Many thanks for all the reviews - they are hugely appreciated and I really love reading them. Glad people didn't mind me effectively merging two very short chapters into one larger chapter last time. Kairan1979 - I was actually tempted to take you up on that but decided it might be more amusing if that's incorporated at a slightly later stage; brilliant idea though! traLane - glad you're enjoying it; I enjoy reading Severus fanfics as well hence why he has a focal position in the tale, but Minerva doesn't seem to have many stories...can't find one to read so wrote it myself instead! lielielie - Sorry for depriving you of sleep...hopefully work didn't notice! The main reason it's in first person is because it was never actually intended to get this long; I'd only intended it to be a one-shot in reality but seems to have spiralled hugely out of control! And sorry for not including the setting Severus on fire thing...as he never got bitten there is no real reason for the group to immediately suspect that he was the one in the wrong...
Chapter 19: Time for some Truths
There was no doubt in my mind that my stunner would have hit its target and I was moving well before I had a chance to find out. I knew it would have; my aim was impeccable. Glancing up briefly as I move, I note with great relief that Potter is back to actually riding his broom rather than hanging off it. I storm across the pitch furiously. That man just tried to kill one of my students and there is no doubt in my mind that was an attempt to kill or at the very least to seriously maim. That treacherous swine just tried to kill an eleven year old child under my protection right under my very nose; Potter has been through more than enough without the people who are meant to be responsible for safeguarding him instead trying to finish the job his damnable relatives started. My fury rises with every step I take; he had the sheer nerve and audacity to try to harm one of my own, he dared to attack Harry Potter of all people on my own watch. I'd be furious if it had been any student, let alone one of my own house, but to attack Harry so openly, so brazenly, right in front of me? The man must have a sincere and urgent death wish which I have absolutely no qualms about fulfilling.
By the time I reach the staff stands I am literally shaking with pure and total rage; nobody hurts one of my cubs, much less in front of me, Dark Lord or not. I lost too many during the last war and I can still remember the names and faces of every single one of the fallen; that monster took far too much from us last time and it will be over my dead body that he gets the chance to take any more. Storming up to the prone figure I notice immediately that Severus is standing guard and refusing to let any other members of staff anywhere near the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor; nobody seemed willing to argue with the sheer hatred resonating from those dark, hooded eyes in order to renervate the fallen Professor. In all honesty, I can't blame them. Severus looks positively deadly.
"Bind him," I snap sharply, causing outraged gasps from many of the assembled staff now watching the display.
Severus' glare is still extremely effective though and despite the clear shock and outright disapproval of many of the spectators, none of attempt to intervene or protest. And if Severus' clear displeasure isn't doing the trick, the fury rolling off me in waves should if they value their hides. Threads of pure silver magical twine shoot past from my left hand side to wrap themselves securely around Quirinus' ankles and wrists, knitting themselves tightly into a sound magical seal. I turn slightly, not at all surprised to see Filius behind me with his wand raised and face set dangerously as he completes the binding with a sharp movement of his wand. Very few would be able to pull that kind of magical binding off so effortlessly, none of whom are currently assembled around us. He turns sharply to me, eyes flashing fiercely as he nods down at the prone man.
"He's bound with my own personal magical signature," the small man states coldly. "Nothing short of killing me will release that binding unless I will it."
"Now, now, Minerva," the low chuckle from behind me announces the arrival of the Headmaster onto the scene. Whirling to meet him I can't help but be rather amused by the looks of utter disgust both Filius and Severus are shooting the man although he doesn't seem to register this fact. His eyes fix on me but despite the slight smile on his face the twinkle is nowhere to be seen. "Don't you think you are being more than a little hasty here? You have just stunned and bound a fellow Professor in front of the entire student body. That seems more than a little excessive, Minerva. I am sure we can find a much more suitable –"
"I think you will find that I bound Quirinus here, not Minerva, and the entire student body is far too busy watching Mister Potter who by the looks of it has just caught the Snitch" Filius grinds out eyes flashing dangerously, "to even notice what we are currently doing." I glance over at the pitch to see that Potter has indeed caught the Snitch and is about to be mobbed by his own team. This will certainly be a Quidditch match to go down in history. "And I have no intention of removing these bindings until I am completely satisfied that Quirinus is in the capable hands of Amelia Bones and a squad of Aurors."
"Filius, do you really think that this is truly necessary?" the older man's tone suddenly has a hint of steel behind his words which belies his grandfatherly smile and those striking blue eyes have gained a hard glint to them. This is not going according to the great Dumbledore's plans, whatever they are, and he is not impressed. For some reason only known to Albus bloody Dumbledore, he is protecting the man who just tried to kill Harry Potter even if he did fail. More worryingly, if he knows as much as I think he does, he is trying to protect He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named from discovery. "After all, Hogwarts discipline has always been dealt with by Hogwarts and always will be. There is no need to bring the DMLE in, much less Amelia Bones herself."
"This is not some minor student infraction or indiscretion, Albus," I snap furiously with a glare that would hold Death itself in place. "That man just tried to kill one of my first years and I believe that is very much a matter for the DMLE. Mister Potter could have been killed, would have been killed," I continue before he can interrupt, "were it not for Severus' quick reactions and intervention. Quirinus has just shown very clearly how unfit he is to hold a teaching post and I would be very interested to hear his exact reasons as to why he just tried to kill the Boy-Who-Lived. After all, the only reason to want Mister Potter dead is if you follow He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Unless there is proof that he has been held under the Imperius, that would be an Azkaban worthy offence so I think Amelia Bones will be very interested."
I am shaking with sheer rage, Albus will not be allowed to put my students in danger in such a blatant and obvious manner. We are there to protect them; there isn't much further away from protecting them than attempting to kill them. Quirinus will not be going anywhere near another student again, much less one Harry Potter. The troll was quite bad enough and could quite easily have had absolutely disastrous consequences but this was a direct and obvious attack on an individual student with the intent to kill. Additionally, this time we will be able to prove it and have enough direct witnesses to merit the use of Veritaserum. Albus is glaring death at me, his face set like stone and his eyes hard and cold. He is not used to being challenged, much less challenged in front of an audience and it is quite clear he is not impressed in the slightest. But I will not dance blindly to the pipers tune any longer. I will not allow this to continue.
"Minerva, I do believe you must be exaggerating," our Headmaster states coldly, staring at me with an expression somewhat akin to disappointment but somehow harder. Unfortunately for him, I have little reason to care about his disappointment, although much more reason to be disappointed myself. Once again his belief in some greater cause is blinding him to the damage being done to the individuals it is his duty to care for, and once again it is Mister Potter who is getting hurt. He lost any influence over me the moment Potter walked through those doors and the grandfatherly act is now beginning to grate on my nerves. A lot. I return his gaze levelly, refusing to back down or look away. "There is no proof whatsoever that Quirinus has attempted to harm anyone and we all know that it is not in his nature to be aggressive. You have merely jumped to conclusions without first obtaining the facts. I am sure that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this." He turns to our resident Charms Master, that hard look still in his eyes even if his tone is mild. "Filius, if you would be so kind as to remove the restraints you have placed, then I am sure we can sort this misunderstanding out without further problems."
He glanced at me briefly at his last comment, his meaning clear; I will not cause any further issues. But it's not Albus I'm paying attention to, it's Filius. I don't think I have ever seen the usually jovial little man look so cold, so dangerous, so outright deadly. Even that occasion where he disarmed the older man cannot compare with the look on his face now, let alone the magical energy crackling fiercely around him so powerfully. He looks just as furious as I feel and I have to admit I am exceptionally grateful that fury is not aimed at me. Even Albus, the great and powerful Albus takes a small step back under the sheer power and fury of that glare, confusion clearly warring with disbelief and a slight hint of insecurity on his face. This is his school, he is the Leader, the one we are all accustomed to following and he is very much accustomed to being obeyed. When the almighty Albus Dumbledore gives an order, even one that is laid out in gentle and respectful phrasing, we are meant to jump to obey his commands without thought or hesitation. That is how it has always been. But Filius is not obeying, Filius is not backing down and every line of his posture right down to the wand in his hand screams that this is not a battle Albus will win. First me, now Filius. If the situation were somewhat less tense I could applaud the man, instead I make do with the slight smirk that graces my face.
"I don't believe I will, Albus," the smaller man responds softly but I am not fooled by the gentle tone of voice. Quiet it might be, but that doesn't detract from the fact that he is clearly only one step away from hexing the venerable and distinguished wizard in front of him. This is clearly not missed by the Headmaster either as he glances down at Filius' wand; he has been disarmed once already, and I don't think Filius would restrain himself to that this time. "I believe Minerva's excellently aimed Stunner can stay in place as well for the sake of peace and quiet of course." He turns to me, effectively turning his back on Albus. "That was a marvellous piece of spell-work by the way, I doubt I could have done better myself."
"Thank you, Filius," I remark gracefully watching as he now turns to face Severus who looks down at him calmly.
"Severus, would you mind sending your Patronus out to Amelia Bones for me?" He asked almost serenely and smiles slightly at the clear confusion on Severus' face. "Normally I would do it myself, but the magical bindings I am holding require a substantial amount of magical energy to maintain and I have no intention of letting them slip."
I do have to smile at the rather obvious swipe Filius just made at Albus. I am absolutely certain that it would be well within the man's more than considerable power to have cast his Patronus even whilst holding Quirinus' bindings, in fact I very much doubt it would even cause him to raise a sweat whilst doing so. However, that was a masterfully aimed gibe at the man who should be restraining the unconscious wizard in front of us instead of petitioning for his release. Not only has Filius just re-iterated his earlier refusal to obey Albus' order to release Quirinus, he has also made it very clear exactly how little faith he has left in our supposed leader and how little respect he has left for the man's decisions.
Severus merely inclined his head slightly, although I very much doubt he missed the meaning hidden behind Filius' words. From the look on Albus' face, I doubt he did either. With a graceful ark of his wand and a muttered incantation a dainty silver doe stepped delicately from the tip of his wand to stand calmly in front of him waiting for orders. Not for the first time it amazes me that such a cold and aloof wizard could have such a petite and beautiful Patronus; I'd have assumed that some form of snake or reptile would be more suitable but ever since I have known the man he has always had the almost exquisite. feminine Patronus that we see in front of us. It always suggested to me that despite the exterior he shows to the world, there are hidden depths to our Potions Master. The fact that he can cast the Patronus Charm at all is another indicator. He mutters something to the small Patronus and then inclines his head again, watching as it flies swiftly away.
But I'm not the only one watching the Patronus so carefully; Albus started when it first appeared and gazes after it long after it has left our line of sight before he turns slowly to face Severus and I'm shocked to find tears in those ancient old eyes.
"After all this time?" the old man murmurs so softly I have to strain to catch what he's saying. "Still, after all these years, Severus?"
Looking quizzically at Severus I can't help but notice the tension in his shoulders or the strain in his face. I don't understand what Albus is asking him, but whatever it is seems to have great meaning and import for the man. Walking up behind him I gently put a hand on his elbow, ignoring the shocked glance he sends me as well as the slight flinch. He glances across the pitch towards Potter almost instinctively.
"Always," he responded softly, looking back at Albus with an odd expression on his face that I don't think I've seen before. "Always, Albus."
Nothing else is said for a long time after that, the only people who seem to have understood the last remarks are Severus and Albus themselves and neither look all too keen to share whatever revelation was just revealed. After what seems like hours there's a sharp crack taking us all by surprise and a small house elf bows deeply.
"Masters and Mistresses have a visitor. Mistress Bones and others is at the gates," it squeaks looking between myself, Filius and Severus whilst completely ignoring the still stunned Quirinus sprawled across the floor. Apparently unconscious wizards are not nearly as interesting to house elves as they are to us. "Shall Dustin bring Mistress Bones here?"
"Yes, thank you Dustin," I answer gently ignoring the looks of shock on several faces at the fact that I have just referred to the elf by name. I ignore the noticeable smirk on Severus' face as well; I might have to accuse him of being a good influence on me later just to see the reaction. "Would it also be possible for you to fetch Madam Pomfrey for us, please?"
"Dustin shall do as Mistress commands."
With that it disappears with another sharp crack and we wait patiently for the return of the elf and company. It doesn't take long, Amelia Bones marches across the pitch with a set of four Aurors at her back and an expression like stone. Poppy Pomfrey is not far behind. Whatever Severus said, he clearly made an impression. I step forward to meet the formidable witch in front of us.
"Welcome, Madam Bones," I greet her formally. "You have our sincerest thanks for coming out at such short notice."
"It is not a problem, Professor," she responds with equal formality before softening into a slight smile. "And it's Amelia, I believe we've known each other long enough to dispense with the formalities, Minerva."
"Indeed Amelia," I smile back. "I am unsure how much information Severus imparted to you in his message but as you arrived so quickly I am certain he imparted the urgency of our request?"
"He did indeed," she looks at me sharply. "A Professor attempting to murder a first year student with Dark Magic to paraphrase the message. Considering Hogwarts long standing reluctance to involve the Ministry in incidents occurring during school terms or on school property, it appeared prudent to arrive quickly and with the squad of Aurors that Professor Snape had requested."
"It would appear you have all the pertinent information." I nod grimly. "It might be a wise precaution to move this conversation to my office in order to prevent young ears from getting wind of what is occurring before any formal statement is made." I turn to Poppy. "Poppy, would you mind transporting Quirinus here up to my office? If you could stay and witness the proceedings I would also be grateful. Having an additional Healer present to ensure fair treatment would be exceptionally useful."
It's only then that Poppy seems to see the prone figure of Quirinus on the floor and instinctively starts to move over to him with her kit. I stop her with a wave of my hand.
"He is merely stunned, Poppy," I remark calmly. "I would prefer him to stay that way until we are in a secure location."
I can see the questions that she wants to ask but instead she nods, conjuring a stretcher and levitating the unconscious man onto it without a word. The look she flashes me makes it very clear that she will expect answers though. With that the group of us move into the castle towards my quarters, Severus vanishing briefly to collect some Veritaserum before re-joining us in my office after I've filled Amelia in on the situation in hand.
"Poppy, if you'd do the honours," I say gesturing to Quirinus. She flashes me another look but duly revives the Stunned man.
"Wh-what h-happened?" the prone man squeaked after finding he couldn't move from his current position. "W-why am I h-here? W-why h-have y-you b-bound me?"
The look of utter panic in his eyes is quite impressive and even Amelia shoots me a nervous glance. It really does seem utterly absurd that this stuttering, trembling mess could be accused of attempted murder and Dark Magic, let alone harbouring the darkest wizard of all time. I look at Severus who steps forwards sharply.
"Four drops, straight on the tongue," Amelia states calmly. "Quirinus Quirrell, you are accused of attempting to murder an eleven year old boy by the means of Dark Magic. We will now administer the Veritaserum."
"B-but th-that's c-crazy!" the man shrieks, futily trying to twist away from Severus as he administers the Veritaserum with murder in his eyes. "W-why w-would I want t-to do th-that!?"
We watch as the potion seems to take effect and Severus nods in Amelia's direction.
"Would you please state your name as officially recorded?"
The answer is in the monotone that we would expect from successful usage of Veritaserum, the only interesting thing to note is that his stutter seems to have completely vanished. Whatever else the man is, he is certainly a superb actor.
"Would you state your date of birth for the records?"
"26th September 1958."
Amelia looks to me and I nod that this is indeed correct.
"I verify that the Veritaserum has taken affect and trial questions will now be asked. As would be correct procedure during any trial, only one person will ask the questions in order to avoid confusing the accused. As Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, I shall be asking the questions. Anyone who wishes to input a question can write it down and pass it to one of the Aurors, at which point I will decide whether it is a justified question. Anyone disregarding these rules will be forced to leave the room. Is that understood by all present?"
We all nod although Albus looks somewhat thunderous that as Head of the Wizengamot he was not elected to the role. I doubt he is fully aware of just how much Amelia knows of his dealings with Potter; she trusts the man about as much as we do now.
"Did you knowingly and wilfully attempt to kill Harry Potter?"
Poppy's gasp is heard by the entire room as she claps her hand over her mouth in horror. I can't blame her; it would never even enter her mind to hurt one of the many young charges in her care and for another member of staff to try is beyond her comprehension. I look over at Albus pointedly, noting with relish how pale and wan he has become.
"Why did you attempt to murder Harry Potter?"
Amelia's tone is still measured and calm, her questions clear and precise but I've known her too long not to see the sudden tightening of her shoulders. This is just as repellent to her as it is to Poppy, she just has long years of experience at hiding it.
"Because he is a threat to my Lord. He is the one who can defeat my Lord once and for all. The boy cannot be allowed to live. When I restore the Dark Lord's strength Potter will have to be exterminated."
There's a shocked silence for a moment with even Amelia staring down at Quirinus in horror before she gathers herself together.
"What is the name of your Lord?"
"The Dark Lord. The greatest wizard of all time."
I can see Amelia floundering; the one thing we hadn't warned her about what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named not being fully destroyed. In the short period of time we had it would have sounded completely ludicrous and perhaps even meant she would have been unwilling to interview Quirinus. I quickly pass her a hastily scrawled note.
"Are you attempting to bring He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named back from the dead?"
She looks at me in confusion but I've spotted the error in her question immediately. The one flaw with Veritaserum is how specific you have to be, and one word in her question was incorrect. Whether or not the attempt to side step the question was deliberate, it allowed Quirinus the ability to answer perfectly truthfully but not to the spirit of the question. I pass another note across to Amelia who looks at me as if I've lost my mind.
"Is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named dead?"
"No. He was never fully destroyed."
"What form does He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named take?"
"He is a shade, a shadow of himself but he lives."
There's none of the usual rambling that you get from people under the influence of Veritaserum; Quirinus might be forced to answer the questions truthfully but he is able to exert a certain amount of influence over how much he says at least. From a professional standpoint it's quite impressive.
"So you are attempting to restore him to his former glory."
It says how rattled Amelia is starting to get from these revelations that she didn't phrase her query as a formal question and is met with silence. She shakes her head briefly before rephrasing.
"Are you attempting to restore He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to his former position as head of the Death Eaters and Dark Lord?"
It occurs to me that we really need a better way of referring to the megalomaniac psychopath who appears to want to kill us all. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is becoming an increasingly large mouthful every time we have to say or write it. I might start a petition campaigning for it to be changed to Lord Whatsit as megalomaniac psychopathic tyrant is also rather long winded.
"How did you plan to restore He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
"Albus Dumbledore has the Philosopher's Stone hidden somewhere in the castle. The Elixir of Life would restore my Lord and give him eternal life."
Amelia sends a sharp look at Albus, probably just as unnerved as I was that Albus would think it perfectly acceptable to hide the Philosopher's Stone in a school full of teenagers. She takes a slightly shaky breath and I pass across another note. This time I've scrawled two questions for her. She scowls at me slightly but I just nod firmly. I have reasons for wanting them asked even if they seem unimportant. Luckily she trusts me.
"What stopped you from successfully killing Harry Potter?"
"Severus Snape was muttering the counter charm to my curse. He saved Harry Potter."
That ought to destroy any thoughts that perhaps Severus had been helping Quirinus. His association with the Death Eaters is well known and it would only be so long before someone pointed that out. In the mood Albus is in, I am unsure as to whether he'd actually protect his Death Eater spy now.
"Did you release a troll into Hogwarts on Halloween for the express purpose of obtaining the Philosopher's Stone with no regard to the safety of the students or staff?"
Amelia looks at me sharply and I shake my head. I haven't got any more questions for the moment and the Veritaserum will wear off shortly anyway. Further questioning will be done at the Ministry during a formal trial, this has just proven that one is very much needed.
"Administer the antidote."
Severus steps forwards again holding another small bottle of liquid and places another four drops on the man's tongue. The look of utter loathing Quirinus shoots him when he comes to surprises me somewhat.
"You should have killed me," he snarls at Severus.
"Take the prisoner away," Amelia orders her Aurors curtly. "Will everyone present please sign this document stating you witnessed that statement and accept that it is true and valid." She holds out a set of papers.
"The man is clearly insane," Albus states with a look of utter concern on his face. Another fantastic actor.
"That is something to be determined by a trained Healer from St. Mungo's, not you Albus." Amelia corrects him sharply. "If he is deemed to be mentally unsound then his statement will be viewed in that light. Please sign."
"I will testify to the attempted return of the Dark Lord," Severus says firmly, stepping forwards with a glare at Albus.
"As will I," I second as I stand to his left.
"And I," Filius agrees sharply. "Pomona will also if called to the stand."
Amelia looks at the three of us with something definitely akin to fear on her face. It might be stated that Quirinus has to be completely insane to state something so ludicrous and it is certainly true that Veritaserum will only make you say something you believe to be true, but they'd be hard pushed to denigrate us in such a manner. All four Heads of House standing to testify would be damning evidence indeed combined with Quirinus' statement.
"That is perhaps a conversation for another day," she says finally. "I think perhaps we ought to leave it there for today. The Ministry will supply a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher if you cannot locate a replacement, Albus."
"Certainly, Amelia," I say briskly. "If anything else is required of us please don't hesitate to let us know."
The room starts to clear as everyone leaves, but a slight motion from Amelia stops me and Severus in our tracks. We hover until the room is clear at which point Amelia closes the door by pointing at it and smiles for the first time since she got here. I quickly wave a precautionary Silencing Spell over the area as an additional precaution and raise an eyebrow at her.
"I think I've found a home for Mister Potter," she says.
"Good job he stayed on that broom then," Severus growls sarcastically, completely immune to the glare I send him.
"That's brilliant," I respond more appropriately. "With whom?