Summer's End (1)
The next week passed rather quickly for Harry and his extended family. During that time, Severus took it upon himself to go to St. Mungo's to acquire some of Mr. Lovegood's blood and since then he, Draco, Tom, and Hermione spent a great deal of time locked away in a potion lab at Snape Manor trying to find a cure for the unknown illness Luna's father had contracted. Sadly though they weren't making any progress in finding a cure and Luna and her father were resolved to the fact that Mr. Lovegood would not have much longer to live. Amortia was flabbergasted as were the rest of the Healers at St. Mungo's. They had no idea what the illness was or how to fight it. It was something they had never seen before. But like Hermione, Amortia refused to give in and took up Mr. Lovegood's case personally. Every day she came by Malfoy Manor to say how Luna's father was doing and to let Luna's friends know how the young woman was coping. Which was extremely well. Amortia seemed to think both Luna and her father had expected this and had been preparing themselves for some time for Mr. Lovegood's death.
Tom received his Hogwarts letter two days after the visit to Durmstrang and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It seemed Karkaroff preferred his life the way it was and wanted to keep the torture and death at bay, therefore he made sure the files on Luther Bailey were extensive and covered any and all basis. No one on the staff of Hogwarts would have reason to question where Luther Bailey had come from or if he really was who he claimed to be. So in that regard, Tom was all set to begin another year at Hogwarts. And he wouldn't say aloud, but he was anticipating the upcoming term. One could even say Tom Riddle was excited about it.
Harry spent the next few days trying to convince Sirius to be Dudley's tutor. At first, Sirius outright refused and Harry, not to be put off, had smiled 'the smile' and asked him again. Of course he got the desired result and Sirius agreed. But just after the effects of the smile wore off, Sirius once again refused and demanded Harry never to use that power on him again. It took Harry three more days of constant badgering, and pointing out the advantages of tutoring his cousin… In the end Sirius agreed only because he had promised himself he would do anything for Harry, be there when Harry needed him. And his godson needed him to do this. So Sirius was to become Dudley's tutor and he and Harry spent the rest of the week in the library, preparing lesson plans for his undeserving cousin. Harry wondered what Dudley would choose at the end of the week and hoped Sirius wasn't doing the work for nothing. Though he knew Sirius wouldn't be heartbroken if it turned out Dudley didn't want to embrace being a wizard, Harry was somewhat surprised to realize that he may be a little disappointed if his cousin decided to turn his back on his magical inheritance. Draco thought he was mental.
During this time, it became apparent that something was going on with Hermione, especially in the mornings when they all came together to have breakfast. After the fifth such morning, Draco finally had had enough of not knowing what was going on with her.
"Hermione, that is the third time you've let your food fall off the fork," he commented and pointed to her fork with his own. Hermione shook her head and the dazed look disappeared from her eyes. "Is there something wrong?"
Hermione's eyes shifted to Severus for a split second before returning to Draco, and Severus smirked very smugly behind his tea cup.
"N-No! I'm perfectly fine!" Hermione's face flushed deeply and she stared down at her plate.
Harry was about to point out that she was lying and that everyone could tell she was lying, but just then Remus was announced by a house elf and said werewolf quickly entered the breakfast room. He looked mildly surprised to see all the people sitting around the table and most looked entirely surprised to see him too. In the moments before anybody had a chance to move at his appearance, Remus took that time to see who was in attendance. Both Malfoys were present, with Lucius sneering at Remus' haggard appearance and Draco sitting beside Harry looking unconcerned. Sirius sat beside Lucius, and his eyes went wide upon seeing the state of his friend. Across the table Harry looked happy to see him, but Harry's frown indicated he also noticed how tired Remus was. Hermione smiled warmly at him, but for some reason she was blushing to the tips of her hair, while Severus was staring blankly at him without any expression at all. Pansy Parkinson was also in attendance, sitting beside a dark haired boy whom Remus didn't recognize, and they looked just mildly curious to see him.
"Moony!" Sirius bounded out of his chair like an excited puppy and hurried over to his friend and wrapped an arm around Remus' shoulders, much to his husband's disgust. Lucius discreetly withdrew his wand from his robes and began to point it at Remus, but Tom, who was sitting beside the elder Malfoy, moved to stop him.
"You aren't one to do drastic things, Lucius. They're only friends after all," Tom calmly whispered. "Besides, I have a feeling he is here to impart some news."
Remus nodded to the young man, having heard Tom with his sensitive werewolf hearing. "I'm sorry to barge in without sending word first. But I don't think this could have waited."
"You're allowed to barge in whenever you feel like it!" Sirius exclaimed before pushing Remus into a chair and ordering him a plate of breakfast that Remus quickly refused. "Isn't that right, Lucius?" The Animagus pinned his husband with a withering glare. Lucius, being used to such looks, ignored it and turned to Remus, who was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.
"Of course. Mr. Lupin is welcome any time. Though perhaps you would like to rest a while. You are looking more haggard than usual," Lucius couldn't help but add, even when he knew he would pay for it later. "I can have a house elf make up a room for you."
"No, thank you, Malfoy. I should tell you what I've discovered and then be on my way."
"But Moony… Are you alright?" Harry asked. "You look like you've just gone through a full moon." And the full moon wasn't for another two weeks.
"Harry, it is not polite to point out things like that," Hermione chastised.
"Sorry, I'm just worried…"
"I've been with the wild werewolves. Not the best living conditions… Dumbledore does not know I've returned yet, which is why I came directly here. Fred and George have recently found out some of the things Dumbledore is planning. There are other things he's told the Order that he plans, but I was unable to read between the lines and unfortunately that is where his true intentions lie. But I do know this much, your year at Hogwarts will not be a safe one."
Draco snorted. "Tell us something we don't already know."
"What have you heard?" Severus implored softly, feeling a bit bad for the werewolf. Remus certainly looked as if he could pass out at any moment, and instead of going home to rest, Lupin had come straight to the manor to talk with them. It certainly spoke volumes about his dedication and loyalty.
"Dumbledore is planning to take away your position as the Head of Slytherin House," Remus said to Severus and paused because he knew what kind of reaction would immediately follow such a statement.
"What?" Severus hissed lowly, his eyes narrowing to slits on Remus.
"He can't do that!" Harry yelled as he stood up, his hands gripping the edge of the desk so hard that his knuckles were turning white.
"Well that's just... That's impossible! On what grounds?" Hermione demanded.
"I don't know, but Dumbledore seems very confident that he can do this."
"Dumbledore is a fool," Draco drawled and pulled a seething Harry back into his chair and began to rub the back of the brunet's neck. "How can he possibly think to do this? He himself is still under probation from the Ministry and the School Board…"
"But he is still the Headmaster," Lucius said thoughtfully. "He still has some pull in regards to the school. Not much, but still some."
"I think we should kill him now and be done with it," Sirius said, earning a shocked look from Remus in return. Lucius looked pleased by this statement and nodded in agreement.
"No," Harry growled, his green eyes flashed dangerously and his face darkened. He bared his fangs and began to growl. This reminded everyone once again that he and Draco were Dark Creatures now; sometimes it was very easy to forget that they weren't human anymore. "I want the bastard to be alive when we take over! To know we have the power and he has nothing. Only then, when we finally have control over the Wizarding World, Dumbledore will finally die. Not one second before then!" Harry stressed his conviction by slamming a fist on the table.
"That is the plan, love." Draco took Harry's fist off the table and entwined their fingers tightly together before bringing Harry's knuckles to his lips, kissing each knuckle softly. "No need to get worked up," he murmured soothingly before turning back to the others and continued to hold onto Harry's hand. "We will discuss the Head issue in a moment. I would like to hear what else you've discovered, Remus."
Remus nodded, very impressed how well Draco had calmed Harry down in such a very short amount of time. And the fact that Draco had no qualms about showing his affection to Harry with all of them sitting there watching said a lot about how much the young Slytherin loved his mate. "He's been meeting someone the last few days, according to the twins. Fred and George have developed very good spying techniques and invented plenty of things to keep them invisible. They were able to follow Dumbledore without him knowing he was being followed. Which is an incredible feat in and of itself." Everyone agreed with a nod. "They don't know who this person is, only that it is a tall figure in a heavy black cloak. The two always meet at the Hog's Head and are there for only a short amount of time. We are unable to discern what they speak of. More than likely a bubble of silence is constructed around the table."
"It could have been Moody," Pansy said.
"If that's the case, we don't have to worry about him anymore."
"No, it's not Alastor," Remus said, shaking his head. "Moody wouldn't try to hide under a cloak just for a meeting with Dumbledore. He has no need to hide. And he isn't that tall anyway." Remus was still unaware of the former Auror's death and they all realized this when he kept speaking about Moody as if he were still alive.
"Um, Remus…" Harry ran his hand through his hair and looked at his friend nervously. "Moody is dead now."
Remus' eyes widened like saucers. "What do you mean he's dead? What happened?"
"I'll tell you what happened!" Sirius barked. "That bastard kidnapped Hermione, Luna, Dean, and Neville! He planned to torture them for information and then kill them. And he did this all under Dumbledore's orders!"
"But we tortured and killed him instead," Tom said and smirked at the surprised werewolf. "I suppose his body has yet to be found otherwise we would have read it in today's copy of the Prophet."
"More likely, Dumbledore destroyed the body. He wouldn't want anyone to know what had happened," Lucius put in.
After a moment of everyone watching conflicted emotions run across Remus' face, his expression finally landed on something akin to acceptance. Harry mentally sighed in relief when Remus finally nodded. He sipped his coffee before eyeing everyone at the table. "Tell me what happened."
It seemed like everyone breathed a sigh of relief then, especially Sirius. Remus was on their side, that was certain, but his reaction to some of the things he and Harry did was worrying the Animagus. Surprisingly it was Tom who jumped in to tell the story and he told it with more emotion than anyone expected him to. Remus sat quietly, listened intently, and halfway through the story he realized it was the Dark Lord who was speaking to him. He also took that realization with a grain of salt, and realized it was probably because he was already on the verge of violent anger from hearing what Dumbledore and Moody had put the children through. By the end of the tale, he was seething, and his eyes had started to glow yellow, his werewolf persona begging to be released to seek revenge.
"I suppose you were the one to kill Moody?" he asked Tom.
"Oh no. That pleasure was given to Severus. However, I took great pleasure in torturing him along with Lucius and Sirius."
"Don't forget, Tom. You gave Moody the Dark Mark as well," Harry said and sat back.
"Which was apparently a waste of time," Tom muttered in displeasure.
Hermione, from her seat next to Draco, saw something from the corner of her eye. She leaned back to peer at Harry and saw something like ash falling to the ground from Harry's chair.
"Err… Harry?" when she had his attention Hermione pointed to the ground behind his seat.
Harry and Draco turned to look and as Harry moved, more gray flakes fell to the ground. Draco took one look and began to snicker.
"Shut it!" Harry snapped. He turned back around and stared at the table. An embarrassing flush spread across his normally pale cheeks.
"What is it?" Lucius asked, trying to crane his neck to see.
"My lover seems to be molting," Draco answered while running a finger down Harry's flushed cheek.
"Molting?" asked Remus.
"Hasn't anymore told you yet, Moony? Harry has wings," Sirius answered. "This must mean they'll come out of the wing sacks soon. Right, Harry?"
"Today or tomorrow." Harry scowled at the funny grins he was receiving from everybody. "Do you mind if we please get back to important things? Like this stranger Dumbledore is meeting and Severus' position as Head of Slytherin."
"I'll be off to have a chat with the other Board members," Lucius announced. "If Dumbledore wants to oust you from your Head position, we as Board members will need a reason. He probably hasn't any idea that we would find out before term started and by then it would have been too late for you to do anything about it, Severus. Thank you for your information, Lupin. This way we have enough time to stop Dumbledore from succeeding in this," he supplied as he stood. Sirius stood up as well and escorted Lucius to the door, both of them were talking quietly with their heads bent close together.
Harry watched them as they talked earnestly in the doorway while the others around the table were talking with each other. Harry didn't try to hear what Sirius and Lucius were saying, but he enjoyed what he was seeing. Sirius had a large grin on his face and was inching closer to his husband. Lucius on the other hand was frowning and shaking his head. Then Lucius straightened to his full height, and Harry saw him mouth the word 'no' very clearly before turning away from his husband. Sirius frowned intensely and before Lucius could move away any further, he reached out and grabbed his chin in what Harry saw was a very firm grasp and pulled their mouths together. Lucius' eyes widened and Harry could swear he saw dangerous sparks ignite within. Did Sirius want his husband to murder him?
Lucius pulled away, sneered at Sirius then departed. Sirius followed after throwing a grin at everyone at the table. Harry was just shaking his head at Sirius' antics when suddenly there was a soft bang and Sirius came sailing through the air back into the room and landed heavily on the ground behind Remus' chair. Everyone watched silently as the Animagus stood up and dusted off his robes with a huge grin.
"What can I say, he loves me!" he then returned to his chair and acted like nothing had happened.
"We should find a way of discovering who it is that Dumbledore is meeting with. Obviously he's up to no good," Hermione finally said, breaking the amused silence with a frown on her face. "Let's get Fred and George here, as well as Dean and Neville. I think we should use the younger generation to see what the old Headmaster is doing."
"I'm not sure that's entirely the best idea you've ever come up with," Severus said.
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. "Dumbledore will not expect to be followed around by the very children he had captured. He probably thinks we'll stay hidden away until we have to go to school and I know Neville and Dean are itching for some payback. They're ready to jump head first into helping us."
Remus nodded thoughtfully. "That's probably true, Hermione, but I don't think you should do it. Getting anywhere near Dumbledore is too dangerous."
"Perhaps we can have our guardians help. Utilize their abilities some more," Draco said and pointedly looked to the corner he knew Brumek was hidden in.
"Yes! We would love to help!" Ozemir said and jumped out next to the table beside Hermione.
"We will do no such thing," Brumek growled and he appeared also, though he stayed back. Remus sat back, startled to see the two Ukatae.
"Who are they?" he asked as his nostrils flared from the new scents. Why hadn't he noticed before?
"Two of the four Ukatae chosen to be Draco and Harry's guardians. This cheerful fellow is Ozemir," Hermione introduced, patting Ozemir's arm fondly as he sat beside her. Ozemir studied Remus for a moment before bowing his head to him. "And that is Brumek."
"They're really not here. You don't see anything," Draco whispered dramatically to Remus then shot a cheeky smirk at Brumek.
"Actually I'd rather not have to rely on our guardians," Harry said. He didn't really want to ask for the guardian's help again, especially since this was a problem dealing with humans. The only reason why he even sought help from the other Ukatae with Hermione's case was because he knew they needed a fast solution. There had been no time to come up with a plan of their own and no time to find their own means of searching for Hermione. "We can do this one ourselves," he said with a determined air, and he noticed Tom's nod of approval.
"I think we should leave it all until we're at school," Pansy said. "It might be easier to find out what Dumbledore is planning once at Hogwarts. The new term starts next week anyway."
"That's true," Tom said quietly, and then sipped at his tea. "But I still want an eye on him until we've gotten to school."
"That shouldn't be too hard," Severus put in. "The staff will have to go back to Hogwarts in two days time to conclude the preparations for the upcoming term. Dumbledore will not venture out that much."
"There is something else you should know before I leave," Remus cut in. "Dumbledore plans to resort some students. The twins didn't discover who would be put under the Sorting Hat again. But it is for sure that there will be a resorting."
"I don't need to guess who he's going to try to resort. It's obvious," Harry said. "And he's doing it to create more discord among the Houses. He's aware of where the Sorting Hat really wanted to place me."
"It'll be Hermione and Harry for sure. I bet he wants you two into Slytherin," Draco said. He would love to have them in his House but knew that if that were to happen it would ruin their plans, or at least make it more difficult to achieve what they were after.
"To make the rest of the school turns their backs on you," Tom said with a nod. "The less people on your side the better for him."
"For things to work out the way we want them to, you and Hermione definitely need to remain in Gryffindor."
"I know, Draco."
"But if he does manage to get the hat on you two, Harry will definitely be resorted into Slytherin and it is very likely Hermione will be sent to Slytherin as well," Severus said and smirked at his witch. "Especially after all the changes that has been happening to and around you."
Hermione cleared her throat and fought the blush trying to overtake her face. "I think there is only a fifty percent chance of that. Either I do get resorted to Slytherin, or I'll stay in Gryffindor. The other Houses wouldn't fit me at all. Ravenclaw maybe… but if Dumbledore wants me resorted, that's not the house he would choose."
"Do you think Dumbledore could have tampered with the hat, Uncle Sev?"
"Yes, it is a possibility, Harry. Dumbledore's magic is strong enough…"
"What is this hat you speak of?" Ozemir asked after snatching a piece of bacon off Hermione's plate.
"The Sorting Hat," Hermione began primly and Harry barely managed to retain a disgusted moan when he heard his friend go into lecture mode. "When a child is eleven and has magical abilities, enough to be classified as a witch or wizard, the child receives a letter inviting them to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The school is separated into four Houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. When the term starts -"
"Basically the Sorting Hat determines which House the kid would thrive best in," Harry interrupted. "Well, if you're going to quote Hogwarts, A History you might as well give him a copy to read, Hermione," he went on before she could chastise him for interrupting.
"I would like to see this book," Ozemir said and earned himself a smile and nod from Hermione. "It would be wise to get to know this place since we will continue our duties as your guardians there as well."
"As I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted… The Sorting Hat was made for the specific purpose of putting each child into the House they belong to. The Four Founders of the school each put a bit of their magic into the hat to make it animate and be able to function the way they want it to."
"So if a wizard or witch wanted to destroy the hat?" Ozemir asked.
"No, the Founders magic is too strong. I don't think even Dumbledore could do that."
"If this Dumbledore fellow has tampered with this hat, you as a Ukatae, young one, can destroy it in order to keep it from ruining your plans."
"Really? Wow. That's good to know, but I don't think I'd want to destroy the hat. Just make sure it doesn't try to resort me."
"Our powers are strong enough to keep it in line, I assure you," Ozemir continued and ignored the glare Brumek was giving him. "The power of wizards and witches is nothing compared to ours when we've mastered our abilities."
"That's great. Now all we have to do is get to the Sorting Hat before Dumbledore puts it on your heads… I don't know how we'll accomplish that," Draco mused.
"Whoever goes first can threaten it." Harry thought that was simple enough. He was sure that if the hat were told it would be destroyed if it put either himself or Hermione in Slytherin, surely that threat would keep them in Gryffindor. It would have to believe if they pointed out the fully-trained Ukatae standing in the shadows in the Great Hall. The Sorting Hat had to know what the Ukatae could accomplish… hopefully.
Severus stood up then and prepared to leave. "Where are you going?" Draco asked.
"To speak to Dumbledore."
"You're not going there alone!" Harry, Draco, and Hermione yelled as one. Severus looked at them with an amused expression.
"Why not? He doesn't scare me. I'm not about to let that old man dictate my life. I won't give him the pleasure. Besides, the worst he could do to me at Hogwarts at the moment is to try and get into my mind and you know how good I am at Occlumency. He will be sorely disappointed."
"I still don't like you being alone with him, Uncle Sev. Why can't you wait until Lucius comes back?"
Severus saw how upset this was making Harry and he hesitated. On one hand he didn't want Dumbledore to get the best of him. And he was telling the truth when he said he wasn't afraid of the old wizard. But he didn't want to make Harry worry either.
"Fine. I will wait for Lucius to return," he sighed. Harry beamed at him. "Now if you'll excuse me, I must return home. I have more work to do on Mr. Lovegood's potions."
"But you just got here," Harry complained. "Did you only come for breakfast?"
Severus smirked. "I've been here all-"
"Would you look at the time? I need to get to the library!" Hermione practically yelled and bolted from her seat, nearly overturning Draco's teacup in the process. "Tom, we should start our lessons now, don't you think?"
Remus' eyes widened at the familiar way Hermione spoke and looked at Voldemort. He'd heard they were acquaintances now, but as Voldemort stood, chuckling under his breath, Remus realized they were not just acquaintances, but also friends. This knowledge was surreal.
Severus' smirk deepened as he watched Hermione quickly disappear. Tom turned and gave the Potions Master a small tight smile. "We'll join you in your labs later in the day, Severus." And then he too departed.
"Hermione's reaction was very telling." Sirius said with a scowl as Severus left the room. He hadn't wanted to know Snape was spending his nights with Hermione. In fact, now that he thought about it that was probably why Hermione had been spending most of her nights at the manor instead of at her parents' home. So that she and Severus could be together. "Ugh. I'm going to tell Lucius to ban him from staying over!" Even as he said he knew he wouldn't really. Hermione would kill him.
"At least now we know why Hermione acts the way she does in the mornings," Draco said to Harry, who nodded absently. "I'm glad Ozemir taught us how to block other's emotions a few days back, otherwise we'd have felt everything." Harry gave another absent agreement.
"You weren't supposed to let on about that, young one," Ozemir hissed and then removed himself from the table and disappeared into his Shadow before Brumek could chastise him for that as well. Draco wasn't paying any attention to the elder Ukatae, but instead was watching Harry with a worried expression. He wondered what was bothering his mate. Harry was just looking off as if seeing nothing around him.
"I need to go now." Remus stood and Sirius followed. "Can I suggest something before I go?" he asked looking between Harry and Draco. The blond had to prod Harry to get him to come out of his daze and pay attention. "If Dumbledore doesn't know Dean, Neville, and Luna work with you, I suggest you keep it that way. Try and keep the number of allies you have a secret. Make him think those three have cut all ties with you because they believe it's your fault they were kidnapped and ordered to be killed. Let him think everyone else wants to stay away from you because they've all heard what happened. Dumbledore will believe it."
"That's a good idea, Moony. Dean and Neville, for sure, but I'm not too certain about Luna. Dumbledore knows how loyal Luna is to me and how fond of her I am."
"Well the others then. And in Luna's case, I suggest you keep her safe. But now I must be off."
"Keep yourself well, Remus. Take a few days rest if you can," Harry implored after he stood to give Remus a hug.
"I'll try, Harry. But it can't be promised." Harry wasn't pleased was this response, but knew there was nothing to be done about it.
Sirius and Remus left, leaving Harry and Draco alone with Pansy. Harry went back to staring at the table, his brow furrowed in deep thought.
"How do we contact Longbottom and Thomas without Dumbledore knowing? Their homes are almost certainly watched by him now," Pansy asked.
"Are you still corresponding with Charlie? He's gone back to Romania, correct?"
"Yes, dear Draco. We owl each other every day," she replied smugly. "He finally got a clue and realized it doesn't do him any good to try and ignore me."
"Hmm.… Perhaps you should owl Charlie immediately and have him send word to Longbottom and Thomas."
"That will take too much time and the owl would be intercepted I'm sure. Really, Draco, that was a dreadful suggestion."
Draco thought so to, but as he was still worried about what was bothering Harry, he wasn't concerned about that. Draco was just about to ask Harry what was bothering him when Ozemir showed up within a Ukatae circle and out jumped Dean and Neville.
"I really must be off now if I don't want to be reprimanded for helping you," Ozemir said quickly, then he dashed away in his Shadow. Moments later a booming voice could be heard throughout the manor yelling Ozemir's name.
"That one, Brumek… He needs to lighten up," Pansy said snickering.
"We've been abducted again, Neville," said Dean, smiling around the table. "Care to explain why we're here?"
Pansy looked to Harry and Draco, and when neither made a move to explain, with Harry staring darkly at the table and Draco watching him, she took it upon herself to explain this new situation with Dumbledore.
Ozemir casually leaned against the wall in a hallway deep within the manor with his legs crossed at the ankles and his arms crossed over his chest. He cocked his head to the side and avidly watched Brumek as the big warrior stood in front of him and continued to berate him for bringing the friends of the young ones to the manor and blah blah blah…
"Are you not listening to me?" Brumek suddenly hissed and seized Ozemir by his white tunic, pulling him away from the wall and bringing their faces close together.
In truth Ozemir really wasn't listening. He was more enthralled in watching Brumek lose the little patience he had, and Ozemir so enjoyed being the one able to make Brumek forget his training. It was always so much fun! "Of course I am. I'm listening with every fiber of my being," he replied sweetly. He shifted just a little bit back and fluttered his long white eyelashes, inwardly smirking when Brumek began to growl. Brumek really hated it when he flirted with him. Absolutely abhorred it.
"We have our orders. Are you determined to follow none of them?"
"If I don't do something, I'll grow bored. And what I did hurts no one," he purred and leant just a bit into Brumek's clawed hand still gripping the front of his tunic. "You are convinced I can be no use in any way, but did I not just help them? I've kept them inside the safety of their home and it took me only moments to fetch their friends. I see no reason why you should be so angry, Brumek."
Brumek quickly let go of him as if his hand had been burnt. He snapped his mouth shut and it didn't look like he was going to nag at him anymore but then the look in those granite eyes changed and Ozemir held his breath. "How did you learn to throw a dagger like that?" the question seemed to come out of nowhere and it was clear from the look on Brumek's face that he had not meant to ask it.
Ozemir blinked stupidly for a moment. That was not what he thought would be said. And then frustration reared its ugly head again. But frustration was better than panic. "Not this again! Stop acting as if you have no intelligence! Can you not comprehend that I am well able to protect myself? I don't need to wait inside somewhere to keep myself safe, as you so rudely announced to everyone a few days ago," Ozemir hissed all this with a cold tone. "And since you're so interested, I'll tell you. I learned how to throw a dagger the same way I learned how to do this."
Ozemir seemed to shift in and out of shadow, which took less than a second and Brumek blinked. He looked down to find the steel tip of his own sword pressed into his neck. Looking back up, his surprised eyes landed on Ozemir's frigid smile.
"Oh yes. I must be completely worthless to be able to steal the Second's weapon right out from under his nose." Before Brumek could start asking the questions he knew would be coming, Ozemir turned and walked away after handing back the sword. "I think I'll return to the young ones. At least they trust me."
"How in Hirsha's name did you do that?" Brumek shouted after Ozemir, his tone completely shocked and in awe. He would have gone after him, but was stopped by a petite hand on his arm. Looking down he found the hand belonged to a grinning Talyn, and Falde stood off a few feet behind. They'd finally come back from the Council.
"The important thing here is the fact that he can do it and not how, why, or where."
"Do you know?"
"No. And I don't care to know."
"Leave it," Falde said. "We have much to discuss. I think we should return to the forest and speak there." He didn't want the young ones to overhear what was going to be said. "But first, we need to inspect the young ones."
"Yes. I will explain after." Falde's look warned Brumek that not everything was right with the world. Something had happened. Maybe it was a battle. Perhaps, Hirsha willing, they had been called to battle and he wouldn't have to be stuck babysitting young ones anymore.
"So you want us to keep an eye on Dumbledore? How are we supposed to do that?" Neville inquired once Pansy had finished telling them why they'd been brought to Malfoy Manor.
"Each of you will be disguised and take a turn each night posting at the Hog's Head to spy on Dumbledore until we have to return to school."
Neville gulped and seemed to be slightly shaking his head, but Dean had a determined look upon his face and he nodded. Seeing Neville's reaction, Draco sneered and stood, placing both hands upon the table and leaned forward.
"If you can't handle this, Longbottom, we'll find someone else. After all, I don't expect you can do anything right anyway. You'd probably alert Dumbledore the moment he steps through the door."
Harry put a restraining hand on his arm before he could say more. "Neville will do it. And he'll do it well."
"That's right, Malfoy. I may be afraid, but I'll do what you want and Dumbledore will never know I'm there."
Draco smirked and sat down. "Good. I'd hate for Harry to find he was wrong about you being worth something. He says you have a backbone… So prove it. You would not be of any use to this organization if you continue to hesitate in doing what needs to be done," he finished coldly.
Harry looked to his friends. "You must understand. You are my friends and will stay my friends. However…" here Harry's eyes flashed and his voice lowered to a deadly softness. "We do not accept incompetence. We will not accept bent loyalty, and you will need to prove your worth. I already know you have the skills to succeed so I know your worth, but proving yourself in regards to the organization is different. You must prove your loyalty to all and not just to me."
"I get what you're saying. I think it's fair," Dean replied. Neville nodded in agreement, but otherwise remained silent. For a moment, he was hesitant to look Malfoy in the eye, but then quickly thought better of it. He straightened himself out and matched the Slytherin's gaze. This seemed to please Malfoy, as he smirked and sat back in his chair. Neville was surprised to see Draco's sneer had no trace of malice behind it.
"Can you guys hang around here for a bit?" Harry asked. "I have some business to see to."
"Yeah. Sure, mate," Neville said and sat down next to Pansy, with Dean taking a seat on the other side of the Slytherin girl.
Harry turned to his mate. "Lover?"
"Yes. Go, go…" Draco waved his hand towards the door. "I have no desire to see that… blimp."
A bubble of laughter burst out of Harry then. He'd never thought of Dudley like that before, and it made quite the funny picture in his head. "How do you even know what a blimp is?"
Draco sniffed disdainfully. "You'd be surprised how much I know about the muggle world." Harry smiled before moving his chair back to stand, only to stop when Draco gently grasped his chin and made Harry look at him once more. Pansy, Neville, and Dean decided now was a good time to talk amongst themselves.
Draco caressed Harry's chin with his thumb, his silver eyes burning brightly into sparkling emerald orbs. "We'll get him, Harry," the blond murmured, having figured out what had taken up Harry's attention earlier. "I swear he'll pay."
Harry nodded and bent down to brush his lips over Draco's. They shared a rather heated kiss in front of their friends before Pansy cleared her throat and Harry pulled back with a lovely blush spreading across his delicate features. Harry grinned sheepishly at all of them and headed to the door.
"Do be careful, lover. I would hate to get my clothes dirty in order to save your arse," Draco called as Harry left.
"Prat!" was the lighthearted reply.
Draco chuckled softly to himself; that is until he saw Pansy and the Gryffindors watching him. His smile quickly turned into a sneer.
Dean shook his head and snickered. "Too late, Malfoy. We've already seen you aren't the cold hearted bastard you'd like us all to believe."
Draco's grin was feral as he flashed his fangs at Dean and Neville. "Consider yourselves lucky that you mean something to Harry and will remain safe from me. But I assure you I am a cold hearted bastard and hope to remain one." His tone was so cold that Neville couldn't help but shiver. Pansy on the other hand merely rolled her eyes at her friend's dramatics.
"Now, shall we get on to business?"
"Inspection?" Harry inquired after Falde found him walking the halls in search of Sirius and told Harry about this inspection. Then he waved his hand as if it didn't matter. "Whatever it is, it will have to wait. I have things to do now. Tripe!"
A house elf popped in and bowed. "Yes, Master Harry?"
"I'm looking for Sirius. Where is he?"
"He is in the library, Master Harry."
"Thank you." Harry gave Tripe a smile and turned down the corridor that would lead him to the library. "I will be leaving in a minute," he said as an afterthought to the Ukatae guard. He figured a warning would be nice, unlike all the other times when he and Draco would just pop off without a word, leaving the other Ukatae to search for them.
He wondered which of the four would be his escorts this time. He hoped it was Ozemir and Brumek. They were always fun to watch. It was clear Brumek was Ozemir's unrequited love, and Harry wondered if the tall warrior would ever wake up and see because it was also clear Brumek had no idea. Harry supposed he'd just have to wait and see. But he hoped he wouldn't have to see Ozemir being completely crushed.
Harry paused in the middle of the corridor and turned back to the four Ukatae. Maybe he would help just a little bit. "May I request who is to guard me on my trip?" he asked Falde who immediately nodded. "I would like Brumek and Ozemir please," Harry said and smiled innocently. Behind the three males, he saw Talyn grin back at him. She knew what he was up to and she gave him a nod of encouragement.
"Of course," Falde replied. Harry nodded then continued on his way to the library. Brumek immediately set after him but Falde held Ozemir back before he could follow as well.
"Check for marks, Ozemir. Find the markings."
"You are right. Something is different about these young ones. Rumors are buzzing around and it has the Council growling away like a pack of deranged wolves. I've had my suspicions… check for the markings."
Ozemir nodded, hiding his surprise. Falde hadn't been very forthcoming with him on information since the team had been put together. This was a first. He was surprised, but also very pleased. Pleased even though he knew Falde still knew more than he was letting on. "But of course I've known those two were special the moment we locked onto their power!" he chimed a bit too enthusiastically and bounced on his toes. Falde suppressed a grin, just barely.
"Just make sure you check for markings and report back."
"Yes, sir!" Ozemir chirped and then practically skipped his way after Harry and Brumek.
"I told you about Harry's wings," Talyn said as she and her leader turned the other way to look for Draco. "We knew this was going to happen. And it will only get worse once they are brought to the realm. Falde, they haven't even stepped foot within the Ukatae realm and yet they already have many enemies there." Talyn began to chew on her bottom lip, an indication to Falde about how bothered she was.
"What is it?" Falde stopped walking and forced his friend to look at him.
"We are doing the bidding of the Council by protecting the young ones. I must tell you now, because I know how dedicated you are to the working order, but should the Council turn against Harry and Draco, I will turn against the Council."
Falde and Talyn watched each other for a moment, and Talyn wondered whether she would lose her friend over such a bold statement. She needn't have worried. "I have thought about nothing else since the first meeting with the Council this past week and I am prepared to evoke the Rite of Blood Guardian. These two are important, Talyn. Our future. But they are so young. They must be protected, guided…" he paused when Talyn gasped. "Will you join me in the Ritual?" It took only a moment for Talyn to get over the surprise of that statement and she eagerly nodded in acceptance.
"Good. We will hold our own council with the young ones from now on, and keep certain information from the Council. We will begin to teach them our ways. Teaching them how to fight will be the first order of business I think."
"What about Brumek and Ozemir?"
"Ozemir holds no respect for the Council and he is already very fond of the young ones. Brumek… Brumek will follow his Commander no matter what his personal feelings are. They will agree with us."
Dudley Dursley sat at the table within the kitchen tapping his fingers in agitation. Ever since Harry had visited them, he had taken to sitting around the flat whenever he had nothing to do and wondering what day Harry would decide to drop by again. He was excited and maybe a little apprehensive about seeing the world his cousin lived in. He'd mostly made up his mind about the whole wizard thing, but he wanted to see first and his patience was wearing thin. Harry said sometime this week, but the week was almost up. When was Harry going to get here? Maybe Harry decided he wouldn't come back. Honestly Dudley wouldn't blame him if that were the case.
"He'll come, dear," Petunia said, cutting into his thoughts as she made lunch at the counter. Dudley realized he'd been speaking out loud. "Harry said he would come."
"Yeah, but what if that Draco bloke changed Harry's mind. He didn't seem to like us very much."
Petunia nodded. "I understand why that would be. He no doubt knows everything that's happened to Harry while living in our household… If I were Mr. Malfoy I wouldn't want Harry near us either."
Dudley studied his mother for a minute and shook his head. "Mum, you sure are taking their relationship well. I was certain you would freak out."
"I would have once upon a time. But I like to think I'm changing for the better. And how can I be against something that obviously makes Harry happy? He deserves it, doesn't he?"
Dudley nodded and stared back at the table, pushing away the guilt he felt about everything he'd done to his cousin. Harry did deserve to be happy.
Petunia finished putting the last touches on her son's lunch and then stared at it skeptically. She'd made him a chicken salad and green apple slices for dessert. The last few years she'd tried and failed to keep Dudley on a diet, mainly they failed because Dudley didn't want to stay on the diet and Petunia only wanted her son to be happy. But now it was different. Now she was determined to be a better mother, even if it meant making her son unhappy. He would be unhappy, but at least he would be healthy.
Resolutely Petunia squared her shoulders and picked up the plate. She turned and placed the meager lunch in front of her brooding son and waited for the complaining to start. Imagine Petunia's surprise when Dudley thanked her and started to eat without another word. She took moment to get over that shock before sighing and sitting down, not really sure what to do with herself. Their flat was so small that it usually only took her an hour in the mornings to clean it. If it weren't for Dudley, she was sure she would go insane. There was simply nothing to do.
"I think I will start looking for part-time work," she finally said.
"No, Mum. That's my job to look after you."
Petunia smiled and squeezed his hand. "But dear, I don't like being cooped up here with nothing to do. I think I would enjoy working. I certainly liked it when I looked after Harry's friends. Maybe I could work part time at a hospital. A nurse's aid or something."
Dudley looked up from his salad. "It's obvious Harry has money. Last time he was over it practically screamed at us. Maybe he'd hire you. His friends said they always get into danger."
Petunia allowed herself a little giggle. "That is true. And Mr. Malfoy has money as well. He is a very aristocratic young man. Old money, that one."
"I don't like him," Dudley grumbled. "He looks dangerous."
Petunia took a breath, remembering the way both Harry and his lover looked. "I think they are both very dangerous, Dudley." She leaned forward, placing a hand on her son's arm. "Are you sure you want to do this? Get mixed in with them. Harry said it would be dangerous for you."
"I'm not sure. How can I be sure of something like this? It's strange… I spent my whole life hating him because he was a wizard. And now I am one. Why would he give me a chance to learn? I guess that's what I'm so uncertain about. If I were him, I wouldn't want anything to do with us."
Petunia smiled though her eyes were sad. "We don't know Harry at all, do we?"
"Should we- do you think we can trust him?"
"Yes," Petunia immediately said. "If he planned to harm us in any way, he would have done it already. And Mr. Malfoy already had his chance, and he chose to let us live didn't he. Whatever I may feel about Harry, I know he means us no harm."
Dudley nodded, feeling much better after his mother's reassurances. "But when is he going to get here?" he whined.
"Who knows, but I'm sure he'll come. Finish your lunch and then we'll go shopping." Petunia stood up to finish cleaning the dishes. "You need new clothes. At least it will keep your mind off of wondering when Harry will arrive with your tutor."
Dudley nodded, excited about that idea. Over the past week he'd lost a significant amount of weight due to his exercising, but mostly it was from whatever Harry's friend had done to him. He was still on the big side, but he was no longer obese, and his clothes had begun to hang off him like Harry's use to. And even though he knew it was magic, Dudley wasn't going to stop excising. He quite liked it.
He had just finished his lunch and stood to bring his dish to the sink when someone knocked on the door. Both Dursleys stopped what they were doing to stare at the door, both still wary of strangers.
"There, you see?" Petunia finally said with a strained smile. "That must be Harry now."
Petunia walked to the door all the while hoping that it really was Harry. When they left Privet Drive she had told no one where they were moving to and the only people who knew where they lived was Harry and his friends. Nevertheless, Petunia looked through the peephole before opening the door. When she saw who stood on the other side, she gasped and then pressed her forehead against the door and squeezed her eyes closed.
"Who is it, what's wrong?" Dudley asked and hurried to his mother's side. Petunia shook her head and immediately unlocked and opened the door and stared unblinking at the man who stood beside Harry.
"Hello Petunny!" Sirius said and grinned maliciously at her. Harry blinked in surprise then stared between his aunt and godfather.
"Sirius Black," Petunia replied and scrunched her nose up as if she were remembering a horrible smell.
"You recognize me? I have to say I'm surprised."
"I'd never forget your face, Black," Petunia spat. Then she took a deep breath. "I suppose I'll have to let you in." She stepped back and allowed Harry and Sirius to enter. Both Dudley and Harry said hello to each other, and then went back to watching Petunia and Sirius, who eyed each other carefully.
"You know each other? Sirius you never said you actually knew Aunt Petunia personally."
"Oh yes, we're quite acquainted with each other," Petunia ground out and turned her back on Sirius to flee to the kitchen. "How are you, Harry?" she asked on her way.
"I'm fine, Aunt Petunia."
"Don't be like that, Petunny. It was only a joke and it happened a long time ago. Besides, consider it my payback for how you treated my godson all these years," Sirius said darkly while eyeing Dudley.
"What did you do?" Harry whispered to Sirius.
"I may or may not have sabotaged a date… I don't know. My memory's a bit dodgy." Sirius had the good grace to look sheepish. Every one turned to the kitchen in surprise when Petunia shrieked.
"A date? A date!" She spun around and pinned Sirius with a stabbing glare. "No it was not just a date! You chased away the man I was very much in love with and you did it on purpose! You and your friends thought I wasn't good enough for a wizard, and so you humiliated me and chased him away! Do you have any idea how long it took me to get over that?" Petunia walked back to Sirius and gave him a look over. She stopped when she noticed he wore a wedding band. "You're married? Are you happy?"
Sirius shuffled his feet and looked away. "Yeah."
"Isn't that just lovely for you," she snarled, sarcasm dripping from every syllable. "While I was so heartbroken that I married the very next man who asked me out!"
"Sirius?" Harry looked at his godfather with a cross look. This was something he'd never heard about. Aunt Petunia had been in love with a wizard before she met Vernon? Said wizard dropped her because of a prank Sirius had pulled? That also explained more of why Petunia had been so bitter and jealous of her sister. Lily had been able to marry the man she'd loved, while Petunia hadn't. Harry could certainly understand why Petunia would be so bitter against wizards. "Sirius, did you really do that?" he hissed.
Sirius flinched. "It wasn't supposed to turn out the way it did. It was only supposed to be a little prank," he whispered back to Harry. Guilt seemed to cloud over him as he stared at Petunia's furiously shaking body. "I'll just go and wait out in the hall."
Harry nodded while his gaze returned to his aunt. "Yeah, we'll be along in a minute."
It was completely silent for a minute after Sirius had left the flat, until Harry couldn't stand the silence anymore. "I'm sorry. I had no idea bringing him would cause you such distress."
"No, Harry. I should be the one to apologize. You are guests and I should act accordingly. Forgive my bad manners."
Harry could do nothing but laugh. "Aunt Petunia, under the circumstances I think you are allowed to be bad tempered. My godfather happens to bring out the worst in people most of the time. Uncle Severus can attest to that." Harry quickly turned to Dudley. "Are you ready? We have a lot to see before we meet up with my friends tonight."
"Yeah, just let me get a coat."
"No need. I'll get you a cloak in Diagon Alley."
"Just a minute." Petunia left the room, but returned quickly and pressed money into Dudley's hand. "In case you need it."
"That will not be necessary. I will see to all of Dudley's needs while we are out." Harry looked at his cousin and smirked. The look did nothing to relieve Dudley of his apprehension.
A/N: Edited 10/20/2011