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
The commotion in the Great Hall was intense. After several minutes of folks freezing in combinations of shock and horror, suddenly it all seemed to be released at once and voices filled the chamber as many people were talking at once; some even getting up to go to their rooms to pack, as they'd had no idea before that those wild tales they'd heard over the years were really true and the castle really was that dangerous. Others didn't know what to do, but it was as crowded and noisy as a train station as they figured it out.
Among all of this, Neville was a tiny island of peace, continuing casually on with his lunch as though nothing had happened.
"How did you know it was involving Harry?" Lavender asked, leaning over. He'd known what it was all about even before his appearance in the hall!
Neville shrugged. "Anything that dangerous at this school always does."
I I I
Normally finding a chimera in a forest was harder than you'd think. Sure, they were huge masses of razor sharp claws and teeth, but most of those know how to hide pretty well when they put their minds to it. It's all part of that 'Apex Predator' options package, and magical predators tended to be more apex than most.
Plus, they wouldn't want to spoil the surprise when they came lunging out of the bushes at you. You thought Quidditch fans were freaks, always thinking of the game? Well, they had nothing on stalking animals. Crouching down behind what seemed totally inadequate cover then leaping out to maul you to death was their life. They lived for this.
And Moody had gotten through what mysterious means no one knew, one of the more vicious chimeras from the Continent, one in its prime.
The more spectacularly dangerous beasts in the magical world tended to be very long-lived. There was a good reason for this: seeing as how they were so very hard to kill they either died of natural causes or not at all. But however they died they had to be replaced. If they died by natural means that meant they had to breed fairly often, and that meant young things exploring their powers went off causing chaos, drastically increasing their impact on the world around them. Also, young things fed prodigiously while growing.
But not all magical beasts grew more powerful with age. Sphinxes surely, and dragons most definitely, with basilisks holding the crown of 'we never get older without getting tougher'. But some preferred to burn hot and fast and go out in a blaze of glory at ages no older than a man.
Part of the natural order of the magical universe. No matter how old or tough a dragon or sphinx might grow there was always some new chimera just aching to take it on. Containing the rambunctious creatures had nearly broken the backs of the Greek Wizarding community until they'd used up an entire dragon preserve reducing the chimera population for a brief moment, then used some massive magical artifacts to transfer the entire preserve to deepest Africa, where nundus could catch any that escaped the preserve.
This ready supply of food had begun to increase the nundu population, which was bad, as the last time those had overpopulated their breeding grounds and gone searching for more places to nest it had led to something the muggles called the Black Plague - and they still didn't know the true cause behind that. Luckily the winters had managed to kill off all of the migratory breeding pairs, or Europe would be a desolate wasteland even today.
Still, it was only muggles, after all.
So how Moody had gotten hold of a young chimera was a bit of a mystery, but still quite an impressive feat.
"Harry, we're going to need it alive - more potion ingredients," Hermione instructed boldly. "Petrified is alright, we can restore it later with a mandrake restorative draught. But dead we can only harvest it once. We can't feed it potions and things to make its skin regrow if it's dead."
"Right." The boy conjured a veil and draped it over the snake's face as they entered the Forbidden Forest.
Normally catching a dangerous predator on its own turf was hard without it catching you first. However in this case they had an advantage, and simply followed the sounds of battle.
Things had gone poorly for Bellatrix. The chimera is a dangerous magical beast for many reasons, and it had quite a few deadly weapons in its arsenal. Having learned that it could not penetrate her outer armor with its tearing and cutting bits, it had moved on to other methods, smashing into her with its ram horns (blunt trauma was limited by her protective plates, but not all absorbed by her minimal padding), grabbing her helmet in the jaws of its dragon head and swinging her wildly around, smashing her into trees and so on. It also breathed flame upon her.
Voldemort's most loyal Death Eater had been protected from the direct impact of all of that. Still, it was equivalent to having been in several car crashes one after another. Her head hadn't been torn off due to the buckles holding it in place on the rest of the armor, and her bones hadn't been powdered because her silvery plate wouldn't let them flex in certain unnatural directions, but neither was she well. Her flesh had been bruised and battered to the point where that alone might kill her.
She also had borderline lethal burns all over her body.
There was a reason no witch or wizard had ever defeated a chimera and lived, and it wasn't because of their sunny disposition or that no one had ever thought to wear armor up against one before.
Sadly, there was very little chance for the lovely Death Eater to survive her encounter, even after Blinky burst through the bushes with her riders and the chimera froze into a statue of stone.
"Chimera Vs Blinky, FIGHT! Aww, they got it over with before I could cheer," Luna drooped in her saddle.
Harry had already popped out of the saddle and gone over to visit Bellatrix, lifting her head so it was not uncomfortable for the dying witch, as she still hung out of the chimera's central mouth and the statue was now not able to release her.
"This was a good day." The witch reached up her one unbroken hand to touch her lord's cheek. The other had bent unnaturally backwards at the elbow, and likely would have been torn off had the chainmail been able to part to let it, but she seemed beyond the pain as she traced his cheek and smiled.
Harry choked up, not knowing what to say. On the one hand she was his foe, even though she didn't know it, deceived into his service, while on the other he had never had anyone serve him so faithfully and well.
Dying eagerly in his cause had bought her considerable credit, as well. But still, she was his enemy.
The poor boy didn't know what to think. Neither of his sets of memories gave him any experience with how to deal with such a situation. Riddle discarded his tools once they were no longer of any use to him, while Harry had never been put in that position before.
He didn't like it.
Bellatrix coughed, blood marking the corner of her lips as internal damage made itself known, but continued smiling as she petted his cheek, reading his emotions despite his being unable to speak them. "My lord, I have been, and always shall be, your most devoted follower."
The blue glow of a magical oath surrounded her.
"Yipee!" A smiling Luna yoinked Harry's feet out from under him, causing him to fall flat on his face into the churned up turf, and clearing the path for Bellatrix, who had been staring up at him, to see the veiled basilisk that had been behind him all along, obscured from view by his body.
The witch froze into immobility, turned to stone.
"What did you do that for!?" Harry stormed to his feet, twisting about to glare at the witch who had tripped him.
Luna was unperturbed, fighting giggles as she pointed out the petrified witch to him. "Harry, she was moments away from death, and now she isn't. She could wait in that condition, unchanging for ages. We have all the time in the world to heal her."
Harry brushed grass off his arms. "With as far gone as she was, I doubt that all I could do would be enough to save her."
"Why don't we take her to St. Mungo's?" Susan chirped from the back of the basilisk she was still mounted on.
"Yeah, they'd do nearly anything to save the librarian of Hogwarts after she proved herself such a champion," Hannah nodded, agreeing with her friend.
"Impossible," Hermione shook her head, sadly, pointing to the petrified near-corpse. "Because that is not Madam Pince, it's really Harry's bodyguard. And the polyjuice would surely wear off during the procedures to save her."
"But they'd be even more willing to save Harry's bodyguard!" Susan insisted.
"Normally yes, in this case no." Harry stood up, straightening from where he'd bent over to examine Bellatrix's features.
"But why?" Susan wondered in confusion.
Harry sighed, hating to explain some things. "You know from watching our recent history how Dumbledore is our enemy. Well, one problem there is that we don't know any magical adults that he didn't know better. In fact he has been very carefully keeping me isolated, and I don't know anyone he doesn't have a great deal of influence over."
"There's always my aunt," Susan protested.
Harry gave her a weak smile. "While that's true now, it wasn't the case when we were starting this. I barely met her a few days ago, and right now she is suffering from the same problem I am - she doesn't know who she can trust. Dumbledore has influence everywhere."
"Okay," the two Hufflepuffs nodded, seeing his point so far.
Harry rubbed a hand nervously through his hair. "So I went to the one place I could be fairly sure Dumbledore wasn't well respected when I got my guard - the Death Eaters. I tricked one of them into thinking I was going to be the vessel of Voldemort reborn and needed her to watch over me to keep me safe. She fell for it and has been watching my back ever since."
Susan felt cold, and she and Hannah shared a concerned glance. That was more balsy than she'd given the Gryffindor credit for, and that was AFTER hearing tales of his fame and glory!
"I can't tell if that was brilliant and brave or cunning but stupid,"Hannah quipped. "It could have gone wrong so many different ways."
Now it was time for Hermione to quirk her lips. "If something was stupid but worked, it wasn't stupid."
Harry nodded tiredly. "At least this way I knew what direction my threats came from, and that gave me some control over the risks."
"So who was it?" Susan wet her lips nervously, not sure she'd like the reply.
She was right.
"Bellatrix LeStrange," Luna bubbled. "And she's been ever so useful!Did you know she replaced Mr Filch before Madam Pince? The entire school is ringed about with spies, inside and out. Why, the paintings spy for Dumbledore, as do the ghosts and all of the prefects and teachers. Also she only just helped to foil an assassination plot on all of us today -And then she just now swore on her magic to follow Harry loyally!! SQUEEE!!"
Everyone stared in shock at the happy Ravenclaw, who paused a moment to explain, "Don't you understand? No names were used in that oath! She just met his eyes and swore, calling him her lord, and anyone can be a lord if you want to swear loyalty to them! Sworn loyalty MAKES someone a lord! More than anything else does, anyway."
Harry smacked his lips, gazing thoughtfully at Bellatrix' statue. "Trouble now is she has conflicting oaths. Loyalty oaths are inherent in the fabric of the Dark Mark. Actually it's more of a slavery brand and not even Ican release her from those restrictions and remove that without killing her."
"Just wait a few days." Luna smiled mysteriously.
Hermione suddenly sat up in her seat, jolted as though stuck with apin. "Hey! It's not yet noon, and we don't have any time to spare! Quickly, let's all get to the Clearing of Solstices and Equinoxes. Susan and Hannah both need that ritual and we only have a few minutes to get them there!"
"Right!" Harry shrank the two linked statues and put them in his pocket, then swung back up onto Blinky, taking up the reins.
Trelawney had been left in charge at the clearing, running the ritual every day trying to get the maximal number of nymphs and fairy creatures covered by that protection. But they didn't have many days left before the equinox and they lost this opportunity for another year.
Jolting through them was the realization that this was, in fact, the LAST day, as the Fall Equinox came tomorrow!
Luckily they got there in plenty of time.
Harry excused himself to go off alone into the forest, and the two girls who had been through this before helped the newcomers strip and slipped them into the broth along with a collection of forest nymphs and pixies, making for one tight squeeze as everyone fought to fit in and not spill any broth. Finally Hermione raised the outside lip by conjuring a tight-fitting splash guard to slip in between the cauldron and its lid - not a moment too soon as the sun blazed down moments later, as they were still shifting to get comfortable and not poke too many knees or elbows into each other.
Hermione then sighed in relief, smiling. "Well, at least that's taken care of."
"I do admit, I am much relieved to think our protections now extend to them." Luna agreed. "It makes crises like this morning less awkward."
"We've been lucky so far." Hermione brushed hair damp with sweat out of her eyes.
Luna cocked her head slightly, staring off into the distance. "Luck is an important asset, but skill and good judgment are far more reliable."She presented Hermione with a warm smile. "Lucky for us, Harry has one and you have the other."
The bushy haired witch gave her friend a comforting hug. "We all contribute."
Harry came back into the clearing. "Hey, you two. I think now is a good time to try stealing as much of this forest as we can get away with. Dumbledore is momentarily out of the picture, and Blinky here is a great force for getting the acromantulas and other dangerous critters out of our way."
Luna glanced over to the bubbling cauldron. "Wait until the ritual is done. We don't want to introduce any new variables."
All three shuddered at that comment, recalling what had unintentionally been done before, and the risks it had put them through.
So, an hour later, after transfiguring sticks all that time into man sized wooden soldiers (both girls could do that much, although it took Harry to animate them), Harry slipped off into the forest again while Hannah, Susan, and the nymphs got out and dried themselves off.
Then it was time to start the march.
"I have to admit," Susan agreed as they saddled up on Blinky, "The idea of Harry relocating large portions of the Forbidden Forest makes a lot of sense. It's a large part of Hogwarts' power to have easy access to both light and dark creatures, plants and other magical ingredients right on their door step. Taking that away would be a tremendous blow to the Headmaster."
"And we can always restore it later," Hannah agreed.
"As many creatures as wish to return will be welcome to," Hermione primly asserted, knowing full well from having been through that sanctuary a few times, and talking to Firenze, that everything that forest was meant to preserve couldn't wait to get out of there and had no intention of returning.
They'd seen what life could be like under wizard's control, and were anxious to try a bit of proto-self-government under Harry's protection. The Fae Trio simply didn't have time to look after the forest themselves, so they'd be appointing trustworthy creatures as officers beneath them to wield what little authority was required for the creatures to get along peacefully, and it was an experiment many were eager to try.
Of course, the only authority they had was as champions of the Fairy Queen, so of necessity the best they could do was to act on that pattern. So it was going to be something of a magic kingdom, but that was all they could do.
But it was time to begin the march.
A trumpet sounded and the wall of transfigured wooden soldiers took their first steps forward, armed with pikes and compressed air rifles (having done those a few trumpet players had not been beyond Harry's ability) as well as wooden cavalry armed with swords and lances.
They'd actually retreated a short distance to begin this march from the Hogwarts edge of the forest, so as not to miss anything. Having had several hours to transfigure them (along with Harry's previous stash, transfigured as guardsmen) they'd had more than enough time (and, with the natural gift fae had at transfiguring, also the ability) to create a small army of hundreds of six foot tall wooden soldiers.
They marched out in front, begging 'shoot me please' to the dark creatures of the forest. There were so many of the soldiers that it was a choice to every creature they met: either retreat before their lines or attack them. They marched too close to each other for there to be other options.
Light creatures they encountered would be recognized and passed harmlessly through their lines. Dark creatures would encounter combat.
As implacable as an avalanche, as thorough as a forest fire, they marched through those woods slaughtering every dark beast they came across, the five magical youths transfiguring additional guards to protect any special locations they came across.
One of the first locations secured was the Clearing of Solstices and Equinoxes. Having found that to be tremendously useful they especially wanted to be able to move it successfully with Harry's staff.
Luna was having a wonderful time, wearing her own generals hat and issuing orders as she waved about a wooden sword. Even Hannah and Susan began to get into this a bit. Hermione and Harry were more wary. All of the people had wooden horses to ride. This freed up Blinky to act at her swiftest, moving with snakelike speed to respond to any attacks on their line without whiplashing her riders to death with her turns. But Harry and Hermione were both concerned with encountering more attacks than she could deal with.
Overhead flew clouds of fairies, most of them spitting sparks or gouts of fire out of nearly a month worth of empowerment rituals. Anything too small for the wooden soldiers to spot was obvious to the tiny fairies, and with the soldiers out in front to stop any big creatures or blunder first into any webs, the fire-enhanced fairies were a potent threat to anything near their size.
And as they marched they encountered allies.
The centaurs of the forest first came curiously to see the cause of the horns. When they saw the march of the wooden soldiers backed up by clouds of fairies, four witches and a wizard, along with the mightiest basilisk they had ever seen, they quickly galloped off to inform their tribes. When further scouts observed them passing unicorns and other light creatures by, but falling upon the dark ones and slaughtering them, units of centaur archers formed up behind their lines, following along to add arrows to the threats the dark creatures of the forest had to face.
One of their first big surprises was running into a massive village halfway through the forest. It had to be twice as big as Hogsmead, and full of magical people, but had been kept utterly secret from the outside world.
They learned why when the villagers transformed to meet them.
Their wooden army had drawn up in ranks at the edge of the clearing, waiting for orders. The townsfolk had seen them, then transformed into wolf shape to charge right at the attacking line, without the wizarding children or their creations having shown them the least bit of hostility.
"Werewolves!" The fae children declared in shock.
Harry got angry. "I should have known! Draco knew these were here in our first year, and both Filch and Hagrid confirmed it! But I don't think anyone had any idea there were this MANY of them! There's got to be a few thousand here!" He paused, scowling. "Well, that explains where Greyback's been hiding. The Ministry's been after him for years but never could find him."
Hermione turned to look at her best friend. "You mean not even Voldemort knew of this place?"
Harry shook his head, paling at the implications. "No, he didn't. Somebody hid this place very well, and since I don't see any fields or farms here, that means they get their supplies in from outside."
Luna began nodding, seeing where he was going with this. "Supplies for an entire town on a continuing basis are a difficult thing to hide."
The boy nodded. "Yeah. Anybody can build a secret base or muster an army, but they come into problems come lunchtime. Feeding a large group of people secretly is virtually impossible. Only here someone did it."
"Dumbledore," Hermione declared, scowling, then sighed. "Well, now at least we know one of the reasons why he called off the hunts through this forest."
"And why he was so interested in controlling the magical food supply,"Luna continued, observing, "If he was the only one to grow and distribute it, then he could afford to siphon off as much as he liked to secret locations like this one without anyone being the wiser."
"But that could be a good thing, right?" Susan asked from behind them."He set up a sanctuary for these people to live in where they wouldn't harm anyone else, where they could be alone and not bother anyone."
"I've always thought our society treated werewolves unfairly," Hannah told them. "It's only a disease."
"A disease more contagious than any other, since its victims go feral and actively spread the affliction three days each month. A disease for which there is no cure, and lasts your whole life long." Hermione disapproved."I don't mind isolating them, since I think that's the right idea. You can let them live more or less normal lives without threatening anyone else. But something tells me that Dumbledore's plans for this place were not so innocent."
The front ranks of the attacking werewolves met the pikes of their wooden infantry, and the eyes of the children widened in shock as they realized the wooden tipped spears which had served adequately through most of the rest of the forest were utterly inadequate going up against weres. The wounds they dealt healed as fast as they dealt them, leaving uninjured wolves to tear through their infantry lines after a short crush.
"Silver!" Hermione began quickly search through her pockets. "Who has any silver? Look through your pockets for loose change we can transfigure!"
Harry signaled and Blinky raised her head, sweeping the charging lines of wolves with her still-veiled gaze, petrifying hundreds of werewolves and stopping the attack, as suddenly the rest began fleeing for their lives.
"Did you know these were here?" Harry asked of the centaur that had trotted up beside him.
Bane soberly shook his mane. "We knew something was here that werewolves protected. And we knew there were far too many of them for any of the Headmaster's feeble excuses to explain. But we knew not the extent, nor the true nature of what they were hiding."
The centaur glanced at him sidelong. "We only knew they brought in human children every month at the full moon. Children who never left again."
Harry's face had gone stony.
It was Hermione's quiet voice that proclaimed, "This isn't a village. This is a werewolf factory. Dumbledore's been building up an army of them."
I I I
You know that bit in the first novel/movie where they are going on detention into the Forbidden Forest and Draco declares that he's not going in there because the place is full of werewolves? Then Filch agrees? Why has no one ever explained what they were doing there? Or ever mentioned them again?
You'd think a large number of critters that were people for twenty five days out of twenty eight would have built something wherever they lived. Also, where have Remus and Greyback been living all this time? And why has the Ministry never caught Greyback or Remus never saw Harry? My explanation is a sinister one because it fit my story, but a hidden village of werewolves in there could be adapted to a large number of plotlines.