HUEHUE HUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUEHUE. *strangled*
Yes I know, I'm trash, as they say.
Warning for some timeline jumps in regards to starting classes.
Umbridge was a very efficient woman. You had to be, in order to achieve her position. Now this efficiency enabled her to do practically anything she put her mind to, and she was quite certain that catching Reklaw was only a matter of time. Giving up was not an option, and as her actions so far showed, she was not afraid to go far for her goals. She trusted her instincts and they told her that there was something very wrong with Reklaw, and she would only have to wait for him to slip up. But if no such event was forthcoming, well then she'd just have to make one.
Severus Snape was a joker card, his loyalties always in question. But he was close to Reklaw. As close as anyone in the castle ever could be. And Snape had plenty of weak points she could use to further her goals. It wasn't as if his status as an ex-Death Eater was nothing but a public secret, but it would be largely unknown to the student population. It was technically something that was available in public record, but no one ever went through those.
And if Snape would feel something like reluctance to aid her due to something foolish as friendship, well.
Putting people, including traitors, back to their place was something she was especially good at.
Carrie and Gary had finally been released from the hospital wing, conveniently for the new semester to start and with grave warnings not go near the willow again. They immediately cornered Nick in a secluded area so that he could finally spill the beans about the things he'd been hinting about the entirety of the hospital stay. Nick had even tried to do avoid the in the hopes of eliminating all possibilities of being overheard, but the persistence and curiosity of his teammates superseded all attempts. He finally opted for a secure corner near the greenhouses, outside in the freezing cold.
Mainly because he was also kind of a bastard. Sainthood was not a life goal of his.
Carrie, swamped in scarves, managed looked vaguely threatening. "Ok Nick, spill it. What happened after we got hit?" Gary emphasized the message by bouncing a snowball in his hands, clearly aiming it somewhere sensitive. Feeling somehow amused by the very mafia-like approach, Nick decided to bait them a little more.
Payback for all the chocolate he'd had to smuggle to the hospital wing. The nurse had looked ready to throw him out of the window.
"Professor Reklaw intervened and saved us all, he took care of the Level 3." They looked like something had hit them in the head. Nick couldn't resist a snicker. "You're kidding! If he took out a level 3, something straight out of the history books, he must be a damn powerful accommodator. Are you claiming he's some secret agent we weren't told of, sent here to ensure we don't screw up in here? Because if he's not then we're fucked, because no one that powerful goes unnoticed. Who is he?" Carrie looked like she was just getting started, so Nick raised his palm to calm her. Gary was looking awfully suspicious in the background, but also impatient.
"No, he's not here to keep an eye on us, more like the opposite. He came here drawn by the Akuma. And funnily enough, there are records, just really old ones. And mostly very classified."
Gary gave him the kind of look that promised snow in uncomfortable places soon. "Most files and records in Sect XIII are classified. They only ever tell us exactly what we need, and some breadcrumbs to link it to something bigger. You are not helping."
"Yeah I know, but remember when they talked about the war, the big one. They gave names, some bigger locations, vague stuff. I read some of those files when I was injured and bored a few years ago and I started connecting them to the old picture they have in the cafeteria. Remember the really big one?" The pair nodded. " It's possible to separate the exorcists in that picture and recognize them. And you know what, they can all be matched to a file, all except for one."
Gary couldn't resist rolling his eyes. "You know, there's a fine line between interest and obsession. If you have so much time to dig at the past, how come you never seem to know what you want to do when you're grown up?" Carrie gave him a long look, telling him to shut up. "So who is it?"
"It's the ghost. The guy no one talks about openly, just rumors. History so shady they tried to bury it so deep no one would ever know. The 14th!"
The dawning look was slow but sure. Carrie swallowed. "I almost prefer it was someone with no records but this might be even worse. But to think it's him. Are you sure?"
"I saw his disguise come off, like sand. His hair was white, and I'm pretty sure that there was something going on in his eye. I'm telling you it's him."
Carrie breathed slowly through the scarves. She knew that Nick's specialty was research, and so far he had not let them down. Reklaw had definitely baited them enough to make the whole thing more that credible. But if they agreed, and one could certainly say they did, that the 14th was here, it created a more pressing problem. Their superiors would want to know what happened to the akuma in the forest, and if they managed to infer from the data that a level 4 had been present, questions would be asked as to how they were not dead. The three of them were talented exorcists, but a level 4 was in a league of its own.
Were they confident enough on their intel to report the presence of the 14th to the bosses? And would it even be worth the whole headache it would cause?
Gary was obviously arriving to the same conclusions. "Have you had any contact with Reklaw since? Has he done anything questionable or threatening?"
"No, nothing what you're thinking of. I'm pretty sure I have some sort of silent understanding with him now, and I'm inclined to respect that. Unless you can make the case that he presents a clear and imminent danger to the civilians in this school, then I vote we keep a lid on this for now. The superiors presumably are satisfied if we give a normal report; they have no reasons to look for anomalies in the data. Besides, I can fudge up the energy readings a bit."
Both Carrie and Gary could on a basic level agree to this, but a clause had to be added. The basic surveillance mission would have to be continued for further threat assessment. At this point of the conversation they were all shuddering so much from the cold that they could only run back inside towards the nearest fireplace.
"Why the hell did we have this conversation outdoors anyway?"
Nick's grin was positively devilish. "It's the most secure location I could find, and also… payback."
Classes had started again and the castle was covered with a blanket of snow. The classroom Kal had been allocated tended to get quite cold which turned out to be a bigger problem than previously anticipated. Kal, of course, didn't feel the cold, but his students certainly did, bitterly. This translated to hilarious situations where he'd just finished explaining something but encountered only uncomprehending, shivering gazes of the children he was supposed to teach. Then he would apparently connect that to the way his breathing was freezing in the air and his freeloader of a bowtruckle kept burrowing into his neck, leading him to change lesson plans to include medium scale arson with marshmallows in the classroom. Though admittedly had someone been watching all of his separate lessons, they would have noticed him having the same train of thought for every single one of those and maybe suspected the whole thing to be entirely intentional.
All fires naturally were safely supervised and contained and no accidents whatsoever happened. At least anything that the hospital wing wasn't able to manage.
Lupin had lived quite a lot of his life in the outer edges of society, both wizard and muggle. The stigma of werewolf pervaded his entire life, affecting his every decision. It was, however, something he'd learned to work around and sometimes even appreciate. The instincts of the wolf were infinitely sharper than anything he'd ever have as a human. And those instincts had conflicting ideas about Kal. His human mind saw something he couldn't quite explain in him, a creature he could in theory sympathize with. But the wolf only saw a predator that was so much higher in the food chain it shouldn't even be possible. A taint permeated Kal that seemed to touch on the most primitive nerve that he hadn't even known he had. Lupin knew what the deepest instincts felt like and when he first met Kal, on that tree on that spring day, he had become aware of a new one. Usually in his post transformation state he experienced a multitude of negative emotions; exhaustion, shame, anger.
But he also felt elation. The beast was, at least for a moment, silent and calm and there was no trace of the usual thoughts that tended to precede the full moon. It was the thoughts that he hated the most, the acknowledgement of the wolf inside his head, not just his body. The jitters he got as he casually drew in the scent of his fellow humans and imagined himself ripping them apart and licking their blood. When his temper got just a little bit shorter and he wasn't so sure about what he'd do if pushed too far.
Kal had touched a deeper chord in his makeup. The sense of 'other' he had, coupled with the wolf's realization to the presence of a bigger predator that it could not escape, had for an instant given him the impression of the meeting between a mortal man and a god. A mortal that didn't understand and a god that didn't care. It had been this dichotomy that had frozen a part of him, even if the rest of the meeting had been entirely pleasant. Lupin made the decision to stop by in Hogsmeade in the near future, while avoiding students. He needed to see Kal again, to understand that part of himself and what it meant.
Albus was a man of misdirection. With a master plan to execute and plenty of unknowing subjects to steer to the right direction, he often wondered as to if there was an easier way to do things. But he also knew that his plan had started unveiling years ago, making changing it nearly impossible. Revealing the entire plan would place his credibility in question and risk the entire plan. The sacrifices he had made for it made that impossible. The meeting of Kal Reklaw had been a lucky coincidence. It enabled him to conduct plenty of more planning and preparations to his plan with Reklaw present to take Umbridge's attention away from him. Order business and gathering allies against Voldemort forced him to leave personally surprisingly often and the precarious position of his staff in regards to Umbridge afforded very little leeway in terms of movement. Reklaw made the perfect bait to tangle in front of her, and he was more than happy to play the game. The issue of Severus, Reklaw, and Umbridge would prove to be highly interesting in the near future. He could already guess the moves she would make, to some extent. However he was not quite sure what leverage she intended to employ on Severus to make him oblige.
Snape opened his door to the sickening smiling visage of Umbridge and instantly felt like slamming it into her face. It was funny how Dumbledore was sometimes able to inspire a similar knee-jerk reaction in him, something he contemplated only when accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol. But there was no contest; Umbridge inspired the reaction substantially more often. So he let her in and faintly hoped the assorted potion ingredients and other horror movie worthy paraphernalia in his office was enough to dissuade her from making herself at home. Judging by the pillow she'd spelled into existence on the seat of his famously uncomfortable chairs, he was in no such luck. The woman appeared to have arrived at a decision, and he had a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with Reklaw. This was going to be…. Well, at least it would be interesting. He just hoped it wouldn't conflict too much with whatever training/punishment Dumbledore was planning to have Severus exact on the Brat. Or Dumbledore was going to exact on him using the Brat, he wasn't sure yet.
"So, Dolores, what brings you here on this fine winter evening? The students are returning for the start of term, and we all have things to do." His clipped tones left no guesses as to his attitude. Umbridge gave another one of her sugary smiles.
"It seems to me that you've made a new friend."
"The last time I checked I don't have any of those, are you sure in the right room? And what does that have to do with you to begin with?"
It was, impossibly, as if the smile got even wider. Severus was experiencing flashbacks to some questionable locations where he'd once had to go for ingredients. There had been actual toads involved.
"Severus, I know everything there is to know about you and there is plenty, in there that you might prefer to be left in the past. I can say the same about nearly every teacher in this castle. I even possess plenty of dirt on the headmaster himself."
Somehow Severus doubted she had the right kind of dirt. "And this has something to do with me how?"
"Don't play coy with me Severus, your new friend Reklaw does not belong here and I do not intend to let undesirable and disruptive elements such as him to remain any longer than I have to." The smile was faltering now, revealing the slighted, angry woman underneath. Severus was rather surprised at how straight she was being with him; usually her type took more rounds before getting into business.
"Professor Reklaw provides and important additional course for the students of this school, enabling them to navigate muggle situations much more efficiently and smoothly without magical assistance. The skills that he offers are vital to any wizard, as despite the best efforts of some the magical and muggle worlds are closely intertwined together and to deny that would be a very counterproductive exercise." He listlessly recited the official spiel that someone, most likely Dumbledore, had cooked up in some dark recess of their mind over the summer to justify Kal's presence in the school. No staff member had actually been told anything concrete, but Severus did have access to other sources of information. Not that he was, hopefully, going to share anything with Umbridge.
"Quit with the official litany, I've heard it already. Any skills they gain from that course can only be applied in the muggle world. The students are wasting their time and energy."
Severus couldn't not do it. "And naturally your method of teaching prepares the students perfectly for passing a practical exam with actual spellcasting by rigorously studying… theory. And not to say anything of the real world implications."
Her eyes narrowed as her mouth started pursing. "Careful Severus, you're starting to sound like Mr. Potter, judging by the rumors I've heard, we wouldn't want that."
His shudder was greatly exaggerated. "Dolores, even discounting everything that delusional brat has ever said, I can hardly pretend that over the last 15 years I have never needed to use spells, defensive or otherwise, in surprisingly ordinary situations. Please refrain from your Ministry-laden agenda in front of me."
He could just see her bristling. She'd risen from the chair and was now walking back and forth, trying to calm herself. Severus' face betrayed nothing of his amusement, only polite distaste. He could see her now moving in for the kill, presumably something that would force him to work for her.
She dug into her bag and lifted out a file, placing it on his desk. He only needed a glimpse to tell it was his. "Severus, this file is not filled with anything resembling kittens or puppies, and the only reason you are in this school is that Dumbledore has vouched for you. It would be a great shame if we would have to re-examine your teaching credentials and ultimately find them… lacking for the job of educating the future generations."
Severus was faintly aware that he was supposed to be intimidated right now. He allowed his features to tighten to an approximation of faint panic and a hint of resignation, and apparently Umbridge interpreted this as an affirmative answer. She marched to the door with an almost juvenile bounce in her step.
"Severus, I do expect the first report to come within a reasonable period of time, say 3 weeks? I'll be seeing you, after all the students are coming back." She shut the door almost daintily, odd contrast to her words. Severus looked down on his desk and noted the file she'd left. It was ultimately an irrelevant piece of paper to him. He leaned back in his chair and snapped his fingers, causing the papers to burst in flames right on the table. The next snap caused the burning pile to reappear in the cold fireplace. Severus laughed at her audacity and considered calling her bluff. Finally after consideration, he decided to play along with her, even risking conflicts with the forced upon him presence of the Brat he'd have to endure. Whatever story Reklaw would decide to feed her through his 'reports', would at least be entertaining if nothing else.
The fireplace had nothing but ash left by the time Severus Snape exited his office to stalk students in the corridors. He was going get his fun where he could.
Hermione's search through the Black Library had yielded no results on the subject of the cross. She remained optimistic, however. The Hogwarts library contained more variety of subjects, and she was reasonably confident that she could exclude black magic from the search. She was more than annoyed when she realized that no teacher would be allowed to help her after the latest show of Umbridge's power. Frankly speaking the whole slew of educational decrees was getting ridiculous, but she had a feeling the Toad wasn't done yet. But on the other hand, she was also closer to the transfers as well, allowing for more opportunities for information gathering. However the schedule would be quite full, with juggling research, schoolwork, the DA, and any additional information gathering. Oh well, since Harry couldn't play Quidditch, he was going to have to help. It would also serve to keep him from getting too concentrated on the Occlumency lessons with Snape. He was already proving to be in knots about it, in addition to his love drama.
The first few weeks of term had passed in abject misery and oppression. Reklaw was preparing for his 5th year class when the door opened 30 minutes before the class was due to start. In stepped Nick and his group, twitchy and indecisive. They remained standing in the back of the classroom and after a while Kal decided to put them out of their misery and gestured towards the cardboard boxes piled into the corner.
"Well, since you're here, you can help me distribute the items for today's lesson on the tables. The top three boxes, one from each box on every table." They stared at him in silence. He blinked back "I'll get you some sandwiches after class?" He coaxed. The increasingly incredulous mood was cut short by the bowtruckle getting acrobatic on the professor's shoulder and regretting instantly as it fell to the cold floor.
"There better be meat on those sandwiches then." Carrie stated and headed towards the boxes. The boys followed almost meekly. Reklaw gave them a nostalgic smile. "Of course, what other kind of sandwich is there?"
They opened the boxes to find muggle style wooden block puzzles, the difficult kind. Reklaw immediately seemed to sense their skepticism, when he laughed without even turning to look at them. "Sometimes the process of problem solving requires other skills than just magic. This is just to illustrate the process."
"Are you sure you're not just being lazy." Gary piped. There was only a grin in response.
After the class a plate of sandwiches appeared on the teacher's desk, most likely by house elf express. More than one look had been leveled at the transfer students when they were obviously not intending to exit the classroom with the others. But the door eventually closed behind the final ones and they were left in the privacy of the room. Reklaw gestured towards the plate and began to gather up the block puzzles, expertly combining the ones left in pieces. The exorcists parked themselves next to the table and dug into the food. Gary couldn't resist continuing his train of thought.
"I still think the puzzles were lazy. And I noticed a few that were still cheating with magic." Carrie snorted at his tone. "And you naturally solved all puzzles within a 30-second time limit?" The blush she got as a response told her everything she needed to know. But she could hardly deny that there was a certain lack of innovation in the problem solving methods the other students had employed. Nick was nodding along as he chewed.
"I wonder if such an emphasis on magical methods ever feels limiting to them." He wondered aloud. Reklaw, who had somehow managed to gather all the materials already, made a thoughtful noise.
"Perhaps so. But we, or you, may naturally have a different perspective on the issue. In many ways being here almost reminds me of times passed." That abruptly sobered up the exorcists, who felt some of their anxiety return.
Nick caved first. "Professor… General, we are not-" He was interrupted by Reklaw's curious look. "Is that the interpretation they have in the… Order now?"
Nick couldn't help but cringing. "Well one of them. I think there's plenty of extensive studies dedicated to the issue, but I think it's kept pretty down low."
Reklaw looked as relaxed as ever. "And are seeking to rectify that situation?" Nick reconfirmed their position with his friends. "No Sir. Not for now." Reklaw seemed almost proud of the condition implicit in the statement.
Somehow apples were suddenly being juggled. "Well, then I believe all the pieces are in the boxes now and you three have missed dinner. Catch." The force behind the apples was surprisingly powerful and the dismissal clear. They filed out of the room with their bags. A shout attracted their attention one last time "and don't get in over your heads, that's just bad form." Smiles unwittingly broke out on their faces as they went along the corridor.
Kal closed the classroom door and turned to the opposite direction, towards his quarters. It was right around the next corner where Snape was standing.
"Severus, I haven't seen you in a while. Care for some tea?"
"It would evidently be my pleasure."
About the Lupin segment, now I don't really hang around in the HP fandom (for reasons), so I don't know what is the generally accepted status and relationship of the werewolf and him. Soooo, *shrug*.
And sweet holy satan I should probably do some sort of linear plot thing for this so I wouldn't repeat this hiatus exercise.