Before Draco could even consider being annoyed by the cute exchange Brian arrived and he did not look happy ...
"He escaped …" Tom gulped in fear after the minister explained what happened to everyone in his office, which included Severus, Brian, Julian, tanzanite, Draco, Sasha, Narcissa and Lucius.
Cornelius sighed, "Yes. It was very nearly at the cost of a Phoenix's life at that. Problem is that he could be anywhere or anyone, which is why I had Severus and Lucius vow, and Fawkes may still be loyal to him so not only does Dumbledore need to be stopped, but we need to make it impossible for him to escape again."
"We'll need something big to lure him out." Severus said while discreetly stepping on Lucius' foot. The Malfoy hasn't stopped staring at Tom since he entered the room. The teen looked scared enough and he really didn't need to notice that Lucius was staring. "Does he look threatening? The goblins said he can't remember anything so get over it." He hissed very quietly in the Malfoy's ear.
Lucius flinched even more when he saw that Brian, Julian, Draco, Cornelius and his own wife were giving him warning looks, "Yes well … what do we use as a big distraction? I already started filing lawsuits on Brian's behalf. Would that help?" He asked, risking one last glance at the teen he realized was once a dark lord. If anything he was staring out of shock because this young wizard was practically a kitten in comparison. He didn't see any sign of the cruel wizard anymore. Just a scared teen who didn't realize he was unconsciously holding onto Julian's jacket sleeve for moral support.
"That can't hurt, but I was thinking of something much more … competitive. It's a plan I had since meeting Brian. In fact, remember when I said Julian and Draco should display a little magic and start showing people the gap between Hogwarts and legerdemain? This is what I was planning … just not for these circumstances." The minister said as he pulled out a book. "If Severus could take the position as headmaster for this and I have your help convincing the rest of the Board of Education then we can set this up fast."
Brian's eyes narrowed in concern, "I'm not going to let Julian or Tom compete especially when Dumbledore might try to attack them for some petty revenge."
"I do want Julian to appear, mostly because I want his special sight to point out who Dumbledore is hiding as, but competing might not be the right word. I don't have time to actually change the rules of the Tri-Wizard Tournament like I wanted, but he can pretend to be one. Only Julian though. Tom, I don't even want you to be near here, ok? I'm not going to risk anyone's life if I can help it." Cornelius said firmly, but mainly to Tom, who seemed to be considering how to help.
Severus nodded, "Yes. Narrowing down his targets will help significantly." He said and subtly smirked as Tom's eyes widened in understanding. The teen was so eager to help he forgot he could make things worse by being caught in the man's sights. 'We do have to make him believe all is well too. How do we keep up the ruse on such a large scale?"
"I'm having my Aurors arrange for a fake execution. It'll be announced that Dumbledore is dead that should put him at a disadvantage." Cornelius looked at Severus. "You worked with Dumbledore for years. Do you have any idea who he might try to kidnap and replace?"
Severus frowned, "He knew a lot of people and the trial went by so fast that it's unlikely that anyone removed him from their rune networks in their homes. For sure that means anyone in his Order of the Phoenix …" Severus felt his jaw clenched at the reminder of the poor mythical bird.
"Yes." The minister commented sadly. "Our best chance is to have Julian point him out and hopefully he'll be easy to track with Hogwarts under Julian and Severus' control." Cornelius pondered the plan for a moment before looking at Brian. "If we kept the three tasks to weekends would that be a problem? I know there's a slight difference between your school's schedule and Hogwarts."
"Not a huge difference. It's not like we're foolishly comparing muggle and magical schools." Brian chuckled at the thought of comparing such drastically different entities. There may be connections, but only enough so it's easier to blend in with muggles. Magical schools still need their own thing. "Weekends should be if they don't overlap with the full moons. I have a couple clubs that have activities during those times. Plus, if I get my school involved I want my creature students to watch too."
Lucius choked on a laugh, "The Minister said this was a means of opening minds and catching Dumbledore, not a mission to give magical Britain a collective heart attack." He said before looking at Narcissa. "This will take some time especially with the rest of the Board of Education. Can you handle the lawsuits?"
"Oh, Lucius," the witch smiled with an eager glint in her eye. "You know I would love to."
Cornelius nodded feeling much more relieved, "Ok … I'll get in contact with Durmstrang and Beauxbatons once the Board of Education allows the Tournament. I'm hoping to convince them to allow teams for each school so Dumbledore can't just jump a contestant. I hope the other schools will agree even though it's in the school year already."
"You could always use the betrayal of Dumbledore as an excuse. It did shake up a lot of people." Narcissa suggested.
Severus hummed in thought, "Right. A reason to get the students' mind on something else so to speak. The only problem I have is the safety of the Forbidden Forest. With a surge of students we need to get that cleaned up." He commented reminding everyone of the acromantula infestation. "It's great that there's a team making sure the acromantulas don't attack, but it's a little unnerving for the students."
"I just got a text from that division. They found some large creatures to help round them up. It should be starting at curfew and be all done tonight while the students sleep." Cornelius said cheerfully despite the rest of the news from today. He raised an eyebrow when Severus rolled his eyes. "What?"
Severus scoffed, "Not all the students stay in their beds. I should go and tell Minerva about my sudden promotion. They should be having dinner soon so it'd be a good time to announce it."
"Dinner?" Cornelius immediately looked at the clock and looked quite surprised at the time. "Oh how foolish of me. I shouldn't keep three students away from dinner! Go on and I'll keep you all updated."
"Dear Merlin, I think I'm at my limit." Minerva said as she plopped the feathered quill into the ink pot and massaged her temples in a desperate attempt to ease her stress. It hasn't been easy dealing with the changes and handling the headmistress duties as well as her usual duties that come with her own position as deputy headmistress. "What is it?" She asked before immediately realizing that she sounded way too harsh. She took a deep breath to calm down. "Come in, I was doing some grading." She said, trying to sound like she'd bite someone's head off.
"I was worried for a minute." Minerva's head shot over to see Severus stepping into the headmistress', formally Dumbledore's, office. "You will be happy to know that I was asked, by the minister personally, to take the headmaster position-"
"Oh thank Merlin!" Minerva exclaimed and nearly jumped out of the chair. "There's so much to do I couldn't possibly do it on my own. It was made worse by the fact," Minerva clenched her jaw as she tried to force the distasteful word out. "Dumbledore has been using illegal means of getting money for nearly everything in the school. So one big issue is finding a money source to sustain the school among many other things and … and it's good to see you again."
Severus smiled as the witch hugged him, "Glad to see you haven't changed." He said though it wasn't for the reason Minerva might think. The wizard was already taking everything she said and did into account. It was what Severus had to do in order to make sure Minerva was Minerva.
Minerva pulled back with a sigh, "I wouldn't say that at all. I do believe plenty has changed especially after," Yet again Severus could tell the witch was mentally trying to strangle Dumbledore. "No! I'm done thinking of him! Now speaking of changes. Why don't we go announce a good change for once?"
"Ye, we should and later we can oversee the removal of the acromantulas." Severus said as he walked out of the office with Minerva. The barely controlled temper was enough to convince him that she wasn't Dumbledore in disguise. After all, Dumbledore wasn't that good of an actor.
"That's wonderful news! … not that I didn't like the nice people standing guard, but it'd be nice to not have the feeling of being in a dangerous place that can be flooded with spiders at any moment." Minerva remarked with a shiver as she remembered the acromantulas that tried to attack when the basilisk was being removed.
The potion master chuckled, "Indeed." He said as they saw a few students slowly heading towards the Great Hall. "Fred, George! How are you doing?"
The twins smiled, "Prince!" The twins laughed as Severus rolled his eyes. "Hey! You haven't officially met our brother!" They yelled and the third redhead yelped as he was dragged over. "This is Ronny.! Say hi!" They said giving their annoyed brother a nudge
"Weren't you fired or something?" Ron muttered not realizing that if Severus was anything like he was years ago he'd be on the receiving end of a nasty glare. Of course, there was very little to fear from Severus now, but Fred and George weren't happy that their brother was being rude to their favorite, despite being fired, professor.
Severus nodded, "Technically, yes. However, when the minister was investigating Dumbledore he asked why I was fired and he didn't think firing me because of my decision to marry was a good call. Plus my actions during basilisk removal convinced him to make me the headmaster." He answered, giving just enough to satisfy their curiosity.
"Wicked!" The twins yelled happily.
"I'm glad you approve. Let's see how everyone else reacts." Severus said and they continued to the Great Hall.
The announcement was taken quite well despite the fact that many of the students seemed a bit unsure. That made sense though considering they were probably wondering if Severus was anything like Dumbledore. After all, if the wizard everyone, even their parents and grandparents, idolized could be a monster then anyone could be.
As the meal drew to a close Severus stood up, "I want everyone to take the 'no one out after curfew' rule very seriously tonight. This is the last night the acromantulas will be in the forest and no one should risk getting caught up in it." Several students paled at the mention of the scary acromantulas. No doubt the memory of that incident with the acromantulas attacking and the basilisk defending them was enough of a deterrent. "Sleep well knowing that there will be one less element of danger in the morning." He said, but many students looked a bit nervous even as they went to bed.
Of course, he couldn't soothe their fears completely, but he did what he could. That included watching out of the headmaster office throughout the night to make sure everything was handled safely. No surprise the concerned and equally protective deputy headmistress was sharing a cup of tea with him too.
Minerva sighed as she watched the flashing lights that came from the forest, "The founders were idiots for building a school here."
Severus hummed in agreement, "Yes … although, to be fair, it was more dangerous to not have a deadly forest keeping muggles out back then. Also, they probably didn't have a half giant bringing invasive acromantula species in the school and breeding them in the forest."
"Quite right … Hagrid is sweet." Minerva said with a sigh. Her tone made it clear that she was questioning why the animal loving half giant was working at the school even though she couldn't bring herself to say anything bad about Hagrid. "Should I close that window? … I kept it open in case Fawkes comes back, but the weather is getting too cold." She commented feeling guilty about possibly locking out the poor Phoenix, but she couldn't deny that she was shivering.
"Fawkes most likely won't return without Dumbledore. Foolish bird is too stubborn." Severus said with a bitter taste in his mouth. As much as he hated speaking ill of the injured Phoenix he knew he couldn't tell Minerva anything especially in a room where even the paintings were listening. Those details were best kept quiet for now. "Is that a basilisk?" He pondered when he went to shut the window and saw a huge snake like shadow exit the forest seemingly searching for something.
"Perhaps." Minerva murmured, looking concerned about what else is in the forest. Before she could what other creatures were flushed out while removing the acromantulas there was a knock on the door. "Come in."
One of the sanctuary workers came in, "The infestation was much larger than expected, but we found all of them. After we make sure we lured all the tiny babies out with some hormones then we can leave."
Minerva's eyes narrowed, "and you're taking the basilisk too, right?"
"Basilisk?" The worker blinked, but his eyes widened and he smiled. "Oh, you must've spotted Oscar. He's part of this team so, of course, he's coming with us … once he's done double checking the grounds. Oscar is a bit of a perfectionist, which works perfectly for these missions and better yet his eyes aren't deadly in the same way. Oscar did notice that your groundskeeper has a Cerberus and a baby dragon … those aren't really legal so …" the worker trailed off, not sure how to ask if they could take the creatures. The reason why the worker was nervous soon became apparent when a crying Hagrid came into the office.
"They're gone! All gone!" Hagrid cried and blew his nose loudly into a large hanky.
Minerva immediately stood up to try and comfort Hagrid, "They'll all be fine and now we know they won't be bothered by students wandering into the forest … I'm sure you can see them at any time."
The worker nodded quickly, "Yes! We even have a zookeeper position open if you're interested!" He explained, clearly feeling bad about this. "You'd be paid to look out for them and they trust you so you should be there."
Hagrid sniffled sadly, "b-but I'm needed h-here."
Severus smiled, "I'll try to work something out … right now your friends need you and after everything that happened it might be good to get away for a while. It doesn't need to be permanent, but it might be just what you need and I'm sure the sanctuary will let you bring some friends too."
"Yes!" The worker exclaimed thankful that he didn't have to pry the other creatures away. "We'd even set them in their own habitat."
Hagrid slowly calmed down and considered the option, "Actually I think that'd be wonderful. Aragog is getting on in years and … I sh-should be there for him." Hagrid started crying at the mere mention of the giant homicidal spider dying someday.
To make everything as quick as possible for the half giant Severus even let them magically transport Hagrid's hut. With a few things worked out Hagrid and his pets were gone and that was another bonus despite adding another thing for Severus to do. After all, the less people around that Dumbledore can trick the better even if he had to get a new groundskeeper.
Persephone turned her large scaled head and listened when she heard snippets about a wound Phoenix in the clinic, 'Did you say Phoenix?' She hissed to the unfortunate helper who spoke a little too loud as she passed the window basilisk's enclosure.
"Yes!" The young, possibly an intern, squeaked. 'A Phoenix named Fawkes came in a few hours ago-'
'Fawkes?!' The heart monitor on the basilisk started beeping wildly alerting her usual healers.
The first healer shooed the intern away before calmly looking at the giant snake, 'Persephone, you must calm down.'
'I will do no such thing! I demand to know what is going on at Hogwarts!' Persephone hissed furiously knowing something happened at that school. After all, how else could Fawkes be injured? Something happened at the school. She had to know that those children were ok.
'Excuse me.' The pissed off basilisk and the healers glanced at the massive pure black basilisk with red eyes who was headed down the hall. 'I just came from Hogwarts and since I'm being forced to get a check up, even though it's just a scratch from an acromantula, I can explain.'
The healer sighed in relief when she heard the heart monitor slow down, 'Thank you, Oscar.' She said and let the black snake into Persephone's enclosure.
The large serpent slithered down the ramp and into the grass next to the basilisk, 'All of your hatchlings are safe. I made sure all the acromantulas were gathered and removed-'
'Then what happened to Fawkes?!' Persephone demanded.
'That was a separate issue … all I know is that the Phoenix wasn't at Hogwarts when it was wounded. It sounds like that happened before I even went to Hogwarts and if my suspicions are correct then it may have to do with the arrest of Dumbledore.' Oscar hissed casually despite being next to a basilisk quite a bit bigger than him. Perhaps the only other serpent he met who was so impressive.
'Tell me everything you know.' Persephone hissed as she coiled in a slightly less threatening position. Her crocodile friend wouldn't be back for their usual gossip for a while so she wanted details and Gloria can confirm later.