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Chapter Twenty-Two
The Loss is Felt

When Severus made it back to Hogwarts, the school was still in a state of chaos.  Normally, the loss of the headmaster wouldn't cause such a stir.  After all, Dumbledore had been forced to leave during the Chamber of Secrets incident, and the school had managed without him.  However, this time, they didn't have as much warning.  Ginny's vision had told them that the headmaster would be leaving, but wasn't specific enough for them to make proper arrangements.  Now the professor had been taken suddenly, leaving Minerva trying her best to sort out the school.  She had been prepared to take over the school for years, and thought she could manage it without trouble.  In reality, though, the situation had put her in a very difficult position.  The students were in a state of panic, especially the Gryffindors.  Not only had they lost the headmaster, but also the Boy-Who-Lived.  Harry's absence was causing as much of a stir as Dumbledore's.  The Gryffindors were asking her questions left, right and centre about his arrest and his reaction to Dumbledore's situation, and Harry's closest friends and son were protesting strongly and calling for an Order meeting.  

Severus headed straight to the headmaster's office as soon as he entered the school grounds.  The scene he found there was, for him, rather amusing.  Minerva was stood behind Dumbledore's desk, trying to calm down an enraged animagus and pacing werewolf.  The remaining time travellers, plus Peeves and Gallatea, were huddled in the corner, whispering frantically.  The rest of the Hogwarts staff were yelling questions at Minerva and causing her to become even more stressed.  Severus decided not to disturb them and quietly slipped into an armchair strategically positioned out of everyone's line of sight, waiting for someone to notice him.  He watched in amusement as Sirius ranted at Remus, who was still pacing and ignoring his friend.  Minerva was becoming more and more frazzled as the minutes passed, and eventually flopped down into Albus' chair and rested her head in her hands, a look of defeat on her face.  Taking pity on her, Severus cleared his throat loudly, making everyone in the room jump in surprise.  They all swiveled around quickly and gaped at him, all wondering when he had arrived.  Sev simply smirked back at them.

I see things aren't going as planned, he drawled in amusement, causing most of the staff and the Marauders to glare at him.

Whatever gave you that impression, Snape? Sirius sneered.  Severus simply scowled back.

It seems to me that everyone is panicking, which won't get anyone anywhere, he said.

At least we didn't go running off at the first sign of trouble, the animagus snarled, We came to help, unlike some people.

I suggest, Black, that you get all of your facts straight before throwing around accusations.  As it happens, I have gained several important pieces of information regarding the Dark Lord's plans to attack Hogwarts, while the rest of you have been sitting around here and arguing pointlessly.  Which do you suppose will be more useful in the grand scheme of things? he replied, one delicate eyebrow raised in mockery.  Sirius growled under his breath and crossed his arms over his chest, looking displeased.  Minerva cleared her throat, a stern look on her face, and silenced the two rivals.

That's enough, you two.  You're worse than the first years!  Severus, please tell us what you found out.

Severus smirked and glanced at Sirius and Remus.

Well, the Dark Lord was most pleased to hear what has happened to Albus and Harry.  He has decided to attack the school in a little over a month's time.

Why then? Hermione asked, Why not while Harry and Professor Dumbledore are both away?

Because he wants to kill Harry, Severus said, He has heard the rumours that you spent several years travelling through time, and has come to the obvious conclusion that Harry Potter and Harry Evans are the same person.  He has several scores to settle with both identities.  I'm not sure if he has realised that Harry Anguifer was one of Harry's incarnations, but if he hasn't, he soon will.  When that time comes, I will most likely be summoned and questioned, as most of the Death Eaters know we were friends during my fifth year.  Even discounting that year, Harry has done a lot to annoy the Dark Lord, and he wants to attack when he comes out of Azkaban.  He's banking on Harry being weak from his month with the Dementors, and expects him to be an easy target.  If he attacks in the next month, he will have Hogwarts, but not his nemesis.  It's all about revenge now, not taking over the world.

If that's true, then Harry's going to vulnerable, Ginny whispered, alarmed, I mean, we all know how much he hates Dementors, and after a month he'll be in no state to fight Voldemort.  From our estimations, his mental shields will start to fail after about two and a half weeks.  After that, he'll be facing their full effects.

Is there no way to get him out early?  Or get Albus released? Professor Sinistra asked.

We can't free Mr. Potter, Professor Flitwick piped up, He attacked the Minister for Magic, which is punishable by an Azkaban sentence.  We were lucky Fudge only sent him there for a month; he was well within his rights to make it longer.  As for Albus, we can contest the action against him, but it will take several weeks for them to carry out psychological evaluations and take our case through the courts.  As much as we may dislike it, Fudge is the Minister for Magic, and has a lot of power that we don't have at our disposal.  By the time we manage to get him released, You-Know-Who will have attacked and it will all be over.

We could break them out, Ron suggested.

Are you crazy?! Hermione squealed, You can't break someone out of Azkaban and St. Mungo's without serious repercussions.  I mean, how many people would be able to pull that off?  We would be prime suspects, and all it takes is three drops of veritaserum and we'll all be in prison for a lot longer than a month.

The room fell silent as everyone considered what had been said.  There was nothing they could do to help Harry and Dumbledore, and they all knew it.  For the time being, all they could do was wait.

*~*~*

The next morning found the school a little more organised, but still far form sorted out.  When the time travellers arrived at breakfast, they slumped into their seats and waited for the rest of the student body to arrive.  A few decisions had been made the night before, and the teachers had stayed up for several hours after the students left trying to sort the school out.  Minerva was due to make a speech at breakfast, as soon as the students all arrived.

Ten minutes later, the Great Hall was full, and Minerva cleared her throat loudly and waited for silence.  Once she had everyone's attention, she stood up to address the crowd.

Everyone, as you know we have lost two of our number, Mr. Potter and Professor Dumbledore.  They will not be with us for some time, so in the meantime, I will be taking over all of Professor Dumbledore's headmaster duties until his eventual return.  As for Mr. Potter, when he returns in a month's time I hope you will all help him in his recovery.  Azkaban is a hostile environment, and I'm sure he will be thankful for your full support.  For the time being, while the headmaster is away, we have a new Transfiguration teacher and Head of Gryffindor House taking over my duties while I am acting as headmistress.  Please welcome Professor Black!

The majority of the students gawped at Sirius as he stood up and took a bow, a mischievous smile on his face.  The time travellers immediately started cheering their friends' godfather, while further down the table, Severus glared heatedly at the animagus.  When Sirius took his seat, Minerva let out a long suffering sigh, knowing she was going to have a lot on her plate with another Marauder as a permanent resident of Hogwarts.

Towards the end of breakfast the owl post arrived, dropping issues of the Daily Prophet in front of many of the students and teachers.  As expected, a picture of Dumbledore and Harry was plastered on the front page, the whole story, including the gory details, spelled out in indelible black ink.  Hermione threw the paper on the table in disgust and stormed out of the Great Hall, her friends hot on her heels.

*~*~*

Over the next couple of weeks the number of Death Eater attacks increased dramatically without the head of the Order and his second in command there to keep them at bay.  Fudge, as usual ignored them completely.  Voldemort was becoming a lot bolder, and without the Order getting in his way, he was causing a lot of destruction.

The Order of the Phoenix members at Hogwarts had frequent meetings trying to decide what to do, but they didn't have much opportunity to prevent the attacks.  Severus was bringing them what intelligence he could, but without a clear leader, and without the full strength of their allies, they couldn't do much more than appear at the end of the attacks and help the wounded and bury the dead.  

The main problem they faced, apart from not having any form of clear leadership, was their inability to summon members.  It was a flaw in the Order system they had never considered.  If they could summon the Order Council, they would be able to make decisions democratically.  However, Dumbledore and Harry controlled the Order marks, and so only they could summon the members.  As it was impossible to get hold of all of the members by floo, owl or apparition in time to counter attacks, they were helpless.  Especially as they had no other way of getting hold of their non-human allies.

As the days dragged by, it became increasingly obvious just how much Dumbledore and Harry contributed to the war effort, and how much difference they made to people's everyday lives.  Glen was finding it especially hard, much like the last time he was separated from his father.  This time, though, he could still feel a feeble mental link to Harry.  It kept him alive, knowing his father was still sane.

*~*~*

In St Mungo's, Dumbledore lay on his back in his padded cell, staring at the ceiling.  Despite his utterly calm appearance, his thoughts were whirling in his head.  He knew what the school would be going through with the loss of both of the Order leaders.  He knew Minerva would be panicking.  He knew that the whole situation could only get worse, and all because Fudge was paranoid.  Voldemort wouldn't rest because his biggest rivals were out of the picture.  No, he would double his efforts.  And it was all Fudge's fault.  The attacks, the loss of innocent life, all of it.  While Dumbledore's blood boiled inside at the thoughts, his exterior was the picture of calm as he quietly hummed to himself.

*~*~*

Life in Azkaban wasn't nearly so comfortable.  For Harry, the constant presence of the Dementors was wearing on him fast.  True, he had strong mental shields, but they could only suffer a constant barrage for so long before wearing down.  After two weeks in the hellhole, Harry was feeling more and more miserable.  Being locked in a room with only your thoughts can easily drive a person mad, even without the Dementors sucking out your best thoughts and memories.  He spent his time thinking about his friends, his family, the people he had met and the people he had lost.  He wondered what was happening on the outside, how many attacks there were and how the Order was coping.  He thought of his fellow time travellers, including his son, and wondered if they were just fine without him.  He wondered what Sirius and Remus, his last connection to his parents, thought of his incarceration.  Sirius would be so ashamed, as would Severus.  Most of all, though, he thought about everything he had done wrong in his life.  He knew attacking the Minister for Magic was a bad idea, but his emotions had simply run away with themselves.  He felt ashamed of his actions over the last year and a half, knowing that on several occasions he had begun to slip towards true Darkness.  The disturbing thing for Harry, though, was that he knew that it wasn't the magic he used.  It was him, pure and simple.  This thought brought his depression to the fore, and he spent his days wallowing in self pity, falling deeper and deeper into the abyss.

Two days into his third week, Harry's nightmare was interrupted by Cornelius Fudge.  The Boy-Who-Lived was woken from his slumber by a niggling feeling in the back of his mind.  Looking around, it took him a moment to identify what was bothering him.  He had set several mental alarms connected to certain people so that his mind would sense them when they were within a certain distance of him.  He had had nothing better to do while locked in a cell, so had been exploring his mental gift as much as possible.  From what he could tell, the Minister was at the far end of the long corridor, heading in his direction.  While exploring his surroundings, Harry had discovered that, much like his imprisonment in Grindelwald's headquarters, all forms of human magic, except his mind gift, seemed to be blocked by the anti-magic field.  However, he gradually realised that some limited elven magic could be used, and his connection to Voldemort through the Dark Mark was still open to him.  As he thought of this, a huge grin spread across his face.  He would give Fudge the surprise of a lifetime, and hopefully scare him half to death in the process.

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