During the train ride before third year Harry has a close encounter with a dementor that causes him to absorb the soul fragment within him, granting both knowledge and power. Features Harry with a ...
I I I
Harry sent off three letters via school owls. One was to the luggage shop, an order for two chests of drawers and a nightstand done in the same style as the rest of his travel furniture. Seeing as how he'd be moving his quarters every night from one place to another, so he could keep up a 'three days for one' schedule, he wanted to complete his bedroom set, so he didn't forget anything. Running into himself looking for a lost toothbrush would be bad.
Well, at least it would upset Hermione.
Second of those letters was to the Safari shop. The stereotypical British explorer of the 19th century that shop seemed set up to outfit a magical counterpart of was a naturalist as much as anything else, so the kit had included tools for taking samples and specimens. However, he'd overtaxed the storage capacity of his instruments in rendering down the dead basilisk from the Chamber of Secrets.
The thing was over sixty feet long. It had more mass than any elephant, and some whales; every part of the beast was useful and valuable, even precious. So it wasn't to be wasted.
Tom had an... interesting collection of spells for preserving or reviving dead tissue from his work with immortality, zombies and creating new bodies for himself in event of his own demise. So between those and the recent and undisturbed condition of the corpse, Harry was able to harvest ingredients at near prime condition. And that basilisk was better than solid gold, being the largest and oldest specimen in recorded history. He simply had to have more tools and containers so he could harvest and store it all!
Not one bit could be wasted, as there wasn't going to be another.
Actually, there was. Harry'd already been down to the Chamber with afreshly caught toad, and a visit to Hagrid's hut had yielded an egg out of his chicken coop. Riddle had known all of the required spells. So, in the proper course of time, a new basilisk was going to hatch down in the Chamber. And Harry had every intention of feeding it and caring for it, training up a useful servant, because a basilisk was just too useful abeast not to have one on tap!
But the new one wasn't going to be a thousand years old for another thousand years or so. So that made it still a priority to carefully harvest the old one.
The third letter was an order for more books.
It really wasn't necessary. Harry had the entire library of Hogwarts at his disposal, even if certain parties were ignorant of just how complete his access to it was. Security charms by a librarian were not about to stop someone the equal of a dark lord of Voldemort's caliber; nor were copyright wards any protection. Nobody lived once Voldemort decided to kill them, and that meant penetrating the deepest, thickest, nastiest sets of wards in the world. No common spell was going to stop him from copying a book he wanted a copy of. And he even had an invisibility cloak to do his browsing under.
Still, as nice as it was to be duplicating the Hogwarts library, it was useful to have an even more complete private collection. There were gaps in what was available at Hogwarts, even in the restricted section. But more important than acquiring books, Dumbledore, who was watching his mail, would be determining what Harry was learning, in part, by what books he was ordering.
And so Harry gave Dumbledore reason to believe that he was studying Light magic like healing and other such things.
It was even true.
In another reality, at another time, Dumbledore would admit that Voldemort had what was probably the most extensive knowledge of magic of any wizard living. Of course, by that point Albus had killed off Nicholas Flamel, who had probably forgotten more than anyone else had ever learned, just from the amount of time he'd had available for study.
But Voldemort had preferred the easy power of darker mysteries. The lure of the forbidden had been a siren song to the young dark lord, and Harry was not as well armed with light side magic as he'd like to be. So he was, at the same time, building up one of his areas of semi-ignorance, as well as making sure the Dark Headmaster would be appeased concerning his perfect Golden Gryffindor. Having displayed disturbing signs of backbone, Albus would be ready to call Harry 'Dark' on that pretext alone, and needed to be reassured the boy was simply polishing up his hero badge.
That, too, was even to a large extent true.
Harry, having absorbed Voldemort's knowledge, had little reason to study up on the dark arts. What books could teach him anything new on that subject were few and far between, not to mention both rare and expensive. And he suspected that most of them were probably hidden away in the private Black family library anyway, to which no one had access at the moment.
Most Death Eaters joined Tom's cause thinking they would hide something, hold some of their abilities and secrets back in reserve. None of them were aware that part of the Dark Mark's properties was to intentionally strip away any mental protection they might have had from their lord and master, who'd routinely scanned the minds of all who'd joined him, demanding their perfect and utter obedience, or death.
So Tom had known small things, like Pettigrew's animagus form and abilities, to larger secrets like the extent of the Malfoy fortune, and purebloods who had any abilities at all would find them demanded, by name, by their dark lord.
However, poor Regulas had simply been unaware of the extent, true nature, or list of titles in the library his family had been collecting for generations. There were many dark tomes in there, he was sure, but the Black child been an ignorant believer, not a diligent reader.
There were so very few secrets the ancient, pureblooded families had held back from Voldemort successfully, but the nature of that library was one of them. Although there had been tantalizing hints in plenty.
And, while Voldemort would kill to know what few secrets remained hidden to him that lurked in that collection (actually, point of fact, Voldemort would kill for an ice cream cone and then not eat it) Harry had no such inclination. He already knew enough dark magic, thank you very much. It only did a few kinds of things, and those he could already accomplish in any number of ways by drawing on skills he'd already inherited.
Adding a slight refinement to his already well polished Dark magic lore held no interest for the lad. No, he was actually quite happy to study Light. And, if by doing so he could allay some of the old coot's fears concerning him, so much the better.
Actually, Harry had little reason to study for his classes, either.
He did so anyway.
Of course, the actual coursework took no more than minutes to review and confirm that he'd already mastered it all. There were times he ran across tidbits he was previously unaware of, and those times were truly what he did this for. He was reinforcing his knowledge and filling in any gaps. Things were taught differently now than they were fifty years ago, and sometimes more or less material got covered.
Those times it was more, he learned something, those times it was less, he got to teach Hermione something. Both of those were worthy goals.
Still, on the whole, review of his coursework took only a few minutes, and with a set of dictation quills it didn't take him but a few more minutes to have all of his homework done. That left hours and hours for independent study, pushing the boundaries of what he knew.
And, sometimes doing research, pushing the boundaries of what the entire magical world knew by discovering new things by means of experiments.
One had to stay busy somehow, and Hogwarts had so many resources to draw on! Voldemort hadn't made repeated attempts to return there for his health! No, he'd done it because he was not yet done probing the old castle's secrets, research that Harry was only too glad to continue! And that wasn't the only project boiling on his burner.
Harry watched the owls fly off, then returned to his quarters.
Those three letters had been sent off as much because they were expected as for any other reason. Harry had shown an independent streak, and the natural progression of that had to be shown, or else Albus would probe until he found it. So, if the boy was to keep any secrets at all, it would be best to show the Headmaster what he believed ought to be there.
For the time being, anyway.
That would do the best preparatory work for leaving old man out of position when Harry whiplashed around and did something unexpected. The letters of real importance he'd already mailed from a shop outside the Ministry on his trip the previous day.
I I I
After dinner in the Ravenclaw common room was an opportunity to get some work done. A substantial portion of the House gathered at the tables, read their books (everyone who didn't know for certain suspected the Ravenclaws had their own library up in their tower), and did their study, both assigned and optional.
However, a new figure came walking in to the common room, having answered the riddle at the entrance way. Those who saw him fell silent, and a circle of silence spread as the regular whispered tutoring ceased and more and more looked up to see the cause of this disruption.
Harry Potter stepped out into the blue carpeted room, wearing the Diadem of Ravenclaw glimmering on his head, an unmistakable aura of magic around him that none could readily identify.
The Boy Who Lived walked calmly over the carpeted floor, to a somewhat dim (and thus, unpopular) corner, where a young lady with blonde hair had been at a chipped table doing her homework, all alone.
Harry placed his hand carefully on Luna's shoulder in an obvious gesture of friendship, and faced the room. "This young lady has done me a tremendous service. I owe her a great debt of gratitude, and will hear of it if she is... not treated well."
Eyes grew round as the boy subtly shifted his position and general realization spread that he was also wearing the Sword of Gryffindor sheathed at his hip.
The boy popped the top off a bottle of pumpkin juice, acting just as if an entire room was not staring at him, and poured from the bottle into a golden cup, which he offered to Luna. "Care for a drink?"
She shot him startled eyes, then nodded, accepted the cup and drank, then offered it gingerly back.
Harry accepted back the goblet, gave her a smile, nodded to her, and left as casually as if he'd visited the place every day and was not the center of attention.
On the threshold he paused, as if just having thought of something, and leaned back to call into the room, "Oh, and I'll be holding a study group of my own later this month to share a few things I've picked up. You're all welcome to come, of course. Luna will have all the necessary contact information once I start setting it up."
Once he'd gone Luna was predictably swarmed with curious Ravenclaws, and among the invitations to share better tables, offers to study partner, and girls slipping off to return stolen things to Luna's trunk, one question came in from an innocent first year who'd never done Luna any wrong.
"Why did that man offer you a drink? Were you thirsty?"
The blonde looked down on a girl, only a year or so younger than her, gazing back at her innocently. After desperately thinking of something to say, she swallowed heavily and settled on the truth. "When someone offers you a chance to drink from a chalice as sought after and rare as the Cup of Helga Hufflepuff, there's no polite way to refuse."
Shocked silence spread outward as if from a physical blast of pressure.
I I I
"You realize you've just stepped out of reality and into the realm of myth, don't you?" Hermione asked, teasingly hefting her books, which she clutched to her chest in an effort to hide her growing attraction, despite the thick robes doing it for her. Tossing her hair, she added, "I mean, at first you were just The-Boy-Who-Lived, only person ever recorded to have survived a killing curse. Now you're the first person to be seen with the Diadem of Ravenclaw since the Founder herself died, and as if that weren't enough, you had to show off your possession of artifacts of two more. People will be half expecting you to be conversing with Merlin out in the halls!"
Hermione flicked more hair out of her face. "What with the 'Heir of Slytherin' nonsense going on last year, people will think you are the heir to all four of the Founders."
"If I could've arranged it, I would've worn Slytherin's locket in there as well." Harry told her in reply, hurrying her along a corridor. "I know that cave where it's hidden, but couldn't get away for long enough to retrieve it."
Hermione looked on him in confusion. "But why do you want people to be all excited about you? There will be more books about you before the year is out, I'm certain of it! Whatever happened to wanting to be 'just Harry'?"
He gave her a warm smile in return, and continued hustling her along under the cover of his invisibility cloak. Whatever place he wanted to go, he wanted to get there in a hurry. "Everyone capable of seeing 'just Harry' already knows me that way, and that person is you. I think it's time for everyone else to see some glimpses of The-Boy-Who-Lived they've been yearning for. I've been disappointing them on that point for years."
"You know, Ron sees you as you are," Hermione defended. But her companion vigorously shook his head.
"No," Harry disagreed. "Tell me, how many empty compartments did you pass by on your search for Neville's toad, on our train ride that first year?"
"Dozens." Hermione shrugged in confusion. "It wasn't very full. They can't pack the train too full, for fear of pressing students who don't get along too tightly together, and starting conflicts. They also can't tell beforehand how many friends will want to share compartments, as opposed to couples who want to be alone together, so there has to be some wiggle room. And that year it was very open, with lots of people clustered together."
Harry nodded, still speeding them along stealthily. "When Ron stuck his head in the door of my compartment, he said everywhere else was full. Plus, I was left outside the platform without instructions as to how to get on, when his mother came by using wizard only words like 'muggle' and asking her children to tell her the number for the platform. I latched onto them and they helped me on. Now, can you tell me what's suspicious about that?"
The bushy haired girl's face scrunched up in concentration. "But that's not right!" she blurted in sudden indignation. "How could you be left without any directions at all for how to find a magically hidden train platform?"
"And don't forget, Molly Weasley graduated from Hogwarts herself, and had two grown children who'd already passed through the full course of years there, another who was newly a prefect, two third years, and Ron. Tell me, when was the last time they changed the platform to get to Hogwarts?"
"Never," Hermione got lost in thought. "They built it that way. I read about it in Hogwarts: A History, how they ran the track, and..." sudden realization came. "Someone wanted you to know the Weasleys? And Ron? Do you think he could've used that excuse just to ride with you?"
"That's what I think exactly," Harry returned. "I even know who did it, too."
"Who?" Hermione was suddenly burning with curiosity.
"A lover of torture who laughs aloud while the innocent weep, and to all pleas for mercy turns stone deaf ears."
"That's not very specific," Hermione frowned.
"Do you know Shakespeare?" he asked.
"Yes." Hermione was beginning to feel upset at his dancing around without divulging her requested information.
"Tell me, do you know the quote: A man can smile, and smile, and be a villain."
"Yes, of course." Hermione rolled her eyes. "Although that's not the most famous Shakespeare quote, it ranks up there, having been popular for many reasons over the intervening centuries."
"Well, there's your clue."
She scowled at him.
"Alright," he relented. "I'll offer one other. It's an authority figure, and you know him."
"Snape doesn't smile," she objected.
He gave a short laugh. "Alright, one other: Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing."
Hermione put on her problem solving face. "So, it's either the classic example of someone who looks innocent, but isn't, or, since we're in the magical world it could be an actual werewolf."
"That's enough of a clue to get you started," Harry agreed. It was better she figure it out for herself, connecting facts to find the culprit. That way she'd believe her own evidence. Whereas, if he just came straight out and said it was Dumbledore, she'd never be able to credit it.
I I I
"There you go, Bella," Narcissa said, handing her sister back her wand, which had been secretly preserved for her by the Malfoys since her arrest.
Bellatrix LeStrange held crinkling in her hand a letter from her beloved lord. It was his handwriting, his signature, his powerful magic all over it, bearing the touch of his own wand! And, as if to mock his enemies, it bore a postage stamp of being mailed from just outside the Ministry of Magic.
That was her Lord's cruel humor at work, too.
Included in a rune on the parchment visible only to those who bore aDark Mark had held a wand Bellatrix had been told to use to escape her cell at Azkaban. And she had done so, resorting quickly to the refuge of her sister's house shortly after, so she could equip for her assignment.
Bellatrix accepted her own wand from her sister, treasuring it's feel, before returning once more to peruse the most important section of that letter.
The mission it gave her was a strange one, but she would earnestly give it her all - Protect Harry Potter. Her dark lord and master needed the boy alive if he was to succeed in his resurrection ritual, so he would have Harry Potter alive. Bellatrix would see to that!
And the irony of possessing the body of the wizarding world's hero, taking the flesh of Potter as his own! Yes. Bellatrix licked her lips. That was an irony that had her master's touch all over it.
Harry Potter would be the new vessel for Lord Voldemort's consciousness!
She would've been much less enthused about her mission if she'd known that Harry had been the one to write that letter and sent her Pettigrew's wand. Having absorbed Tom Riddle's skills and memories gave him ability to use the dark lord's handwriting style, speech patterns and wand. So not even Tom himself could've written a more authentic seeming note.
The mission Harry'd assigned her in the dark idiot's name was a transparent excuse to get himself a bodyguard not controlled by either Dumbledore or the Ministry, and the story he'd cooked up to get her to believe it was something that could be true, and had been within the dark lord's powers... up until his soul fragment had been destroyed, that is. So it wasn't going to happen, but Bella believed it was.
That meant she'd throw her heart and soul into her duty of protecting him.
And she didn't mind at all that he'd taken the liberty of burgling her vault to get that cup he'd entrusted to her, for the purpose of granting supporting magic to the rituals of resurrection he was about to perform- supposedly.
In reality, Harry had already destroyed the horcrux out of the cup and diadem, and was using them for tasks closer to their original purposes, as both artifacts held plenty of powers left by their original owners, the Hogwarts Founders.
But she believed Harry was about to be her beloved dark lord reborn, and so long as she believed that she'd be slavishly loyal to him, and that served Harry's purposes just fine.
Although, Voldemort would probably be ticked with her if he ever returned and learned she'd been consorting with and supporting his most deadly enemy.
Of course, should that ever happen, Harry would do his best to convince her that the true Voldemort was an impostor. Shouldn't be too hard, either. He had a substantial lead on the actual dark lord.
I I I
It's not terribly often I rewrite a whole chapter, but this one deserved it. The first draft of it had stunk pretty badly, and I wasn't happy with it. So we get this version to be posted.
Can you believe I'd actually ventured into angst on the first draft?Ick!