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...
Tuesday, September 1, 1992
Harry was relatively relaxed as he sat in the train compartment. There were plenty of people who had wanted to share the compartment, and Harry had, with difficulty, picked out the five to come with him without hurting anyone else's feelings.
Hermione had been obvious of course, and Harry made certain Neville was with him as well. This Neville was now very different than he had been the first time around. He was more confident and less clumsy. Still, he was now still just an above-average (other than in Herbology, where he sometimes surpassed Hermione) 12 year old student -- and Voldemort's most obvious, or at least easiest, target.
Harry had resolved to keep Neville close, if he could without stifling him.
Ron was with them as well. Being made a team leader for two weeks in August had given Ron some confidence, and careful coaching by Harry and Remus had managed to keep Ron's ego from becoming arrogant. Ron was still prone to moments of jealousy and self-doubt, but Harry hoped those would fade in time.
While too young to date, Ron and Susan had been close the year before, and even more so during the two weeks of training. Ron had even spent the weekend after training with Susan and her mother and formidable aunt.
Ginny completed the compartment, as she knew no one other than her brothers and Percy had demanded that she ride with one of them. Harry was not about to force her to ride with the twins, and was happy enough at first to have her with him and his friends.
Harry was glad that this time he was not flying to Hogwarts in the Weasleys' enchanted car, which also meant no Dobby trying to save him, no Whomping Willow, and no Snape wanting to expel him the first day. With any luck, he would not have to deal with Snape at all this year.
On the other hand, while he also would not have to deal with Lockhart, who as a pain in class ranked only behind Snape and Umbridge as far as Harry was concerned, he would have to deal with Slughorn. Harry had dug through the storage bins in the Potions Lab during some of Sirius' Potion classes the year before and found Snape's annotated textbooks (Harry still wondered why they were there, but was not about to bring Snape's attention to them). Still, Suck-up Slug, as Sirius called him, should be far easier to deal with than Snape, or Lockhart or Umbridge for that matter.
Harry glanced at Ginny, and saw her avert her eyes. He repressed a sigh. Obviously, Ginny's crush was replicated this time around, and, on reflection, Harry knew he should have realized this. Ginny had been awkward around him the previous Christmas, but in the excitement, he hadn't really paid any attention to it.
Harry wondered how uncomfortable he might be with Ginny in Gryffindor this time (after all, if Percy, the least Gryffindor of all the Weasleys, was Sorted there, an unpossessed Ginny was certain to be). He was rather embarrassed by his return crush on Ginny his Sixth year, and the jealousy he had felt. It had been very unlike his usual feelings and behavior. He still didn't regret the fooling around, snogging, and even heavy petting he and Ginny had engaged in, either, although in retrospect he actually felt a little used by her. This time, his bonding with Hermione would prevent such behavior on his part but, he wondered, if Ginny did not get over her crush earlier this time around, how determined she might be. This time, the diary would not have hindered her development.
Harry rather hoped that this would mean Ginny would be less concentrated on him, but he wouldn't want to place bets on it.
Harry was happily surprised when Slughorn did not immediately make the slightest fuss over him in their first potions class. Harry finally decided the real difference was that now he appeared 12 rather than 16 and that Slughorn did not want to overwhelm a student that young. That pushed his respect for the old panderer up a notch. Slughorn had noticed the superior results Harry and Hermione had come up with. (Hermione this time had agreed to use any alternate directions in Snape's old textbooks. In part, this was because of the different type of relationship she had with Harry, but also because this time Harry had been to explain why the directions sometimes differed. Hermione therefore looked upon this as a chance to learn more about how potions actually worked, as Potion directions and ingredients often made no sense in Muggle terms in any event.) Slughorn had praised the potion they had brewed together the first week and the ones they made separately the second, but not overly so. Harry made certain that Slughorn knew and valued Hermione's worth by giving her most of the credit. They would both be invited to Slughorn's little receptions, but Harry found he did not mind so much this time.
Overall, Harry decided at that second Saturday morning as he and Hermione walked hand-in-hand on the lawn (to the teasing of some of the older Ravenclaws), this year was certainly looking up in most aspects.
The mandrakes were growing on schedule, but they shouldn't be needed. He and Hermione had impressed Professor McGonagall with their turning of beetles into buttons. Harry had nearly fallen off his chair in the first Defense class, when Moody showed up with Cornish pixies. This time, however, they had had a proper lesson on the little creatures.
Harry had especially impressed Professor Flitwick, and the little professor had taken Harry aside and agreed to Moody and Sirius' request that he give Harry some extra dueling tutoring. In fact, that would inspire Flitwick to talk about restarting the dueling clubs. Add in the fact that Ron didn't have a broken wand this time, which had threatened everyone's well-being within thirty feet of him, and things were generally looking good.
On the other hand, Colin was just as annoying this time as he had been the first time around. Added to Harry's annoyance to the years of stalking the first time around were the facts that 1) it turned out that the photos Colin took and freely circulated around Hogwarts had helped the Death Eaters identify Harry's supporters by sight; and 2) either Dennis or Colin (or both) had led a group of Hogwarts students into a trap near Hogsmeade in October, 1997, believing they were going to surprise Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Instead, it had been a trap designed by Draco and implemented by Pansy. All the students had either been killed or injured.
For these reasons and of course the fact that Colin had stalked him for five years, Harry had no patience with Colin. He had let Colin take a photo of him and Hermione on 'their' loveseat in the common room, and then he did his best to shut Colin down. This time, he had help from all the other Second years. Harry tried to let Colin down easy, but the boy just would not take 'no' for an answer, and had no respect for anyone's privacy.
Harry had therefore taken to wandlessly hexing Colin's cameras within a week. The boy was still annoying, but could do no real damage. Colin was also spending a great deal of time trying to figure out what was wrong with his camera.
Ginny was another matter. She was following Harry around nearly as much as Colin, and when she wasn't following Harry, she was trailing after Hermione, making cutting remarks. Ron, Percy, and the twins all tried to reason with her, but when she persisted, Harry reluctantly wrote a letter to Mrs. Weasley towards the end of September.
Molly Weasley descended on the castle on the first Saturday of October, spoke with Harry, her sons, and Professor McGonagall, and then sat Ginny down for a private talking to which lasted over half an hour. Ginny came out of the room, red-faced, tear-stained and shaking. Harry realized sadly that he and Hermione had lost a friend, at least for the immediate future. He was glad to see, however, that this episode had at least brought Ginny and Percy closer. The fact that this made Harry somewhat happy encouraged Percy in his notions that Harry was both a valuable ally and a very troublesome one.
While this soap opera was going on, Sirius, Moody, Flitwick, Remus, and Snape activated the long-defunct dueling club, this time based on tutoring each year separately (as opposed to all together, as Lockhart had tried to do). Snape kept well-away from most of the meetings, other than the Seventh years', where he acted as a coach, and which Sirius and Remus had no part in.
Sirius and Flitwick coached the Second years. Harry's group of friends were several steps ahead of the other Second years, and many of the others quit the optional club after two weeks. Harry's friends and a few others, however, kept at it and worked hard.
After Harry had given a toned-down demonstration of what he could do the first week, he was co-opted as the student coach. Unknown to most of the students (other than Hermione, Draco, and Harry's dorm mates), Harry spent an hour early every Sunday morning before breakfast dueling against the professors. Professor Flitwick had been stunned after he had agreed to tutor Harry to see exactly how advanced Harry actually was. As Moody had pointed out nearly two years before, Harry's reflexes were the fastest anyone had ever seen, and they were even faster now. While Flitwick was not let into Harry's basic secrets until later that year, it was obvious to him that first Sunday when he 'coached' Harry that his primary function was to face Harry in an open fight with nearly every stop pulled out from his own performance.
By the end of the term, Harry would be able to defeat any four of the professors (any combination of Moody, Flitwick, Remus, and Sirius, plus Aberforth Dumbledore) at least three out of every four times they fought, even though they now fought without many limitations, as opposed to the more limited repertoire. Even when Dumbledore joined in the three-against-one, Harry was now winning at least two out of five times. Granted, the professors had some dirty tricks which they didn't dare use in a practice fight. Still, Harry was coming along quite well.
Still, all this added up to the fact that Flitwick understood why Harry preferred to coach his fellow Second years to fighting them. When Zacharias Smith persisted in calling Harry out at the second meeting of the club that early October, it was only Smith's insistence that persuaded both Harry and Flitwick to finally give in.
After the quick and thorough drubbing, Zach never called Harry out again.
One somewhat unpleasant chore Harry did feel obligated in redoing was attending Sir Nicholas' 500th Death Day Party. Harry had brought the problem of the thousands of Muggle and Squib ghosts in the death camps to Sir Nicholas' attention in early September, hoping that a ghost might be more interested than the Ministries or Dumbledore in seeing if there was a faster solution. Sir Nicholas had been appalled. Unlike most Muggle ghosts, who were not fully aware of their surroundings or circumstances and who were usually confined to one place, magical ghosts almost always had all their mental faculties and freedom of movement. The ones like Binns and Myrtle who stayed in the exact same places where their died did so because they wanted to, not because they were forced to.
Harry's story of the death camp ghosts touched a nerve in not only Sir Nicholas but the other three House ghosts and even Professor Binns. Over their long terms as ghosts, the group had acquired many contacts across haunted Britain, and even into Western Europe. They, in turn, had contacts reaching deeper into Europe. By mid-October, Sir Nicholas was able to report that magical ghosts were able to contact a few of the spirits haunting the many death camps and even some of the World War I trenches. In the latter, some ghosts were still attacking each other in ghostly parodies of the years of trench warfare. No doubt the work would take decades, perhaps even centuries, but over time the trapped spirits would be 'sent over' into the next plane of existence, whatever that might be. In any case, they insured that it would be done faster than the Ministeries' plans.
Hence Sir Nicholas' inviting Harry to his 'party'.
As large as Sir Nicholas' Five Hundredth Death Day Party had been the first time around, this time it would be even larger, as ghosts from all over Britain and western Europe would be coming to meet Sir Nicholas' good friend 'Harry Potter, friend of ghosts everywhere'. Harry had been worried that this might pose a problem to Sir Nicholas, but the ghost was happy to share his Death Day with Harry. The whole affair had apparently upped Sir Nicholas' own standing in the spectral realm. Although still not allowed into the Headless Hunt, Sir Nicholas was being honored to some degree along with Harry.
Harry was told he could bring anyone he wished to the celebration. Harry had told all his friends what to expect. Only Remus, Hermione, Susan, Padma, Daphne, and Tracey expressed enough interest to come along. Neville came along only because his friends were going.
Susan was reconsidering her choice as the group made their way -- the black candles with their dim blue flames made the beginning of the experience spookier than she had anticipated. The month had been cold and dank outside the castle, and the dungeons were never all that warm or dry to begin with. As the air grew colder around the group, Susan wished very much that Ron had been willing to come with them, or more accurately, had been willing to come with her. When the distant droning shriek of the music of the dead was heard, nearly everyone but Harry and Remus shivered. Susan bumped into Neville as she squeaked, just a tad frightened.
Neville put his arm around Susan.
Harry, seeing it, shook his head as he pulled Hermione close. He'd match Ron up with someone, someday.
The Death Day Party was at least twice as large as Harry remembered. Harry stationed himself near Nick, and made certain every ghost who came over paid at least as much attention to Nick as they did to Harry and his friends. Myrtle was one of those who came to pay her respects, and Harry managed to divert her from mentioning his presence in her toilets in the summer of 1991.
"I'm surprised that Peeves isn't around," Harry mentioned at one point.
"He was here until you arrived," Sir Nicholas said. "I must say, it is good to have him afraid of someone besides the Baron. If we must have a poltergeist, I must say I prefer him the way he is now."
With the crowd present, the Headless Hunt was unable to caper about at all, which also seemed to cheer Nick up a bit. Finally, with everyone living shivering a bit, Harry and Remus led the group out of the deep dungeons, Sir Nicholas' thanks ringing in their ears.
"Come on," Remus said. "I arranged for the elves to have some hot cider and a light dinner ready for us."
Sunday, November 1, 1992
Harry was slightly surprised to be intercepted by Sirius on the way to dueling practice the next morning. Sirius was not a morning person, and tended to spend weekend mornings asleep until around 11:00 whenever possible, and it was not his turn to duel with Harry.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked.
"Not here, not now," Sirius replied so quietly that only Hermione heard him. The older students were getting ready for the second day of their first Hogsmeade weekend, and so were also on the move early that Sunday. "Just come on, and I mean just you. You may pass on the information later."
And so Harry found himself in the Headmaster's office some ten minutes later, along with Remus, Moody, and Snape.
"This is who we were waiting for?" Snape demanded.
"Yes," Dumbledore stated so firmly that Snape held his peace. "There was a strike last night."
"Riddle himself?" Harry asked.
"Presumably so," Dumbledore answered. "He, or someone, attacked and killed a Squib family outside of Godric's Hollow around Eleven last night. Whomever it was cast the Dark Mark."
"Didn't think of that, did you, Potter?" Snape spat.
"Severus. . . ."
"What do you intend to do about it, Potter?" Snape demanded.
"I'll do the exact same thing YOU and the Order did last time, when similar things occurred," Harry stated quietly.
"And what was that?" Snape asked, his sarcasm fully engaged.
Harry stood. "Nothing. Not a damn thing. That's what the lot of you did. I am doing nothing, because at the moment there's nothing I can do. Voldemort can be a random terrorist; there is little anyone on earth can do about some lunatic who does such things. What little that can be done is done by superior intelligence work, and that is one thing I've never claimed I could do." Harry gave Snape the dirtiest look he could muster. "You, on the other hand, always claimed to be the greatest spy in wizarding history. When you get off your arse and bring in some solid information, I will be more than happy to do something about it."
Harry turned away from the sputtering Snape and faced Dumbledore. "Thank you for keeping me informed." Harry turned and left the office.
Remus tracked down Harry about an hour later. He was in a part of the dungeons set aside for his training. Harry was busy destroying targets with a wide variety of hexes.
"Where's Sirius?" Harry asked.
"The Infirmary," Remus replied with a wry look.
"Snape hexed him?" Harry was surprised.
Remus shook his head. "The two of them yelled so much they both lost their voices," he replied. "Once they had screamed themselves into hoarseness, Albus and Alastor lit into the pair of them and then Alastor dragged them to the Infirmary, where, I hope, he's keeping an eye on them."
"I think Madam Pomfrey can handle those two," Harry retorted.
"Perhaps, but it's better for all concerned if she doesn't have to do it by herself," Remus agreed. "Tell me," he went on with a concerned look, "did you mean what you said?"
"Did I mean it?" Harry asked. "Yes. Do I like it? Not one bit. I hate it!" he nearly spat. "Still, Voldemort is a terrorist. He's never had the numbers to openly confront any Ministry. Hell, the Benelux aurors, all what? fifty of them? could mow down the thirty or forty original Death Eaters in a straight fight. If they had all attacked Hogwarts on that Halloween of 1981, the school staff and students would have massacred them. They aren't entrenched all over magical and Muggle Europe, like Grindelwald's people were. They have nothing except sadism and an incredibly powerful lunatic as a leader."
"I suppose that's true. . . ."
"Remus, Voldemort called all his Death Eaters to the cemetery when he was reborn after the Twi-Wizard Tournament," Harry responded. "There were barely twenty. Add in the dozen or so who were in Azkaban, and that's all there were."
"But that was the Inner Circle. . . ."
"Inner Circle, hell!" Harry snapped. "Any 'Inner Circle' with Crabbe and Goyle Senior in it isn't any group to be feared on its own."
"That might be true, but there has to be others!"
Harry shrugged. "Not really. Every active Death Eater still alive by 1981 was born after 1945 and before 1963." Remus' eyebrows went up at that. "Voldemort had other followers, but I mean those with the Mark, those who engaged in terror, who hadn't been killed by aurors, the Order, or by Voldemort himself before Voldemort was disembodied. More than half came from Slytherin and were the younger siblings or children of Tom Riddle's first followers, who were dead by then while most of the rest from Ravenclaw."
Remus frowned. "But what about Karkaroff?"
"He and the other foreigners with the Mark were exchange students, some program that went on from just after Grindelwald's fall until the mid-1960s, when the Ministries stopped funding it," Harry answered with a shrug. "He was in Hufflepuff, believe it or not, from 1963 through 1965, as a Fourth and Fifth year student."
Remus tried to get his mind around all this. "You mean . . . all this is just. . . ." He slapped his head.
"What?" Harry asked. "Confined to Britain and Ireland? Of course it is, for the most part. It's only here that there's any of this 'You-Know-Who' nonsense. He was called 'Voldemort' in all most of the continental newspapers and all of the North American and other ones. I mean, sure there are plenty of pro-Pure Bloods and Dark types all over the world. But none of them are going to back ol'Moldieshorts until he can overthrow the British Ministry, or destroy Dumbledore or something!" Harry paused and added, "Or, I would guess, kill me." Harry shrugged. "I'm sure they're pushing supplies and money to him and certainly information, but they aren't coming over in droves. The last time I went through this all he had were a couple of giants and the dementors -- which was pretty frightening at times, I admit -- and about fifteen to twenty Death Eaters besides the ones in Azkaban, maybe two dozen younger Death Eaters who joined over a three year period, some crazy German sent over from an old pro-Grindelwald group, and that animal Greyback. Without Draco and Snape, we might have gotten through everything without nearly as much bloodshed in the end. It was Dumbledore's death that ripped the guts out of the Order, and the Minister was still reactive right up past the attacks on Diagon Alley, the Ministry, and Hogsmeade. Everyone waits until they attack and then wrings their hands and point their fingers."
"What can we do?" Remus asked.
"You and the others had better come up with something," Harry retorted. "No one else will come and help us, or at least they wouldn't last time." Harry stopped as a thought hit him. "And I would advise you to do it fast, because you might not like what I will do if you don't."