating chatter was almost absent, the students only whispering among each other, but mostly only concentrating on their meals.

The silence seemed to stretch to the other professors as well, only increasing her good mood. Her methods were finally gaining the success she had been aiming for. Discipline had been rather lacking when she had arrived here, but after she had made a few examples for each House, acting up in her lessons had rapidly declined.

And finally her efforts were bearing fruit. A smug smile graced her face, as she filled her plate with her favourite greens and started to eat, reveling in the cowed atmosphere in the Great Hall.

ooOoo

The tension in the Great Hall during lunch was so thick it was almost tangible. The story about Umbridge's detentions had made it through the school in record time. And that the Heads of House were angry was a well known fact as well.

For the first time in a long while, all four Houses had the same undivided opinion of one of the professors. Without any doubt, Dolores Umbridge was the worst professor they had ever had. She had hurt students of all four Houses, and she was not teaching anyone anything worthwhile.

Lockhart had been bad as well, but in his case, the girls had liked his good looks and flashy behaviour, and he had not hurt anyone.

While the witch clad entirely in pink was eating vegetables with a smug and self-satisfied look, the rest of the school was waiting for the explosion to happen.

Betting pools were started on when and how she would be removed from the school.

oooOOooo

After an evening spend revising under the stern guidance of their best friend Hermione, Ron and Harry were walking up the stairs to the Gryffindor dorms. Both were too tired to talk much, and Ron only mumbled a "Good night," to Harry as the green-eyed teen continued on his way to the top of the tower – passing by the room used by the Head Boy when he happened to be a Gryffindor – and his room.

Under his fatigue, Harry was excited. He wanted to test out the mirror Snape had given him after Potions, wanted to try if it would work. Letters were nice, but to speak with the man the same way he could to Sirius would be even better.

In a way, it felt strange that he was so eager to speak with Marvolo, the wizard that was a Dark Lord. No sense in denying what he knew. He even was sure that Marvolo knew that Harry was aware of the fact.

Shaking his head to wake up a bit more and to get his mind away from the gloom and guilt – it always loomed when he remembered that he liked Marvolo and that the wizard was responsible for Harry's being an orphan – Harry walked into his room, closing the door behind himself and setting his bag down.

Carefully unpacking the scrolls with today's essays on his desk, Harry got the small package wrapped in parchment and sealed with the Slytherin crest out from a small pocket on the inside of his book-bag. Harry eagerly broke the seal and unwrapped the mirror.

It was a shiny mirror made from a silvery metal – maybe it actually was silver – etched with runes in a decorative, meandering pattern. In the middle of the back there was an inlay of a serpent and a lion, sitting peacefully next to each other.

The mirror his godfather had given to him had more of a utilitarian look about it. Considering that they had made them while still in school, Harry didn't think the Marauders had put any effort or overly much money into their creation.

The parchment the mirror had been wrapped in was a short note, explaining what the mirror could do, and at the same time was an invitation to use the mirror any time he wanted to. Marvolo promised to keep the mirror's counterpart on his person at all times.

Getting rid of his shoes, the tie, and the robes, Harry got comfortable. With the mirror in his hand he sat down on his bed, back to the headboard, and stretched his legs out comfortably.

.:Marvolo:. Harry hissed at the mirror, now hardly needing to concentrate on the image of a snake to slip into parseltongue. Practice makes perfect.

Only a moment later the mirror showed the face of Marvolo, red eyes and carefully styled hair, instead of Harry's own reflection

"Henry! I see you have received the mirror." In the background Harry could see the dreary walls of a rather large room passing by as Marvolo moved, and a few figures clothed in something black, kneeling on the floor. But soon a door closed and the low murmurs that had started the moment Marvolo had turned his back on the crowd were muffled.

"The notes your godfather lent me were really helpful. I hope you like the mirror I found in Diagon." Marvolo sounded rather relaxed. And Harry felt anything but.

By the few things he had seen, his guardian had been in the middle of a Death Eater meeting when Harry had called. And he had accepted Harry's call on the mirror despite that fact. The teenaged wizard was not quite sure how to feel about this.

Until now it had been rather easy to separate Marvolo from Voldemort. And in a way, both were still distinctly different beings. Voldemort had been the insane wizard acting on the fragment of an overheard prophecy, while Marvolo was the adult caring about Harry's success in school, his health, and happiness.

And both of them were Dark Lords. Harry felt incredibly confused. And by the way Marvolo looked at him, it was written all over his face.

A sigh made its way over the mirror to Harry's ear. "I think that I should inform you that the escapees have been contacted. They will no longer pose a risk to our society."

Harry's brow furrowed. "No longer a risk? Are they dead, or back in prison?"

"Neither." Marvolo shook his head, making the hair near his collar swing a little. "Well, that's not actually the whole truth. Three of them died in an argument. But the rest of them have been brought to a secure location to recover and regain their senses."

Harry blinked, a little dumbfounded. He was aware that all of this was shared under the Slytherin family oath, but still… he was not accustomed to getting information freely. That Marvolo had increasingly shared information with him via letter in the past weeks was totally new to Harry.

"And then?" Harry could not stop himself from asking. What would Marvolo do with them once they were healthy again? In the same moment Harry realized that his call had interrupted what probably was an important meeting. "Sorry, sir, that I interrupted the meeting, sir. I can call again tomorrow?" Harry hated how insecure he sounded. Showing how much he had come to like the attention he was getting from Marvolo probably was not a good idea. The man was an expert in manipulating people and using their weaknesses against them. A lot of the lessons this summer had proven that fact.

"No need to apologize, Henry. I wrote that you can call me anytime. And I meant it. This way they will know what the priorities are. Was there something specific you wanted to ask, or tell me?" The relaxed way Marvolo spoke confused Harry and he no longer remembered if there had been anything in particular he had wanted to tell, or if he simply had wished to test the mirror.

"I just wanted to see that the mirrors work. And they do… so… have a good evening?" The last came out more like a question, and Harry hated it. Why was he so insecure all of a sudden? And the moment he had thought this, he knew. The way the Dursleys always had treated him, Harry had come to crave attention and approval. Marvolo had given both to him for things normal parents gave their children approval for. As far as he was aware, at least. And somehow he now feared that he would lose this.

Reflecting on his emotions and their reasons had become a habit that he at times found annoying. But he guessed mind-healing would do that to anyone.

"How are the Potions lessons going? And Ancient Runes?" It looked as if Marvolo had taken a seat in a chair, in no rush to get back to the crowd of kneeling people in the other room.

"I think I'm doing fine in Ancient Runes. It's much better than Divination." Harry said with feeling. He had hated the constant death predictions. "And since Snape… Professor Snape," Harry corrected hastily, "now treats me more fairly and doesn't pick so much on me, and with the Sly… others not throwing random things into my cauldron… Potions is going much better."

"That's good. I wish you to do your best in your classes, Henry. This is your OWL year, after all. They are very important."

An awkward silence fell between them, and Harry watched in fascination as a slight blush of embarrassment rose in Marvolo's cheeks. The Dark Lord cleared his throat and smiled as Harry yawned. "It seems that you are in need of your bed, Henry. Sleep well, my son."

"Thank you... and good night," was Harry's answer before the mirror reverted back to a reflective surface.

While Harry went through his nighttime ablutions, his mind jumped all over the place. When he finally doused the light and crawled under his warm and comfortable covers, starting the exercises to calm and clear his mind, Harry came to the conclusion that he had started to feel that Marvolo was family. And he was not entirely sure if that was a good thing or not. He had always wished for a proper family. Not like the Dursleys, but someone that would care for him because he was Harry. But was it right to find that family in the man that had killed his parents?

ooOoo

Smiling, Marvolo placed the mirror back in his pocket before he rose from the chair he had sat down in, to go back to his Death Eaters.

As he swept through the door, he was pleased to see that they were all still where he had left them. In neat rows, in a half-circle, on their knees, waiting for him to return.

"To make the priorities clear: I want to preserve magic and our traditions. Going to war over it, killing wizards and witches, or bringing our existence to the Muggles' attention by randomly killing them, will not achieve this." His red eyes bored into some confused ones from his newly returned followers and into the attentive eyes of those that had watched the changes taking place. "We have to act differently to achieve those goals. With Henry as my son, I'm able to work through the Wizengamot. It will take lo…"

A wail from the only witch among his followers interrupted Marvolo in the middle of his speech. She had almost jumped to her feet, shaking in rage she pointed a wand at Marvolo – giving it back to her had been a calculated move, and maybe an error – her eyes crazy with madness.

"You are bewitched, my Lord! The Dark Lord never would talk such nonsense! No, no, no, no…" Her hand was shaking and Marvolo changed his stance a little to be ready to move at the slightest indication that she would cast a spell. There was no knowing what she would do. It seemed his hope that she could be saved was in vain.

With wild eyes she turned to the confused wizards kneeling on the floor around her. "Can't you see? Someone has done something to him! A confundus? Imperius? Can't you see?!" She obviously was desperate and incapable of understanding that Marvolo was perfectly fine and acting under his own free will.

Red eyes sought out the dark ones of his most trusted. While Bella spewed more of her confused questions, getting more frantic by the second, the Potions Master's eyes met his and Marvolo quickly projected an image of a stunner cast by Severus knocking Bellatrix out from behind into the other man's mind.

"You all have lost your minds!" Bella screamed and started to cast silent spells without true aim or any pattern that Marvolo could see, while he dove for the ground, his own wand snapping into his hand, casting a silent shield charm over himself.

A sharp pain stabbed him as he watched Bellatrix Lestrange crumble to the ground under the stunner Severus had cast. She had been such a promising young witch when he had first met her. He had seen the potential in her, her eagerness to prove herself worthy, to help regain parts of their traditions and heritage buried under the wish to get the Muggleborn to stay by making their world more familiar to them.

And then he had started to bend her to his will, his purpose, destroying all of that potential. He had fostered to her tendency to enjoy tormenting others, using the techniques military all over the world had used for a very long time to get people to be willing to kill for a cause. He had ruined her, and this realisation hit him hard.

But now was not the time to dwell on this. There were others who had sworn their lives to his service. He had to make sure they were not harmed or injured, that his past actions would not ruin them, too.

"Malcolm, check if there is anyone injured. Lucius, secure Bellatrix, take her wand and lock her in her room." Marvolo barked out his orders, then closed his eyes for a moment, taking calming breaths. The pain in his chest where he felt it when one of his Death Eaters called for him was not really lessening, and he was sure some part of the old fealty spell he had used in the creation of the Dark Mark was making itself known.

It took a little less than an hour to sort everything out reasonably well, time that Marvolo used to come up with a plan to save those of his sworn followers he was able to save. The pain over the fact that he would have to sacrifice one of them to do so was burning near his heart. And guilt was coiling in his stomach.

Now the Death Eaters were standing around him in a circle, and as Lucius came back in from placing Bellatrix in a cell – that was what the guest room was, even if it was a more comfortable one than those in Azkaban – Marvolo took another deep breath and started to pass out orders for his plan.

"Severus, we will need Polyjuice, lots of it." The Potions Master nodded. "Amycus, Alecto, you will impersonate those that have fled and make appearances all over the continent. I will provide you with locations and places that seem logical." The twins nodded as well, looks of excitement in their eyes. They were the kind of people who liked an adventure.

"We will let the world believe that you are killing each other off, fleeing from Britain. In the meantime, I will think on what you have to offer to our cause, and what needs to be done to give you back a life worth living."

A nod from Malcolm signalled that there had not been any serious injuries, and with a lighter heart Marvolo searched out Augustus in the crowd. "Augustus, for a start I wish you to go through the mess the Ministry has made out of the declaration of what is part of The Dark Arts. Identify what has no place being called Dark, categorize the rest, and formulate explanations and definitions of what should be considered Dark." A spark of interest gleamed in the eyes of the former Unspeakable, this was an assignment the man would love to work on.

Feeling a headache forming, Marvolo waved a hand at them all. "You know what to do. Get to it! Malcolm, I want to speak with you." He would need a headache potion and probably a Dreamless Sleep as well.

Once he was home he would write a letter to Henry. He needed to explain a little more about what would happen in the near future, and why he was doing what he was planning to do. Giving his son information seemed to be crucial for the development of a trusting relationship between them.

oooOOooo

It was really early on Tuesday morning when four Aurors met in one of the staff rooms at the Ministry. Passing around mugs of freshly brewed coffee – later in the day the quality would decline as the drink sat, being held warm by charms – John contemplated what they should do next.

Beside him sat Shacklebolt – as far as he knew, a member of Dumbledore's Order – cradling a mug in his hands, not yet wholly awake. The two still working on the murder attempt on Heir Slytherin at Hogwarts – Proudfoot and Savage – were sitting on the other side of the table, equally bleary-eyed. As they were all working on murder attempts on Heir Slytherin, they had agreed to meet and compare notes, so to speak.

"We found the order that sent the Dementors after the teenagers," Shacklebolt started the conversation. "Sadly, the name is fabricated, there is no Jane Smith working anywhere in the Ministry. Any magical traces are useless, because the form was weeks at Azkaban near others before we found it." The dark-skinned auror – the dark crimson of their uniform was a flattering colour for him – sighed, taking a sip from his coffee.

"Is there a way to take fingerprints with magic?" Savage asked between two sips of his black coffee.

"Fingerprints?" John asked, his thoughts miles away, ruminating over the happenings at the meeting the previous evening. He filled his own cup with coffee and added a generous splash of milk to it. "What are fingerprints?"

"One of the Muggleborn told me about them. See the fine lines on the tips of your fingers?" He held up his hand to demonstrate his point. "They form patterns, and those are different from one person to another. Not quite the same on two people. So the muggles use them to prove that someone was somewhere or touched something, because they left fingerprints behind." The man shrugged. "If there was a spell to make them visible and compare them or something…" He trailed off, blushing in embarrassment under the confused looks of the other three.

Shacklebolt cleared his throat, breaking the awkward silence. "Never heard of a spell like that. And Moody was one of my instructors. But it sounds like something that would be useful, if it did exist."

Looking at his own hands, John noticed the faint swirls and lines on the tips of his fingers. And those were different between different people? If so, that would be pretty useful indeed. "Maybe we can get one of the Unspeakables to develop a spell for us?" he suggested, letting his hands fall to the table, gripping the cup.

"Maybe," Proudfoot agreed, emptied his cup, and moved on to another topic. "We have interrogated a good part of the students and have a few suspects. We will need to either question them under Veritaserum or examine their memories."

Jon looked up – that was something his Lord would want to know – and asked his question with an arched brow. "What are their names? Do you think the Wizengamot will agree to those measures?"

Savage tipped his head from side to side, answering slowly. "If we can get the Lords Slytherin, Malfoy, and Nott to work together on this, they might be able to make it happen."

John almost snorted, the Dark Lord had made it abundantly clear that his son and heir had top priority. He would make it happen. "I think Lord Slytherin is likely to pull all the strings he can. And the other Lords will help. An attack on three heirs? They won't let that rest."

Proudfoot snorted in agreement. "They will let something slide if no House is involved, but something like this? You are right, Dawlish, they will make sure it happens… as long as there is no heir among the suspects."

"And is there?" Shacklebolt wanted to know. And John looked on in interest as well. If he got a name out of this, he could collect points with his Lord.

"We can't talk about it, Shacklebolt. And you know it. On another note, we have evidence proving that a Hogwarts professor is torturing students. And that will be a difficult case."

"Torturing students?" John couldn't believe that he had heard this.

"The new Defence professor. Umbridge. Fudge assigned her to the post. She's the one pushing those creature laws in the past years," Savage summarized, adding the last explanation to erase all doubts about her identity.

That got nods from the other aurors. The woman was unpleasant, and known for that fact, but she always had had a favoured position in the Minister's eyes. To mount charges against her wouldn't be an easy task.

"Who brought the evidence to you?" Shacklebolt asked one of the more crucial questions.

"All four Heads of House. With medical information and names of students from all four Houses that are willing to speak about it," Proudfoot answered, levitating the coffee over to refill his cup.

John leaned back in his chair, making it creak in protest, toying with the empty mug. "Any child of notice among those affected?" They all knew if there was a child of an important family among the students tortured by the Professor, all their efforts would run more smoothly. Until now, John had never been among those less fortunate, but he guessed much harm could be prevented if they got Umbridge into Azkaban before she targeted influential families.

Proudfoot shook his head, sighing sadly. "Only half-bloods and muggle-born students, as far as we can tell." He rubbed his brow, frowning. "But maybe they're related to some influential family and just don't know? With that Granger girl being related to the Lestranges, and Harry Potter a descendant of Slytherin…" he trailed off, shaking his head. "When did the world get that bloody complicated?"

None of them answered, but they all silently agreed. Lately the world had become much more complicated. John was not sure if he would prefer the simpler world they seemed to have left behind.

oooOOooo

AN: I think some of the tension will break in the next chapter :) and maybe I will even manage a little jump in time… If your comments and reviews don't spark something new that just has to be added :D

Thanks to Jordre and Jake for helping to improve my spelling!

First published on the 27th of January 2017

Next chapter planned for 10th of February 2017