Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Biology :: 09 :: Who’s in Charge Here?

09 • Who’s in Charge Here?

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” — Winston Churchill.

He landed in back of the Three Broomsticks. After a moment of reflection he decided that heading back to the school immediately was not something he was particularly interested in, so he rounded the building and went inside. As it was not a Hogsmeade weekend he had little competition for a table, and chose a booth where he could sit facing the door.

Rosmerta wandered by shortly thereafter and took his order with her customary cheer, and came back almost immediately with his drink. When his food came he ate mechanically, thinking over all that Potter had said that morning.

He had certainly been wary of Salazar early on, especially once it became obvious he was specifically targeting Death Eaters. It was no huge secret that he had been one, and he’d wondered more than once if he was next on the list.

The captures reported early on had nothing about them to arouse any particular suspicion; it had seemed at the time more as though the ones arrested were monumentally foolish as to be caught as they had been. He understood now that Potter had been working very hard to assure that no one was alerted to his presence. But as time went on he’d developed it into a kind of deadly fun game, using the name of Slytherin to strike back directly at the Dark Lord.

He shook himself mentally; he no longer had any reason to use the term Dark Lord even in his thoughts.

He wanted to laugh at Potter’s reasoning for using Slytherin’s guise, but what genuinely disturbed him about the entire recitation was his admission that he had very nearly been placed in his own house. He must truly be a stubborn, blind fool to have ever thought the boy was all that he appeared to be on the surface. Not that it could change the past, of course, or even possibly the future.

He didn’t much care to think about how those years would have gone had Potter been a Slytherin. His own life would have been immeasurably more in danger. Still, the boy had given him much thought over the course of the past few years, and had wondered if his own situation paralleled to any degree, even in the face of such blatant hatred and disregard. Not a quality that he himself found appealing in the norm.

Potter could have indeed been a Slytherin with his sly machinations and covert dealings.

Snape sighed audibly and picked at the remains of his meal. In a roundabout sense he owed Potter a life debt. Two in his lifetime was more than any sane man should be asked to bear.

He took a last drink from his glass and stood, dropping coins on the table to cover the cost, then left to start the walk back up to the school. Albus was much on his mind as he approached the main doors, but he resolutely pushed aside those thoughts, resolving to wait until he was ensconced in his quarters to dwell on them.

He stepped inside, carefully closing the door against the chill of autumn, and turned to notice a number of people milling about the entrance hall. Aurors and ministry officials judging by their attire and carriage. Two were headed through the doors to the Great Hall, a body floating between them, while the rest appeared to be waiting on something, or someone.

One auror spotted him and started to make his way over in haste when Snape’s attention was diverted by the sound of heavy footfalls on the stairs. He looked over to see Albus racing down the main staircase, one hand raised up in a quelling position and a shout on his lips of, “Stop!”

Puzzled, Snape followed the line of Albus’s gaze to see again the two aurors entering the Great Hall. Seconds after they and the body had passed the threshold an explosion rocked the castle. Thin streams of blood splattered out through the doors to smear across the stone floor.

Snape’s gaze whipped back to Albus to see his ashen face; he’d stopped dead at the eruption, heaving for breath and clutching his chest with one hand. What had he done that he had tried so hard to prevent happening?

Everyone was still. When the detonations finally ceased, one brave (or sadly curious) soul loped through the doors and let out an anguished yell, then slowly backed out into the entrance hall, shaking his head mutely. Snape, no stranger to many sights best left unseen, bolted for the Great Hall, prompting the others present to do likewise.

Inside was chaos. The men had only gotten a few steps inside; that much was evident. Blood and wetly gleaming chunks of flesh were oozing down the walls and splattered across the floor and what was left of the furnishings. Tables and benches were little more than splinters and kindling, dyed a dull crimson in the places where blood was already sinking in.

There was no sign of anyone left living.

A faint rustling sound made him look up, along with many of those around him, to see a singed piece of parchment wafting through the air like a feather. He followed it with his gaze until it came to a rest on the floor next to a piece of shattered bone.

He snorted and looked deeper into the hall, seeing additional evidence of death partway down what had been the Gryffindor table. Mixed in among the bits of wood were blood and bone and bile, like a grotesque sludge of shredded humanity.

The air was scented with a gut-wrenching mixture of the contents of burst internal organs and partially digested food, all of which was overlain with a faint hint of the metallic.

Nothing had escaped the destruction. Even the banners that hung overhead were little more than blackened rags and the enchantments on the ceiling were gone. As one of the aurors rushed from the scene and noisily threw up in the entrance hall, Snape could not help but feel a twinge of dismay that Trelawney had not been here at the wrong moment in time.

He looked back over his shoulder to see Albus propped against the doorframe still clutching his chest, and another auror skidding past him. Snape slowly turned and returned to the entrance hall to wait.

As a matter of course, all those who had been present when the explosion happened were kept in the entrance hall as fresh ministry personnel went over the destruction. A multitude of pictures were taken, and each witness was provided with parchment, ink and quill so that they might write down their perceptions of the event. Albus had been removed to the hospital wing on suspicion of heart troubles and shock.

*

They sat in the infirmary, chairs arrayed in a loose, incomplete circle around the bed that currently held the headmaster. His face had not regained any of its natural colour in the interim and his breathing sounded labored. Poppy hovered nearby, having been unable to prevent this meeting, but close enough to be on hand immediately should Albus have difficulties.

Madam Bones was currently holding court, though it was one of her aurors who was reciting a list of findings resulting in the examination of the Great Hall. When he finished, she turned to Albus.

“I must ask what you know of this. The witness accounts clearly state that you were running toward the scene shouting stop just before the explosion. Please tell us why.”

“It was a final defense measure,” he said with difficulty.

“Please explain,” Madam Bones prompted evenly.

“If Voldemort ever got that far into Hogwarts, then all hope for the school was lost.”

“Possibly. But why did the hall explode?”

“Final strike. If he got that far, it had to be because I was already dead, that I’d failed. And if I died, surely no one other wizard would be capable of killing him. If the explosion did not kill him, it would buy time for additional forces to finish him off while he was gravely wounded.”

“I see,” she said primly, glancing around at the other attendants before turning her gaze back toward the headmaster. “And the potential danger to the students?”

“If he got that far, better for them to die quickly than to be tortured, controlled, or killed slowly,” he gasped out.

“You did not consider the possibility that you may have been called away? That a ruse might be employed so that he could have stormed the school in your absence?”

“I do not think that very likely.”

Snape barely controlled his expression as he held back a snort. He could certainly recall that Dumbledore had been tricked exactly so during Potter’s first year, resulting in the boy and his friends going after the stone personally.

“All right,” she responded. “When it was clear that Voldemort had been, er . . . taken care of . . . why did you not remove the enchantments?”

“What would be the point? Why would anyone think to bring him here? He was as good as dead!” Albus’s voice was growing increasingly shrill. “Why did you bring him here? Why!?”

Poppy rushed to his bedside and forced a potion down his throat even as he tried to keep speaking. She stared at Madam Bones with burning eyes, ignoring the headmaster’s increasingly weaker questions of why.

Madam Bones cleared her throat and stood. “I think we should continue this in the headmaster’s office.” She vanished her chair and calmly walked away.

The meeting was short and to the point, consisting of the heads of houses and several aurors, with Madam Bones taking charge once again as interim minister.

“In light of the current situation I would like you, Professor McGonagall, to take over as the Headmistress of Hogwarts for the time being.” When Minerva nodded sharply, her lips compressed into a thin line, she continued. “You may appoint anyone you please as deputy with the same understanding. All of this will be reviewed at a later date.”

She paused, straightened her robes, then said, “I expect that letters will be going out to the families of the six students who were killed today. Please contact the ministry immediately if you have any questions or if any further problems arise, such as any other hidden enchantments the headmaster has not revealed as of yet.”

“Good day, everyone.” She nodded at each of the professors in turn, then left with her aurors in tow.

“Why did they bring him here?” Snape finally asked, but no one answered.

*

Harry was enjoying breakfast with his friends Monday morning, with Sirius floating nearby, when Blaise suddenly looked up and pinned Harry with a deeply thoughtful gaze.

“Harry? Remember how you showed us the parchment from the familius potion you used?” asked Blaise.

“Yes, what about it?”

“Do you . . . really look like that? I mean, it doesn’t matter. I’m just curious. With everything else yesterday, it never occurred to me to ask.”

“Oh, er . . . no, actually, I don’t. Then again, I can look like anything I want.” He tilted his head and shrugged. “I take it you want to see?”

Blaise nodded. Harry didn’t really expect Remus or Sirius to be fond of the idea, but they didn’t object, so he cleared his mind to prevent conscious direction and let himself shift. When he opened his eyes Blaise was giving him a curious look.

“Good? Bad? Oh, Merlin, someone let a troll loose in the house?”

Blaise laughed and shook his head. “It’s fine. I don’t know if you’d be recognized.”

Harry shrugged again and shifted back. “I don’t much care. But it’ll be handy for public places when I don’t wish to be mobbed.”

He might have expounded but Dobby popped in with The Daily Prophet and handed it to Harry, who murmured a thank you and shook it out, then muttered, “Bloody hell.”

Great Hall Explodes at Hogwarts

According to ministry sources, aurors had brought the body of You-Know-Who to Hogwarts yesterday in an attempt to secure the assistance of some of the more skilled staff in double-checking the body’s condition.

Specifically, that of Professor Severus Snape in his capacity as Potions Master and as a former Death Eater-turned-spy, in the hopes that his connection with the aforementioned could shed some light on the matter.

However, as the body was floated into the hall just after lunch, the Great Hall was rocked with a cataclysmic series of explosions. Both aurors were killed and the body was destroyed.

After detailed investigation of the aftermath, it was determined that six students from Gryffindor house were also killed in the blast, who had unfortunately remained in the hall.

Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of the school, is reported to be in hospital wing as a result of the tragedy, though he was not caught in the actual explosions.

It is rumored that a last-ditch defense mechanism was at fault, set to go off in the unlikely event that You-Know-Who ever gained the Great Hall, but was not removed after reports of You-Know-Who’s defeat.

It has been suggested that this defense mechanism was never removed due to someone high up at Hogwarts never expecting the body to be brought to the school, which has long been considered one of the safest bastions of light in the British wizarding community.

In the interim, Professor Minerva McGonagall will be taking on the mantle of headmistress with a new deputy to be announced at a later time.

Harry cursed again and shoved the paper at Remus, a scowl etched firmly on his face.

“Harry, what is it?” asked Blaise anxiously, getting up so he could stand behind Remus’s chair and read over his shoulder.

Harry continued to mutter to himself, occasionally using his fork to stab his toast viciously. It beat punching or kicking the wall, and saved on personal pain.

“Do we wait for Snape to come back, or shall I go see him?” asked Remus in a dull tone as Blaise sat back down in his chair heavily.

Harry looked up from the mutilated remains of his breakfast and sighed. “I don’t know. Do you think Dumbledore will be imprisoned for this?”

“That’s a hard question, Harry, considering who he is. But even in the muggle world manslaughter is grounds for a prison sentence.”

“I wonder if Snape would be able to tell us what, if anything, Dumbledore had to say on this,” he mused.

“Perhaps. I can go. See if there’s anything I can find out. I doubt he’d be able to leave the school again so soon, even if classes are suspended in light of the current situation. And I don’t think he’d appreciate Dobby or Salazar slipping into his rooms.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. If he was there to hear anything, see if you can get a memory? Salazar could always leak it to The Daily Prophet. . . .”

Remus stood up and left.

When he returned several hours later he bore a slight smile on his face and held a small pensieve in his hand. He placed the device on a table and fished in his pocket for a moment, then handed a note to Harry.

Salazar,

Do as you deem best with the contents of the pensieve. I am quite certain that a sly person such as yourself can think of any number of things to do with it.

You might be interested to know that your suspicions were correct. Reports have been filing in from all over regarding the Death Eaters still on the loose. All of them are dead, and their bodies look as though they were sucked dry when it happened.

Logic suggests that those in Azkaban were similarly affected.

Regards,
Severus Snape

“I think he prefers Salazar,” Harry commented ruefully, handing the note to Remus to look over.

“I think it’s more that I told him what you said about Salazar and The Daily Prophet, in a roundabout way,” offered Remus with a tight grin. “So it sort of makes sense to address it to the right person.” He skimmed the note and nodded to himself, then sat down, looking at Harry expectantly.

Harry snapped his fingers and Dobby appeared. “Dobby, can you find Blaise and ask him to come here?”

Dobby bounced happily and nodded his head, disappearing in the next second.

Harry eyed the pensieve for a moment before saying, “Did he give you any trouble? The note sounds almost . . . humorous.”

“No. He just looked disgusted. Classes have been cancelled for an additional week because of what happened. I couldn’t tell if he was like that because he couldn’t torture students, or if it has to do with what we’re going to see.”

“We probably won’t like this, then,” Harry said, wrinkling his brow.

“Like what?” asked Blaise as he stepped into the room, smiled at Remus, then moved to sit next to Harry. “Oh,” he said, noticing the pensieve.

“Let’s have a look, shall we?”

*

After replaying the memory enough times to have a transcript of the conversation, Harry banished the pensieve up to his room. Remus was keeping Sirius occupied as Harry and Blaise discussed a plan regarding The Daily Prophet. After some wrangling back and forth, they’d decided that Salazar should make it appear that he’d been present for the meeting between Albus and the others, and that it was Albus’s comments that should be the focus of what they were going to do. Since no word of them had graced the paper yet, it was about time.

Remus and Sirius had been called in, and the plan explained. Remus had looked doubtful until Harry pointed out that no one could get to them here, and Sirius had started laughing at what he considered to be the second big prank of his godson’s life. Together they drafted out a letter meant for publication.

As I have become aware, many of the wizarding community have to come to regard me with a curious mixture of awe and fear. To this I say there is no need. The only people that ever need fear me are those who well know the depths of their own duplicity as it regards those around them, and the community at large.

As such, I would not be me were I to deprive the public of an exceptionally interesting conversation, one that brings to light a side of a man who until now has been regarded as one of the foremost people in the fight to protect and save lives in the name of light.

On the day the Great Hall of Hogwarts exploded, a certain Headmaster Dumbledore was seen running toward the aurors escorting the body of Voldemort, trying desperately to stop them from entering.

One might ask why such a measure was necessary? In the aftermath of the destruction, Dumbledore was questioned on his actions and knowledge of the event, and I provide here a transcript of the questions and his answers.

When asked why he tried to prevent the aurors from entering the hall: “It was a final defense measure. If Voldemort ever got that far into Hogwarts, then all hope for the school was lost.”

When asked why the hall exploded: “Final strike. If he got that far, it had to be because I was already dead, that I’d failed. And if I died, surely no one other wizard would be capable of killing him. If the explosion did not kill him, it would buy time for additional forces to finish him off while he was gravely wounded.”

When asked about the potential danger to the students: “If he got that far, better for them to die quickly than to be tortured, controlled, or killed slowly.”

When asked about the possibility of him having been called away as a ruse to allow Voldemort to gain the school in his absence: “I do not think that very likely.”

When asked why the enchantments were not removed from the hall once it was known that Voldemort was defeated: “What would be the point? Why would anyone think to bring him here? He was as good as dead! Why did you bring him here? Why!?”

It was at this point that Dumbledore had to be sedated. So I ask you of the wizarding community to ponder these words and decide for yourselves whether the cost was worth it.

My own opinion here is irrelevant, for I am but one voice in a community of thousands.

And . . . one last thought before I put away my quill and come among you no longer, for my time here is done, and the tasks I set myself completed.

The world is what you make of it, and those that cower in fear of the events around them do a grave disservice to the world they live in. People who pin their hopes on one person alone are bound in the end to be victims of their own shortsightedness.

With no regrets,
Salazar Slytherin, a.k.a. Harry James Potter

Now the only thing to do was to deliver it. Harry made a copy of the letter to leave at Sanctuary before heading upstairs to change into one of the outfits so favored by Salazar and shifting his appearance. Downstairs he blew a kiss to his friends and warped to the offices of The Daily Prophet.

His arrival set several people off to shrieking, but a wave of his hand brought on a shock of silence.

“Where, pray tell, is the head editor?” he asked, taking a moment to scan the room. His eye was caught by one of the braver employees, who was pointing toward a heavily embellished door on the far side. Salazar nodded and set off across the room, opening the door and entering without bothering to knock.

The sound of spluttering began as he carefully closed it behind him, and then he turned to face a rather weedy man with a florid complexion.

“How thrilling to see you, dear fellow. You and I need to have a little talk.” Seeing that the man wasn’t going to recover immediately, Salazar seated himself in a squashy chair and propped his feet up on the corner of the desk between him and the man.

“I need you to publish something, dear fellow. A little letter from me to the wizarding community. I think a special evening edition would be just the thing, don’t you?”

The editor snapped his mouth shut and straightened. This was apparently common enough that he slipped back into his customary role despite who was sitting with him. “A letter, you say?” he finally asked.

“Quite so, dear fellow.” Salazar pulled out the letter and handed it over, saying, “You might be interested to know that I kept a copy. It would be tragic indeed if this were published with . . . changes. I would be quite annoyed.”

The spindly man flushed and took the letter, spending the next minute or so reading it. As he reached the end he stood up stared at Salazar, a nervous tic making one of his eyes twitch uncontrollably. “I don’t know what kind of a joke this is, but you can’t well expect me to publish nonsense!” he exclaimed.

“Really,” Salazar said in a deadly voice. “What nonsense might that be, dear fellow? Do enlighten me.”

The man backed up against his chair and stabbed at the parchment with a thin finger. “This! Right here! You don’t honestly expect me or anyone to believe that you’re the Potter boy. It’s preposterous!”

“My, you are a brave fellow, aren’t you,” he responded, swinging his feet back to the floor and standing as well. “I think you will publish it, because you aren’t a stupid man,” he said as he shifted his form back to that of Harry and loomed over the desk. “I think that you have better sense than to piss off the man who assured that Voldemort is no more!” he roared.

The editor flopped into his chair as though the force of Harry’s words had blown him back, clearly intimidated by the display.

“Now, I expect you to get all your people on this immediately. And if when I get a copy of this and see that you have changed a single word of the letter, and that includes replacing the name Voldemort with one of those cowardly euphemisms, I will personally make you regret you ever met me. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

The editor nodded his head dumbly and clutched the letter.

“Splendid,” Harry said as he shifted back to Salazar. “I’ll just be off, then. Pray you give no cause to see me again.” He warped away, but not far. He stayed there in hiding as The Daily Prophet exploded into activity, and waited through until the special evening copies were made. When the delivery owls began flying off to the regular customers he liberated several copies, stowed them, and warped to the infirmary of Hogwarts.

Dumbledore was alone, dozing restlessly. Salazar quickly placed silencing and aversion charms around the private room the headmaster was in, then went to stand by the bed. Perhaps it was the intensity of his gaze that woke the old man, but within minutes his eyes had slowly opened.

Salazar conjured himself a stool and sat down waiting.

“Why are you here?” Dumbledore finally asked.

“Curiosity mostly,” he replied honestly. “The seeds you’ve sown bore fruit, old man. One hopes you can live with the results.”

“I don’t understand.”

“How surprising to hear that coming from a master of misdirection, one who has made vagueness into an art form.”

“Why are you here?” repeated Dumbledore.

“I have questions, of course. For example, did you think that Harry Potter would remain forever ignorant of your meddling, old man? Was it when you thought you’d lost control that you let Fudge do as he pleased and lock the boy away?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you don’t. How silly of me!” Salazar threw his hands in the air in mock chagrin. “Then I guess you wouldn’t know anything about the truth of what happened the night Voldemort attacked the Potters, would you.”

He graced Dumbledore with a pointed look and said, “And it was obviously your twin who snuck into Privet Drive not once, but twice, and fed the poor babe a potion to assure that no one would ever ask questions about his . . . parentage.”

Dumbledore’s already pale face became ashen.

“And it couldn’t possibly have been you who lied to the boy repeatedly over the years and withheld information that could have helped him, not to mention do nothing to make sure his support system was not undermined. Poor Sirius Black, dead because you could not bear to part with the cards you held so close. And poor Harry Potter, devastated by guilt over his part in the death of his godfather.”

Dumbledore closed his eyes and said tiredly, “You’re here to avenge them.”

Salazar laughed merrily, causing the headmaster’s eyes to open again. “You’ll know soon enough.” He stood up and vanished the stool. “I didn’t do much of anything, old man, but you did.”

Removing the charms on the room with a wave of his hand, he then smirked and tossed a copy of the special edition on the bed. “Here,” he said nastily. “Your public awaits, I’m sure.” With one last glance he warped back to Sanctuary.