Chapter 50: Surprises, Reveals, Plans, and Confrontations
After the best night's sleep he had ever had in a very long time, Draco woke to the sound of voices that were still strangers to him but it didn't bother him as he knew those voices meant safety.
Throwing his bedding off with glee, he quickly grabbed his bathing things and headed off to the bath. After an invigorating shower, he dressed quickly in his new robes.
"Well you look bright eyed and alert this morn," Robert said, pleased the newest member of his house was looking happy rather than worried or angry. This made him even more at ease with the former Slytherin.
"I am, thank you. And I'm starving," Draco said, grinning from ear to ear.
"You aren't worried about what is going to happen when we get to the great hall," Terry Boot asked, a concerned frown on his face.
"Yes and no. Of course I am concerned. I know several Slytherins will be furious at me and will seek some form of vengeance. But I am not worried as I have many protectors, like you Terry," Draco said sincerely.
Terry looked surprised at first before a smile of pleasure spread across his face at the compliment. He wasn't afraid of Slytherins but was duly cautious when called for. It warmed him that Draco could consider him honorable and brave enough to be his protector.
"Blimy, I guess I will just have to show those Slytherins, Ravenclaw wont let them bully one of our own," he said proudly, clapping a hand on Draco's shoulder.
"So will I," Robert agreed, not to be outdone. "Let's go eat!"
The group joined others streaming out of Ravenclaw and heading for the great hall. Without much conscious thought, Draco's new fellow students formed a protective ring around him. When they entered the hall and made for their table, no one could actually see Draco until they all sat down. And only then did the proverbial excrement hit the fan.
"Oy, why is Malfoy sitting with Ravenclaw," Ron Weasley hissed, anger suffusing his face. He had been looking around waiting for the food when he saw the familiar blond head in the wrong place.
"Yes!" Harry exclaimed, happiness glowed from his eyes. "Now he is safe at last."
Hermione stared in stunned surprise and didn't know what to say or think.
"He doesn't belong there," Ron growled, wishing he could draw his wand and wipe off the grinning face of the former Slytherin.
Seconds later, he was stunned when a furious Harry Potter turned on him and grabbed his tie, pulling it so they were face to face.
"I told you he was not an enemy! You will accept he was never someone to fear and that it is just your prejudice against the Malfoy family that has you so blind to the fact that not all the Malfoys are your enemy or you and I will no longer be friends," he hissed furiously in the shocked boy's face.
"I will not abide people around me who are so stupid and filled with hatred that they can't see things for what they really are. Draco is not responsible for what everyone else does in Slytherin House nor what his father is doing. Maligning Slytherins just because it so happens the pure-blood fools have their children attending here is no excuse for condemning the whole house. I told you this time and time again. But you never listen, so sure your long held prejudice was right." He shook Ron using the tie to yank him back and forth.
"Grow the f**k up for bullocks sake! Or stay away from me permanently!" Releasing Ron's tie suddenly and adding a shove for emphasis that nearly made the boy fall from his bench seat, Harry made it very clear how angry he was with his troublesome, red headed, friend as he also turned his back on Ron.
Ron gaped at his friend's back in shock. Straightening his tie without thought, he turned back to the table which was still empty of food and swallowed hard.
The rest of his house were also shocked by Harry's behavior and words. Moving a bit further away from Weasley, the rest of the students began furiously whispering among themselves about this unusual event, and casting glances at the object of all the turmoil, Draco Malfoy.
Ron ignored everyone else as he grappled with what had happened. He had always been taught that no good comes from Slytherin House so he had ignored Harry's insistence that he was being blind and stupid about that prejudice. So was Harry right? Was he clinging to a prejudice without real cause? He better figure it out or it would cost him an important friendship and, he was certain, lock him out of all the odd and interesting doings that surrounded Harry.
He carefully glanced toward Harry who had returned his gaze toward Draco who was smiling back, he realized. Giving Draco a more studying stare, he realized for the first time just how relaxed and really happy Draco looked. He frowned in consternation. Was he really wrong? Had Malfoy been as unhappy and faking obedience to his house before to keep himself safe and not because he liked being mean?
Suddenly he felt sick inside. Had his hatred prevented him from seeing how things really were with the students of Slytherin House? Oh yes, there were bullies and real evil there as they had to protect Harry from the worst of them but now that he truly thought about it he realized that had only been the same few people all the time. A smaller number of them never joined in the harassment and did their best to distance themselves from that element.
Ron turned away from Ravenclaw and really looked at the students of Slytherin House. Seeing them with new eyes. He quickly spotted the students that clustered together at the end of their table furthest from the high table, noting they kept mostly to themselves avoiding the other end of the table that were still glaring at Malfoy with malevolence and fury.
"Bloody hell, now we're in for it and I'm a stupid asshole," He muttered to himself. He had to change because it was clear he had been a fool. And it looked like real trouble was about to erupt any second now across the room.
Hermione gasped as several of the worst Slytherins made their ire known by lunging to their feet.
"Traitor!" Marcus Flint roared, pulling his wand, a truly stupid thing to do. And three other fools were doing the same but then that wasn't terribly surprising considering they were Crabbe, Goyle, and Derrick â€¦ being blind followers after all.
"Cease!" Professor Snape barked and without a word or a wand, he froze the four idiots.
That silenced the room instantly in shock and bewilderment. A great many were uncertain what was going on as they looked about them, staring at the frozen Slytherins and at Snape.
The drama in the room had been so intense, that no one had taken note of the teachers entering at all. They had all just sat down with Dumbledore sitting last when the reaction of Draco Malfoy's switch in houses registered. Of course three at the high table knew what was going to happen but the rest were taken by surprise.
"For the offense of drawing wands, detention in the Dark Tower is warranted, don't you agree, Headmaster?" Snape stated more than asked.
Dumbledore was furious but not surprised at the reaction of the worst of the Slytherin rabble but to draw down in public like this was just down right stupid. "I agree Professor Snape. For this is a most grievous of offenses we will discuss a more suitable punishment in my office later," he said frostily, glaring at the four miscreants.
Snape nodded, eyed the four coldly for a moment before again wandlessly and wordlessly made the four disappear.
Stunned shock from many of the Slytherin students was aimed at Snape. None remotely thought their house leader would do such a thing to his own students. Snape hadn't even objected but offered the harshest response to what the others felt was a justified threat to their house. None of them knew what to say and do and could only mutely stare at each other in sick fear and anger. However, the ones sitting at the far end of the table shared amazed and relieved looks. Perhaps things were looking up? Is what most seemed to be thinking.
"Bloody Hell," Ron breathed barely above a whisper. "He took out his own students."
"Because they did something really stupid, Ron," Hermione whispered, her tone harsh and unforgiving. "No one draws a wand, certainly not in a crowded room of innocents and to do so could be cause for expulsion."
"They deserved worse than that but I think they will think twice before pulling that again. Unfortunately, they are so stupid and arrogant I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they try to catch Draco elsewhere to either beat him or kill him," Harry muttered darkly.
Ron flushed white as he realized how deadly the situation had gotten. It brought home just how much danger Malfoy was in within the walls of Hogwarts. No student should have to fear going to school but he now realized that just being in the wrong house could be a death sentence and that seemed wrong. And what was worse, he realized he too had been part of that problem. He felt real shame bloom in his cheeks. Yeah, his mum would not be pleased with him right now.
On his other side another soft voice spoke up, "Draco was brave to manage to get out but I wouldn't give a fig for his chances right now."
Ron turned to stare at Neville in surprise. Shrugging his shoulders, the mild mannered and shy boy eyed him back. "It's only the truth. He obviously doesn't believe in what his house stood for and made a smart choice to get out but now he will have a lot of enemies to fight off," he said, defending his statement.
"You are quite right, Neville. I had felt bad for thinking Draco was like all the others in the beginning simply because of the house he was in but I have watched him since the beginning and he always seems to talk the talk but never actually follows through on his threats which made me think he wasn't really into all that blood-pure stuff after all. Turns out I was right about him. And good for him for getting out now before he got in any deeper. I think Ravenclaw suits him," Hermione said, thoughtfully.
"Don't worry, Neville, Draco does have defenders, many you know and many you wont ever see," Harry told him.
"How do you know that, Harry?" Neville asked, surprised.
"Let's just say I have many friends outside and inside and they are also now Draco's friends. I can't say more than that," Harry said, smiling mysteriously.
"Oh, alright," Neville muttered, confused but willing to take Harry's assurances at face value. Somehow he just knew there was more going on under the surface here at Hogwarts. He wondered if he would ever find out what it is.
Over at the Ravenclaw table everyone hadn't been surprised by the attack but were shocked by how far the Slytherin students were willing to go and by Professor Snape's rather drastic response. And being smart student, not many missed noticing Professor Snape doing wandless and voiceless magic. Only the most powerful of wizards were capable of that. It was awe inspiring and a bit concerning too as the potion master wasn't necessarily considered on the good side either or had that changed as well?
As for Draco, he sighed with relief, though he too had been shocked by the sheer blatancy of Marcus, Vincent, Gregory, and Peregrine for actually pulling wands. What the bloody hell had they been thinking? Oh, right, those four act first and never think of the consequences. He snorted in amusement. Now that the drama was over, he wondered how soon they would be eating. He was still starving.
"If I may have your attention please," Dumbledore spoke over the many whispered and excited conversations going on, effectively putting an end to them. Snape had already sat down as if the previous dangerous moment hadn't happened at all.
"As the bit of drama indicated, there has been a change. Mr. Malfoy requested a switch in houses and it was granted. His reasons being most sound and none of anyones business but those involved. Please accept the change gracefully and move on or suffer the consequences being faced by misters Flint, Goyle, Crabbe, and Derrick. On to other business â€¦ I am happy to announce the replacement for the untimely loss of Professor Quirrell with Professor Remus Lupin as our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
That was when most students realized there were strangers among the teachers at the high table including one with four legs which raised some gasps in the room. "Also welcome Firenze, the centaur, as assistant to Sybil Trelawney in Divination. Please give them a round of applause in welcome." The student obediently did so. "Now that the announcements are over let us eat." At that command the food appeared before the hungry students. There were immediate sounds of appreciation and digging in.
When breakfast was over and students began making their way to their first classes of the day, Harry gestured his friends off saying he would meet them in class then peeled off to catch Professor Snape.
Sending a quick knock first to the man's shield to halt him from leaving, in the hall outside, he caught up to the waiting professor at the top of the stairs leading to the dungeon.
Smiling broadly, he quickly pulled a small package out of his robes. "Professor Snape, sir, I just wanted to give you this before we both hurry off," Harry said, handing off the package and then turning and hurrying off before Snape could respond.
Frowning, Snape looked down at the plain paper bag. Curious, he opened it and stared inside. A smiled sudden bloomed on his face for a moment then vanished. To his delight, it was a full bag of his favorite candy, Pina Colada Chewy Sour Balls. He quickly hid the bag in his robes and headed down the stairs.
"I must thank him later for the really nice surprise," he thought. Despite the horrible start to the day, his heart was lighter now.
In the Dark Tower, four students, each in a cell by themselves, stared at each other in stunned bewilderment.
"Snape sent us here!" Marcus gasped, unable to decide if he was angry or just shocked.
"But he's our house leader! How could he do this to us?" Goyle nearly wailed, shaking the bars which were cold and immovable.
Derrick scowled and paced around his cell. "He's a traitor!" He hissed.
"Huh?" Crabbe blinked stupidly at Derrick.
"Don't you get it yet? Snape and Draco have switched sides," Derrick snarled.
"Don't be stupid!" Flint snapped. "It's because we pulled our wands that he did what he did. In hindsight, it weren't a smart move."
"What was so right about sending us here?" Derrick demanded.
"Maybe it was the best way to keep us from being shot for pulling wands," Flint argued. "Idiots! No one pulls wands unless it is to fight or kill and a roomful of fellow students isn't one of them."
Derrick opened his mouth but closed it with a snap. He didn't like that Flint was right nor that Snape had done this to them. "Draco is still a traitor," he said sullenly.
"Course he is," Flint agreed.
"Me dad is going to be furious about this," Crabbe said quietly.
Silence fell as the others contemplated their fate when their fathers got word of this. None of their parents were known for kindness of any kind as many a back attested to their treatment at their father's hands.
When Dumbledore reached his office, he sat heavily into his desk chair and stared out the window. Breakfast had been a disaster and now he had to deal with its aftermath. He didn't hold Severus at fault for the action he took. He was just more disappointed by the behavior of the four students now residing in the Dark Tower. He knew he had to tread lightly on how to deal with them as the boy's fathers were dangerous men on the run. But until they were declared so by the ministry of law enforcement, he had to pretend the parents still had the right to make his life hell.
That would change as soon as Madam Bones was apprised of the true situation and who the enemy was. She would believe them but without proof, namely the tattoo which was now gone, finding evidence of wrongdoing on the slippery Death Eaters was going to be a nightmare. The tattoo had been easier but now the old tried and true investigation methods would have to be used.
Just one more hurdle to climb before peace could be found again. He sighed and thought about what to do next. At least those four can't harm or instigate anything for a little while.
It was then he noticed Fawkes was gone. "Wonder where he's off too now?"
The answer to that question was actually waiting in a little used corridor not far from the kitchens. Fawkes sat upon a dentil that projected out from the cornice that ran along the ceiling of this corridor. Since he had asked for this meeting, he had to be patient until breakfast had been served and he knew that might be a bit delayed due to Draco Malfoy's change of house and the introduction of two new teachers.
However, his wait wasn't too long when a broad shouldered and taller than normal house elf appeared suddenly in the hall with him.
"Good morning, Firg," Fawkes greeted the elf.
"Rare to see you down here, Fawkes. Important it must be, hmm?" Firg asked, getting to the point as was his wont.
"Indeed. Much to tell. Do you have the time â€¦ say perhaps an hour?" The Phoenix asked.
Firg looked aghast. "Long time away, lunch to be prepared, very important it must truly be?"
"It is and necessary. However, new worker you have, very smart he is and loyal, have him monitor lunch prep. Is sharp eyed and alert. Will ensure meal is done proper and quick. Dobby be his name," Fawkes said gravely.
"Dobby! But new he is â€¦ something more than ordinary house elf duties he has done?"
"Some, more I cannot say. Involved in what I have to tell you he is," Fawkes assured him.
"Ahh, very well. I go, talk to Dobby then meet you back here?"
"That is fine."
Firg nodded and vanished with a snap of his fingers.
"Dobby!" He shouted when he reappeared moments later in the kitchen.
"Yes sir!" Dobby called out then wended his way through the busy kitchen to the leader's side. "What need?"
"Been advised you excellent house elf by one who is familiar with you. Firg must be away for about one hour and need assistant to insure lunch is prepared properly and on time. Dobby can do this?"
Dobby's eyes widened in shock. "You would trust Dobby to run kitchen for an hour?" Firg nodded. " Yes Dobby can do. You certain?" He asked, wondering how this had happened and why.
"Yes. One who advised I trust. Do what is needed, back soon." Without further words, Firg snapped away.
Dobby stood there in disbelief but shook out of it when he saw one of the house elves at a nearby stove begin putting too much salt into a pot. Instantly taking charge as he had been ordered he hurried over and had the elf dump the water and do it again. Since all the elves have such big ears, all had heard that Dobby was in charge and responded smartly without objections â€¦ at least for the moment. They didn't know him and didn't completely trust he knew what he was doing. Dobby would just have to show them he was smarter than he looked.
Firg reappeared below Fawkes. "Comfortable we may as well be," he rumbled snapping a chair for himself and a perch for the Phoenix.
"Thank you for your courtesy, now heed my words, I would not keep you over long," Fawkes said, as he settled on the perch and Firg sat, snapping a mug of something warm that sent steam in the air for him to drink.
For the next thirty minutes, the familiar related all the current news, what was discussed during the recent council meeting, Firg making a sound of pleased surprise at being told the Dark Lord was truly gone finally, the message that was being sent as they sat here to all of wizardom, and finally the changes occurring within Hogwarts.
Firg took a deep drink and offered something for the bird but Fawkes demurred. The leader of the house elves for Hogwarts, though none knew that but Fawkes, sat and thought over all the news he had been given. It was a lot to digest and it was momentous. If all the things the council was trying to do came to fruition, all intelligent creatures would finally have more of a say in the running of the world they lived in but were kept apart from. It was mind boggling but also very scary. House elves didn't like change much but this kind of change was necessary so that no more house elves had to suffer under bad masters. They would finally have the right to request a change of masters before a court and be heard and maybe see a master punished for cruel treatment. One could dream.
"Right you were. Much will change...perhaps for good if all goes well. Hope for that I will. Make list of those we certain are working for enemy and send to you before end of week. Want to check with all my contacts first. Anything else we can do?"
"Yes, request was made by Professor Snape," Fawkes said.
"Ahh, good fellow, well liked by elves," Firg said, nodding his head.
"He is, yes. He wishes to find an Animagus named Peter Pettigrew, thought dead by humans but known to be not so. Close minion of Tom Riddle and last seen with him when he was killed first time but not with him when spirit was destroyed. Suspect he may be inside Hogwarts in his rat form. Death Eaters also hunt for him to find out what he knows about death of their leader. But Pettigrew doesn't know. Worst spy in our midst and needs to be caught, yes?"
"Aye, we do and swiftly. Not dead? Caught only?" Firg asked wanting to be certain.
"Caught only. Bring to me."
"Will do. Done here?"
"Yes, thank you. Good day to you, happy working," Fawkes said, warmly.
"And you," Firg said. Fawkes disappeared. Firg made the chair and perch disappear too then disapparated into the kitchen.
He stood and watched critically for several minutes and was pleased by what he saw. In the hour he had been gone, lunch preparation had moved smoothly ahead with no apparent mishaps. He could easily see that they were happily thirty minutes ahead of schedule.
Dobby had spotted Firg and hurried to his side. Before he could speak Firg did first.
"Brilliant! Work is head of time. You do good job, am very pleased. Use you as assistant again when needed, yes?"
Dobby blushed in pleasure. It was an honor to be selected assistant but with his other job he could not accept. "Dobby sorry but I cannot. Am committed to an important task already. Can help if free like I did this time but may be called away without much notice."
Firg eyed him a moment in thought. "So this is why Fawkes said Dobby was good as assistant. Dobby is agent for Light, he realized. Aloud he said, "Understand. Appreciate your help and hope to continue having it when available you are. Unless otherwise needed somewhere else please continue helping where needed here," he said smiling.
Dobby smiled back and began to move off when Firg called to all the elves.
"Attention, pay heed, important mission needs doing because we be better at this than wizards. Keep eyes and ears sharp for rat Animagus named Peter Pettigrew. Wizard may be hiding here...he bad. Works for Dark Lord."
Hisses of displeasure and anger sounded in the room. Firg ignored it and continued. "This Wizard may never take human form much if at all within Hogwarts so human mind may be more animal now. Catch rats and bring to me. Will determine whether it is human or just rat. Need to find wizard quickly. That is all. Back to work!"
Everyone hopped to it.
As a free elf, Dobby was able to go anywhere so after he had finished what he needed to do in the kitchen, he went and checked on Draco and Harry â€¦ they were safe and in class, then went off to do this new task, a systematic search for rats starting from the top of the castle.
Severus knew he had to get to Dumbledore's office but he had something to do first in his own. He ignored Albu's rather annoyed look when he saw Severus not following him up but going downstairs. He could be all the annoyed he wanted, Severus would be there as soon as possible.
Reaching his classroom, he passed through it into his office. First he stashed the candy Harry had given him in a lower drawer of his desk after palming one for now and putting that in a pocket of his robe. Then he leaned against his desk and closed his eyes.
"Hogwarts," he called mentally.
A deep ponderous voice answered, its cadence slow and thick like molasses, "Yessss, brother?"
Severus shivered in surprise. This was the first time he had ever attempted contacting the castle spirit and it was rather unnerving to feel such warmth from it for him nor to be called "brother" â€¦. it felt â€¦ nice?
"I am seeking advice. The four in the tower should be punished but they are hard headed and mislead by their fathers that they will not care nor heed what the punishment should accomplish. They will only want revenge and death and there has been enough of that," he said.
"Yesss, enough bloodshed, death, hatred spilled. You desire perhaps a more impressionable form of punishment then? One that will leave lasting and profound change?" It asked.
"Perhaps... I don't truly know. I do know I don't want to kill them or imprison them forever, it is a waste of such young lives."
Approval flowed over Snape in a wave and made him smile involuntarily.
"You have grown wise, brother. Yesss, waste of such young lives is something to be prevented. Leave their punishment â€¦. no â€¦. more their enlightenment toward a better goal in life â€¦ to me." And then its presence in his mind was gone.
Shaking himself, he stood a moment to regain his mental legs. That had been intense but in a good way. He hoped he had made the right decision but he really had no other options. There were going to many more in Slytherin wanting revenge on Draco and it was all so wasteful. They were all still so young as first years, there was time to help turn them away from the harmful influence their parents poured into them in their more formative years but it wasn't too late. The older ones, the ones in their teens might be turned but it was harder and they were much more volatile at that age.
He sighed and let it go for now. If he could save these four there was hopefully time to begin saving the older ones. He could only try.
Settled, he left his office and made for the Headmaster who was definitely not going to be happy with him once he found out what he had done.
In the hallways to class some of that aggressive, revenge filled attitudes goaded a few more Slytherins to accost Draco despite his obvious Ravenclaw guard.
"You'll pay, Draco. No one leaves our leader's rule," Millicent Bulstrode hissed.
Draco rolled his eyes but didn't respond to the rather lame threat.
"Only fools make threats they can't carry out, Bulstrode. And yours are rather lame," Robert said in a mild, disapproving tone.
"The future is what you make it," Luna said airily. "Those that live by death and destruction are not the ones who make a future that will continue into success and power and peace. Your way only leads to darkness and emptiness."
Bulstrode, Parkinson, and Green, frowned in confusion then disgust at Luna. But then they were a bit too dense to understand anything that was a bit too esoteric. Threats and their cousins were all the language they understood better...sadly, Draco thought, keeping his expression bland so as to not inflame the situation more.
He and his new friends kept straight on into the classroom, ignoring all the posturing which sort of inflamed more than words could but he didn't see how they could do anything else. This was going to be the way it was until the fools saw the error of their ways and changed â€¦ died for the cause, which would be stupid, or left school to waste their lives doing menial things. Either way it was their choice. He just wanted to graduate and make a difference in the world.
Was that really too much to ask? Staring at the mulish faces of his former house mates, Draco decided maybe it was. He took his new seat away from Slytherin and concentrated on the day's lesson. It was going to be a long day.
Dumbledore looked up when there came a knock on his door. "Come in."
He wasn't surprised to see Severus stepping in and closing the door behind him. He thought Fawkes might return now but there was no sign of his familiar which meant they hadn't been together as he thought. Shaking away the mystery, he eyed his potion master dourly.
"I know you wont be happy with this decision but the castle spirit will be administering punishment to the four miscreants in the hopes of truly making them regret their behavior for the foreseeable future rather than returning immediately to their sworn hatred and revenge," Snape said bluntly before Dumbledore could even open his mouth.
The frown on the Headmaster's face grew deeper and his blue eyes flashed with anger. This was overstepping beyond anything Snape had done before with him. It was bad enough to find out Severus was in league with the Elder Council but to have him go around him on something that was his jurisdiction was crossing the line.
"You overstep your authority," Dumbledore snapped.
"Have I? I don't think so, Headmaster. They are my students and it is my responsibility to see to their punishment is it not?" Snape said coolly.
Dumbledore snapped his mouth shut and allowed his ire to cool a bit before speaking again. "That is correct to a point, Professor Snape. But these students didn't just do something wrong, they did something heinous, drawing a wand on their fellow students outside the dueling rules. That enters into my domain."
Snape gracefully nodded that was true. "However, the punishment that is normally meted out for such an offense, unfortunately, wont have any affect on these four except to inflame their anger and make them want vengeance even more. They wont care about breaking rules and will most likely leave the school to create havoc on an innocent population with their Death Eater parents.
He drew closer to Dumbledore until he stood leaning over the desk into the man's face. "Is this what we want? To waste young, impressionable lives in this way? The war is over but they don't know it. We need to win them over to our side and help them be a part of the change that is coming not more fodder for a dead war."
Dumbledore blinked in surprise at Severus' passion about these children. He hadn't seen such fire before in the man and was unable to decide what he should do about it. It was damning though that what Severus had said was very true and he had been stewing about how he was going to deal with the four.
"You are right, but I don't see another way to change their learned behavior. Their parents have had many years to bend them to their will..."
"And we have seven years to bend them back," Snape said firmly. "But we must start now or they are lost."
"Their parents will only reimposes them when they go home," Dumbledore argued.
Snape shook his head. These parents who are deeply entrenched in the pure blood feud are doomed. Their fate is sealed and it is only a matter of months before they are captured or killed. I strongly urge, once their parents are considered outlaws, that we do all we can to find a way to keep them as wards of Hogwarts."
Dumbledore's mouth dropped open in stunned surprise. Shaking his head, he thought about what Snape was suggesting. No one had even thought about considering such a thing. Could it be done? Was it worth pursuing? Yes. And he was ashamed of himself for not even thinking of such a method to save the young of their world. Of course it started here. Those impressionable minds could be turned to the Light much easier without their parents influence.
But, he paused in his racing thoughts, there will be loss and grief that must be dealt with. They were talking separating these children from their families. That shouldn't be taken on lightly.
Sighing, he leaned back and stared at Snape thoughtfully. "Your plan is not without other issues that must be addressed, Severus. Separating children from their parents is just as painful as trying to save them."
"I am aware of that, Albus and we will have to perhaps hire therapists to help deal with that but saving them must come first. However, that is for later, as a working plan must be laid before taking such a dire step. Meanwhile, I wish to do what I can to prevent vengeance and hatred from forcing children to become killers. The darkness already has caused disruption and divisiveness among houses and that must stop. Here's our first step toward doing that."
"Alright. Can you tell me what the castle spirit has in mind?" Albus conceded the debate to Snape for now.
"No. I left that up to it but I have no doubt whatever it decides will benefit those four more than anything you and I could do and make a much bigger impression."
"Oh, I have no doubt of that. Very well, Severus what's done is done but I would like to see them afterward."
"Of course, Albus, as would I."
By end of the day, with classes over, Draco hoped he wouldn't have to deal with anymore confrontations but that wish died aborning as he and three Ravenclaw students made their way down a fairly empty corridor for Ravenclaw's staircase.
A sudden spat of magic burst from around a corner at them and would have done them harm had not a watchful Dobby spotted the ambush and made a shield to protect them from harm. No one saw Dobby but Draco had guessed who had done it. The shield remained up and the attackers apparently gave up before they could be spotted. Once they left, the shield simply disappeared.
"Was that one of the protectors we were told was guarding you that saved us?" Robert asked as they began walking down the corridor again.
"Yes, and I am truly grateful for their quick action. That was damned sneaky and we wouldn't have done well if it had hit us," Draco said, bitterly.
"You think?"Terry Boot snorted in disgust. "Those Slytherins are sure determined. Such a stupid waste of energy that could be better used when a real attack happens rather than against their fellow students."
"There are good people in Slytherin House," Draco felt compelled to say, defending his former house.
"I'm sure there are, Draco. It is only the bad ones that give them such a bad name," Luna agreed soothingly.
"Yes, I know and it is they that are suffering," he said sadly. The Ravenclaws clustered close to him offering comfort as they made their way upstairs to their house.
Much later that evening, Broadrig met with Munch the watch wizard from the ministry for a bite of food and some conversation at the Leaky Cauldron. Broadrig had managed to snatch a corner table and when Munch arrived, he set a privacy spell over it so they wouldn't be overheard.
"Thank you for accepting my invitation, Munch," Broadrig said warmly. He and Munch had a comfortable working relationship due to his frequent business at the ministry and Munch's sympathetic feelings toward the goblins cause for acceptance by wizarding kind.
Munch was also a staunch defender of the Light and had no truck with the Dark Lord. Unlike his boss Cornelius Fudge, he did believe Voldemort existed and did his best to try and keep much of the ministry free of his influence. It wasn't his fault that Fudge, the idiot, had already allowed the bad guys entry to nearly every area of the Ministry of Magic.
The two ordered a hot meal and talk of inconsequentials while they waited for their food. Once it arrived and they had eaten most of it, Broadrig broached the council's plan. He made it sound as if a group of good wizards were trying to do their best to help the Aurors find the enemy hidden within the walls of the ministry, identify them, then pass the information to the Aurors so they could arrest them. Broadrig had to reveal that he knew for certain the Dark Lord was truly gone.
Eyes wide Munch gaped at the goblin. "You really sure he's gone because there have been many times that was said but wasn't true."
"This time we have proof my good friend. None of the known Death Eaters have their tattoos. The Dark Lord is truly gone."
"Blimey that's wonderful news, but that means those blighters are still hanging about hoping someone new will take charge then," Munch said, showing he had a good grasp of the current situation which made it easier to recruit him.
"Aye, that be right my friend and that is why me and my friends want to sweep the bastards out entirely but we need to know who they are, where they are, and what they are doing, before the Aurors can bag them all at once," Broadrig said gravely. "And we need to make sure we have hard evidence to use against them in court."
Munch nodded. "Oh aye, that be a sound plan. So this is what you would like me to do? Listen and identify who the bad guys are, perhaps record their doings if possible?"
Broadrig grinned showing all his sharp teeth. "That be exactly what we would like you to do."
"I would be honored to help. Who would I be passing the information on ... you?"
"Only if I be there. You can also send it by way of my fellow goblins who will know about you. No one should suspect you as you always talk with us so no one will be the wiser."
"Oh aye, it be the perfect set up. I love it," Munch said, clinking his mug against Broadrig in a symbol of fellowship.
Broadrig smiled broadly. The plan was in play and woe be to the enemy as they tightened the trap around them.