Severus' Dark Mark — Though I'm sure Voldemort would enjoy torturing Severus through the mark, he has more important things to do than 'summon' Snape to cause his dark mark to burn. Not only that, but in canon I don't think it ever really specified if Voldemort could be that selective in choosing whose dark mark to activate long distance.
Severus' Protection against Crucio — His continued exposure to the curse caused his body to seek a way to minimize the damage caused by it (like callouses), but this was only made possible by his complete willingness to undergo the torture in hopes of protecting/saving others - hence, Sacrificial Magic.
Future Harry having Parselmagic — Yes, he used it, but not as broadly as present-Harry, as he did not have many opportunities to experiment with it due to basic survival being priority.
Is Severus a unique type of wizard? — I honestly haven't really decided, but I'm going to say no. However, he is definitely a powerful wizard, and one who has taken his magic beyond what most would deem possible for an 'average wizard' through necessity.
Deathly Hallows — To keep things from getting overly complicated, they don't exist in this story.
Voldemort's Diary — For the purpose of this story, the Diary was a dark item the Dark Lord created. Think of it as a wizard's portrait, but much stronger, preserving his personality for all time in hopes of perhaps guiding/manipulating those who find it.
Part 29: Loss
The weeks went by painfully for Severus. He had never really been one for glory; though, there had been a few times in his life where he strongly desired to be recognized and rewarded, he had come to realize the spot light was not for him. In fact, he despised it.
Colin Creevey was in awe of him, and many of the other first years were as well. Actually, most of the student population was — annoyingly so.
And the Press. . . . He refused to think on it.
The only slightly positive thing was how attentive the students were now in Potions, but that provided little solace.
The staff was no help, if anything, they encouraged the hero worship.
Severus suddenly had a very good idea how Harry felt and could only hope the attention would dwindle and pass away quickly. It didn't.
"Really, Severus, I don't know why you are so surprised by all of this," Filius said.
They were walking down a corridor late at night. One of the few times Severus could have a respite.
"I thought it would have gone away by now. It's nearly Christmas for Merlin's sake," Severus grumbled.
"You really are oblivious, aren't you? Not only did you prevent the deaths of those children, you've done something no one else has ever done before. You tricked the Dark Lord to a previously unfathomable degree, and got away with it," Filius said, his voice slowing at the end, as if he himself could scarcely believe it.
"Hmph, gotten away with it? You can be sure the Dark Lord is planning his revenge this very moment."
"You don't seem too bothered by it, and perhaps that is another reason why so many are . . . impressed by you. Also, let's not forget that you'll be receiving the Order of Merlin soon."
Severus didn't say anything in response to that; instead, his thoughts went elsewhere, seeking a distraction. Filius let him be before bidding him good night and turning off onto a side hall.
Severus knew Voldemort was, as he had told Filius, planning his revenge. He also knew, thanks to Harry's accursed scar, that Voldemort was stewing and, if Harry's interpretation was anywhere near correct, growing truly desperate.
This did little to comfort Severus, as he knew how much more dangerous the monster was when he was backed into a corner. He would do something soon. He had been too quiet these past few months not to make a move.
Harry could hardly believe how quickly the months had passed, though he had been pretty busy. His days had been occupied by classes, his research, and understanding and using the protective aspect of parselmagic.
Placing the protection on himself was slow going, but thanks to Mr. Lee he had made more progress than he had expected to. After writing to Mr. Lee about his problem and asking if he had any books on the subject or knew any parselmouths in his area of the world, Mr. Lee pulled in a few favors and was able to send him some old notes handwritten by a deceased parselmouth. It had taken Lee some time to do this, of course, but Harry had the old documents before the middle of November.
There were about forty sheets of parchment, covered front to back with squiggles. Of course, Harry didn't see this. He saw perfectly written English. A bit slanted and awkward in some places, but still discernible. Draco and the others, however, stared at the illegible mess in confusion.
"Uh, Harry, can you read that?" Neville asked.
"Of course, and it's already answered something I've been wondering about! This is going to help, loads. I can already tell," Harry answered, not looking up from the page as Greg and Vince glanced at each other. Draco and Neville blinked.
"It must be written in parseltongue," Draco reasoned.
Harry looked up at that. "Well, I suppose that explains why I can read it, considering it was written about a hundred years ago by someone who lived in India," he said after a thoughtful pause.
And so Harry continued to read, study, and work. He was hopeful he would complete the protection on himself before the holidays, especially after discovering the essential part of all protections — what the notes called an 'anchor'. In this instance, the anchor was his body's magical network, which was made up by his core and ran through his skeletal frame, rooted in his bone marrow. The book Madam Pomfrey had taken him through months before, 'Inner Core and Network,' went hand in hand with this and had provided the means for him to begin making some real headway.
Besides his progress in parselmagic, Harry had also managed to, through Dumbledore, make contact with Dr. Price. After being told about the Longbottoms' condition, he agreed to examining them if their current 'caretaker' agreed. Neville was ecstatic and eagerly wrote to his Gran about allowing Price to examine his parents.
Augusta was not as open to the idea as Neville and Harry would have liked, but she had not totally blown off the suggestion. Harry suspected it was due to Dumbledore's intervention. However, despite the initial set back, Neville finally got her to cave after weeks of begging; no doubt his words of 'we owe it to them to try' reached her. Thus, sometime during the winter holidays, the Longbottoms would pay a visit to Dr. Price.
Harry continued his correspondence with Sirius, and though things had not started out as one may have liked, things were relaxing now and Sirius was beginning to really feel like an uncle to Harry instead of a stranger who happened to have known his parents. The other thing that had changed was Sirius' employment status. He was now a tutor, teaching citizens who wanted to better defend themselves. Being known as a former Auror, he was not low on customers and it was easy work, at least to him.
This was all well and good, and Harry was happy for him, but it now brought up the issue of Sirius' role as his godfather — specifically, where his guardianship was concerned. The Healers had given him a clean bill of health, both in mind and body. Sirius was fit to care for him, and apparently had secured a nice big house along with his solid job.
Though Sirius had yet to mention guardianship to him, Harry wasn't dumb. It was obvious the man was preparing the means to properly provide for him, and if things had been different. . . .
But they weren't.
It made Harry's insides churn painfully at the thought of having to make a decision — assuming he was still given a choice.
It just wasn't fair, and so, Harry decided to put it from his mind for now, even though in his heart he had already made his decision.
Things school wise went on as they had been before, for the most part at least. Colin Creevey was the only noticeable change (or addition to the usual chaos surrounding Harry's education — attention wise). The camera armed boy became a common shadow, but knowing what had almost happened to his little brother, Harry endured it, especially after seeing the hero worship the boy bestowed upon Professor Snape. Better the Professor than him, Harry decided. He could deal with being followed occasionally.
The past months were not all cheerful and harmless, however. Off and on, Harry was plagued with odd flashing nightmares and scar pains. Though, fortunately, the 'moat' Nicholas had set up in his mind helped muffle it all, and the fact he was doing rudimentary occlumency (basic calming exercises) helped as well. What did manage to come through didn't make any sense and he soon forced himself to ignore it all, as trying to discern any of it only gave him a headache and distracted him from making progress in things he could control. However, the little he had been able to pull from the connection were emotions of fear, frustration, and desperation.
And frankly, he was fine with that. If he had to feel anything from Voldemort, he preferred those emotions over glee, excitement, and accomplishment.
Draco was honestly not looking forward to the coming holidays. He liked the security of Hogwarts, and even though he knew the Dark Lord had been injured, it did little to comfort him. He just couldn't help but worry about what may happen to his family if Voldemort decided to pay them a visit, especially after his godfather had betrayed him. . . .
By the letters from his father, it didn't sound like the Dark Lord had made much contact, but from his father's wording, he got the feeling his parents were just waiting for it. Draco wondered if they would carry out the plan he had spoken to Sev about then. Would they leave England? Would he ever see Hogwarts again? His friends? And what about Vince and Greg? In a way, their families were in the same position as his was. Did they have a plan to escape if it became necessary? If the worst were to happen (whatever that was), would they have a chance?
He shook himself. He couldn't let himself think like that. And as loath as he was to admit it, he wasn't an adult, and should he try to ask Greg and Vince if they had a plan, it very well might undermine any plans their parents may have already made. After all, such plans were best kept secret, and encouraging them to look into what their families' arrangements entailed would be detrimental and dangerous. Even Draco himself did not know exactly what his parents and godfather had set up, only that a plan existed, and he knew that was for the best.
And so, Draco found himself hoping his friends' parents had some contingency plans like his family did.
The winter holidays finally arrived and for many students the break was long overdue.
"So what are your plans?" Draco asked them on their way to King's Cross Station.
In the compartment, there was Harry, Neville, Draco, Vincent, and Gregory. They had already purchased a bit of candy and were about to open another round of chocolate frogs.
"Gran is going to meet with Dr. Price this week and she's already scheduled an appointment for my parents with him," he answered, utterly bubbly. There was no other word for it.
"Happy for you, mate," Greg said as the others added their own congratulations.
"I'm so glad Gran listened. You know, at first, I thought she would never agree."
"Why wouldn't she though? I mean, sure, they're muggle Healers, but isn't it worth giving them a shot?" Vince asked.
"I honestly don't blame her," Draco defended. "I would have been doubtful too. After all, how many times have Healers promised a certain treatment would help, only for it to fail?"
Neville grew solemn. "Many times."
"I think Dr. Price will be able to help," Harry said, not wanting Neville to get depressed. "I mean, he'll at least be able to get a closer look at the problem, and that'll be more than the Healers have been able to do."
Neville nodded, hope returning.
"So, ready for that award ceremony, Order of Merlin Recipient?" Draco teased.
Harry sighed. "It's not like I really have a choice whether I am or not. I doubt they're going to let me miss it."
"Well, at least Professor Snape will be getting it too," Neville said.
"You think he'll let me hide behind him?" Harry asked jokingly (for the most part).
The others laughed.
:I don't think it'll be all that bad, Harry. I bet there will be cake and stuff: Coral said, before adding happily, :They'll probably even have some mice for me:
:No doubt: Harry deadpanned as King's Cross came into view.
Severus wasn't sure if he was relieved or annoyed that the break had finally arrived.
Opening his closet, he looked at his formal robes, glaring at them in contempt — as if it was their fault he would be going to the Ministry later that break to receive his Order of Merlin.
It was strange. In the original timeline, he would have given anything to receive such an honor, but now it seemed like such a waste of time for some reason. Of course, it wasn't as if he thought what he had done for the werewolves was pointless, or that his work in general was not something he should take pride in, it was just . . . after so much time of having gone unappreciated (at least where the general public was concerned), finally receiving recognition felt so unimportant to him.
Perhaps it was having experienced what he had in the future, when the desire for praise went by the wayside and survival became paramount.
He shook his head. Well, at least he would not be the only one receiving the Order of Merlin, and he couldn't help but feel it fitting that he would be sharing the honor with Harry.
He closed the closet door and went to his living room chamber, wondering how this break would go for the boy. Severus was certain Harry would enjoy Christmas with the Flamels, but he was honestly a little concerned about Black.
According to Albus, the Healers had cleared Black, and the Ministry's Child Welfare Service had approved his request to apply for Harry's guardianship. The Headmaster had tried to convince Black patience was needed in this instance, not to mention a bit more consideration for Harry's feelings, but the man hadn't listened. When did he ever?
Frankly, things were moving a bit too fast for Severus' liking, but there was nothing he could do about it. He only hoped Black's initiative wouldn't cause any setbacks for Harry. The last thing he needed was Black drama on top of everything else. Things usually went south pretty quickly when such, well, stupid impulsiveness took place.
Severus sat down, allowing his mind to wander to his former future. . . .
Things had just begun to get serious, and in a deadly sort of way. The summer break before Harry's sixth year had nearly ended, and the Ministry had finally realized Voldemort and his followers were not going to simply disappear if they ignored them.
To make things even more interesting, Black was being difficult.
"Why does he have to teach him?" Black asked Dumbledore.
They were at Headquarters, and most of the upper ring of the Order were present — Mad-Eye, Remus, Arthur, himself, and of course Black and Dumbledore.
"I feel it prudent Harry be taught how Death Eaters fight by someone who has the most experience in such things," Dumbledore calmly answered.
"We've all fought them and have been fighting them for years — a few of us here for even longer than him. I could teach Harry, no doubt even better."
"No, Severus must teach him."
"Well, if Severus' instruction is so great, why not have him give all of us a lesson?" Black argued sarcastically.
"That could be arranged, I suppose, but I doubt it would do any good," Severus cut in.
"Oh, and why is that?"
"It would be like trying to teach an old, deaf, and blind dog new tricks."
"Severus," Dumbledore warned, simply to prevent curses from being exchanged.
"That still doesn't answer my question of why someone else can't teach my godson," Black said furiously, barely keeping control of himself as Dumbledore gave him the 'don't-do-anything-foolish' look.
"You all, save the Headmaster, fight like Aurors," Severus stated simply.
"So? What's wrong with that?" Black asked defensively.
"Potter not only needs to know how to defend himself, but win. Being taught to fight like an Auror will not do that."
"Aurors have defeated plenty of Death Eaters!" Black shouted.
"But not permanently."
"Dumbledore, you mean to have Snivellus turn my godson into a MURDERER?" Black roared.
"Black, you're an idiot," Severus said lazily as Black turned toward him and moved to charge.
Fortunately (or unfortunately in Snape's opinion), he was restrained by Remus.
"Gentlemen, please!" Dumbledore stated, now losing a bit of his famous patience. "Sirius, I trust Severus to instruct Harry in all he needs to fight and survive, and while we all wish it was not necessary, it is. Should the worst happen, Harry must be able to hold his own again any opponent, even Voldemort. He cannot do that with conventional methods."
"Then why don't you teach him?" Black shot back. "You're the only one here who has a chance against Voldemort!"
"Unfortunately, I don't have the time to teach him my style of fighting. I had nearly a decade to fine-tune it before I needed to use it in real combat. Harry does not have that time."
"So you're just going to hand him over to the Death Eater to learn how to throw AK's around?" Black asked incredulously.
"I sincerely doubt Potter is capable of such magic," Severus sneered — though his tone was more to annoy Black than to express any negative attitude about Harry.
By now, Severus had begun to realize his feud with James Potter was better left as dead as the man. There were more important things to focus on.
"Would you stop baiting him?" Remus asked, surprisingly cutting in before Dumbledore could.
"I was merely stating a fact. Potter's strength is not in brute force, as his style in Quidditch can attest to, but in something you, Black, completely lack."
"Severus. . ." Dumbledore chided, even as the potions master continued.
"Finesse. Now, that's not to say the boy doesn't have moments of supreme stupidity, but I can teach him to deny the genetic impulse."
"And do what instead?" Black asked, still restrained by Remus.
"Think as he fights. To get in the head of his opponent, to read his opponent, to bring them exactly where he wants them to enable his escape or his victory."
"You've given this a lot of thought," Arthur stated, speaking up for the first time.
"I take this task very seriously, no matter anyone's misgivings regarding my appointment. I will not allow myself to fail in it."
Severus closed his eyes, his past words echoing in his ears, his vow still permeating with his reason for living. He sighed, recalling what had happened later that same year — when everything began to deteriorate. . . .
The Ministry had decided to run a 'morale boosting' campaign in which they held a Christmas party in the Atrium. Of course, Harry, Dumbledore, and many others were invited, and due to some annoying coercion (such as public pressure) and the fact many people wanted to experience something positive for a change, the Ministry got their wish.
Unfortunately, it was exactly the sort of gathering the Dark Lord had been waiting for, and even worse, Voldemort had waited until the hour of the event to share his plan with his Death Eaters — far too late for Severus to send any kind of warning.
In mere moments, the Atrium was under siege and death was heavy in the air. The Minister was killed by Bellatrix within the first few seconds and over half the party guests fell to a plethora of curses from other Death Eaters soon after. But that was only the beginning.
Voldemort set his eyes on Harry as Dumbledore called for Order reinforcements through Fawkes — a move more to assist in evacuating survivors than turning the tide of the battle.
Harry wisely began using his training, but a few months of instruction, no matter how intense, had nothing on the years of real combat experience his opponents had. However, he made up for it in desperation and, what Severus called, 'finesse'.
Along with grasping the mental side of combat, Severus wanted Harry to be erratic and completely unpredictable in his movements because, according to Snape, Harry's inexperience was a 'horrible handicap' that could only be countered by a 'spontaneous style of combat'.
Harry had personally felt like a ballerina during those lessons, but after weeks of coping with Severus' merciless training, he came to accept that it was better to resemble a high tiptoeing lunatic than be dead.
Thus, due to this training, it didn't take long for Harry to be the only non-Death Eater still standing in his immediate vicinity.
"Ah, quick on your feet, I see," Voldemort said as Harry dodged two spells and blocked a third.
"Yeah, so?" Harry shouted in reply to be heard over the chaos.
"You fight like a frightened squirrel, Harry Potter," Voldemort stated, moving forward as the nearby Death Eaters focused on playing with lingering survivors.
Dumbledore was across the Atrium, keeping the last fireplace that was still in working order open. Finally, Order members began pouring through it and focused on reaching those still alive while defending their only escape route.
Harry was on his own.
"And you fight like an old man, Tom Riddle," Harry stated.
Voldemort gave a laugh that sounded more like a bark, but it was clear that he was annoyed.
"Ever the bold Gryffindor?"
"Ever the Dark Lord afraid of death?"
Voldemort replied with a dark curse.
Harry dived behind a fallen table and rolled back to his feet, wand raised.
Severus could only watch their exchange from a distance as he covertly brought down less experienced and less observant Death Eaters around him as he played his part of horrible Death Eater. He found himself praying Harry had enough 'finesse' to stay alive for Dumbledore to get to him.
Unfortunately, Dumbledore was still occupied, as Voldemort had tasked over a dozen Death Eaters to focus on the Headmaster, and though it wouldn't work for long, it would be long enough.
Severus turned and was dismayed by the appearance of Sirius Black, practically bulldozing his way to his godson. The potions master had to give it to Black, he was certainly devoted.
Harry whipped around, but wisely did not completely show his back to the Dark Lord as Black continued forward, taking out adjacent Death Eaters, undaunted.
Severus saw it before it happened, and he instinctively knew one of the Gryffindors was likely about to die, for a perfect line could be drawn with Voldemort on one end, Black at the other, and Harry in the center.
With Severus' training, Harry noticed it as well, but a moment too late.
With a triumphant smirk, Voldemort roared, "Avada Kedavra!" just as Harry rolled aside and cried, "Sirius, move!"
Sirius Black did move, but not in a good way.
He fell back, struck in the chest by the bolt of green.
Despite the horribleness of the moment, Severus couldn't help but feel a surge of pride as Harry reacted.
Far from caving into shock or despair, Harry immediately attacked with a ferocity and a steadiness that was frankly a marvel to behold. Although Voldemort parried and blocked each one of his curses, it was clear in the Dark Lord's expression and posture that Harry had just earned some of his respect.
"Sorry about your godfather, Harry. He was your godfather, right?" Voldemort taunted as Harry continued to unleash his anger. "I was aiming for you, not him."
The voice could have cut through stone, but it did something even more impressive.
Voldemort visibly started, turning his attention to the only man he ever feared while unintentionally allowing a single spell of Harry's to strike him in the arm.
It was a glancing blow, but the fact anyone had been able to land any sort of blow on his person was apparently quite traumatizing for Tom Riddle.
With a sliced, bloody sleeve, Voldemort unleashed a torrent of Fiendfyre as Dumbledore summoned Harry away with a powerful yank of magic, leaving the area around Voldemort to the mercy of the flames. . . .
Severus sighed, knowing he would never forget the anguish on Harry's face that day, as he forced himself to think about something else.
Neville was out of his comfort zone, not that that was anything really new, but being in a muggle hospital certainly was.
His parents had just been taken by 'Doctor' Price for their MRIs and examinations, leaving his grandmother and himself alone in the waiting room.
He glanced over at Gran who was staring at the far wall. She seemed to be doing well enough, but he figured that had as much to do with Dumbledore being so open about his own experience with Dr. Price as her own personal strength.
Suddenly, the door opened and in stepped Albus Dumbledore, closely followed by Harry.
"I apologize for being late, Augusta," Dumbledore said as Harry joined Neville, who was a few chairs over from his Gran.
"Quite alright. We've just been waiting anyway," she said.
While they continued to talk, Neville turned to Harry.
"Thanks for coming, Harry. I'm glad your caretakers let you," he began.
"No problem, Neville, and actually, I'm sort of glad to be out," he admitted.
Neville frowned, concerned for his friend. "Need some space from your caretakers?"
Harry blinked, before realizing how his statement had sounded. "No, nothing like that. We're getting along fine, it's just that . . . well, the Ministry's adoption board has been called, and soon a permanent guardian will be chosen for me. My caretakers have applied, of course, but so have a few others. . . ."
"And you don't want to leave those you're with now," Neville correctly concluded.
"Yeah, I want to stay with them, but you see, one of the other people who has applied is my godfather."
Neville's eyes widened. "Yeah, I can see how that complicates things."
"It gets a bit worse. My godfather is the one who is moving all of this along. My caretakers expect the board to have decided by the end of this week because of how hard he's pushing."
"Dang, that doesn't give the board much time to really look over things and stuff, does it?"
"No, but I've sent them a letter through Dumbledore, because they look at what the 'adoptee' wants too, fortunately."
"So you told them what you want," Neville said, approvingly.
"What's the real problem?" Neville asked after a moment.
"Sirius. He didn't even write to me about wanting to adopt me before starting all of this. And though I suppose I could write him now and ask him about it, I don't know what to say. I feel like I should have learned he had applied through him, not Ni—my caretakers," Harry said, correcting himself at the end.
Neville understood the need for secrecy, though he couldn't help but be curious. He hoped he would learn who these people were who Harry had grown so attached to soon.
"Well, I'm sure he meant well. Maybe he wanted it to be a surprise?" Neville suggested gently.
"It's not a very good one," Harry mumbled.
"I agree, but sometimes adults can be stupid."
Harry nodded. "Coral agrees with you."
Neville beamed. "Then I must be right!"
Harry smirked, feeling better.
"So, how is your Gran taking things?" Harry asked, changing the topic as he glanced over to where Dumbledore was quietly speaking with Augusta.
"I can't really tell, to be honest. She's been very quiet, but I think she's alright. I just hope Dr. Price has good news."
Harry nodded, privately recalling the things he had seen when he had examined Alice Longbottom. He hoped they would be able to do something for them.
A few minutes later, the side door opened and Dr. Price stepped out. After introducing Harry to him, he led them to his office. Augusta had agreed to have Harry and Dumbledore there for the discussion, which was no surprise as Harry would be working alongside Dr. Price to hopefully help the Longbottoms.
After getting settled, Dr. Price sat behind his desk and pulled out a folder.
"I've examined their blood work, MRIs, and overall examinations. There are some treatments we can try but let me explain my findings before discussing our options," Price said, his voice calm and reassuring. He glanced at Harry, no doubt still finding it difficult to believe a boy would be of much help, but he was open minded. He sort of had to be in his line of work.
"Their blood tests have come back relatively normal. There are some hormonal imbalances, but that is to be expected, considering the trauma, and we can correct that through medication," he said, opening the folder. "As for the trauma itself, we chose to do a full body scan in our MRI, as it shows tissues more clearly than the CT scanner." He took out a stack of images and laid them out on the desk in front of them before looking to Harry. "I understand you receive mental images of people you examine?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said, his eyes glancing down at the MRI images.
He easily recognized the images, and he could already see where clusters of scar tissue were.
"I hope by combining our . . . resources, we will better understand their condition and what we can do to help them," Price said, before pointing to the first image, which was of Alice's spinal cord.
For over thirty minutes, Price outlined what he was able to determine, which wasn't all that good, but at least they had a better view of the problems.
Of the issues, both Alice and Frank had extensive nerve damage over their entire bodies, which was no surprise, and clusters of scar tissue within their brains, Frank more so than Alice.
"What can we do?" Augusta asked, her voice devoid of emotion. Harry decided she was choosing to go all 'business-like' to fight back her emotions.
"Taking care of brain scar tissue is the priority. As long as scar tissue is present there, their recovery will be seriously hampered. Now, we could go in surgically to physically remove several of the pockets. We wouldn't be able to remove them all, due to location of course, but I believe we could remove enough to possibly enable noticeable improvement. As it is now, the scar tissue is preventing nerve communication," Price explained.
"So physically removing them through surgery is the only option you know of?" Dumbledore asked.
"Yes, but there is also an experimental method we can use alongside it. It involves nanotechnology. After we remove the scar tissue, we also cut into the healthy tissue just beyond it and inject a fluid that encourages connection growth. The treatment is still extremely new and in the trial stage, but it looks very promising."
"If we chose to do that, how long would it take to see an improvement?" Augusta asked.
"It depends on how quickly healing takes place and whether or not there are complications, but if all goes well, I would say a month or so," Price speculated.
"What if I helped the healing along?" Harry asked.
Price slowly nodded. "That could help speed things along," he said, glancing at Albus. "Mr. Dumbledore told me you had helped him a bit. With the bruising, I believe it was you told him?"
"Yeah. I could see where you had gone in, and where you had cut and removed the bone fragments. So I took care of the swelling the surgery caused."
"Hmm, do you think you could do anything about scar tissue?" Price asked pensively.
"Well, in the Professor, I think so, but in the Longbottoms. . . ." He trailed off, glancing at Neville. "I guess it depends on whether or not they're 'curse scars' or not."
"For some reason, I can't dissolve them like I can normal scars. I think the residue from the curse or something gets in the way. Maybe. I honestly don't know why," Harry admitted.
"Is there a way for you to tell if a scar is a cursed one or not?"
"I suppose I could just try dissolving it, but doing that to scar tissue in a brain doesn't seem like a good idea, sir."
"We would take the necessary precautions, assuming Madam Longbottom agreed," Price said, looking to Augusta who gave a nod of consent. "And we would have you only dissolve a few pockets at a time, especially as I have no idea how their bodies would react to it. What happens to the dissolved scar tissue in those you've treated?"
"Well, if it's a relatively 'fresh' scar, I can use it to help heal the nearby tissue and fill in the bit the scar had taken up, but for older ones, it just fades into nothing."
"Leaving a void? It just disappears?"
Price frowned. "That could complicate things if the internal pressure is affected . . . however, that could be handled with a shunt," Price mused to himself. "Assuming the scarring is dissolvable."
"Doctor," Augusta inquired. "A 'shunt'?"
"A drainage tube. Normally, it helps prevent the buildup of pressure in the brain by allowing fluid to exit. In this case, however, we would need to allow fluid to go in. I believe I could do the alterations without an issue."
"Very well. When can you begin?" she asked.
Price blinked. "Well, today if you wish. Though I would normally discuss treatment options with my peers, I doubt they would take 'curse scars' into consideration — being muggles not privy to the existence of magic and such."
"Thank you, doctor," Augusta said. "My son and his wife have waited long enough."
Price slowly nodded before looking to Harry. "Are you up to trying this today, Mr. Potter?"
"Yes, sir. It's why I'm here. If I can help, I'd like to," he said.
"Alright. I'll begin getting things ready, though it'll take a few hours."
With that, they stood up, and Price led them to a room where Neville's parents were being cared for.
O o O
That afternoon, with IV's, monitor wires, and slightly altered shunts in place, Alice and Frank lay unconscious in an operating room, prepped and ready for what was hoped to be the beginning of their recovery.
Dumbledore and Neville were in the waiting room, while Augusta had insisted on being present during the procedure. Considering the situation, Price allowed it, but asked her to remain at the far wall, out of the way. There was only so much room, after all, and if something happened, he and the other professionals present would need to be able to move unhindered. For this reason also, Harry was given explicate instructions to move aside if Dr. Price said so.
Needing to keep the place 'sterile', Harry and Augusta were in the appropriate attire — green scrubs — and Coral had been thoroughly cleaned, much to her annoyance.
:I keep myself quite clean, thank you: she hissed. :Have I ever had a stench? Are my scales ever anything other than pristine?: She shivered. :Now I have soap scum between them. How is that sterile?:
Petting her head apologetically, Harry glanced at the people in the room.
They were part of Price's team, and had all been cleared by the Ministry to know of magic. After what had happened to Dumbledore, the Ministry had accepted that having a muggle medical team available was wise.
"Whenever you're ready, Harry," Price said gently.
Harry bit his bottom lip and nodded, before stepping beside Frank Longbottom's bed.
"I'm going to examine him first, to see how much scarring he has," Harry said, before doing just that, Coral around his wrist. He didn't find anything the MRI hadn't. "Alright, I'm going to start near the shunt," he said, focusing his magic and hissing under his breath.
Very little of the scar tissue dissolved, the rest remained stubbornly in place. "A lot of it is cursed scar tissue," he said as he moved on, carefully testing sections as he went, and finding, unfortunately, much of it was impervious to his magic.
"At least now we know," Price said gently. "Just do what you can. His vitals are still solid."
Harry moved down to Frank's neck, dissolving what he could, silently annoyed with himself for not being able to do more. Finally, after the spine, he moved to the man's hands, and then his legs and feet. If he had to guess, he would say he only removed ten percent of the scarring.
"That's all I can do," Harry said, before moving on to Alice.
Starting as he had with Frank, Harry began his work, all the while Augusta, Price and his team watched in silence.
It was like night and day.
Though there were still clusters of scarring he couldn't remove, there were many others he could, so much so Coral had to give his wrist a squeeze in warning, telling him he needed to slow down. He did so, smiling brightly as he moved onto the next pocket and then the next.
As he went on, he began to realize why Alice's condition was so different from Frank's. Unlike Frank, she had been cursed multiple times, off and on, over an extended period. He knew what the Cruciatus did to the victim, often causing them to thrash around uncontrollably. This was why Alice had more 'natural' scar tissue. She had suffered from as much, if not more, physical trauma as she had 'magical' trauma.
Finally, Harry finished, his hands tingling from the extended use of magic. He found himself being guided back into a chair.
"Alright there, lad?" Price asked.
Harry nodded, suddenly realizing his brow was covered in sweat and he was a little short of breath.
"I'll schedule another set of MRIs for them," Price said. "And from there we will take the next step."
Harry looked up, finding Augusta focused on him. He wasn't sure, but he could have sworn she had given him a smile.
Remus closed his eyes.
The past few days had been particularly trying and he didn't know what to do, as he had been unable to get through to Sirius and now there was no turning back for the man.
Remus had tried to convince him he was moving things along too quickly and that he should at least bring up the matter of adoption with Harry before going through with the application process. But he hadn't listened, and now he feared Sirius had ruined any chance of developing a real relationship with his godson.
Sirius had pushed for a decision to be made quickly and with as little 'outside' interference as possible — meaning no press (for which Remus was grateful for), but surely this decision deserved more time to be made. However, for good or ill, Dumbledore had offered to act as messenger, no doubt realizing the bullheaded Gryffindor would not be changing his mind and it would be best to focus on hopefully minimizing the damage.
He knew it was frustrating for Sirius, not knowing who was caring for Harry, but he wished the man had a bit more patience. He knew the letters to him from Harry had improved and had lost much of the awkwardness they had had before, but that by no means meant the boy was ready for Sirius to formally adopt him. But Sirius didn't see it that way, and though Remus could sympathize, he knew Harry better than his friend. Harry would not go along with this, especially after having lived with the mysterious caretakers for much of the past summer. Being the Defense professor, Remus could see Harry enjoyed his time with them simply by how he acted after returning from summer break. Whoever these people were, they were certainly good for Harry and made him feel as a child should — loved and cared for.
He heard Sirius enter the room and begin pacing in front of the fireplace impatiently.
"When do you think he'll arrive?" he asked.
Very soon, Dumbledore would be coming through the fireplace to inform them of the Adoption Board's decision.
"As soon as he can," Remus replied tiredly. "I really wish you hadn't—"
"Remus, he's my godson. I should be the one taking care of him, not strangers," Sirius stated firmly.
"Whoever they are, they're not strangers to him," Remus argued.
"He had never even known them before the summer!" Sirius nearly shouted.
"He hadn't known you either."
That silenced Sirius.
Fortunately, before things could get anymore strained between them, the fireplace flared green, and Albus stepped out.
Sirius turned toward the Headmaster, hope in his eyes. Remus stood up.
Albus motioned them to sit before taking the seat beside the fireplace. Remus sat back down, but Sirius ignored the silent request.
"Well?" he asked.
Remus noticed an envelope in Albus' old hands and wondered if Sirius had spotted it, though he doubted it.
"Sirius, I am sorry, but the Ministry, after carefully considering many aspects of Harry's situation and hearing the boy's unfiltered wishes, has decided he is to remain with his current caretakers, and in fact, they are now his permanent guardians," Dumbledore answered as gently as he could while laying it all out in only a few breaths.
Like a band-aid.
Sirius gaped like a fish, and Remus' heart went out to him, but it was not like he hadn't warned him.
Sirius, like so many times in the past, had placed blinders on himself. He had focused so hard on making what he imagined a reality that he had refused to even consider that his attempts may fail and have undesirable consequences. Perhaps it was the years in Azkaban, but it seemed to Remus that, sound mind or not, his friend had never really grown up.
"B-but . . . how can that be their . . . their decision?" Sirius managed, now sitting down.
"Sirius, the Adoption Board takes the child's wishes to heart, and so should you," Albus stated, before handing Sirius the envelope and taking a slow step back. "I need not tell you that you have pushed too hard and have ignored sound advice, so I will just say I hope you have not completely lost what you have so desperately pursued."
Sirius looked down, his thumb passing over the end of his name that had been handwritten on the outside of the envelope.
"Thank you, Albus," Remus said, seeing as Sirius was beyond words.
Albus gave them a parting nod before disappearing into the flames of the floo.
Sirius flipped the envelope over and pulled out the bit of parchment before unfolding it.
"What is it? A record of the decision?" Remus asked softly.
With his hand shaking slightly, Sirius shook his head no. Remus moved and sat beside him, looking over his arm to peer at the scrawled words he instantly recognized.
Dear Mr. Black,
Although I was told writing this letter was unnecessary, I felt I should.
Remus internally blanched at reading 'Mr. Black.'
Oh, Sirius, you fool.
I can't say I was all that surprised when I was told a board had been called to select a permanent guardian for me earlier this week. I had been expecting something of the sort for some time now, to be honest, though I had thought you would write to me about it before things got so serious. But I guess I was wrong.
I'm not mad, and I can't even say I'm all that upset, just. . . .
Remus' heart clenched, seeing how Harry had clearly struggled with putting his feelings into words from the fat blots of ink marring the page. The sentence was left unfinished. He glanced up at Sirius, finding the man near tears. He frankly felt little pity for him just then, and looked back to the page.
Well, I just wanted to let you know that my choice ultimately wouldn't have changed even if things had been done differently. I thought you would want to know that.
Harry J. Potter
Though it was clear to Remus that Harry's guardian, or guardians, had likely given him some suggestions in how to phrase certain parts of the letter, the message itself remained Harry's alone.
Remus swallowed the lump in his throat as Sirius dropped the parchment.
"I'm such an idiot," he whispered, head in his hands.
Remus couldn't help but silently agree.
Draco entered the Ministry's huge dining hall alongside his parents. In his best robes, his eyes took in the place before him. He had been to many parties and dinners, of course, but never one so exquisite, or well guarded. Just outside the hall, Aurors could be seen throughout. Granted, with the Dark Lord, and the Ministry playing host to so many foreign dignitaries, it was no surprise.
Within the massive dining chamber, there were already nearly a hundred people, talking in clusters of five or more while waiting for the momentous function to officially begin — which would be when the men (or rather man and boy) of honor arrived.
He recognized several prominent members of society, including many who were on the Board with his father, members of the Wizengamot, and important family Heads. However, there were many more he did not recognize, and whose attire suggested they were not part of the Ministry, or England for that matter.
Going further in the room, his father led them toward the front area.
The ceiling was decorated with silk ribbons and floating crystals, while the room itself was full of richly clad, round tables surrounded by ornately dressed guests. Draco focused on the tables themselves. Each table had twenty placements and on each center plate was a slip of parchment with a name and, occasionally, their title or occupation. Draco also noticed that two of the front tables, which were just below the platform where the awards would be given, each had a unique chair that seemed fit for royalty.
"Draco, you will be here," his father said, motioning to the table to their right (which happened to be one with a fancy chair). "Your mother and I will be seated at that table over there."
Draco looked where his father indicated, wondering why they had been separated.
"We will be seated with Severus, while you will be with Mr. Potter," his father blandly explained before leaning over him. "I need not tell you your actions will be under intense scrutiny. Do not embarrass the Malfoy name."
"Yes, father," Draco said obediently, looking back to his own table and finding his seat was beside the elaborate chair. It didn't take him long to realize it was Harry's chair, especially when he spotted the over-the-top seating card.
***Harry J. Potter***
Order of Merlin – First Class
Parselmouth and Expert User of Parselmagic
It was surrounded by a thick, pulsating, golden border and the ink was charmed to sparkle without pause. It was absolutely nauseating.
Certain Harry wouldn't really like his card, Draco fought back a snort as his parents moved away, heading toward a few adults who were congregating near their own table. Deciding to keep himself occupied, Draco took a moment to see who else was at his table. He found Neville was on Harry's right, before continuing around, reading:
Andy Hovel — First Werewolf Cured
Mr. Jake Hovel — Father of Andy Hovel
Prof. Pomona Sprout — Head of Hufflepuff House at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Herbology Professor
Mr. Walter McCaffrey — First Adult Werewolf Cured
Healer Hippocrates Smethwyk — Healer-in-Charge over Dai Llewellyn Ward
Healer Timothy Chekhov — Elder Researcher of Magical Ailments and Curses
Mr. Lee V. Quan — Former Werewolf, Member of the International Confederation of Wizards, Representative of Vietnam
Ms. Rita Skeeter — Reporter for the Daily Prophet
Cornelius Fudge — Minister of Magic
Ms. Dolores Umbridge — Special Assistant to the Minister of Magic
Mr. Amos Diggory — Head of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures Department
Mrs. Abelie Cagnina — Researcher of Obscure Magics
Mr. Bartemius Crouch Sr. — Head of the International Magical Cooperation Department
Mrs. Emi Vilmire — Reporter for Magical World Press
Mrs. Griselda Marchbanks — Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority, Elder of the Wizengamot
Ticket Winner — Seat Nu. 18
Ignoring the 'Ticket Winner' placeholder, Draco blinked, now really understanding why his father had been so firm with him. These people were seriously important. The other two seats were of course reserved for Goyle and himself.
A few minutes later, he was fortunately joined by Greg and Neville, their guardians heading off to different tables before anyone else joined him near his table.
"Hey, Draco, been here long?" Greg asked.
"Not too long," Draco said, giving a nod to Neville before looking beyond them. Professor Sprout, Amos Diggory, and a few of the other adults had arrived.
"Care to take your seats, boys?" Amos kindly asked. "I believe things will start shortly."
Not needing to be told twice, they took their places, feeling a little awkward about being so close to the large, gaudy chair reserved for Harry. However, before things could get too uncomfortable, the tables all filled (or nearly) and every eye turned to the platform, the Minister stepping up to the podium.
"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming to this momentous occasion. As Minister of Magic, I am thrilled to host this Award Ceremony for two extraordinary individuals — Severus Snape and Harry Potter," Fudge announced.
Albus Dumbledore was standing beside him, wearing a golden medallion (clearly his own Order of Merlin Medal) over the most intense robes Draco had ever seen. Draco had to give it to the Headmaster. He could look quite impressive and intimidating when he wanted to be.
Next to the Headmaster was a row of important dignitaries, eagerly waiting to shake the hands of the newest Order of Merlin recipients. Most of them looked rather foolish, to be honest. Draco wondered if it was a requirement to appear so flippant to become a politician, no matter nationality.
Suddenly realizing he had missed the rest of Fudge's speech, Draco refocused as everyone suddenly stood up, turning to where the Minister had just waved his arm.
Professor Snape and Harry walked out, looking very sharp and powerful, before Fudge motioned the place to sit once more so everyone could see the most awaited part of the ceremony.
In layered dress robes, bordered by white and green embroidery, Snape shook hands and received the award first, bowing slightly for the Headmaster to hang the medal around his neck as the place roared with applause. After accepting the customary words of praise and congratulations, Severus stepped aside and waited for Harry to come up next.
Wearing black and gold robes, lined with thin red needlework, Harry went forward, receiving a slightly louder applause than the potions master. As he walked, he kept his left arm bent and against his side. Upon closer inspection, Draco could make out Coral wrapped around his arm in clear view. It was fun to watch the dignitaries' reactions to her as they shook Harry's right hand. One lady looked as if she might faint, especially when Coral shifted up a bit. Another looked intrigued, staring at Coral and barely giving Harry a glance.
Finally, Harry too received the medal and stood beside Severus to get their pictures taken for the Press.
Draco could hear Rita Skeeter's quill scratching away behind him. He hoped the other reporters in the room would write better than she no doubt would.
What had father called her? he wondered. 'A vicious witch with a destructive quill'?
Fudge went back to the podium and said some stuff Draco didn't really care about, save for the part that dinner would begin shortly before Severus and Harry stepped off the platform and made their way to their tables, followed by the rest who been up there.
Draco could tell Harry was a little nervous as he took his place while everyone at the table stood up once again out of respect.
"Allow me to make the introductions, Mr. Potter," the Minister said, hurrying to his place directly across from Harry at the table. "I must say, you make me proud to be Minister. To serve such an amazing young citizen!" Fudge gushed as they all sat.
"Thank you, Minister," Harry answered politely, his eyes pausing slightly at the parchment on his plate.
Draco wasn't sure which Harry was likely more annoyed with, his name card or the Minister.
The Minister made the round of introductions, though he struggled at the last individual. A red haired man who had taken the 'Ticket Winner — Seat Nu. 18' spot.
"And Mister . . ." he strained. "Mister Weatherbe. . . ."
"Actually, Minister, it's Weasley, Arthur Weasley," the man gently corrected.
"Ah, of course, my apologies," the Minister quickly smoothed over. "You won the seat drawing, due to an unfortunate last minute cancelation."
"Yes, sir. I feel quite privileged," he said, before turning to Harry. "Please allow me to thank you on behalf of my family, Mr. Potter. Although we never personally encountered werewolves, my wife and I can now sleep more peacefully, knowing there is one less danger in the world facing our children."
"You're welcome, sir," Harry answered, not knowing what else to say.
The food appeared a moment later, and Draco took the opportunity to get Harry's attention before anyone else could.
"Harry, my father wanted me to tell you the Crabbes were not able to make it tonight because Vince and his father caught a nasty bout of wizard's flu and Mrs. Crabbe remained home to care for them," Draco said.
"Oh, I hope they feel better soon then," Harry said, glancing at Mr. Weasley and putting together who the 'last minute cancelation' involved.
"Mr. Potter, I understand you have been working with Madam Pomfrey for some time, improving your parselmagic?" Smethwyk asked.
"Yes, sir," Harry said, not surprised by the man's knowledge. Everyone at school knew he worked in the infirmary on the weekends, after all.
"Have you progressed in other healing areas yet?" he asked, many around the table visibly becoming eager to hear his answer.
"Well, yeah, a bit," Harry admitted. "She's been helping me with reconstructive healing, mostly where scars are concerned."
Healer Smethwyk was clearly intrigued, while Healer Chekhov and Mrs. Abelie Cagnina (the researcher of obscure magics) were clearly itching to shoot more in depth questions.
"My-my, Harry, quite ambitious," Skeeter said before anyone else could speak up. "May I call you Harry?" she asked, though she didn't give him a chance to answer. "Is your desire to cure scars because of the one you bear on your forehead?"
Only his father's words echoing in his ears prevented Draco from speaking up, not that he would have had the opportunity to, as Professor Sprout shifted forward.
"Ms. Skeeter, trust me when I say such questions, at least phrased in that way, will win you no favors with him or his friends, and Mr. Potter has many friends," Professor Sprout stated, a slight warning in her voice.
Draco was suddenly reminded that the Hufflepuff mascot was a badger.
O o O
Harry couldn't help but be touched by Professor Sprout's defense of him, and he was once again reminded of why he was grateful to be a Hufflepuff.
"Pardon my question then, Harry," Skeeter said barely keeping her voice level.
Harry gave her a forgiving nod, deciding a silent response was best in this instance. The Flamels had warned him about her, and he wasn't about to let things get out of hand if he could prevent it. With that in mind, he decided to throw Skeeter a sort of peace offering as he looked back to Healer Smethwyk.
"When people first learned what I could do, they asked me if I could heal scars or grow back limbs. Since then, I've been curious about finding out. I honestly never really thought about healing my own scars. They've either always been a part of me—" he motioned to his forehead, "—or something I'm . . . well, happy to live with." He rolled up his sleeve, fully revealing Coral and a portion of the scar on his hand and wrist partially covered by her vibrant coils.
Harry glanced at Skeeter, meeting her eyes for a brief moment. She blinked and gave a barely noticeable nod.
There. He hadn't needed to do that, and she knew it. He did it because he wanted to.
"So, uh, Mr. Potter?"
Harry turned toward Andy, who promptly blushed when he had Harry's attention.
"Not that I want you to, but you could heal my scar now?" he asked, glancing down at his arm a werewolf had bitten the previous year.
Harry couldn't restrain a sigh. "Unfortunately, for right now, curse scars are still impossible for me to heal. I don't understand them well enough yet for me to manipulate my magic in the way that's needed. Or at least that's what Madam Pomfrey believes."
"Some believe, including myself, that curses affect the physical part of the body as much as the individual's magic," Mrs. Abelie Cagnina said. "It's just a theory, but this seems to support it."
Harry blinked. "Could you tell me more about this theory?" he asked, immediately thinking of Neville's parents, just as Neville was.
"Of course, I would be happy to—"
"As interesting as this is, I fear much of this is over most of our heads," Crouch Sr. interrupted apologetically, ever the diplomat.
Harry and those who had been following paused and slowly nodded, feeling a little bad about leaving the majority of the table out of the conversation.
"I will send you an owl with my notes later, if you wish, Mr. Potter," Cagnina said after a moment.
"Thanks, it would be a big help to me," Harry said.
"Well, Cedric tells me you are often quite busy at school. How do you keep up with everything, Mr. Potter?" Amos Diggory asked. "It's quite amazing for a boy your age."
"I suppose part of it is because, before Hogwarts, I was always busy. I'm used to it. The only difference now is what I'm busy with," Harry said with a shrug.
"What sorts of things were you busy with before Hogwarts?" Madam Marshbanks asked, curious.
"Chores and school mostly," Harry said evasively, suddenly wishing someone would change the subject.
Fortunately, Mr. Weasley unknowingly came to his rescue.
"Oh, forgive me for this question, but I've always been curious, and as you grew up in the Muggle world . . . can you tell me the function of a rubber duck?" Mr. Weasley asked, causing a few around the table to roll their eyes or inwardly groan.
"Oh, um. They're just muggle toys parents give their kids to play with during a bath," Harry answered, recalling the collection of rubber ducks Dudley went through. Somehow, they would lose their heads or their ability to squeak or squirt.
"Really?" he asked, for some reason surprised. "Amazing. I always thought they had a more important purpose."
Harry couldn't help but wonder if a dying creature had somehow gotten under their table before he realized the sound had come from the pink woman beside the Minister.
"We all know Muggles are inferior. Why are you so surprised, Mr. Weasley?" asked Madam Umbridge.
Harry raised an eyebrow, and the urge to confront her idiotic statement quickly became something he couldn't fight.
"Excuse me, Madam, but if muggles are truly inferior, how was Voldemort gravely injured by one of them earlier this year?" Harry asked, stunning most at the table with his relaxed use of the Dark Lord's name. "Sure, muggles don't have magic, but they make do without it through advanced machines and science. Also, it's not like we don't have 'useless' objects. I mean, honestly, how useful is a remembrall?"
Mr. Lee laughed. "Quite right, Mr. Potter."
"Well, even so, Mr. Potter," Umbridge said, undeterred. "I sincerely doubt muggles would have been able to do anything remotely like cure Lycanthropy."
"Actually, Madam, Professor Snape got the very 'vaccine' idea from muggles. They've been making vaccines for decades. It's why things like Small Pox, Polio, and Measles are no longer as big an issue to them as they have been in the past. I'm not downplaying what Professor Snape did, but he'll be the first to explain that he started with muggle techniques, adjusted them a bit where the magic was concerned, and, bam! made the vaccine. So, in a way, we have muggles to thank for the mass production of the cure as much as the Professor."
Umbridge narrowed her eyes, looking seriously affronted.
:Well, she is certainly a nasty piece of work: Coral stated. Harry silently agreed.
Mr. McCaffrey, who was beside Mr. Hovel, chuckled. "Admit it, Madam, he's got you there."
Umbridge huffed and glanced at the Minister, no doubt looking for some support—which he wouldn't or couldn't provide. She looked back at Harry. "Well, I can see there is no reasoning with you, Mr. Potter. For whatever reason you have it in your head that muggles are better than wizards, and I frankly find that appal—"
"Pardon me, Madam, but Mr. Potter suggested nothing of the sort," Mrs. Vilmire, the international reporter cut in. "He was merely pointing out that muggles have a different way of doing things and have been doing some things longer than we have."
"Precisely," Madam Marchbanks agreed. "And I for long have believed for a long time that we have as much to learn from muggles as they have from us. It's just such a pity there is so much animosity and bigotry between our two societies. When I was young, I had imagined that a day would come where our two worlds would join, and everyone would get along." She smiled sadly. "I now know that dream is a bit naive, but it is still nice to see instances where we learn from muggles."
Several around the table nodded, though if it was because they actually agreed with Marchbanks was another matter.
Fortunately, before things could get any more heated or tense, their dinner disappeared and dessert appeared.
"Yes! I love treacle tarts," Greg said, apparently unable to help himself.
The rest of the meal went by with little issue, though Umbridge was clearly stewing away over her banoffee pie.
Harry frankly didn't care, and glanced over at Professor Snape's table. From where he was, he identified Dumbledore, Colin and Dennis Creevey, the Malfoys, Madam Pomfrey, Aage Brown, and Remus at the table. He supposed his godfather was around somewhere in the hall, but he had yet to see him and did not particularly want to at the moment anyway.
As for his guardians, they had come, but under disguise. They had a few identities they went under when they had business at the Ministry or at Gringotts, and they were under them now, sitting a few tables down from his own.
Even though they could not be close to him, as it would raise questions as to who they were and how they knew Harry, it was nice that they had witnessed his award ceremony.
Finally, the evening came to a close and the Minister stood up and went back up to the podium, addressing the hall and thanking everyone for attending, etcetera, etcetera. With that, the people began to stand and make their way out of the chamber.
Harry could hardly wait to get home and made his way to the Headmaster, who would escort him home, or at least to Hogwarts where he would floo to the Flamel's.
Shaking hands with people going by, he tried to ignore the hero worship and was happy Draco and Neville were acting as a minor buffer where possible. However, with each step, he couldn't help shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right. It was only when he reached Dumbledore that he realized his head was faintly aching, the pain originating at his scar.
"Ah, Harry, ready to go?" Dumbledore asked lightly, people around acting annoyingly giddy at being so close to Harry.
"Yes, sir," Harry managed, trying to ignore the faint feelings that were managing to come through the accursed link.
Apparently, his discomfort was detected by Dumbledore, and before Harry knew it, they were on their way out of the hall.
Vince was confused. He had thought they would be attending the award ceremony for Professor Snape and Harry, but now they weren't. Had something happened? Had the Ministry changed dates or something? But what were they doing instead? Where were they going? And why had father insisted on them wearing their nicest robes if they were no longer going to the Ministry?
Knowing better than to verbalize his questions, he stepped by his father and mother and prepared his stomach for a side-along apparation.
They arrived in a clearing, and the feeling in the air immediately had Vince on edge; however, only when they turned around did he feel in danger.
"Ah, you have arrived."
Vince couldn't believe his eyes.
It was Voldemort. The Dark Lord. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Before he could try to think about anything else, his parents kneeled and he wisely followed suit.
"Yes, my Lord. We are happy to serve you. And as you requested, my son has come as well," his father said, head still bowed.
"So I see," the Dark Lord said approvingly.
Vince was so scared he couldn't move.
"Well, rise. I have a task for your son."
Vince instinctively knew it involved nothing good, and he surprised himself by resisting as his instincts cried out to him.
"Vince, walk with me, son. There is nothing to fear," his dad urged in his ear as they stood.
Vince was not so sure, and neither was his mother. Vince looked up to his father's face, hoping to find something that would explain what was happening, but he found nothing.
And that scared him more than being in the presence of Voldemort.
"Markov, what's going on?" she asked her husband, horrified.
He didn't answer.
"Stand here, young Crabbe," Voldemort said, motioning to a small circle on the ground that was surrounded by odd symbols that branched over to another circle which was occupied by the Dark Lord.
The hair on the back of Vince's neck stood on end as he dug his heels into the earth before him, trying to stop his father from forcing him forward.
He would be the first to admit that he wasn't all that smart, but something was seriously wrong here!
"No, please, I don't want to," he managed, hoping he hadn't sounded pathetic as he pushed back against his father. "Dad, stop!"
He didn't listen; it was as if he was no longer able to.
He heard laughter, and he suddenly noticed they were not alone with the Dark Lord. There were people in dark cloaks standing around them.
"Markov, stop, why are you doing this?" his mother cried as she hurried forward. "No!"
Apparently she too realized something was wrong, and pulled on her husband's arm, trying to get him to release their boy.
Vince struggled, no longer trying to understand what was happening. All he knew was that he wanted . . . no, needed to get away as he saw his mom pull out her wand from her sleeve.
"Stupefy!" his mother cried.
A red ray shot forth and hit his father, bashing him away. Vince stumbled forward, trying to keep his legs from collapsing like jelly before he felt his mother's hand close lovingly around his arm, stabilizing him.
He prepared himself for apparition, desperately hoping his mother could whisk them away from this nightmare.
"Idiot woman," Voldemort hissed. "Avada Kedavra!"
Green flashed in his vision before Vince saw his mother fall, and for a long moment he couldn't comprehend what had just happened.
The Dark Lord sneered. "Peh, mothers. . . ."
Vince closed his eyes, telling himself over and over that it wasn't real, that all of it was a nightmare, nothing more, but as he opened his eyes, he froze, realizing where he was standing.
In the circle.
"There, now was that really so hard?" Voldemort asked with an evil grin as he turned his wand toward him. "Avada Kedavra!"
Green filled his vision, but it was soon replaced by bright white light.
Death, Vince decided, was nothing to fear.
Next part, Ultimatum, is under construction.
A/N: Not sure when I will have time to write/post again, but it will happen eventually. Sorry for the long waits, but it unfortunately can't be helped. Anyway, thanks again for all of the reviews ^^