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...
Friday, July 31, 1992
Albus Dumbledore looked around the main parlor of 12 Grimmauld Place with satisfaction. Compared to its state when Sirius had reclaimed the house two years before, it hardly looked like the same place. With a nod to Tonks, who had already spent the month working with Harry, he went off in search of Harry, wanting to catch him before the horde arrived for his birthday party.
Dumbledore found Harry in an attic, where he was finishing some meditation exercises. "Yes, Headmaster?" Harry asked, his eyes still closed. He was also still in the lotus position and floating an inch above the floor.
"I am very impressed by what you have accomplished this month," Dumbledore started off. "Considering your dueling and overall combat skills, I withdraw my opposition to your vacation with the Grangers, since Nymphadora has agreed to accompany you the entire time, and Remus will be with you until he has to leave for the full moon on the Thirteenth."
Harry shrugged and touched down. He really was not concerned with the Headmaster's approval of his plans, but it was easier when Dumbledore went along with what he was going to do anyway. Instead, he moved to a slightly different topic the Headmaster had raised. "The full moon will be around Nine-thirty in the morning, French time," Harry pointed out. "He'll feel miserable, but he won't transform. If the Mediterranean sun helps him feel better at all, why should he leave? He'll be back to escort us back on the Fifteenth anyway."
"Feel free to bring it up with Remus if you like," Albus said simply. "You know how private he is about his condition. While you have seen him at his most vulnerable, he may not wish to expose the others to his pain."
"True," Harry agreed. "I'll wait until we're at the coast."
"Also, two nights ago an intruder was caught near the Department of Mysteries. He turned out to be a Squib under the Imperius, who died when the Curse was withdrawn. Therefore, I suspect that Voldemort is indeed after the Prophecy, just as you speculated. I have had a word with the Unspeakables, and this time they will be on guard."
"I wonder why didn't you do that last time?" Harry asked. "Fudge?"
"Cornelius is still being fairly cooperative, and this time I swore to him I did not want his job and would come to him before making any move to replace him with myself," Dumbledore said. "That indeed might be the difference."
"I suppose that's good," Harry said. "How was the Governors' meeting last night?"
"It went well," Dumbledore said cautiously. "Horace's limited reappointment went through, as the Board wanted to see if our plan would indeed side-step Voldemort's alleged curse on the Defense position. Remus' appointment as an auxiliary professor went through after a little heated discussion." This would allow him to step in as necessary. It also would mean he would be able to keep an eye on Sirius, who was still chaffing to make Snape's life miserable as much as Snape was to return the favor. Each was waiting for the other to make the first move. "Also, I managed to persuade Professor Kettleburn to retire. Hagrid was appointed in his place on a three-year trial basis." Dumbledore smiled. "Acting on your suggestions, his ban on performing magic was lifted by the Ministry a few weeks ago, and Filius and I have been tutoring him on how to use his new wand."
"Great," Harry said. "No luck with Binns, I take it?"
"No," Dumbledore admitted.
"At least we're spared Lockhart," Harry said. He frowned. "I don't suppose there's anything we can do about that fraud, is there?"
"Alas, not much," Albus said. "I have alerted friends around the world, however. We have uncovered two of those whose memories he stole. Their memories have not been restored, as, unfortunately, he does have a remarkable talent in that one area. If anyone other than he tries to lift the charms, the mind might be severely damaged. However, sooner or later we may come across some who had high skills in Occlumency or a developed resistance to the Imperius. They would have a much easier time recovering their memories."
"That's good to know, at least," Harry said. "Now, since except for the last thing it was nearly all good news, what's wrong?"
"Ah," Dumbledore said. "Just before you returned two years ago, I made a suggestion to two other schools. . . ."
"About the Tri-Wizard Tournament?" Harry asked. He had not realized that the preliminaries had stretched back nearly that far.
"Exactly. Igor Karkaroff sent me a note a short while ago, saying that his school was eager and willing. Madame Maxime had already done so two years ago. I had not followed up beyond polite responses, since I knew what had happened in your previous life."
"Why did you suggest it?" Harry asked. "Not just to promote contacts between the schools."
"No," Dumbledore said. "I was hoping whomever the Hogwarts Champion might be would be able to help you inspire the students." He frowned. "The idea had popped into my head when I saw Cedric Diggory Sorted. Perhaps it was almost a Prophecy."
"Perhaps," Harry agreed. "So, I take it there will be a Tri-Wizard Tournament in two years?"
"It looks like it," Dumbledore agreed, "unless I scuttle it, openly or behind the scenes." Dumbledore did not seem to like the idea of doing so, but Harry was touched his views were being solicited.
"Well, I have no intention of entering," Harry said. "Still, if we keep a better eye out this time, some good might come of it."
"I agree," Dumbledore said. "Have a good birthday party, Harry."
The party went off very well, and Harry left for the Grangers happy. The Grangers had a very different start to their vacation planned this year. Mrs. Granger did some work in forensic dentistry, and was giving a paper at a conference in Poland on the Monday. Saturday morning, therefore, the Grangers, Harry, Remus, and Tonks (who had reluctantly agreed to being called Dora for the trip) flew to Warsaw.
On Sunday, they and many of the Conference attendees were taken to see the huge concentration camp of Auschwitz and the associated death camp at Birkenau.
It was not a good idea.
"Not everyone can take the intensity of the experience," a guide said kindly to the two British children who had frozen at the gates and who were being taken back to the tour bus by two of the adults. Privately, however, the guide thought they should have at least been able to stay longer than opening lecture at the gate.
"What happened?" Mrs. Granger asked the four shaken magical portion of their party. "It wasn't just Harry and Hermione, it was all four of you."
"Ghosts," Remus said. "Ghosts are real. Most ghosts are magical, and become ghosts because they were afraid to move on or had some other reason to stay. Still, some Muggles and Squibs might become ghosts, if they die under horrific enough circumstances. They aren't as aware as magical ghosts, but their spirits still aren't ready to move on. Up to four million people were slaughtered or worked to death in those two camps. Thousands, likely tens of thousands, of their spirits are as confined to those camps as their bodies had been during life. They were drawn to us."
"They were drawn to Harry," Hermione corrected. "I was barely aware of them, and neither were you until the end."
"I was aware of them, alright," Harry said with a shiver. "Most were simply radiating their pain and anger. Some were begging me directly for release." He looked at Remus. "Can they be helped?"
"I don't know," Remus admitted.
"What about you, Dora?" Dan Granger asked.
"I not only saw them, but I heard them," Tonks answered. "Didn't you two?"
"Not really," Hermione admitted.
"It was sort of a mournful whisper," Remus agreed.
"It sounded more like the wail of the damned to me," Harry said with a shudder.
"They aren't damned," Remus said forcefully. "They are the tortured. Their tormentors, their murderers are the damned."
"I know. Can't we help them?" Harry asked again.
"I don't know," Remus admitted a second time.
"I'll ask Aberforth," Harry said then, tiring. It had been a very emotionally draining day, after all.
They were in Harry and Remus' room at the hotel, but Hermione simply kicked off her shoes, climbed on the bed, and dragged Harry's head onto her lap. Tonks pulled off Harry's shoes, and even though it was only 7:15, he was asleep within moments.
Tonks then dragged the startled Grangers and Remus out of the room. "Dora!" Dan protested. "This is hardly appropriate!"
"Why?" Tonks asked, curious.
"They're twelve!" Remus hissed. "They're too young to get into real trouble, but in a year or two. . . ."
"It doesn't matter," Tonks responded. "You men . . . idiots, right down to Dumbledore. In case you hadn't noticed, those two have already bonded."
Dan pushed all of them into the Grangers' room, and then demanded, "They've what!"
"They're pair-bonded," Tonks answered. "Their magic, minds, and souls have intertwined, even if their bodies, well, haven't. It's the highest form of marriage. They will love and honor each other with true love throughout their lives, and will never be tempted by another."
"They can't be!" Remus protested. "The bonding ceremonies. . . ."
"Require you to be at least seventeen," Tonks agreed. "But those are all lesser bondings. This . . . this is the real thing. I know, it rarely if ever has happened to those under fourteen, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. It has."
"And our daughter, not quite thirteen, is, well, married?" Emma demanded.
"Yes," Tonks simply. "Granted, you should put off registering the bonding until they leave Hogwarts, but that's all that's required. It's already legal." The other three simply continued to stare at the young woman.
"Now, there's no need to worry," Tonks added. "If anything, they are more unlikely to be . . . early starters, if you know what I mean, because of their closeness. I'll give them a talk tomorrow. The bigger fuss the two of you make, the more it will drive Hermione away from you, because she and Harry are together now."
The two Muggles looked at her helplessly.
"But where do I sleep?" Remus asked plaintively.
Tonks waggled her eyebrows. "Come on, Wolfie."
Tonks' talk was frank and vivid -- Hermione and especially Harry were bright red and squirming within a minute. Both pledged not to even think about engaging in actual sexual behavior before Harry's fourteenth birthday, and despite some temptations, both held to that pledge -- at least about actual sex.
Not to say that it was always easy as the nearly two years went by, but they made it, as they found 'compromises'.
After Poland group spent the rest of the week in Vienna. The sleeping arrangements went back to the original ones, and Remus was even shyer with Tonks than Harry and Hermione were around each other. As for the Grangers, Harry and Hermione enjoyed teasing them by holding hands and brushing against each other.
Of course, Hermione was also now wearing her chain and heart outside of her clothes now, instead of inside, as they had been since she had come home. By Friday, she also sported a discrete small white gold star sapphire ring (Hermione's birth stone) as well.
After Vienna, they traveled to Venice, Geneva, and finally NÃ®mes, spending a day in each place. Late Monday afternoon, they finally arrived at the Mediterranean beach resort they had stayed at the year before, where they would stay until Saturday afternoon, when they would drive back to Nice and fly to London.
Remus was convinced to stay the entire time. Tonks cast several glamours on Remus to cover up his many scars, and despite feeling ill Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, to his surprise Remus found that the sunlight did make him feel somewhat better, even with the moon out.
Remus was the shyest of the group, and tended to stay laying in the sun near the cabin the Grangers had rented. Since he wasn't feeling up to par, Hermione and Harry did not even try to get him to chew gillyweed and frolic in the sea, although Tonks did join them once.
This time, Harry was pleased to run into a small group of Merpeople. He had not had a chance to practice his Mermish, and brought the group a present of rust-proof knives the next day. In return, the Merpeople gave him a handful of grayish pearls and a few gold coins which had been lost at sea.
One of the gold coins had been rubbed to the point of being almost a blank disk. Harry would later have this melted down and made into a white gold alloy, used as a setting for a pearl ring and a set of pearl earrings for Hermione's birthday. The remaining pearls were set as a necklace. He kept one pearl for himself, uncertain exactly what he would use it for. He would wear it as an earring after he turned 15, but of course did not know that yet.
Sunday, August 16, 1992
"Good evening, Harry. You look tanned and well-rested."
"Thank you, Headmaster," Harry answered.
"I understand congratulations are in order," Dumbledore smirked, his eyes twinkling.
Harry flushed. "I really don't know how that happened," Harry answered, almost stuttering. "I hope the people who know this will be kept very limited."
"Will Miss Granger, or should I say Mrs. Potter, agree to that?" Dumbledore asked.
"It's Miss Granger until we leave Hogwarts," Harry snapped. "And yes, she understands exactly how much potential danger this puts her and her family in." He scowled. "How the hell could this have happened?"
"In part, no doubt because while your body is twelve, you are magically and spiritually twenty. In your original life, while you may not have been actual lovers, you did love each other in many ways." Harry had to agree to that. "In addition, Miss Granger is your truest confidant in this new life. She is a person who needs to believe mightily in truth and knowledge. In your first lifetime, if seems as if that belief was largely abstract. In this life, she has placed that belief primarily in you."
"True," Harry agreed. He also knew something that none save Hermione did -- that she was in some small part from that altered life as well. Her ghost was not anywhere as dominant as his own future self was -- Harry was in most ways mentally the boy from the future. Still, just as Harry remembered his time with the Dursleys both from the first time around and from the second, so Hermione had some bleed-over from the knowledge and feelings she had had from that first time as well. In a sense, Harry thought of himself as being mentally 18 and Hermione 15. "Anyway, like I said, I hope the people who need to know about our bonding is limited."
"Her parents, Miss Tonks, Remus, Sirius, Alastor, Aberforth, and Dedelus," Dumbledore answered. Seeing Harry's frown, Dumbledore reminded him, "As your bondmate, you owe it to Miss Granger to make a will."
"True," Harry had to agree. "By the way, did Remus tell you about my experiences at the death camp?"
Dumbledore nodded. "The International is now aware of the problem, and there is a team working on it." He looked very sad. "We can send any individual on, although it takes time. The problem is dealing with so many. They are studying the problem."
The pair was quiet for a moment, then Harry asked, "Is everything ready for tomorrow?"
"Oh, yes," Dumbledore answered. "I have arranged for everyone to floo to Hagrid's, however. If we move the location of the training around, there is less chance of anyone being traced." The students were staying in just a few homes and flooing for training each day.
"True, and especially with the extra Slytherins, we can't be too cautious," Harry agreed.
"I was surprised you agreed to them," Dumbledore remarked.
"I don't like them," Harry said, "but Draco is used to Crabbe and Goyle, and Millicent goes with them. Hopefully, having them won't do any harm."
"I would hope not," Dumbledore agreed.
"Now, Harry asked, "what happened that you don't want to tell me?"
Dumbledore winced. Harry was the only person who could read him so easily, other than Aberforth. "As you may know, most long-term Azkaban prisoners may have visitors."
"I didn't," Harry admitted. "Let me think about this." 'Who is still in Azkaban would I least want to have suspect visitors?' Harry asked himself. "Rookwood?" Harry asked. The man had worked in the Department of Mysteries, and would know the most about the storage of Prophecies.
"Exactly," Dumbledore replied. "He was one of the prisoners who Voldemort's people tried to free last year, but since he never made it out of his cell, he was not Kissed. We don't know who his visitor was, or what they talked about. Aurors are looking into how this could have happened."
"Let me guess, he might have clued Voldemort into there being a Prophecy registered with the Department in the first place?"
"Yes. He was not the man who partially overheard the Prophecy, but he did confirm its being registered at the time . . . and the two boys it was suspected the Prophecy might be about."
"So, Voldemort knows, or will shortly know, that only he, Neville, and I can release the Prophecy safely," Harry mused. "He won't mess about trying to get other people into the Hall of Prophecies to steal it for months, like he did last time."
"Is Neville safe?"
"Yes, although two attempts have already been made. One was directly on the Longbottom estate, and that was easily repelled." Dumbledore smiled nastily, perhaps the only time Harry had seen that look on Dumbledore. "Augusta seriously upgraded the protections there after Frank and Alice were attacked in 1981. The second attack was on St. Mungo's. With Augusta's permission, I have arranged to have Frank and Alice transferred to a special clinic in North America, connected to the Salem Institute. They will be quite safe there."
"Is there any reason why we should leave the actual Prophecy in the Department of Mysteries?" Harry asked.
"You mean, plant a false Prophecy as you did the diary and not try too hard to keep it away from Voldemort?" Dumbledore asked.
"Well, not hard enough for people to risk their lives over it," Harry answered.
"I will bring up the idea with my contacts in the Department," Dumbledore answered.
Harry split his friends and followers into the following three groups of six:
Team 1 (Ron team leader, Justin second), Daphne, Padma, Lavender, Susan;
Team 2 (Draco team leader, Ernie second) Vincent, Gregory, Hannah, Seamus;
Team 3 (Neville team leader, Tracey second) Anthony, Millicent, Parvati; Dean.
He would coordinate their training, aided by Hermione. The only offensive spells they would learn would be stunners and the disarming spell. They would learn several different types of shields, however, and Tonks and Sirius would help teach them hand-to-hand combat and of course Occlumency, and Harry would get everyone flying, while Hermione would make certain all homework was finished.
Harry planned on using these students as the core of a new DA come their Fifth year, even if Voldemort was defeated by that point. Between now and then, he hoped that they would have learned to work across House, gender, class, and background differences.
Harry did not really trust Draco to have completely overcome his upbringing, and there were several times when he saw Draco having to swallow comments he dearly would have loved to have made. Harry appreciated that the Draco he had known before could not have kept his mouth shut except under direct threat or active duress. The fact that he was able to contain himself counted for something, but Harry did note that it still took some effort.
He was more surprised by Millicent. She had been smart but thuggish the first time around, and had actively supported the Death Eater position, while her parents had tried to stay neutral, perhaps because Millicent's maternal grandmother had been Muggleborn. This time, she was getting more into the tenor of what Harry was trying to promote, and was actually slightly more useful than Draco in keeping Vincent Crabbe and especially Greg Goyle toeing the line.
It was not all work, of course. Hermione even arranged for the group to see two movies. Neither was particularly memorable as a movie to the Muggle-raised, even to Harry who had seen a few movies from the corner of the room at the Dursleys, but even Draco had quietly admitted himself impressed.
It also made him wonder if too much exposure to Muggle culture might not be a bad thing. When he mentioned this to Harry, Harry had to admit that Draco could have a point, and shelved plans for any further group cinema experiences.