A/N: Before I forget, I'd like to point out that Elfinmyth's "Visitor" also features a Voldemort with an awesome bestial tongue that Harry deeply enjoys. :::: ahem!::::: Considering that she writes about Voldemort in his full-up cold-blooded, serpentine, crucioing persona, and makes the pairing completely believable and even sigh-worthy without detracting at all from who and what makes the wizard a Dark Lord, she deserves big kudos.
Also, one of my reviewers pointed out that wine is not a spirit, and I thank her for that. Unfortunately, I can't find that review to cite her, but I did include that new bit of knowledge in this chapter. : )
Beyond that, here's a new chapter for "Schooled", unplanned and the direct result of a migraine from Hell. Happy Reading!
SCHOOLED - CHAPTER 17: Connections
Baron Antonin Dolohov sipped his fire-warmed cognac and leaned back in his leather chair, staring contemplatively into the fire. It was just past midnight, and for the first time ever, Dolohov Manor was occupied by both the family patriarch and his children.
Shaking his head in awe, he took another sip and tried to let the burn of the spirits dispel the lingering sense of unreality that hovered in his mind. Upstairs, in the family wing of the manor, in five newly-decorated Heir Suites, were his sons.
All five of them.
Considering that it hadn't been even a full 48-hours since he had believed he was the last of the blood, he supposed that he had a right to a time of adjustment, after all. Gazing blankly into the sparkling depths of the cognac, he cast his mind back over the past two days.
Antonin Dolohov entered the office of Head Auror McLagen without pausing, ignoring the fluttering secretary entirely. The deep-voiced conversations he had interrupted halted abruptly as the door swung open and the occupants of the office immediately focused on him. He ignored McLagen, too, preferring instead to allow his piercing stare to sweep over and document every visible detail about the five, red-haired young men who were seated in front of the large desk.
His sons. His sons!
Clenching his jaw against the emotion sweeping through him, he met the startling blue stare that met his own from the eldest son and nodded approvingly at the sense that his own measure was being taken by this man. The others remained silent, barely acknowledging the owner of this office as he moved tactfully past the Baron and shut the door behind him.
The eyes that locked upon his own finally lowered, briefly, before returning to study the older man. The Baron nodded approvingly. His eldest – William – showed respect, but not submission. Fitting behavior for the Dolohov Heir.
Studying the five young men now standing respectfully before him, Antonin was pleased. Given the character of Arthur Weasley, their erstwhile role model during their childhood years, he had been dreading the possibility that his sons were – at best – provincial.He had been sickened to learn from Griphook that the soon-to-be-tortured Arthur Weasley had dared to raise Dolohov's children in a modified chicken coop and clothe them in second- and third-hand rags.
Feeling his rage rise and begin to show in his eyes, he was pleased to see an answering fire blaze in the five sets of blue eyes that stared back. Without a word being spoken, he and his sons had already reached an accord. His grim nod was returned five times, although the twins also wore slightly-demented grins. The Dolohov traits showed clearly already in the young men facing him; he could easily see his father's intelligence and his mother's cunning shining through.
And, in the case of the twins, a touch of the malicious genius that others – usually victims or cowards – identified as insanity.
Seeing his attention on them, the twin nearest him widened his grin and said with dark delight, "Congratulations, Sire!"
The other twin also grinned and continued seamlessly, "It's a boy!... and a boy…and a boy…and a boy…and a boy!"
William and Antonin snorted in unison, which served to break the tension further. Charles and Percival, at a nod from Antonin, re-seated themselves, and were swiftly joined by the twins. William then reached out to offer his hand to Antonin, saying with a touch of wry amusement, "Perhaps introductions are in order? I am William, the eldest. The muscular redhead there is Charles, second eldest. Next is Percival, the statesman of the group. And the devils there are Frederick and George."
Antonin met the eyes of each young man as he was introduced, finding little of Arthur Weasley in the stern young faces. He could detect the anxiety and worry that rode below the control each of his sons imposed on himself, and found himself uncharacteristically eager to alleviate the concerns of other people. "I am Baron Antonin Dolohov. According to recent revelations, I am your father. I have every intention of making that fact legal, as well as simply biological. Should you wish to do so, it is a Dolohov Family tradition that you would address me as 'Pater'."
Tense shoulders relaxed and each son expressed relief in his own way. The twins grinned broadly, as seemed to be their way. Percival sat back in his chair and allowed his rigid posture to ease. Charles sighed gustily, running a tired, scarred hand over his face. And William… 'Ah, my heir! So like me already!' mused Antonin … William reached for the cognac and poured his father a finger of it before sipping his own.
Antonin also sat, configuring a rigidly uncomfortable chair into a cushioned leather armchair. After a small, silent moment, Dolohov observed, "I can see the smallest of permanent glamour charms upon each of you, but in truth I cannot detect what they conceal. You each bear Dolohov characteristics, and the rest I attribute to your mother and the Prewett Line."
Percival had the answer. "Mother's eyes are hazel. Yours are deep brown with flecks of black." He studied his father with intelligent, blue eyes and his small smile was pained.
Dolohov simply nodded in understanding. "Ah. Well, that means there is little enough to shed. Everything that is essential to your characters remains true to your heritage." Although the words may have seemed formal to any who were familiar with the normal order of things at the Burrow, it was the simple, matter-of-fact acceptance and approval by the man they now knew as their father which helped soothe the wounds each young man was hiding.
Already, the acceptance and respect of Antonin Dolohov was more precious to them than Arthur Weasley's had ever been. Of course, that was probably because he was a man they could respect, as well.
They toasted each other as Antonin also sat back, and the six Dolohov men began to talk.
Smiling slightly as he poured another glass of cognac, Antonin summoned a house elf, which popped into the room and immediately bowed. "Are my sons settled in? Do they have everything they need?"
The wizened creature simply nodded quietly. He was well aware of the preferences of his master. Nothing displeased the wizard more than needless verbacity. Not to say that the Baron was particularly cruel to his servants, but he was not the type who coddled them, either. He treated them precisely as he did any other business associate. He provided his side of the service agreement, and fully expected them to fulfill their obligations.
Piercing dark eyes studied him for a moment, before Dolohov ordered, "Assign a personal servant to each of my sons. Request each of them to provide requirements for the personality of the servant; I suspect that the twins, at least, will have different preferences than I. Make sure that each of my sons has adequate clothing bearing the Crest – including the Heir Crest for William - for the next day and summon the tailor to attend to their complete wardrobes tomorrow afternoon. Breakfast will at 7:30 sharp. Dismissed."
As the elf popped out of the room, Antonin studied the list of things to address. First was to contact Lord Slytherin and fill him in on the situation. Given what Griphook implied, this news would be of value to Antonin's Lord. Also on the list were plans for Arthur Weasley, Peter Pettigrew, and his son's half-brother and half-sister. (Of the latter two, neither were going to be pleased with their lot in life, particularly compared to that of their elder siblings. That suited Dolohov quite well; he had a fair amount of anger with those who had blackmailed Arthur and thus stolen gold that would have fed, clothed and financed his sons. It infuriated the Baron that his sons had been raised in poverty.) Considering those who merited a fair amount of payback, the culpability of Argus Filch was yet to be determined, as was that of Albus Dumbledore. And last but not least… hmmmm…
Picking up the fountain pen, he carefully and deliberately wrote the latest item he was considering.
Determine if the boys' mother wishes to sever her marital bond. If so, explore possibility of offering her a suite in the Manor and appropriate stipend.
After all, she was their mother, and he was their father. Granted, their path to mutual parenthood had been unusual, but the facts were irrefutable. The woman was blameless, thus far, in the theft of his Line. She was as much a victim as any of them, perhaps more so. Antonin remembered the woman from her Prewett days; she had been a vibrant, vivacious redhead and drew many considering looks from wizards of every age. Antonin himself would not have been immune to her charms, had he met her earlier in life. As it was, by the time Margaret had been of age, he had already limited himself to wizards, specifically because they did not normally bear children and he had little interest in such annoyances.
Yes, that had worked out just as he planned it. He snorted sardonically, and raised his glass in an ironic toast to whatever god had been listening in and mocking him as he planned his life.
After more reflection, he decided that the boys' mother was, in fact, more a victim than any of them. By the accounts of the Line Theft, not only had the woman been horribly misled about her own children, but she had been repeatedly betrayed by her husband, cursed with confundus charms, and sexually assaulted with a device that irrefutably proved Arthur Weasley's immorality and impotence. Picking up his fountain pen, he added 'Consider providing her with counseling. Have Lady Ogden bring her into Society.'
Setting his pen back down, he smirked slightly. Clearly, he had already made the decision for the woman. He had no doubt his sons would assist in convincing her.
Although, if she were to set foot in his Manor and be associated with himself, she was going to have to undergo a radical transformation of appearance, mannerisms and etiquette. He felt it would be a wise move to modify her name, as well. 'Molly' definitely seemed suitable for a woman named Weasley who lived in a chicken coop and was renowned for ear-splitting howlers. A Dolohov, however, required refinement. Certainly, the woman's surname 'Margaret' was adequate, if a bit unoriginal.
'Hmm…perhaps 'Margo'? No, 'Margeaux'! Much better!'
Smiling to himself, he made another note on his parchment, not even realizing that he had moved right past the idea of approaching the boys' mother and had already mentally moved her into his Manor, his life, his expectations, and even given her his name.
What a difference two days can make in the life of the last Dolohov.
Sitting in the Library, the leaders of Slytherin House were gathered in their usual spot around the largest, best-lit table. Most were doing their homework, while some were occupied with studying their peers and gathering information. Madame Pince had stunned them all when she had simply smiled at Hadrian when he entered her domain with a horde of Slytherins, and then she cast what she called a 'Study Ward' over their table.
When Hadrian explained that he had looked it up for her early in the School Year and given it to her for her birthday, he was met with flabbergasted silence and awed stares.
He simply ignored their looks and said snippily, "Or do you all really believe that a School Librarian is opposed to students using books in the Library and studying together?"
It was Snark Lord Severus who once again asserted his title by saying sarcastically, "Frankly, yes, that was our belief, based on her incessant harping about talking and her constant hovering and scowling about her books!"
Hadrian's return glare was impressive. "And here I was of the opinion that you were Slytherins. Now I find that you only exercise deep thinking when it benefits you directly!"
He and Severus engaged in a stare-down, which Hadrian won when his eyes began to glow slightly. The cowed Snark Lord dropped his gaze to glare at the others, who were now smirking, and sniped, "He insulted all of us, you know; not just me!"
The argument was lost when Hadrian said calmly, "No, I spoke the simple truth. That it shows you unfavorably is a function of your choices, not mine." He glanced up at the approach of Madame Pince and hissed to his tablemates, "Be polite!"
At the unquestionable command in his tone, they all snapped to attention – even Severus – and turned to smile a greeting at the Librarian, who was standing with her hand on the back of Hadrian's chair as she set a notebook down in front of him. "Hadrian, dear, thank you again for creating this Master Library Ward for me." She raised an admonishing hand as he started to protest and said calmly, "I know full well that you created it, rather than found it, young man. I am a Master Archivist and Researcher, you know; if I hadn't found it after two decades of looking, it did not exist until you decided it should. The fact that it benefits the students as well as me, allowing everyone to study and chat while ensuring the sanctity of privacy and the condition of the books is a wonderful gift. I have also just discovered the little twist you added to ensure that misfiled books return to their proper place. It is a wonderful thing you have done for me, dear, and as a token of my appreciation I have copied for you several of the more esoteric charms, wards and curses I have knowledge of with regard to your little research project."
She smiled thinly around at the Slytherin students, most of whom appeared to be frozen in place, and patted Hadrian's shoulder before turning away to snap at Hufflepuffs Delores Umbridge and Cornelius Fudge. The Slytherins watched possibly the most repulsive courting pair in the entire school – Merlin, pink and lime green do not work well on out-of-shape endomorphic adolescents! - as they were driven from their corner hideaway and chivvied out of the Library before turning back to stare at Hadrian.
After several minutes of staring intimidatingly at the boy who sat and did his homework in the most unintimidated manner possible, Lucius caved. "Hadrian? Would you be so kind as to either confirm or deny that you created a Master-Level spell for our Librarian as a gift?! Please?"
Raising his unfocused gaze from the notes he was reading, Hadrian stared at Lucius in a slightly befuddled manner that was almost unbearably cute (even to the sulking Snark Lord) before he grinned slightly and said simply, "Confirmed. Now, do your work, people! We have a House Cup to secure."
Exchanging incredulous glances and – in Narcissa's case – on delighted smile, the Slytherins settled down to work. Gradually, the amount of concentration at the table reached a comfortable, familiar level that would have even satisfied a group of Ravenclaws.
After an hour or so, the easy silence was broken by a deeply amused snort from Hadrian. The Slytherins looked up at him and saw that he was reading Severus Prince's essay, head tilted slightly to the side so that he wasn't quite forced to read it upside-down. The looked on his face was mirthful, which immediately put Severus on edge.
It was never good to have Hadrian Morgan amused at one's expense.
"What?!" Severus snapped. "It's a simple Situational Awareness report for Professor Malfoy on the uneventful hour we spent outside this afternoon. Is your own homework not enough to occupy you, Mr. Morgan?"
Bright green eyes, sparkling with amusement, lifted to clash with onyx before Hadrian raised his hands in a gesture of false-surrender and said laughingly, "My apologies, Severus. Do continue."
He returned to his own work, and the others settled down to watch while Severus struggled with himself. It was excellent entertainment, watching as the tiny bit of completely polite interaction from Hadrian was now worming its way into the ego of the budding potion master. Lucius was making tickmarks on his scrap parchment each time his old friend completed another paranoid re-reading of the report he was writing. Narcissa was most amused just watching Hadrian, who had completely dismissed everyone again and was buried in the notes from Madame Pince. Bellatrix was giggling under her breath, watching as the overly-confident (smug!), prideful (arrogant!), independent (misanthropic!) Prince heir crumbled beneath the might of a Hadrian Morgan Hint.
Everyone jumped when Severus slammed his quill down and glared at his Lord's Consort. "Do you have something you think I need to know about my own afternoon, Mr. Morgan?" he sneered. "Because I'm fairly certain you weren't even there! Yet, there you sit, implying something is wrong with my report. I, for one, would appreciate an explanation!"
Hadrian's eyes narrowed dangerously, and even those were not Severus gulped nervously. It was far too easy to forget that the petite, courteous beauty was, in fact, the young man who had decimated the Marauders and the rest of the 7th year Gryffs, and was by all accounts just as much a Slytherin as their Lord himself. It was… unwise … to be rude or dismissive with Hadrian Morgan.
"I can't imagine what I was thinking, casting an editorial eye over your homework for you, Severus Prince," Hadrian hissed. "It's not like you represent my House or anything. It would apparently be naïve of me to assume that the members of Slytherin might be as bright as Ravenclaws and consult each other in their individual areas of expertise in order to ensure that only the best we can offer in terms of work product. Do continue writing." Angry green eyes glared at the flinching student, before he visibly dismissed everyone at the table and returned to his notebook.
Lucius winced, knowing full well that Severus had truly let his ego override his cunning. Hadrian was the only acknowledged writer of the group, and was recognized both academically and professionally for that ability. He had subtly extended a good-natured offer to Severus, and been rebuffed and criticized for it by the boy. Even worse, Severus had already been duly warned about letting his snarkiness get out of control during the 'Entitlement' ceremony Hadrian had conducted at lunch just a few days ago.
Since Severus was willfully avoiding both Lucius and Narcissa's eyes, it fell to Bellatrix to repair the situation. She did so by reaching over and slapping Severus Prince in the head, shocking everyone at the table – including herself. She defended herself well, though. Before Severus could do more than gasp and scowl, she was growling at him. "You're wrong! One hundred percent wrong, no room for rationalizing, no misunderstandings. One of the best writer's we know gave you a perfectly good opportunity to get his help without even having to ask for it and indebt yourself, and you rebuffed him with all the offended conceit and temper of Ronald Weasley! Now you have a table full of appalled friends and associates and a deeply offended Consort to your Lord. All that's left is to prove whether you're a Slytherin or a … no, not even a Gryffindor, because Longbottom is pretty damn exceptional! … are you a Slytherin or a Marauder, Severus Prince?"
It was in this moment that the young of the Black sisters earned her place in Lord Slytherin's House. She would have seen the pride and approval in her sister Narcissa's lovely blue eyes, but Bellatrix Black never once dropped her challenging stare from that of Severus Prince. Before this moment, the only other student to win a staring match with the intimidating Severus was Hadrian Morgan. Now, Bellatrix Black joined that elite list, as Severus – to the shock of everyone, including himself – dropped his stare and blinked.
The ensuing silence was finally broken when Severus cleared his throat and said awkwardly, "Excuse me, Consort Morgan. Please accept my apology for my boorish behavior. The fact that I do not suffer fools lightly simply means that I won't be living comfortably with myself until I repair my gaffe."
He waited hopefully, and was rewarded when impassive emerald eyes met his across the table. Taking a deep breath, Severus requested, "If you accept my apology, will you please tell me if there is something wrong with my report before I turn it in and potentially embarrass both myself and our House? I have read it repeatedly and confess I cannot find what amused you."
Finally, Hadrian nodded, his expression remote, and said calmly, "I accept your apology, Mr. Prince, but I caution you that my patience is far from limitless. Having been present several times when I have demonstrated that fact, I confess I am worried that your pride may be stronger than your cunning, if you so readily forget that I am entirely capable of memorable bits of retaliation."
He held the onyx eyes long enough to see embarrassment and acknowledgment in their depths, then metaphorically released the hook in Severus's mouth. "As to you having 're-read' your report many times, that would be the problem."
He grinned at the blank looks that comment engendered around the table, and prompted gently, "Read it aloud. Start with the third paragraph down."
Severus wrinkled his brow in puzzlement, then shrugged and picked up the report, clearing his throat and feeling somewhat silly. Lucius did not help by folding his hands pompously in front of him and settling into a position of wise old wizard, earning a half-hearted glare from Severus. Narcissa giggled, as did Bellatrix.
Sighing in resignation, Severus began, "There was little of note occurring on the grounds. We four were at the Lake, somewhat separated for our various tasks but within hearing of each other. The only incident of importance was an instance of circumstance. Narcissa saw something slither suspiciously close as Lucius was shitting in the bushes."
He paused a moment and then mentally replayed what he'd just said. "Um… Lucius was shitting in the…sitting…Lucius was sitting in the busses…bushes!...Damn it! Lucius was shitting in the bushes!...I mean….!"
He stared at his report, trying to ignore the snickers and giggles that were echoing around the table. Biting his lip fiercely, Severus dared to raise his eyes and look at his friend. The dignified Malfoy Heir-Lord was wearing an expression that seemed to be vacillating between hilarity and deep offense. Hilarity won, and when Lucius finally dissolved into his own – albeit appalled – laughter, everyone else gave up.
To his endless mortification, Severus found himself giggling. Giggling! The others found their laughter doubled and even trebled when the dour Snark Lord of Slytherin devolved into something resembling a nine-year-old wizard who had just heard a fart joke.
Eventually, as the laughter began to settle a bit, Lucius choked out, "I most emphatically request that you re-word your report, Severus. Although the idea of watching you to try to read that aloud in its present form to my father and the class would almost be worth the subsequent humiliation!"
Regaining his decorum and trying desperately to pretend he had not just giggled over the overly sibiliant paragraph and an unintentional scatological remark, Severus just nodded weakly and picked up his quill. He knew it was unlikely he would live this down, but at least he had dragged Lucius into it with him. He commented on that aloud as he began to strike through the paragraph.
Lucius chuckled warmly, swinging his platinum hair off his shoulder, and said with his own inimitable sarcasm, "And yet, you will always be the only Snark Lord of Slytherin, will you not, Severus?"
Severus huffed ruefully, then paused in shock when Hadrian spoke up. "Careful, Heir-Lord Lucius, or I will have you known far and wide as the Malfoy Hair-Lord."
Oh, damn. Severus was giggling again.
A/N2: Yep, two chapters in two and a half days. Next up to post is my mea culpa to TheDarkLadyVoldemort666, "The Thing with Thestrals".
One request, please. I love that y'all like my stories and I really do understand that "wish it were longer" means you are actually implying a preface to that like 'Even if it was twice as long, I would wish it were longer'. My average chapter length is around 5,000 words. Many writers keep their chapters between 850-1,500 words. Many make them immensely longer. I do have some that nudge the 10k mark, but I try to keep it between 4-5k. Now, please, please, please hear me and don't be offended, because I am grateful for every review. When a reviewer says something dismissive like "Nice enough. Wish it were longer," what the writer hears is "Eh! Could be better. Not awful, though. At least you made a half-assed effort, but next time make it worth my time, please." And when the writer has just spent hours and hours crafting a tale for you, especially when he or she is taking time from other important things like sleep, family and dinner, a noncommittal comment like that cuts even deeper than a flame. I know full well – and am proud of – my bitch status, but even bitches bleed, folks.
Blessed Be, y'all.