A/N: Hi peoples! Welcome to the first chapter of the next 'book' of Outcast's Alley. Hope you enjoy it!
p.s. Sorry if the split was inconvenient for some of you. There was no middle ground between 'new chapter' and 'new story', and for structural purposes I really wanted to start a new section. I did not, as many of you accused, (one of you in Golum-speak, no less), do it for the sake of the author alerts. :0) Anyway, like I said, enjoy!
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It's a good thing these hallways are so wide, Tobias thought, walking in silence next to the two monarchs and the ever-present cat. It was starting to concern him, to find the cat following him so carefully, but then the bodyguards had allowed it, so it was probably safe. Still, there also had to be a reason the monarchs wanted him to have bodyguards. And I'm sure they can deal with one wizard, animagus or no, he reasoned. They'd be pretty sucky bodyguards otherwise. And they didn't look like sucky bodyguards. They looked like damned impressive bodyguards.
The eight walked in a loose box around the large group made up of him and Mo and the two monarchs and the cat. Everyone seemed to respect his distance. The cat stood between him and Sheyanan, and Sheyanan between him and Mohira. There was a bodyguard to his right, but the large, silent unseelie stayed six feet away from him and Mo. Anybody else in the hallway shied around the enormous nonhumans in their midst, lining the sides of the corridor as they watched and whispered. As usual, Tobias tried to ignore it, focusing on the comforting feeling of Mo's hands in his hair. She'd managed to get a hold of the whole braid and held it in both slimy hands, quietly sucking. He let her. If being Heir means I have to treat her differently, then I won't do it, he promised himself silently.
Was this what his life was going to turn into, now? Mobs of bodyguards, and students carefully avoiding him in the hallways? Everyone fearing him again, this time for his position, rather than his appearance? Lucius Malfoy formally requesting an audience with me so he can personally apologize for the behavior of his son because I was too stupid to acknowledge Draco's apology? It was kind of fun, thinking that way about Umbridge, but... Lucius Malfoy is the Elven Ambassador? Did that mean he wasn't really a Death Eater?
None of the People are to have anything to do with this 'lord' or his followers, called Death Eaters. The sole exception to this rule, of course, are those bid by the courts to infiltrate and observe them.
The court could've just not realized that Lucius was a Death Eater, but then it had never been a real secret, at least to the humans. Could one be Ambassador and spy at the same time? Such a person would be important. Really important. And now he's worried he's going to lose that position, because his son insulted a schoolmate? The thought of Draco causing that sort of trouble had a certain appeal. The idea of a person like Lucius Malfoy being forced to grovel to him for it didn't. He didn't like Lucius, but the man wore dignity like a cloak.
They were to meet Dumbledore in a meeting room not far from his office. The walk was not far, and so it wasn't long before they stopped in front of a set of double-doors labeled the 'Longbottom Conference Room'. Tobias had just enough time to think that the Longbottoms must have given money to the school, or something, when the two bodyguards in front opened the double doors wide and announced, "Their Majesties Sheyanan and Mohira-she and their Highnesses Tobias and Moriyana-she, of the Unseelie Court."
Oh, hell. That sounded a lot more official than Blaise's version. Blaise had sounded serious, sure, but he'd also been being formal as a way of messing with Umbridge, rather than from any real reason. This sounded more like some sort of strange court audience. Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life, Tobias. Apparently their grand entrance was too much for the cat, who left as soon as the doors opened.
The room held an oval table with enough room for roughly fifteen people to sit. Dumbledore was sitting towards one end, but stood as the group entered. Tobias followed the two monarchs to sit across the table from him as the bodyguards took their places against the walls.
"Greetings, your Majesties and Highnesses," Dumbledore said formally. You'd never know that he knew me, Tobias thought, somewhat disturbed.
"Greetings, Headmaster Dumbledore," Sheyanan responded in kind.
They all sat at once, and Tobias found himself one seat away from the two monarchs, but still closer to them than to Dumbledore, with Mo on his lap still chewing on his braid. The arrangement left him suddenly confused. Was he going to be talking to Dumbledore as one of his students, or as one of the Unseelie? Where were his loyalties, at this point? Then again, I don't really know where Dumbledore's loyalties will be, he realized. Dumbledore at least had been a human political figure. How would he approach this, now that Tobias was with the Court?
Formally, Tobias realized. We already got that. And he still avoided Tobias' eyes.
"You wished to speak with us, Headmaster Dumbledore," Sheyanan started. "It is only fair that you start." Somehow that sounded a little unfriendly, Tobias realized. What problem did Sheyanan have with Dumbledore? Or was he imagining it? She was perfectly polite, he told himself. But then she would be, wouldn't she?
A knock at the door prevented further talk, as the nearest bodyguard opened the door to admit a fiercely scowling Professor Snape.
"Ah, Severus," the headmaster greeted. "Thank you for arriving so promptly."
Promptly? Seems like the man's late, to me, Tobias reflected silently. What's he doing here, anyway?And why was he so pissed off?
Snape took his seat on Dumbledore's other side as the headmaster started to speak. "I wished to speak to you because events have lead us to a rather difficult conundrum. You see, your Heir Tobias-she is also, by coincidence, our 'boy-who-lived' Harry Potter."
Tobias startled, staring at Dumbledore dumbly. Did he just- I thought that was a secret!
Not anymore, apparently. Oh thanks, Dumbledore, Tobias thought. Prevent me from telling even my best friends who I am, then just blurt it out to the last people in the world I wanted to know. Then again, he'd been hiding it in order to avoid being Heir, so it wasn't really a problem anymore...Still seems kind of hypocritical. But wait. Dumbledore knew he was the Heir? Maybe one of the monarchs told him? Though he could've just figured it out when the two monarchs showed up on his doorstep asking for him.
To Tobias' surprise, the two monarchs didn't seem particularly shocked by the revelation. Sheyanan cocked her head slightly, and looked at Tobias, but Mohira didn't react at all. "I fail to see how this could be a problem," he said calmly. "The boy's fame can only help us to reconcile our two worlds. Though of course we would have to explain how 'Harry Potter' could be at Beauxbatons and Hogwarts at the same time."
He knows I'm supposed to be at Beauxbatons? "Ah," Dumbledore said lightly, "allow me to explain. I am sure that you have heard of the so-called 'Lord' Voldemort?"
"We have," Mohira answered neutrally.
"Well you see, Harry plays a rather important role in our struggle against him," Dumbledore said. "Lord Voldemort knows this. The Ministry is also feeling threatened by him, and me, at the moment, and was also becoming a problem. As such, we chose to have 'Harry' go to Beauxbatons for awhile, and 'Tobias' stay here. He looked so different anyway that we barely had to change anything. I have one of my people at Beauxbatons, pretending to be him, while he stays here, being 'Tobias', and, now, of course, Tobias-she of the Unseelie Court until he can be Harry Potter again and fulfill the role that he was born to."
Role I was born to? What role?
"Why not just actually send him to Beauxbatons?" Sheyanan asked.
"The boy wished to stay here. Besides that, when the time comes, Harry's task will be difficult, and dangerous. He needs to be ready, and he cannot be if he does not receive the proper schooling, here, at Hogwarts. I hope that this will not be a problem for you."
"We have no intention of removing him from Hogwarts," Sheyanan told him. "Provided, of course, that we can arrange something such that he can receive the training and support he needs for us here."
No intention of removing me? Really? But what sort of training could he get, and still survive in his classes and take care of Mo? How much time did they think he had? And what was this 'role'?
"I'm sure we could work something out," Dumbledore said.
"I'm sure we can," Mohira put in smoothly, "but I fail to see why it is so crucial to you that the boy remain at Hogwarts. Unless it is in fact that you are Headmaster here, and so wield a certain control over the boy. I imagine that it has been quite convenient, over the years, to be Harry Potter's only recourse."
Woah, Tobias thought. That was...interesting.
"Mohira-she," Sheyanan said, staring at Dumbledore as she admonished her husband lightly. "How could you think so of the Headmaster? After all, he has taken such good care of Tobias in the past."
They are angry, Tobias realized. Strange. What did they think Dumbledore had done against him? And why do they care? I'm alive.
Dumbledore drew himself up straight, looking affronted. "I assure you, your Majesty, that I have done everything possible to ensure Harry's safety."
Mohira smiled, exposing canines half again longer than Tobias'. "Ah, yes. Clearly safety must always be our number one priority. The boy must live to fulfill this great destiny that you have for him. But we digress. What is the nature of this 'role' you have imagined for him in your war? Surely you cannot think that because he survived the Dark Lord once, it is his destiny to face him down later?"
"Not for that reason, no," Dumbledore said, shaking his head, "but the boy's birth and role were prophesied when he was still very young. It has been foretold that one of his description must face the Dark Lord. He is the only one that can take him down." His last sentence seemed to be directed at Tobias, who abandoned his previous thoughts to stare wide-eyed at him for a moment before speaking.
"You want me to face Voldemort for you," he stated bluntly. "Alone. You honestly think I'm the one that has to kill him."
"I am sorry, my boy," the headmaster started, tone sad, "but-"
"No," Tobias told him.
The headmaster cut off. "What?"
"No," Tobias repeated. "I won't do it."
Dumbledore didn't seem to know what to say. "You would - you would refuse? When you alone can do this, you would allow him to go on killing people, to take over everything?"
"No," Tobias said more politely, "But I refuse to believe that my facing him in single combat is the only way that this can possibly go down. They," Tobias said, indicating the two monarchs, "believe it my duty and destiny to be their Heir. I can't be both, and they have a much more convincing argument. Theirs is based in fact, in law. What is some 'prophecy' next to that? Besides that," he continued, placing a hand on Mo's curls as she tugged his hair, "I don't know if you noticed but I have a child to care for, now. I'm not going to go off and get myself killed over some stupid prophecy."
"And neither will we allow our Heir to be your pawn in this, Dumbledore," Sheyanan said, tone surprisingly harsh. "You will have to find someone else."
"'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches,'" Dumbledore recited. "Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ….' That is the prophecy of which we speak. Harry is far more than a 'pawn', I assure you. The only other child born who seemed to fit that description was Neville Longbottom, and he has not been marked by the Dark Lord as Harry was.'"
"Yet," Snape said, tone clipped and confident as he spoke for the first time.
Dumbledore looked over at him, startled. "Severus?"
"He has not been marked yet, Headmaster," Snape said, face blank. "He will be, and it is he you must train. Tobias has nothing to do with the prophecy."
"What can you mean, Severus? He has all the indicators; he has already been marked-"
That brought a sneer. "All of the indicators, Headmaster?" Snape questioned acerbically. "Born to those who have thrice defied the Dark Lord? Born to whom, Dumbledore? The boy's a bastard." He spat the words, and Tobias found himself cringing at the hate in them.
On his right, the two monarchs watched in silence as Snape and Dumbledore debated something that Tobias himself found he had trouble following.
"His father could still have-"
Tobias caught his breath. He knows. He knows who my father is.
"He didn't, Severus? And how would you know that?"
Snape remained silent, fixing Dumbledore with furious look. Suddenly thoughtful, Dumbledore looked from Tobias to Snape and back again. "Yes, there is a resemblance, isn't there? I wonder that I didn't notice it before."
This was adding up to a picture Tobias really didn't like. "What are you talking about?" he asked finally.
"You cannot discover it on your own, Mr. Bâtard?" Snape asked him icily. "You cannot be Dumbledore's prophesied savior because your parentage does not match the specifications." He sneered deeper and continued. "Your father has spent his life since he was sixteen obeying the Dark Lord, not defying him."
My father is a DEATH EATER? And Snape knows him?
"You could still be-" Dumbledore started,
"No," Snape interrupted harshly. "Lies and deceit are not the same as defiance. I joined up willingly, and have never openly defied any order he has given me."
I, Tobias thought. He said 'I'. But no, that couldn't be right. Snape was human, and so was Lily. If it were Snape, Tobias would be human, too.
"But the prophecy says born to," Dumbledore argued, "not born of. Harry was born to the Potters."
"Perhaps if James had not known, Headmaster," Snape said, "or if Lily had intended to get pregnant, but he did, and she didn't. The fact that James accepted the boy anyway was more like an adoption. The prophecy therefore fits Longbottom better than Bâtard."
"Well great then," Tobias said, starting to lose his temper. "This prophecy which I don't give a damn about anyway has nothing to do with me. Now would somebody, please, tell me who the hell I was 'born to'?"
There was a silence, before Dumbledore coughed lightly and started to speak. "Harry-"
"Me, 'Bâtard.' You were born to me."
Tobias looked over at Snape, who returned his shocked gaze with a grimace. I could have sworn that that was his voice. But then, who else could it be? He certainly wasn't Dumbledore's kid, or Mohira's. Fuck. But wait - "You can't be my- you're human," he said, confused.
"Mostly," Snape corrected. "I am mostly human. And I am not mistaken in this."
"But-" Tobias protested again.
"In the Greater Fae, as with the elves, the percentage of 'People' blood one carries matters much less than that one has it on both sides," Dumbledore explained. "You could be 25% Unseelie, by calculation, and 100% in reality. As, I suspect, has happened here. We could use a paternity potion, if that would help you."
Snape stared at the Headmaster, face completely blank, before turning back to Tobias. "Or you simply could take my word for it. I do remember the night you were conceived."
Tobias stared at him for a second, disbelieving. For a moment his mouth was too dry to allow him to speak, but finally he managed. "Wow," he stated, strangely calm. "You're even more of an asshole than I thought." Mind in a turmoil, he stood up with Mo and walked out of the room.
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Five minutes found Tobias sitting in his deserted common room, alone save for Mo and the same scarred-up black cat. It had streaked up behind him as he'd walked back to his dorm, and followed him the rest of the way. "I dunno who you are as a person," he told it, "if you're even a person. But you make a bloody ugly cat. And who the hell beat you up so badly?" The cat hissed and swiped at him, but he just pushed it away with a foot. "Careful, Kitty. If there was ever a time I'd be tempted to kick a cat, it'd be now." The cat gave him a disdainful look and hopped up to hide in a nearby plant.
"Good. Stupid cat."
Feeling Mo tug on his hair, he sighed and sat back in the chair. "Hi, Mo." He smiled wanly as she gave him a sloppy grin, his sopping wet braid gripped in both tiny fists. Removing the braid gently from her hands, Tobias gave her his fingers instead. Feeling her grip him strongly, he lifted her up into a stand. She bounced on her knees, but didn't collapse as she used to.
"You 'n me, right baby? So my father hates me. It's not like having my closest relatives hate me is new." He found his throat closed on the words, and gave up on speaking, instead lifting Mo by the chest to fly her in the air. She was his family. His only family. He'd already known that. That didn't change. Who gave a damn who his biological father was? He'd already decided that James was the one that mattered, and he was dead. So what if his mother had screwed- oh. Eww. Yeah, don't think about that.
Snape. The whole time, his mother had been referring to Snape. The 'old friend' she'd met in the bar. The 'good man' who'd 'made some mistakes.' Mistakes like joining the Dark Lord, Mum? Abruptly Tobias lowered Mo to his chest, marveling once again how she could be so happy at his worst moments. Gripping her carefully, he stood and entered his room to dig around in his trunk for the original letter. Finding it, he brought it back to the common room with him. Tucking Mo into the crook of his arm, he read it over again. He found his lips lifting off his teeth at his mother's words.
'I met an old friend there, one whom I had not seen since we had left Hogwarts. He was a good man, I think, but he made some terrible decisions. I am not in a good position to judge, I suppose. Long story short, we stayed a long time, and drank too much. It was cold, and his apartment was closer, which gave me the needed excuse to stay the night. When I left the next morning, though I did not know it immediately, I was pregnant with you.'
Yeah Mom. Pregnant with me. The bastard son of a man who hates me. Just great. It was ironic, actually. Snape hated his bastard son, because he'd hated Tobias' cuckolded 'father'. Well great, Snape. You really get the last laugh, don't you? Or maybe Tobias did. Oh, yeah. I'm laughing. Then again, neither was Snape. Of course not. He never wanted a son. Screwing James' wife might've been satisfying at the time, but Snape clearly didn't think it funny now. He'd made that damned clear. The boy's a bastard.
'...You may notice I do not use your father's name. I know he is a good man, but he avoids me like I carry a plague. He is not well liked by our current crowd, for a variety of reasons, and is not a happy man. I believe he can't stand to see the family I have built. The point is, I don't know where his life has led him, or will have led him in 14 years' time. Perhaps putting his name in a letter would be dangerous to him. I cannot know, and so I must not say. I do want you to know your father, however. Whatever he was before, he is a good man now...
Once again, Mum. 'Whatever he was before?' You mean a Death Eater? That's hardly like asking me to forgive him for having been a drunk, or something. Hell, he's one of the ones that killed you. And how the hell did she know if he was a good man? He hardly went out of his way to be nice. She was right on one point, though. He would never describe Snape as 'happy'.
'...Please do not blame your father, if he lives and you find him again. He knew none of this, and though he and James never got on, I am sure he did not intend to interfere with my marriage. He was a very lonely and troubled child. He is possibly an even more lonely and troubled man. Please forgive him, even if you cannot forgive me. I know it is a lot to ask, but please approach him with an open mind and an open heart. He is...not the most easily approachable human being, but he has every reason to be the way he is, and he would certainly never harm you...'
He wouldn't, would he? He's hated me since I set foot in the school, Mum. And even more since he'd figured out that Tobias was his son, he suddenly realized. That's why. That's why he's been so horrible. I'm a bastard. I am his bastard son. He would rather I not exist.
Jesus. He'd been so stupid. He'd told Snape he was a bastard. The professor had known for weeks. Only Tobias was stupid enough to not figure it out. A 'good man' who 'made mistakes.' 'Not the most easily approachable human being'. His reaction to Tobias' admission that he was a bastard. Remembering what else he'd said to Snape then, he almost choked. My father, as in the man who threw himself in front of the so-called 'Dark Lord' in order to save my life, not the man who got drunk and screwed around with a married woman without even using proper protection. He'd never have had the courage to say that to Snape, if he'd realized. Thinking of Snape, he felt a growl building in his throat. But then again, maybe I would've.
Please do seek out your father. He is a good man, and I think you could be good for him.
Sure, Mum. I'm sure Snape would love to be my Daddy dearest. 'Cause he's been treating me so well since he's known. No wonder the man had been so detention-happy. Bloody hell. He'd never've guessed how much worse it was to be someone's bastard son, than to just not know who his father was. It's not. It's not worse. I just have to ignore it, is all. But previously, at least he'd been wanted. 'Lily never intended to get pregnant,' Tobias remembered Snape saying. The only one who had wanted Tobias, then, was James. James, who'd accepted someone else's bastard son. And who'd gotten killed for it. That fucking prophecy. No wonder Voldemort wanted me dead so badly.
Reminded of the detentions, though, Tobias looked down at the back of his hand. If being the man's son was the reason that Snape'd been so horrible to him, was it also the reason the man had protected him from Umbridge? There was absolutely no reason Snape should've acted the way he did with Umbridge, except for Tobias' sake. The man had hardly wanted Tobias' gratitude for it, though. Then why'd he do it? He hates me. But then, he'd also healed Mo even though he hated Tobias, not yet knowing that Tobias was his son. So, fine, he actually is a good man...sort of. Enough that he wouldn't let an innocent baby die. Enough that he'll go out of his way to save me a couple scratches, when he hates me? Unlikely. But, for some reason, he had. But then what do I care? He doesn't matter.
What was he even doing thinking about it? He didn't have the time. He should be thinking about the court, about Mohira and Sheyanan and how the fuck he was going to figure out being their Heir and Mo's daddy and a student and a teenage boy all at the same time. God, I'm so tired, he realized suddenly. All he wanted to do was sleep for a year. And I need to feed and change Mo, he realized as he heard her start to fuss. And eat.
Bloody hell, it was like that was all that kept him moving anymore. Feed Mo, change Mo, get Mo to sleep. Do as much of his schoolwork as possible. Occasionally eat and sleep himself. Try not to think about all the fucking shit that was going down in his life. Feeling his eyes start to burn, he fought the feeling back angrily and stuffed the letter into Mo's diaper bag. Fishing around, he found the pocket where he typically stashed the diapers and pulled one out. Next he pulled out the portable changing pad and laid it on the couch next to him. Mo squealed and kicked as he removed her clothing, but he'd gotten good at changing her and so had no trouble.
When that was done, he washed his hands quickly and called Zuka to bring him lunch and oatmeal for Mo. When they'd both eaten, he found he'd run out of excuses: he had to return to the meeting with Dumbledore. Or just with the court. I don't know if I particularly care about Dumbledore, right now. After all, the man couldn't even be bothered to look at him. The boy must live to fulfill this great destiny that you have for him. Was that all it was? All the extra attention Dumbledore had given him - he'd always just accepted it. He'd thought that maybe it was because of his parents, but then, that was a lot of what Sirius' and Remus' connection to him had been, too. Neither of the two had attempted to contact Tobias again, after he'd left Grimmauld Place. Neither had Dumbledore. I suppose keeping me alive doesn't require him to look at me.
A knock on the common room door shook him out of his thoughts.
"Come in," he called. "Watch the Guardenia."
The door opened to reveal Fred and George Weasely.
"Guardenia?" Fred asked him.
"Yeah," he answered. "It's a guard plant. It's supposed to judge intent, or something, but mostly it doesn't like people. We've got all kinds of nicknames for it."
George grinned. "Like...?"
"They're pretty bad," Tobias said, returning George's smile as best he could. "Fortsythia, Fernicullis, tromp-it vine, you-nipper, Rhodahenchman..."
"Brilliant," Fred opined, before his face took on a serious mien. "But there's no time. Come with us."
"One of the unused classrooms," George said.
"It's got a peep-hole cut in one of the walls adjacent to the conference room with your new folks," Fred explained. "Sound comes through clear as if we were using one of our own products."
"You were eavesdropping?" Did they know-?
"Never mind that," George took up again. "We've got something you'll want to hear."
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"...the man you have had guarding him?" Mohira was saying. Tobias put his eye to the hole, first, but found he couldn't hear as well, that way, and turned his ear instead. Fred and George stayed silent at his side, absently petting the ugly black cat as they listened with him.
"Indeed. He is one of my most trusted people, and most dedicated to keeping Harry alive," Dumbledore was saying.
"Are you so certain, Headmaster?" Sheyanan asked, "I could've sworn he wanted the boy dead, from the way he looked at him."
"Severus is...complicated," Dumbledore answered him. "But believe me. He will guard that boy with his life, if needs be. He has been doing so for several years. Knowing what he knows now will only strengthen that."
"He hardly treats the boy as his son," Mohira rumbled.
"Oh, certainly not," Dumbledore answered, "but then he is quite convinced that he hates Harry."
"As am I," Sheyanan answered him.
"I am not," Dumbledore said. "In fact, I suspect he is mostly angry with me. As I said, Severus is a complicated man. You will notice that he has not ceased in his guarding, now that Harry knows."
"But he has to sleep, and he is one of your teachers, is he not?" Sheyanan said, sounding skeptical.
"Do not worry, Your Majesty," Dumbledore answered. "Harry is watched at all times, especially this year. Several of his teachers are my most trusted people, and they take it in shifts to watch Harry in his other classes."
"Without the boy's knowledge?" Mohira questioned.
"Without anyone's knowledge. It was imperative for Harry's safety that he be taken for any other student."
"And you did not trust him to keep the secret himself, even after hiding his identity for all this time?" Sheyanan questioned.
"Harry had enough on his mind without needing to keep yet another secret. I chose to allow him to settle in at Hogwarts as he wished to."
"Without contacting us." Mohira's tone was blunt, and a trifle chilly.
"I thought it might be useful to all of us, to see how the Ministry reacted to his presence. And I knew that you would find him eventually."
"He told us where he was."
"Yes," Dumbledore answered. "That, I must say, I had not expected. That and his immediate alliance with the Zabini boy."
"Neither of which are quite convenient for you or your Ministry," Mohira pointed out.
"Oh, no," Dumbledore said. "I find them both quite convenient, precisely because they will make things difficult for the Ministry. You may be able to help me clean them out, with Harry's cooperation."
"We will discuss discuss nothing without Tobias present," Mohira responded.
"Of course, of course," Dumbledore answered him. "That may have to wait, however. I believe he will want some time to himself."
"Indeed," Sheyanan said. "Protecting the boy the man may be, but that was not kindly done."
"Yes," Dumbledore said sadly. "Severus is rarely kind."
Abruptly, Tobias found he didn't want to hear anymore. "I'm done, guys, thanks," he said, standing up carefully and turning away from the tiny hole in the classroom wall.
"Harry," one of them called as he walked away.
He turned back. "Don't call me that."
It came out harsher than he meant it, and George winced. "Your Highness?"
"Oh!" Tobias said. "No. Just Tobias, please."
"Tobias. Y'all right, mate?"
He gave them a slight smile. "I will be."
"You want to talk about it?"
"No," he answered. "Definitely, definitely no."
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When Tobias returned to the Conference room, the cat once again disappeared as the bodyguards opened the door. This time they did not announce him, and he walked into the smaller meeting to take his place one seat away from the two monarchs, and across from Dumbledore. Both parties looked at him with surprise.
"Tobias-she," Sheyanan said. "We do not have to do this now. It can wait a day or so."
"Why would we wait?" Tobias asked her, hearing his tone come out slightly harsh.
For a moment Mohira met his eyes, and Tobias was surprised to find some sympathy in the older fae's gaze. Tobias looked away, and Mohira spoke. "Very well." Turning to Dumbledore, he said, "we were discussing balancing Tobias' training and school schedule."
"I don't have any more time," Tobias told them. "Like I said before, I'm barely keeping up in my classes as it is."
"Yes," Sheyanan agreed. "Your schedule is much too full. We'll arrange it so that you have more free time, as well as enough time to dedicate to your training and preparation."
Tobias frowned, somewhat surprised by her agreement. "What do I need to learn?" he asked her.
"Hmm," she said thoughtfully. "Diplomacy, most importantly. Deportment. History. Politics. Foreign Language."
"Defensive combat," Mohira said.
"He's already taking Defense Against the Dark Arts, and History of Magic," Dumbledore told them.
"There is more to history than magic," Sheyanan told him.
"And more to the Dark Arts than defense," added Mohira gruffly.
"You propose to teach him the Dark Arts?" Dumbledore sounded startled.
"Some of them. Our definition of 'Dark Arts' is a good bit narrower than the Ministry's," Sheyanan explained. "We would certainly not teach him your 'unforgivables,' for example, but there are plenty of very effective spells that are only 'Dark' based on how you use them."
"And the boy needs to learn to actually fight, not just cast spells," Mohira said firmly. "And not just non-lethal ones, either."
Tobias swallowed. He wasn't sure he wanted to learn lethal spells, though he could see the practicality of it.
"How do you propose to fit that into Harry's schedule?" Dumbledore put in. "He's already taking Potions, Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology, Divination, and Care of Magical Creatures, in addition to the other two mentioned."
"History and Foreign Language can wait," Sheyanan suggested, looking at her husband. "Diplomacy, Politics, Deportment, and Combat can't."
In the end, Tobias found his Hogwarts schedule wittled down to Potions, Transfiguration, and Charms. He'd understood about Transfiguration and Charms - they both taught the most basic, everyday magic that everyone should know - but he'd balked at the other.
"Potions?" he'd asked. "What do I need those for?"
"It is considered basic to the education of any young nobleman that he be capable of brewing the more basic potions. You ought to be taking a music or art lessons, too, but we don't have the time for it."
"So I'm taking Potions just because it's what 'one' does?"
"Yes," Mohira said definitely.
Tobias clenched his teeth and tried to explain calmly. "My..." I am a bastard. I knew that. He would not shrink from it. "My father is teaching that class," he said. "It could be...awkward."
Sheyanan winced, but Mohira just regarded him calmly. "Can you handle it?"
His voice held a challenge, and Tobias found himself lifting his chin in defiance. God he's an asshole. He wouldn't say so in front of Dumbledore, though. "Yes." As long as Snape doesn't fail me.
His other classes, it turned out, would be taught largely by private tutors, who would floo to Hogwarts in order to teach him. "This way," Sheyanan had explained, "you won't miss anything if you need to take care of Moriyana. The class can simply be moved."
"Great," Tobias said, "I knew this would take over my entire life."
Mohira raised an eyebrow. "You've had fifteen years without it. Was it really so much better?"
"I had friends," Tobias countered.
"For three quarters of the year," Mohira answered back.
Tobias frowned. "How do you know that?" he asked.
"Easy," Mohira told him. "We tracked you back to Privet Drive, and forward to the Bloody Mary and even Diagon Alley, before we lost your trace. We eventually gave up on the idea that you could be Harry Potter because there was a plausible version of you at Beauxbatons that was clearly human. In the meantime, though, we learned quite a bit about Harry Potter, as well as about the Headmaster's so-called 'care' of you."
Tobias at Dumbledore, to find the man frowning fiercely. "What do you mean?"
"The headmaster placed you in that home, did he not?" Mohira questioned him.
"Well yeah," Tobias said. "They're my only relatives."
"And he never removed you from it afterward?" Sheyanan asked next.
"No," Tobias said. "Why should he? I was fine."
Mohira met his eyes, and Tobias felt impelled to be honest. "Well, no I didn't like it there, but I lived, and anyway where else was I supposed to go?"
"Indeed," Sheyanan asked, looking at Dumbledore. "There was nowhere else he could have gone?"
"He was safe there," Dumbledore said, anger clear in his tone.
The look on Mohira's face made Tobias shiver. It felt like the whole room had frozen. "You have a very strange definition of 'safe', Headmaster Dumbledore," Mohira responded, his voice a low rumble, "unless, perhaps, you simply have no knowledge of the conditions under which the boy was living."
"I have been watching Harry carefully since I placed him there," Dumbledore retorted.
"So you know that he was habitually locked in his room, then," Mohira said. His tone was light, but his face told a different story. "Interesting."
"Like you said," Sheyanan answered him, "the headmaster has a very 'interesting' definition of 'safe.' Apparently 'safe' for him includes being underfed and overworked, as well."
"Not to mention kicked to the curb as soon as he started the changes normal to a switch," Mohira replied, the lightness starting to leave his voice, replaced by heavy sarcasm. "But then, the streets are so 'safe' these days, aren't they? Especially for a new switch, or, for that matter, the Boy Who Lived."
"I was fine," Tobias repeated again.
"Interesting that he didn't seek out his headmaster for help, isn't it?" Sheyanan asked, tone still light.
"He preferred to seek out the help of complete strangers. I wonder why, when Dumbledore has been so supportive of him in the past."
"And the boy was clearly already used to being disliked and neglected by those who should have protected him," Mohira agreed, face and tone equally angry. "Why would he care if his Headmaster treated him the same way?"
"I'm right here," Tobias tried, irritated.
"I had no choice," Dumbledore told the two of them angrily. "Do you think I wanted to leave Harry there? Do you think it was easy, keeping him alive all these years with the Death Eaters after him?"
"Bodyguards," Mohira told him. "Allow him to stay at Hogwarts during school breaks. Send him to wherever it was you hid him this summer. My people could not find him."
"I wanted to give Harry the most normal life I could offer him. Is that such an evil thing, to you?"
"Actually, yes," Mohira told him. "I find locking an eleven-year-old boy in a closet evil. And hardly normal."
"Please," Tobias found himself saying. Nobody heard him.
"I had no choice!" the headmaster exclaimed again, raising his voice angrily.
"Please!" Tobias finally yelled. "It's over, okay? Just let it bloody go!"
"It is not over if we cannot trust the Headmaster to care for your well-being beyond your immediate safety, Tobias," Mohira told him. "And his past record is abysmal."
"And I can take care of myself, thank you!" Tobias told him. "I don't need a bloody rescue. And it's not like he can send me back there, again. I'd worry more about the secrets he's been keeping, than about his ability at babysitting."
"You were listening," Mohira surmised.
"Yes," Tobias answered without shame. "And I would like to know who else has been guarding me, please."
"It says a lot about your level of security here, Headmaster, that a fifteen-year-old boy can find a way to listen in on a private conference between the headmaster and he monarchs of another country," Sheyanan pointed out.
"Firrneth," Mohira instructed. To Tobias' surprise, the guard in question pulled out a wand and began casting. Somehow he hadn't thought of the big guards as magical, though of course they were.
"You brought your own security, your Majesties, and our talk was not a particularly sensitive one," Dumbledore said. "Your secrets are safe."
Tobias snorted. "Maybe theirs are, but what about mine, and Snape's? You really think it's not a problem, that Fred and George Weasley know that I'm Harry Potter and my father is Severus Snape? It could just as easily have been anyone else. Unless Snape really is a Death Eater, and you want him dead? Then it'd be pretty clever, actually. Nobody would've known why the Death Eaters suddenly decided to kill one of their own..."
"Tobias has a point," Sheyanan said, then looked at Tobias pointedly, "though he could have put it more politely."
Tobias grimaced, frustrated. He did not want to allow the monarchs to control his speech, but had did have to be polite to people if he was going to be their Heir. Which is why I don't want it. And it wasn't like the monarchs had been real polite themselves, beforehand.
"Are Fred and George Weasley likely to be dangerous?" Sheyanan asked.
"No," Tobias said. "You're not going to find better blokes than Fred and George, and they can be trusted to keep a secret even if I apparently can't." He directed his last words to Dumbledore. "Who is guarding me?" he asked again.
"In addition to - your father?" Dumbledore asked. Tobias grimaced but nodded, and Dumbledore continued. "Minerva McGonagall, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Nymphadora Tonks."
"Good enough," Tobias said, trying for the light tone the monarchs had used, "though I'd have preferred to know they were there."
"You heard my reasoning," Dumbledore told him, still avoiding his eyes, though his voice held no remorse.
"Yes, I did," Tobias said. "And if I'd still been eleven it would've made sense. As it is I'm left wondering who were actually friends, and who Order members."
"Your guards were instructed not to make friends with you. All of the friends you made were genuine."
Well that's good, at least. "Fine," Tobias said, voice clipped.
"In the future, though," Sheyanan said, turning back to Dumbledore, "we would request full disclosure on all measures related to our Heir or his safety. We would not want anything to be left unaccounted for that could potentially provoke an...incident. And, of course, Tobias himself is to be kept informed as well."
"Of course, your Majesty," Dumbledore answered, his smile looking a bit forced. "Openness on all sides would certainly be best."
"Oh, no, Headmaster," Mohira answered him, tone not quite as controlled as his wife's. "You have misunderstood us. Tobias is our Heir, and so we rightly request to be kept appraised of all decisions made on his behalf. On the other hand, for his safety we regret that we must keep many things in full confidence. We cannot afford any mistakes, you will understand."
"I had hoped to cooperate with your Majesties regarding Harry's future," Dumbledore answered, clearly tense.
"And we had assumed you would realize that the boy is no longer under your control," Mohira answered bluntly. "He is your student, but he is our heir and legally our ward. We would consider discussing things with this Severus Snape is he so wishes, but other than arranging things specific to his classes here at Hogwarts, you have no place in such discussions."
"I have been keeping Harry safe for the last fourteen years!" Dumbledore protested angrily.
"And during that time he has been abused by his relatives, attacked by four of his own teachers, and kidnapped by Voldemort, Headmaster. You can understand why we doubt the validity of your decisions regarding him." To Tobias' surprise, it was Sheyanan that said it, voice grim.
"I cannot be expected to know everything about everyone I hire," Dumbledore argued back fiercely.
"The world today is dangerous. Lupin is one of the best teachers I have ever hired. Moody and Quirrell were acting on the Dark Lord's orders. I cannot predict and counter Voldemort's every move. I had to hire somebody. Whether he is actually the subject of prophecy or not, he is number one on Voldemort's hit list. Can you truly expect me to protect him from everything?"
"No, Headmaster," Mohira said coolly, "we cannot. Which is precisely why we are relieving you of that responsibility."
Dumbledore stared at the large fae for a moment,making Tobias wonder if he would get angry, then hung his head in defeat. "Very well," he said. "I only hope that you have a better record than I."
Woah, Tobias thought, looking back and forth between the two monarchs and Dumbledore. He'd never seen anybody face down Dumbledore like that. Let alone face him down and win. And they'd seemingly done it for his sake. Could be just politics, though, he thought. Putting them in charge of my safety, and not telling Dumbledore things that they don't want to. But then, they'd seemed genuinely angry, speaking about the Dursleys and the danger he'd courted at Hogwarts. And Dumbledore almost seemed to agree with them. He'd argued, but then he'd seemed to just...give up. Strange.
At any rate, the negotiations went easier after that, as Mohira, Sheyanan, and Dumbledore discussed the details of Tobias' schedule, and nothing else. Dumbledore was quiet, for the most part offering only advise on Hogwarts' schedule without trying to control any of the decisions made. Tobias found himself feeling somewhat useless, as he understood little of the discussion - what the hell was Deportment, and what was so important about it? - and so could only make the occasional comment about Mo's sleeping habits and his own preferences. Finally Mo rescued him, fussing continuously until he had to leave and get her lunch and a nap. I could eat, too, he realized as he left. The drama since the monarchs had arrived had already taken several hours, and he only really picked at the lunch Zuka had brought for him. I think I'll skip Transfigurations, just this once, he thought. I've bloody well earned it.
A/N: I am having a little trouble with the next chapter, and I've got some other projects I'm working on, so this story is on HIATUS. Shouldn't be too long, I think, but this story needs the pressure off. It will NOT be abandoned. Thanks everybody! Rhiannan