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
"I am tired of being killed at some Dark Muggle's WHIMS, Severus!" APBW Dumbledore spat as he was hauling his misshapen body out of the cauldron.
"As am I, Headmaster. As am I."
Severus Snape did not look so good. One of his eyes had migrated up to his forehead, his ears hung too low and neither were even with the other, and his chin now looped up to a point that almost touched his now exceptionally long nose - the effect of being liquefied then brought back without mandrake had left him looking like a partially melted wax figure of a human.
Dumbledore, however, how not gotten off so easily. He'd already been through three failed resurrection attempts before this latest debacle, and the results on him were much worse.
The Headmaster was grossly humpbacked from where fallen beams had crushed him in the Prophet building. From the same source, half of his face had been crushed and never properly reformed, granting him a perpetual half leer and an uncontrollable trail of drool out of one corner of his mouth. The overall effect was quite gruesome, but made worse that during one of those failed attempts to revive him he'd lost fine motor control in one half of his body, leaving him to lurch and stumble about.
He also had that 'partially melted wax figure of a human' appearance. Among other flaws, his arms were different lengths from each other, as were his legs (and one of his knees faced to the side). Also, his beard had somehow migrated up off his chin and now covered his entire face, partially obscuring his eyes, one of which was smaller and didn't quite track with the other.
Stereotypes were very unfair, and for the most part inaccurate, but the common perception was still to view handsome people as good, and ugly people as bad, and while before Dumbledore had lived a life of regal good looks, now he could put Igor, famed servant of mad scientists, to shame.
Igor would probably be jealous.
Dumbledore no sooner lurched out of the cauldron and had taken up his wand than he first Obliviated Madam Pince and sent her on her way, then set about performing transfiguration on himself to correct most of the errors. Alas, it was only a temporary cure.
Using human transfiguration to correct the latest set of problems was at best a mediocre solution. Even if every detail could be gotten exactly right, which it couldn't do as humans were beings of infinite complexity, they were still only a 'Finite Incantium' from ringing bells at Notre Dame.
Even so, they would still be as badly misshapen as hags by the time they'd corrected all of the major structural faults of their current bodies. They'd be forced to claim some of their supply of previously stored hairs to charge polyjuice so it could take them back to resemble their previous forms for all of the fine details.
These were patches, good for the short term only. More permanent solutions would have to be sought later on. It would not do to have the Great Albus Dumbledore revert in public to less than his customary perfect good looks. Nor could he dwell in seclusion. He could not control the world as a hermit. Too many powerful office holders required the personal touch.
As Dumbledore drew out his wand, Snape stared, pointing at it with aknobby finger. "Isn't that the same wand you used before? Wasn't it ground up?"
The Headmaster smiled, an expression made grotesque by how badly it fit on his currently distorted features, and spoke as if instructing achild, "Strictly muggle methods of destruction cannot be used to permanently harm any of the great magical treasures, Severus. Only powerful magic will suffice. So yes, my wand is fine. I have a box here that summons it automatically when I am alive without it in my possession."
That spell had been cast with the Elder Wand itself, back when it still bowed to him as its true master.
Nodding, Snape accepted this, going to another box for yet another spare wand, having already lost count of how many of those he'd gone through himself lately and wishing he had something like the Headmaster's wand.
The Headmaster himself was rather disappointed in his wand's performance. The Elder Wand was an ancient artifact and unmatched in performance, but it only ever served one master at a time with its full potential. That master was whoever had defeated its last one, and Dumbledore had to admit that he had been defeated quite a number of times recently.
That made it all that much more important for him to go find and destroy this Colonel Sanders. For a muggle Dark Lord to be master of the most powerful wand in history was an outrage of the greatest magnitude!
I I I
The trio of students spun back another day.
"Unfortunately, we're going to have to stop doing this," Harry announced to his two companions.
"Why is that?" Luna looked at him, dreamily puzzled.
He shrugged. "It's no longer safe. There are supposedly no Time Turners left in England, and Dumbledore confiscated the ones he knew about. So not only are we going to set off alarms if we appear in more than one place where he can monitor us, but if he ever does note us being in two places at once, he is going to first: know that we shouldn't be, and second: want the tools we use to do it for himself. And since we don't want him time traveling out of some of the messes we've worked up for him, we don't dare get caught."
Hermione frowned at him. "Harry!" she admonished. "Don't think I've learned nothing from watching you plot since school started. The time meddling came about mostly because we need to keep Dumbles 'under fire', or else he would retake the initiative and destroy us, and that need hasn't gone away. It's just as much in force as before. Dumbledore has every resource at his command. We only have surprise. So it's vital to milk our initial window of opportunity for smacking him in the metaphorical nuts, then hitting him when he is down, over as long and as heavy a period as our skills allow!"
Harry pretended to wipe away a tear (it was of laughter) while Luna put her hand on his shoulder, congratulating, "You must be so proud!"
He went over to hug the Granger girl. "Oh, Hermione! I've been SUCH a bad influence on you! I couldn't be HAPPIER!!"
"Alright, alright." She patted his head as he pretended to cry into her shoulder.
Harry kissed her on the cheek, then withdrew to adopt a 'solemn, old wise guy' pose. "Ahh, Grasshopper. You have learned much! Now is time for next lesson, called 'Strike and Fade'. When facing superior opponent, is good to kick in nuts then smack when down. But when he wake he angry! Raging bear would destroy all opponent. So best defense: No Be There!"
He dropped the pose, smiling. "Seriously, Hermione. You've stated aperfect strategy and you've learned it well. But sadly, that time has seemingly come to an end for the moment. We got some good hits in, but now he's no longer asleep. He's up and in arms, on his guard and spoiling for a fight, with all the aurors in England at the ready under his compulsion. We could get a few more licks in if we were lucky; but he's looking for it, watching for the next time he takes a blow and wanting to catch the ones doing it. We could hit him a couple more times, but we'd get caught. That's not worth it. Best move right now is to slink off and lay low for a while. Quit while we're ahead. It's always very tempting to take 'just one more shot', but that's how you get discovered."
Harry put his wand behind his ear and cracked open a book. "Right now he is tense, aware he's in combat, and that makes him watchful and on guard. So we'll catch some rest and recuperation. He can't keep all those aurors under compulsion forever, because they do a terrible job for however long he does. So problems are going to mount and he'll have to release them so they can go back to thinking again. Until he does that, we'll catch our second wind."
Hermione's eyes were shining. "So, to make sure I understand you, while he is ready, waiting for us to attack, we stay quiet. Then, to carry that forward, the moment he expects this to stay quiet?"
"We attack," Luna agreed, with her own wicked grin.
"Fairly standard method of waging war by a group of insurgents like us," the boy proclaimed. "Classic 'hit em where they ain't' strategy backed up by a 'don't be where they're looking' defense. We can afford to hide out right under his nose until he drops his guard again, but we've got to be real quiet while doing so."
"I disagree," Luna stated promptly.
Both the boy's eyebrows went up.
She gave him an otherworldly smile. "This is a perfect opportunity to catch up on one of our most galling weaknesses: our own personal abilities. We are no match for him. We may never be, but the closer we get to parity the less perfect every opportunity has to be."
"It'll take years to even approach his skill," Harry shook his head.
"Yes, but those years will never be over unless they start," she disagreed."I am willing to devote free time to extra study and practice. Are you?"
That challenge was like waving a red flag before a bull for Hermione. Quickly she was up and siding with Luna.
Harry pretended grave remorse. Sighing, he declared, "Outmaneuvered once again. Okay, I was planning to spend this extra day to snap some parting shots at Dumbledore under cover of the confusion, but instead we can use them to train."
"Oh no," Luna objected. "That's not what I meant at all. Back to your original point, about our time travels having to end? I disagree."
He shot her a more curious gaze, trying to understand. "But I told you we'll get caught if we do, and what happens if Dumbledore gets hold of one of our Time Turners is he'll be able to catch up on his own problems. That's bad!"
Luna patted his head condescendingly. "Where you go wrong, Harry, is by assuming we'll be caught. Alright, I admit, if we appear in two places in the castle he'll know we are time traveling. But why should we have to confine our efforts to the castle?"
Harry touched his head where she'd patted it. "Because after having all of his students and staff try to run out on him he'll make some excuse to cut off all outside contact for a while. Even though most people don't remember it, he'll make up some excuse just to be sure to catch any strays. He likes layered approaches like that."
"So we make up our own excuses to counter them," she replied reasonably."If we were to, say, run laps around the lake every morning for our exercise, that goes far enough outside the castle wards without actually leaving the Hogwarts grounds, don't you think? Then later if we were to join Hagrid on those little trips of his out to see his animals, that would get us out into the Forbidden Forest, would it not? Then we could use both those occasions to slip away, even if just for a second, and time turn. Couldn't we?"
"It could," Harry allowed, recalling previous ward patterns and assuming that any new protections would be the same. "If done carefully."
"The next thing to do," Hermione interjected briskly, "Would be to decide how to spend our extra time, since we no longer need it for official lessons."
"Or assault missions," Luna added with a smirk.
Hermione had frozen, spending a second pondering a sudden, disturbing thought. "Harry, where do you get your tactical knowledge from?"
"From Voldemort." He was about to explain further, when she cut him off.
"Didn't he LOSE the last war?" she interjected rather quickly.
"I..." Harry opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. "I see your point."
Luna, too, was frowning now. "I overheard Dumbledore on the microphone we planted boasting to Snape that he found Voldemort useful despite the dark lord's intentions otherwise - that he could contain him and viewed him as a tool and distraction, nothing more."
Harry was now frowning. "So, what do you suggest?"
Luna's face transformed into a bright smile. "Why, what would you think?If you know someone who'd lose the war would do one thing, try the opposite!"
"Increase the pressure," Hermione confirmed. "Kick it up a notch. You said yourself once that one of Dumbledore's greatest weaknesses was that he had to think through every possible angle of something before he could act. Giving a person like that breathing space only guarantees he'll be thinking on his problems - and one of them is how to deal with you. So, if that's what he wants to do, we ought to deny him any chance to do it, as best we can!"
Luna began nodding. "Keep him off balance. Deny him rest. Demand that he keep putting out small fires, and continually upset his plans. Never let him stop to think things over. If that is where his strength lies, always deny him chances to go there. Thinking requires time, so always keep him too busy. This isn't a war against the world so much as it against one man."
Hermione was now smiling brightly. "Exactly! I like to think myself, and so my quiet times when there are no distractions are precious to me. But this man controls so much of our world it ought to be easy to always be causing him problems SOMEWHERE! Nor can he defend it all at once! Or focus his attention everywhere, or even keep all of his servants busy doing the right things if he never has a chance to stop and examine the situation. Make his head spin!"
"I do feel much better about this plan, Harry," Luna told her fiance.
"I agree," Hermione primly stated. "I know it would drive me bonkers to be on the receiving end of it. Besides, we're on a roll! We've already had so many successes our enemy is off-balance. All we have to do is keep him that way!"
Harry was nodding. "I bow to your wisdom. We'll increase the pace of attacks. That point you raised about Voldemort losing is chilling to me, because you're absolutely right; he did, and I was about to go the same way he would in this situation. So despite my instincts telling me to go one way, we'll go another."
Luna was regarding him sorrowfully. "Due to your past I would say both sets of instincts are probably wrong about how to deal with this. Dumbledore had so mastered the Voldemort situation he views him almost as a play-toy, and the past of Harry Potter is of running away from bullies, or bowing down to accept their abuse. Both have the wrong sets of experiences for taking this dangerous a foe down. Lessons they learned in their pasts do not apply here, not if we want to succeed. Neither one could neutralize this enemy."
Hermione also endorsed this, "Speaking as the kind of person Dumbledore may once have been, a thinking person who loves knowledge, and who he may still be deep down, I know that increasing the rate of attacks would only drive me batty in short order. I'd hate it, were I in his place."
"Well, let's do it then!" Luna chirruped brightly.
"War is chaos," Harry found himself quoting his earlier words in a musing tone. Then he raised his head. "Too bad we don't have any Americans. One of the German generals in WWII was also quoted as saying, 'War is chaos', but he followed it by the statement, 'That's why the Americans are so good at it, because they live chaos in their everyday lives'."
Luna's eyes had begun twinkling. "Well, I don't know about any Americans. But I know where we can get a hold of some Cornish pixies."
"They do chaos awfully well," Harry admitted, eyes wide.
Now Hermione was straining to hold in laughter. "I can do better than that. In fact, we've already got the perfect advisors for this war - Fred and George Weasley! All we have to do now is convince them Dumbledore is the enemy."
"The Masters of Mischief?" The Boy Who Lived raised his eyebrows. "I like the way you think, Hermione. Yes, I agree. I have to move beyond Moldyrot and pick up a better set of tactics than I inherited from Riddle." He smacked his lips. "And I really can't think of a better pair to learn from if Iam to be discovering how to annoy and bedevil someone to death."
Luna began softly stroking his hair. "Harry, you are going to win, and that is because you have an abundance of a trait vulturewart never had: humility."
Hermione nodded vigorously. "No matter how smart the person, a willingness to take instruction and receive correction is necessary to their progress. It is something I've always had to keep in mind... although mostly I've applied it to listening to my teachers," she admitted with a deprecating grin.
"I love you both!" Harry blurted out, taking them both in hugs. "Here I have two of the most perfect girls on this planet, one an expert at thinking in the box, and the other outside of it. With BOTH of you, how can I go wrong?"
I I I
Next step, as it was still quite early in the day and before the cover of chaos that could later shelter more sinister activities, they went to visit Lockhart where he was recovering.
The man was actually better than he was before Obliviating himself. Already his skills had surpassed his previous level and he was rising strongly toward the abilities everyone had always believed he'd had.
It was amazing what a bit of drive and dedication could do to a person. Seven years of formal education had taught Lockhart practically nothing. He'd been more than a bit like Ronald Weasley in that aspect, lazing away having as much fun as possible while avoiding every gram of study he could get out of.
Actually, the jealousy of other's achievements was bang on the dot as well. In fact, Harry reflected that it was a touch scary just how much Lockhart and Ronald Weasley were alike. They both loved fame while being too lazy to accomplish anything themselves, but were willing to attach themselves to anything that might bring them glory.
That last point they held in common with most Death Eaters.
As interesting as it was to explore the character flaws held in common by large and disparate sections of wizarding society, the point was there was hardly a spell Lockhart could do outside of his one narrow specialty before Harry had rebuilt his mind.
But now, with drive and dedication, he was picking up material fast to make up for lost time. It had only been a few days and his spell repetoir was nearly five times what it had once been; Not a patch on what it should be, or even needed to be, but appreciable progress all the same.
All to the better, as this man was rapidly becoming important to Harry's plans, and they needed him to be a leader, someone with experience that other wizards would follow into battle.
In other words, a counter-Voldemort, because Harry was going to be too busy countering Dumbledore to be able to oppose them both effectively. One Dark Lord was as much as he could handle, and even then he'd be lucky to actually succeed in opposing him. Facing both by himself was just too much.
The experience they planed for Gilderoy to get by going out and doing some of those things he'd written books about. If he could survive that it would temper him and make him the kind of leader that could actually counter Tom Riddle, rather than merely pose and look good in front of cameras.
Although that last skill was something Harry was willing to admit he'd do well to pick up himself. The wizarding public adored Dumbledore in part because he was always careful to be there and available. He was approachable, which was rare in legendary figures, but gave him a stranglehold on the country's loyalties. Harry, while he might have been popular, was a mysterious figure that no one knew much of anything about. They might love him, but they gave him no loyalty, and that had to change. He'd accept Lockhart as his tutor for that. The man was used to being a celebrity and did it well.
While visiting Lockhart Harry made a stop in the long-term spell damaged ward and revived the Longbottoms, plus some other patients. This was important for several reasons. For one, it was the decent thing to do, and ought to go a long way toward making Neville happy. For another, it was the responsible thing to do, as he had the ability and they had need.
But the last and best reason was they were the next best thing to family he had left. Alice Longbottom was Harry's Godmother.
Harry had grown suspicious about that and done some looking. The story he'd been told was that Bellatrix and other serious Death Eaters had sought out the couple to torture them for Harry's location.
Why did they do that?
What reason did they have to suppose that those people in particular ought to have Harry's address? That wasn't being handed out to just anyone. In fact it was one of the best-kept secrets of the wizarding world, up until Lucius Malfoy bought his pardon. After that, thanks to Lucius and other Death Eaters that occupied positions in every level of the Ministry, Harry Potter's address was anything but secret.
But BEFORE that happened, when the celebrations of Voldemort's fall were going on, there was no good reason for Death Eaters to seek out the couple of experienced Aurors unless those aurors had a perfect right to know that privileged and highly secret information.
So Harry had done some digging and discovered that Alice Longbottom was his Godmother - the person who had legal custody of him after his parents died and Sirius became ineligible.
To repeat an old phrase: once was bad luck, twice was coincidence, and three times was enemy action. Harry'd lost his guardians three times in two days back then, leaving Dumblemort unopposed to decide his future. If he hadn't already known the Headmaster was out to get him, that was proof enough. Three times in two days those who had legal custody of Harry lost the ability to use it, one set after another; and every time there was Albus' influence hanging somewhere around the scene.
He'd been the one to convince his parents to go into hiding. He was the judge who let an innocent Sirius go to one of the worst prisons imaginable without even the most perfunctory show trial. And his Death Eater might well have whispered in the ears of other Death Eaters where to find the Longbottoms - in SPITE of the fact that couple was ALSO UNDER FIDELIUS!!
Both families were members of the same organization, facing the exact same risks, and went into hiding on the advice of the same man: their leader. It ought to have been obvious the same spells had been used to protect them particularly when that was the best they had to offer.
That both such protections had failed was just waaay too convenient for the Headmaster to have been accidental.
So Harry cured his Godmother and her husband (to the accompaniment of Luna's jokes that if he was a fairy, and she was his godmother, did that make her a fairy godmother? Hermione spent minutes in unhelpful giggles after that choice comment.)
Although it made him feel guilty to do it, Harry included the same loyalty imprints on Frank and Alice Longbottom that he had for Gilderoy Lockhart. It made him feel bad, but he felt it was necessary to do it, as both these people had been loyal to Dumbledore in the past and Harry couldn't allow possible guardians for himself to fall into the Headmaster's camp.
He may be Acting Head of the Black family, which came with emancipation. But Albus Dumbledore had pulled seemingly impossible stunts before, and it was best to leave no flank unguarded. He just didn't need to be a minor under the Master Manipulator's thumb anymore.
Besides, Frank and Alice were both aurors. Their help could go a long way toward assisting Lockhart in bringing up a new cadre of followers to counter Vulturewart's Death Eaters, and Harry didn't have many people he could rely on to do that.
While they were there, the trio visited Peter Pettigrew in the secure ward and Harry ripped the memories of his parents from the rat's mind.
I I I
Probably got some spelling errors in this one. It wasn't important enough to stop and look up some of the more obscure words.
But I DO like to highlight that, though Harry inherited enormous knowledge, he is still far from perfect. He can still pick wrong strategies. Also this proves another point I'd been trying to make early on - that while Hermione may have started out behind, and thus required explanations, that girl learns FAST!! Already she just caught one of Harry's major blunders, in that he'd begun relying too much on those inherited skills.
Dumbledore is indeed a thinking enemy. But thought, especially careful thought, requires time. So the more of that he has, the more dangerous he becomes. Hermione was able to pick this out, even when Harry wasn't.