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 was carefully revising his opinions on what made for a successful Dark Lord. The two best examples he knew of, Voldemort and Dumbledore, had exhibited traits, to a greater or lesser degree, out of all four Houses.
Did they both have power? Yes. In fact, both were counted among the most powerful wizards of the age.
Did they both have knowledge? Yes, they did. Each was well acquainted with obscure or otherwise unknown bits of magic, rituals and so on, as well as less magic-oriented areas of knowledge like politics.
Both had glory, of their own sorts. Voldemort as the 'Heir of Slytherin'and Dumbledore as the 'Defeater of Grindelwald.'
They both had followers, and they both worked hard.
The difference seemed to be in the emphasis. Voldemort really liked power, and his whole focus was on gaining more of that for himself while denying it to others; while Dumbledore spent a fanatical amount of effort on hoarding knowledge the same way, so their types were still clearly evident.
If one were to contrast this with, say Gilderoy Lockhart, then one could see that while the former DADA professor had mastery of the secrets of one House sewn up, he really had accumulated an amazing degree of glory, he'd neglected the others quite badly. He knew nothing, had no personal power... although he had been working, rather successfully, on building up his fan club.
So, at most, Lockhart scored only half points on the Dark Lord contest.
Perhaps he needed another category? Because the fop really hadn't counted for much of a 'lord' of anything. A poser, yes. Annoying, yes, and influential, yes. Not much of a powerful force like your typical Dark Lord was, but still influential enough to be counted a player.
Lockhart could get people to do things, just not on the same sort of scale as one of the major players on that field like Dumbledore or Voldemort.
Yes. Harry was thinking that he really should reserve the term 'lord'for someone who had all of the basics covered - personal power, knowledge, a reputation, and the loyalty of others.
Actually, that kind of brought him up short, as he'd inherited one of the best and brightest reputations there was. His title 'Boy-Who-Lived'was one of the most far-reaching and influential out there. Even those who'd never heard of Dumbledore's defeat of Grindelwald knew about the boy who'd survived the killing curse. And, coming kind of hand in hand with that, was the fact that certain folks admired Harry enough to offer him a certain degree of loyalty.
So the Boy-Who-Lived had come into the magical world with as many basics covered as Lockhart; and the same basics, ironically.
Rather spooky, really.
Then Voldemort's soul fragment had provided the rest: the knowledge to make the most out of his personal power. Harry shuddered, actually kind of scared at that concept, thinking that he himself now scored high enough on his own personal charts to have entered the game on a big league scale.
Even if he was by far the most junior player in this three way war.
Still, he had to be grateful he had that much to call his own, as both the other major players had singled him out and individually targeted him for destruction.
Given an opportunity to strike an irreparable blow to the power of one of them (even if the man would still have plenty of power left over) Harry did not waste any time. When he left the tower with the real Trelawney they went out the nearest way that did not look immediately suspicious, and from there flew directly over to the heart of the Forbidden Forest, back to the pond with the Fairy Queen shrine.
Even as they landed, Harry felt quiet dread over the prospect of returning to the island at the center of that lake, and concluded that dread was a warning not to go back.
Come to think of it - they hadn't been invited back. Instead they'd been told to look for a potion on the outer shores of that small lake. So they did, quickly circling it together.
The clearing was just as packed as before. The trio had not been gone long and the creatures had no reason to leave, as there were just as many dangers outside the hedge as before. It would have been more efficient to split up and circle the lake with Trelawney going one way while he went the other. Doing that they could have traversed the distance in half the time. But Harry didn't dare risk it.
Dumbledore had a phoenix and their flame transport ability crossed all known wards and was undetectable by magical means. Since the bird had been used to deliver letters before, Harry could only assume that Dumbledore had put the same tracking charms on Fawkes as were used on post owls.
Harry did not have a phoenix familiar (nor, obviously, did Tom), so he could not say with any certainty what they could or could not do. So that meant he could only assume they were in very real danger of Dumbledore simply appearing at any moment wherever they were, flame-transported by Fawkes.
Since that was a danger, distance was not much of a friend. So Harry was very relieved when, after traversing three-quarters of the lake's perimeter, they found a place where the boardwalk had been rerouted to leave a clear circle right on the shore of the pond. Dead center in this clear area was a golden vial, with a note attached.
As he and Trelawney (still in her disguise as Hermione, they not having stopped to change her back - if even there was a way for normal witches to counter polyjuice before the time ran out) ran toward the bottle Harry saw that it was not the container that was gold, that was merely glass. No, it was the liquid inside that was a solid gold color.
He snatched it up, half-afraid one of the many beasts around them would beat them to it, and instantly handed it off to Trelawney, saying, "Here, drink this!"
The teacher smiled at him out of Hermione's face, and Harry had an odd moment as she acted with total trust in him, just as his real friend would've. But before this attack of conscience could cause him any regrets Trelawney had already drunk the contents of the vial.
There came a vast anticlimactic moment when nothing happened.
Harry blinked, as their only instructions had been to, 'Bring her to this pond, dose her with a potion you shall find on the shores when you return.' Already thinking that perhaps that was some remedy against the Headmaster scrying or finding her, or perhaps some potion to release her from his mental control and that they would have to take it from there, his brain kicked into gear and began planning for contingencies.
Harry's first series of letters sent on that trip where he'd taken Pettigrew to the Ministry for registration as a pet had been the opening salvos in a multi-stage process he'd planned for creating a support base and gathering supplies. Voldemort's memories had shown him how cruel the magical world could be, and so he'd begun to arrange a series of safe houses, refuges and materials stockpiles in preparation for a life on the run from muggle and magical authorities, in case that should ever prove necessary.
Only a heartbeat after having seen her drink the gold potion and had nothing happen, Harry was already plotting to go personally ram through one of those planned safe houses to completion, so he could store her there safe from the Headmaster's control, when Trelawney threw back her head and vomited forth a shaft of golden light straight up to the heavens.
Then her hair turned green, and her toes transformed into roots that began sinking themselves down in the soft ground beneath her. Harry realized, in an odd moment of introspection, that she was standing right at the center of the cleared space that the newly revised boardwalk circled around, as her limbs flung outwards and leaves sprung out from her fingertips.
Trelawney, still using Hermione's mortal face, smiled at him winningly just before her whole body morphed into a small tree, that quickly began shooting upwards as it reached for its full adult growth in seconds.
'White Oak', a dry, dispassionate corner of his mind remarked as he watched the transformation. 'The oldest of all Greek oracles, the shrine at Dodona, consisted of a holy oak. Though it never eclipsed the oracle at Delphi, many notable magical artifacts were constructed out of timber spirited away from Dodona - most notably the Argo, ship used by Jason and the Argonauts.'
"Your Queen was most generous to her," Firenze, the centaur who had helped him in his first year stepped up beside Harry.
'By turning her into a tree?' Harry thought. But he stifled that and aimed for a more diplomatic reaction to this unexpected company. "Well... Dumbledore ought to have a harder time kidnapping her now."
"This is really amazing!" Hermione's voice came from behind him. Harry spun around to see Hermione and Luna were there, just coming out from under invisibility and offering him smiles.
"Your future self offered us a pair of Time Turners and told us to spin back, that we didn't want to miss this - You were right." Hermione told him.
"Anyone want to clue me in? I seem to have missed the significance of this," Harry told them right back, earning a few startled glances.
It was Luna who answered. "You'd find out in a moment, when Sybil stepped forth from her new tree. Our Divination teacher is now a dryad, transformed by order of the Queen."
Hermione nodded happily, eyes still on the swiftly growing pure-white barked oak. "Yes! Do you recall what the Queen said to us? That adding extra of an element to an already living thing is one of the most terrifying, dreadful, and yet beautiful things possible in magic, and usually only seen in nymphs? Well, a dryad is a wood-nymph, infused with extra of the Earth element, just like naiads are especially strong with Water. I looked it up back at Hogwarts."
Firenze was nodding. "Oak, a symbol for strength and endurance. Truly she is blessed by your Queen."
Luna smiled, her own eyes still on the steadily growing tree. "A dryad's life is inextricably bound to her peculiar tree, and it is impossible for her to truly be destroyed so long as it, any tree descended from it, or any of its seeds, still exists." She turned an otherworldly gaze on Harry for a brief instant. "Even so, her tree represents her only weakness, so most dryads are careful to keep its identity a secret."
Harry blinked several times as he was fed information outside both Riddle's experience and his own, and he now understood how privileged he was being to watch this particular tree take form. Already plans for defending it had begun taking shape in his mind.
A sudden shower of acorns covered them as the tree bloomed and fruited in under a second, sending down a rain of seeds. Thousands of fairies acting under orders of the Queen, rushed forward to scoop up armfuls of them and sped on glowing wings off into the depths of the Forbidden Forest to hide in out of the way pockets and corners.
It would be impossible for even the most skilled and knowledgeable mage in the world to track them all, or find out where they had hidden every seed.
Harry frowned, almost petulantly, knowing there was no need for his rapidly burgeoning dryad defense plans now that she had so many seeds hidden all over. "Still, she's a tree."
The centaur now spared him a short glance. "A dryad can leave her state to become mortal at any time, all she must do is choose to do so. But once lost her immortality is gone forever. This is no prison that holds her bound, but a rare privilege not to be seen again for many lifetimes. The birth of a new dryad is as scarce an event as the birth of a new phoenix, instead of the rebirth of an old one."
"There are many similarities," Luna softly nodded. "If the physical body of a phoenix is destroyed it is instantly reborn from its ashes. Should the body of a dryad be destroyed, she is reborn out of her tree. And within the woods that bear her home, a dryad is as adroit and agile as any unicorn, making her almost impossible to catch unless she chooses to be caught. This, plus her immortality, places her forever beyond the Headmaster's control. Trelawney is now truly free."
After the shower of golden acorns, Trelawney stepped forth as a dryad- and she still looked, barring certain features like green hair, identical to the mortal form of Hermione.
Harry blushed. "Oops," he apologized. "I guess we could have waited for the polyjuice to wear off before doing this."
The true Hermione smirked. "All of the Headmaster's damage and meddling of her was removed, but the potions you gave her will never wear off. They were part of her when she changed, and not included in the Queen's removal program (which was aimed at the harm done her by the Headmaster), so they are now part of her forever."
"I hope you don't mind her sharing your appearance," Harry apologized.
"No," Luna smiled. "Her appearance is not the problem. It is the fact that you didn't let the Unctuous Unction wear off before you changed her."
"HARRY!" The world's newest dryad flung herself on the boy, covering him in hugs and kisses.
I I I
It was now unlikely that Dumbledore would ever find out what happened to his now-former Divination teacher, much less get her back. And even if he did find out her fate, she now possessed multiple layers of defense around her - she was in the hedged area around the shrine, so automatically powerful magics prevented creatures of darkness or those of ill will from penetrating that far. Yet even should his phoenix transport him past those wards she still possessed other defenses.
A dryad was far from helpless. She was not as unbeatable in her terrain as a naiad, but still possessed potent abilities if pressed. A dryad's senses of her surroundings were uncanny; and being virtually impossible to hit if she was dodging and immune to mind control as a fairy creature made her distinctly hard to catch, even should the Headmaster find her. But having satyrs in the woods made it so any nymph at all was engaged in a never ending game of hide and seek, so she'd get PLENTY of practice evading unwanted notice, and satyrs had some pretty potent abilities of their own for finding hidden girls. So it was safe to say that soon she'd become expert at using those natural abilities of hers, and catching her would be almost as hard as finding her, and both would be almost impossible if she did want to be found.
Frankly most nymphs only got caught when they got bored, and it would be a couple of centuries before Trelawney had to fear that. Then, having so many of her seeds hidden throughout the forest by the fairies also made it so she did not have to fear death, so most threats and traps were useless.
Not being able to either kill or control her left any potential enslaver of the new nymph extremely few options. And, as they quickly discovered, Sybil had kept her magical core through this transformation. Since her body, too, had been removed and replaced by a fey one, doubtless for that to happen the Queen had to have done something much like the teens had received, with her human magic core moved to and merged with her spirit.
That made her possibly the only dryad in the world able to cast spells as any witch could, and made her harder still to catch or control.
Harry, frankly, had to admit this defense of the oracle was better than any he might've arranged. His powers were all spells and tricks well known to the Dark Ravenclaw, even if Albus was as yet unappraised of the fact that Harry could use them. But this... turning her into a dryad was not something the Headmaster could just expect. It came out of left field and crossed enough boundaries of magic as to have been completely unpredictable.
The unknown or unknowable were the most difficult things to counter, and Dumbledore no longer had an oracle feeding him advice about secrets he could not pry into any other way. That left him to rely on mortal methods, and the only mortals to witness this were... not exactly mortal anymore. So long as the trio never spoke of this at Hogwarts or spoke of it to any human the secret should stay secret forever.
Well, forever might be pushing it, but a long time at any rate. Heck, as fast as Dumbledore knew most things, Harry'd settle for a couple of weeks - long enough to get Fawkes out from under his control; and without a phoenix to transport him past the defensive magic inherent in the hedge, Dumbledore ought to be all but helpless in any attempts to approach or regain her.
He'd still try to employ agents, of course. But the magic of this sanctuary denied access to any who would harm those already within, and well-meaning harm was still harm. So anyone acting on his orders ought to be hedged out, even if they did not know their actions would ultimately be used to harm her.
He'd still try to use proxies, because that was how he did most of his work, but tricking unknowing agents this deep into deadly dangerous woods so they could innocently stumble in here, past all the guardians, and do something that would be an advantage to him would be a difficult machination, which is not to say he wouldn't try, only that it would be a while before he'd succeed.
Actually, put in those terms, Harry himself would probably be the first patsy he'd try, as that was exactly the sort of thing the Headmaster had been using him for until now, and Albus wasn't aware that situation had changed.
Harry could even play along with that, and mysteriously fail those missions, to delay Dumbledore using any other agents if nothing else.
I I I
Harry noted his own future self had spun back with the rest of them, and the newly minted dryad's attention had slipped to the older him. Since the group of future selves was about to launch into a big discussion centering around the Queen's note, present Harry slipped away. He'd hear all of it later, right now he had errands to go take care of to make that meeting even possible.
First item on the agenda was to obtain some time turners, and that meant a trip to the Department of Mysteries.
Fortunately for him, Voldemort had worked there, and even if they'd changed the locks on the doors, so to speak, that intimate a familiarity with the place gave him an innate advantage in penetrating their defenses.
The early morning hour also helped him there. Having just rushed Trelawney to the woods, it was not long after they'd first entered her tower, and that was only an hour or so past dawn.
Luna was correct in stating that most shops in Diagon Alley didn't open until well after breakfast. That was not an aberration, among wizards it was a well established trend. They loved their comforts and convenience, and having to get up early for an early morning rush was uncomfortable- especially when your customer base was made up of self-indulgent slug-abeds who'd lay in until a comfortable hour, and thus not give you that early morning rush to get up for in the first place.
Businesses suited themselves to their customers, and the high-pressure, fast-paced world of muggles did not exist for wizards (a big part of why they found muggleborns so annoying - "You want it this afternoon? What?Are you crazy? I've got a tea-time appointment with friends!").
If you wanted something non-standard, that didn't come off the shelves, and put it on rush order, you'd get it back in a week... maybe. Muggles would have a comparable service done for you in under an hour, tops.
But that well established trend suited Harry's purposes as well, as guards on the Ministry at this hour would be few, and most napping at their stations as there was nothing for them to do. Thus, security would be light, if not non-existent aside from wards. And Voldemort's memories would get him past virtually any ward in existence.
He could hardly have killed his chosen victims otherwise. The first reaction of any magical folks when in danger was to layer their homes in magical wards to keep out any invaders, much like this sanctuary intended to do.
And, well, if you hunted people who liked to play clam you had to be able to get through those shells. You didn't get to any of your prey otherwise.
Without that skill he'd have been known as "The Great Wannabe", as in"Yes, he'd wanted to kill a great many people, but he never managed it."
Harry broke into a house of someone he knew worked at the Ministry and used their floo to access the employee-only floo entrance to the Ministry building, bypassing most intruder wards and detections, just to save time.
Yes, he could've broken through the front entrance, but why bother?More especially, why bother when this other route was so much easier? The man hadn't even bothered to lock the front door!
He'd have to thank Arthur Weasley for that sometime. Yes, they had very nice wards over the house in times of danger, but during these peaceful years you could walk in and steal his children, if you wanted.
Not that Harry had any such inclination, nor did he think that would change.
Having effectively bypassed most of the protections over the Ministry itself it was time to go on to the Department of Mysteries.
Harry was lowering himself on a zip-line into a cell in moments.
"Hi! My name is Harry Potter, and I'm here to rescue you!"
The woman he saw was old, aged before her years by inhumane treatment and harsh abuse, worse even than his was. Simple wards over these cells to prevent use of wand magic made a fifty foot vertical shaft one of the most effective forms of confinement in existence. Just drop down the food and water, and lower a rope ladder when you wanted someone out. If they didn't climb up on their own, send someone down to fetch them - and make sure to add punishments for your inconvenience on top of what they were suffering.
The floor magically absorbed wastes, and that was that, nearly impenetrable cells by wizarding standards. Of course, muggles would teach themselves rock climbing by sheer trial and error, and be out of there in months, tops. But they probably had slickening charms on the walls to prevent that. Magic was their answer to everything, after all.
Therefore, the muggle rappelling gear. Dropping those rope ladders down would trigger alarms he didn't feel like dealing with. But, some conjured muggle currency and a bribe to a muggle to open his shop early, and he had some top of the line equipment for search and rescue belaying and rappelling.
The cynical, hardened old woman looked up at him with weary eyes. "Aren't you a little young to be rescuing damsels?"
He gave her an infectious grin. "You started in on the hero business younger than I did, Alice Lovegood. I only intentionally began saving people at eleven years old. Your granddaughter sends her regards. In fact I was going to ask your permission to marry her, but do you mind if we get out of here first?"
"Just get me to a chess set, or a mirror, and you'll have my blessing"the woman stated solemnly.
"Luckily I came prepared," Harry set out both objects.
Alice chose the mirror, stepping through like it was a portal and arriving on the other side as she'd always been pictured in those books, about seven years old, long golden hair, and an old-fashioned dress. The newly invigorated girl waved to him, then stepped off a side of the reflection into Wonderland.
No point in his running off and hiding her. She knew her own way.
Harry had read those books in a school library when he was a kid. He knew that Alice had passed tests in Wonderland to become a queen there, called Queen Alice by the native inhabitants. She would be fine there, and had more powers to draw on than he probably realized.
Harry began ascending his rope.
I I I
Yes, in the book, 'Through the Looking Glass' sequel to the more famous'Alice in Wonderland' Alice becomes a queen of Wonderland. And while you can bet the natives there will be right ticked off at her treatment by wizards out here, don't expect that to become the focus of this story.
And yes, I subjected you to more of the magical creature lore of Fablehaven. But I honestly prefer learning facts about how things work than exploring the depths of inner feelings of creatures like Snape, like Rowling would subject us to.
Shakespeare was famous for never having a villain (well, he did have ONE) without redeeming, human qualities. But he still never tried to tell us they were anything other than VILLAINS!
Think of it like a bank account. Every good deed deposits money, while every cruel one withdraws it. Whether you have a positive or negative balance is all about whether you made more deposits than withdrawals. And even a few very big deposits aren't going to counter a constant string of withdrawals taken out over a much longer period of time.
So if you count saving a life and destroying one as equal, not necessarily killing a person, just destroying their life, then grant Snape full credit for all those times Rowling said he did something good, he'd still be so far into the minus ranges that you couldn't find him without digging apit, from all of those lives he's ruined, both as a TERRIBLE teacher, AND a Death Eater!
Cost for benefit, Snape is an extremely poor investment. And a villain.