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...
Sunday, November 3, 1991
The sexless, aged servant looked at the Muggle standing at the Master's front door. "Back again?" the servant asked. "Can't you keep a body?"
Voldemort would have dearly loved destroying this creature, but managed to hold back. "Let me see your Master," he snarled in the Muggle's voice.
The servant considered, then bowed and allowed the Dark Lord to enter. "I shall announce you to the Master."
Two hours later, the old evil warlock looked at Voldemort and considered. "Difficult."
"But can you do it?" Voldemort asked.
"There are several ways to accomplish the creation of a body for you," the warlock answered. "Is your father alive?"
"No," Voldemort spat.
"Good. Was his body destroyed?"
"Not to my knowledge," Voldemort admitted.
"We would need three special ingredients -- your father's bones, or at least some substantial part of it, such as a femur, skull, or part of the spine; flesh from a servant of yours, willingly cut from the servant's body by his own hand; and the blood of at least one enemy, taken without his consent." The warlock sneered. "I would suggest staying away from young Potter."
Voldemort glared, but said nothing.
"That would be the best way," the evil old warlock mused. "There are at least four other ways you haven't tried which are less effective, more hazardous, and much more expensive. However, I believe I have paid my debts to you. I shall perform the ceremony, if you gather the ingredients. Anything more, you will pay for."
"Very well," Voldemort stated angrily. "I will see to it."
Saturday, November 19, 1991
Two men met at a run-down Muggle cafÃ© across the street from the magical area in Buda. One was a very worn-looking young man with bloodshot eyes. The other was a very old if spry man, dressed in evening dress in the style of the 1910s.
"It has been many decades since I last conversed with you," the elderly man stated. "I had heard you had changed, but I had not expected this."
"Very amusing," Voldemort said from inside the most recent body he had stolen. "You are the last of Grindelwald's advisory council still at large. The others are either dead or have been in various prisons around the world for over forty years. I say that not as an overt threat, but just a reminder that we have much in common still."
"What is it you want?" the elderly man demanded.
"I need three things," Voldemort said. "I believe you may be able to supply two of them, and hopefully three." He had considered waiting, but the destruction of his Horcruxes was pushing Voldemort to regain a body of his own. The Muggles he took over burnt out after a few days, and he needed to find a new way to insure his immortality. For that, he needed a real body.
The old wizard's eyes narrowed. "And they might be?"
"First of all, the bones of a Muggle, from a grave in a small village in England."
"Riddle," Voldemort said in a tone of complete disgust, unable to even articulate his father's, his own, given name, "in a place called Little Hangleton. Get all the bones from the family graves."
"Secondly, at least eight ounces of blood from at least one enemy of mine. Ideally, it should be from Harry Potter, or perhaps Albus Dumbledore. I must admit, I do not see how you could accomplish so much. Still, I would appreciate the most you can do for me."
"With no disrespect intended, I believe I can find and bleed an enemy or two of yours with little effort."
Voldemort held his temper at the sardonic tone. "Thank you. The third thing I need you will have trouble with. In exchange, you may name your price."
"What do you need?"
"Not a what, a who. A very specific who." The elderly wizard's eyes went wide with shock when the name was revealed.
"That may take some time," he finally said.
"Then take it."
Friday, December 20, 1991
Severus Snape coldly surveyed the noisy great hall that night at dinner. The students would be leaving for the winter break the next morning. He had been very busy all term, even busier than usual, despite not having to teach the First years. As he looked at the happy students with a tinge of contempt, he admitted to himself that this was been a most unusual year.
His ego had been shredded in many ways, and repeatedly. Severus had still not completely dealt with the betrayal his other self had perpetrated against Albus Dumbledore.
He could believe that he had sacrificed what few principles he had in order to try and save Draco Malfoy. If he would try and save anyone, he knew it would not have been himself, but his godson. He could believe he had betrayed so-called 'Light Magic', 'the Cause', the Order. He saw the world in shades of gray, and had only believed in causes before he had betrayed the Dark Lord. No, one more betrayal was not impossible to believe. But actually killing Dumbledore? Obviously there were many details that Potter did not know. There had to have many reasons obscure to the cocksure schoolboy who had only seen the results, not the background.
It couldn't have been that he had been a coward when the tough choices had to be made.
Could it have been?
Snape swept that line of thought away, as he always did. Instead, he let his eyes land on that godson, happily chatting away in the back of the hall with Potter. Whatever deals the two had made were obviously being carried out to his godson's satisfaction, if not Snape's.
Snape had at first privately questioned why a Malfoy would lead a discussion group for a group of Muggle-raised First years while forcing a Muggle-born know-it-all witch on the Pure-bloods. Draco's stated reason for working with Mudbloods and Half-bloods, when questioned by the older Slytherin students, had been simple. "They're going to win. We're going to direct them to living with us on good terms for us later."
Being on the winning side, after all, was more important for many Slytherins than serving the 'right' cause.
Then Snape saw Potter's plan (or, in Snape's mistaken opinion, more likely Dumbledore's plan).
With this arrangement -- Draco acting at the coach to those in the Magical Traditions class and Granger doing the same for those in the Muggle class, and those two acting as Potter's lieutenants and others acting as their aides in general coaching classes -- the First years were a coherent whole, all in the thrall of Harry Potter.
Snape had been taking spot-checks on the First years via Legilimency since late September. He had tried this on Potter six times between September and early November. The first time, he had simply been blocked and gotten a dirty look. The second and third times, he had been forced to relive his killing Dumbledore. The fourth time, he had been sent Potter's memory of his own execution. The fifth time, he had suffered through seeing himself dangling in the air with his dirty underwear showing as he had during his O.W.L.s. The sixth and final time, an annoyed Potter had threatened to shred his mind, and Snape could tell the boy was serious.
He hadn't tried to invade the boy's mind again.
Granger had also been annoying. Somehow, she had learned Occlumency (Snape mistakenly attributed this to Remus Lupin) and he had earned many a dirty look and no information.
The others in Potter's little coterie were easy to read, even his godson most of the time. This was actually nearly as useless as what Snape had gathered from Potter and Granger. None of the First years knew anything of what Potter knew or planned as far as Snape could see. Snape had to commend Potter at his willingness to protect his secrets, although again he attributed this to Dumbledore's influence.
What Snape refused to see, of course, was that bringing the Houses together was a primary part of Remus and Harry's long-range plan. While the magical peoples of the world lived apart from the general population everywhere, it was only in Europe that there was near-total self-segregation. It was only in Europe that there was the emphasis on 'pure-blood', almost to the exclusion of culture and tradition.
Harry knew he could do little to affect the general magical population of Britain, let alone Europe, other than protect it from Voldemort and provide an example. He hoped, however, that the changes Remus had proposed would, in the long term, bring the magical population of Britain together. Perhaps, if it worked in Britain, in time it might even affect the rest of Europe.
Then, Harry hoped, all his suffering might have had some purpose beyond killing one madman.
Snape refused to see this beyond a nod to the concept, and that only because Dumbledore had pointed it out repeatedly, and the presence of Black and Lupin was a daily reminder of the idea. He had to swallow his pride daily and nod to Black and Lupin at meals. He had to encourage his Slytherins in any moves they might make away from the concepts of Pure-Blood supremacy. He did so, hating every concession but masking his feelings well.
And, to his surprise, it seemed to be working, at least on the surface.
To his disgust, Snape dealt with these internal conflicts with a stiff drink every night. He was sorely tempted to make that two or three stiff drinks every night, but resolutely stuck to three fluid ounces of brandy.
On the other hand, Snape had maneuvered himself out of the mainstream of events. He would never teach the bloody Boy-Who-Lived. Unless the Dark Lord made contact with him, he would likely never be involved in whatever was coming. As long as he swallowed his pride every bloody day, he would be left to direct his Slytherins. He might have to urge them to the new goals being taught by Black, but he was also there to make certain that the traditions remained in the foreground.
He watched as Draco and Potter broke apart and went to their respective places at the near-ends of their House tables. He had noted with great displeasure the growing tendency of students to sit at different tables. The First years had of course started it at breakfasts, and soon the habit had spread, especially with those couples cross-dating. At Snape's insistence (quickly agreed to by the other Heads of House), this new tendency was restricted to breakfast and, on weekends, lunch.
Snape thought of a recent proposal which had drifted up to the staff from the First years, which of course, he thought, meant Potter. The request was for one of two things: either allowing students into all the common rooms or providing some places in the castle where the students could easily meet to study and even mix socially, other than the library and unused classrooms.
The first part of the suggestion had nearly sent all of the staff (other than Lupin) into seizures. That had, of course, led to a near-stampede to the second options. Black was making a survey of possible locations, while Flitwick was drawing up possible plans for supervision.
Snape had to admit some slight admiration for Potter's plan (although it was actually mostly thought up by Susan Bones and Tracey Davis). The staff had never liked the ad-hoc use of unused classrooms and other rooms in the castle, of which there were an abundance in the huge rambling castle. If the prefects could be fit into the plan, relieving the staff of having to supervise the 'study rooms', there was a good chance the plan would be approved.
Snape frowned as the Weasley twins, grinning as usual, came into the feast. Snape had braced himself for a huge upsurge of pranks directed at the staff in general and himself in particular, now that Black was back in the castle. So far, however, the werewolf seemed to be keeping a tight lid on things. In this, Snape was (for once) mostly right. Remus and Mad-eye Moody had stopped five pranks Sirius had set for Snape and managed to shame him into stopping, at least for the moment.
In addition, Peeves had been very quiet all term. The poltergeist had cowered in a chimney for over six weeks after his run-in with Voldemort. Even now, he had not been seen near the staff quarters and was keeping a low profile in general. He also fled in terror from Potter on those few occasions when their paths had crossed.
There had, however, been an up-swing in pranks played on students, and there was little doubt the Weasley twins were behind most of them. Two weeks before, however, the pair had trapped Potter and his friends in the room where they were practicing their spells, under his and his pet Mudblood's direction, letting off an entire crate of dungbombs.
The end of the tale worried Snape a great deal, for Potter had literally blown the heavy oak door into kindling, despite being magically reenforced like all the doors at Hogwarts. As far as Snape knew, even Dumbledore or the Dark Lord would have been hard-pressed to do the same with a mere reductor curse. To make matters worse, two little storm clouds had followed the twins around for most of the next day (other than into classrooms). Whenever the twins failed to be cheerful, their respective cloud rained on the offending twin. If they tried any mischief, a small bolt of lightening sparked against their buttocks.
All the staff were in awe -- the trailing storm clouds themselves were N.E.W.T. level magic. To have them sensitive to the twins' actions and capable of distinguishing classrooms from everywhere else in and out of the castle, was remarkable. It was only when Lupin had managed to catch up with Potter that this display of power and technique was ended.
Snape looked down at the Gryffindor table, trying once again to sense the dynamics. The First and Second years seemed wedded to Potter. Even the Third years, led by the Weasley twins, seemed willing to follow the young wizard. Most of the rest of the table seemed to respect his Quidditch playing abilities, at the least.
Snape almost growled at that. A First year playing Quidditch still rankled.
The only fly in Potter's Gryffindor ointment seemed to be Percy Weasley. The older Gryffindor prefects tended to ignore him and none of the younger students paid him much mind. The only two Gryffindors who seemed to treat him with any real deference were Potter and Granger.
Still, Percy knew in part why he carried no authority -- Potter commanded the younger students, not the boy with a badge. Snape was glad that the Dark Lord was not in the castle these days; Percy Weasley might make an easy target.
Seeing a gleam in the Headmaster's eye, Snape excused himself before finishing his dinner. He rightly saw that there was about to be a sing-along, and he wanted no part of it.
Monday, December 23, 1991
With Voldemort disembodied and Lucius Malfoy having fled the country, it was thought safe enough for Harry to stay at Grimmauld Place for part of the vacation. Draco was spending the entire vacation there as well.
Harry was woken up early that morning by Dobby.
Harry dressed and presented himself in the kitchen, where he saw Dumbledore was sitting with Remus, Alastor, and Sirius. "What's happened?" Harry asked.
All four men looked abashed. The tired, driven Harry of his first year back was gone, replaced by an almost happy, quietly charismatic Harry. They all knew this might change.
"What's happened?" Harry now demanded.
"There was a prison break," Dumbledore said.
"Azkaban?" Harry asked. Dumbledore nodded. "The Lestranges, Dolohov, and that bunch?"
"Most were caught before they fully escaped," Dumbledore said. "Those who were recaptured were Kissed on the spot. As best we can tell, only Antonin Dolohov and Bellatrix Lestrange actually escaped."
Harry thought a moment and then looked at Remus. "You did clear out Riddle Senior's grave, right?"
"We did," Remus assured Harry.
"You believe that this escape is related to the ceremony Voldemort performed in your Fourth year?" Dumbledore asked.
Harry nodded. "Bellatrix is the only Death Eater I know of fanatical enough to carve her own flesh willingly," Harry stated. "Pettigrew did it from cowardice."
"But we destroyed the bones, and you're safe," Remus assured Harry.
"The blood of any enemy would do," Harry reminded the group. He thought a moment and asked, "Would Voldemort be able to use his grandfather's bones?"
That brought silence. "We should have cleaned out all the family graves," Remus finally said.
"Does that mean it's possible?" Harry asked.
"Possible," Dumbledore agreed. "The results would not be as sturdy a body, but it would be possible."
"Would Voldemort be that desperate?" Moody asked.
"He might be," Harry said. "He wasn't in as big a hurry last time, because the Horcruxes kept his essence stable."
"He could begin to dissipate after a few years without them," Dumbledore agreed. He turned to Remus.
Remus held up a hand. "I'll check out Little Hangleton today." He turned to Harry.
"I won't come back here after I'm done at Hermione's," Harry said without protest. He was going to be spending Christmas night and the morning of Boxing Day at the Burrow and the afternoon and that evening with Hermione and her parents. He would go back to the Dumbledores' on the morning of 27th instead of coming back to Grimmauld Place.
Needless to say, Remus had found the Riddle family graves emptied.
Wednesday, December 25, 1991
"Get to your rooms!" Molly screeched. "Ginny! Bring me a towel or something. Oh, thank you, Percy. You help Harry to Ron's room, while I deal with your brothers."
"Honestly, Mum!" George protested.
"It wasn't our fault!" Fred pleaded.
"It's never done that before!"
"I DON'T CARE!" Molly roared. "I've had enough! One more of your tricks, and you'll be staying home degnoming the garden and feeding the chickens instead of going back to school. Now GET OUT OF THE WAY!"
"I don't understand," George said as he and Fred made their way to their room in disgrace.
"They've never exploded before," Fred agreed. "Just a little spark. And how could Harry have gotten cut?"
"I don't know," George agreed, "but that's one trick we'd better leave alone for a while."
"We can come back to it later," Fred agreed.
Meanwhile, Percy Weasley, acting under the Imperius, sent his owl off with several ounces of Harry's blood.
Thursday, December 26, 1991
It was nearly mid-day, but despite the symbolism of night for Dark magic, the time of day made no difference to this ceremony. The dark sorcerer had finished mixing the preliminary potion and had left it steeping the required amount of time. All it needed now were the last ingredients.
All of the bones recovered of Voldemort's paternal grandparents, who together had of course created his father, went into the pot.
The blood of an enemy, forcibly taken, in this case Order member Hestia Jones, mugged outside her home the evening before. This would be reenforced by just over an ounce of Harry Potter's blood, the amount salvaged by Percy Weasley and not lost in transport.
Finally, of course, was the flesh of a servant, willing given. Bellatrix Lestrange stood nude next to the simmering cauldron, a long, super-sharp knife in her hand, ready to carve her breasts into the cauldron. She was nearly passing out from fanatical devotion, so great was her desire to share her body with her beloved Master.
"Let us begin," the sorcerer intoned.