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...
Monday, October 4, 1993
Voldemort looked up from his arithmatical formula. He had been checking it for possible errors for the fifth time, and had found none. He smiled to himself. He had solved the puzzle of how make one final Horcrux with a fair chance of success in several different ways. Seven ways in fact, which also pleased him. Granted four of those ways gave him barely a 50-50 chance of success, but that was higher than he had hoped for at first. And granted, the chance which gave him the highest probability (90%) was also improbable of actually being possible to implement -- still all this meant that there were two plausible courses.
He needed to use the death of Harry Potter and only Harry Potter in his ritual, but he saw no way of being able to claim that life himself. With the link between them created by the girl growing in Bella's body, however, perhaps Bella could kill the Boy while he was nearby. But how to get them close? It wasn't like she, or he, could just challenge the child to a duel before he was 17.
Well, either of them could, of course, but the Boy would be unable to accept such a challenge without the permission of his guardian, and even Sirius Black couldn't be that foolish.
Still, perhaps stringing the Boy along for four years could have its uses.
Of course, Voldemort had forgotten one thing.
For his perfectly logical, arithmatically correct formula to be valid, all his assumptions had to also be correct.
One wasn't, because he had not seen the true prophecy but one with a false ending, and even if he had seen the true full prophecy, he would have misinterpreted it.
Voldemort had not made Harry Potter his equal by marking him.
He had added an equal amount of power to a wizard would have been very powerful even on his own.
Sunday, October 31, 1993
Harry was coming out of the dungeons after his dueling and conditioning practice. He was slightly surprised to be confronted by none other than Professor Snape.
Harry had not spoken to Snape since the previous spring, when the Potions teacher had given him, for the first time in either time stream, some really good advice. Harry studied the Potions Master for a few seconds. Harry's wand sprung to his hand.
"What's that for, Potter?"
"I don't know what's in the satchel on your shoulder, but it's extending a compulsion field of some sort on you, Professor."
"It is," Snape agreed, to Harry's surprise. "I, and it, cannot harm you, but I can hardly blame you for not knowing that."
'Wanna bet,' Harry thought.
"Potter, since you made that crack about my being the master spy, I have been doing my utmost to track him down. I have failed. However, perhaps because of my activities and because of my . . . well, my Mark, I was sent this. I will withdraw the item very slowly. I will understand if you decide to stun me."
"Very slowly, Professor."
Snape merely nodded, and slowly took off the shoulder bag and extracted a large piece of slate. "Do you know what this is?" Snape asked.
Harry ran a diagnostic spell on the object. "It's a moderately enchanted piece of slate . . . I see the compulsion charm, some sort of Oath, a powerful communications spell, a recording charm, a. . . ." Harry looked at Snape in surprise. "Is that a Challenge Slate or just some other sort of communications slate?" Before a slice of slate was given a final split, a set of charms and spells made them forever twins (so long as they were unbroken). Whatever was written on one would appear on the other (although it took a further spell to reverse the writing so it was legible, unless one could read backwards).
"Very good," Snape said. "I didn't know Black had been that thorough." While most slates were used for secure communications (if you could remember which slate matched whose, assuming you used more than one), another type was used to issue and negotiate challenges with -- a set of Challenge slates.
"Vol, err, Riddle is challenging me, a thirteen year old, to a formal duel?" Harry was surprised, to say the least.
"Do you know anyone else who would challenge you to a formal Ultimate Duel?" Snape demanded.
Harry frowned. "That's the one where you fight to the death, and then the winner of the first round has to fight the dead person's second after one minute's rest, right?"
"Correct," Snape agree.
"Then Riddle isn't challenging me," Harry said firmly.
"No, he might be having Lestrange or someone else challenge me, and will likely then act as the second." Harry stared at Snape. "This is also the one that can only be held in one of the thirteen great dueling circles, right? The one where the contestants cannot be arrested on their way to or from the duel, or for their actions at the duel, correct?"
"Correct, along with a great many other rules for what goes on before and after, but not during, the actual fight," Snape agreed while pondering this information. "Yes, other than the fact you are underage, I see the idea. He may have run out of plans less wild than this, or does not expect you to be able to accept the challenge for nearly another four years, perhaps throwing us off-balance for that time." He looked at Harry keenly. "If you are correct, you cannot fight Bellatrix while she is expecting or nursing."
"She can't nurse," Harry said, "the mammary glands she cut out cannot be magically restored." Harry grinned. "I wonder if Voldemort, being made from her tits, can give milk?"
Snape made a face. "I didn't need those images, Potter. Now, this was delivered to me, and I am under a compulsion to deliver it to you. I have checked it for traps. . . ."
"So have I."
"I take it you have acquired Mage sight at some point?" Snape asked wearily, used to the fact that Potter seemed to have just about every magical gift known.
"Over the last few months, yes," Harry answered.
"I'll leave it here on the floor. I may not divulge this until you have answered the Intent to Challenge and then either you or the Challenger gives me permission."
"We'll meet at the Head Master's Office at Two."
"I shall be there."
Harry walked into the Headmaster's office, a very concerned Hermione trailing slightly behind him. Harry sighed as he surveyed the room and saw Snape with the remains of a magically-healed black eye. "Sirius, can't you two ever play nice?" He knew that Sirius wouldn't have liked that Snape had been used as a conduit, even if they did not yet know for what purpose.
"I didn't hit him in the eye," Sirius proclaimed.
"No, your wolf did that," Snape spat. "You kneed me while I was recovering."
"Shame on both of you," Harry stated. He saw that Moody, McGonagall, and Flitwick were there was well. "Hopefully the two of you have vented your spleen. Now, as Professor Snape and I surmised, Bellatrix Lestrange has challenged me to an Ultimate Duel, at any point between now and a month after my seventeenth birthday, with T.M. Riddle acting as her second."
"He used that name?" Hermione asked.
"He would have to," Flitwick said. "He must use his real name, not any title."
"I had wondered," Harry admitted. "In any case, I told her that I was aware that she was pregnant and that I wouldn't even think about dueling her until we had agreed on how the baby would be taken care of after her and Riddle's death and of course after the baby was born. If she wasn't prepared to meet my terms on those points, she should go ahead and break her slate and end her challenge. I also informed her that I wouldn't be looking at the slate again until next Sunday." Harry looked at Professor Flitwick, who gestured for Harry to lay his slate on the table.
Harry did so and Flitwick started to check the slate.
"We can't talk you out of this, I take it," Sirius said sadly.
"It has to occur sooner or later," Harry said. "I've hit two of the three power jumps we all go through a second time, and I don't want to wait until the third hits my Seventh year. The longer we put off these confrontations, the more chances he has to figure out some other way to cheat death again."
It seemed as if everyone in the room except for Harry and Snape heaved a sigh of regret and agreement at that.
"I just don't understand why he would do this," McGonagall stated, aggrieved.
"Let's assume he isn't doing this to annoy and confuse us," Harry said. "After all, what are the odds that Sirius would normally agree to letting me do this, which would be required of an underage wizard?"
"Zero," Sirius growled.
"But you will," Harry stated firmly. "They cannot get out of this." Harry pointed at the slate. "If they agree to a duel and we all, including Sirius, sign off, it will be a magically bonded oath. They may be trying a trick, but we might be able to trap them."
"And who will your second be?" Dumbledore asked, obviously hoping he would be the choice.
"Under these circumstances, it must be Sirius," Flitwick said firmly. "To do anything but risk his own life, since he will be allowing his ward to risk his, would violate several statutes of the dueling code of honor."
"So, if you risk your life, you have to risk mine, Pronglet," Sirius said.
Without a movement towards Sirius, Harry flipped Sirius upside down in his chair. Harry really didn't like that name. "Do you really think I'm taking all that much a risk, providing I don't get too cocky or careless?" Harry asked softly.
"Voldemort is almost as powerful as you are," Dumbledore pointed, "and still with, say, fifty years of actual experience as opposed to your three or four."
"I'd say maybe forty against four, since he was out of body for more than ten," Harry said, "with most of his time being spent tracking down magical artifacts, torturing people for fun and sadism, trying and failing to run a successful terrorist organization, and looking for more ways to dehumanize himself. I spent a year studying him, and three years studying my own magic, having major power spurts again at ten and thirteen, just like I did last time and studying how to kill him specifically. I have had a special plan in place for Bellatrix Lestrange for some time, and if I use it on her in a duel, it will make Moldishorts crap his pants."
"Really, Potter?" Snape drawled.
"Since I would imagine you'll be there, I'll bet you a Galleon that you'll fully agree it was a least a good possibility," Harry said. "Too bad we can't check to make certain."
"The dueling circle is a carpet of freshly mown grass with no rocks within ten yards of the surface, set against dark stones guarding the parameter," Flitwick said. "It is a hundred yard circle, which seats six thousand. Specify all four of you have to wear white basic dueling costumes -- pants, trousers, shirt, and regular leather boots. Everyone will see if you are successful, as the seconds must stand within plain view."
Harry grinned and smiled at Snape. "Give me odds, and I'll place the bet."
"Five to one against he does? If I think he should have, we cancel the bet."
"And if you do?" Sirius demanded. Harry, seeing his godfather was still upside down, straightened him out.
"I'll pay ten," Snape said distastefully. "If you do, I want ten for me and ten for Potter."
Near to tears, Hermione protested, "You're all being rather, cavalier. . . ."
"Hermione, my dear," McGonagall said with a kind look, "from now on, this is the best attitude for all of us to take, or else we'd worry ourselves to a frazzle."
"One of my terms will be that we don't announce this until the end of the school year," Harry said. "I want this year to be as normal as possible, since my life never will be again."
"Why do you say that?" Sirius asked, to which everyone except Snape rolled their eyes, while Snape merely looked curious.
"A fourteen year old wizard, killing someone with Voldemort's reputation, not to mention Lestrange? Do you think the wizarding world, at least wizarding Europe, would ever leave me alone?" Harry demanded. "I am not doing this because I want any fame or fortune or recognition. I want to be left alone. If I can finally cast a glamour on this damn scar once Riddle is gone, I'm doing just that and will be off to one of the Australian or New Zealand schools, or one of the school in North America to do two or three more years."
"Four," Hermione hissed.
"Fine, we can do all four," Harry agreed. "Then we're setting up housekeeping someplace quiet, within easy apparation distance of a research library for Hermione, and raising crups or kneazles or puffskeins."
"And about six children," Hermione added.
"And if the scar isn't so easy to disguise?" Snape asked, now actually curious.
"We'll figure out some way to hide it," Harry said.
"Actually," Dumbledore mused, "I could arrange for you to be tested on your O.W.L.s anonymously and in secret. You went through them once, you should have little trouble with most of them."
"Really?" Snape asked. "What did you get in Potions?"
"An E," Harry answered. "I should do a lot better in Runes than I did in Divination, and should do better in History, not that any knowledge about inventions, conventions, and goblin rebellions would be very useful in any other school's curriculum."
"Come to me over the Easter holiday," Snape said. "I'll go over advanced ingredient preparation and theory with you, just to remind you."
"Thank you, Professor," Harry said, a little surprised.
"You will have no difficulties in the practical applications in Charms or Transfiguration, let alone Defense," McGonagall mused. "A little review on theory of the first two and a bit extra on Dark Creatures that same week might not be remiss."
"I agree," Flitwick said. "I'll be going over all the dueling protocols as well, starting this week."
"Thank you," Harry said. He turned to McGonagall and assumed an innocent expression. "When I took the O.W.L.s, I got extra credit in Defense for producing a corporeal Patronus. Would I get extra credit in Transfiguration for being an animagus?"
Three jaws -- Snape, Flitwick, and McGonagall's -- dropped in shock. McGonagall recovered first, and asked, "I take you mean you might wish to become. . . ."
Harry turned into a fairly large Kodiak bear and back again.
"Yes," McGonagall said in a very small, shocked voice, "that would earn you extra credit."
"Let me guess, you're not just an animagus but the only known one with multiple and magical forms, and also a Seer of both Prophecy and Second Sight, a metamorphmagus, a Parselmouth with other forms of animal magic, an enchanter, an elemental mage, and what else?" Snape said, exasperated. "A Major Gift of Languages, perhaps?" These wizards, like Barty Crouch, could often speak over 200 languages.
"No, I only have the one animagus form," Harry said. "I don't think I'm much of a Seer of any kind, or an elemental of any kind for that matter. I am a very limited metamorph -- I haven't had a hair cut since I was nine." He could also change his eye and color, but didn't mention that.
"And you settled for that one?" Sirius asked. "OW!" Remus had punched him on the arm while Hermione had kicked his shin.
"I don't really even have a minor gift in languages," Those who did, like Hermione, could usually acquire between fifty and a hundred languages, "although I have managed a total of twenty-seven. Still, that seems to be the most I can cram into my head. I am a Parselmouth, and yes, I think I some animal magic, although not on the level of, say, Hagrid. And yes, I am an enchanter." Only about one out of ten magical people could permanently enchant an item. Still, that was a fair number, and included the Weasley twins.
"And you are also a natural flyer, rich, and famous," Snape said. "Yet you wonder why some people who do not know your burdens are jealous of you."
"I just don't get fame," Harry said. "Muggles are just as bad, wanting to know personal details and gossip about people like actors and athletes and politicians. The only thing I care about actors are can they act; about atheletes is how good are they, and how honestly politicians act and believe in their policies. I don't care about their sex lives or their finances, I don't care about what they eat for breakfast, and I don't understand why anyone else does, either, especially about the first two groups."
Harry turned to Sirius, who was about to speak. "And no, I don't about what any politician has for breakfast, either. I only care about their sex lives and finances because it tells you a little about how honorable a person they are."
"We're leaving Hogwarts after this year," Hermione said. "If the Headmaster's plan works, then we'll be hiding as a Sixth year and Fifth year . . . I think I have learned enough to skip a year."
"And if you can't hide?" Snape asked.
"Then I shall retire," Dumbledore said. "I shall teach them Potions, Defense, Charms, Runes, Arithmancy, and Transfiguration. For anything beyond that, I shall find them a tutor."
"Now wait a minute. . . ." Sirius started.
Remus placed his hand on Sirius' arm. Sirius frowned, but sat back, nodding. Harry looked like a fourteen, maybe even a fifteen year old, taller than his father had been (and certainly much taller than he had been the first time around), rather than his official age of just over thirteen. Still, in real terms, he was over twenty. Harry had the right to decide what to do with his life.
"What?" Harry asked, surprised. "You don't think I wouldn't visit you two?"
"Well, you would, but it wouldn't be the same," Sirius said.
"True," Harry had to admit.