Medians and Curves
By Shylee Taregan
Author's Note. I know, I know, I know. I haven't updated since October (September?) and I'm sorry. I've gotten more requests for updates than you can imagine, and more reviews than I could mention. All I can do is thank you for your continuing support (and patience). Now here's your long-awaited chapter. Enjoy.
Arc VI: nosco, noscere, novi, notum: to get to know, to become acquainted with
The brisk, no-nonsense clack-clack of the Deputy Headmistress's heels on the stone floor as she made her way to the castle's main entrance echoed ominously in the empty halls, bereft as they were of students, teachers, and even the ghosts that haunted Hogwarts. The fettered sun cast an eerie glow through the open windows from behind portentous gray clouds, and a heavy mist had descended upon the castle grounds which sunk a chill deep in weary bones. It was only mid-morning, but it appeared to be mid-afternoon nearing evening; a crow interrupted the sound of the woman's footsteps, but her thoughts remained unbroken as she walked on, her destination nearing.
Professor Minerva McGonagall was not an impatient woman; though most peoples' first impressions of her were impatience and brisk attention, and though she never did anything to curb these notions, there was little truth behind the façade she put on. She encouraged this image of herself to guarantee discipline, for, though she was not exceptionally patient, she lost her temper quickly enough when faced with what her colleague called "dunderheads."
At that particular thought, the corner of Minerva's lips twitched upward, but the half-smile vanished just as suddenly; anyone watching would not have noticed at all. Minerva had never seen such wonder in her colleague's features, however hard he had tried to hide it. He had not, when first meeting his son, shown any true outward affection; indeed, if one had not known him as well as Minerva did, then one would not have seen the subtle softening of the lines around his lips, the loss of the tension in his shoulders. She had at first discouraged letting him meet Harry without proper, as Poppy termed it, "training," but Harry was a brilliantly perceptive little boy. Though Severus never once smiled, Harry seemed to do enough internal smiling for them both.
Minerva almost felt her stern countenance bleed away at the memory of that first meeting, but she clung to it in lieu of allowing these particular visitors to see any signs of weakness. Not that she truly cared what they saw or how they interpreted it; it was the principle of the thing. She was Dumbledore's right-hand woman, and she would carry out his orders with all the unyielding endurance she had constructed around herself in all of her 106 years of living.
Upon reaching the Main Hall, Filch stepped aside respectfully, revealing the two people whom Minerva had been rushing to meet.
"Diana, Proteus," she inclined her head at the male and female, their grave expressions boding ill.
"Minerva," Diana greeted, stepping forward with her companion. The emerald-eyed witch was somber, her appearance nearly as harried as Proudfoot beside her. Both wizards had deep purple bags under their eyes, indicating a great lack of sleep, and both were dressed in shabby, patched cloaks that would rival Remus's most favorite. Proudfoot was clutching something beneath his cloak and looking as serious as Minerva had ever seen him.
Casting a quick glance at Argus, who was trying to watch and listen in without being noticed – a task that the old man was not at all capable of – Minerva said, "Come to my office. The Headmaster is out at the moment." She turned, her velvet-green robes swishing around her as she led the way to the fourth floor. There, she opened the door to her office, which screamed pragmatism, and motioned for the both of them to take seats.
Sitting behind her desk, she directed all of her attention to the two of them and nodded.
"I trust you found everything?" she said carefully.
Proudfoot nodded, unearthing what had been hidden beneath his cloak. It was an ancient, much-maligned book of the laws governing Muggle-Wizard relations. The leather-bound cover was torn and tattered, the gold lettering standing out for its endurance through the ages. It was a large book, detailing all the tenets of muggle law in Britain, and all the transgressions that could be committed, all the formalities that must be observed, every agreement and treaty and document that defined the painfully complicated relationship between the magical and non-magical world.
Proteus placed the book on the older witch's desk, opening it to a marked page. Diana gestured to the page, her expression slightly pained.
"As you can see, Minerva, according to the Wizard-Muggle Statute of 1524, we have very little power to do much of anything unless we obtain a grant of permission from the Minister of Magic himself, or at least from the Head of the Auror Department," she explained. Proteus grimaced. "We cannot arrest the muggles because they do not know the details of Harry's magical lineage, and an arrest and sentencing would encroach upon the International Statute of Secrecy…"
"Which, in turn," Proteus interrupted, "could potentially involve authorities from all over the world, if anyone in the Ministry were to get wind of this and decide to make it as hard for us as possible." Diana sat back and nodded, her gaze hardening.
"We could still arrest the muggles and deliver the Dementor's Kiss to each of them," the brown-haired witch told her.
Proteus shook his head. "But there would be an inquiry, and the placement of the muggles would be an issue that even we cannot avoid bringing to the attention of the Ministry."
Minerva absorbed all of this for a moment before saying, "So there can be no suitable punishment until permission is obtained from a power higher than yourselves?"
The two Aurors nodded. "And," Diana continued, "even then, there is much to do before we can make the arrest."
Minerva nodded. "What of the Supreme Mugwump?" she asked. "Would his permission be adequate?"
Diana and Proteus glanced at each other. "We had already thought of that, Minerva," Proteus said quietly. "But it is only adequate if a unanimous decision from the Council is attained."
"The Wizengamot as well, I assume," Minerva said bleakly, no question in her voice.
But Diana shook her head. "Only a majority, even if by one, and because it is the Wizengamot, there is no need for enlightening the Minister. It is your best bet for retribution, Minerva."
"Particularly if discretion is a key point," Proteus added in his deep, resonant voice.
The bespectacled witch sat back, mind calculating. Albus had said that discretion, indeed, was of the utmost importance, and that they needed to use whatever means necessary to acquire the appropriate reprisal for Harry. Albus had said to spare no expense, that though an old man's guilt would never be assuaged no matter the price he would still pay for the biggest mistake he had ever made. Albus had said to do what must be done – and that was what Minerva would do.
For, as much as she loved Albus, she would always harbor that smidgen of resentment against him for not listening to her in the beginning, before it all began.
She nodded, the path ahead of them suddenly clear. The regularly-adjourned members of the Wizengamot numbered thirty-two; seventeen votes would be required. Minerva knew that at least nine of those seventeen had been in the Order of the Phoenix nearly six years ago, and that perhaps five more were beholden to Dumbledore. That left three votes to the imagining, but Dumbledore had worked miracles before.
"It will be done," she said.
Remus Lupin sat at the Gryffindor Table in the Great Hall, reading the Daily Prophet and indulging in a tall stack of pancakes liberally coated with melting maple syrup. The headlines declaimed the Minister's actions in the past few months as wholly successful as he finally seemed to finish the locating and arresting the followers of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Remus could not suppress his snort of dry amusement; five years later, and the Ministry was still scrambling to clean up the mess that had been made. And yet still, they announce the minister's achievements as almost miraculous.
"Personally, I find that they have not punished the Ministry for their idiocy enough," came a voice over his shoulder. Remus blinked and turned slightly to find Nearly-Headless Nick, his old House ghost. He smiled, slightly sardonically, and turned back to the paper.
"It's a government-owned paper, naturally," he murmured sarcastically. "Of course they would extol the virtues of their precipitously wonderful leader."
"Politics," Nick said, shaking his dangerously-wobbling head.
"Politics," Remus agreed lightly. A short silence followed in which the cold, translucent spirit bobbed languidly behind him, a silence in which Remus grew distinctly uncomfortable. The ghost's need to say something was palpable as Remus turned to face him again. "Are you quite alright, Nick?"
The ghost looked exceedingly discomfited that his purposes for disrupting Remus's breakfast had been so easily identified. He seemed to swallow – a motion Remus found only mildly amusing – before drifting forward (thankfully not through Remus) and settling across from him.
"The…er…boy," Nick said slowly, lowering his voice as though saying something publicly taboo. "Is he…ehm…well…all right?"
Had the ghost been anyone but who he was, Remus would have been profoundly insulted. But since Dumbledore had had the child placed in the infirmary, he had expressly forbidden any of Hogwarts' resident ghosts from going anywhere near it, for fear of frightening the child. Of course they would be interested in the boy's wellbeing; Remus could allow for that.
His face had taken on a very bleak expression, and he spoke with a dark cadence painting his tone. "He is better than he was when I found him," he said carefully. "Madame Pomfrey is an extraordinary witch."
"I did not," Nick said gently, looking concerned, "mean physically, Remus."
Remus glanced up at him, surprised, but said nothing for a moment. Then, "Severus met him yesterday," he murmured. "They seemed wholly engrossed in one another, though not a word beyond their names passed between them." He sighed. "I do not envy Severus the road that lies ahead. I can only hope that I might still be permitted a part to play in Harry's life."
Nick looked profoundly sad. "Indeed. The very idea that James and Lily's son…well…" He shook his head. "I have my misgivings about Severus being a good father to the poor child, but I have never been to judge one wholly on how one seems." He smiled slightly. "What do you think of Severus?"
Remus thought about that for a moment. What did he think of Severus? He still was not sure, and was suddenly aware of how ardently he had avoided the question. He knew Severus to be a pragmatic, strong, very skilled wizard with a tight reign on his emotions and utter disdain for anyone of questionable intelligence. In all their years of schooling together, he never once wondered at the man beyond the façade that he used. By some stretch of the imagination, he could see Severus as a strict but loving father, the kind who rarely showed affection though his love was still obvious.
He did not realize he had voiced these thoughts out loud until Nick chuckled suddenly. "I believe that those are our perceptions of the dour Severus Snape as well." The pearly-white ghost rose and drifted away with a smile. "I do hope you'll stay with us a while, Remus. It is good to have you back."
"Thank you, Nick," Remus returned as the ghost disappeared. His eyes, however, moved to the bleary atmosphere outside the school. Though he was young – the better part of twenty seven years – his world had been overturned numerous times, more than any man should ever have to bear. And yet of all the travails he had faced and conquered and that haunted him still, the one that he could not seem to fathom, let alone accept, was that Lily's son was also Severus's. He had not been lying when he had told Nick that he wanted to remain a part of Harry's life, but he was not sure how he was going to face Severus – truly face him – when the time came.
It would come, though. He knew that.
Dumbledore's gaze was beginning to get slightly unnerving. The two men had sat unerringly still for the past ten minutes and would undoubtedly be able to continue doing so for a good hour more, but Severus knew that Dumbledore would not ask him to his office to have a staring contest.
Well, then again, perhaps he might.
Dumbledore folded his long fingers together, the first movement he had made since he had sat down, a silent acquiescence that he no longer expected Severus to speak first. He smiled slightly, a touch of the old twinkling in his blue eyes.
"Would you like a spot of tea, Severus?" he asked quietly.
Severus simply stared at him. "Thank you but no," he said shortly. "What is this about, Headmaster? I have work to attend to."
"Ah," Albus murmured. "Of course. Harry?"
Severus held his gaze, though it took effort. "Yes. Harry."
Albus nodded sagely. "Well. I'll get on with it then." He sat back just as a knock alerted them to a third presence. "Come in, Minerva."
The door opened and the stern-faced witched walked in, a grave look on her aged face. "Minerva, you're right on time," Albus greeted.
Minerva nodded sharply. "Proteus and Diana have gone to make the arrangements. All that is needed…" The two wizards shared a long, calculating look, which Severus quickly realized was a Legilimens contact, the likes of which meant that he was not supposed to know.
The knowledge that he was being pointedly excluded made him sneer, but he said nothing, waiting for the secrets to be conveyed. When Albus broke the look and sat down again, conjuring a chair for Minerva as well, Severus knew it was over. He looked at the Headmaster and waited.
"Now that you are both here, we must discuss Harry's arrangements," Dumbledore began. The sudden exhaustion in his voice was not lost on the Potions Master; his eyes narrowed as he felt a sort of sick satisfaction that Dumbledore was still feeling the guilt and the pain that his mistake had cost. He had learned from his many years as Dumbledore's student and then Albus's employee that this great wizard was infallible. When he did make a mistake, however, the consequences of that mistake were often inconceivable.
As they were now. Perhaps it was nature's way of retribution.
"Poppy says that Harry is healing rapidly," Minerva murmured, a touch of pride in her voice. "He is such a strong boy."
"Indeed he is." Albus looked at Severus. "When he is fit to leave the infirmary, we must decide where it is he will stay until his previous…guardians are disposed of, and the Ministry can no longer take him from us legally."
"Not that they would be able to," Minerva muttered.
Albus glanced at her but continued on this vein. "Will he stay with you?"
It took Severus a moment to realize that the question was being directed at him. He blinked, but the rest of his face remained expressionless. "Of course."
Unfortunately, both Albus and Minerva were not as gullible as he would have hoped they had been, for their gazes became acute as Minerva interjected, "If I may, Albus…do you think that would be the best idea at the moment?"
"Of course," Albus said. "The best place for Harry to be right now is with his father."
"Hardly," Severus was unable to stop himself from saying. "You do realize that I do not have any idea of what I am doing, Albus?"
"Nonsense. It is inherent," Albus said with a slight smile. "Well, in women maybe."
"Precisely," Minerva said. "At least allow Pomfrey and me to help you."
"Did you really think I would not?" Severus asked dryly. But Albus was shaking his head.
"You may want to help, Minerva, but I believe that we need to interfere as little as possible in the rearing of Harry. He must become accustomed to his father, and to the notion that he is safe. More than that, Severus must learn to be a father," Albus said with the smallest of smiles. It was quickly gone, however, with his next statement. "We must prepare for the psychological effects of your son's trauma, Severus. He will never be as open or as innocent as most boys, and he must be raised delicately but firmly.
"Furthermore, we must prepare Harry for the wizarding world even as he is raised. He is still young, still open to influence, so this should not prove too difficult for you Severus." Albus smiled.
"Now," he continued, "when James and Lily died, they left a substantial amount of gold behind for when Harry needs it. As I was the caretaker of their will, I am in possession of the key and will hand it over to you."
Severus narrowed his eyes. "No," he said sharply. "That is Harry's, and you may give it to him when he is older. I have savings of my own, and I do not need a ghost's money to raise my son."
Albus frowned at his reference to the Potters as ghosts, but said nothing about it. "As you wish. We need to consider schooling in September as well."
Minerva looked thoughtful. "If this matter of his guardianship is not settled by September, a wizarding primary school would not be appropriate."
"I propose a tutor if that will be the case," Albus told them. Severus swallowed, then looked away.
"We can consider it when the time comes. For now, if that is all…?"
"One last thing, Severus," the old wizard murmured. Severus's black eyes met Albus's blue. "I would request that you remain with Harry in the school for the duration of the summer, to ensure the discretion of the proceedings."
Severus had expected to feel indignant at such a request as to give up his summer to remain in the school, but all he felt was relief. He was not entirely sure why.
He nodded. "Of course." Rising to his feet, he nodded at Albus, then at Minerva. "Good day."
When he was gone, Minerva and Albus sat quietly, the only noise coming from Fawkes as the old Phoenix shuffled on his perch.
Finally, "You did not tell him yet." It was a statement, not a question.
Albus shook his head. "It is not time for him to know."
"He isn't telling you something, either," Minerva said observantly. Albus nodded, his mind far from the room.
"A life for a life," he whispered. "It is the debt that must be paid."
Madame Pomfrey opened the door and looked briefly surprised to see him standing there. She recovered quickly and stepped aside to allow him entrance.
"Severus, do come in," she whispered. "Step lightly and speak quietly. Your son is asleep."
Severus nodded at the mediwitch as she quietly shut the door and walked into her office. He looked down the ward to the bed near the windows which was separated from the rest of the room by white partitions. He stepped lightly, as Poppy had told him, and slid around the partitions to the seat that was always right beside the bed that held Harry. The little boy was asleep, his child-like snores music to the ears. Severus had not realized that he had looked so harsh until his face softened at the innocence in the child's face.
With an unsure hand, he reached forward slowly, tucking it underneath Harry's small, outstretched fingers. The boy's eyes blinked open blearily as a moment of confusion clouded his senses. Then they cleared; though his face was still filled with sleep, he smiled at his father.
Author's Note And so. It begins.