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 VIII Saturday, March 16, 1991
The three men were gathered in a small, smoky cottage on the very edge of the Malfoy estate. "I don't understand what you're playing at," Macnair growled.
Lucius Malfoy shrugged. "I am doing what is necessary, Macnair." He shifted his glare to the third man. "Do you have something to say, Nott?"
Nott thought a few more moments, then said, "You are taking many gambles, Malfoy, not just with yourself, but with your son, my son, and us." They were not happy about the time Sirius Black was taking with young Draco, and had just heard about the purposed curriculum changes at Hogwarts.
Malfoy said nothing, but when the silence stretched too long he had to say, "I can see why you might think so."
"Think, nothing," Nott stated. "If the Master returns, you will suffer, and so will we."
"Exactly," Macnair agreed. "Not to mention Crabbe and Goyle."
Malfoy shrugged, for he could care less for Crabbe or Goyle so long as they did as they were told. "What do you two suggest?" Malfoy sneered. "You are both doing the same thing, if on more inefficient scales."
"That may be true," Nott agreed. "Still, you were high in the Master's confidence. Surely there must be some way, some thing you could do, to give us all some insurance. Something which would give the Master some sign that you tried, and that we backed you when everyone else was against us."
The image of a small Muggle day diary flashed in Malfoy's mind. "There is one thing," Malfoy said slowly. "However, if I involved any of our sons, even Crabbe or Goyle's, and the plan fails, we will all lose everything. And I do mean everything." He turned on Macnair. "And we will take you down with us, too."
"So get some other child," Nott sneered.
"I plan to," Lucius lied. He had been undecided until that very moment.
"And this plan will go into effect when?" Macnair asked.
"When I can find an appropriate pawn," Malfoy retorted. "It may be before the next school year starts; it may take longer. If it succeeds, then the Master may return. If it does not, and he does return some other way, he will be angry with all of us." He glared at them. "And I mean very angry. Are you certain you want to risk this?"
Nott and Macnair looked at each other for a moment, and then looked at Malfoy. "We have to risk it," Nott said. He and Malfoy now both looked at Macnair.
"Very well," Macnair said. "We take the risk together.
Tuesday, April 2, 1991
"Damn, Harry," Sirius said panting, "you don't know how humiliating this is!"
"What's the matter, old man?" Harry teased. "Your ego can't stand being whupped by a ten-year-old?"
"Maybe, if . . . no," Sirius said, "I can't think of any circumstances, other than these, where anyone's ego could handle it."
"Don't get too cocky, Harry," Moody warned. "Yes, you're slightly more powerful than any of us, but you're mostly winning because you're so small and because you have the best. . . ."
"Reflexes you've ever seen," Harry, Remus, and Sirius chorused. It was a constant refrain.
"Well," Moody snapped, "It's true." He glowered. "You know more shields than anyone I know except perhaps for Dumbledore, and more offense than any new auror. I expect you could take any Death Eater one-on-one." He smiled nastily. "So, starting tomorrow morning, we'll see how you do against Black and Lupin at the same time."
Saturday, April 27, 1991
"May I ask what you're staring at?" Harry asked Hermione. He was glad that she was finally getting more comfortable around Ron. Over the previous months, most of his classmates who had been meeting with him had gradually come together as friends. One exception had been Draco Malfoy. Compared to what Harry remembered of his behavior from his previous life, however, Draco was at least becoming civil. Draco was at least polite to everyone other than Ron and Hermione, and he was no longer openly nasty to Hermione.
The other exception was Hermione. She was shy around Parvati, who was much more of a playful tomboy than Harry had ever realized, although she was also already very interested in fashion when she wasn't romping in the fields with the other children. Hermione was also as disdainful of Draco as he was of her, although she was rigidly polite to his face.
"I was thinking that you're not looking nearly as exhausted as you have been," she answered. As always, after a day of play, she and Harry went to his room to 'talk adult' and to test her Occlumency. "Can you tell me what you've been up to, or is it still a secret?"
"It wasn't so much of a secret," Harry admitted. "I just felt uncomfortable talking about it while I was dealing with it."
"With what? Or are you still uncomfortable?"
"I've been spending an hour every morning dueling with both Sirius and Remus," Harry said.
"Together or in sequence?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, together," Harry said.
"And the fact that you aren't exhausted means that you can hold your own now?" Hermione asked.
"No, it means I can beat them two out of three times," Harry said proudly, then his face fell. "When I get it up to four out of five, Moody will join them. Then, this summer, Dumbledore will be dueling with me."
"I am sorry you have to go through this," Hermione said.
Harry shrugged. "Compared to the first time around, this is actually fun."
"Really?" Hermione asked, concerned.
"Tiring, but fun," Harry amended.
"That I will believe," Hermione said. "You really have looked awful," she added in a worried tone.
"I know," Harry admitted. "I certainly can't add any more to what I've been doing, other than changing who I'm dueling."
"What are you going to do at school?" Hermione asked. "I mean, you really won't need to study as hard as the rest of us."
"The review won't hurt," Harry agreed. "I'll be working out by my self when the rest of you are studying the regular curriculum."
"That makes some sense," Hermione admitted. "What else?"
"I'll be working with the Headmaster in trying to keep a step ahead of Voldemort," Harry answered reluctantly.
"It doesn't sound like you're terrible thrilled by the idea," Hermione pointed out.
"It's more like I don't trust Dumbledore," Harry answered. "He kept so much to himself the last time around that I can't believe he'll tell me everything I'll need to know."
"I hope you're wrong, that he'll change," Hermione said hopefully, for this Hermione might still be as respectful of authority as the original Hermione, but for this one, that authority was Harry, not Dumbledore. She frowned as a thought hit her. "How are you practicing your Legilimency, other than with me?"
"I practice on the boys," Harry admitted. "I don't try to direct their memories, but I can see what they're thinking."
"Food and flying?" Hermione suggested.
"Pretty much," Harry admitted.
Sunday, April 28, 1991
Two hooded figures approach the ancient stone building. Despite the fact that it was a bright day, the building seemed to be covered in shadows. "But, Master," one figure said, "is this necessary?"
"I had hoped not," the other figure stated, "but I see no alternative. Now, knock!"
The first figure sighed, but did as he was told.
A wizened figure opened the door and asked in Old Slavic, "Who seeks my master?" From the posture and voice, it was impossible to even guess at the gender of the being.
"You should know who is supposed to be here at this time!" the second figure tried to bellow, but it came out more as a bleat.
The being nodded. "Yes, I remember you." It swung the door wide.
"Your soul is already forfeit." It looked at the first figure. "And you? Do you give up your soul?" The second figure forced his way in, dragging the first with him. "Ah, well," the being at the door said, "your soul is forfeit now."
"Of course I know what to do," the grizzled sorcerer growled. "And yes, I am prepared to do the ceremony for you. Are you certain that is what you want?"
"What choice do I have?" the second figure growled back. The two were in what could almost pass for a large, old-fashioned comfortable room -- a fireplace, numerous comfortable chairs -- where it not for the 'hunting trophies' -- mounted and stuffed goblins, elves, people, and even a centaur. The third figure huddled in a corner, looking into the small fire in the huge fireplace.
"You could wait, you know. Once you return to Britain, you might have access to unicorns. Their blood would be more effective in the medium-term."
"I know, that was my original plan," the second figure, who was Voldemort in possession of a Muggle, agreed. When he had lost that tiny trickle of power from Harry Potter, he had had to come up with a whole new set of plans. He needed a long-term host, and this young fool from Hogwarts was perfect, but he would have to join with him before going to Britain now, rather than after.
"You know what I am about to do? what you will have to do afterwards?"
"What, yes. What I need to know is how much," Voldemort retorted.
"You won't need much, but you must drink at least three fluid ounces ever two weeks. You may go as early as every nine days, you must not delay more than fifteen days, or else you have only thirty-six hours to redo the ceremony."
The sorcerer looked over at the first figure, Quirrell, and lowered his voice. "Does the fool realize what will happen if this fails?"
"He understands enough," Voldemort replied. "I hope I do not have to do this for long."
The sorcerer shrugged. "At least it does not matter if it is a Pure or even non-magical girl. It is just important she has never bled."
"I know," Voldemort snapped. He stood. "You have one for the ceremony?"
"I do," the sorcerer said. "Would you care to see her?"
"Of course," Voldemort answered. He stood and followed the sorcerer as he moved around to the corridor. The sorcerer opened what looked like a closet door -- which is what it was. Inside, petrified so she wouldn't damage herself and hanging from the ceiling, was a naked blonde girl, perhaps twelve. "H'mm," Voldemort said, considering, "she isn't too old?"
The sorcerer glared at Voldemort for a moment before he leered at the girl. "I know my chattel. Do not tell me how to do my magic, and I shall not tell you how to do yours." He turned to Voldemort. "Now, let me see you." Voldemort let the robe and cloak drop to the floor. The sorcerer walked around and observed. "This was a Muggle, before you possessed it, I take it."
"It was," Voldemort agreed.
"It's looking like it will last until the full moon, but not beyond tomorrow," the sorcerer observed. "Just as well we can do it soon. You do realize that once you are joined with your host, you cannot escape except through the death of the host unless you have a true body, one of your own, to go to? You cannot simply take another host."
"This joining is different than the incomplete one you have now," the sorcerer warned. "You must take over and be visible for at least three hours out of every twenty-four, and no more than twelve."
"I am well aware of the necessities," Voldemort declared with a glare. "Now, can we get on with this?"
The sorcerer shrugged. "Very well." He reached in the pulled the nude girl off the hook she had been hanging from by her tied wrists. "We might as well get started," the sorcerer said. "We have less than six hours before the full moon. It will take some time to prep her so that she both bleeds out quickly but does not die too fast."
"True," Voldemort agreed. "Which technique do you prefer?" He was glad to have someone knowledgeable to talk with.
The full moon would be at 8:58 pm. Therefore, at 8:35, Harry and Sirius sat with Remus Lupin on the back stairs of the Dumbledore cottage. Remus was rather woozy, in part because his condition made him tired, achy, and confused, but mostly because he was on the wolfsbane potion, which was extremely powerful. Remus was stripped down to nothing, but swathed in blankets to keep in warm in the chilly evening air. Harry and Sirius could assume their animagus forms fully clothed.
"What's wrong, Proglet?" Sirius teased. "You've looked a little off all day."
Remus turned a bleary eye on Harry, and saw that the young wizard did indeed look nearly as awful as Remus felt. "You okay?" he croaked.
"Actually, no," Harry answered. "I'm not. Remus, I hate to say this. . . ."
"Go inside and rest," Remus said. "We can run next month." Remus then groaned as the moon, nearly full, came out from behind a cloud.
Harry leaned over and hugged the ailing werewolf tightly. "Take care tonight, Moony," Harry said. He gave Sirius a brief hug as well. "You take care of him and don't be foolish, old man," Harry told his godfather.
"Don't worry," Sirius said with a smile. After Harry went in, Sirius turned to Remus and said, "That boy never ceases to amaze me."
"I'm glad it doesn't bother you. . . ." Remus trailed off as a spasm hit.
"No, I know he loves us both," Sirius replied.
"Change . . . now. . . ." Remus begged. Sirius complied.
"I thought you were running with the wolf and the mongrel tonight?" Moody said to Harry. His magic eye went spinning as Harry fell to his knees. "What is it?"
"It's Voldemort. . . ." Harry gasped. "I don't know what he's doing, but it's forcing open the connection between us for the first time since I've been back." Harry's body was whacked with agony for several seconds. "Get Dumbledore . . . if you can."
Harry collapsed, his scar oozing a film of blood.
Monday, April 29, 1991
"Can you tell us what happened?" Dumbledore asked Harry as soon as he awoke the next morning.
"No, I don't think I should," Harry answered after taking the time to see where he was and who was with him. "There was pain and blood, and a feeling of triumph, and as for the rest . . . I really don't want to talk about it." He looked at Dumbledore. "Now do you know why I asked you for two penseives, not just one?"
"One was to explore the memories of your other life," Remus said thoughtfully. "So, the other was to be used for experiences like last night?"
Harry nodded. "They are powerful, nasty, and possibly even dangerous. I've created a base, some of the memories from the other life where the connections were especially powerful. It's in that cabinet, on the lowest shelf."
It was Sirius who fetched it, and held the bowl steady while Harry drew out the thick memory of the previous night's vision. Harry's body relaxed as the memory left. He still had the memory, but it was no longer raw, the details no longer easily remembered. "Moony, I don't think you should watch it today," Harry said as he dropped it into the bowl.
"It's that bad?"
"And you look tired."
Remus shook his head. "No, no I think I should see it, too. That way I'll know what's going on."
Harry didn't argue. "Fine. You won't thank yourself, but go ahead."
Sirius set the bowl on a table while Harry laid back on his bed. Sirius, Remus, Moody, and the Dumbledores leaned over and their bodies went still as their minds entered the memory.
Time passes faster in a memory than it does in the 'real world'. Still, it was some fifteen minutes before the five men emerged from the horrific scene. All five looked sickened.
It was Moody who spoke first. "That was not the worst you've ever seen, was it, lad?"
"I wish I could say it was," Harry answered. "I didn't remember all the details, but I also remembered enough not to want to see those details."
"In case you hadn't realized it, Voldemort has joined himself with Professor Quirrell," Dumbledore, looking very pale, said. "It was a different process for some reason than the one he must have used last time, although I am not certain of the exact variant. It was most likely one that allows Voldemort to see through Quirrell's eyes. They can only communicate as if two people are talking; that is, Voldemort cannot control Quirrell while Quirrell is awake. It may be possible for Voldemort to take control of the body whenever Quirrell is asleep, however."
"And killing Quirrell won't hurt the bastard, right?" Sirius demanded.
"That is correct," Dumbledore said. "He was very difficult, almost impossible, to track disembodied. As part of Quirrell, at least it will be slightly easier to keep tabs on him."
"I wish we knew why he did things differently this time," Aberforth said thoughtfully.
"I know," Harry agreed fretfully. "And if he's totally inside Quirrell, it's not like we can rip his turban off and expose Voldemort on the back of his head this time."
The group sat in silence for a moment, and then Harry snorted.
"What?" Sirius asked.
"I was just remembering something," Harry said with a sad smile. "The last time around the Weasley twins enchanted snow balls to follow Quirrell around and hit the back of Quirrell's turban, meaning they were hitting Voldemort in the face. It's a shame they can't do it again."
Saturday, May 4, 1991
"Why won't you tell me any details?" Hermione asked. "Were they that disturbing?" Harry looked at Hermione, and her little heart sank. "So, it was horrible, wasn't it?"
"Very, although I saw even worse things in my other life," Harry answered.
"I knew something awful had happened as soon as I saw you weren't having much fun flying," Hermione declared. "But what exactly did Voldemort do?"
"Well, the last time he came back with Quirrell, remember, and joined with him sometime in August."
Hermione nodded, saying, "And this joining was kept stable by the use of unicorn blood."
"Exactly. This time, the two were joined last night, and to seal them, the combination was bathed with the life's blood of a virgin."
Hermione's mouth dropped for a moment. "You mean. . . ."
"I mean they joined and then Quirrell lay in something like a stone sarcophagus. There was a girl, she looked a little older than you. She was petrified by a spell and suspended nude over Quirrell's naked body, and then she was split open, from just under her throat all the way down to her pubic bone, and then the person performing the sacrifice cut down the front of each shoulder, down her arms to her ring fingers, and then from the end of the cut down her thighs to her second toes, and then he canceled the petrification spell. She dripped and screamed until she died, maybe twenty minutes later. Now," Harry asked Hermione, "do you really want to see that?"
"No," Hermione said in a small voice, tears in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," Harry said.
"No," Hermione said, "I'm sorry. But don't feel you have to overly protect me, either, Harry."
Harry shrugged. "It's a fine line, I guess. We'll keep working on this."