*2012 REVISION* Chaos theory: a nargle flaps its wings in China, and Luna responds differently to Harry during their conversation before the leaving feast in OoTP. H/L/Hr.
Chapter 8: The Deputy Headmistress.
Sunday 23rd June, 1996.
Dumbledore sat behind his desk trying to concentrate on the parchment in front of him, A pile of similar parchments were in a large tray on his desk; proof that being a headmaster wasn't all pumpkin juice and lemon drops,
Any other wizard would have been pacing around the room worriedly, but Dumbledore's only concession to his anxiety was the lack of attention he gave the document in front of him.
The others should have reported in nearly two hours ago.
When he hadn't heard from Minerva or any of the others he'd sent to Privet Drive, he had made the journey himself, wand at the ready, to see what he could learn.
He'd found no disturbance at the Dursleys' house, nor any sign of Harry Potter, or of his order members. The Dursleys had not seen any'freaks', the boy included, and had only a vague awareness that Harry wouldn't be spending the summer with them.
His subtle Legilimency confirmed they believed what they were telling him, as well as the unmistakable traces of memory modification.
Leaving Privet Drive, he apparated to the Burrow; the most likely place for Harry to be. Finding nothing unexpected, he asked the Weasleys to contact him should they hear anything, and then apparated to Grimmauld Place.
A quick search showed the place to be empty of all but Kreacher, who was simply sitting cross-legged in front of Walburga Black's portrait, rocking backwards and forwards.
Albus frowned as a thought occurred to him. With Sirius now dead, there was some uncertainty about who now owned Grimmauld Place. Though he had his suspicions, he realised that prudence dictated that they should avoid using the house until ownership had been firmly established. Should the wrong sort of person take possession unexpectedly, a Malfoy for example, it could be disastrous for any order members present at the time.
Realising that the others may already have returned to his office, he used the fireplace to floo back to Hogwarts and wait for word to reach him.
He looked down again at the parchment that was barely attracting his attention. Fudge seemed to think that there was merit in still having a high inquisitor based at Hogwarts, though at least conceding that Madam Umbridge might not be the best person for the job and was suggesting someone named Weatherby instead.
He was about to put it aside when green flames filled his fireplace and Minerva McGonagall stepped into his office.
"Minerva, I am pleased to see that you appear unharmed. I was quite concerned for you and the others."
"I am fine thank you, Albus, as are the others you sent over," she said, brushing off a trace of ash as she moved to the chair in front of Albus's desk. She took a seat at his gesture.
"Do you know where Harry is, as he is no longer at Privet Drive, if indeed he even returned there? I am most concerned for his safety."
Minerva regarded him steadily before replying."Would you like to tell me why, Albus? Why Harry's safety as opposed to, say, Ginny Weasley? She was possessed by Tom Riddle's memory in her first year, so it would be unlikely in the extreme that Tom would not have found out what happened to his diary from Lucius."
Albus regarded his deputy over his half-moon spectacles, but did not say anything.
"Albus, is Harry the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord?"
Now Albus did react. His eyes widened slightly before returning to his usual implacable gaze. "What has Harry told you, Minerva?" he asked.
Minerva looked angry now. "Never mind what Harry told me, Albus. I want to hear it from you! How many years, Albus? How many years? I fought in the order with you during his first rise, why would you keep this from me?"
Albus sighed. "As I said not so very long ago to Harry, I have made many mistakes lately regarding him, and-"
Minerva interrupted him, "No, Albus, that isn't anywhere near good enough! I let you talk me into leaving him with those damnable Muggles almost 15 years ago. Do you have any idea what he went through there?"
Albus looked a little abashed, "I knew it would be difficult for him without his parents, or learning anything of the magical world until he got his Hogwarts letter, but..."
"No, Albus, do you know what those disgusting Muggles did to him; how they treated him?"
He frowned slightly at what her words and tone implied; 'Did to him?' he wondered. "No, Minerva, I am not aware of his treatment at the Dursleys, Why?"
"Why?" she spat out, standing and beginning to pace in her anger. "I told you what they were like, but you insisted he had to stay there anyway. Did you never once think to check up on him? If you had you would have learned why for yourself!
"That poor boy was treated worse than a Malfoy house elf! Never shown any love or care, and never having heard a kind word. He would have been better off being raised in a muggle orphanage; then at least he would have had other children to play with!"
She stalked to in front of Albus and leaned over the desk."He would also have had a bedroom or dorm to grow up in, and not a damn cupboard under the stairs! What were you thinking?" she demanded angrily.
Albus dropped his eye contact in dismay, and brought ahand to pinch the bridge of his nose behind his glasses.
"If Molly ever finds out what I've learned today, Albus, I honestly don't know what she'll do. You best hope Miss Granger never learns either. Having been on the receiving end of her wrath already today, misplaced as it was, I can guarantee you that it will not be pleasant."
Albus looked up, and appeared to wipe moisture from the corners of his eyes as he removed his hand from his face. "Miss Granger? Then Harry is with the Grangers now?"
He started to stand and found himself looking at Minerva's wand. Fawkes let out a small cry of protest from where he stood on his perch, perhaps frustrated that he couldn't do more. He was still growing from his recent rebirth as a result of taking the killing curse for Albus at the ministry.
"We have not yet finished our discussion, Albus. Where Harry Potter is now is not presently your concern. Whether you learn where he is, or have any say in what happens to him from now on will depend in part upon how this conversation goes. And before you try to read it from my mind, Alastor removed the specific memory of his location before I came here."
Albus sighed and sat down. "More of his constant vigilance I suppose?"
"It was my idea actually, but he seemed quite pleased with it."
Albus actually smiled very slightly. "I expect he was."
Minerva smiled slightly as well in reply. "Indeed, Ialmost expected him to hand around cigars."
Minerva sighed and put her wand away, and retook her seat."Albus, we have been friends for far too long, and have been through too much together for things to fall apart completely. But I meant what I said before. I will not let you anywhere near Harry unless you can convince me why Ishould."
Albus frowned. "I would not want you to take this the wrong way, Minerva, as I have no intention of dismissing your concerns, nor the obvious need to rebuild our friendship, but...are you sure that you could prevent me from contacting Harry, or that it would be for the best if you could?"
"Could I? Albus, it is already done. He is out of your hands. Whether he returns to Hogwarts, ever, will depend on what oaths I can obtain from you between now and September First. There are many other magical schools around the world as you are well aware - not to mention he is quite capable of affording private tutors."
She paused and looked over at him. "You do realise, that although we might like to think we are the premier magical school, the reality is that the ghost we have teaching History focuses far too much on Goblin rebellions, our Defence professors have been largely abysmal since Harry started, and as for potions-"
"Severus is the most talented potions master in the country!" Albus interrupted.
"That may very well be the case, Albus, but that is hardly relevant if he lacks either the ability or the inclination to teach students any part of his skill. Harry challenged me to review the punishments and points awarded and removed during his classes. I was thoroughly shocked at the outcome of my investigation. I strongly suggest you investigate as well."
She waited for his nod in agreement before continuing, "Since you have been far too lenient with him, I will, as Deputy Headmistress, take over his supervision. He will follow appropriate teaching methods, and he will behave professionally to all students, or I will dismiss him."
Albus opened his mouth as though to interrupt her tirade, but she didn't pause long enough to let him.
"I will make him aware of this and inform him that he is on probation. He will almost certainly then demand to speak with you. You will then explain that your hands are tied, and direct him to follow my directions as I have explained them. Are we agreed?"
"Minerva, it is more complicated than that. You know that Severus's role as a spy requires him to do certain things to maintain his cover."
"I am not fully convinced that he is spying for you, but whether he is or not is irrelevant. This is a school, not a military academy, and our students must come first! He will follow the rules now and Iwill review all points and detentions he allocates while he is on probation. He will also be required to accept NEWT potions students that have grades of Exceeds Expectations or better from now on."
"This is not up for debate! Have you forgotten that Healers and Aurors need a Potions NEWT? Why do you imagine we have so few Aurors? It is entirely your fault, Albus! You have allowed him to dictate that unnecessary requirement for an Outstanding OWL, and have allowed him to teach only ahandful of NEWT students each year. Not all of them even want to be Aurors!"
"How do you-"
"Because I spoke with Tonks, that's how! Between Fudge's failure to boost Auror funding due to Malfoy's bribes and the lack of available applicants thanks to Severus, the Auror numbers are at dangerously low levels. How could you allow this to happen?"
Albus removed his glasses, and ran his hand over his face and head, as though trying to massage out some tension while he considered her words. After a short while he replaced his glasses and looked back at her.
"I will agree with your demands regarding Severus. Iwill inform him when he speaks with me that you have my complete confidence, and he is to follow your directions. What do you wish to discuss next?"
"I wish to hear the prophecy now."
Albus didn't reply, but instead got up and removed his pensieve. Placing his wand to his temple, he withdrew a silvery strand and placed it into the stone bowl, then activated the memory.
A silvery image of Sibyl Trelawney rose from the bowl and recited the prophecy. When it was over, he replaced the memory back in his head, and put the pensieve away.
Minerva sat thoughtfully for a moment, digesting what she'd just heard. Eventually she spoke, "Was that prophecy the reason the Potters went into hiding?
"Do you know what 'the power he knows not' is?
"I believe it is most likely his power to love so deeply. Tom could not abide his touch during his first year, nor could he stay in his mind when he tried to possess him at the ministry recently.
"And how long have you held this belief that love was the power?"
"I suspected it shortly after hearing the prophecy in fact. It occurred to me that whatever the power was, it would be something that Tom would be incapable of knowing, rather than something as random as a spell, or a weapon that he didn't yet know."
Minerva looked at him with a look of shock. "I... think your reasoning is sound. It does seem to make sense." She shook her head, before nearly growling out her next words, "And do you finally realise now, that leaving him in a loveless home as you did, and forcing him to tolerate Severus's childish behaviour and Malfoy's taunts year after year, while making no effort to ensure that he received any experience with his 'power' that you may very well have doomed us all?"
Albus looked at her in horror, as though only now realising the point she had been trying to make the whole time.
"Were it not for the Weasleys and a handful of others, I'd say we would not have been able to keep even the flicker of hope alive these last few years, and now... now with Sirius's passing, that flicker has all but died. His hope for a future home died with him."
She looked across at Albus, her eyes blazing in anger. "Do you see what your foolish plans have wrought? What do you suppose he can look forward to now? What bright future will inspire him to risk his life in defence of the world that either loves or hates him depending on the latest story in the Daily Prophet?
"I'll tell you, Albus, it will be for his friends, and for them alone that he will strive. And if you try to manipulate him again, then do not be surprised if he simply uses his wealth to move himself and all of the people he cares about overseas, into hiding, and well out of Tom's reach."
Albus looked at her, and started nodding as he understood the truth of what she was saying. "Your argument is very persuasive. What would you have me do, Minerva?"
"For now, I simply want your assurance that you will leave Harry and his friends alone. Whatever you can think of that will help, you can discuss with me. I will encourage Harry to accept your advice and even your direct aid where I can, but I make no promises."
Albus nodded, "I'm beginning to understand, Minerva," he said, before sighing. "I thought the worst was behind me after he destroyed my office. It seems that was only the tip of the iceberg."
He steepled his fingers and tapped them against his chin."I do have an idea of how I might be of assistance in the short term. If you will give me a few days, I will compile some memories and place them in my pensieve. You can then take it to Harry, and perhaps it will serve in lieu of any more direct help."
Minerva smiled at him. "I think that is an excellent idea." She thought for a moment before continuing, "A pensieve would be invaluable as a training tool. Would it be possible for you to locate another one for Harry? I'm sure you will need yours back long before we would no longer have a use for it."
Albus waved the suggestion off. "Do not give it another thought, Minerva, My pensieve is now Harry's. His need is far greater than mine, and perhaps it will also help to show my remorse at my actions. How shall I contact you when I have stored the memories?"
"Could you have everything ready Friday evening?"
Albus nodded, "I shall endeavour to do so."
"In that case, Albus, I shall join you for dinner at 6 this Friday evening, and I will fill you in as much as I can on how things are progressing." She looked at him intently. "Is there anything else I should know before we part?"
Albus shook his head, "I do not believe there is anything we need discuss now. We do of course have a vacancy to fill in Defence, but that can wait until Friday if you like."
"Why not simply hire Kingsley or even Tonks? For that matter, you hired Alastor a couple of years ago, why not hire him again?Honestly, Albus, I don't see why you must make things more difficult than they need to be. None of the order members are doing anything as important as training our children to defend themselves. You should be able to talk Amelia into stealing one of her Aurors with that argument alone, despite how short-handed she is."
"I had thought of hiring Horace back again actually."
"Horace? Horace Slughorn?" she asked, before frowning. "I know he was a good potions professor but...Oh no, Albus, you aren't seriously thinking of..." she shook her head.
"Absolutely not! Talk to Amelia and let me know what she says on Friday," she said firmly.
Albus nodded slowly, "Very well then, Minerva, Ishall see you on Friday." He stood up as she started to move towards his fireplace. "And if I should need to reach you before Friday?"
She thought about it for a moment, "You can leave amessage with the Weasleys. I shall see you on Friday. We can arrange the oaths then."
"If you still think that is necessary, Minerva, then I shall of course comply."
Minerva frowned. "We haven't even covered anything like half of the problems you've caused, Albus. I'm warning you, if you try anything, we will leave and you will not find us. At that point, you had better hope the prophecy is false because as far as the wizarding world will be concerned, Harry Potter will cease to exist."
"Do you truly believe Harry would leave all of the other students to Tom's mercies? Would you truly leave them?"
Minerva scowled at the man. "You cannot help yourself can you? Even now, after all I've just said, your urge to manipulate people is so ingrained, that I wonder if you even know how to stop. You'll fight tooth and nail to try and redeem people like Severus and young Malfoy for a chance at turning them from the dark path they are on. Yet, you'll sacrifice good people like Harry and his friends with barely a pause. I sometimes wonder if I truly know you at all."
She stalked to the fireplace. "Do not test my resolve on this, Albus! And you're right; I no longer think an oath will be required."
Albus inclined his head. "Thank you, Minerva."
"I will accept nothing less than an unbreakable vow!"
She threw some floo powder into the fireplace, and quietly said, "The Leaky Cauldron" before stepping through.
After stepping out of the fireplace at the Leaky Cauldron, she immediately apparated away again, without a word of greeting to anyone.
On arriving at her new destination, she waved her wand in a complicated pattern in order to check for any tracking charms. After ensuring she was clear, she then activated a portkey and vanished.