Harry Potter and the Puppetmaster of Hogwarts

AN: I hope the extra-long chapter makes up for the wait! Now that Sevvie's awake, plans have begun to be hashed out! If you like it, please review...

Chapter 14

"There are several ways," Professor Snape said after a moment. "I wouldn't suggest fiendfyre, considering how difficult it is to control, but there are several koboholdic rituals that can decontaminate a horcrux, and basilisk venom works as well."

"We have basilisk venom, but what is a koboholdic ritual?" asked Hermione, who in spite of the gravity of the situation was as hungry for knowledge as ever. She looked as if she would have liked to take notes.

"Goblin magic. They are not allowed wands under wizarding law, but to be honest, I am not sure why that is in place, as they don't need wands in the first place."

Hermione fidgeted a little more, and then wandlessly summoned a muggle pad and mechanical pencil. Both boys stared at her, and even Professor Snape looked a little surprised, but she only shrugged and started scribbling on the pad. "Right. Rituals, basilisk venom, and fiendfyre. Is there anything else?"

"I don't believe so, Miss. Granger, except for perhaps goblin-forged blades imbued with basilisk venom," replied Professor Snape. "And...may I ask how long you have been doing wandless conjuring? That is usually a master level technique."

She blinked at him, and then at the pad and pencil. "I've always been able to do it," she replied. "I mean, I wasn't always able to conjure things, but wandless magic is pretty easy. I just sort of...reach for my core, I guess? It was just that I did accidental magic one day, and then I wondered if there was a pattern to it, you know, and if I could do it on command. When I was little, it didn't really occur to me that it was unusual- I just used it to get books that were out of my reach or sneak invisibly into the kitchen to get a jar of Nutella or whatever. I stopped doing it so much when I went to Hogwarts, though, because I didn't want to be even more different than I already was, being a muggleborn and a bookworm."

No one seemed to know what to say to that, until Ron asked irrelevantly "what is Nutella?"

"Chocolate hazelnut frosting in a jar- you'd love it," she responded. "it was the only sweet things my parents ever kept around the house, you know. Anyway, shouldn't we be talking about our plans for the war?"

Thus chastened, they returned to the topic.

"So how many of these horcrux things did Volde-" Snape hissed in pain, and Harry amended "-Tom make and what are they?"

"He made seven, as I said," Professor Snape responded. "One of them is the diary that possessed Miss Ginevra," (Ron winced) "which has already been destroyed, due to the basilisk's fang you impaled it with. You, Mr. Potter, have impossible luck."

Harry blushed a little. "And the others?" he went on resolutely.

"There is also a dark artifact hidden in the Gaunt shack in Little Hangleton, a locket that once belonged to Salazar Slytherin, Hufflepuff's charmed chalice, an artifact of Ravenclaw's- I don't believe even Dumbledore knew what it was, and he certainly didn't tell me, and another that Dumbledore hinted might be the Dark Lord's familiar."

"Oh, gross, he stuck part of his mangled soul in his snake?" Ron asked, looking rather sick.

Professor Snape nodded. "Yes. Lastly, of course, there is the piece of his soul which is actually where it is supposed to be, in his body. My arithmetical calculations indicate that having only six horcruxes would be very unstable, but Dumbledore never conclusively told me if he thought there was another, although his evasions tempted me to think that there might be. I don't know what it could be, though, or even if it was intentional."

"Right. So we got the diary; that's one down. Then there's the thing at Gaunt shack, a locket, a Ravenclaw artifact, a cup, and possibly his familiar, and then the potential for another that we don't know about conclusively, right?" Hermione summarized, scribbling furiously until her lead snapped, and then shaking the pencil until more lead came out.

"Yes."

"And we can destroy them by casting fiendfyre, drizzling basilisk venom on them, or talking to the goblins."

"Yes."

"Right, ok. Do you know if the goblin rituals destroy the horcruxes, or just decontaminate them? It would be a shame to destroy Founders' artifacts just because that bastard contaminated them with Dark soul magic."

"I believe the rituals would leave the artifacts intact, although the original magic might be stripped along with the horcrux; I'm not entirely sure," Professor Snape responded.

"So we should probably go to the goblins if possible," she said, chewing on the top of her pencil. "Ok. Oh, um...would those rituals work on a living creature like Nagini? If she were innocent and just being possessed, like Ginny, it would be horrible to have to kill her."

"Albus hinted that an Avada Kedavra would be effective on a living creature, but it would be best to research that," was Snape's response. "I believe that some of the books in Salazar's library are Herpo the Foul's books on soul magic and reincarnation, so that could help."

"Right, so an Avada Kedavra is possible. Do you know if that would work on all horcruxes, or just living ones?"

Snape shook his head, dark hair fanning out on the pillow. "That should probably be researched as well. It would be much simpler for all involved if all that is necessary is the Killing Curse, although the Dark Lord will have probably put defenses on his horcruxes to counter that."

"What about dementors?" Ron asked suddenly.

"Dementors?"

"Well, yeah, I mean, they eat people's souls, so it would make sense if they could eat horcruxes too. And since they only eat souls, they wouldn't harm the things the horcruxes were encased in. That would obviously not work for a living horcrux, of course, but then, neither would a vial of basilisk venom, so we're no farther from figuring out what to do about that."

The others looked at Ron in surprise for this comment. He shrugged. "I'm just saying..."

"It is a good point," Snape told him, and his ears tinged red at the unexpected complement from his most-hated teacher.

There was a short silence, and then Harry broke it, saying: "Horcruxes aside, what is the plan? First we have to figure out a way to get you out of Dumbledore's power, Professor, and then we have to work on taking Voldie down. Um, is there anything we need to know about that? Like, will Voldie's death cause a bad interaction with your Dark Mark or something? What should we do after he is gone?"

"I am not sure what will happen to those who are marked," Professor Snape told them. "And we should probably focus on destroying the Dark Lord first."

"But what about Dumbledore?" Ron chipped in. "He's not going to just sit back eating lemon drops while we interfere with his plans...well, actually he might, but the point is that he's still a wild card here. He could get us into big trouble."

"Well, to start with, Sirius was thinking that we should fake your death, Professor," Harry said unexpectedly. "If you're supposedly dead, first of all, you'll be off Dumbledore's radar, and secondly, your wand not be tracked anymore because the ministry trackers decay with death."

One dark eyebrow went up. "May I ask how you know that?"

"You can ask," said Harry cheekily, but then elaborated: "I was reading a lot about how the ministry works after Fudge tried to drag me in front of a kangaroo court for legitimate underage magic, so I picked up some things. Apparently if you are "dead" for twenty-four hours, then the charms decay, and so forth. Of course there are ways to get around that, though, like dark rituals that give you the semblance of death and stuff; I was thinking Draught of Living Death, because it isn't dark and it's relatively safe."

Snape looked a little uneasy at this, but said only: "You have planned it out, then?"

"Well, I was thinking...do you have a house?"

"Yes, of course. I boarded it up as soon as I legitimately could, but I do still own it. I was considering selling it- it's a muggle house, after all- but it is not a very good bit of property and I didn't want to deal with the hassle, anyway. Why?"

"Because I could stage an attack. Let Dumbledore think you were hiding out there and some of your detractors attacked the house and killed you. Unless- does polyjuice change your magical signature?"

"Yes..." Snape replied, uncomprehending.

"And, can Tom kill you through the mark?"

"I don't believe so, no. I have studied the composition using a pensive, and using Dumbledore's notes, and the mark essentially suppresses empathy, enhances cruelty, binds me to him as long as he lives, which he no doubt assumed would be forever, and acts as a mild magic siphon. It is also a protean charm and, of course, burns when he wishes to call us. The headmaster did some invasive tests proving all that, not that he told me. I had to steal his notes and study them myself. Why?"

"Well, if I was to leak to, like, Theodore Nott or one of the other Darker Slytherins, or maybe to a minor Death Eater, that you were a traitor, or maybe have Rita Skitter run a story about how you were a spy for the light, it would be quite understandable for some of the other Death Eaters to come after you. Then we could stage a fight, with us polyjuiced, and then I'd cast the Dark Mark with a stolen or second-hand wand, then you'd take Draught of Living Death and then it would seem as though you were executed by the other Death Eaters."

Snape stared at him. "That is, actually, quite a good plan, although there are several bits that might be problematic. I don't believe that the Department of Magical Forensics would really care to do any deep digging, so it doesn't have to be all perfect, but how in Merlin's name would you get hair from enough Death Eaters to make it look realistic, where would you get the spare wands, and what will happen to me after I am 'dead'?"

"Well, the hair is easy enough. Ever since Hermione accidentally took polyjuice with a hair from Millicent Bulstrode's cat, I collected hair from the people I thought it would make sense to want to impersonate later, so that we wouldn't have anymore cat hybrids."

"Harry! What are you doing?" Hermione cried.

Harry shrugged. "What's he going to do, make us scrub cauldrons? I can hang. Anyway, I have hair from Lucius Malfoy, from the whole Chamber debacle in Second Year, I have Peter Pettigrew's hair from when he tied me up to the gravestone in Little Hangleton for the resurrection ritual, and I have hair from Bellatrix Lestrange from a locket at Grimauld Place. Dobby can probably get hair from someone else, if we need it."

Snape's eyes widened.

"As for the wands," Harry continued, "Dobby can probably get me some, or Sirius could go to Knock Turn Alley and pick up some generic training wands that might work. Also, isn't there a time-delay mixture of Wiggenweld Potion and Draught of Living Death?"

"Yes," Snape responded. "It is horrendously difficult to brew, but it can be done, and I can do it myself, given enough time to recover. Yes...that could work." He was silent for a long moment. "And what did you say about casting the Dark Mark?"

"I overheard the Barty Crouch Jr. cast it at the World Cup in my Fourth Year. It would certainly make the whole thing look a little more authentic..."

"Yes..." Snape said, not so much responding to Harry as confirming what he had been thinking. "That could certainly be done, and it would be a good way to get Dumbledore off the trail, provided we remove any tracking spells or destroy and tracking instruments he has. Or..." he trailed off.

"Or what, sir?" Hermione, who had been watching in silence and writing this entire time, asked.

"Or I could cast the facies altera transfiguration on myself."

"The what?" Hermione asked, hurriedly picking up the pencil she had set down in her lap moments earlier.

"The facies altera transfiguration," Professor Snape repeated. "It essentially, temporarily, changes you into a different version of yourself; a different combination of your parents' genetic material. For example, if I were to cast it on Potter, he might then be red-haired and brown-eyed, or blond, or even female. It is not strictly legal, but not exactly illegal, either, and it is indetectable except by the caster, so if I were to cast it on myself, for as long as it lasted, Severus Tobias Snape would no longer exist, and no trackers would be able to find me, because they are usually blood, core, or name keyed."

It took a moment for the others to digest that.

"What if we did both?" Hermione asked abruptly. "Then 'Severus Snape' would be assumed dead, and someone else could take his place. We could even transfigure something into a corpse so that you would supposedly be buried!"

It was at that moment that Dobby popped in. "Great Master Harry Potter sir, there is two girls in the Chamber!"