The aftermath of the battle. Harry confronts Dumbeldore at Auror HQ
Chapter 3 A Chat in the Breakroom
"Well sir," Harry said with the slightest hint of sarcasm, "I was just headed to the breakroom. Would you care to join me?"
They walked in uneasy silence down the corridor. It had been less than a month since the Department of Mysteries and the emotional wounds still oozed. The prophecy revealed to Harry that night hung in the air damning them with its presence. For his part, Harry had planned to apologize for destroying the Headmaster's property that night, but at the moment he would sooner apologize to the Dursley's for breathing around them.
The room was empty when the pair entered. It was a medium sized room with a pair of tables, couch and cooling box. Resting on one of the tables were several pitchers containing various beverages and a warming plate filled with biscuits. The far wall was plastered with Death Eater wanted posters. A magazine rack sat next to the cooling box. Harry promptly poured himself a glass of water from a pitcher and sat on end of the couch. The headmaster chose to remain standing.
"Harry," Albus started.
"Perhaps a silencing charm is in order sir?" Harry said quietly. Albus agreed and with a quick incantation their privacy was ensured.
"You will explain yourself." This was not a question, but a statement.
Harry's voice had a mechanical quality to it as he started to explain. "A vision. Voldemort was attacking the Bones residence. I could feel him wearing out as I woke up. Somehow, I made a Portkey and got there. I surprised him and his Death Eaters. Hit him with everything I had. I drove him off. Susan was wrestling with a Death Eater. I stunned him. Then I fought Rudolphus Lestrange. I killed him. I unmasked the stunned Death Eater and found it was Professor Snape. Lied to the Aurors. I said Snape had come with me. Hopefully, I convinced Susan to go along with it."
The old headmaster listened as Harry finished his summary. "You do realize how foolhardy tonight's adventure was? I am very disappointed in you Harry. I will be placing wards on your residence that prevents the usage of your newly acquired skill of making illegal portkeys. Knowing what you do, you went alone into combat against Voldemort and a number of his followers. Thus, I am beginning to question your decision making."
He gathered his breath to say more when Harry cut him off. "My decision making! My decision making. You want to stand there and criticize my decision making. Let's take a quick look at your decision making. With the exception of Professor Lupin, every one of your choices to teach us how to defend ourselves has either been incompetent, a sadist, a Death Eater, or possessed by Tom for crying out loud! Knowing what you do, you would think you could have arranged to have someone worthwhile teach us? How about testing the staff for polyjuice every now and then? You seem to pride yourself on knowing exactly what all your students are doing, but how about your staff? I know where your precious Potion's master was tonight! Do you? He was working at his other job. You know the one with the mask! He was helping Tom kill the Bones's and kidnap Susan. He looked right at home smacking her right across the face. Yet anytime I even begin to question his loyalty, you give me nothing! If recent history - and I am not talking about that worthless crap Binns is always on about, has taught me anything it has made me realize that you can be fooled!"
As Harry was venting his anger, he had risen to his feet. Wild magic was circulating in the room like a vortex crackling with energy. If one had looked at the wanted posters on the wall, they would see all the pictures who had previously wore grim, taunting or maniacal expressions now had an almost universal look of uneasy fear about them. To his credit, Albus Dumbledore stood his ground in the swirling maelstrom. He muttered an almost wordless protective spell to shield him from the fluctuations of magic that pulsed through the room. The boy - no young man had several valid points, but the ancient legend was a master orator who did not concede easily.
"Your attempts to justify your current behavior, by pointing out my past failures does not do you credit Harry! I am more concerned about the future then dwelling on the mistakes of the past. If you have proven one thing tonight, it is that you can look another wizard in the eye and kill them. What will happen the next time that Draco Malfoy decides to anger you? If he draws his wand will you strike him down as well? Look around you! How do I convince myself to train you in more powerful magics, when you cannot control your anger? I will not merely trade one Dark Lord for another!"
"How do you expect me to control my anger when you surround me with Malfoy, Snape and the Dursley's? Is there a reason why Gryffindor always has so many classes with Slytherin? Every potion class, I had to focus on whether the Slytherin's were going to sabotage my work, try and block out the 'teacher's' taunts and worry about whether my work would be graded poorly or simply vanished and not graded at all! Last year, I even got to have private lessons with Snape directly attacking my mind! What contest in hell did I win to get that? How does living with the Dursley's teach me to control my anger? Don't even pretend that you didn't know how they treat me! If they couldn't beat the magic out of me, they surely couldn't beat tolerance and control into me! Perhaps if I search in the cupboard, where they kept me for most of my life, I will find the exlir of tolerance. Maybe if the Order members you stuck out there were actually allowed to talk to me or teach me something, I might have had something to look forward to. Do you do this each year to figure out where my breaking point is? How far can I can be pushed each year before I snap?"
"You are well aware of the reason for your living arrangements. We need every advantage possible right now. As to your question regarding class scheduling, I will admit to attempting to balance the houses. Yes Slytherin and Gryffindor are typically matched together to temper their attitudes. However, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw are also paired so that their attributes will inspire the other house respectively. You make it a point to mention your struggles in potions, but you also have Transfiguration with the Slytherins. It is unfortunate that Severus does not maintain the impartiality that Minerva is able to project, but once again it is not very relevant anymore. You are entering your sixth year and now your NEWT level classes will be mostly combined with all four houses. Harry, you must take control of your emotions. You are very passionate which is normally a very good trait, but passion must be tempered with control. If you continue to define yourself and your actions by the deeds of others, you will never succeed in becoming the man you want to become."
"Just remember sir, my life is not some bloody experiment in a potions lab. You can't take one Potter, stir in hate and discontent, agitate with Malfoy, heat to boiling at the Dursley's, toss in a couple of friends and simmer at the Burrow. Real life has a way of interfering with both our plans! To address your other subject, if Draco takes the mark and he crosses me, I won't hesitate to stop him, or anyone else wearing the mask. I also will not hold back out of some sense of fair play. I still feel that we both bear a responsibility for Sirius's death, but if he didn't waste his breath taunting Bellatrix ..." Harry let the statement trail off as dark emotions played across his face.
Silence filled the room as each combatant reevaluated their respective position. Both of them realized that the other had a persuasive argument and was firmly entrenched in their opinion. Both acknowledged silently how damaged their relationship had become. The wild magic that had threatened to demolish the room had all but vanished. Harry had been clenching his hands so hard that he now felt his fingernails digging into the flesh of his palm.
After another minute of tangible quiet, the headmaster started again. "It is apparent that we cannot change each other's view. So the question now becomes how do we move forward? If you can devise an effective means for dealing with your relatives, which does not involve violence or more threats of violence, then I will be happy to evaluate it. I will also relax the restrictions on those assigned to guard you, so that they can at the very least speak to you. I would rather not have them instructing you, as their primary duty is to be on the lookout for trouble, but I do believe a daily tutoring session at Mrs. Figg's could be arranged without taxing our resources further. In turn, I must ask that you begin to take your anger management problems very seriously. Many in your age group feel the need to rebel against authority and though I had hoped you would be given the opportunity to enjoy a somewhat normal childhood. I believe that both of us can agree that this just is not going to be the case."
Harry looked at the headmaster. It was a start. At the very least, he was discussing options with him rather that handing out orders to be implemented.
"Exactly how much longer must I stay there this year?"
"One more week."
"How about we bribe them with a vacation to the beach for the next week and I can get some peace and quiet?"
"I think that could be arranged. We must also soon deal with the unpleasant reality of Mr. Black's will. I have been delaying it for as long as possible, but the goblins are growing impatient."
"Why were you delaying it?" Harry asked trying to reign in his anger and embarrassment at both his role in his godfather's death and that once again he was having information withheld from him.
"I wanted to make sure that after the reading, you could go and be amongst your friends and not have to return to your relatives. Sirus was also the last male of an old bloodline. There are usually arrangements that are made to prevent the end of a bloodline. I am also concerned that, given his own penchant for rebelling against authority Sirus may include several unusual provisions to his will. I am not privy to the arrangements he has made with his solicitor. Remus may have some knowledge, but I suspect that he too is completely in the dark."
Harry took a moment to digest this new information. It would be in Sirus's nature to use his will to "prank" someone or for that matter everyone. He was curious about what kind of arrangements would be enough to make Dumbledore concerned.
Doug Spinnet had finished taking Professor Snape's statement and had directed him to the bathroom. Unusual magic emanating from the breakroom had interrupted their debriefing. The auror accompanied by the professor and Susan peered into the hallway. Doug instructed them to wait there and he moved down the hallway with his wand drawn. A quick look into the breakroom and he was very surprised to see an argument backed by significant magical discharge taking place between the two greatest living heroes of the Wizarding world. He immediately noticed the quality of the silencing charm the headmaster had used. If not for that, Doug suspected that this argument could have been heard all the way back to the atrium. Wishing for a moment that he was a fly on the breakroom wall, but then cringing as a bolt of wild magic seared the wall next to him. He turned around and headed back to his charges.
"What is that idiot boy doing now?" Inquired the potion master.
"He and the headmaster are having a polite discussion. Now, if you don't mind let us finish your statements."
The professor's statement mirrored Harry's previous statement. There were no significant inconsistencies that immediately sounded any warning signals in the auror's mind. He dismissed Professor Snape and turned to Susan, who looked very nervous. His gut instincts told him that the story was too perfect. He decided to take a bit of a chance and do a little fishing.
"So, Susan are you going to stick with their prefabricated tale or are you going to tell me what really happened?" He said as Susan gasped.
"No. I mean yes! It pretty much happened just the way Harry said it did." She said desperately trying to recover her composure.
"And I was just named the new Minister of Magic." He said and suddenly realized his mistake as Susan staggered like she had just been punched. "Oh Merlin!" He thought. "Her aunt probably was going to be the next Minister. Way to go Dougie! You stupid git! Let's see you smoothtalk your way out of this."
Susan was already crying as he guided her back to one of the beds. "Listen. I am truly sorry. That came out before I really thought about it. I didn't mean to upset you. Why don't you sit here and relax for a moment? I will run an analysis charm on your three wands. That will take about five minutes. After that I will apologize again and we can talk some more."
He got up trying to recall all the advice he had ever received about dealing with crying women. Settling on his mother's tried and true recommendation of apologize, give space, come back and immediately apologize again before doing anything else. He walked back to the desk and examined Professor Snape's wand. His suspicion's about the story he was being told were confirmed the moment he discovered that a "clearing" charm had been run on the wand. Typically, a well performed Priori Incantem could recover the last ten to twenty spells cast from the wand." Doug was very good at forensics and could usually get around twenty spells. He was shocked when he only could read the last two - a body bind and an unusual cutting curse by the looks of his diagnostics. He moved on to Susan's wand which displayed the last fifteen spells, which showed a good mix of offensive and defensive magic all would have been violations of the Underage Usage Law except for the circumstances of this evening. Recording all that he then took out Harry's wand and ran the analysis charm. As he recorded the spells he tried to put himself into Harry's mind.
"Envenerate. Easy enough Snape was stunned by on of the Death Eaters. Coloris? Why would he use a garment transfiguration spell? Vanosisus. Vanishing some debris? Reducto. Alas poor Rudolphus, rest in peace. Animatus. Oh yeah he said that he charmed the curtains to hold him still. Lacero, Reducto, Stupefy, Protego, Lacero, Protego, Reducto, Impactus are all expected. A banishing spell preceded by a sticking charm - oh yeah the idiot with the throw pillow stuck to his head. Pyrus Impactus! Holy Merlin! How does a fifteen year old even know how to cast that? Who did he use that on?"
Doug reckoned that it had been about five minutes since he managed to traumatize the poor girl. It was time for the second apology and maybe a couple of answers to what really happened. Susan appeared to have regained her composure and was now eyeing him warily. Telling the teenager that he would be right back, he walked down the hall and went to his desk. From the bottom drawer he withdrew the small personal pensieve his parents had given him when he graduated auror training.
"Okay Susan. I have finished my diagnostics and let me apologize again for my thoughtless comments. My behavior was reprehensible and I am ashamed of myself. Now my official report will read just like Mr. Potter's statement, but you and I both know that isn't really what happened, don't we? I would like to see what really transpired from your point of view. Afterwards, you take your memory back and we never have to talk about it again. I will even give you a Wizard's Oath if you want. Deal?"
Susan took her wand back from him and touched it to her temple. Concentrating and reaching out with her magic she withdrew the silvery substance from her memory. She put it into the bowl and stirred it. Doug bent over to draw himself into the memory and began to take in the details.
Less than five minutes later, he raised his head and looked at her. "Sweet Merlin! Potter drove him off! Why on earth would he omit that?"
Susan had been considering this as well for the whole time the auror was watching her memory. "If it became public knowledge, people would be demanding Harry challenge him to a bloody duel or something. I think Harry will eventually be able to beat him, but he isn't ready yet."
Doug's mind was still reeling with questions that he doubted he would ever get answered. Susan took this time to remove the memory from the pensieve and return it to its proper place. They sat quietly for another minute before conversation resumed.
"You should be proud of the way you fought. I know some fully trained wizards that would have crumbled. You would do well as an auror after you finish school."
"Not well enough to save Mum or Auntie." She said with more than a touch of bitterness.
Professor Snape left the washroom after he had regained his composure. The evening's events weighing heavily on his mind. The whelp had seriously injured the Dark Lord! It was true that his master had been exhausted with maintaining the anti-escape curses - so exhausted that he relinquished direct control of the Inferni partway through the battle to the potion's master. Then there was the matter of the duel with Madame Bones, whose resistance had been surprisingly strong. By the time Potter had shown, his master had been ridiculously low in energy. He had little doubt that in an equal duel between the two, that the Dark Lord would quickly reduce the arrogant child to a mound of charred flesh. However, the Slytherin in him reminded Severus that the first rule of duels is that there is no such thing as an "equal" duel. Advantages exist in every situation. One need only recognize and seize the opportunities when they present themselves.
It was during this reflection, that Severus Snape came to understand how much of an opportunist the Potter brat had become. The boy's magical talent and athleticism were impressive, but not overwhelming. His mental aptitude certainly would not make his enemies quiver in fear. His penchant for emotional outbursts and uncontrolled rage were dangerous liabilities, which even the Slytherin students were able to exploit. Yet through it all, Potter had an almost unnatural ability to turn the tables on his foes. The professor did not doubt that his least favorite student was a person who quite literally could fall into a cart of manure and come up smelling like flowers. Now that he had intentionally killed another in combat, he would require further scrutiny. He might actually be able to threaten the Dark Lord. Even now, his master would have apparted to a safe house to self-medicate. It was not a matter of pride, but self-preservation. The rank and file could never and would never see how badly their leader had been injured. Severus himself could only catch the faintest glimpses of how grievously injured he had been after the battle at the Ministry. Though no real physical injuries existed, there had been a certain emptiness to his aura of power, that many of the old guard - had they not been in custody would have discerned. Severus knew from his conversation with his other master, that the Dark Lord had attempted to physically possess Potter and had been quite forcefully and painfully ejected. Physical possession was among the rarest and most costly obscure magics. It demands a tremendous amount of power coupled with precise control. Most would be simply content with using the imperius curse to achieve a similar result. Once again, Potter's ability to prevail in a situation where he had no business succeeding would baffle even the most critical observer. He is highly resistant to the imperius curse and oddly vulnerable to other forms of mental suggestion at the same time. Almost as if the raw emotions were too much for an outsider to effectively control, but hampered his ability to Occlude his mind and erect all but the most primitive of mental defenses.
He continued to ponder the enigma that was The-Boy-Who-Lived as his steps carried him past the medical bay where they had been received towards the breakroom, where Potter had been previously throwing a tantrum. He could hear the Bones girl's wailing tears and it only served to annoy him further. She was an average student in his class - competent enough to avoid trouble, but lacking the talent or the drive to truly succeed at such a precise art. He had been surprised that the Master had brought him out into the field. Not that he lacked the skill, but his additional abilities normally required a supporting role. The Dark Lord currently was woefully undermanned and this evening's failure paid testimony to that fact. The newest generation of Death Eaters had suffered through the same pathetic basic combat instruction for the same period as the rest of the student body. The lack of capable spellcasters on both sides was glaringly evident. More of the Headmaster's machinations, no doubt. Snape clung to this nugget of truth in his mind. It was suddenly obvious that the Headmaster had been trying to limit the available pool of truly dangerous fighters to control the scope of the war. Perhaps this explained some of the more ridiculous hiring practices that Albus Dumbledore had engaged in over the past few years. By alternating useless fools like Quirell and Lockhart, whose greatest contributions had been to further spell damage research with somewhat competent instruction by the likes of Lupin and Crouch junior. The lemon drop obsessed maniac had managed to dilute the average Hogwart's graduates capabilities. For every capable student like Malfoy and Zabini, there were the likes of Crabbe and Goyle. Potter had shifted the balance slightly with his little secret club. The professor secretly wondered if the "golden child" had begun even subconsciously to understand the manipulations of the Headmaster and counter them. It would be giving the wretched brat far to much credit, but as tonight's events continued to unfold before him - he would not let his sheer hatred of the boy cloud any other useful observations, which could be very helpful to Severus Snape's ultimate ambitions.
Allowing himself a brief moment of entertainment, he pictured the unintended consequences of Dumbledore's meddling and the downhill spiral the Wizarding world could take. A hundred years from now, a new dark lord rises surrounding himself with warriors as skilled as Crabbe and Goyle. They would be fought back by legions resembling Hestia Jones and Daedulus Diggle. The Creevy brothers would best five Hundred years from now, a new dark lord with powers rivaling the joke that is McNair. Should that pathetic future come to pass, Severus secretly hoped his line would truly be dead and gone. The unusual expression on Professor Snape's face was perhaps the closest thing to a genuine smile that had crossed his visage in many years. Banishing it, he walked into the breakroom.
"Good evening Headmaster. I see your concerns about the boy's ever-increasing desire to charge into danger are based on shrewd deductions. Did you at the very least mention to your minders that you planned a rendezvous with a Dark Lord this evening?"" He waited to see if the whelp would rise to the challenge.
Harry looked on the verge of a fit of epic proportions, but focused hard on the Headmaster's insistence on emotional control. He growled back his reply.
"So very nice to see you again professor. I am sorry about disposing of your mask in such a crude fashion. You probably just can't go into Madame Malkin's and order a replacement, now can you? I suppose we could spellotape Rudolphus's back together, but Peter and the rest would tease you something fierce."
"Insolent brat." It was less an insult and more a statement of fact.
"Could have let Dawlish arrest you now couldn't I?"
"Enough. Both of you! We have more important items to discuss. What were Voldemort's intentions this evening? You normally do not participate."
"He is running short of capable spellcasters at the moment. I have been pressed into service. I was not given the specific reasons for the attack, but I surmise that he did not wish for Madame Bones to become the next Minister of Magic."
"That makes sense. Amelia had a knack for problem solving. She would have been a thorn in his side. Now we must determine the best course of action with regards to the vacant ministry positions."
"As for the girl, she would be the last of the Bones family. I suspect she would have been dominated and controlled for her money, properties and the hereditary votes of the Bones clan. I suspect this and whatever mission was assigned to Bellatrix were meant to derail attempts at placing a competent Minister in power."
As the trio pondered this information, several owls arrived in the breakroom. Harry already knew that the parchments they carried were multiple warnings for the use of underage magic. Surprisingly, they did not detail all the spells performed. Something his friend Hermoine Granger had mentioned once sprung to mind. It was the concept of magical saturation. The delicate and sensitive instruments the ministry used to plot magical emanations can be overwhelmed by sheer volume of spells. A quick reading of the parchments confirmed that Improper Use of Magic Office had detected his presence in an area of high magical saturation. He would need to meet with a representative of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to have his wand examined and justify the usage of spells. Fortunately, Harry had already done just that.
By this time, Auror Spinnett escorted Susan into the room. He returned Professor Snape's and Harry's wands. Harry could tell she had been crying. She was clasping her own stack of parchments courtesy of Mrs. Hopkirk. She stood near Harry, looking sad and uncomfortable. He knew that she could use a gesture of comfort. He thought of his last few days at school, which was mostly a blur. The one thing that stood out was Luna Lovegood placing a hand on his shoulder and giving him a friendly smile. She never said anything and that was exactly what he needed.
Summoning a bit of his courage, Harry reached out with his left arm and touched her shoulder. He gave a firm squeeze and met her eyes. They were still puffy from the tears, but he detected a hint of surprise in them as well. He gave her a slight nod of his head and a brief smile. He could feel her trembling and opted to give her a bit more encouragement.
"You are strong Susan. You'll get through this." He said to her. She acknowledged him by taking her left hand across her body and placing it over top of his hand, which still rested on her shoulder. He said nothing further, unsure of what else he could say.
Watch Captain Anders entered the room. He held his hand expectantly towards Susan and Harry. "Well, give me those notices. I will handle them. Mr. Potter it seems you are in a bit of trouble for creating an illegal portkey. I have prepared a class 1 citation it carries with it a fine of 300 galleons. We will deduct that amount from the reward for the capture of Rudolphus Lestrange. Give both of these forms to the clerk at the front desk on your way out of the building. He will get your vault number from you and transfer the 700 remaining galleons into your account. I recommend that you pick up the paperwork to apply for a portkey creation license. I can let you go with a fine and no permanent damage to your record for a first offense, but a second offense would mean an arrest."
They handed over the parchments and the two aurors left the room. Susan had never really interacted with the legendary headmaster of Hogwart's. He was looking at her now with only sadness and remorse in his eyes.
"Ms. Bones allow me to express my condolences on your loss. I remember your mother was a fine young lady and your aunt was a most powerful witch."
"Thank you sir." She managed to choke out.
"Unfortunately, Voldemort is after you and we will need to take certain precautions for your safety. Harry you can disregard our arrangements. We will move straight to Headquarters. I will have your belongings retrieved from your relatives. We will also arrange for Ms. Bones's belongings to be brought there as well."
"We - I have a house elf," Susan said weakly. "She can gather my things."
"Trixie!" Susan said causing a small house elf to appear.
"Mistress Susan! So worried was poor Trixie!" The little creature was clinging to Susan's leg.
"Please return to the house and pack my things. I will also need my aunt's pensieve and her private collection of books."
"Yes! Mistress Susan! Right away!" The house elf disappeared.
"That is all I need sir. I am ready to leave."
"We will need to stop by the clerk's desk sir." Harry said quietly.
"Yes of course."
When Harry reached the front desk, he presented the very surprised clerk the paperwork that Watch Captain Anders had presented earlier. The clerk was in a mild state of shock as both Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore arrived at his desk in the middle of the night. Harry signed the paperwork and collected an application for portkey creation license. The two professors and Susan had already walked out into the night air as Harry was concluding his business.
"Sir, could I impose upon you?" Harry asked.
"Certainly! What can I do for you?"
"May I borrow a bit of parchment? I was hoping to jot a quick note to a friend and have you send it with and owl?"
"Of course!" The night clerk said offering him sheet of parchment, an envelope and a quill.
On the outside of the envelope he wrote, "Neville Longbottom. Longbottom Estate."
This is just a quick note. I wanted to tell you rather than have you see it in the Prophet. Last night, I was at Susan's. Rudolphus Lestrange died by my hand. Revenge will not bring us back our loved ones, but maybe we will rest a bit easier tonight. Thank you for all your help at the Department of Mysteries and for your friendship.
Author's note - Well there you go. I wanted this to differ between all those "Bad Manipulative" Dumbledore fics out there, where SuperPowerHarry blasts him and has all his arguments validated and Dumbledore is left boo hooing over how badly he has failed Harry. Most of those arguments end with one trying to hex the other. How many of you out there have ever had a righteous argument, certain that you were right only to find that when it was over, you didn't win nearly as convincingly as you thought? As you can see neither Dumbledore nor Harry really won, in fact their relationship is now more strained. Your reviews will let me know if I succeeded in portraying a real argument between two "real" people. As requested, I am making my chapters longer. The part with Snape practically wrote itself - just think the Creevy brothers versus McNair for the fate of the mediocre world of magic. There has got to be a story there! Also if you are looking for Harry and Susan to madly fall in love with the instant attraction, nope also not going to happen. They are going to take it fairly slow. Well as slow as circumstances will allow. That's all I will say about that.