Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

Chapter VI

The Portrait Gallery

The polished chess set gleamed in the red light of the setting sun. The black and white figures slowly stirred to life when their master gently prodded the white queen to cross the board and put the black king in mortal peril. Old lips heaved a heavy sigh when sky blue eyes first perused a letter held in an equally old hand and then turned back to the gleaming board that reflected the dusk outside of high tower windows so well to decide on the next move.

It had been decades now since he played chess with Gellert via letter. Ever since his old friend had been locked up in Nurmengard, the ice-cold impenetrable fortress in the Alpes forged with the magic of a magus and the brilliant mind of a genius. A mind too brilliant, too sharp and in the end too unscrupulous. His magic knew no bounds as did his cruelty. Still on days like these, he missed his old friend dearly. His wit and his sarcasm. His advise and his friendship.

As it was right now, Albus stood alone. There was no one of comparative power he could talk to and who would understand his plight and stand with him. A magus was rare. So rare in fact that only once a century one was born. The last century has seen the birth of three. Three magi that had never happened before. Usually they were born in pairs skipping centuries in between. Like Merlin and Morgana. Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin. Gellert and him.

Yet, now three magi walked the grounds of Europe. There was Gellert in Germany, him in Britain and, of course, Tom who had just returned to haunt the British Isles once more. Despite all his crimes and acts of utter barbarism, there was no mistake that Tom was a true magus. His power was too great to claim otherwise. He was able to rise an army of dead, create tornadoes of such strengths to rip entire towns apart and command the earth to do his bidding.

Albus wondered sometimes whether another magus would be born soon. It was unheard of that even three were born in one century but he wondered about the imbalance of it sometimes. Magi had always been born in pairs. So why was Tom left alone? And why had he been born so shortly after another pair of Magi? Magic liked balance and balance dictated the birth of another magus.

He could feel it during their most sacred days. Something was coming. Fate had decided to intervene with the destiny of all British wizards again. Change would come. Magic was already rising to spiral events into being that would set their current course off by far. He felt like a captain on the hail of ship during the brewing of a thunderstorm. He knew where he wanted magical Britain to go, had formed its society now for decades. He just hoped that the upcoming change would not set back all of his plans and machinations. His vision of a new magical society free of the constraints of the old ways was too important too loose now after all he had done, all he had to sacrifice.

And yet, he knew deep down that his time was past. Change was imminent. Magic was to set right what had been upset nearly half a century before. He could just hope that whatever was to come would align with his view of their world. That the new magus would follow in his footsteps instead of Gellert's or Tom's.

For a short time, he had believed that Harry, the prophesied child born at the end of July, would be the new magus. He was supposed to be Tom's equal after all. However, when he had met the child again upon his arrival at Hogwarts he was disappointed. Surely, the boy was powerful, powerful enough to be a warlock or even a master warlock, but not enough to rise onto the level of a magus.

The Potters had always been a family of master warders. No ward a Potter cast had ever failed. Their house had been gifted with plenty of warlocks and master warlocks. More so than any other house. He had yet to hear of a Potter who had not been at least a sorcerer of great repute. And yet no magus had been born to their family. It was as if magic favored them, only to withheld the most pursued price.

Other families who had been less favored, suddenly rose out of their obscurity to great esteem when a magus was born into their house. A great gift of magic. A favor unlike any other. Maybe there was balance to it all. A balance that deemed Tom more deserving of this gift than Harry.

Albus sighed again. These thoughts were meaningless. The new magus would show himself or not when magic deemed it time to bestow the gift anew. There was no sense in idle ruminations. Despite all his hopes, Harry had no chance of ever rising above the level of master warlock. He just had to wait to see how the fate of Great Britain was decided by magic.

A circumstance he found most unpleasant. It was him usually who decided the fate of the magical community in the British Isles, him who forged the path ahead, him who decided what their futures would look like. To be thwarted so close to the finalizing of all his plans was … poetic given that he had done the same to Gellert. His old friend would laugh about this were he here to hear his musings.

After moving his bishop to block the advance of the white queen and protect his king, he wandered over to one of the high windows behind his desks overlooking the grounds of his beloved school. From here, he could see the sun setting behind the forbidden forest and the smoke rising from Hagrid's chimney. It was a peaceful view that soon would include his students that were due to return from their summer vacation. Hogwarts would be full once more.

He always looked forward to the first week of their academic year. It was such a joyful week. Hogwarts which grew so silent over the summer would be filled with laughter and noise once more. Their new batch of students would be welcomed into their community and young minds taught the right from wrong.

Yet, not all was the same this year. A storm was brewing and with the return of Tom, a dark year lay ahead for all of them. He just hoped he would be able to protect his students from the worst of it. He already feared he had failed one of them quite badly. For Harry certainly had changed.

He had thought letting the boy back to his family, to the familiar comforts of the muggle world, would help him forget the horrors of the last trial of the Triwizard Tournament. Shielded from the press and the wizarding world at large, he could recuperate without the pressure of the upcoming war and Voldemort on him. However, it seemed that he had failed Harry yet again.

Harry had decided to run away from the only home he had ever known besides Hogwarts despite knowing that Tom had returned. He had run away with the full knowledge that Death Eaters were going to chase after him. Dumbledore sighed. He had known that the situation in the Dursley household wasn't ideal for Harry. Yet, he had hoped that he had impressed the importance of the wards and the protection they granted strongly enough on both Harry and Petunia. It seemed he had been wrong as he had been so often in the past few weeks.

He had failed Harry with his desire to protect him and keep his distance from the boy to avoid triggering the connection he shared with Tom. Now he feared for the worst. Harry certainly had changed and he hoped dearly it wasn't because of this thrice cursed connection. If Tom started influencing Harry already, it was more important than ever to find the boy and teach him Occlumency to prevent Tom from doing his worst. Dumbledore didn't want to think of what Voldemort would do, should he ever learn of the full scoop of the connection he had with Harry.

It was undeniable that he had underestimated Harry and his wish to become more self sufficient. His gamble had gone wrong and now dear Remus was set to go to Azkaban. There was nothing he could do for him now. Not in the current political climate, not when it involved Acallam, one of their most precious laws. A breach of Acallam was one of the most serious crimes to commit.

Acallam was more than just any law. It was one of the founding pillars of their justice system. Every child growing up in a wizarding household knew the importance of Acallam, respected and revered it even. There would only be very few who tolerated a breach of it. So few in fact that he was almost certain none of the wizards and witches sitting in the Wizengamot were among them.

No, the Wizengamot would punish Remus to the full extent of the law. There would be no mercy there. No understanding. Even the ministry corrupt as it was, would still uphold this one law sanctimoniously. Too many old families still depended on the old way. They would not stand for a breach of their most sacred tradition regardless that it involved Harry Potter.

Dumbledore sighed again. He had hoped that Harry's relationship with Remus would be enough to make the boy follow is old professor. That Harry cared enough about the werewolf to prevent his lawyer from having Remus arrested. Apparently, he had been wrong.

He knew that the Weasleys cared little for the old traditions and certainly held no respect for Acallam. He thought that Harry would follow in their steed with their influence. Reverting to the old ways would do him no good. Dumbledore felt that they had to go with the times and be more progressive. Muggleborns felt alienated by their foreign culture and horrified by the idea to make sacrifices on the holy days. For them magic was a tool, something based on rules and laws, not something to be worshiped or so steeped in traditions that every little thing had consequences.

It gave an unfair advantage to the old families and purebloods in their world. They knew the sacred rituals to ask a favor from magic, knew how to bring luck and fortune to their families through sacrifices on the holidays, knew how to bind their family to the piece of land they owned to receive the fruits of their soil. They had familiars already bound to their family who would serve and protect them. They had manors with wards layered on by generations of their family which made for a formidable defense. Some houses,in fact, had sheltered their families for such a long time that they had grown sentient.

No, a reformation was due. It was time to even the playing field for the muggleborns. To make them feel welcome, the wizarding world had to progress, give up the old ways and all the advantages their worship and sacrifices brought them. A muggleborn just starting out in their world could not compete with centuries of magic woven into the history of a wizarding family.

Something had to give. In all his time on the Wizengamot and as headmaster, he had done his utmost to change their society, to bring them from the old ways to a more progressive path where magic was merely a tool to be wielded instead of a sentient being. In small steps, he had introduced new laws banning some of the more gruesome practices and canceling privileges held by purebloods.

Yet, despite his best efforts, he had not managed to abolish Acallam. He had advocated many times for a transformation of their justice system away from old traditions from before the time of Merlin towards a more modern systems which focused more on the intentions of the accused than the actual deed. They even still followed the ancient Roman litigation of only punishing within the exact parameters of the law which led to a ridiculously standard of only adhering to the letters of the law but not the intention behind it.

He had seen too many purebloods walk off scot-free simply because there had been no law they had outright broken with their atrocious deeds while so many people like Remus with the best intentions at heart would be punished to the full extant of the law. He knew there would be no mercy for Remus as their jurisdictional system did not understand mercy as something to be granted by the judges but more as an act of good will of the sovereign.

Albus sighed again. He feared, there was nothing he could do for poor Remus. With the current political climate being as it was, Remus' fate rested entirely outside his hands. Having been stripped of most his offices and titles, he would probably not even be allowed in to see the proceedings for himself. Albus had no doubt that Remus would not fare too well against a Wizengamot that would see justice enforced at all costs.

With one last lingering look, he turned away from the high window and the spectacular view it offered him over the grounds and settled behind his desk once more. Drawing up a spare sheet of parchment, he started on his letter for Gellert. Throwing one more look at his chess board, he confirmed his choice of his next chess move and made sure to include it at the end of his answer.

A few hundred kilometers south, Harry had just entered the dining hall in Peverell manor to take an early dinner. As expected, candles flickered to life upon his entrance bringing a warm glow to the room. The chair at the head of the large ornamented table pulled itself out to see him settled there comfortably. As soon as he took his seat, beautifully crafted plates and cups appeared together with sumptuous looking food.

Tucking in, Harry mused that the house had come a long way from the condition he had found it in. What he had found had been a decrepit and abandoned building left by his family generations ago. Now it was once again the proud family mansion it had been in his time offering shelter to any Peverell. It had hurt him deeply to see his former home so neglected and ravaged by time. The more it pleased him now to see the house restored to its former glory.

However, the erosion of time hadn't stopped at their ancestral seat. It had gotten a firm grasp on their family as well until over time it had finally worn down their family's values and beliefs. Now in this age and time nothing seemed to be left of their once proud traditions. Their magicks of old lay forgotten and abandoned in old books rotting in a library long erased from the memory of its modern members. Their traditions had been stomped on by the very members who should have sworn to uphold them on pain of death. The way had been forgotten. The old way had been left.

It was good in a way that the final atrocity had been committed. A mudblood had married into the once pure family and given birth to a filthy halfblood. That had been their chance. Their chance for rejuvenation and restoration. A second chance to right the wrongs and move them firmly back to the old path, the ancient path. It had been his chance to be reborn.

He would not waste his chance. Not this time. He would make sure that this time around the followers of the old path would triumph over those who had abandoned it. Those who had betrayed them and their secrets, who had forgotten the old ways in favour for the new God, they would finally suffer. He would make them understand the meaning of revenge. They would rue the day they committed their betrayal on the rest of magic society. They would regret siding with the mudbloods and their parents over their own brothers and sisters, their brethren.

They had forgotten what monstrosities lay in the dark. They had forgotten to fear the night. They had forgotten the reverence they once had had for magic. They had forgotten that they were nothing but mortals in an endless immortal stream of time and magic. He would teach them. He would make them remember. Remember the horror that lay outside of the protection the old path offered. In the end, there would only be the old way for them. They would return or die resisting.

Harry grinned. What chance it was to be reborn as their hero. His grin turn savage. They would not learn that their little hero of light would lead them down a dark and ancient path which knew no return. No, they would not know until it was too late. They were too blind and too greedy. Too set in their way of what was good and right and moral. As if morality had ever mattered to magic. The only things that truly mattered were power and sacrifice. They would learn that anew. Oh, they would learn. And in the end they would sacrifice everything be allowed to live on.

But first things first. He had to bring order into his family affairs. After the mess his late father had made, he certainly had his work cut out for him. He had already repaired and reestablished his old ancestral home. Next would be the estate. From what he had already seen at Gringotts, the family accounts were in disarray. His father had simply not cared. Being a pompous loon married to a woman with delusions of grandeur and righteousness, they had either never cared enough or simply lacked the intelligence to properly manage the family estate. Instead they had overspent, lived large and drained the accounts. Another proof why one should not let mudbloods marry into the family line, much less let them marry the heir.

Finally finishing his meal, Harry got up. The chair slid back on his own giving the boy enough room to comfortably step back and around it. The young wizard made his way leisurely down the dining table and to the door which opened on its own to grant him passage. Stroking a hand lovingly across its wood, Harry stepped through the door into the corridor.

Taking a deep breath, he made up his mind. With destination in mind, he marched firmly down the hall towards the staircase. He knew what he had to do. Although the very thought of it made him tremble, he knew this was necessary. He had already delayed enough. His parents hadn't raised a coward.

Taking the last turn, he entered the portrait gallery and sure footed marched down until he reached the very last portrait on the left side.

"Hello father. Hello mother."