AUTHOR NOTE – This starts right after the defeat of the basilisk in Book 2. This is intended to be a continuing story.
Harry Potter was dying. He had accepted that fact. He knew that he was likely going to die when he decided to come down to the Chamber of Secrets to save Ginny Weasley and was at peace with the reality that he was presented with. He wished he would have been able to save the poor girl, but Riddle (the memory of a teenage Voldemort) was still draining her life force. At least Harry had defeated the basilisk and protected the school. It was a Pyrrhic victory, as the serpent had managed to break off a venom infused fang into Harry's arm. And now, in death, the basilisk was finishing him off.
As Riddle bragged and Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes, began to cry sadly on Harry's wound, Harry wondered if it had been worth it. He had saved the children of the school, but he felt no real joy about that. Intellectually, he knew it was a good thing. But, in his heart he could hardly bring himself to care about the school full of children who thought he was a Dark Lord in training.
Ever since that fateful day where, during a dueling club, he revealed himself to be a Parselmouth, the school had turned on him. For some reason he could not fathom, people believed that holding a conversation with a snake means you are evil. He supposed it was eeeeevil to discover that a snake wanted to go to Brazil.
At first, he had been happy that his friends were sticking with him. Hermione, Ron, and the Weasley twins were all treating him like normal. It had made it bearable, until one day when he had decided to relax under his invisibility cloak, and he overheard Hermione whispering to Ron and the twins.
"No, I looked through the books, and they are very clear. Being a Parselmouth is not just a sign of possibly being a Dark Wizard, it is a sign of DEFINITELY being a Dark Wizard! I don't want it to be true, but we have to accept that Harry is the one attacking the school."
Ron and the twins (raised up with the standard prejudices of the British magical world) agreed with Hermione and resolved that it was safest to pretend that they believed in Harry. After all, Harry only seemed to be attacking those who had crossed him and wanted people to think he was innocent. They just needed to avoid making themselves a target.
The year moved forward, with his friends going through the motions of helping Harry find the "real culprit". Hermione finished her Polyjuice Potion and they snuck into the Slytherin dorms as Crabbe and Goyle, only proving that Malfoy was innocent. Harry shared his experience with Riddle's diary saying that the Chamber had been opened five decades previously (the diary had not revealed its evil intentions at that time). And finally, Hermione was petrified.
Once Hermione had been petrified, the Weasleys must have decided that it was safest to keep their distance. Ron and the twins kept finding excuses for not helping Harry. As such, Harry was alone when he snuck down to Hagrid's hut and watched the gentle groundskeeper be sent to Azkaban without a trial. He looked on numbly, as Lucius Malfoy smugly informed Dumbledore that he had been removed as Headmaster. He was alone when he followed the spiders and met Hagrid's murderous monster spider friend named Aragog. Luckily, he had been saved by the Weasley's self-aware car. He was in the common room when he discovered that someone had been taken into the Chamber of Secrets, and saw the suspicious looks shot towards him. He had a moment of inspiration, grabbed his invisibility cloak, and went to talk to Moaning Myrtle in desperation. And so, he was alone when he discovered the entrance to the Chamber, he was alone when he entered the Chamber, he was alone when he confronted Riddle and the basilisk (Ginny's unconscious form didn't count as company), and he was alone as he lay there dying.
Growing up, he had felt alone with the Dursleys. He worked for them, without thanks or regard to his health or happiness. He was made to feel unwelcome, and he had grown to hate living there.
Since that dueling club, he was once more alone. Here he was working to save the lives of the students of Hogwarts, even though he would never be thanked. They certainly had proven they had no regard for his health or happiness. This year, they had made it clear that he was unwelcome at the school. He didn't believe it would ever be possible, but he somewhat had grown to hate attending Hogwarts.
Damn it! He was dying, and it just hadn't been worth it!
Was he dying? Because he was feeling better.
Harry tuned into Riddle's monologue again, to hear him yelling at Fawkes. Apparently, the phoenix tears had healing properties. Harry looked at Fawkes with deep fondness. At least he wasn't completely alone.
Fawkes preened and cooed.
Riddle shot a spell at the Phoenix, which made it fly away. Harry stared into the livid face of Voldemort's memory, wand pointing directly at Harry's heart.
"Dumbledore's phoenix may have bought you a couple minutes, Harry Potter, but that just gives me the joy of having you die by my own hand."
Suddenly, Riddle's diary landed in Harry's lap. He looked up briefly at Fawkes and back at the diary. For a frozen moment, both Harry and Riddle stared at the object. Harry's eyes glanced to the side and saw the basilisk fang that had broken off in his arm, now lying on the ground next to him.
Wanting to do something, anything at all, Harry dropped the diary on the ground, grabbed the fang, and raised it up over the diary. As he began to thrust the fang down towards the diary, he heard Riddle scream.
"NO! Avada Kedavra!"
Harry didn't know what the spell was. All he knew was the last syllable was spoken as the fang punctured the diary. The green light of the spell collided with him when the fang had completed its impalement of the diary.
Harry looked around in confusion. He had been in the Chamber of Secrets. He had been in incredible pain. And now he was… where was he?
As he looked around, he realized that he was standing in the Gryffindor common room. The room was cleaner than he had ever seen, the colors of the furniture were crisper, the portraits were gone. The room was silent except for a fire crackling merrily in the corner. Looking toward the fire, he saw a pitiful creature unsuccessfully attempting to crawl away from the fire. It looked almost like a small child that had been horribly maimed.
Before he could make his way over to the creature, he heard a voice. A voice that his conscious mind didn't recognize, but his subconscious knew immediately.
Turning around, he immediately forgot about the creature.
His mother opened her arms wide, and Harry ran to her. When they met, he hugged her with a tightness fueled by fierce desperation. He inhaled deeply, and a primal part of his brain recognized the scent as belonging to his mother. Impressions burned into his young brain over the first 15 months of his life rushed into his conscious mind, confirming that this was indeed Lily Potter. He was being hugged by his mother! Harry cried.
He didn't know how long it took before he finally gained some control of himself. It might have been minutes or years. He had simply let loose with all his suppressed emotions. He relived every moment where he had craved his mother's touch or soothing voice, every night spent alone in his cupboard, every abuse from the Dursleys, every class with Snape, every day he was accused of being evil, and every previously forgotten moment of pain or degradation. He sobbed into his mother's chest as she rubbed his back and cooed reassuring words. As he relived each moment, her comforting presence drained away the raw pain. When his tears stopped coming, he felt a sense of profound peace.
Without looking up from her body, he spoke.
"I missed you mom"
"I missed you to my special boy"
Harry smiled and paused to luxuriate in the feel of his mother's love. Eventually he spoke the words he had been hesitant to express.
"Am I… dead?"
Harry finally looked up into his mother's caring eyes. He could finally understand what people meant when they said he had her eyes.
"What does that mean?"
She smiled and led him to sit down with her on the single couch in the room.
"Look at the doors in this room, Harry. Where do they lead?"
Harry, loving hearing his name spoken by his mother, looked around. There were two doors in the room.
"That one leads up to my dorm, and that one leads to the castle."
Lily nodded. "That's right. How do they make you feel?"
Harry's brow furrowed in confusion. "My dorm makes me feel… I don't know. I know the castle makes me feel nervous, because I that's where I'm forced to deal with everyone out there. So… my dorm makes me feel like I have a place where I can have some peace… and that's what I'm here in the common room, isn't it? I'm between life and death. The castle represents life and all its frustrations, while my dorm represents the peace of eternal rest. Am I right?"
Lily smiled. "That's right, sweetheart. It's your choice on where you go. Though, I would prefer you return to life."
Harry sighed. "Even in death, I can't be normal."
Lily laughed lightly, a sound that Harry would love to bottle somehow. "Oh, Harry, my dear child, you will never be normal."
Harry looked away in annoyance. "I know, because I'm the Boy-Who-Lived."
Lily touched his face gently, directing him to look into her eyes. "No, you will never be normal, because you are my son! No one else can ever make the claim of being the child of Lily Potter. You are Harry James Potter, and that alone makes you special. If Voldemort had never attacked us, you would still be special. Lily Potter does not have normal children, and that's the end of the story!"
Harry looked at her mirthful smile, and chuckled. "You're just saying that. You're my mom, you have to think I'm special."
Lily smiled brightly. "Perhaps… I might be a bit biased. But, if you were 'normal', we wouldn't be able to talk right now. Is that what you really want?"
Harry hugged her tightly. "No!"
After some time passed, where Lily gently rubbed her son's back and stroked his hair, Harry broke away from the hug. He then looked over at the deformed figure near the fireplace.
"What is that?"
"I can't tell you."
Harry looked at his mother in confusion.
Lily sighed. "It's the rules here. I can only tell you what you already know, either consciously or subconsciously. I can't tell you what you don't know."
Harry looked unconvinced.
"Fine, I'll tell you what it is. It's…"
As Lily spoke, her words instantly became indistinct mumbles and she visually became blurry. Just as suddenly, the blurriness stopped, and her words became clear.
"… and that's the complete truth. Did that help you?"
Harry spoke reluctantly. "OK. I get it. So… how do I know if this is real or just a hallucination?"
Lily smiled. "I can't tell you that. Does it really matter?"
Harry laughed and relaxed into his mother's arms. "It might matter, but I don't care. So, we should probably talk about something where I don't really know what my subconscious is thinking, huh? Well, I guess the first thing I want to know is… what should I do about my friends?"
Harry and Lily talked for an indeterminate amount of time, until Harry was ready to take on the struggles of living again. Hallucination or not, he knew that his mother would want him to strive for a happy life and that was what he would aim for from this point forward. Survival was no longer enough. With that last thought, a much calmer Harry Potter opened the door leading to the castle.
Harry opened his eyes. He was lying on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets. He heard a tormented scream to his left. He looked over in time to see Tom Riddle writhing in agony, and then fading away. He looked over to the diary. It was covered in black ink, with the basilisk fang still firmly impaling it. A slight hissing sound still coming from where the venom was interacting with pages of the book.
He removed the fang, tossing it aside, while picking up the diary and stuffing it in a pocket (after waiting for the hissing to stop). He marveled at the fact that almost no time had passed while he was talking to his mom. He also felt immensely happy that he still felt the same sense of peace he had achieved before leaving that midway point between life and death. Though, he could have done without feeling the aches and pains, as they were quite severe after fighting a fifty-foot serpent.
A sudden loud gasp from behind reminded him about Ginny. It appeared he had managed to save the girl after all.
After calming her down (she was certain she was going to be expelled), Harry gathered the Sword of Gryffindor and the duo made their way to the exit. Fawkes was kind enough to fly them up to the girl's lavatory where the castle's entrance to the Chamber was located.
The pair followed Fawkes as he flew in front of them, leading them to the Headmaster's office. The statue moved aside, and they made their way up the circular staircase. They opened the door and walked in to see McGonagall, Dumbledore, Fred, George, Ron, Percy, Mr. Weasley, and Mrs. Weasley. McGonagall sat behind the desk, Dumbledore near to the Weasleys, and the Weasley family were huddled together crying.
It was McGonagall who was the first to notice the new arrivals. "Mister Potter? Miss Weasley!?"
It seemed like the entire Weasley family apparated, as they were almost immediately surrounding Ginny while her parents hugged her at a strength just below being too tight to breathe. Harry was noticeably excluded from the family reunion. Dumbledore conjured a seat for Harry and Ginny, and a grateful Harry sat down next to the Headmaster.
Dumbledore spoke gently. "It is wonderful to see you my boy, and Miss Weasley, I am pleased to see you alive and well. Might you be able to tell us how you managed to make your way to this office?"
Ginny hugged her mother tightly and began to cry, unable to speak.
Harry heard Ron quietly mutter under his breath, "Potter probably decided not to follow through on his threat". He wasn't sure who had heard it, as no one responded to defend him. Though, he did see Dumbledore frown in disappointment.
Harry remembered the peace he felt with his mother and used it to avoid getting riled up by Ron's comment. He then told the occupants of the room all about his last few weeks. He mainly wanted to let Ron know what had happened, so he started from the moment he found out Hermione had petrified (and thusly shunned by the Weasley family). The audience was riveted. They were horrified at the reveal of the diary belonging to Voldemort, and his possession of Ginny's body. They were aghast at the story of the fight with basilisk. The adults and Percy gasped when Harry mentioned being hit by the Avada Kedavra curse (excluding Dumbledore, who widened his eyes, stared at Harry's scar, and smiled). Harry excluded his conversation with his mother from the story (it was too personal), he just said he was knocked out and woke up a second or two later. With that, the story was wrapped up with the journey up to the office.
At the end of the story, there was silence as people processed what was said. The silence was broken by Ginny.
"Am I going to be expelled?" Ginny asked in a watery and scared voice.
McGonagall smiled at Ginny. "No, Miss Weasley. You have been through more than enough. You were the victim of a cursed item, cursed by You-Know-Who no less, so you need not fear. Why don't you and your family head to the Hospital Wing and get yourself cared for by Madame Pomphrey."
A happy and relieved Weasley family made their way out of the office (not even one of them pausing to thank Harry). Once the door was closed, it was just Harry, Dumbledore, and McGonagall. Harry looked at McGonagall with some confusion.
"Professor… why are you sitting behind the Headmaster's desk?"
McGonagall looked over at Dumbledore, and then back at Harry.
"As you are aware, Professor Dumbledore was removed from his position by the Board. They have not changed their minds. Professor Dumbledore is only here by specific request of the Weasley family."
Harry's eyes widened in shock, as McGonagall kept talking.
"That said, I need to address your story, Mister Potter. By your own admission, you have broken countless school rules in the past few weeks. You have been out after curfew, snuck into the Forbidden Forest, and didn't get a professor when you discovered the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. It is by pure luck alone that you and Miss Weasley are alive. Miss Weasley was possessed by a cursed diary, and her rule breaking can be excused. What is your excuse for your flagrant violation of the rules?"
Harry focused on his memories of his mother to remain calm. He did not feel it would help much to say that he didn't trust the competence of the staff. "I was just trying to help".
McGonagall sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "I do know that Mister Potter. I am also grateful that you both survived and saved Miss Weasley. However, you leave me in an uncomfortable situation. At the beginning of this year, you were warned, along with Mister Weasley, that if you stepped out of line even one more time… you would be expelled."
Dumbledore spoke up. "Minerva, surely you can't be suggesting that…"
"I am!" McGonagall cut off Dumbledore. "Albus, if you had managed to get your position back, then you would be free to ignore the flagrant violation of the rules. But, with the current political realities of the Board, and the fact that Mister Potter did not even bother to send for assistance after discovering the Chamber's entrance… I am sorry Mister Potter, but you are hereby expelled from Hogwarts."
Harry gaped uncomprehendingly at McGonagall.
For her part, she looked contrite. "I'm sorry, Harry. I truly am. Now, I will need you to hand me your wand so that I may snap it in half."
Harry's eyes widened in fear. "What!?"
Dumbledore put up his hand to forestall McGonagall's response.
"One moment, Minerva. Harry, my boy, how would you like to hire an ex-Headmaster of Hogwarts as your personal tutor? I'll work for one Galleon a year."
Harry looked at Dumbledore in confusion. "What?"
Dumbledore nodded sagely. "Of course, you are right. I haven't taught a student directly in decades. That does deserve a discount. I'll lower my fee down to one Sickle a year. What do you say?"
Dumbledore smiled. "Playing the fame card, I see. Very clever, Harry. You are a shrewd negotiator. Having the famous Harry Potter as a personal student would do wonders for my career if I ever wish to tutor someone else. I can go as low as one Knut a year, and that's it. Obviously, if you hire me, you won't have your wand snapped and will be able to continue to learn magic away from Hogwarts. Do we have a deal?"
Harry smiled. "I guess we have a deal… as long as I can end your employment whenever I want if things don't work out?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled in delight. "Of course, that only makes sense."
"Wait!" shouted an irate McGonagall. "Albus, I appreciate what you are doing, but Mister Potter can't just hire you to be his new teacher. He needs his guardians' permission. And I am sure he won't get that."
Dumbledore's smile did not fade. "Ah, but you forget that Harry's guardians declined his invitation to attend Hogwarts. Based on one of the Muggleborn protection laws passed a decade ago, if a magical child does not have magical guardians, then those muggle guardians give up the rights to have a say in the child's magical education if they choose to provide no magical education at all. At that point, the decision-making authority is handed to the child. It was Harry's legal right to accept the invitation to Hogwarts. Of course, once he started her, Harry lost the right to quit Hogwarts until the age of 17. But, with you expelling him, Harry now has the right to choose the next step in his magical education. He has chosen me. Since he has an adult hired to teach him magic, he still maintains his wand rights."
McGonagall stared at Dumbledore with a mingled look of irritation and amusement. "I remember you were the one to write that law. Did you write it specifically for a case like this happening with Mister Potter?"
Dumbledore looked at McGonagall with a disappointed look. "Minerva, I wrote that law with the intention of ensuring Muggleborn students received a magical education if they wanted one."
McGonagall rolled her eyes. "Whatever you say Albus. I am heading over to the Hospital Wing. I trust you can pack up your possessions along with Mister Potter's possessions?"
"Of course, Minerva, of course".
Harry sat quietly for several minutes after McGonagall left the office. Dumbledore whistled a jaunty tune as he swirled his wand around in the air. Thousands of items twirled through the air, as decades worth of possessions were packed away in newly conjured trunks.
"Call me Albus, my boy. No need to be so formal anymore". Albus lowered his wand as he sat down next to Harry. The remaining items finished twirling through the air and landed in their appropriate trunks. The room looked eerie, being so bare.
"OK… Albus. Did you write that Muggleborn Protection law with me in mind?"
Harry wasn't sure what to expect as a response. He suspected he would be told a half truth, or perhaps that he was too young to understand such things.
Albus put his hand reassuringly onto Harry's shoulder. "Harry, my dear boy, I wrote that law specifically with you in mind."
"Well, I could hardly rely on the Dursleys to allow you to attend Hogwarts. And I certainly didn't want to give you the option to leave Hogwarts once you started. Your magical education is vital. Also, I wanted to provide an obscure loophole to exploit in case you ever were expelled for absurd reasons and I needed to provide you with a new tutor. Of course, it does help some Muggleborn students, so that is a nice bonus. I'm done here, you ready to get packed up?"
Harry sat there, stunned. Albus wrote a quick letter, gave it to Fawkes, and the phoenix disappeared in a flash of flame.
As Harry's brain tried to handle the latest twist on the evening, Lucius Malfoy stormed into the room. He clearly had rushed out in the middle of the night, as he was slightly disheveled and had a House Elf trying to polish his shoes while he walked.
"So… despite being dismissed by the Board of Governors, you decide to return anyway? The rules don't apply to…"
Albus looked at Lucius with disinterest and interrupted the man before he could gain a full head of steam. "Lucius, do calm down. As you can see, I have packed my possessions. Your combination of threatening and bribing the members of the Board has done the trick. I suspect, had they just been threatened, I could have convinced them to overturn the decision. I could probably still do it, even now, but I find I no longer care that greatly about the job. So, you have won. Congratulations."
Lucius looked flabbergasted. "Well… I am glad you have seen reason. As for the accusation of bribing the…"
Albus interrupted the man again. "You should be happy to know that the problem with the Chamber of Secrets has been resolved. Harry here has killed the beast and saved the girl. It was all quite heroic and dramatic. He has been, of course, rewarded with expulsion from the school. No good deed goes unpunished, after all. The young girl was being possessed by Lord Voldemort's cursed school diary, which has been destroyed."
Albus held up the destroyed diary, watching Lucius's face pale in response.
"Ah, I see that you were the one who supplied the diary to the young girl."
Lucius reared back, as if he had been slapped. "You have no proof that I did any such thing!"
"Yes, I am sure your master will buy that unconvincing lie as well. I tell you what, we can discuss this further next week. I'll visit your house at 1AM on June 6th. Don't wait up for me, I will wake you when I arrive. Come along Harry, let's get you packed."
Harry chased after Albus, a parade of fully packed trunks following them diligently. Lucius Malfoy stood silently in the empty office, working his jaw silently.
They were halfway to the entrance of Gryffindor tower before Harry realized that the shoe-shining elf was Dobby.
After quickly packing his possessions and the Sword of Gryffindor, ensuring they were all accounted for, Harry and Albus walked out of the castle and towards the school gates. Along the way, Harry brought up a concern he had.
"Profess… Albus, when I was hit by the killing curse, I… dreamt I was in Gryffindor tower and there was an ugly baby thing near the fireplace. Also, my scar appears to be less inflamed… do you have any ideas about what that means?"
Albus looked over at Harry, stared at his scar, and then grinned broadly.
"Harry, my boy, you need not share what happened to you in the midpoint between life and death. I would be fascinated to hear the story when you feel comfortable, but that is up to you. As for the baby… if I wasn't certain what your scar's size reduction meant, I would have continued pulling political strings to keep us both at Hogwarts. Your scar was a connection to Tom. The connection is dead, and so I can now safely start training you in the really interesting magics."
Harry looked relieved and confused. "The connection is dead? That's sounds good, but… what was up with the ugly baby thing?"
They crossed through the gates of Hogwarts, passing the edge of the wards. There, they met a troupe of goblins heading towards the gates. Albus smiled and spoke to them in Gobbledegook (the native language of the goblins), pointing at Harry and then at the castle. After he handed them a quill, the goblins laughed, one waved at Harry, and then they all marched towards the castle.
"Albus, what was that about?"
"Hmmm? Oh, I had Fawkes deliver a letter to them while we were in my former office. They are going to collect the basilisk carcass so it can be properly rendered for your profit. The quill is a portkey they can take to leave the grounds. They agreed to do the initial work for a flat fee, with the promise that both you and they will negotiate in good faith over the final deal."
Harry was shocked. He hadn't even thought of that possibility.
"Doesn't the basilisk belong to the school?"
"That is a legally murky question. You were a student when you defeated the beast, but you were expelled for your efforts. As a student, you would be limited to a reward of points or a special award like Tom got fifty years ago. By expelling you, a case could be made that Minerva acknowledged you as a third party who was implicitly hired for the purposes of killing the basilisk. Since you were unpaid, the carcass is implicitly yours."
Harry stared at Albus with a suspicious look.
"That sounds like a load of dragon dung"
Albus chuckled. "Of course, it is! Part of your tutelage will be learning how to speak like a politician, and I might as well start now. The truth is, we are taking the carcass before they realize there is an opportunity, and then will follow the ancient law of 'Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers'".
Harry laughed, smiling with a sense that his future was looking up.
Albus placed his hand on Harry's shoulder, looking into the young man's green eyes.
"As for that ugly baby thing. That was the same thing as Riddle. Your scar, like the diary, was a horcrux."
Harry looked up in confusion. "What the hell is a horcrux?"
Albus smiled, Harry felt squeezed, and the pair disappeared from the spot without even the faintest of sounds to accompany the disapparation.