Harry encounters the fallout from revealing Peter, both from the Ministry and Dumbledore. He also puts his plans into motion regarding Luna.
Chapter Eight: A View of a Different Sort
Harry hated bureaucrats. He hated them with a passion. He always had. As he stomped through the corridors of the castle, while the rest of the school was eating lunch, he hated them even more. His entire Saturday morning had been spent sitting in a Ministry conference room answering questions that had absolutely no relevance to uncovering the truth. And now that he was finally free of that rat's maze, filled with its paper-pushing rats, he was on his way to a command performance with the Headmaster. He was not happy.
He had been pleased when he, as well as the other faculty members present when Pettigrew was arrested, received a summons to appear at the DMLE to give statements on how Peter was uncovered, but that quickly evaporated in the dull, plodding presence of the leviathan called the Ministry. No matter how unrealistic it was, he had hoped that Sirius would be freed quickly. How naive of him. The Aurors, led by Dawlish and under strict instructions from the new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour once again, seemed intent on going over every detail in triplicate before taking any actions. I mean, what difference does it make if we noticed if Pettigrew was wearing matching socks? But once old Dumbledore asked the question the Aurors wouldn't be deterred until they knew the answer. At least Sirius had been moved from Azkaban to a holding cell in the Ministry pending formal arraignment before the Wizengamot.
That was the thing that truly raised the bile in Harry's stomach: not only had Sirius not been given a trial, he had not even been formally charged with any crime. If he had been charged then he would have had to have had at least some form of a trial. Instead, what old Barty Crouch Sr. had done was to arrange to have Sirius held 'at the Ministers pleasure' awaiting formal charges. This meant Sirius could be held indefinitely and there was nothing anyone could do about it. There was no appeal, or any other legal recourse, until charges were formally brought.
So now here it was, fifteen years later, and Sirius still hadn't been charged with anything. In fact, he couldn't be charged since there was no crime committed, what with Pettigrew being alive and all. The deaths of the Muggles were the responsibility of the Muggle courts to deal with, and they had long ago closed the incident out as a gas leak with no criminal investigation done. So, why the bloody hell didn't they just release Sirius if there was no crime committed that he could be charged with? Harry had had to forcefully restrain himself from blowing up the entire Ministry Building, revolting statue of Magical Brethren and all, when Dawlish had replied that since Black was being held at the Minister's pleasure only the Minister could authorize his release. And where in all the effing magical world was the Minister? He was visiting his grandchildren and was only to be disturbed in case of an emergency.
Harry Potter hated bureaucrats.
So he had stormed out of the Ministry before he killed someone. The Potters had remained behind, to plead for the chance to see Sirius and speak with him. McGonagall had followed Harry only long enough to tell him that Professor Dumbledore wanted to speak with him as soon as he returned to the school. Dumbledore, as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, had only gone to the Ministry to give a brief statement, ask after Peter's socks, then recuse himself, citing a possible conflict of interest. And now here Harry was, once again taking the spiraling staircase up to the Headmaster's office.
"Come in, Professor Harris," Dumbledore called as Harry was about to raise his hand to knock on the oaken door.
Harry entered and walked over to the chintz chair waiting in front of the Headmaster's desk. He stopped to look at Fawkes, sitting morosely on his gilded perch. "You look awful," Harry said to the phoenix as it eyed him suspiciously.
"He is approaching a burning day," Dumbledore stated.
"If it would help, I'll gladly strike a match and push him along a bit?" Harry volunteered.
"Somehow I doubt that he would consider that much of a help," Albus said calmly.
"Still, don't say I didn't offer." Harry continued his way across the crowded office, sidestepping the collection of whirling and spinning gewgaws that did goodness knew what. Harry stopped for a moment to gaze at the sorting hat, sitting high atop one of the bookshelves. "Hello there, Alistair," he said cheerily. "Long time no see."
The hat quivered for a moment before the rip opened across its brim and he answered, "Pardon me, but have we met?"
Harry shook his head sadly. "Alas we've not, I just thought I'd be polite and say hello. Especially since all these portraits are being so incredibly rude and pretending to be asleep." Harry could have sworn he heard some blustering from one wall as he took the offered seat. "You wished to speak with me, Headmaster?"
"Yes, I did, Odysseus. I wish to speak with you about the hostility you seem to hold against Professor Snape."
"What about it is ambiguous, Albus?" Harry answered, trying to sound as if he didn't already see where this conversation was going.
"I'd like you to stop it." Remarkably straightforward for the Headmaster, Harry thought. "After all, he is not your enemy."
"Are you quite certain of that?"
"I have complete trust in Severus," Albus said - his pat answer.
"Well, I do not."
"I wish you would."
"Because it would make life here much more harmonious."
Harry leaned forward in his chair, tired of the wasted banter. "Not why do you want me to trust him, what I asked was why should I?"
"As I said before: I have complete confidence in him."
"And as I answered before: I do not." Before Albus could continue with the pointless repartee, Harry continued, "Give me one solid reason why I should trust him?"
Albus returned his gaze serenely. "Because I do."
"Not good enough," Harry said, once again reclining back in his chair. "Give me a better reason."
"And why is my judgment not good enough?" Harry was pleased to see that the Headmaster was starting to show some signs of irritation.
"You trusted Quirrell, didn't you?" Dumbledore seemed a bit taken aback at this. "And you trusted Lockhart. And a polyjuiced Death Eater. Not a sterling track record, I must say."
"But I trust you," Albus said, playing his trump.
"Even a stopped watch is right twice a day," Harry replied calmly.
Dumbledore gave a small frown of disappointment and said, "Still I must insist that you treat Severus with the respect he deserves."
"That being none?"
Now it was the Headmaster's turn to sit forward, "You will treat him with courtesy, do I make myself clear?"
"Have you placed the same stricture on him?" Harry asked, still irritatingly calm.
"I have asked Severus to be more circumspect, yes."
"Are you forcing him to treat me and the rest of the staff with the same level of respect you feel he deserves?"
"You have to understand that Severus is under a great deal of stress..." Dumbledore hesitated only a heartbeat at Harry's snort. "... and he does have a certain role to play."
"Bollocks, the man is a vile, arrogant bully who never has a decent word to say about anyone, staff or student and, until you see fit to rein him in, I see no reason to permit him to walk all over me."
Now Dumbledore was obviously getting frustrated. "You must know that, in his role as a spy, Severus has to maintain a certain air?"
"Spy?" Harry said aghast, "why are you even bothering with that nonsense? The man is either totally incompetent at it or working for the other side."
Albus grew suddenly stern, which Harry was sure would have cowed any other member of the staff, but Harry remained implacably calm. "Severus has a highly important role in our campaign against Voldemort."
"Your campaign, you mean," Harry replied. "But again I have to ask what good has he done?" Dumbledore drew in a deep breath to answer and this gave Harry the time to carry on. "How long has he been your little spy anyways? He managed to stay out of Azkaban after the first fall of Voldemort because of it, so at least 15 years."
Dumbledore sighed. "Severus has been spying on the inner circle of Voldemort's supporters for almost seventeen years," he said quietly. "A dreadfully long period of time to be under such stress and that should give him some..."
Harry cut him off before he could build up a self-righteous head of steam. "And in all that time has he ever provided any truly useful bit of information? Was he able to warn you of Tom's plan to regain a body by subverting the Tri-Wizard Tournament?" Harry waited until Albus was forced to admit that he hadn't. "Or even the Death Eater attack at the Quidditch World Cup prior to it?" Again a small shake of the head. "So I ask again: What good is he?"
Albus seemed hesitant to respond so Harry continued to drive home his points; after all he had been saving them up for many years for just this argument. "You must know that Voldemort is aware that Snape is your spy; you stood up in open court to say it at Igor Karkaroff's trial."
Dumbledore heaved another sigh and held his head in his hands. "You have to understand, Odysseus, that it is not of simple matter of Severus telling me what he overhears..." Albus began a dissertation on the complexity of weaving covert intelligence networks in a hostile environment but Harry's mind was reeling. It was as if the curtain had suddenly been raised on a play and Harry didn't just hear a snippet of dialogue, instead he suddenly saw the entirety of the stage, all the props and backdrops were suddenly there, brightly lit. His roar of sardonic laughter brought Albus's lecture to a standstill.
"Oh, this is rich!" Harry leaned forward, his eyes glinty in the sunlight filtering through the stained-glass windows. "Snape is your spy. You announce it publicly. So Voldemort knows it. You know that Voldemort knows it and Voldemort knows that you know that he knows that you know it! So for all this time, Snape tells you what he hears but Tommy knows that he will so he makes sure that Snivellus doesn't hear anything that he doesn't want you to hear. Some of it is true but most is lies or simply not worth caring about. You, of course, have to not react too much to the kernels of useful information because that would compromise Snape. But you have to react a little, especially to the misinformation or else Tom might get tired of the game." Harry paused for breath and noticed Albus almost unconsciously nodding his agreement. "And in the mean time, Snape has to give Voldemort information in order to believably play the role of double agent in this little farce!" Harry's stare pinned Dumbledore to his chair. "Tell me Albus, did Emmeline volunteer to be sacrificed in your little chess match? Did she know you were sending her to her death when you gave her up to Snape? Did Amelia Bones? Was she even aware that her life meant no more to you than another pawn? Did she have any choice in dying?"
"As an Auror, Amelia understood that her life was in danger..."
"AS AN AUROR!" Harry screeched. "Are you telling me that she wasn't even a member of your Order and you still felt justified in handing her over to be killed?"
"I did not hand her over," Dumbledore stammered.
"No, you just did nothing! Did you even see fit to warn her?" The accusation struck hard.
"Severus's position is too tenuous; we couldn't risk..."
"You mean YOU couldn't risk! No wonder Voldemort has never moved to attack Hogwarts, we doesn't want to spoil his fun! He must think it's absolutely hilarious. He tells Snape who he is going to murder, he maybe even sends the bastard out on the raid to do it, knowing all the while that Snape will tell you and you will do absolutely nothing to prevent it! He must laugh himself silly every night thinking of it." Harry had had enough... more than enough. Before Dumbledore could make another excuse he was out of the chair and heading for the door. He grabbed onto the knob but it refused to turn. Memories of the night after the fiasco in the Department of Mysteries flew unbidden through his mind as Harry struggled to leave the office to no avail. "Let me out," Harry growled.
"No," Albus replied calmly, his mask of unflappability once again in place. "We need to finish this discussion."
"This discussion is finished, Headmaster," Harry spat, "as is your Potions Master."
"No, I can't allow you to harm Severus, he is too vital to us."
Harry wanted to turn and spit in the old man's eye. He wanted to hex him into oblivion for the pain and misery he so callously doled out to innocent people. Susan Bones, the sweet little Hufflepuff who couldn't tread on a worm without regret, was an orphan, completely without any family at all, all because Albus wanted to play chess with people's lives. Harry wanted to kill him... but he didn't. He smacked his head into the thick oaken plank of the door with all his might; the stab of pain giving him the respite he needed to close off his emotions once again. Slowly, Harry turned back to face the Headmaster.
"No, he is valuable to you, no one else," he said coldly. Harry knew he was treading on thin ice now. If he pushed the headmaster too far then Albus would likely react with a memory charm and Harry couldn't afford to be obliviated, not now, there was too much at stake.
"You don't understand, Odysseus," Dumbledore offered.
"No, I understand perfectly," Harry replied. "You are fighting a war of attrition, albeit a one-sided one." Harry stepped back to his seat, striving with each step to remain calm. "You are sacrificing the people who are loyal to you, one by one, stalling for time." There was a soft rustling from the far corner of the room. Harry glanced over to where Fawkes sat on his perch with his eyes held firmly the possible threat to his companion.
"And why would I want to do that?" Albus seemed almost genuinely interested; as if he thought that if Harry could pass this test then a whole new future might open up for them. But Harry already knew the future, or at least his own.
"Because you are hoping that someday, some wonderful day far into the future, Snivellus may accidentally overhear something truly valuable. Some small tidbit that will give you the answer you seek."
"And what answer is that?"
"How to kill him," Harry said coldly. "You are trading lives to buy time, and with that time you hope to solve the great riddle of how to destroy Voldemort." Harry chuckled humorlessly. "Pardon the pun."
"And do you know this? How to destroy Voldemort?"
Harry snorted in dry amusement. "How should I know that? Do I look like I have some rare and unknown power that could vanquish him?" Harry stared hard at the Headmaster. "And besides, isn't that what you have your pet for? I certainly wouldn't want to put him out of a job prematurely now, would I?"
Albus ignored the jab at Snape and replied to the original point, "That might be my plan, yes."
"But then again, how do you know that Voldemort won't feed Snape that bit of information as a trap? You will think you've found a way to destroy him when in fact he has finally found a way to destroy you." Albus nodded his head. "And so, even if you do hear of his Achilles' heel, you likely won't act on it."
"That is the risk of leadership. I pray that you never have to take it."
Harry stood up from his chair, fatigue suddenly making his limbs feel like lead. "And what makes you think I haven't already? Snape is of no real value; lose him before he causes any more damage."
"I'm afraid that isn't possible. Severus is deeply involved in something of major importance to the war."
Harry looked at the Headmaster with something between a sneer and a smirk. "You mean Draco? And Snape's little promise to help the ferret murder you?"
Dumbledore's eyebrows rose up until they almost merged with his hairline. "And how do you know of this?"
"That is quite irrelevant. What is important is whether or not Snivellus has told you of Draco's other tasking."
Harry gestured towards the door and with a wave of his hand, Albus released his locking charm. Harry had the door half opened when Dumbledore tried to get the last word. "But you will be more circumspect in your dealings with Professor Snape." It was an order and not a question.
The door swung closed on Harry's reply. "Keep your pet snake on a short leash or I'll skin him alive and turn his hide into a new attachÃ©."
As the door clicked shut a new voice was heard in the Headmaster's office. "I told you he wouldn't listen. The man is a complete fool."
Albus turned towards the sound as Severus Snape pulled the invisibility cloak off his head and folded it over one arm.
"I think it would be advisable, Severus, to tread carefully around Mr. Harris."
Snape sneered icily. "As I said before, he is a complete fool. I've handled dozens like him in the past and would have no problems with this one. You never should have hired him; I would have been a much better choice to teach his subject."
Albus steepled his fingers under his chin. "Would you indeed? Tell me, Severus, would you have uncovered Peter as Odysseus did?"
"I wouldn't have wasted my time; Pettigrew is of no consequence."
"Perhaps, my dear Severus, perhaps, now tell me, what do you know of this second task of Mr. Malfoy's?"
Harry stormed out of the castle doors fuming. His long walk through the castle gates and down to the village of Hogsmeade gave him time to come to grips with his anger so that by the time he got to the Three Broomsticks he was merely furious. He knew that Dumbledore wouldn't pay any heed to his warnings and neither Snape nor Malfoy would be in any way hindered in their efforts to do Voldemort's bidding. How could the man be so dense? Harry didn't care if Albus wanted to put his own life in danger, that was his affair, but didn't he care at all about the lives of others? Harry thought back to his previous life and how Draco, too cowardly to attack Dumbledore directly, would choose to use go-betweens instead. He remembered how Katie and later Ron had both been poisoned by those attempts and Madam Rosmerta put under the Imperious. What made Draco and Snivellus so important that he would give them every possible chance to change sides when the lives of those who had already chosen the Light side meant so little?
Harry chose an empty table at the pub and pulled out a chair then slammed it back to the floor in frustration. He jumped as a voice from behind caught him off guard. "Had a bad day, love?" Harry spun to see the buxom and vivacious publican standing there. "Somehow, I doubt the chair had anything to do with it."
Harry smiled in spite of his emotions and sat down, albeit more calmly. "Yeah, you could say it's been a bad day."
"Have you had worse?" she asked, cocking her hip to one side.
Harry's smile widened at the obvious flirtation. "Oh, I've had much worse."
"And you'll probably have even worse ones at some point in the future?" Harry nodded. "Well then," she concluded as if stating the obvious, "this one will hardly be worth remembering, will it? So why not do the clever thing and forget it now and save yourself some grief?"
Well, you make a lovely point there," Harry said smirking up at her. "Quite a lovely point indeed."
Rosmerta swatted him with the towel she kept draped over her shoulder but smiled none the less. "That's better. Now, what can I get for you today? Some dinner perhaps?"
Harry nodded. "What's on special tonight?"
"We have steak and kidney pie with a lovely treacle tart for afters?" Rosey looked pleasantly hopeful but Harry only scowled.
"People always seem to be feeding me steak and kidney pie," he growled. "I hate it. Got anything else?"
Rosmerta's eyes widened in surprise. "Well, we have roast chicken left over from lunch?"
Harry started to smile again. "That would be grand," he said "and some chips, please."
"Anything to drink? Butterbeer?"
What Harry wanted was a firewhiskey, maybe several, but that would be counter productive. "Just a nice pot of tea, I think," Harry answered and the barmaid strode off to get his meal.
As he waited for his food to arrive, Harry took stock of what he would need to accomplish his goal. A visit to Honeydukes, obviously, he knew, but what else. He fished into his pocket and brought out a silver Sickle. He examined it closely as he rubbed it between his fingers. He drew his wand and cast a spell over the coin and watched it morph into a cone shape. He placed it on the table, pointed upwards, and rested his wand on the tip. Casting another silent charm, Harry watched as the silver cone rose up into the air slightly before toppling over. Harry shook his head, too many other metals alloying the silver he realized. He had to get something purer to do the job. By this time his food had arrived and Harry put his wand away to eat.
After settling his bill and a jaunty wave to Rosmerta, Harry left the pub and walked up the street to find a jewelry shop. There he tried to buy a small ingot of sterling silver but the jeweler refused. Instead, Harry was forced to purchase a ring, a promise ring it turned out, but a simple test showed that it was indeed pure silver, or at least pure enough for his task.
Finally, Harry stopped at Honeydukes. He went past the Cockroach Clusters and beetle non-pareils and went straight to the counter. There he signaled to the man behind the counter to get his attention.
"What can I get for you, sir?"
"I'd like some chocolate butterbeers," Harry said.
"Any particular type?" the man asked while grabbing a small paper sack to put them in. "We have them in dark, milk, and white chocolate."
Harry smiled. "Well, I'll take a half dozen of the milk chocolate in the bag you have, but I'd like a large box of assorted as well."
The man eyed him curiously, it wasn't near Valentine's Day and that is usually when he sold the larger boxes of sweets. "How large?"
Harry thought for a minute. He wanted to make sure he got enough to do the job right, but also didn't want to spend the entire night finishing them. "Hmm, better make it about two kilos, I think. Don't want to appear a piker, after all."
The man had to go into the back room to get a box big enough but was quite happy to do it. He even threw in the extra few milk chocolate ones for free after he filled the large white box. Harry paid gladly and headed back towards the castle. It was likely going to be a long night.
So, it was a much more pleasant Harry that strolled his way back to the castle. Intermittently along the way, he would reach into his paper sack and withdraw a treat. Made of chocolate, milk chocolate being Harry's favorite, and shaped like a miniature bottle, they were filled with butterbeer syrup that warmed you thoroughly. They were fantastic to use to counter the effects of Dementors, Harry had learned. Back in the day, Ron couldn't get enough of his chocolate frogs, Hermione was a fan of Honeydukes special extra-dark chocolate, but Harry always preferred, when he had the choice, chocolate butterbeers.
Back in his quarters, Harry laid out the tools he would need for his evenings work: the box of sweets lay open on his table; he had a flannel with a cooling charm on it so that he could handle the chocolate without melting it; a candle; a fine eagle feather quill, and lastly the sterling silver ring. Harry took this last item in his hand and began to transfigure it. It soon lost its ring shape and became a tall, thin cone. Next, he thinned the cone even more and began to hollow it out. After a few minutes of work it was thin enough to fit neatly over the end of the quill and Harry fixed it there. Then he began to sharpen the nib. Now, if Harry had been using ink, he would have left the nib a bit rounded to make the writing smoother, but he wasn't using any ink this evening and so he made the point needle sharp.
Finally, Harry used the cooled cloth to pick up one of the pieces of chocolate in his left hand and the silver-tipped quill in his right. After heating the quill in the candle flame, he began to carefully inscribe a glyph into the base of the chocolate bottle. He had to use a silver instrument to get the magic of the rune to work properly, and he heated it so that the image was cleanly cut into the chocolate without cracking it. He had to be careful though because if he pressed too hard he would pierce the confection case and the syrup would leak out ruining his work. He worked slowly. He needed as many of these done as he could if his plan was to work properly. Better too many, he thought, than not enough.
It took him several hours of concentration to get them all done but the box was eventually filled again with the sweets and Harry cleaned up after himself. Just one last thing to do and it would all be ready to go. Harry waved his wand over the still open box and incanted a long series of phrases in Egyptian. The curse was ancient but effective, Harry knew. It would do the job perfectly.
Finally, Harry carefully wrapped the box up once again in the bright Honeydukes paper and put it aside. He wouldn't have class with the fifth year Ravenclaws again until Tuesday but it would be worth the wait.
Harry went to sleep that night with a smirk on his face that would have done the Marauders proud.
A/N I just wanted to say a quick thank you to all the folks that pointed out, last chapter, that the fic I was referring to was "Right or Easy" by Razzle-Dazzle-Me. It is located on ff.net if anyone cares to give it a read.