Harry talks to Hermione; Harry's mentors talk to Dumbledore; Dumbledore talks with Sirius, Remus, the Goblins, and Snape
“Moony should be picking the package up any minute,” Harry told Hermione over the phone. “It’s possible that he’ll be tracked.”
“Which means what, exactly?” Hermione asked, both curious and worried.
“That I probably can’t call you any more,” Harry admitted.
Hermione could hear the regret in his voice, which gave her a little comfort. “I’ve enjoyed talking with you every day, too,” she said simply. “By the way, why did you tell me to watch those movies?”
“Why do you think?” Harry retorted.
Hermione thought hard and said, “The first three were all about lawless societies, to some degree. Is that how you see our world?”
“To a degree,” Harry agreed. “Think of the oldest one. . . .”
“‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’,” Hermione pointed out.
“Right. The people wanted law and order, but one man could disrupt everything because the people wouldn’t band together. That’s a lot like magical Britain, except here the newspaper doesn’t help out.” Harry paused in thought, and Hermione had learned not to push. “I see you a lot like the Jimmy Stewart character, and I mean that as a compliment.”
“Are you John Wayne?” Hermione asked.
“I have to be,” Harry replied. “I learned this summer that there is a prophecy about me.”
“Do you believe in . . . such things?” Hermione asked, remembering that there was a chance her watchers were eavesdropping on her to some degree.
“I don’t know,” Harry said honestly. “But it was made to Dumbledore, and he and Voldemort both seem to be acting as if they believe it. So that means I have to at least act like I do.”
“I can see that,” Hermione admitted. “How about those next two films? They worry me.”
“The two Clint Eastwood westerns? I hate to say it, but they remind me a lot more of wizarding society than ‘Liberty Valance’ did.”
“Which one more?”
“Oh, ‘High Plains Drifter’ even more than ‘A Fist Full of Dollars’,” Harry answered, “although I can’t really place you that movie.”
“But you can in ‘Dollars’?”
“Yes, you’re the two good townspeople who help the Eastwood character out, although you’re much better looking.”
“Ha, ha. Who can you place in ‘Drifter’, then? Besides you as the hero, of course.”
“Fudge as the Sheriff,” Harry replied with such confidence Hermione nearly giggled. “Ron as Mordecai, and Dumbledore as the mine owners. . . .”
“What?” Hermione demanded.
Harry thought of something. “You know, come to think of it, you actually are in the movie, in a sense.”
“Not the harlot or the hotel owner’s wife, I hope!”
“No, not at all,” Harry assured her.
“The little Indian girl – reaching for knowledge instead of candy, and being denied because of prejudice.”
Hermione tried blinking away tears and whispered, “I understand.” Hermione now had tears going down her face. She recovered quickly, however, as she did not want the conversation to end. “How about the last movie?”
“‘Die Hard’? To be honest, it was mostly because the villain sort of reminded me of a de-greased Snape.”
Hermione thought about that for a moment and then actually giggled.
“I’d love to look Snape in the eye and say, ‘yippee k. . . .’”
“Don’t you DARE finish that quotation!”
“All right. Did you get the note I had left at your parents?”
“I did. I’ll start lessons tomorrow night. Why?” Harry had asked her to study meditation if she could.
“Dumbledore and Snape practice Legilimency, that’s the magic of reading surface thoughts, if not deeper. Meditation is a way to learn if you are being read, and the first step to building defenses. I’ll have a pamphlet for you in September.”
After a few moments of silence, Hermione whispered, “I hope I get to see you on the First.”
“If not, I promise to save you at least.”
“What?” Hermione asked aghast.
“Voldemort is back. As things stand, I’m the only person that can really stop him and I can’t do much the way Fudge is stopping the news from getting out and the way Dumbledore is holding me back. If Dumbledore doesn’t agree to our terms, I’ll have to leave, but I won’t leave you. As the top Muggle-born in school and my best friend, you’d be a major target. So, if I go, you’ll go if you want.”
“Thank you,” she choked out.
“I suppose you wouldn’t tell me where you got this?” Dumbledore asked Lupin.
“No, I would not,” Remus answered. “I won’t be going back, but why cause unnecessary trouble?”
Dumbledore nodded and undid the wrapping, until the large crystal at the heart of the package was revealed.
“What is it?” Sirius asked, curious.
“A communications crystal,” Dumbledore answered, sounding a bit impressed. “More secure than any sort of pensieve; the memories can not be altered or lost until the crystal is destroyed.”
“I was told all the three of us had to do was touch the crystal with our wands and state our full names,” Remus said.
Dumbledore did so after Sirius and Remus, but once the crystal glowed a faint blue, showing it was active, instead of the projection of Harry, or at least someone, which was what the three expected all that appeared was a vague robed figured. When it spoke, the voice was obvious so altered that it was impossible to be sure if it was even male or female, let alone determining what sort of accent it might have had.
“Albus Dumbledore,” the voice intoned, “we have long wanted to address you. However, due to . . . circumstances . . . that has not been advisable until now. First, let me saw that this is a recording. However, should any of you speak, it will cease until there has been five seconds of silence.”
“Really?” Sirius asked. Remus and Dumbledore glared at him, and after five seconds, the recording resumed.
“Now for the important background information,” the voice continued. “We did not kidnap Harry Potter. We either rescued him or at least offered him a new direction as he fled the abusive relatives you imprisoned him with, depending on your point of view. I wish I could hear you, but tell the other two, did you know there were many watchers around Harry other than those of your bird-watching club?”
“Bird-watching club?” Sirius asked.
“The Order of the Phoenix,” Remus retorted, rolling his eyes. He looked at Dumbledore. “Did you?”
“There were often agents whom I could link to Lucius Malfoy and others,” Dumbledore agreed. “As long as Harry was in proximity to his aunt or cousin, he was safe from them.”
“You probably knew about the paid agents of Lucius Malfoy,” the voice went on, “but there were always at least seven others, at least for the last four years.” It was clear that this information surprised Dumbledore. “One was even Muggle, from the American intelligence services. Unlike the British, the American intelligence services have links to the North American Confederation, who also had observers.” That made Dumbledore growl.
“No matter, all any of us did until that night was watch. We were the closest, and were able to rescue Harry and neutralize Voldemort’s agent. After a few days of recuperation – he was close to starving, as usual – we met with Harry and worked out an agreement with him.” Despite the voice alterations, the disdain now came through. “We believe it would be better for Harry to disappear while he is trained, but he believes it might be worth continuing his worthless education at Hogwarts, for his friends’ sake if nothing else. If you agree to terms, then Harry will return to Hogwarts, at least for a time. We will return to that later.”
Dumbledore wanted to protest, but stopped himself, knowing there was no arguing with a recording.
“Next, we wish to point out that we are appalled that you allowed Harry to keep carrying around a Horcrux. . . .”
“What?” Remus shouted.
“What’s a Horcrux?” Sirius asked, puzzled.
“So that’s how Voldemort survived!” Remus answered as he quickly bit the pieces together, agitated. “Voldemort split his soul. The container for a piece of soul is called a Horcrux, among other things. He must have split it more than once. You use several Dark spells to prepare your self, and then you split your soul while committing murder. Harry’s scar must contain a Horcrux.”
“Exactly,” Dumbledore conceded. “As far as I know, the only way to break one is to destroy it and its container. . . .”
“Harry!” Sirius exclaimed, alarmed.
“Precisely,” Dumbledore agreed. “In theory, however, should another killing curse be used on Harry, especially if used by Voldemort. . . .”
“It might break the Horcrux without killing Harry?” Remus asked.
Dumbledore nodded. “Obviously, it is not a theory I could test.”
The other two men were shocked into silence. After five seconds, the recording started up again. “It is possible you simply didn’t know how to break the Horcrux without harming Harry. Well, we didn’t either,” the voice admitted, “so we found someone who did. It took us about six days, and then it only took two days to destroy the Horcrux. Harry had a headache for about three hours. The Horcrux is gone.”
Again, Dumbledore was clearly shocked.
“Our expert was able to find echoes of five earlier Horcruxes. These were: the diary Harry destroyed; the diadem of Ravenclaw; the ring and locket of Slytherin; and Hufflepuff’s cup. Our expert, examining the memories Harry had of Voldemort’s rebirth, is of the opinion that he must have created a seventh Horcrux while an homunculus, but we have no idea what that might be. It was quite easy finding Slytherin’s ring, as it was hidden on Riddle’s maternal property. Our expert and Harry broke that Horcrux as well. If you really want to be helpful, you might wish to concentrate on finding the other four. Should we find them first, we shall inform you. We expect you to inform Harry. . . .”
Dumbledore snorted, but that was not enough to stop the recording.
“. . . although that would be against your past practice. Yes, we also know you and your bird-watchers are currently concerned with guarding the Prophecy you were given about Harry.” Dumbledore was, if anything, more shocked than he had been. “We retrieved it so that Harry could hear it. He was most upset with you for keeping it secret. We substituted a new false prophecy orb, set with the same protection wards, on the off-chance you are trying to lay a trap for Voldemort. We’re informing you of this in case you don’t want to risk the lives of your watchers over a faux prophecy.”
Dumbledore could feel the glare of the other men.
“We reversed your middle initials so you can tell it was switched.” Dumbledore’s muttered curses silenced the voice for a short time.
“So much for the background. Now, our demands.” There was a slight sizzling sound, and a parchment appeared next to the crystal. “You have four choices. Listed you will see two sets of demands. It would be best, if you trust in Harry, to agree to both. Or you may agree to just one set. Finally, of course, you may decide to agree with none. In that case, Harry will be schooled and trained far away. Do not think your reach goes past your school and your vigilantes these days. Fudge has clipped your political wings well, and there are few who would rise above their dislike and jealousy of you to do you favors. Choose well, Albus Dumbledore. Sign one of the three lines in your blood if you wish. As his legal guardian, Sirius Black must agree with your decision, although if anyone signs for the total agreement others may still choose one of the other options as long as they all choose the same one. One of the four others listed must do the same, although considering that some one, most likely Fudge’s agent Dolores Umbridge, seems to have recently sent a pair of dementors hunting through Little Whinging looking for Harry I would not suggest approaching the Minister. You have forty-eight hours from the time the parchment appeared to sign. If you do not have three signatures by then, then Harry leaves the country.” The crystal stopped glowing, then for a second turned bright blue, which cracked it, leaving it useless.
Remus glanced at the parchment. “Actually, it seems as if the Ministry must co-sign, or one of the other executors of the will who are still alive and considered competent – Minerva, myself, or a representative of the goblins.” Dumbledore and Sirius were crowded next to him, also reading.
Remus snorted. “There’s no use even considering the second option.”
“And why is that?” Dumbledore demanded.
Remus pointed on one clause. “Harry may leave if given any unfair detentions or loses any points unfairly. Severus will have Harry gone in a week.”
“You are being unfair. . . .”
“ME! Go through the records and see how he treats the students, the number of unfair and unreasonable. . . .”
“Severus has a role to play. . . .”
“Nonsense! He has created a House which reflects his bullying, bigoted attitudes! Yes, there were always Slytherins like that, but they were found in all the Houses. Now most are concentrated there, and they all think they can get away with nearly anything, because Severus will cover for them. On top of that, if you think he can alter his mistreatment of Harry on your say so, then you have to answer for his past treatment of Harry.”
“You do not understand. . . .”
“I do not understand? YOU do not understand what is going on in your own school,” Remus argued. “You sit in your office and receive your reports from your spies. . . .”
“Spies?” Sirius asked.
“The paintings, the elves, even some of the suits of armor,” Remus answered. He turned back to Dumbledore. “Muggle Studies, Divination, and History are jokes. Defense has been little better. I like Hagrid, but he is turning Care into a joke as well, and Severus so mis-teaches potions. . . .”
“Severus is one of the best potion masters there is!” Dumbledore snapped.
“He is,” Remus agreed. “But if he’s such a fine teacher, then why have the numbers of OWLs awarded dropped by over thirty percent, and NEWTs by over seventy percent since he’s been teaching?”
Dumbledore blinked at that.
“I swear, living mostly in the wizarding world retards not only a person’s common sense but the ability to see facts right in front of them. No wonder Fudge can’t see that Voldemort’s back; he’s just a small sign of how corrupting the system is.” Remus started to leave the room but then halted. “Minerva is out of the country. Good luck finding her in less than two days. As for me, I refuse to sign. I think the best thing for Harry would be to leave the country.”
“Do you really think he could?” Dumbledore asked with scorn.
“Yes,” Remus retorted. “And you might be friendly enough with the heads of Salem and the Ysgol to kidnap Harry back into Hogwarts. I admit I can’t say either way – although if the Druids were the ones who rescued him, I pity you or anyone stupid enough to try and extract him from their care.” Dumbledore paled at that thought as well, as it had not occurred to him. “But if they send him to the California school or to Alice Springs, or to one of the Indian schools, then I’d say he’d be better off and well out of your reach.” Remus left and slammed the door.
“I’m tempted to say much the same,” Sirius said into the sudden silence. “You raised Harry to be a sacrificial weapon. Thanks to you he had no childhood, and little happiness. Snivellus certainly mistreated him, and you can’t pretend he’ll be safe at Hogwarts, especially if you don’t find a defense teacher and Fudge appoints some toady.”
“If what we were told about the dementors was correct, that is certainly true,” Dumbledore had to agree. “We cannot allow Harry back only under the second set of demands,” he added.
“Snape. . . .”
“I still believe Remus is wrong about him,” Dumbledore declared. “If Severus is not seen as useful by Voldemort, he will be ordered to kill me, or worse, Harry. That would end his role. As for the Ministry, should Cornelius manage to send in an agent, it would most likely be Dolores Umbridge. If there were dementors in Surrey, they would almost have to have been sent by someone close to the Ministry, and as we were told, that would most likely have Dolores. She would clash with nearly every staff member, and it is apparent from the Ministry-inspired stories in ‘The Daily Prophet’ that Cornelius is determined to undermine both Harry’s and my reputations. She would confront Harry, and I cannot see him knuckling under.”
Sirius signed the parchment for both alternatives. “He’s fifteen, and while that’s too young to really exercise his ‘head of house’ powers, I don’t see any reasonable alternative.” Dumbledore looked surprised. “If I had any clue who these people were and if I could trust them any more than I trust you, it would be different, but I don’t. As tempting as it is to get Harry out of the country, for some reason I feel this is best.”
“I understand your position,” Dumbledore answered. “I will certainly go along with the first set of alternatives at the least. If I may, I shall take the parchment and see the goblins.”
As Dumbledore turned to go, Sirius asked, “What did you mean a while ago when you said I was mistreating that treacherous elf?”
Dumbledore turned to Sirius. “Would you admit that Kreacher was both twisted and abused by your parents?”
“Of course,” Sirius said.
“Then who could he take his anger and frustrations out on but you and perhaps your brother? Lucius Malfoy’s elf struck back by rebelling and helping Harry. Kreacher instead identified with his abusers, as often happens, and instead abused you. It may not be forgivable; that is up to you. Do understand why he acts as he does. You are his master; you could find ways of using him which does not cause more harm.”
“Moony said the same thing, so you may be right,” Sirius said with a gleam in his eye. “Tell you what, I’ll try to reform Kreacher, try to end his hatred and make a better . . . individual with him on one condition.”
“And what is that?”
Sirius’ face hardened, “If you do the same with Snape.”
Dumbledore scowled and left the room.
Dumbledore had many decades of dealing with goblins. While not really prejudiced against them, he knew well that their values were far from his. Still, even he was surprised when he was shown in to see an unnamed goblin in a very opulent office. The goblin was obviously very highly ranked.
“You have the parchment?” the goblin demanded.
Startled, and now aware that the goblin probably knew more about what was going on than he did, Dumbledore handed the parchment over. “You do realize that your Ministry, pushed by Lucius Malfoy under orders of his Master, is trying to destroy both you and Mister Potter?”
“I am aware of it,” Dumbledore replied simply.
“What are you going to do about their attempt to infiltrate Dolores Umbridge into your school?”
“I am trying to find a defense teacher. . . .”
“Trying? So you still have not succeeded?”
“No, I have not,” Dumbledore admitted. Had he been able to find Horace Slughorn, he would have offered the job to Snape, but he did not dare do so otherwise. He needed to be able to offer Slughorn the job if necessary to probe his mind. Dumbledore had not yet realized that the information Harry’s friends had given him meant that Slughorn’s information was likely redundant.
“Then we offer you John Wilkes for one year, with a bonus payment of five hundred Galleons, half for us and half for him.” Wilkes, an Australian, was the chief curse breaker for the goblins. The Ministry would not dare object to him.
“I accept,” Dumbledore answered.
“You do know that there will be those in your Ministry who will object to Mister Potter having the full rights as Head of House?”
“I do, but if they try and void those rights, they will be ending a right their own families might need some day.”
The goblin nodded. “I was asked to give this to you.” He slid a bit of parchment over.
Dumbledore read it in surprise. A second Horcrux had been destroyed, Hufflepuff’s cup, with the aid of the goblins.
“The additional magic was destroyed, not the object,” the goblin said, noting Dumbledore’s reaction. There was nothing Dumbledore could read in the goblin’s surface thoughts, and he did
not dare probe a goblin who was this senior. The goblin bared his teeth.
“I suppose there is nothing you can tell me about the people around Mister Potter?” Dumbledore asked, not really expecting any answer.
“While we were paid a small fee for our inconvenience, we were happy to provide our services,” the goblin answered. Dumbledore nodded; there were few humans the goblins would say, or do, such favors for.
The goblin studied the parchment and signed it on the same line as Sirius. Dumbledore had only agreed to give Harry Potter his full House Rights, which besides other rights and privileges basically made him exempt from Gryffindor’s point system, while detentions could only be served with Dumbledore. “Do you not intend to give Mister Potter any of the other requested powers or exemptions?”
“Perhaps a few,” Dumbledore said without committing himself.
The goblin handed Dumbledore a small bit of parchment. “If you have any further communications, you may send them through Ragnot’s office,” the goblin stated as he sent off the contract to be processed, indicating that the meeting was over. Dumbledore nodded, and left to set up another uncomfortable meeting. He only looked at the slip of parchment when he returned to Hogwarts. He was unsure of what the film titles meant, but resolved to look them up.
The next morning, Severus Snape stared at Dumbledore. Finally, he said, “You have kept far too much to yourself, Albus.”
“As it has turned out, you may be correct,” Dumbledore admitted. “I certainly realize you cannot make a complete turnaround.”
“The Dark Lord would not appreciate it, and I must say, I would not like to have to kill you,” Snape retorted.
“You must reign in your students,” Dumbledore urged. “I am not certain what changes to expect in Harry, but I anticipate he will be dangerous. And do not sneer! Harry drove off twice as many dementors as I could, and his power over-came Voldemort’s last June. I had hoped to direct his attention and his power along other channels, but I dare not.”
“So, you think he will finally become the arrogant. . . .”
“No,” Dumbledore cut in. “I anticipate a different attitude. If my information is correct, Harry will not be an arrogant prince, but a knight errant.” He had spent the night watching Muggle movies.
Snape snorted in derision and left. As the door to Dumbledore’s office shut, he wondered what the Headmaster’s murmured, “Yippy ki yay, m. . . .” meant. Snape shrugged and kept walking.