Harry had Potions first period on the Thursday, and he made sure to get there twenty minutes early; ten minutes after Dumbledore had left the Head Table. When he walked into the dim room he sighed and meandered over to the empty corner of the room before kicking out at shin-level. A muttered curse met his ears and a moment later Dumbledore appeared as he lifted the invisibility cloak looking quite put out. Before he could speak however, Harry crossed his arms and glared. "I said observe secretly, Headmaster. Secretly means hiding to the best of your ability so that Snape won't know you're there. That means concealing your aura, minimizing your magic footprint, getting comfortable so that you won't feel the need to rearrange yourself, having your wand out to clear your bladder and such, and anything else you know how to do."
Dumbledore sighed and nodded, knowing that he'd been caught out, and conjured a chair to sit on before casting several very high-level undetectable wards to conceal his presence. When he disappeared under the invisibility cloak Harry closed his eyes and felt out with his magic in an attempt to sense him. It took several long seconds for him to catch the slight bleeding of magic from the wards, but he was concentrating completely on finding them and he knew where they'd be as well. "Good," he muttered when he opened his eyes and stared at the space, having to fight against the compulsion to glaze over it, and turned on his heel to sit down at the back of the class before pulling out his potions equipment and setting it all up.
Several minutes later Neville rolled on in and smiled before sitting next to Harry and setting up as well, asking him about several things he found in the Herbology book Harry had lent him. He knew that Dumbledore was there as well, because Harry had warned him the previous night, and so refrained from talking about anything too advanced; they were, after all, 'just first years'.
Over the next ten minutes the rest of the class trickled in and settled down and Harry caught the customary glare from Draco. The little ferret would never try anything though; Harry had made doubly sure to intimidate the shit out of him as soon as possible to correct his thinking that Harry or his friends were easy targets. When Snape strode into the room, his robes billowing behind him, Harry rolled his eyes as he opened his text book. "Potter!"
Harry looked up expectantly and Snape sneered at him. Harry was completely used to it and so sent the man a dead-pan look in return. "Did I ask you to open your book?"
Harry looked around the class and saw that pretty much everybody else had their books open, and then turned back to his 'Professor'. "No sir."
"Then detention with Filch tonight at seven," the greasy-haired man smirked, "and ten points from Gryffindor for your slovenly dress."
"Oi!" Ron yelled out in protest, "You can't do that! He's a bloody Slytherin!"
Snape's ire quickly turned to the red-haired boy and his sneer became all the more pronounced. "Ah, and now we hear from the Weasley in the room. Another ten points from Gryffindor for speaking without being spoken to, and another five for arguing against my decision. And a detention with Filch at seven tonight; you can join Potter in cleaning the Trophy Room."
Ron looked pale but was still opening his mouth to complain when Seamus slapped his hand over his mouth. Turning back to Harry Snape snarled. "Longbottom, switch partners with Zabini." Draco smirked as he approached Harry and Neville sent his friend an apologetic look as he packed up and went to sit beside his fellow Occlumens. Harry wasn't surprised at the turn of events. Snape then proceeded to deduct several more points from Gryffindor for various things such as breathing loudly, being too short, and being too quiet before waving his wand at the blackboard where a veritable chicken-scribble appeared detailing the potion they were to brew. Giving twenty points to Slytherin for acting properly, despite them doing nothing but snicker in most part at the Gryffindors, he then sat at his desk and proceeded to scratch away at something.
It didn't take long for Draco to try and screw with Harry. Harry deftly swiped away a lead pellet that the smirking blonde had lobbed at his bubbling cauldron merely five minutes into brewing and Snape immediately pounced. "Potter, five points from Gryffindor for not accepting Mister Malfoy's input."
"Sir," Harry interjected calmly, "lead added to the current mixture would likely kill me-"
"Five more points for arguing, and another night's detention with Filch," Snape sneered at him, and Harry sighed before going back to his potion. By the end of the lesson he'd lost Gryffindor a further thirty points, and had another two detentions with Filch… despite being in Slytherin and completing a perfect potion, which Harry made sure to take a sample vial of before the greasy git banished it calling it a 'mess' and deducting another ten points. As everybody else packed up Harry walked over to the corner and pretended to check his satchel for something.
"So there's period one," he muttered to the invisible Dumbledore, "and as you can see… well he could quite easily ruin my future career options." He held out his vial of potion surreptitiously, and a moment later it disappeared from his fingers. "An invigoration draught," he explained quietly, "and at a hospital grade if the clarity, colour, and viscosity are anything to go by. I got a Troll mark for this lesson. Get ready to see another six periods of insulting, demeaning, biased, disgusting… well I don't think you could even call it teaching Headmaster."
With that he turned on his heel and walked out the door, but not before Snape deducted another five points from Gryffindor for walking too loud. Every other lesson went without a hitch; he easily breezed through transfiguration, charms, and DADA, even managing ten times to hurl a tripping hex at Quirrel without being caught. By the end of the lesson Voldemort's host looked positively furious. Harry sent a sneezing hex just as he left for good measure. He could have sworn the man had cursed quite violently as the door closed behind him. It was an hour before dinner that Harry felt his magic relax and accept a surrender, and he grinned in the middle of reading a book on some Pitch rituals he had pillaged from one of Grindelwald's hidden caches. Hermione felt his change in emotion and stared up at him with a raised eyebrow. "What?" It hit her after a moment and she raised a hand over her mouth, "Oh, you just won the bet, didn't you!"
He nodded and Tonks sat down having heard the last bit of the conversation, also grinning widely. Tonks didn't have many friends, if any in her own year, and so she had taken to hanging out and studying with her girlfriend and fiancé in her free time. She didn't even miss the lack of company from her age group; even Neville was better companionship than her fellow seventh years. "Loves," he said as he stood and pecked them both on the lips, "I'm afraid I must be off to see a certain man about my personal life. See you at dinner?"
Both nodded, beaming up at him, happy that he was finally free from the shackles of manipulation. He sauntered towards the Headmaster's office and found himself arriving at the gargoyle just as it was closing after a billowing black cloak that disappeared up the stairs hiding behind it. At a verbal command the gargoyle stopped moving and then opened once more to allow him silent entrance. He snuck up the stairs and cracked the office door open slightly so that he could hear what was happening.
"Albus, you wished to see me?"
Harry heard a deep sigh from the room mere centimeters to his left, and waited for the reckoning. "Yes, Severus. Please sit." A second's worth of rustling later and Dumbledore continued; his voice devoid of all its usual joviality. "For years I've sat in this chair as Headmaster of Hogwarts, and ever since nineteen eighty one you have taught potions here after defecting from the Death Eaters. I've trusted you for so long that I am ashamed to admit that that trust turned blind."
"Albus?" came an uncertain, tentative question from the potions master, and Harry sat his back up against the wall and smiled darkly to himself.
Another sigh sounded beyond the door, and Harry could almost envision Dumbledore rubbing his temples. "Severus, I made a magical bet with Mister Potter."
There was several seconds of silence, and then a cold, "What kind of bet would you make with an arrogant, worthless-"
"He is anything but worthless Severus!" bellowed Dumbledore, and a shocked silence followed until Dumbledore continued in a harsh whisper. "He played me like a fiddle Severus, but now I see that he did it for the true Greater Good. My view of the Greater Good has become clouded over the years, where I see any means justified to reach the end. Perhaps I was suppressing the numerous complaints I received about you, but I am at fault. The bet I made with Mister Potter was to observe your classes, and interview any of your students above first year; asking about you while skimming their minds with legilimency."
Dead, heavy silence permeated every single square centimeter of space, and Harry smirked to himself. "What?!" hissed Snape lowly, and Dumbledore shuffled.
"Today I observed you secretly from the back right hand corner of the class. After observing your bias, attempts at mind-rape, insults, disgusting conduct, and sabotage, I then summoned a mixture of second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh year boys from your house to my office. When I asked about you I found numerous memory charms; secrecy charms to be precise. It took some work, Severus, but I unraveled them. Even if I didn't want this, by this time tomorrow you would be in a cell in Azkaban because your victims are no longer sentenced to silence."
It was at this point Harry entered the room; quietly, almost silently, but he entered. He saw Dumbledore's eyes widen in shock at seeing him standing there, and Snape had yet to realize that the boy who was the cause of his predicament was right behind him. His fists were clenched on the arms of the chair; white from the pressure, and he was shaking with fury. "My mother," he said coldly, eliciting a stiffening and low growl from the seated professor, "wrote a letter to me in the Family Vault."
"BE STILL!" Harry screamed, and Snape collapsed back into his chair involuntarily as a wave of furious anger smacked him in the face as if a physical entity. "She wrote that she discovered what was required for inauguration into the Death Eaters. She even managed to discover just which children and women you raped and murdered too. She wrote that she loathed you with all of her being; that she hoped you would burn in hell for your crimes. Without me that would not have happened, but now you will be in Azkaban before the day is out I would hazard. You have raped the sons of several pureblood families, as well as threatened them with death to secure a secrecy oath. You'll never see the light of day again, you foul, disgusting piece of filth."
Harry had been expecting the movement, so when Snape charged at him with a roar and started drawing his wand he was ready. The two Black Daggers were in his hands before the potions master was even out of his seat, and Harry glided forwards with a speed that belied his true skill before lifting both up, and then thrusting downwards. Two muted, squelching thuds echoed out in the room, followed by a deathly silence permeated only by sporadic sounds of liquid spurting onto the ground. And then Snape howled as he stared down at the stumps where his arms had once been, and Harry stabbed both daggers directly into the stumps before focusing the darkest magic he had within him to the stump's tissue.
Snape's screams rose to a crescendo until only a rattle escaped his throat, and he finally fell to the ground, unconscious as Harry removed the two blades from his now-blackened, ruined flesh. "The Black Ceremonial Daggers," Harry said conversationally as he cleaned the blades on Snape's robes, "imbued with dark magic. His arms will never be able to be regrown, nor will any prosthetic function due to the interference of the magic now residing in the stumps. You must understand, Headmaster, that this was for the Greater Good." Dumbledore winced at the sarcastically grandfatherly tone Harry employed for the last sentence and Harry turned around to look at him. "I am glad for two reasons, Headmaster. Firstly, your eyes have finally been opened, and hopefully you will now be able to see your other mistakes. Secondly, I now have complete control over 'us'." He sat down on the chair recently vacated by Snape, and leaned forwards with a cool smile. "So let's set my ground rules before you start going off about me maiming a man who was likely about to kill me."
Over the next half an hour Harry rattled off a huge group of commands to Dumbledore to ensure that his life would no longer be interfered with, at least by the old man, in any way, shape, or form. By the end of the meeting Dumbledore looked as if he had aged thirty years and Harry had full access to all the Potter vaults, legally this time, permission to live alone, and an assurance that he would not be spied upon by the old man. He did leave wiggle room for Dumbledore, enough to allow him to inform Harry of the Order, Voldemort, and other such things concerning the ongoing war… but he wasn't holding out much hope about actually getting any information.
From the still-evasive answers he knew that although he wouldn't be pitted against Dumbledore, nor would he receive much support. It was even better than if he'd have killed the old coot off, which he had to admit had crossed his mind at several points. He was planning on heading to dinner early and was just about to take a shortcut when Harry heard the voice of perhaps one the most annoying, irritating, and head-slamming-against-concrete-wall-stupid person in the Wizarding World.
Which was saying something.
"Come of Fred, just give me some!"
Harry pressed himself up against the stone archway and smiled when he heard both of the twins respond.
"Ah, ickle Ronniekins,"
"You know we both like Harry," George continued before ceding the floor to Fred.
"And because we like Harry,"
"We're hardly about to go and give you,"
"Weapons to use against his girlfriends!"
"You're barmy, Ron,"
"Completely clueless," offered Fred.
"And idiotic. If you want to mess with Harry or his girls…"
"You won't have us!" they both finished in unison, and Harry heard an angry huff before thumping footsteps slowly disappeared down the corridor. Harry stepped out of the shadows and rounded the corner with a warm smile on his face, and the twins quickly caught sight of him and stared for a moment before sending him dual-crooked smiles. "Guess you heard all that?"
"Uhuh, and I appreciate it guys. In fact I might just have a business proposal for you, especially seeing as the next potions professor will actually be vaguely competent. Do you two keep up with the papers?" Nods, and Harry smiled, "Well then how would you like to work with The Syndicate's Potions and Warfare division?"
Of course that sparked a conversation that was best held behind closed doors, and Harry had to haul the two into a deserted classroom before casting a veritable swarm of privacy spells as he explained. They swore the oaths on the spot once Harry informed them about The Syndicate's true purpose, and the resources and knowledge they'd have access to. Of course Dumbledore didn't know he would be hiring Potions Mistress Erin Glassey yet, but once she appeared and presented herself for the position he'd be crazy to turn her down – even for Horace Slughorn. She was a world renowned Potion's Mistress; accredited by the ICW; an ex-EU Unspeakable where she specialized in potions; and holder of a teaching degree from Harvard University, with honours.
In other words, an actually qualified teacher.
After stopping by his dorm to write a quick couple of letters Hermes flamed in to take them to his liaisons within The Syndicate, and Harry jogged down to the Great Hall. He quickly found his seat beside Tonks at the Hufflepuff table and Hermione quickly joined them both; seated to his left while Tonks had his right. Harry stifled his smirk at their expressions and plastered a heavenly innocent one on his face – eliciting identical warning growls from his two lovers. Hermione was just about to voice her frustrations when the doors to the Great Hall slammed wide open and Dumbledore steamed into the room like a train on full-tilt. While he had indeed wanted to berate Harry for his ruthless actions, he wasn't about to stand for one of his professors raping students – and he was furious about it.
The look on Dumbledore's face was one that hadn't been seen in many years; indeed it had been hiding behind his grandfatherly demeanor ever since he'd defeated Grindelwald. His eyes were chips of ice; cold and hard, and gasps rung out from the entire student body, and indeed the staff, when Madam Bones strode through behind Dumbledore; her head held high and her wand by her side – but it was what followed her that drew the most attention, and indeed squeals of shock.
Six aurors were dragging an armless Snape down the center of the room by his feet, and Harry was pretty sure, by both the pained expression on Snape's face and the furious ones on the aurors, that there was no charm to protect his back that was dragging across the stone floor. Finally there was a muted thump as the aurors threw Snape none-too-gently onto the stairs leading up to the staff table, and Dumbledore pulled out his wand before levitating Snape upwards so that he faced the four house tables. Snape's lips were moving at a hundred miles an hour; his face red and his eyes murderous as he glared at Harry, but the young man himself just offered the man a smirk before turning his attention, along with the rest of the hall, to Dumbledore when the old man spoke. "This previous weekend a student approached me in my office – an odd occurrence in itself – and informed me of a very disturbing and indeed disgusting collection of events that have taken place beneath my very nose, and that I have been too blind to correct."
He waved his hand vaguely at the red-faced man beside him, but didn't even offer his long-time-trusted-spy a sideways glance. "Severus Snape has been a potion's professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for eleven years, and during that time I have repeatedly ignored complaints put against him because I trusted him. The student in question quite rightly pointed out that I was the only one." He sighed, sounding tired, and conjured a chair before sitting and conjuring seats for the aurors and Madam Bones. "I childishly, though in the long run it was for the Greater Good, rose to the bait of this student and made a magical bet. We agreed that I would observe Severus' classes for a day, and then interview second through seventh year male students.
"I was confident that I would win the bet; that Severus would prove himself a talented, fair teacher." He winced at the scoffs and hostile looks from the majority of the student body, and closed his eyes before nodding. "As I can see virtually all of you know what I found. During the first lesson I watched as Severus essentially authorized the attempted murder of a student, and take points for that student protecting himself. It should be noted that he soon after awarded points to the would-be-murderer for 'trying to help'." People that had been present in the lesson glanced at Harry before returning their attention forwards once more. "I watched him insult, demean, and mentally assault students in a violent, despicable manner," he spat, "and that was only the tip of the iceberg. When I interviewed students I discovered that they were under the effects of a powerful, binding secrecy spell.
"With work I managed to remove the restriction and discover what was being hidden, and what I have found both appalls, saddens, and disappoints me. I will not go into details, but for these crimes Severus Snape will likely never see outside of a cell for the rest of his entire life. I am appalled at the act; I am saddened that so many lives have been ruined; and I am disappointed in myself for blindly trusting somebody. I am, in part, responsible for what happened to so many, and to those that know what I am speaking about… I apologize again, and I hope that what is happening today will ease your minds at least a little."
Open mouths were the most prominent reactions from everybody. Dumbledore was never wrong, but if Severus Snape was being held in front of them, armless and with magic-suppressing shackles around his feet, it was clear that not only had he made a mistake, but it had been a momentous one. He bowed after a moment and stood, waving his hand towards the Head of the DMLE. "I will now cede the floor to Madam Bones; the Minister of Law Enforcement here in the magical world."
The aunt of Susan Bones nodded and took Dumbledore's place beside the floating Severus Snape, and she sent the man a snarl of complete contempt and disgust before pulling a piece of parchment from within her robes, clearing her throat, and speaking. "Due to the circumstances of this arrest, and what it is for, it has been decided that word of these crimes will be spoken here to decrease rumors and spread only the truth." Harry looked around and saw several people writing furiously, word-for-word, what was happening, and made a mental note to keep an eye on the media's inside sources. "I received word a mere fifteen minutes ago about the crimes committed by Severus Snape through Albus Dumbledore's phoenix. As soon as I saw the list of charges an emergency Wizengamot session was called. Within two minutes everybody was assembled, and I informed them of the situation. Five minutes ago I received my official orders, and here they are."
She cleared her throat, and the hall held their collective breath – all except Harry who was sipping on a chalice of wine with a wide smirk on his face, infuriating the immobile criminal even more. "By unanimous order of the Wizengamot, approval of the Minister of Magic and his office, and the entire DMLE, Severus Snape is hereby sentenced to three years in Azkaban."
Yells of protest came from the Slytherin table, mainly the male population, and Amelia immediately raised her wand before letting off cannon-blast hex. All noise immediately ceased, and she continued as if she had never been interrupted. "This is to ensure he will experience hell on Earth before, after his sentence in Azkaban, being sentenced to the Kiss."
This time the entire hall exploded into applause, and Harry could see several Slytherin boys and men crying with relief and happiness. Gryffindor, unfortunately, was mostly cheering because they wouldn't have to put up with the Greasy Git ever again – not at all comprehending the gravity of the situation. She cleared her throat again, and had to resort to another cannon-blast charm to quieten the students. "Thank you," she said with a slight edge to her voice, clearly irritated at being interrupted. "Severus Snape's crimes are as disgusting as they are horrifying, and as agreed upon the list of crimes will be released in a later press conference to allow the victims time to prepare.
"My second order of business here today, however," she said before her eyes flickered to Harry, and the young man groaned before slugging back all his wine and then reaching into his robes to pull loose a hip flask. He could see Amelia trying not to laugh as he drank the entire thing dry, and then hold it high above his lips like a dehydrated man looking for just another single drop of water. "The young man who brought these charges to bear actually informed me far before Albus Dumbledore contacted me." Harry grinned slightly tipsily at Dumbledore's shocked expression, and then looked back to Amelia whose lips were twitching with amusement.
"It was why I was able to get the Wizengamot assembled so quickly. But indeed, this student risked an awful lot, as well as delivering scarily detailed and proficient information fully admissible in court. His knowledge of the laws was almost scary – even to a person like me who has been working the law even before this young man was born. But what truly stood out in this instance was what he did to prevent the crimes from continuing further. I am sure it has become almost common knowledge within this school that this young man has been teaching Occlumency, and has, with a one-hundred percent success rate, made students' minds impenetrable."
All eyes turned to Harry, who was now smiling genially, and whose eyes looked a little bit glazed over, and Hermione looked at him disapprovingly; not at all for what he'd done, but for the fact that he'd gotten himself tipsy to face all the attention. She never really understood it; addressing The Syndicate, being in business meetings, and with them… he was fine, but as soon as he was put in the public spotlight he hated it.
"Moreover he risked Azkaban himself by cursing Severus Snape to prevent the majority of the crimes from happening again. From his information he was lucky he discovered the crimes so quickly, else we may have had more to add to the ever-growing list." She smiled genuinely at Harry and motioned to him, and he smiled resignedly back before sighing and standing up; slowly making his way towards the stern-seeming woman. "For an infallible sense of justice and selflessness; for protecting the younger generation from illegal mental invasions; for stopping the reign of terror Severus Snape instilled, the Ministry of Magic in a whole hereby wishes to present Harry James Potter with an Order of Merlin, second class, for his actions in bringing this criminal to justice."
There was about five seconds of silence before the first firework went off. Harry hadn't even sensed the magical signature and so nearly went AWOL on whoever was attacking him. What he hadn't expected to turn around to see was a huge, larger-than-life lightshow showing a likeness of himself winking at the audience with his arms around a rather accurate rendition of Tonks and Hermione. The words: "Harry Potter – Ladies Man!" proudly glimmering beneath the picture made the young man himself nearly keel over. As it was he was blushing up a storm. Laughter and applause burst through the room, but however tipsy he was he was still as sharp as a tack, and all noise ceased when he spun around and brought up fully-fledged Ageis Shield that gonged deeply as a sickly dark curse impacted upon its surface. Before even the aurors could react Harry had collapsed the magical energy protecting him and then hurled it brutally towards his assailant where it smacked into Draco Malfoy's ribcage with a sickening crunch.
Draco fell backwards gurgling blood and clutching at his chest, and Harry slowly lowered his wand as two of the aurors rushed to the heavily injured student to begin healing. Madam Pomfrey rushed to help the two, and Harry sighed before turning back to Madam Bones who looked shocked, but after a moment smiled a little before motioning him forwards. When he arrived in front of her she opened a velvet case and removed the medal from within. The Order of Merlin Second Class medal was different from the First class in the respect that the ribbon was silver and red stripes instead of gold and silver, and the top bar was made of platinum instead of gold… which was a bit odd considering the former was more expensive than the latter – but nobody said that the magical world was logical.
She pinned it to his breast pocket before holding out her hand, and she actually blushed when Harry bent over her knuckles and kissed them. He raised his eyes to look at her with a roguish grin as he slowly released her fingers. "Madam Bones," he said quietly so that nobody but them would hear, "I have placed a rune on your middle finger's knuckle. When you are alone, and in a very secure place, channel some magic into it. I will be there momentarily – you and I have things to discuss."
She looked deep into his serious eyes, and after several seconds of searching nodded with a small smile. "Very well Mister Potter, I look forward to it."
He nodded friendlily before bowing and retreating from the platform, and Tonks and Hermione hurriedly made room for him again before immediately gripping his hands underneath the table the moment he sat – beaming proudly at him. He felt his heart soar. Despite hating the spotlight, and hating getting medals from such a corrupt agency, if it got him smiles such as those he was glad to have gone through the tedious process. Following the aurors and Madam Pomfrey declaring Draco stable, and Harry confirming he'd like to press charges, Snape, his godson, and the ministerial entourage left Hogwarts with two new criminals in their custody.
Of course after dinner, and indeed during it, Harry was bombarded with attention, questions, and multiple requests for autographs. Hermione, Tonks, and Dumbledore had helped in getting Harry out of the mess, and for that at least Harry was grateful. The young man had to smile when an owl flew down to land in front of Dumbledore, and Harry almost laughed at the highly interested and surprised look that appeared a moment later – apparently Erin Glassey moved fast and had already applied for the open Potions position. He watched Dumbledore quickly compose a reply with a grin on his wrinkled face, and calmly returned to his dinner when Fawkes appeared to deliver the letter.
When he returned to his room he had to pass through the Common Room, and found almost all of Slytherin house waiting for him. A few looked highly hostile, Pansy Parkinson and company of course, but the rest looked surprised and shocked. It was finally a fourth year prefect Harry knew to be quite popular within the house that stepped forward, and he took in a deep breath before looking straight into Harry's eyes. "We realize that for almost the entire year we're been inimical towards you, Mister Potter, however we thought that you were just an upstart, arrogant little know-it-all."
Harry nodded in understanding, but raised an eyebrow. "Well I shan't mention how you treated Draco Malfoy then."
The prefect, and indeed the majority of the house, blushed with embarrassment at the subtle rebuke, but the young man nodded all the same. "Well yes… but we just wanted to thank you and tell you that we'll accept your advice from now on. Many of us thought that the whole Heir of Slytherin thing was a trick, but I suppose that this was the straw that broke the Griffin's back."
Harry nodded after a moment, and then locked eyes with Pansy, whose mouth immediately snapped shut. "Thank you Daniel, and those that agree. I believe we can get along, at the very least, amiably… but I will warn every single one of you: try hurting me, my friends, or my girlfriends and there will be absolute hell to pay. What I did to Draco I can make look like a walk in the park if I'm motivated enough."
Pansy was the first to nod furiously, and Harry smirked before nodding once more and retreating to his room. His new medal was placed inside his secure wardrobe compartment in his trunk, along with the rest of his robes, and he quickly slipped into some dark jeans, a comfortable emerald silk shirt, and a charcoal duster. His fluffy dog slippers completed his ensemble. He did it as much for the shock factor as for the fact that they were more comfortable than any other slippers he'd ever tried in any timeline. When he walked out into the common room everybody silenced, and stared at him with mixed parts astonishment and disbelief.
In front of them stood a man who was deadly in battle, cunning in all his dealings, and as cold as ice saves to a select few, and he looked every part the powerful social figure he was.
Except for the slippers.
However dangerous he was, it didn't detract from the fact that he liked a good prank once in a while – and with the reactions he was getting this one took the top spot. He was just about to sit down when he felt the ring on his finger buzz twice before turning cold, and he froze mid-sit before straightening again – bringing even more attention to him. He gave a small smile and then held out his arm, calling out with his magic. When Hermes appeared on his outstretched arm he smirked, and gave a small mocking bow to the room at large. "Excuse me."
The last thing he saw before flames encroached on his vision was a common room filled with shocked students. The next thing he saw and felt was a wand pressed against his nose, and he looked down the dark wood right into the wary grey eyes of Amelia Bones; head of the DMLE and one, if not the, of the more competent people in the Ministry. "I believe my phoenix," he said with a small smile on his lips, "is proof of my identity Madam Bones."
Her eyes searched his and found only amusement and amiability, and the wand at his nose slowly lowered before, with a small 'schlip' sound it disappeared up her sleeve. Harry watched her walk back to her leather chair with respect; not once did she bare her back fully to him. "Mister Potter-"
"Harry, please," he insisted with a genial smile as he sat down on the seat she had offered him, and she smiled before giving a small nod.
"Then I must insist you call me Amelia. You said you had something to speak with me about?"
He nodded in the affirmative, and then pondered for several moments. Amelia was more than happy to give him time; sipping on her small tumbler of brandy as he did so, and she placed it on her knee when he nodded to himself and re-established eye contact. "Before we begin I must assure you of my identity – fully. Is there any method you can think of for me to do this? Something that you would accept as irrefutable?"
She stared at him for several very long moments; her eyes calculating and curious, as well as a tad suspicious. "I would accept the judgment of the goblins on this matter." Harry bowed his head slightly and looked over to Hermes who was sitting on the hearth of the fire enjoying the heat. The bird trilled before flaming away, already knowing what Harry wanted him to do, and Amelia shivered. "I find myself curious why your phoenix elicits a negative effect rather than a positive," she admitted, and Harry smiled.
"That is because Hermes is a Dark Phoenix – the rarest of their breed." He saw Amelia twitch at the mention of dark and he shrugged with a nod – an expression very much unlike what one would expect from an eleven year old on his face. "You would be right in thinking Hermes has an affinity for Dark magic." He could see the older woman's body tense in preparation and smiled disarmingly at her. "Of course Dark magic is different from evil, Amelia. Fawkes, for instance, is quite a light phoenix. In a battle, if he had to attack, he would do so in a 'lighter' manner; disabling them often painlessly."
"And your dark phoenix?"
"Less inhibited," Harry said with a smile as he poured himself a small glass of whiskey, "and yes, Amelia," he assured her with a small chuckle, "I have drunk before. Hermes is less inhibited, and more… worldly would be a good term-"
He was interrupted by a flare of black flames, and Amelia jerked before relaxing, though with shock in her expression, when she saw Ragnok standing there looking just as amused as Harry had at her jumpiness. He, at least, had the good fortune of not having a wand pressed into his nose. "Ah, Ragnok, just in time to hear me explain a little about Hermes."
The goblin smiled and nodded before conjuring himself a stone chair and taking a seat, waving his hand as he did so. "Please, don't let my arrival stop you Harry."
Amelia looked rightly gob smacked at the familiarity the pair was exhibiting, but paid careful attention when Harry continued with his explanation of his familiar. "Where was I? Ah, worldly. On a battlefield Hermes would cause pain, suffering, and destruction. If he saw an enemy torturing an ally then he would poison his talons and inject them with acid; burning them alive from inside out. If he saw an ally get killed then he would destroy the murderer utterly until they begged for death. Hermes sees this world as it really is; an ugly, hateful place filled with greed. Fawkes wants to see only the very best result – just like Dumbledore. Dumbledore, for instance, believed that Snape had repented. Fawkes, while almost certainly feeling the dark, sickening taint still in the man's aura, would have liked to think that there was still hope.
"The truth is, Amelia, Ragnok, that some are beyond redemption. The Dark mark is unable to be placed while under the imperius and without soul sacrifices – often preceded by rape and murder to torture the victim's souls beforehand. Death Eaters, for Hermes and me, are fair game."
"You would kill?"
Harry looked at the woman in front of him and raised an eyebrow as he took a small sip from his glass. "What makes you think I haven't already?"
She had nothing to say to that, and Harry turned to Ragnok before nodding once he saw he wasn't about to get an answer. The King of Goblins walked over and sliced Harry's offered hand, and held out a silvery-green crucible beneath where the blood was gathering. When it was half-filled it flashed, the cut on Harry's hand no longer there, and Ragnok pulled his hands away from the small cup where it hovered in mid-air. A green glow slowly came from his blood, and after several moments a brilliant flash of light forced all of them to look away. When they returned their eyes to the space Ragnok was holding a piece of parchment and handed it silently across to Amelia – whose eyes boggled when they saw Harry's name at the top of the report.
"L-Lord Harry James Potter-Black?!"
"Yes," he revealed with a smile, "Lord Potter-Black."
"But that's impossible – you have to be seventeen to take up the mantle of either, and that's not even taking into the account that you're Lord Black!"
"Well, Amelia, surely you know by now that Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban, no?" Her eyes sharpened, and he held up his hands disarmingly when he saw her wand fly into her fingers. "I am fully aware of his whereabouts, Amelia, however to disclose them would be… difficult considering his current employment."
"Employment?" she asked slowly, and it was clear that it wasn't rhetorical.
"Well you see… where he works is, to put it simply, misunderstood. How much do you know about The Syndicate?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Are you telling me-"
"I'm not telling you anything, Amelia; I'm asking you what you know about The Syndicate."
The pair stared at each other for at least a minute following Harry's question, though on Amelia's part it was more glaring than staring, and it was clear from the tightness of her brow that she was very, very unused to people, let alone children, being able to hold eye-contact when she was pulling her danger-stare. Harry just looked back emotionlessly, save for the flickers of amusement in his gleaming emerald eyes and thin lips. "I know that they are considered a dark supremacy group," she finally ground out, "and if Sirius Black is affiliated with such… ideals and circles then I will suggest that he is kissed following his capture."
Harry cocked his head to the side, his eyes narrowing slightly though not in anger, rather scrutiny as he steepled his hands; his elbows resting on the arms on the chair as he peered across his knuckles. "You seem like a highly intelligent woman, Amelia. You seem to be the kind of person that will take down anybody if they've broken the law, whether they're considered above it or not, and Snape in a way is proof of that. The thing is, your information on The Syndicate… where did you happen upon it?"
"Numerous reports," she fired back sharply, "from aurors I trust and who have been with me for years."
"Any of them muggleborn of half-blood?" Harry watched her mouth open and her eyes narrow into slits, and had to stifle a smirk when her sharp retort caught in her throat. He allowed her a couple of seconds to stew in the new revelation and then sighed before leaning back and taking a sip of the amber liquid in his glass. "Now you see, I respect you… a lot. Thing is, your reports and 'trusted aurors' have also been exposed to pureblood ideals for their entire lives – whether they're overt bigots or not. The Syndicate does incorporate Dark magic into their practices, Amelia, that I will not deny, but not for nefarious purposes. Tell me, Amelia, the raid on Littleton Manor you led three years ago… how did that turn out?"
Her jaw clenched tight, and Harry heard the ice in her glass tinkle as her hands tightened dangerously around it; her knuckles white with fury. "How dare you?" she hissed scathingly, and her wand quickly made it into her fingers, prompting Harry to hold up both his hands, glass still held in one. "I lost fifty good men and women-"
"And how many would you have lost if lethal curses were authorized?" For the second time that night she was rendered speechless, and her wand wavered slightly. "However much the DMLE is a crime fighting force I'm afraid that you're still in the middle ages… in fact it's not just the DMLE that's in the middle ages. Muggle police carry guns; weapons of lethality, just like wands, but unlike us they can't choose what to fire. What they are trained to do however, is that when in a situation where their life, or that of another's, is in danger then they shoot first and ask questions later. How many stunners did your men and women use, Amelia? How many times were those enemies revived by their allies to kill more of your people? How many lives could have been saved if your aurors were given the green light to use lethal spells?
"In fact, how many lives could have been saved if they were trained to use lethal spells? I've fought aurors, Amelia, your aurors, several times. Don't look all pissed like that, because they're PATHETIC! One of them, when I was clearly armed with a knife and wand, cast a fucking jellylegs jinx at me! The other cast a goddamn stunner! And the third, for fuck's sake Amelia, the third cast an expelliarmus at me! When I had a fucking knife! Now let's compare, shall we? Let's juxtapose Britain's aurors with… Germany's.
"When I got into a scuffle with three German aurors it was a completely different ball game. I was in much the same situation, though carrying a gun in full view alongside my wand while I was casing a drug cartel's storehouse. As soon as they saw me do you know what the first curse they threw off was? Bombarda. Second curse? Deffodio, followed by diffindo, and then crucio to get me down if the first few failed. It should also be noted that all those spells were fired from one of the aurors within five seconds. His two buddies both fired off spell chains too, and imperio and crucio was in their mixes."
Harry threw his arms out helplessly, his eyebrows raised in a look of acceptance. "This is the country we live in. As soon as I told the German aurors who I was with they stopped firing and immediately fell in, asking what they could do to help."
"A-and who were you with?"
Harry looked at her, deadpan for a moment before lowering his arms and throwing back the rest of the glass, sending her a slightly withering look. "Who do you think? It sure as shit wasn't the girl guides."
Her wand jerked back up to point at his head, and Harry cocked his head to the side fraction looking amused once more. Ragnok was sat watching the whole thing with a hand over his mouth to hide his grin. "You're with The Syndicate? You know what I'm legally obliged to do Mister Potter."
He chuckled and sent her a pout, "Back to formal address Madam Bones? And I thought we were getting along so well."
"Harry James Potter-Black, you are under arrest for consorting with an illegal organization, evading arrest-"
"You seem to think, Madam Bones," Harry interrupted calmly while looking right into her eyes and allowing his aura to bleed out slightly, "that should you actually attempt to bring me in I'll go quietly. By aiming at my head you reduce your chances of hitting me by twenty percent due to the small body mass I am presenting, you're also considering a spell to use, and you picked a stunner," he grinned at her shock and tapped his temple with his index finger, "and also you're forgetting that Ragnok is here also, and the fact that he and I are so familiar should clue you in to the fact that I have an ally in him, and him in me." Her wand was shaking, and Harry finally shrugged before leaning back and resting his chin on his upturned fist with a Cheshire-cat grin on his lips. "And lastly, you're also pointing a carrot at me."
Her eyes immediately jerked to look down at her 'wand' and she actually recoiled with a look of horror when she saw that she was indeed holding a carrot; a long, thin carrot yes, but a carrot all the same. Her eyes flickered for a moment to her ankle, and for the first time Ragnok spoke; his hand dropping to reveal a razor-sharp smile. "Harry summoned the wand on your ankle at the very beginning of this meeting when your adrenaline was pumping in order to distract you with a replacement spell. I believe a stick of celery is now in your second holster."
"Hermes likely shared his memories with Ragnok before coming; to prepare him for all this," Harry explained, "but that is not the point right now Madam Bones. I am not here to hurt you, bribe you, or extort you in any way, shape, or form. I am here simply to offer you the truth, and to see what you wish to do with it." She lowered the carrot to her lap, still looking terrified, and Harry's grin softened as he leaned forward and poured himself another glass. "Now, Madam Bones, let me tell you about The Syndicate…"
Amelia Bones, Harry soon discovered, was not at all an easy woman to convince. It took four hours, over twenty oaths that Harry so-carefully worded to evade things such as his position in The Syndicate, and several visitors from various departments of The Syndicate whereby their operations were explained in bare-bone terms. And even then, and the end of all that, Amelia still stared at him for five minutes straight – her patented 'scare you shitless' glare burning into his 'scare you shitless glares don't work on me' ice-calm gaze.
"God fucking damn it Harry, pour me another brandy."
Harry just smiled and leaned over to grab the crystal pitcher, "Of course Amelia."
By the time Harry returned to Hogwarts at three in the morning he was incredibly tired, but also incredibly satisfied. He'd gotten Hermes to drop him off in the Astronomy Tower so he could walk all the new information and plans in his head off, and meandered whisper-silently down the stone corridors; deftly avoiding prefects until he found himself standing right outside the Hufflepuff common room entrance. He looked down at the barrels in front of him and smiled before leaning down and tapping a small rhythm on the metal surround of the lid. Since he didn't find himself doused in vinegar and the door swung open he concluded that he had successfully managed to get through the legendary defenses.
He had Grindelwald to thank for that; who'd have thought he of all people was a 'Puff before transferring to Germany?
He wandlessly cast a series of spells over himself to nullify his magical signature and conceal his physical presence, and then stepped foot into the warm, welcoming common room beyond. He tensed when he saw two students sitting facing the door, but breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that they were asleep – not at all surprising considering the time. Striding past them he walked up the stairs to the dormitories and stared thoughtfully at the steps leading up to the female rooms. Hogwarts no longer supported his every move, nor gave into his every request – not though anger, in fact the pair had a very amiable and friendly relationship, but just so that Lady Hogwarts could watch Harry struggle, and also so that Harry could occasionally have a challenge.
It took a grand total of three minutes for Harry to unlock the wards surrounding the stairs; far more intricate than Gryffindor's, Ravenclaw's, or Slytherin's – surprising considering it was the house of the loyal and honest. With all the others a simple levitation charm and magical suppression ward would do the trick – for the Hufflepuff's… well if you didn't want to be stuck to the wall in your underwear, and have alarm klaxons going full-bore in your ear, as well as alerting the entire house and the Head of House… then you probably shouldn't try and get into the girl dorms if you have a penis.
And if you don't have one of them, and you thought Polyjuice was a good idea, then have fun being butt-naked stuck to the wall with klaxons going full-bore in your ear. Visible only to the females of course – because men seeing that would just not at all be appropriate. Harry, for the nth time in his life, considered just what kind of logic Lady Hufflepuff possessed.
He walked quietly up the steps, cringing when the fifth one creaked loudly, and his head jerked over to look at the two prefects sleeping on the couch. The girl groaned slightly and shifted, and Harry gently pressed in on her with some legilimency; stimulating her sleep center directly. He thanked Merlin for the foresight to make sure that he left backdoors in the people he trained in Occlumency. It took several minutes for him to locate the room he was looking for and he quietly opened the door – immediately smiling as he inhaled the familiar scent.
He crept across the soft carpet and knelt down to the bed in the center of the room; smiling as he looked down upon his fiancé, and within a few years wife. Her face held reminiscent hints of Bellatrix Lestrange within it, but she was far more beautiful than the insane Death Eater ever could be. Where Bellatrix's hair was jet black and unorderly, Tonks' fell in luscious, deep, deep crimson locks that reached just past her shoulders. He brushed a lock of it away from her face and smiled when a smile crept over her face and she sighed deeply; her eyelids fluttering for a moment before finally opening to reveal captivating ruby irises.
"Hey Nym," he murmured lowly, and she smiled up at him before closing her eyes and throwing back the sheets. Her invitation needed no words, and within ten seconds Harry was settling against her back; one arm going underneath his pillow and the other intertwining with hers over her toned stomach; their naked flesh burning hot against the other's. As he was falling asleep he had to give a small smirk – what on Earth would McGonagall say?