Alchemy and Ascendance: the Luminous Soul
“Just a moment Albus,” said Minerva McGonagall in a deceptively quiet voice, her eyes narrowing as the others departed from the staff-room to ready themselves for bed. Only Poppy Pomfrey remained, uncharacteristically smirking.
“I want the truth now!” McGonagall snapped. “And mind you, I have a reasonably good idea that the Potters have something to do with these... ‘ongoing upgrades’ as you call them. And Poppy has some ideas of her own on the matter at hand - some of them rather... salacious in nature.”
“Ah, Minerva I can get nothing past you...” Dumbledore smiled serenely; only his merrily twinkling eyes betrayed his amusement. “And I daresay that Poppy is equally perceptive.
“Very well then - I only ask that what I reveal must not go beyond this room. As of this moment, I can only be certain that Nymphadora Tonks is aware of the true purpose for the Potters’ presence here this summer - though no doubt the Potters may make it known to Sirius and Remus, if they have not already done so.
“I presumed that others - particularly yourself and Poppy - might work it out, and I don’t doubt that Filius shall eventually work it out as well. I had indeed factored such an eventuality into my deliberations. But I wish to keep this knowledge in as small a circle as possible. It would not do at all for what I am about to tell you to escape these walls.
“And it is not that I do not trust the other members of the staff or the Order with the fact of the Potters’ general involvement - it is that I trust you both the most with the specifics of the matter, and to look after the best interests of the Potters in regards to preserving a modicum of dignity and privacy for the young couple.
“After all, very few can honestly say that they care for their intimacies to be held up for public display. The Potters have had far more than their fair share of public scrutiny as it is...”
“Of course Albus...” Pomfrey began.
McGonagall simultaneously cut across her, and sounding very exasperated, said, “Yes... yes! Quite so Albus... but please, get to the point - must you always go all around the houses?”
Dumbledore couldn’t help chuckling at McGonagall’s consternation. He couldn’t really blame her for being frustrated with his tendency to be rather long-winded.
“Quite... my apologies Minerva. I just wish to be absolutely clear and avoid any chance of misapprehension. If I am to understand you correctly, Poppy appears to have discerned that an element of ‘sex-magic’ is at the centre of things. Indeed it would seem that an accidental discharge of such magic has been occurring with regular frequency.
“I know that you are both well aware of the theory behind such, and it would appear that you have both surmised that the Potters are matched with a singular rarity - and you have no doubt surmised that the high quality - the Purity and the Intensity of the Potters’ Emotional Content is what is fueling such potent outbursts. These, I can confirm to be the case.
“What you may not know is how that release of energy is being transferred throughout the very foundation of Hogwarts itself, rather than being confined to the immediate area surrounding the Potters. As it so happens, there is a room in Hogwarts - an unplottable room to be precise - which encapsulates an interdimensional singularity that conjures up a room or environment mirroring the requirements of the individual in need at that given moment...”
“The Room of Requirement,” Madam Pomfrey gasped. “So it’s not just rumours?”
Professor McGonagall was floored. Her eyes widened in shock, then narrowed with skepticism.
“Are you certain of this Albus? By most accounts the Room of Requirement is a myth...”
“Indeed,” Dumbledore replied, “I had long thought so myself. But some years back I had a sudden need for a lavatory and one appeared, though I could never find it again... that was when I first began to suspect the truth of its existence.
“My suspicions were only very recently confirmed when the Potters’ discovered it quite by accident, and in the process uncovered one of Voldemort’s horcruxes. Apparently Voldemort also discovered the room during his time here at Hogwarts as Tom Riddle...”
“But the horcrux... how... when...?” McGonagall began.
“When Riddle once came to visit me, seeking a professorship... if my conjecture is correct,” the headmaster replied, anticipating his deputy’s query. “In any case, since the Potters’ discovery, they have been making use of it for any number of purposes - some of them for training with Alastor and Nymphadora - and some of them... recreational...”
Pomfrey smiled in amusement and McGonagall rolled her eyes and snorted at the characterisation of the Potters’ activities as “recreational.” Dumbledore continued as if he hadn’t noticed.
“...In conclusion, it is during those moments of disport in the Room of Requirement that the accidental outbursts were transferred throughout the castle, hence the mild quakes.”
Dumbledore folded his hands and tapped his thumbs together, raising his bushy white eyebrows to indicate that he was finished. McGonagall pursed her lips and frowned pensively before nodding and responding.
“Yes... I see Albus. Well... I must say that I quite agree with your assessment of the situation. The less who know about this, the better. You have my word that none shall hear of this from my lips...”
“Nor mine,” agreed Pomfrey. “We shall both do our utmost to protect the Potters’ privacy.”
“That is all I can ask,” said Dumbledore, looking satisfied. “Thank you both for your forbearance.”
As Dumbledore watched the two sharp-witted witches departing from the staff-room, he sighed. No doubt they would eventually make the connection between the incidents in the castle and the destruction of the Dementors, but that was a secret for discussion best left for another day. He eyed his empty brandy snifter on the coffee table and decided that perhaps it needed refilling before he retired for the night.
Fleur dunked her croissant in her coffee and daintily took a bite, then forked a slice of strawberry. She glanced at her girlfriend Dora who was digging into her eggs, sausage, and bacon as hungrily as Harry Potter. Sitting next to her husband, Hermione was splitting the difference, buttering her croissant - so very British - and gingerly dipping it into the runny yolk of her egg.
Dora looked up and blushed when she caught Fleur beaming at her.
“Er... did I spill somethin’...?” asked Dora. Picking up a napkin, she dabbed at her face and began looking for a stain on her t-shirt, seeing nothing but the picture of Nina Hagen emblazoned on the front.
“Non, Chérie...” Fleur replied, “It ees just nice to see you so hungry... so full of joie de vivre...”
Dora grinned shyly, her blush deepening. “I still dunno what you see in me... but I’m really glad you do!”
“You are so humble... like ‘Arry,” said Fleur, batting her long silvery lashes. Hermione giggled and gave Harry a nudge. Harry turned a bit pink and focused intently on his plate.
“Any girl or boy would be lucky to ‘ave someone like you, Dora,” Fleur continued. “...someone who ees kind and brave and beautiful - someone strong and exciting... and someone who sees me as person, instead of prize to be won...”
“At Beauxbatons, I ‘ad some girlfriends - we play togezzer, but relationship is not so deep. And the boys, they all theenk they are... how do you say in English? ... Oh, oui... they theenk zey are God’s Gift to women - that they will be ze one to make a Veela scream with pleasure, and they only see my physique. I do not like so much...
“I ‘oped I would find someone nice at ‘Ogwarts, but ees mostly ze same... and all of the good ones already taken... until I find you!” Fleur sighed dreamily.
The loving look in Fleur’s crystal blue gaze curled Dora’s toes in embarrassment, and her fuchsia coloured hair fluoresced brightly.
Harry and Hermione eyed the Potions professor warily when he approached them following breakfast. Snape peered at them both with dark, glittering eyes, his features nearly inscrutable. But Harry almost thought he detected a hint of irony in Snape’s countenance and an upward twitch at the corners of his mouth.
“I hope you two weren’t expecting to waste your entire summer on... frivolities!” Snape raised his eyebrows, waiting for a reaction.
“Er... no, of course not Professor...” said Harry, well aware that Snape had plans for the summer. Hermione shook her head.
“Good, because your Advanced Potions lessons will begin tomorrow morning, nine am sharp... don’t be late!” And with that Snape spun around in a swirl of robes and stalked off.
Hermione grinned at Harry. “Did you see that Harry? Professor Snape almost looked happy...”
“You noticed that too?” said Harry. “I suppose I wasn’t just imagining things then...”
“Indeed not,” said a voice right behind the Potters, catching them unawares. Harry and Hermione turned around to see Dumbledore twinkling at them.
“I daresay that is the cheeriest I have seen Professor Snape in quite some years myself,” Dumbledore continued. “However, that is not the reason for my visit. If you would both be so kind as to join me in my office after lunch, I am now prepared to begin our examination of the details regarding Voldemort’s personal history which I have collected...”
Ginny and Luna both felt a bit bad to be leaving Jennifer on her own when they met the others outside the Room of Requirement, but they were excited at the idea of continuing to train and learning new spells. Harry had promised them both that they would be introduced to Patronus Charms today.
Neville was more than a bit nervous, as this was the first time he would be joining everyone. He gaped when he peered around the Room of Requirement, taking in everything. His eyes came to rest on the wall full of muggle weapons, swords and staffs and strange looking things of all kinds.
“I’ve never seen this room before. It’s amazing...” he gasped. “So this is where you learned how to fight then, Harry.”
“Luna and I did a bit too,” Ginny grinned. “Before the last task, we joined in with Parvati and Lavender as well...”
“Don’t forget Daphne,” Luna added. “Dora started training us all while Harry and the Champions practiced together.”
“This isn’t even the half of it Neville,” said Harry, pleased to see Neville’s eagerness. “It can be any sort of room you want, or even an outside location. We turned it into a beach the day before the final task. Anyway, let’s get started then... Hermione?”
“I’m right here Harry...”
Harry looked around and grinned when he spotted Hermione by the wall full of bookshelves.
“I’ve found some more really interesting books Harry... You’ll really like this one!” she squeaked, bouncing happily as she held one up for him to see.
Harry peered at the cover. “Hmmm... The Wizarding Edition of the Tai Chi Classics, eh?...”
“It’s got some beautiful Chinese symbols Harry,” Hermione beamed. “You’ll love drawing and painting them... I know you will!”
“Yeah... these look really cool...” Harry’s eyes gleamed as he quickly flicked through the pages. “Later then,” he said passing the book back to Hermione. “We should get started now...”
“Er... Right,” Harry began when everyone was paying attention to him, then he glanced at Neville, “...erm... I know you haven’t had a chance to practice more basic stuff with us yet Neville, but I thought it would be cool for everyone to learn the Patronus Charm - they’re for warding off Dementors and Levitholds... and maybe some other Dark creatures too...”
Harry almost mentioned the Inferi specifically, but he wasn’t entirely sure that he ought to, as it had been quite by chance that his and Hermione’s Patronuses had had any effect at all on them. And Moody hadn’t been exactly certain when he’d mentioned the possibility of Patronuses being an effective shield against Inferi.
“Anyway,” Harry continued, taking a deep breath, “What you need to do is really focus on your happiest memories or feelings when you say the incantation. The only thing is, I had a Boggart pretending to be a Dementor to practice on. We don’t have one of those, so we’ll just have to do without I suppose...”
“That’s alright Harry,” said Dora, “You don’t really need a Dementor to learn how to perform the charm. It’s helpful for those with particularly dreadful life-experiences which might make them more susceptible to Dementor attacks... It helps people get used to overcomin’ the effects long enough to perform the charm - but it’s not actually necessary to have a Dementor t’learn ‘ow to do it.”
Harry and Hermione both glanced at Luna, who had watched her mother die in a terrible experimental-spell accident.
“I’ll manage...” Luna said quietly, a flicker of grief crossing her otherwise serene features. “I’m sure that once I’ve learned the spell, I can make it work in a pinch. Goodness knows, I’ve got lots of happy memories now.” Luna beamed at Ginny and the rest of her friends.
Harry nodded at Luna, then looked at Viktor and Fleur. “Alright then... er... So, I was wondering if either of you had ever done a Patronus before...?”
“Non,” Fleur replied with a shake of her head. “Eet is not part of ze curriculum at Beauxbatons either.”
“And Durmstrang, they vould never teach such a thing there,” said Viktor. “This vould be first time for me also.”
“Okay... erm... er...” Harry glanced at Dora, not sure where to start, having never been in the role of a teacher before.
“Why don’t you do a demonstration first Harry,” said Dora. “You and Hermione show everyone how it’s done, then everyone’ll at least ‘ave an idea of how it’s done.”
“Alright!” said Harry. “You ready Hermione?”
Hermione nodded, and on the count of three they both recited the incantation. Blazing luminous pulses flooded the Room of Requirement and everyone covered their faces, squinting to see what was happening. Between each throb of light, they could only just barely make out the radiant stag and doe pacing the chamber.
“Merlin, those were the blindingest Patronuses I’ve ever seen!” Dora gasped as she rubbed at her eyes, still seeing spots. Now that she had seen the etheric entities up close, Dora didn’t know how she could have mistaken them for the ghosts of Harry and Hermione at the conclusion of the Third Task.
“They’re beautiful,” said Ginny, gaping in awe once she could see properly again. The others nodded and murmured in agreement.
“Well, you lot,” said Dora, “you’ve seen ‘ow Harry and Hermione do it. Why don’t you all give it a go then!?”
“Per’aps we might see yours too, Dora,” suggested Fleur.
“Oh... er... Yeah, I suppose that’s a good idea Fleur,” Dora agreed. “It won’t be anywhere near as bright as Harry and Hermione’s, but that’s probably a good thing for demonstration purposes. Here goes then... Expecto Patronum!”
Dora’s jaw dropped in astonishment when the Corporeal Patronus accompanying her shield of light burst from her wand and took flight. She had no idea that they could change like that. Instead of an ungainly lolloping Jackrabbit, a glowing spectral Golden Eagle soared around the chamber.
The Potters and Dora coached the others as they began practicing. Everyone was doing quite well for a first lesson, and even Neville managed to produce a silvery mist after a few tries. They practiced for several hours and surprisingly, by the end of the morning after numerous castings, Luna managed to be the first to produce a Corporeal Patronus. It looked a lot like a Scottish Wildcat. Ginny blushed furiously when Luna whispered in her ear and told her what she’d been thinking about.
“Oh... Well done Luna!” Hermione gasped, clapping her hands. She peered closer at the hearty looking feline, which was nearly twice the size of an average housecat. “Harry, is it just me, or does that cat look like it’s grinning?”
Harry and Dora both glanced at Luna who was wearing her favourite sky blue dress and white pinafore.
“I’d say we should be happy that it’s not a Hookah Smoking Caterpillar,” Dora giggled.
“I’m glad it’s not the March Hare,” chortled Harry. “Excellent Luna! I love it...”
Ginny, Neville, Viktor, and Fleur all looked a bit puzzled, not getting the joke.
“I agree Harry,” Dora smiled. “It's much nicer than the March Hare.”
“Well I think it’s adorable Luna,” Hermione beamed, giving Luna a hug. “And much prettier than the picture-books. I had no idea you’d read Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland.”
“Thanks Hermione!” Luna squirmed and blushed. “It’s one of my favourite books - well that and Through the Looking Glass of course. Mum always used to read them to me. Daddy says that Alice is based on my mum’s Great Great Great Grandma Alice... I don’t know if that’s really true, but I like to think so.”
“Well, I must admit, the pictures in the books do look a lot like you,” said Hermione. “Do you have any pictures of your Alice?”
“There’s some at home, and they do look a bit like me and the Alice in the book,” said Luna.
“That’s excellent!” exclaimed Harry. “I bet it’s true Luna.” Looking at the clock, Harry saw it was nearly time for lunch; he smiled proudly at everyone.
“Right, that’s probably enough for today... That was brilliant - really! Let’s do this again tomorrow. I bet the rest of you will be doing Corporeal Patronuses in no time.”
Lunch had finished. In Dumbledore’s office, Hermione quivered excitedly in the poofy chintz armchair next to Harry’s while they waited patiently for the headmaster to begin. Dumbledore peered at the eager pair with twinkling eyes, hoping that today’s discussion wouldn’t put a damper on their spirits.
“Well, here we are at last,” began Dumbledore. “As I mentioned, I have come across some information to impart regarding Voldemort, whom we also know as Tom Riddle. Some of this information I already possessed, but much of it I did not, until after we not so long ago discovered the identities and childhood homes of Tom Riddle’s parents - and most recently after I acquired the final piece of the puzzle from an old and dear friend.
“Today, we will be going on a journey... a journey into the past - into memory - so that we may learn more about Tom Riddle’s nature, and also to discover the extent of Riddle’s horcrux production.”
Dumbledore gestured towards a shallow stone basin sitting on his desk. “Do either of you know what this is?”
The Potters both peered at the basin and shook their heads, neither of them recognising the runes carved along the edge of the rim.
“What is that Professor?” Hermione asked as Harry raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“This... is a Pensieve. It is a means by which we can examine memories...” Dumbledore began.
“Like the ones which Madam Bones collected from us after we stopped Malfoy from kidnapping Astoria,” said Harry. “I wondered how that worked.”
“And like the ones you had Auror Brixton collect from Bob Ogden...” Hermione gasped.
“Quite so Harry, Mrs Potter,” said Dumbledore. “Indeed Mr Ogden’s will be the first which we examine today.” Dumbledore held up a crystal vial which appeared to contain a swirling silvery cloud. “Once the contents of a memory vial are poured into a pensieve, they can be brought to the surface, or entered at will.
“We shall be examining a number of memories today... I have perused them already, but your input is imperative before I draw any conclusions. As well as Mr Ogden’s memory, we shall examine two of my own, one belonging to a House-Elf, and finally, one of Horace Slughorn’s. I had hoped to obtain Morfin Gaunt’s before he died, but alas, I was too late...”
Dumbledore paused, and regarded Harry and Hermione earnestly before continuing.
“I have come to value the judgments of you both, on matters such as these, as highly as I once valued my own,” the Headmaster said quietly. “I believe, that with the information we now have available, it is quite possible that we may finish Tom Riddle in short order, once and for all, when we next meet in battle.
“I cannot be certain of course. However, if you find that you both concur with my conclusions, then I believe that we can be assured of ending Riddle’s second reign of terror before it proceeds much further... and focus on She-who-may-present-an-even-graver-threat-than-He...”
“The Minister...” Harry scowled.
“Quite so!” Dumbledore nodded. “Thus, I feel that I must set some boundaries... I will likely yet require the assistance of you both to eliminate the remaining horcruxes - however - if it is avoidable, I do not wish for either of you to engage directly in combat with Voldemort or his minions unless it is an absolute necessity for you to protect yourselves...”
“Wait... Why not? Isn’t that what we’ve been training to do...” Harry interjected.
“Because, as I mentioned previously after the Yule Ball, you are far more valuable alive than dead...” the Headmaster softly intoned with a wistful look in his clear blue eyes. “You are both young, and have your whole lives ahead of you. You have a true Gift to offer the entire world - wizards, magical beings, and muggles alike.
“The example you both set - you bring inspiration to all those who would see a future in which all may share equally without prejudice or oppression. It is very important that you both survive, as a demonstration of the power of Solidarity - of which Love is the ultimate expression...
“It is quite possible, as in all wars for Defence and for Justice, that the people we love may yet die and suffer... But nobody should face that alone, and only together and undivided can we stand strong against the Evil which strives to take root.
“Voldemort - Tom Riddle - is a remnant of a time gone by, a task which is one for myself and the Order to complete, regardless of Voldemort’s obsession with the Prophecy. The Minister, and those like her, are the true threat to our future.
“But the Minister... she operates in the shadows and in the mind... she seduces with ideas and she murders with deception and deflection. She is a master of manipulation, and she cloaks Evil behind a mask of Order and a false sense of Justice.
“This - given your recent experience at the Ministry - you both know to be true. Publicly exposing the Minister and her Death Eaters will be a top priority for the Order of the Phoenix. We cannot openly fight her while she appears to be a legitimate head of government. But should we not succeed in the short term, it will likely be up to those such as yourselves to fight for the long term, because the Future belongs to you.
“Beyond the simple fact of your Right to enjoy Life in its fullness, this is why I wish you to avoid directly facing Voldemort if at all possible. I hope you can understand this...”
“Yes sir,” Harry replied, his jaw tightening. “I do... But I can’t make any promises that we won’t fight Voldemort and his forces too. I’m not just going to sit around and let people die while I’m hiding.”
“I agree with Harry, Professor Dumbledore,” said Hermione. “We’re both prepared to do whatever we have to do to defeat the Minister and Voldemort.”
“Well said Harry, Mrs Potter!” Dumbledore nodded proudly, seeing the burning resolve in the Potters’ eyes.
“I really can expect no less of you - either one of you,” Dumbledore sighed, feeling humbled. “Frankly, I just wanted to make absolutely clear that the clash with Voldemort is not your battle to fight alone - it is a fight which I wish I could have completed by myself years ago without putting you in harm’s way Harry...”
“It’s alright sir. You’ve already apologised to me once... and... and nobody’s perfect!” Harry interjected with a sheepish grin.
“Indeed...” Dumbledore smiled wryly. “In any case, my goal is to complete the task I had once set for myself alone, and then for you - but this time with the aid of my friends and colleagues... and my students, if they deem themselves ready... With that said, I believe it is now time to begin our journey to the past.”
Dumbledore tipped the silvery mist-like substance from the crystal vial into the pensieve where it swirled in a state neither liquid nor gas, but both at once. At his direction, the Potters leaned forward, drawing closer, each in turn plunging their faces into the shimmering surface of the memory.
They both fell, tumbling through dark billowing clouds of dense fog, emerging into glaring sunlight. When their eyes adjusted, Dumbledore was beside them and they were all standing in a country lane in surroundings which they recognised immediately...
The viewing of Bob Ogden’s memory was very disturbing to say the least, and Hermione was in tears when they all returned to Dumbledore’s office.
“That was so sad,” said Hermione, her features more angry than anything. “Poor Merope... Her father and brother were awful! The way they treated her was utterly revolting...”
“Indeed,” Dumbledore nodded sorrowfully. “That was quite disconcerting.”
“I still can’t work out how Merope and Tom Riddle Sr ever got married...” Harry said with a puzzled expression.
“Maybe a love potion?” Hermione sniffed as she wiped away her tears. “Though I don’t know what she even saw in that pompous creep. Looks aren’t everything.”
“Quite...” the headmaster agreed. “That was my conclusion as well.”
“That doesn’t seem right.” Harry shook his head. “Look, I feel sorry for Merope too. And I agree Tom Riddle Sr seemed like a pompous git. But still, seducing someone with a love potion - if that’s what she did - that’s a bit like rape isn’t it?”
“You’re absolutely right Harry,” said Hermione with a sigh. “But I doubt she saw it that way. In fairy tales and stories, love potions are usually portrayed as something romantic. But really - they’re a bit like ‘date-rape’ drugs in the muggle world... I know they’re banned at Hogwarts, but they ought to be flat out illegal.”
“Yes... I must concur,” Dumbledore nodded again, stroking his long silvery beard pensively. “It is a tragic story all the way around. I too think that poor Merope Gaunt also believed a love potion to be a romantic solution to her desperate quandary - not intending to act with evil in her heart.
“But indeed, with clear eyes, one must see the surreptitious use of a love potion for what it is - a removal of consent,” Dumbledore went on, “Love cannot exist without consent. It is my contention that Merope Gaunt eventually came to realise the truth of that, and that - feeling guilty - Merope discontinued the use of the potion when she became pregnant. Shortly after, Tom Riddle Sr must have departed...”
“...Leaving her all alone with a baby. She must have been heartbroken,” Harry concluded sadly.
“Indeed Harry, which brings us to where I found Tom Marvolo Riddle,” Dumbledore held up the next memory vial, “in a Muggle Orphanage in which his mother died giving birth to him...”
Harry chewed his lip pensively. He might almost have felt sorry for the young Tom Riddle Junior, having grown up parentless and friendless like himself. But he couldn’t really bring himself to after what he’d just seen.
“It seems so obvious to me... Did you know, sir?”
“That I had just met the most dangerous Dark wizard since Grindelwald?” Dumbledore sighed. “No - I did not, Harry. However, I was wary - It was quite... ‘obvious,’ as you put it, that he was a very disturbed boy. I was indeed concerned, both for his own sake, and the sake of others, determined to keep an eye on him when he arrived at Hogwarts.”
“He reminds me of Damien...” said Hermione, shivering violently. Harry hated it when Hermione was frightened. He beckoned her, and Hermione gladly took a seat in Harry’s lap for a comforting embrace.
“Damien?” Harry asked gently, when Hermione’s trembling began to subside. He was bewildered, as Hermione had never mentioned him before. And as far as he knew, there was nobody named Damien at Hogwarts.
The headmaster was equally mystified. He was as curious to hear Hermione Potter’s reaction to the younger Riddle as Harry was. Dumbledore had come to prize the remarkable perceptions of the two students before him, so he kept silent as the Potters ruminated upon what they had just witnessed.
“Damien... he’s a character from a film called The Omen, ” Hermione explained, feeling much better in Harry’s arms. “It’s a really scary movie! Mum was furious with Dad for renting it because I had nightmares for weeks after watching it... I was only about eight at the time.
“Anyway, Damien was a little boy born into a wealthy family, but it turned out that he was really Satan’s son. He was more or less born evil. But I... I never really believed that anyone could just be born evil until I saw the look in Tom’s eyes...” Hermione continued. “They were so cold... like a frozen lake...”
“That’s what Myrtle said too,” said Harry, nodding. “She was absolutely right...”
“But even though Tom seemed so cold,” Hermione went on, “his vindictiveness - I could almost feel it radiating from him like heat... But there really wasn’t any good reason for him to be like that.”
“Yeah... it’s not like anyone mistreated him at the orphanage,” Harry agreed. “Nobody beat Tom, or harassed him - and even though it looked like a pretty dreary place to grow up, all the children were at least looked after and fed properly... He didn’t really have a good reason to turn out any more rotten than any of the other poor kids who grew up there without parents who loved them...”
“...except for his bad genetic heritage perhaps,” Hermione snorted. “The Gaunts appeared severely inbred, and despite being handsome, his father didn’t strike me as a very pleasant sort either - though that was probably due to being raised like a pampered prince.”
“Maybe being conceived under the influence of a love potion affected Tom’s mind too?” Harry wondered.
“Possibly...” Hermione frowned thoughtfully. “But whatever the reason, Tom Riddle Jr clearly has some sort of psychiatric disorder with a biological basis. I think you’re absolutely right Harry - it can’t really be attributed to his upbringing. Riddle was genetically predisposed to be a nasty person...”
“...And he was quite the ‘collector’ apparently,” Harry said. “He was a real thief - seemed to have a thing for trophies!”
Hearing the Potters’ cogent analysis and perceptions of Tom’s upbringing in relation to Harry’s own childhood, the headmaster breathed a sigh of relief. He had been feeling guilty for quite some time.
Ever since Dumbledore had learned how wrong he had been to leave Harry with the Dursleys without properly monitoring the situation, Dumbledore had wondered if sending Riddle back to the Orphanage every summer had been as damaging to Tom as Harry’s home life potentially could have been to Harry.
Harry had been treated far worse, endured greater privation and abuse than Tom ever had, yet he had turned out quite well despite all. Harry’s strength of character had led him to grow into a fine young man.
Dumbledore could at last put aside his feelings of guilt for not pressing Headmaster Dippet to allow Riddle to stay at Hogwarts during the summers. Riddle’s issues were his own - not of Dumbledore’s making.
And considering that Riddle had by all outward appearance been on his best behaviour while a student at Hogwarts, Dumbledore had never been able to confirm his own suspicions about Tom’s inner-nature with any sort of certainty.
As a boy and young man, it was clear that Tom’s greater self-control had given him a high degree of natural ability as an Occlumens which had blocked Dumbledore’s Legilimency. As an adult, Tom had gradually lost much of that self-control - which Dumbledore could possibly exploit should he meet him again in person.
“Thank you both very much,” the headmaster said gratefully. “Believe it or not, I have learned far more from listening to your analysis of this particular memory, than I have from my own. I have a much clearer view of what drives Tom Riddle now....”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled in amusement at the stunned expressions on his students’ faces.
“Well then, perhaps we can pick this up again after a Tea break. I expect we should be able to wrap this up by dinnertime.”
Needing to clear their heads, the Potters joined Ginny, Luna, and Jennifer outside for Tea where it was bright and sunny. Jennifer listened intently as Harry and Hermione chatted about what they had learned with the headmaster.
“Wait... So Voldemort is actually ‘halfblood’ then?” Jennifer was confused. “I thought he hated non-magicals like me and muggleborn wizards. I don’t get it. Why would he be a pureblood fanatic if he had some muggle blood?”
“I don’t understand either,” said Ginny. “Mum and Dad never told us Voldemort was halfblood...”
“I doubt they knew. It was more or less a secret,” Hermione responded. “Tom Riddle didn’t really want anyone to know that he had some muggle blood - that’s one of the reasons he changed his name to Voldemort...”
“Is it because he was a Slytherin?” asked Jennifer.
“I don’t think it can just be that.” Luna frowned pensively. “Our friend Daphne was a Slytherin and she’s pureblood, but she doesn’t act all superior. Anyway a lot of people in other Houses think being pureblood is better too - even though they’re not so bad and try not to be mean about it. But I admit, I don’t understand why a lot of halfbloods think being pureblood is better too...”
“They do?” Jennifer’s perplex deepened. “It’s not just Voldemort then?”
“Yes,” replied Luna with a nod. “A lot of Slytherins must be halfblood, but they’ll never admit it. Some in Ravenclaw are a bit like that too...”
“Luna’s right,” said Harry, his jaw tightening. “A lot of purebloods and halfbloods in the other Houses - even Hufflepuff - say they’re not prejudiced, but you wouldn’t know it sometimes from the little things they let slip... a lot of halfbloods are actually ashamed of their muggle sides and wish they were purebloods...”
“And even in Gryffindor, people find excuses to think that they’re better than other people,” Hermione huffed. “Look at McLaggen. He thinks his family’s blood-status and wealth gives him a right to be a pompous arse and act like a disgusting lout... And Peter Pettigrew was a Gryffindor too...”
“And then there’s Percy...” said Harry quietly.
“My brother,” said Ginny, flushing with embarrassment.
“He’s the one who signed the summons demanding that Hermione be put on trial too...” Harry continued. “He’s Minister Umbridge’s deputy and we all know what she thinks about muggleborns and ‘halfbreeds’...”
Dumbledore and the Potters had finished viewing the memories and out of the corner of his eye, Dumbledore could see the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black shaking his head and frowning at him. Albus chuckled softly. Clearly Phineas disapproved of allowing students to reach their own conclusions and influence the headmaster’s decisions. At least Phineas wasn’t rudely interrupting the proceeding.
“I can’t believe that Voldemort thought he could actually get a job here...” said Hermione, a little shiver running up her spine.
“Yeah... That’s a creepy thought!” said Harry, making a face. “Urgh... Professor Voldemort! Blegh!”
“A hair-raising prospect indeed!” said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling. Hermione giggled.
“Right! So, we know that the horcrux in me was a mistake,” Harry mused. “Tom Riddle didn’t mean to create that one. And he told Slughorn that he thought seven was the most magically powerful number - so that means there were probably seven horcruxes plus the one in me if he thought that seven was the strongest number doesn’t it?”
“I think six, Harry,” Hermione suggested, “If Riddle considered seven soul fragments as being the most powerful number, he would have included himself. So it seems most likely that he only made six total...”
“That makes sense,” Harry agreed. “And I’d know if he’d made any more of them since he’s been back...”
“Right, so we’ve already destroyed the diary and the locket...” said Hermione.
“...and the diadem. And we got the ring as well,” Harry continued excitedly. “So that means we should only have two left to kill, and one of those has to be Helga Hufflepuff’s cup. Tom was obviously after it according to Hokey the House-Elf’s memory...”
“But I haven’t a clue what the other one might be Harry,” Hermione sighed, clearly distressed that her brain didn’t have all the answers. “And we have no idea where the last two might be... Not to mention that we still have to work out how to get rid of the piece of Voldemort’s soul still in you...”
“At least there’s only two horcruxes left and we know what one of them is. That’s loads easier than trying to find six...” said Harry.
“Professor Dumbledore’s right - the Order of the Phoenix can probably kill Tom Riddle when he tries to have another go at me, and then we can find the last two horcruxes afterwards if we have to and do in the one in me - finish Voldemort off for good. But in the meantime, we can all be thinking of places he might have hidden the last two and keep looking...”
“Indeed we can Harry,” the Headmaster interjected cheerfully, “Splendid! Well done, both of you! I have been thinking much the same thing. Now I am certain that I - that we - are correct.
“I have also given some further thought to Tom Riddle’s next moves as ‘Lord Voldemort’ since our discussion this morning,” Dumbledore continued. “Thanks to you both, I have a clearer idea of what he will likely do next. Especially given your perception that Voldemort is leaning towards capturing Hogwarts, Harry.
“I believe that he may stage some more attacks to distract the Minister and to terrify the public, and that he will most likely make a play to take Hogwarts before the end of summer, believing it largely unoccupied. As you gleaned, I think he would like to make it his base of operations for an attack on the Ministry itself...”
“That’s when we’ll get him then!” Harry said decisively, his green eyes glittering, his features hardening.
“Yes indeed!” Dumbledore nodded as he stroked his silvery beard. “Now, I know that you will want to train your abilities to their maximum potential Harry, but remember... your greatest asset is your ability to Love!” the Headmaster concluded with a wink.
The two students and the Headmaster peered at each other, but none of them could maintain a straight face after that last pronouncement.
The portrait of Phineas Nigellus rolled his eyes and snorted in derision. Fawkes ruffled his feathers and uttered a soft musical cry which sounded suspiciously like a chortle of laughter.
Wide awake, Harry finished cleaning his teeth and making himself ready for bed, his mind and body abuzz in anticipation of the looming future. Sleep seemed a distant possibility as trepidation and exhilaration waged a battle for his heart and soul. Fortunately, when he entered the bedroom, it appeared that he was in good company.
“Why are you still in your pyjamas?” Hermione asked Harry with a mock glare, “We've got loads of training to do...”
Hedwig and Crookshanks darted out of the room to give their humans some privacy.
Another week went by. Advanced Potions with Snape was proceeding nicely, and practice in the Room of Requirement was going well. At the thought that Voldemort might actually attempt to storm the castle, Neville was putting all of his effort to catch up with the others. He was almost certain that the Lestranges would be among the attackers.
One morning, Jennifer finally managed to pluck up the nerve to eat breakfast with the others in the Great Hall. It wasn’t so bad as long as she kept her eyes on the girls and Harry.
Harry gnawed on a piece of bacon, deep in thought as he watched Jennifer picking at her scrambled eggs. Finally he decided to broach the subject.
“Er... Would you like to watch us do some spells Jennifer?” Harry asked. “We’re going to practice some after breakfast. I... er... I think you might like the ones we’re going to practice today. They’re big spells, but they’re very nice ones...”
Jennifer’s eyes widened; she swallowed nervously. The only magic she had seen since her first day out of the hospital ward was Wizard Chess, Exploding Snap, and people flying on brooms. And Jennifer had overheard some of the professors arguing over the legality of her being around magic at all.
“I think that’s a lovely idea,” said Luna.
“But you don’t have to if you don’t want to...” Hermione said quickly.
“Actually...” Jennifer began tentatively, “I... I think I’d like to... to see some nice magic. All I’ve seen so far was mostly done to keep me prisoner and to... to... to hurt me.”
“...But I don’t want to get anyone in trouble,” she whispered.
“Don’t worry about that,” said Harry assertively. He glanced up at Dumbledore who was watching them with a twinkle in his eye. Harry relaxed and grinned. “I know Dumbledore won’t mind. He wouldn’t have let you stay here if he was too fussed about that sort of thing.”
Jennifer was a bit frightened at first. But as the wizards practiced their Patronuses, Jennifer could almost sense the joy which Harry had told her fueled them. She felt a thrill of excitement when Ginny finally produced a Corporeal Patronus.
“That’s Brilliant Ginny!” Harry grinned at the large spectral feline, “That’s a tiger isn’t it Hermione?”
“I think so Harry... It looks like the right shape for a tiger, and there appear to varied gradations of light which look like stripes,” Hermione responded. “Well done Ginny!”
Ginny blushed when Luna beamed at her and pounced, giving Ginny a kiss. “It’s gorgeous Ginny! Now we have matching Patronuses.”
“Thanks guys!” Ginny grinned.
Hermione bit her lip, and furrowed her brow in thought; she pondered the significance of Ginny and Luna both having feline Patronuses, considering that she, herself, and Harry both had deer Patroni. She wondered if it was common for romantic partners to share similar Patronuses.
Fleur was the next to finally conjure a Corporeal Patronus. Everyone gasped in astonishment when Fleur’s Patronus exhibited the head, front talons, and wings of an Eagle and the body, hind legs, and tail of a Lion.
“Zat ees a Griffin, but are not Patronuses only supposed to be non-magical animals?” Fleur asked in bewilderment.
“I think it might be because you’re part Veela, Fleur...” Hermione surmised. Hermione glanced at Dora as the thought kept niggling at her.
“Dora,” Hermione asked, “was your Patronus always a Golden Eagle?”
“No, it used to be a Jackrabbit. I like my new one much better... But I’m not sure why it changed.”
“Well,” Hermione began, “I have a theory. I think it might be because you love Fleur. It seems a bit more than coincidental that Ginny and Luna both have feline Patronuses - and that Harry and I have deer Patronuses. It seems likely to me that... er... people who love one another might have similar Patronuses... though I’m not sure how it’s determined which partner’s Patronus changes.”
“I just wish I could produce a Corporeal Patronus,” Neville sighed.
“As do I,” said Viktor.
“Maybe you two should invite Hannah and Lavender to meet you both in Hogsmeade for a double date!” Luna suggested, her eyes gleaming. “That might cheer you both up enough to summon one.”
“That’s Genius, Luna!” Hermione squeaked. “Of course... I bet that would do the trick.”
“...Especially if Viktor and Lavender have sex, and Neville has sex with Hannah,” said Luna, grinning.
Harry chortled when Neville turned tomato red and buried his face in his hands. Viktor scratched his forehead and grinned, shaking his head at Luna’s bluntness.
“Right,” said Harry as the titters and giggles abated. “I reckon Hermione and I will show Jennifer our Patronuses now, and then we can all do our Patronuses together.”
Harry and Hermione cast their own Patronuses and the Room of Requirement was bathed in blinding pulses of white magic. Jennifer was utterly taken aback - she couldn’t speak.
The ethereal Doe and Stag sauntered to Jennifer’s side and bowed their heads as to nuzzle her. Tears streamed down her cheeks as the intense surges of magic and the seraphic ecstasy which permeated the atmosphere of the Room of Requirement swept through her in waves.
Overwhelmed by the sensations, Jennifer passed out and collapsed, but Hermione was close enough to catch her. Harry ran to their side in alarm. Hermione looked up at him, but to his surprise, she looked more thoughtful than distressed...
Fawkes squawked loudly and covered his head with his wings when several of the apparatuses in the headmaster’s offices emitted sparks and exploded. Dumbledore shot up from his seat, his eyes bulging, and hurried over to the shelves.
According to the readings of his remaining silver and gold instruments, something highly unusual was going on somewhere in Hogwarts, but Dumbledore had a very good idea of where it was happening, even though the room was an unplottable room within an unplottable castle.
Albus Dumbledore also had a very good idea of who was behind the unusual readings, which were literally off-the-scale and oscillating wildly.
But there had been no Castle-quakes, so the headmaster could be reasonably certain that although the Magical Frequency Signature bore a similarity to the Magical Outbursts which usually accompanied the quakes, the activity generating the current levels of magic was of a different nature.
A thrill shot through the Headmaster when he realised that the particular Application in question appeared to have undergone yet another level of Transmogrification if the readings were any indication. Professor Dumbledore quickly and excitedly made his way to the seventh floor of the castle and tapped his wand twice on the wall across from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy.
Concerned voices began to cut through the luminous eddies and swirls of mist.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Jennifer... Jennifer, are you alright?”
Jennifer blinked as she came to in Hermione’s arms. The Patronuses were gone, but the room was still dazzlingly bright and palpably full of magic. That’s when Jennifer realised that something was different. She felt clean - cleaner than she had felt in a long, long time - as if washed in the purified waters of a mountain stream. She felt light - the heaviness gone - she was floating above clouds, carried by gossamer wings.
The brightness, it wasn’t just in the room - it was inside her, the veil of Darkness swept from her brain. Jennifer no longer felt the looming presence of the rat-faced intruder haunting her soul; the humiliation, pain, and anguish were gone.
But Jennifer’s skin tingled with the sensation of something else, something new which she had never felt before today. Clambering to her feet with Hermione’s assistance, Jennifer peered at the others who all bore expressions of worry.
“I’m alright - I’m okay,” Jennifer gasped, flicking long strands of dark hair out of her face.“What happened?”
“I’m not entirely certain,” Hermione responded, her brow furrowed in thought. “How do you feel Jennifer?” she asked, though Hermione had a strong notion what the answer would be.
“Good...” Jennifer’s features flickered with puzzlement. “Better than good actually - I feel happy. I... I don’t understand. I can still remember everything that’s happened to me clearly.” She frowned slightly.
“I... I suppose I still feel sad about my parents being dead,” Jennifer continued, “but it doesn’t hurt so much. And... and I don’t feel dirty anymore about what Wormtail did to me - just a bit angry, but... but mostly I just feel cheerful - I don’t understand...”
“I thought so,” Hermione nodded. “Do you remember what Harry told you - about Patronuses?”
“They’re for chasing away Dementors right? Dark wraiths that feed on despair and misery and suck your soul out,” Jennifer answered.
“That’s right,” Hermione smiled, “I’m not entirely certain, but what I think happened, is that when Harry’s and my Patronuses surrounded you, they sensed your unhappiness - and somehow chased it away as if it was a Dementor. I don’t know enough about brain chemistry to be absolutely sure, but... but I think they altered yours - I think perhaps they hyper-stimulated the production of natural anti-depressants and endorphins in your brain...”
“I... I think I understand...” Jennifer cupped her chin pensively. “That makes sense - but it seems more than that... something deeper. The last thing I remember before I passed out was feeling... erm... er...” Jennifer turned red and trailed off, uncertain how to describe the intensely orgasmic experience.
A loud trilling echoed twice in the Room of Requirement, startling everyone.
“What the...? Hermione, did that sound like a muggle doorbell to you?” Harry asked, bewildered.
“Yes, I think somebody wants to come in Harry,” Hermione replied with amusement.
Harry dashed over to the doorway and turned the handle.
“Hello Harry... might I come in?” the headmaster asked when Harry opened the door.
“Er... yeah, of course Professor Dumbledore.” Harry noticed the odd gleam of excitement in the old man’s eyes.
“Thank you very much Harry.” Dumbledore glanced around the Room of Requirement and nodded in greeting at the others. He spied Jennifer and smiled warmly at her.
“If I may Harry, were you and Mrs Potter just now practicing your Patronus Charms in this room?” Dumbledore asked. Harry nodded in response, feeling slightly awkward.
Dumbledore peered at Jennifer again, shrewdly observing her demeanor. The headmaster felt almost giddy at what he saw. Glancing around at everyone in the room, Dumbledore appraised each student. His piercing blue eyes finally rested on Luna.
“Yes... yes I think yours will do nicely Miss Lovegood... very nicely indeed!” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled.
“Sir?” Luna looked puzzled.
“May I borrow your wand for a few moments please,” the Headmaster asked. “I wish to perform an experiment before I say any more.”
Hermione’s eyes widened; a sudden bizarre thought crossed her mind. Dumbledore examined Luna’s wand for a moment or two.
“Very nice Miss Lovegood...” Dumbledore nodded approvingly as he swished the wand. “Elm wood, 10 inches, supple... and if I am not mistaken, I believe I detect a Unicorn tail-hair core.”
Luna nodded in agreement. Befuddlement crossed everyone’s features when the headmaster passed Luna’s wand to Jennifer. No one was more confused than Jennifer. What was she supposed to do with the wand? Jennifer gasped when she felt a little prickle in her fingers as she took it.
“Jennifer, if you would be so kind,” said Dumbledore, “concentrate on the tip of the wand and say ‘lumos’.”
Everyone held their breaths in anticipation. Jennifer’s heart began to race.
“What? B...but I can’t...” Jennifer said anxiously.
“Please, indulge an old man’s curiosity...” Dumbledore’s eyes gleamed again. “Just focus your attention on the wand tip. Again, ‘lumos’.”
Jennifer swallowed nervously. She knew the headmaster well enough by now to know that he wasn’t just messing her about. He really wanted her to try. Certain that nothing would happen, Jennifer took a deep breath and concentrated on the tip of the wand.
“Lumos,” said the muggle girl.
There was a collective gasp of astonishment, even from the headmaster, who had been doubting his senses. The tip of Luna’s wand lit up like a beacon in Jennifer’s hand.
Jennifer’s breath quickened, her pulse racing. She didn’t understand. She wasn’t magical; she couldn’t be.
“How... Wh...what’s happening?” Shock etched Jennifer’s features.
“Apparently Jennifer, you are now a Wizard - or a Witch, depending on the term of your preference.” Dumbledore tried hard to control his own breathing.
“But... but that’s impossible - isn’t it?” Harry asked, absolutely floored.
“Professor Dumbledore,” gasped Hermione, “Could Jennifer be one of the rare few who exhibit magic late in life?”
“It is certainly a possibility, Mrs Potter,” Dumbledore responded calmly, “But I think in this case not. The instruments in my office detected a highly unusual spell transmogrification occurring moments ago, accompanied by readings of magical manifestations which were literally off-the-scale. I will have to replace several of my detectors.”
“Merlin!” Dora swore.
“Hang on,” said Ginny, “How can a spell make someone magic? I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
“Nor have I Miss Weasley,” Dumbledore replied. “This phenomenon has never happened before in my knowledge - at least not in Europe or the Near East within the historical record. However, even my knowledge is not exhaustive. It may have occurred in some far flung land - perhaps in the Orient where they employ magical systems which are quite different from our own - or perhaps in secret in the ancient past.”
“In any case,” Dumbledore continued, “judging by the readings in my office, we are not talking about any mere spell. If I were to hazard a guess, when Harry and Mrs Potter conjured their already remarkable Patroni something quite extraordinary happened.
“As I have already explained to the Potters, their Patronuses are fueled by a magic generated by a very rare set of circumstances. As such, the potentiality of their spells continue to ascend from one pinnacle to another - soaring to ever greater heights and generating unpredictable effects - particularly when they conjure their spells in concert with one another.
“All wizards possess a gene sequence which allows us to sense and manipulate the magic which already exists around us, and which is generated by all living beings. These genes may also exist in a dormant state in many muggles - a state known to muggle scientists as ‘recessive genes’...
“I believe that what may have occurred, is that the potent manifestations of this purified magic infused young Jennifer, and activated within her the previously recessive genes... This is the most reasonable assumption that I can draw at this time,” the headmaster concluded.
“Fantastique,” Fleur’s jaw dropped. “Zat ees incredible.” Fleur felt a rush of giddiness as the magnitude of the event she had witnessed hit her.
“Professor...” Fleur’s heart fluttered as she spoke again. “Per’aps eet is because ze Potters’ Patronuses, they come into physical contact wiz Jennifer?”
“Hmm... possibly,” Dumbledore replied. “But I doubt it was necessary. Though it has to a large degree dissipated, the intense and voluminous amount of magic generated by the Potters in the confined space of this room permeates it still. It is my educated opinion that being in the midst of the magic as processed by the spell which produced the Patroni was all that was required.”
“That... that’s amazing,” said Hermione weakly. Harry was speechless as his brain tried to process the astonishing information.
“I’m so thrilled for you Jennifer!” Luna gushed, giving her a hug. “You can stay here at Hogwarts and learn how to be a wizard properly.”
Dumbledore blinked back a few tears. He was as delighted as his students. He knew he would have had to send Jennifer away with Hestia when term started, but he had been reluctant to do so. The headmaster had been considering the creation of another self-spelling wand to perform with a voice activation charm as he had for Filch. But that was not an ideal solution as the spells were limited in power and function.
Nor would it do for news of a muggle masquerading as a wizard at Hogwarts to reach members of the school’s Board of Governors, though he had been willing to risk it. This circumstance was beyond everything Dumbledore had hoped for and believed possible.
Hermione looked at Professor Dumbledore optimistically. Harry peered at him hopefully as well - indeed everyone was expectantly observing the Headmaster.
“Yes,” the headmaster intoned softly, his voice cracking slightly, “Jennifer may remain here at Hogwarts. But she will need a wand of her own. I shall send for Ollivander immediately and give him the specifics of Miss Lovegood’s wand so that he can bring an assortment of the most suitable to test.
“I know I can trust you all to assist Jennifer in acclimating to her new status... But if anyone asks, no matter who it is, for the foreseeable future we must keep the details of Jennifer’s transformation to ourselves. It is absolutely imperative that this remain a secret in these perilous times.
“I believe Mrs Potter’s initial presumption of Jennifer as a Late Bloomer is the most appropriate narrative. It has indeed happened on occasion - rare though it may be.”
Jennifer’s head spun again, but Luna and Hermione clutched her tightly and kept her from collapsing again. Jennifer couldn’t comprehend that this was actually happening. But an hour later, when a ten inch Holly Wand with a Unicorn tail-hair core chose her in Dumbledore’s office, Jennifer finally began to believe.
“Merlin’s Beard, you can’t be serious Albus!” gasped Horace Slughorn. “The girl is fifteen years old, and she is only now displaying signs of wizardry? Astounding - I cannot recall the last such occurrence... and a muggleborn to boot.”
“1973...” Minerva McGonagall eyed the twinkling headmaster suspiciously. “The wizard in question was twenty eight at the time...”
“Really Horace!” Hestia Jones interjected scathingly, “What is so astonishing about muggleborns...?”
“No, no Hestia...” Horace cut in quickly, looking rather hurt, “You misunderstand, I’m not prejudiced - Lily Potter was my all-time favourite student after all - and I am quite looking forward to having a chance to teach Hermione Potter and her husband...
“It is just that it is simply even more remarkable that someone with no apparent magical parentage at all should exhibit magic so late in life... Now that Minerva has jogged my memory, to the best of my recollection, the young man who discovered his magic at twenty eight years of age was a pureblood who was thought to be a squib.”
“Indeed!” remarked Filius Flitwick, “And the late bloomer prior to him was a young halfblood witch who didn’t discover her abilities until she was seventeen, in 1956... Horace is making a fair observation.”
“We are seeing more and more muggleborn all the time,” Poppy Pomfrey said pointedly. “It was bound to happen eventually... And I expect that if the muggleborn birthrates keep rising, Hogwarts shall have to expand eventually or open up another school to accommodate the increasing number of wizards.”
“True... true!” Horace nodded thoughtfully. “I have been following the trends myself. I daresay that humankind is evolving and that one day in the far-flung future the majority of humans will be wizards - I just hadn’t considered that I might be alive to witness the burgeoning of a new age of wizardry...”
Horace snorted with mirth when an amusing thought occurred to him, “This will be a real poke in the eye to Old Salazar and his modern followers. One day nearly all wizards will be ‘muggleborn’... I must say, I sometimes regret that I was ever sorted into his House.”
“There, there Horace. Never mind that,” Minerva sympathised, her features softening. She sighed heavily and continued, “Goodness knows, since the Potters first arrived at Hogwarts, I have come to recognise that ‘pureblood’ prejudice, bullying, and Dark wizardry is not confined to any single House...”
“Even in my own House - Peter Pettigrew and Percy Weasley - Gryffindors both - and yet each has demonstrated that Slytherin is not alone in producing wizards with poor judgment and ill intent. It is more that such behaviour has long been expected and even advocated as a virtue in Slytherin House. That House is very fortunate to have had a few decent sorts such as yourself and the Greengrass girls, Horace.”
“Hear, hear... Minerva is quite correct dear!” Pomona Sprout said, nodding in agreement.
“Aye, ain’t tha’ the truth though!” growled Hagrid. “Yer a good man Horace... an’ don’ ferget it!”
“Thank you Minerva, Pomona, Rubeus,” sighed Horace, looking sad. “You are all too kind... I did my best to promote positive values while I was a professor and during my tenure as Head of Slytherin. But I have long felt that my best was not good enough... Tom Riddle is my shame! As is our current Minister...”
“No Horace...” Albus Dumbledore shook his head, “They are the shame of us all. We have all made mistakes in our ongoing struggle to fight the Dark and forge a progressive and democratic future for the wizard world - and I am no less at fault, having made some of the biggest mistakes of them all.
“But here we are, rectifying our errors and all working together. Again, I cannot thank you enough Horace for joining the Order of the Phoenix and giving me your memory. I know how difficult that was for you.”
“Albus, my dear fellow, my friend - thank you for being so persistent. I had let my fears get the best of me, but you know me too well, and your offers were too good to pass up.” Horace smiled warmly again, knowing that he was safe among those he could count as friends. But there was one - one who had been a prized student - who was nowhere to be seen.
“I say Albus, what has become of Severus?” Horace asked. “I know he is among your staff, and has been tutoring the Potters, but I have barely seen him since I have arrived. Surely he shall also be taking part in helping Miss Watts catch up her wizarding education for the beginning of term?”
“Indeed he shall Horace,” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled merrily again. “However, he is enjoying a respite with someone he has grown close to in recent weeks...”
“Merlin’s Beard!” Horace gasped, and the others - even Minerva - cracked a smile. “Severus has found love at long last? That is simply splendid! Who is his paramour I might ask? You simply must tell me.”
Poppy Pomfrey’s eyes crinkled in mirth. Horace had always been quite the gossip. But it also gave her joy to be able to regale the old wizard with good news - particularly as none of the others appeared to be forthcoming.
“Horace dear, Severus has been spending time with Narcissa Black, since a short while after the dissolution of her marriage. She sought solace in Severus’s arms, and has apparently found a measure of it - though truth be told, it is too early yet to say what may come of it.”
The gathering ended a short time later, and the others filed out of the staff-room, leaving only the headmaster and two shrewd looking witches.
“Alright Albus,” snapped Minerva, “Why don’t you tell us what really happened? Please don’t tell me you created another self-spelling wand...”
“I can get naught past you, can I Minerva,” chuckled Dumbledore. “I must say, I am experiencing no small amount of deja vu at the moment.”
Even Poppy raised her eyebrows in concern, “Albus... surely not! The school’s Board of Governors...”
Dumbledore raised a hand and Madam Pomfrey quieted.
“Please, do not fret. Jennifer Watts’ magic is her own, I can assure you...” he began. Poppy looked relieved but Minerva continued to eye the Headmaster narrowly, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“...but indeed,” the Headmaster continued, “the manner of young Jennifer’s manifestation of magic is not likely due to a late start as I led you and the others to believe. But I must again implore you both to keep this entirely to yourselves, as it involves our young friends - the Potters...”
Minerva leaned her head back and removed her glasses to massage her temples, letting out a long groan.
“Would you like a pain potion for that headache dear?” Poppy asked, trying her utmost to keep a straight face.
For her part, Poppy was delighted, and she knew that despite herself, Minerva would be very happy for the girl. Indeed, as the headmaster made clear the circumstances under which Jennifer Watts’ recessive magical genes had been activated, Minerva’s countenance softened, and tears welled in her eyes.
“That... that is just beautiful Albus,” sniffled Minerva, dabbing her eyes with a hanky. “The poor girl, she deserves to be happy... deserves the chance to make a new life for herself. The Potters - we all have so much to be thankful to them for - they have made such a positive difference in so many lives...”
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