I Fall(out) to Pieces
While all this was happening, Harry was making his way through the Vault corridors to the Overseer's office. He knew it was near the entrance, but he didn't really know his way around yet. After some false starts, finding three lavatories, four laboratories and the med center, he finally made his way back to the site of the previous night's confrontation. Lights low, sitting at his desk, the Overseer was eating pudding from a cup as he reached over his large belly to tap on the computer keyboard in front of him.
Harry pursed his lips in thought, pausing to observe the man through the window for a little while. The man giggled at something he read and Harry decided it was time for the confrontation. Harry slapped the control on the door and stepped into the doorway.
"Overseer," Harry said, "We need to talk."
Maximillian Barker looked up in surprise, his eyes going wide. Back-lit from the hall, his visitor's face was hidden in shadows save for his glasses, which reflected the sharp green of the terminal.
Sitting down on the other side of the desk, the visitor rested his elbows on the desk in front of him, steepleing his hands in front of his face, making the terminal light glint dangerously off his glasses.
"Gendo Ikari?" Maxie asked in horror, spilling his pudding on his protruding middle.
"I'm afraid I don't know who you mean," Harry said in a low, emotionless voice. "But that's not important right now. How about you tell me everything you know about this vault. And I mean everything from your command computer codes to true intent of Vault UK-13."
Maxie glanced at the security button on his desk. He knew the Protectrons could be there soon, but it might not be soon enough.
"Tell me, Overseer," Harry said, the light still glinting off his specs. "Do you feel lucky?"
"What?" Maxie asked.
"It's a simple question," Harry said. "You're wondering if the robots can get here in time. You know I took two of them out last night. Sure, they didn't have much damage aside from falling, but I still incapacitated them for a time. Now, are you faster than me? When you call them, how many would it take for me to be overpowered? You have the button. You know what they can do. You've seen something I can do. You're wondering if that was a one time thing or if I can do it again. So you have to ask yourself 'Do I feel lucky?'"
Maxie glanced at Harry then down at the button. He raised his hand and Harry's hand was up. Maxie froze, his eyes locked on the glowing tip of Harry Potter's wand. "Go ahead, Overseer. Make my day."
The wand, glowing, aimed perfectly between his eyes, Maxie decided he wasn't that lucky and lowered his arm.
Harry's entire posture changed. He became relaxed and wore a smile.
"Well done, Overseer," Harry said. "Now, let's talk about those codes."
Maximillian leaned back in his chair. He'd stay on top. He just had to adapt.
"That's a lumos!" Senior Undersecretary Delores Umbridge exclaimed, staring at the parchment that recorded Harry Potter's underage sorcery. "Why can't we find Potter? Why hasn't he been caught?"
"We don't know, Madame Umbridge," Auror Dawlish asked. "Every letter heads out on it's trip, but something keeps them from reaching their destination. The same for all those other statute violations we've recorded."
"I don't care about the others, I just care about Potter!" the pink clad woman snarled.
"As an auror, I'm required to investigate them all, Undersecretary," Dawlish replied.
"Then start doing your job!" Umbridge bellowed as she stormed out of the room. When the door slammed behind her, Dawlish let out a deep breath. He immediately cranked up the wireless to a louder volume as Amelia Bones released her disillusionment charm.
"Well done, Dawlish," Bones said.
"Thank you, Director," he said, slumping into his seat. "I don't understand what this is all about. Why is the Ministry so concerned about minor violations, none of which, according to the devices, are actually breaking the statute? When did children become such an issue, even if one is Potter?"
"They shouldn't be, no matter who they are," Bones clarified. "It's just a continuation of what they've been doing in the Prophet: libel, slander and defamation of character. If she does anything out of the ordinary, I want to know immediately. If I for whatever reason am not available, inform Shacklebolt."
"Yes, Director," Dawlish agreed.
"And forget to mention this assignment to Scrimgeour," Bones instructed. "These are dangerous times, after all."
"Oh, yes, I understand," Dawlish said. "But do I really have to..."
"Pretend to be a sycophant?"
"While distasteful, it is, unfortunately, necessary," Bones admitted. "I just got word from Tonks this morning, your two children and your wife are safe in the vault. Apparation is currently impossible, due to some unknown wards Arthur's eldest put up. I'm not willing to test portkeys with people. I should be able to connect you with a new form of communication."
"Communication? You mean like a floo there?"
Bones shook her head.
"Better for communication," she said, pulling out a mirror. "Two way mirrors. You activate them, say who you want to speak to, so long as they have a mirror, and it creates a connection between them. If you're unavailable, it will take a message, like a longer photograph with sound, nothing more than thirty seconds at a time. Best of all, no back pain from stooping over."
"That's..." Dawlish trailed off, impressed by the creation. If released to the public, it would revolutionize magical communication.
"James Potter and his friends invented them when they were in Hogwarts," Bones explained. Dawlish grimaced.
"People forget how much we lost when You-Know-Who killed them," Dawlish replied sadly. "We didn't like their pranks, but no one could deny they were brilliant. A shame what happened. James and Lily dead, Lupin vanishing, Black killing Pettigrew."
"And no one really knows what happened," Bones grumbled. She snorted in derision at his surprised look. "Oh, we've got the legends about that night, but no real evidence other than hearsay."
"But who's making the mirrors now?"
"I'm not sure, but my suspicions say it's the bird club," Bones replied. "Not that I would know anything about that."
"Oh, yes, shame we are completely ignorant of that," Dawlish agreed. He sighed. "Thank you. It means a lot to know they are safe and that I'll be able to talk to them sometime. Elspeth just started first year, Ravenclaw, first in the family as far as I can recall. If she was there when Umbridge was..." He paused and let his shoulders slump. "I'd be dancing to her tune if I liked it or not." He looked up. "Thank you. Really."
"Susan's there as well. I wouldn't expect anyone else to do what I was not willing to do myself," Amelia replied. "I have to get back to my office. Remember, Auror, anything out of the ordinary."
"Yes, Director," he agreed with a nod. He waited for her to cast another disillusionment charm before opening the door, making a big show of stretching out his arms and muscles, giving her plenty of time to slip out. He followed, locking his door behind him. He turned the corner and noticed Lucius Malfoy lurking outside the Minister's office. Schooling his face into normalcy, he kept walking, not even glancing in the Death Eater's direction. As he passed, he was almost painfully aware of the man's attention, but made sure nothing in his bearing showed weakness.
A moment later, the door opened with both Umbridge and Fudge. Distracted by the impending political manipulation, Lucius Malfoy never noticed the invisible tracking spell Dawlish hit him with before the auror vanished into the busy mass of ministry paper pushers.
As the Mr. Handy robots were cleaning up the remains of breakfast, Andromeda leaned over to her daughter.
"What happened with Snape last night? I couldn't help but notice he wasn't there to irritate us all this morning," she asked.
"Oh, I locked him in here," Nymphadora said, tapping the locket. "It was the only place I knew he couldn't get out of without my help."
"Good thinking," her mother said. "This was the reason I asked you to deal with him. I trust you to make the right decisions."
"Thanks mum," Nymphadora said with a little smile. It vanished at the next thought. "I guess I should let him out. He's been leaving message after message on my mirror all morning." She paused. "I haven't watched any of them, maybe a mistake on my part. It's probably because he finally realized I palmed his wand before he went in."
"Ha! See, Andy, I told you those muggle magic lessons would come in handy," Ted said smugly, looking like he had just won the greatest debate of the universe.
"Whatever," his wife muttered with a roll of her eyes with a ghost of a smile on her lips. "I suppose we should let him out."
"I saw a nice place to set up the flat on a more permanent basis over by the security office," Nymphadora said.
"Let's go let him out," her mother said, setting her napkin down on the table. "It's always a pleasure to see that man put in his place."
The Tonks family stood up, nodding to those they knew and made their way out of the large room. They twisted down the corridors until Ted almost ran into Harry coming back from the Overseer's office.
"Wotcher, Harry," Nymphadora said. "We're letting Snape out of his hole, want to watch?"
"Snape's in a hole?"
"In my locket," she explained, holding up the item. "Like your tents."
"Ah," Harry said. He shrugged, not wanting to see lots of people. "Sure, why not."
"We're setting it up down here," she said, pointing to the corridor that separated the living quarters from the laboratories and security station.
"Like Ollivander's shop?" he asked.
"Yeah, good work convincing him to come," Nymphadora said. Harry shrugged as if it wasn't much.
"All I said was that Voldemort was probably looking for him," Harry argued.
"I'd say that would make most people want to hide in a hole in the ground," Ted admitted after getting over the shiver at the name. Harry just shrugged as if he didn't have an opinion one way or another.
The four of them walked down the hall to the very end. It was a bit of an alcove that had no other apparent purpose. Tonks opened the locket and went through much the same process as Hermione did when enlarging Ollivander's shop, without the unfolding. She tapped the little box twice, allowing it to grow to its normal two meter size. She tapped the doors once, allowing them to swing wide.
The scene they found inside made all of them freeze.
"You know," Harry said. "I was starting to think this was going to be a pretty crappy day." He stroked his chin in thought. "Neville, thanks for proving me wrong."
"Harry?" Neville asked, glancing at the door without actually turning his head or letting his wand fall. Keeping perfectly still in his rage, Severus Snape, still dressed in his tutu, tiara and ballet shoes, looked about ready to go into a berserk rage.
"I was just getting my plants when he appeared! I thought he was a boggart!" Neville explained in a strained voice. Harry looked closer and saw the bags under his friend's eyes.
"Did you get any sleep at all?" Harry asked.
"Could you sleep with Snape in the room?" Neville asked pointedly, his wand never wavering.
"You can relax, Longbottom," Nymphadora said, struggling to keep from laughing. "I'll take over. You go get some sleep."
"Yes, I'm sure," the metamorphic witch assured, pulling out her wand. Hesitantly, Neville lowered his wand.
"Come on, Nev, I'll walk back with you," Harry said, grinning widely. He looked right at Snape the Pink with a smirk. The older man bristled with constrained rage. "I think we need to tell everyone about this. A shame I didn't think to take a camera."
"That just means we need to describe it perfectly to Dean so he can draw it," Neville said in uncharacteristic humor. Harry suspected it was the lack of sleep.
"Yes," Harry said. "I think that's a great idea."
Andy and Ted were shaking with silent laughter as they watched the boys vanish around a corner.
"My wand?" Snape demanded, holding out his hand. Nymphadora squinted at him as she pondered the request.
"I think you'll get it back once we get back to the cafeteria," she decided, prompting Snape's normally pallid complexion to gain some color, albeit by anger.
"Oh, you have no idea, no idea at all, how much this means to me," Andromeda said, her eyes sparkling with mirth. "I know you liked to play the put-upon little victim to James Potter and his pranks, but I know the truth."
"Black! You're no different from your cousin!" Snape snapped, intending it as an insult.
"Why? Because we could both think for ourselves? You deserve this, Snape," Andromeda said flatly. "You treated an entire generation of children like crap, while buttering up your play buddies by favoring their spawn. Did you think you were immune to retribution?"
"Andy," Ted said lowly in a warning tone as he rested a hand on her shoulder. "Love, are you sure this is a good idea?"
His wife shook off his hand, keeping her glare on Snape.
"Do you even remember why James and Sirius started after you? You've probably convinced yourself that you were innocent, a victim," Andromeda said, with a derisive laugh. "Do you happen to remember Hyacinth Urquhart? Little Cin, we used to call her? Slytherin, same year as you?" She took a half step forward. "No, I can see it in your eyes that you don't. Lovely kid, wanted to be head of Sports and Games. Loved Quidditch. Had some real ambition, that one."
Nymphadora looked at her mother in amazement. The only other time she'd seen a dressing down like this one was when she'd been playing on the train tracks near their house as a kid. Ted, on the other hand, had seen what Snape had done to those who, in the potion master's delusions, had slighted him.
"Little Cin accidentally messed up on the potion she was brewing in the Slytherin practice room. Ringing any bells now? No?" Andromeda asked, her voice growing harsh. "You made some choice comments about her talent, or perceived lack thereof. She didn't take it well. Called you a greasy git, I think. Now, you didn't like that did you? So you messed with her next potion when she wasn't looking. Added Essence of Mandrake. That taught her, didn't it? When combined with the potion she was brewing, as you, the most skilled and knowledgeable potions student to come out of Slytherin since Slughorn himself, knew Essence of Mandrake would cause noxious fumes. Those fumes, when inhaled require very swift treatment. But she didn't know this, all she knew was that another potion failed."
"She never went for treatment. By the time the shivers in her hands started it was too late, weeks late. It was just a slight unsteadiness at first," Andromeda recalled. "She came to me for help with a few first year spells and I noticed the shaking of her hand. We went to the hospital wing where Madame Pomphrey discovered what had happened. Little Cin knew she had never used Essence of Mandrake in any potion she brewed. She never finished first year since every muscle in her body was constantly moving. And there was no cure."
Andromeda gritted her teeth in rage as she struggled to keep from physically strangling the man in front of her. "Nothing will convince me you didn't know what would happen. You were just too skilled not to know. She's still alive, did you know that?" Andromeda growled at him wordlessly. "That's why I became a healer. I wanted to help her meet her ambitions. Nothing ever worked. She's still there, three beds down from Frank and Alice Longbottom. Not far from that fake Lockhart. In bed, shivering constantly as if being shaken. Prevented from walking, moving with intention, even speaking since the movements could shatter her teeth if she was allowed to live without the subduing charms."
Her eyes squinted.
"That was when James and Sirius started after you,"
"You," Snape said. "You set that dog on me? You did all this?"
"I did nothing, you miserable cretin," she replied. "Don't you dare blame this on me, because you won't win. They were in the hospital wing looking after that other friend of theirs, the scruffy one. What was his name? Reemy or something."
"Remus," Nymphadora supplied. A bit horrified by what Snape had done.
"Thank you dear, Remus," Andromeda said. "They just happened to be there when Little Cin got the news. Little Cin explained what had happened with her failed potion. Potter and my cousin came to the same conclusion I did, you had sabotaged the potion. It wasn't jealousy over Evans or any other self-delusion you might keep; it was because you ruined a little girl's life."
Snape sneered at her, clear to everyone present that he dismissed her story.
"There wasn't enough evidence, so you never got punished for it," Andromeda said. "I think Dumbledore put it as 'there's no need to ruin a young man's career on speculation.' I'm sure Nymphadora remembers how much I paid attention to her health before and after each term."
"Full health check, sure I remember," Nymphadora agreed. "Last of August, at Christmas, Spring Break, then in June when I got home."
"I wanted to make sure you never did to her what you did to Little Cin. I'm sure there are plenty who suffered under your 'care,'" she spat the last word so it was dripping with sarcasm.
"Many I'm sure don't even realize it's your fault," Andromeda explained to the vile greasy man. "It was no surprise to me when you joined up with the Death Eaters. Not a surprise at all. Sure, it was to a few people considering you were once friends with Evans, but you saw her as a possession, not as a person. Not a surprise to me."
"What was a surprise to me was Albus Dumbledore's greatest mistake: trusting you. Saving you from Azkaban..." Andromeda growled like a wolverine being poked with a stick. She shook her head in disbelief. "Then he made you Slughorn's replacement. Though my ancestor Phineas Nigellus still reigns supreme as the most hated Headmaster in history, you quickly supplanted him as the most hated professor."
"You should have never been allowed around children," Ted agreed.
"I don't think you should be allowed around anyone," Andromeda argued. "But Dumbledore chose you to replace Slughorn."
"I never advanced far in St. Mungo's thanks to my worm of a brother-in-law's money," Andromeda explained. "I never had the political clout to force my way onto the Board of Governors. I was never able to dismiss you from Hogwarts. But you're not at Hogwarts any more, Severus Snape. You're here."
"And you're trapped here with me," Snape sneered.
"No, you've got it backwards, Snape," Andromeda said with a cruel smile. "You are trapped in here with me. And I'm not going to let you get away with what you did at Hogwarts. I had to give Nymphadora special lessons in potions because you never explained why things happened, just a simple list of commands. Cooking lessons at best, not potions instruction. The way you taught was no different from a baker making bread. Who needs to know why the dough rises, it just does?"
"You won't be teaching here. You won't be interacting with children. You will be watched all the time. And if you screw up?" Andy said. "UK-13 will have it's first execution. You can consider yourself on permanent probation."
"You know, I just remembered Snape saying there was no silly wand waving in potion making, so there's no reason to give him his wand back, right, Mum?" Nymphadora asked.
"No reason at all," Andromeda agreed. The older woman made a motion for him to start walking. "Move along."
Her daughter prodded the potion master ahead with a stinging hex. Snape glared at Andromeda as Nymphadora marched him forward. He was swearing revenge for the indignity.
"Oh, and if you think you'll be able to taint opinions against Mr. Potter, I'll be sure to tell them the truth about you," Andromeda called after them. She could see the man shiver with impotent rage.
"Are you sure that was wise?" Ted asked her. "Embracing your inner Gryffindor like that?"
"Gryffindor? Oh no, that was pure Slytherin stick," Andromeda replied. "He already ate the carrot Dumbledore gave him, so there's no reason to offer more. But wise? No, probably not. For decades I've thought about this day. And he's here, at my mercy."
"You're starting to sound a little too much like your sister at the moment, Andy," cautioned Ted, pulling her into a hug. "You can kick the girl out of the Blacks, but you can't take the Black out of the girl, huh?"
"No, I suppose not," she said as she rested her chin on his shoulder. "You were the only other one I ever told. No one else ever heard the whole story. Not with Dumbledore covering things up. Can't have a scandal at Hogwarts, now can we?"
They paused as they heard the cheers and wolf whistles from ahead. Both elder Tonks smiled.
"Nymphadora must have made it to the meeting," Ted commented. He quickly sobered. "You know he's planning a counter attack."
"I'm counting on it," Andy said, looking her husband straight in the eyes. "I'm serious, one mistake and he's out. Red card, no yellow. I've never taken a life. My oaths as a healer prevent me from doing harm. But giving him free rein is doing harm. I'd rather lose my magic for executing him than let him poison anyone else, mentally or physically."
"We need to be careful," Ted reminded her, holding her gently at arms length.
"We need to watch Longbottom closely," Andy said. "If I'm right about him, he'll blame Longbottom for this whole situation, pink dressing up and the verbal dressing down. Snape will try to target him first."
"Neville was terrified by him," Ted commented. "But he didn't back down, even when he realized he had the real Severus Snape at wand point."
"That only worked because Snape was missing his wand," Andy reminded him. "Longbottom might already be dead if our dear daughter had not the foresight to disarm that monster."
"What are we going to do with him? We know he can't be trusted and it's just a matter of time before he tries something," Ted said in exasperation as they made their way towards the room they spent the night in. "That's not the only thing we need to do. What the hell were the muggles thinking?"
"It's a breeding program," they turned to see Harry Potter standing behind them. "That's what this entire vault is for. The information was on the Overseer's computer."
"So you got the codes?" Ted asked. "How'd you manage to get 'Maxie' to help?"
"Strangely easy to intimidate," Harry explained. "All I did was sit down and ask him if he really wanted to call the robots. A moment later, he's telling me everything from the computer codes to the time he stole a comic from a bully in primary school."
"A breeding program? Explain," Andromeda said. She was all business, brow furrowed, her arms crossed over her chest. Harry shrugged.
"Apparently the muggles recorded images and videos of accidental magic and a whole bunch of wizards and witches breaking the Statute of Secrecy. The Overseer thought they were psychics, but considering who's here, I assume they meant accidental magic," he explained. "Street cameras, building security, recorded testimony from before Obliviators arrived. Then the muggles involved wouldn't remember anything even when it had happened right before their eyes. It raised flags. Everyone who was assigned here is either psychic -magical- or a latent -squib- by their definition."
"Genetic testing," Harry said. "Hermione was right when she guessed about the blood test."
"Muggles can tell who is and isn't a wizard or witch by testing blood?" Andromeda asked in fascination. "Sorry, I'm a healer, we don't even know how to do that. We just wait for accidental magic to manifest and if it doesn't, for the Hogwarts letters to arrive. I didn't even know it was possible."
"Well, for muggles it is, I guess. Apparently there's only a very, very small difference between a magical and a squib," Harry said. "And it's not that they aren't magical, they're just missing a very small piece that gives them enough to use."
"Why don't more squibs give birth to magical children then?" Andy asked.
"There was something about that too, something about how most muggles have so few of the genes, the pieces that make someone magic that it's very unlikely," Harry said. "I don't really understand it. It had to do with a lot of terms I didn't understand. Some, like genetics and chromosomes I've heard of, but I don't know enough of how they work. The muggles basically thought if squibs had kids with magicals their kids could be magical, but it would be like a fifty-fifty chance."
"And since squibs are considered failures, they are rarely married to witches and wizards," Andromeda supplied. "I need more on this."
Harry shrugged again and shot a thumb back over his shoulder towards the Overseer's office. "You can read it, it's on the computer in the Overseer's office."
"This is amazing, but the purpose of the vault?" Ted said, bringing them back to the conversation.
"Oh, right, well, only a few adults to pass on the skills and a bunch of teenagers to make babies," Harry summed up with a shrug. "The Overseer, who's also a genetic squib, but not born in the Wizarding World, was to ensure that we'd be loyal to muggle Britain, not the Ministry of Magic."
"And the kids? Why so many from other countries?"
"They're all muggleborns, or squibs genetically," Harry said. "If my guess is right, I mean. They all tested for magic or a high likeliness of passing magic to their children. A lot more than we saw at Hogwarts, like 20 per year just in Britain. Makes me wonder why we only had a handful."
"Either we're missing them, or they don't live long enough," Andy guessed. Harry looked shocked at how blasé she appeared. Ted looked like he was almost ready to cry. She just shook her head ruefully. "Death Eaters didn't go completely silent when their master died, they just stopped dressing up. I wouldn't be surprised if the kids were tracked down and killed."
"That's horrible," Harry exclaimed, revolted by the prospect.
"Yes, well, that describes the Death Eaters," Andromeda Tonks replied. "I'm the only one in my family that didn't jump on that bandwagon."
"You remember what Nymphadora said about your cousin," Ted reminded her. She just shrugged.
"I've only got her word about Sirius, no evidence,"
"You're Sirius's cousin!" Harry said, brightening, his previous dower mood vanishing almost completely. "He's innocent! Really!"
"What? How do you know this?" Andromeda asked.
"My third year, he wasn't after me, he was after my friend's rat, which was really Pettigrew, who was the real one to betray my parents," Harry explained. "Sirius was thrown in jail without a trial. He broke out to clear his name, but Wormtail escaped."
"Wormtail?" both Tonks asked in confusion.
"Pettigrew's Marauder nickname, like Sirius is Padfoot, Remus is Moony, and my dad was Prongs," Harry explained. "Wait, that means you're the only other good Black that he was talking about."
"I wouldn't describe my wife as 'good' but she isn't unrepentantly evil like most her family," Ted said, giving Andy a playful bump with his hips. She smirked and slapped him on the shoulder.
"So, Sirius Black is innocent," Andromeda mused. "But back to the vault."
"The idea was we'd all be loyal to Britain, safe from the Ministry and away from Hogwarts," Harry explained. "That's why the med center has a huge baby ward."
"I take it they didn't know about the wands?" Ted asked.
"They figured it was a... placebo, I think they called it. I don't know what that means. They expected us to develop our "psychic" powers outside of the Wizarding World," Harry said. "It sounded like Downing Street wasn't too happy with the last couple wars or any other time magicals interfered with or killed muggles. If what you're talking about the Malfoys and others is right, I guess I can't blame the Prime Minister for feeling that way."
"I need to read this," Andromeda said. "I need to know about this blood test, and I want to see the hospital."
"It's genetics," Harry said. "They cover it a little in primary, but I went to Hogwarts so I don't really know much more than that it makes us what we are. And um... everything has it. I bet if you talk to Helen and Menelaus, they could tell you more. They're dentists." He grinned at Andromeda's confused look and Ted's obvious amusement. "Tooth healers," he added.
"Who are they?"
"The Grangers, Hermione's parents," he explained. Harry looked up at them. "That's pretty much what the plan for our vault was. Now, though, I guess we could open the door, but I'm not sure what would happen if we did."
"We could try to return a few of these kids back to their parents," Andromeda mused.
"Unless they're in Vaults as well," Harry said. "Be a bit harder."
"And it would leave us open to attack," Ted agreed. Harry nodded. "Well, let's go deal with one thing at a time. Sleeping accommodations first, Snape, then this breeding experiment."
"Are we leaving the Overseer in charge?" Harry asked. "Because he seemed pretty spineless if Sally isn't there with him."
"I don't think I can put my trust in a single all powerful leader anymore," Andromeda replied, she sighed and crossed her arms as they pondered the situation for a moment. "Later. Politics always make tempers rise. Let's go deal with the beds."
"So the basics of the sleeping arrangements," Elijah began. While the Tonks were dealing with Snape, the Davises gathered anyone thirteen and older into one of the larger classrooms to go over the vault situation. "We have just barely enough beds large enough for teens and adults. We're good on child sized beds, not even half full."
"Could we combine two into a larger one?" Katie Belle asked. "Because, no offense to any of you girls, I like my own bed."
Elijah grinned as a few people chuckled.
"And the only woman I want to sleep with is my wife," he agreed. "Which is why, if the Grangers and Mr. Potter agree, married or dedicated couples and families can live in the tents until we can make our own private flats."
"I didn't see a lot of extra space or spare materials, how are you planning on doing this?" Bjorn Dalen asked.
"Not a wizard?"
"I chose to go to University instead," Bjorn replied, earning a number of scandalized looks from the other magicals. He huffed at the shock he caused.
"You saw the magic tents, correct?" Elijah asked, recovering the quickest.
"Fascinating," Bjorn agreed. "Though a part of me still refuses to believe it is magic."
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," Menelaus' step-father said with a chuckle.
"And any sufficiently explained magic is indistinguishable from technology," Menelaus countered.
"Touche, my son, touche," the old man said.
"Yes, we can, through a series of spells, runes and enchantments, make a container larger inside than it should be by outward dimensions," Mary explained. "That's a bit of a simplification, but we can actually make rooms through magic and it should not be much issue to connect them with the power and water systems we currently have."
"Of course, with a wand, water isn't an issue," Blaise Zabini said, sitting next to his mother. "One simple spell, voila, fresh water."
"We can also, once the couples and families move into the tents, turn some of the other rooms into actual flats," Elijah said.
"How many tents did Harry and Hermione buy?" someone asked.
"Don't quote me on this, but every single one in Diagon Alley," Helen said with a chuckle that was echoed by many others.
"We do need to move the other supplies they brought to vault storage," Dean suggested, "though we should really be talking about this when they're right here."
"I agree," Elijah replied with a nod. "But, we won't be finalizing anything here, just brainstorming."
"Since Hermione spent our money on a lot of it, we can agree for some of it, but not for Harry's stuff," Helen volunteered. "She doesn't need all those tents. If they can be better used by other people, then go for it. Each one has a full flat from stove to ice box, not a refrigerator, at least two rooms, sometimes more."
"That still leaves the issue of where to put the things they bought," Penelope pointed out. "And there's the fact that Harry brought a whole bunch of animals. Which we should probably let out sooner rather than later."
"Animals?" someone asked.
"Owls and Kneazles, and a pair of talking goats," Helen supplied. "They didn't want Hedwig or Crookshanks to be lonely, though I'm not sure why he bought the goats."
"A lot," Penelope answered. "I'm sure they'd be willing to spread them around a bit."
Astoria immediately turned to her mother. "May I have a Kneasle?"
"What are kneazles?" someone asked.
"Magical cats that are almost as smart as people," someone answered.
"And why the owls?" Bjorn inquired.
"We use them for post," Katie answered from beside him.
"Why?" he asked, completely befuddled.
"Just do," she replied. "I don't actually know why."
"There's a lot of books in the tents," Menelaus continued. "From both walks of life since she bought out a number of bookstores with the money we were able to pool."
"How could you possibly have that much to buy out a book store?" Tracey asked, confusion written on her brow.
"If you sell galleons for the gold content and not the exchange value, you can make a massive amount of money in a very short period of time," Penelope explained.
"Because muggles value gold a lot more," Penelope replied. "You can trade in a galleon and get five pounds at Gringott's. Or, you can go to the muggle world and sell a single galleon for hundreds of pounds."
"You sell it for weight? Hundreds of pounds of what?" Zabini's mother asked.
"The name of the local muggle currency is the British Pound," Helen replied. "If you sell one, bring the cash back to Gringott's you started with one coin and ended up with hundreds."
"Wouldn't that break the economy?" her mother asked, a former banker.
"Sure, if you kept it up," Helen agreed, "But they only did it a few times."
"So, as a result of all this, they've got hundreds, if not thousands of books to go to a library," Menelaus explained. "They bought a lot of other things that I don't know about. You'll have to talk to them."
"So, we move the stuff out, move the couples into the tents, split the rest of us up into smaller size rooms," Velma Greengrass summed up. "What are we waiting for?"
"We need to figure out what to do with the children," Mary replied. "Velma, almost all of them were separated from their families to other vaults. They don't even really know where they are. The concept of staying here forever isn't even in the back of their minds. I talked to a couple of boys who thought they were going to have a sleep over party then go home."
"I bet their parents are worried stiff," Hermione's paternal grandmother commented.
"No bet," Mary said, giving her daughter a quick squeeze, much to the girl's embarrassment.
"I know nothing about caring for children," Penelope said. "The youngest I've helped was eleven when I was a prefect and a Headgirl."
"You might be just what we need, Miss Clearwater," Elijah replied. "These kids have effectively been kidnapped and right now we have no way of getting them back to their families. You've dealt with homesick kids before."
"I'll help with the kids," Susan said, raising her hand. A number of others raised their hands as well.
"Good," Mary said. "How about the rest of us go find Miss Granger and Mr. Potter to clean out the tent?"
There were a few sounds of agreement. The meeting wrapped up just in time for Nymphadora to guide Snape by in all his glory.
"Come one, come all! See Severus Snape: Pretty in Pink!" she said. Dean gave a wolf whistle and a number of other people were cheering at the man's humiliation. Almost anyone who was in not-Slytherin was heckling the man. The Slytherin contingent was trying not to be seen and were doing their best to either blend into the crowd or move quickly behind others. They'd observed the man's wrath in other ways.
"See, Nev, it's not so bad," Harry said as he walked in with the Longbottom boy. "Just because he ended up not to be a boggart, doesn't mean your spell has to go to waste."
"I guess," Neville agreed, barely awake. Without having the threat right in front of him, exhaustion had quickly taken its toll on the boy.
"Everyone, we can all thank Neville for today's entertainment," Harry said. "Neville, tell everyone what happened."
"Okay," Neville said after Harry hit him with a spell to wake him up a bit. The Longbottom boy went on to explain everything that happened since last night. By the time he was done, Harry was gone, but Neville had become something of a hero to anyone not-Slytherin who went to school at any time Severus Snape had been in residence either as a student or as a professor. The Slytherins were trying very hard to find a way how not to be associated with the boy for fear of retribution.
"Anyone who is worried about ole Sevie," Tonks reassured, "Don't worry. We're not letting him have a wand. He screws up once and he's out. If you want the whole story, you can talk to my Mum, but to sum up, he's a horrible person who barely deserves to breathe."
Blaise Zabini looked like his eyes were going to pop out of his head. This was the man who had ruled a quarter of Hogwarts, not with an iron fist, but with a silver tongue. Draco Malfoy never would have had the same kind of power if not for Snape's sponsorship. With the sponsorship of Lucius Malfoy and Dumbledore, Snape himself had been ironclad.
Any time there was a dressing down, it wasn't to improve their behavior, it was to shame the child for getting caught. Blaise assumed it had been intended to be a lesson on cunning, but it failed. Resentment grew against the other houses, much worse than the stories his former step-fathers had talked about.
The Snape sponsorship had created blocks of power, all based around Snape's favorites. Draco Malfoy was sponsored because Snape and the elder Lucius Malfoy were both in the same club, Lucius being one of Snape's political shields in larger magical society. Pansy had pushed forward as Malfoy's feminine equal, and had quickly earned sponsorship that first year. Blaise had watched as the others filed in behind her, even if he knew they didn't agree with her voiced messages.
He thought back to the discussion with Granger. She was absolutely right. It had appeared to the rest of the school that all of Slytherin agreed with the open mouths/empty minds of Parkinson and Malfoy. Even he was guilty of that, looking back, because although he was known as a neutral in Slytherin, Slytherins never talked with other houses. How had he been so stupid?
He'd thought for a while that splitting people up by personality type was stupid. When ever you say, this group there, that group here, it created tension. In Hogwarts it created preconceptions. Slytherins were all Death Eater wannabes to all the other houses. In Slytherin, Gryffindors were all blood traitor "light" siders. Hufflepuffs were stupidly loyal, only useful for minions. Ravenclaws weren't worth your time unless you wanted a book.
But it was one thing to think something was stupid and a completely different thing to take a stand different from your own group. He kept thinking about Andromeda Black, well, Tonks now, but she wasn't at Hogwarts. It was all about the individual with her. House loyalty was a stupid concept that was cast aside. Hell, this was a pureblood princess who tossed all that away for one simple reason: she took a stand. And in the end, she was one of the only Blacks left.
It wasn't just Slytherins that seemed to refuse to take a stand. Blaise thought back to how the school had treated Potter on occasion. Even Potter's own house abandoned him when he lost points that first year. At the time Malfoy said it had something to do with a dragon being sent to Weasley's brother, but that didn't make sense as people couldn't own dragons. It was obvious to everyone that the three firsties were getting the cold shoulder from the rest of their house. Looking back at it, especially in consideration of that morning's photo display, Potter had probably lost those points doing something that no one else was willing to do.
He could have never admitted it at school, but Blaise looked up to Potter, just a bit. He wasn't the stereotype of the bullish Gryffindor. He was the archtype of the noble Gryffindor. When something had to be done, Potter did it even if there might have been someone better, not because he wanted the fame, like a Slytherin, or even most people in general, would do. He did it because it needed to be done. Potter didn't let anything stop him.
Blaise looked up and realized Snape was being escorted to his new home, wherever that might be. The people in general were treating Longbottom like a hero. That was almost Slytherin of Potter to deflect the attention from himself like that. Weasley would have stayed right beside Longbottom to try and bask in the praise vicariously. Potter had given all the credit to Longbottom and skipped out.
Blaise Zabini watched as the bedroom group guided Neville to a few hours rest. Blaise stood up alongside his mother. He glanced at her. She rarely spoke in a new group, preferring to watch the dynamics until she understood them. She was calculating, rather cold, but she was still his mother. One aspect of the vault Blaise was going to enjoy was the lack of new stepfather's attempting to kill him off so the new child could be the heir. Outsiders didn't know that the poisonings were always in retaliation, and Blaise never felt the need to inform anyone. Knowing that his mother loved him enough to poison an entire extended magical branch of the Pazzi family was enough.
As part of "everyone else" the Zabini family, all four members, were to unload Granger and Potter's tents so others could move in. Of course, this was all theoretical until someone tracked down Granger and asked her about it. Come to think of it, they needed to track down Potter, since he skipped out when Longbottom showed up.
"Greengrass, let's go find Potter and Granger," he suggested.
"Me?" Daphne asked, shocked at his choice.
"Someone has to," Blaise argued.
"I don't think-"
"Well, now you can," Blaise countered. "You're right, you didn't think. Now you've got a chance to apologize."
"What do you get out of this?" she asked, eyes narrowing at him.
"A chance to prove that we've left Hogwarts behind," he said. He waved for her to follow. "Come along, I'll explain."
The teen looked up at the sound of his mother's lilting voice.
"Inform Mr. Potter that I would like to speak with him about an owl," she said.
"Of course, Mother."
He hooked Daphne's arm in his own and almost pulled the girl out of the room.
"What was that about?" she demanded when they had finally slowed down.
"It's rarely a good thing when Mother gets interested in a man, though she's never done so with one so young before," Blaise admitted. "I don't relish the idea of Potter being my next stepfather."
"Maybe she just wants an owl?"
Blaise just looked at the girl with one raised eyebrow.
"Fine, it's not just about an owl, yes, why me to find Potter and Granger?" the eldest Greengrass girl asked.
"Because as much as Tracey needs to apologize for being a bitch, I'm not stupid enough to get between your sister and her," the boy replied.
"What?" Daphne said before catching herself and sticking her nose up in the air. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, please," he drawled. "There's no point staying in the closet if you leave the door wide open. Really, those two? Worst kept Slytherin secret since Malfoy's daddy lied and bribed to the Wizengamot to get off."
"So I need to apologize? Why like this?" Daphne asked, trying to keep up with the taller boy's stride.
"Because the longer we let these feelings fester, the worse it'll be," Blaise replied. "We also need to separate ourselves from Snape."
"Oh, I'm well aware of that," Daphne replied. "Longbottom's got some big ones bragging like that."
"I'm not so sure he does," Blaise replied. "Was I the only one who saw how Potter redirected all attention to Longbottom?"
Daphne thought about it for a moment and her eyes went wide. "Oh my. You're right. He did. And deflected all the attention that was going to happen the next time we saw him."
"We're not at Hogwarts anymore. We need to remember that and not fall into the same cliques because everything has changed," Blaise said as they wandered through the halls of the Vault. "There's no house solidarity or anything like that here. There's us. The Vault."
"Just think about it while we search."