The Last Battle has been fought, and Harry Potter has won. The price, however, has been high. Nearly every person Harry cared for is dead, maimed, or otherwise injured. The magical culture of ...
Chapter VI Monday, December 24, 1990
"Sirius, you must be joking!"
"Harry. . . ."
"Might look ten or eleven, but he's nineteen," Remus said firmly. "He does not want a 'stocking hung by the chimney with care'."
"Trust me, he will," Sirius said firmly.
"Did it have to just be a regular sock?"
"Yes," Sirius replied simply. At that point, Harry rolled out of the fireplace.
"I hate the floo," Harry grumbled, picking himself up.
"I know you can't stay long," Sirius said. "So, Dobby!"
Dobby popped into the room. "Master Sirius?"
"I want you to see my godson receive his biggest present." Sirius unhooked the sock from the mantle and handed it to Dobby.
"Dobby . . . Dobby does not understand. . . ."
"I want you to keep working for me," Sirius said. "You are the best elf I've ever known. But Harry has convinced me that owning an elf is wrong. He's trying to figure out how to get Winky to accept freedom. Maybe you can show her it's not a bad thing."
"Master Sirius . . . Mister Harry . . . thank you both," Dobby said, tearing up.
"Congratulations, Dobby," Harry said. "I'll bring you some more socks tomorrow."
"Thank you, Mister Harry," Dobby said, bowing. "Thank you Master. . . ."
"Mister," Sirius corrected.
"Mister Sirius. Dobby is pleased to still work for you. Dobby is still keeping all of Mister Sirius' secrets."
"I know you will," Sirius agreed. "We can work out pay and such later."
Tuesday, December 26, 1990
"It was nice of your parents to let me come over all afternoon," Harry told Hermione. "Mrs. Weasley certainly wouldn't leave us unsupervised, let alone build a fire!"
"I wouldn't allow a Weasley to be unsupervised, either," Hermione said archly, watching Harry roast chestnuts in the fireplace. She had met the twins briefly. "And Mum and Dad trust me, and they trust you even more, especially Mum."
"Why is that?" Harry asked absently, keeping a eye on the chestnuts.
"Because they might not be magical, but they are as smart as I am, and I think my mother has some very minor empathic magic."
That caught a bit of Harry's attention. "Really?"
"Really. I don't seem to have any myself," Hermione said, a bit sadly. "That's one reason why you didn't want me getting interested in Divination; you know I wouldn't be good at that."
"You'd be good at anything you put your mind to," Harry said loyally, "but I think you'd enjoy Arithmancy or Runes more."
"Thanks. Could you tell me something? Or two or three things, actually."
Harry shrugged. "If I can."
"Why did you come back from the future; how far did you travel back; and how did you do it?"
Harry stared at her, and then pulled his chestnuts from the fire so they wouldn't burn. Hermione sighed in a way which was very familiar to Harry. "Harry, did you read those magical developmental books you recommended to me?"
"No. . . ."
"Harry, you are so far outside the magical power curve. . . ." She shook her head. "You don't even register, Harry. We develop our magical powers starting between the ages of nine and eleven, and it increases along our development through about age twenty-one or so. After the age of twenty-one, it might increase slowly over time, but at a very very slow rate. Harry, I've seen you do things in front of me that no wizard under the age of sixteen should be able to do, and I've caught you doing things when you thought we weren't looking, and seen you do things better, than any wizard should be able to do, period. Even not counting the wandless magic I've seen, you must already be as powerful as, say, Dumbledore or Voldemort were by the time they left Hogwarts, and they topped out the known curve in Britain."
"It's not really that measurable. . . ."
Hermione shook her head. "No, Harry. I've been told I talk like a miniature adult, but you talk more like an adult than I do. I've seen how Mister Lupin, Mister Black, and especially how Mister Moody treat you. They treated you like a junior partner in October, and now they treat you like an equal. You must have just come back in time last summer." She looked in Harry's eyes. "Don't lie to me Harry. I'll keep your secret."
"I know you wouldn't lie to me, Hermione. Could you lie for me?"
Hermione's breath caught. She thought hard. "I can't take an oath to you, Harry. At least not until we're at Hogwarts."
"And would you promise to take one then if I asked you to?" Harry asked.
Hermione took a deep breath. "Yes."
"Tell me, have you come across the term 'Occlumency' at all?"
Hermione frowned. "It was something . . . just in passing. It's the magic of hiding your mind?"
"Hiding your thoughts," Harry agreed. "There's a magic called 'Legilimency,' which means reading thoughts and emotions, although it takes a huge amount of skill to dig out anything other than surface thoughts. Occlumency blocks Legilimency, and it also blocks certain types of what is called 'Second Sight' and related magics."
"And for you to tell me things, I need to learn this Occlumency first," Hermione stated.
"Yes." Harry thought. "Is there any place where you can learn meditation? Some yoga place or such that teaches it?"
"There is a place in town that teaches yoga and meditation, why?"
"Both would be a good place for you to start. It would also help you concentrate your magic a bit, and you can probably convince your parents that the yoga is good physical exercise as well."
Hermione smiled. "Lovely idea!"
"Ye shoulda just Obliviated her, lad," Moody said, his burr showing.
"No," Harry said firmly. "First of all, I wouldn't Obliviate Hermione, and second, I've never actually done it. I certainly wouldn't experiment on a friend."
"Then there's another thing we add to your tutorials," Remus agreed.
"I hadn't thought we were at all sloppy," Sirius complained.
"Hermione is smarter than we are," Harry said simply.
"If anyone else learns about this, I'm taking the knowledge right out of their heads," Moody growled.
"Alright," Harry said simply. "I won't argue." He turned back to Remus. "So, memory spells, dueling, more languages, and general brushing up? Anything else?"
"No," Remus said, looking at Sirius and Moody. "If there's anything else you need to know, Dumbledore can bring it up with you tonight."
"Oh," Harry said, "he's showing up tonight?"
"So he said," Remus said.
"Tell me, Harry, was there anything which suggested to you that Professor Quirrell was allied with Dark forces before he went to Albania in your time?"
Harry thought hard about that, and finally said, "No, sir. My impression has always been that he was long on theory but short on experience, and that he was overwhelmed by Voldemort's personality." He frowned. "That does seem sort of weak in retrospect, doesn't it?"
"It does, but it's not unheard of," Dumbledore agreed.
"Let me guess, he's not in South America any more," Harry said. "He's in Albania after all."
"Exactly, and he has been since early this month, if not before."
"So, he was searching Voldemort out, either to bring him back or to join him, or to inflate his standing by tracking him down and exposing him," Harry said. He frowned. "Voldemort told his Death Eaters after being brought back than no one, well, none of his Death Eaters at least, had sought him out until Wormtail showed up." Harry frowned some more, trying to remember. "He called Quirrell . . . 'young, foolish, and gullible', who 'wandered' across his path," Harry said.
"If he was not seeking Voldemort, he was seeking something else near by, although I cannot think what." Dumbledore thought a bit and then said, "It is very possible that he overheard a conversation I had, and knows that Voldemort's essence has been reported in that area, and he sought to capture him." Dumbledore nodded to himself. "That certainly does lie within his theoretical expertise and would have made him famous. Finding Voldemort in better condition than expected, however, Professor Quirrell will instead fall in with his plans."
Harry shrugged. "So, you don't think Professor Snape told him of the conversation?"
"Harry, you must not judge. . . ."
"I must not judge Snape?" Harry demanded. "Look, if you want him to kill you, fine. Just don't expect me to applaud the idea."
"Professor Snape. . . ."
"Cannot be trusted," Harry stated firmly. "His cover is blown, and you both should have known that once you admitted helping him in court! And yes, I know about that and a lot more. When will you get it through your head that this time I know a lot more than you want me to, and that you screwed up royally last time? He is worthless as a spy, and he never managed to stop any Slytherin from going Dark in the six years I was a student. He failed on every count. If he is going to have ANY value, other than making potions for you, his roles have to totally change."
"He is a professor. . . ."
"He is one of the worst teachers on staff," Harry snapped. 'He is certainly the most biased. The first time he abuses me this time, I'm filing a complaint. The first time he uses passive Legilimency on me in class, I'll shred his ego. If he keeps at me, I'll shred his mind." Dumbledore winced. "I'm damned if I'm going to struggle against his bigoted incompetence on top of everything else this time. You're the one who treats him as your favorite son, YOU figure out a way to deal with him. Don't even try to foist him off onto me this time!"
"Harry. . . ."
"Do something, anything. If you really feel you have to, tell him the truth about what happened, and then let him shape up or ship out!"
Dumbledore blinked. "Where did that phrase come from!"
Harry shrugged. "Watching Muggle television with Sirius, no doubt," he answered. Harry glared at Dumbledore. "'Professor' Snape may have his uses, but they aren't in being a spy or a role model for junior Death Eaters. And either he changes or I do, and you might love him more than you do me, but I'm the one who has to fight and destroy this monster that HE helped create and that YOU failed to deal with back when he was an abused orphan, then a bullying student, and then finally a would-be Dark Lord. So, turn that brilliant mind of yours on the right tasks, not on getting me to tolerate abuse. I had my fill of it the last time!" Harry stood. "Now, if there are any other things you believe I might need to learn other than masochism, please talk with Alastor or Remus before you leave." Harry stalked from the room.
Dumbledore stood there, stunned until Aberforth came in. "Forceful young man, isn't he?"
"You heard that?" Dumbledore said incredulously, still smarting from the dressing down he had received.
"All three of us did," Aberforth stated. "And you might as well face facts, Albus, all three of us agree with Harry, four if you count Black, and I'm sure Diggle would agree, too, if he knew all the details. Snape as he is now is a luxury we cannot afford to keep. He must either change, or at least mask, his attitude towards Harry and bring a more positive face towards his Slytherin students or he will drag them and you down. As he acts now, young Draco will have both his father and his godfather pushing against the lessons Sirius is trying to teach him. Or, to put it in another way, either the leopard Snape must change his spots, or Harry will have a leopard-skin rug."
Dumbledore sighed in confusion. He had to face something he had been putting off for months. His dilemma was if he could go through with things.
Saturday, December 30, 1990
Severus Snape was torn. He was partly just stunned. He was confused. Mostly, he was outraged. It had been bad enough the previous summer when that bastard Black had been revealed to have been innocent and Pettigrew had been revealed to have been alive and guilty. For one horrible moment, Snape's ego had crumbled. He had known there had been a traitor close to the Potters; he had reported that to Dumbledore in mid-September of 1981. He had thought it was likely Lupin, but had no proof. When Black had been arrested, Snape had consoled himself with the knowledge that with all his nearly infinite faults, Sirius Black was a clever and tricky wizard, and he had known that Black was both ruthless and dangerous long before Black had tried to kill him in their Sixth year. It stung a little to have been fooled by Black, but so had everyone else. But to have been fooled by Peter Pettigrew? Even the fact that everyone had again been fooled was of no comfort. Still, Snape had been able to put those feelings aside.
But now. . . .
Snape had been wary since the evening before, when the Headmaster had requested Snape to be prepared to spend the next day in conference with him. He had always been worried that the key to the Headmaster's plans to prevent the Dark Lord's return seemed to depend on Harry Potter for some reason. Despite what the Headmaster had just spent the first half hour of their meeting telling him, it was difficult to believe that Potter had, apparently, succeeded in stopping the Dark Lord in another life, but had been sent back simply because this boy had seen too much suffering and two silly witches had decided the cost of victory had been too high. Victory was the important thing, was it not?
Dumbledore had sighed at that point, and had gone on to explain more of what had happened.
Snape had not believed it.
Dumbledore had therefore taken Snape on a tour of some memories which Potter had put into a pensieve. He had seen for himself the Dark Lord being re-embodied, and a number of firefights and battles.
Snape had had to believe it. "But why tell me this?" Snape had demanded. "Obviously, this time-line in now corrupt. Pettigrew is gone. The Dark Lord may find someone else to help him, but we at least will be more on our guard." He had then sneered and said, "Perhaps we will not have to depend on that boy. After all, it was likely his foolishness which led to that Dark ceremony."
"Was it indeed, Severus?" Dumbledore had asked. The old man had sighed, and then showed Snape another set of memories. The first had been the most shocking of all, for it had shown Snape killing Albus Dumbledore himself. A memory of Dumbledore's had then showed Snape Harry's opinion of why Snape had done it. Three more memories had shown Snape leading units of Death Eaters in firefights where Potter's group had defeated them, although narrowly in two cases. The third time he had been out-dueled by Potter and captured. One final memory showed Snape's execution, along with the Lestranges.
And so, Severus Snape was torn. He was partly just stunned. He was confused. Mostly, he was outraged. He was outraged at these images of James Potter with Lily Evans' eyes, especially the one where he had witnessed the death of another Severus Snape and seen the grim satisfaction on Potter's face.
Then had come yet another series of memories, and while Snape was well-prepared to believe that he disliked the child of Potter and Evans, even he was surprised by the spite he had apparently inflicted on the boy, although he believed, hoped, that these were the low-lights, and not as typical of his behavior as Potter claimed. There followed a recitation of the Slytherins Snape had mentored who had turned Death Eater. Nearly all the Hogwarts students who had left school after 1985 who had turned to Voldemort in his Second Rising had been Slytherin, as opposed to the 40% who had supported Grindelwald's last war and the 60% who had supported Voldemort's first attempt. Either Snape was doing something wrong, or he was not doing enough which was right. This was followed by an explanation of why Snape could never return to being a spy. He had failed to fool the Dark Lord in that alternate universe. Even forewarned, he would have only a slightly better chance this time.
And so Snape was outraged at fate, and outraged at his own behavior.
"What do you want me to do, Headmaster?" Snape demanded finally. "I do not want that monster to win, and I am disgusted by the idea that I gave in to him a second time."
"Do you honestly accept this as truth, Severus?" Dumbledore asked compassionately.
Snape glared for all he was worth for a few moments, and then collapsed back into his chair. "Even allowing for the hyperbole of an exhibitionist like James Potter, that would not influence the memories to a great enough a degree to disprove the thesis." He looked up at Dumbledore, great agony in his eyes. "Should I tender my resignation now, so that you may start the search soon?"
"If that is what you truly desire, Severus, I will accept your resignation at the end of March." Snape nodded and started to stand. Dumbledore's hand on his shoulder stopped him. "I apparently never understood how hurt you were by James Potter and his friends. Yes, I valued James, Lily, Sirius, and Remus. Never think I valued you any less than any one of them, Severus. I have lost many fine wizards and witches to Darkness. I was partially responsible for not helping a young Slytherin by the name of Tom Riddle, and then not stopping him before he could turn himself into Voldemort." Snape winced. "I lost you, and you came back. I apparently lost you a second time. I would not lose you a third time. You have three paths to follow, Severus. I can not make the choice for you. The hardest path, at least over the next few years, would be for you to stay here. You would have to change your interactions with the Slytherin students. You must openly take a path which pushes against the absolute Pure-Blood agenda espoused by Voldemort's supporters. We must come up with an alternative, a positive message of wizarding culture, not one based on hatred of others."
"Oh?" Snape asked, "and you would push that new agenda, instead of seeking to bring us closer to Muggle culture while staying apart?"
"I no longer believe that will work," Dumbledore said sadly.
"Potter did this?"
"He has mentioned it to myself and his attendants, but with no solution. One of them has come up with some ideas, which I would like you to look at without prejudice."
"Meaning I shall just give you a copy of the proposals, and I want your opinion of it."
"To sum these 'ideas' up, what might the gist be?" Snape asked, willing to be led in another direction.
"Starting next year, we start two new courses for students in their First and Second years. For those primarily Muggle-raised, a course on Magical traditions. We certainly have to stop relying on Professor Binns' lectures to give them this information. We would need to find a Pure-blood of sufficient knowledge and tolerance to make it both worth-while and reasonable. For the children raised primarily in our world, a course on 'Living with Muggles'. It is time to remind them of some home-truths as well."
"What truths? And what truths are you trying to teach the Muggle-born?" Snape demanded.
"For the Muggle-raised, that being magical is a way of life as well as a talent," Dumbledore said simply. "For the magical, a reminder that new blood is needed for us to survive, that our wealth and innovations come from the Muggle world, and just some idea of how large that Muggle world is. Remember, what started your own thoughts in leading you away from Voldemort?"
"I was undercover in the Muggle world, and I saw how powerful and large it is. We're outnumbered more than two thousand to one, and they have machines I cannot even begin to understand what they do, let alone how they work, with power beyond what I can understand." Snape's eyes clouded. "I really do despise that world, Headmaster."
"I understand," Dumbledore said. "We took a path, and it failed. We have been given what I would imagine is a fairly unique opportunity to try a different path, and I intend to do so. I hope you will help me."
"Perhaps," Snape said, forcing himself to be a true Slytherin and consider not what he wanted, but what would be the best deal he could make. After some thought, he stated, "If I do, both your Traditions and Muggle professors needs one other qualification besides being tolerant and knowledgeable. Something which our current Muggle Studies certainly instructor does not have."
"And that would be?"
"Ancestry," Snape answered. "It must be someone that even someone like Lucius Malfoy would have to respect." He glared. "If you were thinking of Black, forget it."
"I was thinking he might teach the 'Living with Muggles' course, actually."
"You need not associate with him beyond nodding to him at meals," Dumbledore said, having had to say much to same to Sirius. These ideas had primarily been Remus Lupin's. It was a shame that Remus could not easily come and teach either course.
"What are my other available 'paths'?" Snape asked, his trade-mark sneer now long gone.
"You can simply walk away from everything, or you could be doing research for me outside of Hogwarts," Dumbledore said.
Now Snape did stand. "I shall inform you of my decision, Headmaster." He hesitated. "May I ask one more thing?"
"Potter . . . he came back and joined his ten year-old-body. . . ."
"First of all, his guardians were abusing him, and under feeding him. Harry says he is already the same height he was at the end of his First year. Second, to answer your real question, his eighteen year-old magical ability came with him along with the knowledge of how to use it -- and I would judge his power when I first met him equal to what mine was when I left Hogwarts, and nearly equal to Tom Riddle's. It has grown as the usual rate for a ten year old."
"Is there any chance of his becoming Dark?" Snape demanded.
"No," Dumbledore answered. "He will leave, just as Merlin did, should that temptation come to him."