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 Br...
Monday, September 2, 1991
Harry was more than tired that morning, but compared to his run-in with the combo-Voldemort/Quirrell the first time around, he was in excellent shape, other than being very tired. Still, he figured he could make it though the mornings classes with Sirius without falling asleep.
It was because of this state of near-exhaustion that it took Harry a moment at breakfast to understand that Professor McGonagall was actually directing him to go to the Headmaster's office instead of class that morning. Harry merely nodded and did as he was told without any questions.
Harry perked up quite a bit when he saw that Bill and Charlie Weasley were in the Headmaster's office, along with the Headmaster. Harry had to remind himself that he had never really met these versions of the oldest Weasley brothers, and that they knew nothing of his status.
In turn, the Weasley brothers were stunned to see that they had been waiting for a First year, even if that First year was Harry Potter.
"I'm glad to see the two of you made it back without having any problems," Harry said cautiously, for on reflection he wondered why they had been able to return so quickly.
"Ah," Dumbledore said. "The reason they have been able to return so quickly is that I was unable to contact them last night, which worried me at the time. I was very pleased that they were here first thing this morning. I have been filling them in on what happened last night."
Harry's face showed mixed emotions. "Does that mean that you found it?" Harry asked Bill.
Bill looked at Dumbledore, who nodded. Bill shrugged and turned to the young boy. "Yes. We were able to break into Slytherin's lair yesterday afternoon. It's only real defenses, other than that blasted snake, were all the charms hiding the blasted thing. We had all actually walked past it at least four or five times before and not realized it was there. Still, the important thing is, we found it, we got in, Charlie killed that snake. . . ."
"And a nasty big bugger it was, too," Charlie muttered. "Almost seven feet long and just barely recognizable as a common viper, it was so mutated."
Bill nodded. "Anyway, there's the jewel," he said, pointing at a box.
"Shall we adjourn outside?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Dumbledore said. "That would be safer."
Twenty minutes later, the Weasley brothers, Harry, Remus, and Dumbledore and his brother were assembled on a side lawn near the castle, where no one could easily observe them.
As the Dumbledores, Remus, and Harry made their preparations, Charlie leaned over to Bill and whispered, "Why is that kid even here, let alone taking charge?"
Bill shrugged. "I haven't a clue, other than the fact that he is The-Boy-who-Lived. Maybe that made some sort of connection with You-Know-Who, which means he can destroy these things more safely than even Dumbledore can."
That seemed to satisfy both brothers as they watched the group set up a hard flat rock and anchor it magically to the ground. Harry then took the jewel from the box, and it glittered in the sun, despite the flecks of gore left on it from its having been inside Nagini.
Harry set the jewel on the rock. A quick, sharp 'whack' with a bronze hammer shattered the jewel, and a sickly green mist flowed upwards for a brief moment, and then it dissipated.
"Why have I been summonsed?" Lucius Malfoy snarled, glaring at Dumbledore and Sirius Black.
"Quite simply, because last night we destroyed Lord Voldemort's host and the magical diary you helped plant on Pansy Parkinson," Dumbledore answered. "Lord Voldemort did put memory charms on Miss Parkinson and her cousin Miss Nott, but I could break them if I wished, exposing their and your involvement. You have three choices, Lucius. First, you may attempt to bluster your way out of this. We will break the memory charms and you will be convicted in the end. You will lose your freedom for many years and your family will lose most of your personal share of your family's fortune. That would be what? Some thirty percent?"
Malfoy's face was turning many interesting colors.
"Second, you may leave the country, and Europe for that matter, by the end of the week. You will stay as far away from your former Master and his followers as possible. Before you go, you will attend an emergency meeting of the Board of Governors tonight, appointing Remus Lupin and Alastor Moody as emergency Defense teachers for this year. You will resign from the Board at the end of the meeting. You will also arrange for the Malfoy Family Trust to pay a reasonable deposit into Draco Malfoy's personal vault, and then severe your ties with the Trust." There was a moment of silence, for the third option, suicide, did not have to be spoken.
"Think of what's best for your son and unborn child, not just yourself," Sirius said, managing to keep his voice quiet and with no hint of triumph. Actually, they were giving Lucius Malfoy the second choice only because Draco and Harry had made a deal back when Draco had given Harry the information about the diary. Sirius would have preferred destroying Lucius.
"Unborn daughter," Lucius muttered. Narcissa was expecting before the end of the month. He straightened up in his chair. "If you had real evidence. . . ."
"We could destroy your family as well as you," Sirius stated, "and we can do both. We would spare Draco and your daughter if we can, but that is up to you."
"And Narcissa?" Lucius asked, putting off the choice.
"That is up to you and her," Dumbledore said. "We are not asking you to live in some remote hut, Lucius. We are giving you the choice of disgrace and prison or leaving Europe and leaving your influence behind as well, until Voldemort is defeated. And have no doubts about this, Lucius, he will be destroyed."
There was a long pause, and then, "I find that unlikely," Lucius stated.
"Is that why you, of all people, would follow an insane Muggle-raised Half-blood?" Sirius demanded. "You always claimed that the only thing worse than a Muggle-born was a Muggle-raised Half-blood, and you abased yourself to one."
"He was Muggle-raised, yes, because his family's enemies placed him there when his family was destroyed," Lucius snapped.
A moment of disbelieving silence met that claim. Then, Dumbledore said, quietly and assuredly, "His mother was a physically and perhaps mentally handicapped witch named Merope Gaunt, his father a Muggle named Tom Riddle. She seduced him with a love potion and he abandoned her when it wore off. I assure you, Lucius, that while Tom Riddle was of course descended from Salazar Slytherin through Marvolo Gaunt and his daughter Merope, his father was a Muggle." Lucius said nothing. "If it would help, I could show you some memories I collected," Dumbledore suggested, wondering if Malfoy truly did not know Riddle's background, or if he had simply ignored the evidence.
In fact, Lucius had heard this story before, but had preferred believing the alternative story. In the original time-line, Lucius had not believed the truth until Voldemort had regained his body, and by then he was in too deep to stop.
"What protections will I have?" Lucius finally said. "The Dark Lord will be after any who do not come when they are called, leaving aside the pain of the signal itself."
"Go ahead and find a place you believe will be safe," Dumbledore said. "You have extensive holdings in southern Africa and the Argentine, then send for your wife and daughter when it is safe for them to travel. As for the Dark Mark, I can teach you ways of minimizing its effects, but you are correct, there will be discomfort."
"I will keep Draco safe," Sirius pledged.
Lucius looked up sharply at that and scowled. "You would steal my son, Black?"
"I would train your son to rise to the heights his background and talent would carry him," Sirius retorted.
"Nonsense," Lucius stated with contempt. "That place is reserved for Potter."
Sirius shook his head. "Harry will be at the top of the wizarding world in many ways, but he would make a worse politician than you or I would -- if for very different reasons in both cases -- while Draco could be very good at it. Harry will bring the fragments of the wizarding world together and they will admire him for it while he will dislike the attention. He cannot be the one who makes the fragments function together. That person could be Draco. In his lifetime, he would have more influence than any Minister in western European history, and if he does the job well, he will be the Minister all future ministers will be measured against, not just in Britain, but in Europe and perhaps the world. And," Sirius concluded, "under these circumstances, I think Draco could do it far younger than any other person who became a Minister in history, anywhere."
"As Potter's lickspittle?" Lucius asked, lip curled.
"As Harry's most important ally," Dumbledore stated firmly.
Lucius sat stiffly for over two long minutes, and then his shoulders drooped. "Very well. I do expect to be allowed back for the birth of my daughter, and to escort them to Argentina or perhaps South Africa."
"The first, very well," Dumbledore broke in before Sirius could. "I shall send escorts to bring them to you."
"I shall leave Thursday morning," Lucius stated, standing. He glared at Sirius. "I hold you to you pledges."
"This I swear," Sirius acknowledged.
"You look very unhappy," Sirius remarked to Harry. The two of them were in the Headmaster's office, along with Remus, Mad-eye, and Aberforth.
"I'm not VERY unhappy," Harry retorted. "I am still very tired, and it would have been nice if we had been able to destroy the final Horcrux eight hours before I killed Quirrell and sent Voldemort off instead of eight hours afterwards. Then we would have won and we could all have gotten on with our lives. Instead, while Voldemort is more vulnerable to attack than he has been since the early 1940s, we have no lead on him, and no real clue as to what he might do."
"The 1940s?" Sirius asked, but then corrected himself. "That's right. That's when he made the first Horcrux."
"Exactly," Harry said. "So, on the one hand, he's fully mortal; on the other he could do anything." He thought and said, "If the first time was any indication, he may want the Prophecy even more than he did before." Harry shrugged and sighed. "I think I need some sleep." He stood and stretched.
"Goodnight, Harry," Dumbledore said, and the others echoed.
When Harry had left, Aberforth turned to his brother and said, "Do not think it, let alone say it."
"Say what?" Dumbledore asked.
"That you could have come up with a better plan," Remus broke in. "Maybe it was a mistake for Harry to have confronted Voldemort so early in the term, but we'll never know. Having that monster roaming about, even under observation, just as easily could have meant injury or even death to some of the students. And let's face it, it wasn't just Bill who missed Slytherin's lair four or five times. Sirius and I searched that area three times. We should just be happy that all the Horcruxes have been destroyed, and stop whining that we almost managed to end the war so quickly."
"You're right, of course," Dumbledore agreed. "And whatever qualms I had about Harry's plans, I did not voice or oppose them very strongly, now did I? They were certainly reasonable in light of what happened before. So, no recriminations over the past, or the now-altered future. I hope," Dumbledore stated firmly, looking at both Remus and Sirius, "the two of you will make certain that Harry does not load himself with any guilt on these issues, either. Reading between what he has said of his past life, I believe that such was a common response of his."
"Aye," Moody said from his cozy corner. "The lad bore a very heavy burden, especially for a student. We must make certain that this time, he manages to get some enjoyment out of life."
"You know, Mad-eye," Sirius said, "if I had come into this situation cold, I would not have believed that it was you saying that."
"I'm an old hound, Black," Moody stated with a growl. "I've lost a lot in this life. I don't trust many people, and the few I do trust, I tend not to trust very far. That doesn't mean I'm a fool. I've seen generations of aurors come and go. I've seen good people crack under pressures a great deal less than what was put on that boy in his last life. Without passing judgement on how justified that might have been, I do say we can do better this time around. That means we do the best intelligence work we can and we share that intelligence with the boy, without asking him to do anything about the situation as it develops. He'll decide if he needs to do something."
The group was silent for a moment, then Aberforth said, "We need to let the Ministry know what happened, at least in some form. Rumors will already be reaching them from the students." How the gossip had gotten started, no one knew, but it had. And, of course, the Board of Governors would be meeting in just a few minutes. The absence of the Defense teacher needed to be explained to them, and they would tell the tale to the Ministry as well.
The group sighed as one, and went to work concocting a story.
A highly edited and fictionalized account of what had happened with Voldemort was released to the press on the afternoon of September 3. Minister Fudge did not like it, but there was little he or his group of supporters could do about it, so he accepted it and went on.
The start of the cover story, and the part which Fudge fought hardest against, was that Voldemort himself had made an attempt to come back. That the Dark Lord had been disembodied when he had attacked toddler Harry Potter had been hard for Fudge to swallow, but he had tried to balk at the release of the events. Still, while The Daily Prophet sought close ties with the Minister, the story was too juicy to bypass.
Dumbledore refused to speculate as to why or how Voldemort had been disembodied, only that it had been the result of the rebounding Killing Curse. The second point was that Professor Quirrell had met Voldemort somewhere, at some time. Again, this was left vague. Most readers came away from reading that part of the story believing that Quirrell had encountered Voldemort either just before he had returned from Albania or just before he had come back to Hogwarts in late August.
Both ideas were troublesome. If the former, Quirrell had been possessed for weeks and had wondered freely about the country. If the latter, Voldemort had been roaming about the country and anyone could have been possessed. Both spelled trouble for Fudge, which was why he had attempted to kill the story. With his major ally (Lucius Malfoy) leaving the country and refusing to supply any more money for Fudge's pet projects, Fudge was battling for his political survival as soon as the story came out, even though he had not been mentioned in any way.
No matter where Voldemort had met Quirrell, Voldemort had seized the chance and had joined his essence with Quirrell. The reason given for his coming to Hogwarts was to strike at young Harry Potter, with not a hint of the Philosopher's Stone (which had actually been returned to Flamel this time, and not destroyed, although only Harry, Dumbledore, and the Flamels knew that) or Horcruxes. Quirrell/Voldemort had attacked young Harry the very first night he had the chance. The protections Harry's late mother had endowed him with because of her sacrifice (otherwise unspecified in the accounts) had again saved the young man, driving Voldemort from Quirrell, although the split had killed Quirrell.
Lucius Malfoy's leaving undercut any outside pressure or help which might have aided Fudge in his fight against the story coming out, or, as two of Fudge's aides (one of them Umbridge) had suggested, even bringing young Potter to trial for at least abetting Quirrell's death. It was clear that Fudge would have no support in the general community for attacking The-Boy-Who-Lived-Still.
Despite requests from the Minister and others around him, despite pleas from The Daily Prophet and other organs of the press from around the world, Harry only released one small statement, which basically asked that he and his friends be left alone while he was at Hogwarts. This appeared in a very odd little publication called The Quibbler.
Two weeks after Harry's encounter with Voldemort, Severus Snape appeared in the Headmaster's office. "Yes, Severus?" Dumbledore asked mildly. He had wondered if Severus would come to him at some point, as Snape was one of the few people who knew most of the full story, and the only one of them not favorably disposed to Harry Potter.
"I find I need to ask you some questions," the Potions teacher stated. "I would hope you will find yourself able to answer them."
Dumbledore merely nodded and asked, "And what might those questions be?"
Snape gripped the arms of his chair. "Is it true that Potter, a First year, is going to be allowed to play Quidditch?"
"Harry is a magnificent flyer, and as you observed to Minerva and Sirius just three nights ago, Gryffindor is in sore need of a Seeker," Dumbledore stated. "Harry will not be allowed to fly a personal broom outside of practices and matches, and so will not violate the school rules in any way."
"You don't think he might have an unfair advantage, this being the second time around for him?" Snape asked.
"According to his memories, he was the Seeker his original First year as well," Dumbledore said with a shrug.
Snape said nothing for a few moments, but looked like he swallowed a particularly nasty nostrum. Finally, Snape asked the real question he had come to ask, "Is it true that the reason why we have never had a Defense professor two years in a row is because the Dark Lord cursed the position?"
"I cannot swear that it is true," Dumbledore said, "but I do have some evidence that it may be true and I do believe it is true, although I admit I have no idea how he would have done it."
Snape considered that for some time. Finally, he said, "You know that as much as I enjoy potions, I would like to teach Defense."
Dumbledore nodded, but said nothing.
"I would make a proposal," Snape said slowly. "I would like to teach Defense and Potions in alternative years. I believe I could get Slughorn out of retirement for alternate years."
"Oh?" Dumbledore asked. "How?"
Snape's lip curled. "He'll jump at the chance to get to know Potter, especially if he doesn't have to work too hard. Having a year off every other year might be the right enticement."
"Why do you wish to teach Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
"I don't, particularly, either Potions or Defense," Snape admitted. "Still, it is a price I am willing to pay."
Dumbledore thought about that for some time. Finally, he said, "Your idea has merit, Severus. However, if we can get Horace back, how would this sound? Next year, you would teach the Third, Fifth, and Seventh year of both Potions and Defense. Horace would teach the Second, Fourth, and Six year Potions, while Alastor would teach Defense for those years. The next year, you would alternate. That way, none of you would be teaching the same years of Defense at least two years in a row, and so we may be able to get around any curse. At the same time, Horace could have contact with Harry and only have to work half as much." Dumbledore smiled slightly. "If we pay him slightly more than half his salary, and give him all the other benefits, he may see it as being worth his while."
'And I would never have to teach Potter!' Snape thought almost joyously. "An excellent alternative, Headmaster." Snape had hoped Dumbledore would suggest this alternative, but he knew he could not suggest it himself, as he could not ask to avoid Potter again.
'Yes,' Snape thought as he took his leave some minutes later, 'I might be stuck with Black, and even his bloody werewolf, but at least I won't have to teach the golden child.'