A/N- Long time no post. Sorry. I wrote the first paragraph and then was stumped. But here we go. Final chapter. Conclusion. Whew. I don't know which story I read that had Dumbledore's 'great' defeat of Grindelwald being him shooting him in the back with a revolver. I think the scenario was of Dumbledore breaking into his house while he was sleeping and shooting him in the back. My thanks to that author for that delightful image. It popped into my head while I was typing and I just couldn't resist putting it in.
The Remus situation is wrapped up, hopefully in a way you all can accept. I was iffy about putting him in, but I like the resolution. And the way it began is the way it ends ;-) Thanks for reading and enjoying the story!
Tom Riddle smiled at the headline of last week's Daily Prophet: Dumbledore to Answer at Public Hearing. He turned back to the potion in the cauldron. Soon Albus Dumbledore would be answering with the truth. Freeing Tom from Voldemort was only possible if Dumbledore was attached to Voldemort. Tom needed to be seen as a victim just like Harry. The only way to impeach the word of the 'great' Albus Dumbledore was for the old man to incriminate himself. Hence the special truth potion he was brewing. After much research Tom had discovered a potion used by goblins when they had hearings on thieves. Nothing could be taken to counter its effects, whereas veritaserum could be countered. This would be a very eventful public hearing. Dumbledore wouldn't know what hit him.
Remus carefully listened in to Albus' efforts at rehearsing his testimony. He hated not being able to be with Harry and Hermione but someone Dumbledore trusted had to slip him the potion at the time of the press conference. It was the only way to keep Harry safe and get justice for his friends. Still, it didn't mean he had to like listening to the old bastard plot the lies he was going to tell.
Harry and Hermione stood in a group of reporters with Tom and Fenrir. All four had taken polyjuice and would be waiting to ask just the right questions to make Dumbledore talk. With four of them in the audience they hoped that no alarms would go off. No one could believe that Dumbledore was lying. They had enough questions to prevent that from happening.
Dumbledore looked out. A few international reporters were there. He didn't recognize them. Remus handed him a calming draught and he drank it. As he walked out he missed the smile on Remus' face.
"I will take questions," Dumbledore said. No reason to begin lying until the hard questions came up.
Harry bit his lip to avoid laughing as Tom got called on. To throw off suspicion he and Hermione were both polyjuiced females while Harry and Fenrir were males. He found it absurd to hear the alleged 'dark lord' using a feminine voice. "How long were you and Gellert Grindelwald lovers?"
Dumbledore blinked and opened his mouth before suddenly finding himself compelled to answer, "From the time I was eighteen to the time I was twenty-nine." He was unaware of Tom casting a spell to prevent him from leaving the stage.
Fenrir took over, "Didn't he become a dark lord around the age of twenty-four?"
"Yes," Dumbledore answered.
Gasps were heard from the audience but Harry pressed on, "How did you really defeat Grindelwald?"
The old man licked his lips, "I shot him in the back with a muggle gun. A revolver."
More gasps. Hermione spoke next, "Why did you refuse the position of Minister of Magic?"
"I wanted the most power I could have. Headmaster, Chief Warlock, and Supreme Mugwump guarantee that."
Tom again, "At what age did you begin to manipulate and control Tom Marvolo Riddle into becoming Voldemort?"
"When he first came to Hogwarts I realized who he really was; heir of Slytherin. I knew he could control Slytherin's monster and I could gain an unshakeable ally in the half-giant Hagrid."
"How did you manipulate Tom Riddle?" Fenrir pushed.
"I isolated him from his peers. I let it get out he was from a muggle orphanage and Slytherin house all thought he was a mudblood. From there it was easy."
"And you guided him to become Lord Voldemort?"
"A name I made up," Dumbledore nodded, "but then the blasted boy had to meet Greyback. Blasted werewolf got in my way as he fell in love with him and became something good in his miserable life. I had to nip that in the bud. Blasted mutt wouldn't go away though and I could never find him to kill him. I cast an enchantment on Tom, binding his will to mine. He still fought against me so I had him make horcruxes."
"Vessels containing a piece of his soul. I had him fragment it six times. He became more pliable with each one. Blasted werewolf stuck by his side but he couldn't get to Riddle anymore. Voldemort had taken over."
"Voldemort was your puppet."
"Yes he does whatever I say. Although lately he hasn't really responded to my commands."
This time it was Hermione who bit back a laugh. The fact that Dumbledore was so distracted by their disappearance he didn't notice the loss of power over Tom was almost too much to believe. He wasn't a very impressive dark lord yet he'd done so much damage, destroyed so many lives. It was a sad humor. Fenrir nudged her and she found her voice, "Why would you create Lord Voldemort?"
"To be a hero. My popularity was beginning to fade, I needed to remind people of my greatness. I needed them to need me."
"Yet Harry Potter was the hero."
"That's why I stuck him with those muggles. That way he was out of the way. Of course then he joined the wizarding world but he was pretty pliable. Easy to guide him given the abuse he suffered with his magic-hating relatives. I had to exacerbate that hate to make them beat him more than they would have otherwise but it made Harry into my sacrificial lamb."
"Yet he broke free."
"That Granger girl is too smart for her own good. I thought that basilisk would take her out their second year but of course she managed to tell Harry how to kill the beast."
"You set up students to die?" Now other reporters were getting in on the action. Tom felt almost giddy with joy. This was going better than they'd anticipated.
"Of course. The Tri-Wizard Tournament was going to be when I made Voldemort kill Harry Potter but the blasted boy got away. No doubt with help from Granger. I tried to instill doubt in their relationship but Potter never wavered from her nor she from him. No matter how Ronald Weasley badmouthed Harry or attempted to woo the girl. Then they ran off together. Knew I should have never sent the girl her Hogwarts letter."
Harry was feeling rather angry. He shared a glance with Hermione and calmed down. She was alive, she was there for him, they were mates. Nothing would ever come between them. "How did you make Voldemort return?"
"I engineered his creation; engineering his return was far easier. In fact-" As Dumbledore went off into an explanation the four werewolves left the area and vanished just before their hour was up. While staying would be good they'd chummed the waters and the sharks were feeding; they were no longer needed.
Harry changed back into his clothes and sat down on the sofa. It had been a very fruitful plan. Soon Fenrir and Tom would be vindicated in the press and hopefully with the Ministry. Dumbledore would be imprisoned and he and Hermione would be free. Then they could work on getting werewolves recognized as equal beings. Between Hermione and Tom Harry was pretty certain that would be easier than they all thought. The genius of those two was downright scary at times.
Hermione entered, stretching. "How do you feel?"
He tilted his head before answering, "Relieved. And we'll have to wait to hear from Remus but I think soon that will become a feeling of freedom. Sort of like what we felt the first time we transformed together and ran through the forest playing."
"Good times," she leaned down and kissed him, "I enjoyed that too. Once they're free they can take the potion and then they can set up their own lives. Remus still won't let himself be happy."
"I knew he'd never take the potion. He looks at me and sees my parents; his loyalty is to them not me. I mean, it is to me but at the same time…"
"Wrapping his head around the fact that a man he worshipped orchestrated the deaths of his friends, the turning of one of them into a traitor, and all that bad stuff has been impossible for him to cope with. Then there's the whole werewolves aren't evil bit he has to deal with too."
"Exactly. Remus has been so buried under the weight of Albus Dumbledore's ministrations I don't think he'll ever be able to really break free. Right now he hates the man, sure, but we've all been able to break out from under that hatred. I don't think Remus will. I think he'll die horribly bitter and angry."
"Me too," she admitted, sitting against him. "Harry that doesn't mean we give up on him."
"After we give him back his life I don't think we will see him again. Looking at me hurts him."
"Maybe a little bit," she admitted, "he still chose to come to us."
"Which counts for alot with me, but I don't think he's capable of healing like we have. I mean honestly, I've healed because of you. Tom's healed because of Fenrir, Fenrir's healed because of Tom, you healed the minute I asked you to bite me to turn me so that we could be together…Remus won't let anyone ever get that close to him. Not before he learned the truth about Dumbledore, and certainly not after."
Hermione opened her mouth to say something but then closed it. Harry was right. Remus was never going to let people in. He tolerated Tom but he still loathed Fenrir. Hermione and Harry would never be out of their lives and Harry knew that. Remus did too, and he understood what Fenrir meant to them, not to mention what they'd done for Tom and how they'd come to see them both as family. Family who wouldn't abandon them and who they wouldn't abandon. Remus would never have a clean slate with them; not in their minds or his own.
She ran a hand over Harry's thigh, squeezing him affectionately before speaking, "Happy thoughts now, Harry. We're together, we've overcome a very bad man's efforts, and we have our entire lives to live together."
"It's kind of anticlimactic."
"We always knew Dumbledore would have to take himself down. He did that today. We helped that along, but he had to do it. No one would believe us otherwise."
"True," Harry admitted. "I guess I was expecting him to go out with a big bang. This feels like a whimper."
"The papers will say otherwise."
Hermione's words proved prophetic. The headlines the next day were filled with the words Dumbledore had said the day before and he had been immediately arrested by the Ministry, who had turned him over to the goblins. Aside from his illegal dealings, Dumbledore had done something else; stolen from orphans of the first war, including Harry Potter. The accounts were restored and Dumbledore was placed in a goblin prison after he was found guilty by a tribunal of goblins and wizards, specially convened for the purpose of trying one Albus Dumbledore, dark lord.
It was December 20th that Tom and Fenrir were found not guilty by bewitchment and dark magic used upon them, leaving Harry and Hermione to sit and watch the two men drink the potion on Christmas Eve. They had intentionally waited until they were cleared. The young couple looked on as the older couple drank the potions and lay down. Harry and Hermione both cast spells to restrain them onto the bed. They weren't sure how the changes would take place but they presumed pain would be involved. They stood back near the door as the potion began to take effect.
Fortunately there appeared to be no pain. They watched in amazement as the age lines, the gray hairs, the scars all vanished and their ages were reduced. The couple lifted the spells and transfigured mirrors so that the two could look, "Hermione you're a genius," Tom said. "This is amazing."
"Incredible," Fenrir whispered, touching his face where a long scar had once been. "This is absolutely incredible. You might just be the greatest potion creator of all time."
Hermione, glowing from the compliments, just smirked at Harry, who proudly wrapped an arm around her. She spoke, "I'm glad you're happy."
"It's been a hell of a past few months," Harry said. "I think the rights for werewolves can wait until after the holidays don't you?"
"We deserve to celebrate the holidays in peace," Fenrir nodded. "Finally, peace. That sounds almost surreal."
"Here here," Tom chuckled, "not to kick you two out but…"
"Oh we definitely get it. You boys have fun," Hermione said, pulling Harry out of the room and portkeying them back to Grimmauld Place. "I hope we never walk in on them."
"Funny, I think they feel the same about us," Harry laughed, hugging her. "I'm going to go see what Remus feels like for dinner."
Climbing the stairs Harry felt free. It was a welcome feeling, and one he was honestly not used to. He could go out in public again, Hermione at his side. They no longer were confined to the house, which was a wonderful burden to be free from. Hermione was looking into a way to stop werewolves from being so susceptible to silver, something that was harder than one might expect. And they had, after some discussion, decided to get married in Gretna Green on Harry's seventeenth birthday. It was just a formality, so they saw no problem with waiting until then. He knocked on Remus' bedroom door, "Remus?"
Hearing nothing he opened the door to find the room empty. All of Remus' things, gone. He walked further inside to find a letter on the desk:
I thought the arrest and conviction of Dumbledore would ease the sorrow, the grief I feel. Perhaps it would lessen my self-hatred. Unfortunately, Harry, it hasn't. I don't think it ever will. I overheard you and Hermione talking. You're both right. I have been raised, programmed if you will, to hate myself. It's not fair, it's certainly not right, but that is the fact. I hate myself and nothing I say or you say or anyone else says can help that. You can see past what Dumbledore did to Greyback and Riddle. I can't. I'm just too damaged, I think.
So I'm leaving. Don't know where. Don't bother looking. I wish you and Hermione well and I hope you bring equality and freedom to the werewolves of Great Britain. I will forever remember the look on your face as you talked about how 'cool' it is to be a werewolf. No one other than you has ever said that to me.
You're right, Harry. I look at you and see James. It's something I can't overcome. I'm too stuck in the past, too stuck in the destruction Dumbledore committed. I'm happy that you're loved. I'm happy that Hermione loves you and that you've found something deeper even than your parents had, and much sooner than they did. But my happiness seems to only be for you two. I am what was. I am the past. You are the future.
Best of luck Harry,
Remus J. Lupin
Slowly Harry walked back downstairs. Without a word he handed the note to Hermione, who read it before hugging him, "I'm sorry Harry."
"We knew it would happen right? I can't say it's a surprise. I guess I just held out hope he'd change."
"Some things you can't change. Dumbledore learned that lesson the hard way. He couldn't change Fenrir's love for Tom, he couldn't change the connection we've always had; Remus is just another casualty of Dumbledore's crusade to be the self-appointed hero of the wizarding world."
Harry nodded before releasing her, "You're right. So bloody brilliant."
"I try," she teased, smiling at him.
He returned the smile and leaned in to kiss her, "Bloody sexy too."
"You have an impressive sex drive."
"Fen says part of it is being a werewolf, the other part is just youth and my love for you."
"Very smooth Potter."
"Yes, yes I am."
He leaned in and she pulled back, "Don't you dare lick me."
"Party pooper," he pouted. She rolled her eyes and pulled him in to kiss her. "Skip dinner?"
"More like dinner can wait," she pulled him toward the library, "I don't think it's a shock I want to shag in the library."
"No but I like it," he grinned.
Tom, nude, stared at his body in the mirror for the twentieth time. He looked just as he had the last time he was sixteen. It was amazing what Hermione's potion had done to him. "Quit ogling yourself or I'm going to think you're vain."
Tom chuckled, "I'm sorry it's just that this is so unbelievable."
Fenrir tossed him some clothes, "I'm as amazed as you. Hermione is not just brilliant. This potion is nothing short of a miracle."
"We owe them so much and they want nothing in return. It's refreshing to witness such…generosity."
"They're certainly unique."
Boxing Day morning Hermione woke first and watched her sleeping mate. Before the removal of the horcrux Harry had never had a good night's sleep. Now nightmares were rare. Carefully she extracted herself from the bed and, wrapping a blanket around her body, walked to the window. Snow was falling outside and it offered a very pretty view. She'd prefer to live more in the countryside; the isolation would be pleasant. And it would be easy to ward the house from intruders. Between Kreacher and the books on the wards at 12 Grimmauld Place they could ward it properly to render it invisible to any who they wished to remain hidden from. Especially the Weasleys. They weren't sure of their guilt, but they had never been contacted by any of them and didn't see a reason to start now.
Hermione looked to see Harry lying in bed on his stomach, a smile on his face. She took pride in having put that smile there. She took pride in that glazed look in his eyes he got if she suggested they make love or referenced being naked. The fact that this was real was mind-blowing to her. She'd never expected them to be able to be together, to be free, to be happy. This turn, all starting from her sitting in their secret spot near the Black Lake in the Forbidden Forest, was the best that could have happened.
Hermione Granger knew all about werewolves. Fortunately that knowledge had not stopped her from getting bit. For her, it would always be the greatest day of her life. She'd make sure that was always known.