Harry & Co meet with Dumbledore. Harry's changes are explained.
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Making Plans and Finding Accommodations
It was yet another warm July day in and around the village of Hogsmeade. Since students were home from Hogwarts for a few weeks now, most of the residents of both the village and the school took the opportunity to go on vacation them-selves. Had anyone been out he or she would have been sure to note the sudden arrival of four clearly amused visitors on the path leading towards the old castle. The fact that the one man and three women were laughing so hard that they could hardly walk unaided may have also served to draw attention to them.
"I can't believe that - hehe - you actually DID that!" Tonks burst out.
"Well," Narcissa smiled like a Cheshire cat, "it was you that suggested that we should booby-trap Lucius's little hideaway in the first place."
Calming herself down, Tonks replied, "Yes, but I was thinking something more along the lines of a defensive ward that knocked someone out, not a runic ward that would transfigure everyone who entered into mice!"
Narcissa retorted by pointing at Harry and said loftily, "It's his fault. He started the whole transfigure-the-prisoner plan in the first place! Moreover, who was it that added that charm work to cage them as soon as they join the rodent family? It certainly wasn't me!"
"Well, if you're going to do something, you may as well do it right the first time, right?" Tonks asked unabashedly.
"Personally, I still think you should have let me just curse the place to castrate whoever went in there," Bellatrix grumbled while glaring slightly at Harry.
"It's just a guy thing, Bella," Harry replied while stifling his own lingering chuckles. "It just wasn't appropriate."
"And leaving a few snakes behind to intimidate the new rats until someone comes to fetch them WAS appropriate?" Bellatrix asked incredulously before sniggering again.
Shrugging nonchalantly, Harry countered, "Hey! I had to do SOMETHING to contribute, right?"
"Oh, I think you more than contributed, Don Diego," Tonks contradicted while patting the glass container still residing in Harry's pocket.
At seeing the confused expressions on both Black Sisters' faces, Harry explained, "Don Diego de la Vega was the secret identity of Zorro." Seeing them still confused, he expounded, "You know the masked freedom fighter in the western Americas? Like Robin Hood, only with a sword instead of a bow?"
Realizing that he was getting nowhere, Harry just shook his head and exasperatedly muttered, "Pure bloods these days!"
Shrugging off the last vestiges of his mirth, Harry finally said, "Well. No time like the present," and begin walking along the path that would guide the four mages to the school.
Burying her own disbelief at the lack of exposure in the pureblooded ranks, Tonks followed after Harry while bearing the shrunken trunk containing all of the contraband the four had reacquired (as Harry had worded it) from the Manor. As the other two women fell into step behind her, Tonks brought up a question she had since Harry had so adamantly refused to pocket the other dark arts memorabilia. "Harry," the metamorphamagus inquired, "just out of curiosity, why did you not take this stuff your-self?" gesturing towards the pocket that held the highly dangerous possessions. "You already have that Borgin thing. Not to mention our... guests."
"And that's exactly why I wanted someone else to carry the rest, Nymph," Harry rejoined. "Until we can determine what exactly Voldemort intends to do with it, I don't want there to be any chance of it accidentally being set off. That is why I want there to be a good bit of space between every other dark artifact, and whatever this is.
"Can it really be activated that easily?" Tonks asked worriedly.
"As you should know, Nymph, when the dark arts are involved, the normal rules get thrown straight out of the window. With this many unknowns, we can't be sure what the end result would be, and I'm not willing to risk creating an incident," was Harry's reply. A few minutes' walk later found them before the main doors.
"You do know that those doors are locked over the summer with over a dozen different wards, don't you?" Narcissa asked. "It would take a full-grown giant at least ten minutes to batter that thing down, and we don't have an owl to send a message for someone to let us in. How do you propose to get inside?"
Stepping right up to the door and bringing his hand into contact with the handle, Harry said over his shoulder, "It would be more like five giants, actually. If they broke inside within ten minutes, that is." Turning back to the door, Harry hissed, "Open!" and the group on the entryway heard numerous noises as the locking mechanisms disengaged. Once the ruckus ended, the doors parted far enough to allow passage. After stepping through the portal along with the three witches, Harry looked back at the entrance and hissed, "Close!" Not waiting to see the barrier follow his order, Harry set out in the direction of the headmaster's office with three shocked women in tow.
The silence lasted until his fifth step before he heard, "Harry? What did you do to that door?" Turning around, he saw all three women were curious, but Narcissa seemed nearly as anxious as Hermione when confronted with an unsolved problem, though unlike the younger girl Narcissa suppressed the habit of biting her lip and wringing her hands nervously. Fighting down a chuckle, Harry said, "I told it to open, of course."
"You told it to open," Narcissa repeated incredulously, "and it did it, just like that?"
Smugly faking a level of complacency, Harry replied, "It's easy when you know how." Seeing both Bellatrix and Tonks just shaking their heads at yet another seemingly spontaneous talent, Harry finally gave in to the laugh threatening to escape. Starting the group moving again, Harry could still hear Narcissa muttering something to her self that sounded a lot like, "impossible," repeatedly. Finally, regaining control of him self, Harry led the way to Dumbledore's office without further incident.
Upon reaching the gargoyle guardian, Harry attempted to use the password that Umbridge had used several months before. "Fizzing Whizzbee," he announced, to no visible effect. Idly wondering who had commissioned such an unattractive monument for a doorkeeper, Harry tried naming several different sweets, both muggle and magical, to no avail. Getting weary of naming candies, Harry called out, "Professor Dumbledore! We need to speak with you."
After waiting a few moments with no sign that the old sorcerer had heard them, Harry tried a different tack. "Listen, we're not going to waste all evening guessing passwords. Move now or we will make you!" The gargoyle still showed no change, but Harry could have sworn it seemed amused with the increasingly flustered wizard.
Drawing his wand, Harry told the three witches to step back before he aimed at the statue and incanted, "Pello-" and ducked just in time as the Banishment curse rebounded off an extremely powerful shield. Regaining his footing, he turned his head sharply and glared at the snickering group of women.
"You l-lose your touch?" Narcissa got out amidst giggles.
"Hardly," Harry replied, while looking shrewdly at the object of his vexation. "That looked like the Protego shield charm, which does a good job of blocking low-level hexes. I wonder if..." he trailed off.
Making a valiant attempt to cut off her own laughing, Tonks asked, "Would you like some help there, Harry?"
"Not at all, Nymph," Harry responded through gritted teeth. "I won't be but a second." Glaring at the annoying piece of masonry, Harry leveled his wand at the statue's base and hissed a short Parseltongue spell on the off chance that whoever enchanted the block of stone would have been incapable of creating a ward against Parsel magic. His gambit paid off as the gargoyle's base separated from the floor and hovered a few inches in the air. Directing his wand off to one side, the monument floated away from the office's entrance before settling back onto the floor. Smirking at the obstacle, Harry strode over to the now exposed doorway, revealing the already extended spiraled stairway.
Sensing someone in the office, Harry turned to face the three still-chortling women and said, "Let me go explain the situation to him first, so as to avoid World War III, okay? Nymph, please stay here to do damage control if anyone happens to wander by." Seeing the three females nod their heads affirmatively, Harry turned back around and ascended the stairs. Reaching the summit, he rapped on the wooden door.
"Enter," an older voice called out.
Twisting the handle and pushing on the old entrance, the door swung open to reveal the same large and beautiful circular room, full of funny little noises. Due to the events of his last visit, however, there were markedly fewer curious silver instruments to generate said funny noises. Harry also noted that there were not quite as many spindle-legged tables to support the whirring and smoking devices either. Ignoring the walls covered with obviously curious portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses, Harry approached the large antique desk covered in both rolls of parchment and the remains of several of the aforementioned silvery objects, which apparently were never charmed to be unbreakable. Behind the large desk and seated in a high-backed chair was Albus Dumbledore, who was hunched over and seemed to be completely absorbed with the silver fragment he was slowly turning over in his hands.
Sensing his visitor's approach, Albus asked, "Is there something I can do for you?" without raising his head.
"Yes, actually," Harry replied.
At hearing the familiar voice, the elder wizard jerked his head up, dropping the object of his inspection. "Harry?" he questioned. "How... why are you here?"
"It's a long story, Professor. Suffice it to say that some new information has come to light regarding Voldemort's intentions and we need to deal with it immediately," Harry answered.
"And what is this information?" Albus questioned.
"If you'll wait just a second, so I won't have to repeat myself," Harry countered, "I brought a few people with me, and they are waiting outside. Nymph is waiting with them, while I explain the situation to you. Simply put, we have two new defections from Voldemort's forces that were forcefully coerced into joining in the first place. I know that the excuse has been used far too often, but they both claim to be victims of the Imperious and other means of coercion, and I believe them implicitly."
Raising his bushy eyebrows, Albus responded, "Oh? And who might these two individuals be?"
Visibly bracing himself, Harry looked him straight in the eye and said, "Bellatrix Black Lestrange and Narcissa Black Malfoy."
Albus's only reaction was a slight tightening around his eyes. "I see. And how did you come into contact with either of these two ladies?"
"Well," Harry answered, "that's a story in and of it self and I'd like to just go through it once. I realize that you will want to verify that they are on our side, but can you at least remain civil if I go fetch them?"
At Albus's nod, Harry turned around and strode from the room. After collecting the witches, the four re-entered the office to find four armchairs arrayed in a semi-circle with each facing the desk. Guiding the two clearly uneasy Black sisters to the two center chairs, Harry then sat himself at one end of the line, with Tonks quickly taking the last seat on the other side of the two 'fugitives'.
Taking the lead, Albus began by saying, "Well, I have to admit that I did not expect to be hosting such... distinguished individuals in my office this evening. Before we continue with your business, perhaps someone could inform an old man about how two of Tom Riddle's most notorious servants have found their way into my office, much less in the company of a student and an Auror?"
Despite his apparent cheerfulness, none of the individuals facing him doubted that it was more of a demand than a question, and could see his seriousness from the lack of the customary amused twinkling in his eyes.
Seeing that the three women appeared to be tongue-tied, Harry decided to begin. "Well, in short," he said, "Nymph and I were out for a jog this morning when Bella here found us. Apparently, the Dementors are siding up with Voldemort - as we feared. The two Dementors that attacked me last summer on Privet Drive reported my approximate whereabouts to Bella, who then sent them away before they could inform anyone else of my location. Since Voldemort's has pretty much worked his way around the matter of the blood protection wards, I felt a need for a quick evacuation. With luck, the Dursleys are far away from both Britain and Voldemort."
Not pausing at Albus's expression of complete shock, Harry continued, "Let's see. Then, Bella happened to mention that dear old Voldemort decided to recruit some new help, but with a bonus. Instead of the typical Dementors, vampires, werewolves, etc., he has decided to target demons. As you can imagine, this did not make me very happy. However, she also informed us that the infamous Lucius Malfoy was required to purchase some very rare artifacts to this end. Therefore, Nymph, Bella, and I took the appropriate precautions and popped over to Borgin's little shop of horrors, where we found that the Dementors let dear Lucy loose already and that he beat us to it. Then, to add to an already miserable day, the little weasel informed us that Lucius was not very happy about his recent incarceration, and held Cissy here responsible."
"That reminds me," Harry side-tracked, "Borgin is sort of tied up in his cellar, with a rather charming cobra watching over him. You might want to send an Auror or two to pick him up. Lucius's little knick-knack is definitely on the restricted list, so they shouldn't have a problem with making the other charges stick."
Harry waved dismissively. "Anyway, we took a slight detour by Malfoy manor, subdued the death eaters, freed Cissy, retrieved all of the dark paraphernalia around the house, and now here we are." Smiling widely, Harry kicked his feet up and placed them on a corner of Albus's desk.
"So," he concluded smugly at the dumbfounded look on Albus's face and, to a lesser extent, on Narcissa's, "that's my day in a nutshell. Now, when's dinner?"
After a few seconds of the Headmaster gaping at him, Harry rolled his eyes while sighing heavily. Leaning forward, he extended his hand in front of Albus's face and snapped his fingers loudly. Jerking slightly, Albus quickly regained his composure and said, "I think I'm going to need a little more information than that, Harry, especially in regards to your two new friends here."
"Oh?" the younger wizard replied, "I thought that I covered all the highlights rather well. If you want the particulars, then you will have to talk to the women themselves. It's their story to tell, not mine."
Nodding his silvery-haired head, Albus directed his attention to the two women in question. Using the penetrating gaze that Harry recognized as Legilimency, Albus prompted, "Is there anything you wish to tell me?"
Grudgingly, both Bellatrix and Narcissa revealed the highlights from the miscellaneous plots of Voldemort and his henchmen over the past several years, including their virtual abduction, various instances of blatant abuse and manipulation, and frequent mistreatments. Listening to the depravities of the Dark lord and his cronies shocked even Harry and Tonks, who had both spoken to the two witches beforehand. Eventually, the two women slipped into silence, leaving the old man looking even more elderly than he did before.
"I see," Dumbledore said finally. "Well, I am glad to see all of you unharmed. Mrs. Malfoy, Mrs. Lestrange, I deeply regret not having seen this years ago. Of course, you may stay here as long as you wish, and I will do all that I can to ensure your safety." Turning to Harry, Albus continued, "However, Harry, I am disappointed that you so blatantly disregarded the wards surrounding your home without consulting anyone. And you, Nymphadora," he said, turning his gaze to include the metamorphamagus, "for going along with him instead of notifying either myself or the Order."
Tonks opened her mouth to say something in rebuttal, but stopped at Harry's upraised hand. Locking a suddenly cold emerald gaze on the old wizard, Harry dropped his feet from the desk to lean closer to the elder man. "Let's get a few things understood right now. First, you will not castigate Nymph for her actions. She was at Privet Drive at my invitation, and once we encountered Bella and heard what was going on, I made the decision to react on the information immediately, instead of waiting for the time necessary to owl for reinforcements. Had we waited on you and your vigilantes, Lucy and his miniature shadow would have most likely done something rather permanent to Cissy here. Not to mention that Voldemort would most definitely have his little toy." Harry said this with a glance at Tonks's pocket.
"Secondly, I have always had to see to my own affairs in the past - largely due to your efforts. With the singular exception of the Department of Mysteries a month ago, the Order has been far more of a hindrance than a help. In addition, as you might notice, I have always succeeded in the past, and have done so yet again. Finally, I am merely fulfilling the charge you yourself placed upon me in this very room not five weeks ago. I have fended for myself virtually my entire life - with your tacit approval. Kindly don't attempt to change the order of things now."
Leaning back, Harry placed both elbows on the chair's armrests and rested his head upon his crossed fingers, never breaking eye contact with Dumbledore throughout his wintry monologue. Harry could feel incredulous glances from the three women to his side, but he only had eyes for the ancient mage in front of him, who had since slumped down in his chair, showing every one of his many years.
Sighing, the old and venerable Albus Dumbledore looked up at his pupil and said, "You've changed, Harry, and I deeply regret that my actions seem to have only worsened the situation. But the fact remains that you must be protected-"
"Headmaster," Harry interrupted, "when last we met, you yourself gave me the information telling me that no one, save Voldemort himself, can destroy me. In any event, I am perfectly capable of defending both myself and others-"
This time, an overenthusiastic Tonks interrupted. "Yeah, Headmaster, you should have seen him! I mean, what with the triple apparating, and the fencing, not to mention the advanced charms and transfiguration work!"
"What advanced charms and transfiguration work is that, Nymphadora?" Albus asked, while looking at Harry, who had suddenly decided to perform an intensive study of his footwear.
Too excited to notice that her old headmaster had just used her hated name, the young metamorphamagus quickly replied confused, "well, the stuff you must have covered with him. You know, the charmed one-way visible walls, the wandless invisibility spell I saw you use on yourself, that sort of thing. Surely, you remember..." trailing off, she noticed that the Headmaster was looking rather sharply at Harry, who was now squeezing the bridge of his nose as if to ward off a large headache. "You mean, you didn't teach him that?" Tonks was now staring at Harry, along with the rest of the room's occupants, including several of the portraits.
"No, I most assuredly did not," Albus, declared. "Harry?" he prompted.
Looking up, Harry pasted an innocent look on his face and said, "Yes, Headmaster?"
"Where did you learn those skills, Harry?" the old man questioned.
"Oh, I did a lot of reading this summer," Harry answered, still pretending to be completely oblivious of the scrutiny he was undergoing.
"Really?" Albus asked disbelievingly. "That's an awful lot of reading for one person to do in four weeks. One might even say it's impossible."
Hoping to put off the impending conversation as long as possible, Harry replied, "not with a time turner."
"And where might you have gotten a time turner?" was the still disbelieving retort.
"Well, I ran past a whole shelf of them in the Department of Mysteries-," Harry got out, before Albus interrupted.
"All of which were accounted for," was Albus's rejoinder. "Perhaps we should now try the truth?"
Snorting, Harry said, "I'd doubt you'd believe me even if I told you."
At Harry's continued evasion, Albus decided to send out a light memory probe. What he did not expect was Harry to eject him immediately or so forcefully that it pressed him back against his chair.
"That was a rather large breach of protocol, Dumbledore," a now quite irritated Harry explained.
"So is possession of a student and sending them to their headmaster's office, Tom," Albus replied, while pointing his wand straight at Harry.
Looking at the ceiling and expressing a heavy breath from between his teeth, Harry replied to no one in particular, "Not the bloody possession theory again." Looking right at Albus and ignoring the wand pointed at him, Harry continued, "I am NOT possessed!"
"Well, you have demonstrated a variety of skills that you did not have just four weeks ago to Miss Tonks, and just now an Occlumens shield that no sixteen year old should be capable of casting. I can think of only possible explanation for this sudden leap in magical acumen."
"Saints preserve us!" a cranky voice called out from behind Albus. Turning as one, they looked to a bookcase where the Sorting Hat sat staring at them. "Just tell them, Milord, or they'll be at this all day. Some of us can't sleep in this racket."
Looking back at Harry, Albus said, "'Milord'?"
Glaring at the irritated hat, Harry muttered, "Annoying piece of haberdashery!" under his breath. Looking back at his human audience, Harry said, "Alright, I'll explain. But what I say does not leave this room without my permission, agreed?" Waiting until everyone verbally committed to his demand, Harry continued, "Okay then. What you have heard so far is true; there is just a little more to it. But before I get into that, you are all at least passing familiar with the Phoenix legends, are you not?" Harry directed this more towards the women present.
At their hesitant nods, he clarified, "How, after it dies, a phoenix is reborn, retaining its previous memories and abilities?" All three witches nodded more confidently and, if the widened eyes were any indication, Albus had a good idea where Harry was leading the conversation.
"Well, then," Harry persisted, "would you accept that such a miracle could be accomplished by another magical creature?"
Seeming to enjoy the theory the most of the three witches present, Narcissa answered, "Well, it's certainly possible, at least for the more powerful of the creatures to experience such a phenomenon. Why?"
Ignoring the question for now, Harry followed up with, "Would you believe such a creature could be a human?"
Of the four suddenly stunned people, Tonks was, surprisingly, the first to regain the use of her voice. Shakily, she asked, "What, exactly, are you saying, Harry?"
Looking at his audience calmly, Harry said, "I am saying that September 1991 was not the first time I saw Hogwarts. In fact, along with the combined efforts of three close friends, I built this castle well over a millennium ago."
Glancing over at the Gryffindor sword still in its display case, Dumbledore petitioned hopefully, "Sir Godric of Gryffindor?"
Bracing himself for the inevitable onslaught, Harry smiled slightly and said, "Not quite."
Their reactions were amusing to say the least. The two Black sisters, both Slytherin alumni, were so stunned they just stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed at Harry, while Tonks was so hasty to get to her wand that it slipped through her suddenly sweaty hand and went rolling across the room. The most impressive response of the group, however, went to Albus Dumbledore. As soon as what Harry said had resolved in Albus's mind, he jumped up so quickly that his wheeled chair practically flew across the office floor. Leveling his wand, Albus quickly wrapped Harry in ropes before attempting to stun him.
'Attempting' since the powerful stunner dissipated off a stronger shield that the suddenly vexed Harry cast wandlessly. Without moving a muscle, the ropes that bound him head to foot suddenly loosened and fell to the floor. With a great degree of effort, Harry retained his calm demeanor - outwardly, at least. Inwardly, he was upset, at himself for being caught off-guard to the extent that he was, and with Albus for attacking him in the first place.
With nothing more than a gesture, Albus's chair came rushing back from behind the old man, impacting him at his knees and forcing him to land back in the seat. At the same instant that the animated chair penned the old man to his desk, his wand flew into Harry's outstretched palm. Twitching the newly acquired wand at Tonks, who was on the floor trying to reach her wand that had rolled under one of the cabinets against the wall, Harry levitated the young woman and gently deposited the witch back into her chair. Her errant wand was also summoned, which soon joined Albus's in Harry's possession. Looking at the two Black women, who were just regaining their senses, Harry asked, "Can you two retain your composure, or will I have to disarm you as well?" Shaking their heads in the negative, he leaned back into his chair to the accompaniment of raucous laughter.
"That was more fun than I've had in years. It even tops your last performance! Well done, Lord Slytherin!" the Hat chortled.
"Thank you, Alexander, for that overwhelming endorsement," Harry replied drolly.
Looking repeatedly between the mutinous Sorting Hat and the rather smug young man, Albus fixed his gaze on the young man and asked almost resignedly, "It's true, then?"
With a slight smirk, Harry nodded solemnly and said, "Yes. I am afraid so. Lord of the High Plains and First Master of Hogwarts, Salazar Ezekiel Slytherin, at your service." Harry finished with a bow.
"Well, Lord Slytherin, you seem to have me at a disadvantage," Albus said weakly.
"I very much doubt that, Headmaster, seeing as how you are currently pointing another wand at me beneath your desk," Harry responded bluntly.
Looking almost sheepish, Albus removed his hand from beneath the desk, which did indeed grasp a second wand, but he did not release it, merely rested its tip against his desk at the lack of hostility of the younger wizard.
"Now, Headmaster, might we dispense with the entertainment? There is a great deal of work to be done, and I could use your help," Harry finished.
"Oh?" Albus inquired. "I believe that I will need a little more information first. How about we start with how this came to be, or why I should ally myself and others with a wizard reputed to be an even greater threat than the dark lord of this time, regardless of whose face he might bear?"
"The answer to your first question is rather involved," Harry replied. "There are some parts of the story which I choose not to divulge for personal reasons and yet other particulars of which I simply do not know, and as such, cannot speak of them in any instance. As to your second inquiry, that is rather simple: I am not, have never been, nor will ever be, a dark lord."
"But there are several written counts of that time, all of which disagree with you," Albus replied smoothly.
"And, of course, any information written on parchment simply must be correct, eh Professor?" Harry questioned with a raised eyebrow. "There is no possibility that a written account might be altered to fit the mores of the author, such as the case of Rita Skeeter of the Daily Prophet?"
"I agree that the actual events are seldom recorded entirely accurately no matter who does the reporting, but there is almost always a grain of truth in even the most warped points of view," Albus maintained.
"As it is with me," Harry conceded. At three separate intakes of breath at his side, Harry continued, "This is a personal memory, and I do not enjoy recalling it. After I explain the circumstances to you, I would appreciate it if none of you ever bring it up again."
Feeling slightly easier about the situation, but not lowering his guard, Albus replied, "I can agree to that."
At the three women's nods, Harry fixed his gaze on a faraway spot and began speaking in a distracted voice, "The Slytherin family had always been considered a little suspect among the commons of my day. As you might remember, in the late 800s to earlier 900s, there were several bands of thieves whom first joined together to perform organized crime: preying on small fiefs, waylaying travelers on deserted roads, that sort of thing. Well, the magical world had something similar. Around that same period, there was a band of wizarding outlaws, who happened to follow the same patterns. The only difference between themselves and their muggle counterparts were that they often performed their thievery from the backs of dragons. As you well know, dragons are most difficult to control by force. However, this particular group got around that by employing rogue Parselmouths to control the beasts. Well, you can imagine that word of this got around, and as the spread of public information often goes, the accepted version quickly became 'Parselmouths are evil'. While no one from the Slytherin clan was associated with such activities, under the belief that we were a dark family merely biding our time, we were constantly observed since the gift of snake-speech had, for generations, passed down through our family. In any event, my parents had only two children: a younger sister Selene and myself. Years later, after I had completed my apprenticeship and helped to build Hogwarts, my parents both contracted one of the illnesses running rampant at the time and died, leaving me as the head of the family with my sister as a ward. A few years later, she met one of our first students and they fell for each other almost on first sight. Shortly afterwards, they were married and, as I lived here, I gave them the family manor to do with as they pleased. With Selene taken care of, I went on to do other things. I fought alongside the magical coalition against Lord Kain, and with the aid of many close friends, ultimately defeated him. With several of the resistance's leaders fallen in battle, I was granted nominal leadership of the body. With a great deal of input from my friends and advisors, we fashioned a unified ruling body for the magical world, built more on democracy rather than the primitive series of allies that the lands had used beforehand. As one might imagine, I made several enemies over the course of those years. I... suppose that I should have seen it coming, but I did not. You have to understand; I had enjoyed great success in practically everything I did. Whatever area of magic I studied, I quickly mastered. Whatever business ventures I entered into flourished. The various battles I had either led or participated in; I won every single one. Even the idea of building a school for wizards, one place of learning where everyone could visit instead of years of pilgrimages to remote ancient mages piecing together an apprenticeship. Everyone thought we were mad for even attempting such a thing, but I planned carefully and this place succeeded beyond even our wildest dreams. In short, I had become arrogant. I was in the prime of life, was the head of a noble family, had a great fortune built up, had fame and glory by the cartful, and whenever I expressed some sentiment to the ruling body after I voluntarily stepped down, it was carried out immediately - my word was law, period. I thought that even if I had any enemies - of which I never had any indication of their existence - then I could defeat them easily. Moreover, I probably could have. However, in my pride, I failed to consider that they might have chosen to strike at me through someone else. I was a fool. In the spring of 1018, I received word from a neighboring lord that someone ransacked my ancestral home, slain my brother-in-law, and my dear sister was missing. Further proving my own incompetence without even taking time to consider the situation beforehand, I immediately started readying my belongings for travel. Ironically enough, it was Godric 'I never look before I leap' Gryffindor who tried to make me see reason, but I would have none of it. We argued and, in the heat of the moment, I struck him. Before anyone could stop me, I gathered a few belongings and left the school, heading directly towards my old home. Apparently, a small group of survivors from Kain's army had escaped our purges, and they left their sign carved into the main door, informing me that I would never see Selene again in repayment for what I did to their master."
Looking up at his captive audience, Harry eyes practically begged for understanding as he continued, "Over the course of the next several days, I managed to track the group - probably no more than two dozen wizards - to a group of muggle slavers. It was the dark ages, after all, and the land was full of such depravity. I finally managed to catch up to them as they camped one night and snuck into the tent where Selene was kept." Looking at Narcissa, Harry said, "You had wondered where I learned of such an arcane spell as the 'Servus Corpus', Cissy? It was here."
Continuing his narrative while staring off into space again, Harry said, "I didn't know of such a spell at the time, and was at a loss as to how they could have kept Selene from using magic to escape. Even without her wand, she was not completely helpless. I just sensed a type of bond keeping her captive to the immediate area, and in another display of hubris, I severed the link. It was then that I realized the true nature of this unfamiliar piece of spellwork, and the dangers inherent in simply destroying such a connection. I held my sister - the only remaining member of my family - in my arms as I watched her painfully die, consumed from the inside by the dark spell. The outlaws snuck up and surrounded me while I diverted my attention to Selene. After she had expired and I realized that there were other people there, the ringleader took great pride in explaining in excruciating detail exactly what they had done. I can only surmise that they expected this knowledge to destroy me, but it did not happen that way. As the horror of what I had done registered, it consumed me with an intensity of rage I have not felt before then or since. I really do not remember the particular details, but to this day, I can remember what I did in general. The arcane arts - or dark arts, by today's vernacular - had always intrigued me, and I am a master at neutralizing them. When I went berserk, however, I used the dark spells themselves. I gathered up every thing there: wizard, muggle, even the horses and dogs. Then I slaughtered them all, each more gruesome than the last. Well over a hundred men died that day. I vaguely remember Portkeying the other captured slaves off somewhere, but every other living thing there perished. Then I went through the equipment. When I finally came back to myself, I found myself kneeling in a large pile of ash, surrounded by a crater for hundreds of feet in every direction. To my mind, it resembled what a post-retribution Sodom or Gomorrah might have looked like. After I saw what I had done, I was sick with grief. I sent a note to the others at Hogwarts resigning my post, and... ceased to exist. I found an abandoned cave somewhere, warded it as best as I could, and pretty much stopped living. To this day, I do not know how long I was there, just staring at rock walls and waiting to die, as they never told me. The next thing I can readily remember is finding a very pissed-off Rowena staring me right in the face. I remember her trying to convince me to return to Hogwarts, but I would have none of it."
Pausing to take a breath, Harry chuckled, "I must have said something though, because I quickly found myself knocked back on the ground with a sore jaw, while Rowena - little 5'4", 105 lbs Rowena - stood nursing a fist and telling me to get over myself. I did not really appreciate it at the time, but years later, I found the whole thing hilarious. Long story short, she dragged me back here - almost by my ear, at times - and Godric and the two girls readily forgave me, something that to this day I do not believe I deserve. As a favor to me, no record was made of these events. However, word eventually got out, and just as with the Parselmouth paranoia, the public quickly became convinced that I was the up and coming dark lord. Moreover, apparently my abilities continued to grow. I went from being a vampire, to being a dragon animagus, to being able to summon plagues, to being able to bring the dead back to life or conceal the moon within my robes. In addition, it would appear that the fun has not stopped yet. Here we are, a thousand years later, and I'm still being accused of setting basilisks loose on school children and encouraging hypocritical purebloods to rebel against the system, all from my grave."
Getting up from his seat, Harry began to pace across the office. "In any event, that's the untold story of the fearsome dark lord Salazar Slytherin," Harry said with a snort.
Blinking to clear suddenly blurry eyes, Albus said, "I'm so sorry that-"
"Just save it, Headmaster. I came to grips with it a long time ago," Harry alleged. "Anyway, to answer your other question the most concisely, I was cursed. Unlike most people, fate - or destiny, kismet, Magic, whatever - felt it was necessary to make my role in life more difficult than the norm. Upon my birth, my father had an augury done, as was the custom at that time. It revealed that I, along with others, was destined to renovate the appalling conditions of our world. However, neither of my parents felt that fondling animal innards was that precise a branch of Divination in the first place and ignored the omen. To make matters worse, that night Mars glowed brighter than at any point in recent memory, and a great comet was passing in the eastern skies - that was part of the folklore at that time; such a portent meant that a great warrior, or a leader of warriors, approached. So-called divination experts kept on plaguing me for the entirety of my life, commenting on strange tarot readings or an abnormally long and divided lifeline. Nevertheless, in true Slytherin tenacity, I continued to be intentionally oblivious, writing it off as the ravings of lunatics and fools. Moreover, it was a very good deception, so good that I rarely even considered the topic. Until one day when a certain acquaintance of mine had one of her spells, Helga Hufflepuff by name. It was right after we had deposed Kain, a dark lord of my early years, and built the predecessor to today's Ministry of Magic, that we found out about Helga's inherited Talent. Her family had long held a reputation for nigh-infallible Seers, but the talent frequently skipped generations. In fact, the last person to have had it was Helga's great grandmother. In any case, just as we were beginning to wind down from years of strife and preparing to live out the rest of our lives in peace, she suddenly went into a trance and proceeded to pull my carefully constructed excuses down around my ears. Making a long story short, I was forced to accept the fact that my life was not my own, and that I had been born for a higher purpose. As you know from history, after every period of peace there is eventually a new rise of darkness, which threats life and liberty as we know them. While it would have been bad enough to be responsible for fixing the world once, Helga went and completely upset the cart by telling me that I had to be called yet again at some unknown point in the future. She did not know when or why it would happen but was inconvertibly convinced that I would be required to defeat the dark and bring order back to our society once again. With help from Rowena - who, as the legends say, was the single, most intelligent person that I have ever had the fortune to meet - I fashioned a modified Pensieve that permanently stores a person's entire consciousness, not just a few memories. Then I enchanted the device - my Chroniculus - to lie dormant, until I reappeared. It awakened somehow during the battle at the Department of Mysteries, and by some means found its way to Voldemort. Thanks to the intervention of Bella here-" Harry smiled and nodded at Bellatrix "-I was reunited with the device, essentially restoring myself. It is not really possession, since I cannot possess myself; it is more just that I can recall very old memories. It also seems to have pushed my own magical maturation ahead of schedule, since I now resemble a twenty-some-odd-year-old Salazar Slytherin, not the sixteen-year-old Harry Potter."
"I knew he looked familiar!" Bellatrix shouted to Tonks while jostling her shoulder. At everyone else's amused gazes, Bellatrix blushed slightly while raising her chin and said, "Well, I did!"
"Of course you did, Bella," Narcissa said as if speaking to a small child.
"I can't speak for everyone else, but I know that I'll need some time to accept all of this at once," Albus said, drawing the attention back to him. Looking at Harry, he asked, "I take it that you came here for a purpose. What is can I do for you... Harry?"
"'Harry' is fine," Harry assured them. "It isn't time for the world to know that Salazar has returned in any event, if they ever find out at all. Regardless of whom I was, I'm Harry Potter now, first and foremost. As to what I need from you... I just told you what Voldemort is planning to do. The wizarding world is full of sheep: lazy, self-indulgent, and willing to run in any direction they are pointed. The ministry has let itself fill with self-serving, narrow-minded fools. The magical world is divided with prejudice and unfounded disdain, and the only viable defense against an overwhelming dark host is a few volunteer witches and wizards in the Order, very few of whom have any dueling experience whatsoever. We could quite literally be facing the end of this world as we know it. Headmaster, the Order is far too few and untrained to face the collection of Death Eaters, Dementors, and other creatures that Voldemort will be throwing at us, not to mention his aspirations for demonic aid. We can only face such an army with one of our own. I am going to get us one, and I need your standing in our world to help me. There are several good people left in the ministry, and we could definitely use the help of the Auror corps in the coming days. I need you to arrange a meeting with Amelia Bones, and see if we cannot get her on our side. It has become apparent that both the Wizengamot and the Minister's office have become too corrupt to function properly. In their current states, they can only hasten our own demise, so I shall rebuild them. While you are working on that end, I will meet with the other races. I hope that Fudge's stupidity has not forced all the others onto Voldemort's side. I think I can sway the vampires and werewolves, and the goblins do not like anything that disrupts business, so they will be willing to join if only to stop the war sooner. The giants worry me. What Hagrid told me after his last mission wasn't promising..." Trailing off in thought, Harry almost missed the stunned looks on the others' faces. "What?" he asked snappishly.
"You're planning to start a civil war," Albus said wearily.
"We're already at war!" Harry almost shouted. "Voldemort has his battles halfway won before he even begins! It is a well-known fact: when the good do nothing, evil always prospers. Fudge and his cronies are strangling our abilities to beat this threat. If it takes a degree of insurrection to remove the blight and get our world back on track, then so be it."
"I'm not sure that I can allow such an action," Albus said quietly.
"I don't think you completely understand the situation, Professor/," Harry stressed the title mockingly. "I came here as a courtesy to you. An olive branch, as it was, to mend our relationship, which you consciously sundered. Be aware, however, that this visit is a /courtesy/. Your assistance, of course, would be appreciated but it is most definitely /not required. If you refuse me, I will gather aid from other sources and do as I have said. After that, should you move against me, I will destroy you as well. This I swear."
Albus looked into the unwavering emerald gaze for a few moments before sighing at what he found. "You've grown hard, Harry, and I lament that my actions are partially responsible."
"Perhaps I have," Harry admitted, "but it was necessary. The wizarding public has repeatedly demanded a savior to step in and fight their battles for them, and so I shall. However, I cannot do such a thing on my own and, in its current state, the magical realm is in no shape to defend them selves, much less lend aid to any offensive measures. Your sacrifices in defeating Grindelwald are greatly appreciated, as are your efforts in stabilizing wizarding affairs, but times change and we must change with them. Know that if there were any other course of action with a good chance of success, I would take that route instead. However, you and I both know that such a thing does not exist. If we move quickly, we can put a competent person into office and remove the other security concerns before any great unrest can occur."
Taking a deep breath, Harry looked straight at Dumbledore and said, "This is what must be; can I count on your help to do it?"
Albus moved his gaze to the window, where the sun could be seen slowly sinking over the horizon. Several seconds passed in silence and Harry began to wonder if he had misjudged the situation when Albus turned back to the waiting wizard and said, "You are correct in saying that my own fears caused me to sour our teacher-and-student liaison. If you are willing, I would like to correct my mistake and forge a new rapport... as equals." Albus suddenly seemed to visibly age as he continued, "I had hoped that this day would not arrive for many years yet, but I can see that the time has come. If you will have me, my aid is yours."
Getting up from his seat, Harry approached the older man and extended his hand. Grasping the older man's hand, Harry shook it and said, "Your counsel is as appreciated now as it has been in years past. I would be honored to have you at my side." Releasing Albus's hand, Harry retook his chair and said, "We need to call an Order meeting as soon as possible to get people out in the field and looking for other possible venues that Voldemort might use to gain assistance. Additionally, I will need Hagrid and Remus to accompany me on this jaunt to the giants and werewolves. When can you have them gathered?"
Replying quickly, Albus said, "For the entire Order, not before tomorrow evening. I can try to call Remus here a little sooner and we can explain the situation to them beforehand. Are you going to reveal your... heritage to the others?"
Thinking for a moment, Harry decided, "I will probably have to reveal myself to Moony and Hagrid out of necessity. As for the rest of the Order, let us just hold that in reserve. As long as you are there to keep them on task, they do not need to know my true standing."
Nodding, Albus went onto a different tack. "You realize, of course, that if you go on this mission yourself, you will not arrive back here until well after school begins, do you not?"
Smirking slightly, Harry said, "Yes, I fully realize that. However, I do not believe that I will gain much in the way of information from attending sixth year lectures. Do you?"
"Well, no," Albus admitted, "but your unexplained absence will serve to draw further attention to you."
"Who said my absence will be unexplained?" Harry asked innocently. "Given the precarious situation of today, would it be that much of a stretch for the accomplished Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore to personally apprentice the trouble-magnet Harry James Potter, which would conveniently explain long disappearances among other issues?"
"And would any apprenticing actually be occurring?" Responded Albus with a brief chuckle.
"You never can tell," Harry shot back. "I never did have time to learn all twelve uses of dragon's blood, after all." Getting to his feet, he motioned to the three dumbfounded witches to do likewise before returning Tonks's and Dumbledore's wands to their rightful owners and addressing the still seated wizard. "Well, it is getting late, and I have a couple of matters to resolve before I rest. If you will get those communiquÃ©s send out, I will meet up with you tomorrow. Good night, Professor." Making his way towards the stairs, Harry stopped as the older wizard called his name.
"Since an apprentice is technically not a student, please feel free to address me by my given name," Albus stated.
Bowing his head in acceptance, Harry replied, "Very well. Good night..., Albus."
"Until tomorrow then. Good night, Harry... ladies," the elder mage replied.
After Harry and his female entourage had exited his office and pulled the door closed behind them, Albus turned to his familiar, Fawkes, who had been observing the proceedings closely. "Well, my friend, it would seem that the old Chinese blessing has finally caught up with us. We do indeed seem to be living in interesting times." Fawkes seemed to trill in resigned agreement.
A/N: I would also like to thank Yenom for his quick work on proofing this chapter, as well as the helpful input from Pghammer.
I hope you enjoyed this latest installment of ASR. Please remember to R&R.
On to the reviews:
Mark Turnlach: Harry is still pretty much the same reluctant hero he's always been. The only real change is that he'll handle the trials in a more mature manner. As for the Ministry situation... RAFO.
HarrySlytherinson: At this point in time, Salazar!Harry will be operating out of Hogwarts. I may introduce some Slytherin real estate later, but it won't be a vital part of the story.