AN: this chapter is shorter than usual. I'm sorry for that. But being sick and feeling like you are coughing your lungs out really doesn't help with writing. I tested it for you!

With the last chapter this story broke the mark of 4000 followers! And this time I managed to keep track! rla0019 was the lucky one ;)

I also published a small outtake over Christmas that could act as a Prologue to the story. Go check it out ;)

oooOOooo

Upcoming Festivities

Saturday, 16th of December

It was ridiculous how nervous he was. He just was about to ask his friends and classmates for advice. Nothing to be afraid of or be ashamed over. Maybe Ron would have laughed at his question back when they had been in first year, but now his old friend was as concerned as Harry about impressing girls. Not one of the other Slytherin fifth-years would laugh at Harry. Or at least Harry was trying to convince himself of that.

On his way out of his own room down the corridor and to the door of the dorm of the others, Harry contemplated his past experiences with the need to look good for a special occasion. When his aunt and uncle had visitors, Harry had been banished to the cupboard or – later – to the room upstairs. But Dudley had been forced to dress up – comments Harry's cousin had made to his friends had made it quite clear he hated dressing fancy – putting up with it because he was cunning enough to know he was getting something out of it. Like the money Vernon's sister gave her nephew whenever she came visiting.

With one last breath – fighting against a troll but afraid of this, really ridiculous – Harry knocked and opened the door the moment he heard a call to enter from within.

"Harry! What a surprise! Why are you here this early in the morning?" Theo asked from where he was buttoning his shirt, hair already neatly styled. "We said that we wanted to meet in the common room, didn't we?"

"We did," Harry nodded, only dimly aware of the other boys going about their morning routine around him. "I came to ask for advice." Already seeing some unsavoury jokes on the tip of his friend's tongue, Harry hurried to clarify what he wanted advice for. "I want to get some hair care potions today in Hogsmeade, get my hair under control for the festivities I will have to attend. Because Daphne will talk my ear off if I don't at least try. So I wanted your advice on what might work, so I can get it and test it, while there's still time to try something different if it doesn't work." Shrugging a little self-consciously, Harry sat down on the edge of the nearest closed trunk so he wouldn't stand in the way.

"Well, I can't help you there," Theo said, smirking. "My hair is naturally well behaved."

Harry had the sudden urge to stick his tongue out, but managed to keep himself from actually doing so. "Not everyone has hair as boring as yours, Theo."

"He is right about that, Theo. So step aside and let someone with an inkling of common sense take over," Draco said with more haughtiness in his voice than he usually exhibited when in relatively private situations. "Come here!" the blond boy commanded, waving Harry over to his own bed. "I need to take a closer look at your problem."

It felt silly, but Harry complied, walking over to the other boy's bed, sitting down on it at Draco's direction.

"You could try Sleekeazy's. But of you want to go for a less drastic change, you could try the newer Pompouse-Pomade potion that is sold in the Apothecary at Hogsmeade. With that many cowlicks, it's hardly a wonder your hair resists being styled." Draco had spoken with conviction and now Harry was contemplating his choices. Normally he didn't have to cut his hair often. But the short haircut Aunt Petunia had insisted on really wasn't flattering at all. It just didn't work with his hair. At all.

"Do you think letting my hair grow some would help?" Harry asked the room in general, looking over the boys in various states of dress, or undress in Goyle's case, who just came out of the bathroom where he obviously had showered.

"It can't do any worse when it's longer," Blaise claimed, only sending Theo into a fit of chuckles.

"Now you've jinxed it!" Theo laughed, stopping in the middle of tying his tie.

The conversation – if one could call it that – dissolved into banter after that, until they all were ready to go up to the Great Hall for breakfast. Harry now had a plan, and felt better for it.

oooOOooo

It was a group of bundled-up teenagers that met at the doors to the grounds. It was lightly snowing, the air freezing cold. It was a hard winter day, and all of them, as well as all the others around them, were buzzing with excitement.

The moment they stepped out of the castle, Harry got his mirror out of the pocket of his cloak. Careful not to drop it, as the mittens he was wearing were hindering his hand movements a little.

"What are you doing?" Ron wanted to know, stuffing his hands into woollen mittens, probably knitted by his mother.

"Calling…" For a moment Harry hesitated. How should he call Marvolo in this mixed company? With the Slytherins he always called him father, claiming him and a little bit more security, but when with Gryffindors he had called him his guardian grudgingly, because they all had so many deep-rooted opinions on him. But now, there were Luna, Ron, Hermione and Neville, Draco, Theo, both Crabbe and Goyle, Daphne, her little Sister Astoria. A mixed group. In the blink of an eye Harry made a decision. "... my adoptive father. He insisted that he come along today if I wanted to go. Arguing wouldn't have done anything. So I'm telling him that we're on our way, and he will meet us at the gates."

Hopefully Harry would manage to slowly help his friends accept that he was happy now. It was still tense sometimes, and he wasn't always sure that he really should feel like he did, but Madame Goyle was helping him cope with that, to work on being happy, being himself.

"That sucks!" Was Ron's only reaction. Either he hadn't heard how Harry had called Marvolo or he had tried – rather successfully – to pretend that he didn't care.

So he made the short call before turning back to his red-headed friend. "It's better than being stuck at the castle!" Harry laughed, shoving Ron a little off course, starting a short snow fight, bringing colour to all of their cheeks, even as some of the Slytherins and Hermione tried to stay out of it.

When they stopped a few moments later, they took up their walk down to the gates again. "And it really isn't quite safe for me to be out alone. Fenrir is still at large. Then this thing with the young women being abducted, Death Eater wannabes… and then there are still the just generally crazy, or the criminals out for money…" Harry trailed off, shrugging. And before Ron could formulate a response to that, Harry felt his left hand seized and turned to see who was walking at his side.

Luna smiled serenely up at him, her blonde hair sticking out from under a light blue hat decorated with what probably were dried pieces of fruit and feathers from different birds. "Thanks for asking me along. It's really nice to have friends."

Harry nodded. After all she was right. Having friends was great. But why had she captured his hand? With a bemused expression and a curious feeling in the pit of his stomach, Harry turned to look forward again – he didn't want to slide in one of the piles of snow last night's storm had created – slowly swinging their linked hands between them, their friends around them making plans on where to go first.

ooOoo

It didn't take long to grab the warm cloak, his scarf, a pointed hat – with the way the weather was, one would be required – and gloves from fine leather and fur. A few moments later he was outside the anti-apparation wards and spun on the spot. And just as Marvolo had thought, it was snowing, the thick layer of snow crunching under his booted feet. It was a fine day just before the winter holidays would begin. In a way he was happy to get Henry back home, spend a little more time with him.

It was funny how much had changed since the summer. Their daily talks over the mirrors really had helped to create a feeling of family between them. At least Marvolo thought it was what family should feel like. He admittedly hadn't much experience in that area of life.

Soon the first students walked past him, throwing him curious glances. Some of them walked faster, as if wary of him, not really an unreasonable reaction to a strange man standing at the gates of a school. Then he saw a mixed group of students, easily recognized by their House-themed scarves, walking down the path. A smile stole onto his face. It seemed so easy for his son – it still felt really good to think that – to bridge the normally existing chasm between Gryffindor and Slytherin Houses. And he didn't even try. What Marvolo would have done if he had been able to gather people around himself so easily. Well, he had gathered people easily enough. But they all had shared the same interests, the same background. The people Harry had around himself were different in so many ways. Was this the so-call power that he himself didn't know? In the end it was inconsequential. Marvolo had no plans to make anything out of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

When the teenagers reached the gate, Marvolo took a step forward and greeted them. "Good day! I hope you'll still have a good day with an adult trailing behind you!" That got a few shy laughs from the group and broke the ice. When Henry walked past him, Marvolo briefly laid his hand on the boy's shoulder in greeting. He got a smile in return, and from the girl walking next to Henry, holding his son's hand – that was unexpected, he would need to get information on her – he got something that looked like a confused or dreamy smile.

Marvolo tried to make his presence as unobtrusive as he could. He was here to make it possible for his son to enjoy the outing with his friends, not to stifle any joy that would come from such a day in the village.

Once again Marvolo couldn't help but compare today's Hogsmeade with the one he had known from his own youth. Most of it was exactly the same. The Three Broomsticks was still there, no new houses had been build. But the booth just outside of Honeydukes was new. It was decorated in the most garish colours, with moving holiday crackers exploding again and again.

The children quickly noticed that new oddity as well, and their course changed so they were walking in that direction. It was slow going, as the mass of students consisting of those with the same destination and those that were just crossing the path they were walking was so big.

"Is that Fred and George?" the youngest Weasley boy asked, standing on tiptoes in an effort to look over the heads of all those walking around. "What are they doing there?"

"Looks like they're selling something," Lucius' son drawled, probably rolling his eyes by the sound of it.

"Yes. I know that!" The red-head sounded annoyed. "But what?"

"Really, Ron. Just look at the banner they've put up." That was the Muggleborn girl, Granger. She sounded as if she were rolling her eyes as well. A sentiment Marvolo could easily agree with. It wasn't that hard to deduce what the Weasley twins were selling at their probably temporary booth.

Finally they managed to get to the booth, where they could finally see that there were three teenagers manning it. The red-headed twins known beyond Hogwarts as pranksters extraordinaire, and a boy their age with dark skin and dreadlocks. They were calling out the benefits of their merchandise and demonstrating now and then how the Christmas crackers – because that was what they were selling here – were working.

When the unknown boy and one of the twins pulled at the opposing ends of a cracker, first there was a mighty boom to hear, then a pink cloud of smoke smelling of violets came out and drifted over the watching crowd. When the two pulling it became visible again, the crowd started to laugh. They both had been dyed pink and were wearing frilly hats.

"Buy the best Stealth Christmas Cracker you have ever seen here! Slip them in among the regular ones, and watch in amusement as your family and friends get dyed the most hilarious hues! Only a Sickle apiece! The colour you buy is the colour you get!"

For a moment the picture of Lucius Malfoy dyed a deep toad green flashed through Marvolo's mind, and he stifled a small laugh. It would certainly be hilarious. And totally juvenile.

.:Don't dare to bring such things to our festivities!:. Marvolo hissed to his son, who eyed the offered selection with obvious interest. There was no way that he could allow such indignities to happen during his own party.

.:I actually thought that Sirius would love them:. was the unconcerned reply delivered with a cheeky grin over the boy's shoulder.

To that all Marvolo could do was nod. Sirius Black certainly would find those abominations funny. But the man wasn't really all that mature. At least not when it came to pranks, jokes, and the like. "As long as they don't make an appearance during the small event that we'll be hosting. It's your money to spend!"

So Henry made his way over to the front of the crowd, Marvolo keeping an eye on him and the surroundings. It was hard to keep his eyes practically everywhere and not be too distracted by the people milling about. That there still was a constant stream of snow falling from the sky only made the endeavour more complicated. But Marvolo felt it was worth it.

After most of the group had purchased at least a few of the crackers from the Weasley twins – even Lucius' son had bought a few, he had have to keep an eye on that – the teenagers split up into smaller groups. Miss Granger, Henry and the girl still holding onto his hand, Nott's son, and a few others wanted to go to the book store. Weasley, the Longbottom boy, and a few others preferred the joke shop Zonko's, or the sweets shop as their next destination. After agreeing on the Three Broomsticks as a meeting point for lunch, the several now smaller groups separated.

By the end of the day they had been in each of the shops. Henry had bought some sweets at Honeydukes, asking the girl at his side – Luna was her name, as Marvolo learned during the day – what her favourites where. Not really a subtle attempt at flirting, but it seemed to have worked out rather well. The girl had smiled a little brighter as Henry had handed her a mixed bag of the strangest candy Honeydukes had to offer. The girl really was an odd person.

When it was finally time for the children to go back to the castle, Marvolo was more than happy that he had offered this to Henry. The boy had been laughing, interacting with the other teenagers without the hidden fear Marvolo still could remember so well from his own youth. It seemed that Henry didn't feel the need to constantly question the motives of the children around him. And he still was careful with whom he spoke. Maybe he would be able to find a good balance, one that Marvolo himself was still searching for.

oooOOooo

Monday, 18th of December

It had been a few days since the young witches had been freed. A public trial for all the young wizards who had been involved would be held right after the turn of the year. Most likely they would be sentenced to life in Azkaban, if all the rumours of what they had done and planned to do proved to be true. But other than that, Marvolo knew that there was more to be done. Because the young wizards hadn't acted on a whim. The idea to kidnap the witches hadn't even cross their minds until Corban Yaxley had spoken to them. Planted that vicious and useless idea in their heads, leaving them to their own devices for too long. That wizard wasn't a leader. A leader would have known that the young men had been desperate to do something. Stupid or lazy enough to not think of something to do on their own, but also desperate enough to take matters into their own hands once there had been even a shadow of a plan.

The idea could have been something Marvolo would have had used in the past. But he never would have let them stew in that idea without guidance. But Corban Yaxley had done so, and now there was trouble. The man clearly had outlived his usefulness.

It had taken some time to prepare everything – the fact that the Aurors now had a spell to test who had touched something made things just a little bit more complicated – but now he was ready to make sure that this particular dunderhead wouldn't be around to throw Bludgers into his plans any longer.

The small phial of poison securely held in his pocket, Marvolo apparated to the edge of the wards around the relatively small manor that had been in the Yaxley family for several generations now. With a strong disillusionment charm on himself, Marvolo didn't hesitate to pass the boundary of the wards. After all, the wards around all of his followers' homes were set to let him pass. More often than not, the fathers of the current owners had incorporated those changes. A quick spell revealed that nobody was home... well, expect the man he had come to punish, and the elves living here.

After a quick detour through the kitchen to cast sleeping spells over all the elves – he wouldn't repeat that particular error ever again – Marvolo walked silently through the halls, following the directions of a simple point-me spell. It wouldn't have been hard to guess where he would find the current Head of the Yaxley family, but guessing was just that, and Marvolo liked to be sure.

When the Dark Lord reached the door to the men's smoking room next to the big room usually used for dinner parties and the like, he could hear the grumbling complaints of a drunken man from inside. Or maybe an angry man just going about getting drunk. Either way, he was at his destination. Time to dole out a just punishment.

Marvolo dropped the disillusionment charm, becoming visible again. After a deep breath and setting his face into the stern lines of a disappointed Lord, he pushed the door open without touching it directly.

He was wearing gloves of the kind muggle healers used – he had conducted extensive tests with different barriers and the new spell; these were the least restrictive that still worked – so he wouldn't have to be overly careful not to touch anything. This should look a certain way once the Aurors showed up. His name couldn't be connected to this in any way.

"My Lord!" Surprised, Corban jumped up from his seat, jostling the small end table of dark wood next to him, causing the tumbler of amber liquid to fall to the floor. Before Marvolo could start to speak, the other wizard had taken the few steps separating them, and had fallen to his knees, his hands raised beseechingly. "Thank you, my Lord! I knew you would help me get my son and heir back! When will we start? Who will go with us?"

Internally Marvolo felt startled by this unfounded conviction that he was here to lead a raid on Azkaban just to free some spineless idiots. On the surface, not one hint of his confusion showed. Maybe the man had taken some recreational potions to cope with the stress. There wasn't really a good explanation for this display otherwise.

"Why should I do that?" His hard voice obviously managed to shock Corban out of his happy haze.

"My Lord? Because they were captured doing your work, my Lord! They were doing what was right!" The disgusting wizard spoke with fervour, but there was a spark of fear in those old eyes.

"Is that so?" With a little step back and to the side, Marvolo walked around the kneeling man, waving his wand to remove the spill and straighten the table. He really would prefer not to be touched by that man. Who now looked positively bewildered, half turned, still kneeling on the ground.

"Did I know of this plan?" Marvolo asked with deathly calm, his red eyes piercing the flushed wizard.

"No, my Lord. The young people acted a little hasty. I had planned to inform you of my idea, my Lord. Get your approval…" To this obvious lie, Marvolo raised an eyebrow, causing the wizard to bow lower and trail off.

"Was any of the young men one of my Death Eaters, and therefore one of those with the permission to use my mark to claim a crime?" Marvolo was sure he should have thought about the possibility that the incantation had leaked out to people not of his circle. Sadly, there was no way to get the spell under wraps again, now that it was out of the bag, so to speak.

"No, my Lord." It seemed that the message Marvolo wanted to send was sinking in. Corban had started to shake and was getting paler.

"Then why do you claim that they were doing my work?" With a little dramatic twirl, Marvolo got the phial out of his pocket. The poison should work even better when ingested with alcohol instead of tea, as Marvolo had had planned originally.

To this question Marvolo didn't get an answer. Another wave of the yew wand in his hand hat the tumbler standing back on the small table and a decanter of some amber alcohol floating over from a cabinet. It really was pointless to speak with the man, who would be dead in a few moments anyway.

"I feel that your younger brother will be a better Head of the family when you are removed from the picture." Marvolo placed the small phial next to the decanter and the tumbler, both cut from crystal, clearly some of the more expensive pieces in this room mostly decorated with dark wood. "And I won't hesitate to use force." Maybe casting the Imperius would be best. That way, there wouldn't be any signs of a struggle, as the traces of the spell quickly vanished once a person was dead.

But it seemed that Corban Yaxley knew that there was no way to escape, and if he wanted to go with some dignity still intact, he needed to do as he was told. After all, he had sworn himself to Marvolo as his Lord, it was his duty to do as he was told. And to follow the rules his Lord laid down. And it was up to Marvolo to punish his vassal for breaking his law. It was curious how those old spells and magics worked. No wonder the Ministry had felt it safer to just ban them all. The Ministry tended to go the easy way, rather than the best one.

With a satisfied smile Marvolo watched as Corban sat down in his armchair, placed his wand onto the end table, took the phial from the surface and removed the cork, just before he emptied the contents into the small tumbler. The phial was placed down – now empty – and the drink that filled the room with the smoky aroma of good fire whiskey was added to the deadly mixture.

"No one uses my insignia defying me. No one acts against my explicit wishes without suffering for it. You were acting against me, Corban Yaxley. You intended to recruit those young men and use them to undermine my goals, because they do no longer fit perfectly with what you believe in. But I have evidence that your ridiculous beliefs are false. You did defy your Lord, now you will die by your own hand in recompense."

It didn't take long after the tumbler was empty for Corban Yaxley to fall out of the armchair, shaking with convulsions, foam coming from his mouth. When the rattling breaths finally had ended, Marvolo took a last look at everything before he re-applied the charm to hide his presence, before he then swiftly left the room and house to apparate back home.

Now he had to wait.

oooOOooo

Tuesday, 19th of December

It was the last day before they all would be taking the train back to London. The common room was alive with people searching for stuff that somehow had managed to migrate from their trunks to who-knew-where, even this early in the morning. Harry sat, still rather sleepy, in his chair in front of the biggest fire, waiting for Theo to finish with whatever was taking him so long. He was sketching, as he was doing quite often since his therapy had introduced him to art. It was different now that Aunt Petunia wouldn't tear up what he made, while praising whatever smear of paint Dudley brought back. Now he had people that actually appreciated what he did. His biggest creation, the painting of Hogwarts by night, was currently drying in his room, and now he tried to get a small sketch finished for all those who were close to him. It was better than sweets – which he would sent to most of the people he regularly interacted with – but not as significant as some of the other acceptable things one could gift to a peer. The rules were rather strange sometimes, but he needed to follow them if he wanted to be Lord Potter one day, and respected. One couldn't really play the game by flouting the rules.

At the moment he was trying to capture the likeness of Millicent Bulstrode's cat, which was curled up on top of a school bag. He planned to give each of his Slytherin year-mates and all of the Gryffindors of his year a small sketch. Or all of them who weren't really his friends. It was a lot of work. But it was fun, too.

He only wished that he knew a way to animate his sketches.

Suddenly Professor Snape strode into the common room, and the conversations and general din suddenly stopped, making way for an all-encompassing silence. Within moments all eyes were trained on their Head of House, who was looking around, obviously searching for someone or something. Harry noticed that the man held a letter in his hand and wondered who had sent it and who was about to receive important news.

A moment later the conversations started again, now with the topic changed. When Harry spotted Yaxley, the seventh-year who was the oldest son of the younger brother of the Head of the Yaxley family, staggering more than walking next to Snape, the letter clutched in his hand, Harry knew that something had happened there.

It was only reasonable to assume that the scandal of the other's cousin abducting and drugging three young witches to keep as sex-slaves wasn't going to remain without consequences. Maybe Corban Yaxley had been taken into custody as well, making his younger brother the next Head of the Family… no, only if there was issued a lifetime sentence, or the Kiss administered, would the position change to the younger brother.

Harry shook his head, and went back to sketching the cat. It had ignored all the commotion like nothing mattered as long as it had a comfortable spot to sleep.

By lunch the fact that Corban Yaxley had killed himself in his home, leaving his younger brother in the position of Head of the Family, had made the rounds. The reactions were varied. Harry himself wasn't sure if he believed the story of suicide. But most of the other students seemed to be of the opinion that it was a likely reaction for a Slytherin. Harry wasn't so sure. Many Slytherin alumni had managed to talk themselves out of tighter spots, why should the man take poison over something his son had done? But Harry kept his thoughts to himself, only remarking that the Aurors would get to the bottom of the matter when asked for his opinion persistently.

ooOoo

Kingsley was one of the Aurors who had been sent to investigate the apparent suicide of Corban Yaxley. In fact the place was crawling with people. And as usual, he and Dawlish were here to help as a team. "Let's ask the two elves living here if there was anything unusual yesterday evening. That's the time the healer said the man died, right?"

Dawlish nodded, carefully moving around the people milling about.

They made it to the kitchen all right, where the two elves watched, wringing their hands, as a team of Aurors inspected each and every piece of food, as well as the opened bottles. The interrogation of the elves was quick and brought nothing new. The elves had been dismissed and had gone to bed, until they had gotten up in the morning to prepare breakfast and found their master dead in the gentlemen's smoking room.

"Do you think the new spell for evidence on who touched something will help?" Dawlish asked, sounding rather sceptical.

"No. I've seen the phial. It's of a make I've seen often in Knockturn Alley. No idea who the brewer is, but those phials go through many, many hands before they're used," Kingsley explained. It had been a mystery for many decades now who was providing those potions. From simple sleeping potions to the worst poisons, to the elaborate recreational potions sometimes taken by the young and stupid.

It didn't really feel right. Didn't feel like a suicide. But they probably would have trouble to proving that.

oooOOooo

The light of a grey winter day fell through the windows into the corridors of St. Mungo's. Minerva had brought a package of Sherbet Lemons for this visit. She was really happy that Poppy had insisted on their yearly examinations, and that she had consulted an expert. It looked as if Dumbledore had been exposed to a dangerous amount of Dark Magic. But they had noticed it early enough to be able to counter it before it really became dangerous. Now, just before the Christmas Holiday, she was here to visit with her old friend, to tell him what was happening at the school. He always preferred to be kept in the loop.

A friendly Medi-witch had described the way, and now Minerva was standing in front of the private room Albus was in. She knocked and waited a moment before she was called in. "Hello, Albus! I brought some of your favourite sweets." She smiled at the old wizard sitting sideways on his bed, looking rather unhappy. "Don't sulk, Albus. You will be back at the castle in the new year. A few more purification treatments, and the traces will be gone." It was quite clear that Albus wasn't happy being here.

"I simply think that this isn't necessary, Minerva." Albus finally smiled at her, looking rather despondent in his hospital-issued robes. "Poppy could have given me the potions, could have performed what is necessary. No reason to force me to stay here. Really, Minerva! This is not necessary."

"You know as well as I that Poppy doesn't have the ritual circle needed to combat the traces of Dark Magic, Albus. Why are you so against this? You above anyone else know what can happen if someone is exposed to Dark Magic for too long." She patted his arm, placed the sweets on the bedside table before sitting down in the visitor's chair.

"I know that you don't like to be inactive. So I brought you this," she got a magazine out of her expanded inner pocket. It had taken her some time to find it, as she hadn't made it a habit to venture into the muggle world aside from the yearly muggle-born visits. "A knitting magazine. I remembered that you repeatedly talked about how you like to read them and look at the pattern schematics." Minerva was sure Albus was going stir-crazy, being confined wasn't something the old Headmaster could bear. But it simply was needed. She was sure he would complain and mope some more, and when he came back after the treatment was finished, she would have her old mentor back.

"It simply is a dull place to stay, Minerva." He smiled and took one of the candies, before he opened the magazine. "Oh, that's a new one. I haven't seen this edition before." It seemed as if he was trying to put up a brave front, but she wasn't really fooled.

"I will visit often over the holidays. There aren't many students staying at the school this year, the others can easily manage without me for a few hours at a time." Before Minerva could start on the school gossip she had planned to tell to Albus, the door opened again.

"Good evening, Mr. Dumbledore. I'm here to bring you your dinner. And don't levitate the cup again. Do you hear me? You shouldn't use magic during the treatment period. There's a reason why you had to hand over your wand to the hospital staff." In that moment the medi-witch turned and noticed that Minerva was sitting in the visitor's chair. Her face instantly morphed into an artificially friendly mask. And while she placed the tray she had brought onto a small table to the side, she started to speak. "You will have to go now, Madame. Visiting hours are over."

Minerva frowned. "The people down at the entrance said there were still a few hours' time for visits." And they had. She had asked yesterday to make sure she would have enough time for a proper visit.

She was quite rudely interrupted by the unfriendly medi-witch. "The patients on this station need more rest, so the visiting time is shorter here than on the others. So you'll have to leave now!"

Quite miffed, and tempted to find the locker of this awful woman to pay it a visit in her cat form, Minerva said her farewells to Albus, wishing him a good rest, before she was ushered out of the room and then the ward. With an offended huff Minerva left the building to apparate back to the castle. She would come back the next day, once the train had left, so she would have more time to visit with Albus.

ooOoo

Albus really wasn't happy that his plan hadn't worked the way he had wanted it to. What they had given him to affect him and paint him as unsuitable for his calling of Headmaster of Hogwarts must have been stronger than he had anticipated. They still had committed him to the hospital, claiming he had dangerous levels of Dark Magic taint running around in his bloodstream, that should be removed as quickly as possible.

In that moment he hadn't been able to come up with a way to get out of this confinement. And now he was here, in the hospital, without his wand, without proper clothes, forced to participate in daily rituals they claimed were to help him.

Just like he now sat down at the table, picking up the spoon to pretend to eat the soup, Albus had managed to convince the personnel here that he was cooperating, while the whole time he was looking out for a way to get away, reclaim his wand, and rescue them all from the dark wizards out for their health.

Minerva had brought him his favourite sweets. But did she really not know anything? Or was she in on the plan, delivering the poison to him in the form of his Lemon drops?

It was hard to work when you couldn't know who to trust anymore. Maybe he would manage to slip away when the young medi-wizard in training came in three days to bring him to those rituals. He was properly awed by Albus, and most likely didn't know any better. It should be possible to convince him that Albus was held prisoner here.

"Now, Mr. Dumbledore. It's time for you to go to bed." The medi-witch was back, not really paying attention to the fact that Albus had managed to vanish the soup wandlessly, and not eat a drop of it. He wouldn't make it easy on them all. But all that wandless magic had made him really sleepy. So Albus let himself be manhandled over to the bed, placed there and tucked in by the witch aimlessly rambling off unimportant gossip. Her wand was poking out of her apron pocket, if Albus just wasn't so tired, he could have snatched that wand, and made a break for it. Maybe he should claim not to be hungry tomorrow, so he wouldn't be quite so tired the next time there was an opportunity. But before he really could make any more plans, he slipped into sleep, the staff around him none the wiser that he planned to make an escape as soon as he found a way.

oooOOooo

AN: To all of you A Happy New Year! I hope you had a better start than me, and that this year will be better for all of us than the last.

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

First published on the 5th of January 2018

Next chapter planned for 19th of January 2018