The First Status Report
"Vampy!" Arms wrapped around Harry and picked him up. A body inserted itself between him and the bench, and he ended up, rather expectedly, in a warm, comfortable lap.
"Renny!" Harry said, wriggling into a more snuggly position and making no move to remove himself from what most eleven-year-olds would consider a wretchedly embarrassing position.
"Done eating?" Rene looked pointedly at his half-eaten eggs and toast, and he snatched a hasty bite.
"Oy, V." Zacharias had, apparently, had enough. "Why're you letting her treat you like a little kid? Aren't you embarrassed?"
"Huh?" Harry looked over. "No. It's kind of nice. Strange, but nice." He went back to his food.
"But…" Having his main point completely ignored didn't seem to sit well with the overbearing boy. "But you're eleven!"
"And?" Harry looked over, a bit concerned.
"And? And! She's treating you like a five-year-old!" Zacharias exploded.
"Really?" Harry looked from Zacharias to Rene and back. "I wouldn't know." He took another bite, sighing happily when Rene's arms wrapped even further around him.
Absorbed in the feeling of arms around him, the scent of someone completely unafraid of who and what he was, Harry missed the glances that Zacharias and Ernie traded. Glances that traveled through the entire first-year Hufflepuff class…except him.
Rene didn't miss the looks, and mouthed 'later' when she'd caught the boys' eyes. Perhaps it wasn't right of her to push the issue, but she knew what they didn't: To get the entire Sett involved they would need a triggering report or incident, and she wanted to get the Sett behind her Harry before it was too late. So what if the sneaking around and calculating was all Slytherin. She could deal with her Slytherin attributes. They were even useful sometimes.
"Where's Harry?" Ernie asked, looking around Rene to make sure the small boy wasn't hiding, though, he had to admit, he might not have noticed if he was under her robes. Really, he was pathetically small, puny even.
"I left him tackling a few years off Professor Snape's life." Rene said, calmly transfiguring the furniture in the (oh the irony) transfigurations classroom into couches and plush chairs.
"You will put my room back when you're done, won't you?" Professor McGonagall asked as she walked through the room to her office.
"Of course Professor." Rene said with a negligent wave. Only Hannah noticed the almost maternal smirk that crossed their professor's face as she disappeared.
"Alright." Zach rounded on Rene, eyes stormy, lips compressed. "Why do you treat him like he's five? He's not a child!"
"One, sit." Rene pointed to a chair, and waited. Zach wavered, not wanting to his position with his 'opponent' still standing, and wanting to obey the prefect at the same time. None of the others had that problem, and neither did Zach when Ernie pulled him down.
"Better." Rene settled herself on a chair that was just a little firmer than the others she'd transfigured, and therefore left her well above the, admittedly rather cute, first years. "To answer your question: It's none of your business. If Harry ever has a problem with how I treat him all he has to do is tell me, and I'll stop." She raised a hand before they could interrupt. "I am well aware of his reluctance to tell people when he's uncomfortable, but his body isn't. The thing about holding someone is that you can tell when they're unhappy, even when they wander around shrouded from head to toe."
"True." Megan spoke up, though her voice was still quiet and unassuming; as though she wanted absolutely no notice whatsoever. "Both my little sibs get quite squirmy when they want to be put down. They don't actually say anything though." She trailed off, obviously thinking about something in the past.
"Remember the first night?" Justin added suddenly. "He wriggled out of Professor Snape's arms."
"Okay, so we know he doesn't mind, but why doesn't he mind!" Zacharias jumped up from his seat. "He's eleven, for the sake of Merlin in a field of daisies!"
"Boom-boom, sit down." Rene said, her voice sharp. Zacharias spluttered.
"Did you just call me Boom-boom?" He stared at her, rant completely forgotten.
"And I'll continue doing so until you learn to think before you speak, listen to what others have to say, and understand that not everyone feels exactly as you do, nor cares about the same things." Rene stared at him, and he found himself sitting without really understanding why his body had started moving, though he figured fear was probably as good a guess as any.
"But why doesn't he mind?" Zacharias' voice was, for the first time in his memory, more plaintive than angry or aggressive. "He's eleven. It's not right."
"Why don't you let him be the judge of that?" Rene said compassionately, and Zacharias nodded, though reluctantly. "After all, it is his choice."
"I gue-es." Zacharias did not look happy.
"What you can do is protect him from the other students, who won't be as nice. Remember, Hufflepuffs stick together." She smiled at the, then frowned when she saw a look pass between Hannah, Susan, and Justin. "What?"
"You're not going to like it." Susan said, unwilling to meet Rene's eyes.
"There are a lot of things I don't like. Spill." Rene said.
"Well, no one's said anything to Harry yet, but…" Susan started, looking everywhere but at Rene.
"What she's trying to say is that Ron Weasley's being a prat." Hannah stepped in. "We overheard him complaining that Harry was getting special treatment, that he's a daddy's boy, a pansy, and that he can't be the Boy-Who-Lived because no Savior-of-the-Wizarding-World would ever, in a million years be in Hufflepuff, and he must just be an attention-seeking, spoiled, rich brat."
"He said something about how Neville Longbottom is more likely to be the Savior-of-the-Wizarding-World," Justin used the same inflection as Hannah, firmly emphasizing the capitals and hyphens, "than Harry."
"Draco Malfoy said some stuff too…so I pointed out that he was agreeing with a Weasley, and being politically incorrect while he's at it. He's been strangely quiet since." Ernie said, a glint of something like amusement-laced irritation in his voice. Why was it that pureblood (non blood-traitor) children knew the term 'politically incorrect' by the time they were six?
"Right. We're calling a Sett Council." Rene stood up and walked over to Professor McGonagall's desk. She pulled out a quill and blank parchment, and scribed a quick note, waving her wand to duplicate it four times. "Ernie, take this to Will. He should be in the common room, but if he's not check the Great Hall." She handed him one of the pages. "Hannah, Susan, these two go to Illy and Se-Se. Illy should be in the third classroom to the left on the second floor, Se-Se's probably in dungeon five with the third-years doing DADA practice, so be careful going in." She handed out two pieces of paper. "Wayne, Anton's in the Great Hall, Boom-boom, Ian should be with the Head Boy, fifth door on the right from the painting of the ballerinas on the fourth floor." Pages handed out she sent the five off, turning to look at Justin, Megan, and Annabelle.
"What's a Sett council?" Annabelle asked quietly.
"It's where everyone in Hufflepuff gets together to discuss a problem and how we want to deal with it." Rene smiled. "In this case we're going to discuss how to protect Harry, so he's not going to be there, and no one can tell him it happened."
"But why does he need protection?" Annabelle asked, and Rene remembered that she was both muggleborn and not very bookish.
"It's a long story, and not for right now. I'll make sure you get an explanation soon, okay?" Rene waited for Annabelle's nod before continuing. "Now, Megan, Justin, would you two please go check the Quidditch Pitch? I don't think our team's still out there, but if they are tell them to hurry up, and don't forget to check the locker room." The two nodded to Rene, then turned and ran out.
"Annabelle, do you remember where the kitchens are?" Rene leaned against Professor McGonagall's desk to make herself less imposing. The muggleborn was a bit jumpy at times.
"Yeah." She did, however, have a good memory for places, even when they moved.
"Okay, please go to the kitchens and ask the elves to send Hufflepuff's food to the Sett Council Room tonight instead of the house table." Rene smiled as the girl's eyes widened.
"You mean we're allowed to do that?" She asked.
"Normally no, but I'll be talking to Professor Sprout, and I want you to show them this." She handed the girl her Head Girl badge. "Just remember to give it back, and use 'Sett Council Room', not 'Hufflepuff common room' or anything else. 'Sett Council Room'." She winked.
Annabelle looked at the badge, looked at Rene, straightened her shoulders, nodded, and ran out.
"Would you like me to warn Pomona or Severus?" Rene turned her head to look at Professor McGonagall.
"Hmm. Care to take the Snarky Git and his son out for dinner? Or at least eat in someone's quarters tonight?" Rene grinned.
"I do believe I would enjoy a more relaxed environment tonight." Professor McGonagall swept out.
Harry and his dad were just getting ready to head to the Great Hall for dinner when Professor McGonagall swept dramatically in.
"Come Severus." She said, giving them no chance to argue. "You, that ridiculously cute child of yours, and I are going out for dinner."
"Um…" Severus was shocked to say the least.
"Oh can we dad? Please?" Harry begged, turning to face him and pull on his robes, puppy-eyes barely seen behind his veil.
"Oh, alright." Severus sighed. He really couldn't say no to the child.
"Minerva, Severus, what brings you here?" The proprietor of Madame Puddifoot's floated over to the pair that had just entered before noticing their third and much smaller companion.
"Taking a student out? How unlike both of you." She raised an eyebrow, inviting explanation.
"Leanne, this is Severus' son, Harry. Harry, Leanne is the proprietor of this fine establishment. I recommend you avoid it at all costs on Hogsmeade weekends." Minerva introduced child and adult with a smile on her face.
"Ah, Vampy, right?" Leanne grinned at the shocked looks on both adults' faces. "What? It's traditional for the Head Students to come out here once or twice a week to discuss sensitive material. They rent one of the back rooms, and the three of us gossip for an hour or so. I let them know who likes to snog where, and believe me I hear more than I want to, and they bring me up to speed on internal affairs."
"And Miss Ivenson felt the need to tell you her nickname for my son?" Severus grumbled.
"Dad, the same principle applies here as at Hogwarts." Harry looked up at Severus, a note of annoyance in his voice. "I'm going to have to hug Renny when we get back."
"Yes, yes. Hungry?" Distracting a child with food was always a good idea.
"Tea first." Leanne smirked, leading them to a secluded table with a good view of the rest of the room.
The firsties of the Hufflepuff Sett watched with awe as their sprints through the castle and grounds reaped strange and amazing results. Professor Sprout activated set-magic, (old, powerful magic that only needs to be activated, not re-cast to have effect) that prevented the rest of the school from noticing the fact that every single Hufflepuff missed dinner. A trap door in the middle of the common room was revealed, and the house, minus Harry, climbed down into a large room.
A giant, round, donut-table sat in the center of the room. The entrance was in one corner, and the far wall had a table with dinner, plates and goblets stacked to one side, and silverware was already set on the table.
"Everyone get food and sit down." Rene took charge as soon as the door was closed, though only the firsties actually needed the instruction as everyone else had been through at least one Sett Council before.
There was an orderly dash for food, and within five minutes everyone had a plate in front of them. Seating had, per usual, settled with the lower years in yearmate-clumps, diverse upper years separating each grouping. The only exception to this was the first-years, who were split four and four around Rene.
For a few minutes the only sound was of silverware clicking against plates as everyone took the edge off their hunger. It was only when Rene was half-done with her own meal that she stood up. While no one stopped eating entirely, the focus of the room turned to her with no hesitation. What little conversation there was ceased abruptly.
"First, this is not our yearly Sett Council." Rene's voice was firm and carrying, and she spoke with an authority most didn't see from her on a regular basis. "Those of you who were here two years ago when a secondary Council was called should already recognize why we are here." Nods from everyone third-year and above. "Our firsties know as well because it is one of their own who requires the protection of the Sett, and they were the ones to bring the situation to my attention.
"You are all well aware that the Boy-Who-Lived shocked the wizarding world by being Sorted into Hufflepuff, but we do not have the Boy-Who-Lived in our Sett." Rene looked around the table. Whether she met everyone's eyes or just made them think she had, the result was the same: absolute, undivided attention. "We have Harry Potter, adopted son of Severus Snape, afflicted with xeroderma pigmentosum, nicknamed Vampy for that reason." She looked around, and this time she did meet everyone's eyes.
"What I am about to say stays here. If I find that anyone has spoken of this outside of this room, or even in Mister Potter's presence I will be angry." The threat in the air, for everyone but the first-years, was that when Rene was angry so too was her boyfriend, and the two of them had, quietly, sought revenge for every injury to a Hufflepuff starting in her third year. They had succeeded.
"I don't know much about Mister Potter's home life save that it was bad enough for Severus Snape to remove him from it. What I do know is this: He was sent to live with muggle relatives, hidden from the wizarding world, and not checked on…ever." She looked down for a second as though debating whether to say what she wanted, then looked up. "That is all you need to know. He is one of ours, and we will protect him. I understand that his behavior is not normal, and I don't care. However you may feel as individuals about him, you will protect him from those who would harm him. We protect our own!"
"We, the first-years, have overheard people talking, and we don't like it." Hannah stood as she spoke, and was very obviously trying to keep her voice calm. "From Gryffindor, Ron Weasley has called Harry a 'pansy', and a 'daddy's boy'. He believes that Harry can't be the Boy-Who-Lived because he's a Hufflepuff, and said 'Neville Longbottom is more likely to be the Boy-Who-Lived because at least he's a Gryffindor'." She looked over at Ernie, who stood as she sat.
"We're sure that after he's had potions Weasley will add being Professor Snape's son to the list of reasons why Harry can't be the Boy-Who-Lived." He looked around, a slight dent in his lip the only indication that he was nervous. "We've also heard similar things from Draco Malfoy, though he's shut up since I told him he was being politically incorrect and agreeing with a Weasley."
"So, we have three problems." Rene stood up again, and Ernie sat. "One: Vampy does not behave like a normal child. Two: He is facing the disappointment of the entire wizarding world because he was sorted into Hufflepuff. Three: He suffers from a medical condition that simulates vampirism.
"I am already taking steps to counter the third by giving him the nickname 'Vampy'. If people get used to considering him a vampire in an affectionate context they'll be less likely to credit people who try to convince them that he really is, or that he's a 'dangerous beast'. The other two, however, are a bit more of a problem. I would also like to note that his nickname cannot, can not reach the ears of the Ministry. A number of adults are aware of it, and those of the Sett are, but no one else. Outside of the Sett he should be 'Harry,' 'V,' or something else along those lines." She looked around, and a third-year raised his hand. "Mister Anders?"
"You all know my…ex…family is close with the Malfoys?" Anders, and that was his first name, spoke carefully, every word attesting to his pureblood upbringing. He had, of course, been disowned as soon as he was sorted into Hufflepuff. "Though I've been severed from my blood relatives, Missus Malfoy was kind enough to remain in contact. I can appeal to her, and ask her to ask Mister Malfoy to correct his son's behavior. Draco may be spoiled, but he's a pureblood, and if his father is upset with him he will change his behavior." He sat.
"Thank you. Would you write the letter now so I can make a copy before you send it? Knowing how to write that sort of missive would be useful for everyone." He nodded, and a house-elf, invisible until that moment, popped over to him with parchment, ink, and a quill.
Tonks raised her hand next.
"Miss Tonks?" Rene regained her seat, and attention turned to the clumsy, currently orange-haired seventh-year.
"For those of you who don't know, my job is to watch the Weasleys, and has been since Oran graduated four years ago." She took a deep breath before continuing, "I haven't had enough time to watch the youngest boy, but I can make a few guesses. One: While being considered a blood-traitor by pureblood society doesn't necessarily mean giving up the old ways, the Weasleys have. Not only that, but even if they hadn't they have too many kids to teach, and not even Bill and Charlie know the proper courtesies, though they get along well enough by avoidance. Percy is learning of his own accord, but he's their black sheep. Fred and George don't care, but are already making a name for themselves.
"Now, Ron Weasley has a lot to live up to: Head Boy, Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Prefect, and premier pranksters. Knowing large families, he's jealous. I wouldn't be surprised if he were jealous of Harry's assumed wealth and pampered life, because we all know what we thought he'd be like before we met him." The look she threw around the table made quite a few students blush.
"Now, Gryffindors in general, and Weasleys in particular, don't respond well to threats, and obviously don't listen to their parents about respect and house unity, therefore we need to out-maneuver Ron. I've been thinking of a strategy that has a chance in the nine hells, firsties you didn't hear me swear, of working, and I can only think of one thing. We have to prove to the rest of the school that Ron is an ignorant prat that opens his mouth without knowing what he's talking about, and not worth listening to. If we can get his brothers to publicly denounce him for his prejudices, well, that's even better." Tonks sat down amongst congratulatory mutterings.
"Perfect." Ian stood from his position directly across the table from Rene. "Second years? First years? Focus on one or two first years from each of the other houses, and convince them that Weasley's an ignorant prat. Let them spread it to their yearmates, but if they seem to be failing give them a hand. Third years? I want you focusing on the Weasley twins, except Anders, who will focus on Malfoy with the fifth years' help. Fourth, get Percy Weasley. Sixth and seventh will help where needed." He sat down.
"Anything else?" Rene asked, standing and looking around. "No? Alright, split into your work-groups and strategize. Standard procedure is to check in with a seventh-year at least twice a week so pick who you're going to report to and bring them in. Seventh years will report to Ian or myself at least three times a week, and they'll let you know if anything happens.
~~From the private correspondences of Rene Ivenson~~
We've run into a number of problems with Child and his reception by the school. We could use your input. Keep me appraised of your situation, and I'll call a meeting when you arrive.
~~From the Unabridged Hufflepuff Handbook~~
It should be noted that, while self-updating, the Unabridged Hufflepuff Handbook is written in a meandering, diary-like style that aggrieves and annoys many a reader, as its information is anything but concise. Most who read it come to the conclusion that it was created by a spell gone only slightly wrong, and that the Founder refused to fix it, as reading it proved a good exercise in patience for her students.
Since the splitting of the school Hufflepuffs have found themselves bullied and dismissed. It is a sad fact that hard work and loyalty, when not combined with extraordinary talent, are dismissed and even derided. As such the Sett developed a number of useful defenses.
A number of alumni in each generation spend years learning modern, muggle defensive strategies as well as physical training regimens, and teach upper years during the summer. This has been in place since the very founding of the house. These strategies and regimens are integrated into classes that are mandatory for all females and optional for all males. The skills taught in the classes give individual Hufflepuffs an edge during confrontations. However, that edge is not enough.
Within a few years of the late Helga Hufflepuff's death a new measure was added. Utilizing the room beneath the common room, which was the domain of Hufflepuff herself, the leaders of the house started holding yearly and occasionally more frequent meetings. Some meetings were among a small number of students, some among the entire house. Each meeting had a general goal, and as time progressed the Sett Council was formed.
In times of relative ease the Sett Council rarely meets, usually only once directly after the winter holidays. At that meeting all members of the Sett check in, and those assigned to watch other houses or families report in. As well replacements for those soon graduating are chosen, giving them a semester-long apprenticeship.
The Watchers, as they are called, are usually benign. Their main purpose is to guard against unexpected attacks. After all, to know someone is to predict whether they will become enemy or friend. However, in times of stress the Watchers become something more. Spies, sleeper agents, they can, when necessary, become agents of blackmail, or even, on the rarest of occasions, agents of death (for full details on the three incidents requiring permanent removal of a student see An Unabridged History of Hufflepuff House).
The primary goal of a Watcher is to gather information. Utilizing common sense in earlier years and muggle psychology in the last few generations, Watchers have compiled data on the students of other houses: What makes them tick. Who are their friends, their enemies. What traits do they have. Over time this data (collected in an open, friendly manner about the members of Hufflepuff House as well) has allowed the House to track trends, and even, on rare occasions, to predict the rise of Dark Forces.
There is another function of the Watchers, however, and it falls between information gathering and execution. When necessary, the Watchers can aid any single member of the House by making impotent any and every source of aggression against them. When this is necessary it is often an uphill battle, and occasionally fails, but through a combination of knowledge and blackmail they can (usually) succeed in removing social pressure from an outcast until such time as the outcast can stand on their own.
~~From the personal correspondences of Rene Ivenson~~
I have arranged to spend this weekend at Hogwarts. As well I may return on Halloween should it prove necessary. I will arrive at dinner tonight.
I hope you are well. Our letters have been much about Child and little about you. Perhaps we shall also take some time to renew our relationship? I look forward to our reunion.
"Oompf." A small body landed on Severus' shoulders and back, causing him to stagger…in front of his mixed class of first-year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws…minus…
"Hi dad!" Harry's grinning voice shouted into Severus' ear.
"Right. Don't forget to look up." Severus said, his words one giant sigh. At least the other students looked horrified. Really, this whole 'attack Severus whenever possible' game was getting a little old.
"What're we doing in class today?" Harry gabbled.
"Nothing if you don't get down and act your age." Severus replied, keeping his voice light, but backed with parental firmness. He wanted to growl and he didn't at the same time. It was an entirely strange and uncomfortable state of being, though he was getting used to it.
"Okay!" Severus could hear the grin in Harry's voice as he slid to the ground and retrieved his bag from Wayne.
Severus looked at the ceiling as though asking for patience, and motioned the first years into the room. Hannah patted his arm as she passed, and he looked at her in surprise. She winked.
He was less surprised to see a note scrawled at the top of the homework she handed in.
We go to classes as a group. Count us.
Hannah was watching him, and he nodded to let her know he'd gotten her message. Of course, being told how to find out whether he was about to be tackled by his wayward son by a first-year Hufflepuff was – pathetic.
The class wrapped up with no explosions, a positive side effect of having a class comprised of students that didn't hate each other.
"Miss Abbott, please stay behind." Severus released the rest of the class, knowing that at least two Hufflepuffs would wait outside the room.
The others cleared out as Hannah stayed in her seat, and Severus… frowned less… to let her know she wasn't in trouble. Only when the door closed did he speak.
"Thank you for the tip." He started, immediately regretting it. He was never as harsh on the Hufflepuffs as he was on the Gryffindors: The 'puffs tried hard, even when they failed. Still, he didn't actually need the tip. He didn't. Really.
"No problem!" She quipped, grinning.
"I have a question you might be able to answer." He pulled two pieces of homework from the stack on his desk, and showed them to her. She scanned them, confused, then a grin spread on her face.
"Exactly what they say." She sniggered, actually sniggered. "Mind if I copy those down?"
"Feel free. I'm assuming this has something to do with my son?" He watched her pull out parchment and a self-inking quill, scrawling letters appearing with practiced ease. He watched her, grudgingly impressed. It had taken him years to be that comfortable with a quill, though he'd not been able to afford self-inking ones until after his Hogwarts days.
Weasley protection does not apply to the youngest male. There will be no reprisals for excessive detentions or removal of points, though the former is preferred.
-Fred and George
"And that they're serious, as they signed their given names and called me professor without being under duress."
I know of the note written to you by the twins. I too find myself disgusted by my youngest brother's ignorance, arrogance, and prejudice. I have owled our mother, but fear she will not have the proper impact.
Percy's…note took up half the parchment, and Severus's mind wandered as Hannah continued to transcribe it. Slight noises told him there were three first-years waiting for her, and that one of them was his son.
They were going to be late for their next class at this rate. Severus sighed, and wrote a note to Professor Flitwick, letting him know why four of his students were late. He had no clue why he was doing it save that his son was part of the group. At the same time he realized that he'd do it anyways. He was quite obviously going soft.
To conclude, I ask that you take whatever steps necessary to…as my brothers would say, give him hell – within the bounds of what is appropriate, of course. Try not to be excessive or others will back him, but make sure he knows his attitude is not appreciated.
I will be sending a copy of this, appropriately modified for tone and word choice, to each of his professors.
"Done." Hannah tucked the parchment away and grinned. "Do you have any NEWT classes today?"
"The seventh years are next, why?" Severus asked, then realized.
"Oh, perfect." She pulled the parchment out. "Give this to Renny?" She grabbed the quill and ink from his desk, as she'd put hers away, and scrawled a hasty RI on the outside.
"If you take much longer you're going to be late." He drawled. She passed him the parchment, and he handed her the tardy note. She looked at it, looked at him, and grinned.
"You're doomed." She said, and if he had to place her voice he'd call it a mix of amused and evil.
"Pardon?" He blinked.
"You're doomed." She flounced to the door. "Giving tardy notes to the entire group and not just the person you held behind? Doomed. No more evil bat of the dungeons. Poof." She opened the door and slipped through.
"Hey Harry, Susan, Justin." Hannah let the door close behind her and grinned at the three who'd waited. "Let's go. I've got a note, so we don't have to run."
As they walked down the hall they passed the NEWT students, and Rene looked at them with a raised eyebrow.
"I had a problem with my homework, so Professor Snape held me back. They waited." Hannah shrugged. "We have a note." Rene nodded, and the four firsties continued on to charms.
Harry was twitching a little, and when they were about to step into the charms corridor he froze.
"Why did my dad really hold you back?" He asked rather abruptly. "I know there wasn't a problem with your essay that would have made him do that."
"I asked him to." Hannah said immediately. "I had a question I really didn't want to ask in front of the class." She shifted slightly, and didn't completely look him in the eye. After all, she was only eleven, and That was an – embarrassing topic for an eleven year old, even if it was a lie.
"Oh." Harry, unlike most boys, was well aware of the female – problem. It was, in fact, the only kind of blood he could smell and not go nuts. He hadn't smelled it on her, but he hadn't been looking, and he had smelled it on Annabelle, so Hannah might have been asking for her. "Okay."
Charms was with the Gryffindors. Because they came in late Harry didn't realize anything was different, but the other firsties noticed the covert glances Neville, Dean, and Seamus were sending Harry's way. This wasn't good. Harry had no clue what Hufflepuff House was doing for him, and might not understand why.
Susan scribbled a quick note, talk to us first, and sent it along the lines of desks to the curious lions. When she got a nod from Seamus, who seemed to be the leader of the group, she relaxed a little.
Harry walked to dinner with most of the other firsties, though Susan, Hannah, Justin, and Wayne stayed behind to do…something. He knew it wasn't to talk to Professor Flitwick because the professor had already started grading papers, but Harry wasn't going to worry about it. He'd noticed a general change in the emotion-scent of most of the school a few days ago, and decided he really didn't want to worry about it.
When the missing Hufflepuffs entered the Great Hall it was with three Gryffindor boys. A single spike of fury-scent whipped Harry's head towards the Gryffindor table where Ron Weasley was staring at the Gryffindors with stormclouds in his eyes.
As the Gryffindors approached their table there was a sharp increase in tension, enough that the other students started to notice. Heads turned all around the hall, eyes flicking back and forth between the three boys and the one. It was as though a tsunami was poised, frozen, above the hall, quivering to be unleashed.
Ron Weasley rose.
~~From the personal correspondences of Rene Ivenson~~
I forgot to mention. I'm bringing Arthur Weasley with me. He expressed a desire to visit his children. I believe letters were involved.
One look at the teachers told the other students that a Weasley was about to be in a lot of trouble…or he would be if they weren't more worried about Harry, who was backing towards the Head table.
When Harry felt the bump of the Head table against his back he ducked under it, turning to dive between two teachers' chairs. As luck would have it he managed to dive between Professors McGonagall and Sprout. He didn't know why he was so afraid, but having angry, female adults between him and the angry redhead seemed like a good idea. That the Headmaster was absent was also good, though why was an unanswerable question.
And why was Weasley so angry? And why at him? The boy had turned to glare at him, and started advancing, heedless of the professors, heedless of the fact that every single Hufflepuff had risen, and was looking to the oldest students (fifth years, as the NEWT students were still getting out of class) for direction.
Three figures froze in threshold of the double doors.
"This is all your fault!" Ron Weasley yelled, staring at Harry, his wand in his hand. "Pansy freak! Hiding behind your daddy! Stupid, worthless baby! There's no way you're the Boy-Who-Lived. You're a liar and a fake!"
As Weasley yelled Harry started to relax. That was all that was making him angry?
"You're supposed to be brave and strong! You're supposed to be a Gryffindor! The Savior-of-the-Wizarding-World isn't a stupid Hufflepuff!" Weasley muttered something that Harry didn't catch and an arrow shot out of his wand. Unfortunately his aim was horrible, and before anyone could respond to the sudden attack the arrow pierced Professor Sprout's leg.
Severus watched the exchange, frozen. Normally he would have been able to react, but the child had surprised him. He berated himself for loosing his edge even as he reacted, though almost more slowly than the rest of the hall.
Pomona dropped, clutching at the wound, and the Hall burst into sound. Many of the Slytherins cackled, the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws stared at Weasley in shock and horror, and the Hufflepuffs exploded. No less than ten disarming charms hit Weasly simultaneously; sending him flying one way while his wand flew the other. He landed, relatively unharmed, at the feet of his father, Arthur Weasley, a tall man with hair as fiery as his children's. His normally jovial face was set in a deep frown.
Up on the dais Minerva was helping Pomona sit still while Poppy tended to the wound. Harry, his face very luckily invisible, was shaking from head to toe.
Severus soundlessly joined Minerva and Pomona, his eyes flashing angrily. He casually handed Harry one of the blood pops that he'd started keeping on him at all times, and watched as his son quickly tore the wrapping off and shoved it into his mouth. Immediately he relaxed and Severus silently sighed in relief.
"What is going on here?" The three in the doorway had seen enough. A tall man with blindingly red hair, and a tall, dark, slender man wearing a simple black robe with yellow detailing flanked Rene, whose arms were crossed. It was the tall, dark one, immediately recognizable as Peter Richardson, Rene's boyfriend and Severus' ex student.
"I believe Mister Weasley was digging himself a grave." Severus said, one arm snaking out to pull Harry to him protectively. "Welcome back to Hogwarts, Mister Richardson. I take it your travels were uninteresting?"
"Professor Snape, a pleasure. In fact, they could have been quieter, but the destination certainly applied the Curse." Mr. Richardson bowed slightly, and Severus returned the gesture.
Harry watched everything happening from the safety of his father's half-embrace. When Professor Sprout had been injured he'd been afraid he was going to attack her, but his father had given him a lolly that tasted exactly like blood, except even better because it was sweeter.
The red-haired man sighed, bringing a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose.
Somewhere in the hall a firstie could be heard whispering 'Curse?' to which another student replied 'May your life be interesting.'
"Minerva, may I borrow your office?" The red-haired man asked, his voice making Ron Weasley whirl and pale dramatically.
"Of course, Arthur." Professor McGonagall replied.
"Fred, George, Percy, if you would?" The three older Weasley boys rose, all with stony faces. "Ron, come." Four Weasleys started towards the door.
"You! You told them!" He screamed at Harry. "Tattletale! I'm going to get you for…" Percy Weasley grabbed his younger brother and started dragging him towards the door.
"No," he said, loud enough for the entire Great Hall to hear, "our brothers and I 'tattled' on your embarrassing behavior."
There were no more words as the contingent of redheads disappeared, their footsteps fading and finally stopping.
"Right." Rene walked between the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables, Mr. Richardson pacing behind her. Both reached the podium, and Rene turned in front of it to face the crowd. Mr. Richardson turned when he was even with the podium, letting Rene take the stage. "One: Hufflepuff is a house, just like all the others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with hard work and loyalty. Two: Madame Pomfrey cleared Harry as suffering xeno…xe…" She looked towards Harry.
"Xeroderma Pigmentosum." He whispered.
"Harry was cleared by Madame Pomfrey, end of story." Rene's voice took on an edge. "Three: How family interacts is between family unless a child is in danger. Period." She paused, uncertain what else needed to be covered.
"The-Boy-Who-Lived." Peter hissed into her ear.
"Now, on the subject that I'm sure your parents are all dying to gossip about: Forget all that Boy-Who-Lived crap you were raised on. Harry is a boy, not a God, not a Savior, a boy. Any powerfully magical mother can enact blood magic to save her child from even the killing curse as long as she uses her death to power the spell, it's just that not many mothers have the time." Harry turned to bury his face in his father's robes, waiting for the whole ordeal to be over. In his mind's eye he saw a flash of green light.
"Now, is anyone else going to have a problem with the fact that a boy who is famous because his parents are dead has no reason to live up to the expectations of the world that he didn't know about until two months ago? If you have a problem with Harry, take it up with Professor Dumbledore. I'm pretty sure he's the one responsible." She turned to her boyfriend. "Come on Peter, Professor Snape, Harry. Let's go somewhere quieter."
The four trooped out the side door, Harry stumbling a bit, with his hand clutched tightly to Severus'. When they were out of sight Peter put his arm around Rene's shoulders and squeezed. She leaned into him, letting out a soft sigh.
"If I remember correctly, your quarters are adequate for a four person dinner, Professor Snape." Peter said.
"Of course, Apprentice Diplomat Richardson." Severus' voice was both smiling and mocking, though is face remained peacefully blank. "Lead the way." He paused to scoop Harry into his arms.
"Your command is my wish." Peter swept down the halls, easily treading paths he knew. He had, after all, been a Slytherin for the duration of his Hogwarts career, which made his enacting vengeance for Hufflepuffs that much more intriguing.
"When's the wedding?" Severus asked as they stepped into his quarters.
"Summer solstice." Rene absently replied, hunting for her favorite seat. "It's been a while since I've been here."
"Yes, and now is not the time to reminisce." Peter turned as Severus put Harry down on the couch, and walked over to the still shaking child. "Rene, would you care to introduce us?"
"Harry Potter, I would introduce you to my mate, Peter Richardson. Peter, this is Harry Potter, whom I have taken as a son in the manner of the Clan." Rene spoke calmly, but both Harry and Peter could feel the tension in her.
A faint scuffle in the background let them know Severus had been dragged into his bedroom, and the scent told the males that a werewolf had done the dragging. None cared.
Harry closed his eyes, mouth working silently for a moment.
"You honor me by your presence." Harry said as he opened his eyes, keeping his tone both level and sincere. Inside he was jumping happily at remembering the proper response.
"I am pleased to meet the child of my mate." Peter replied, his voice and posture as formal as Harry's had been a moment ago, "and now that the formalities are over with, come here you." Before Harry could react Peter had pulled him into a tight hug.
Rene joined them, and for a short while nothing was said. Of course, nothing needed to be said. Harry and Peter both had blood-emotion bonds with Rene, and their mutual vampire heritage made them sensitive to each other.
When Peter finally pulled away slightly Rene excused herself to check on Severus and Lupin. She wasn't worried per-se, but she needed an excuse to leave anyways, and they'd put up a silencing ward.
Harry watched her go until Peter's hand gently brushed his chin, catching his attention.
"Look at me Harry." His voice was a soft croon, one explicitly used between vampires and their children. It was a comforting sound, impressed into each child in its first year, and reinforced through its life. Harry had, of course, missed much of that time, but he'd been impressed and it showed in the way he immediately relaxed.
"I though you were only a quarter." He mumbled, remembering reading something about the croon in Vlad's book.
"I am, but on my father's side. We were both accepted as liaisons to the Wizarding world by the Council, and raised in the Path before being sent to Wizarding schools." Peter smiled.
"Would I have been, if…" Harry trailed off.
"Yes and no." Peter smiled. "Your father was unaware that he was putting you at risk for being part-vampire by creating you after becoming a partial Thrall. He also failed to realize that any partial-Vampire child watched over by a full Vampire would be manipulated into something approximating halfblood status. They would not, of course, turn you fully until your majority, nor against your will." He leaned back, making himself comfortable against the arm of the couch.
"Why did you want to hug me?" Harry asked suddenly. He knew what he was sensing, but he was still very confused. After all, if Weasley, who wasn't even in his house, could see the same things in him as Uncle Vernon, then why would anyone care?
"Because children are hugged." Peter replied, hoping to draw the real question out.
"But…I'm sorry, I guess I just don't understand." Harry looked at his hands, starting to shake again.
"Don't understand what, Harry?" Peter cupped the child's chin and forced eye contact. As soon as their eyes met he let himself into Harry's mind, gently guiding him towards verbalizing the core issue. It was something he would never have done under normal circumstances, but these were far from normal.
"I don't understand why anyone would want to hug a freak like me. I know when you love someone you hug them, and that Severus and Renny love me, and you do too, and I don't understand that even more, but why do they love me? I'm a worthless freak, a drain on everyone who cares for me. I'm ruining Severus' reputation, but I don't know how to stop 'cause sometimes I'm afraid he'll be gone and I have to touch him and make sure he's real." He stopped for breath, and continued to stare at Peter, his tremors increasing until the first tear trickled down his cheek.
The tear was Peter's cue, and he gathered the shaking child into his arms, cradling and cuddling him into a comfortable position before re-establishing eye contact.
"There are a number of truths that you must learn, but not until after your thirteenth-year initiation. For now I will simply say that Severus loves you of his own free will, and that nothing you do will change that. I can also say with absolute truth that Rene loves you because it is in her nature, and that she would not if she did not find you worthy." As he spoke he worked pathways in Harry's mind. It was a skill that not every vampire had at the level he did, and one he had needed to come to terms with. He laid out patterns so that every time Harry thought of himself in negative terms he would get what Peter placed, which was the knowledge that those terms were wrong, and that Severus, Rene, and Peter himself loved Harry unconditionally.
"As for myself, I love you because Rene does, and she is my Mate. If I objected to you in any way neither of us would love you, but I do not, and she does not, and so we do." Peter paused, and a mischievous grin crossed his face.
"I have come to introduce myself, and to offer mentorship as you grow into your heritage. As such I will give you the first Truth every child must learn: You cannot chose, nor control who loves you. The only thing you can control is how you respond to their love. Repay it with honesty and respect, and much will be forgiven. After all, everyone makes mistakes." He smiled down at the small child in his lap, and decided he and his had made the right choice.
"Mentor?" Harry asked, his brain absorbing the Truth he had been given by diverting the conversation.
"Indeed. I'm sure you know what that means." Harry smiled and nodded, burying his head in Peter's chest and wrapping his arms part way around his waist.
"Big brother." Harry closed his eyes, taking in the new scent and memorizing it without noticing or caring.
"Little brother." Peter whispered back, rubbing Harry's back with one hand and stroking his hair with the other.
~~From the private correspondences of Peter Richardson~~
Greetings and good wishes. I bring a request before you, to admit a new member to the Clan. I would adopt my mate's Clan-son as my brother.
Half-Vampire by birth and first-year care, the son of James Potter and Lilly Potter nee Evans. Ward by law and Bonding of Severus Snape, scion of a distaff Prince line. Clan-son by partial bond of Rene Ivenson, my Mate. Sorted-son of Hufflepuff.
I await your instruction.
Fair skies, good hunting.
Second Degree Son of the Clan
Liaison of the Clan
Wizarding Diplomat in Training
~~From the pages of You Wound Me Now Die~~
For a long time I was confused whenever Renny or Peter talked about me being a son/brother in the way of the Clan. Then Peter explained it to me, and it made so much more sense.
You see, most Vampires come into a Clan having been Turned as adults. They have a Sire or Dame, and that's it. Therefore, a long time ago, the Clans came up with other ways of forming relationships.
Whichever a new Vampire has, Sire or Dame, a member of the opposite sex becomes their Clan-parent. Adult Vampires have a choice in the matter. Children do not. This Vampire is responsible for showing you the ropes, so to speak. They are teachers, and the beginnings of a support network.
To the newly Turned vampire Clan-brothers and Clan-sisters are mentors. They are the older siblings of an extended family, offering guidance, advice, and introductions to the fun aspects of life.
A Sire or Dame is the equivalent of a biological parent, but as most Vampires are adults when Turned that relationship doesn't necessarily need to exist.
A Vampire may have only one parent of each gender, which is to say they can have a Sire and Clan-mother, or a Dame and Clan-father. Of course, Sires and Dames can also become Clan-parents, but it is not necessary.
Now, how this all relates to me gets more confusing, so I will simply spell it out.
Severus, as my only surviving parental figure, is considered my Sire, despite the fact that he is fully human. This is because he holds parental authority over me and had some small experience with the workings of vampire Clans even before he adopted me.
Rene took me in as a Clan-child, though she wasn't yet a member of the Clan. However, because of her status as Mate to Peter she was permitted.
Because I already had a Sire, Peter took me as Clan-brother. The fact that he was and is the mate to my Clan-mother means nothing. He is my brother, no matter his relationship to anyone else.
Just think of it this way: The closest relationship is the one that matters. Mate to a relative is second degree. Brother is first degree. Therefore, because my Clan-mother's Mate is my Clan-brother the only title that matters to me is Clan-brother.
And that's just the surface.