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
Sorry to disappoint, but Harry doesn't always get what he plans. I didn't mean to give a false impression, but the plot's not done twisting on itself.
I I I
"This is a bad plan," Harry groused aloud to himself.
"No, it isn't. Don't be so hard on yourself, Harry. I think it's wonderful."
The boy looked over to catch a glimpse of Hermione, who'd spoken. She was roughly two hundred yards away, flying in formation with him, taking the left flank while Luna took his right. The three were in their fey forms because of Luna's discovery that their senses were keener and sharper in it. All three were mounted on dragons, and far enough away from the main group so that nobody saw their changes. He had taken the Chinese Fireball, Luna was riding the Swedish Short-Snout, while Hermione was on the Antipodean Opaleye.
The trio of young dragonriders were flying higher than, and slightly behind, the long troupe of Hogwarts carriages drawn through the sky by winged horses, positioned there as a reaction force so they could bring down their fiery mounts in a spear of flaming breath on any potential attackers. Broom mounted wizards provided close support, darting in and among the carriages, and sometimes taking messages back and forth between occupants.
There were even a handful of adult witches and wizards riding on top of the carriages, in the drivers' seats which were usually unoccupied, there in case a few spells were needed to drive off any attackers. Dusk had set, and lights within those carriages glittered, while occasional snatches of conversations or the clink of tableware and glasses showed they were generally having a high time, feeling this an adventure now they felt they were out of danger.
A low fog had even developed, shielding them from view by the ground.
"I have to agree with Hermione, Harry. The formation you've thought up is wonderful, and I am very impressed with how fast you worked this out." Luna added her voice in praise.
They could hear each other in spite of the wind and distance because of charms he'd cast before leaving the ground - and wished he'd done for all of the broom riders and carriage drivers as well. But it had been alast minute addition thought up right as these last three were taking off.
His mind had been too busy with other details to think of it earlier.
"For a flying column carrying mostly passengers, it's alright," he admitted."But this was the wrong approach to start with. None of these people are combatants. I may have positioned them right, but none of them could stop a determined attacker. It's like a perfect US football formation filled up with nine year olds faced up against professional players. No matter that I've put everyone in the best slots to use them, none of them stand a chance. All of the aurors and professional combat types went with Albus. I don't know that we have ten people among everyone we've got here who can throw a decent shield and a stunner. Can you two?"
He got an embarrassed silence by way of answer.
"That's our problem," he complained. "A formation that works for a battalion of tanks isn't going to help a bunch of delivery trucks going up against tanks. This was the wrong type of escape plan to use."
"We've got our dragons," Hermione tried to be encouraging.
"That are so small we had to cast featherweight charms on ourselves to ride them. Otherwise they couldn't bear our weight," he reminded. There was a reason he'd kept his broom stuffed in a newly transfigured leg sheath so he could keep it with him, rather than put one more rider out there on a broom. If their dragons fatigued, and someone fell off, he could rescue them - even if that someone was himself.
He sighed. "And they are young enough to not have a useful degree of the typical draconic spell resistance that makes the race so famous. Fully grown dragons take dozens of wizards to defeat, as they slew off spells like water off a duck's back. These? One determined auror could take them out."
"Well, what were we supposed to have done?" Hermione challenged. "You did a brilliant bit of organization and planning, Harry, especially given how very little time you had for pulling it off! It's not your fault you don't have combat teams to guard us with. You used what you had!"
"An appearance of strength is often as good as the strength itself,"Luna threw in a tentative bit of support on Hermione's side.
"That may be," he conceded. "I hope it is."
"Why are you so upset?" Hermione wanted to know.
"Because if I'd been using my brain we would've been there by now,"he beat himself up verbally. "Flying was the wrong decision. I made it after I'd already gotten on the track thinking of flying through the castle halls to rescue our people. What we should have done was go down to Hogsmead, floo everyone to the South of England, and taken ferries or the chunnel across to France! One more trip by floo and we all would've been in bed at Beauxbatons by now!"
By now he'd reach full tirade. "It all comes down to TIME! Thestrals scarcely travel much faster than the Hogwarts train, and that takes eight hours to go from London to Hogwarts. That's more than enough time for people to notice we are missing, find the carriages are too, put them both together and start searching for us. A simple 'Point Me' charm tells them where we are, and then they've got shops full of brooms and all the aurors in England to bring us down! Brooms are at least twice as fast as horses, so they'll be able to floo ahead of us, fly up, catch us and capture us. I wasn't thinking!"
Both girls were silent for a time.
"Is there any way to fix the problem?" Hermione asked at last.
"None that I can think of, and I've been wracking my brain for hours now," he admitted rather sadly. "Halting this column once it got started would've been worse than letting it continue. The moment we were clear of Hogwarts there was no safe place to land so large and obviously magical a group. And, as a great general once said: A good plan implemented now is far superior to a perfect plan too late. And we had to get out of there as fast as we could, because we had no idea when Dumbles or any of his cronies were returning."
"We'll be across the Channel in another hour," Luna declared. "If they are clever enough to do as you say, they are running out of time to do so."
"And we can rest our mounts on the other side," soft-hearted Hermione reassured, and he could somehow picture her patting her dragon on its flank or shoulder. "Poor dears aren't used to long flights like this."
I I I
About the only thing good about it was that it got caught as criminal.
The aurors had not been thinking on their own, nor had Albus been available to direct them most of the time. So it was some while after putting down the revolt that he came back from doing necessary business at the Ministry and down out of his office, and noted the school was suspiciously silent.
The aurors that had been sent to Hogwarts had been told to make sure that everyone there got Obliviated, then to move on to doing the same to the rest of England. In no part of their orders were they told to report that no people had been there to Obliviate, so they'd just moved on.
But as he came down Albus couldn't help noticing that his school had neither faculty nor students. It had been too much to hope for that he wouldn't notice at all, or that he wouldn't notify the aurors who were still under his compulsions.
However, it had been his bad luck to have been busy so long that he could not retrieve them without a major effort.
What Dumbledore's bad luck had granted them was a delay, enough delay so that the train of flying carriages were over central France by the time he appeared with every British auror in tow, having followed exactly the plan Harry wished he'd used. The first those in the air knew what was going on, their horses had diverted toward the ground and no one could get them back on course.
The Headmaster of Hogwarts had grand authority of things belonging to the castle, and that extended to trained service animals who worked under charms to ensure their obedience.
The Thestrals brought those carriages down in the midst of Britain's entire auror force, with Obliviators standing by. Those on brooms were brought down by more aurors on brooms.
"All we're going to do is WATCH?!?" Hermione shrieked from their high altitude holding pattern.
Harry was watching this mess through a field glass. "They have every auror in England down there, Hermione. Merlin himself couldn't stand against that force; not alone. If they all cast tickling charms and three quarters of them missed they could still blow through the strongest shield I can raise. And don't forget, they've got Dumbledore there in person. He's one of the few I'd say could face a full-grown mature dragon, which none of us have got."
She watched, sickened, as a Ravenclaw Quidditch player dodged left when he should have dodged right, or just plain run away as some had done, and the spell that hit him flung him off his broom. She couldn't tell if his fall had been arrested or not.
"Can I borrow your telescope, Harry?" Luna requested.
"It's called a field glass, and there is one in your safari equipment,"he told her, still watching the swarm of aurors do battle with students below.
"Why would you want to watch that... that.. slaughter!!" Hermione made a face.
"Because it is happening on the French Minister of Magic's lawn," Luna told her firmly, pulling out her spyglass. "And by the looks of all the horrified people gazing out of his windows on this, I'd say he'd been having a party."
Hermione started scrambling for her own field glass.
"Oh, this isn't going to end well," Harry surmised.
"What?!" Hermione desperately wanted her glass to get a closer look.
"Well, two things," he answered. "The French aren't going to be able to bring in enough aurors to stop Albus from making his escape with all those newly captured and Obliviated students and their parents."
"How can you tell? They've got to have an emergency alarm or something, right?" she found her glass, but in her haste it got an edge caught on a bunch of live capture animal traps and it was tough working it out.
"Not to bring all of them in one place. That'd cause more problems than it would fix most of the time, they are spread out for a reason: to provide coverage and control crime. And less than all wouldn't be enough because the British concentrated here could overpower them. They've got enough men under arms down there to qualify as an invasion army. But that only brings up the second reason why they won't be able to stop this," Harry quipped.
"What is that?" By this time Hermione had her telescope up to her eye and was looking through it, wishing she could make sense of the chaos below the way it seemed Harry could.
Luna answered for him. "Because security for international affairs is always tricky, and it looks like the French Minister was having a dinner party for the International Confederation of Wizards representatives. The men they have on hand could do nothing against Dumbledore's force, and a rush of new French reinforcements would alarm all of the independent security details and grant France a black eye almost as bad as Dumbledore is giving himself."
"Oh." Hermione grunted, seeing diplomats surrounded by bodyguards hastily escaping through floos in the mansion. "No, that can't end well."
"More unlucky for Dumbledore even than letting us get away, I think,"Luna smirked. "Having gotten caught like this."
Harry smiled. "C'mon, let's get back to Hogwarts. We'll land, and I'll hand over our transfer paper to the French Minister, or whichever of his staff I can talk to, proving that Dumbledore just kidnapped a few hundred students enrolled at Beauxbatons. Then we'll take a floo trip or two ourselves. We'll shrink our dragons. But there's something back at Hogwarts that Ijust have to do!"
Such was the strength of his grin the two girls followed him without question.
I I I
"I can't believe you were so careless!" Snape hissed, following Dumbledore into the halls of Hogwarts as the aurors behind them sorted everything out with restoring the faculty, kids and parents to where they ought to be.
"Sadly, carelessness had nothing to do with it, Severus."
The condescending tone of that reply did not go over well with the Potions Master. "So you CHOSE to commit an act of war in front of the eyes of the International Confederation?" Snape sneered, disbelieving.
"I chose to commit a risky venture." Dumbledore returned in a less patient tone, getting frustrated with his servant's bile. "Sadly, one of the effects of malaclaw venom is to cloud judgment. One cannot suffer unfortunate affairs if one takes no risks, after all."
In spite of the dread nature of this emergency, the twinkling was back full force, as was the grandfatherly smile.
"Bah!" Snape sneered. "If..."
"Severus," the Headmaster cut him off. "As powerful as it is, this venom can only exploit chances that exist. You cannot suffer a heart attack if you are not at risk, for example. For another, you could not get pregnant if you are not a woman. Nor could you lose a bet you never made. The luck can only exploit random chance when there is some degree of randomness involved!"
Dumbledore waved to indicate the stone halls around them. "This castle, for example. It's wards notify me promptly when there is violence or panic in its halls, most especially that caused by uninvited strangers. There is no degree of chance there. I was aware of it the moment you revived me this morning. Similarly, the wards are ancient, and have not been used to stop an invasion in a very long time. Their secrets have been very well kept, with particulars modified by every headmaster, so asking for someone to be on their guard against what they could not have known about was impossible. There was no random chance there. The invaders had no chance at all. What surprises me was that my luck was bad enough putting down the insurrection took entire minutes, when it should have been over in mere seconds. It took a hundred times as long as it should've - a powerful perversion of luck indeed!"
They turned a corner together. "I have made sure for many decades that I had sole control of the wards over the Ministry for the same reason Ihave here - security, the ability to overcome my foes by force when needed. And there as here, there was no amount of luck involved. Once more I reiterate, Severus: it is only a skewing of probability. Not the most powerful dosage of Liquid Luck could cause gold to materialize out of the sky and fall into your pockets. But if there was a chance someone might spill some coins on the street before you, they likely would. Where there is no chance of something happening, not all the luck in the world, good or bad, will cause it to."
"And yet you nearly lost the vote there," Snape sneered. He was good at it.
"A remarkable turn of fate," Dumbledore agreed. "When you consider that the last vote to remove a Wizengamot Head took five days, and the record on the fastest such vote ever was a full nine hours. It was amazing that in the span of one half hour they had come so close, when over half the offices necessary to hold or even propose such a vote are held solely by myself. It took an amazing number of coincidences, large numbers of people suddenly recalling obscure codes and rulings - in one case a man who'd glanced over an old law book, then not thought of its contents for one hundred years, had it suddenly spring to mind in time to foil one of my protections. And some of the others recalling work-arounds to bypass my otherwise necessary offices were no less remarkable. No, I find myself astonished most of all by the power of this bad luck in how suddenly and completely our government was working efficiently at last - when I have striven for years to ensure that it could not function without me at all. And my delay in reaching those halls was also entirely a product of bad luck. There ought to have been no delay at all."
"Yet you conduct war operations on the French Minister's lawn," the oily professor snapped in biting tones.
"As I said, the venom inspires poor judgment to have opportunities to exploit. I must say, in my almost two hundred years of life I have conducted over a thousand similar operations and never been caught. The scale of this one was unusual and the consequences regrettable, but a complete coverup would've been impossible had most of our students and staff escaped. So I had to take a risk, and with my current luck the results went bad. Nothing more."
"When bad, he says." Snape shook his head, disbelieving.
"Severus!" Dumbledore rebuked him sharply. "I will not have you needling me like I was one of your students! I took a calculated risk on measured odds, in a field I am quite familiar with. I daresay you would not have done half so well had it been YOU saddled with the operation, with luck so bad!"
"And I fail to see, Headmaster, how it could be any worse!"
After Snape had screamed and writhed for several seconds, Dumbledore released the spell and asked calmly, "I asked you to keep a civil tongue in your head, and you refused me. Will you do better this time?"
Spasming badly on the floor, blood filling and spilling from his mouth, Snape nodded fearfully. Voldemort's pain curses had nothing on Dumbledore's.
"Good," back was the grandfatherly tone and smile. "In my defense, Severus, it was an easy mistake to make. I located our fugitives, plotted their course and speed, consulted maps and brought them down in a low population zone in an area clear of buildings, all on very short notice. The operation itself went splendidly, recapturing close enough to all of our wayward staff and students to allow us to pretend those no longer with us left for innocent reasons. But the French government is no more in the habit than ours of marking on maps given out to foreigners, 'our head honcho lives here'. Having never traveled there by anything but floo I did not mark the location either. I saw an open lawn ideal for our operations, assumed it to be a park, and that any muggle witnesses could be easily Obliviated. As I said, I've done countless similar operations. My luck on this one has just been singularly foul."
Having turned a handkerchief red spitting blood out of his mouth, Severus once more resumed walking alongside the Headmaster, although at a reduced pace. He chose his words carefully. "I'm sorry, Headmaster. Can anything be done to minimize the damage?"
"Of course, Severus! Of course." Dumbledore was almost laughing. "One of the oldest strategies in government: provide a scapegoat and blame him!I will provide you with an evening off and the correct artifacts, and you will revive Lord Voldemort. Then I will send a letter of apology to all of the ICW Heads that the attack was done by him, layered with a subtle Confundus Charm so they will believe that to be true in spite of being eyewitnesses otherwise."
Leery now of disagreeing too openly, Snape asked, "What of the Dark Lord? Once he's returned, will he not cause complications?"
"Better the enemy you know, Severus. Voldemort has always been more tool than threat to me, despite his intentions otherwise. I can contain him. I even find him useful, particularly when I need a distraction to focus attention elsewhere." The old man smiled winningly.
The pair then turned another corner and started down what was to have been a set of stairs on their way to the dungeons, only for the supports to give out under their weight, turning it into a slide. The landing below turned out to have been a painted dropcloth made to resemble floor, but instead covered up the mouth to a large muggle device.
An industrial sized plastic shredder, to be precise, one used in recycling, and whose toothed gears were able to grind to fine powder such hard plastics as used in lawn furniture and other durable goods.
Bone proved no obstacle to those toothed gears, once magic activated them the instant two human bodies fell into the hopper. Snape and Dumbledore got sprayed into the holding tanks as a fine, red, muddy mist.
Once spells on the tank registered the gears had stopped moving, having run out of material to pulverize, it automatically flushed its contents into a large bag, which sealed and shrank itself magically. Then the owl that had been waiting nearby took this parcel and delivered it to a large commercial fish hatchery where it got added to blood and offal shipped in by slaughterhouses, to be mixed with other ingredients, baked and sterilized, turned into feed, and fed to the fishes that were being raised in the large pools there.
Having gotten its only approved targets, the industrial shredder also shrank, and got shipped by owl back to the scrap heap on which it had been found, having worn out its engine, and teeth no longer sharp enough to be efficient.
However, when a small force of playing card people tried to force their way into the secret chamber containing their horcruxes, the attack had to be called off when the first two through evaporated going under the door.
A much more modern anti-vermin ward apparently protected the horcrux room from the entry of small magical creatures.
I I I
Madam Pince was in the library, having recently been returned and forcefully Obliviated. She'd just glanced at a calender and was wondering where the day had gone. None of the work she'd planned to get done that day had happened, and books due that morning had not been returned...
As quick as that her train of thought ground to a halt. Her eyes flashed gold, then red, and the woman started off like a sleepwalker, moving purposefully but not thinking about what she was doing, her actions programmed.
Wards set for information can be programmed with responses for when they notice certain things, like the Headmaster and his pet dark wizard both dead at the same time, so they could no longer revive each other.
Those responses can be to activate a sleeper agent that had been prepared ahead of time with coercions and compulsions, along with mind magics, into doing something in response to what those wards detected.
The Hogwarts librarian was one of many such agents, unaware she had been prepared by Albus to take over the revival rituals for himself and Snape if they both fell dead - Sleepwalking spells can be programmed for more than just exercise, and sleep can be induced through spells, while suggestions can be layered into a person via the mind arts to activate only during a certain kind of sleep caused by a certain kind of spell, cast only on the wards noting that two particular people were both dead at the same time.
Poor Madam Pince was not even aware she'd been programmed. Nor was she the only one, just the one that came up on that rotation.
The Hogwarts librarian entered a certain chamber and made a certain sign. Wards confirmed her to be the one sent for, that both principles it cared for were still dead, and that the woman was still unaware and under compulsion.
Were any of those not true, or were she not alone, the woman would've been atomized. As it was, her program got updated, implanted with sensitive data that had not been in her head before then, so as not to risk even the most skilled search being able to find it out. That information allowed her passage through the wards guarding the soul chamber, wards that updated as soon as she'd passed so the next one trying to use those codes would be obliterated.
Once there she followed the ritual to embody the two men exactly as it had been programmed within her.
Lacking bodies to revive, she began reaching into canopic jars where both men had previously stored dried and powdered blood of theirs, then skin samples out of the next bottles, hair and finally bone, all carefully stored in this room beforehand against this kind of need.
It was a longer and more involved ritual, lacking bodies, but could still be done. There were even wax simulacra, already placed there for this purpose. Dumbledore had spared no effort or expense to make sure this worked.
Unfortunately for Albus, they'd run out of mandrake earlier that day, and it was rather more critical for this extended ritual than for the one involving bodies. Still, sleepwalkers will do what they are told to do, even if that is to measure out a few cups worth of a substance from an empty jug. Being sleepwalkers, they just go through the motions as though it had been full.
Had Snape been there, he would've compensated as best he could. A little more of this, a touch of that, and so on.
But, for lack of a nail a horseshoe was lost, and all that.
I I I
Dumbledore is a PLANNING villain! He is an information specialist. Thinking ahead, plotting things through and preparing for contingencies is his schtick!He spends countless hours working plans over and plugging up holes. He has very thoroughly thought through such possible events as, "What if Severus and I both die at the same time?" and plotted reactions and contingencies to deal with them. And not just once, but Several Layers Deep!!
And, until very recently, he had portraits of countless previous headmasters to bounce ideas off of and refine all of his plans, including asking them,"How would you break this?" and then acting to counter that before it could even happen. And he had both the sneaky, the methodical, and the bold advising him, as well as geniuses to help him work out proper responses.
Note that even though malaclaw venom is NEVER used in the show, he STILL had plenty of antidote to it, on hand, waiting to be used!
Such things as control of the magical world have so many variables that it is possible to outflank him a bit, catch him off guard, or otherwise sink a few of his plans. It's too big a field to cover everything in detail all at once, so he can take losses there in spite of his great degree of control.
However, on so simple a matter as making sure the horcruxes get used when they need to be used... there aren't many points he hasn't got covered. All of the staff have gotten subliminal programming to help him there, for one, because he's had the time and opportunity and paranoia to set that up.
Did no one ever wonder why Old Mad Eye was his best friend?