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...
Wednesday, September 1, 1993
This time Harry was able to share a train compartment just with Hermione. "You look happy," Hermione commented. It wasn't that Harry was mopey or even usually depressed, it was just that he always had a lot on his mind. Those weeks in Australia had truly been the most relaxing period in Harry's lives. Only the two weeks he had spent in Diagon Alley in the original time line had come close.
"I suppose I am," Harry answered, and with that, Harry frowned. He had just realized that those two relaxing weeks in Diagon Alley had also been before his Third year.
"What?" Hermione asked, seeing his mood change. Harry explained.
"Well, I doubt if that's anything more than a coincidence," Hermione retorted when he had finished. "Yes, Voldemort is out there, and more dangerous in real terms than he was the first time. But in all other ways, things are more in our favor this time. If he has any brains, he's in hiding. He knows he can't create any more Horcruxes, and his major goal is to be immortal. Coming after you is NOT going to enhance his life expectancy."
"Maybe not," Harry acknowledged, "but he might not accept that yet."
"Besides, Sirius is safe and sound, and the dementors are afraid of you. The curse on the Defense position seems to be broken, and Sirius, I mean Professors Black, Lupin, and Moody will be there to help us, along with the Headmaster and everyone else. Even Professor Snape seems to be slowly coming around."
"True," Harry had to admit. "Voldemort still has that loon Bellatrix, not to mention at least two dementors. I might be able to fight them off, but they might attack you or someone else. We can't let our guard down."
"Harry, the only bad thing that's going to happen this term is that we can't sleep and snuggle together every night," Hermione said firmly.
"And we still have to wait eleven months," Harry almost growled.
"Three hundred and thirty-three days if we wait until the morning of your birthday, three hundred and thirty two days, twelve hours, and forty-one minutes if you let me jump you one second after midnight," Hermione stated. "Not that I'm looking too forward to the event."
Harry smiled a very silly smile at that, and hoped that the year would indeed go off well.
That evening, when the Sorting Hat sang a song asking for the Houses to continue to work together, it actually got a solid round of applause from all the Houses.
This time around, Hermione settled for taking ten courses. She didn't even try to take Muggle Studies or Divination. Harry had wavered, but had finally decided to take the same ten courses as Hermione. He wasn't thrilled by Arithmancy, but decided that he could use the background. He was only taking Care of Magical Creatures to be close to Hagrid, whom he had somewhat ignored in his first two years at Hogwarts. Ron, unsurprisingly, was taking the same two courses he had chosen the first time around.
This time, with nothing to prove since he had been teaching for a year, Hagrid did not start things off with Buckbeak. The nogtail (a demon which resembled an evil, stunted piglet, and which brought bad lucks to farms) was a nasty little creature, but not nearly as dangerous as a hippogriff. Since a few of the students' families actually kept livestock on farmsteads, this was indeed a practical lesson.
The students were less happy with their first Defense class. At Remus' suggestion, Moody had all his Third, Fifth, and Seventh year students face a boggart. The Fifth and Seventh years were scheduled to go in small groups of friends, so that their fears would not be broadcast to everyone, but Remus had thought the Third years' fears would be more generalized, as mummies and trolls and such. Harry, however, had pointed out that while that had indeed happened during his original Third year, it was possible that students besides himself might now have fears too personal to show everyone.
Remus scheduled the small groups for the Third years as well.
Harry went with Neville, Susan, Ron, and Hermione. Harry of course did not know what Susan's greatest fear had been the first time around. Harry never had thought Hermione's reaction would have been so profound had hers really been Professor McGonagall saying she had failed, and she had refused to talk about it at all in later years reenforcing that idea.
Harry knew his greatest fear would not be a dementor, and that Neville had no reason to fear Snape. Ron's was likely still to be spiders, but since he had not been faced with a nest of acromantulas Harry wasn't sure what form his fear might take. In any event, he had warned Remus what everyone's was that he knew about.
"Who's first?" Remus asked.
They all looked at each other. "I shall," Hermione stated. She walked towards the box where Lupin had captured a boggart. As she got close, she saw Harry, lying dead before her on his back.
"Yes," she whispered. "That's what I remember." She backed off a step, shivering slightly. "How do I make that funny?" she pleaded with Remus.
"Make me snore," Harry hissed from behind her, reminding her that this was merely an illusion. "Riddikulus!" Dead!Harry suddenly let loose a loud snore.
"Next!" Remus called.
Neville stepped forward, and Snoring!Harry transformed into Neville, lying senseless and drooling in a hospital bed. Harry recognized this as an extreme version of Neville's parents. "Riddikulus!" Neville said after a moment, and Boggart!Neville started hiccoughing.
Ron stepped forward, and Boggart!Neville transformed into a large spider, about a yard across the longest legs, and so much smaller than the ones Ron had faced in the other timeline. "Riddikulus!" Ron said firmly, and it transformed into a teddy bear. Harry smiled, remembering what had triggered Ron's fear of spiders in the first place.
Before Harry could move, Susan stepped forward, and the teddy bear transformed into naked!Susan, exposed to the world. While Neville and Ron gaped open-mouthed, Harry and Remus averted their eyes. Very red-faced, Susan said, "Riddikulus!" and Boggart!Susan was wearing a very silly, babydoll dress and too much makeup. She made a little courtesy as Harry turned and talked towards it.
"Gits!" Susan hissed at Ron and Neville.
"Sorry," Neville said.
"Uh . . . right, sorry," Ron agreed.
Harry was confronted by the cupboard under the stairs at the Dursleys, to the confusion of Ron, Neville, and Susan. "That's your biggest fear?" Ron asked.
"No," Harry said. "My biggest fear is in the cupboard. That's the 'room', where I lived, did my homework, stored the few clothes given me when my whale of a cousin got tired of any, which was often. This is my biggest fear." Harry opened the closet, and there was a scrawny, shorter version of Harry sitting on a child's cot, dressed in clothing way too large, rocking back and forth, his eyes blank. "My greatest fear is that's where I still am. That this is all an illusion, a psychotic dream and that this Harry is what's real. That I should be seeing us from his eyes and, realizing this is all a dream. . . ."
And with that, that is exactly what happened. Harry was lying on the cot in Dudley's old clothes, hungry, bruised, and looking out at a world he had dreamed up. "Only one flaw in this illusion," Harry said. He was still holding his wand. "Riddikulus!" He was back looking at the scene, and skinny little Harry had been replaced by Dudley, Vernon, and, squashed in the back, Petunia.
They didn't really fit, but with a flip of his wand, the door shut on them. "I think that's funny, anyway," Harry growled, and he walked away.
Remus hurried forward, and the scene turned into the full moon. He put the boggart back in the strong box. He turned around and saw Hermione had stopped Harry at the door.
"Well done, all of you," Remus said. "Five points each. Ron, Neville, one point off for disrespecting Susan's privacy." He looked at Harry. "Harry. . . ." Remus was obviously worried.
"If this is the illusion, I prefer it to reality," Harry said, and with that he went out the door.
Friday, September 10, 1993
Remus was not able to really sit Harry and Hermione down privately for tea until a week from that Friday they had confronted the boggarts. "What's up?" Harry asked.
Remus looked at Hermione and said, "You made a slight slip last week when you first saw your boggart," he said. "Am I wrong in assuming Harry knows?"
"He does, but no one else does," Hermione said with a sigh.
"Know what?" Harry demanded.
"That I'm partly the other Hermione," Hermione said.
"Oh," Harry said. "right." He looked at Remus. "Then yes, I know. While Hermione is physically almost a year ahead of me, I'd say she's only at most four years behind me emotionally, not six or seven."
"Do your parents know?" Remus asked.
"No, why?" Hermione asked, curious.
"Well, it might make them feel a little better about your marriage, if not the consummation," Remus said frankly, which the two students blush.
"I suppose I should tell them, now that they're fairly safe," Hermione admitted. All she had to do was decide if she should let them know before Christmas or not.
Saturday, September 18, 1993
Harry was very glad to meet with the Headmaster, Snape, Sirius, Remus, and Moody. He was almost as surprised to see Rufus Scrimgeour as Scrimgeour was to see him.
"What's the boy here for, Albus?"
"According to Prophecy, he is the one who will finish off Voldemort," Sirius said sternly.
"And he's the one who managed to scare off the dementors," Moody said, making Dumbledore wince.
"That's the Light One?" Scrimgeour demanded.
"I'll match my Patronus against yours," Harry said softly.
Scrimgeour made a face. "Not if Dumbledore confirms what Black and Moody have claimed."
"I do," Dumbledore said with a sigh.
"You play things too close to the chest, Dumbledore," Scrimgeour scolded. "If you want information, you have to share some."
"True," Dumbledore admitted. It was clear that while Dumbledore agreed, he did not like it one little bit. "Now, what is the information you could only reveal to 'the Light One'?"
Scrimgeour grinned a very nasty grin. "Well, Potter, if that's you the dementors were going on about, perhaps I should only tell you."
Harry very briefly considered asking Dumbledore to leave the room, but decided that it would be a very petty form of revenge. So, Harry shrugged and said, "Unless they said that only I should know, we might as well let them stay." He nearly laughed at the sour look Dumbledore had at that and the amused looks the others had.
"No, they didn't say to exclude anyone," Scrimgeour said. "The dementors at Azkaban asked to meet with me and to pass on a message to you. Two of their wild cousins had joined with You-Know-Who. They left last week."
"Were they the only two?" Harry asked.
"They were, according to the dementors at Azkaban," Scrimgeour said simply.
"Did they say why their cousins were dissatisfied?" Harry asked.
"They weren't," Scrimgeour admitted. "Supposedly, they were guarding Voldemort's hide-away, essentially keeping Muggles away." He held his hand up to forestall any questions. "Voldemort thanked them for their services, and sent them off . . . because they were affecting the baby."
"BABY?" everyone in the room demanded.
Scrimgeour nodded. "Lestrange is a few months along, it seems, and yes, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is apparently the daddy."
"I think I'm going to puke," Harry muttered, turning an interesting shade of off-green.
"Bad images?" Sirius teased.
"Don't you remember what he looked like when he stood up in that cauldron?" Harry demanded. "Like a rotting slug? And Lestrange, with all that . . . blood. . . that little rotting sausage. . . ."
"Oh . . . yeah," Sirius said with a shudder.
"I mean, why do you think I talked the elves into removing spotted dick from the menu?" Harry demanded, looking a bit more green.
Sirius then realized he had suppressed the complete image of the newly 'risen' Voldemort.
Then the others remembered what they had suppressed as well.
Down in the depths of Hogwarts, the head elf frowned. "Midgy, Squidgy! Quickly! Buckets and mops to the Headmaster's Office!"
Forty minutes later, the Office scrubbed and aired, the meeting resumed, with all of the participants supplied with weak mint tea.
"The question we must discuss is not if this is was planned from the start, but what Voldemort will do now that it is happening," Dumbledore said. "He will no doubt use the infant for some advantage."
"Or even the fetus," Harry suggested, drawing everyone's attention. "What? Aren't there Dark Rituals which would use a fetus?"
"There are," Scrimgeour growled. "Interesting that you would know that."
"Let's have some Dark loony chase YOU your entire life and see how you react," Harry retorted. "I intend to win, so I need to know what he might do."
"There is little we can do, unless we locate him," Remus pointed out. "Did the dementors give any clue?"
Scrimgeour glared at Harry one last time -- the child did not know his place -- but then turned his attention to Remus and nodded. "Gave us the exact location. It's being checked out now."
Harry rolled his eyes.
"What?" Scrimgeour demanded.
"On the off-chance he's still there, he'll wipe out whoever you or your allies sent," Harry pointed out. "If he's gone, he'll have booby-trapped everything, and will hardly have left a forwarding address."
"These are professionals, boy," Scrimgeour snapped. "Why don't you run away and play somewhere?"
"Fine," Harry snapped back, standing. "You play your childish games here. I have work to do."
Harry was not in the least surprised that night to learn that the auror team sent by several Ministries to investigate the site had taken over ninety percent casualties -- half killed and most of the rest very seriously injured from the traps.
No evidence of Voldemort's next location was ever found.
Meanwhile, Harry and Hermione had come up with a list of a dozen rituals which Voldemort might use a fetus or infant for, including a reference in an especially Dark reference work that one of the two best ages for killing someone and using that death to create a Horcrux were at approximately 15 months and the other was at 17 years, while using infants' blood to increase the power of a Horcrux-making was under six months.
Equally likely, they thought (and Dumbledore and the others quickly agreed), was the possibility that Voldemort would use the child as a hostage, trying to draw Harry to them to rescue the child, which would be, after all, genetically related to him (perhaps like a great-great grandchild at best, in genetic terms).
"We need to bring about the final battle soon," Harry said as they concluded. "Yes, I'm getting stronger and stronger. I can already do most of the Fourth year material, not just wandlessly but motionlessly as well. But each minute he's free, his evil might spread. Now some other innocent will be born to two insane, evil people. We can't let them corrupt her worse than I was ever treated by the Dursleys, worse than Riddle was ever treated at that orphanage."
"We know that, lad," Moody assured Harry. "Still, how do we do it?"
"There has to be some way to use the dormant link between us," Harry said.
"We can't, not without risking links and leaks that neither of you can control," Dumbledore pointed out.
"Isn't there some way for some third person to follow the link?" Harry asked.
"If there is, I never heard of it," Dumbledore admitted.
"What is it?" Harry asked Hermione, who had made a face.
"If it's possible, we would probably need a Seer," Hermione said. "Someone with powerful Second Sight."
"And we don't know any for certain, and only possible one we know of whom we could have trusted would have been, well. . . ."
"Luna," Harry agreed. "You don't know anyone else with Second Sight?"
"Nowhere near the level which would be required," Dumbledore said sadly.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Well, o Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump, do you think you might get off your rump and find us one?" he snapped. "Why is it that we are always so reactive?"
"It is always tempting to act," Dumbledore retorted. "It brings opportunities but also carries greater dangers than reacting to the Darkness."
"So, you're saying acting carries greater possibilities of Darkness?" Harry demanded.
"Yes," Dumbledore said simply. "Each time we act directly, we are in danger of taking away choices. We have to at times, of course, but each one carries dangers."
'Repetitive prick,' Harry thought. "In that case, I need to destroy him as soon as possible, and then leave the magical world as soon as I can," Harry said, standing. "That way the 'delicate balance' won't be hurt. Now, find me a damn Seer or some other solution!" With that, Harry left, followed by Hermione.
"Oh, that went well," Remus said.
"I love him, but he frightens me," Sirius said. "You know perfectly well what Albus was trying to say."
"I know," Remus agreed. He stood and his face darkened. "We mustn't use too much magic, except in a few special areas, which just happen to be all be controlled by old Pure-Blood families or the Ministry, which is also controlled by those same families. We mustn't be too active in fighting the Darkness, because that leads to Darkness. Why, that must be why Barty Crouch Junior went bad, because Higher Magic exacted karmic revenge on Barty Couch Senior for being proactive in the War." He glared at the three stunned men. "Shame on all of you! Light is NOT passive! There are shades between passive and aggressive. It's as if . . . as if. . . ." Remus's eyebrows shot up in shock.
"What?" Moody demanded.
"What went wrong with your plan the last time around?" Remus demanded of Dumbledore. He mentally went over all of Harry's notes of the original time line. "It was that you trusted Snape too much, wasn't it? You believed that even with you dead, Harry would still have the luck to track down the Horcruxes, and, aided by Snape, both Voldemort AND Harry should have died, right? If needed, Snape should have helped Harry administer the coup de grÃ¢ce . . . and if Harry wasn't killed by Voldemort as well, Snape would have finished off Harry, wouldn't he?
"WHAT!" Sirius roared.
"Only if Harry were a danger to become the next Dark Lord," Dumbledore stated.
"Oh, like the Snape of the last life-time wouldn't have just used that as an excuse!" Sirius shouted, jumping to his feet.
"Oh, like you're all that much better," Remus almost snarled, "with this plan of yours and Malfoy's to steal Muggle-borns away from their families."
"You two are behind that?" Dumbledore asked, impressed.
"So you approve?" Remus asked. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised."
"It is regrettable, but necessary," Dumbledore said. "It will help keep us separate from the Muggles, and that in turn will lessen most peoples' fear of Muggles and the Muggle-born. I regret you figured things out, but you are a remarkable researcher, Remus." He frowned. "What do you think, Sirius? Can we trust Remus not to spread these tidbits of information around? A contingency plan which was never used and a plan to improve the wizarding world?"
"Improve?" Moody demanded.
"Improve," Sirius said. "I started off just wanting to use this position to draw the Pure-Bloods a tiny bit closer to the center, to get them over this foolishness that only blood matters. It's not blood, it's culture! With the addition of the Muggle-born in a form all but the most rabid Pure-bloods can accept, our numbers won't continue to decline. And it will further isolate us, protecting us as the Muggles' rush head-long into the industrial, polluted world." He shook his head. "So many of their ideas and inventions are wonderful, but they have no control."
"Control? That's rich coming from you!" Remus shouted.
"Maybe it takes someone like me to understand that our world is too fragile to accelerate at the pace of the Muggle," Sirius snapped. "I was gone for less than ten years, and in many ways the Muggle world I returned to no longer made sense, and that after only ten years!"
"Shame on the pair of you!" Moody shouted.
A new voice said, "It hardly matters." Sirius and Dumbledore jumped a bit, and were a little shocked to see that it was Harry, although how he had appeared, neither could figure out -- which meant that Dumbledore was especially surprised. "First, Remus did not figure any of this out, but you have to grant he is a very good actor."
"I'm sorry I doubted you on either point," Remus said.
"Aye, lad, I do as well," Moody agreed.
"I sussed out your plan, Headmaster, and Sirius? Hermione saw through all the false leads you and Malfoy set up in about thirty minutes of research." Harry's face hardened. "The magical world is a wonderful place, but the people in it are mentally lazy, even the brilliant ones, like you two. With no Muggle-born, wizarding Europe will atrophy away in about ten generations. With no Muggle-born or Half-bloods raised at least partially in the Muggle world and learning the concepts of innovation from the Muggle world, I doubt the society would last any longer even if the population didn't crash. The rest of the wizarding world is changing, only Europe is trying to fight it. You and the rest of them can be as stubborn as centaurs if you want, but don't try to do it to me or mine!"
Remus and Moody walked over to Harry. "And don't even think of using memory charms on any of us," Harry said. "They won't work on me, and I will NOT be happy if you try them on anyone else." Harry placed his hand on Remus' and Moody's arms, and the trio faded from sight.
"Do you think they're really gone?" Sirius asked.
"I do, but they could be back, or could be listening in." Dumbledore shrugged his shoulders. "I did not detect Harry before, but then, I was not looking for him."
"You really did use Harry as a weapon before, didn't you?" Sirius demanded.
"It started off that way," Dumbledore admitted. "Things went out of control in Harry's Fifth and Sixth years. There were too many threads unraveling. However, I do not know enough about it to know why they unraveled." He sighed. "I have tried to learn from my mistakes, but I have a lot to unlearn as well as to learn." He frowned at Sirius. "And what is your excuse?"
"Alright, alright, I don't know if I really believe in the idea or not," Sirius admitted. "Sometimes, it looks as bad to me as it does to Harry and Remus, and other times it makes a lot of sense. And like I said, if it's the most extreme thing being called for, it's a lot better than the old Pure-Blood agenda. I want to see where the argument takes us."
Dumbledore shook his head. Here was a good example of why you didn't let ideas loose.