AN: So this is an interlude so to speak, as originally I had been planning to have this on either the end of the last chapter or the beginning of the next. In the end though I decided to give it a mini chapter of its own, as an interlude of sorts, as the tone of it doesn't fit with either last chapter or this one.

So yeah, I apologise if you think it is short, but this is the way I decided to do it. Fortunately though next chapter will be back to the usual six thousand word length. So hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

( - )

(Last Time)

"What do you think?" Cho said softly, before she leaned up and kissed Harry on the cheek, after which she then moved back, leaving Harry wanting more as she then drifted away and turned back to practicing her runes.

"Yes?" Harry asked, his hand moving up to cup his cheek fondly as he watched her wander back to the desk, sending Harry an amused look as she glanced over her shoulder at him.

"Yes idiot." Cho replied with a short laugh, spinning as she did and giving Harry a bright smile, and rolling her eyes. "And you better be able to dance!"

( - )

Chapter 9

( - )

(With Dumbledore, in the Headmaster's Office at Hogwarts)

There was a pensive expression on Dumbledore's face as he sat back in his chair and stared out of the window of his office, his blue eyes fixed on nothing in particular as he instead just stared out of the window and across Hogwart's frost covered ground, spending the first day of the Christmas break just relaxing after a stressful few months.

And they had been damn stressful, as an awful lot of things had been happening of late, most of which was highly concerning, and could potentially be the herald of even darker things to come. After all not only had a group of former Death Eaters walked out in the open once more, donned in their black robes and skull like masks, attacking one of the Quidditch World Cup's main campsites in the middle of the night with explosive hexes and fire. With them having acted at a time in which many of the Quidditch fans were in the midst of celebrating the end of the World Cup and Ireland's victory.

IT was only fortunate that no one had died in the attack, and that there had been only minor injuries. Save of course for the psychological damage caused to the muggle family, whose names he couldn't remember off the top if his head, that were assaulted by the crowd of Death Eaters, but that damage was negligible as a couple of Memory Charms sorted it all out so they wouldn't have a clue what had happened.

Despite the lack of casualties though, the events of that night in summer had had an impact, on both Magical Britain and the wider Magical World, as the Dark Mark had also been cast above the site of the international event, signalling to Wizarding Britain, and the world at large, that a change was coming, and that the darker, crueller, more callous forces of this mystical world of theirs, were on the rise.

It also signalled that the established Magical Governments, Ministries and regimes would soon be threatened by a resurgence in those who didn't believe in the separation of magical and muggles, but in a more primordial world, one in which those with magic ruled over those without.

Already he had been getting reports, through his position as the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, that there had been a noticable increase in illegal activity throughout the Old World, the heart of the magical civilization, and the area with the highest magical population in the world.

And it wasn't just the usual type of criminal activity either, such as the rascals that used magic to create and sell counterfeit goods to muggles, or the rapscallions who used confundus charms on the non-magicals and they conned them out of their hard-earned money and possessions. No, those activities although bad, but manageable. As too were the magical on magical crimes, though they were a lot rarer due to muggles being easier targets, and the protections most wizarding homes and properties had.

No, the reports he had been receiving over the last few months was that there was an increase in muggle baiting, and magical assaults on muggles and their establishments, and not just from wizards and witches either. No, some of the darker magical beings and demi-humans, like the vampires, ghouls, werewolves and succubus were also getting more rowdy, and less cautious. With their predations becoming more and more obvious, to the point at which even the muggles had started to realise something was wrong.

In fact there had been a day light attack in Bulgaria just the other day, some kind of gang war between a Court of vampires and a Pack of werewolves that had escalated and spread onto the streets. So far the Bulgarian Ministry of magic had done a good job covering it up as some kind of 'muggle terror attack', but at least six score people were dead, and hundreds of others had been injured, and the tensions were only becoming more heightened.

Closer to home though, in one of the most powerful Magical Communities, things weren't quite that bad, but there was still an undercurrent of tension. Both in the Ministry and the Wizengamot, between the many different political factions, all vying for power an influence, and trying to use this recent instability to further their own goals, and also in the wider magical community.

One only needed to walk through Diagon Alley to see that, after all memories of Voldemort's reign of terror were still fresh in the memories of much of the wizarding population. With some people dreading the return of such carnage, whilst others, a vocal minority, could think of little else but a return to those chaotic times.

Since summer things had only become tenser, and the events of the last few months were not putting Dumbledore's mind at ease. After all he had hoped that an event like the Tri Wizard tournament could work as a salve to the growing dissatisfaction, a distraction and a sign of the strength and unity of the different magical governments and schools.

Which it might of, had it not been turned on its head the moment Harry Potter's name came out of the Goblet of Fire, with the young, famous wizard, a household name for many, bringing a lot of scrutiny onto the tournament and the organisers. After all he was underage, it wasn't supposed to be possible for him to be chosen as one of the Champions, especially since the tournament had gained an infamous reputation in the past for how dangerous and deadly some of the tasks were.

But he had, and the organisers had had to scramble to save face, as Harry's naming as the Fourth Champion, the second one for Hogwarts, had nearly turned the entire thing into a farce. With this having been made worse by the dreck the Daily Prophet had been peddling, courtesy of that attention hungry, harpy, Rita Skeeter.

Fortunately though the boy showed himself to be made of sterner stuff than many, even Dumbledore, had thought, as he had handily won the First Task, which was especially important as the Boy Who Lived had become a symbol for the fall of the Dark Lord and the collapse of his ideology.

Of course the boy's actions in and of themselves had also raised quite a few questions in Dumbledore's mind, after all he had shown a proficiency and skill with magic far beyond his age, or the skillset he was supposed to have.

More than that though he had shown knowledge of very esoteric branches of magic, like Alchemy and Spell Binding. Branches of magic that were very powerful, but also very open to abuse, hence why much of the knowledge of the capabilities of these branches magic, and how to use them had been supressed where possible by the different Ministries of the world, and the teaching of them banned.

Just how Harry Potter had truly learned them was a mystery, and a worrying one at that, as although not strictly banned they weren't something you could learn from a book bought at your local bookshop. It was something Dumbledore had decided to unravel when he could, unfortunately though he had not had the chance to speak to the boy one on one, and also couldn't really summon him to his office for a private chat during the middle of the tournament either, as it could be construed by some as cheating.

A part of him wished he had pressed the issue back in the tent after the First Task, but at the time he had decided that maintaining a friendly relationship with the boy was better than alienating him by forcing the answers out of him. It was a decision he stood by, even if a part of him wanted to tear the answers out of the boy's mind, fortunately though he was far more sensible than Severus and had more restraint too.

Suffice to say things had been stressful for Dumbledore, both home and away, and that had not been made better by him having to deal with Severus Snape making a fool of himself. The Potion's Master had let his disdain for Harry Potter's father get the best of him, and had acted out, and in a way which Dumbledore couldn't cover up or forgive.

Severus was just lucky that he was such a valuable asset, as he had had to go to a lot of trouble and call in a lot of favours to keep the man here. Something he hoped was worth the effort, as some of those favours had been valuable, and his resistance to Severus's dismissal had somewhat weakened his positon as Headmaster in the eyes of the school's Governors.

A sigh left Dumbledore's lips as he once again began to think about everything that had happened, and at the necessity of the actions he had taken, what with the growing unrest around the magical world, unrest that had long dwelled beneath the surface of the different magical societies, but which was now emerging and becoming more prevalent.

Things were changing fast, and all Dumbledore could do was adapt and prepare. Already he was considering reassembling the Order of the Phoenix, because although there had been no sign of Tom Riddle's return, there were other darker things in the world than him.

( - )

(With Harry, in the Chamber of Secrets)

Looking around at the now brightly lit chamber, an appreciative whistle left Harry's lips as he eyed up what Dobby had done with the place now that he had finished sorting through all of the crap they had salvaged, i.e. stolen from the Room of Requirement.

With the stone floors, walls and ceilings having all been cleaned and dusted, which was made all the better now that the Chamber was lit by the dreary green glow as before, with it instead having burning braziers lining the walls, each one giving off a merry glow as it filled the Chamber with light, making it look distinctly less eerie. Which of course somewhat ruined the effect Salazar Slytherin, the original creator, had likely been hoping to achieve, not that either Harry or Dobby gave a damn, that guy was dead after all, and they were the current occupants.

As well as the now clean floors and wall, and an improvement to its lighting though, the Basilisk's rotting remains had been cleaned up. With the massive, halfway rotted corpse having been moved from where it had previously been, lying across the floor, half in the large pool of water at the far end of the Chamber. With what little that could be harvested from the deadly creature's remains having been taken and stored in jars, jars which were currently sat on one of a number of expansive shelves of ingredients that Dobby had set up against one of the walls.

As for what couldn't be harvested, well currently the giant snakes sixty odd foot skeleton was hanging from the ceiling via wires, the giant snake's remains adding to the distinctly snake themed decoration Salazar Slytherin had obviously had in mind when he had decided to build the secret chamber, though maybe not as obviously evil and pretentious as had probably been intended. Instead it gave the chamber more of an eccentric feeling to it, then clearly malevolent.

Still Harry thought it looked good, with it kind of brining the place together.

On top of that Dobby had also fully furnished the Chamber now, with a large wooden, double bed, a dresser and wardrobes no doubt already filled with Harry's clothing, a full twelve foot dining table with matching leather padded chairs, and a number of other nice pieces as well as some delightful tapestries, rugs and wall hangings he had somehow acquired, all of which gave the Chamber a somewhat homely feel to it. As oppose to the lair like feeling it had had before.

Wandering through all of this, Harry quickly walked to the far end of the Chamber, where he could see Dobby had taken the liberty of setting up his workshop, just in front of the large pool of water in front of Salazar's statue. With it being set up similar to how it had been in the original timeline, just before they had left, with shelving around the walls, holding upon it a number of books, and ingredients, most of which Dobby had likely salvaged from the Room of Requirement.

Though some of the ingredients he had also bought as Harry had ordered him too, whilst others bits and pieces, like some of the rarer and more valuable books, Harry had brought with him.

As well as the shelves, there were also a number of blackboards that had been set up along the walls, all of which had been wiped clear in preparation for Harry to use them as and when he saw fit. After all when it came to using something as meticulous as runes it was better to perfect what you were doing in chalk on a blackboard before you carved it anywhere and made it permanent, he'd seen what could happen if you powered up an incorrectly drawn runes after all, and suffice to say, it was messy.

In the midst of all of this, on the swept stone floor, there was a large runic circle which had been carved into the chamber floor, one which Dobby had created for the ritual, and which was just waiting for Harry to use it. Ironically it was in the exact same place as the one Harry had used to come back to the past. Hopefully this ritual would be as successful as that one had been.

Smiling as he saw this, Harry then stepped over the runic circle, eyeing it as he did so to make sure there were no mistakes, not that the mistrusted Dobby, but mainly because of the horrendous side-effects that even a minor mistake in a ritual could cause, which was many times worse than messing up a normal runic spell due to the complexity involved, and the power that was required to fuel a ritual.

Fortunately though he saw no issues with either the inscribed circle, or the in collection of eclectic ingredients that Dobby had already prepared ready for Harry to use, all of them in bowls and spread over one of the worktables the House Elf had set up for him.

Noticing all of this, Harry's smile faltered slightly when he looked away from the different components of the ritual, as he instead noticed the other worktable, or more importantly what was on it.

Walking over to the table, Harry's emerald green eyes trailed over the desiccated, grey skinned body that lay upon it. His gaze shifting over the familiar, heavily damaged body, one which had been in stasis since Harry had first arrived. Though the fact he recognised it, was probably not all that surprising, after all this had once been his body.

Trailing his hand over the cold, grey, unmoving flesh, Harry's eyes came to rest upon the torso, or rather on what had once been the corpse's torso, as there was now a hole that had been cut into it, with the ribcage having also been broken open revealing the shrivelled and grey organs within, or at least all the organs but the heart, as in the place where the heart should have been there was instead an empty, metal, cage like contraption.

"Master Harry?" Dobby spoke up from behind Harry, causing the dark haired wizard to half turn as he saw the House Elf, the original one, and not the younger one that existed in this timeline, appearing behind him with a soft crack. "Are you ready?"

"Nearly." Harry replied softly as he looked back at the body, his gaze moving from the metal cage in its chest to the vacant, glazed over eyes, his hand absentmindedly coming up and closing the eyes so they no longer vacantly stared up at him, with rigour mortis being a non-issue due the stasis spell preserving the body to what it had been like when he had first arrived.

"Have you decided what you want to do with the body?" Dobby asked after a few moments of Harry not moving, Dobby's gaze shifting blankly over to his Master's former body.

"Keep it for now, it was a good vessel and served me well." Harry replied quietly as he pulled his hands back, and instead stuck them in his trouser pockets.

"But now you have your original body back, you no longer need a homunculus, or another body to host you, nor do I think it would last all that long if you tried to use it again, the stress of travelling back to the past was far too much…." Dobby said, a frown on his face, and his golf ball sized green eyes narrowed in confusion, not really understanding his Master's attachment to the soulless body on the worktable, one which had been created for a single purpose, a purpose which it had now fulfilled.

"True, it's far more compatible." Harry replied as he took his right hand out of his pocket and clenched and unclenched it, feeling the power flowing just beneath the surface of his skin as he did so. "But it's also weaker, frailer, more easily damaged than my previous one?"

"For now." Dobby acknowledged, before he shrugged. "But that's what the rituals are for, to physically strengthen your new body's durability and physical attributes."

Harry nodded at that, before he finally turned away, instead wandering back over to the table with the ingredients on it, scooping up the Elder Wand from where it lay on the work surface as he did so, the familiar, knobbly length of wood feeling comfortable in his hand as he eyed up the different components of magical creatures in front of him. Items which included the heart of a dragon, the horn of a Unicorn and the tail feathers of a Thunderbird, among other stranger and expensive items.

Rituals, they truly were a complex art, and a dangerous one at that, as they allowed the wizard or witch using them to gain power from the sacrifice of magical creatures, allowing them to usurp that power for their own ends. Be it to amplify a spell, enhance a body, or even manipulate reality. It was an art without limits, one which was powered through the death and destruction of magical creatures, which was also why it was so dangerous.

"Let's begin." Harry muttered, before he began to get to work, using his wand, a silver knife and a mortar and pestle to prepare, slice and grind up the different ingredients as required, whilst Dobby set about filling the carved channels of the runic circle with mercury. The small elf using a large jug to do so as he danced over the circle, making sure not to accidently step on it as he instead weaved through the unmarked rock that dotted the circle in between the inscribed lines.

It was whilst Dobby was doing this, that Harry began to setup the rest of the ritual, being meticulous with the measurements of the dozen or so ingredients, as he put a small pile of each in several set areas within the circle, taking the same amount as care as Dobby was as he did so.

It was about half an hour later that the two finished, with Harry laying the last finishing touches as he emptied a vial of crimson red liquid into a pewter bowl, which he then proceeded to leave on the worktable, a Unicorn hair brush lying next to it.

"Ok Dobby." Harry said as he began to strip of his clothing unashamedly, before he walked to the centre of the circle, where there was a space for a man to lie down. "You know what to do next."

Dobby nodded at that, before he grabbed the pewter bowl and brush and began to daub Harry's body with it, painting precise markings on it ones which complimented the runes in the rest of the runic circle.

After which, when Harry was completely covered from head to toe in crimson markings he carefully left the circle, not daring to use magic in case it disrupted the magic of the ritual and ended up causing it to back fire, and the blow up the entire chamber, killing the pair of them in the process.

"It is all ready for you to begin, Master Harry!" Dobby called out when he left the circle, his hands cupped in front his mouth as he did so.

Harry didn't reply to that, as he instead concentrated, extending his fingers so the tips were just hovering over the mercury filled channels of the circle. The silvery liquid turning a dark, bloody red colour as Harry began to channel his magic into it, with what looked like red lightning crackling along his fingertips, the glowing red colour spreading across the entirety of the circle within moments, including Harry's body as the daubed runes began to glow as well.

It was as this was happened, that the small piles of magical creature components dotted around the intricately drawn circle, all bursting into fire.

Watching on from the side, Dobby could only look away as he saw the fire turn red before it spread outwards, flowing along the carved channels that made up the circle, and closing in on Harry who was lying in the centre. His Master's body soon disappearing from view as it was consumed by what looked like red fire, a loud screaming sound filling the Chamber of Secrets as it did so.

( - )

AN: So yeah, I am guessing some can see why I didn't include this with the last chapter, it didn't really fit in with the rest did it. Then again that might just be my way of thinking, either way this is the chapter. Sorry it was a little sort, but fortunately the next one will be back to usual.

Also as for the chapter I am sure it has raised quite a few questions. For one it goes a bit into the expanded HP verse I am trying to develop. It also sets out a bit more of Dumbledore's character as I have tried to stay away from the evil, manipulative, chess master, greater good Dumbledore, and instead paint him in my own light as a flawed character who has both good traits and bad traits, traits he had acquired both through the nature of the world he had grown up in and the experiences he has had. I hope that came across.

As for the bit with Harry, well I am sure that raised a lot of questions, suffice to say as the story develops more and more of Harry's backstory will be revealed and explored, as to will the events that shaped him into the person he is today. Including bits that are similar to what happened in Zaterra'09's story, Paid in Blood, but also very different as I have other things I want to try out and play around with.

So yeah, other than that thanks for reading, and I hope you all leave a review. Next chapter will be back to normal length and will involve Christmas and the Yule Ball, which will definitely be interesting to write, and will have a lot of dialogue and character interactions, something I know this chapter was lacking. Though that was partially because Dumbledore was by himself in his room, and realistically most people do not say their thoughts out loud, and instead just mull things over in their own heads.

See you next time.