The Heir of the Founders, the Heir of Merlin, needs to set the future straight -- by going back to 1971. In this chapter, Harry saves Snape.
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Severus Snape hurried from the dungeons, where he had been talking with Professor Slughorn about some questions he had about potions preparations. He knew he had to hurry, or else he would be late to the second meeting of the 'Meritocracy League'.
Had anyone told him before his arrival at Hogwarts that he would be in an organization dedicated to advancement on merit rather than blood, he would have scoffed at the least. True, his father was a Muggle, and a drunken abusive one at that, and his mother a blood traitor for marrying him. Her brother had taken Snape out of their run-down home and given him nearly a year's crash course on magic in general, especially theory, dark magic in particular, and most especially potions, a subject both his mother and uncle had excelled in.
And then his beloved uncle had been captured in the May Massacre, the only Death Eater captured. Even more embarrassing, he had been captured by a boy a few months younger than Severus himself -- for James Potter had lobbed the stone which had hit Jacob Sergius Prince on the temple. His uncle had been Kissed just a few hours later.
That meant Snape had been sent back to the dreary house on Spinner's End. There, Snape had found his father had died (he suspected his mother had finally poisoned him with a magical potion untraceable by the Muggle authorities). While she had not in any way encouraged his interests in the Dark Arts, she had not confiscated the books he had taken from his Uncle's flat. Instead, she spent the summer teaching her son how to survive at Hogwarts, no matter what House he was placed in, and teaching him more potion theory.
He had been a bit surprised to have been Sorted into Ravenclaw rather than the usual Prince House of Slytherin, for Half-bloods were common in each House. The Hat had assured him, however, that his ambitions for a career in potions ran deeper than his desire to learn the Dark Arts, and would be better served in Ravenclaw.
Observing the Houses over the first weeks, Snape decided he would have spent more time with the Dark Arts in Slytherin than potions, if only for self-protection. He had neither money nor ancestry, and those and power were all that were respected in Slytherin.
He was far from the only impoverished scholar in Ravenclaw, and aside from some teasing about washing his hair more often, he was finding a great deal of support from his House, support which he (correctly) guessed would not have gotten from Slytherin, unless he had been able to force it out of them.
He had also been pleased that there were a few in Ravenclaw who agreed that all knowledge was worth learning, including Dark Magic. They had welcomed him into their little group. When several had expressed shock at his joining the League, Snape had pointed out that being on the inside could be advantageous, and that if he continued his interests in potions of all kinds, he would need to win training through merit alone.
He was a little disappointed in his fellow Ravenclaw First years. They were all interested in brewing their potions perfectly, but had little interest knowing why they worked. The Gryffindor Lily Evans shared his enthusiasm, perhaps even exceeded it, although she lacked his background. Harry Potter was interested in picking his brains, having quickly seen that Snape knew why ingredients interacted as they did, and he wanted to know why.
Harry Potter did not seem to like him very much, but was willing to work with Snape in order to learn. Snape had seen how powerful Potter was on the train. He thought knowing one Potter might be to his advantage, even if he disliked him in turn.
At least Harry Potter was far better than James Potter. James Potter and Snape could not stand being near each other. Sirius Black, James' sidekick, was nearly as bad. Snape appreciated how subtly Harry Potter kept his brother and Black away from him.
"Look who it is," came a cold voice.
'Shit,' Snape thought. 'Malfoy.'
"Why, it's a Wittle Weaguer," Bellatrix cooed like a poisonous pigeon.
Snape saw that he was boxed in by Black, Malfoy, Avery, and Rosier, all, Fifth through Seventh years. He was in deep trouble. "I had thought you might be worthy of us," Bellatrix went on, "despite your muddy ancestry."
"You might not have had any real choice in your House," Malfoy put in, "but you chose to join the League."
Snape opened his mouth to plead that he could perhaps make a useful inside man in the League, but Bellatrix cut in. "And no excuses. You made your choices, Snape."
"And so have you four." The voice seemed to come from everywhere.
"Ssssilly ssstudentssss," hissed another voice. "I am assshamed of you."
"There is no good that I can see in these four," the first voice, which sounded female, said, "and they threaten one of my own."
"He could have been mine," objected the second voice, "he isss worthy."
"Where are you?" Malfoy demanded as the four looked wildly around.
"Silence!" warned a strong bass voice. The four Slytherins froze, except for their frightened eyes.
"I hate to say it," came a fourth voice, also female, "but I must say they must not just be taught a lesson but must also provide one."
"You are right as well as correct, Helga," the first voice said.
"I certainly agree," came the bass voice. "What about you, Sal? They are yours."
"They dissgracce the Houssse of Ssslytherin," the voice hissed. "I cassst them out, just as I do the bassstard who claimsss my blood."
"Run towards the Headmaster's office," the voice which seemed to claim to be Ravenclaw's commanded. "Run, now." Snape ran.
"Did you see Snape?" Diana asked Harry as he came into the League meeting.
"Not since the flying lesson yesterday," Harry answered. "He wasn't in the library."
"Is anyone else missing?" she asked. Everyone looked around, but no one said anything. "In that case, I call the second meeting to order. The first order of business is the introduction of new members."
Snape was glad that he ran into the Headmaster, who seemed to know that there was a problem, along with Professors Flitwick and Sprout. Sprout was told to take Snape to the Headmaster's office.
Flitwick and Dumbledore found the four Slytherins alive but laying on the floor. They appeared uninjured, but did not respond to their attempts to wake them. The professors levitated the quartet to the Infirmary.
"What is the problem, Madam Pomfrey?" Dumbledore asked gently. The young witch looked shocked.
"They are unconscious because of a major shock to their system," Pomfrey said. "There is no physical or mental injury."
"And that shock was what?" Dumbledore frowned. "What was the injury to, if it was not mental or physical?"
"Headmaster . . . Headmaster, I can detect no magic in any of these four, except for that Mark on Miss Black's forearm," Pomfrey said. "I know it's impossible, but it's as if they were drained of their magic."
Dumbledore swallowed nervously at that. This was perhaps the true deepest fear of any magical person who had ever had the thought -- losing one's magic.
It was thought by most to be impossible, unless losing one's magic was part of an Unbreakable Vow, rather than death. Other than that, there was no assured way known of losing one's magic. There was the legend of the anti-magi, people who could absorb magic rather than cast it, but that was it. There were numerous potions which suppressed magic for short periods, but here, the seemingly impossible had happened.
And the Headmaster had no idea of what to do, other than question the one witness, and then the enigma which was Harry Potter.
"What did you do?" Dumbledore demanded.
"Did you know that in many ways Hogwarts is sentient?" Harry asked.
"In some senses it is," Dumbledore agreed. "The castle itself must accept a Headmaster as such if he is to exercise his functions. The Board may nominate, but no more. How does that answer my question?"
"Consult the castle about what happened today," Harry said simply.
Dumbledore frowned. He disliked direct communication, as the castle tended to reflect the personalities of the four founders, and Slytherin was often disruptive. Still, it seemed like the easiest way to deal with young Potter. Dumbledore sat back, closed his eyes, and let his connections to the castle open.
In just a few seconds, his eyebrows went up.
"If Slytherin's echo feels different than it used to," Harry supplied, "it's because we cleaned the Dark Magic out of the Chamber of Secrets. That added a layer from his last, bitter years to his memories the castle had access to. In the beginning, he was no purist. It was only after his favorite granddaughter was raped by a roving band of Muggle Vikings, including a barely-trained Muggle-born who managed to overpower her, that he came to loathe the Muggle world. Without that last bitter portion, he's actually quite reasonable. Even Floppy over there should be slightly affected."
"Please do NOT call me that," the Sorting Hat said primly. "However, Mister Potter is correct. Slytherin will always be the House of Ambition, but I will be able to be more open to those with mostly Muggle ancestry now. Who knows, in a few years, I might finally be able to add the actually Muggle-born."
Dumbledore frowned at this, but decided to get back to the main point. "Regardless, the castle could not have stripped the magic out of those students, nor would it have harmed them like that."
"Wrong and wrong," Harry answered, "or rather, partially wrong and wrong. The castle would not have allowed anyone, even me, to strip an innocent student of their magic. Avery and Rosier have already cast the Killing Curse and Cruciatus on Muggles. Malfoy has cast those and the Imperius. They've tortured beyond that, of course. Bellatrix is already a Marked Death Eater, and is far worse than those three -- I just put her name out as a possible instead of a Marked Death Eater to see what people did about her. The answer was 'nothing', just as they have really none nothing about any of those Marked. They were hardly four innocent little students who might be redeemed from error, they are hardened racist sadists."
"But. . . ."
"But nothing," Harry snapped. "There are two things you had better understand. First, I don't give a rat's arse if someone can be redeemed or not once they've willingly killed or tortured, especially if I catch them in the act or if they've enjoyed it. I'm not going out of my way to punish people, either. Crabbe and Goyle weren't there, and from what I've gathered from what passes for their brains, they haven't done much beyond serious bullying." Both were Fourth years, too young to be trusted by the older pro-Death Eaters. "I'm not holding future actions against anyone, I'm just keeping an eye on people. Otherwise, I would have killed Snape, who killed you and several other people I cared about, not to mention his abusing me for six years when I was his student."
Harry stood straight. "Second, I am the direct heir, magical and biological, of Godric Gryffindor, not to mention Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw to a lesser degree. This damn curse scar that came back with me, amongst other things, Marks me as a magical heir of Slytherin. The vaults of all four Founders have Marked me as having the right to Speak for the Founders, as have the Vaults of Merlin and the Triad Council. . . ."
"The who?" Dumbledore demanded.
"The Triad Council, whom Merlin taught and who in turn taught the Founders," Harry stated, and then added with a smirk, "You know, the personifications of the three vaults between Merlin and Founders -- maybe someday the Hogwarts guardian will trust you enough to allow you past the inner vault to the other eighty percent. You're just allowed into the money and general storage areas." Dumbledore could not hide his surprise that he was not allowed into most of the Hogwarts' vault. He had not known more even existed. "All accepted me in the last lifetime, so I figured they would again, and they did."
Dumbledore's mouth was now opening and closing in shock. "But . . . impossible!"
"Well, Ravenclaw told me in the first time-stream I needed to be more studious," Harry admitted, "and Hufflepuff told me to trust my friends more. I did better this time." Harry's face hardened. "Why was I even there to help Snape? They were going to torture him to death, and then Bellatrix was going to leave Hogwarts and join her Master, as she has just turned seventeen. Voldemort ordered it to show the wavering people he wants to recruit what would happen to them if they continue to defy him. Even though Snape would have begged to turn spy to save himself, they were going to torture him to death."
"So. . . ."
"I will ask the castle to whisper to him that his little gesture has been forgiven this once, but that he had best decide on a side and stick with it," Harry stated firmly. "I was there because the castle read their intentions and was literally screaming for help. You should be as tied into the wards as I am, if not more so. Why couldn't the castle attract YOUR attention? Why was it only actions against Dark students, not Dark actions BY students, that drew you? Think about that."
From the look on Dumbledore's face, he would certainly be thinking about that, and didn't like the prospect. What he asked however, was, "And what happened to their power?"
"I absorbed some of the magic, and the castle itself absorbed most of it," Harry answered. "I don't like stripping away people's magic, but if I must, I will."
"I could. . . ." Dumbledore started, but he stopped with a shudder, while Fawkes squawked in protest at the wave of magic threatening the Headmaster. It was not from Harry.
"Don't threaten me within the boundaries of Hogwarts, Headmaster," Harry said. "The castle doesn't like it." Harry comforted Fawkes, and then left.
That night, as a rather smug Severus Snape went to bed, his eyes suddenly opened. The ambient noises from his dorm mates had disappeared. He tried to sit up to see what was going on, but be found that while he was breathing and his eyes could still move, nothing else did.
"Ssshame on you, Ssserveruss Sssnape," a familiar voice whispered.
"It was a plan of survival, but not one of honor," the other male voice agreed.
"You must decide, young Snape," one female voice stated. "You must be loyal to more than just yourself, or you will juggle the situation until you finally fail."
"Remember who you are, young Ravenclaw," the final voice reminded him. "Make the intelligent decision."
"You have the intelligencccce," the first voice concluded. "You have the ambition."
"You have the allies," the first female pointed out.
"The question is, do you have the fiber, the guts?" the second male voice asked.
"We will not give you another easy way out," the second female concluded. "However, the final choice is always yours."
Snape realized that the charms were off him, and now that he could react freely, his heart was pounding.
There were weeks of screaming and inquiries in the aftermath. Most, however, were directed against the Ministry, as the four students had disappeared the very afternoon the Ministry had insisted they be sent home to their families. Their tortured bodies were discovered the next morning in Diagon Alley -- and for the first time, the Dark Mark floated in the air. A note left with bodies merely noted that these had been mercy killings, since they had had their magic stripped away.
A return note from the Order of Founders to various members of the press, Ministry, and Wizengamot outlined the teens' crimes, and made the (accurate-but-unsupported) claim that it had been Voldemort who had killed them. Snape's memories had been pulled, placed in a pensieve, and well-examined by the Ministry. No one knew what to make of the claims of the voices that they represented those of the Four Founders.
Snape reacted to this attention by actually becoming somewhat shy. His Housemates did two things. First, they rallied behind him to protect him from inquiries from the other students. Second, they took the rather scruffy, oily child and made him clean up his act. "At the moment, you're a public face of all Ravenclaws, as well as Hogwarts," Carolyn Fortescue -- the Seventh year Ravenclaw prefect was both the daughter of the owners of Fortescue's and grandniece of the current Madam Malkin -- told him. Somehow, she managed to clean Snape up without him feeling like he was being given charity.
Harry frowned as September turned towards October and yet another inquiry committee came to Hogwarts. Harry only knew one of the five members, but that one was Augustus Rookwood, Unspeakable and, at some point, Death Eater. Harry could not tell at the distance he was from Rookwood if he was already Marked or not. He had a great deal of confidence in his passive Legilimency, but detected nothing from any of the group, which suggested they might all be Unspeakables. The fact that they had refused accommodations in the castle, and instead camped in a large tent on a side lawn merely reenforced the idea.
And Harry was not about to try any active Legimency on an Unspeakable. He would have to try and get within five or six feet of the man. If he reached for the Dark Mark from further away, a sensitive target might detect the probe, although there would be little he could do about it. Still, Harry did not want to draw attention to the students.
It took Harry over two days to pass close enough to Rookwood without alerting him that his Mark was twitching and sending off a faint response to an inquiry.
Harry smiled nastily at the Unspeakable, who sneered back.
Friday, October 1, 1971
"Where is that git," Florida Fawlty-Forbisher demanded. Each Unspeakable had a turn in the rota for cooking, and this morning it was Rookwood's turn.
"Hey, Augie!" St. John Smith-Smythe called out. "I don't smell bacon!"
"I think we should wake the little bastard up," Leighton Lancaster suggested. "Perhaps if we shoot an icicle up his bum?"
"You aristocrats are so childish," Sonya Sarum pointed out. "I would think teasing anyone as accomplished as any of us over failing to correctly set up a 'wake-me-up' charm would be adequate entertainment."
"Really?" Smith-Smythe drawled.
"Well, that and the fact that a rectally inserted icicle with enough velocity to penetrate through blankets and whatever nightwear dear Augustus favors might be more than merely painful," she pointed out.
"Good point," Fawlty-Forbisher had to agree.
"How about four buckets of ice water?" Lancaster suggested.
"Much better," Sarum agreed. The four grinned and stood up.
Unspeakables tended to have much in common. Nearly all were Pure-bloods, and all were raised with deep understanding of magic. Few loathed the Muggle world, however, and often pursued University degrees. For centuries, they had studied Philosophy and Mathematics, and had added Physics, Engineering, and Archeology in the twentieth century.
The four stopped smiling as they entered Rookwood's suite and saw that not only was he very dead, but that he had the now-infamous Dark Mark on his left forearm.
Why did the Unspeakables study Muggle Philosophy? In part because it was the most advanced study available, other than mathematics, until the 19th century, plus they used Muggle logic(unlike just about every magical being in canon, other than Hermione and, once, Snape). Their reasons for studying Higher Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering should be pretty obvious. As for Archeology, that would be in part to make certain Muggles don't learn of the Magical world through archeological discoveries and in part to take advantage of any such discoveries.