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 X Friday, June 7, 1991
"Who's there!" Myrtle screeched coming out of her toilet with a squelch. "Who's here?" she demanded. Myrtle glared at the intruders, "Who are you?"
"We're three people investigating how you died, Myrtle," Harry said.
"You are?" Myrtle asked, impressed for a moment. Then she frowned. "Then why do you have a crate of chickens?"
"Roosters, actually," Harry said, going over to the dead tap with the snake on it. "We know what killed you, and are off to destroy it." He looked down at the tap. "/Open/." The sink disappeared into the wall and the floor opened. "/Stairs/." Harry commanded. He turned to Sirius and Remus, who was the one levitating the crate of roosters. Sirius was carrying a shoulder bag with the broken Horcruxes. "Let's go."
It was a long walk down the stairs, but within half an hour, the trio was in front of the closed door, the floor littered with bones left from little creatures killed by the basilisk's glare but not eaten. "You and the Weasley boy were down here when you were Second years?" Remus asked softly as he looked at the collapsed remains of a shed basilisk skin. "I'm impressed."
"This must have been shed a long time ago," Harry answered. "There was a more recent one when we came down." Harry gave the two men a wan smile. "Maybe that means the snake is in some sort of hibernation."
"Possibly," Remus allowed. "More likely, it's just slowed down and would be more active once it's commanded."
Harry merely nodded and stood in front of the door decorated by snakes. "/Open/," he commanded. The snakes moved, and the door slowly opened. The three stood there for a few moments, listening.
All three exchanged looks and shrugged. Sirius and Harry transformed into their animagus forms and sniffed the air more carefully. Finally, Harry transformed back and peeked around the corner.
Still nothing, except the distant smell of snake. Harry waved his wand, and magical torches ignited around the Chamber.
Harry motioned the two to follow and eased slowly into the Chamber itself. Sirius transformed back and he and Remus put on pairs of magical goggles and then followed Harry in, Remus still levitating the crate of roosters, which were becoming agitated. Remus had placed a silencing spell on the cage before entering Hogwarts, however, so no sounds escaped.
"/Creature of Slytherin/!" Harry called out, "/Come forth/!"
There was silence.
"/Creature of Slytherin/!" Harry called out a second time. "/I command you to come forth/!"
A few seconds later, Harry heard off in the distance, "/Who commands me/?"
Harry thought a moment, and then called, "/Does it matter, servant of Slytherin? Come forth/!"
"/Is it time to feed again/?" the voice called. Then, a bit louder, "/I hunger for human flesh! I was promised humans last time, and was sent away too soon/!" Now all three heard the soft sounds of the approaching basilisk. "/I taste the air and taste living creatures! I taste human flesh! I hunger/!"
"/Come and take what you may/!" Harry called. He turned to Remus and Sirius. "Heads down!" Harry pointed his wand at the roosters and took over command of the cage.
"/Who dares enter my Master's Chamber/?" Harry looked up and saw the basilisk starting to emerge from the mouth of Salazar Slythern's statue. Before the creature was even a quarter of the way out, Harry flung the cage filled with roosters at the basilisk's head with a flick of his wand. The cage struck the basilisk, and that broke both the cage and the silencing spell. The roosters started squawking and crowing -- and of course, the crowing of a cock kills a basilisk.
The basilisk hissed and roared, and in its death throws tried to strike at the wailing roosters. Harry backed up, pushing Remus and Sirius behind him. The basilisk managed to kill four of the roosters, but as it sank to the floor, there were still five others running around the Chamber of Secrets, crowing and squawking in terror.
Harry closed the monster's eyes with two flicks of his wand. "It's safe," he told the other two. He turned to the two men. "Now, while I do the easy job of retrieving and destroying the Hufflepuff Horcrux, you two get to turn all that into potions ingredients."
Remus and Sirius both wrinkled their noses at the prospect. "Why didn't you bring Snape?" Sirius complained.
"Because he's going to be playing a dangerous enough game with Voldemort and Quirrell," Harry retorted. "The less he has to hide, the better off all of us will be."
"Are you sure you want to leave the broken Horcruxes here?" Remus asked.
"I can see both sides of the argument," Harry admitted. "On the one hand, Voldemort will be even more defensive of the remaining two Horcruxes. But the point I want to make to him is that he's created his six Horcruxes, and we've destroyed four of them. Does he dare even try and create a seventh? He's done his planning, and dividing, for six. A seventh might place him in an eternal, or at least long-term coma. . . ."
"And that's bad because?" Sirius asked.
Harry sighed and explained yet again, "And if he's somehow revived in two or three hundred years? We might be gone, but do we really want to leaving that kind of time bomb behind? If it happens, fine, but I would prefer to get rid of him."
"Quite right," Remus said, giving Sirius a dirty look.
"And what if he comes back when I'm still here, but older than Dumbledore?" Harry asked. "Either way, the magical world would be in serious trouble."
"True," Sirius admitted.
"I just worry about him taking even more precautions to keep those final Horcruxes out of reach," Remus reminded Harry.
"If we can get the diary, destroy it, and drive Voldemort out of the country, that will satisfy me in the short-term," Harry retorted. "We have to keep him out of his avatar's body."
"Because then he'll not only split that off again, or at least split himself again, and we won't know what it is," Remus mused, "he'll be in a totally restored body."
"Exactly," Harry agreed. "We need to put Voldemort on the defensive," Harry stated. "He had the initiative the last time. This time, we're being proactive."
"And, from what you've told us, it's not like he's going to be any more likely to come after you," Sirius had to admit.
"True," Harry agreed. "He might target my friends more this time, though. I hope you folks are looking into ways to protect Hermione's family. I don't want her losing her parents again."
"We've got it covered," Remus said. "Even Privet Drive is well-protected."
"Are you sure you aren't in love with her?" Sirius teased. "I mean, you do want to go on vacation with her and her family."
Harry smiled. "She's too young to be in love with," Harry said, but then again gave in and answered honestly. "Remember, I dated Ginny Weasley until just before she was killed. After Hermione broke things off with Ron, we became close and I could have dated her, although I suspect we would have made an uncomfortable couple."
"She is a show-off know-it-all," Sirius agreed.
"And a bossy one at that," Harry agreed. "I'm hoping I can file some of the edges off. That could mean we'll finally date, or it could mean that she and Ron will get along even better this time." He gave the pair a crooked smile. "We took to rating their squabbles towards the end."
"I knew you liked her," Sirius bragged.
"It wasn't difficult to figure out," Remus said.
"Now enough about me," Harry said with a smile much like his father's. "You two had best get to the prep work." With that, Harry ducked into the mouth of the statue and disappeared.
When Harry returned just over an hour later, the now-broken cup of Helga Hufflepuff in his hand, the basilisk had been reduced to ingredients and the two older wizards were exhausted from the hard magic they had been preforming. Harry unstoppered one of the flask of basilisk blood, this one only half filled to begin with. Harry conjured a brush and painted on the wall where anyone entering the Chamber would see it, "LET THE HEIR BEWARE!" By then, the brush was dissolving from the acidity of the blood. Harry destroyed it.
With that, the trio exited.
Saturday, June 8, 1991
"So, to sum up," Hermione said, "you've destroyed four of the six Horcruxes. One is in the possession of Mister Malfoy, the other may be in Albania. Bill and Charlie Weasley leave in early July to search for that on, which may or may not be in the belly of a viper."
"Exactly," Harry agreed.
"You cannot destroy what's left of Voldemort until those last Horcruxes are destroyed," Hermione went on. She looked at Harry. "Is there any chance you could get Draco to find the one his father has?"
"If he still has it, you mean," Harry pointed out. "Voldemort/Quirrell is back in the country and may have claimed it. If not . . . no, no we can't risk it. I don't really trust Draco, and even if we could totally trust him, it would be too dangerous to have him search for it. I don't know if his father would kill him, but I know Voldemort would. Sirius and I have both been dropping subtle hints to Draco to clue us in if anything out of the way happens. The most we can expect is some indirect information which could help. Anything more is a bonus." Harry looked at her. "I thought you didn't like Draco?"
"I don't," Hermione agreed. "I certainly don't trust him. Still, I had to ask."
"True," Harry agreed. He was glad he could again use Hermione as a sounding board and source of ideas.
"We know Voldemort is somehow fused to Professor Quirrell, but don't know how that will affect the up-coming year," Hermione went on. "The First year students are being separated from him, so that should at least keep the people around you somewhat safe from him, and help prevent him from realizing how powerful and knowledgeable you actually are." Harry nodded. "The Stone has been moved from Gringotts to some location inside Hogwarts, but neither Professor Snape nor Professor Quirrell will know where or what is protecting it."
"Exactly," Harry agreed. "I have a plan for a quick resolution, but we want Quirrell to rely on Snape, at least a little, if that doesn't work and the less Snape knows, the easier it will be for him to play the game. He knows that talking to Quirrell is like talking to Voldemort. Keeping Snape's knowledge about me secret will be strain enough."
"And Quirrell can't get at the Stone this summer, right?"
"Right," Harry answered. "Quirrell originally told Dumbledore he would be absent from Hogwarts until the end of August, so, coming back sooner would be suspicious." Harry sighed. "He's off in Cornwall most of the time, and is haunting Diagon Alley the rest of the time. I wish I knew what he was up to, but we don't."
"We'll figure things out," Hermione said.
Thursday, June 20, 1991
Quirrell had a splitting headache. Had Voldemort stayed disembodied, he could have infiltrated Gringotts and searched out the Philosopher's Stone. Instead, he had been spending weeks trying to get through the defenses without setting them off. None had been set off, but neither could Voldemort get into the lower vaults, where his information had placed the Stone.
Now Voldemort had decided on a different course, which meant, Quirrel hoped, there would be less stress on him.
Saturday, June 22, 1991
"You're sure about all this, Draco?" Harry asked, surprised. When Harry had been at Draco's birthday party earlier that month, Draco had said he needed to talk privately with Harry. This was their first real chance to do so, and Harry was glad he had not turned down the opportunity.
Draco, looking very nervous, even scared, nodded. "He . . . he's not really human, is he, Harry?"
"Not really," Harry answered. "Do you want to know the truth about him?" Draco nodded.
"There was a family named Gaunt, who were direct descendants of Salazar Slytherin," Harry said, determined to keep the story as basic as he could. "Although very pure in blood, they refused to work. Over many generations, the family spent their inheritance until by the 1920s the last three Gaunts lived in a shack so squalid it made the Weasleys' home look like a palace." Harry prayed that none of the Weasleys ever heard that line, but he knew that the Weasleys were held up to Draco as the bottom of the Pure-Blooded world and that Lucius had kept up his mocking attitude despite the fact that Draco and Ron now had at least stopped actively antagonizing each other. "There was the father, a proud man named Marvolo and two children, Morfin and his sister Merope. Both the children were . . . odd," Harry said, unable to come up with a better word. "They rather looked like, well, do you know why even the noblest Pure-Bloods don't marry their first cousins, or even closer relatives?"
Draco made a face. "I've heard stories," he admitted.
"Yes, if there is any hereditary abnormality, no matter if it doesn't show, if two people with the same trait have children, the child is more likely to have the abnormality, and have it in a more . . . pronounced way. Well, the Gaunts seem to have married cousins for several hundred years, and Morfin and Merope looked like walking genetic defects. . . ."
"You saw them?"
"I saw images of them," Harry answered. "Morfin was also, as the saying goes, a bit touched in the head. Merope fell in love with a handsome, weathy man who often rode past their shack -- a Muggle."
"She seduced him with a love potion, and had his son. While she was pregnant, however, the potion wore off, and he rejected her. She died soon after the child was born and her father had also died. Her brother was in Azkaban when the child was born, who was therefore raised in a Muggle orphanage. His name was Tom Marvolo Riddle." Harry raised his wand and wrote the name in fiery letters, and rearranged them into 'I am Lord Voldemort'.
"He . . . he's a half-blood?" Draco asked, stunned.
Harry nodded. "And I can't tell you how I know this, but your father almost certainly knows," Harry said. "I don't know if any of the other followers know, but he probably does."
"He would almost have to, if he has the Dark Lord's personal effects," Draco had to agree. He looked Harry in the eye. "Will you be able to keep Father out of this, when it comes out?"
"Is that a condition, or a preference?" Harry asked.
Draco had to think about that. "I . . . I guess it would be a strong preference," Draco said, not having thought that point through before.
"Or would you prefer he be found out, and you be credited with being on my side," Harry asked softly.
Draco flushed. "I can't do that to him," Draco said.
"I understand. I'll try and keep his name out of things," Harry said. "If I can't, I will see to it you get the credit, and that your family doesn't suffer."
Draco nodded. There was one lesson his father had taught him which Draco still held firmly to. The future of the family was everything.
Draco was the future.
Harry had been reading Draco. He held out his hand. "Allies?"
Draco shook it. "Allies." He looked at Harry. "This means I need to work to support cousin Sirius, doesn't it?"
"It does," Harry agreed. "If you and I work together, especially with you in the 'Muggles' course and me in the 'Traditions' course -- that means we should get together once a week or so and compare notes and go back and tell the people in the classes what the other students are studying -- then it will enhance both of our standing." 'No wonder the Sorting Hat considered me for Slytherin,' Harry thought.
"So, you're taking the 'Traditions' class?" Draco said speculatively.
Harry shrugged. "I lived for almost nine years as a Muggle," Harry answered. "I need to know the traditions. If you work to undermine Sirius like your father will probably want you to, even if it's only outside of class, Sirius will find out sooner or later, and it will only make you look good to the students who he's trying to help the most. The others will be against you. You'll just have to be clever enough not to get students like Ted Nott against you, and I know you can do that."
Draco of course agreed with that assessment, and he knew that Sirius probably would find out if he was fighting against the lessons being taught in class. He could always tell his father that he was just doing otherwise to suck up to Sirius, which he was also supposed to do. Still, that left one big problem. "Can you and Sirius and Dumbledore really defeat the Dark Lord?" Draco asked.
"We can, and we will," Harry answered. "I want you to be on the winning side. Look, there is room for more than one leader in our class, Draco. Someone in our class has to be the politician, the person who moves into the Ministry and moves up the rungs of authority. That person isn't going to be me. That person can be you."
'Draco Malfoy, Minister of Magic,' Draco thought with a smile. His family had had great influence over the years, but none had ever had formal power. Maybe he could change that. "I think we can work things out," Draco said.
Harry, seeing this play out in Draco's mind, merely smiled and again hoped that this Draco would turn out better than the other version.
To those very few who knew enough to follow Harry Potter on those rare times he was seen in public, it seemed that the boy was traveling with Sirius Black and Remus Lupin someplace before the lad's eleventh birthday. That at least was what Lucius Malfoy and Voldemort both thought. Remus and especially Sirius were both known as powerful wizards, and it was likely that there would be other watchers guarding young Harry as well. Therefore, they asked their agents to be on the look-out, but took no special pains to have the trio tracked. In reality, Sirius and Remus were with Bill and Charlie Weasley, who were starting the search for the Horcrux and Nagini in Albania. Remus and Sirius would be gone from Saturday July 6 through Sunday July 21 -- they would have liked to have been out of the country longer, but the full moon was July 26. The pair was again out of the country from August 3 through the 18, again from a Saturday through a Sunday, on the same mission. The difference was, Harry would also be out of the country the second time, with the Grangers on a Muggle vacation.
This had caused a great deal of discussion. Had Harry not been the powerful wizard he actually was, there would have been no chance he would have been allowed to go.
In between all of this, Harry celebrated his official eleventh birthday. Harry only had fleetingly wondered where the Dursleys were, and had a momentary fantasy of showing up and giving Dudley a pig's tail just for fun, but he had quickly turned back to his guests, as Harry had entertained two dozen of his future yearmates at Hogwarts (Draco, Pansy, Tracey, Daphne Greengrass, Ted Nott, Blaise, Ernie, Susan, Mandy, Ron, Padma and Parvati, Lavender, Seamus, Dean, Neville, Anthony Goldstein, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Hannah, Terry Boot, Lisa Turpin, Morag McDougal, Su Li, and of course Hermione). Harry was thankful that the Muggle-born and raised he wanted to have there had received their letters and could be invited. He would have invited a few more, but that would have meant inviting Crabbe, Goyle, and Bulstrode, and it was bad enough he had had to invite Parkinson, Zabini, and Nott.
Still, this allowed Draco to show a little leadership and to establish his dominance over that trio, and to show them that Harry was not to be trifled with, and yet still the group managed to have a good time. Even Pansy, the most disposed to be hostile, admitted to her parents that she had had a good time. She was not to know that the following month, she would be meeting the Dark Lord himself.