Chapter Thirty-One

Apparating directly into Malfoy Manor, Sherlock and Violet were greeted by two tiny, excited blurs attacking them. Harry and Draco exploded into explanations of all they had done the past three days, while Cissa, Sirius, and Remus looked on in affectionate amusement. There were snowy broom rides, and wrestles with Padfoot and Cerberus, and snow angels, and more. "An' Uncle Moo made snowballs chase Pa-foot!" Harry finished, giggling at the memory.

"Well, I am so very glad you had such fun!" Violet gushed, unable to hold back her happiness at seeing the boys getting along so well. But before she could say anything further, Sherlock's phone dinged, signaling a text. And when he read it, Violet knew the boys didn't need to hear what would be discussed next. "Why don't you go and say goodbye to Cerberus? We'll wait for you here, boys."

Neither boy complained at getting to spend more time together, so they raced one another to the playroom. Once out of earshot, Cissa asked pointedly, "What was that about?" After all, it was her home, and her son was one who'd just been sent away.

"Dumbledore sent a note around just now," Sherlock answered. "Mrs. Hudson took a picture of it for us. He wants us to go to Hogwarts to discuss what we've found so far. And he requested that we bring Harry, as Professor McGonagall and a Hagrid want to see him again."

"More like he wants an excuse to try to bring the whole situation back under his control," Remus muttered angrily.

"So, we'll all go," Cissa declared, sly smile creeping onto her face. "After all, Sirius, Vi, and Sherlock are Harry's guardians. It would be highly inappropriate for someone so young to hear about these things, so Remus and I can take the boys to visit with Professor McGonagall and Hagrid while you three discuss things with Dumbledore. He couldn't possibly argue with that."

"And this is why you were in Slytherin, Ciss," Sirius teased, while his best friend stared in awe at her.

"It's what we do best," Violet agreed with a grin. She was happy to see the tiny bud of possible romance between the two, ignoring any twinges of unease. It wasn't Remus's fault he'd been bitten, after all.

As no one had anything of import to do that day, or at least nothing that couldn't be put off, the group decided to visit the school immediately. The little boys were collected, as were coats, scarves, and gloves, then the whole band trooped over to the fireplace. Violet went through first, startling the Headmaster as she popped through.

"Hello, Professor," she greeted, siphoning ash off her clothes, just as Cissa and Draco came through.

"He- Hello, Ms. Evans, Ms. Black, Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore barely stumbled, even for his growing confusion as Sirius, Remus, and finally Sherlock with Harry all came through the fire.

"We just got your note, Professor," Violet explained, hiding her glee behind a polite mask. "And, well, there's no time like the present."

"Indeed," he agreed, though probably only to buy time to adjust his plans.

Remus didn't give him that time, however. "Come along, Harry," he said, taking the boy from Sherlock and swinging him up onto his shoulders. "We're going to visit one of my very favorite teachers," he continued, taking Cissa's arm, and never even looking in Dumbledore's direction.

"He's still angry with me," Dumbledore sighed, after the door swung shut.

Violet gripped Sherlock's hand tightly, preventing the "None of us are exactly fond of you" on the tip of his tongue. "You wanted to discuss what we've found so far?" she prompted Dumbledore instead.

He straightened, implacable mask once more fixed firmly behind twinkling eyes. "Yes, check on your progress, discuss a few more memories I've uncovered since we last spoke."

All three of Harry's guardians agreed, quickly filling in the man on what they had found so far. "Hogwarts is a veritable fortress," he pointed out. "We could keep them all safe here until we find a way to destroy them all."

"Mycroft has prepared a sealed vault for them. And his mansion has rather more wards on it than even Hogwarts," Sherlock rebutted cuttingly, though surprisingly, he did manage to hold onto the smirk he otherwise would have released.

"Thank you, though, Professor," Violet added, for politeness's sake only.

"Tell us more about Riddle," Sherlock demanded. "The more we know about him, the easier it will be to find the last Horcruxes."

"Anything about him while he was here at Hogwarts, or after he left, anything at all, Headmaster," Sirius added, sounding, but not actually feeling, more cordial than Sherlock.

"He was a very popular boy, gaining followers with ease," Dumbledore began reminiscing. "He inspired great loyalty, and very quickly. And he hated everything to do with Muggles, seeing them as lesser beings. Probably because of the Muggle orphanage he grew up in. Tom even tried to get the Headmaster at the time, Professor Armando Dippet, to allow him to stay here in the castle over the summers. He said more than once that it was the only home he'd ever known."

"He was the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets, as well, so I assume he was interested in his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin?" Violet asked.

Dumbledore nodded slowly. "There's not much that still remains from the Founders, written or artifacts. Anything we think we know about them is mere speculation, but that didn't stop Tom from trying to uncover anything he could. Though, I did remove some of the more pertinent books from the library, once I discovered just what he was looking for."

The thought "I'm sure you did," floated quite loudly from both Sherlock and Sirius, forcing Violet to hide her smirk. "And what about after school? What sort of career did he pursue?"

"None," was Dumbledore's surprising response. "He had quite a few offers, and of course, Horace Slughorn was nearly beside himself with lining up opportunities for the boy, but Tom refused any and all. He asked Armando if he could stay here at Hogwarts, become the next Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, but Armando told him he needed a few years outside of school before he could teach. So, instead, he began working for Borgin and Burkes, becoming a rather indispensable asset for their acquisitions, and a remarkable salesman."

Silence fell at his words, until Sirius finally broke it with an incredulous "Voldemort was a shop boy?"

"Indeed, he was," Dumbledore nodded, eyes twinkling madly. "That's how he found Hepzibah Smith and her treasures he corrupted. He worked there fairly successfully for several years, until he vanished for several more."

The old man trailed off, seeming to be lost in thought. "What aren't you telling us, Professor?" Violet prodded, after several long moments, and a failed attempt to wrest the answer from him without his consent.

He started a bit, shaking his head as if to gather his thoughts once more. "I'm sorry, forgive an old man. I was simply remembering that he came back to Hogwarts, ten years after he disappeared."

When he wasn't more forthcoming than that, Sherlock demanded, "What did he want?"

"The Defense position, though I can't believe he actually had a passion for teaching," Dumbledore answered.

Sirius snorted in derision. "Not likely, except maybe to recruit new members of his army."

"I believe that was his intention, yes."

The Headmaster had nothing further to share with the others, so after several tense moments, Sirius stood. "Well, if that's everything, I would like to visit with Minnie and Hagrid. Good day, Headmaster."

Sherlock and Violet quickly followed suit, though, so did Dumbledore. "I would like to see Harry a bit more, as well," he said, leading the way out of his study.

The trip to McGonagall's office was entertaining, at least for Violet. Dumbledore repeatedly tried to engage Sirius in conversation, only to receive one or two words as answer. But his perseverance was admirable, she supposed.

"This Professor McGonagall," Sherlock said lowly. "Who is she?"

The innocent question warmed Violet. After all, it proved Sherlock's trust in her and her judgement, rather than judging the stranger for himself. "She's the Transfiguration teacher," she began. "Strict, but fair, no matter the House one belongs to. Except for in the case of Quidditch, but that's to be expected. And she never accepted anything less than my absolute best work for her class."

"So, your favorite teacher, then," he replied knowingly.

"And Lily's," Violet smiled a bit sadly. "We both adored her."

A rather stern "Sirius Orion Black," cut off any further talk between the two. They rounded the corner just in time to see a tall, impeccably put together witch gather Sirius into her arms, while Remus and Cissa watched on in amusement. "You rascal," she breathed, eyes glassy.

"Hello, Minnie," he shot back, grinning cheekily.

"You are no longer allowed to cause me grief, young man," she lectured, letting him go.

"It's to keep you young, Minnie," Sirius protested.

McGonagall snorted. "I'm fairly certain you Marauders caused a rather large amount of my grey hairs." Then she turned to Violet. "It's rather good to see you again, Mrs. Holmes, and a pleasure to meet you, of course, Mr. Holmes."

Violet hid a grin as she caught a rather strong thought of "How did I miss that?" from Dumbledore. "Hello, Professor," she replied with a smile as she shook the proffered hand. Sherlock simply nodded in her direction. "It's lovely to see you again, as well."

"I would offer condolences, but seeing as you've moved on quite well, I don't think it's necessary." The words were said in that no-nonsense Scottish way, but Violet could detect a hint of mischievous approval behind them.

"Not at all," she agreed, grinning up at Sherlock. "I'm rather fond of this one."

Sherlock snorted in amusement, though it may have been at the fact that Sirius, Remus, and Cissa were doing a remarkable job at keeping Harry and Dumbledore occupied in different directions, thus thwarting the old man's plans to get to know the little boy. McGonagall noticed, as well, and her eyebrows flew up in astonishment. "Boys," she called, and the two littlest, along with Sirius and Remus, immediately turned their attention to her. "Would you like to hear some stories about your mother and aunt while they were here at school? I have a few that I think you would find rather interesting," she told them, mischievous twinkle belying the almost severe turn of her lips.

Violet and Cissa instantly grew wary, while the rest of their party eagerly awaited the tales. "I'm not sure we need-" Violet began, but she was cut off.

"We need it," five male voices rang out, causing her to sigh in defeat.

"I can tell you as we make our way to Hagrid's home," McGonagall said. "I know he has been looking forward to seeing Harry for quite some time now."

AN: I know it's been forever. My muse basically died the last few months, leaving me with almost zero inspiration and motivation to write. It's been pretty tough for me, since I've been writing stories nearly from the moment I started writing words. Creating worlds and characters and scenes has always been a part of my life, and so not being able to do that has been really hard. I know it's frustrating to you readers to have to wait and never know when the next chapter is coming, so I apologize for that. I'm not going to give up on this story, but I'm not going to promise anything in regards to timelines.

That out of the way, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter! We're picking up speed in the hunt for the Horcruxes, and in getting rid of ol' Voldy permanently, so I hope you'll all stick with me until the very end :) Thanks for reading, and a big thanks to those of you who review. Those reviews seriously make my day!