Chapter 12 : Professor for a Day
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"Hello," the man himself said, but Dubhán ignored him, since he'd already assessed the man before turning his attention to the objects.
"Hello, Albus," Potter said, politely. Potter was still holding Dubhán's hand, his grip unyielding. Coming through the floo Dubhán had thought it was to keep him from going somewhere he ought not - to prevent an escape. Now he wondered if the reasoning behind the tight grip was something else entirely.
There was quite a bit of him that wanted to disentangle his hand from Potter's hand, but a smaller, more clever part of him made him pause. There was no reason why Dumbledore should be privy to where his loyalty lay.
He let Potter keep his hand, allowing his arm to relax in the hold.
"Hello, Devlin," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling just like Grandfather had always described. 'And that damn twinkling...'
He kept his features perfectly still, even as he drew in the air to answer the man.
"My name is Dubhán," he said quietly, but with that firm, caustic air about him that had always made Grandfather smirk. When he heard others use this tone their lips were always sneering and their eyes were narrowed, but Grandfather had never appreciated the voice as much when Dubhán's face had also shown his contempt.
"Ah yes, I did hear you preferred it said differently," the Headmaster said, still smiling (but Dubhán knew it was false - he had seen enough false smiles), his eyes still twinkling. He leaned forward a bit behind his desk. There was a sweet comforting smile tugging at his lips. Dubhán mimicked it perfectly on his own lips and he saw Dumbledore's head tilt, just a bit.
He turned to Potter and they spoke briefly about lemon drops and school Quidditch. Just as Dubhán was tuning them out, his gaze flickered back into focus.
"-Ministy?" It was Dumbledore and Potter's hand squeezed his tighter.
"I haven't got much to say about the conversation, Albus," Potter said, a bit forced. Dubhán pretended not to be paying attention. Potter was rubbing his thumb along Dubhán's hand, as if trying to get his attention.
"I understand you're reaction, Harry," Dumbledore began, "but it is a bit rash. There are...precautions we can take to soften the impact. Perhaps we could discuss appropriate questions and have it limited-"
"They aren't going to talk to Devlin, Albus. I know you're the great politician and we need that - I know that. But I am not. Where this is concerned I am your soldier second and his father first. They won't be talking to Devlin."
Dubhán turned to look at Potter, done pretending. There was a fire in Potter's eyes that shone like a green flame behind shattered glass. His shoulder's were taunt and his feet planted firmly. The hand around Dubhán's hand was tight and there and promising protection.
"He's done being used for anything," Potter said, his voice firm and demanding and unquestionable.
'We are done discussing this. It doesn't matter what you want. You are mine. Try and argue and I will prove it to you, child.'
Once more, he felt lost for a moment in a fog of not knowing, and knowing and not wanting to remember.
Dubhán was used to being valued. Grandfather valued him, otherwise he wouldn't be alive. It took a great deal of value, Dubhán had learned, to stay alive - especially when there wasn't much he could do for Grandfather unlike the Death Eater's and especially because he was a child and he did and said things that Grandfather found extremely annoying. Dubhán knew what it felt like to hold a great deal of intrinsic value.
Yet Dubhán had always thought that value came hand-in-hand with ownership. When one valued something enough to keep it safe one also strove to own it, control it, keep it.
Potter wasn't claiming ownership of him.
He's done being used for anything.
The word struck him hard in the gut, twisting and wrenching his insides. His mind scrambled.
Anything: used to refer to a thing, no matter what.
It was like Potter was saying: he's free now - no one can own him.
"I'll talk to you later, Albus. We'll be late if we don't hurry up."
Dumbledore nodded and said something to Potter which he shook his head too, but Dubhán wasn't really paying attention. Potter tugged them out into the hallway.
"Are you hungry? I know I said we'd stop by the kitchens."
Dubhán shook his head numbly.
"It won't be that long, then we'll grab something before visiting the pitch, alright?"
A few paces up, Potter stopped.
"Are you alright, Devlin?" He asked, turning around to look at him. They were going to be late. They were skipping breakfast...but Potter had paused because he was worried about him. His gut twisted again.
"Yes," he said, his voice a wash of air, his eyes dazed and unfocused, his hand limp inside of Potter's grip.
"Tell me the truth - please Devlin."
Tell me the truth. The words were different coming from Potter than they were coming from him.
"Did you mean it, what you said back there?" He asked, his words too quick for his sluggish mind.
"Which part?" He said, then he shook his head. "It doesn't matter which part - I meant everything I said in Dumbledore's office."
Dubhán nodded, his mind still scrambling. Potter's green eyes were peering at him carefully, full of love. Dubhán looked away.
"I meant it, Devlin," he said, as he straightened himself. "He stole you from us, then he stole you from yourself."
Dubhán wrenched his hand away in a moment of anger. He looked up at Potter with his eyes burning.
"I kept me," he said as he twisted his face into a glare and snarled to keep the betraying tears that wanted to come. "I kept me. If I wasn't me I wouldn't be alive!"
Potter paused for a moment. They stood in silence. Then there was a wash of noise down the hallway and the thumping of feet. A group of students suddenly came around the corner and sprinted past them. They were younger, certainly not fourth years (at least, Dubhán thought not, but he didn't have many children to compare for age).
"Let's talk about this later," Potter said, his words tight and constricted and somehow Dubhán knew he, too, was keeping tears at bay.
They walked down the hallway for a while, then down a staircase and through another hallway. They arrived in front of a door just as a straggling student was sneaking in.
"Hey Mr. Potter!" He said, smiling nervously and dashing inside. They followed after him. Potter no longer had his hand and Dubhán was immensely glad of that when he found a group of thirty or so students staring at him.
It was only the appearance of Remus that distracted him from the body of students. Potter was greeting him politely. Dubhán stared at him, cajoling his wolf to remain dormant despite it's strong desire to greet this man. It only took one more glance at the students for his wolf to meekly step aside.
They were all staring at him with an open interest that unnerved him.
"Whose the kid?" A boy asked abruptly, his voice meant for his friend but not quiet enough. He was wearing black robes with red lining and a lion crest. Gryffindor.
Remus sent the boy a heated look and he bowed his head meekly. But now the other body of students, the ones wearing green were looking at him more intensely. His skin crawled.
'Is that the boy?' One of the students in the back asked, his voice so hushed that Dubhán knew only Remus and he would have heard. Remus flickered his gaze to him for a moment, trying to be comforting, he was sure. 'Yeah, the one who ran away' 'He doesn't look frightening at all' 'Can't be him' 'Maybe they glamoured him'
Remus stood and cleared his throat. Dubhán took a step away from Potter.
They were watching him. Measuring him. Trying to gauge his loyalty by his every move. Watching - his closeness to Potter, his reaction to Remus, his expression, his body, for a wand, for harm, for illness, for anything that would keep him from escaping or hint that he was disloyal.
Dubhán knew where all this information would go - knew who would see it all. Knew grandfather would extract these memories and watch them and see him - see him standing passively in the same room as Potter. See Remus with him. See him unharmed and healthy and able to escape.
He felt numb all over, his heart so rushed that it had slowed down, his fingers so cold that the tips were numb, his mind so scrambled that he could feel it pulsing inside his skull.
"Mr. Potter is here as the Head Auror to oversee our lesson on the three unforgivable curses." Remus voice rang through his head, making it pound more.
'Why'd he bring a boy here today?' That was from a Gryffindor. A Slytherin sitting near him sniggered but wouldn't answer the Gryffindor's questioning regard. Dubhán knew, though. He wetted his dry lips. Potter wasn't looking at him, instead he was staring at the class, a serious look on his face as he let Remus finish. He had swung his Auror robe on, something he had carried until now, and Dubhán took another step away, instinctively.
'You must not be seen by men wearing white robes' The rule had been drilled into his head constantly by Voldemort. The words crawl through his head, panicked. A multitude of worries crowded in his mind, pushing and shoving for his full attention. They were watching him. Potter was watching them. They knew things about him, even if it was only rumors.
Don't think. Don't think. Don't think!
"Because the Unforivables are illegal to perform without permission from the Ministry, all practical teaching of them must be in the presence of an Auror with the ranking to cast them and oversee the curses being cast." Potter's voice was clear and crisp and serious in a way Dubhán hadn't heard it before. He's heard him angry, he's heard him worried, he heard his voice filled with emotions and love, but he's never heard him so serious. It made his eyes flicker toward him for a moment. He was looking at the class firmly.
"We're not here to teach you how to do these spells. I am here to make sure you know what they are and hopefully when we're done, you will have a better idea of why they are illegal. Anyone who leaves this class and performs these spells is, in the Ministry's eyes, doing so with full knowledge of the spells effects on humans and animals alike - and of their illegal status. You will be prosecuted to the fullest extent." He glared at them for a moment and they all went hush.
Dubhán's brain continued to pound, his vision pulsing. A boy had asked a question and Dubhán tried to focus on Potter's answer - anything to stop his thoughts from spiraling out of control!
"I am the only Ministry official licensed to cast or give permission to cast, the unforgivables," he said, his tone as hard and somber as his regard to the boy who must have asked the question. The boy shrunk back a little, clearly wary of anyone who had free reign to cast the torture curse.
There were murmurs across the classroom and more hands shot into the air. Dubhán watched them, watching him. The green-cloaked Slytherin's were mainly regarding him. Their eyes flickered from Potter and Remus, but remain regarding him longer.
"I'm sure many of you have questions for Mr. Potter," Remus interjected, making a lowering motion with his hands that resulted in the raised hands coming down slowly. Their eager faces remained, staring at Potter. It was the curious eyes that were on him. "Perhaps Mr. Potter will have some time after the lesson to take some questions. Until that time, let us begin the lesson."
Potter nodded; his gaze still hadn't shifted back to him. Dubhán wondered if Potter knew - if he was justSlytherin enough to understand that Dubhán was being watched.
"Auror Potter, since you are the overseer, which curse would you like to start with?"
Potter reached into his robe pocket rather than answer Remus immediately. Dubhán wasn't sure what he might have expected Potter to withdraw from his pocket, but it wasn't a simple knut.
"Let's start with the most inconspicuous," Potter said softly as he placed the knut in his hand. Dubhán watched as he withdrew his wand. It was the first time Dubhán had truly watched the man move and he was surprised at how fluid his movements were - a sign of a skilled and practiced wizard. Not at all the 'boy' that Voldemort often spoke of him as. The wand was waved over the knut and shifted and twisted until a rat was squeaking nervously in its place on Potter's palm.
"The Cruciatus Curse is the only Unforgivable that can be blocked with a shield." His voice was steady and commanding, drawing the attention of all the students. Even the curious eyes of the Slytherin's moved away from him to regard the rat Potter was petting softly. "The others - the Imperius Curse and the Killing Curse, cannot be blocked by magical shields - no matter how powerful it is. You are defenseless against their attack. Unless, of course, you happen to have a non-magical shield such as marble around. However, while the Imperius can't be blocked it has a different weakness. The victim can shake it off. You can make it stop. How? Willpower."
Potter flashed him a quick glance and Dubhán could feel the worry in the regard. But Dubhán wasn't worried about what Potter clearly was, because he has heard this all, seen this all, felt almost all of this. He avoided Potter's regard and tried to shake off the feeling of Remus' regard as well.
Curious. The curious eyes were on him again, but instead of flushing with worry, he sneered at them, pulling himself straighter. Fear is for lesser beings than I.
Potter settled the rat on the top of Remus' desk, which had magically cleaned itself. The contents were still busy sorting themselves into neat piles on a counter behind the Professor's main desk. The rat squeaked, fidgeting atop the desk. Dubhán watched the animal, wondering how far Potter would take this. He didn't seem the type to be able to stomach torture, let alone cast an Unforgivable. Was it his imagination or did the rat have a missing toe? He almost sniggered at the imperfection in Potter's transfiguration - although the rest seemed flawless.
"Imperio," Potter whispered, his green eyes alight. The rat twitched ever so slightly. Dubhán half expected the curse to be so powerless that the rat would shake it off. After all, one had to mean it for the Unforgivables to work. The rat fell uncharacteristically still. Dubhán realized he hadn't expected Potter to succeed.
"What shall I have him do?" Potter asked the class, his voice booming across the silence. "I could make him do whatever I wanted. I could make him jump off this desk. Perhaps I should give him a running start..." The rat seemed to snap into alertness and began to walk evenly, casually, across the desk until it was at the other end. It turned around and at a look from Potter, it began to run towards it's impending death. There were gasps and wide eyes and eyebrows touching hairlines. Dubhán was perfectly still, watching the rat.
"Stop," Potter whispered, even though Dubhán knew he hadn't needed to say the command at all. The rat stopped, mere centimeters from the edge. It didn't squeak. It didn't fidget. It was perfectly content. "Do you understand? No, probably not yet. Should I make him jump into one of your backpacks, summon an owl to have him as a snack, or perhaps I should make him dance a jig - oh we think that one is funny do we?" The spurts of laughter that had broken through the oppressive silence stop abruptly. The rat began to dance. "He won't stop until I let him. He'd kill himself from exhaustion and hunger if I never told him to stop."
Dubhán, who had seen the curse used in much more cruel ways, found it comical and he didn't bother to wipe the bemused expression off his face. Besides, he was being watched.
"In a time of war being able to defend yourself against the Imperius Curse is often necessary. Any wizard or witch who would like to attempt to defend themselves today, may line up over there," Potter swished his wand and a line suddenly appeared on the floor in front of the Professor's desk. The rat was still dancing. "Being able to defend yourself will go towards your O.W.L's this year. It is the Ministry's attempt at enticing you to take your safety into your own hands."
It wasn't until Potter freed the rat from the curse that a line began to form. Students eyed the Stupefied rat cautiously as they waited nervously in line. It wasn't even half the students that lined up - mostly Gryffindor's. Dubhán admired their bravery even as he knew they were stupid idiots to volunteer to be cursed. What was the good at practicing here? The stakes were hardly going to be the same as they would be, if any one of these worthless wizard's and witches found themselves thrown in front of Voldemort. Besides, did any of them evendream that the Death Eater's would care enough about their willingness to use Imperio? They'd rather hear their screaming. They'd rather have them aware of every minute that they were being tortured.
'A well aimed wand works just as well as Imperio, mostly,' Dubhán remembered a Death Eater saying.
"What's your name?" Potter asked the first idiot. It was a boy. A Slytherin. Dubhán watched as the boy tried to straighten himself.
"Eric," the boy said resolutely.
"Ready, Eric?" Potter asked, as he lifted his wand to aim at the boy.
"Imperio." The boy was no longer really there. Gone was the alertness from his hazel eyes. Gone was the purposeful posture. Gone was the careful grip on his wand.
"Give your wand to me," Potter said suggestively. The boy walked forward, but Remus was at his side in a moment, whispering words of warning. In the end, the boy physically pushed the Professor aside and handed his wand to Potter. Dubhán felt a wash of mild surprise wash through him. He had expected Potter to let the boy 'win'.
He watched as the other ten or so students each went. There was only one girl who managed to over-throw the curse. Potter handed her a card and she flushed bright red and walked away chanting: "oh Merlin, thank you, thank you, thank you." Dubhán tipped his head, not quite certain what the card had been. Perhaps he'd ask Potter later.
Meanwhile, Potter had walked back to the desk and freed the rat. It was fidgeting atop the desk again, squeaking. Dubhán knew what would be next. Potter would want this to appear as realistic as possible. He wouldn't want the students to be reminded that the rat was really a knut. Killing it would revert it. Obviously he would torture it first.
"As I said before, the Cruciatus Curse is blockable, but Death Eater's often use this spell on defenseless wizards and witches or those who are too far injured to defend themselves. Don't count on being able to simply block it with a shield. It is called the 'torture curse' for a reason - it makes every single nerve in your body feel pain."
Dubhán watched the rat, knowing it's impending doom far better than any of the fifteen year olds in the room. Most of them, he was certain, could hardly grasp what a medium amount of pain was, let alone the kind of pain that Crucio caused. Potter's gaze flickered back to him and for a moment their eyes connected.
"Professor Lupin, I will allow you to illustrate." Dubhán frowned. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps Potter didn't have it in him to torture. But the look Potter was pressing on him made the truth that Dubhán was trying to avoid plainly clear: Potter didn't want to torture the rat in front of him.
Remus stepped forward and a moment later there was a shriek that broke across the room. The whole of the class leaned back in their seats. The rat was twitching atop the table, it's tail crashing through the air as it's body curled and uncurled in fits of agony.
Even amongst the Slytherin's there was horror - in the widening of their eyes, the beat of their heart, the breathlessness of each of their chests, the tension in their bodies as they willed themselves to appear unaffected. Dubhán watched them while they were too busy to be watching him. He knew better than to stare at the rat - he had never grown quite accustomed to seeing Crucio being used; perhaps because of his own ill after-effects or perhaps because Grandfather had been a bit like Potter about the curse. It was one of the reasons so many Death Eater's at the camp were 'fond' of him - they were less likely to be tortured in front of him.
Still, he knew that Remus hadn't meant it enough, because there was still some semblance of self-control in the rat's movements when he chanced a glance. When there was enough meaning behind the curse it made people go mostly still, their bodies twitching - their lunges screaming until their bodies unwillingly forced in air to begin the whole process again.
Potter was talking now, his voice bellowing over the rat's screeches. Dubhán allowed his own thoughts to pause.
"Does that give you a small idea of what it means to be put under the Cruciatus Curse? If held under the curse for long enough the effects stop being temporary and become permanent. Brain damage, coma, seizures - these can all be induced by the curse. Every person's limits are different - for one person it may only take two minutes to become permanently injured by the curse, for another it may take hours. Do not leave here thinking that you can control the outcome of this curse."
Dubhán looked at the rat for a moment, finally allowed peace from the torture, and knew Remus hadn't meant it enough. If he meant it enough, the rat (which surely had very little mental guard), would be perfectly still now - gone. Gone like him, into the darkness. There would be no sharpness to save this rat. No lurking wolf. No second chance. His heart was slamming against his chest and he tried to look away. He had never had quite this reaction to witnessing the curse before and he scrambled mentally as he tried to piece together why he was feeling now.
"That wasn't half as painful as it should have been," he said, unable to stop the thought from becoming real. "You have to mean it. You didn't. You didn't mean it much at all."
He hadn't meant it.
It was odd that it would bother Dubhán so much that someone hadn't meant it, except that he felt, rather then reasoned, that there was a connection between Remus not meaning it and Dubhán being allowed to feel.
His thoughts were in too much of a jumble for him to piece it together logically and so he was stuck as he felt Emma must be stuck - knowing but not knowing. Feeling but not being able to express. Looking a child.
The Slytherin's eyes were back on him, but he would not allow himself to look away. Would the worry in his eyes make Grandfather rush to his rescue?
"Devlin brings up a good point," Potter says, his voice illustrating his hesitation and his realization, even as his eyes flicker back to the class, as firm and professional as before. The wave of whispers that had erupted after Dubhán's words came to an abrupt stop. "The Unforgivable's are not a bunch of curses you can simply say and expect to happen. You have to mean them. With Crucio you have to wantthe recipient to be tortured. With Imperio you have to want to take control of another person. With the killing curse...you have to want them dead."
Potter took a breath to look at them all, his eyes flickering for a brief second to him again.
"Magically speaking a 'want' needed to cast a spell is far different than a 'want' you might have in your daily life. It is not only a conscious effort that is needed - your magic must align with this want which means you must be on the verge of feeling it as a need. Wanting to hurt someone and feeling as if you need to hurt someone is very different. As one of my teachers once said: you could probably all stand up, point your wands at me, and say "Avada Kedavra" and nothing would happen."
The rat has fallen still, wavering on it's own feet. Drooping. Only half there. Dubhán watched it sway.
"Which brings us to the next curse," Potter began and Dubhán felt something pulse in his chest that soon this would be over. "The Killing Curse is by far the most infamous of the Unforgivable's. There is no way to block the curse or save yourself from dying, unless you have time to dodge it or use a non-magical shield. Keep in mind that it reduces most inanimate things to ash. There is only one known way to survive the curse and it has nothing to do with yourself. While you cannot save yourself, someone else could. When I was a baby my mother refused to step aside and allow my death and instead offered herself in my place. When Voldemort turned his wand on me, that protection was now with me, in my blood."
The class had gone hush. Even the Slytherin's were attentive. Dubhán didn't really need to listen - he's heard the story before from someone probably much more aware that night. Dubhán wondered briefly if Potter knew why Lily Potter had been given the chance to step aside.
Potter lifted his wand to the rat. Dubhán held his breath, watching.
"Avada Kedavra," Potter said, softly but firmly. The rat fell dead - gone.
"That is the Killing Curse. There is nothing spectacular about its appearance. The only significant thing about it is that it kills without symptom - leaving behind an apparently unwounded 'healthy' corpse. To preform this curse you must want to kill. Not mean to kill, but want it. There are wizard's and witches, like myself, that have learned to trick their magic into interpreting a 'need to do it' as a 'want', but this is not typical."
There was silence. Potter turned to Remus. Dubhán kept his eyes on the dead rat, watching as it shifted back to a knut which he thought it was probably happier as.
"How are we doing on time, Remus?"
"We have ten more minutes."
"Ah, great," he looked to the class again. "We have ten more minutes. You may raise your hand if you have a question."
When the questions had ended and the students had filed out, Dubhán had felt a sense of relief that he was to realize a moment later was premature.
"One more to go, eh?" Potter was saying to Remus, his voice now not so serious as weary. Dubhán's eyes snapped to him and even though Potter's head was turned away, he must have felt Dubhán's rapid realization, because he turned. There was concern in those bright green eyes.
"You alright, Devlin?" He asked with care, his voice soft, his eyes full of love, his hands hiding the knut away in his pocket. "If this is-" he fumbled for words, gesturing "if you think you need to go home, I can see if your mum can call out of work for a little..."
His lips twitched with the entrapment of the question.
"I'm fine," he said, unwilling to show his weakness to Potter so easily.
"You could go read in Remus' office or something..." Potter offered, seeming to become aware of the fact that his last offer was lacking.
"I'm fine," he said again. That's what your father says, but over the years I've come to know its true translation.
"Yeah, alright," Potter said at last, shrugging in half-defeat and half-misery.
"I'm not a baby," he said, anger at Potter's easy defeat spurring something in him that he couldn't comprehend. He wanted to lash out at Potter more than the lady and he wasn't sure why quite yet. Potter frowned with confusion. "I've seen it before. A little rat dancing a jig, squeaking, and dying isn't going to make me cry and I certainly don't need to be picked up by my mum like a toddler!"
Potter frowned softly, his head tilting. His face was a mix of surprise and failure that Dubhán couldn't quite understand.
"I wasn't worried about the curses," Potter said, his voice oddly strong and convincing as he waved his hand dismissively - with what Dubhán was mostly convinced was false bravado spurred on by a complete lie. "I didn't know what you felt about being around the crowds."
Dubhán wanted to respond, but the door suddenly opened and a new class began to trickle into the room. Potter took a gallon from his pocket this time.
Upcoming: It was a creature, as dark as night, as thin as a skeleton, and with wide leathery wings. It stared at him through obsidian eyes. It's breath was cool against his skin as it breathed onto him. It had the form of a horse and the looks of a reptile.
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