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Chapter 24 : Power Play
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He shut his bedroom door softly as not to attract attention. His wand wavered, but that didn't matter with this spell. He combed his mind for every last locking charm he knew, which wasn't many. Then he turned to the mirror and tapped it.
"Harry? Potter? Harry Potter?"
The surface was foggy for a moment, but then Harry Potter's striking green eyes came into view.
"Alex, this-" The eyes narrowed. "Devlin...what are you doing with your mum's mirror?"
"She said to tell you," he licked his lips, hearing voices downstairs. "She said to tell you the Ministry is here. I think...I think she needs your help."
"Where are you?"
"In my room."
"Have you locked it?"
"Good job. Now look at me," Devlin tried to stop the mirror from shaking in his hands. His knuckles were white around it. "It will be okay, Devlin. This time I can promise it will be. I am coming. Whatever you do, do not make them think of you as dangerous."
He nodded. Potter was gone. The voices grew louder downstairs, until there was one by his door too.
"I know you're in there, child," a deep voice said, sounding hesitant. "My name is Damian. You're Devlin. I work with your dad."
"Don't come in! I've got a wand!"
"No, no, shh child - those aren't words you want my friends to hear, alright?" The voice was soft now, by the crack of his door. "You're scared - you're only a child. Now you're gonna tell me if you called your dad or not, alright?"
And that's when he knew - they weren't here for the lady, or waiting for the man - they were here for him. He had known before, but it hit him in that moment like a stunner. The boy flashed before his eyes, the rickety house, the cave by the sea, and she came to him last - her brilliant blues eyes like fire burning behind sapphire.
"I'm gonna open the door, now. It can't be helped. I won't hurt you. No one needs to be hurt. Your mum will come with-"
"Don't touch her!"
"No, no - not like that, child. She'll escort you to the Ministry. The Minister just wants a word with you, alright lad? Do you know what's been happening? Has Harry told you?"
"No," he said, the word sticking to his throat. The unknowing of this all struck him hard in his chest.
He realized that Malfoy had been trying to warn him - trying to get him to escape. It had been his opening from Grandfather. Dubhán had made some mistake. Done something wrong. Miscalculated something and he was surely being punished.
He racked his brain for every single thing he had done - weaving a web in his own mind. He could picture himself walking precariously along the strands, looking for the connections.
He scrambled to his desk. He tore open the drawer. Inside was the tiny book. A swipe of his wand and the book was its proper size.
There was no tug of a portkey. No pain. No punishment. No portal to return. No escape.
Now there was only a book. He flipped it over to read the title and his heart pitter-pattered in his chest feebly.
An Interactive Reference for Young Wizard's.
He had asked Grandfather to get it for him for his birthday, but he had refused. Such things only create weak minds, he had said, crumpling up the advertisement Dubhán had brought back from Diagon Alley.
But here it was.
Was it supposed to be a token of apology or was it supposed to symbolize that he was weak?
He opened the book, more than half of him hoping the inside would reveal something the outside had not.
It was blank except for the pre-printed words scrawled at the top of each page in the book: Ask me a question and I shall give you an answer.
He lifted a 'pen', as Potter had called it.
"Kiddo - you alright? I'm starting to undo the locks. Don't be scared, alright?"
Can you help me?
The ink seeped into the paper, just like the advertisement had described happening. He waited for the answer.
I need a proper question, it returned.
He had thought, for a single moment, that maybe the book was not all it seemed. Or that it was as powerful as the advertisement had portrayed. He had thought that it could help.
What would you do if you were about to be taken by the Ministry?
The pen bit into the book, sharp against the paper with heavy-handed anger. Vindictively he had given it a 'proper question' and now he listened, as the man began to disassemble his locking charms, and he watched as the ink seeped into the paper.
I would kill them. You, however, are too small and foolish to do that. I did try to protect you from this, child. Foolish boy. Fear is for lesser beings than yourself.
It was more than a book. Dubhán stared at it for a long moment. The words zoomed around in his head. His Grandfather's words.
Close the book, foolish child!
He snapped it shut.
The locks were snapping, the sound like brittle wood being teased to an inch of it's breaking point.
Dubhán was frozen for a moment.
Fear is for lesser beings than yourself.
He knew those words sounded cruel to Harry's ears, but they made him breathe each time he heard them. You are worth something. You are good. I value you. You are stillmine.
He would be expected to figure this out. If Grandfather had thought it above him, surely he would have told Dubhán what to do.
In times like these, Dubhán could almost feel the pulse of his thoughts, pushing his heart faster and faster as his body tried to keep up with the onslaught of orders.
Dubhán grabbed for the childish backpack that still sat atop the dresser and shoved the book in. Next was his cloak, a pair of pants and a shirt, and the mirror. He sent a couple feeble locking charms against the door, not because he thought it would work, but because Grandfather had drilled into his head that the last three spells could be read. He didn't want them to know he had unshrunk something.
The familiar chastisement rung in his head.
He wasn't a fool. He grabbed his back-up wand from the bedside table.
The door swung open.
His wand was drawn.
"Don't touch me," he said - not like Dubhán, but like the boy who had first begged not to be cut, except this time it was a lie.
"Easy, child," the man said. A werewolf. He had two wands - he could tell by how his canvas jacket bent oddly at his other elbow. Maybe even one against his ankle. There was, of course, the one in his hand. The man approached. Dubhán tried to still himself - to make himselfappear weak instead of a danger as Potter had asked, when suddenly there was a loud noise downstairs and a rush of feet up the stairs.
There was a shout and a bang and a call of: "I told you to get out of my bloody way!"
Then there was a wand, just visible at the edge of the doorway, it's wielder out of view.
"We're friends, so I'm going to ask nicely: back up."
The large man smiled.
"You called your dad, huh?" He took a step back, until his body was in the hallway, where he could apparently see Harry. "'ello boss. Sorry about this - orders and all, sir."
"I understand, Damian," Harry said. "Although I think the trick of calling me into work was entirely too low-handed."
"Wasn't part of that, sir," he said. "But I am going to have to take the boy in."
"Alexandra will be going to my daughter. I will be escorting my son."
"I know everything you are obligated to say. The men downstairs already told me. It is my right as a parent, no matter my involvement with the case. There is also no need for wands, Devlin and I will come willingly. But first I am going to give my son his medicine."
"Sounds perfectly fine, Harry. As soon as the boy puts down the wand of course."
"Devlin - drop your wand. I will summon it."
Dubhán didn't hesitate. That was why his real wand was in it's holster, out of view.
When Potter had his wand, the man backed up even more. Harry came forward.
"Hey, Devlin," he said, with that smile. As if nothing had changed. "You packed a bag, huh? Clever boy. Come here, lets have a look. Go fetch your jacket from the hook, yeah?"
He noticed how Harry had said jacket, not cloak and so he didn't dispute Harry with the fact that his cloak was already in the bag. In fact, Harry was pulling the cloak out. He made a noise in the back of his throat. Harry just shook his head and Dubhán wasn't sure why, but he didn't press it. Harry even took the moment to hide it in the dresser.
"I'm making you aware that I am going to summon a potion from the medicine cabinet. Don't let them hit you in the head."
Two vials came into the room. Harry pocketed one and the other he uncapped and put before him.
"No shaking today, alright?"
He nodded with fierce agreement.
Potter led him to the bed then ducked into the hallway. Dubhán heard footsteps walking away as Potter returned.
"They gave us a minute," he said, smiling that same smile that he always did - as if he could demonstrate with the single expression that his feelings were always going to be the same. That he would always love him.
"What's happening?" He asked softly. Potter crouched in front of him. Dubhán felt a dread he didn't know how to describe or express or even trace back to its origin flash through his chest.
"You remember what I said about nothing being your fault, right?" He nodded, just so the man would continue. The dread filled him further. "It isn't. None of it is. And they're just being idiots-"
"The Ministry - they want to question you, Devlin," he said at last, his warm hands on his thighs, comforting.
"What do you want me to do?" Dubhán asked and somehow he hoped Potter would say 'be smart' because he would know what that meant, but Potter never said things he understood. Regardless, he asked, because Voldemort hadn't told him anything and maybe Potter would say something that made sense.
"I want you to be polite. I don't want you to say a single word until Hermione is sitting next to you - she's going to represent you. If they ask you things before she is there I need you to say "My dad said not to talk until aunt Hermione got here. If they take me away from you - I need you to be brave."
Dubhán bit his lip.
"Say it for me, Devlin." His hands were shaking on his thighs. Dubhán felt tongue tied. A hand was carding through his hair now until it settled at the back of his head and pulled him forward. Potter and his forehead touched. "You're clever and brilliant and you can do this. I need you to make them think whatever they need to think, Devlin."
"I'll be smart," he said, saying the words he needed to hear. Potter nodded.
"Now, give me your wand. It will be safer here at home."
Of course - Potter had never known he'd had a backup wand and would have recognized the backup as not beinghis. He swallowed, but took it out of it's holster.
"And that," Harry said, motioning to the holster. Dubhán looked at him, shocked. He couldn't remember the last time he had faced danger without it strapped to his arm. "Most nine year olds don't have one, Dubhán."
He nodded. His only hope was to trick them into thinking he was a normal boy. The mere idea terrified him; because he did not know how to be a normal boy.
He unstrapped the holster and handed it to Harry. Both were patiently tucked beneath a floorboard - something Dubhán would not have thought to do. Potter came back to him and offered up a hand.
Normally Dubhán would never have taken it, especially not right before facing something terrifying. But he made a conscious decision to take it now, because wasn't that what a normal boy would do?
Fear is for lesser beings than yourself.
Fear wasn't the answer to this situation.
The Auror's were downstairs, lining the hallway. Dubhán counted at least six.
"Didn't they think you were the big man," Harry said in his ear and part of the terror broke away as the compliment sunk in.
They passed by the Auror's, stiff as statues. It took Dubhán a moment to understand why, until he saw Alexandra, her wand aimed at them from the living room. When she was furious she looked like him.
"Who will be escorting us?" Harry asked.
"I will," an Auror said.
"Me as well," another said.
Damian stepped forward and Dubhán knew why he was there. The second man made his heart stop for a second. It was the man from the party - the little girl's father. Harry dug his nails into his hand, bringing him back to reality.
"Sounds dandy. Alexandra will keep her wand pointed at the rest of you until we're through the fire. Then she'll curse each and everyone of you if you don't leave immediately."
When they reached the fireplace Damian came close to him, smiling.
"I'm going to be the one holding you, lad," he said.
"Us, you mean," Harry said. He had cast a magical band connecting them. "I know all the little tricks, Damian. I won't fault you for your orders, but don't mind me if I fight them the entire way."
"Ah, great thought, Mr. Potter," David said from the other side, too happy for it to be anything but false. "Now theres no chance you'll be disconnected in the fire."
Harry nodded stiffly.
The werewolf's hand clamped down on his shoulder and it took every bit of self control he owned not to shout "don't touch me!" or to kick him somewhere where it would really hurt.
Normal, normal, normal, he told himself.
The flames turned the color of the killing curse.
"Don't worry," Damian had said right before they went into the flames, "it's just a spot of tea with the Minister - you can tell all your friends after."
They tumbled out of the flames and into a grand dining room. Dubhán looked up at the large table. Opening that book had awoken all those echoes again and it was with Voldemort's whispers in his head that he examined what was before him.
You must always be aware, Grandfather had often said.Did you see everything? Tsk - you only think you have, look again!
There were five men. Four well dressed. One tawny haired, two dark haired, one with black hair and skin, and one light brown. No Malfoy. He let himself go over them again as Damian pulled him forward, closer to the empty chair.
One was the oldest, tall in his chair, tawny hair, wire-rim glasses, seated at the end of the table.
Two looked to be Potter's age. One with dark skin and darker hair, tall and imposing with a smirk. He looked like a Death Eater but Dubhán had never met him. The other had brown hair and an unimposing face.
The fourth well dressed man had red hair and glasses and was the only well dressed person Dubhán knew at all. Percy Weasley. He had been introduced at Sirius' house.
The last man, shivering and dressed subparly to the other men, was Zakara. His hair was done differently, his clothes light colors, his face shaven and his skin had the matte finish that usually accompanied recent healing charms. Werewolf. Death Eater. Geoffrey's friend.
Clearly if the five men at the huge wooden table weren't threatening, this man was supposed to have him terrified. Dubhán hadn't yet decided if he was.
"Hello, Harry," the tawny haired man said, his voice rough, his smile tough rather than encouraging. "I thought your wife would be joining us."
"It will be easier with me. I know my way around these things," he said, returning the unencouraging smile.
"Of course, of course - have a seat please." Two chairs magically appeared. Dubhán took the minute to take his coat off to examine the chair.
"It won't chain me like his, will it?" Dubhán said, after Damian had released him to sit down. The lion-like man laughed roughly.
"No, child," he said. "You don't need chains, do you?"
"My sister might disagree..." he said, taking a seat, "but I did just yesterday storm through a tea party with my broom..."
A complete lie.
Once the first one left, they all got easier.
The Aurors laughed, a couple of the men at the table sniggered. Dubhán smiled charmingly.
"She's got a doll that never stops crying - can you imagine?" He shook his head. Zakara kept his head bent, but there was a smirk tugging at his lips.
"No, I'm afraid I can't," the lion said, putting an end to the laughter. "We'll hold our judgement on the chains - ravaging a tea party just doesn't seem to cut the bill."
Dubhán smiled again.
"Oh good," he said, sighing in false relief. "The Auror said we were coming for tea - do you have biscuits too?"
"Don't you want to know why you're here?" The dark-skinned man asked, voice smooth and charming.
There was no tea on the table.
Dubhán smiled at him.
"I didn't figure I'd need to ask." In a deadly conversation, always keep the quaffle in their hands; it is easier to dodge than to aim when you are scrambling. Voldemort did not make quidditch metaphors. Dubhán couldn't quite remember who had made that one.
Zakara didn't have a wand, obviously, but the other four had their wands in their hands or settled atop the table. Dubhán looked at all the visible hands - trying to gauge how well-versed they were with their wands by any means.
"I am only nine," he said, leaning across the table a bit (wasn't that childish?) and pointing at their wands. His mind was in a continuous scramble to think of every action he had ever done that had been called childish by Voldemort. "Do you think you really need those?"
"Protocol," the red-headed man asked.
Dubhán scrunched up his nose silly is not a befitting expression for someone of your standard, and quirked his eyes, a straight regard, please.
"For a conversation? I had a conversation with Albus Dumbledore - his wand was tucked away."
The brown haired, probably-same-age-as-Potter bloke fidgeted. Percy held himself very still and Dubhán decided he was impressed with him.
"And what did you and Mr. Dumbledore discuss?"
"My Mum said not talk about anything until Hermione came."
There was an almost imperceptual furrowing of Harry's brow, gone in the blink of an eye. Dubhán had deviated from his plan by mere centimeters and he couldn't identify why. Dubhán knew why, though.
It was like chess. Actions taken and met with almost-predictable reactions. Fear had always pressed Dubhán to be better rather than more pitiful. Fear had not made him whine or shrink or scurry - fear had made him fierce. When there was all to lose, Dubhán had always been able to do whatever was necessary not to die.
The dark-skinned man chuckled.
"What a clever boy you are," he said, but he had tucked his wand away.
Dubhán smiled but did not speak. He had given his terms.
"Has Mrs Granger been told we will be meeting here?" Harry asked the men.
"Of course, Mr. Potter," the red-headed man replied, "we followed all the proper protocols."
The tawny lion nodded slowly.
"It wouldn't be proper of us to have one letter out of line in this report, Mr. Potter," he assured, although Dubhán knew it wasn't reassuring at all.
Hermione found them a few moments later, looking harassed and a little flustered. Whatever had annoyed her so much, however, she did not bring up. She sat down on the other side of Dubhán, putting him between her and Potter. It made Dubhán feel no safer. Dubhán knew, however, that he was the only one capable of making himself feel safe.
"Good day, Minister," she said, looking at the old lion. Dubhán wasn't sure which title he liked better. "Zabini," she nodded to the dark-skinned man, "Boot," directed at the unimposing brown haired man, "Percy," she said at last. Then her eyes swung back to Zakara. "I don't know who you are, I'm afraid."
"Zakary White," Zakara replied evenly, with the force of will that all feral werewolves Dubhán had met could exert under pressure.
"You don't work for the Ministry," Hermione said - a statement and definitely not a question. Dubhán would have liked to know how she knew. Maybe something of Zakara's person gave it away? Surely it was impossible that she knew every Ministry employee by name.
"No, he does not," the old lion said.
Zakara looked at him and for a moment Dubhán returned the gaze. Zakara's eyes turned amber and Dubhán knew - knew he was the old wolf, sacrificing himself for the pup. I'd give my life for Geoffrey's pup, he had said once, toothy grin and harsh voice, wand pointed at someone's heart.
Dubhán felt the words on his tongue, ready to slide off.He's a Death Eater, he would say, his tone even and certain - leaving room for them to wonder how much else he knew. He bit his tongue and instead tapped Harry's arm - it would be a father a child turned to, not a 'representer', he thought. He hoped he was right, because the other was more logical. Children have a different logic, a Death Eater had said, grinning devilishly, that's usually what makes them so...fun. Dubhán had not really understood what was fun about something that was easily scared and used ill-logic subpar to that of an adult.
"Dad?" Hermione lifted her wand. A privacy bubble was surrounding them. Dubhán admitted he was impressed. "He's a Death Eater. A werewolf."
"Do you know him?" Hermione asked. Dubhán kept his eyes on Potter, willing himself to seem like they had some connection. He wished he could make that elusive love shimmer in his eyes, but then decided it was for the better - surely Voldemort knew one could not pretend to feel love and if someone told him Dubhán had shown it to Potter he would know Dubhán felt it for real.
He recalled the conversation Potter had had so long ago in the mirror with the Ministry employee. Sam? He kept it in his head, where the facts one was using to base their strategy off of ought to be.
"Of course I know him," he said, trying not to grind his teeth at the stupid question. "Or I wouldn't know he's a Death Eater or a werewolf. He was Geoffrey's friend - I think. I've never had a friend so I couldn't tell you for sure. I used to transform with him - all the werewolves did together."
Harmless information, he thought.
The privacy bubble evaporated.
"You can tell them, Dubhán," Hermione said.
Dubhán rearranged himself to sit on his feet so that he could drape his arms onto the table and steeple his fingers, like Dumbledore had.
"He's a werewolf and a Death Eater. I know him from transformations."
"That was what I told you," Zakara said, grinding his teeth and glaring at the old lion.
"I wonder how long you asked before he remembered that fact," Hermione murmured under her breath.
"Did you have a further question, Mrs. Granger?" The old lion asked.
"I was just curious what tactics you used to question this man," she said, smile all sweetness. The old lion didn't even bother answering.
"We're going to show you some pictures, child," the old lion said instead. "Tell us if you know any of these people."
Potter was out of his chair before Percy had even opened the file to ruffle through whatever was inside.
"You can't truly intend to show him those photos, Rufus," Harry said, seeming to actually be shocked. "From Arden," he added, as if to clarify - a widening to his eyes, an arch to his brows, his mouth slightly open and his head slightly tipped. Imploring the old lion to reconsider.
"Yes, I do. Surely if the boy was kept prisoner he's seen worse, Harry," the old lion said, just as reasonable - as if he might actually feel a bit guilty. "We must know what the intention of this all is, Harry."
"He doesn't have an intention except to terrify!" Harry said, his palms flat against the table now, the imploring look gone and exchanged for a pressed angry regard. His jaw was tight. "Even if Devlin has - you mean to make him do it again!"
Dubhán reached forward, pressing his hand onto Harry's forearm.
"It's alright," he said, trying to sound reassuring. "I'm not afraid."
Harry shuttered under his touch with a twist of dark anger.
"There you see, Harry - your son is trying to be helpful."
Percy reached into the folder and withdrew a stack of paper. Dubhán wasn't so sure what could be so frightening about paper, but then Percy slid the first one across the table for him to see and he understood: it was a photo and the man was dead in the photo. Dubhán, of course, did not feel frightened.
His face looked almost blue. Dubhán had never seen someone who had been dead that long. He found himself somewhat transfixed.
"Do you know him?" Zabini asked.
"No. He's dead, right? It's just - he's blue." I don't need you to tell me what I can see with my own eyes, Voldemort had said to him more than once, so he did it now, figuring it was the childish thing to do.
"He is," the old lion said. "Show him the next, Percy."
Percy slid a second photo over to him.
It was a woman.
This one didn't look dead. Potter sighed as he saw it over his shoulder.
"Is she alive?" He asked, peering at her.
"No," the old lion said, "We couldn't get a proper photo of her, so we're using her Auror picture."
Dubhán wondered what that meant.
"I don't know her either. Do you expect me too?"
"Show him the next one, Percy."
Another man. Dead and blue. Black hair with white streaks. A beard. Dirty hands. His eyes were closed.
Dubhán made himself breathe. Made himself push it away just like the others. Made his voice emerge through his mouth even though his brain was full of echoes. Devlin. It's funny - me being here and you being there. Laugh with me. Come on - they'll stop us soon - laugh with me. No, don't laugh. Come here. You remember-
"I don't know him either. Was he an Auror too?"
"You're sure you don't know any of them?"
"Do you expect me too?"
"They were all killed by Voldemort."
"Voldemort kills lots of people," Dubhán said, a fact rather than information. Zakara crackled.
"They were sent with messages."
"Did you want me to see the messages too? I can't read fancy scripts yet."
"No. The messages were about you."
"They had my name on them?"
The old lion shook his head, more in bemusement than in answer.
"No. But we know."
Dubhán looked to Potter. He nodded.
"They were about you, Devlin."
"So what do you want me to do about the letters and the dead people?" He asked. "I'm nine."
"You saw those pictures, child. Why didn't you come back looking like one of those? Why did he save you?"
Dubhán felt no fear now. He had always been able to see where thing could have been different - always been able to see another reason someone might have had that would fit the same facts as their true reasons. Always been able to use this talent to make his lies more believable. The best lies are a breathe away from the facts, Voldemort would tell him and it had made sense to him even when he had been little, because he had felt it, and known it, before he had even heard the words.
He smiled in a way he thought would make him look nervous, the facts aligning themselves in his head, to be used as he wished.
"...I did come back that way."
"A fake you."
Dubhán looked away. Hermione was keeping careful watch, her hand on the table next to his - ready in at a moments notice to give him the signal to shut up.
"Yeah," he said, his voice soft. "I didn't know about that before." He didn't need to fake the hollow disturbance at the edge of his tone. "But I'm nine - how should I know why he kept me alive? I didn't exactly ask him - that would have been terribly stupid."
The old lion kept looking at him.
"Maybe he was going to kill me."
"You weren't harmed," Boot pointed out, calmly but hesitantly. "I'm a healer and you look to be healthy for a boy your age."
"With all due respect, healer," he said, baring his teeth just a bit. "You don't know very much."
Boot nodded softly - reassuringly.
"I meant merely that for a boy of nine you are actually quite tall and that you don't look as if you were denied food - no one here is saying he didn't hurt you, Devlin. It is just - people are worried and we need to know why he would do this for a boy."
Boot had the calm even wording and the soft small smile of a healer. Dubhán could still remember the healer that had saved his life, worrying over his near-dead body for weeks - smiling like that whenever he had strength enough to look.
"You want to know why," Dubhán said. "A want is different than a need."
Boot looked almost offended. Zabini chuckled. The old lion stared at him.
Out here, no one knew how to take a criticism. Inside the camp criticisms as small as the way you ate to the way you breathed were common place. Dubhán had spent most of his life standing next to the man who said the most scathing criticisms of all.
"I'm sorry," he said, even though he wasn't. He knew he would need to explain -turn this around- for it to work. "He told me once that the only need I had was not to die and everything else I whined about was a want. And that was mostly true, I found. I didn't need my mum. I didn'tneed to be less terrified. I didn't need to know why I was there or why I wasn't dead. I needed not to die."
The room had gone hushed. His chest seized with a rush of adrenaline. His head pulsed, not unpleasantly, but with that fantastic rush. He curled his toes in his shoes and made the triumphant smirk hide itself. The fear burned from his body - or maybe it was still there, forging itself into something different - and he knew he would win this as he had won that first night in front of Voldemort. He wouldn't scream.
"I don't know what you want to know - I am only nine. I am a boy and you are asking me to understand a Dark Lord." It would have been easier to call him a mad-man, but Dubhán dare not use such a term when it could come back to hurt him so badly. Voldemort did not like his brilliance being doubted in any way.
Voldemort thought he knew all and saw all and feared nothing. For a long while Dubhán had thought only he could see the truth. He still thought maybe he was the only one who could understand properly.
"I think Devlin has summed up the inappropriateness of this meeting very well," Hermione said briskly. "As he said, you are asking a boy to understand what motivates a monster-" he still thought mad-man would have worked better "-which is so improper that we won't even get into it in front of a child."
She had risen from her chair.
"You will certainly be excusing us at this point, correct Minister?" Her tone left little to argue with and a whole lot to fear if one was stupid enough to disagree.
"I think we're done today, yes Ms. Granger."
Hermione twisted her lips just slightly - enough to have consciously decided the old lion would see the expression - and then she was gathering all her paper work.
"Lets go," she said to Harry.
Dubhán rose from his chair slowly, disentangled his feet from beneath him. He stood for a moment looking at them all, ran a hand through his hair, put his coat back on, and then sauntered over to the head of the table.
"I have your chocolate frog card," he said, smiling his best boyish smile at the Minister. He tipped his head, his messed hair falling into his face. His cheeks dimpled. "Do you think I could bring it next time and you'd sign it for me?"
There was a tight expression on the old lions face, his eyes cool and guarded, his lips a thin line, his jaw tight and squared. Dubhán waited patiently with his smile. Finally, he nodded his consent and Dubhán smiled one more boyish smile and dashed away, running the short distance to Harry. He put his hand in Harry's hand, grasping tightly. Illustrating the connection. Making them all fools to think they could touch him when he hadn't said they could. He felt that euphoric rush buzz in his chest pleasantly.
Hermione threw the powder into the fire and the flames turned the color of the killing curse.
"It looks like Avada Kedavra," he said, just loud enough for the hall of people to hear. Harry's eyes widened and Dubhán could see the color drain from his face. In his eyes, Dubhán had just made a stupid move. Dubhán knew what he was doing. He smiled triumphantly into the flames.
Potter could say everything was going to be alright this time. Potter could say he would protect him. Potter could promise all kinds of things, but Dubhán wasn't six any longer and knew the only protection of value came from oneself.
There would be a next time - and next time, they'd be just a bit more weary of him than before. He was Harry Potter's son and they feared losing Harry Potter - the king in their game of chess. He was important to Voldemort - and they would try to charm him before they tried to torture him - today's happenings had proved they're first move wasn't wands and curses and screams.
As long as he didn't give them a proper reason - they wouldn't lay a hand on him. He had shown the stupid old lion what would happen if he did - Dubhán would turn into a little boy. It would be the old lion that paid the highest price for touching him when he hadn't said he could.
Power, he decided, was rather addicting. Living with Potter for two months he had almost forgotten.
Hermione let them through first - a nervous little turn to her lips. He was sure Potter was going to throw a fit. He winced, just barely, as he recalled his bare arm and lack of wand.
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