McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Snape consider their options.
Professor McGonagall called Harry into her office that evening after dinner. After glaring at him for a moment, she stated, "I am curious about something, Mister Potter."
"Tell me, do you believe might equals right?"
Harry thought for a moment, and answered, "Honestly, Ma'am? I don't think it should. However, that is how things seem to work in magical society. At the very least, I intend to make certain that I have the power on my side, so I won't be abused again."
"Would you be willing to explain that to me, Mister Potter?"
Harry sat back and considered. Learning meditation from the Tibetan masters had forced him to really look at himself. He knew himself better than any young person should have, and knew his inner demons better than most contemplative religious.
Therefore, Harry told McGonagall about growing up in a family of bullies, the center of their hatred. When he was finished, he told her about how he viewed his first year at Hogwarts, the treatment Snape had dealt out, and what he suspected of Dumbledore's manipulations.
At the end of what had been well over an hour, McGonagall was wrung out. She also knew that Harry was more right than he knew.
When she had been at school, Gryffindor and Slytherin had indeed been the most antagonistic towards the other of all the Houses. However, except at Quidditch and some of the other, now ended, competitions of the time, it had been a largely teasing antagonism. There had been as much cross-House dating between those two Houses as any other two.
Thinking hard, she could not recall a Gryffindor-Slytherin marriage since the early 1970s, or a dating couple since the middle of that decade. Slytherin-Hufflepuff relationships were also almost unheard of these days.
Then she remember not arguing more with Dumbledore over leaving Harry with the Dursleys, and the arguments she or the other Heads had had over Snape's treatment of their students.
She remembered her vow less than two months before to see that, if Harry was alive, he was treated properly.
In a voice partially broken by the tears she had shed, McGonagall said, "I need to speak with Professors Sprout and Flitwick. I fear you are correct, Mister Potter. We have been lax."
While this was going on, the Headmaster was in his office, leaning back in his chair, daydreaming. He was remembering that glorious, horrible time, that time when he was in love, when he thought he and Gellert would rule the world and improve it.
His dreams, he now knew, were Darkness disguised as Light. As the world had found out, Gellert Grindelwald's dreams had brought horrors -- two Muggle World Wars and numerous revolutions in between, and warfare in the wizarding world unlike anything encountered before or since.
All out of twisted love and ambition.
And how had his own ambition manifested itself since 1945? Refusing to take direct power as Minister, yet operating in the Wizengamot and under the shield of the paper tiger known as the International. Never confronting Tom Riddle directly, but always trying to pen him in, almost always more unsuccessfully than with any real success.
'And,' a voice in his head said, 'punishing those Sorted into Slytherin, the House of Ambition, by letting Severus Snape coddle them and defend them when they were in the wrong. Allowing them to think they were more important than the others, spoiling them, hoping the Dark among them would be drawn to Voldemort. Why? So that when they turned Dark you could say to your self that you were better than they? Or is it because you still, in your heart of hearts, believe the Old Families are the best?'
Dumbledore opened his eyes and was only slightly surprised to see that it was the taller North African from the Brotherhood who had somehow broken into his thoughts.
"Who are you?" Dumbledore demanded.
"I am Osiris," he answered.
"Named for the god?"
Osiris smiled slightly. "No, the god was named for me." That made Dumbledore swallow nervously. "And I can tell you that because you will not be able to tell anyone else." The smile grew. "No, I am not going to kill you, or remove the memory. I'll just suppress it to the point that you will know it, but no one will be able to pull it from your mind. You certainly won't mention it."
"You put similar thoughts in my head last month, didn't you?"Dumbledore accused.
"If you mean about the Slytherins, and your guilt about desiring power, I made those connections for you," Osiris corrected. "The thoughts were there, you just refused to make those connections."
"What is it you want?" Dumbledore demanded.
"In general? For now, we want to negate Voldemort. We should have interfered in the 1970s. For that matter, we should have interfered by 1916 or so, coming in against Grindelwald."
"Why didn't you?" Dumbledore asked.
"We mostly withdrew from western Europe some thirteen hundred years ago, and from most contacts with the Muggle world, as you would call it, by the 1820s. It is the job of the High Priest to appoint contact men to see what happens in the wizarding world. The High Priest serves a fifty-year term, and may serve two in a row. Then he must skip at least three terms before putting himself forward again. The two High Priests from what you would call 1834 through 1984 were both strong believers in isolation. I myself was in deep meditation and other mystical exercises from what you would know as the 1820s until the late 1970s."
Osiris seemed to look inward. "Imagine my surprise at how the world had changed. Even before my inner searchings, I had been largely disconnected from Europe since the time of the Emperor Claudius. I certainly had no inkling of the beginnings of industrialism."
Dumbledore merely nodded, numb with shock.
"I managed to turn my attention to Europe around 1982. I was disappointed that the Brotherhood had not played a role. Itherefore encouraged Tutmoses, the man. . . ."
"I managed to find out his name, although no one else's,"Dumbledore put in.
"Ah. In any event, Tutmoses could be seen as the leader of the most liberal grouping within the Brotherhood, and had managed to keep some connections despite official policy. He is the current High Priest."
"And will I. . . ."
"No, you will retain this information, but be unable to communicate it."
"What happened to the last High Priest and his followers?"
"Last two. I scolded them, they disagreed with me, and they are waiting to see how well our interference works out. If it has negative effects, I am sure one of their faction will be elected next time. If it is successful, then Tutmoses or one of his friends will win."
"And this third man who was with you? The one who was here at the feast with those Druids?"
"Jason?" Osiris smiled. "In terms of our politics, he is a true independent. We recruited him during what you might call the mid-Bronze age, when we were having some problems with the Babylonian magi, the first of the twelve various Greeks we have admitted."
"And is he Jason?"
"Of the golden fleece and such? That is mostly a much garbled tale of his grandfather. Medea in fact did not kill all of her children by Jason, but saved our Jason's mother, who was the only magical child. It was Medea who introduced him to us. He was, and still is, a magnificent warrior, crusty and harsh as befitted a Greek hero. The centuries have only slightly mellowed him. He last fought in the central Asian wars of the Twelve and Thirteen-hundreds. He has spent the last six hundred and sixty years or so training and learning whatever new battle magic which has been developed."
Osiris paused for a moment. "I am not certain why Tutmoses sent Harry to Jason. I would not have thought of it, but it was brilliant. It was as if all of Jason's remaining bitterness dropped off his soul."
"And just how much time did Harry actually spend with you? He seems to have matured remarkably for less than two months. Was it a full year?"
Osiris nodded. "It was. He spent a full year with various members of the Brotherhood, plus what he considers the rest of his summer with Jason. He has met over a hundred of us, and he impressed all of us." Osiris smiled and took a deep breath. "He has given us new life, new purpose. We must not interfere too often or engage in your politics as such. Still, we must not be as aloof as we have been, either."
"Do you? Perhaps. More importantly, do you see what you must do? Like us, you have neglected your duties, in your case, to your students."
"I will not sack Severus," Dumbledore said firmly.
"Then you had better watch him carefully," Osiris stated. "The Druids will be reactivating an ancient circle on the Equinox."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Dumbledore demanded. Osiris, however, merely faded away.
Dumbledore sat, thinking hard, and then he remembered that most such Druid ceremonies required the sacrifice of at least one enemy or criminal. No doubt, they could consider any Marked Death Eater both.
While the British wizarding world was being rocked that September with the news out of the Ministry concerning Sirius Black and the political battle between Fudge, Crouch, and their supporters, life in Hogwarts mostly went along expected lines on the surface, at least in three of the Houses.
The Slytherins were being very quiet, although Malfoy and Parkinson were still sneering at Harry and Hermione. No one knew what to make of it in the other Houses, as no information was leaking out of the Slytherin dungeon.
The truth was, Severus Snape was a very frightened man. Running into Jason was enough to frighten, even terrify, anyone. For someone as hardened as Snape, however, that could have just been amomentary shock, rather than a permanent one.
Jason, however, had not been the first shock Snape had received around September 1. News of the Old Ones, the vampires, and the Druids settling in to watch the school, to watch over Potter, had been given to the staff on August 31, while the information that the Druids, and possibly one or more of these so-called 'Old Ones'disguised as Druids, would actually be in the castle every weekend had only been shared right before the students arrived for the feast.
The Pure-bloods of England and Southern Scotland had long held the Welsh and Gaelic Scots magical communities in even greater contempt than their Muggle counterparts, and often still did so as the twentieth century came to a close. Unlike the Muggles, however, the Pure-bloods were also slightly afraid of them. Their Scandinavian and northern French ancestors had lost most direct contacts with older magical traditions, and had developed their own out of the Muggle middle ages, although they would never admit that.
The Welsh, the Highland Scots, the Irish, and the Cornish (for unlike the Muggles, the magical Cornish still survived, speaking their own Celtic language as well as English) in the British Isles, and in France the Bretons, and the Gauls surviving in the southern mountains, all kept their connections to the Old Magic, and the Old Religion.
In both Britain and France, it was the 'newcomers' who controlled the magical governments, just as their cousins dominated the Muggle governments, while the Celts were pushed to the fringes. Yet the magical Celts were never quite conquered, as their Muggle counterparts had been. Over the previous millennium, many of the most powerful and/or influential had ties to both camps.
More seriously, the Masters of the Old Magic, the Druids, who had sailed away for the Americas more than 1200 years before the Muggles followed, kept tenuous ties to their Celtic relatives. The North American magical community was large, very powerful, but very insular -- except for those ties between the Druids, who dominated the inner workings of the North American Confederation of Magic, and those small Celtic groups.
And now those Druids were near Hogwarts. There was a Coven of vampires close by as well. Not to mention these so-called 'Old Ones'.
Forces were obviously in play which Severus Snape could not control, could not frighten or intimidate, and possibly could not even understand. In fact, Snape wondered if even the Headmaster could really understand what was going on around them. His warnings were somewhat clear on effect for once -- get his Slytherins to toe the line of proper behavior, as there would be no more indulging their self-proclaimed superiority, no more toleration of the Claims of Blood and Culture over mere learning, no more baiting of what Snape and his Slytherins still called the lesser Houses.
What was not really clear was why these changes had occurred.
Then, on September 20, the fathers of Draco's followers Crabbe and Goyle disappeared. Their bled-out bodies were found in the atrium of the Ministry the morning of September 23, the Dark Marks on their forearms clearly showing for the first time since 1981.
There was now no doubt that they had been Death Eaters, even though they had been cleared by a special committee (known simply as 'the Committee', headed by Cornelius Fudge, with Dolores Umbridge as the Committee secretary). People quickly started wondering, loudly at times, if others cleared by the Committee, like Lucius Malfoy, might also be Death Eaters, with hidden Marks.
Lucius and the others found it prudent to stay out of the public spotlight, which was another way of saying they were staying on their own warded properties, while this discovery of the Dark Marks had been the final straw leading to Fudge's ouster.
As for Crabbe and Goyle, many wondered if the two had not been sacrificed by those very Druids now camped around Hogwarts, as they had died over the Equinox.
No one really had the guts to go and ask. Snape did notice, however, that in addition to the many Ravenclaws and several Gryffindors, many Hufflepuffs started meeting with the Druids after the bodies had been found.
All together, it was enough to quiet even the most arrogant of the Slytherins (like Draco Malfoy). For the first time since Snape had been put in charge of Slytherin, the most strident Pure-bloods were quiet and the moderates feeling towards control.
Worst of all, of course, was the fact that this all centered around Harry Potter, something that was making Snape grind his teeth even in his sleep.
Severus Snape had known he would have to treat Lily's son with adisdain he really did not feel at the time. What he had not imagined was the atavistic hatred he had felt the first time he had laid eyes on the Boy-Who-Resembled-His-Father.
Last year, Snape had resented the attention paid 'the Boy'. Now the Headmaster had opened up, and Snape understood both the role Potter might have had to play, and the role he might still have to play. Snape still resented that Potter's son would become the Magical World's savior (if anyone did), just as he greatly resented that Potter's son was Lily's son as well.
Resented that Lily's son was not his.
These past few weeks, Dumbledore had made it very clear that Snape was to treat the Boy as Lily's son if he could, as just another student if he couldn't. That he was expected to get his Slytherins to toe the line in proper behavior. To stress their cunning and ambition, not their superiority. (Dumbledore had actually said'their misconceived, self-assumed airs of superiority', but Snape did not remember it that way.)
The penalties would be severe if they failed to blend in. Severus had brought these hard truths to his Slytherins by meeting each year. He thought for a moment about his second years' reactions, just before the Equinox.
Predictably, Crabbe and Goyle had stared dumbly, as had two of the girls. Parkinson and Malfoy had sneered. It had been Nott who had quietly asked, "What exactly does all that mean, sir?"
Snape had glanced over the group, seeing who might answer, who might have fully understood. It had Bulstrode who had said, "It means that from now on, we don't call the Mudbloods or Blood-traitors Mudbloods or Blood-traitors, no matter what we think of them."
"Scum is scum," Parkinson had sneered. "They should know their place." Snape noticed that Davis and Greengrass had rolled their eyes at that. Zabini had stayed neutral.
Bulstrode had merely said, "Then you're on your own. The goal is first to stay alive, then to come out ahead. I intend to do both."Snape had seen the two dullard girls edge away from Parkinson, towards Davis and Greengrass. Power had shifted in the second year girls' dorm towards at least neutrality, just as it had in the other girls' dorms. The exclusivist Pure-blood agenda was stronger in the boys' dorms, and Zabini's silence showed he at least sly enough to survive.
Crabe and Goyles' fathers had disappeared that very night. Since their fathers' bodies had been found, young Crabbe had clung more closely to Malfoy. Goyle, on the other hand, had turned to Bulstrode and Zabini.
So far, he had kept his Slytherins within the newly-created boundaries. It had not been easy, but fortunately McGonagall had been keeping a close eye on her hooligans, and there had been no serious incidents. Still, at some point, someone would break, and Snape was uncertain of what the fallout might be.
He had also managed to keep away from the temptation to use Legilimency on Potter, as he had so often the year before. Brown, Patil, Finnigan, and Thomas were still not close enough to Potter to know what he might be up to, and Longbottom would never look him in the eye. Weasley would, but he was not as close to Potter this year as he had been the year before.
The previous year, Granger had been a good check on Potter and Weasley. Like most young students, the boys' surface thoughts in class had been clear, but everything underneath was often a jumble, and impossible to sift through. Granger had a very clear-cut mind, if in Snape's mind more lacking in imagination than she would ever understand. It had often been easy to pull thoughts from her.
Not this year. Like Longbottom, she was rarely allowing eye contact. Unlike Longbottom, who was terrified, Snape had been shocked to learn that she was avoiding eye contact precisely because she believed him likely to use Legilimency on her, and she was not confident enough of her meditation shields to take him on.
It was aggravating that that was the only useful thought he had gotten from her so far that year!
Potter was worse. He seemed to stare Snape in the eye, as if daring him. (This was actually Snape's imagination.) Snape did not dare use active Legilimency on the Boy under these circumstances. And his passive Legilimency detected nothing . . .if he hadn't been looking at Potter, he would have sworn there was no one there.
He had assumed, as had the Headmaster, that Voldemort had been vanquished and Quirrell killed by a feed-back loop, and that Voldemort had in fact supplied most if not all the power of the loop, Potter only the conduit.
Now Snape was beginning to wonder.
How powerful was the little brat?
Snape winced, and forced himself to rephrase the question. How powerful would the son of Lily Evans and Potter be, if he had inherited both of his parents' abilities?
He feared he might someday learn the answer to the question.