Four Heads Are Better Than One
Year Two: A Very Strange Day
I am so, so, so, so sorry this took so long! I know it's been longer than I thought, but I really underestimated how difficult uni would be. Thank you so much for all the reviews, favourites and alerts, especially everyone who kept nagging me to get a move on, I did need the inspiration. I do have a lot of work, and I'm writing this by myself now, but I said it before, and I'll say it again, that this fic will not be abandoned. It may take a while, but I will finish it. So, my apologies again for the long wait, and I really hope you enjoy this.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
The Hogwarts staff room
Minerva waited for the rest of her colleagues to leave before collapsing into a chair.
Filius and Severus exchanged glances as Pomona put an arm round her friend's shoulder. "We can't give up, Minerva. We have to stay strong now."
Minerva stared at her. "Stay strong? A student is dead. Hogwarts has been closed." Her voice fell to a whisper and she looked away. "I failed them."
"We failed them," said Filius quietly. For once, the tiny old wizard's demeanour reflected his age.
Severus said nothing, but he reached out and gave Minerva's shoulder a brief squeeze. The Gryffindor glanced up at the rare show of emotion and gave him a small smile.
Pomona rubbed her eyes. "Why did this have to happen? And to the Weasleys of all people."
Filius shook his head sadly. "Truly, it was a sorry day when Albus was suspended. Had he been here, I doubt the attacker would have dared to go this far."
A glint entered Minerva's eyes. "Thanks to Mr. Malfoy, we'll never know."
Severus nodded in agreement; Lucius might be one of his oldest friends, but there was no denying the fact that Albus would never have allowed one of his students to be taken.
"What will happen to the students? They have to finish their education somehow."
Minerva sighed. "We will have to make arrangements for them to attend other magical institutions."
Filius frowned. "That may not be possible for all of them, Minerva. We might have to arrange some sort of private tuition."
Minerva shook her head. "That is something we can worry about in the future." Shakily, she got to her feet. "If you will excuse me, I must contact the Weasleys."
Severus studied her for a moment and sighed. "Here."
Minerva looked somewhat suspiciously at the vial he offered her. "What is it?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "It's just a Calming Draught. You look like you're about to collapse."
It was a mark of the strain she was under that Minerva drained the vial without further protest. She visibly relaxed as the potion took effect.
"Thank you, Severus."
The Slytherin nodded. "You're welcome." He looked as if he were about to continue, but suddenly fell silent and stared at the cupboard.
Pomona frowned at him. "Is everything all right, Severus?"
Severus glanced back at her. "I thought I heard… It doesn't matter."
Filius sighed. "The students should all be in their Common Rooms by now. I suppose we should inform them of what's happening." The other three bore equally dismal expressions at the prospect, but no-one spoke. There was nothing left to say.
Several hours later
Scarcely had the door closed behind them, than Severus rounded on Minerva.
Minerva looked like she was still struggling to comprehend the facts herself. "Yes. Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk."
"Formerly released by Tom Riddle, responsible for multiple petrifications and a death?"
"The very same."
Severus stared at her. "And he went after it by himself? Is the boy insane?"
Pomona shot him a reproachful glance. "He did go to a teacher…"
"Not a competent one!" He massaged his temples in an attempt to quell the impending headache. "That boy will be the death of me."
Filius nodded grimly. "I have to agree with Severus. Last year he encountered a Cerberus and You-Know-Who, this year he goes looking for a Basilisk! What will it be next year, a chimera? A manticore?"
Pomona shivered. "Don't even joke about it. The boy seems to have no sense of personal danger."
"But if he had, where would we be now?" asked Minerva quietly. "Ginny Weasley would be dead. Hogwarts would be closed, and Albus and Hagrid would be in disgrace. And You-Know-Who would be back. As much as I fear for him, Harry's actions saved more lives than he can imagine."
"But he shouldn't have had to," argued Filius. "He's twelve years old, yet he's already done more than most wizards have in their entire lifetimes. That is no way for a child to live."
Pomona nodded soberly. "He's supposed to be worrying about Quidditch and homework, not how to kill dangerous monsters."
Severus sighed. "He is arrogant." Minerva's eyes narrowed and he held up a hand to forestall the inevitable protest. "And I'm not talking about his resemblance to his father, strong as it is. He seems to think it is up to him to save the world by himself. Look at today. If he had come to one of us, we could have had whole squadrons of Aurors searching for Miss Weasley. Instead, he sets off to tackle on of the most dangerous creatures on the planet with only another twelve year old and an idiot for backup. Had things gone differently, we would be mourning more than Miss Weasley tomorrow."
There was silence as he finished. Minerva had opened her mouth to argue, but closed it again as she realised the truth of his words. Harry had, after all, been very lucky. Had Fawkes not turned up, or Gilderoy's charm succeeded, things could have been very different. After a moment, Pomona broke the silence.
"I don't understand why he didn't feel like he could come to one of us. He must have known that we would do everything in our power to rescue Miss Weasley."
Minerva grimaced. "Well, I can understand why he wouldn't want to come to Severus, but I thought he trusted us by now."
Filius looked thoughtful. "Mr Potter has never been too willing to speak to adults," he pointed out. "Even Albus said that he couldn't get him to talk about what was happening."
Minerva shook her head. "He's always been quiet in lessons, but I assumed that was down to his natural shyness." She shook her head wearily. "I may have to keep a closer eye on him."
"We all will," promised Pomona.
Filius sighed. "And not just Harry."
Severus immediately caught his drift. "You think we should have noticed that something was wrong with Miss Weasley?"
"I saw that she had been very quiet, but I attributed that to typical first year nerves." He looked slightly embarrassed. "I'm ashamed to say that I didn't pay as much attention after the attacks started."
"Don't be silly, Filius," said Minerva sharply. "I am Miss Weasley's Head of house. If anyone failed her, I did."
Pomona frowned at her. "But how could you have known? Diaries filed with Dark magic are hardly common, and everyone was out of sorts this year."
Minerva shook her head. "I still should have seen that she was having problems."
Severus folded his arms. "Maybe. Maybe we should have been more attentive to Potter too. But what's done is done, and blaming ourselves serves no further purpose. All we can do is remember these lessons for the future."
Pomona nodded soberly. "Excellent advice, Severus." She sighed. "Maybe next year will be a little quieter."
Severus grimaced. "We said that last year."
Filius gave a small smile. "I don't know, I can think of at least one aspect that can only be an improvement."
A gleam entered the Slytherin's eyes. "Yes, wasn't Gilderoy's 'accident' such a shame?"
Pomona grinned. "Who would have guessed that Mr Weasley's wand would prove to be so useful?" She glanced at Minerva. "He really can't remember anything?"
A faint smile spread across Minerva's face. "Not a thing."
"Thank Merlin for that," Severus muttered. "Another year of his idiocy and there would have been good reason to sentence one of us to life in Azkaban."
Filius frowned slightly. "At least we know the truth about his exploits now."
Pomona scowled. "Despicable behaviour."
Severus' lip curled. "We should have known he wasn't capable of anything he said he was."
Minerva sighed. "We knew he wasn't telling the whole truth, but I don't think any of us thought he could do such a thing." She shook her head. "Albus is going to contact his victims and see if there is any way for their memories to be restored."
Filius grimaced. "I'm not sure if that will be possible. Gilderoy always was very skilled with Memory Charms, and he won't have wanted these to be broken easily."
"Does that mean that his own memories might never return either?" asked Severus.
Filius nodded. "I had a word with Poppy at the feast. She's not sure whether it was due to the strength of the charm, or to the fact that he was using such a badly damaged wand, but the spell completely shattered his memories. He'll have to spend some time in St. Mungo's and, even then, it's doubtful that he'll ever fully recover."
Severus nodded thoughtfully. "I think I can live with that." None of the others looked too dismayed by the prospect either.
Pomona yawned widely. "What a day."
Filius nodded. "At least we don't have to deal with exams tomorrow."
Minerva smirked. "How nice of the Headmaster to cancel them for most of the years. The fifth and seventh years will still have to do their O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s of course, but it will be a nice break for the others, especially after the year we've had."
Filius chuckled. "I don't think all of them will see it that way. Didn't you see Miss Granger's face when Albus made that announcement?"
Minerva nodded fondly. "I'm just glad she was able to react at all." She shot grateful looks at Pomona and Severus. "Thanks to the two of you."
Pomona smiled. "It was our pleasure."
Filius glanced at them. "I've been meaning to ask, how in Merlin's name did you manage to feed Mandrake Restorative Draught to a ghost?"
Severus shook his head. "With great difficulty. We left that little problem to Albus and Poppy."
Pomona chuckled. "The first thing out of Miss Granger's mouth when she awoke was that Harry and Ron had to know that the monster was a Basilisk."
Severus rolled his eyes. "What a surprise; the know-it-all figured it out first. I thought it was strange that Potter would be able to solve that by himself."
Minerva glared at him, but Filius cut off the impending argument. "We are not starting this now!"
"Hear, hear," said Pomona. "So, we know who opened the Chamber, we know what Slytherin's monster was, Gilderoy's actions now make sense, and the Petrified students have all been restored. That seems a fairly satisfying conclusion."
Severus frowned. "Not quite. We never did find out who was responsible for jinxing that Bludger."
Pomona's smile faded. "Do you think it was Gilderoy? I know we discounted him before, but…"
Minerva's lips twitched. "I can tell you with absolute certainty that Gilderoy had nothing to do with that particular incident."
Filius' eyes narrowed. "Minerva, what do you know that we don't?"
The Gryffindor smiled innocently. "I'm afraid you'll have to narrow it down."
Pomona threw her an exasperated look. "Minerva…"
"You know, a certain potion might be finding its way into someone's pumpkin juice if someone doesn't start talking immediately," Severus growled.
Minerva was now struggling to keep a straight face. "All right, they didn't mean any harm, and they aren't exactly human."
"Not human?" Pomona exclaimed.
Severus snorted. "Never mind that, how do enchant a Bludger to attack someone without meaning them any harm?"
Minerva could almost see Filius' brain working. "I suppose if he were injured badly enough he might be moved to St Mungo's…then he would be safe from attack. But who would have both the magic and the motivation to accomplish that?"
Minerva finally took pity on them. "Albus wouldn't give me all the details, but he did mention that Harry has received a few visits from a, shall we say, rather over-enthusiastic house-elf."
Severus' eyebrows shot up. "A house-elf?"
Pomona stared at her. "But how could it do something like that without its master's permission?"
"Technically, if it weren't given express orders to the contrary, an elf could do rather more than we might think," Filius informed her. "But it's almost unheard of for one to go to such lengths for a stranger."
"He's not exactly a stranger, he's the Boy Who Lived," Severus muttered. "And it would explain why our charms were ineffective; house-elf magic is completely different to ours."
Pomona's expression turned thoughtful. "This elf could also be the one responsible for sealing the barrier to the platform at the beginning of the year."
At that moment, the door to the staff room opened. Minerva twisted in her seat, and let out a low groan.
"And I thought we would have some peace with Gilderoy gone." She did not elaborate, but the sudden odour of cooking sherry immediately revealed the identity of the new arrival.
Filius quickly summoned a smile. "Sybill, how nice to see you." He shot a warning glance at Minerva as the Divination teacher wandered over to them.
Sybill blinked at them, her eyes magnified to a slightly disturbing size by her enormous spectacles. "Ah Filius, I see that you have had an unexpectedly pleasant evening."
"No, the killing of Slytherin's monster, the restoration of the students and Albus' return were reasons for him to be unhappy," Minerva muttered under her breath, much to Severus' amusement.
Pomona glared at the pair of them, before turning back to Sybill. "Have you been all right Sybill, we haven't seen you down here for a while."
"And it's been wonderful."
Pomona's glare intensified, but fortunately, Sybill appeared not to have heard the Gryffindor's comment. "I have been studying the stars, my dear. This year has seen some unique alignments, and I was unwilling to miss anything that could have been of importance."
"You mean you were terrified of being Petrified and so spent the entire year hiding in your attic."
Severus was unable to suppress a snort at that, but immediately regretted it as Sybill turned her slightly unfocused gaze on him. "And Severus… My dear boy, I am afraid I have grave news."
Severus' lip curled. "Let me guess, I'm in danger?"
Sybill swayed on her feet as she stared at him. "Danger, yes, grave danger. A dark enemy from your past."
"Well that narrows it down," Minerva muttered, and Severus could not help but agree with her.
"I'll bear that in mind."
Sybill patted his head absently, completely oblivious of the ferocious glare he directed at her. "That's right, dear." With that, she tottered from the room, leaving three highly amused teachers, one furious Potions Master, and a strong smell of cooking sherry.
Severus took a deep, controlled breath.
"And thus ends the time of bliss."
Minerva nodded mournfully. "It was so pleasant when she was too scared to come down."
"You know, you two could be a little nicer to her," chided Pomona gently. The effect was ruined when she gave a rueful smile. "It was fun while it lasted though."
Filius' eyes twinkled as he looked at Severus. "I trust you are now suitably terrified?"
The Slytherin snorted. "Of that rubbish?" He shook his head in disgust. "A dark enemy from my past, indeed."
And so, finally, we finish year two. I'm so sorry again that it took so long. Please let me know what you thought.