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, May 23, 1993
Despite increased offers by Voldemort, the dementors of Azkaban stayed there. Pettigrew's lifeless body was discovered in early May in Austria. By that time, two of Voldemort's six 'wild' dementors had been tracked down and destroyed, and two others had defected.
Also as the end of May neared, four more of the Death Eaters Harry had put bounties on (George Jugson, Jason Gibbon, Alecto Carrows, and Amycus Carrows) had been killed. Joyce Wilkes, who had been given asylum by the Albanians, was still with them. Deitmar von Spitzbach, the dark sorcerer who had twice reanimated Voldemort, had been run off of his warded estate in the Carpathians, but had eluded capture.
Other than that, no word, no hint, was heard of from Voldemort and his supporters. The Ministries, Dumbledore and the Order, and Harry were completely in the dark. The disappearance of three more newly-built Muggle homes, their sites only bearing the smallest traces of magic, merely perplexed everyone in authority.
Harry did not let any of that bother him. Either Voldemort had moved on to some new dark project, or he had not swallowed the false Prophecy and was still after Harry. Based on his previous experiences, Harry hoped that if Voldemort did try anything, he might have some warning.
Unfortunately, Harry had not detected Ted Nott using a small device held in the palm of his hand as the Slytherin cast an almost undetectable tracking spell on Harry's glasses. Whomever was holding the device would be brought to Harry's location. Voldemort was owed some favors by some of the various Dark and Pure-Blood secret societies in Europe. He had managed to extract the promise of a few wizards who would join him in the attack on Harry Potter.
Voldemort hoped that Harry's death would jump-start his movement.
Harry, of course, had no idea this was in the works. No, what was bothering Harry this Sunday evening were Ron and Ginny Weasley. The previous few weeks had seen dueling tournaments, as the students involved in the dueling clubs held round-robins for each year.
Ron had won the Second Year Tournament. He had been happy all Friday evening and Saturday morning. That was when Ginny had given her brother an evil smile and congratulated Ron for being the second best dueler in his year. Ron had look confused for a moment, and then looked at Harry. Ron, who had been walking around with his trophy under his arm for thirteen hours, threw it on the floor and stomped away.
It was the first time Harry had seen the twins and Percy in total agreement, as they lambasted Ginny for ten minutes. Percy had fixed the bent trophy and the twins had carried it off to Ron. Ron was reported still steaming after dinner. Ginny was reported crying until nearly midnight.
Harry had slept on a sofa in the common room the night before, just to stay out of Ron's way. Percy had seen him there, and had merely given Harry a weak smile.
Now, he was sitting on a rock near the lake, having tossed the squid some left over toast from breakfast.
"Good morning, Mister Potter."
Harry spun around, surprised that anyone could get twelve feet from him without startling him. "Good morning, Professor Snape."
Snape walked over and sat on another rock. "We haven't had much formal contact, have we, Mister Potter?"
"No, sir," Harry agreed.
Snape was glad the boy merely sounded like a confident student, not like an equal. "Tell me, Mister Potter. Did you agree to join in a dueling tournament next weekend? You and any other non-member of the dueling clubs against all the winners from each year?"
Harry's jaw actually dropped. "What? That. . . !" Harry shook his head. "Why would I want to do something that stupid?" Harry remembered to add. "Sir."
"So, you believe to do so would be 'stupid'?"
Harry's eyes glanced around.
"We are alone, Mister Potter," Snape said. "I had to take quite a number of precautions to get as close as I did, and I could not have approached any closer. In doing so, I have guaranteed us privacy."
"In that case, Professor, then yes I believe that would be stupid. The last time around, despite the fact that you were using passive Legilimency on me and knew better, you claimed I was a showoff, begging for glory. I wasn't, and I'm no more interested in 'showing off' this time around. I certainly don't have anything to prove, and I certainly don't need to beat the other students."
"I see," Snape said. "Under those circumstances, what I am about to say will make little sense to you at first. If you can keep your head from swelling, there is little purpose in keeping your light under a bushel. You have set actions into motion. You must control what you have started, or else you may be left under the control of those very forces you started. The Dark Lord is apparently in disarray as are all those who might support him. The strictest Pure-Bloods and their agenda are in retreat for the moment as well. Who is there to take the lead in the British community? Dumbledore has always refused."
"No offense, Professor, but I don't think any one person should have all that much influence."
Snape looked at Harry and actually looked pleased for a moment. Finally, he said, "The summit is unoccupied. Even the path up the slope is empty. You must set yourself on that path, Mister Potter. It is up to you if you scale to the summit or if you merely help make certain that no one passes you." Snape looked off into the distance. "We pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves how marvelous it is to be magical," Snape said. "In reality, many, perhaps most of us at least in Britain, either want to be sheep or simply want to be left alone, and will let anyone run things, so long as we aren't bothered."
"I don't know about sheep," Harry said, "but considering the fact that Fudge is the Minister I can't argue against your other idea."
"You may not consider yourself a sheep, Mister Potter, and perhaps you are not," Snape conceded. " However, I did not consider myself one either. Yet I was, when I joined the Death Eaters, and I apparently was when I crawled back into His service in your other lifetime. I do not intend to be a sheep this time. In an ideal world, we would not need a shepherd and his guard dogs. This world is not ideal. I admire the Headmaster, and he literally saved me in 1980, or at least he helped me save myself. Yet that is the most he is willing to do for the magical world."
Snape looked Harry directly in the eye. "You may also avoid becoming the shepherd and allowing the world to use you to save itself. In that case, you must be the inspiration and you must be the court of last resort, urging the Ministry to do the right thing, but willing to step in if things go too far. The time to start is now, Mister Potter. I admit, I came down here to castigate you, because I thought you had agreed to this contest for the wrong reasons. Now I see the Weasleys or someone like them are trying to set you up for something. Use this to your advantage, Mister Potter." Snape nodded at Harry and stalked away without another word.
"If I hadn't heard it, I wouldn't have believed it," Harry muttered.
Some of the older Ravenclaws appraoched Harry that evening about the 'Dueling Championship' play-off. Harry agreed to participate, and then had to spend the next two days convincing Remus, Moody, and especially Sirius why he had agreed to Snape's idea. Dumbledore had agreed with Snape, which did not surprise Harry in the least.
No one had entered the tournament besides the seven Year Champions and Harry. Their names were randomly paired and the first round would be the following Saturday, as there was no Quidditch game or Hogsmeade weekend. The first would would be:
Ron Weasley, Gryffindor, Second Year Champion
Cedric Diggory, Hufflepuff, Fifth Year Champion
Grace Peebles, Ravenclaw, Third Year Champion
Anna Franklin, Slytherin, Seventh Year Champion
Thomas Jackson, Slytherin, First Year Champion
George Weasley, Gryffindor, Fourth Year Champion
Harry Potter, Gryffindor
Tobias Bole, Slytherin, Sixth Year Champion
No one was surprised at three of the duels, as the older three students easily took their younger opponents in well under thirty seconds each. The older students simply had a greater repertoire of spells and shields at their commands, plus greater power due to their age. All the champions had superior reflexes, and so the younger ones could gain no advantage there.
It had been the third match, the one between Harry and the Sixth year champion, Tobias Bole, which had shocked everyone other than Hermione and Tonks, including none other than Albus Dumbledore.
Harry Potter was, after all, several steps beyond any Hogwarts student in terms of his power. He was far more powerful than he had been the night he had destroyed Voldemort in that previous lifetime. In any formal duel, all offensive magic had to be spoken. Defensive magic, however, did not have to be. Harry merely brought his magic to the surface of his body. No one had ever thought of using their magic in such a fashion before. Harry had thought of it over the previous summer, when he and Hermione's father had been watching reruns of the old Star Trek series. He and Dan Granger had fallen into a discussion of the theories behind the Enterprise's shielding.
Dan was very much a SciFi afficionado, a Trekker from the first time The Original Series had been shown in Britain. He knew every Trek and Dr. Who reference there was. Harry had wondered if he could develop the type of passive shielding a ship like the Enterprise would have needed to avoid being pulverized by space dust.
What he had developed was a deflector shield that needed no incantation, only intent. It had stood up to everything Hermione could throw against it the first time Harry had tried it. By now, even Tonks and Hermione working together couldn't throw him off, and he had kept it secret from everyone else. Therefore, when Moody, acting as the referee, called for action, Harry merely stood and looked at the older Slytherin.
Bole frowned, and then sent a stunner at Harry.
Harry merely stood there and let the hex hit him. The stunner hit Harry on his chest near his right shoulder, splattered, and died off. Harry crossed his arms and looked at Bole. "Well, go ahead and do something," Harry said.
Bole looked at Harry stupidly. There were lots of spells, hexes, jinxes, and curses allowed in the dueling clubs, but none were really any more powerful than a stunner. Harry sighed and placed his wand behind his ear.
"Stupefy!" Bole tried again, for lack of a better option.
This time, Harry moved. He clapped his hands together, catching the ball of magic between them, crushing the hex. Harry then took his wand in hand, sighted at Bole very deliberately, and returned the curse with every iota of power he had. "Stupefy!"
Bole just managed to raise a shield in time, not that it did much good. The hex exploded through the shield and hit Bole of the left shoulder, breaking it in four places and spinning the large teen around four times as it knocked him back twelve yards. Bole crashed to the ground, moaned, and hazily decided that staying where he was was an excellent option.
Then he passed out, and Harry summoned the boy's wand.
George Weasley gulped and looked at Cedric Diggory. The two were hardly close friends, being a year apart and in different Houses. Still, the Weasleys and the Diggorys were old families in Ottery St. Catchpole, even though, as was common in magical Britain, their families in the area were now down two a mere two households. They socialized on occasion, and the two teens knew each other moderately well.
"Bloody hell, Weasley!" Cedric said softly but with awe. "If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't never have believed it."
"Well, it explains why no one in Gryffindor bet against Harry, doesn't it?" George said. The Slytherins had been running a betting book, and had been surprised that the Gryffindors had been backing Harry.
"I know, but still! I've never seen a simple stunner cut through a protego like that!"
"Bole must have miscast it," Anna Franklin, the Seventh year champion sneered.
"Fine," George said. "You face Harry next, then."
She started to sneer, but then stopped. "Actually, I believe we have to draw lots for the next round.
George looked at Cedric. "I'll concede right now, if you will. We're not earning any House points by competing. I know that Harry could beat all three of us." He had Fred had managed to watch one of Harry's Sunday morning personal training sessions one Sunday morning when Moody was not involved. Harry and Professor Black had been facing the Headmaster, the bar keep of the Hog's Head, Professor Flitwick, Tonks, and Professor Lupin. It had been amazing to watch, and also damn frightening. Harry had lost against those odds, but it had taken a while to take him out.
"I never thought a Gryffindor would be a coward, whatever else I think of you lot," Anna said with disdain.
"I would no more want to face Harry in a duel than I would You-Know-Who, assuming I thought he would stick to the rules," George retorted.
"George. . . ." Cedric said, warningly.
George turned and faced the Hufflepuff. "Cedric, I know Fred and I are, well. . . ."
"Fair enough," George agreed, "although we prefer pranksters. Still, just to prove the point." George went over to Moody, and announced he was conceding the Tournament. Cedric went over and did the same.
Anna Franklin did some very fast thinking to do, and she did her best. Her family was Pure for six generations on her father's side, and for nine on her mother's. She was smart, but more than that she was ambitious. There was little doubt as to why she had been placed in Slytherin. The question was, what would serve her ambitions at this point?
She knew that to someone with Dark ambitions, like Marcus Flint, this would be a chance to take Potter down a few pegs, perhaps by risking a few curses just outside the pale, like a cutting curse not aimed at the boy's head, or a blinding curse. Had Bole's duel lasted longer, he no doubt would have tried sneaking such curses in at some point.
Anna, however, had no Dark intentions, and was if anything ashamed that Slytherin and Dark Magic were so notoriously thought of together, even if for most of history just as many Dark wizards had come from Ravenclaw as from Slytherin. Still, Slytherin was important to her. Potter had wiped the floor with Bole, and from the looks of how he did it, she wouldn't fair much better. Still, she realized with a slightly sinking feeling, as embarrassing as it might be to be beaten by a Second Year, even the Boy-Who-Lived, it would be worse if she didn't try. Granted, if Potter beat her easily, Weasley and Diggory, both younger than her, wouldn't look bad. If she managed to win or at least put on a good show, they would look bad.
"Are you ready, Miss Franklin?" Moody demanded.
Anna nodded and took her stance. 'At least Potter didn't seem to move too fast,' Anna thought.
"Go," Moody said.
Anna started her first hex and then fell to the ground. She had already been stunned by Harry, hexing her as quickly as his magically-enhanced reflexes would allow.
Snape looked at Flitwick, who was acting as the judge. "Was that a proper curse?" Snape asked. "All Potter said was 'stun', not 'stupefy'."
"It's allowable," Flitwick said with a shrug. "You know as well as I that the actual charm doesn't matter to a powerful sorcerer. All that matters then is the intent."
Snape scowled, but said nothing. Inside, he was almost smiling. His plan had been adopted, and this phase had worked.
Harry walked into the Second year dorm just over an hour later and saw Ron sitting on his bed. The dueling trophy was on the floor in front of him, bent. Ron had obviously thrown it down.
"If that trophy could swing its wand, it would hex you in your sleep," Harry said.
"I think we need to talk, Ron."
"About what? About what a lousy wizard I am?"
Harry sighed inwardly and sat on the bed. "You do know you're the only person who can say that about you that wouldn't get hexed, right?"
"Do you think I need you to defend me?" Ron snapped.
"Yes," Harry said. "Just like I want you defending my back."
"Why would you need me to do that?" Ron cried out. "You're bloody Super-Harry!"
"Let's pretend for just a minute that I am," Harry snapped back. He thought a moment, and tried to put things in a way that a bright but intellectually lazy 13 year old could appreciate. "Let's say I can take on any four or five Death Eaters out there. What do I do when there are ten or twelve? I was given this power for one reason -- to make things better. I can't do it all by myself, and I would be an idiot to try." 'And I certainly was an idiot at times,' Harry added to himself. "Let's say that every plan and hope I have works out, and I destroy Voldemort and people like Malfoy and Percy watch my back in the Ministry, and Hermione and I stay together. There will always be some other dark lord wanna-be coming along. Sooner or later, one will kill me, even if they and a dozen stooges have to ambush me, if I was ever caught alone. I would hope that I would have friends who could back me up. People I know and trust, and who know and trust me."
"Like Neville," Ron grumbled.
"Like Neville, and I had thought like you," Harry retorted. "You might be envious of some of my abilities, and some aspects of my life, but believe me, you wouldn't want my life, Ron."
"I know," Ron agreed. "Do you really want to be my friend, Harry, or do you just want a supporter?"
"A close friend, Ron. Percy is my supporter. The twins are my friends."
"I'll try and do better, Harry."
"Thanks. Ron, do you know exactly how powerful I am?"
Ron shrugged. "I thought I had an idea, but you just went from a rook to a queen, or beyond today."
"By the time I leave Hogwarts, people are going to be afraid of me, and they are either going to try and hurt me or try and suck up to me."
"Or both," Ron pointed out.
"Or both," Harry agreed. "I need to make my friends now, so I know who I can trust." Harry reached down and picked up the bent trophy and with a thought it was restored. "We're playing different games, Ron. We can't measure what we accomplish against each other. However, we can both accomplish more if we trust each other and work together as friends."
Ron Weasley reached deep into himself and looked. Here was someone who might become the greatest wizard of the age, asking for his help. He knew Harry pretty well by now, and knew that he could probably disagree with Harry about just about anything and Harry wouldn't stop being his friend. Harry hadn't stopped after weeks of siding with Ginny in her spat. Ron knew, with a hurt in his soul, that he was not going to be the next Merlin, the next Dumbledore. He could not imagine trying to get in the way of Harry's destiny to become the great wizard he seemed to on the way to become.
But he could help Harry reach it.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Ron said. "You've tried to be my friend for almost two years, and I haven't done a very good job being your friend."
"Friends?" Harry asked.
"Friends," Ron said.