Chapter Forty-Eight: Reactions and Conferences

When the Marauders entered the Room of Requirement, they found their older selves waiting for them. Severus and Remus surprised their older selves by hugging them, and the two men, sensing the desperation in the hugs, hugged them back, knowing that all their younger selves were looking for was something or someone to hold onto while they regained control of themselves.

Once they seemed to have calmed, the older Marauders led their younger counterparts to the couches and sat down. Lily and Sirius were hanging back, not needing the comfort of being right next to their older selves the way Severus and Remus did at the moment. The older Sirius and Lily were both there, sitting on either side of the two Severus' and Remus'.

Finally the older version of Severus asked, "What happened? Is anything wrong with Harry?"

His younger self shook his head. "No, nothing's wrong with Dad. At least, not yet anyway," he muttered.

"Then what's got you so upset?" the older version of Remus questioned gently. "And why isn't James here?"

He was surprised when the younger Marauders all snarled at the mention of James, with Severus and Remus being the loudest. Remus looked as though he wanted to transform and rip something apart. The older Marauders looked at each other, worried. Something bad must have happened, and Severus felt an icy chill down his spine. 'Please, please don't let history have repeated' he thought.

The younger Severus concentrated hard and a movie screen came up on the wall. "Watch it," he mumbled, before turning to Lily and burying his head in her shoulder. Their hands intertwined and their older selves looked at each other with brief amusement as well as understanding. They turned to watch the memory, for that was what they were watching, play out.

As it progressed, the older Marauders grew angrier and angrier. When James effectively disowned Orion and told Severus and Remus that they were only Potters by adoption, the older Remus snarled viciously, and Severus' eyes glittered with rage. Once it had ended, there was silence for a time as the older Marauders digested what they'd seen while comforting their younger counterparts. At some point during the "film" the younger Sirius and Lily had moved to sit with their older counterparts, needing comfort and stability as much as Severus and Remus.

"So what do we do?" the younger Remus choked out. "We can't tell Dad, it would kill him."

"No it wouldn't," his older self said reassuringly. "It would certainly hurt him, yes, but kill him, no. He might want to kill James though."

The older Severus snorted. "Kill him? He'd do a lot more than that. To him, this would be seen as betrayal and you know what he thinks about that."

The older Marauders shivered. "Yes, there is that little problem," Sirius muttered. "However, he needs to be told. If only so that he can then tell Charles, who will be utterly furious with James when he hears exactly what was said."

"Do you think Dad will forgive him?" Severus asked.

"I don't know," his older self said thoughtfully. He was still angry, but was now thinking objectively. "If it had been an adult who'd done this then the answer would be no, Harry would never forgive nor forget such an insult, but James has two things going for him."

"What are those?" Lily asked.

"He's young for a start," her older self said quietly, "and also, did you see, just before he said the most hurtful bits, there was something in his eyes, like he was trying to fight something off, as though he was angry about Severus and you but didn't want to truly hurt you."

"You think he might be under the Imperius curse?" Sirius asked.

"No," his older self said. "You'd notice if it was the Imperius, his eyes would have been blank. I'm thinking some sort of compulsion charm, which would kick in only under certain circumstances."

"Which makes it all the more imperative that Harry and Charles be told," the older Severus said firmly. "If James was under a compulsion charm then Harry can identify it and break it, or, if Charles wants evidence, then he can get a neutral Healer to identify whose magical signature is present and then break the charm. Either way, they must be told."

"But how," Remus asked, still upset at the prospect of hurting his father. "I mean, we can't just tell him, he'd want to see the memory and then," he trailed off and clung to his older self, who tightened his hold on him in reassurance.

"Bring him here, we can tell him now, and then we have time to plan what to do about it," the older Lily suggested. "Better that he be told here, where we can help him, than that he be told somewhere where he doesn't have access to us."

Severus and Remus considered the option and then shook their heads. "No," Severus finally said softly. "We can't keep dragging Dad here whenever we have a problem, and we go home for the summer soon." He swallowed hard and glanced at Remus for support, who nodded as he finished, "We'll tell Dad then."

The older Marauders didn't like the answer but they couldn't fault the boys' reasoning. Finally they nodded and concentrated on providing support while the younger Marauders pulled themselves together and recovered from the shock and pain caused by James' actions.

A few days later, as the Hogwart's Express pulled into King's Cross station, Orion was standing on the platform looking less calm than normal. He was worried about his sons, he'd felt nothing from them through their bond since the burst of pain and grief and was understandably wanting to know why they'd felt like that. Charles, who was waiting for James, put a hand on his shoulder.

"If they want you to know they will tell you, but they are sixteen," the older wizard reminded Orion gently. "They may not want to tell you, for any number of reasons, but if it was something serious, we would have been told by now."

Orion shook his head. "I just have a very bad feeling," he said. "I know they're growing up and part of that is learning to deal with problems by themselves but some things they'll still need adult help for."

"And part of growing up is learning when they can deal with something by themselves and when they need help," Charles said calmly.

Orion growled and snapped back, "I know that they're smart enough to ask for help, I just worry that teenage pride might stop them listening to reason."

Charles frowned at him. "Just let it be for now. If they need you, they will let you know. Relax and calm down."

Orion nodded just as the train slowed to a stop and students began pouring off the train. Despite Charles' words he was very surprised when both Severus and Remus hugged him hard upon finding him. He was less surprised when they both glared at James, figuring, correctly, that there had been some sort of argument. He relaxed even further, arguments between teenagers were common enough that he could probably leave them to sort it out on their own.

"How were the OWLs?" he asked by way of a conversation starter.

"Fine," Remus said. "Can we go home?"

"Wait," Severus said, dropping his trunk, managing to drop it directly on Orion's foot without noticing. He rushed off as Orion winced in pain and levitated the trunk off his foot before watching in both amusement and concern as Severus gave Lily a very brief hug and an even briefer kiss before rushing back to them. Amused because it looked like Severus had finally declared his feelings and received a positive response, and concern because James had been glaring at the young couple with jealousy distinctly present in his expression.

'Oh dear' he thought, resigned to finding out that the reason for the argument was James' jealousy over Severus and Lily.

When they got home, Remus and Severus quickly put their trunks in their rooms and went back down to the living room. They'd had a brief, silent conversation and decided that they had to tell Orion about what had happened, despite the pain it would cause. They had no choice really, both of them knew that it was useless trying to hide anything from their father, he always found out eventually and it would eat them up inside if they did nothing.

Finding Orion in the living room, they sank onto the couch facing him and looked at him, not knowing where to start. Fortunately, Orion started the conversation for them.

"Am I to understand that I will now find out the reason why the two of you were so upset earlier?" he queried, looking at his sons.

"Yes, but you won't like it," Severus said, meeting Orion's eyes squarely. "Just, please, don't hate us afterwards. We don't want to hurt you."

"Hate you?" Orion asked, surprised. "Why would I hate you?"

He got two miserable looks as an answer and sighed. Moving to the couch he sat in the middle and pulled them into a hug. "Whatever it is just tell me," he said softly. "I'm not going to be upset at you, OK. Tell me."

Slowly at first, and then faster, the story came out. Remus and Severus held nothing back, hesitating over the comments about their adoption and their father's status as Lord Slytherin and how it made them not true Potters, but knowing that he needed to hear everything. They also mentioned how James appeared to be fighting something briefly before making the most hurtful comments, both wondering what their father would make of the information.

Orion was pleased to hear that Severus had indeed told Lily how he felt and that she reciprocated his feelings enough to say yes to being his girlfriend. The confrontation with James made him frown but it wasn't unusual when two boys liked the same girl. He let out an audible growl on hearing what James had said regarding their status as Potters and the insult to himself. He knew in the back of his mind that he should feel hurt on his own behalf as James had tried to disown him as well as his sons but at that moment, all he could feel was disgust for his future father and a sense of outraged fury on Severus and Remus' behalf.

Two sniffs from beside him made him look down. What he saw almost broke his heart. His sons were looking at him as though they expected him to disown them when what he really wanted to do was wring James' neck.

Bringing himself under control, he said, "Remus, Severus, look at me please, and listen very carefully." When they obeyed, he continued, "James had absolutely no right to say those things, and furthermore, he has no authority to kick us out of the family. Only Charles can do that, and he has no intention of doing anything of the sort."

"But, but what he said about you," Severus began, and Orion understood now why they thought he would hate them.

"You thought I'd be angry with you because of what James said, didn't you," he asked. "You thought that because you were the ones telling me this, that I would be angry with you and not James."

Receiving two nods in response he sighed and pulled them into a hug. "You silly boys," he murmured. "I could never hate you. I love you too much. Besides, I suspect that while James is certainly jealous about the fact that you, Severus, are now with Lily and congratulations on that by the way, I don't think that he would have said anything about the adoption or those biased views on Slytherin, or what he said about me, of his own accord. Yes, anger and jealousy can make you say things that you regret later but something like what he said to you, and also what he said about me, is not. I think he might have had help there, the only question is what was used."

"Not who?" Remus asked.

Orion shook his head. "No," he growled. "I have a very good idea who it was, I just can't prove it at the moment. Trust me, when I can, I will make sure that the person responsible is dealt with in the most humiliating manner possible."

"You think it's Dumbledore, don't you," Severus said quietly.

Orion looked at him for a moment and then nodded sharply. "I do," he admitted. "The problem is that I can't prove it without James being examined by a qualified Healer and if he's examined, then it might be worth getting you two examined as well. After all, if James was messed with like that, odds are he did might have done something to you two as well."

"What about Sirius and Lily?" Remus queried.

Orion considered the matter and then shook his head. "Male teachers cannot go into the girls' dormitories, and since compulsion charms usually require the subject to be unconscious when the charm is cast, the only way he could have got to her is if she was sleeping in the infirmary for any reason."

Severus and Remus looked relieved at that and relaxed, allowing Orion to hug them tighter. At sixteen they would normally not have allowed it but the stress of the last week combined with the relief of telling their father what had happened and receiving love and support when they'd half-expected anger and denial, had them forgoing their teenage dignity for a while and simply enjoying the unconditional support and love that Orion was giving them.

After a while, Orion broke the hug and stood up, heading for the fireplace. Throwing some Floo powder in the fire he said, "Potter Manor." The fireplace roared as the powder activated and soon he was looking at Charles, who looked surprised to see him.

"Orion, is everything alright?" he asked.

Orion shook his head. "No, things are not alright," he said tightly, anger rising again as he thought about what had happened. "I need to speak with you regarding James and a certain incident which happened after the OWLs."

Charles closed his eyes. "I presume it wasn't just an argument," he said in a resigned tone.

Orion shook his head again. "No, it wasn't. May I bring Severus and Remus through, it may help if they show you the memory, rather than telling it again."

Charles assented and soon Orion, Severus and Remus were standing in Potter Manor. Charles led them through to the living room and tension filled the air when Severus and Remus spotted James. They tried to rush towards him, intent on attacking him when Orion grabbed the back of their robes, halting their forward rush very abruptly.

"Attacking him will do no good," Orion said quietly. "Show them the memory and let his parents deal with it."

Reluctantly, they nodded and Orion released them. Sitting down on a couch opposite James and Emma, they waited for Charles to bring back his Pensieve, which he soon did.

After depositing the memory in the Pensieve, Severus sat back and the family watched as the memory played through in it's entirety, Orion hissing once in anger as James threw the Silver Dart curse at Remus. In his mind, even though he knew James was just acting out of anger and wounded pride, the Unspeakable in him said that that was attempted murder. Shaking his head, he watched Charles and Emma's reactions, which alternated between shock and anger.

"How could you?" Charles demanded, rounding on James once the memory was finished.

James looked shocked and he was trembling. "I don't remember saying that" he protested. "I don't!" he said when his parents looked disbelieving. "All I remember is yelling at Severus about him getting together with Lily, I thought that she had to be with me for the future to work properly. That's all."

He looked directly at Severus and Remus. "I would never try to hurt you knowingly, and I would never throw a Silver Dart curse at you, Remus. Please, believe me."

Severus and Remus looked at him steadily. They wanted to believe him but the memory of what he'd said had hurt so much that they were reluctant to let him off so easily.

"What about Dad?" Remus queried harshly. "Are you sorry about what you said about him?"

James nodded, not quite daring to look at Orion. "Yes," he said. "I really don't remember, how, how could I not remember?" he asked, looking first at his parents and then, gulping, at Orion, who looked at him neutrally, giving James no clue as to what he was feeling.

"How could I not remember?" James whispered.

"There are certain spells which will allow you do things and not remember them afterwards," Orion finally said. "However, they need to be detected by a Healer as their use is strictly forbidden and carries a mandatory sentence of time in Azkaban. The Healer is used both to detect the curse and provide a neutral, unassailable witness so the culprit cannot claim that they were set up by someone holding a grudge."

"So if you detected it, Dumbledore could claim you were trying to set him up but if a Healer does it, then he can't claim that," Severus asked.

"Precisely," Orion answered.

"Why are you so sure Dumbledore is the culprit?" Charles asked calmly.

"Because he's the only one with the power and the motivation to pull this sort of thing off," Orion responded. "None of us would have done so, and none of the other teachers would have the ability."

Faced with that reasoning, Charles and Emma couldn't disagree.

"I really am sorry," James whispered. He didn't like the fact that he'd been coerced or manipulated or whatever without his knowledge or consent, and was scared that he'd irreparably damaged his relationship with his uncle and cousins.

"What are your feelings towards Slytherin House as a whole and my being Lord Slytherin in particular?" Orion demanded.

James opened his mouth to reply and then closed it again. "I don't think Slytherins are evil," he finally said. "And I don't think you should be disowned because you're Lord Slytherin."

"What about Remus and Severus?" Orion asked.

"I don't care whether they're adopted or not, they're my family," James said after another long pause. He could feel the spell fighting to make him say something else, something far more hurtful but now, when he was calm, and anger and jealousy wasn't clouding his judgement he found it easier to resist. It wasn't that the spell wasn't affecting him, just that with a lot of concentration, he could say what he truly felt, rather than what the spell wanted him to say.

Orion nodded, satisfied, and looked at Severus and Remus. They looked mutinous but seemed to agree that what had been said at Hogwarts had been partially under the influence of an unknown spell and therefore, at least partially, forgave him.

Severus stood up and walked towards James, who also stood. The next second James had collapsed back onto the couch trying to stem the bleeding from his broken nose. "That's for saying what you did about me and Lily," Severus growled before pulling James into a brief hug. "As soon as you've got your head sorted, we'll forgive you completely," he said.

James nodded, unable to speak while he held his nose. Charles and Emma had stayed quiet, both realising that a broken nose was better than a disemboweling curse, and Orion hadn't interfered because he knew that Severus wouldn't seriously hurt James.

"Shall we get this curse identified and removed," Emma said in the ensuing silence, which prompted a move towards the fire and soon the Potter family was emerging at St. Mungo's.

An hour later, after having filled out various forms and been shuffled from Healer to Healer, they were back home, Charles, Emma and Orion fuming, while the three boys were in shock. James hadn't been the only Potter to have been unknowingly tampered with, while his curse had been to compel him to force a split between Severus and Lily and then a split between Severus and the rest of the Potters, Severus had been cursed with a spell which would have activated in the final two years at Hogwarts, driving him slowly towards becoming a Death Eater. His final implanted instruction, had been to kill Orion, whether in battle or by other means it didn't specify. That particular bit of information had seen Severus faint in the Healer's office while Orion had been itching to go to Hogwarts and murder Dumbledore. He still wasn't happy that Charles had put his foot down and forbidden him to go.

The only good bit of news was that Remus had not been tampered with, and, after a quick Floo call to Orion Black, it was discovered that Sirius hadn't been affected either. The Blacks, it seemed, routinely scanned their children for mind-altering curses after each Hogwarts' term, having never trusted Dumbledore. It was decided that Lily should be checked when she went to St. Mungo's for her next set of vaccinations as they didn't want to unduly alarm her parents.

"What do we do about Dumbledore?" Orion growled later that afternoon. He'd calmed down enough that he no longer wanted to immediately kill the Headmaster but he was keeping it in mind as a distinct possibility.

"We take him down, permanently," Charles responded with a vicious smile. "He holds several important positions in our world, and the first thing we do, before I allow you to kill him, is get him publically disgraced and those positions of power stripped from him. If we do it that way, then we don't run the risk of creating a martyr."

Orion nodded slowly. "OK. How are you going to remove him from the Wizengamot though, he's got too much power there."

"Not as much as he likes to think," Charles said. "I was going to Floo Abraxas Malfoy and Orion Black for a little chat over dinner, would you like to join us?"

Orion nodded. Later that evening, the four wizards sat in Charles' comfortable study and plotted the exact moves to make which would discredit Dumbledore completely. They had all summer to plan as they would not make their move until just before the next school year. The plan was that the three Heads of House would get Dumbledore removed from the Wizengamot using the fact of James and Severus' compulsion spells and a bit of innuendo related to the fact that Dumbledore was effectively in charge of all of their children and if he could do such a terrible thing to two children of an old and respected House, what might he have done to others? His removal from the Wizengamot would prompt the International Confederation of Wizards to hold a vote of no confidence since the members of the Confederation must be serving members of their respective legislative bodies, if not Chief Warlock. It was also well known that Dumbledore had his fair share of enemies in the Confederation who would love to see him demoted and possibly even kicked out for good. The last stage was Orion taking up the position that Hogwarts had all but demanded he take up, that of Headmaster of Hogwarts. With his positions in the Confederation and the Wizengamot stripped from him, losing Hogwarts would be the final blow before Orion formally challenged him to a duel and then killed him. The reason they were waiting for the summer to end was that Orion wanted to make a statement and removing him from the position of Headmaster on September the First would be a very dramatic statement, not to mention that it would give Orion and the staff a full year to get used to the idea, not to mention the students, rather than confusing everyone with a staff change mid-year.

Humming softly, Orion Flooed back to Potter Manor, feeling happier about the situation now that James and Severus had been de-cursed, and James had formally apologised to both Severus and Remus, as well as himself. He chuckled as he remembered Charles forcing James to admit what he'd said to the Slytherin Potter ancestors, who had vociferously told James where he could stick those opinions and that they were ashamed that things had deteriorated so much that Slytherin was now seen as a shameful house to be associated with rather than being proud of being associated with it. After a while, Charles had stepped in and stopped the verbal flaying but James had certainly got the message.

"Dad?" Severus asked as he was headed up the stairs.

"Yes," Orion asked, turning to look at his Slytherin son.

"I'm glad it was mostly a curse making James act that way," Severus said. Looking uncomfortable, he added, "I would never hurt you, you know that?"

Orion nodded. "I do," he said firmly. "I also know that you would never join the Dark Lord, and Dumbledore was an idiot to lay that particular compulsion on you."

"How do you know," Severus asked.

Orion walked up to him and grasped his right forearm, pressing a finger lightly on the mark underneath the cloth covering it. "This won't let you," he said calmly. "Voldemort cannot claim that which is already claimed. It would reject his mark, violently, and do far more damage to him than it would to you."

Severus relaxed and leaned in for a brief hug. "Goodnight Dad," he said. He blushed and then said, "Can I invite Lily over tomorrow?"

Orion looked at him seriously. "No fooling around without the proper protection and for goodness sake, if you do, use silencing charms," he said with a slight smirk before quickly walking around his son and heading further up the stairs.

Severus processed what his father had said, turned bright red and yelled, "DAD!" up the stairs in mortified indignation.

"Yes?" Orion asked with a grin, turning round.

"We're not ready for that!" Severus protested.

"Oh good, I didn't think you were," Orion said, heaving a fake sigh of relief. Severus glared at him and he sobered up. "I just wanted to cheer you up," he said and Severus shook his head in mock-disgust but grinned back.

"Always a prankster," he grumbled, but headed to bed, already planning on what to do when Lily came over. There were so many potions she could help with and then there were any number of books to discuss...

Orion chuckled as Severus headed off to bed, checking briefly to see that Remus was asleep. Although the afternoon and evening had been eventful, it appeared that disaster had been averted, although his dreams that night were filled with the many ways that he could kill Dumbledore and still feel that justice had been served.

In Hogwarts, Dumbledore shivered. The castle seemed unusually cold, Fawkes had disappeared, and there seemed to be a faint sense of menace in the air. He shook his head. The castle couldn't possibly be plotting against him, it was just a pile of rocks.

'That's what you think' a voice whispered around him and Dumbledore shivered again. He fell into an uneasy sleep, for once worried about the path he'd chosen and the actions he'd taken. Then a larger part of his mind reasserted control. He was the great Albus Dumbledore, he could do no wrong.

The Founders glared at the sleeping wizard. Although they had no real concept of time, they could only hope that their Heir took control soon. If they had to endure much more of this arrogant wizard's misdeeds they were going to see if portraits could commit murder.

Author's Note

Hello everyone, here's the next chapter, finally. I hope you all like it. Criticism will be accepted as always, as long as it's constructive. The next chapter will be up hopefully next weekend but I do have to complete my current assignment for University first.

The next chapter will contain the long-awaited confrontation between Orion and Dumbledore, a bit more of Voldemort and what he's been doing and the set-up for the final battle between Orion and Voldemort and what happens to Orion after Voldemort is dead.

May the Force be with you

Padawan Lynne