Everything always goes according to the plan doesn't it...
Acknowledgements - I'd like to give a big thanks to Kokopelli for his beta work and the Alpha Fight Club crew for all their input.
Chapter 32 - According to the Plan
September 10th, 1996
"So, I see I have five years of blatant favoritism and substandard teaching methods to contend with. It will not be easy for me, but I assure you it will be significantly harder for you."
Harry focused on the Vampire's voice, trying to ignore his earlier anger from breakfast. Hedwig was on her way to Rita, that self-serving bitch, with a rather quickly written and harsh message. Get through the day without provoking anyone. It's a good plan. Potions was one of the combined classes and the only one, other than Transfiguration, where he would have to associate with any Slytherins. Most of the students in the room shifted uncomfortably under their new instructor's gaze. Harry refused to acknowledge the attempted intimidation. After all, he had been close to killing Coedus earlier this summer. From the corner of his eye he caught faint smile on Susan's face as she nudged her knee against his leg.
"As you are aware, I am Vampire. My heart ceased beating in 1884. This change left me without the majority of my magic, so I was forced to become a superior Potion Brewer. Ironically, your Ministry like the rest of Europe refuses to acknowledge beings such as myself as Masters of the Craft. From 1912 until 1960, I was under the tutelage of one of the oldest of my kind - Cecelia de Medici. She has forgotten more about the art in her six hundred years of existence then you will ever know! Today, we will start with the Blood Replenishing Potion. It is one of the most important elixirs to both your kind and mine as well. For the first two years of my apprenticeship, it was the only potion I was allowed to brew. It was a full year before I produced one of acceptable quality to the Mistress of Pain."
Surprisingly, Neville raised his hand, while scanning a parchment.
"Yes nephew, what is your question?"
Harry heard the tap Hermione's foot on the ground. She usually does that when she is annoyed. Harry pondered why she was annoyed, realizing that it was probably the seemingly hypocritical example of favoritism after he had just panned it moments before.
"Vampires cannot take the blood replenishing potion. It is not on the list of the eighty-six potions your species is able to ingest," Neville said confidently.
Coedus looked thoughtful, "Mr. Longbottom is quite correct. As he is my only living relation, I have given him a list of compatible potions, should I ever require his assistance in these matters. Someone tell the class why the Blood Replenishing Potion is so important to my kind? Mr. Potter, what is your theory?"
Harry thought for a moment, "So your victims last longer."
Allowing his fangs to be clearly seen Coedus nodded, "Indeed. An average human male will last only one feeding for three or more Vampires. With a proper regimen of Blood Replenishing Potions, that same human will feed a group of five for a week before expiring."
The class seemed to collectively recoil from the implications of the statement. Harry suspected Coedus sensed their discomfort and perhaps was even relishing it "What? Do I offend you? You'll find there are many things in this world that would qualify as unsavory."
Parvati looked horrified, "But can't you can live off livestock?"
"You can live off a completely vegetarian diet, but you choose not to. Ten of your ridiculous house points for asking a question before you think about it. Fortunately, you have steered me back to my lesson or you would find yourself scrubbing your delicate fingers raw in detention this evening. Miss Patil has aptly demonstrated the most dangerous problem in a Potions Lab - acting before thinking. Accidents happen when you allow your thoughts to stray from the cauldron in front of you. From the shine on the cauldrons in front of me, I see the seventh-years warned you of the dangers of dirty cauldrons. The most insignificant impurity in an elixir will rob it of a portion of its potency."
The Vampire paced through the lab stopping in disgust at Dean's, Pansy's, Terry's and Megan's tables. "In life, you may very well have to make a potion in a hurry, but in here you have all the time I allow you. Therefore, you have no excuse for not working with clean equipment!" Harry was glad that his cauldron was brand new replacing the one that had been destroyed in the fight with his previous Potions Instructor.
Coedus looked down at him. "I see some of you have purchased new cauldrons. Tell me Mr. and Mrs. Potter, did you precondition them prior to class?"
"No sir. They're preconditioned by the manufacturer," Susan answered.
Harry was slightly confused.
"And you believed them? Quit wasting my time, you ignorant girl. Brand new cauldrons should be broken in by the brewer before proper use; they contain the highest levels of impurities from the manufacturing process. You may spend today and this evening's detention conditioning your cauldrons. At tomorrow night's detention you will brew this lesson's potion."
He looked at Susan's flustered face ignoring Harry's. "Unless of course, your faith is so unwavering in the person that sold you these, that you believed them. We can test it for impurities. If I am wrong and the cauldrons are indeed ready for use, then there will be no detentions. If I am right, we shall see each other for a week. You look like the trusting sort, so I'll give you a choice. Do we test, or not?"
Harry looked at Susan and squeezed her hand under the table.
"We'll take the two detentions," he murmured.
He heard a few snickers coming from the Slytherins that immediately stopped when the Vampire whipped his head in their direction.
After ten seconds of staring directly at Malfoy and Crabbe, Coedus continued slowly, "A wise answer, Mr. Potter, I doubt these cauldrons would pass. Most cauldron makers condition their products a dozen at a time with some peon tending a dozen fires making a pittance for wages. Ever tended twelve fires at one time and kept them all at a proper temperature? I earned thirty-seven sickles a week doing that very job. Yes Miss Granger?"
"What about the ingredients? We didn't harvest them ourselves, so if you apply the same logic to the ingredients that you do to the cauldrons aren't they impure as well?"
"A second worthy question, perhaps there is some hope for this group. You will clean your ingredients to the best of your abilities prior to use. Dirt, mold and animal droppings on herbs affect the purity. Who among you likes the taste of dirt, mold and animal droppings? Because if you don't care about your ingredients, then you obviously must like the taste. I'll speak to the house elves about your menu selections if you like. If you did not personally grow and harvest the plants, quarry the minerals, or gather the animal parts yourself - then you assume a certain level of risk that the components of your potion are not the best they can be. You can only control your technique, the cleanliness of your components, and the quality of your equipment. I believe I have made my point. While the Potters prepare their equipment for use, the rest of you will make your first attempt at a Blood Replenishing potion. I shall have to lower my standards; or else we won't be able to move on to another potion for several years."
Were he to be approached in the future by a budding Dark Lord or Lady, Lord Voldemort would impart the following advice before killing them, 'Never expect it to be easy. Things go wrong all the time. The best laid plans and all that rubbish.'
This graveyard was one giant deathtrap. Wary of Necromancy, most magical families were rather protective of their dead, but this is borders on the ludicrous! All had been quiet until he opened the gate of the small mausoleum. Suddenly, all the statues had come to life, reminding him of McGonagall's chess pieces.
He considered this as he stepped over the battered corpse of either Yaxley or Jugson. The man's head had been crushed by a statue of the Christian savior brandishing his cross. The two families intermarry so often that it's hard to tell which was which. A blasting curse reduced the animated savior to rubble, as a pair of Angels brandishing stone swords stepped forward to take its place as bolts of energy smashed slammed harmlessly into their alabaster wings.
Around him, the eight remaining Death Eaters struggled against a graveyard come to life, as tombstones flew through the air hurled by the dozen animated statues in the rear. It was a cleverly designed trap. Spinning deftly, he banished both Angels into the next rank of statues and deflected the next volley of tombstones from crashing into his fighters. He would have to revisit this combat in his memories to evaluate the performances of the survivors. Some combined their spellcasting to concentrate their firepower. At least no one had been foolish enough to break and run, yet. The wrought iron fence pieces became javelins. Cold iron was far more resistant to magic than stone.
Using the same expanding wave of power that had tossed Dumbledore into the air, he cleared the immediate area of enemies, to give his troops time to regroup. "I will shield against their missiles. Concentrate your power and destroy them!"
Turning, he wandlessly summoned one of his followers out of the way impending doom as two battered gargoyles converged on her position. She tumbled to her feet and began firing a near continuous stream of Reductor curses. Helen Edgecombe nodded her thanks before returning to the fight. Her loss would have been unfortunate to his future plans.
He cleared several more before he was forced to block the next volley of iron death. In a sense it was flattering that few wizards, and certainly none here, other than he, would have sufficient power to block a dozen iron javelins at once.
He bellowed encouraging his followers, "Fight onward! Use the debris as battering rams." It was a far more effective tactic as the Death Eaters began using the granite slabs as giant bludgers.
Five minutes and another casualty later the battle was over. Only one of the two fallen would be salvageable.
"Fan out. Look for cadavers less than five years old. Muggle bodies are not usable after that."
He returned his attention to the small mausoleum in front of him. If there was one defense, there should be more. He began moving his wand up and down testing for additional wards. He found two more traps and a ward tied to the coffins that would vanish the cadavers if he opened them before dispelling it. He cursed himself for not knowing better. He should have anticipated the trap. This was all so out of the way.
What troubled him the most was the empty portrait frame on the far wall; he had no doubt who had warded this graveyard. It could be no less obvious if Albus had left his autograph on the wall.
Helen Edgecombe called out from the entrance. "Milord, there are no other bodies in this graveyard. It was a ruse."
"Yes, I suspected as much. These are the only two that count." A flick of his wand removed the lids of the coffin. The preservation charms had kept the bodies in excellent condition. His blazing red eyes studied the lifeless bodies of James and Lily Potter. He turned to Edgecombe, "Transport these two with care. Have them placed in my private sanctuary. I have special plans for them..."
He watched the frame as the portraits were removed. A middle aged witch reappeared in the frame. Lord Voldemort immediately recognized her. "Hello Dorea; did you give my regards to Albus? If I had known it was you, I would have allowed you a chance to get a look at your son and daughter-in-law before I stole their bodies."
"Eventually all your deeds will catch up with you", the woman answered slowly.
Voldemort allowed a wide smile to cross his face, "How appropriate! Those were the very same words you said to me before I killed you. Tell your grandson that I made a promise to him in his first year at school. I intend to fulfill that promise." He bowed to the painting before freezing the echo inside of it.
It is true that things don't always go as planned, but even a victory with cost is still a victory. I do hope Peter is having a better day than this.
"Well that's a day I'd like to forget and do over," Harry listened to his wife muttering as she skipped a stone along the lake. "I hope Skeeter hurries up and arrives; I'd hate to arrive late for our detention."
Harry looked up at her from the rock he was sitting on and then to Hermione, who arched an eyebrow. Tonks stood nearby, close but far enough away to not be part of the conversation. He chuckled and asked, "Bitter much?"
"Sorry. I don't get detentions. I've only had three, make that five now, since I've been here."
Hermione laughed. Harry couldn't help himself either having five in a single week. He smiled as his friend commented, "I think Susan Bones was a low profile target - a hard worker and well liked by everyone. Susan Potter, on the other hand, is a high profile target for anyone with an axe to grind with the man in her life. Welcome to the Close Associates of Harry club! Girls who used to be friendly will be jealous. Boys will be a bit uncomfortable around you, not wanting to seem like their flirting with Harry's wife. The teachers will probably be the worst. Most of them dislike seeing students given special status or attention. You have your own suite, your own house elf and your own set of rules." Turning to Harry she continued, "The only question is what exactly you did to anger our new Potions professor?"
Harry shrugged dismissively, "I figured I was going to get detention sooner or later from him. I hit him with a few curses the night we first met; he was trying to kill me at the time. I'm guessing he hasn't really forgotten that. Sorry Susan, I guess this is the 'worse' part of 'for better or for worse', but I'll be glad if this is the worst we see."
Hermione's eyes lit up, "Really, which ones did you use?"
Susan interrupted; Harry knew she was purposefully changing the subject. She had witnessed the curses used by Harry that night and knew the reasons why he wouldn't want to answer. "What I really want to know is what Neville is doing in Potions this year? I saw his OWL results; he got an A on the written and a P on the practical. Overall, he managed an A."
That sidetracked the Gryffindor Prefect, "Ron and I asked him about it after class, before Captain Ron ran off to book the field for Quidditch tryouts. Apparently, Professor Longbottom convinced the Headmaster to allow Neville to take the class for no grade. He still has to do all the homework and the practicals, but he's not going to get graded for it. It won't stop him from taking the NEWT, but there won't be any entry in his academic record. Neville said the Professor has made it clear that he will be proficient in brewing every one of those eighty-six potions on that list. I offered to help him with some coaching if he needs it, but I'm still a bit behind on all the spells I want to cover for the DA You're still showing up for the meetings, right Harry?"
"Sure, if we didn't have detention, we'd be there for the first one tonight. I'll help, but you're running things. I'll be the figurehead." Harry looked across the field at the Quiddicth pitch and the figures darting in the distant sky. He wished that he could be among them.
Ginny will be a good seeker. It'll give her a chance to move on.
She asked hopefully, "Do you think that you and Professor Flitwick could put on a demonstration for us? I just know everyone wants to see one."
"Hermione, it's more up to the Professor and the Headmaster. They control when and where I practice. I understand that people want to see that I am ready to fight him, but they have to know that I don't want to advertise my progress."
"I think it would be a good morale booster. Harry, people want ..."
Hermione's sentence was interrupted by Tonks whistling and pointing at the Marauder's Map in her hands.
"She's here. Come on show yourself Rita! We haven't got all day."
Rita appeared suddenly changing out of her bug form with a smile on her face. "Goodness Harry, give a girl a minute to catch her breath. The Castle Wards have been extended and Hogsemeade is crawling with Scrimgeour's Auxiliaries. I had to fly halfway from there just to get here."
She paused dramatically straightening her clothing. Plastering the most innocent look on her face, "Now you asked for this little tete/ a tete/? I'm a busy girl these days. Lovely little owl you have by the way, very insistent."
Her smarmy attitude was too much for the boy-who-lived; she lived to press people's buttons. "What the fuck were you thinking?" Harry roared.
Rita leaned forward, placing her hands on her knees and put herself on Harry's eye level, "Oh joy, no beating around the bush today. I'll skip the answer I gave the Minister this morning, which was 'That this blouse goes well with this skirt, why don't you like it?' I doubt you'd enjoy the joke either. So, let's cut to the chase then, shall we? First off, I did it to save my taut little bum. That interview wasn't exactly on my schedule for this week. Second, I did it because we, and we means the editors and writers of the Daily Prophet are tired of being everyone's bitch! We're not the Ministry's PR machine, we're not your's and we're not his either! Third, it's like I told you that night, someone's going to win and someone's going to lose. The rest of us that survive this are going to live in the world of the victors. They deserve as much truth outside the blatant propaganda as I can give them. Scrimgeour tries to muzzle me now and the public will see right through it. You're a big boy now, Harry. You don't want to be Dumbledore's lapdog anymore than I want to be Scrimgeour's."
"He could just take control of the presses?" Rita smiled at his question. Harry was so delightfully blunt.
"That's where Fudge really kicked him in the bits. Oh he'll claim that we're not being patriotic enough and he's already made those threats, but right now he doesn't have the clout to follow through. His side controls roughly thirty percent of the Wizengamot. The opposition controls thirty-five. The rest and I include you, Harry, in this make up the other thirty-five. Scrimgeour has to walk a tightrope until he has the votes. The owner of the Daily Prophet is mostly an absentee owner, but do you seriously believe Rupert Murdoch would let the seizure of one of his papers go unchecked. He owns virtually all of Magical Australia. He might as well sign the Australian Minister's paycheck."
Hermione interrupted her coldly, "Okay, he can't go after the paper itself. What about you? He could still arrest you for your unregistered abilities?"
"He could arrest me, but thanks to the whole Sirius Black affair there'd have to be a trial. I'd insist on truth serum and trust me when I say no one would like to hear what I have to say under the influence. Everyone's dirty secrets would come out. All the skeletons in every closet could come tumbling out. The same thing will happen if I suddenly end up dead. Every little confidential conversation would be fair game - even your feeble attempt at blackmailing me."
Rita paused momentarily allowing her words to sink in, before continuing like she was explaining how to tie shoelaces to a five year old, "Speaking of that, where do you think I was this morning, deary? I discovered the most wonderful thing yesterday, I'm an Animagus! So, like a good little magical citizen I ran down and registered, bright and early. I even made sure that my two outstanding fines were paid. Did you ever stop and think for a minute? All your little Slytherin classmates knew I was an Animagus, don't you think some of them might have tried the same trick you did, little girl? I always hoped for the day when I could tell you how easily I played you. You thought I was destitute and unable to work, didn't you? I was on a beach in Aruba for three months, writing under an assumed name, just waiting for you to come to me with a juicy offer. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought. Access, honey! You wouldn't have put a time limit on that oath if you weren't going to come back to me at some point."
"But you swore and oath and signed a parchment!" Hermione exclaimed.
Rita openly mocked her by mimicking Hermione's voice, "Amorita Elaine Skeeter signed your paper and swore your little oath. Harry dear, what's my name?"
"Francine Amorita Skeeter."
Rita knew she was being petty, but it didn't stop her - it rarely did, "Points for a good memory to the young hero! Rita Elaine was my Grandmother. Do you have any idea how many contracts and oaths I've had to swear? Let this be a lesson to you - you little sanctimonious bint! When you make a person swear and oath, you better make sure they use their own name, sign in a blood quill and not do a little wordless flash from their wand to emulate an actual oath! Keep that look on your face for a moment - I want to savor it."
"That's enough!" Potter bellowed.
Rita noticed that all three witches had their hands near their wands, but Harry's voice, and the magic behind it, seemed to freeze everyone in their place, Rita was suitably impressed. "I think you've made your point, Francine. Let it go."
Allowing the use of her first name to slide, she let her angry visage melted away instantly and was replaced it with her normal cheerful expression. "Certainly Harry, I didn't come here to relive old history. I'd like to see you come out on top of all this. You're a breath of fresh air, the real thing - if you will. I'd also like seven handsome men to cater to my every whim, but I don't always get what I'd like, now do I? Let's make everything crystal clear, despite our recent happy times together, you're trying to use me. Don't bother denying it. Scrimgeour's trying to use me. The Dark Lord is trying to use me. Guess what? I'm going to use all three of you. All of you want to bring your fight onto my battleground, well that's one fight that you'll have to play by my rules! You'll have your press releases. They'll have theirs. I'll put them in print and give the public a chance to see it. I assume Miss Granger already has your response prepared?"
"Not yet, it'll be done in the morning." The bushy haired buffoon answered her face still red with anger. Rita just couldn't bring herself to like the girl. If you're going to act superior to everyone, then you'd damn well better be able to back it up.
"Owl it to me, make sure you calm yourself down before you write it. Your opponent is a powerful smooth talking charmer, who is trying to use fear of the unknown to justify his actions. Better let Dumbledore edit it for you. If you're going to fight, Miss Granger, fight to win. Harry, any quotes for tomorrow's edition?"
Harry pulled out a piece of parchment. She read it aloud, "Muggles didn't walk into Fred and George Weasley's shop and kill three people looking for a hostage. Tom Riddle did. People working for the Muggles didn't kidnap Blaise Zabini, Marcia Compton and Viktor Krum. Muggles didn't rape and torture a fourteen year old witch. People working for Tom Riddle did these things. He can talk about the looming threat on the horizon all he wants, but he's the one willing to walk into a house he set on fire to kill a one year old baby. He dares to label his followers as revolutionaries, when he really calls them Death Eaters. What's so noble about Bellatrix Lestrange, Severus Snape, and the rest of that lot? If you want to listen to his lies and believe in the half-truths he represents, then look at the people he surrounds himself with, because if he wins, those are the types of people that will be your new masters."
"Nicely said, Harry, I'll make sure it gets in tomorrow's edition. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go check on my editor and make certain that he hasn't had a nervous breakdown yet. /Viva Le Revolution! /Miss Granger, send your response with Mr. Potter's owl."
He liked all his pretty pictures. They always seemed to catch his good side. Well it helps that he didn't really have a bad side! He wouldn't be the Fabulous Gilderoy Lockhart, if he did.
He would have to speak with the people at his publishing firm. The new intern they have assigned to him simply will not do. She either sits on the bed mumbling and crying or stares out the window on sunny days. At least his bodyguard, Franklin and his press secretary, Alice are quiet and efficient at their jobs. You don't hear them complaining. So far young Luna hadn't even been able to arrange his crayons in the proper order. She should know by now that he likes to do each letter of his name in a different color!
The door to his luxury suite opened and the catering staff entered. He admired their punctuality.
"Ah my compliments to the chef, did he enjoy the autographed picture I sent back with you?" Gilderoy Lockhart asked
The caterer in her crisp white uniform nodded. "Of course sir, it made his day."
"I knew it would. Ah fair Jocelyn, what succulent surprise has that culinary master provided for our dining this evening? Ah yes dragon liver filets wrapped in bacon and covered in a light hollandaise sauce. And what of my staff, what are they dining on this wonderful day?"
The witch smiled at him twirling her wand in her hand, while answering "meatloaf and gravy."
Gilderoy/ knew that the woman wanted him. They all did. He would have to rebuff her advances again. If she weren't pretty, he'd have already had her fired. The ring on her finger was just a feeble attempt to make him jealous. It was his burden in life. That could be the title of his new autobiography - The Burdens of Being Me by Gilderoy Lockhart. He grabbed a crayon and scribbled the title on his notepad. After they send young Miss Lovegood packing, he will insist that the next intern also take dictation. Honestly, how do his publishers expect him to work under these conditions?/
He watched Jocelyn serve Franklin and Alice. He'd need to talk to them about their incessant fraternization and Alice's gum chewing. Gilderoy knew that he enjoyed a bit of Drooble's now and then, but as his press secretary it was rather unprofessional. He was enjoying the view of the caterer's delectable derriere when he heard a loud boom.
Looking at the wide hole where the wall used to be, he figured he should say something.
"Well that's new. Renovating are we? Alice did you receive a memo on this?"
He wished Jocelyn would stop screaming. You'd almost think she was being tortured or something.
Some several men entered through the hole in the wall.
"Ah, the construction workers are here, everyone! Just give me a moment to gather my things and I'll be out of your way. Would any of you care for an autographed picture?"
One pointed their wand directly at him. "/Idiot! /Crucio!"
Gilderoy thrashed in pain as the curse tore at him. It was pain as he had never felt it before! His entire body was on fire!
"Quit wasting your time! Let's get what we came for and get out of here," a Death Eater barked. "Klaus cover the hallway. Is anyone coming yet?"
"Nein, Herr Pettigrew."
Gilderoy rolled on the ground, coming out of the spasms, listening to the voices around him.
He felt different. Things were different. He was... He was... Bloody hell! He was lying in a mental ward at St. Mungo's. That backfired curse from that wretched boy's wand! The world knew that he was a fraud. No! This was not possible! This was a nightmare. The nurse's wand was on the ground right next to him. Of course! If he subdued these three, he could turn it all around. He could see the headlines now - Lockhart's Triumphant Return!
Grabbing the wand, he shouted, "Obliviate!"
He felt the shiver of satisfaction as the man's expression blanked and he stood there confused. Flipping his cot on its side to protect him from the one in the hall, he sent ropes to tie the dazed man in front of him. Memory charms weren't the only thing he was good at. Some of his conquests liked to be bound! It was a surreal moment, almost like out of one of his books and he was actually living it!
Spotting the short man, whose arm was made of silver, he fired off another memory charm and another set of ropes. The one they called Mr. Pettigrew, why did that name sound familiar, dodged the Obliviator and pushed the brain damaged woman into the path of the ropes.
Like the swift and crafty fox he was, Gilderoy rolled behind the privacy curtains as his cot erupted in flames.
When he wrote this chapter, it would be called Too Swift for you Pettigrew! He was back and nothing would stop him now! The one in the hallway was yelling that security was coming and defending himself. Good! It was just one on one now - Mano a Mano. The security guards would be the first witnesses to his glorious return!
"Prepare to be vanquished! You won't know what hit you! Obliviate!"
Gilderoy rolled into the aisle and felt alive as the rush of magic left his borrowed wand; his flawless plan was perfect!
He barely had time to process the dazzling green wave of energy before it struck him directly into his face.
Peter sidestepped the memory charm and watched his opponent fall. Things were going wrong quickly. He had to hurry. "Klaus get inside and seal the door!"
He turned back to the bound Alice Longbottom and stared at the nurse cowering in the corner. "If you want to live, stay exactly where you are and do not move!" He finished transfiguring the addled witch into a guinea pig and dropped her into the pouch with her husband. Lacking any other plan he transfigured the confused Franz as well. If he didn't recover it would reflect poorly on Peter's performance. "Klaus, we've got what we came for. Carry the spare broom. Let's move!"
Peter mounted his broom and sped towards the opening and the open air beyond. For a second his eyes locked with those of the young bug-eyed girl he knew all too well. Her face was a mask of rage as she leapt on to him as he sped by. He barely managed to steer the broom through the opening as the girl clawed at him scratching his face with her long, unkempt nails. Peter cursed as he dropped his wand. The wand fell to the street below, but its loss gave him full use of his metallic limb
With precious little thought, he swatted the thrashing girl away, not caring that they were twenty meters off the ground and sped away into the late evening. He swerved out over the London skyline knowing that the Aurors and their precious rules of secrecy would prevent them following. They would fly only for a minute and land before Apparating away. Things hadn't gone as planned, but he was still successful - and that's all that mattered.
Harry and Susan entered the Potion's Lab, leaving Tonks outside and watched as the Vampire was critiquing the performance of three house elves who were busily scrubbing the various tables. Coedus simply gestured towards their table where their cauldrons were still simmering and resumed the close inspection of the cleaning crew's work.
Five minutes passed before he dismissed the crew, "Fascinating creatures. I've heard their blood has a most unusual flavor to it. From what they told me, your former instructor always had students cleaning the Lab as a punishment. It further diminishes my opinion of the man. Punish the student, not the quality of your work area."
"Why exactly are we here this evening?" Harry asked. "Since you failed just about everyone's potions today, we couldn't we have just as easily conditioned our cauldrons creating a failing potion along with everyone else?" Harry recalled Codeus' comments that 'Hermione's potion was closest to being acceptable, but that wasn't saying much.'
"I admire your directness, Mr. Potter. You understand subtlety, but have no use for it. On one hand, I needed to establish that it is I and not you in charge of the Potion's Lab. Your rivalry with the creature that laughingly called himself a Potions Master created expectations amongst your peers. I will not allow such pettiness in my Lab. It is a distraction and distractions are not tolerated."
He ran his hand along the surface of the table as he continued, "On the other hand, I remain every bit as curious about you as I was after our first encounter. We've traveled in different circles since that time and I have not gotten a chance to interact with you. The two of you are at the heart of a war to which I am a less than willing participant. Long life has a way of sapping one's curiosity, but you have restored some of that."
Susan barely controlled a derisive snort; Harry didn't need an empathic link to tell that she was perturbed. He recalled telling Ginny that one of the reasons Harry had chosen Susan was that she cared for games and innuendo about as much as he did. Susan proved herself to be just as blunt and direct. It actually gave him hope for a long and happy marriage. Their arguments would be likely be numerous, but also, quick, direct and to the point. Ill feelings would not be allowed to fester with both of them willing and able to speak their mind at a moment's notice.
"I'm used to being looked at," Harry said. "What do you want to see and why should I let you?"
"I wish to see how you measure against the memories of notable wizards and witches I have seen. I have been working with Neville and he is showing impressive dedication and modest progress. My nephew speaks admirably about your skills. He has gone into great detail about the incident at the Department of Mysteries. I would like to see that in your wife's pensieve. In return for satisfying my own curiosity, I would be willing to show you spells from when I was mortal - ones that I doubt you would ever find someone willing to teach you."
The offer sounded enticing, Harry decided to nibble rather than bite. "It sounds interesting. I'm more curious about the training you've been doing with Neville."
"Very well then, leave your cauldrons simmering and follow me."
Coedus led them back into the hallway and motioned for Tonks to follow. He led them to an empty storeroom roughly ten metes wide and thirty meters long. The wall was blackened from a large amount of spell residue. "I use this basic exercise with Neville. He stands at that line and I move into this area at the other end. I change into my wolf form and he tries to strike me with a stunner. It develops his speed, stamina, and accuracy. Would you care to try hand at it?"
With fifteen meters separating him, Harry was hard pressed to hit the wolf as it pranced back and forth. It took five full minutes before Harry managed to clip the side of the wolf with his stunner. Tonks revived him while muttering an offhand compliment that she would probably still be trying to hit him. Susan conjured a cup and filled it with water and handed it to Harry, who gratefully accepted it.
The Vampire returned to his form, "I commend your skill. If you find yourself in need of practice come find me. If we are able to use the Come and Go room, I will have it create a cushioned floor and see if you were capable of striking my bat form - some other time, perhaps?"
Harry replied, "Not a bad idea, speak to Professor Flitwick about it. He's handling my training."
"I will. Now, go and finish your cauldrons. If you agree to the exchange of memories, bring your pensieve to your detention tomorrow night. I will see you then." Coedus walked from the room and headed towards his quarters.
Coedus smiled upon reaching his door. The boy was powerful and talented. He was still waiting and wondering what scheme the Dark Lord would present for his resurrection or even if it was possible, but in the meantime, he would learn as much as possible about the boy's skills. Things were going better than he had planned.
Harry, Susan and Tonks walked back to the classroom. Tonks spoke first, "What do you think Harry?"
"Pretty difficult work out, I'm not sure about the sudden interest in me. In years before this, I'd have probably said, 'If Dumbledore trusts him, then I should as well'. Sadly, that just isn't the case anymore. After we get back to our quarters, would you go speak with the Headmaster about this?"
The Metamorph answered, "I was already planning to, Harry."
For the next thirty minutes they waited for their cauldrons to finish their twelve hour baking before dousing the flames and vanishing the remaining liquid and impurities inside. They remained quiet, wondering if the Vampire would suddenly burst in and discipline them for creating distractions in the Lab.
Closing the door back into the suite, Harry loosened his tie and pulled his robes off. "You know in the past, I'd never have done that?"
"What wouldn't you have done?" Susan asked with a hint of teasing in her voice while encouraging Harry to 'help' her out of her robes enjoying his arms around her. When the robes were pooled around the ground, his hands remained around her waist.
"Asked someone else to go speak with Dumbledore, what's the word? Delegate! I'd have never delegated before. I'd insist on going up there myself. I know we have Charms homework, but do you have anything else?"
"I've got two chapters to read for Ancient Runes that I've been putting off. Why do you ask?" Susan answered.
She had reduced her course load but refused to abandon Runes after dropping Care of Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies. It was an afternoon class and one of the few times she wasn't with Harry. He had still been concerned enough, but the only Slytherins in the class were Bulstrode, Davis and Zabini. Davis was one of the 'out for herself types', Zabini had been a hostage over the summer and Susan was actually friends with Millicent Bulstrode. The rest of the class resembled a DA meeting and Hermione had assured him that she, Padma, Hannah, Megan, Lisa, Mandy, Terry, Dean, Ernie, and Michael would keep a close eye on Susan in the class.
"Well Mrs. Potter, if we put a waterproofing charm on the book you need to read and take a bath? You keep telling me that hand-washing all that hair is so much better than using magic... I could assist."
She arched an eyebrow at him and asked in an innocent voice, "From a position inside the tub as well, Mr. Potter?"
"That would probably be the most efficient position, wouldn't it?"
"I do believe you are correct." Susan said before noticing that her robes were still at her feet. Trixie normally would have picked them up by now. She looked around the room and saw Trixie standing motionless before the Black Family Tapestry. She walked closer to see what had caught the elf's interest.
At the bottom of the elegant but damaged tapestry was the new entry for Susan Marie Black-Potter. A horizontal line connected her to her consort, Harry James Black-Potter. She enjoyed seeing the names connected like that. What shocked her, however, was the three, thin glowing lines directly below her name. /Baby girl #1 baby boy, and baby girl #2/. Seeing that tidbit of info made her swoon slightly. She sat down on their bed as Harry came over. She couldn't hide the stunned smile on her face as she pointed at the tapestry.
For a minute neither said anything. Harry had plopped down on the bed next to her and put his arms around her. Finally, Harry said, "Well, that's one way to take care of that three child requirement. Aren't you glad it wasn't a five child requirement?" She looked at him slightly shocked, but softened, seeing a smile on his face.
She settled for smacking him playfully, "Git!"
A gentle push on the shoulder was his reply, "Git's wife! Let's forget about reading in the tub and just go take a bath together and celebrate. Whoa ho ho! Seems we aren't the only ones who've been busy! Look!"
Susan followed his pointing finger up the tapestry. The name Narcissa Irene Black was there with the Malfoy part crossed off and the line connecting her to Lucius Malfoy severed. Their solid line down to Draco Abraxas Malfoy remained, but there were some new additions Too. A dashed line now connected her name to Charles Arthur Weasley and a thin, glowing line went down to baby boy.
"We should let the Weasleys know!" Susan exclaimed.
Harry looked thoughtful for a moment and then flicked his wand removing the tapestry from the wall and rolling it up neatly. Another wave and it went into the opening closet and settled on the shelf, "No, it's their news to tell. We should probably take this down - for their safety and ours. Come on, I'll start the water."
Susan felt momentary panic overcome her. "Three at once! Circe save me, I don't know if I'm ready for this. I don't need to be reading Runes. I need to be reading on how to be a mother!"
"You'll be fine. We'll be fine. We've got Trixie and a lot of people who'll want to help us. You're not in this alone." Harry's voice soothed her. Still slightly in shock, Susan allowed herself to be led into the bathroom.
It took a moment and she knew that she was struggling against a dam of tears threatening to break free, "You're right, Harry. It's just so sudden."
"Tell me about it," Harry said, giving her a squeeze. "At the beginning of the summer, I barely knew you. Now, we're married; we take bathes together and apparently, we're both very fertile. Before this summer, I was pretty much alone, hurt and angry all the time. Now, I'm not. Things don't always go like planned, but I'm not going to complain about this."
She hugged him - tightly, she hated that he made it sound so simple. He was always doing that! "So you're not scared or nervous?"
"No more than I was a few minutes ago when I thought we were just having one. The way I see it, I just picked up two more reasons to work harder. Come on, if I don't get started on that hair soon, it'll take all night."
After they got into the large tub, there were thirty minutes of /other /activities, but she eventually got her hair hand-washed as promised. Afterwards she lay drowsing on in his chest, feeling the water start to cool around them.
"I'm going to be huge. You do know that?"
"You saw my cousin. That's huge. You'll just be beautiful."
"Flatterer," she mumbled
"And, I'm not even trying to get into your knickers! Let's hope one day we'll be sending the kids off to school with Narcissa and Charlie's boy. I hope they are safe, wherever they are."
"I'm sure they are Harry. Come on let's get out of the tub before I end up looking like a wrinkled, pregnant prune."
They walked in their bathrobes when Sirius shouted for their attention from his portrait.
"Harry, Susan, get dressed. Tonks is on her way back to get you and take you to Dumbledore's office. The Death Eaters have been active this evening."
Narcissa's carefully laid ambush was turning to shit. Dolohov was supposed to have been alone in the warehouse, not meeting with three recruits. The Apparition and Portkey wards had already activated as they burst into the building. They'd knocked off one of the surprised recruits, but now instead of two against one, it was three on two. Dolohov was reported to be a wizard who enjoyed using obscure spells that were difficult to recognize. He was not phenomenally powerful, merely highly skilled.
Charles was barely holding his own against the duo set against him, banishing crates into the path of curses and using his superior athletic abilities to stay ahead of the pair of Death Eater hopefuls. Narcissa found herself dueling against the Dark Lord's right hand man.
While casting a near silent multihued spell that even Narcissa didn't recognize the old man some twenty five years her senior mocked her. "I've dueled against your late sister, Narcissa. She told me how weak you were. This isn't a black tie social affair. You're out of your league!"
"Never!" she banished a crate into the path of the unknown spell only to have the crate transfigured into a pair of wolves.
"Ah thank you for providing the last component to my spell, so kind of you. Kill her!"
Angry, Narcissa toppled a pile of crates onto the faux wolves but this gave Dolohov a chance to disillusion himself and slip out of her view. She responded by sending a pair of blasting curses into the overhead Muggle lighting, significantly reducing his advantage. The light from his curses would stand out now. The other two had Charles on the defensive. She had to risk helping him.
"Imperio!" She didn't have Dolohov's range of spells. She did, however, have a willingness to use her spells to great effect. Kill the spare! The use of an Unforgivable might alert the French Aurors, but that wouldn't exactly be such a bad think at the moment.
Her thrall immediately fired a cutting curse into the wizard next to him and her lover was able to capitalize on the shift and strike with a bonecrusher that dropped the man.
Narcissa transmitted her thoughts but was propelled through the air forwards by a banisher that struck her in the back. She landed right next to one of the pinned wolves who lashed out and painfully bit at her calf. She lost control of the remaining wizard, but that wasn't her biggest problem. She had also lost her wand.
Screaming in agony, she pulled her spare wand and decapitated the wolf. She barely rolled out of the way as a geyser of flame erupted where she had been.
She hobbled to her feet finding that Charles had finished the other one and was now fighting Dolohov. He was buying her time, but hopelessly outclassed. She did a quick patch job on her injured right leg and her breathing was labored from either the banisher or impact at the end of her short flight. She was as healed as she was going to be. She only hoped it would be in time.
"Mentis Incarerus Torqueo!"
Whatever spell Dolohov used penetrated Charles' shield and struck him directly in the face. He staggered for a moment before dropping to his knees, clutching his hands to his head. Seconds later he started screaming.
It evoked painful emotions and a rage she had never felt before. She knew then that she could never leave Charles.
"That will keep him busy while I handle you, little traitor. You, I will kill. He will make a good prisoner for the Great One, but you, no one will shed tears for a dead traitorous bitch."
She tried to ignore his taunts, but found herself unable. Who indeed would mourn her loss? Cursing, Narcissa knew that she could not afford these thoughts. She could see him moving in the dim light and the smoke from the fires. The power drain of his spells must have forced him to discard his concealment spell.
"I will kill you," she hissed.
"You will try, little witch. You will also fail."
Her blasting spell came out charged with rage. The power behind it was fueled by her lover's cries of pain. Dolohov clearly had not counted on Narcissa's deep feelings for the young man. Neither had she. For a change it was now Dolohov desperately trying to block a spell.
There is a saying that starts Hell Hath No Fury. She was about to show Antonin Dolohov its true meaning.
"Abrasios, Impactus, Percuito!"
Her wand work produced two wounding curses and a strong bludgeoner. The piecing curse made it through the transfigured barrier the Ukrainian was using to defend himself with. The barrier fell to the ground and she saw him clutching his side.
He staggered and returned fire. She dodged his killing curse as he moved towards a large opening in the walls created by someone's blasting curse. Narcissa knew that he was trying to flee. She had to stop him before he got beyond the wards!
Instead of following him out the hole she created her own. It was a wise decision, as some kind of detonation curse exploded violently. He must have cast it with a time delay, because his back was turned and he was partly running and partly staggering. She couldn't let him make it.
Even in the dim light she knew what he was going to do - Apparate the moment he crossed the ward line.
The Unforgivable torture curse caught him as he was releasing his energy to Apparate. The result was not pretty; he splinched violently. Where his legs and left arm ended up, Narcissa would never know - nor would she care.
Dolohov's screams mixed with those of her young lover. Sending a piercing curse through the butcher of the Urals' heart, she silenced him permanently. The screams from inside continued.
She had hoped the spell would fade with the caster dead. She scooped up Dolohov's wand. Whatever it was, it was in there. Pulling the note from her pocket, she crammed it in the dead man's mouth and ran back inside seeing the fire beginning to spread. She ran to the lover, who was paying the price for foolishly believing in her. Narcissa Black was much stronger than Narcissa Malfoy had ever been, but that strength brought with it a much greater vulnerability.
Cradling his head, she spoke to him as he convulsed, "I'm here Charles. We'll get you someplace safe. I know who can help us." She created a Portkey from a piece of broken wood lying nearby and floated him beyond the wards. She was forced to stun him to get him to lay still.
The French Aurors arriving on the scene minutes later found a flaming warehouse with three dead bodies inside and half of Antonin Dolohov on the outside. One of them removed the unsigned note from his mouth and read it to his colleagues.
I present the body of your servant, Antonin Dolohov, with my regards. In the future, I would recommend that you leave people that do not wish to be found, alone, or the cost will be even greater.
Author's notes - Well there it is, another one down. I plan for this story to finish at about chapter 40 at the moment. Despite all appearances, I actually do like Hermione as a character. My peeve with her is that she seems to get away with everything. You'd think the Slytherins would be just as likely to blackmail Rita, wouldn't they? Anyway, full discussion on DLP and FFA. See you there.~Jim