Sirius and company begin making plans for the upcoming war.
After everyone had calmed down, Sirius spoke up with a hint of mirth in his voice, “You would think that they were going to the dentist office or something?”
Two simultaneous shouts of, “Hey!” by the Grangers sent everyone back into fits of laughter.
Regaining his composure, Remus spoke up in a concerned tone, “There are a few things that we have to discuss before turning in for the night. That ritual was intended to strengthen the connection between Harry and Voldemort. When Harry changed it, he unwittingly created a form of a Horcrux of his own.”
Sirius and Dora gasped while John and Annabelle looked on in confusion. Seeing the looks upon their faces, Remus explained, “A Horcrux is a type of vessel that houses a piece of your soul. If you should die, you would be able to come back to life using that fragment.”
John was an avid Science Fiction reader and he understood the reference immediately. His voice was full of worry when he spoke, “You say that Harry now has one of these things? Aren’t they usually considered evil?”
Annabelle was impressed; she knew that her husband must have deduced that from his Science Fiction habit. Not that she could complain, there were dozens of trashy romance novels scattered on the bookshelves surrounding them.
Remus was surprised at how quickly John had figured that out. When he replied, his voice held a note of the proud educator in it, “Very good. That is indeed the problem. Horcruxes are considered the blackest of magic. If it were discovered that Harry now had one, he would be labeled a Dark Lord immediately, even though I don’t think that Harry gave up a part of his soul.”
Sirius piped up, slightly annoyed, his voice was dripping with sarcasm, “That’s just great. How are we supposed to break that to Harry? Just tell him, ‘Sorry old bean, you’ve got an anchor in the Dark Lord that will save you from death?” He rubbed his face in frustration before continuing, “He never catches a break does he? I’m worried that if we tell him, he will become reckless.”
It was Dora that spoke up, surprising them all, in a reasonable tone, “I don’t think so, have you looked at him lately? Hermione keeps him grounded and he isn’t your typical teenager. If anything, I would bet that he is going to be extremely careful from now on. We just need to support him and let him know that he can trust us.” Looking over at Remus she said, “You need to do that research tonight and tell him in the morning or I will.”
Remus nodded in acceptance and said, “I had already planned to do just that, I just wanted to talk with all of you first. There is also something that we are going to need your help with, Dora.”
When she motioned for him to continue he said, “There is a prophecy about Harry and Voldemort that is stored in the Ministry. Dumbledore heard the original prophecy but for obvious reasons, Harry is very uncomfortable around that man right now.”
Dora was shocked. So many things made sense now. The wild stories about Harry Potter all had a sense of direction to them now. “I’ll do it. I know which department they are stored in but it may take a few days to arrange to get in there unnoticed. Who will be going with me and Harry or do you think it should just be the two of us?”
John spoke up from his seat next to his wife, “I think that it should be Sirius and Remus in disguise. Perhaps we should disguise Harry as well. People obviously know what he looks like so my guess is that Voldemort has people already watching the place.”
Annabelle leaned over and kissed her husbands cheek, and then playfully said, “And here I thought that I married you for your looks!”
“Shush, you.” John replied with a smile.
Sirius was watching his friends on the love seat with a sense of longing, thirteen years in Azkaban had robbed him of his chances at a family. With a sigh, he said, “I agree with John. We all go in disguised. Dora, can you change once we are inside and still be able to get us into the area where the prophecies are stored?”
She thought for a couple of seconds before answering, “Yes, I should be able to. Once we are in the lifts, I can change my appearance and we can all head down from there.”
Scrunching up her face, Dora morphed it into the visage of Minerva McGonagall and said in her best imitation brogue, “Now, which one of you is going to tell me why Mr. Potter is an unregistered Animagus?”
John and Annabelle had never seen Dora change her appearance before and they were amazed.
Remus and Sirius started laughing at Dora’s new form. It was like being in trouble with their former head of house all over again.
Getting his snickering under control, Sirius said proudly, “We just found out this evening. Harry must have done it sometime earlier this year. We gave him our notes on how to complete the process in September.”
Remus added, “I am simply amazed. When motivated, Harry is truly a force to be reckoned with. You can feel the power swirling around him if you listen for it.” Seeing the confused looks upon the faces of Sirius and the Grangers he continued, “Dora and I can sense magic to a degree and Harry radiates power. It’s like standing next to a raging inferno.”
Dora blurted out, “That feeling is from Harry? I thought that was you, Remus.”
Chuckling, Remus said, “I wish that I were that powerful.” Turning back to the Grangers, he explained, “It’s like being in a room that is way too hot and if he gets angry the feeling can be almost suffocating.”
Sirius was amazed, he could feel tiny eddies of power but sensing magic was never a skill that he had been able to develop. Puffing his chest out like a proud parent, he said, “That’s my boy! We are going to need to teach him how to control that somehow if possible. Dumbledore obviously knows how to dampen the feeling otherwise loads of people would be nervous around him.”
Shaking her head, Dora reverted to her normal guise before speaking again, “Hermione’s powerful too, somewhere akin to Sirius, but she isn’t close to Harry in terms of power.”
Annabelle was curious about the power thing that they were talking about so she asked, “What do you mean Harry is more powerful than the rest of you? Aren’t you all just using the same spells?”
John was nodding along, but he partially understood that some people were inherently stronger than others were and he figured that the magical prowess varied among the witches and wizards too.
In his professor voice, Remus explained to the Grangers, “It’s like physical strength to a degree. Just as some people are stronger than others are; magical power is the same way. The biggest difference is that with magic, size is not an obvious indicator. From what I remember when I taught at Hogwarts, Harry was probably the second shortest person in his class. I’m not sure if that is true now, it looks like he has finally had a bit of a growth spurt. However, he was easily the most powerful when I taught at Hogwarts last year.”
Winky piped up from her spot on the end table, “Master Harry is taller now, but most of the students are still bigger than him. He is the most powerful person in Hogwarts though.”
“Thank you, Winky.” Annabelle said immediately. She had been working hard to make Dobby and Winky feel at home around them. Her willingness to speak her opinion aloud told her that Winky was comfortable in their presence.
Remus, Sirius, and Dora were all shocked that an elf had actually put forth an opinion. It was nothing short of miraculous; they were normally such insecure creatures.
Something that Harry had said had been tickling her thoughts for the past fifteen minutes. When she finally figured it out, Dora asked, “Did Harry mention getting a warning from the Improper Use of Magic Office this evening?”
The other adults were all thinking hard about whether or not Harry had mentioned anything about that when they were pulled from their thoughts by a childlike laughter.
Winky was giggling slightly as she spoke, “Silly Masters and Mistresses. Master Harry and Mistress Hermione are free of the trace. It broke when they bonded.”
Remus gawped at Winky. ‘How could we have missed that?’ The good news was that they now had free reign to train the two teens without fear of getting them into trouble with the Ministry of Magic.
Turning his attention back to the elf, Remus said calmly, “Winky, we need to tell you something that may be a bit troubling for you.”
Winky’s demeanor changed slightly as she gazed up at Remus. Her voice held a bit of anger when she spoke, “I know all about Master Barty’s betrayal. I found him in the Master Remus’ wolf cage.”
Inwardly cringing, Remus replied, “Dobby and I were planning to tell you together. Are you okay?”
The small nodded her head yes, her ears swaying slightly with the motion, “Yes, I will be fine. If you will excuse me, I will be retiring for the evening. Please call if you need something. Good night.” With a small pop, she was gone.
Annabelle had a concerned look upon her face; she really liked Winky and hoped that this whole ordeal had not upset her too much. Softly, she mumbled, “I hope that she is going to be okay. She stayed here the entire time that the children were here and listened to everything without saying a word.”
John patted her hand while he consoled her, “I’m sure that she will be fine. It will just take her some time to get over the shock of it all.”
Shifting his focus, John asked Remus, “What kind of snake was Harry?”
“I think that it is some type of Coatl or a mixed breed of some type of snake and a dragon. Harry’s wings were more like a dragon than a bird. For all we know, he could be the first of his kind.” Remus said as he ran a hand through his graying hair.
Sirius was stumped, he knew that Harry’s form was magical too; he just didn’t know what species either. Remus’ idea had definite merit and it was something that they would have to research. Ruefully, he said, “You are going to need to find out what other things Harry can do when he is in his Animagus form.”
Remus smirked over at Sirius and Dora and said mischievously, “Are you sure that you two don’t want to help Harry? Think of having him slither all over the place trying different things on you.” When they shuddered, he broke out laughing at their expense. “Don’t worry, we will handle all of that, besides, I’m sure that Hermione is going to be the ringleader on this project.”
Getting up from his seat, Remus looked over at Sirius and Dora and said, “We need to go and have a chat with Barty. Did you get the Veritaserum, Dora?”
Grimly, she answered, “I did. Do you think we should bring him to my boss, Amelia, in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?”
“Perhaps, but I want to get some information from him about the Death Eaters before we decide.” Remus replied.
Sirius stood up and he had the look of a man on a mission, “Right, why don’t we head over and talk to Junior, I want to know what happened to the real Mad-Eye.”
Annabelle stood up, walked over to Sirius, and hugged him. When she stepped back, she whispered, “Don’t do anything rash, Harry needs you now more than ever.”
Sirius nodded his head in understanding, waved goodbye to John, and swept from the room to head back to his home.
While Sirius, Remus, and Dora were planning to have their chat with Barty Crouch, Jr., Voldemort was already having a conversation with Bathilda Bagshot.
Hissing at the cowering woman in front of him, Voldemort intoned, “I grow tired of your denials.” He jabbed his wand at her while saying, “Imperio.”
When the curse had taken hold, he sat down to gather his thoughts. He knew that this woman was friends with Dumbledore and the Potters. Now he wanted to know what she knew about them and all of their dirty little secrets.
Deciding upon a plan, his low sibilant voice cut through the silence, “Now, you will tell me everything that you know about Albus Dumbledore and a boy named Gellert, their relationship, and who died in their basement.”
It was a very interesting two hours for Voldemort. He learned more about Dumbledore than he ever thought possible. Chuckling to himself, he thought ruefully, ‘The Greater Good. That explains many of his actions; he sacrifices people to achieve his goals. We really aren’t that different and perhaps I can use this to my advantage.’
Turning his attention back to Bathilda, he hissed, “You will contact Rita Skeeter and give her all of the details about Albus Dumbledore that you just gave to me. I will seek you out when I have need of you again; otherwise, go about your life normally.”
Cloak billowing, Voldemort swept quietly from Bathilda’s house and went back to his temporary headquarters to work on a few plans before turning in for the night. By the time that he turned in for the evening, there were enough wards on the property that it would take hours for someone to penetrate them.
By the time that the party ended, Albus Dumbledore was extremely tired. Various people had pestered him for different schemes and he was nursing a headache. Settling into his comfortable wing backed chair, he pulled out an empty tumbler and a decanter full of Rosmerta’s Oak Matured Mead. Pouring himself a generous measure, he leaned back and took a deep sip from his glass.
He was going over the events from the evening in his mind, trying to figure out how Voldemort had managed to have someone turn the Cup into a Portkey. His prime suspect was Alastor Moody, or whomever had been Polyjuicing themselves to take on his appearance.
Dumbledore suspected that Moody was an imposter when he heard the rumors about his using the Imperious Curse on the students. Since he couldn’t find any concrete proof that Moody was an imposter, he had resigned himself to watching him as closely as possible. The problem was that whoever the imposter was; they were just as paranoid as the real Moody was so they were very hard to watch.
Regardless, Dumbledore knew that the person was a Death Eater and he felt it was better to keep your enemies close to better observe them. His error in judgment had almost cost Harry Potter his life.
Dumbledore felt that the only good news to come out of the entire fiasco was that Harry and Voldemort had deepened their bond. With the Horcrux still residing inside of Harry, their connection would begin to widen. No amount of Occlumency would keep them out of each other’s heads now. His biggest worry would be if Voldemort somehow possessed Harry and used him for nefarious deeds.
Deciding on a plan to exploit the connection, Dumbledore figured that he would have Severus teach the boy advanced Occlumency techniques. The lessons would effectively break down the barriers that Harry had already constructed and allow Voldemort easier access into his mind and vice versa.
Unbeknownst to Dumbledore, the dark ritual that Voldemort had used had been botched. The part of Voldemort’s soul that resided inside of Harry had been returned to its rightful owner, severing their connection forever.
At number twelve Grimmauld Place, Barty Crouch, Jr. was struggling against his bonds unsuccessfully. To make matters worse, he knew that he was in a cage of some type and his toe hurt tremendously.
When the door to the room that he was in banged open, he started in surprise. Lifting his head up to see who had entered, he paled when he saw Remus Lupin flanked by a woman he didn’t know and a man that must be Sirius Black. Backing away as far as possible from the entrance, he stammered out, “I, I want to speak with Dumbledore!”
The feral grin that crossed Remus’ face made the Death Eater cringe in fear. Pleased with the effect that he was having on the prisoner, Remus stepped into the cage and dragged the resisting man out into the room. He roughly threw Barty into a chair where Sirius bound him magically.
Dora stepped up to the criminal and yanked his head back by his hair. When his mouth was open, she quickly poured three drops of Veritaserum down his throat. Once the potion had taken hold, her authoritative voice rang out, “What is your name?”
The glassy eyes and the voice that sounded from Barty Crouch, Jr’s throat indicated that he was definitely under the influence of the drug. In a flat tone, he answered, “Barty Crouch, Jr.”
It had been decided that Dora would do the questioning with a dictation quill and parchment taking down everything that was said and by whom. Checking to make sure that the quill was working properly, Dora continued the questioning, “Are you a Death Eater?”
“How long have you been impersonating Alastor Moody?” She asked curiously.
Barty was trying to fight the effects of the potion, but he wasn’t strong enough, so secrets continued to pour forth from his mouth, “Since August of this year.”
Angrily, Dora thought, ‘How in the world did Dumbledore not know?” Reigning in some of her anger, she asked, “Where is Alastor Moody?”
Seeing a man smile while under the effects of Veritaserum is alarming at best. The grin that graced Barty’s face was extremely disturbing.
Proud of the fact, Barty replied, “Dead.”
“What happened to your father, Barty Crouch, Sr.?”
If anything, the disturbing grin got wider on his face as he gleefully replied, “Dead.”
Trying to shake off the horrible news, Dora continued the questioning, “Where are the bodies and why did you kill them?”
Happily, Barty supplied, “I killed Moody to deny Albus Dumbledore a capable servant. I burned the body in my office fireplace at Hogwarts after I dismembered it.” His visage turned darker when he spoke again, “My father got what he deserved. I killed him and left his body near the Acromantula nest in the forest.”
Sirius was silently restraining Remus in the corner. He wanted to attack Crouch, Jr. too, but it was best that they not interfere with the questioning, since they were going to submit the results, and perhaps Barty himself, to Amelia Bones when they were finished.
After briefly checking to make sure that they weren’t going to attack the prisoner, Dora turned her attention back to the questioning, “Why did you Polyjuice yourself to look like Moody?”
Still wearing his vapid smile, Barty replied, “My lord required it of me. I was stationed at Hogwarts to learn about Harry Potter and the staff. The Dark Lord ordered me to help Harry Potter win the Triwizard Tournament. I was going to clear his path to the Triwizard Cup that I had turned into a Portkey but I didn’t have to.”
Feeling as if she was finally getting somewhere, Dora asked eagerly, “Where did that Portkey take Harry Potter this evening and why?”
“I set the Portkey to go to the graveyard in Little Hangleton where the Dark Lord was waiting for him. He was going to be a part of a ritual to return my master to a body.”
Remus was holding Sirius in the corner this time. They both knew that Voldemort used Harry to return himself to a body, but hearing it from one of the Dark Lord’s insane servants made it much more sinister for some reason.
With one glance behind her, Dora figured that it would be best to end the questioning soon. Turning back to the trussed up Barty, she said, “Is Peter Pettigrew alive and serving the Dark Lord?”
Gazing up at his questioner, Barty rasped out, “Yes, he is.”
“Name every Death Eater that you know of.”
When Barty was finished naming the Death Eaters, they looked over the list and found a couple of surprises there but for the most part, nothing new.
Drawing her wand, Dora silently stunned Barty and levitated him back into the cage. Once the prisoner was secure, she led Sirius and Remus back up to the kitchen so they could talk about the new information.
Once they were all seated, she said, “Well, do you think that I should go fetch Amelia and have her meet us somewhere so we can turn Barty over?”
Remus was thinking about the list of Death Eaters and he said, “Do you think that we should start making the people on this list disappear?”
Dora was shocked, she was an Auror Trainee, and upholding the law did not include becoming a vigilante. Concerned, she said, “Why wouldn’t we just arrest them?”
Sirius’ bark like laughter filled the room for a moment before he replied, “Are you kidding? Crouch already killed Moody and his father, do you honestly think that we want this type of person running around in the service of Voldemort?”
Conflicted on the matter, Remus added his two knuts worth, “I think we should remove Barty from the equation for a moment. We are at war now. Are we willing to take prisoners or do we permanently remove all supporters from Voldemort?”
Immediately, Dora spoke up, the anger in her voice was easily detectable, “We aren’t murderers! We should just lock them up! Killing them just makes us just like them!”
Sirius sighed in exasperation, Dora had not seen the horrors of war, and she was still young enough that she didn’t understand that there were some criminals that could never be rehabilitated. Rubbing the back of his neck, he asked, “Do you know what it means to have that mark upon your arm, Dora?”
When she shook her head in the negative, he continued, “It means you are a terrorist and a killer. You don’t get that mark without committing some truly heinous acts. If you don’t believe me, we can go back down there and ask Barty what he did to get the dark mark.”
Remus rejoined the conversation by saying, “This is just the beginning, Dora. People will start disappearing and dying very soon. The more followers that we deny Voldemort now, the better chance we have at winning this time.”
Seeing her confused look, Remus explained, “We were not faring well in the last war. They were slowly picking us off and bunches of people were in hiding. The only reason it stopped was because Harry somehow survived that killing curse and Voldemort lost his body. After that, Voldemort’s followers scattered and people foolishly forgot how bad it really was before.”
Sirius piped up, “We can’t afford to rely on the Ministry to give them all trials.” He waved his hand towards the list of Death Eaters on the table as he continued speaking, “There are too many people on this list that are high up in the Ministry or on the Wizengamot to guarantee an impartial trial.”
Finally realizing that they were right, Dora resignedly replied, “Oh, alright. However, I think that we should question them all about what they did before we pass judgment. I won’t condone killing them without that caveat first. Otherwise, we are no better than the Death Eaters. Agreed?”
Remus and Sirius nodded in the affirmative as they chorused, “Agreed.”
Cheerfully, Dora said, “Great! Now, why don’t we do a bit of research on Harry’s form so we can give him some ideas for him to look into?”
Groaning, Sirius moaned, “Not more research!”
Laughing, Remus and Dora dragged him up to the library to begin looking into what type of snake or hybrid Harry’s Animagus form was.
John and Annabelle had stopped to check on the two sleeping teens before turning in themselves. Carefully, John opened the door so as not to disturb them.
Harry and Hermione looked so peaceful while sleeping. Hermione had snuggled into Harry’s chest and had partially draped an arm and a leg over him. Harry’s arm was wrapped around her shoulder and his hand was resting on her back hidden amongst Hermione’s untamable main of hair that had come free of its braid.
When Annabelle looked over at her husband, she noticed that he had the stirrings of tears in his eyes just as she did. They were both reassured by the sight in front of them.
Quietly, Annabelle pulled the door closed and led John down to their bedroom. When the arrived, she pulled him into a loving hug and whispered, “I know that it’s hard letting go but it looks like we have gained a son, not lost a daughter.”
John nodded in acceptance, not trusting his voice. He was sad that his daughter was growing up but at the same time, glad that he had gained a son. A son that he knew would do everything in his power to protect Hermione.
Squeezing his wife a little closer, he kissed the top of her head and whispered, “I love you, Annabelle.”
Her response was immediate and from the heart, “And I you, my husband.”