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 IX Wednesday, June 5, 1991
"Are you lost, Lupin?"
Remus regarded Snape with a mild eye and said in the nicest tones he could muster, "Of course not, Severus." Remus would never admit it to anyone else, but he just loved to see the little muscle twitch over Snape's left eye every time he answered the Potion Master's hostile tone with the polite use of his name. "This is the way to the Headmaster's Office, unless I have forgotten more than I had thought."
Snape tried to formulate a response, failed, and stalked away. 'Arse,' Remus said to himself, and made the last turn that brought him to the entrance to the Headmaster's domain.
"Should you be here, Remus?" Dumbledore asked.
"Yes," Remus answered simply. "I can travel faster than an owl, and I wouldn't trust the floo network with this."
"And what news is there?" Dumbledore asked.
"If a short twinge of Harry's is to be believed, Voldemort returned to England just after dawn."
Dumbledore nodded. "Professor Quirrell came through magical customs just before Eight. He left legally, and he did not draw attention to himself by returning otherwise."
Remus blinked. "You knew?"
"Of course," Dumbledore answered. "We know they are joined. I am not going to forego tracking him when possible. And, in case Harry expresses any doubts, I would have let you know of the return when Diggle comes to visit you tomorrow."
"So, you're still tracking him?" Remus asked.
"Alas, my agents lost contact," Dumbledore said.
"Oh," Remus said, standing. "You might wish to stake out Malfoy Manor. Harry said that just about the first thing Voldemort did once he was back was to summons Lucius Malfoy through his Dark Mark, although perhaps it would be better to call it a notification that he would be receiving a visitor. It was only then that the contact totally faded."
Dumbledore looked troubled. "That is unexpected."
"Voldemort wants the Philosopher's Stone. Malfoy might be able to help him locate it. Harry said that he sent two other notifications at the same time, but he wasn't sure who they went to."
"I'll move the Stone from Gringotts in the morning," Dumbledore said. "I will not be using Quirrell or even Severus in protecting it this time, either."
"And what brings the most junior staff member to see a governor of the school?" Lucius Malfoy asked in his most aristocratic drawl.
John Q. Quirrell looked around the huge parlor and then looked at Malfoy behind a large ornate desk, both designed to make the supplicant on the wrong side of the desk feel small. Quirrell smiled at Malfoy, and then his face seemed to melt and transform.
Malfoy watched, first in anger, and then in terror. He promptly fell out of his chair and onto his knees. "Master?"
"Yes, Lucius. It is very wise for you to accept me so quickly," Voldemort said. "I cannot make my true self be seen easily or often, but never doubt I am in here."
"Now, I have two plans to bring my self fully back. You may be useful in the first. Should it not succeed . . . tell me, do you still have the objects I left with you?"
"You have not used the diary I warned you to protect?"
"Not yet, Master," Lucius hedged.
Voldemort's voice was giving Malfoy no clue, so he told the truth. More-or-less. "If I had not heard from you by the tenth anniversary of your disappearance, I was going to search out a foolish First year at Hogwarts, as you instructed. However, Nott and Macnair were anxious, Master, and instead of waiting until next year, I agreed to look for someone suitable this year, someone lonely and foolish. So far, I have not found anyone.
Voldemort thought this through for a moment. It was a shame that he had created a Horcrux with conditions for the soul fragment being released, but he could work around that, if needs be. On the one hand, exposing one of the five Horcruxes he had created was a risk. On the other, he doubted anyone suspected what he had done. The risk should be rather minimal. He would be at Hogwarts, and could help things along. Along with releasing the basilisk to create chaos if necessary, his avatar could be released in several different ways. If the Philosopher's Stone remained elusive, he could then be joined with his younger self and retake a body in that manner, although he was uncertain of how that might work out in detail. Still, the diary was the one Horcrux which could be used in making a new body. Once that rejoining was stable, he could split himself twice more, instead of once. Should he come across any clues to the Philosopher's Stone, so much the better. "Tell me, instead of someone lonely, is there some girl going to Hogwarts next year who would be loyal?" Voldemort finally asked.
"Perhaps, my lord," Malfoy said thoughtfully. "What other qualifications should she have, if any?"
"Stubbornness and lack of imagination, and the ability to follow orders. And, if there is no such girl, any girl who will be in her Fifth year or lower may do."
"We have not formally affianced my son," Lucius said after thinking about this for several minutes. "However, there is an informal arrangement with the Parkinsons. Their daughter Pansy may do. There is also Pandora Nott, who will almost certainly be named a Fifth year prefect.
"Do they know each other?" Voldemort demanded.
"They are first cousins," Malfoy replied.
"Could they work togather? The older girl covering for the younger?"
"Then bring me the pocket diary." Voldemort smiled. "I have many things to write into it." He would search out the Philosopher's Stone, he could either use Parkinson's blood or use her to gain the blood of others to stabilize his joining with Quirrell, he would again have the chance to search Hogwarts for any useful old magic, he could study the Old Man and the Boy (and hopefully he would discover how the toddler Harry Potter had set him back), and if nothing else worked, he would use the life-force of Parkinson to bring his avatar back to a full life and combine with him. Voldemort smiled and let Quirrell's form come back to the forefront. Having multiple plans was better than having just one.
Draco Malfoy had for ten years been a very obedient, if otherwise spoiled, child. Over the last eleven months, however, he had been exposed to Sirius Black and his ideas. More, he had been treated for the first time in his life as an equal -- not someone superior, not someone entitled to anything he hadn't earned, and not as an enemy either. He had also listened to many of Sirius' stories about sneaking around Hogwarts. He had gone exploring Malfoy Manor, and had found many interesting passages, hidden rooms, and other places, some of which even his father did not know of. He had watched the entire encounter between his father and the combined Quirrell/Voldemort. He had been amazed, and then disgusted by the being his father had always spoke of as a golden prince.
This Voldemort was not even human.
This version of Draco also saw something he had not seen in the version Harry had lived through. Draco saw that his father was afraid of Voldemort. His other self had never seen his father interact with the Dark Lord until after the death of Dumbledore. He now saw that his father was not the Dark Lord's chief of staff or chief lieutenant -- he saw that his father was Voldemort's servant, who treated his father much as his father treated the house elves. His father was, in a sense, the Dark Lord's elf. What would that make Draco, in the Dark Lord's New Order? A slave who controlled other slaves was still a slave.
Even at eleven, Draco could see this, even if he would never have believed it if he had been told. The question therefore arose, what should he do about this information? When Voldemort and his father had left the parlor, Draco had snuck back to his room to think. If he told Sirius, what would that mean to the House of Malfoy? If he didn't, what would that mean for him? Well, in the long run, it would mean slavery or death, although at eleven, Draco did not understand death. The question was, could he play a waiting game?
That quickly was answered 'no' -- he could not play that sort of game unsupported and he now knew himself well enough to find his way to that conclusion after a few hours of mental and emotional groping.
His father had sworn Draco not to reveal any of the inner workings of the family to Sirius when he had agreed to let Draco spend time with his charismatic cousin. Draco would not go back on his exact word. He could not confide to Sirius, even though he had come to idolize his exuberant cousin.
That left Harry. The boy his father had told him was his rival. Harry, whose best friend was a Muggle-born, who was friends with that pest Ron Weasley. The boy who was also a leader who had, over the previous months, treated Draco not as a slave, but as a friend, albeit not a close friend.
Draco's head and back went up and straight as he realized that those were his choices: to be a slave controlling other slaves -- or an ally who controlled no one but himself, but who might still have influence over others, who would have influence over others, if the next head of the wealthy House of Malfoy was a friend and ally of the Boy who Lived.
The original Draco Malfoy could not imagine Harry Potter beating the glorious Dark Lord painted by his father. This Draco Malfoy could imagine his friend Harry Potter, who was doing things he could not do himself, destroying the monster he had seen lording over his father that afternoon.
"Do you think I should go and destroy the Hufflepuff Horcrux, and the basilisk for that matter, before Quirrell comes back to Hogwarts?" Harry asked Dumbledore that evening.
"Do you think either of those tasks would be easy, lad?" Moody asked.
"I found out an interesting fact long after I killed the basilisk," Harry said.
"And what is that, Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
"Parselmouths are immune to the stare of a basilisk."
Sirius, Remus, Moody, Aberforth, and Albus all stared at Harry. Finally, Remus said, "You've never mentioned that you were a parselmouth, Harry."
Harry rolled his eyes. "None of you read very carefully," Harry accused. "If I didn't explicitly spell that out in the narrative which I wrote and which all of you read, it was certainly implicit. You've all read it more than once, and you've all had access to it for over nine months. Hermione read it once, and has asked me about snake dialects and accents, and if you missed it three weeks ago, brought me a grass snake to talk to." Harry looked at the stunned wizards with disgust. "You know, I know destroying Voldemort is the right thing to do. I am not so certain that the magical world, considered by itself, is worth saving. Now, I think we should destroy the basilisk and the fourth Horcrux, unless one of you can come up with some good reasons not to. The positives should be obvious, but if they need to be spelled out, doing so takes a powerful weapon away from Voldemort and brings him one step closer to his final destruction. The downside is that he will likely go looking for the basilisk at some point, and finding it killed or better yet missing will set him on his guard. He will then almost certainly check on the Hufflepuff Horcrux. I don't know what the knowledge that he is down to two will do. I. . . ."
"How will he know he's down to two?" Remus asked.
"We'll leave him a note," Harry said. He grinned. "We can claim your brother did all of them, if you want to, Sirius. We should certainly leave him the broken Horcruxes, so he knows we're not bluffing."
"And we give him this information because. . . ?" Moody asked.
"How many times can a wizard split his soul before his body just doesn't have enough left to work?" Harry asked. "Voldemort planned on making six and thinks he only made five. That should make him pause before trying to create any more. We don't need him going into hibernation for a few hundred years before his soul gathers enough power to animate a body again and begins attacking our descendants." Harry's eyes drilled into Dumbledore's. "You need to organize a search of the Dark places in Albania now that Voldemort is in Britain. The Muggle parts of the country will be falling into chaos. Either he already fed the Horcrux to the snake or it's still hidden there. I can't see it being anything more than theoretically possible that it could be anyplace else. With Voldemort here, you need to scour the country and see if the Horcrux can be found and destroyed."
"And just who do you think should go?" Aberforth demanded.
"What funds do you have?" Harry asked.
"They are limited," Dumbledore admitted.
"Can you trust the goblins at Gringotts?" Harry asked. "I can't go to them yet on this."
"They will want to see some profit somewhere along the line," Remus pointed out.
"As I said, I need to destroy the basilisk. How much would it be worth, processed as potions ingredients?" Harry asked.
"A fortune," Remus said simply.
"Enough for them to pay for one of their curse breakers and a young man skilled in dealing with magical and dangerous animals to search Albania for an object for you? With anything else they find to be split between Gringotts and the two wizards?"
"Who are they?" Remus asked, since Dumbledore was speechless.
"Bill and Charlie Weasley," Harry answered simply. "Bill has just qualified as an independent curse breaker for Gringotts, and will be on his way to Egypt next month. Charlie has just finished his year of training and will off to Romania next month as well to work with dragons. They having the training, the brains, and the guts, plus we can trust the Weasleys."
"So they do and so we can," Dumbledore agreed. "The question then is, can we wait until the end of the school term to deal with the basilisk?"
Harry shrugged. "O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s started today, didn't they?"
"In that case, would anyone notice us coming in through one of the secret passages, slipping into Myrtle's toilets, and going through to the Chamber?"
"I suppose not," Dumbledore said reluctantly.
Harry turned to Remus and Sirius. "Friday morning, like around Seven?"
Sirius grimaced. He had never been a morning person. He sighed and nodded.
"We'll need to get you some goggles," Harry said. "That way, if you slip up and it manages to look into your eyes, you'll just be petrified."
"Joy," Sirius complained.
"How do you plan to kill it?" Aberforth asked.
"I can trot out my bow," Sirius offered.
Harry smiled. "Can we borrow a few school roosters?"
"Wot?" Sirius demanded.
"Eh?" Aberforth demanded.
"The crow of a rooster will kill a basilisk," Remus supplied.
"KISS," Harry said.
"What?" the Dumbledores and Sirius all demanded.
"A basic Muggle precept," Harry said. "K-I-S-S -- Keep it Simple, Stupid. It may not be heroic or anything, but why take unnecessary risks?"
"What's your problem, Sirius?" Remus asked late that night. Sirius was sitting up in the kitchen, nursing his fifth firewhiskey.
"Sometimes, it's difficult to listen to Harry," Sirius said, his speech slightly slurred. Sirius often wanted to think of Harry as James or James Junior. He looked a lot like James, but he certainly was not. Sirius loved the boy, but still. . . .
"Was he wrong?" Remus asked. "You know as well as I do that the magical world is stuffy, stupid, prejudiced, and many other negative things. That doesn't mean Harry hates it. He knows that Muggles can be just as bad in their own way as we are."
"Maybe, but he wasn't tearing Muggles down tonight," Sirius retorted. "Don't misunderstand me. You're about the only person I know who knows the faults and prejudices of the magical world even better than I do. I hate parts of our world, Moony. I just don't see Harry's attitude leading to anything better."
"Probably not, except for the idea of thinking about the world around us," Remus pointed out. "Society can't work that way, but we can as individuals. And you are about to become the most important teacher at Hogwarts because of that."
"You're going to teach the Muggle-raised the value of the magical world, and the magical world the necessity of the Muggles and their wealth and ideas. If you succeed, the attitudes that bred Voldemort, that bred your family's bigotry, will in time be undermined. What you are about to do is what we're really fighting for, Padfoot."
"You're right, and I of course already knew all that, I'd just rather be going to Albania," Sirius growled.
"So would I," Remus agreed. "Maybe we can spend most of July there, getting the Weasley boys started at least."
"That's a good idea," Sirius mused.
"Harry also spoke to me about something interesting right before you and the Dumbledores showed up."
"And that is?" Sirius asked. He considered pouring another drink, but corked the bottle instead.
"Do you remember the two Weasley twins Harry has mentioned?"
Sirius smiled. "The ones he called 'the heirs to the Marauders?"
"Those are the ones." Sirius gestured his understanding. "Harry says they have the Map."
Sirius' eyes went bright. "I'd forgotten about that!"
"Harry hasn't," Remus said simply. "I will not officially be a teacher. I will approach them, let them know who the Marauders were, borrow the Map and finally do that copying spell we always meant to do and never did."
"And who will have copies?" Sirius asked.
"I need to make certain that whichever copy the twins get doesn't show Voldemort," Remus replied. "We give them one back, you or I keep the original, the other takes a copy. Harry gets a copy."
"And Dumbledore?" Sirius asked.
"Do you really feel he's going to tell us everything?" Remus asked.
"No, and that bothers me," Sirius admitted. "I spent the first few months in Azkaban thinking he would figure things out. And from everything Harry has said. . . ." Sirius finished his last drink. "Dumbledore . . . it's still difficult to remember that as powerful and brilliant as he is, he is so fallible."
"He is," Remus agreed. "We have to remember that Harry is fallible now, too."
"The timeline has radically changed," Sirius agreed. "Do you think Harry has realized that?"
"I think so," Remus said. "Somehow, I think Hermione will make certain he doesn't suffer from hubris."
"He wants to go on vacation with them," Sirius said grumpily.
"Harry's powerful enough to protect them wandlessly for two weeks," Remus pointed out. "They should be safe enough, since the Grangers won't give out their travel plans if Harry goes with them."
"I know, I know, but it still bothers me. Somehow, I see the pair of them thirty years from now in a Muggle semi-detached, in some boring Muggle place like Little Whinging with their three perfect children, barely doing magic," Sirius said, eyeing the bottle.
"Really? I see them in a rebuilt cottage at Godric's Hollow, living the sort of mixed life Lily had in mind," Remus said. "I do feel sorry for any children they might have, if they do get together, though."
Sirius frowned. "Why?"
"Just imagine what any kid's hair would look like with those two as parents!"
Sirius snorted and then laughed until he fell out of his chair.