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 Bri...
"Why is Sirius so upset?" Harry asked.
Remus sighed and looked at the door Sirius had slammed behind him. "As much as we had all hope to track down that Sixth Horcrux before September, I think Sirius wanted it the most."
"Why?" Harry asked, curious.
"Beause he thinks he's letting you down again," Remus answered. "He should have gone to Dumbledore when your parents were killed, not gone after Peter. You rescued him from Azakaban -- he was rather chuffed to realize that he could probably have escaped as Padfoot, like his other self did. He should be taking care of you; not the other way around." Remus held up his hand to ward off any of the protests Harry was about to make. "He knows, your appearance not withstanding, that you don't need him fathering you. But he should have been there to do it. He wanted to discover that Horcrux as an act of atonement."
Harry smiled grimly. "Sounds like the way I think," he said warily.
"He and I are also afraid that Voldemort is going to go down to the Chamber of Secrets the night of the Thirty-first, discover the basilisk is gone, then see the Horcrux-shells, and because of that grab the diary the next night and disappear."
"He might," Harry agreed. "In many ways, that would even be the smart thing to do. I don't think Voldemort will do that, though."
"Why not?" Remus asked.
"Because Voldemort's ego is too big," Harry answered simply, before explaining, since Remus seemed to expect more. "He will not be able to believe, despite the evidence that four of his other plans have failed, that anyone could possibly twig to what he's doing. If Voldemort had come back joined to Quirrell the same way he did last time, I wouldn't have said there was more than one chance in ten of his doing a scarper."
"And now?" Remus asked.
"One in three, maybe?" Harry said with a shrug. "Or do you think I'm suffering from a dose of hubris, just as Voldemort does?"
"You could have a mild dose, but I don't think so," Remus answered. Remus suddenly went silent and looked at Harry with grave consideration.
"What?" Harry demanded.
"Harry, why aren't you more worried about the upcoming year?" Remus asked. "You may have to confront Voldemort."
Harry snorted. "Let's see, I confronted him as a baby and won. In my other life, I confronted him on the back of Quirrell's head and won. I defeated his avatar and his basilisk. I dueled him after the Third Task. I drove him from my mind at the end of my Fifth year. I had two skirmishes with him in that final year, and then killed him. Now, I know perfectly well that I won most of those confrontations because of luck and because of a lot of help from other people. I know he's incredibly dangerous and will kill me if he gets the chance, but I also know I can destroy him. I am not afraid of him."
"Maybe you should be, at least a little."
"You might be right, but I know that I can beat him and I know that it might not be done in one quick fight," Harry agreed. "I think I'm better off being wary than afraid. Still, that gets us away from the subject, which is Padfoot's moodiness, and yours, to a lesser degree."
Remus frowned. Harry frowned back at him, and the pair laughed. "Seriously," Harry said, "I had an idea, to make certain it doesn't matter of Voldie tries to run or not. I would have mentioned it before, but I wasn't sure if I could pull it off."
"And what is that?" Remus replied, interested.
"We know how the diary is coming into the castle, right?"
"Correct," Remus agreed.
"Then we need you and Padfoot to get it away from her luggage, assuming she doesn't carry it into the great hall for the Sorting."
"The house elves move the luggage to the dorms," Remus said, "leaving the First years' until they are Sorted."
"And can two Marauders take care of a little searching between the time everyone goes into the great hall and the actual start of the Sorting?" Harry asked.
Remus shrugged. "That shouldn't be too difficult," he said. "But. . . ."
"Ah, but we don't want her to miss it too soon," Harry jumped in. He grinned evilly and pulled out a small leather-bound booklet.
"Harry. . . ." Remus breathed, shocked.
Harry nodded. "This is an exact duplicate of Riddle's diary. I've also already charmed it to absorb ink. I thought you and Padfoot might have some fun with it, for when Voldemort tries to access it." Harry shrugged. "As long as he doesn't know you two did it, it might be fun for the pair of you." Harry then smiled grimly. "Acutally, I think I know of a way we can get him out of the school quickly if he does grab it. We'll talk it over with the Headmaster."
"Good," Remus replied. He held up the faux diary. "I'm sure this will keep Sirius' mind off of things."
"Like pranking the Dark Lord might allow him to realize that pranking Snape is beneath him?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Do you really think that's likely?" Remus asked.
"Maybe," Harry hedged. "I was also wondering if you and Sirius might be up for a bit of grave robbing."
"Oh, you mean Voldemort's father?" Remus asked. When Harry nodded, Remus smiled. "Oh, we took care of that months ago."
Sunday, September 1, 1991
Voldemort had chaffed at waiting, but something or someone had always stood in his way of accessing the opening of the outer accessway way to the Chamber the night before as well as the day before. Finally, he was inside the girls lavatory, a quick spell having banished the ghost before she could understand what was going on.
'Typical,' he thought, 'she's just as much a minor annoyance now as she was in life.' He glared at the tap. "Open," he hissed. "Platform." A stone platform formed over the opening, which Voldemort stood on. "Down," he commanded, and the platform sank down the tube, the opening closing behind him.
In less than ten minutes, Voldemort stood before the actual portal to the Chamber of Secrets. He was filled with pride over what he had managed to do as a mere student, and evilly anticipated what he might accomplish as a teacher over the next year. He should have been the defense teacher for decades, building his organization, choosing his acolytes with even greater care and precision than old Slughorn had.
Still, the various plans and variations he had in mind for the next year would have to wait. For now, he had to call forth the great beast his ancester had created. After giving the command to open, he strode into the large Chamber, and a wave of his hand set the torches alight.
Voldemort frowned. Something was wrong. The feel of the Chamber was wrong.
As if, somehow, it had been cleansed of its Dark magic.
Looking around, Voldemort saw something marked on one of the far walls, and a sack underneath the markings. Walking forward, Voldemort halted, shocked. There, burnt into in the wall with the acidic blood of a basilisk, were the words, LET THE HEIR BEWARE!
Voldemort stood there stunned, for several minutes, and then came the increasingly frantic search, which lasted over an hour, for his ancestor's creature. In the end, Voldemort had to admit to himself that the Chamber had been entered, and the creature destroyed or taken. Worse, Hufflepuff's cup was missing.
Voldemort knew he should not stay in this form for much longer. Still, he had not tried to make Quirrell use Parseltongue and now had not been a good time to experiment. With a wave of his wand, the sack under the words was upended, and the shock Voldemort had felt when he had seen the words was now many times more powerful.
After he recovered from his surprise, a few simple spells confirmed what he had not before conceived as even being possible. Not only were three of the items his precious Horcruxes, so was a fourth. His spell creating it must have been completed when he had tried to kill the Potter toddler.
Could that be true? If so, that would explain why his appearance now looked somewhat different than it had before he had attacked the Potters. The creation of a Horcrux did cause physical changes, after all. So if it was true that the Sixth Horcrux had been created, as it appeared to be, he could not create another Horcrux. He would not be able to animate a body with what little soul he would have left, despite his great magic. That meant the connections to his diary and the Ravenclaw emerald were all that were left keeping him immortal.
For a moment he felt just a small amount of relief, for he was certain the emerald was safe . . . and then he wondered, was anything actually safe? for he would have sworn the locket and the Hufflepuff cup were impregnable. His pet was well-hidden, and would be magically growing into an additional safe-guard, but he could not leave it past the Yule break.
The diary, however, was coming to Hogwarts later that very day, in the luggage of a very silly if loyal eleven-year-old girl. 'I shall have to have her bring me the diary tonight,' Voldemort decided. 'I shall erase her memory and that of the other girl and then decide if I should keep chasing after the Philosopher's Stone or use my diary-self to retore myself fully. Then I can split myself afterwards, and still have two Horcruxes.'
And with that, Voldemort withdrew from the Chamber, angry but determined.
"They're on their way?" Sirius asked Dumbledore in the Headmaster's office just before lunch.
"They are aboard the train, and the Hogwarts Express left on-time," Dumbledore agreed.
"And has Quirrell been seen yet this morning?" Remus asked.
"Not this morning," Dumbledore answered, a slight twinkle in his eye. "He seems to have been out pacing the corridors until nearly Five o'clock." He smiled. "Now, let us have a hearty meal. After all, the feast is a bit later than dinner normally is."
"It will be interesting to see how the Sorting goes," Remus said.
"You mean, how close it is to Harry's list?" Sirius asked.
"Exactly. After all, a group of students have been exposed to him who weren't before. That may bring out different qualities," Remus pointed out.
"Ah," Dumbledore said, "nature as opposed to nurture. It could indeed be different, but considering the small amount of time they were exposed to Harry, I doubt it."
"Really?" Sirius asked. "Counting Harry, there are twenty-five students involved. Thirteen, again counting Harry, have been heavily influenced by all this. Shall we place bets on how things go?"
Dumbledore smiled. "Shall we say a Galleon on any change versus no change of the thirteen heavily influenced, and three Galleons on the other twelve?"
"Only if they change," Sirius answered. "A Galleon to you if they don't."
"Very well," Dumbledore agreed. "Deal?"
"Deal," Sirius said. Sirius turned on Remus, who was chuckling. "What?"
"Even though I agree there will be some changes, I think you're going to come out on the short end of this bet," Remus pointed out."
"You might be right," Sirius agreed. "It will be worth it if Draco changes over to Ravenclaw."
That night, as the noise filled the great hall, Sirius and Remus made certain they sat down at the far end of the table, with Hagrid's chair between themselves and the rest of the staff, when they came in a bit later than the rest of the staff. Quirrell, they were thankful to see, was at the far end of the table, and a very unhappy Snape sitting next to him.
Hagrid came in from bringing the First years and the three indulged in idle chit-chat until McGonagall brought the forty-two First years in.
"Quiet group," Hagrid observed. "Quietest group I've seen in years."
"They're following Harry's lead," Remus pointed out.
Harry was indeed quietly and happily lining everyone up. To his satisfaction, this time he was much taller than the original time. That time, he had been the shortest boy and fourth shortest student overall but a year of good nutrition had helped him grow. This time, only Dean, Goyle, Bulstrode, and Ron were taller than he was.
The first to the Sorting Hat was Hannah Abbott. She again was Sorted into Hufflepuff.
There were three B's in the group Sirius was betting on. The first two, Terry Boot and Mandy Brocklehurst, were again Sorted into Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw respectively.
The Sorting Hat seemed to have a difficult time Susan Bones, however. After nearly two minutes, the Hat shouted "Gryffindor!" rather than Hufflepuff.
Lavender Brown was again Sorted into Gryffindor. Tracey Davis, however, was sent into Ravenclaw rather than Slytherin. Justin Finch-Fletchley, Seamus Finnigan, and Anthony Goldstein were each sent into their expected Houses.
"Harry will be heartbroken if Hermione is Sorted into a different House," Sirius mumbled.
"So will Hermione," Remus agreed.
"So," the Hat whispered in Hermione's ear, "where shall I Sort you, young lady?"
"You ask?" Hermione whispered back, surprised.
"As Occluded as your mind is, I have little choice, so yes," the Hat answered.
"Oh," Hermione said, a bit embarrassed. "I forgot about that. Gryffindor, please."
"Are you certain?"
"I am," Hermione answered firmly.
"GRYFFINDOR!" the Hat called.
Daphne Greengrass was still Sorted into Slytherin and Su Li into Ravenclaw. Harry was pleased that this time it only took the Hat a few moments to sort Neville into Gryffindor. Ernie Macmillan still went into Hufflepuff (Harry was pleased about that -- Ernie was something of a friend but he was still somewhat pompous). Harry, Sirius, and Remus were all wondering where Draco might be Sorted.
"H'mmm," the Hat murmured, "interesting."
"You mean I won't be automatically sent to Slytherin?" Draco asked in a scared whisper.
"No, no I can send you there or to Ravenclaw. Either would be a good choice, if for different reasons. Where do you want to be Sorted, young man? Perhaps that will give me a lead."
Draco thought about that, and not for the first time over the previous few months. Slytherin was family tradition, but he was uncertain about that tradition any more. Slytherin also meant being able to keep an eye out on Nott, whom he suspected was closer to Nott's Death Eater father than Draco was to Lucius Malfoy these days.
On the other hand, Draco was not certain he wanted to be Harry Potter's spy either. He wanted to be on the winning side, and things might be safer in Ravenclaw.
"You might be right," the Hat answered that thought. "However, your thinking is certainly SLYTHERIN!" Draco scowled slightly, but went where he was directed.
Morag McDougal, Ted Nott, Pansy Parkinson, and Padma and Parvati Patel were all directed to their expected Houses, just as every student not on 'the list' had been, although Harry thought Padma's Sorting might have taken a bit longer than it before. Finally, it was Harry's turn.
"And here we have the center of this odd proceeding," the Hat whispered.
"What do you mean?"
"As I told your friend, it is not easy to read an Occluded mind. Actually, you are even more difficult to read than the Headmaster or your werewolf friend are these days. I could have broken into your friend's mind, but it did not seem worth the trouble, as I read where I had sent her before in Black's mind and she also asked for it."
"Ah," Harry thought back using Legilimency, "you can read Sirius?"
"Yes, although not with ease. Plus, of course, I overheard many conversations in the Headmaster's office. So, I cannot read Severus Snape from this distance, and I suspect I would have as much difficulty reading Tom Riddle's mind as I would yours. His host is nervous, but the sections of his mind connected to his parasite cannot be read at this distance." The Hat paused and then said, "Poor Quirrell is tired and frightened. I had higher hopes for him back when he sat on this stool."
"I don't think he can be saved," Harry said simply.
"He cannot," the Hat agreed. "If his parasite does not kill him when he leaves, Quirrell will likely die sooner or later in any event. He will have lost too much of himself, in every meaningful way."
Harry merely nodded at that.
"So," the Hat went on, "I take it you still wish to be a Gryffindor?"
"Yes, please," Harry answered.
"Then you shall. GRYFFINDOR!"
The remaining four students who had known Harry -- Dean Thomas, Lisa Turpin, Ron, and Blaise Zabini -- all went to their respective slots. Sirius was therefore out 19 Galleons.
Shortly before midnight, two Slytherin girls made their way back to their dorms, uncertain why they were out in the corridor. Pandora Nott was tempted to take points from her cousin Pansy, or apply some of the other penalties Slytherin used on its own students, but decided to to direct the girl back to the First year dorm.
Neither noticed a shadow slipping away down the corridor.
Back in his chambers a few moments later, Quirrell stopped breathing so hard. With painful concentration, his form was submerged, and his Master's form took shape.
Voldemort frowned at the pocket diary. It felt different. He had not noticed it through Quirrell's senses, but his own were more closely tied to the Horcrux it contained.
Voldemort walked over Quirrell's desk, opened the diary, inked a quill, and wrote, 'I am Lord Voldemort.'
The ink disappeared, and then wrote back in a handwriting Voldemort did not recognize, 'I am Moldifart, Lord of Flatulence.'
Voldemort could not, would not, believe what he read. Under his stunned eyes, the ink faded and then wrote, 'Dear Tom, five down and one to go. If you are wise, you will close this booklet and flee Hogwarts. If you are a dumbass, you will open any other page of this diary.'
Furius, Voldemort hurled the book against the far wall, which had the effect of opening another page. Peeves leapt out of the book, where Sirius and Remus had imprisoned him that morning, and screamed "Boo!" in Voldemort's face.
Before Voldemort could react, however, Peeves' brain realized exactly who Remus and Sirius had sent him to confront. "/AAAAAAAARRRRRGGHHH/!" Peeves screamed, zooming through the door. "/Dark Lord in the Castle! Dark Lord in the Castle!/" screamed the receding voice.
There was nothing for Voldemort to do except flee before the alarm was fully raised. He rushed out the door and straight into the arms of Harry Potter.
Harry used Voldemort's momentum to trip the sorcerer up, sending him crashing to the floor. While Harry's overall blood protection had been negated by leaving the Dursleys, its original state remained intact, and that had been intended by his mother to protect him from Voldemort.
Voldemort's body quickly dissolved under Harry's assault. 'Nooo!' Voldemort mentally screamed as his spirit was ripped from his host's body. Quirrell put up no fight to stay alive -- living as part of Voldemort had been too much for his fragile ego.
Voldemort's attention was caught as a spell just missed his essence. He realized that Dumbledore and Lupin had their wands raised against him. He forced himself to flee through the ceiling, avoiding three more hexes. It would take him most of the night to work his ways out from under the Hogwarts' defenses. It would take him days to retreat back to Albania.
Dumbledore looked down at Harry, laying in the ashes that had once been Professor Quirrell. He sighed. "Come, Sirius. Bring him to the Infirmary."
Sirius lifted Harry gently in his arms. "Are you coming, Headmaster?" Remus asked.
"No," Dumbledore answered. "I must contact the Weasley brothers, to warn them. I also have contacts who will send forces to back the Weasleys up. With luck, we will track Voldemort whenever he returns to Albania. He still cannot be finally destroyed until the final Horcrux is broken."
"At least he cannot restore himself with the remaining Horcrux," Snape said, approaching the group. He looked down at Harry. Then he just turned and walked away.