Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations are the property of J.K. Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

CHAPTER 22: Chaos in Hogsmeade (conclusion)

From the Daily Prophet – Special Edition






A Conference Room at the Ministry of Magic
31 October 1993
6:00 p.m.

Cornelius Fudge snorted at the newspaper headline. Trust the Daily Prophet to move with lightning speed just when he wanted them to take the day off. He had left the Three Broomsticks by floo not ten minutes before the start of the attack, but there was never a moment he'd been in any real danger. Still, he supposed it wouldn't hurt to have the public concerned for his safety. Every little bit of goodwill helped.

In the debriefing room with him were Chief Auror James Potter and his senior staff, DMLE Director Amelia Bones and her senior staff, Senior Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge ... and an incredibly nondescript man in incredibly nondescript robes who sat in the corner taking notes on behalf of the Unspeakables. Technically, this meeting was outside Umbridge's official portfolio, but the woman had proven herself quite indispensable to Fudge since the Death Eater crisis began, and, particularly relevant to the immediate circumstances, she seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge about werewolves.

"Alright, let's get on with it," Fudge said. "I'd like to start with your report, James. I know you're eager to get back to Hogwarts and check on your son. If it's possible to finish up early with your business, I'm not averse to you sneaking out before the end of the meeting."

"I appreciate that, Minister," James replied tersely. "But if it's all the same, I'll stay here as long as needed. Lily will be contacting me by Patronus if there's any change in Harry's condition."

With that, Potter opened up the folder in front of him and quickly summarized the information on the Hogsmeade attack that had been collected so far.

"The attack commenced shortly after noon. It was a three-pronged attack. The largest group consisted of eleven individuals wearing homemade Death Eater-styled attire who attacked and destroyed the Hogsmeade Post Office with Blasting Curses. Out of that group, three were killed, but the rest escaped. None of the dead were identified as having been affiliated with You-Know-Who during the last war, though they all had prior criminal records. They appear to have been recruited specifically for this attack. More importantly, we got their leader, a man Polyjuiced to look like Sirius Black but who was actually revealed to be Janos Skorzeny, a Polish werewolf who belongs to Fenrir Greyback's pack. In addition to this incident, Skorzeny's wanted in several European jurisdictions for dozens of counts of murder, terrorism, and insurrection. At the moment, we're keeping him on ice in a DMLE detention cell until we're ready to begin interrogation. I don't know how much we'll get from him since werewolves are resistant to Veritaserum and Legilimency, but it's worth a shot."

"Do we know why Skorzeny was Polyjuiced to look like Black?" asked Director Bones. "And a young Sirius Black at that?"

"Not yet. Our current working theory is that Black is still recuperating from Azkaban and is too weak to engage in public activities, so the people who freed him are using Polyjuice to cause confusion and panic among the wizarding populace. We have no idea why the fake Sirius Black looked so young. Perhaps a defect in the Polyjuice Potion."

James flipped a page in his notes. "The second prong consisted of Fenrir himself along with five other werewolves who attacked the Three Broomsticks with the apparent goal of kidnaping the young fiancée of Tiberius Nott, a girl named Amaryllis Wilkes who is also the only offspring of the late Erasmus and Linnea Wilkes, both marked Death Eaters. The werewolves' goal in capturing the Wilkes girl is as yet unknown. We assume ransom at this point. However, we did manage to capture three of them. A fourth was killed during an attempt to pursue my son Harry after he successfully rescued Wilkes from their initial attack."

"The third prong of the attack was the most mysterious. It seems that persons unknown using an as-yet-unidentified curse destroyed the Tonks Clinic with some modified form of Fiendfyre. A side effect of the curse also caused an outbreak of uncontrolled violence among nearby villagers. That's actually where most of the casualties came from. Five civilians were inside the Post Office when it blew, though thankfully no Hogwarts students, and one of the auror trainees on-site was killed in the subsequent spellfire exchange. But most of the non-fatal injuries were simply the result of a small riot that broke out near the Clinic."

"If you would, get me a copy of the file on the trainee who was killed," Fudge said quietly. "I'd like to write a letter of condolence to the family."

James nodded and made a note of the request.

"Do we know what sort of curse was used?" Bones inquired.

"Not one I've ever heard of," the Chief Auror answered while glancing towards the nondescript man taking notes. "Unspeakable Croaker was ... evasive when I asked the same question."

With that remark, all eyes turned towards the man who simply looked up with a bland expression. "The investigation by the Department of Mysteries is ongoing," he said simply and without further elaboration.

Meanwhile in the Hogwarts Infirmary

Severus Snape scowled angrily around the room and reminded himself of why he hated Halloween. "Werewolves," he thought ruefully. "During a Hogsmeade Weekend! Obscene!"

Thankfully, he had already completed his Legilimency probe of Rodolphus Lestrange by the time of the attack. The psychic interrogation of Lestrange had yielded little they didn't already know. The chalice which Voldemort had given to Bellatrix was definitely the Hufflepuff Cup and was almost certainly a horcrux, but Rodolphus knew nothing of her security arrangements for it. Apparently, while Bellatrix's brainwashing compelled her to submit to Rodolphus (and occasionally Rabastan) in all sorts of sordid ways, not even he could command her to reveal what the Dark Lord had ordered hidden. It appeared that Snape would have no choice but to legilimize Bellatrix herself despite all the risks that entailed. The conspirators agreed that he would make the attempt over the Christmas break and spend the time between now and then reviewing Rookwood's Occlumency text for clues as to Bellatrix's psychic defenses.

The only other significant information gleaned from Rodolphus's memories pertained to the Barty Crouch Jr. matter. The most interesting detail was that none of the Lestranges knew of Crouch's personal involvement in the Longbottom attack until their trial. Rodolphus only knew the man under the codename Mr. January, as he was part of a different Death Eater cell. And in the guise of Mr. January, Crouch contacted the Lestranges on November 2, 1981 to propose the assault on Longbottom Manor for which he was able to provide a warding bypass. He was wearing Death Eater apparel when he arrived to join the attack, and he remained masked until after his arrest. Lucius and Regulus each proposed to investigate that issue the best they could between now and Christmas. Crouch had claimed innocence at trial, but his hysterical denials offered no explanation for the Dark Mark on his arm.

But those concerns fell to the side when Albus's phoenix Patronus unexpectedly arrived to deliver the news about Hogsmeade and to ask Snape to return at once to Hogwarts where Madam Pomfrey would likely need some assistance. Only one student had actually been injured in the Hogsmeade attack – and naturally it was one of the Potter Twins – but a great many students had been present at the time, and Pomfrey would likely need far more Calming Draughts than were on hand.

Hours later, his emergency brewing complete, Snape convened in the infirmary where Sensible Potter was lying in bed comatose. Also present were Dumbledore, Lily Potter and her Other Son, the Sensible Potter's solicitor, and (surprisingly) Alastor Moody and Malachi Sturgeon. Upon arrival, Moody gave the former Death Eater a brief glare of disdain but said nothing. The Caretaker, on the other hand, gave a look that oddly implied a sense of familiarity even though Snape had exchanged barely a dozen words with the man since his hiring.

"I've completed my assessment of Mr. Potter," the mediwitch said. "Let me begin by saying that had I my preference, Mr. Potter would be at St. Mungo's now, but Mr. Podmore vetoed that idea most strenuously."

Artie raised his chin in response to the implied rebuke. "As I said earlier, Madam Pomfrey, in light of the circumstances that led to my client's injuries, I feel that absent compelling reasons otherwise, it would be safer for him to remain here behind the wards of Hogwarts rather than be sent to a large hospital where the security is not as tight." Naturally, Harry's other reasons for not wishing to be examined by specialists at the wizarding hospital were left unspoken.

"Hmmf," Pomfrey said with a sniff. "Be that as it may, Mr. Potter is now stabilized and in a healing coma. But it was touch and go for several hours, and if there are any negative changes in his condition, I will transfer him to St. Mungo's regardless of your preferences, Mr. Podmore. If it comes down to it, you can just sue me or something."

"Fair enough," Artie said with a nod.

"What happened to Mr. Potter, Poppy?" Dumbledore asked. "Do we know what curse was used against him?"

"No, which is why I wanted him in the spell damage ward to begin with. His symptoms are most peculiar. If I didn't know better, I'd say he'd been subjected to significant Cruciatus exposure." At that, Lily gasped in horror. "But there appears to be no impairment to his body's nervous system. All the neural shock was focused on his brain, and that's not how the Crucio works. I believe he will remain comatose for several days, and I can perform a more thorough neural analysis when he wakes up. If he does not wake up relatively soon, I will consider other treatment options. I'm afraid that's all I can say at this time."

After answering a few more question, Pomfrey shooed everyone out of the Infirmary. Moody was the last to leave, and when everyone was gone, he turned back to the mediwitch. "Tell me, Poppy, among the tests you performed on the boy, did you do a Lubinsky-Chang assessment?"

She crooked a suspicious eyebrow. "And why, pray tell, would I do that, Alastor?"

He gave an evasive shrug. "Just an idea. You should consider it. Might be important."

She folded her arms. "Alastor, what do you know about my patient and how do you know it?"

Moody sighed and gave her a jagged smile. "Poppy, please. Just trust me? For old time's sake?" And then, he gave her a wink with his one good eye, and she blushed slightly at the remembrance of her crush from decades before on the man who was once the cutest boy in Hufflepuff House.

The Astronomy Tower
7:30 p.m.

It had taken Hermione half an hour after supper to find Theo No-Name at the top of the Astronomy Tower. The boy hadn't been at dinner which she found worrying. She'd intended to check with Blaise to see if the other boy knew where he might be, but she'd gotten waylaid by Lavender Brown who hugged her nearly to unconsciousness while gushing madly about her "prophetic gifts." Apparently. Lavender was now utterly convinced that she would have died or else been turned into a werewolf had Hermione not warned her away from Hogsmeade. Never mind that it was a juvenile prank on Hermione's part meant to take advantage of Lavender's credulity. Or that Hermione was quite certain Lavender would have come to no harm even if she had gone to Hogsmeade since Harry Potter was the only one at all to suffer any injuries from the day's events. No, Hermione was a Seeress now (with a capital S), and nothing she could say or do would persuade Lavender or indeed the majority of Gryffindor House otherwise. In fact, Lavender was now talking about having Hermione visit Brown Manor over the Christmas break to perform "readings" for all her relatives, a prospect that left Hermione utterly horrified.

When she made it to the top of the tower, she found Theo sitting next to one of the open windows with his knees pulled up against his chest. From his vantage point, it was possible to still see the still-smoking ruins of the Tonks Clinic by the fading light of the evening sun. The boy looked utterly morose.

"Theo?" she said gently.

He glanced over to her and then turned back away. "How's Harry?" he asked.

She came closer. "No change. He's expected to be in a healing coma for some time." She hesitated. "I didn't see you at dinner. Have you eaten?"

"M'fine," he said without looking at her. "Not hungry."

"Theo, you need to eat something. You didn't eat anything this afternoon either."

He snorted. "Well of course not! You know why our lunch plans got interrupted! Somebody sent hellfire after The Outcast and burned down his foster family's home!"

"Theo, what happened today wasn't your fault!"

The boy snorted. "I'm pretty sure I counted at least twenty 'Die, Outcast, Die!' messages burned into the walls that said otherwise, Hermione."

"You weren't the one to burn them though, Theo. You were the intended victim, not the perpetrator."

"Yeah, exactly. And I'm getting very tired of feeling like the victim all the time. But on the bright side, I didn't get maimed for life or lose the home I grew up in like Ted or Dora. I didn't get ... b-burned to death like ..." He looked away, suddenly overcome with emotion. He sniffled as he wiped away the fresh tears.

She reached down and put a hand on his shoulder. "Theo, what happened to Iris was a terrible tragedy, I know. But as for the rest, homes can be rebuilt, and the injuries Ted experienced can be healed."

"Well, I hope they can be healed," the girl thought to herself. She still wasn't entirely sure what Ron Weasley had done – and with Parseltongue no less! – but it would be amazing if Ted could be fully healed from Fiendfyre burns.

"Anyway, you can't blame yourself for those things. Blame the Death Eaters and werewolves who were truly responsible." She glanced down out of the Astronomy window to the courtyard far below still illuminated by the dying sunset. "Come down with me, Theo. You shouldn't be up here all alone."

"Why?" he said harshly as he shrugged her hand off his shoulder. "Afraid I'll do something stupid? Something to put everyone out of my misery? Maybe I should."

Hermione didn't respond at first. Instead, she simply moved over to the other side of the window, dropped her book bag, and slid her back down the wall into a seating position. For a long while, they said nothing but simply watched the sunset together.

"A friend of my killed himself not long ago," she finally said. Theo looked up suddenly in surprise.


"You wouldn't know him," she said while still staring off into the night sky. "He was someone ... from back home. He also ... had a difficult home life and felt that there was no one there for him. And when he reached out to me ... I wasn't there for him either. I was too wrapped up in my own issues to realize how much he was hurting. How alone he felt."

She turned back to Theo. "I would do anything to undo that mistake. I never again want to feel like I let my any of my friends down by not being there when they needed help. Or by failing to let them know how much they are loved even if they don't know it. And how much they'd be missed if they were gone."

Theo stared speechless at the girl for several seconds before he had to look away. "Hermione ... look. I'm sorry about your friend. And ... I'm sorry I've been so ... mopey lately. I promise I won't do anything foolish up here. And I do know I have good friends. You and Harry and Blaise and others. It's just ... I don't see how those friends can be enough when it feels like the whole world is against me."

Hermione absorbed that silently for a moment before her eyes lit up. "Theo, have you picked out a book for your Muggle Studies book report assignment yet?"

Theo did a double-take at the change of topic. "Uh, no. Why?"

Hermione quickly opened her bag and pulled out a paperback book. "I think you should do this one. I was going to, but it seems unfair to the other students to choose something I read years before and consider one of my favorite books. But I think you should do it. It'll be a good fit for you."

"What's it about?" he asked.


"... rabbits?"

"Rabbits," she said firmly while flipping through the book. When she found a certain page, she tapped it with her wand to magically highlight a particular passage. Then, she folded down the corner of the page so it would be easy to find.

"Woah! Hermione Granger defacing a book!" Theo said with mock surprise. "Will wonders never cease."

"Well it is my own personal copy of this book. And besides, it's paperback. They're expendable."

She handed the book over. And then, for good measure, she pulled a chocolate bar from her bag and handed that over as well. "Eat this tonight, but tomorrow, I want to see you at breakfast."

Theo snickered softly. "Yes, mother." With that, Hermione rose and headed towards the exit, while Theo turned towards the marked passage. As he read over the passage, for a brief instant, he found himself mildly hurt at what he was reading. But as he continued, his eyes widened and the beginnings of a smile crept over the corners of his mouth. He looked up at the girl who was watching him with a hopeful expression.

"Good night, Theo," she said with a wave.

Theo waved back, and his smile was genuine. "Good night, Hermione. I'll see you tomorrow."

As Hermione left the tower, Theo read the marked passage one more time before flipping back to start the book from the beginning.

All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand Enemies.
And when they catch you, they will kill you.
But first, they must catch you,
digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning.
Be cunning and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.
— Watership Down, Richard Adams

An abandoned shack in the woods
Approximately 200 miles south of Hogwarts
11:30 p.m.

"Explanations!" Peter demanded in a fury. "Will someone kindly tell me how a group of highly trained and experienced werewolf-mercenaries following a meticulously organized plan two months in the making somehow managed to get their arses handed to them by a thirteen-year-old boy, a Muggle Studies teacher, and the sodding Hogwarts Caretaker?!"

Stavros Skorzeny growled angrily, but Fenrir Greyback merely sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know what the Caretaker's deal is, Pettigrew, but I'm here to tell you – there's more to the Potter boy than meets the eye. I mean, he's just a kid and is already doing wandless magic! That's not normal."

Peter scoffed. "Impossible. There's no way the little brat can do wandless magic at thirteen! It must have been accidental magic!"

"Then it was damned convenient accidental magic, Peter. And that's something we weren't prepared for. Just as we weren't prepared for that Mudblood bitch slinging curses I've never heard of and also shooting off a fully corporeal Patronus!"

The rat animagus bit off the scathing reply that had been on the tip of his tongue. To be honest, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong did. He'd gotten a summary out of Prongs earlier after he'd returned Jim to the school. First, Harry Bloody Potter had staged a daring rescue of the Wilkes whelp right out of Fenrir's grasp. Then, Lily had shown up with that Patronus she'd been so proud of back in Fifth Year. He'd known that werewolves were vulnerable to the Patronus, but he'd never realized they were that vulnerable. And then, the runic array that he'd pulled out of the remains of Mr. Toymaker's arsenal had failed to live up to its reputation and collapsed far sooner than he'd expected. But the cherry on top was the mysterious Caretaker, Malachi Sturgeon, who apparently dropped literally out of the sky to take down Janos Skorzeny with some kind of strange martial arts attack and, in the process, reveal Pettigrew's deception about Sirius Black. James had no idea who Sturgeon was and was highly suspicious of him, but Dumbledore himself spoke up for the man personally when he arrived at Hogsmeade just after the attack ended. That was enough for James to drop the issue for the time being.

"What about the four pack members who were captured?" he asked, changing the subject. "What do they know – particularly about me? And will they break under interrogation?"

Fenrir shook his head. "No. Only Janos knew your real name or even what you really look like. And he can resist Legilimency and Veritaserum."

"So all I have to worry about is him voluntarily giving me up to stay out of Azkaban," Peter groused.

"You underestimate the pack bond, Pettigrew. The curse binds my pack to me through the magic of dominance and submission. I am Janos's alpha, and I have charged him with keeping our secrets unto death. He will not betray us."

"No, he will not," Stavros said hotly. "But will we betray him? How are we going to rescue him from the DMLE?"

"We are not going to do anything of the sort!" Peter snapped. "Your brother knew the risks as well as the penalty for failure. When our Lord returns, he will be rescued from Azkaban and handsomely rewarded for his devotion to our cause. Provided that the pack bond Fenrir speaks of is as strong as you all claim ... and that the idiot isn't dumb enough to be tricked into giving away information despite the bond. His capture by a glorified janitor doesn't speak well for his competence after all."

"ENOUGH!" Stavros roared. "Fenrir! Why do you just stand there and let him speak of my brother that way!" He snarled at Peter and flexed his clawed hands. "Who are you to speak to any werewolf that way, you pathetic little wizard?"

Peter crooked an eyebrow at the outburst before calmly walking straight up to Stavros, completely unafraid even though the partially-transformed werewolf was almost a foot taller. Nearby, Fenrir closed his eyes and began rubbing his forehead with his hand.

"Who am I?" the wizard asked mildly. "Who am I to speak to a werewolf in whatever manner I choose?" He smiled broadly, and Stavros was suddenly struck by how unusually pointed the man's teeth now seemed to be.

Outside, a flock of birds that had been nesting for the night in the nearby woods suddenly took frightened wing in response to the screams that echoed out of the shack and across the forest.

The Hogwarts Infirmary
3:25 a.m.

Though the hour was late, the Infirmary was not fully dark. The stars were bright out tonight and the moon was more than half-full, and their combined light shown through the windows well enough to see clearly. No one saw or heard James Potter as he entered and made his way to the bed where his eldest son lay comatose. Illuminated by starlight, Harry looked pale but peaceful, as if he were merely slumbering instead of recovering from a near-death experience. The boy's father was exhausted from the stresses of the day, but he knew he would not be able to sleep until he saw Harry in person. For several minutes, he simply stood at the foot of the bed as if waiting for his son to open his eyes, while years worth of regret over his failures raged in his gut.

"Come back to us, Harry," he finally said in a whisper. "Come back to us, and I promise I'll fix things. Whatever it takes, I'll make things right."

1 November 1993
The Potions Classroom
6:00 p.m.

Hermione entered the classroom with a mix of trepidation and annoyance. Trepidation because she had no idea why Professor Snape had sent her a message at lunch informing her that she had a three-hour detention with him that evening. Annoyance because after her detention was over, she still had several hours of homework waiting, and between her heavy class load and the stress of the weekend's events, she was completely exhausted. If things continued like this, she might have to pay another visit to Clarence Smith, the snooty Ravenclaw Sixth Year who discreetly sold black market Pepper-Up Potions to over-achievers like Hermione who seemed to have more intellectual curiosity and ambition than common sense.

As she passed through the doorway, however, the girl stopped short in surprise. All the furniture normally found in the Potions classroom had been cleared away, leaving only a small table – a gurney, actually – upon which rested what appeared to be a man's body. On closer inspection, though, she recognized it as the dummy that Professor Lockhart had used the previous year for his First Aid lessons. A very realistic dummy, she recalled, as the fake blood it produced when cut open made several people in her class sick. Professor Snape stood on the other side.

"Come in, Miss Granger, and close the door behind you."

She did so, and he immediately sent a powerful locking spell followed by a silencing charm.

"I apologize for the deception of giving you a detention, but I require a certain amount of discretion for what I now propose to do with you."

"Do ... with me, Professor?" she asked nervously.

He nodded. "In light of yesterday's events, I wish to teach you two spells which might be of use to you in the future. One of them is a spell of my own design which, frankly, a great many people would consider dark magic. Accordingly, if you agree to learn this spell, I must ask that you also take a vow of secrecy regarding who taught it to you. I would also hope that you will show the greatest discretion both in using it and in teaching it to others. It is not a spell that should be widely disseminated, though I do plan to share it with Harry Potter upon his recovery, as well as certain others who have shown both the skill and maturity needed to master it while respecting its dangers. The spell's name, which you may remember from a previous discussion we had last year, is ... Sectumsempra."

Hermione's eyes widened. She had begun a cursory study of that spell from the notes she'd found in her dorm that she later learned had been stolen from Snape during his student days. He'd warned her off the spell then, saying the notes were incomplete, but he'd never said anything about the spell being dark. She also wondered just how bad the spell could be for Snape himself to consider it dark magic.

"I see you do recall the name," Snape noted. "When last we spoke on the topic, I told you that the spell notes you had were incomplete and that you might end up seriously injuring or killing someone if you attempted it. What I did not say ... is that doing so is the spell's intended function. I created Sectumsempra for purposes of maiming and killing."

Hermione found herself speechless. This was not a conversation she ever expected to have with a teacher. Not even this teacher.

"Before I will teach you Sectumsempra, however, you will learn a different spell with a more practical purpose, not to mention a more socially acceptable pedigree. Vulnera Sanentur is an extremely powerful healing Charm capable of repairing even the deepest cuts and gashes, including internal bleeding. It too is a spell of my own design, though unlike my other personal curses, I have willingly shared it with Madam Pomfrey and others. It is a useful Charm to know under any circumstances, but it is vital to know before any study of Sectumsempra, as wounds inflicted with the latter cannot be healed with any lesser healing Charm. Absent a swift application of Vulnera Sanentur, any injuries resulting from Sectumsempra that are more than superficial will inevitably bleed out, resulting in the victim's death."

The girl was suitably horrified. "Professor, why would you want me to learn a spell like that?! One that would be lethal without a special healing Charm to counteract it?!"

A strange furious light entered Snape's eyes. "Because yesterday's events have shown it to be necessary, Miss Granger," he said with some anger. "You see, I designed Sectumsempra for use in killing werewolves!"

From The Essential Defence Against the Dark Arts by Arsenius Jigger (p. 394)

It is important to note that lycanthropes (werewolves in the vulgar parlance) are not a natural phenomenon nor truly magical creatures, despite political efforts to categorize them as either Beings or Beasts. Each werewolf was originally a human being, whether magical or Muggle, who was subjected to the Lycanthropic Curse. In modern times, this invariably means surviving an attack by a werewolf in his fully transformed state, as the original Lycanthropic Curse has been lost since the death of its creator.

That creator was the notorious 14th century Dark Lord named Emeric Belasco but who has been christened by history as "Emeric the Evil," a name he proudly bore during his relatively lengthy career. Emeric was of Bavarian descent but entered Hogwarts (the only European magical school at the time) in 1340 where he was sorted into Gryffindor. A brash but brilliant student, Emeric was, among other gifts, a natural animagus who spontaneously developed the power to transform into the shape of a small dog, possibly a Crup, around the age of thirteen. Natural animagery (i.e. the spontaneous development of an animagus form without the use of any rituals or training exercises, usually during the onset of puberty) was more common in Europe in those days as it remains today in Africa and parts of East Asia, though it became increasingly rare among Europeans and unheard of in Britain in the last two centuries.

Apparently unhappy with his animagus form, Emeric spent the first decade or so post-graduation researching animagery and other aspects of human transfiguration in hopes of learning a new and more impressive form, but by all accounts, the animagus form, once acquired, is immutable. However, Emeric's research into the animagus gift bore terrible fruit in other ways. Through dark experiments and rituals, Emeric devised a curse that would permanently impose a form of uncontrolled animagery on the targeted victim. The first successful (for some definitions of the word) experiments resulted in the Apocalypse Pack, the thirteen original werewolves from whom all modern werewolves claim descent, as anyone who survived being bitten or scratched by one of the Apocalypse Pack would inevitably become lycanthropes themselves and be able to pass on that curse similarly to others.

The means by which the Curse functions is still unclear as of this writing, but its properties are well-known. When a human being is infected with Lycanthropy, he immediately becomes physically stronger and tougher, while gaining heightened auditory and olfactory senses. The victim also heals at an accelerated rate, though the werewolf cannot regenerate damage post mortem and thus return to life as trolls can. These traits are present at all times. But more importantly – and more infamously – on one night each month when the moon is at its fullest and the sun has set, the victim will uncontrollably transform into a human-wolf hybrid. In this inhuman form, the werewolf's strength, speed, and durability all increase even more, and the creature gains powerful claws capable of slicing through bone. A transformed werewolf also generates a powerful "fear aura" which most humans find debilitating.

However, the transformed werewolf's intellect is diminished to that of a wild, nearly rabid animal which has an instinctual predisposition for human flesh over all other food sources. While a werewolf can eat animal flesh (and will in the absence of human meat), a transformed werewolf will always pursue human prey over animal prey. The one exception to this general rule is animagi – due to some facet of the curse, whether intentional or accidental, a transformed werewolf will almost never show aggression towards a transformed animagus unless seriously provoked. Indeed, the literature is replete with stories of animagi successfully fighting off werewolves and even herding them away from human prey. Furthermore, it is well established that an animagus, whether transformed or not, is immune to the Lycanthropic Curse and cannot contract lycanthropy under any recorded circumstances. Likely this has something to do with the manner in which Emeric used his own animagus gift as a template for the curse, as it was known that Emeric could exercise some degree of control even over fully transformed werewolves, though their limited intelligence and uncontrollable rage made them poor servants.

Initially, a newly infected werewolf retains his full human intelligence and personality except on the night of the full moon. However, upon infection, the werewolf soon develops a series of psychological disorders endemic to the curse. Initially, these disorders manifest as bouts of uncontrollable anger, loss of human socialization skills, and a strong preference for meat over other foodstuffs. As the curse fully takes hold, these disorders worsen into extreme sociopathy, cannibalistic tendencies, a propensity for sadism, and an inability to view non-werewolves as anything other than prey animals and/or toys. When a werewolf has reached this level of psychological degradation, he gains the power to intentionally assume a transitional state in which he remains essentially human in form, but grows larger and more hirsute, and develops claws which, while not capable of transmitting the curse, are still quite deadly. This process of degradation is considered irreversible, and most infected werewolves will completely abandon all human morals and constraints in as little as one month after infection or as long as a year. It is theorized that the length of time before complete degradation is influenced primarily by the number of human victims killed and eaten during transformation. Interestingly, the process of degradation may also be accelerated simply be remaining in the company of other werewolves. All lycanthropes have a powerful pack instinct and tend to organize themselves into stable social groups with the most powerful member gaining the status of "pack alpha" and with it a degree of control over the rest of the pack. Solitary werewolves tend to lose their grip on their humanity at a somewhat slower rate.

Stories about the supposed weaknesses of werewolves abound. While Muggle legends about werewolves suggest that they are particularly vulnerable to silver, this is naught but myth. Few Muggle weapons can have any meaningful effect on a fully transformed werewolf, and in fact, most spells are ineffective as well due to the creatures incredibly swift regenerative properties. Naturally, the Killing Curse is as effective against a werewolf as it is against any other living thing, but it remains Unforgivable even in the case of werewolf attacks, though during the time of Emeric's activity, those wizarding societies at greatest risk from his werewolf armies sometimes sanctioned the use of the Killing Curse to slay werewolves. Werewolves also have some vulnerability to the Patronus Charm – the mist form can disorient and bewitch werewolves while a true Patronus can inflict physical damage that does not heal with the creature's usual swiftness. More conventional combat Charms are only effective if used en masse by multiple wizards working in tandem to inflict damage faster than the werewolf can heal it.

Sometime later ...

It was a lazy November afternoon that found Harry Potter sitting under a tree near Black Lake, watching contentedly as the Giant Squid waved a tentacle in his direction. Harry waved back before looking around. He'd been here for a while but had seen no sign of anyone else, student or teacher. Just him and the Squid, apparently. He frowned at that, but then shrugged. For some reason, it didn't seem important.

As the Squid frolicked in the lake, Harry pulled out his trusty wand and examined it. He'd always been immaculately careful with the holly and phoenix wand since the day he'd bought it, but somehow it seemed as if he were only just now seeing it as it really was. Only now was he hyper-aware of every whorl, eddy, and indentation on the wand's surface. With a smile, he tossed the wand up into the air and then flexed his fingers slightly. Instantly, the wand snapped back into his hand. He did that a few more times before pulling his arm back and hurling the wand towards the lake. Then, just before it could hit the water, he gave his wand hand the tiniest twitch. Again, the wand rocketed back into his waiting hand.

Harry smiled and studied the wand some more with a curious expression. "Curious, very curious. That's what Ollivander said." Harry tossed the wand up into the air once again, but this time, instead of summoning it back into his palm, he extended his forefinger. The wand landed on the finger and rested there in perfect balance. He moved his hand around experimentally, but the wand never fell off his finger. Then, he eyed the wand speculatively and focused his concentration on it. Slowly at first, the wand began to spin around in a circle centered on his finger. Faster and faster it spun until it rose up off the forefinger to hover about an inch above it like a helicopter's blades. Harry chuckled and then unclenched his other fingers. The wand's rotation ceased instantly, and once more, it snapped back into his palm.

"That's a neat trick," said a bright voice from behind him, startling the boy into giving out a small yelp. It was Luna Lovegood.

"Luna!" Harry said happily. "How are you today? And by any chance do you know where everybody else is?"

"I'm fine, Harry Potter," she said as sat down on the grass next to him. "I imagine everyone else is in class since it's the middle of the day. I had a free period, so I decided to take a short nap. That's when I saw you out here. How are you feeling?"

Harry shrugged. "Not bad, although I do feel a bit ... befuddled. Like my brain is a bit fuzzy."

"Well, that's to be expected, Harry Potter. You are in a coma after all."

"Oh, well I guess that makes ... sorry, I'm in a what now?"

"A coma. It's a state of profound unconsciousness caused by disease, injury, or poison. You've been in one since Saturday afternoon. I've been looking for you ever since, but, silly me, I never thought to look outside of the school. I should have remembered that this spot is one of your safe spaces."

"Oooo-kay. I don't feel like I'm in a coma."

"Well, don't just take my word for it," she replied before turning her head to the lake. "Mr. Squid! If this is a dream, would you please slap the water three times with a tentacle?" And to Harry's amazement, a huge tentacle rose up out of the water and did just that.

"Huh. So ... I'm ... in a coma. Interesting." He frowned momentarily at his own lack of concern before deciding that he was probably on pain relievers in the waking world.

"Assuming, of course, that this conversation is actually even happening," he thought before deciding to accept his unusual placidity as just one more thing to deal with later.

"And this is a dream, I guess? Are you really even here?"

She nodded. "You had a dream about me. And I had a dream about you. Which was convenient for us both, I think. I've been wanting to talk to you for some time, Harry, but for some reason, it keeps slipping my mind."

"What did you want to talk about?" he asked hesitantly.

She paused as if looking for a diplomatic way to say it before shrugging and choosing directness. "I think there's something horrible in Slytherin House."

He laughed. "Well, probably so. I mean, it is Slytherin House, after all."

She shook her head. "No, I don't mean the normal horribles of hate, greed, and fear. It's a more specifically horrible ... horrible. But for some reason, I keep forgetting to tell you about it when I'm awake. Which only makes it even more concerning, I'm afraid." She pulled her legs into her chest and wrapped her arms around them as if chilled. "I mean, I usually forget all my dreams no matter how much I try to remember. But I'm pretty sure this is something I know when I'm awake, but I never seem to think about it."

He nodded as if to absorb that odd statement, but then, he suddenly sat up straighter. "Was it something to do with the Carrow twins?" he asked.

Luna's eyes brightened. "Yes! Yes, it was! I can't believe I just forgot about them. Of course, since the Sorting, I haven't really seen them anywhere since then since we're in different years." Then, she grimaced. "Or if I have, I've forgotten those sightings as well. Why did you ask about them?"

"Well, I remember seeing your expression at their Sorting and thought it was worth looking into, so I made a mental note to ask you what was so disturbing about them." He blinked twice. "And then, I completely forgot all about it myself. Which, now that I think about it, is wildly out of character for me."

Luna nodded in sympathy. "Well maybe you'll have better luck than me and remember that they're important when you wake up. This is the first time I've thought about them since the night of the Opening Feast ... that I recall anyway."

"So what was so wrong with the Carrows that it gave you that reaction upon seeing them? Their nargles and wreckspurts?"

"Wrackspurts. And they didn't even have any of those which is slightly odd in and of itself, but not that odd if they were both well-adjusted and had no reasons for being angry or unhappy at the time. And their nargles didn't look particularly strange, though very different from most of the ones I see in other people. No, what bothered me was that their nargles move together in perfect synchronicity. Perfect synchronicity."

"Well, they are identical twins, Luna."

"So are you and Jim. And Fred and George. And the Patil sisters. None of you are as in tune as the Carrows. It's almost as if ..."

"What?" Harry asked.

She turned to him and shivered slightly. "It's almost as if they have the same mind that is somehow present in two separate bodies."

Harry shivered himself at that before changing the subject slightly. "You said their ... nargles looked unusual. In what way? What do nargles even look like?"

"I'm not entirely sure I should answer that, Harry. Knowing too much about the things I see ... well, most people seem to find it disturbing."

Harry crooked an eyebrow. "I think I can handle it," he said confidently.

Luna stared at him for a few seconds. Then, she shrugged and reached over to touch Harry's left temple with a finger. Harry jerked back instinctively and shook his head. Then, his eyes widened. The colors of his dreamscape suddenly faded slightly as if everything around him was no longer real, but just a movie being projected onto a faded canvass. And then, he could see the things moving behind the canvass ... which itself grew thinner and thinner before fading away to allow him to see the creatures clearly. Harry looked around wildly at the sea of ... things, some small, some big, and some massive. Then, with a feeling of dread, he slowly looked down at his own body to witness the things that were somehow swimming around inside his body. Harry opened his mouth to draw in a terrified breath ...

The Hogwarts Infirmary
4 November 1993 (Wednesday)
1:30 p.m.


From her nearby desk, Madam Pomfrey jumped in surprise at the sound of a scream from her only patient, one who she'd expected to remain in a healing coma for several more days at least. She ran to Harry's bedside, her wand already drawn. The boy's scream had already ceased, and he was now sitting upright in bed, panting as if he'd just run a race.

"Mr. Potter, lie back down at once! You've suffered serious injuries, and I don't want you to harm yourself any further."

The boy looked around for a few seconds before accepting that he was (a) alive, (b) awake, and (c) in the Infirmary. Slowly, he did as the matron asked. He started to speak but quickly realized that his mouth wasn't working quite right.

"W-what ... what day ... is it?" he got out before a coughing fit set in.

"It is Wednesday in the afternoon. You have been in a healing coma for about four days." Pomfrey conjured a glass of water and carefully helped him to drink it.

"H-h-how's Amy?"

Madam Pomfrey was slightly taken aback that nearly the boy's first thought was to ask about someone else. "Miss Wilkes is quite alright. She suffered nothing more than a few superficial bruises from your landing and was released within thirty minutes. To be perfectly honest, I am amazed at your recovery even after four days." She paused. "You screamed when you awoke. Are you in any pain?"

He shook his head. "Not really. Just ... sore. I woke up from ... a nightmare ... I think." He frowned as he tried to remember.

"What was I dreaming about when I woke up? Something ... about Luna?" But the memory of his nightmare refused to come. He was left only with the firm impression that it was something important that was lost to him now. Something he would need to recover sooner rather than later.

Later that evening ...

After several hours of medical assessment and a nap enforced with a Sleeping Draught, Madam Pomfrey finally declared Harry Potter fit enough to receive visitors, although she informed him to his dismay that he would not be fit enough to fly in the Gryffindor-Slytherin season opener that had been scheduled for the following Saturday. In fact, the match itself had been rescheduled with the Hufflepuffs taking the Slytherin team's place.

After the mediwitch left, Harry looked around and noticed that the bedside table was covered with flowers, candy gifts, and get-well cards. Apparently, word of his recovery had spread quickly during his nap. His wand and glasses were also on the table just out of reach. Harry looked around the room to make sure he was alone. Then, he cautiously held up a hand and focused his attention on the wand. Instantly, it flew into his hand. Harry smiled in satisfaction. Then, he focused his attention on his glasses to see if he could summon them as well. The glasses defiantly sat in their place, however. He shrugged and pointed his wand at them, intending to say "Accio Glasses," but to his surprise, the glasses flew into his hand just from the merest wand movement without him even saying the incantation. Then, for some inscrutable reason, he spent several minutes unsuccessfully trying to balance his wand on the tip of his finger before giving up and summoning a Chocolate Frog instead.

Over the next hour, most of his friends came in to give him their good wishes, though the mediwitch refused to allow more than two student visitors at a time and for no more than ten minutes each. James and Lily Potter also came for a longer visit (with a grumbling Severus Snape in tow). Both of them seemed simultaneously distraught at his injury, proud of his "Gryffindorish" courage in saving Amy, and deliriously happy that he was alive and recovering.

Lily also took what Harry thought was an odd interest in the nature of Harry's friendship with Amy Wilkes. He got the vague impression that his mother was worried that he and Amy were romantically attached or something along those lines and that she perhaps disapproved of the Toymaker's daughter dating her firstborn, but she seemed perfectly fine when Harry made it clear that he had no interest in Amy of that kind. For his part, James seemed ill-at-ease (even by his usual standards of "Harry interactions"), as if there were things he wanted to say to the boy but could not bring himself to utter aloud. Jim was also present, and he seemed both in awe of how Harry had evaded the werewolves to save Amy Wilkes and embarrassed by how he'd been removed against his will from the scene by Peter Pettigrew.

The Potters were his last official visitors for the evening, as Madam Pomfrey firmly announced that Harry needed rest and that visiting hours would not resume until the next morning. As Jim was leaving, he turned back to Harry and said "See ya later" with an obvious wink. Harry smiled and shook his head. It seemed that a "No Visitors" sign meant little to a Gryffindor with an Invisibility Cloak.

Soon after, a house elf brought Harry his evening meal along with a copy of today's Daily Prophet. While tucking in, he decided reviewed his various get-well messages first. One in particular caught his eye, as it was a bulky package from Professor Scrimgeour. Inside was a thick set of bound papers with a cover that read "Wizengamot vs. Sirius Black, November 4, 1981." There was also a short handwritten message on the DADA professor's personal stationary.

Potter, H —

I hope you enjoy the enclosed "get-well gift." Do not start reading through it until after you've been released from the Infirmary. Madam Pomfrey has forbidden myself and the other teacher from giving you anything that counted as "homework." Which I suppose this technically is since your proffered reason for requesting it was as research materials for your paper on the Death Eater trials. When you have been released from the tyranny of the Hogwarts Infirmary and have had a chance to thoroughly review the transcript (Take your time – at least a few weeks of careful study), come and see me about it. After a quick perusal, I have already noted some salient features and look forward to hearing your thoughts on them.

— Scrimgeour

Harry grinned. Finally, he had the mysterious Sirius Black trial transcripts! Harry hid the transcript underneath his pillow before opening the Prophet to read the paper's typically histrionic coverage of the Hogsmeade attack. Soon after, he nearly choked on his pumpkin juice when he learned that according to witnesses on the scene, the raid had been led by Sirius Black himself.

At around eleven o'clock, the doors to the Infirmary quietly opened and closed on their own accord. Seconds later, Jim Potter pulled off his invisibility cloak and sat down on the bed opposite his older sibling.

"Is Pomfrey gone for the night?" he whispered.

"Madam Pomfrey, and yes. So now that my brother is here and can see that I'm not the invalid all the grown-ups think I am, maybe you can tell me everything that happened Saturday and since?"

Jim laughed and gave a quick overview of the things that didn't make the papers. Harry was saddened to learn of the death of Iris and the loss of the Tonks Clinic, but he was relieved to know that Ted Tonks had already been released from St. Mungo's. He also reassured Jim that being apparated away from danger against his will did not reflect at all on his courage. In fact (and despite his own personal disdain for the man), Harry commended Peter Pettigrew for removing Jim from the scene.

"Jim, you're the Boy-Who-Lived. The One with the Power to vanquish Moldy Shorts for good. You must realize that you're a prime target in any Death Eater attack. You may want to 'fight the bad guys' but you're the only one who can finish the job against the real bad guy. As much as it might frustrate you, if you get yourself killed before the final battle, it may be that no one else can step up in your place."

"I know, I know," he grumbled. "But ... I'm a Gryffindor. I can't just sit around and do nothing when I've got the chance to help people." Then, he paused as he realized what he'd said. "Not that Slytherins won't help people, of course. I've learned my lesson about judging your house."

"So no more complaints about slimy snakes?" Harry asked mischievously.

"Nope... Well, maybe on the Quidditch pitch."

"Well, that goes without saying." The brothers both laughed at that, but then Jim grew thoughtful.

"Have you ever thought ... have you ever thought that it could have been you?" he asked pensively.

"What do you mean? I thought you got over that boggart fear."

Jim shrugged. "I wouldn't say I got over it so much as it got outclassed by Dementors as something to be scared of. Still ... we were both born as the seventh month died and less than ten minutes apart. Dad said the healer 'cut the cord' right as the clock struck twelve. So, if I'd been born even a minute later, you would have been the one to fit the Prophecy instead of me."

"Well, thank you, Little Brother, for taking that burden off my shoulders. I am entirely too selfish and cynical to be anybody's Chosen One." He paused for a moment then, as a fleeting memory brought to his mind during his fall four days earlier popped into his head again. "Mind you, it is ... curious that you and I both have brother wands to Tom Riddle's. I've often wondered if there was some mystical significance of that. Something twin-related, maybe."

"Curious," Jim repeated slowly as he tried to dredge up a memory of his own. Not for the first time, he wished he'd had the right stuff to master Occlumency as Harry had. An eidetic memory would make his life easier in lots of ways. "Mr. Ollivander said something about that when I got my wand. 'Very curious indeed, Mr. Potter,' in that creepy voice of his. He didn't use the phrase brother wand, but he did say it was definitely curious that Fawkes had only given up three feathers for wand-making in the last century, and that one of them went into the wand that gave me my scar. Did he say anything like that to you?"

Harry thought for a moment and then blushed. "He got as far saying 'Curious, very curious indeed' before I cut him off and changed the topic." He coughed with some embarrassment. "That, um, was the day I met James and found out ... everything. I was feeling a bit ... cranky."

Jim smirked. "Cranky? Is that what we're calling it?"

"Never you mind," Harry said easily. "What else did Ollivander say?"

Jim thought for a moment. "Um, let's see. 'We can expect great things from you, Mr. Potter, because the one who gave you that scar did great things. Terrible things, but great.' Or something like that. Scared the crap out of me at the time, to be honest." Then, he noticed the look Harry was giving him. "What?"

"Ollivander knew that Voldemort had a brother wand to you and by extension to me?" Harry asked with a thoughtful expression.

"Well, yeah," Jim replied. "I mean, apparently he always brags about remembering every wand he ever sold. Is it that surprising that he'd remember the wand he sold Voldemort?"

"Yes, actually!" Harry said as he sat up in bed. "Because Ollivander didn't sell a wand to Voldemort. Ollivander sold a wand to an 11-year-old Tom Riddle, but it was Voldemort who used it against you."

Jim looked confused for a second before his face lit up in understanding. "But how could he have known that Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort when that knowledge was under a Fidelius?!"

Harry and Jim simply looked at one another, for neither had any answers that didn't just raise more questions. And disturbing questions at that.

The next morning ...

Harry woke up early feeling remarkably refreshed and mostly recovered. After a quick examination, Madam Pomfrey announced that she had a few lingering concerns but would most likely release him after lunch. He was excused from his afternoon classes, though, and she firmly told him to return to the Infirmary immediately if he suffered from any dizziness, headaches, or really any symptoms at all.

At ten o'clock, Artie Podmore entered the Infirmary. Harry's initial excitement changed to concern when the solicitor said he was there to discuss correspondence he'd received from the Firebolt Broom Company. With everything that had happened, Harry had almost forgotten that he'd basically stolen an incredibly expensive prototype broom and then taken it on a high-speed chase in the wrong gear before crashing it. He wondered how much he'd have to pay for it, or worse, whether he'd be prosecuted for stealing it. Fortunately, Artie quickly put his mind at ease.

"No, Harry, they won't be prosecuting you or even seeking compensation for the damaged broom. They've already reclaimed it and refurbished it. And raised the sale price even higher, I might add. Apparently, your little escapade has made it even more of a collector's item."

"So what did they contact you about?" Harry asked in confusion. Artie smiled.

"Well, Harry, it seems that tales of your broom-flying exploits have been spread far and wide by the press. Particularly tales of how you rode a Firebolt in the wrong gear and still managed to completely outfly three werewolves on Nimbus 2001's. The Firebolt Company thinks this is a story worth spreading even further given how well it reflects on the quality of their product. And so, they contacted me to make you a somewhat unusual offer. Tell me, have you ever heard of a Muggle business concept referred to as an 'endorsement deal'?"

And that was how Harry Potter got a free Firebolt from the company's new Chaser Elite line.

Harry's last visitation before his release wasn't quite as enjoyable or profitable, however. Just before lunch, Mad-Eye Moody arrived and pulled up a chair. His grim expression immediately told Harry that unlike his solicitor, the ex-auror wasn't there to deliver good news.

"How are you feeling, Potter?" he began.

Harry shrugged. "All things considered, pretty good, Mr. Moody. I was wondering if you might come by at some point."

Moody didn't respond for a moment. "I saw you fall," he finally said. "With my eye, I probably had a better view of what happened than anyone who wasn't one of your pursuers. Everyone assumes that you got hit by a curse of some kind but recovered enough to summon your broom and escape. But I saw, Potter. None of the werewolves ever hit you except indirectly with a Concussion Hex that knocked you off your broom ... and caused you to lose your wand. Which you promptly summoned back to your hand. So, I'd like to know, Potter. Was that accidental magic? Or something else? Because I know that if you couldn't summon your wand Saturday morning, there's no way you could summon it that afternoon without doing something ... unusual. So what's the story?"

Harry shrugged. "Not much to it, really. You were the one who suggested I use a parallel thought-track to focus on learning a wandless spell. I just ... expanded on the idea." He honestly tried not to sound smug, but failed in the effort.

"Expanded," Moody replied with a snort. "Can I go out on a limb and guess that you used more than one thought-track?"

"Um several more, actually," the boy said somewhat evasively.

"Uh-huh. So tell me, Potter, do you happen to recall me mentioning that there were some pitfalls to that technique?"

He sighed. "Yes, sir, though we never got to discuss what they were. But honestly, Mr. Moody, are any of those pitfalls worse than dying from a 2000-foot drop?"

"At ease, Potter. I'm not saying you did anything wrong. You had a million-to-one chance and you took it and it paid off. When your back's against the wall, you do whatever it takes to win. I just ... regret the sacrifice you had to make to win this particular battle."

"Sacrifice, sir?" Harry said uneasily.

Moody nodded. "As I taught you, learning wandless magic requires connecting your sense-memory of performing the spell in question to your core through the use of psychic strands. I also told you that you have a finite number of those strands. The technique of using parallel minds to accelerate wandless magical potential lets you devote more of your mind to mastering the spell and thus devoting more strands to it that you would normally use in order to learn it more quickly. However, this naturally means you will have fewer strands to devote to other spells in the future. Whatever you did, Potter, allowed you to cram literally years of practice into a few seconds in order to completely master that spell. But in the process..."

He paused as if delaying the news would make it easier to bear. "I asked Poppy to run a diagnostic assessment of your core. It appears that you somehow managed to dedicate all of your available psychic strands to that one spell. You will likely be amazingly good at that spell, but only that one. You don't have any psychic strands left to apply to any other wandless magic."

The Infirmary was silent save for the ticking of the clock on the wall and the whirring of Moody's eye as Harry absorbed the news. "So ... do you mean to say ... that the only wandless spell I'll ever be able to use is Accio?"

"No, Potter," Moody answered in a leaden voice. "I mean to say that the only wandless spell you'll ever be able to use is Accio Wand."

Harry stared at his mentor for what seemed like an eternity. Then, in a swift motion, his hand shot up off his lap. In response, Moody's own wand darted out of its holster almost faster than the eye could follow, whirled around in mid-air, and snapped into Harry's hand. It shot off a few yellow sparks that seemed to hint at indignant surprise.

"I guess I'll just have to work with what I've got then," Harry said nonchalantly. "And on the bright side, at least now I'll get to see all those memories of Voldemort in combat."

Moody's magical eye spun around madly while his regular eye simply widened in surprise. And then, he simply threw his head back and laughed.

DMLE Headquarters
6 November 1993
2:00 a.m.

Janos Skorzeny slept fitfully in his DMLE holding cell. His captors had spent the last four days constantly interrogating him for information about his pack, but they'd gotten nothing from him despite Veritaserum, Legilimency, and (when Potter and Bones weren't around) flat-out torture on the secret orders of Minister Fudge. His loyalty to his pack was absolute, and besides, the full moon was drawing ever nearer, and the Beast's ability to resist coercion grew ever stronger. He did not know if Fenrir would attempt a rescue or if he would be sent to Azkaban, but either way, the filthy wizards would get nothing from him.

Then, in an instant, he awoke and shot up in his cot at the sound of the cell door opening. He readied himself for another round with the Aurors, but to his surprise, it was a rather beautiful young woman in fashionable robes instead of a uniform. Even more surprisingly, no one else accompanied her.

"Good evening, werewolf," she said brightly.

Janos laughed. "Have the aurors given up already? Maybe they've decided to win me over by sending me a whore to play with!" With that, he lunged up off of his cot. But before he could take a step, a wand suddenly appeared in the woman's hand, and without a word spoken, Janos was lifted up and slammed against the far wall. With another flick of her wand, he was forced to his knees and then placed in a painful Body-Bind.

"I do apologize for being so brusque, werewolf, but I am quite pressed for time. I need to know what you know. About your employers and their plans. And also about the Azkaban break-out, if you and your kind were involved in it."

"You'll get nothing from me, witch. I am Janos Skorzeny of the line of Fenrir Greyback! I fear no torture."

"I have no interest in the pedigree of a werewolf, Mr. Skorzeny. Nor am I here to torture you or legilimize you or dose you with potions. I am well aware of your resistance to those things." She walked towards him while twirling her wand between her fingers. As she came closer, her eyes lit up and she grinned at the thought of what she was about to do.

"I am Cassilda Selwyn of the House of Selwyn, werewolf. And I have my own means of getting into your head."

She placed the tip of her wand against his right temple and then slowly drew it across the werewolf's forehead. Janos felt no pain, only a faint numbness where the wand touched him. Consequently, he did not even know to be alarmed until the blood started dripping down his face.

"Quite literally, in fact," Cassilda said with a gentle laugh.

It was not until dawn the next day when an auror checked in on the werewolf and immediately threw up on the floor before collecting himself and sounding the alarm. The body of Janos Skorzeny lay on the floor in a large pool of blood. His scalp was laying on the cot nearby along with the skullcap to which it was still attached.

The werewolf's brain was conspicuous by its absence.

The Hogwarts Infirmary
7 November 1993
3 p.m. (After the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff Quidditch match)

Jim Potter lay in his infirmary bed and stared at the ceiling without blinking as his thoughts churned in his head. The day had started off poorly when he received the news from Lily that something had happened at DMLE headquarters and that James would not be able to attend the Quidditch match. It was the first time his father hadn't been there to see him play since he made the team as a firstie. Lily wouldn't say what was going on, but the story was soon splayed out across the Daily Prophet – somehow, one of the werewolves captured the previous Saturday had been brutally murdered inside his cell by persons unknown. Since James had been the one to delay the werewolf's transfer to Azkaban, the creature's murder represented a PR disaster on top of the terrible nature of the security breach itself and the lost intelligence the werewolf might have provided.

To be honest, Jim had wished that he could skip the match as well. The weather had suddenly turned awful, and the teams were forced to play in a heavy rainstorm. It would have been impossible for Jim to ever spot the snitch had Harry not caught him on the way to the match and cast the Impervius Charm on his glasses to make them waterproof.

Earlier ...

"If you really wanna be helpful, Harry," Jim said, "you can let me borrow your fancy new Firebolt."

Harry's Chaser Elite broom had been the talk of the school when it had been delivered the day before, and just the sight of it made nearly every Quidditch enthusiast in the school drool with envy.

"Not a chance, Little Brother," Harry answered with a laugh. "You can beat Cedric Diggory without it. You facing him on a Firebolt as well would just be cruel."

"I bet you're glad now it's not Slytherin playing us today in all this." Both boys were headed to the pitch under the cover of Umbrella Charms, but it would be impossible for the players to maintain them while in the air.

Harry looked wistful. "Actually, I kinda wish Slytherin was still playing today."

"In Merlin's name, why?" Jim exclaimed.

"Well first of all," Harry said. "getting our match rescheduled because I was in hospital feels like a sign of weakness, and I can't stand that any more than you can."

Jim considered that. "Fair enough. And second reason?"

Harry looked around to make sure no one could hear. "Ginny's talented but not as experienced as you. Our best chance to win would be an environment in which neither Seeker could find the Snitch until after we'd built up a 150-point lead."

Jim gave him a sour look. "You're awfully confident to think you could get a lead that big against our Chasers."

"There's nothing wrong with confidence borne of talent, Jim," Harry said almost haughtily.

Jim laughed. "Whatever." Then, he glanced down towards the pitch where Diggory was already giving his team a pep-talk. "It's Hufflepuff. I'm not expecting any problems."

At that, Harry looked at Jim sharply and made a disgruntled face.

"What?" Jim asked.

"Nothing," he said. "Just ... beware the gods of irony."

Later ...

Jim hadn't known anything about the gods of irony, who Blaise Zabini had taught most of Slytherin to hate and fear, but he soon received an object lesson in not attracting their wrath. At first, the game seemed under control despite the weather conditions, as Gryffindor quickly built up a small lead. Then, Jim had just spotted the Snitch when the disaster occurred. Somehow, for some mad reason, the Dementors stationed over the Forbidden Forest abandoned their post and swarmed onto the Quidditch pitch! Immediately, a half-dozen corporeal Patronuses sprang into existence to ward the creatures away, along with a score of lesser mist Patronuses. On the ground below, Jim could see Neville's bear, Remus's wolf, and his mother's doe all darting around the Dementors to stall their advance.

But then, he heard a terrifying yet familiar scream and turned just in time to see a Dementor – no, that Dementor – rise up behind him and grab him by the arm. Instantly, Jim went completely cold as he felt the life draining from him even before the Dementor could lean in for the Kiss. At the last second, the Dementor screamed in pain as a flying silver boar rammed into it. But it was too late for Jim who lost consciousness and fell from his broom. In the distance, he could barely make out the booming voice of Albus Dumbledore cry out "ARRESTO MOMENTUM!" before everything went black.

When he came to, everything was over. Hufflepuff had won the match when Diggory caught the Snitch while Jim was fighting for his life against a soul-sucking monster. Of course, the ever-noble Diggory had offered to replay the match, but the equally-noble Oliver Wood declined. No one asked Jim what he thought about having a chance to go up against Diggory again without having to dodge Dementors. Soon after, Madam Pomfrey shooed everyone out of the Infirmary, though Harry, as Jim's brother, was allowed to remain. This also was something no one asked Jim's feelings about.

"What happened to my broom?" Jim finally asked.

"What?" Harry said. "Oh, yeah. I gave it to Neville, so it's probably back in your dorm room by now."

"You gave it to him?" Jim's voice was oddly suspicious. "Why did you have it?"

"Because, Little Brother," Harry answered cheerfully, "I was the one who saved it from destruction. After you fell off, it went out of control and was headed straight for the Whomping Willow when I tagged it with a Summoning Charm. I know how much that broom means to you."

"I'm sure you do," Jim replied. "And I guess the idea that if it got destroyed, Dad might replace it with a Firebolt never entered your head?"

Harry crooked at eyebrow at the insinuation. "Believe it or not, Jim, but no, that idea never entered my head." Then, he paused and smiled at Jim. "Though the fact that you thought of it demonstrates a wonderful potential for Slytherin thinking that you really ought to cultivate."

Jim stared at his older brother intently but said nothing. Finally, Harry's smile faded away to be replaced with a look of concern.

"Jim, what is it?" he asked. "What's wrong?"

Jim didn't answer at first, but eventually, he looked away from Harry and up towards the ceiling. Then, he rubbed his hands over his face. "It's ... it's nothing, Harry. I'm sorry. I'm just... I'm tired. Really, really tired."

"... okay. I'll just head on then. Get some rest, and we'll talk again when you're out of here."

Jim didn't answer. He just rolled over in bed with his back to Harry who watched silently for a moment and then turned to leave. He paused at the door to turn back towards Jim once last time before departing.

Alone at last, Jim shut his eyes and tried to rest, but sleep proved impossible. Despite his best efforts, he could not stop thinking about the voice – no, voices! – that he'd heard when the Dementor grabbed him. Voices that he could now clearly recognize, but whose words both confused him and filled him with a terrible, inexplicable dread.

"Please! I beg you! Have mercy! Take me! Kill me instead!"

"Stand aside you silly girl! Stand aside now!"

"No! Take me! Not Harry! NOT HARRY!"


With that shocking development, I must regretfully announce that the next chapter will not appear before October 31, 2018 at the earliest. The next story arc has a complicated time line, so I want to write out the whole thing completely before I post any of it. Also, my novel is nearly complete, but I have put off finishing the last few chapters for too long. Sorry for the delay.

In the meantime, readers who wish to discuss this chapter or any other POS-related matters are invited to The Sinister Man's Discord server. A link to it can be found on my Author Page, along with links to the POS TV Tropes Page and the POS wiki, as well as to my original fiction.

AN 1: Special thanks to my betas from the Discord server's POS-Editorial Channel: Feathery Minx, sfu, Pawk, divefr, MageKing17, nlspeed, LaCRosse, ShinyKamon, dragoria, jacobakc, Dicra, darkphoenix31, Al, Asmund, Nursing_Guy, and, of course, the irreplaceable Ozzie.