Act I - Trials of Summer
Chapter 1 - The Boy Who Murdered
"Harry Potter," came the whisper, soft as a feather. "You have been taught how to duel, have you not?"
Harry stood his ground, in defiance of the Dark Lord, his sleeves torn and blood dripping down his arm. Circling around him like hounds were nineteen of the man's sycophants, all dressed up in their Death Eater regalia. Further still stood Peter Pettigrew, lovingly caressing his new silver arm— a so-called gift, from the master who took away his original.
It was disgusting.
From the corner of his eye, Harry cast a sideward glance at Cedric Diggory. The boy lay fallen on the ground, unmoving thanks to a timely stunner. It was too bad that by the time he'd managed to stun the Hufflepuff, Pettigrew had petrified him from behind.
His fingers clenched around his wand. It was all he had. His ever-faithful companion that had saved him on one too many occasions since coming into this magical world at the age of eleven. Despite the anxiety from the impending mortal peril gnawing at his mind, the soft thrum of his wand provided a welcome relief.
He heard Voldemort chuckle in amusement, his crimson eyes burning through the murky darkness that pervaded the cemetery. He looked rather different from the wraith that Harry had encountered back in his first year.
Now, Voldemort was a black-haired man with a handsome face. It reminded him of the spectre, the memory he had fought back in the Chamber of Secrets two years prior. Only, he was now taller and more broad-shouldered, with slightly paler skin.
An adult Tom Riddle. An adult Voldemort.
Harry could feel the magic rolling off of the man in waves. Every inch of his instincts were screaming at him to get away. To do something— anything —that would get him away from this monster in human flesh.
Emotions sandblasted against his psyche. This was the monster who had killed his parents. Made him an orphan. Destroyed his childhood. Had come for him again and again, and would keep coming until he was dead.
"I asked you a question."
The Dark Lord's tone came across as surprisingly polite. Pleasant even. A strange dichotomy from everything he knew about the man.
"Dumbledore's protégé, parselmouth, slayer of Slytherin's basilisk, vanquisher of the greatest Dark Lord in history… Surely you're aware of how to duel?"
"...Yes." The word left his mouth, sounding strangely serpentine to his ears.
"How wonderful!" Voldemort's lips twisted into a cruel smile. "Why don't you take a moment to get ready. Rest assured, none of them," he gestured to the rest of the Death Eaters, "will interfere. I will give you your fair chance at… vanquishing me once more."
Harry narrowed his eyes. What the hell was going on? He was alone. Wounded. Exhausted. Overwhelmed by both power and numbers. There was nowhere he could run. No way he could escape from this madness.
So… why? Why all this melodrama—
"Is this just a game to you?" he hissed, uncaring of how Parseltongue slipped into his voice. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see the Death Eaters starting to lose their composure. One of them had even taken a step back, dropping his wand in surprise.
He smirked. Parseltongue, he'd learned, had a trait muggles referred to as 'infrasound'. Much like a tiger's roar, it did weird things to your nervous system. It enhanced your fears and vulnerabilities, and raised a fight-or-flight instinct in others.
Given how shamelessly Voldemort had used it to his advantage, it was no surprise how half the school had turned against him in second year.
Taking a deep breath, he raised his wand and met the Dark Lord's gaze.
"I see you are finally beginning to tap into your potential," Voldemort smirked, speaking like a connoisseur acknowledging a fine whiskey. "Truly unfortunate that we must be at odds."
Harry clenched his wand tighter. "And whose fault is that?"
Much to his surprise, the Dark Lord paused, giving his question a fair amount of thought. "Tell me Potter," he began, his tone genuinely curious. "If I granted you immunity, would you come over to my side?"
"...Are you… are you insane?"
"HOW DARE YOU—" Someone from the crowd raised his wand to hex—
"Now, now," Voldemort lazily flicked his wand at the sudden interruption, flinging the other man away. "Let us not get so angry. Young Harry is still at Hogwarts. Untrained. Unhoned. A son of the illustrious Potter family. A parselmouth, much like myself. I wouldn't be surprised if we had a shared ancestry somewhere."
Harry could help but stare at the utter surrealness of the moment. Was this really happening?
No. This was a game. This monster was playing with him. Nothing else.
"You killed my parents," he snarled.
"It was a war," the Dark Lord shrugged. "People die. Your parents chose death."
"You tried to kill me."
The Dark Lord chuckled. He didn't know why, but it sent shivers down his spine and made his heart beat out of his ribcage. Would he finally get an answer? He'd asked the Headmaster the same question every year, and every time, he was forced to settle for non-answers and empty promises. Maybe Voldemort—
"Because you could become a potential liability in the future. My attempt at killing you was… how do the muggles say it? Nipping the problem in the bud?" The man slightly tilted his head. "I offer you one more chance. Join me and be spared."
Something terrible shone in the man's eyes. "I understand you see me as your enemy, boy. But you have no idea what my wrath is capable of. Thrice I ask, and this is the last. Join me or be killed."
Harry clenched his teeth. The man was playing with his emotions. Egging him on. Testing him.
Allowing his rage to take over, he spat at the cause of his misery. He raised his wand and—
—Was sent tumbling backwards.
The Death Eaters laughed.
"Etiquette must be observed," Voldemort drawled, flicking his wand again. Harry lost all control of his body. It wasn't like the petrification hex. It was more like— like he had lost his sense of touch. Of weight. Of movement.
He stood there, encircled by his enemies, with absolutely no control over himself.
"First, we bow," Voldemort chastised him.,"We will have our duel, but first, the formalities must be observed, after all," the man mocked. "Such a lack of manners— Dumbledore would be disappointed."
The Death Eaters were openly laughing now. Jeering at him, deriding him, taunting him. Toying with him, as if he were their plaything. Their source of entertainment for the night.
"Bow, Harry Potter. Bow to Death."
He wouldn't give them the satisfaction. He was not—
"I said, BOW!" Voldemort flicked his wand once more, and Harry screamed.
A heavy, invisible hand pressed down on his shoulders, with a weight he could not hope to bear. He bit his lip, trying his best to resist, but it was a futile gesture— his spine bent unwillingly until his knees hit the grassy floor.
In response, Voldemort inclined his head slightly towards him, a pale mockery of a bow.
"That wasn't very difficult, now was it?" he asked, a soft smile gracing his lips.
Harry looked up, his glare unflinching, unyielding even in the face of his demise.
It only made Voldemort smile wider as he raised his wand. "And now, we duel!"
Harry barely had enough time to gather his bearings before he found himself flung across the graveyard. The gesture was crude, but the distance thrown was careful— measured, even. Just enough force to rough him up, but not enough to actually cause him any harm.
"Harry Potter," Voldemort breathed. "Is this truly all you amount to?"
He flicked his wand, interrupting Harry as he tried to incant his first spell of the night and bodily tossing him like before.
"There is no Dumbledore to save you," he went on. "No mother to die for you. No friend to take your place."
Voldemort wasn't even trying to kill him, and he knew it. This was… this was a show. Proof of the man's dominance, proof that his defeat fourteen years ago was nothing more than a fluke.
"You are alone now, Harry Potter. And you. Are. Nothing."
The anger that had been churning inside of him began to burn hotter and hotter. And somewhere in his mind, a memory began to surface. A completely ordinary memory.
It was something that Alastor Moody had once demonstrated in front of his entire class. A spell buried deep within his memories, but one he had never seen cause to use, nor did he ever fathom wanting to.
Harry's thoughts were immediately interrupted by pain.
Pain beyond anything he had ever felt before.
Pain beyond anything he could ever imagine.
And in that moment, as his mind twisted in pain and his sanity frayed, the thought of that single spell overtook his mind once more. He couldn't find it in himself to use anything but that spell.
Powerful spells often had their own unique requirements— the Patronus had taught him that. This particular spell had its own as well. And now, as he kneeled upon the cemetery floor, he knew he'd be able to cast it.
He would cast it.
Voldemort raised his wand again. "Cruc—"
Harry didn't wait for the man to finish. He leveled his wand, pointing it forward as he called forth the ball that welled deep within him, ballooning to immense proportions as he fed it all the hate and wrath and fury that he could summon before yelling as loudly as he could—
Harry gripped his temples, trying to force the memory back into the deep recesses of his mind. He glanced towards the dusty shelves, almost expecting some strange sort of comfort from the sight of its inanimate tomes.
Unsurprisingly, it didn't help.
He had woken up after a five-day magical coma, only to find Hogwarts completely empty. Apparently, everyone had been in a rush to leave Hogwarts as soon as possible after the Third Task. Of course, that hadn't stopped the Headmaster from grilling him over the details of what transpired that night.
That was all right. Expected, even.
Every year, Draco Malfoy would hound him on the Hogwarts Express.
Every year, Snape would be an arse to him.
Every year, the Defense professor would try to fuck him over.
Every year, he'd have to survive mortal peril in some manner.
And at the end of every year, he would have a heart-to-heart with Albus Dumbledore in the Hospital Wing, just after said peril had passed. A discussion in which Dumbledore would promise him answers, offer vague bits of advice, and send him packing to Privet Drive.
By now, it was practically a ritual.
But this year was different— for starters, there were three guests speaking with him. The first was Amelia Bones, a grey-haired square-jawed woman in her mid-fifties who served as the Director of the DMLE. And if what he'd heard was true, she was also Susan Bones's aunt. The second, surprisingly enough, was Percy Weasley. His best mate's brother had somehow gotten himself promoted to the freshly created position of Junior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, and was currently acting as proxy for said Minister.
And, of course, no meeting in the Headmaster's office was complete without the man himself, but that was neither here nor there.
Naturally, Poppy Pomfrey had thrown a fit when Dumbledore had summoned Harry to his office so soon after waking up. But since this was a DMLE issue, she hadn't been able to get her way. Unfortunate for him, but again, not unexpected.
And the worst part? This was a Ministry summons, which meant a grilling interrogation about the events that happened on that night. Events he really didn't want to talk about.
"Let me see if I understand this," Percy said. "You are admitting to casting an Unforgivable against another wizard, knowing full well that the action carries the penalty of a life sentence in Azkaban?"
The fact that Percy was able to reconstruct his statements with his own unique brand of snobbishness, while still managing to dot down his statement in beautiful calligraphic script, was genuinely impressive.
That's got to be magic.
And clearly, he'd grown to be an even bigger dick than he was last year. Maybe Fred and George were actually onto something when they charmed his original Head Boy badge to read Bighead Boy instead. If he turned his nose up any higher, he'd probably turn into Lucius Malfoy.
The random thought brought an unbidden chuckle to his lips.
"Potter!" Percy barked. "Answer the question. Did you knowingly, and with full intention, cast the killing curse?"
Harry glanced at Dumbledore from the corner of his eye, who nodded back in support. He had been subjected to two drops of veritaserum, along with a mild calming draught to ensure that the interrogation went smoothly.
"I did, but it doesn't matter—"
"That's something the Ministry will decide, Potter," Percy interrupted. "Not—" But he was forced into silence as Dumbledore raised a single finger.
"Harry," the genial headmaster began, though a stern undercurrent seeped into his tone. "Why would that not matter?"
"Because nothing happened," Harry looked up, a bitter chuckle escaping his lips. "It was incredibly stupid of me to think it would even work. Voldemort—" he rolled his eyes at Percy's sudden flinch, "batted it away with a flick of his wand. For all its infamy, even a wide-area hex would have proven more useful."
Harry shifted his gaze to Madam Bones, who was staring back resolutely, though there was something soft in her eyes behind the steely gaze. "Moody was right. During our term, he told us we could fire killing curses at him all day and he'd just sit through it all." He looked down at the table, drumming his fingers along the edge nervously. "I just— I was so sure it would work."
"Harry," Dumbledore began softly. "Alastor Moody was found killed in his office on the night of the Third Task."
"Calm yourself," he replied, his tone both soft and stern. "We suffered terrible losses that night, which is why we are here now, trying to piece together everything that happened."
Harry slowly exhaled. "Who was it?"
"We don't know yet, but we are trying to find out."
"The suspect admits to casting a killing curse that night," Percy intoned, as a quill, a Quick Quotes Quill, kept scratching on the parchment. "The suspect also shows no remorse over the act."
Harry rolled his eyes at Percy. "Is he serious right now?"
Amelia Bones arched an eyebrow, and Harry was baffled by how she showed more grace in that tiny movement than he possessed in his entire body. "I thought he was given a calming draught, Headmaster. He still seems so… uninhibited."
She… had a good point, actually. Harry didn't exactly know what had happened to him, but ever since he'd woken up, he had been feeling strangely light. Weren't calming draughts supposed to neutralize his negative emotions, or make him more focused or something? Whoever prepared this particular draught must've been a less-than-stellar potioneer.
Snape would probably give it a Dreadful.
"I understand that your situation is… unique, but the use of the killing curse is absolutely forbidden as per our laws." Harry reflexively gulped. Listening to her speak felt like having a steel sword pointed straight at him. Was this why normal muggles feared cops so much?
"—had someone actually died to your curse, expulsion from Hogwarts would have been the last of your worries."
"But Madam Bones he's—" Percy began hotly.
The DMLE Director raised a hand, and cut him off.
"I don't understand," Harry replied, narrowing his eyes. "That monster killed my parents. He kidnapped me and assaulted me. He's a bloody Dark Lord! And I'm the bad guy here?"
He looked towards the Headmaster, expecting his support.
He found none.
"The issue is not about you fighting back, Mr. Potter," Bones clarified. "It is about using the killing curse in order to do so."
"Any spell can be used to kill," he shot back.
"And yet, there are only three Unforgivables."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot the Ministry only forgives Death Eaters!"
"Potter!" Percy puffed up. "Your fame has clearly gotten to you—"
"Oh shut up Weasley! The adults are speaking."
It was only for a split second, but he could've sworn he saw a smirk on the stern woman's face.
"Perhaps I can shed some light on this confusion," Dumbledore began, his eyes twinkling merrily. "You see Harry, the killing curse, along with the Unforgivables, are different from your regular spells. They are illegal because of the esoteric conditions involved in casting them, not the end results. In order to successfully cast them, a wizard must have a specific mindset, one deemed so dangerous that Aurors and Hit-wizards capable of casting them are immediately forced to retire."
"Wow," Harry drawled. "Some of that sounded useful. Any other nuggets you'd like to drop?"
Albus Dumbledore, defeater of Gellert Grindelwald, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Grand Sorcerer of the International Confederation of Wizards, owlishly blinked.
"Are you certain he wasn't hit by a cheering charm?" Madam Bones snorted.
"I'm… certain?" Dumbledore replied with uncertainty. "Perhaps his magical coma had some sort of side effect on the draught's effectiveness."
"Whatever the case, let's get back on track without the wisecracks, gentlemen." The stern woman pinned him with a heavy gaze. "Allow me to confirm your testimony once more, Mr. Potter. You found Fleur Delacour in the maze suffering from the aftereffects of a Cruciatus, at which point you left a corporeal Patronus, a stag, to keep her safe. You also found Victor Krum attacking Cedric Diggory, and in your own words, he was outraged and used the Cruciatus curse."
"You then disarmed Krum, at which point Cedric attacked you from behind. He managed to petrify you, and then portkeyed both himself and you to the forbidden forest. Then, he dragged you further and portkeyed to a different location."
He nodded again.
"And what do you infer from all this?"
"That Diggory is one heartless son of a bitch?"
Amelia choked on her own spit, as Dumbledore's eyes twinkled madly. Percy, on the other hand, remained silent, busy imitating one of Neville's cauldrons in Potions.
"Look, I don't know, alright? Diggory and I… we weren't friends, exactly, but we weren't enemies either. In fact, I told him about how the first task included dragons, and he told me how to unlock the secret of the golden egg."
"You knew about the dragons before the task?" Percy inquired, pointing at him with the feather of the quill.
"That's what I just said, you—"
Madam Bones cleared her throat. "As I was saying, you broke free of the petrification hex and attacked Diggory, stunning him. And then Peter Pettigrew hit you from behind with yet another hex."
"Bloody wankers, hitting me from behind," Harry growled. He was still mightily pissed at how he'd gotten hit from behind. With that kind of attitude, how the hell did Pettigrew even get sorted into Gryffindor in the first place?
He had a few choice words for the Sorting Hat when this was all said and done.
"Just to confirm, we are talking about the same Peter Pettigrew who received a posthumous Order of Merlin, Second Class, for his contributions to the war? The one presumed dead for the past thirteen years?"
"No clue about the Order of Merlin business, but yes to the rest."
Harry snuck a peek at the quill taking note of every word Madam Bones said on a small notepad. Thankfully, it didn't look like one of Rita Skeeter's. At least she had more sense than bloody Percy Weasley.
"He then proceeded to incapacitate you, and then performed some sort of… ritual to resurrect Voldemort," she continued without the slightest flinch, "a dark wizard who was also presumed dead, ironically by your own hand on Halloween 1981."
"Yeah," he confirmed aloud, before another thought struck him. "Hey, if the Ministry thinks I offed Voldemort—" he ignored Percy's flinch, "then why didn't I get an Order of Merlin myself?"
The DMLE Director muttered something about Hogwarts switching their calming draughts for firewhiskey, before answering. "You did, actually. Order of Merlin, First Class, as well as a twenty thousand galleon award. It should be in your Gringotts vault."
Harry's eyes widened like saucers. That was big money. Fuck the Triwizard nonsense, killing Dark Lords was the real way to make money. Was that why his vault had all that gold while the Weasleys were dirt poor?
Wait. If Voldemort showed up in the open, would they take all my money away?
Now wasn't that an alarming thought. Maybe he should seriously consider shutting up about this Voldemort resurrection business.
"I also have another report here. It says here… you claimed Professor Quirinus Quirrel was possessed by the Dark Lord?"
"He was on the back of his head, like a bad pimple."
"Madam Bones," Percy began pompously, "clearly Potter's delusions have no limits. And it is worth pointing out, Professor Dumbledore is notorious for being biased towards Potter and his—"
"Mr. Weasley," the woman spat, turning towards him. "Last I checked, I was the Director of the DMLE and you are merely a scribe. Allow me to fulfill my duties, and take care of your own."
"Junior Undersecretary to the Office of Minister," Percy corrected. Harry could feel his indignation at being called a scribe. "And Minister Fudge was adamant that I make sure—"
"Minister Fudge is not here," Bones challenged. "And if he has anything to contribute to the matter, he can discuss it with me in person. Please limit yourself to your scribe duties or I'll have you removed from my presence at once."
That shut him up.
"Now then," Madam Bones turned her dry stare back towards Harry. "Let us continue where we left off."
"Voldemort… was laughing," Harry grimaced. "He told me he would teach me the right way to cast the curse if I asked nicely. And then he raised his wand to cast it—"
"He used the killing curse?" Dumbledore probed.
For some reason, Harry got this strange feeling that the old man was expecting… no, wishing for an affirmation.
He nodded. "He said the words. There was this flash of green light and I— I woke up today. In bed."
"I beg your pardon?" The Director of the DMLE looked wildly mistrustful at his account of events.
"I don't know," Harry threw his hands up. "The next thing I remember is seeing Madam Pomfrey throwing a ruckus when I woke up at Hogwarts."
Madam Bones gave him a scrutinous stare. Not that he could blame her. If it wasn't for the fact that he was under the effects of veritaserum, she'd have outright called him a liar.
"Harry's retelling fits with the scene I stumbled upon," Dumbledore interjected. "When I reached the graveyard, I found him lying on the ground. Unconscious."
"Surrounded by bodies?" the woman probed.
"Bodies?" Harry broke in, genuinely startled. The last thing he remembered was the Death Eaters laughing all around him. Had something happened after that?
The Headmaster's expression looked doleful. "When I appeared at the site, I found you unconscious on the ground. You were surrounded by several bodies clad in Death Eater robes and masks."
"All of them were dead."
"Twelve," the headmaster specified.
"And rotting," Madam Bones added. Harry could feel her watching his expressions like a hawk. "Do you remember anything like that happening that night, Mr. Potter?"
"Uh, no?" he half-asked, half-replied, hoping it sounded a lot less dumb out loud than it did in his head.
Still… dead? What the hell happened that night? Had the killing curse backfired again? That was what happened the first time, wasn't it? Voldemort hadn't exactly been big on sharing his side of events. Maybe he should've asked him when he had the chance?
Harry frowned. Did that mean he had another lightning-scar now?
He resolved to check himself over as soon as he could get back to the dorms.
Dumbledore took that as a cue to continue. "Twelve bodies, each of which had decayed significantly. My initial impression was that it was from some obscure dark curse." His gaze strayed towards Harry fleetingly. "Then we found the thirteenth body. One of his hands was made of silver—"
"Pettigrew," Harry breathed. Even thinking about the rat filled him with indescribable rage, along with an entirely reasonable wish to snap his wand in half for hexing him in the back.
"Yes," Madam Bones interrupted right then. "Interestingly, we have records of you, Mr. Weasley, and Miss Granger giving the Minister testimony on this very fact." She deftly opened one of the documents in her hand. "In your third year, you asserted that Peter Pettigrew was actually alive, and that Sirius Black, the notorious right-hand man of Dark Lord Voldemort, was innocent."
"I understand that back then, your testimony was disregarded and classified as delusional on account of… trauma from seeing a werewolf?"
Harry felt anger take hold of him again.
The woman continued, her eyes furrowed in irritation. "I will have words with the people in charge of that investigation. Fortunately, the bodies have been examined by our forensics division, and new facts have come to light. The body is indubitably Peter Pettigrew, though the rotting suggests that it's north of a decade old."
Harry balked at that. "Are you telling me that—"
"I'm not telling you anything, Mr. Potter," the woman countered frostily. "If it was just Pettigrew, one might argue that someone somehow managed to obtain and preserve his body. But the other bodies showed the same signs, and they belong to several… high-profile individuals of our society, all of whom have been confirmed to be alive as recently as the previous week. That alone suggests the rotting is magical in origin, not natural."
That made him feel elated. And confused. And angry.
Seriously, how terrible were these calming draughts they gave him?
"And then there is the matter of the fourteenth body."
He didn't know why, but he was sure that a bomb was going to drop.
Harry closed his eyes. He knew it! He knew it! He fucking knew it! This— thisthisthisTHIS ALWAYS HAPPENED!
The geyser of rage within him exploded.
"HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?" he yelled, slamming his hands onto Dumbledore's table.
"Calm down, Mr. Potter," Madam Bones calmly stated, "or I will be forced to incapacitate you."
His fingers scratched the table as he clenched his fists. The anger within was growing. Again. Bad things always happened when he was angry.
"So— sorry!" he growled, gritting his teeth.
"Perhaps we need another calming draught," Dumbledore suggested.
One calming draught later, Harry was back in his seat.
"Look, I have no idea who or what killed Diggory," Harry repeated stubbornly. "Last I checked, I hit him with a stunner. It's probably Pettigrew. He's more than capable of killing people to serve his master."
"Both Mr. Diggory and Mr. Pettigrew's corpses were found rotting, just like everyone else's," Bones shot him down. "It's safe to say that whatever magic hit the others were responsible for the two of them as well. And the only person left untouched from that night was—"
"Me," Harry muttered, not liking the way this was heading. "So… what? You think I was the one who did it?"
The woman's stern glance faltered for a brief moment. "I'm not outright saying you were responsible. In fact," she glanced at her file, "there is no tangible proof. The rotting, despite all evidence to the contrary, has left zero magical residue, even though it can't be anything but. Bodies don't naturally rot that quickly."
"Well whatever happened, it wasn't me!"
"I'd like to add something that may prove useful," Dumbledore offered. "When I entered the area, I… felt something incredibly dangerous. It took a powerful Finite simply to stop myself from getting overwhelmed."
Both Harry and Madam Bones looked at the man, shocked. Albus Dumbledore's name had always been associated with power. With victory. To hear him say that he was nearly overwhelmed by the remnants of this mysterious magic— whatever it was —was shocking, to say the least.
"Allow me to rephrase myself then," Madam Bones muttered. "There was no magical residue on the bodies themselves, though clearly something magical transpired in the area."
Harry narrowed his eyes. Had the world stopped making sense when he was asleep? "So what exactly are you saying? That the curse was both magical and… not?"
"Yes," Madam Bones replied, rubbing her temples. "That's exactly what I'm saying. Their robes. Their wands. Even their own bodies. Not a trace of magic in any of it. One could even argue that this so-called rotting curse turned them all into muggles."
"That makes no sense."
"It doesn't," the woman agreed, "and yet here we are."
"Which only proves that Potter is lying," Percy broke in.
"Under Veritaserum?" Harry stood up, his clenched fists rising. What was in that calming draught? He felt so... unhinged. Inhibited and completely unable to control his rising emotions.
"Sit down, Potter!" Madam Bones snapped in return. "Do you remember anything else? Anything at all?"
As he slowly shook his head, she buried her head into her reports once more. Harry had the strangest feeling that he was looking at a future Hermione Granger. Well… a Hermione Granger that chose the Auror Office as a future career prospect.
"According to this report, you have a magical trait. The ability to speak Parseltongue."
"What of it?"
There he went, getting all annoyed again. Did Snape deliberately mess up Hogwarts's potions supplies? Even when he wasn't in the room, the greasy vampire found ways to get on his nerves.
"Parseltongue is an established Gaunt trait," she peered closely at him. "You are also known to be the only person to have entered the fabled Chamber of Secrets. Was…" The woman looked almost embarrassed. "Perhaps you learned some sort of ancient and terrible magic in there that could explain all this?"
Harry stared at her, as if she'd suddenly grown two heads.
"Ah…" the woman blushed. "Forgive me. The Daily Prophet ran an article on the Chamber of Secrets, and some of the Aurors who were investigating…"
"Nevermind. It was obviously gossip, but I had to bring it up for… investigative purposes. Yes." The woman cleared her throat. "Getting back to the point, an official statement through the Wizarding Inheritance Office would do you a world of good. Just to pre-emptively get rid of any rumors of you having secret ancestry or forbidden rituals at hand or—"
Harry slowly started edging away from her. "Since when does the Auror Office look to the Daily Prophet for how to do its work?"
Madam Bones decided not to dignify his question with a comment.
"I didn't do anything," he added. He didn't know why he said it. It was repetitive, and this whole interrogation was just getting to him. Like… really getting to him.
"I'm not saying you did, Mr. Potter," Madam Bones sharply answered. "Rules are rules, however, and you will have to bear with me. I was not present at the scene, you were. And even you must admit that your story is outlandish without any evidence. Quite frankly, it makes me want to double-check the efficacy of the veritaserum we used. And even if the resurrection of the Dark Lord is true, why would he kill his own supporters?"
"I never said he did it."
Madam Bones raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Then who did?"
"I don't know. I was too busy dying at his hands. Or, well, I thought I was dying."
"From the killing curse," Bones replied, her tone heavy with skepticism.
"Erm…" Harry pushed himself further into his chair, "you're not going to test it on me or anything, are you?"
After surviving the curse twice from the Dark Lord, it would be embarrassing if he died this time around in the Headmaster's office as part of a test.
"Imagine this, Mr. Potter," the DMLE Director explained. "A one-year-old gets hit by the killing curse but doesn't die. Not only that, but the dark wizard who cast the curse, someone powerful enough to threaten the entirety of Magical Britain, vanished. Presumably killed. And now, thirteen years later, you are hit by a killing curse, from the same man. And once again you don't die, and once again everyone who meant you harm is dead. Do you sense a pattern?"
"It seems the mystery of the Boy-Who-Lived is back once more," Dumbledore muttered. Rather exuberantly, much to his chagrin. "It is my belief that Lily Potter had something to do with it."
Since the end of his first year, the old man waxed lyrical about the power of love, and how it was his mother's protection that flowed through his veins and protected him against Voldemort. And it was just that? A theory?
"Well of course she had something to do with it," Madam Bones snapped. "The idea that a one-year-old baby performed something that could best a Dark Lord is absurd."
It was at that moment that Harry came to a particular conclusion.
He liked this woman.
"I believe that whatever Lily did that night had more ramifications than merely destroying Voldemort," Dumbledore explained, glancing at Harry. "Perhaps the same protection was triggered once more, causing all of those deaths?"
"And yet Voldemort wasn't in the list of dead bodies accounted for, Headmaster."
"With due reason. Harry has admitted that Voldemort took his blood to resurrect himself. Any ritual or protection conferred upon Harry through blood would recognize him too. That could be what allowed him to escape."
Madam Bones sank into her seat. "I suppose all this spins a wonderfully sound tale. However," she pointed at the manila folder on the table, "I have with me a document from the Unspeakables who researched the event back in 1981. Apart from those cast by the Dark Lord, the only spells recorded were cast by James Potter. Also the nursery room where baby Potter was found had a total of two spells cast. One, a killing curse on the baby—"
She glanced at Harry— more particularly, at his scar —before continuing.
"And the second— a healing charm by Sirius Black. Also on the baby. Lily Potter showed all the signs of getting hit by a killing curse but there was no residue on her person as well. There was literally no other magical residue."
Just like now. The thought was left unsaid, but the implication was clear to everybody in the room.
"Going by a different angle, one can also argue that it might not have even been Voldemort that Potter faced. The mantle of the Dark Lord is an appealing cloak to those who aspire to be like him. And what better way to establish authenticity than to face Harry Potter?"
"Veritaserum—" Dumbledore began.
"Is only as legitimate as long as the person speaking it knows to be the truth."
"I wasn't Confunded," Harry interrupted.
Madam Bones looked down at him with utter disdain. "You aren't helping your case, Potter. Real Death Eaters got out of Azkaban under similar circumstances. I suggest you hold your tongue and let me decide."
Harry forcefully calmed the emotions that were once again rising within him, telling him, almost forcing him to interrupt her again.
"Fascinatingly enough, your life story is splattered with cases of unidentifiable magic." She opened another folder that lay on her desk, and began to recite its contents. "Harry James Potter. First year, Professor Quirinus Quirrell was burnt to ash upon contact with your skin. No evidence of any magic being performed was able to be gathered, despite the clear magical nature of the phenomenon."
Harry stared at her warily. Was he going to be accused of killing Quirrell too?
"Year two," she continued, ignorant of his thoughts. "Killed a basilisk with a single stab using the sword of Godric Gryffindor." Taking a moment to pause, she looked up at his expression.
"Well yeah," Harry answered, taking the silence as his cue to speak. "I stabbed it right through the roof of its mouth."
"Mr. Potter," Madam Bones sighed, "a basilisk is upwards of seventy feet long. The sword, for all its grandeur and rich history, is minuscule in comparison. Killing it with a single pinprick— even through its mouth —is as absurd as me slaying you with a needle."
Harry stilled. He never thought about that.
"Year three. At the tender age of thirteen, nearing fourteen, you were able to conjure a corporeal Patronus."
"Professor Lupin taught me how to do that," Harry gave her an infectious grin. It was one of his prouder memories.
"Did he now?" Madam Bones raised an eyebrow. "Did he also somehow teach you how to modify the spell to kill the dementors?"
"What?" This time, both he and the Headmaster leaned forward in shock.
"A normal Patronus repels dementors. A powerful Patronus can repel even several dozen of them. Despite having just learned the spell, you were able to terrify an entire swarm of dementors at the end of your third year. A couple of weeks later, more than twenty Ministry-controlled dementors died. What's interesting is the common factor that linked said dementors. They had all come into contact with your Patronus."
"Amelia," Dumbledore started, a note of warning in his voice.
"I'm not accusing him of anything, Headmaster," Madam Bones went on, her steely gaze fixed on Harry's face. "But it is undeniable that there is a clear pattern here."
Harry felt a vice settle around his heart.
"I would say there is more than just a simple pattern here." Harry had nearly forgotten that Percy was here until the annoying prat started talking again. "He is a criminal, most certainly guilty of— of—"
And the room suddenly became noticeably colder. At first, Harry didn't realize it, but somewhere between Percy's pompous declarations and his sudden stuttering, something changed. Almost instinctively, he glanced towards Dumbledore, who was staring at Percy.
A heavy aura had descended into the office. An atmosphere so powerful, so thick that he was sure he could even touch it. Gone was the dotty old headmaster, the affable old man who liked to offer his visitors lemon drops. In his place, Harry saw someone else. Someone entirely different. Someone powerful. Someone that even Voldemort would hesitate to challenge to a battle.
The real Albus Dumbledore.
"I think," Dumbledore spoke, his tone deathly calm, "it would be best if Mr. Weasley vacated the room."
Harry wasn't sure why or how, but that stare— if it could be reduced to something like that —was judging Percy.
Even though it wasn't directed towards him, he could still feel its residual strength pressing down on him.
It was monstrous.
Percy was quivering as he rose up from his chair, his wide eyes never leaving the Headmaster's gaze as he slowly inched towards the door.
"The apple, it seems," Dumbledore went on, the disappointment apparent in his tone, "has indeed fallen far from the tree."
"But— I am—" Percy bumbled, "Minister Fudge— he—"
"I'm quite certain Cornelius can get his report from Amelia."
"But—" Percy swallowed, making a last-ditch attempt at gaining control as he was subconsciously shepherded out of the room. "The Minister will hear about this!"
"I'm sure he will."
"BYE!" Harry hollered, just as the door slammed shut on Percy's face. It made his inner child happy.
"What an unpleasant individual," Dumbledore grimaced. The temperature slowly began to rise to normal levels again. "I admit, I didn't see him growing this repugnant during his school days."
Madam Bones closed the folder in front of her with a snap, a slightly relieved expression on her face. "Rest assured, I'll keep him from spreading around any conjecture and gossip. I imagine Mr. Potter has enough on his plate as it is."
Harry felt her gaze upon him again.
"Moving on," she continued, probably ignoring the old man's chortles, "where were we? Ah, yes. It is entirely possible that whatever... magical backlash might have happened that night, it killed Peter Pettigrew as well as the other… victims."
"And Cedric," Harry scowled. He really wasn't liking this. At all.
"And all of this," Dumbledore interrupted her, "is purely conjecture. It has never been clear how or why Harry survived the Dark Lord's attack on Halloween 1981, nor is it clear why he survived now. This entire accidental magical backlash hypothesis is essentially an armchair conspiracy theory."
"A theory that most people would likely agree on," Amelia Bones shot back. "Incidents of unprecedented accidental magic are splattered throughout the pages of history. Admittedly nothing on this scale or effect, but it's still within the realms of possibility. Besides…" her lips twitched upwards, "from everything I have here," she patted the folder in front of her, "Mr. Potter has a history of surviving dangerous situations despite his grades painting him as mostly Acceptable in class."
Harry goggled at the two of them. He couldn't help it. Seriously, how did a conversation about the resurrection of a Dark Lord who'd terrorized Wizarding Britain, turn into one about his not-so-Acceptable school grades?
For the second time that day, he found himself lacking the proper words to respond.
Madam Bones sniffed. "With that in place, let's move on to the next order of business. With Peter Pettigrew's body found, it is clear that the entire Sirius Black case has holes in it. Black was accused of killing thirteen muggles as well as Pettigrew with a single blasting curse. If it was anyone but Sirius Black, that statement alone would have been preposterous."
"Sirius is innocent," Harry defended. "He didn't kill anyone."
"That's for the Ministry to decide," she shot back. "Sirius Black was a Hit-Wizard captain, one whose track record showed him to be both powerful and skilled enough to perform such a feat. Regardless of your personal beliefs, DMLE records show that Sirius Black did, in fact, have a trial. Though…" she paused, pursing her lips. "Considering the nature of the situation, I'm not averse to the idea that some wrongdoing may have been committed back then."
"What? But Sirius said he didn't get a—"
"The Ministry," Amelia Bones stressed, "has issued a public statement, offering Sirius Black a new trial in light of all the new evidence that has turned up. The statement has been broadcasted throughout Britain, asking Sirius Black to present himself to DMLE custody for a fair trial. I can only hope the message reaches him well."
Sirius will be overjoyed, Harry rejoiced mentally, before schooling his features at the predatory glint in the woman's eyes. Who knew what she could read from his expressions?
Madam Bones stood up. "I believe I've gotten all that I need from this interrogation." She stared at Harry. "Your testimony has been noted and witnessed by two members of the governing body, excluding myself, and as such will be presented to the Wizengamot. Do you understand what I'm saying, Mr. Potter?"
Harry swallowed. "I do."
"Good," she curtly nodded. "Also, two Aurors will be arriving tomorrow to check your wand. Nothing to worry about, just standard procedure after an interrogation. Finally, considering the… delicacy of the situation, not to mention the implications of a resurrected Dark Lord Voldemort, rest assured that you will be summoned for a formal Wizengamot trial sometime during your summer holidays."
"Harry is an underage student—" Dumbledore began.
"Age is irrelevant in such cases, Chief Warlock. Fourteen people have died, and many of them are main and branch members of Ancient Houses. The Wizengamot will be out for blood, and someone will have to pay." She glanced at Harry, or more specifically, at his fingers. "I suggest Mr. Potter here gets all the help he can acquire. He will need it."
She pushed herself off the chair and walked past them to the fireplace, before throwing a handful of Floo powder in it and turning the flame a sickly green.
Right before she walked in, she craned her neck in Harry's direction and addressed him once more. "I had the opportunity to serve under your grandfather when he was Head Auror, Mr. Potter. That man would have become Minister of Magic if not for his lack of political ambition. I hope you can live up to his legacy."
As Harry watched her exit through the Floo, his mind parsed through everything he had just learned. Finally, his brain condensed all of that information into a single sentence that he was completely unable to stop from escaping his lips.
Editor: Solo Starfish, the best goddamn starfish the world has ever seen.
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