The end of the year.
A very shaken Acting-Minister Bones appeared at what had been an isolated old manor house in a small Welsh valley, owned by the Flint family. The building had been pulverized. “What can you tell me, Rufus?” she asked.
“It’s going to take a long time to piece everything, and everyone, back together,” the chief auror said. “Basically, just before midnight, a flux set off every magical recorder and tracker from Iceland through Italy and all points in between. All the ones in Britain, Ireland, and Brittany are disabled. That one Muggleborn auror you let in – Smith – made the suggestion that we contact the other Ministries and see if they could get any directions. I have to admit, I didn’t know what good it would do but at least it gave us something to do. He took the directions and, what did he call it? Triangulated them or something. Anyway, they led us here just at dawn.”
“All this was done by magic, but damned if any of us have any guesses how.”
Bones looked around, assessed the damage, added up the events, and whispered, “Don’t be a fool. We know how.”
Scrimgeour grimaced, and glanced around as well. “Magic-busters?” he whispered. Amelia nodded. This was an explosive device developed by the technomages, and used (at least legally) only by a few Ministries. The rest of the wizarding world had banned their use. “The North Americans, or the technomages? Or both?”
Amelia shrugged. “I doubt we’ll ever know. I think someone at least got a hold of some of these and some other technomage things and has been using them against the pro-You-Know-Who people around the country . . . and at Hogwarts.”
Scrimgeour made a face at that. “I had wondered, but I have to admit, I don’t know enough about them to say you’re right. Do you?”
“Not really, no,” Bones admitted. “Any bodies?”
“Well, parts,” Scrimgeour admitted, glad to get off the subject of technomages. That topic was a can of worms no matter how it was considered. “There could have been anywhere between twenty-five and forty-five as best we can tell. There was also a bloody great snake.” Bones shot him a look.
Scrimgeour nodded. “It fits in what Potter told Dumbledore last year and what Dumbledore told us. I think Fudge was wrong, and He is, or was, back.”
“Was?” Bones asked eagerly.
Scrimgeour nodded and conducted Bones over to a long table, where bits of bloodied white cloths covered a number of lumps. “We’ve been collecting heads over here,” he said. “Pretty sturdy part of the body, all things considered.” He looked at a rather pale auror in his mid-twenties. “How many we got now, Smith?”
“Twenty-one, sir,” the auror replied.
“Take a look at this one.” Scrimgeour flipped over a piece of bloody cloth. Bones wrinkled her nose and back away. Scrimgeour covered the head and followed.
“That does agree with the description of the remade Dark Lord,” Bones said.
“Aye,” the chief auror agreed. “Of course, that still begs the question.”
Bones’ mouth quirked. “Indeed. Is the Dark Lord mostly dead again, or completely dead..”
“You wished to see me, Headmaster?”
“Ah, Harry . . . would you happen to know why Professor Snape is unconscious, and was found with an illegal technomage device wrapped around his forearm?”
“Know? No, sir.”
Dumbledore sighed and placed his head in his hands, the heel of his hands covering his eyes. “Please, Harry. I asked to meet you here in a normally-closed classroom so there would be no witnesses. I will swear not to reveal what I learn if you so wish.”
“Considering you’re more skilled at wandless magic than I am, I don’t know if that would be worth much.”
Dumbledore sat up straight behind the teacher’s desk, his mind ticking away furiously. Finally, he said, “Oh . . . bollocks! I can’t believe I fell for that once, never mind all the times you bloody did that!”
Harry smirked and held out his left hand. “The gizmo, please.”
Dumbledore hesitated, but then handed it over. It disappeared into Harry’s robe, which Dumbledore only now suspected had many concealed pockets.
“How does Professor Snape’s forearm look?” Harry asked.
“A bit raw, as if he had recently had a severe burn there, which has mostly healed.”
Harry nodded. “There is one less mutated snake in the world as of last night, and twenty-seven fine upstanding, more-or-less Pureblood citizens may be reported missing, even if a few might have spent some time in Azkaban.”
“Twenty-seven?” Dumbledore was shocked at the possible carnage. “So many?”
Harry nodded. “If there was anyone else at a certain house in Wales, he won’t be missed since most people never suspected he was still around.”
“Are you sure?”
“There was a body this time, wasn’t there?”
“I haven’t heard anything from outside about this,” Dumbledore had to admit. “When I do, you’re right. If there is a body, that would go a long way to satisfy my worries.”
“Mine, too,” Harry agreed. “However, unless he disappeared in a way which wasn’t apparation, floo, or port-key, the sequence of events should have been what we would have wanted.”
“And the twenty-seven others?” Dumbledore scolded.
“Could anyone really take the Dark Mark unwillingly?” Harry retorted.
Dumbledore shrugged. “We may never know how many took that path and regretted it, how many did not have the opportunities Severus had to go on an alternative path. We know it was possible. Severus did so, and so, apparently, did Regulus Black.”
“True,” Harry agreed. “Still, sometimes your actions catch up with you, something you and I will have to live with. There may also have been others who weren’t there. Let’s hope this time they at least will behave themselves.”
“Come see me here after dinner tonight, and I will let you know what I find out.”
Harry returned to the classroom after dinner. The Headmaster was waiting.
“Any good news?” Harry asked.
Dumbledore nodded. “Voldemort’s body was indeed found. We of course cannot be one hundred percent certain – he may have had another Horcrux despite the unlikelihood of it succeeding yet again. Perhaps with just one Horcrux, the body may remain instead of being totally folded into that non-corporeal form?” Seeing Harry’s glare, Dumbledore shrugged. “However, I must admit, while I shall keep an eye out, I am fairly confident he has passed on.”
“Perhaps some of the Voodoo or similar practitioners could be consulted?” Harry suggested.
Dumbledore thought a moment and then nodded. “It should be safe to approach them this time.”
“I was afraid the news might leak out and that would lead to his being resurrected in one of their ceremonies. As,” Dumbledore, admitted, “he was, although not by them.”
“Twenty-three others have now been identified. A few, I must say, I still had at least a little hope for.” Dumbledore saw that Harry looked a bit skeptical, and admitted, “A few, like Fenir Grayback and Voldemort himself, I long ago gave up hope on.” He sighed. “While I would not have wished for so much bloodshed, I have to admit I am please there was no truly innocent blood shed by you.”
“So, it was all for ‘the greater good’?” Harry asked, somewhat bitterly.
“That’s the best we can hope for, Harry, the best we can hope for. We do the best we can, and hope we don’t make too many mistakes. As you know, from my many errors, we can only hope to approach ‘satisfactory,’ never perfection. Tell me, will you be playing Quidditch next year?”
Harry was surprised by the question. “I don’t know,” he said after a moment’s reflection. “You’re right, of course. I won’t have to train as hard as I have been.”
“I’m in great condition,” Harry pointed out. “I don’t want to lose it.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Let us hope there will be no more upsets this academic year. If I do not have occasion to speak to you privately before the end of the year, I hope you and your friends did well on the O.W.L.s.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Harry had not held himself back on the O.W.L.s. Only the fact that he had shared much of the theoretical information he had been given with Hermione kept her at the number one theory student at Hogwarts. Harry’s practical charm and defense work awed the examiners, while he and Hermione would be vying for top honors in Transfiguration as the examiners debated their scores. When the exams were over, Hermione had tutored Luna and some of the fourth year Gryffindors for their upcoming end-of-year exams, while Harry, to Ron’s astonishment, kept studying.
“Hermione must have infected him with some study disease,” Ron muttered to Dean and Seamus.
“Maybe she just worked out a really good reward system,” Seamus retorted, making Dean laugh and Ron blush a bit.
In truth, Harry still had a lot of catching up to do in Muggle mathematics and basic science. He saw no reason to tell anyone that, as Hermione and Luna already knew.
When the academic year ended, Harry took the time to say goodbye to McGonagall, Flitwick, Hagrid, and Snape. Only Snape realized what this meant. Since they were in Snape’s private lab where they could not be eavesdropped on, he asked, “Shall you ever be back?”
Harry smiled. “Someday, absolutely. Hogwarts made me promise.” Harry again made the hand gesture and said, “Be seeing you.” He only had one more stop to make that evening. He was already packed, and Dobby had moved almost all of his gizmos and other questionable possessions not only out of Hogwarts but out of the country.
Harry made his way into the deep dungeons, where no person, only a few ghosts, had been in many years, in some sections, centuries. Finally, he reached a small room, lit by a single candle, which burned with a dark blue, almost purplish flame.
“You can’t keep me chained forever, Potter,” the ghost of Pansy Parkinson sneered at him. She was bound to the cell wall by Hogwarts itself.
“Well, I probably can’t keep you chained here forever,” Harry answered.
He pulled out the Elder Wand and the Ring, and then wrapped the cloak around his shoulders. “Here are your choices. I can banish you to the other side, whatever that might be.” He then pulled out a small metal box, and shoved it with his foot under Pansy. “Or, I can imprison you in that for the rest of my life.”
“When I die, no matter if that’s tomorrow or a hundred years from now, you’ll be set free and be a normal ghost.”
“I’ll tell them all what you did!”
Harry nodded. “If you wish. The world already knows what you did.”
Pansy opened her mouth, but then hesitated. “What will it be like?”
“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “This was invested by a pair of Squibs who helped create an American company calling themselves ‘ghost-busters’. They aren’t sure if you’re in stasis – sort of a dreamless sleep – or if you’re conscious. To tell the truth, I don’t think they much care.”
Pansy looked indecisive.
“If you fear your time alone, daughter,” the Fat Friar said, appearing, “I shall go with you.”
“Why?” Harry asked before Pansy could.
“In life, I gave comfort to the ill and troubled, and I have done the same in my centuries here,” the Friar said. He looked at Pansy. “You have sinned greatly, my daughter, and are filled with anger. You must release both if you are to move on.”
“Why don’t you move on?” Pansy snarled.
“I enjoyed life too much,” the Friar confessed. “I am still too attached to this small segment of reality. Still, if you wish, we might have a chance to learn together. Will you take it, my child?”
Pansy sneered, “You’re a fat old perv, you are.” She spat at Harry. “Put me in your bloody box if you dare, Potty!”
“You might want to step outside,” Harry told the Friar.
Sadly, the Friar did so. Less than two minutes later, Harry came out. “That was a good thing you offered to do,” Harry said.
The Friar nodded, and then looked at Harry. “And you, my son? Have you considered the value of confession and reconciliation?”
Harry hesitated, but then said, “No, I haven’t. Why don’t we talk about it?”
The Friar nodded, hoping he could at least help one troubled soul that night.
“You look much better this morning,” Hermione told Harry as they came into the great hall for breakfast.
“I feel much better,” Harry admitted. He looked around the buzzing great hall. “This is a beautiful place, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Hermione agreed.
“Close your eyes and feel,” Luna suggested. “I can feel the magic . . . the magic of Hogwarts, the students and staff and ghosts.” She closed her eyes, and then smiled. “The green houses are bursting with the magic of life. The forest is dark and brooding, but pulsing with power. There is the cycle of life and death, of growth and renewal, all gently spiced by magic to be more intoxicating than any place merely created by sentience or form through the accidents of nature. Hogwarts is the combination of all magics, of all life. We shall forever form a tiny part of her, and she shall always have a share in us.”
Hermione thought about that, and close her eyes. Then she smiled and said, “I like that.”
The three walked over to the Ravenclaw table, so that Luna could have her breakfast.
Sirius looked at Remus, who was scowling. “What’s wrong?” Remus merely nodded up the platform. “What?” Sirius asked, confused. “I see Harry and his friends.”
“Do you see the twins?” Remus asked.
“Talking to that guy in the blue Muggle suit? So?”
“So that’s one of Dinsdale’s people.”
Sirius shrugged. “They’ll need access to difficult to get ingredients and equipment.”
“‘Difficult to get’? That’s the new term for ‘illegal’?”
“Sleeping with an auror has made you awfully stuffy these days, Moonie,” Sirius teased.
“Stuff yourself,” Remus muttered.
“I guess I shouldn’t tell you what Ginny Weasley and two of her friends will be doing next year.”
Remus let out an exasperated, “Merlin only knows. What?”
“They’ll be selling some tiny little wireless sets that pick up wizarding wireless only. Technically legal to own, but not to import.”
Remus sighed. They saw Harry say goodbye to his friends. The Weasleys went off the platform, while Luna stood in line to take the floo home. Hermione came with Harry; she would be leaving for her parents from Grimmauld Place. They would leave for Belize in under a week, and then Hermione would leave from there at the end of June. Luna would go with her father on one last trip as well.
“Ready to go home, Harry?” Sirius asked.
One of the first things Harry did at Grimmauld Place was remove the make-up from his scar. It had been about eleven months since the Horcrux on the scar had been broken. The scar still showed, although it was fairly faint at this point. He had thought about having a minor medical procedure, which should eliminate the scar, but decided not to bother. The scar would fade, and he really didn’t care much about it, either way.
When he was done, Harry unpacked his possessions, deciding which would stay at Grimmauld Place and which would come with him. He put his old Quidditch jerseys, Weasley jumpers, and his first school uniform into one pile, which Dobby would put away for him. His other school uniforms and his barely-used sets of dress robes into another pile, which would be donated. Harry hoped some poor students would get some good out of them.
Harry next went through the Muggle clothes. Everything he had been given by the Dursleys had long ago been discarded, but he had still managed to outgrow most of the clothes he had started the school year off with. Harry looked at the remaining pile, and decided that he had more than enough clothes to last him until he could go shopping in ten days or so.
With a sense of sad completion, Harry shut the clothes to be given away into a cardboard box.
Monday, 1 July, 1996
The bus stopped. “Welcome to Eucla,” said the driver in a strong Australian accent. “We’re stopping here for ninety minutes. If you’re looking for a bit to eat, the restaurant is on your left. If you want a stretch before the long stretch on to Kalgoorlie, you can see the Bite and the Southern Ocean over on the right.” With that, the driver left the bus to relieve himself and have a cup of strong tea.
The bus quickly emptied, with three teens being the last three off the bus. “G’day!” they heard behind them.
Behind them were two men, both in khaki shorts and shirt and wearing a bush hat, which had corks hanging on strings from the brim. Their noses were covered with a thick layer of white sun screen. The cute short-haired brunette rolled her eyes at the overly-stereotyped people, especially as it was only 20 C, if very bright. The long-haired blonde looked especially interested in the hats.
“My name’s Bruce,” one said, “and this is my friend, Bruce. And you are?”
“I’m New Bruce,” the third teen answered, holding out his hand. “This is my girlfriend Sheila and this is our partner Sheila.”
The two Bruces smiled widely and shook hands. “We like your style, New Bruce. Not many, especially Pommy Bastards, have that good a sense of reality.”
“Here,” second Bruce said. “You need a little sun screen on a sunny day like this, even in winter. Bruce here will get your bags and suggest to the driver and passengers that you actually got off at Nullabor. Now, just come ’round to the back of the charabanc.”
The three teens followed Bruce as Bruce went to do some minor memory charms, and in a moment, the quartet was gone.
The tall, thin man behind the desk stood as the trio of students and their two escorts entered his bright office. The building they were in was carved out of a cliff overlooking the Southern Ocean, so anyone observing from any distance would think that stretch of the coast was uninhabited. “Welcome to the Southern Academy of Magics and Technomage Studies,” the man said. “I’m the principle, John Cross. These two, normally serious, instructors are Bruce Boxer and Bruce Feather.”
“G’day!” the two Bruces chorused.
“Stop that!” Cross ordered. “Believe it or not, these two really are knowledgeable in their fields – Bruce here,” he nodded at Boxer, “teaches mundane and magical maths, while Bruce there teaches charms and enchanting, and is also in charge of. . . ..” Cross grimaced. “Now they have me doing their routine!”
The two Bruces smiled.
Cross invited them all to sit. “I have your Hogwarts paperwork, and your O.W.L. scores, Harry and Hermione.” He looked up at them and smiled. “You’ll find we’re all pretty informal here. The youngest we take students would normally be fifteen, although we’re making an allowance for Luna here, and have ten levels, remedial through level nine. Passing the level eight exams confer a mastery certificate, although of course most of the magical world prefers certification though apprenticeships instead. We have two terms of just over five full months each – early January through mid-June, and then early July through mid-December. So, for the next week, you three will be tested to see if we need to adjust your schedules, and if you’ll need any remedial work we missed. As you should know, we have much stronger requirements than most magical schools – mandatory classes in Charms, Potions, Maths and Arithmancy (or as we usually just say, Maths), and Technomagic as long as you stay, or through the seventh level. We also require electrical engineering – what we call Gadgetry – through the fifth level. We also have minimum skills at, and optional classes in, Transfiguration, Defense, History, Herbology/Biology, Languages, Divination, and the Mundane Sciences, although after this year Computing will be mandatary. There are some other, advanced classes available once you get your skills past the fifth level, such as warding and curse breaking. You need to take at least seven classes, and no more than nine.” The three nodded, all nervous.
“Hermione, you will be in the third year of Charms, Potions, and Maths, and remedial Technomagic, and second year Gadgetry. You passed your basic sciences, and would be in the first year of any of those you would care to take. You would be in the third year – nearly the fourth! – in Transfiguration, the second year of Defense and Languages, and the first year of History and Biology.” Hermione nodded.
“Harry, you would be placed in the Fourth year of Defense, the third year of Charms, second year Transfiguration, Potions, and Gadgetry, and first year Technomagic. We want to retest you especially on the Maths, to see if you can be placed in the first year or not. As for the other classes, you need some remedial science work, and could be placed in first year Biology.” Harry nodded.
“Luna, you would be placed in second year anything, except for maths and Gadgetry, which would be first year, and some remedial science and Technomagic work.” Luna now nodded in turn. “Any questions?”
“I was wondering if there were any magical courses on languages available,” Harry asked.
“Of course.” Cross smiled. “We also field three Quidditch teams in the summer and autumn term, and an all-star team plays Alice Springs in September, and the winner goes on to play the winning New Zealand all-star team in early November.”
Harry grinned, while Hermione rolled her eyes. Luna beamed at the pair of them.