It's been eight months. Wow. Somehow, that's rather...depressing. Ahem, anyway, moving on...let me first apologize for the (repeatedly) too-long delay in updating this. There are three reasons that I can give for this, by way of explanation, if anyone's interested, and they are; I realized that what I was doing in university wasn't really what I wanted to do (or that I particularly enjoyed) and therefore had to deal with changing courses and getting permission to do said changes; then at the end of the year I moved states, and had to find a place to stay along with getting used to the new university and the new place; finally, and perhaps most importantly, for some reason or the other, I sort of...lost the drive that I previously had when it came to writing, specifically writing for 'Harry Potter' –again, I have no idea why it happened, but...it did.
BUT, I'm slightly pleased to say that I have gotten that drive back, and that I want to –and will definitely- complete this story. All I can ask is that those of you who reviewed have not lost your interest in this (if you have, well, you can't be blamed, can you?).
Right. Well, that's that. Oh, and not to forget a big 'THANK YOU' to everyone who reviewed and asked for updates (however late said updates are).
Here's Chapter Sixteen –or rather, part two of chapter fifteen. Hope you enjoy it!
Sirius gestured around with his arms.
"Here, of course."
He scowled at the Potions' Master
"No, here as in Grimmauld Place." He glanced back at Dumbledore. "With my parents' original protection and now your extra wards and with you as Secret Keeper, wouldn't this be the safest place for Harry?"
Dumbledore was quiet for a moment.
"Yes," he decided, "yes, it would..."
"Then..." there was a somewhat excited gleam in the dark-haired man's eyes. "He can come here?"
The elderly wizard smiled.
Chapter Sixteen: Explanations and Mentally Scarring Images
There was a moment of silence in the room as its occupants stared at the elderly wizard.
"No?" echoed the dark haired man, losing the gleam that had sparked to life in his eyes. "What do you mean 'no'?"
There was a sigh from the (only) greasy haired man seated at the table.
"He means 'no, he cannot come here', Black. Surely you are not so mentally challenged that you do not realize that?"
The man he was bating didn't as much as glance in his direction, his attention too focused on the white haired wizard seated at the other end of the table.
"Dumbledore?" he pressed, "What do you mean 'no'?"
"I mean, Sirius, that while this might indeed be one of the safest places for Harry to be in, it is not exactly the...wisest," replied the elderly wizard, his blue eyes looking somewhat saddened behind the pair of half-moon spectacles that adorned his face.
"Yes, we already have one spoiled brat to keep an eye on. We certainly don't need two." This was said, of course, with a pointed look opposite him, where the wrongly accused Azkaban escapee sat.
Said wrongly accused Azkaban escapee was mentally chanting that he would not allow the slimy git to get to him.
"Oh?" Sirius feigned confusion. "Why, Severus, I didn't know that you shared our opinion and considered yourself to be a spoiled brat. Interesting."
"What's interesting is-"
"Albus, what exactly do you mean by it not being the wisest place for Harry to be at?" questioned McGonagall, swiftly and smoothly interrupting her fellow professor –thereby preventing another round of the Black versus Snape 'let's throw insults at one another until we can't think of anything more to say or until someone kills us' game.
"Unfortunately, my dear, it is not my place to answer that," said Albus, a smile on his face. "Not yet, at least."
Merlin, I should be used to this, thought the Transfiguration Professor, angrily, but it never. Fails. To. Annoy. Me.
So she fixed her superior with a...superior glare, hoping he got the message –even though that didn't mean that he would change his mind and answer the question.
Albus merely chuckled.
"If it's not your place to answer the question, then whose place is it?"
Albus cocked his head to a side, looking thoughtful for a brief moment, before the smile was back on his face.
"Ah, when you put it that way," he pushed his glasses back up along his nose, "it is my place to tell you..."
McGonagall raised her eyebrows, but kept her mouth shut to prevent any increased aggravation. Patience, she had come to learn, was really a virtue that one needed to possess when working alongside this great wizard –it was just as important as breathing and eating.
"So you will tell us?" queried Tonks.
"I am afraid not."
"It doesn't matter if it's not your place to answer the question or not," said Sirius, his voice low. "It's my right to know anything concerning Harry, especially when it's about his safety."
"I can understand that, Sirius, but I have my reasons for this."
"When do you never have your reasons?" snapped Sirius, getting worked up once more.
"Ah, but Sirius my boy, no one hardly ever does anything without-"
"-This isn't the time to be philosophical or anything like that, Dumbledore! This is Harry's safety we're talking about."
"I am aware of that, Sirius," said the Headmaster, quietly this time.
"Then why do you insist on keeping things from us? Things related to him?"
"Sirius, you must know that I would never do anything to put Harry in more danger than he already is in..."
"I know that! But...but..." his voice trailed off, and, when she turned to look at him, McGonagall noted how he ran a hand through his long black hair –an act of frustration if there ever was one. "It would just...make me feel better if I knew exactly what he's facing...you know?"
Dumbledore's blue eyes softened at the obvious vast concern that the man had for his godson.
"If you knew exactly what he's facing?" echoed Snape, lazily. "Good grief, Black, surely you are not that...lacking in the head? Is it not obvious that the 'what' he's facing is the Dark Lord?"
"No one asked for your opinion," growled out Sirius.
"Again, your levels of concentration appal me. The Headmaster said a while ago that he would like to hear our opinion." Snape paused. "How you managed to leave Hogwarts with a successfully completed education I will never be able to understand..." He shook his head for emphasis.
"Good, because it might tax whatever it is that you have for a brain inside there," retorted Sirius, his hands clenching into fists.
The slumped figure seated next to him stirred at this latest heated exchange, and pulled himself to a properly seated position with a sigh.
"Let it go, Sirius," he said, somewhat sluggishly. "Let Dumbledore finish what he wanted to say."
With an annoyed huff, the dark haired man crossed his arms across his chest and turned back to the Headmaster, who was gazing at the brunet in concern.
"Is there anything we can get you, Remus? For the pain?"
Remus shook his head, although he attempted a smile –which came across as a grimace.
"It'll be fine. It's just fatigue mixed in with the usual after-effects of the transformation," he said. "I've taken all the necessary pain-relieving potions, Dumbledore," he added, seeing that the Headmaster was still not entirely convinced.
Dumbledore sent him another searching glance, before he turned away from him.
"Now, where was I...?"
"The part where you'd never lead Harry into greater danger than he is in already."
"That was a rhetorical question, Black. Ever heard of them?"
Kingsley saw the looks on both men's faces, and spoke up somewhat hurriedly. They were all exhausted as it was and they certainly did not need to be put through yet another extra long meeting owing to the fact that two of the Order members couldn't let go of silly schoolboy grudges.
"Dumbledore, please, at this point in time we're all rather tired and liable to bursts of temper," he said, "could you please be...direct, for a change?"
"Of course, Kingsley," said the blue eyed wizard, with a merry little nod that made some of those seated at the table wonder how the elderly wizard could continue to be so cheerful when they were exhausted. "To address your concerns Sirius," he nodded at the dark haired man, "I would never put Harry in a position where he faces more danger than what he faces already. But...it is necessary that he remain with Mr and Mrs Dursley, not just for now but for a few years –no, Sirius, do not ask me why. I can only tell you that it is because of the blood protection that Lily passed on to him."
The Hogwarts' Headmaster turned his attention to the others. "As for Harry staying here at Grimmauld Place –of course we will bring him here, but it is far too early to do so now. Harry is still safe where he is, and so I do not think it will harm him if he were to remain with his aunt and uncle for a while longer."
"But what of the use of his blood in the Dark Lord's resurrection?" questioned McGonagall, her brows furrowed. "Doesn't that mean that he will be able to reach Harry there?"
"Logically speaking, that is correct. But it will not happen, for while Lord Voldemort-" Dumbledore pleasantly ignored his colleague's disapproving glance, "-took Harry's blood, and therefore is able to touch Harry without being repulsed by Lily's protection, there are limits as to what he can and can't do." Every single pair of –weary- eyes was on him.
"The ancient magic that Lily unknowingly invoked by...sacrificing herself to save her son, even after she was told that...her life would be spared," McGonagall wondered about the discreet look that he sent in Snape's direction, "was not invoked to protect Voldemort. He may have some of that protection and...a certain link to Harry, but the protection is at its strongest when Harry is with his aunt –who shares Lily's blood- and Voldemort will not be able to get past that, whether or not he had used some of Harry's blood –although, perhaps, the power will be slightly, and only slightly, weaker since he did use Harry's blood..."
He blinked at the onslaught of questions that followed his explanation.
"A certain link to Harry? What sort of link are you talking about?"
"If Voldemort himself can't go to where Harry is staying, won't he be able to send some of his Death Eaters to capture Harry for him?"
"No offence met, Dumbledore, but are you certain that Voldemort will be unable to get to Harry while he is with his aunt?"
"Why would-" Tonks stopped abruptly when her former Headmaster raised a hand calmly, effectively bringing all questions to a halt. Dumbledore remained silent even after he had silenced those in the room.
He lowered his hand slowly.
"For a group of individuals who claim to be exhausted...that was some rather energetic shouting," he commented, lightly. "Tell me, Alastor," he said, looking to his old friend, "if you were Lord Voldemort-" he smiled at the dark look that the Auror sent him, "-my mistake, if you were a Dark Lord as notorious as Lord Voldemort and suffered everything that Voldemort suffered...if you only just regained a properly functioning human form, what would your first action be?
Would you rush after the one person who seems to constantly defeat you –or send your Death Eaters to capture him so you can destroy him- or would you work on establishing your own forces? Since you have been absent for a very long time, it is only natural that things would have changed within your Death Eaters' ranks..."
"I would work on my Death Eaters, and then on securing myself an army of sorts –taking advantage of the fact that the Minister for Magic doesn't seem to believe that I have returned to do certain things," said Moody, gruffly.
"That is what I had thought too," said Dumbledore, pleasantly.
"Then he will leave dealing with Harry for later?"
"Oh, we can all be assured that he will still be thinking of ways and means to defeat Harry," said Dumbledore, quickly, "but he will not act on it just yet. The Ministry does not believe that he is back or that he killed Cedric Diggory-"
"-Or that Harry's telling the truth, or that you're sane and speaking the truth too," added Sirius, with a snort.
"No, the Ministry does not believe any of that; therefore, if he were to suddenly somehow manage to kill Harry –which he won't, Sirius, please sit back down- then it would only make people more suspicious. Who, apart from him, would want Harry Potter dead?"
"I can think of someone," muttered Sirius, with a dark look across the table.
Snape sneered at him.
"If I did want that, there wouldn't be a Harry Potter to talk about at this meeting," he replied.
"You brought that down on yourself Sirius."
"You certainly did," agreed McGonagall, "although...Severus, would you please stop baiting him?"
Her colleague merely sneered at her too, before focusing his attention on the far wall.
"And so," continued Dumbledore, as though that exchange had not happened, "the public would get suspicious...and the Ministry would be forced to act to keep the public's support, and lo and behold, the fact that Voldemort has risen once more will be known." He shook his head. "No, this dark wizard is far too clever than to risk that happening. He will make the best of the Ministry's forced ignorance and its incompetence, until it will be too late for them to act when he does show himself."
"So what you're saying is that Harry does not need to come here for a while yet, for he is safe with his aunt and uncle?" questioned Tonks. Dumbledore nodded. "Oh, okay. Then...why are we here in the first place?"
Dumbledore beamed at her.
"Because I knew that there are some among us who wish to know if it is possible to allow Harry to spend his holidays here," he replied. Despite his aching bones and fatigue, Remus couldn't help the faint grin that formed on his lips as he watched his best friend fidget uncomfortably in his seat.
"Isn't that touching?" drawled Snape.
"And," added Dumbledore, before Sirius could retort, "I also wanted to discuss with you a form of...surveillance duty..."
"What?" asked the gruff, booming voice of Mad-Eye Moody.
"I wish for some of the Order members to keep an eye on Harry," explained Dumbledore. "For while he is safe where he is...well, Voldemort is not the only one who can become a dangerous foe at times like these..."
What, wondered McGonagall, is he talking –oh. Could he possibly mean...her eyes widened slightly, would the Ministry really go that far to prevent others from knowing that Harry Potter was indeed speaking the truth...?
"You mean the Ministry," she stated.
Dumbledore looked startled.
"Do I?" he queried, his blue eyes twinkling merrily. McGonagall quirked an eyebrow.
"...Either the Ministry itself, or...those in the Ministry who are working for Voldemort."
"Minerva my dear, that is an interesting theory; one that never once crossed my mind, mind you..." He winked amusedly at the intelligent Deputy Headmistress as she sent him a dark, foreboding look.
"Would the Ministry really do that?" questioned Tonks, looking to Mad-Eye and Kingsley, her fellow Aurors. Mad-Eye grunted.
"Since you're still relatively new to this, I'll let it go," he said. "But the more time you spend in the Ministry, Tonks, the more you'll realize that the people in it are not all honest and respectable."
"And with the Ministry divided between those who have faith in Dumbledore –because, well, not all of us know the real Harry Potter- this is a situation that greatly benefits Voldemort," mused Kingsley. "Especially if he plans on taking over the M-"
"-Getting back to what I was saying," cut in Dumbledore smoothly, almost hurriedly, "I have assigned two people to keep an eye on Harry; Arabella Figg and Mundungus Fletcher, who-"
McGonagall had to say that she couldn't find fault with her former student for his exclamation.
"What 'what'?" inquired Dumbledore, curiously.
"Arabella –no offence meant to her, of course- is a Squib," said Sirius, "and...and to leave Harry's protection in Dung's hands...why, we might as well hand him over to whoever is after him."
"But I thought Mundungus was a friend of yours...?"
"He is," said Sirius, "but...he's not very...good with keeping his mind on the task at hand." He sighed. "The moment he gets a whiff of a good black-market sale of some kind of valuable goods, he'll forget all about Harry. You know what he's like, Dumbledore."
"Ah, yes, but I do not imagine that Mundungus will let us down here," said Dumbledore. "In any case, I want to appoint at least two others –to take it in turns, of course. I only want two people watching Harry over any given period of time." He shook his head. "No, I only actually want one person to keep an eye on him, while the other only gets called in if Harry ever leaves his aunt's house."
"So we'll be spying on Potter?" questioned Moody.
Remus noticed that Sirius didn't look too pleased with the thought, and sent him a warning look –which, for some reason or the other, he heeded.
"Not spying, Alastor, watching. Or protecting, if you will."
"That sounds like a good idea. So...who's watching him now?" asked Tonks.
"Arabella is," said Dumbledore. "And Mundungus is on standby." He smiled. "Now, about these rosters-" He looked up when Snape stood up, pushing his chair back forcefully, but asked nothing when he saw the man head towards the door.
"Severus?" questioned McGonagall, surprised.
"I don't see any further need for my presence at this meeting," explained the Potions' Master, his robes billowing around him. "I will be at Hogwarts if you need anything." With a nod at them all –though probably not at Sirius- he stalked out of the kitchen, quietly shutting the door behind him.
Everyone except Dumbledore stared after him, surprised.
"Well," said Kingsley, "that was...strange."
"Was it something we said?" questioned Tonks, earning herself a disbelieving look from Sirius.
"No, he was right to leave when he did," said Dumbledore, the saddened note in his voice catching everyone's attention. "He did not want to hear too much information," he said, by way of explanation.
"Too much information?" echoed McGonagall.
"Is it because..." Remus paused, looking unsure. "Because of his work as our...informant?" Dumbledore's small smile told him he was right.
"Yes, Remus. For although Severus has handled Lord Voldemort and his mental probing admirably all this time, he can never take his good fortune –in that aspect- for granted. There is always a great chance that Voldemort will not believe his reasons for...remaining a Hogwarts Professor, for associating with me...and if he sees that Severus knows more than he is letting on..."
"It will put him in danger," finished Tonks. Dumbledore was not the only one pleasantly surprised when Sirius shook his head and correct her.
"Not just that," he said, slowly, grudgingly, "it will put the Order in danger and Voldemort will know of our actions and who exactly is in the Order." He paused. "That...that is what Sniv –er, Snape, is trying to avoid."
His former Headmaster and Head of House were both looking at him –one looking pleased while the other looked somewhat...suspicious- and he shrugged. "I may be a bit of an ass, but I'm not stupid so as to be unable to acknowledge the truth," he said, harshly. "Something which I learned that not all witches and wizards are able to do..."
McGonagall continued to watch him out of the corner of her eye as Dumbledore continued with what he was saying, organizing times and rosters, and strategies of escape if the need arose. Her eyes were narrowed in thought behind her square rimmed glasses.
Well, she thought, bemusedly, if he can understand that much about Severus...maybe, maybe there is some hope that the two will reconcile and put their childish school day grudges behind them...?
"Yeah, it's just...Snape really does want to help us, doesn't he?" Tonks voice snapped her out of her thoughts, and she found that the topic of conversation had moved on. "I never really...thought of him as loyal or anything like that; I just sort of accepted that he was here, with us...not knowing what exactly he did for us..."
"That may be true," said Sirius, somewhat childishly, "but he's still a slimy, greasy-haired, snivelling prat."
McGonagall sighed in faint disappointment. So much for that hope, she thought to herself, the day those two reconcile will probably be the day...the Dark Lord takes to wearing red and gold robes and apologizes to Harry for all he has done to him, requesting to be best friends forever, while admitting he's the founding member of Albus' fan club.
She shuddered at the images that were conjured up in her head; images of Harry Potter and the Lord Voldemort as best friends...and, of course, of said dark wizard founding a fan club in honour of the Hogwarts' Headmaster.
I am scarred, she moaned inwardly, for life.
Okay, that was way longer than I had expected it to be. Argh! I just didn't know how and when to end it, that's why. Ah well. It won't happen again, I hope.
Hope you enjoyed it.
'Till next time,