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 busied himself in the Department of Mysteries, hurrying about his tasks there in much the same way Hermione had in the Headmaster's office, and for most of those same reasons - he didn't want to be caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
He went to the room dealing with time and stole every Time Turner they had there, as well as all of the collected fairy wings and powder used to fashion special use ones, replacements, or to make repairs.
Dumbledore had his fingers in this place, and Harry didn't want to have to deal with a time-traveling Headmaster. One of him was bad enough. Come to think of it, if he was loaning any of these out to students, it was a certainty that Dumbledore had his own set. But that didn't matter. Denying an enemy any resource at all (even if it was only denying him the ability to expand his operations, perhaps handing out more of these to his followers)was always a good idea.
Harry was as yet unaware that Dumbledore's own personal time turner and his spare would be destroyed later that day by Hermione. But that just made it ever so clear and obvious why clearing out the Department of Mysteries'stock of those before had been a good idea.
Always deny your enemy resupply when you can, even if you don't know if or when you can knock out his actual supplies. Because sometimes you get lucky (or your enemy gets unlucky) and he gets trapped without and starts losing options. So it's just a good policy to have.
The wards in this place were bad enough it would take Harry days to disable them all, days he did not have. So he couldn't cause any sort of widescale disruption or damage, not without substantial prep time in advance, at any rate. So maybe if he was planning to stage an ambush down here he could do that, but for this operation that was strictly a no-no.
He wanted to be quick in and quick out, no loitering, and since he didn't want to be stuck extracting himself from an automatic lockdown, that meant no burning the place down behind him.
He could, however, rescue all of their prisoners, letting them go and pointing them to an international floo they could escape from. The Ministry of Magic was THE government building for magical England, and such a floo existed for political reasons, transporting ambassadors and such. They'd drop into hefty security on the other side, so the dangerous ones would get contained, while the rest would probably be used as political ammunition against the magical UK, as in, "Look at what nasty stuff you've been up to! Look! We have WITNESSES! Now, don't you want to grant us favors to stay quiet about it?"
Political nightmares for Dumbledore's power base were ALWAYS a good idea!
Even if all that cost him was political capital, that was still an excellent move in the right direction, as it gave him less weight to throw around later, on other issues that might be important to him. Things like, oh, say, extraditing Harry once he'd fled to another country.
The boy couldn't bring himself to believe that Dumbles wouldn't try to get him back by any and all means at his disposal, from declaring him a 'strategic national asset' to a wanted criminal, or both at once, who knew?
Staying in the lap of that beast was also tantamount to suicide, so he'd be forced to make an attempt to escape to another country sooner or later.
Naturally, he favored sooner.
Saving prisoners costs a lot of time, and this place was warded against the use of time turners, so it wouldn't be a good idea to have multiple copies of himself walking around down there, even if he'd left the place to create them. So Harry had to go before he could work any more deviltry on that department than snagging a few large books and a certain prophecy.
He used a Ministry owl to send the thing to the Daily Prophet, and another of those Ministry owls to run an ad in that paper for Snape's Magical Pimping Service, with polyjuice prices and a complete listing of available hairs, just to see if that couldn't stir up some trouble for the Greasy Haired Git.
Odd, but in that moment when he'd only just sent that owl off to advertise Snape's wares, Harry felt like the true son of a Marauder for the first time in his very young life.
Because THAT was a prank! One worthy of his father and his friends.
Enough time had passed that offices and things were now opening. One of the last things Future-Hermione had told him before he'd left the sanctuary where the future selves were conversing, was that she'd dosed Dumbledore's tea with malaclaw venom, and he'd drunk it around three-thirty.
So, that was the time this Harry was going to make a push for various legal measures he'd already put into motion before, including his emancipation.
Dumbledore had used his various positions of authority to outright ban Harry from becoming an emancipated minor. The only way to overturn that was a full vote of the Wizengamot, so Harry had decided to call for one.
Still, he had five hours between ten (the time the Ministry really got moving) and three, when he'd start to try to call for a vote, counting on a half hour delay, at minimum, before thing got started moving. He went to the office which sent out meeting notices to Wizengamot members to send out that call, snagging the one for Dumbledore to hand-deliver himself, say about evening-ish, long after the actual vote had passed.
Then it was off to the bank.
Harry watched with a satisfied smile as all of the gold under his control was removed from Gringotts. The goblins in general and one goblin in particular had taken advantage of their ability to limit access to gold during the war. Armies may march on their stomachs but wars were won and lost by gold. More gold meant more medicine, more food, more weapons. Less meant death. After all, winning a war takes almost everything you have, while losing takes it all.
This was but the opening salvo of a barrage, where Harry intended to move all of his family holdings out of country. There were even devices, expensive ones to be sure, but still devices that allowed one to move homes, farms and other landed property intact from place to place. He intended to use them.
After all, why go only to leave all of your belongings behind? That made you a refugee, and easy prey to powerful types like Dumbledore, the Ministry, or anyone else for that matter.
Harry spent some hours getting his network of safehouses established, just in case he was forced to return to this country, or had to run operations there. It was useful to leave some options open behind yourself, after all.
For the most part he used muggle means, along with loads of conjured cash, to buy warehouses or abandoned properties, then put them all under Fidelius.
For that matter, he went back to that safari shop and got himself asecond complete set of gear, then another two sets for each girl, packed them all into their own magically expanded trunks, stuffed each with other useful supplies like well-preserved potion ingredients, then put each 'emergency trunk' in a locket on a necklace - one such necklace for himself and each girl.
Harry then put Fidelius on each one, and a wrist holster for a backup wand, also under Fidelius. Getting a used wand to serve as a backup was usually no problem. Obtaining a GOOD one, on the other hand, was more difficult and time consuming. Luckily, he already had Voldemort's wand, reclaimed from Pettigrew, to serve him in that capacity. And, while he was thinking of it, Harry used Voldemort's wand to remove all of the underage tracking charms, both Ministry and Dumbledore's, from his holly and phoenix feather wand. But instead of outright canceling those detection and limitation spells on his original wand, he moved them to a muggle pencil he'd picked up somewhere.
Dumbledore wanted to know where he was and what he was doing at all times? Fine. He could track the pencil. Harry could leave it behind whenever he wanted to go do something sneaky, like now.
But, right at that very moment, Harry had a wizengamot vote to attend.
I I I
The Office of the Headmaster burned.
Dumbledore staggered under the force of the loss. The portraits of previous headmasters! All of the wisdom and experience of the ages, Gone! No more would some of the most brilliant and able leaders of the past several hundred years be on call to aid him, advising on every issue! That was tragic in a way the deaths of every student under his care would NOT be!
The books were no loss. Every Christmas or birthday, every time someone gave him presents, they always seemed to think he needed books. The ones on display in his office were those books. It often served him several times to put them there, once when givers saw them on display presumably where he used them, and once when he lent them out, letting those who received them think they were getting some measure of trust with his treasures, when actually he most often had several copies, and those weren't his real treasured books in any case.
No, the library in his office had been all for show, regardless of the rarity or value of those tomes. He had much better secreted away in a private library no one ever saw. The loss of the displayed tomes was no great loss at all.
The knowledge of those previous headmasters and headmistresses, however, was keenly felt, and irreplaceable. Often their wisdom had never been truly captured in any tome; and it would not be the same in any case, if it were!
No, his cabinet, his circle of advisors, and truly the only ones to whom he had any degree of trust anymore (due mostly to their oaths to faithfully serve the interests of the school's headmaster - meaning himself) were GONE!
Snape could've been fed his own horcrux and thrust into the fiery heart of a volcanic mountain, or McGonagall sacrificed by Aztec tribesmen on the head table of the Great Hall at lunchtime before the entire school full of witnesses and not cost him as great a grief! Not nearly so!
In fact, if it would've regained him even so much as one such portrait, Albus would've gladly arranged both 'accidents' himself!
The Sorting Hat was no loss. Spells to do the actual Sorting were quite simple and he could easily create a counterfeit. No one would notice. The priceless artifact had been endowed with other powers, it was true, and had been a wonderful resource in its time, instructing him about control of the wards and powers that were his as Headmaster, before it clammed up on him.
He could program a simplified replacement with songs the original used over the last hundred years, and no one but him would know it was recycling them, as no one else had been at school that long.
He could grant this suitable replacement hat a personality more amenable to his whims, and willing to share with him all the data it discovered while sitting on students heads - something the original had always refused to do. So that, at least, would be a significant improvement. But a resource nowhere near as valuable as other great minds he used to bounce ideas off of!
Countless Slytherins had helped refine his plans. Ravenclaws offered their wisdom and intelligence. Gryffindors had been Devil's advocates to tell him how they might have opposed his whims, and thus anticipate any resistance before it happened, while Hufflepuffs had told him how to coach his plans in terms to seem more friendly and make others like them.
No, there was no substitute for those great minds aiding him willingly, unable to act against him due to their oaths. There simply was nothing to replace it!
Every Hufflepuff or Gryffindor headmaster or headmistress had been his drama coach, teaching him how to act so contrary to his natural inclinations as to be taken for a kindly grandfather and leader of Light. The potions only did so much, and primarily that was to blunt the negative aspects of his own character. His own natural urges went so counter to their advice that he'd needed constant support, and without those portraits teaching him how to constantly refine his act and correct for errors as they crept in he could lose his edge, and no longer be so convincing!
Such coaching required an intimate familiarity in detail as to the problem(his own evil), as well as a complete opposite personality in the one helping him to conceal it, which was something he was not going to find elsewhere. The former headmasters and headmistress of Hogwarts had been almost uniquely situated to provide him both. While he had nominal control of the rest of the paintings of the castle, it did not run as deep.
He simply could not trust any other paintings enough to hang in his office, learning his every secret, and granting him that sort of advice!
Dumbledore had not always been as much of a monster as he was today. In his youth he had not been able to afford it, not yet being above suspicion and holding so much authority as to be effectively above the law. However, in the intervening years he'd allowed himself to yield to his own desires so greatly that he could not so much as recall the methods he had used in his youth, nor the limits he had once held himself to, being forced to conceal his own lust for power behind his publicly displayed merits.
However, for so long he'd been able to rely on the excellent advice of former headmasters that he had grown dependent on it. It was his crutch, and now moving along without it seemed an unconquerable obstacle. He knew he could and would recover, but it would take him precious time and labor, effort he'd much rather spend collecting information and controlling the world would now have to be redirected into rediscovering his old habits to shield his behavior on his own, without that excellent coaching and advice.
While sorrowing over this loss, grieving for the advantage it cost him, Albus moved on to the subject of Trelawney - the true object of this raid.
Lifting a well-charmed pair of thoroughly tracked glasses from a fresh pile of small, burned bones, the Headmaster had time to grieve on this loss. By his estimation, the Fingerlickers had broken into his office, killed Trelawney and transfigured her body into that of a small chicken as an insult to him.
Dumbledore was unaware of just how bad his luck was, that his House Elves had elected to serve him a whole roast chicken that night, or that they had unaccountably delivered it early... right about the time Hermione was leaving his office, in point of fact, and by strange, unlucky coincidence the meal had landed under the pile of Trelawney's clothes as the escaping Miss Granger'd tossed them and her glasses aside to evade the tracking charms on them.
Such a coincidence required spectacularly bad luck, but the Headmaster was not as yet aware of that problem and too wrapped up in the difficulties this created to consider it.
Truly, his seer was irreplaceable.
There were very few gifted oracles in the world, and while they could not tell their own futures, they had remarkable insight into the status of the others of their rather limited sorority. For years they had been hatching schemes to get Trelawney from him. In fact, it was a regular part of their interviews together for him to question Trelawney about how to foil her sister oracles in their plots to save her from him. He'd found endless amusement in that, using Trelawney's powers against herself to keep her servile to him.
But regardless, now she was lost, and every other notable figure in the world of Divination would be avoiding him like a plague of festering boils - and there were many that would actually prefer the boils.
So, no. They were on guard against him, HAD been on guard against him, and would remain so. While he had been successful in limiting their influence and tarnishing the name of Divination until no one of any authority listened to those old crones, Dumbledore would not have an oracle to call his own again.
They all hated him too deeply for that to happen.
Attempting to control the damage, Dumbledore stumbled out of doors until he came around to Hagrid's cabin, which struck him as an odd place to hide his stolen devices (which had multiple security charms on them to prevent theft, including anti-shrinking and anti-tranfiguration charms to prevent an easy, light fingered escape) until he came around back and saw the niffler cage, a pen full of beasts who, even then, were fighting over the tattered, broken scraps of the last of his sensitive devices.
Albus was struck poignantly by this final touch, equal parts tragic and trivial. He'd relied on those silver devices to monitor everything that needed keeping track of outside of Hogwarts halls that was not worthy of Trelawney's predictions. They were his buffer against all sorts of unpredictable goings on. An oracle cannot monitor everything, and there were notable figures in politics that no longer had school-age children, so were far less likely to be openly discussed within his well-spied halls.
His silver instruments had filled the gap between what he learned from Hogwarts and what was worthy of spending an oracle's powers on.
Some, such as the monitoring charms on Harry, would be trivial to replace as the boy was even now attending Hogwarts. Creating new magical linkages to other figures of importance, however, would range from only moderately difficult to downright impossible, as he had to have a moment's unrestricted access to the person to be monitored to collect blood samples and cast the needed spells. That was hardly something one could do to a sitting Minister of Magic. Oh, well, in Fudge's case he could, as the nitwit would never suspect anything after a memory modification or Obliviate. The blowhard never had before. The Head of Magical Law Enforcement, on the other hand, as well as several aurors... they fell in the more difficult range.
Voldemort, however, was currently impossible to place new tracking charms on. That, as well as his present inability to track the Flamels to see if they really died (they hadn't yet, and he strongly suspected they were racing to make another stone to replace the one he'd stolen from them, then claimed to have destroyed), were more worrisome. Having key figures like that out of his benign, all-seeing view could lead to all sorts of complications.
Nevertheless, even for the easy monitors, getting new silver instruments constructed, then tying them to appropriate targets, would take months. MONTHS! All that while precious information would be lost!
Others? He'd been decades visiting notable figures around the world, and in some cases never had found opportunities to place them under monitoring in this way. Now that the bulk of his instruments had been destroyed, taking their vital linkages with them, he'd been set back almost a hundred years.
Still, he was a far more notable figure himself than he had been back then. He could, and would, get an agent to introduce some controversial bit of legislation, then use his position as Head of the International Confederation of Wizards to go around politicking, meeting privately with other notable figures in order to 'influence their votes', and use that opportunity to trap them once again under his watchful eye.
He'd had to do the same thing on a regular basis to catch new figures into his fold as they entered the realm of politics, after all.
Still, holes had been torn in his net and that irked him something dreadful, as even if most of them could be fixed, some couldn't. And while he was making repairs he was learning less than he really wanted to.
Perhaps the scariest thing of all about the dreadful losses the Headmaster had been taking of late, was that he could absorb them all without the least twinge of control lost over the magical world. He'd had his fingers so deep in so many pies that not even these catastrophes could budge him. All that would be required was a little time and he'd be as on top of his game as before, save only for the loss of Trelawney.
Everything else would soon be replaced with equal or even better sources.
I I I
A dozen man-sized playing cards with human arms and legs and faces leapt up off the ground they had perfectly molded themselves against to hold very real and deadly looking spears facing in toward their prisoner.
"Hello, Mister Black," Luna said, smiling softly with her back to him.
"Something about this feels so wrong," Sirius Black answered, speaking out from the bars of a cage on which hung a 'distinctly not a trap' sign. But the smell of fried chicken had drawn his dog form all the way from Hogsmead.
Luna had carried an extra bucket with her that morning, and played solitaire until she won a game, then bet a galleon on a coin toss to make certain the bad luck had gone before putting her plans into motion.
But an abandoned picnic lunch on a table all spread out, inside a disillusioned cage charmed so no matter which way you approached, the entrance would always face you...
... and one starving fugitive in the area who had been living on rats.
The 'distinctly not a trap' sign on the cage as it got revealed was going a bit too far, though. That was pranking below the belt, that was!
Luna spun around, seated in a muggle leather office chair that had been just as invisible as she'd been up until a moment ago, idly petting Harry's pet kneazel Gus, whom she had charmed white for this occasion. "So, Mister Black..."
Sirius felt his eyes focus on the kneazel, knowing about those cat's uncanny dislike of unsavory people. That it was sitting in her lap allowing itself to be petted spoke volumes about his captor. Of course, there was also the rather disturbing fact that cat was GRINNING at him!
Cat faces couldn't make that expression, could they?
One of the playing-card men poked his wicked sharp spear a bit too close and the fugitive raised his hands in a placating gesture. "Uh, I can explain..."
Luna rose from her seat, and still holding and petting the cat, approached him. "At last you come before us, Your Blackness. I knew the temptation charm on the fried chicken would draw a starving fugitive..."
"Really, I'm innocent! I was framed!"
Luna pouted. "Oh, pooh! You keep interrupting my Evil Monologue (TM). How am I supposed to get through this if you keep causing me to forget my lines? Now where was I?"
The little blonde pulled a sheaf of papers out of her pocket and began to consult them.
"You'd scripted this out?" Sirius asked, amazed and, in spite of himself, a little impressed - both that she'd been that confident of catching him and... well, it brought back old memories. This was something like the Marauders would do, back in the old days.
"Uh huh," Luna bobbed her head cutely, now juggling papers so she did not drop Harry's cat.
In one smooth motion she'd produced Colin's camera and snapped a photo of Sirius hanging on the inside of his cage bars right underneath the 'distinctly not a trap' sign.
Sirius' face paled. "That is so like something James would do," he whispered, as if to himself. "Even down to recording evidence of his triumph. He kept a journal of that stuff, and I've never found it."
"Probably in his family vaults," Luna demurely agreed. Her parents had been to school during the Marauding Era too, after all.
"No, I looked there, polyjuiced as James. He never could keep a password secret from me," Sirius kept mumbling. "And I knew where to find his key."
"You also knew where to find Amelia Bones' knickers, but that doesn't mean you ever got them," Luna supplied helpfully.
"Oh, no, I did! That was in our first year," Sirius reminisced. "Lucius bet me that I couldn't, so I did. I told him a brave tale about secret passageways that bypassed the girls' stairs, but actually I knew where elves did the laundry and got them from there."
"So there aren't secret passages to bypass the girls dorm alarms?" Luna blinked, sounding disappointed. Waving her hand, she signaled the playing-card men to stop poking him and ship their spears to port arms.
"Oh, of course there are! We found those in third year, but by then no one would bet me that I couldn't nab a pair of any girl's panties."Sirius quickly corrected. "Kind of took the fun out of it, really."
"Ah, but there is a perfect defense - don't own any," Luna nodded sagely.
"Nope," Sirius disagreed, shaking his head. "Some girls tried that. You only have to give her a package as a present, then steal them back again after she wears them or throws them away. That still qualifies. They were hers, however briefly. Lily got SOO enraged with James after he found that loophole." The man smiled fondly in remembrance.
The cat, Sirius noticed, had disappeared - all except for its grin, which hung suspended above the blonde girl's shoulder. A Cheshire Kneazel?No, that was impossible. Every wizard knew that Cheshire Cats didn't exist. But... then why was that disturbing grin hanging there?
"Speaking of boys and their stealing knickers from women who turn into the mothers for their children, I need you to formally engage me to Harry,"Luna changed the subject.
"Ah," Sirius smacked his lips delicately. "Has he stolen any of your knickers yet?"
"Have you stolen his?"
"Not at present. But I'm willing to give it a try."
"I don't know," Sirius temporized, slowly shaking his head. "We've something of a family tradition at stake here. Granted, it's only been going on asingle generation, but you've always got to start these things somewhere."
Luna blinked. "Aren't you oddly sane and rational, not to mention having a strong sense of humor, for someone just escaped from Azkaban?"
"Your joke got me back into my happy place, work with me here," the man waved a hand airily, dismissing her concerns. "Living in the past agrees with me, provided I can pretend the last dozen years didn't happen."
"Shouldn't be too hard," Luna quirked her lips. "Snape is also pretending they didn't happen, and that he is still a student at school standing up to bullies - ignoring the fact that he is now an authority figure being the bully."
"Oh, he always was," Sirius quipped. "A bully. He just wasn't a very good one. He'd start something, then we'd finish it, time after time, until it got to be a habit. He kept trying to rule the school and bully the new students, and we'd prove to them all what an ass he was. He never was able to stand us for that reason alone, and spent most of his school years plotting to get us expelled."
"He truly is living in the past." Luna blinked, astonished. "What you described is exactly the way he treats Harry."
"Which brings us back to Harry and your knickers," Sirius sat down at the table inside the cage and began filling up a plate of fried chicken."Why would I want to engage a perfectly good godson to someone like you, when I've hardly known you for five minutes?"
"Because it would be funny?" Luna ventured.
Sirius stopped moving. "Dang, but that's a hard argument to resist."
"You could try?"
"No, no. I couldn't." Sirius was shaking his head. "It's just too much. Here I am, weakened for want of food, talking about knickers, and the temptation to engage my godson is simply too much for me. You'll just have to accept that you'll be living with a starving fugitive in your basement who wants to attend all your meals... and heckle all of your romantic moments."
"That sounds like a match made in Heaven!" Luna beamed. To the odd look she got from the scraggly man, she replied, "Oh, but as a wedding present to dear Harry, I'm afraid that I'd have to give you to the Head of Magical Law Enforcement as a prank. Perhaps I could arrange to do it on a blind date?"
Sirius' jaw dropped, he was so impressed. Swallowing his mouthful of chicken, he said, "You put me on a date with the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, and get me out WITHOUT getting caught, and that'd be a prank worthy of the bride of a future Marauder!"
Reaching in past the playing-card men guards to stick her arm in through the bars, Luna swept off the invisibility cloak hiding Amelia Bones, who'd been bound and sitting at the same table, and in the same cage as Sirius.
"She sleeps rather soundly, and I got up early this morning," Luna supplied helpfully. "Of course, I was rather counting on her being unlucky enough to have a career shattering moment, sharing a picnic lunch date with Magical Britain's Most Wanted Criminal, to help pull this trap off. That way she'd be trapped in the awkward situation of either investigating the evidence that finds you innocent, or losing her job."
Sirius looked at her in awe. "Kid, when I sign those engagement papers, can we get her to be the witness? Please?"
I I I
No, Luna didn't kidnap Amelia herself. She was too unlucky for that. No, she had Harry use Bella to do that, and Bellatrix is EXACTLY the sort of person who can break into the home of the Head of Magical Law Enforcement during the wee hours and kidnap her.
Getting her not to kill/hurt/harm/maim her is a little more difficult, but can be done with sufficient instructions; something along the lines of "I need her alive and unspoiled" though not those words exactly.
Getting her not to let her victim know who her kidnapper really was adds another wrinkle, but is still within Bella's abilities. That chick is one seriously skilled and dangerous Death Eater! "You want this Ministry Lady to disappear from her house and wake up in another place without any idea how that happened? Fine. I can do that in ways that don't even require an Obliviate."
Oh, and getting Amelia to be unlucky enough to attract Sirius and be forced into a date with him is as simple as causing her to wear that cloak dipped in malaclaw venom.