The Redemption of the Black Sisters Chapter 10
Authors note: Once again, thanks to Sean Melton, He who makes me suck less
The Grand Hall of the Hundred Families rested in an unplottable valley in the Swiss Alps, a place removed from muggle sight since the time of the Pharaohs.
The ancient keep, out of place among the Mountain Pine, was an architectural impossibility. Not for it's size—though the grey stone construction was impressively large—nor for the score of delicate spires twisting improbably to the heavens, or even for the vast dome of white slate covering the squat body of the edifice. Indeed, the peculiarity of the structure lay not in its arrangement, but rather in its seemingly tenuous perch along the face of a sheer cliff.
Not the grandest or even the oldest of the meeting places in use by the families that quietly directed the Wizarding World, it was the one most often employed for the Great Balls and events that dominated the social calendar of the august body of Wizards and Witches.
If the outside of the castle was austere, the interior was anything but. Those privileged enough to visit castle bore witness to the collected wealth of the greatest wizard families since the fall of Atlantis that filled each corridor and room.
The treasures were endless: Priceless paintings and living statues of ancient and powerful wizard icons, breathtaking in the perfection of their craftsmanship, safeguarded the animated suits of adamantine armor patrolling the hallways. Living wood, hewn from powerful and forgotten magic, formed furniture that grew and shifted to perfectly fit each body that used them. Hothouse gardens containing fruits and flowers thought extinct for millennia—and several that muggles had never been aware of in the first place.
It was a world of ostentatious finery infused with the air of ancient wealth. It was flagrant magic, created for no better reason than the whim and comfort of those fortunate few allowed beholding its sights.
Bellatrix Black and Harry Potter lingered in the entry hall of the Grand Ballroom, waiting for their turn to be announced by the keep's ancient castellan into the Fall Equinox Ball. Although it was but one of the four great balls held annually by the Hundred Families, as the newly minted Scion of the Black Family Harry could ill afford to miss the gathering. Bellatrix had only shrugged when Narcissa had corralled her into going as Harry's date, citing her lie to Monique about Bellatrix and Lord Black's supposed relationship—but Bellatrix had seen the look in her sister's eyes. Narcissa didn't trust herself with Harry. Regardless, a ball was a ball. Bellatrix hadn't had the opportunity to attend one since childhood, and going with Harry would only make it more amusing.
Behind them, Monique Black waited in an indecent black dress, her arm entwined around her brother's waist. The brother was as handsome as his sister was beautiful; possessed of the same wavy hair and olive skin. He was tall and broad shouldered and his perfectly sculpted muscles were barely hidden in his tailored dress robes. The difference was in their eyes; while Monique was intelligent as well as stunning, the vacant look his eyes told Bellatrix that the brother was less than an intellectual giant.
Behind the brother and sister pair stood a second set of siblings. While Ron and Ginevra Weasley lacked the blatant physical charms of the Blacks, they were rapidly growing into their own. Ron, standing tall in fitted robes borrowed from Harry, had filled out over months of training with hard muscle that had melted much of the childishness from his face. If not for the goofy grin that he was trying vainly to conceal, he might have cut quite the intimidating figure. Ginny looked stunning, as well. The petite redhead was ravishing in a green gown of spider silk finished a white fur wrap around her shoulders and arms. It was a gown worth more than what her father made in a month of work, and she looked like she could definitely become accustomed to that level of wealth.
The four Blacks and their two guests comprised the entirety of the Black Family delegation to ceremonial ball. Harry had invited Monique to enlist her support against the Family's on behalf of his choice to replace Dominique Black—a French half-veela related to the Blacks on her father's side. Bellatrix knew that move would be unpopular with the purebloods.
The withered castellan motioned for Harry's group to step forward. Leaning heavily on his Staff of Office, he signaled with his free hand, bringing Monique and her brother forward. Bellatrix observed bemusedly as he passed his staff over their bodies, murmuring spells that would uncover unauthorized magic. The former dark witch idly wondered what would happen if he actually discovered any. He looked frail enough that she could snap him in half if she had half a mind to.
Once he was satisfied that the Black siblings weren't a threat, he stepped back and announced them with a surprisingly strong voice. "Introducing the Lady Monique Sanguinia Borgia Black and Lord Anjelo Mario Borgia Black." he cried out.
Polite applause filled the room as the pair made their way into the grand party.
"I don't trust them." Bellatrix whispered to Harry.
"Neither do I," Harry said with a sigh. This was an old argument between them. "I made her my voice on the council in exchange for her support in making Fleur's mother the new Family Head of French branch. After Dominique's death I needed a Family Head beholden to just me. Despite being a half-veela, Fleur's mother fits. The Pure's didn't like a half breed taking over the family, so this was a little bribe to keep the peace."
"But how do you know she'll vote as you like?" Bellatrix asked.
Harry shrugged. "That's what I have your sister for. She knows the ins and outs of this place and she'll keep me apprised of Monique's activities."
After a lackluster announcement for Ron and Ginny the old Castellan motioned to Harry and Bellatrix. He checked them with surprising economy of motion and moved briskly to the doorway to announce them.
"Ladies and Gentleman of the One Hundred Families, I bring forth one of your number" he cried out. "The head of House Black, The Boy Who Lived, I present to you the Honorable Lord Harry James Potter and his consort, Marie Annabelle Genève Dumbledore."
The room stilled, and Harry's smile became stiff smile as he sensed the hundreds of pairs of calculating eyes descending upon him. Looking out across the ballroom, Harry sensed the conflicting emotions wrought by his arrival: curiosity, distrust, and even disdain echoed in eyes of every color set in faces of every description. Bearded Bedouins with bright desert robes and coppery skinned Efreeti harem girls, dark faces with bone piercings and masks fringed with lion's mane, red-skinned natives adorned in cloaks of emerald feathers and loin wrappings of leopard skin, Asian witches from the empire of Jade fanning themselves with ivory wands while Eunuchs served magic teas and enchanted infusions in golden chalices… endless diversity, the extraordinary alongside the mundane, all observing Harry closely as he descended the staircase, all judging in silence.
Harry scanned the crowd, seeing precious few European faces and even fewer traditional dress robes. Already feeling like an interloper, Harry's sense of unease swelled as he realized that the greatest wizards and most ancient families of the world assembled here included few westerners.
For an instant Harry was the small boy again, the orphan who had grown up unloved and without friends, who had never belonged. Harry froze, filled with doubt. What was he doing here? This wasn't his world, these weren't his people. He'd grown up in a cupboard and he couldn't be here, pretending that he was one of them, that he belonged. They would know…
"Breathe, Potter." Bellatrix whispered. "You're the Boy Who Lived, the boy who faced down Voldemort. You can do this. This is the easy part." Opening her link slightly, she sent serenity down it into Harry.
Feeling far more calm than he had a second earlier, Harry wrapped his arm around his consort's waist and descended the rest of the way down the great staircase into the ballroom. Leaning in close, he uttered a whispered "Thank you" into her ear.
No matter how calm she made him, at that moment Harry would have given anything to be back training with Dumbledore.
One Month earlier
Harry Potter was glowing. Not in the sense that the long hours spent outdoors had given his skin a pleasant, ruddy hue, and not in the figurative sense of the pride inherent with accomplishing a particularly difficult feat of new magic, although he felt that as well.
Harry was currently incandescent, a silvery luminescence radiating from his skin and pouring forth from his eyes. Harry sat easily on the bare stone floor of the small, round room, while his light reflected softly off the rough walls, pulsing slightly with each beat of his heart. Silver fire burned atop candles located around him in the cardinal positions, Dumbledore kneeling behind him, his whispered words carrying easily despite his low voice.
"Tom once told you that the distinctions between Light and Dark magic were irrelevant, that it was only Power which mattered. This, as is the case with much of what Tom believes, is only partly true. While raw power is a key component to all great works of magic, the essence of Light magic is the same as that powers the Dark. What separates Light from Dark, Worthy from Disgraceful, is the emotion involved and the intent of the caster.
A light wizard dwells not on hatred, avarice, or the other sins that afflict man; rather he uses his love, compassion, humility, and generosity to power his Art. Dark wizards twist their gifts for their own benefit. Dark magic consumes the soul, while Light ennobles it.
You shall become kinder and more centered with every step you take along this path. You will learn that the greatest joys come not from filling your own desires but in the service of others. For in them are your own appetites satiated." Dumbledore smiled at the glowing boy. "What you are experiencing now is called the Light of Heaven. Allow it to fill you, work through you. Do not force it and it with strengthen all of your magic when your intentions are pure and your aims are noble."
"But how can the Light battle the Dark?" Harry wondered from his position on the floor. "The Light doesn't have anything like the Imperius or the killing curse."
The old wizard smiled indulgently. "Perhaps you cannot cause injury as easily with Light magic, but you will find Harry that the side of good is not without resources."
"A wizard possessed of adequate power and the proper focus can heal grievous injuries, sense the bonds of love and trust between people, or lack thereof, and make use of the magic resulting from such bonds. He could banish demons or destroy the undead. It is said that truly great masters can recall souls lost to the Dementor's Kiss or even destroy the vile creatures." Dumbledore smiled slightly. "Let me finish by saying that your mother was my one of my finest students and look at what she was able to accomplish."
"She still died, Headmaster." Harry said bitterly.
Dumbledore smiled sadly. "Yes Harry, she did. But before she died, she called upon ancient Light magic and saved her son from an unbeatable curse. That is a good lesson for you to learn: every piece of truly great magic—Light or Dark—requires sacrifice. Even the mightiest power is not without price."
Harry stared at Dumbledore for a moment, before continuing to call the Light into his core.
Some time later, Dumbledore called out "That's enough, Harry. You've done quite well for a beginner."
The glow slowly faded from the Boy Who Lived and Dumbledore lifted him to his feet with his one good hand. "Harry? I wonder if you could indulge an old man his curiosity?"
"Did you drink the Animagus potion and perform the rituals?"
Harry smiled, his green eyes twinkling slightly. "Yeah, we all did—except for Claire. She said that she didn't want to invite the animal into her soul."
Dumbledore humphed impatiently. "And?"
Harry's grin grew. "I won't tell you what the others are," he said, "But I'm something like a horse. I'd show you, but this place is a little too small for me to change and I'd have absolutely no room to stretch my wings" he added with a smirk.
"That is a tease truly unworthy of a Light wizard." Dumbledore said with a little laugh.
"Probably." Harry acknowledged. "Headmaster, there is something I've been wondering about."
When Dumbledore nodded his assent to the question, Harry continued. "What happened to your hand, sir," he asked, motioning at the wizards ruined appendage.
"Ahh," Dumbledore said. "I had wondered when you would get to that nut. Truthfully, I expected it sooner." With a wave of his wand he conjured a pair of chairs for his and Harry's use.
"I have discovered how Voldemort kept himself alive after you blasted him bodiless." The old wizard removed his glasses wearily, rubbing the bridge of his nose before replacing them. Staring off at nothing, he continued. "Some years ago, I attempted to teach Tom the same magic that you are currently learning, Harry. He came to us so angry, so bitter over his life, but with so much promise. He had already gained such great control over his core I thought to challenge him and create someone who might one day be my successor. My efforts were…unsuccessful."
"That's not your fault Professor."
Dumbledore smiled wearily. "No… perhaps not. And yet my guilt is undiminished. I taught him great and powerful secrets, secrets that he perverted. You see Harry; the nature of the universe is based in harmony, the yin and the yang, the ebb and the flow. So it is that every Light spell has a Dark counterpart. The magic I taught him to use to preserve, to heal, he twisted into the spells he needed to create dark vessels for fragments of his soul." Dumbledore spoke grimly, the words clearly hurting him. "Other dark wizards have made them, certainly most of the Black Circle will have fragmented their soul, but no one has ever dared what Tom Riddle did. He divided his soul into seven pieces, seven pieces that he carved off with murder and the blackest of Dark arts. He secreted them in various locations and concealed them behind powerful protections. Only when all of them are destroyed can Voldemort be truly slain. I destroyed the first such talisman that I have managed to locate, a ring once owned by Salazar Slytherin."
Unwrapping his bandaged hand, he showed it to Harry. It was a twisted wreck. Each blackened, rotting, withered finger was curled towards the palm. The old man grimaced and tried to flex the hand and each finger moved slightly. "Severus has managed to stop the rot before it spread past my wrist, but I am afraid that the hand is lost."
"Then why haven't you, you know…" Harry made a chopping motion.
"I have become quite attached to my hand—so to speak—and I continue to hope that I can one day restore it to at least partial use." Dumbledore said. "What worries me more are the other Horcruxes. Who knows what magic Voldemort has employed to protect them?"
"I can help," Harry said gravely as Dumbledore carefully rewrapped his appendage. "If you send me the information you have on the remaining Horcruxes, I can have the Black family search for them."
"I think I should like that very much." The old wizard said tiredly.
Harry continued to feel uneasy beneath the weight the attention. He could practically feel his scar turning red at all the attention. Bellatrix tightened her grip on his arm.
"No running off now." She whispered. "It'll pass."
She was right. Soon after he made his way towards Monique and Ron, the ball carried on and the quiet hum of conversations resumed.
"That was an introduction, mate." Ron said with a wide grin. "Got everyone to notice you."
"Exactly what I wanted." Harry replied sarcastically.
"Now that you're the Head of the one of the Hundred Families, you're going to have to get over being the center of attention." Bellatrix chided.
"I know that." Harry looked around. "Where did Ginny get to, anyway?"
Ron shrugged. "I dunno. She took off right after we got introduced. She's gone right spare since the beginning of school. Won't show anyone her form, won't hardly talk to anybody unless it's about war plans."
"I don't want her running off. She could get into trouble." Harry said.
"I wouldn't worry about it." Bellatrix said. "We need to go over the plans again. This isn't a social occasion."
"Yes it is," Ginny said as she rejoined the group, a glass of rich red wine in her hand.
"Nice of you to join us Ginny." Bellatrix said.
"Wasn't it, though?"
"Enough." Harry ordered. He turned to Bellatrix. "Does everybody remember what they need to do tonight?"
Narcissa had developed the plan for the evening, and everybody knew their role. Monique and her brother needed to determine out if any of the Hundred Families are supporters of Voldemort, Harry needed to be seen and to begin networking and developing some badly needed allies, and Ron and Bellatrix's main job for the evening was protecting Harry from assassination attempts.
Ron nodded, his smile vanishing at the thought of someone killing Harry.
Harry turned to the last member of his party. "Ginny? Are you ready?" Her task was probably the most difficult, but she had argued successfully that with her low profile and lack of social status she was unlikely to be missed while she ventured into the archives below the mansion. The Black libraries had provided depressingly little useful information on the Black Circle or on Horcruxes.
Ginny finished the wine in one long gulp. "You know it, should be a walk in the park." Her red lips parted momentarily in amusement and she threw Harry a saucy wink. "Just remember to spring me from Azkaban if I get caught."
Setting the glass down, the redheaded witch disappeared into the crowd.
A few days earlier
Luna Lovegood strolled into the mass of students, moving between people while confidently displaying her badge. Her moon-hued eyes surveyed the younger students, most of whom were trying to hide guilty looks from the Prefect.
"What is going on?" Luna asked in a characteristically breezy voice. She met the eyes of the first and second year students, noting that they seemed to consist of only Ravenclaws and Slytherins.
The group parted, revealing a skinny girl with pallid flesh, large sunken eyes, and limp blond hair. Luna recognized Tamara O'Malley, one of the serfs that had paid to send to Hogwarts. The girl, clutching a book to her thin chest, hesitantly walked towards Luna while blinking back tears.
"They were chasing me," she whispered in a quiet voice. "They didn't like that Professor Snape complimented me on my potion."
"He's always compliment…" one of the Slytherin boy's began to shout out, only to have Luna quietly meet his gaze. His tirade sputtered against the calm gaze of the prefect.
"Please continue." Luna motioned.
"This class was abandoned and I wanted to go inside so I could block the door. But the door was locked and they crowded around me. Then you came."
Luna looked at the group. "Jealousy is an ugly thing. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Voldemort has returned. Now is a time to stand together, not a time to tear each other apart. Five points from each of you."
The student's eyes widened as they looked around at each other guiltily, quickly trying to tally the points lost and wondering how their houses would react. Luna noticed that several of the Slytherins were still shooting her defiant looks. She drew the young girl behind her and motioned for them to leave with her wand, the threat of further defiance clear. After they left, she knelt down and looked the young girl in the eye.
"Are you really okay?" She asked. "There's no shame in finding help if you need it."
Tamara shook her head. "I'm fine. Really." She insisted. "I only got scared when I couldn't open the classroom. It's normally where I go to get privacy and study." She looked down. "They don't like me much in the dorms."
Luna smiled softly. "They don't like me much either. You'll find friends," she comforted. "Friends who will like you for who you are."
"You really think so?"
"You already have one."
The girl flashed Luna a genuine smile, revealing for a brief instant the potential beauty that lay hidden beneath the small girl's plain countenance and shy demeanor. It vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and she rushed away with a new bounce in her step. Luna watched her, thinking wryly that more than a few of those boys would live to regret being so unkind to the little girl. Ugly ducklings didn't remain so forever.
After Tamara left, the young prefect stared at the door. It shouldn't have been locked, Tamara was right about that. The only doors at Hogwarts that were locked were the living quarters and places used to store dangerous supplies. Lifting her wand she incanted and beams of light glowed around the edges.
Frowning, Luna cast a dispelling charm. The spell on the door resisted and Luna poured more energy into the spell, until it gave way and the door practically blew open. Luna stepped inside.
"You might have just knocked, you know." Draco Malfoy said blandly while he stood from where he knelt.
The young lord had removed his robes and stripped off his shirt, leaving him bare chested, wearing only the dress pants that all male students wore beneath their robes.
The weight loss he had experienced was even more obvious with his shirt off. Pale ivory skin stretched translucently over a frame that lacked hair or any hint of fat. It might have been attractive to Luna if it hadn't been so extreme.
His voice, placid as it was, was belied by his burning silver eyes.
"What are you doing in here?"
"I'm not breaking any rules Lovegood, so I don't see how it's any business of yours." Draco snapped.
Luna glanced around the room. What was he doing here? She saw a few ritual implements, but it didn't look like he had done anything, yet. There was something else…
He wasn't alone, Luna realized with a start. But where was his co-conspirator? She waved her wand around the room and muttered a spell, but it revealed nothing.
"You need to leave Draco. Now." She ordered in an uncharacteristically firm voice.
The Slytherin grinned at her sardonically. "Oh yes, great prefect, I bow before the power of your mighty badge." Casually raising a hand, his robe and shirt leapt into his grip.
Luna was impressed, in spite of herself. Wandless magic like that was not easy and he had done it very casually. She watched him cautiously as he slowly dressed in order to make sure that he did nothing untoward.
Finally finished, he gathered his things and departed, leaving Luna alone in the room. There is someone here her inner voice whispered to her, in her mother's dulcet tone.
In the blink of an eye, Luna was gone and in her place stood a small cat with a long, whip-like tail. Its coat was double layered and smooth, like an otter painted like molten silver. A pair of butterfly wings with a runic spiral patterns unfurled wetly from her back. Wide blue eyes looked around with new vision. A single leap took the cat from the floor to an unoccupied desk, its tail slashing through the air as she creature surveyed the room. Whiskers of Platinum twitched, tasting the air.
Luna's Animagus form was a Tressrym, a type of winged cat that had a number of magical powers. Tressrym could sense magic and pierce illusions. They were wise and strong and although rare, intelligent wizards made them familiars when they could.
Light filled the room, banishing the dark shadows and illuminating every corner, yet no one appeared. With an angry hiss, the cat jumped down and Luna stood near the table, arms crossed and eyes narrowed. It was a surprising look from the normally unflappable girl, but one that eminently fit her mood.
Someone was still here, but nothing she had done could reveal the perpetrator. Taking one last look around, she left.
The room lay silent and empty for long moments before the air shimmered, revealing a disheveled Hermione.
She unleashed a sigh. Luna was far stronger than she had imagined. The concealing spell had nearly broken both times she had employed the counter charm—it was only her iron will that had kept the shards of the spell together.
She hated to keep things from her but she knew that Luna wouldn't understand. Couldn't understand, because she was still whole, undamaged. Draco knew hate and knew how to use it. Hermione could sense that in him.
He could teach her the things that she needed to know, and the price he asked in return was inconsequential next to what she was learning from him.
A rat emerged from a hole in the wall and scurried across the floor. Casually extending her wand, Hermione cast the spell. "Avada Kedavra." An emerald light flashed and the rat died, eyes wide and tail extended. Closing her eyes, she lost herself to the ecstasy the spell released.
Indeed, she had already learned much.
Harry snatched a glass of wine that floated by on a tray and drank. He hated this. He wouldn't have been there at all but for Narcissa's stubborn reminders about his duties as the Head of the Black Family. He couldn't use the resources of the family while refusing to fulfill his obligations.
A quick look around told him that the other members of his party were otherwise engaged. Bellatrix's solicitousness toward Harry had been wearing thin, and when she had gotten ambushed by florid old wizard who seemed to be a friend of the Dumbledore family Harry had seized the opportunity to separate himself from her. He knew that it was an act, that she didn't really like him, that it was all part of Narcissa's master plan to win friends and influence people.
As it turned out, trying to find private time in the middle of a ball was not something easily accomplished.
"Milord Black, would you do me the honor of a dance?"
Monique stood demurely before him, her expensive shoulder- and thigh-baring blood-red robes and a black wrap leaving the Italian witch looking like a succubus on the prowl. Harry mused that these robes were probably as conservative as clothing got for her. She inclined her head toward the floor where couples were gathering for a ritual dance.
Harry nodded; this had been part of the plan. The series of formal dances gave Monique the opportunity to pass information discreetly to Harry, and apprise him of where he needed to direct his attention in his search for alliances. Harry thought that at least the first dance was something from England—even if it was Victorian themed—he certainly wasn't looking forward to the more exotic foreign dances. Lightly grasping Monique's hand, he stepped onto the dance area.
"I don't actually know this dance." Harry said by way of apology.
Monique laughed. "Most people don't, Harry. The instruments are enchanted. As soon as they start playing the song, the magic in the instruments will guide our steps."
Harry nodded and watched the stage. The musicians, tall and pallid, were dressed in black dress robes with yards of pale lace gathered at their throats and wrists. Each had an instrument of dark, polished wood that they strummed and played with single minded devotion. They seemed to be unaware of everything around them.
"They're musical adepts." Monique said by way of explanation. "They have limited powers, but they are truly gifted at the art of magical music and spell songs. It's a rare trait."
Harry nodded as he and Monique touched palms along side the other dancers, positioning themselves a few feet apart and looking at each other. When the music began, soft strings and flutes, Harry felt his body pushed by the magic, moving nearly on its own. Harry squashed the urge to shield his mind, instead speaking with Monique.
"What have you learned?"
"Not much. The Hundred Families are powerful, decadent and so interested in their own depraved vices that I doubt many of them even know who Voldemort is." Monique said disgustedly. "I've been approached to become the consort of no fewer than seven wizards old enough to be my grandfather."
Harry nodded but didn't reply. The music flowed through them and their feet followed the complicated set pattern of the song while their palms touched.
"You don't like me much, do you?" Monique asked unexpectedly as the music forced them into a complex spin.
"Well, you have insulted my friends, insulted all muggleborns, tried to love potion me with your perfume, and attempted to marry me yourself." Harry said dryly as the spin ended with the pair in switched positions.
"There is more to me than the scheming." Monique said Harry dipped her and held her in position.
The pretty girl gave Harry a sad look. "I admit that I underestimated you initially, but I hate that you think that I'm… please just know that what you have seen is not all there is to me. To remedy that, I would like to extend an invitation for you to come and celebrate Christmas Mass with me at the Vatican. I have been asked to sing for the Pope and I would dearly love for you to hear it as well."
Harry lifted her up and spun her around, only to dip her a second time.
Responding to the blatant need in her voice, Harry nodded his assent.
A few weeks earlier
She hated being here, not only did it seem like a juvenile thing to do, but when the questioning eyes of Harry's study group turned to her she couldn't shake the irrational feeling that they were all going to see through her, that at any moment one of them was going to point an accusing finger in her direction and proclaim who she was.
Why wasn't her sister as nervous? Bellatrix stood beside her, tall and beautiful, occasionally waving to a giddy Colin Creevy. The skinny youth grinned hugely at her sister and Narcissa couldn't help but feel that somehow Bella had adopted a really annoying puppy.
Harry had gathered them together in the Room of Requirement for the first meeting of the new school year. They were supposed to discuss what they were going to do with the club… was it even necessary any longer? Bill Weasley was a perfectly competent teacher and they would probably learn all they needed from him—Narcissa had learned a few things already from the handsome redhead. Not least of which that he was fast on the draw, faster than she would have been without ritual enhancement and fast enough to catch her off guard, stunning her in a class demonstration.
Lesson number one: Even Weasleys with silly earrings were dangerous.
The young witch saw Harry staring at a pretty Chinese witch. A Chang, if Narcissa wasn't mistaken. She could read the loss in his eyes and something like regret in the girl's. Had they been in a relationship? Had it ended badly? Narcissa desperately pretended to not care about the answers that weren't forthcoming.
"Thank you all for coming." Harry said quietly. He looked around the room, meeting the gazes of various members of the club.
"You all heard about what happened at the end of the last term." He stated. "I called for help and Neville, Ginny, and Luna were the only ones to come." He held up his hands to stave off protests that erupted from a few Hufflepuffs. "I understand why you didn't come. I'm merely stating that those three have more experience than you lot. Practical experience fighting for their lives." His green eyes grew hard. "Experience that all of us are going to need sooner rather than later. You all know that Voldemort has come back… there's no more disputing it. A war has come and its one that we are all going to fight in."
"So what are we going to do." Called out a sandy haired Hufflepuff with a stubborn set to his jaw.
"Starting right now, Zack, we are going to start living up to the name Ginny gave us last year. We're going to be an army." Harry stated simply. "We can't afford to be kids any longer. We have responsibilities. Hogwarts will be a target, and we can't rely on the wards or the professors to protect us. We have to be able to do it ourselves, we have to be able to protect this place and the younger students."
"Does that offer of protection extend to Slytherins?"
Narcissa had seen the tall Slytherin Head Boy appear at the entrance to the room of requirement but wasn't sure Harry had, so intent was he on the students in front of him. Those same students parted and Harry was left staring at Nathaniel Gregory. The Slytherin had a small cluster of students standing behind him and the older youth stared back at Harry calmly, but forcefully.
"You talk a lot about standing together, Potter, but I only see three houses here. Are the Slytherins to be left out of your great army? Maybe you think us lot can't be trusted?" the Slytherin head boy said disgustedly.
Zacharius Smith, the sandy haired boy stood up. "You're all purebloods. More than half the parents of your house are Death Eaters. We can't trust them, Harry." He said, looking back to his leader.
"I'm not a Pure." The Head Boy stated flatly. "I was born on the East End and I didn't know a lick of magic till I was a firstie."
The boy's accent got thicker as he got angrier.
"The Death Eaters could come after me sister and me ma'm as easy as any other muggle. I'm going to figh' 'im and so do these guys. Every las' one of 'em is a muggleborn or halfblood excep' for a couple. And I kin vouch for t'em that ain't." The Slytherin Head Boy finished
Everyone looked at Harry. Narcissa watched the Boy Who Lived think, his gaze unreadable, even she couldn't know what thoughts were going through his head. He hated Slytherins. He hated everything about their house and their mindset. It would be easy to condemn them and not one among them would speak out against his decision. In a way it was awe-inspiring to see how much faith they had in him. More than a little terrifying as well. Hearts and minds were far mightier than spells.
When Harry spoke his voice was strong and without doubt.
"Welcome to my army." He said quietly.
The Head Boy and his students broke into big smiles and Narcissa realized that faith in Harry Potter could come in silver and green as well as red and gold.
Ginny Weasley crept along the darkened corridor, her newly sensitive eyes picking out details of paintings and statues that had been long since abandoned to dust. She held out her wand, ready to defend herself in an instant.
No one passed this way any longer—the help didn't even bother cleaning it. Here she could smell the age, the ancientness of the keep. This was where the library was located, abandoned. The One Hundred Families were so secure in their power that they felt little need to explore the ancient magical tomes of their ancestors.
Ginny stopped before a large silver door and blinked in confusion.
She had been prepared for any one of a half dozen things: a magical guardian beast she'd need to fight, wards she'd have to dispel, unlocking a sealed door…
Pretty much anything except a door that was already open.
Ginny didn't need to use a light spell, she could see just fine in the dark. Slipping past the heavy doors she entered the biggest library she had ever seen.
Rows and rows of books filled a room larger than the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Magic was the only explanation for how the shelves could soar so high without tipping over.
She groaned, realizing that she would never be able to find anything in this vault. Not without an idea about how it was organized.
"Actually it won't be as difficult as all that." A voice said from behind her, startling the witch.
Ginny spun around as a tall and painfully emaciated albino stepped from the stacks, resembling a ghost more than a person. The man wore black muggle suit and a red shirt, which accented the long pale hair that fanned from beneath his Victorian top hat. A black cane with a silver handle tucked casually beneath an arm, his other hand held a slim folio in strong but slender fingers.
"Who are you?"
"Someone who enjoys reading and was dreadfully bored by the Ball." The man said in amusement. His voice was colored by an accent she couldn't place. "I believe you were wondering about the organization of the library?"
Startled at the man's apparent ability to read her thoughts, Ginny nodded. "Yes, I believe I was" she replied in a voice that belied her wariness.
The man motioned towards a podium holding a single sheet of parchment, a quill, and an inkpot. "Simply write what you are interested in on the sheet and the instructions to find it will appear."
The man held up a single finger. A red gemstone flashed on the ring he wore there. Flashed like blood.
"I did not say that this information was free. I expect payment."
Ginny stepped back slightly. "What do you want? I'm not going to just…"
"Oh, but I have such a simple request." The man whispered. In a blink of an eye he stood in front of Ginny. She stepped backwards, frightened by the reflexes and speed he had just demonstrated. "I want to know what you are, Ginevra Weasley. I have lived a long time and never have I seen such as you. You fascinate me."
He drew the word out, seeming to savor it as if the word were a fine wine. His heavy pale brow wrinkled slightly and his intense red irises burned like coals.
"I'm just…me." Ginny stuttered out. The new power, the new confidence she'd been feeling fled as she stumbled backwards.
"You do yourself a disservice. There is nothing… simple… about you, my dear. But I see you are ignorant of your true nature." The tall man turned around. "We will meet again one day soon, Ginevra. Tell your Harry Potter that The Dracula is ready to treat with House Black… and that the price for my aid is you…"
A few days earlier
Luna Lovegood knocked on the door forcefully. As she waited for a response, she straightened up, mastering her rebellious thoughts.
After what seemed like an eternity, the dungeon door creaked open to reveal Severus Snape with a wand in his hand, the tip pulsing with sickly light.
"This had better be a matter of Death, Miss Lovegood." The potion master said harshly. "You have awoken me from a sound sleep."
"Tamara O'Malley. You know her?" Luna asked without preamble.
Snape nodded. "A first year that is perhaps not as hopeless as the rest of the lot. What of her?"
"I know she isn't in your house but you need to protect her." Luna said seriously. "People are targeting her because she is a vassal, and it's getting worse."
"Tell that to Professor Flitwick, he is her Head of House." Snape said dismissively.
"She likes you." Luna said. "She sees something in you that no one else does, Professor."
Snape cocked an eyebrow. "What, pray tell, might that be Miss Lovegood?"
"Ask your friend Potter" Snape replied, "He'll no doubt confirm my lack of a heart." He moved to shut the door, but Luna stubbornly stuck her foot in the way.
"I know how you got to Hogwarts, Professor. I know the price you paid for magic." Luna said insistently. "Don't let Tamara make the same bargain with the devil for security. Please." She finished pleadingly.
Severus Snape met the gaze of the fifth year Ravenclaw and found himself unable to look away. Finally, reluctantly, Snape gave a minute nod of his head in response.
"I will do as you ask."
"So, does your Uncle still collect muggle sweets?" The old wizard asked Bellatrix. The wizened man had cornered her before she could get to Harry for the latest dance, asking her question after question about her Uncle Albus.
Questions that she had no clue about.
Answering evasively she tried to catch Harry's eye but the boy wizard was busily talking with Monique Black. Moving to corner her off, the old man—Ebenezer Mackenzie, Bellatrix recalled—poked her in the shoulder.
"You seem different. Wasn't there something Dumbledore told me about you from a few years back? Something about an attack?" He peered at her suspiciously through small round glasses and deep facial folds.
"I don't think so, sir." Bellatrix replied. Reflexively she reached for her wand. She wanted to get away from him, she didn't want to blast him away but she couldn't see an alternative and needed to escape.
"Is everything alright?"
Harry walked up beside her and she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Mr. Mackenzie is an old friend of my Uncle's." Bellatrix explained. "He was just asking how he was doing."
"Professor Dumbledore has taken me on as his apprentice." Harry offered. "He's been teaching me Light Magic."
Ebenezer humpfed. "Hope you turn out better than the last one."
"I don't really see how I can turn out worse."
The old man laughed and after patting Bellatrix on the arm he wandered off.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked.
Bellatrix smiled at her savior. "Yes I am, thank you." She snatched a drink off a floating tray. "It's hard to remember sometimes that I'm wearing a different face-that I'm supposed to be a different person now."
"Maybe after the war we can get you pardoned and you can go back to who you were before?" Harry said.
Bellatrix shook her head violently. "Maybe Narcissa can, but how can I do that? What would Neville or Colin think of me then? They like the new me, without the dark magic. How can I tell them who I was? Even if I'm sorry for what I did, and I am, I can't undo any of it. I can't make it better—not ever. No, Bellatrix—whether Lestrange or Black—is better off gone and forgotten."
Harry nodded and, seeing how far she had shrunken into herself, reached out a hesitant hand. Bellatrix saw what he was doing and leaned into him. He drew her in close and she rested her head on his shoulder.
Harry slowly stroked her hair and watched the Ball go by.
A few weeks earlier
The first DA meeting had ended and the students filed out singly and in small groups. It had been an unqualified success. Harry had always been a good teacher, but he had never been much of a leader and over the summer he had grown into the role his own legend had thrust onto him.
Along with the Slytherins, they discussed what they were going to be doing for the rest of the year. They all agreed that Bill Weasley was a competent teacher but that they could all use the extra practice, as well as training in additional spells that probably wouldn't be shown to teenagers. Harry tasked Narcissa and Hermione to find battle spells to teach the group—not dark spells, but battle spells. They would also begin training in the group-level battle magic from the books that Harry had discovered in the Black Vault. They would watch the group dynamics and see how things divided up so they could form some trusting groups that could work battle magic fast. It would require time, practice, and most of all trust to work sorcery like that and Harry didn't want to force anyone into groups with people they wouldn't trust.
In addition, Harry had taken stock of their various skills and abilities and he decided each member of the DA was going to get an emergency kit. The kit would include several preserved potions including healing draughts, a small dose of Felix Felicis—a potent luck potion—as well as a few tricks that the Weasley twins said they would work up. Harry would pay for the expense and each member of the DA was to carry the pack at all times—including the Quiddich field—so they would be ready in case of attack.
Harry, his inner circle and Nathaniel would lead the group and training. Narcissa had to admit that Harry's ability to get everyone on the same page and motivated was formidable, and would only grow as he got older.
"Neville, I'm going to set you up with an Animagus Potion as soon as you're ready." Harry said to his formerly overweight friend.
"Thanks, Harry." Neville said. "I'm just sorry that I missed out on the training with you and the others. But it was nice to be able to train with some of my parents' old friends."
Harry nodded in understanding. "Claire and Hermione can get you a copy of our training regime and the learning potion regime that we used to speed our training. Just remember," he warned. "Its a few days on and then a week off. There is reason why these potions aren't used as part of the curriculum."
"I'll get the things you'll need for the same rituals we took, as well." Harry added.
"Harry, you don't have to do that."
"I want to. You went with me to the ministry, Neville. You've done something most of these students might never do. Face down Death Eaters with bravery." Harry said with a pat of his friend's shoulder. "You are part of my inner circle and people know that. You'll have everything that comes with that responsibility."
"I'll make you proud of me Harry. I promise." Neville said. "When I get the bitch that killed Sirius and tortured my parents. You'll see."
His eyes still gleaming at the thought, Neville turned around and ducked through the entrance to the rest of the castle.
Narcissa walked up to Harry.
"You're going to have to do something about that." She said.
"I know." Harry answered wearily. "But what? 'Sorry Nev, the woman that tortured your parents. Turned out she's sorry and not such a bad person once you get to know her'. I'd think he'd AK me before I could finish the sentence, and I don't necessarily think he'd be wrong to do it."
Shoulders slumped, Harry walked through the door leaving Narcissa alone in the Room of Requirement.
She stared past the rows of books and defense objects and wondered, not for the first time, where this all would lead. She didn't know if Voldemort had learned of what had happened to her and Bellatrix, although the disappearance of his most loyal must have made an impression in even the Dark Lord's legendary self-absorption.
How long could they maintain this charade? And what would happen when it blew up in their faces? Because it would. She knew that, even if Harry was too young to realize that situation couldn't last forever. Truth will out, and this truth was too big to remain hidden.
As she thought the room changed around her. Shelves and books vanished, the mannequins melted away, and the room was laid bare, except for a large mirror in an ornate stand.
Narcissa blinked and approached the mirror, watching herself grow larger in the perfect reflective surface. Her reflection was so young, so vital, her face unlined, and not because she willed it so, but because time had not yet worn its furrows into her skin. The face she saw was not completely her own, but had not abandoned the Black character, either. She didn't possess the art to completely take on the features of Claire Dumbledore.
With a pale hand she reached out, stroking the glass gently. As her fingers touched her mirrored face, the glass rippled and the image changed. She still stood framed in the mirror, but it was the real her, her true face and coloring. She was still impossibly youthful and still vain enough to maintain it, but it was her true face rather than the mask she'd taken up.
In the mirror, she watched as strong a pair of hands wrapped around her slender waist, and so entranced was Narcissa that she didn't notice the absence of arms wrapped her in truth. She felt the weight of the man behind her, the weight of his lean body and the weight of the love he bore her.
Watching the mirror, Narcissa knew the face that would appear over her shoulder before it materialized. The green eyes that flashed like a curse capable of killing her loneliness, the messy hair that in the silence of her heart she longed to run her fingers through, the strong face that would only become stronger with maturity.
The refection of Narcissa turned to her husband and smiled, smiled with a feeling of love that her face had never seen during her marriage to Lucius. Her reflection reached out, touching her husband's face as though to assure her that he was real. As she did, children appeared. A boy with her coloring and his emerald eyes. An elegant daughter with dark hair and silver eyes and a winsome smile for her father and mother. A baby…
The mirror shattered against the far wall, shards of silver falling like razor snowflakes. It would never happen. Could never happen. She was too old, he was too young. They were different people from different worlds.
People like her didn't get lives like that—didn't want lives like that. Legions of children, little better than the Weasleys with their litters and painfully mundane lives. That wasn't for people like her. The halls of power, the lure of magic. Those were important…
Narcissa didn't feel the tears running down her face as she fled from the shattered mirror. She couldn't have recalled the moment she drew her wand, or even what spell she'd used to destroy the mirror. She knew nothing but the aching pain of her loss at the happiness time and fate had denied her.
Her pain was so acute that she failed to notice as the twisted frame of the mirror stood itself up and the fragments of glass ran like quicksilver in reverse, filling the frame again before solidifying.
True Desires might not shatter like glass, but they cut as deeply.
The great wizard prison of Azkaban was located in the north Atlantic, far from prying eyes. Grim rocky isles, its surface void of landmarks save for the several spires of black iron jutting from a stone fortress. The weathered bastion looked less like a construction of men than a twisted skull, torn from the Earth and crowned with bones. It was ancient place. Ancient and terrible.
The castle was shielded by wards as old as wizardry itself, protections beneath which Azkaban had stood inviolate but for two exceptions: the first had been a desperate man named Sirius Black, and the second was the breakout of Voldemort's the most loyal. Perhaps they were early signs of weakening protections… perhaps it was simply the time for Azkaban to fall.
A man in a black trench coat and fedora appeared on the beach below the keep. He surveyed the building with jaundiced eyes shaded by the brim of his hat, his face breaking into a smile that revealed a mouthful of rotted teeth. His tongue, forked like a serpent's, tasted the air.
He could feel the wards of the island reacting to his foul presence, and he wasn't surprised when Aurors apparated behind him. He turned slowly, stretching his hands wide in a gesture of surrender. Sickly yellow light poured from his outstretched fingers, killing everything that it touched. Stepping disdainfully past his would-be captors, the man proceeded down the shore.
The air shimmered around him as he walked. Magical fire swirled and lightning flashed with every step as the wards of Azkaban fought him for each inch of ground.
His coat was not singled.
The hat was not removed from his head.
He was not slowed.
Not at all.
The slow Mage-Mind of the isle roused itself. The magic of the island had evolved over time to become quasi-sentient, and the pain the dark man's presence caused the island forced the quiescent intelligence from its slumber. Lashing out with its considerable power, the island manifested itself to battle the intruder.
But the evil would not succumb. Black claws raked the air as the island's avatar bled raw power, its lifeblood, into the sky. Hissing vile curses in an evil tongue as old as the fall of paradise, the man flew into frenzy, slashing and tearing at the magic around him. Experiencing pain in a way it never had before, the magical construct retreated, hiding itself from the thing that walked like man as it moved to the front gate.
He sang a song of dark power and the gate cracked. More guards appeared, raining down a hail of curses and charms that would have slain any mortal creature.
Though man-thing appeared mortal, it assuredly was not. The curses and charms did nothing, while waves of black fire and sickly light washed over the guards until they shrank into withered husks—immutable shells of men that still lived, if such could be considered living.
Searching with his mind, the man that was no man probed for more guards but found none. All he sensed, from all sides, was the rotting desires of the prisoners of Azkaban: sick desires for immortality, for pain, blood, and sex, for terrible knowledge without wisdom. The island reeked from the darkness leached from the millennia of prisoners that had lived and died there, the twisted remnants of broken minds and shattered sanities. He sensed lingering echoes of the dead, as well as the very real appetites and agonies of those that lived still.
Whispering words of power, the dark man called forth the energy of a thousand deaths, a thousand sacrifices. His eyes turned red as clouds gathered around the island as the world itself wept tears of blood.
Grabbing hold of each thought, each sick desire, the man shaped a gate for each of them, a gate that would take them were they most desired to go.
Madly, he recalled a voice from the ancient past. A quote by a man he had once listened to: "Let them go, for they were my people, and they would be delivered from bondage."
These were his people, the people of poison, of death, and they would be delivered to poison the world.
Moments later, the thing stepped into the light. He had done as he had been bidden. He had released the captive witches and wizards as a plague of madness upon the Earth, and his compact was satisfied.
He was free.
An old man stood alone in the courtyard of the wizard prison, his whimsical robes of deep blue adorned with a pattern of slowly moving constellations at odds with the stark austerity of the prison. He held a wand in one hand while his other was bandaged.
Despite the old wizard's frail appearance, the blue veins that traced his hands, the paper thin skin of his face, the man-thing could feel power, pure crystalline power that radiated from the wizard. He was of the Light. Raising cool blue eyes, the wizard of Light met the gaze of the dark man. He spoke demandingly in a strangely liquid tongue. A tongue that hurt the heart of the Dark Man.
The dark man slowly smiled. "I know you, Albus Dumbledore. You dare to challenge me in the tongue of the Elohim? You, a mere mortal who cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the heavenly tongue?"
"I dare." The headmaster said confidently. "I dare because you cannot respond in kind. The tongue of the Elohim is forever lost to you, is it not? I dare because I know you, Duke of Devils. You are Samiel, the Venom of God. You are a fallen prince of heaven and now a Captain of Evil, and I have slain your ilk before." Albus Dumbledore said with grave formality.
Even as Dumbledore spoke, Samiel began to swell. The edges of his flowing coat became great scaled dragon wings that cast deep shadows. His mouth grew thick with viper fangs and his hat became serpents that darted in and out of the locks of his hair. His legs grew together into a muscular serpent's tail tipped with a vicious barb.
Raising his arms to the heavens, the devil cried out sending a wave of blue fire crashing over Dumbledore.
The Light wizard slashed with his wand and the wave parted harmlessly around him.
Raising his wand to heaven he called forth in the tongue of angels. The clouds parted as burning sunlight seared the demon.
The dark creature hissed in defiance and the sky darkened once more. Mothers from a hundred nations wailed in one voice as their children were struck dead by the evil power wielded by the dark thing. Dumbledore screamed as pale yellow light splayed out from demon fingers.
Marshaling his might, the ancient wizard erected a barrier of holy light and the demon fell back as bolts of silver fire surged from within the globe.
The sphere faded and Dumbledore stepped forth. The old wizard was breathing hard and his wand shook in his trembling hand.
"You are doomed, Samiel. As Iblis was doomed. As all evil is doomed" he said heavily.
The demon laughed. "You have grown old Dumbledore. Time has made you weaker and you are no longer what you were when you slew the deceiver." Lashing out not with magic, but instead with his barbed tail he sent the ancient sorcerer tumbling.
Scrambling to his feet, Dumbledore realized with horror that he had lost his wand in the fall. The demon lord struck at the defenseless wizard, sinking barbed fangs into the flesh of his shoulder.
Dumbledore had never felt such pain in his one hundred and fifty three years of life. Agony wracked his soul as the demonic venom burned him from the inside out.
But he had not slain demons and Dark Lords by being unprepared. Touching a pendant wrapped in his bad hand he vanished, the devils howl of rage still echoing in his ears as he appeared in his private chambers at Hogwarts.
Ron watched Harry as he shared a laugh with Marie Dumbledore. She playfully shoved a piece of food into his mouth and he swallowed it before wiping his mouth on her sleeve.
Ron didn't understand why Harry was going through with the charade that Marie was his consort, but he figured it probably had something to do with avoiding marriage proposals. He knew that a lot of the ancient houses didn't exactly do things the modern way and that Harry probably just wanted coverage to prevent someone from forcing him into something.
For all that he didn't know, Ron did know one thing. However it had started, it was becoming something far more real. He didn't think Harry realized it, and maybe not even Marie—though in his experience women were good at spotting that sort of thing—but it was there and it was growing.
A small part of him held out hope that Harry would become his brother-in-law in truth but he realized that it was increasingly unlikely. Ginny seemed over him, and Harry was obviously smitten.
Besides, Ginny had been acting so strangely lately that Ron was starting to doubt if she would be a good choice for anyone.
Ron was still deep in thought when a House Elf appeared in a flash of gold light, said something to Harry, and then vanished with the Boy Who Lived in the blink of an eye.
"Harry Potter is needing to come to the Headmaster's residence."
"I don't know were that is."
"I is bringing you."
They reappeared in a large stone room. Paintings and bookshelves covered the walls and a fire roared in a stone fireplace. Harry looked around. This was clearly part of Hogwarts, but he had no idea where it could be. Somewhere underground?
A sour-looking Snape walked into the chamber through a door Harry hadn't noticed. His black robes looked wet, as though covered in water. "Potter." He greeted curtly. "Against my advice, the Headmaster has insisted on your company. Try not to tire him with your inane questions."
Snape's features softened fractionally. "He is gravely wounded. There was a breakout of Azkaban and he foolishly attempted to stop it." He pointed through the door he had just come from and Harry slowly started towards it.
He stopped when Snape placed a hand on his arm. "I have a question, Potter."
"Are you truly paying for your vassals to attend Hogwarts?"
Harry looked confused. "Yes. Of course I am. I'm paying for all of my vassal's children to go to the magical school closest to them. I'm even starting a school for the older children and younger adults."
He watched Snape look at him as though for the first time.
For a long time the potion master was silent, and then he spoke softly repeating his earlier advice. "Though that door Potter, and do not fatigue him."
It was cast in darkness and as his eyes adjusted he saw a figure tossing back and forth on a bed. It was Dumbledore. The old wizard looked feverish and bright eyes captured Harry.
"Come, come here." he commanded.
Harry approached and even though he steeled himself, he nearly gagged at the smell. Putrefying wounds filled the air around the bed. The sickly sweet smell of rot came from beneath bandages leaking black blood.
"What happened?" Harry asked. He wanted to weep at the sight of the mighty wizard brought so low, so weak and helpless. This was not the way Albus Dumbledore was meant to die.
"Devil." Dumbledore answered weakly. "The Black Order summoned three Devil Dukes to destroy Azkaban, Alcatraz and Akuma. I was arrogant… I thought I could destroy him the way I destroyed Iblis in my youth." He coughed and black sputum speckled his beard.
"Save your strength, Headmaster. You have to get better." Harry whispered intensely.
"No," Dumbledore said hoarsely. "I'm dying Harry. The venom in my body is demonic, not even the tears of a phoenix can heal the unnatural. I grow weaker by the moment, and I will soon pass. It has taken all of Severus' skills and my magic to maintain as long as I have."
Lunging forward with sudden feverish strength, the headmaster grabbed Harry. "You must listen to me, Harry. I know I have wronged you, but you must listen. I will not have time to train you as I had wished." His blue eyes burned with nearly physical heat and met Harry's gaze unflinchingly. "I have put in motion a plan…"
Something powerful grew behind the feverish glaze of the older wizard's eyes. Something… silver… fire that burned with great power. Harry could feel it pushing outwards…
"No" Harry said angrily as he broke the grip of the old wizard. "No plans. No setups. You aren't going to die. You can't."
Dumbledore fell backwards against his pillows—the energy fleeing his body in a flash. "We all die, Harry." Dumbledore said tiredly. "Let me die with some purpose. I still have much to give you, and neither the time nor the energy left…"
"I don't accept that." Harry hissed.
Spinning around on his heels he walked swiftly out of the room.
When he came out he saw Snape was sitting at a desk searching through a thick book. With one hand he rubbed the teacher rubbed his temples. He glanced up when he heard Harry and for the first time Harry saw his most hated teacher as a human being—a man pushed to the limits both mentally and emotionally.
"I know how to save him." Harry said.
"There isn't away to save him." Snape spat back. "Regardless of what you think of me, I don't want the Headmaster to die. I never have. I have tried everything, but daemon venom has no antidote."
"What about this?"
Harry reached into his robes and pulled out the small box that never, ever left his person. He flipped open the lid and showed the potion master what was inside. Severus Snape was rocked backwards by what he saw.
"A Philosopher's Stone--How can this…" He whispered in awe.
The Boy-Who-Lived smiled. "I have a plan. It's a bit crazy but I think it will work. Before I propose it though, I have one question."
"What is that?" Snape asked, his eyes never leaving the legendary item.
"How are your De-aging potions?"
Read and Review. I am particularly curious about what people think about Narcissa and the Mirror.