Edited and reposted 1/9/07. If you find anymore errors in this chapter please let me know and I will correct them as I do the other chapters.
THE LORD OF AZKABAN
CONFRONTING THE LORD
Albus Dumbledore sat quietly at the back of a rather small rickety wooden boat, lost in his own thoughts as it moved smoothly across the black water towards the bleak island prison of Azkaban. It had been many years since he himself had ventured to the island accompanying a confused and emotionless young man. A young man he had left there to die.
Harry Potter was only sixteen when he was sentenced to a life's sentence in Azkaban for the murder of what remained of his family. The verdict was read and he was shipped off for a lifetime of hell on earth on his birthday. The trial had lasted for only two days because of the weak defense while the ministry had produced witness after witness testifying against Harry about how much he hated the Dursleys for the way he was treated, even his best friends had testified against him. The court was against him from the start and even his defense counsel had all but refused to help him. Dumbledore himself added the finishing touch though, with his testimony of Harry's state of mind and actions at the end of his fifth year. Though he did not mention the prophecy, he was more than willing to speak about the rage that was built up after the fiasco in the Department of Mysteries and the death of Sirius Black.
Dumbledore remembered well the day he arrived on Privet Drive to speak with Harry only to find him sitting on the couch in shock while the Dursley's lay on the floor in pools of their own blood. He had immediately called for some Aurors to investigate the crime scene while he tried to speak with Harry. Harry, however, would not speak. He did not speak a word throughout questioning, his trial or even on the journey to Azkaban, when prisoners are most often at their most vocal. The Headmaster and the entire magical world had taken his complete silence for guilt and just more proof that he was completely insane. It was not until just two days ago that they had discovered that the muggle police had solved the crime years ago when a young man by the name of Piers Polkis, a childhood friend of Dudley's, confessed to the crimes. After a great deal of arguments it was decided that Harry was to be released from Azkaban and brought to the Ministry for further questioning. But after seven years in prison Dumbledore was afraid of what shape Harry would be in.
As the boat pulled forward he looked around at those that had accompanied him. Ron and Hermione Weasley were hugging each other for support while Remus Lupin verbally berated himself for ever believing that Harry could commit such crimes. Severus Snape sat at the bow as he gazed intensely towards the formidable fortress just now coming into view. When news of Harry's innocence had spread, many believed the ill-tempered Potions Master would be rather smug, knowing that he had been one of the very few to be vocal in his belief that Harry could not have possibly committed such a crime but instead he immediately began making plans to get 'Potter' out of that hell hole. The old mage turned his gaze back toward their destination going over his thoughts on how he could ever make it up to the boy he once considered as a grandson, unaware of the pair of burning eyes that watched their steady approach.
In the tall tower facing the shore, a man stood before the massive window and silently watched as the unwelcome 'guests' approached. The moonlight glittered off his bare body and reflected in his eyes. His face remained impassive but those eyes held only one emotion. Hatred! As he mused on how best to deal with the matter two pairs of warm arms wrapped around his body, begging for attention. He neither flinched at the sudden touch nor even acknowledged their presence. He briefly turned away as he felt the familiar and intoxicating cold sweep through his veins as a Dementor approached his chambers. A moment later, a deep rattling gasp sounded through the room as one of the dreaded guards of Azkaban entered.
"Yes, I know my friend. I have been expecting them for some time now." The man replied to a seemingly unasked question. His voice was cold and harsh and reeked of power and command. After a moments pause the creature once again let loose its rattling breath as if it were some form of communication. The man simply chuckled darkly.
"That will not be necessary, they will be no trouble. Undoubtedly you and your brethren's new strength will surprise and frighten them. We do not want to tip our hat too soon. Have your weakest, though it is merely a relative term, guard the gates and patrol the corridors on the lower level, I don't want them to be overwhelmed to soon. I want you, yourself, to stand guard outside of Potter's cell. When confronted by your power as they approach, even Dumbledore himself will get nervous, so after they get a taste, keep your distance. I will join you shortly." He finished with a maniacal grin playing across his lips. The Dementor bowed deeply before gliding out to be sure his orders were carried out. With a smirk, he turned to survey the two bare women in front of him that had stretched themselves out across his massive bed.
They were both exceedingly beautiful women and seemed to have no aversions to the Dementor's peculiar powers. They both stood just less than six feet tall and had pale skin due to their years in Azkaban. While their faces held similar aristocratic features, that was where the similarities end. While one had long flowing, glossy black hair and cold violet eyes, the other had shoulder length pink hair and kind blue eyes. While her eyes were considerably warmer than her Aunt Bellatrix', Nymphadora Tonks' still held a considerable amount of hate. Those two sets of eyes gazed hungrily at the man they both loved, the man that had saved them from their madness.
"Well, we have about forty five minutes before they reach Potter's cell, whatever shall we do until then?" He asked in a mocking tone as he gazed lustfully at the exposed flesh before him. As if to answer the question, Tonks stood and leapt into the man's arms, crushing her lips to his as she wrapped her legs around his waist. Being just as aroused as them, he quickly accepted her and collapsed onto the bed so they could join Bellatrix.
Even before the boat had reached the shore both Snape and Dumbledore began looking back and forth between one another in confusion. Though it had been many years since either of them had been to the island prison, they could probably still build an accurate model of the place without looking at it. However, what they were looking at was a good deal larger than either remembered. Voldemort had launched an unsuccessful attack against the prison five years before but Dumbledore had heard of no modifications apart from the repairs. As the head of the Wizengamont he would have to personally sign off on any plans or funding to overtake such a task.
"Why didn't we know about this?" Snape asked briskly as the boat made it ashore.
"I am at a loss myself. I was unaware of any modifications. I was here only briefly after Voldemort attacked as part of an investigation into how he was driven back."
"Are we looking at the same building?" Ron asked sarcastically. "A group of first years could defend this place."
"No, you don't understand Mr. Weasley. At the time, the fortifications were nowhere near as extensive and since it is guarded almost solely by Dementors, Voldemort should have taken it easily. A year of investigation into the matter yielded no results."
"This is all utterly FASINATING but we can sort all this out later. We have business to attend to." Snape snapped as he turned and began marching towards the fortress. As the group entered the front gates they were immediately bombarded with ghastly images and memories as the freezing cold seemed to clutch at their hearts. Hermione went deathly pale and let out a loud whimper as she was assaulted by the memories of her parents' long and excruciating torture and death at the hands of Voldemort himself. The group quickly fled the gates and made their way into the entrance hall.
"My god!" Snape gasped. "I have never come across a Dementor that strong before! They must be ancient!" He said as he sucked air into his lungs. It was well known that Dementors, like the vampires and the phoenix, grow more powerful as they age.
"I have, many years ago." Dumbledore said calmly although on the inside he was just as shaken up as everyone else. "Though I have been the head of the Wizengamont for fifty years I have not been in contact with every Dementor on this island. Those two were merely guarding the front gates, I do not relish the idea of meeting the clan leader." He said in all honesty. The others seemed to pale even further at the thought. Unfortunately, for them, that was exactly who they would find.
"Headmaster?" Five heads swiftly spun around at the sound of a new voice. "What are you doing here?" The man asked in confusion. He seemed to be in his mid to late forties and about medium build with sandy blond hair. His features would probably be considered handsome if he got away from the Dementors long enough.
"Ah, Simon, it is good to see you! My friends, this is Simon McKinnon, the assistant warden. Simon, this is Remus Lupin, Ronald and Hermione Weasley and I believe you already know Severus Snape." Dumbledore greeted kindly.
"It's good to see you to." Simon replied paying the others no mind but instead focusing solely on Dumbledore. "I'm sorry but we weren't notified that you would be coming or I would have met you at the shore." With a gentle probe around the man's considerable mental shields he could clearly see that the man was genuinely confused and he wondered why Fudge had not sent word that they were coming and more specifically, why they were coming.
"It is quite alright, my boy, we managed."
"Alright, well, what can I do for you?"
"We have come bearing a full pardon and release orders for Harry James Potter!" At the man's shell-shocked appearance, he elaborated. "Evidence was recently discovered that has cleared him of all charges." He explained with remorse and pain etched into every word. After reading over the release forms, Simon quickly agreed to lead them to Harry's cell himself. As they navigated the many passages and corridors they were blessed with only a few meetings with the Dementors but those proved to be encounters almost as bad as the two at the gates. Ron, Hermione and Remus were almost huddled together while only his pride kept Snape from joining them. Dumbledore and Simon, however, looked unfazed.
"Simon when were all of the additions to the prison's infastructure constructed?" Dumbledore asked. He was both greatly curious and concerned how it was done without being notified.
"You didn't know?" He asked with a shocked expression. "Minister Fudge ordered it to begin shortly after Voldemort attacked. We assumed that you knew."
"No, I did not." He replied with steel in his voice. He would have a great many things to discuss with Cornelius later but right now his main concern was Harry. As they desended the final stairwell a wave of icy air seemed to slam in to them with all the raging fury of an artic blizzard. Albus looked up with wide eyes to see that Simon had passed out from the onslaught. Looking back he saw Ron and Hermione passed out on the stairs while both Remus and Snape seemed to be huddled against the wall in fear. Turning back towards his destination he felt terror strike his heart as he saw but a single Dementor, not the army he had expected. It looked like any other Dementor but it completely reeked of an ancient power. After seemingly gazing at Albus for a few moments, as if in contempt, it simply turned and glided back down the corridor.
Albus took a few minutes to steady his breath while he gripped his wand with white knuckles, as if for reassurance, before he calmed himself enough to turn his attention to his companions. After 'stuffing' large quantities of chocolate down the throats of Remus and Snape, he instructed them to help Ron and Hermione as he turned back to Simon. After waking up and finishing off several bars of chocolate, Simon leaned against the wall and put his head in his hands and sighed.
"Dementors are not nearly as bad as the rest of the world makes them out to be. Maybe it's because I'm around them all the time but ever since I started working here I have had a strange sort of fascination with the creatures." He spoke in a low monotone voice, barely above a whisper. "But that one," He paused as he shook slightly. "Is by far the most powerful I have ever heard of."
"Where did it come from?" Dumbledore asked. He was quite sure that it could not have been there for very long. Even with a hundred Dementors around, that one would be hard to miss.
"I don't know. It just showed up one day a few years ago. There is no way to determine the exact age of a Dementor but judging from its power levels, most people here believe it may even be one of the first of its kind." The man shivered considerably before pulling himself of the floor. "Come, we better hurry. I don't know why but Potter has had a worse time of it than any other prisoner here. Even the ones that have been here for decades."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked in alarm with her mouth half full of chocolate.
"You must see for yourself." Simon said with a sigh after a moment of trying to find the right words had failed. After leading the group halfway down the corridor that was blessedly free of Dementors, they came upon a solitary heavy iron door with nothing but a small closable safe-like door in the center that was used for occasional checks on the prisoner. Dumbledore and everyone else were greatly surprised to see that Harry was being held in one of the most secure cells that Azkaban housed. Not even Sirius Black had been held under such security during his imprisonment and he was considered the most dangerous prisoner ever held in the infamous prison before his name was cleared just a few short weeks after his death.
Simon placed his right hand flat against the cool iron of the door as the wards read his magical signature. At the same time he mumbled a very long phrase that obviously served as some sort of password and probably sought out voice recognition as well as the actual words. When finished he stood back and a moment later a deep creaking sound echoed through the dank stone corridor as the door began to budge. With loud pops, rust shot out from the hinges, giving a clear indication of how long it had been since that very door had actually been opened. Harry's 'friends' were not prepared for the sight that lay before them.
The cell itself was only a four by six foot box that looked more like a dilapidated broom closet than any place that was meant to house a human being. The walls, floor and ceiling were all made of rough concrete and were all bare with the exception of a single thin woven straw mat they lay on the floor to serve as some form of bed and a bucket. Everyone, even Snape, who was used to spending long hours slaving over some of the most noxious concoctions known to man, gasped and quickly covered their mouths and noses against the stench that permiated the cell. However, the only thing more shocking than the conditions was the young man that was forced to endure them.
Harry Potter lay upon the thick matted moleskin coat that Hagrid had draped across his shoulders as he was led out of the courtroom on the day of his conviction. Even with the loud sobs of the first friend he ever had, Harry made no indication that he even realized where he was or understood the events going on around him. On a whole he had grown very little in the seven years that he had spent in Azkaban, probably due to the lack of proper nourishment and being enclosed in so small a place. From his position on the floor he still appeared to be just about five and a half feet tall and was painfully thin. Through the tattered fabric of his clothes you could easily make out the shape of his ribs and the skin on his arms and legs appeared to literally sag off of his bones. Even with these images burned into their minds forever nothing could have prepared them for the look on the young man's face.
His normally messy black hair was now very long and matted, covered in dirt and grim and even a bit of his own blood. Like the rest of his body his face had lost a considerable amount of weight and his cheek bones and jaw now stuck out like a sore thumb while his eyes seemed to have a sunken look to them as if they had been pushed further into his skull. But it was what these eyes contained that was truly frightening. The dull green orbs that once shined brightly and sparkled with so much life and compassion now seemed dead and unfocused. If it were not for the fact that they could clearly hear him breathing in short shallow gasps, each one of them would have rightfully believed that he had been dead for some time.
Hermione burst into tears and Ron grew pale at the sight of their former best friend while Remus slumped to the floor with a cry that sound as if it came from some wounded animal, not a man. Snape quickly rushed to the boy's side as Dumbledore spoke urgently with Simon.
"How did this happen and why has he been left in the high security lock up for so long?" He asked gravely.
"He was first brought to this cell only a month after he first arrived to the island. He hasn't uttered a word since before his trial but while he is asleep he will often go into fits as if he is having some particularly disturbing dreams or visions. When the healers arrived for their monthly rounds he was asleep when they entered his cell and began running their tests. All of a sudden his eyes snapped open and he saw himself surrounded by people and attacked. Two of the healers and three guards were injured before we could stun him. He was brought down here immediately afterwards."
"You don't sound as if you were surprised. In fact you sound like you pity him." Snape commented with a sneer as he continued to check the boy. Simon sighed deeply before answering.
"Yes, I do. You can't work here for long without learning how to feel pity. I saw his eyes when he first awoke and saw the healers. They held pure terror, as if he believed Death himself had come for him. Whatever he see's in his dreams has obviously taken its toll on him and the presence of so many Dementors has not helped that fact. He has hardly moved in five years and the house elves that are employed to force feed the prisoners that have been given the Kiss have been forced to do the same for him, otherwise he would have wasted away long ago." He finished sadly but his explanation left them all confused about many things.
"If he has been incapacitated in such a way for so long then why has he spent those years locked up so securely?" Remus snapped at the man.
"After the attack on the healers he was brought down here like any other prisoner would, but after his month of confinment was up Minister Fudge ordered that he be confined indefinitely in the high security block to insure the safety of himself and everyone else. Chief Warden Daniels agreed without question." The assistant warden replied. It was clear from his tone that he had absolutely no respect for his superior who had not even been to the prison in years. Prefering to remain in his office in the Ministry while his assitant is forced to carry out all of his duties as well as his own. Dumbledore growled in disgust and was about to go on some rant about Fudge's apparent incompetence but was cut off be Snape.
"Albus, we have to get Potter to the hospital wing now!" Snape nearly shouted to get the old man's attention.
"Is he going to be alright?" Hermione asked in a meek voice, to which Snape simply replied by giving the girl a glare that clearly asked, 'are you kidding?' Physically he was a mess, but the emotional strain of those he knew and loved condemning him to hell on earth would far exceed any physical scars. 'Stupid girl.' He thought to himself as he pulled out his wand and leveled it at Harry.
"That won't work!" Simon suddenly spoke up drawing curious and confused looks towards him. "Part of the new fortifications is some new and more powerful magical wards, including a magical suppressor shield. Unless we are under attack no magic can be preformed in the cells or corridors unless you are temporarily keyed into the wards and that only happens when the healers or visitors come. I can't even perform magic here on a regular basis anymore and I run this place." He informed them with annoyance in his voice. Snape growled in frustration and turned to Remus.
"Lupin, help me get the boy up!" He ordered. Remus, being so concerned for Harry didn't even blink at his school boy enemy giving him orders. After all, Snape believed in Harry's innocence when nearly everyone else, including himself, did not. So who was he to argue? Each man put one of Harry's arms across their shoulders and easily hoisted him off the ground. Even with their knowledge of his physical condition both men were extremely shocked at how little he weighed. Their fifteen minute journey back to the front gates was strangely Dementor free. Not that they were complaining but it was a fact that confused them greatly, especially when those that were guarding the front gates were absent as well.
Everyone breathed a large sigh of relief as they exited the prison and they heard the massive front gates shut behind them. As they made their way towards the shore, everyone had the same feeling that something about the island was not right and Dumbledore was determined to find out what it was as soon as he was sure Harry would be alright. They were about twenty yards from the boat when something unexpected happened. Both Remus and Snape lurched forward with such force that they were forced to release their hold on Harry and it was a miracle that they did not end up face down in the dirt. Everyone drew their wands and turned swiftly to meet the new threat and came face to face with what seemed to be an impossibility. Granted, Harry was still on the same spot that Remus and Snape had released him but it was NOT the same Harry Potter they had been carrying out of the prison just moments ago.
Sitting in a large plush leather armchair was Harry Potter with his intense green gaze leveled at the four wizards and one witch standing opposite him. His dirty ragged appearance was now gone, replaced with an aura of power and the will of one that was used to being in control. Instead of the short, skinny shell of a human being he had appeared to be, he now seemed to be just about six feet tall with two hundred pounds of well toned muscle. His long matted hair was now clean and fell gracefully down to just above his elbows. His eyes seemed to bore out of his chiseled features and drill into the very souls of those before him.
"Sit down!" Harry said in a soft yet commanding voice. His guests looked even more confused before they were quickly shoved backwards by an invisible force and were suddenly sitting down on a rather large couch that had them all facing Harry directly. Everyone simply stared at Harry in shock for several moments before he grew tired of their ignorance and began.
"We need to talk!" Harry said coldly as he gazed at the people before him. Surprisingly the only one he did not look upon with unmasked hostility was Professor Snape. "First, let me give you a little background."
"The night that I was brought here, I was subjected to the worst beating I have ever experienced. It's normal around here for new prisoners to be ruffed up a bit when they first arrive but for me it was exceptionally harsh. After all, how often do the guards around here get the opportunity to hurt a 'legend'. They damn near killed me. It was at this time that I came to a realization. Since I entered the wizarding world I wanted to prove myself, prove that I belonged and later prove that I could live up to the reputation and image I had been branded with since I was a year old. But in that moment I came to ask myself a pivotal question. Why the fuck should I care what the world thinks of me? Why do I want acceptance from a world that raises me up one moment only to send me crashing down the next?" At this point everyone was looking anywhere but at Harry as they thought about his words but most of all they were in confusion about the situation.
"For two years I was essentially a prisoner in my own mind. Bombarded with images to grotesque for words and assaulted by pain so brutal no man should ever experience. Then, Voldemort came and changed that." With this last statement everyone tensed up believing Harry had indicated that he had joined with the Dark Lord. This caused Harry to smirk with a great deal of pleasure. "When Voldemort landed on this island something snapped in me. A power that had been kept at bay all of my life was released, clearing my head and my senses and the first thought that came to mind was that someone was attacking my home." Everyone looked suitably horrified and shocked, both by Harry claiming that Azkaban was his home but also of the idea that he held enough power to drive off Voldemort and his Death Eaters single handedly.
"You, you stopped that attack yourself?" Dumbledore asked in a shaky voice. He was widely considered the most powerful wizard in the world and he found his own true power a bit disconcerting. But if what Harry was saying was true, than he had more power than he could even begin to fathom. Harry's eyes shined as if he had read his old Headmaster's thoughts.
"Than I assume you are also behind the added fortifications?"
"When Voldemort and most of the Death Eaters were driven back, they left a large number of their fellows behind. The existing structure just wasn't capable of housing them. Especially since at that time we had a steady flow of new inmates coming in." Harry replied with an emotionless voice that the others found disturbing but Dumbledore was not to be dissuaded from going after all the information he could get about the extent of Harry's powers and what had gone on here.
"If all of this happened after the attack then how is it that no one knew anything about these modifications?"
"The people here, guards, the warden and even the healers and guests that come to this island from time to time believe precisely what I want them to and more importantly, REMEMBER what I want them to."
"You put memory charms on all of them?" Both Dumbledore and Remus asked in shock at the same time which brought a sneer to Harry's face that Snape couldn't help but admire.
"What I have done here is hardly that simple. Any moron with a wand could perform a memory charm. Lockhart proved that conclusively. Take your friend Simon in there for example. While he is here he accepts every change that has been made at face value. He remembers reading over and signing off on the work orders and plans from the ministry. He remembers the construction mages working for months to double the prison's infrastructure and housing capacity and later the inspectors. What he doesn't realize is that none of it ever happened. When he leaves this island he will be completely incapable of speaking of the changes. He has gone on for five years now, never questioning any of it, never believing anything was wrong. Originally, I did this because I did not want Voldemort to get an idea at how my powers had grown. I planned to find out who really killed my relatives and get my name cleared. Possibly re-enter my life some where. But, then I discovered something." If possible the fire in his eyes seemed to freeze and became even harder. He reached behind him and pulled the old moleskin coat off the back of the chair where he had placed it.
"I'm sure you recognize this!" He stated coldly as he glared at Dumbledore and Remus. Both men seemed to go rigid under his gaze as Ron and Hermione felt tears come to their eyes. Snape, of course, looked as stoic as ever but he felt the loss as much as the rest of them. "Both of you were here that night Hagrid and the others tried to break me out of this prison. Tell me, were either of you responsible for his death? But that is enough of that, let's get back to the subject at hand." Dumbledore nodded readily which confirmed Harry's suspicion. As a half giant, Hagrid was resistant to a great many curses and it would take a very powerful wizard to stun him, much less kill him. As a result of the ill-fated rescue attempt, Hagrid was killed, Tonks was captured and the Weasley twins, Lee Jordan, Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell were now on the run from Aurors who were after their heads.
"So, why are you here?" He asked in a silky voice that seemed to make everyone shiver. After some time, Dumbledore composed himself enough to answer, he could see clearly that this 'new Harry' was not going to be easy to convince of his sincerity.
"Well, new evidence has been discovered that proves your innocence, so we immediately petitioned for a pardon. It was granted this morning so we came to release you from this island." He explained with genuine regret while he tried to figure out how Harry had become so obviously powerful while in Azkaban. Harry simply smirked when he heard his answer.
"Don't try to play games with me old man. I know perfectly well the situation in the outside world and more importantly the motives behind you getting me out of here." Harry replied harshly. Dumbledore seemed to pale just a fraction while everyone else looked confused. And judging by Snape's confusion he hadn't even informed his 'inner circle' of the Order about the prophecy. "Ah, you have not told them yet, have you?" He asked with a smirk. "For seven years you have been fighting, slowly being pushed back and you have not told them that the fight is hopeless.
"You see, Dumbledore, I know perfectly well why you are here. And despite what you have told others or try telling me, you are not here on some mercy mission. The only reason you started looking into the Dursley's murder again was Voldemort. You never once even entertained the idea that I could be innocent. You simply wanted to find something that could get the case thrown out on a technicality. Believing that I would be eternally grateful for getting me out of this hell, you hoped to simply throw me at Voldemort and solve both problems. Tell me, was it a shock when you discovered that the muggles correctly solved this case six years before you?"
"Harry…" Dumbledore began but was immediately cut off by Harry.
"Do not call me by that name as if you know me!" He said calmly but with a very dangerous edge. "Harry Potter is gone, he no longer exists. He died the day you threw him away. There are very few humans I have continual contact with and names are rarely needed between us and Dementors are unable to speak any human language so a name in this place is all but obsolete. Now, what were you saying?" The old mage sighed sadly, this was not going anywhere near the way he had planned it. He had expected Harry to be grateful and eager to leave the island but the opposite seemed to be true.
"You have to understand the position we were in. All the evidence pointed to you." The Headmaster argued as if he were trying to reassure himself more than explain himself to Harry. His words merely brought a harsh laugh from Harry's throat and a roll of the eyes from Snape as if he and the Headmaster had had this very argument several times in the past.
"Wrong Dumbledore! NONE of the evidence pointed at me. The only things that were recorded by the investigators were that I was at the scene of the crime and I would not say anything. And why did I say nothing, because I was in shock. They had no witnesses, no physical evidence. They were stabbed to death and yet there was no murder weapon. The only thing they did have was you as the primary witness against me. Spouting off to the court about how much I had changed after the fight in the Department of Mysteries and how I had been corrupted with dark magic and had chosen the same path as Voldemort. You even went out of your way to convince my friends of my guilt because we all know that in one hundred and fifty years the exulted Albus Dumbledore has never been wrong. If he believes something then it must be true. You won't even entertain the idea of being wrong until it is too late." Harry stopped for a few moments to think his words over. In the meantime the minds of the five 'guests' were racing. After thinking it over for several moments Harry decided to inform the others about the contents of the prophecy for the simple reason being that he wanted to see their reactions.
"I find it rather amusing that many members of your order, even a handful of your students, had fought and risked their very lives to protect that prophecy and yet you have told no one what it says. Well I will tell you now."
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… And either must die at the hands of the other, for neither can live while the other survives… The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies."
"So, that means that only you can kill Voldemort?" Hermione asked quietly after about a minute, not looking Harry in the eye. The old Harry, the one she had been friends with would have faced Voldemort as soon as possible if it meant saving lives. However, this was not the old Harry.
"Yes, I believe it does!" Harry responded in an offhand manner as if it did not matter much to him. Their reactions had been about what he figured they would be. Hermione had analyzed every word and every line until she had come to the correct conclusion. Ron's eyes seemed to have glazed over in confusion by the time he was half way through. Remus looked about ready to have a heart attack and Snape looked a bit more pale than usual though he still looked as unfazed and in control as ever and the look in his eyes gave Harry the impression that he knew of this already. And Dumbledore just look weary.
"So, what are you going to do?" Ron asked timidly as if Harry were some enormous snarling beast ready to pounce at any moment. The other four looked at Harry expectantly while waiting for the answer but they grew increasingly nervous as a malicious grin spread across his face.
"Oh, I won't kill him. I have something much better in mind. One day, after he has eliminated his enemies elsewhere, in other words, you, he will return here again to try to claim this fortress for himself. Not to mention free all of his captured servants. On that day he will meet his defeat, not before." He responded in an emotionless voice.
"WHAT! So you would just leave innocent people to be slaughtered?" Hermione raged.
"Those same 'innocent' people who sent an innocent fifteen year old boy to what amounts to hell on earth." Harry shot back scathingly. "What right do those people have to ask me for help. The whole lot of them are cowards who are so frightened by a mere name that when it comes to defending their own families they faulter. For the first two years I was here I saw nothing but Voldemort's activities and the crimes committed by his Death Eaters. The effects of the Dementors only strengthened the bond between us. I saw every victim, I felt every curse. I even saw one man murder his entire family in front of Voldemort in the hopes that he would let him live. I have neither the time nor the inclination to fight for a world that will not fight for itself. Who knows, maybe living under Voldemort's boot for a while will force this world to grow a pair of balls."
"This world IS fighting! And everyday we are dying." Dumbledore said in a weary voice.
"Oh, grow up Dumbledore. Get off your ass and take look around! In case you haven't noticed, you are now in the minority. You believe that fighting and ridding the world of Voldemort and his Death Eaters is the only option. However the vast majority have thrown away their morals and are prepared to give them free reign. They no longer believe Voldemort to be their greatest threat. That title now falls on you." Harry stated looking directly into the old headmaster's eyes. Upon seeing everyone's confused and shocked expressions he continued. "Each one of you have been fighting this war for a long time and you have not changed your views or loyalties, surely you are not naive enough to believe that the entire world is as honorable. Most of the wizarding world now believes that if you would just stop your 'foolish' and 'impossible' crusade, then Voldemort would leave them alone. As it is, your most dangerous enemy is not the Death Eaters but the countless number of cowards out there that would rather live in fear and be subjected to torture rather than fight for their families."
"It would not be foolish or impossible as you say if you helped us." Remus spoke up for the first, grief mixed with hope shining in his eyes. Harry looked at him for a long moment before replying.
"Sirius may have been willing to work with those who betrayed him after he escaped from this island. However, I am not as forgiving."
"Leaving people to face their deaths when you could prevent it because you don't feel like it makes you just the same as Voldemort." Hermione screamed in rage. Harry eyed her curiously for a moment.
"I'm the same as Voldemort? Voldemort wants the world, and if he can't have it, he will destroy it. I on the other hand, would be content to simply watch the world destroy itself. Seven years ago I would have gladly fought to the death to protect any one of you, or anyone else for that matter, now I am the man you see in front of you. You claim that I am the same as Voldemort? You are the ones who sent me here and caused this change. So, Hermione, tell me, what does that make you?" He cruelly asked, knowing the impact it would have on all of them.
At this point Hermione burst into tears and threw herself into Ron's arms as he glared at his former best friend. He was working himself into a rant and was prepared to tell Harry exactly how he felt when two cloaked figures approached from the main gates leading a small group of six ragged individuals. Much as they had earlier, the group instinctually reached for their wands, however they quickly drew those wands when they recognized the platinum blond hair of Lucius Malfoy. Harry looked on in amusement as Ron, Hermione and Remus leveled their wands at the new arrivals and Dumbledore looked torn between pointing his at the Death Eaters or Harry himself. Snape remained seated but with the exception of his look of confusion, he seemed to share Harry's amusement at his colleague's reaction.
"If you think they're a threat, you are sorely mistaken. A first year could best the lot of them." Harry chuckled as the two cloaked figures knocked the six men to their knees just a few feet from Harry's chair. Gone was the proud arrogant aristocrat Malfoy had been. In his place was a frail broken man whose eyes reflected only pain.
"What happened to him?" Remus asked in shock. He had no love for any Malfoy but the current state of the man left him with little else to say.
"Despite popular belief, Dementors feed off negative memories and emotions, not positive. If the opposite were true as everyone believes, then a Patronus Charm would serve only to feed the Dementor and make it stronger instead of driving it off. Malfoy here seems to have a great many bad memories, I'm afraid." He explained with a grin. The two cloaked figures seemed to shake slightly as if they were trying to prevent themselves from laughing. After glancing at the two fondly, surprising the others slightly, Harry continued. "Of course, even without the Dementors he would still be in very bad condition. Bella really went to work on him."
"Bella, who's Bella?" Dumbledore asked though he had a sinking suspicion of who Harry was talking about.
"Why don't you two lower your hoods and join us? I don't think that lot is going anywhere." On Harry's word the two figures lowered their hoods. At this point even Snape could not contain his shock at seeing Nymphadora Tonks and a completely sane Bellatrix Lestrange standing side by side. Tonks looked as she always did, young, attractive and full of energy. Bellatrix though surprised them. Gone were the haunted eyes and worn features that came with nearly two combined decades in Azkaban. She looked much as she did upon her graduation from Hogwarts, the very definition of aristocratic elegance. Both women smiled widely and greeted the group cheerfully though their eyes held anything but happiness.
Upon seeing Bellatrix perfectly healthy, a cold rage surged through Remus for the woman that had killed his best friend. The greatest day of his life in the last seven years was the day Neville Longbottom tortured her until her mind snapped after she had killed his grandmother. Given the situation and her position as a very dangerous Death Eater, no charges were filed against him for use of an Unforgivable. That was the official reason for letting Neville off but the real reason was that after he had snapped her mind, Neville himself had a nervous breakdown and now occupied a bed in Saint Mungos, it is unexpected that he will ever recover. But seeing her here, now, as if it had never happened brought back all the pain and anguish he had felt after Sirius' death.
"AVADA KADAVRA!" He roared as he pointed his wand directly at her heart. She however did not move, merely raised an elegant eyebrow as if he had simply made some incoherent insult. When the curse was halfway to its target everyone jumped back in shock as the curse suddenly dropped and collided with the ground. Tonks stood at her aunt's side, shaking from trying to contain her glee at the shocked and horrified faces before them.
"I would advise you not to try that again." Harry said calmly though a deaf man could detect the hate and contempt in his warning. He calmly stood and walked to the two women and kissed each deeply before the trio returned to Harry's chair that had expanded to accommodate them all. Everyone stood horrified at the recent actions of 'The-Boy-Who-Lived'. No one could decide which was more disturbing; the fact that Harry could so easily deflect the killing curse or that he did it to protect Bellatrix Lestrange. Then, of course, it was quite obvious that he was 'involved' with both women.
"Let me get this straight. You were basically insane until Voldemort attacked and for some reason this 'power' was released. You drove Voldemort back on your own, doubled the size of the prison without the ministry finding out and are now 'involved' with Tonks AND Bellatrix Lestrange." Ron summarized with a confused look.
"That about sums it up yeah." Harry replied in an off hand manner.
"And you let her torture the prisoners!" Hermione screeched as she glanced over to the broken figure of Lucius Malfoy.
"We all have our hobbies!" He said in a dismissive tone causing Bellatrix giggled. However, even with these new developments Remus' rage was not to be dissuaded.
"HARRY, HOW COULD YOU? THAT BITCH KILLED SIRIUS AND NOW YOU'RE PROTECTING HER."
"AND HOW MANY HAVE YOU KILLED, WEREWOLF?" Harry nearly screamed as he jumped out of his chair to cut Remus off, surprising everyone, Tonks and Bellatrix included, with his tone and mention of the other man's Lycanthropy. "You have been fighting Death Eaters most of your life, in that time how many have died at your hand. Bottom line is that in war people die no matter what side you are on and those people have family and friends who would probably just love to hurt the person who took their loved ones away, but they don't because they knew what they were getting into. What makes you any different? What makes you so special that you're entitled to do whatever you want because your feelings got hurt? I will say this only once! At the moment, you are on MY island, you fuck up again and you will find yourself in a cell for the amusement of the Dementors. While we are on this subject of short comings, lets turn our attention elsewhere.
"Hermione, you were one of my best friends. In the five years that we were together, you probably knew me better than anyone." By this time Harry's rage was beginning to become so obvious it was almost visible. Ron, Hermione and Remus were ready to jump to their feet and make a run for the boat if it weren't for one thing. They found that they were completely incapable of moving anything below their shoulders. They traded nervous glances around at their colleagues only to find that they were in the same situation, unable to move and dreading Harry's intentions. "What did I ever do to make you believe I was capable of cold blooded murder? My trial began two days after I was arrested, so it didn't take long to convince you I was guilty before you testified. No, in the end you are nothing better than those sniveling whores you always tried to set yourself apart from. Believing everything that is fed to you without a second thought, whether it comes from Rita Skitter or some dimwitted crumpled up has been of a professor that has been getting by on nothing more than his name for the last sixty years.
"Then we have Ron Weasley. From a family that believes in love and unity above everything else. What did you do to your family Ron? In the end you and Percy were the only ones that truly believed me guilty, but the two of you had to pound it in to the rest of them for their own good. How is your family these days Ron? How much of that love is left? Ginny is an outcast after those rumors you spread around because she would not accept your views, a twenty two year old virgin that everyone believes to be a whore, servicing Death Eaters in Knockturn Alley. Bill and Charlie have not been back to England in years and Fred and George are on the run. I hear you have boasted that you would kill them yourself if you found them first. Then of course you have your parents. When was the last time they have even been seen in the same room together? The Weasley family is dead, bound together by nothing more than a name. Your work Ron, good job."
"And last but not least, we have Albus Dumbledore. Fighting valiantly against the world he created. Have you ever accepted responsibility for that? 'Albus Dumbledore, the man who created Voldemort.' That would make for an interesting title to list with all the others wouldn't it? Armando Dippit was a bumbling and incompetent fool. After you defeated Grindlewald you were Headmaster in everything but name. You knew the conditions of that orphanage and the brutality which Tom Riddle heaped upon the muggle children around him and yet you did nothing. You stood by and let it happen when it was your responsibility to make sure that all students without a permanent legal guardian were taken care of and raised in a safe environment. Through your indifference you aided him in becoming what he is today. But hell, you were the great Albus Dumbledore, defeater of the greatest Dark Lord of all time, riding high and reaping the benefits of your fame. What did you care about what one single child did? When you finally did look in on him before his first year you knew what he was and yet you did nothing. He actually managed to teach himself to control his accidental magic to an extent and used it to inflict pain in others whether they deserved it or not. Once again, you knew of his actions and once again you did nothing.
"But fast forward fifty years and you are in the same situation. Sending a boy away each summer to a home he despised and where he was despised in return. The only difference is that you need this child. You need him to clean up your mess. Then when it seems you are in the same position yet again you think to yourself, 'Albus my boy, you fucked up again.' You must be thinking that a great deal these days Professor." He continued in a mocking voice as though he were reprimanding an infant. Even with all of his self restraint and calm under pressure Professor Dumbledore could not help but hang his head slightly in shame as he recognized Harry's words as truth but he quickly shook this off, now was not the time for regrets. As they sat in silence for a few moments they all continued unsuccessfully to move and even Dumbledore was beginning to panic.
Though he had not moved, Snape found early on that he was not being restrained like the others obviously were. As he listened intently to Harry's words he tried to think of any possible reason for this and a number of very minor things he had observed throughout their 'discussion'. The foremost on his mind was 'POTTER'S' total lack of hostility towards HIM. After pacing for a moment to calm himself, Harry retook his seat between Tonks and Bella.
"Now, let me return to my original question. Why are you here?" He asked again in a calm tone while the two women on either side of him grinned as they saw the conflict behind Dumbledore's eyes.
Albus knew that he could not lie at this stage. If they were to have any hope of gaining Harry's support he would have to come clean. However, that would also mean admitting that he was wrong and literally beg for forgiveness. Neither were acts that he has had to do often in his long life. But maybe there were other options.
"I wanted to correct old mistakes…"
"Don't think you can simply start moving things into your favor like you are merely playing some game. If you were here for the sole reason of correcting mistakes I would have been set free as well when you came for him. As it is, you would have left me here to rot." Tonks burst out in rage. Dumbledore looked momentarily taken aback before he composed himself.
"Mrs. Tonks, it was decided by the Ministry that despite the fact that Mr. Potter was indeed innocent, attempting to break someone out of Azkaban is still a crime and the punishment must still be carried out."
"Really, then why aren't you sitting in a cell right now?" Tonks asked with a straight, expressionless face as she stood only to seat herself in Harry's lap. "Although Sirius was innocent, you are still guilty of aiding a known escaped convict. No disrespect to Professor Snape here, but you are also guilty of perjury from when you spouted out one lie after another at Snape's trial after the first fall of Voldemort. He may have been your spy but he still committed the crimes for which he was charged." Dumbledore, who was used to being in charge, was feeling the mounting pressure and strain of the 'meeting'. In a last ditch effort, he tried to take control.
"Harry, I must insist that…" Immediately he knew he made a mistake.
"DON"T INSIST!" Harry roared as he slammed his fist down on the newly vacated arm of the chair. "Insistent people make me angry." He nearly growled, not bothering to warn the old man about the use of his name. Checking her watch Bellatrix leaned over and whispered something into Harry's ear. After taking a deep breath Harry nodded and then turned back to the others.
"Well, it is about time we finish this up. These six men," He said waving in the direction of Lucius Malfoy and his 'companions', "All finish their sentences tomorrow. I figure that since you are already here you might as well take them back to shore with you. Normally one of my Dementors would accompany you but I think you can manage very well on your own."
"YOUR Dementors?" Snape questioned in a strained voice remembering the power he felt off them.
"It is a relationship of mutual convenience. They stay here and guard the prisoners and the island and they have a rather large group of wizards and witches with plenty of bad memories to feed off of. Plus, I made them more powerful and I can take that power away should I choose to. Anymore questions?"
"Actually, I do have one!" Everyone was looking between Snape and Harry with surprise written on all their features. They simply could not believe that the two were speaking civilly to each other. "With the power that you obviously have, why bother building all of these extra fortifications?"
"That is a relevant question and the answer to that is obvious. Protection! Not for me of course but for my girls here. Originally I merely built extra space for the prisoners I captured when Voldemort attacked but after I had finished that I went through the prison to see if I knew anybody. Imagine my surprise when I found Tonks here. So I let her out and shielded her from the Dementors. Later on we got bored and decided to find someone else to talk to and since Bellatrix was the only one that we both knew to any extent, she was chosen. And believe it or not I actually found that I loved them both and would do anything to keep them safe. So I built the extra fortifications to protect them if Voldemort decides to attack again, sooner than I thought and I am not here for some reason."
"Why are you so confident that he will attack again?" Dumbledore asked.
"Because when he came here last time he was driven back easily and very quickly. Voldemort is an egomaniac and knows that there is something powerful here, and more importantly, his Death Eaters know that as well. He cannot afford to have his followers believing that there is someone or something stronger than him. So he will have no choice. He will come and then he will discover the true meaning of power. However, if he doesn't come that is fine by me as well. If he wants the world than he can have it, but this is MY island. It will be mine until the end of days and if he thinks otherwise then he will know nothing but pain until his body rots and his bones turn to dust." He said with such venom in his voice that even Snape flinched. "Then, of course, there is you and the Ministry." He continued looking directly into Dumbledore's eyes. The Headmaster looked momentarily surprised before he schooled his features into a puzzled expression which just served to annoy Harry.
"Don't look so surprised! I may have lived the last seven years of my life in a prison but don't make the mistake of thinking me ignorant on how things work. If you thought me to be a threat all those years ago, our conversation has only amplified that belief. When I take care of Tom, if you are still alive your new priority will be to deal with me. Someone with my abilities is a threat to you and your ideal of what the world should be. Not to mention my anger and hatred toward the wizarding world, and more importantly, the justification behind it. You and all of those petty bureaucrats will want me in check so I can't endanger the general public. Well let me clue you in so you don't waste countless lives in the attempt. YOU. CAN'T. BEAT. ME!" He said emphasizing every word. "Not even with the whole of the ministry at your back. Let me clue you in on a little secret. Not only does this place have new fortifications, wards and defenses but many other things as well. Including Bella here," He said with a fond smile as looked her in the eye. "Who is without a doubt the most powerful witch since Rowena Ravenclaw herself but…" Ron cut Harry off as he scoffed at the idea of Bellatrix Lestrange being as powerful as the Hogwarts founder.
"Well Neville sure took care of her pretty well." He snorted in disgust as he looked at the Death Eater but quickly silenced under Harry's glare.
"Neville, though clumsy, was a lot stronger and more skilled than any of you ever gave him credit for. He also had the determination to defeat the woman that took his parents and grandmother from him. But most importantly, she was a Death Eater. As Snape could tell you Voldemort makes sure all his servants are one hundred percent dependant on him. In this way he keeps them, especially his more powerful, from ever reaching their full potential and rising enough to where they may try to take his place. Now, however, she depends on no one."
"What makes you so certain that you could defeat him if he throws all of his Death Eaters against you?" Dumbledore asked with his eyes downcast as he knew that he would not be able to change Harry's mind but he would still try to get all the information that he could.
"Simple really. Despite the fact that I am probably the most powerful human to ever walk the earth and even Bella's power and Tonks' incredible skill, we still have one thing left in our favor. I have managed to achieve something that Tom has sought after his entire life." He said as he and the two women grinned like maniacs. Everyone looked from one to another in confusion until realization set in on the faces of Dumbledore and Snape. Snape seemed to go even paler than he was before but he seemed sunburned in comparison to Dumbledore who had gone chalk white.
"You… You…" The old man stuttered.
"Exactly." Bella nearly yelled with a triumphant whoop. "When he said this would be his island until the end of time, he wasn't exaggerating."
"Voldemort couldn't kill me with all his Death Eaters and you and your pathetic Order aiding him. A lovely gift I have shared with Bella and Tonks here." Everyone sat there gaping for several moments, much to their amusement, before Remus found his voice.
"If that is true, then why did you bother deflecting my killing curse?"
"One, though I have shared the gift of immortality with them, so the killing curse will not kill them, they are still training themselves to block out the considerable amount pain it will still cause. And two, I think it was an act that sent my message fairly well."
"And what message was that?" Ron asked with contempt in his voice as he looked upon his former best friend.
"Don't fuck with me." He answered as he looked each of his 'guests' in the eye. After a moment of silence Tonks nudged Harry and showed him her watch. "Ok, well this meeting is over. Don't forget to take Malfoy and his little friends with you and have a safe journey." He said with a good deal of sarcasm as he lifted Tonks off his lap and stood up. Dumbledore nodded in resignation and collected the Death Eaters and began heading back to shore with his shoulders slumped and looking every bit like a one hundred and sixty year old man. Ron and Hermione followed silently after him realizing that they had in fact killed their best friend years before when they helped to hand him over to the Dementors. However Remus and Snape stayed. Remus looking furious and Snape looking pensive.
"For the first time I am actually glad that Lily and James are dead. They would be ashamed of you." The livid werewolf growled, his eyes glowing in fury. Harry was not impressed.
"Who would they be more ashamed of? Me, for being who I am, or you, for making me who I am?" He asked in a calm voice. This question, it seemed, changed Remus' whole demeanor. In the place of a raging werewolf, ready to ATTEMPT to rip Harry limb from limb, was now a broken down shell of self pity that nearly ran back to the boat with Snape following slowly after him.
"Professor Snape!" Harry called politely after him. The aforementioned professor turned quickly in surprise with his hand moving toward his wand in case his former student was looking for retribution for his past abuse but he was puzzled to see a genuine 'friendly' face.
"Yes." He answered as he relaxed a little but his hand still did not stray far from his wand, a fact that Harry seemed to find both amusing and looked on with approval. After all, the man had been spying on Voldemort for over twenty years, he should be cautious in such situations.
"Just to let you know, I am grateful that you had believed me innocent and had even worked to get me out of here. I was intent on merely thanking you and letting it be but was asked to give you the chance to join us here, given the situation in the rest of the world at this time." He said with a straight face, however Snape could tell that he wouldn't have asked if he was against it. Out of curiosity the Potions Master looked toward Tonks and Bella, wondering why either of them would want to give him a 'safe haven' during this war. He and Lestrange had always detested each other and he found Tonks to be a clumsy fool. Seeing his confusion, Harry laughed. He took Snape by the arm and began leading him along the shore, away from the boat to keep out of hearing range of Dumbledore.
"No, it was neither of them. You see, when I told Dumbledore that names were all but obsolete here, it was only half true. That was the case up until three years ago, when I started poking around in the outside world again and found out what has been going on. Since then the, um, 'residency', of this island has grown. The people that actually live here now are few when it comes to general terms and it will remain that way, but this island has become more of a city than a prison. The renovations are far more extensive than they appear from this vantage point. Everyone here are good people, though many have been called upon to do some pretty distasteful things in the past, but they all have one common trait. They are tired of their leader's political rhetoric and motivations. In other words, they have 'lost faith'. Whether it be in Voldemort, Dumbledore, or Fudge. They no longer wish to serve as tools of those who wish to press their will onto others, myself included, but are unwilling, for whatever reason, to join the 'other side'."
"What does this have to do with me? You are putting a lot of trust in me by giving me this information." Snape asked with both curiosity and nervousness. What 'Potter' was saying could be seen as treason by the Ministry so why would he tell him. It sounded as though he were building an army to fight both Voldemort and Dumbledore.
"Not really, I could prevent you from repeating this to anyone, and quite easily at that. I know what you are thinking, and no I am not figuring on fighting a war. I could defeat them both without the help of my own private army. And no, I do not need you as a spy. I do, however, need you as a teacher."
"What?" Snape questioned as he stopped in surprise. This was clearly not what he was thinking.
"Many of those that have come here have brought their families with them. They came to get away from the madness going on but to do that meant removal from Hogwarts or other magical schools. We have a good deal of children here that still need to learn. Yes, I am powerful and could handle myself well even without most of that power but I don't have the knowledge that you do. I can show people how to defend themselves but I don't have the dark arts knowledge for more advanced study and no amount of power can help me with my total lack of skill where potions are concerned." Snape could do nothing but snort in agreement.
"Currently defense is being taught by the warden here…"
"Simon? I thought his memory was being modified, that he didn't know anything about what has been happening here?" The older man asked in surprise causing Harry to grin.
"His name isn't Simon. The real Simon McKinnon killed himself two years ago while testing a few charms he had created. Destroyed nearly everything in his quarters including himself. I took the opportunity to cover it up and put someone else in his place to make everything run smoother. The man was not married or had any close family or friends so it was relatively easy. But as I was saying, he is a good teacher but he tends to scare the kids to death and it's not his favorite thing to do. And while you terrify your students, you manage to do it in such a way that they hang on your every word and remember it. For potions our current teacher is a former apprentice of your's but his unfortunate incarceration cut off his lessons so he still has a great deal to learn."
"WHAT? MY APPRENTICE? I have only had one and he… was… sent…!"
"Here!" Harry finished for him with a grin. "Like you, he has been spying on Voldemort, only his information was coming to me. Dumbledore's crusade against him last year put a damper on things but hey, we do what we can."
"You mean he's not, well, you know?" he asked nervously.
"Insane? No, he isn't. When he was brought here, I met him on the beach, changed around a few memories for the Aurors and sent them back. They believe he has being held in the minimum security block since the evidence against him was rather weak, but, like me, he had Dumbledore standing against him. He didn't have contact with any of the Dementors until after I saw him and made sure he was resistant to them." He informed his former professor who nodded gratefully, relief filling his eyes.
"Thank you. I take it Draco is the one to ask that I come here?"
"Yes, he is. He enjoys teaching very much but recognizes that he still has a lot to learn and you are one of the finest potions masters in the world, who else could continue his tutoring?" Harry said simply but Snape looked at him with suspicion.
"That's a very Slytherin explanation. What's the real reason?" He asked.
"Ok, I figured I would give you his reasons first so he can't say I didn't try. The truth is, with the exception of a few people here, you are the only person he really cares about. So naturally he wants to make sure you stay alive long enough to see your godson get married." Harry said in an offhand manner.
"MARRIED?" The usual calm and collected man literally 'screeched' in shock. "Who?"
"Will you be here to see it?"
"Yes, fine, I'll stay. Now who is he marrying?" He said without really thinking.
"Gabrielle Delacour." Harry answered with an enormous smile. Snape could only gape at the younger man beside him. Harry always had a bit of a soft spot for the young French girl since the Tri-wizard Tournament in which he competed against her sister. She actually first came to Azkaban last year to visit Harry after two months of petitions to the Ministry for permission. Naturally she was shocked when he decided to show her that he was not as far gone as those at the Ministry believed him to be and she hasn't left since. She started seeing Draco shortly after he was brought to the island.
Snape walked forward in a daze, not seeing nor caring where he was going. Just a short time ago he walk up the shore to free an innocent man while he would be forced to leave one of the few people he actually cared about to die. After his first approach to the Dementors, and their abnormal strength, he had had no doubt that he had gone insane long ago. Even Albus, with his considerable mind, would be worn down with the constant presence of such dark power. He expected his godson to have been broken, as he knew he would have, but instead he finds that he is perfectly healthy, teaching children of all things and planning a wedding. When one thinks of Azkaban Prison, they do not think about healthy, children and weddings, it would simply be impossible to comprehend. The very nature of all he has seen and heard this night was absurd.
When growing up in the Snape household you are taught many lessons and told to accept certain things as fact. Among those is that purebloods are more powerful, more skilled, smarter and just plain better than everyone else. This is a belief that they make no secret of holding, however there are some that are never spoken aloud, but are taught just the same. The most predominant of these is 'Dumbledore can not be beaten.' Oh yes, even Death Eater families respect Dumbledore. They despised and cursed his name but they respected the power he had at his command. Though they all believed that they would be victorious, very few Death Eaters believed that their master could defeat Dumbledore in single combat. What Potter said made sense. With his abilities already in question, when compared to Albus', Voldemort couldn't afford another 'weak link'. Believing that he was merely caught off guard, he could launch a second, successful, assault against Azkaban and destroy whatever power forced him to retreat the first time, or acquire it for himself.
"Professor!" Harry stated as he came to a stop. Surprised at the sudden interruption of his thoughts, Snape looked up in surprise to see that they were now nearly back to where they had started, not far from the others who were waiting for him by the boat while Tonks and Bella watched them intently for any sign of hostile action.
"Well, this is where I shall leave you." Harry said as he gazed at each of the wizards before him. "Good luck, we shall not meet again." He finished in an emotionless voice as he turned and walked back towards Tonks and Bella, leaving Snape to say his good byes.
"HARRY!" Hermione yelled to get his attention as tears streamed down her face. "Why are you doing this?" She cried.
"Because, your visit here and what you have learned has only served to hurt you." He answered without turning to face her. "And I wish to go on hurting you, and to do that, all I have to do is stay right here." Harry could feel the gaze of nearly everyone on his back as he walked away. The only person not paying attention to Harry was Professor Dumbledore who was looking intently into the eyes of his younger colleague.
Snape for his part was facing an internal battle. On the one hand he had his obligation to the Headmaster. He had saved his life; given him the employment he needed and showed unwavering trust in him. He had actually been more of a father to him than his own had been and at the moment every available fighter was needed. But if what Potter said was true, than it was a losing battle, they could not win even if their forces were doubled.
On the other hand he had Draco. A young man that had turned to him as a mentor and surrogate guardian at a young age. Draco's imprisonment had broken his heart and hurt him more than he would ever let on to anyone, even Dumbledore. Albus' active role in his godson's trial had put a strain on their relationship but he still respected and looked to him for advice and support when it was needed. He had told Potter that he would stay but now as he stood looking into the clear blue eyes of his mentor Snape found that he could not come to a decision.
Seeing the conflicting emotions in his young friend's eyes, Dumbledore immediately understood the problem. Though he did not know of the many others that the island now housed, he did know that Harry was perfectly capable of turning it into a haven for those he wished to protect from the war's brutality if he so desired. And when thinking of what Harry could have said to him that made such a change in the Potions Master's demeanor he could only think of one possible answer. Harry had, in fact, offered him sanctuary. He knew that Severus has had a difficult life, especially the last few years. After Voldemort had discovered he was spying for the Order he nearly killed the younger man. It was only the timely intervention of two squads of Aurors that saved him. With his cover blown and his inability to gather more information, many members of the Order figured that he had outlived his usefulness to the Order and should be expelled. His past as a Death Eater and his sour nature had not brought forth many friends and supporters that would intercede on his behalf. His continued arguments of Harry's innocence did not help matters any. Dumbledore had managed to quash any public 'Snape bashing' during meetings but the resentment was still there. He had lived his entire life with such cynicism and mistrust and if anyone deserved a little peace it was him.
"It is alright Severus. I understand." The old man said with a warm smile and sad eyes as he reached up to grip his shoulder in a reassuring and comforting way. "With luck, we shall see each other again in a more peaceful world."
Snape stood on the shore looking out over the black water towards the mainland for nearly a half hour after the boat and his old life drifted off into the darkness. All his life he has wanted to find a place where he could feel he belonged and could, at least to some degree, call home. For the longest time he believed that place was Hogwarts. He never thought he could find any place he would feel more comfortable and be himself. However he now knew that he had been wrong. Even out on this dark beach, with the wind tearing at his robes he felt more at peace than he ever had in the ancient school of magic. Yes, he would miss Albus and a select few others and in a way he would always feel guilty, as if he left everyone to fight and die when he could have helped but he knew that that was no longer his fight. He had been fighting for either Voldemort or Dumbledore for almost thirty years, and he was tired. He wanted nothing more than to find some peace somewhere. He found it terribly ironic that what he had been searching for nearly all his life would be found on this accursed island. He allowed himself a quiet chuckle at the irony before he heard someone clearing their throat behind him. Spinning around quickly he came eye to eye with an amused Harry Potter. Looking around he noticed that Lestrange and Tonks were no longer present so he figured they must have returned to the 'castle'.
"We have to get going or they'll start without us."
"Start what?" Snape asked Harry suspiciously.
"Considering our low population, weddings are rare so we felt we would have a party. Granted, if Draco and Gabrielle were not getting married we would simply find something else to celebrate. But I'm guessing you would like to see Draco, so let's go." Harry answered as he ushered Snape back towards the main gates. Upon seeing the imposing gates ahead Snape shuddered slightly when he thought of the power the Dementors guarding them had. Beside him Harry noticed his slight hesitation and placed his hand on the older man's arm bringing him to a stop. Without saying a word Harry put his right hand on the other man's chest and closed his eyes briefly. Confused, Snape looked down and was a bit surprised to see his hand pulsing sporadically with a soft blue glow, however he felt nothing. After a few moments Harry opened his eyes again and removed his hand.
"Let's go." He said with a grin and continued towards his destination with a thoroughly confused Potions Master trailing behind him. As they got closer the gates seemed to open on their on accord and Snape raised his mental defenses and braced himself for the power he knew was coming. But as he walked through the threshold it never came. He looked around in confusion only to find that the Dementors were indeed at their posts but they seemed to have no effect on him. Quickly understanding came to him. Potter had said that he made sure that Draco was resistant to the dark power a Dementor uses.
'So, that was what he was doing.' He thought to himself. Looking up to comment on this he was surprised to see that Harry was already on the other side of the entrance hall, moving up the stairs to what he figured must be where the 'refugees' lived. He sped up and caught up with Harry at the end of an ordinary looking corridor with many halls leading off in other directions. At the end stood a pair of tall imposing double doors made out of some dark stained hardwood that looked as if it would take a pair of giants weeks to batter down with their clubs.
"Alright before we go in, I have two rules that you must hear." Harry began as he stopped just shy of the doors. Snape gave him an incredulous glare at the thought of following the rules some Gryffindor has given him. However Harry could tell that this attitude was mainly for show. After all, he has played the part of the slimy git nearly all his life, he's not about to drop it in a single day.
"First is that if you leave this island at any time for whatever reason you are forbidden from telling anyone where you have been and who else is here. The last thing we need is for people to find out that this is some sort of sanctuary and have half the wizarding world show up on our doorstep." Snape merely nodded in agreement but was then struck with a thought.
"That may happen anyway. When Dumbledore informs the Ministry of what happened here today it won't take very long for the rest of the world to find out."
"That won't happen. Like I do with the Aurors here and those that come for inspections I also meddled with their minds." He said with a grin. "They will remember everything that happened and was said here but when speaking with others they will be unable to tell of these events. The ministry will be informed that it was indeed me that drove off Voldemort but that is as far as it will go. They will be told that when they came to release me I turned my back on them after reaching shore and left and they were unable to find me. Everyone will believe that I simply vanished. Those that know the truth will be unable to speak of it. It is much like a powerful and complicated security spell. Anyway the second rule is that if you wish to bring someone else here for whatever reason you must first check it out with Tonks. The reason for this is simple. I have no wish for anyone that will cause problems with the rest of the population by attacking them on sight or running off to the Ministry, Dumbledore or Voldemort with information about this island. Tonks will investigate anyone that is asked to come for any sign that they may choose to betray our secret and then administer Veritaserum. Do you understand?" Finding no fault in the logic of such rules Snape quickly agreed and Harry opened the doors and the sight before him made Snape's jaw drop in shock.
The room was about the size of the Great Hall of Hogwarts and looked just as magnificent. Instead of four house tables there were five long ones that ran the length of the room. There was no head table and it seemed that everyone just congregated and sat where they pleased. The ceiling was enchanted to show the nights sky but unlike Hogwarts this one seemed to show a clear pleasant evening, probably due to the nearly constant dreary weather on the island.
Four massive fireplaces, roughly fifteen feet in length and five feet in height lined each of the side walls, spaced ten feet apart. The head of the room seemed to serve as a congregation area for milling around while waiting for meals. Several couches and armchairs where grouped together in erratic patterns that gave the area a comfortable feel to it despite the size. What surprised Snape the most however were the people he saw there. In one group in particular he saw two men he knew to be Death Eaters who were conversing in a friendly manner to a few Gryffindor graduates. It was like this throughout the hall. Members of every house at Hogwarts, Death Eaters and Aurors all associating with one another. But one man shocked him most of all.
"MOODY!" He shouted in shock as the gruff old Auror limped up to them. "YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD!" This loud exclamation drew the attention of many and brought a ferial grin to the old man's face. Many looked on in surprise at seeing Harry Potter and Severus Snape standing next to each other in a civil manner. The animosity between the two has always been public knowledge and although Snape had believed Harry to be innocent no one believed that would change.
"If you truly believed an inbred imbecile like Lestrange could get the jump on me than you are even more of a moron than I thought." He growled in annoyance as he approached Harry. "The Weasley twins are bringing our guest up from the north dock now. They landed about the time Dumbledore left. I'm going down to the beach to make sure he didn't leave any surveillance devices behind, I wouldn't put it past him." Harry just chuckled while Snape turned and watched with wide eyes as 'Mad Eye' marched out the door. Despite his amusement, Harry was a bit confused. Moody, although he has always been paranoid, seemed almost desperate to get out of the hall, but he shook this off.
"He'll never change."
"How the hell is this possible. I saw him get hit with the killing curse when Voldemort attacked Diagon Alley last year." Snape hissed in Harry's ear as everyone else turned back to their own conversations.
"No, you saw Rodolphus' killing curse hit my shield just before coming into contact with him. The shield transformed the curse in to a very powerful stunner as it passed through before hitting him. To all appearances he was dead. While everyone was running around in a panic, Bella snatched him up and I placed a body double at the scene. Of course Bella did take the time to work over her husband real nice."
"Of all the people to leave Dumbledore, I would have never suspected Moody." Snape muttered to himself as he gazed intently out the door long after Moody had disappeared.
"Even the most loyal of friends can lose faith. It is always inspiring to read or hear tales of men and women fighting to the death in an unwinnable war but reality is much different. Granted, fighting for an unachievable goal does not make your fight any less noble, but what is the point. When you're out matched in every way you must pick your battles. That is a lesson that Dumbledore has never learned. He would sacrifice the entire Order in this war and achieve nothing. Moody and many others know this, that is why they are here." Harry would have continued but he was cut off by a loud squeal from the crowd
"DADDY!" Snape spun around in surprise at the loud childish voice and watched in almost morbid fascination as two young girls, who looked to be about four years old, ran to the man standing beside him. Harry grinned as he saw the two girls and bent over in time to catch them as they threw themselves into his arms.
"And how are my two princesses doing today?" He asked with a wide smile as he gazed at his daughters. To say Snape was shocked would have been an extreme understatement. He looked as if his brain had completely shut down and he was in some sort of catatonic trance.
Both girls had similar features and could 'almost' pass for twins. While one had strawberry blond hair and blue eyes the other had Black glossy hair and bright green eyes. As the two girls rambled on to their father about their day and what they had done, Snape tried to figure out who the mother was. It was clear that the black haired girl was the child of Bellatrix but the other was harder to place. Did they have the same mother or… At this point Snape's thoughts went into an entirely different direction. Though he had known that Potter was involved with both women it seemed that he did not actually realize it until now.
'Lucky bastard.' He thought to himself with amusement. 'Think of the possibilities.'
"Girls, I would like you to meet someone." This seemed to pull Snape out of his thoughts as both girls and their father turned their attention to him. "This is Professor Severus Snape. Snape, I would like you to meet Anna, short for Andromeda." He said as he nodded to the blond wrapped in his left arm. "And this bundle of trouble here is Catherine.
"I do not cause trouble!" Catherine stated in an offended manner but her eyes shined with mischief.
"Yes you do." Her sister responded.
"Do to. If it wasn't for you, Moody wouldn't be mad at us." With this both girls eyes went wide and they tried to squirm out of Harry's arms but he held on tight. He looked deep into Anna's eyes and a surprised look passed across his face. Both girls again tried to get away, knowing they had been caught and this time they succeeded and ran from the hall. As soon as they were out of hearing range Harry burst out in to a fit of laughter having realized why Moody seemed to be in such a hurry to get outside. Snape stood off to the side for a moment in confusion until it hit him. Harry must have used some form of Legillimency.
"What did they do?" He asked with curiosity after Harry had calmed a bit. Harry turned back to his former professor with amusement shining in his eyes.
"They stole his wooden leg and used it to play fetch with a dog." Despite his best efforts Snape could not help the smirk that began to form across his lips. "Ah, and here they are." Looking in the direction Harry indicated he was both a little surprised and a little annoyed to see the Weasley twins coming their way. Like the Marauders, he was willing to work with them to bring down Voldemort, unknowing to everyone else he even gave them some minor assistance in their unsucessful jail break, but he didn't have to like them. They had caused enough trouble for him while students. They were leading a third figure he recognized as Ginny Weasley who, for some reason, had a blindfold across her eyes.
"What's with the blindfold?" Harry asked in confusion as the approached.
"We wanted it to be a surprise. So we blindfolded ickle Gin-Gin and put a deafening charm on her." Fred said with a grin. With a wave of his wand George removed both the blindfold and the charm. Ginny blinked several times to get used to the light but after a moment she was looking at Harry with wide eyes. She stood stock still for several moments as if trying to figure out if what she was seeing was real. As time began to drag on Harry started to worry that she may be in shock or something but then she launched herself on to him and began sobbing almost hysterically. Harry held her tightly as he rubbed her back in a soothing manner and whispered encouraging words into her ear as he saw Tonks and Bella join them and look on in understanding. Suddenly and without warning Ginny pulled away and then pulled Harry's head down to her's where she pretty much slammed her lips onto his. The kiss was deep, aggressive and full of passion. Too shocked to do anything else, Harry just stood there in a stupor. After a moment Ginny pulled away and had a look about her that clearly said that she could not believe she had just done that.
"WOW." Was all Harry could say at the moment but as soon as the word passed his lips he immediately stiffened. Slowly turning in the direction of Bella and Tonks he was met with a sight that he was not expecting. Instead of the possessive and pissed off looks he was expecting, they looked down right delighted. He stood in confusion as Bella squealed like a schoolgirl as she and Tonks rushed forward and pulled Ginny over to a secluded corner. Ginny complied with their urgings as it seemed that she did not realize that one of the women leading her was Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry, Snape and the Weasley twins continued to watch with confusion for several minutes before the answer finally came to Harry.
"Ah, shit!" He groaned drawing the attention of the others.
"What?" All three asked at once.
"That." He answered motioning towards the three women.
"What about it?" George asked in annoyance.
"I have enough trouble with just the two of them." He whined as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Slowly realization dawned on the others. Snape looked as if he wanted to laugh and the Weasley twins… well the twins looked as if…
'This is going to be a long night.'
END OF PART I
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