My Gilded Life
Chapter Fourteen

by Skysaber
based on a challenge forwarded by Lionheart


Boots in hand as I tiptoed out of the mansion, I considered my situation, and reluctantly had to conclude that being about to be married to a few dozen witches was not the worst of my problems.

My biography of Voldemort was supposed to hit the bookstore shelves in magical Britain about the same time as the expose Harry and I had worked on together regarding his early life, and the horrors he suffered, mostly due to Dumbledore. And that was due to happen very soon now. So my little vacation of not having to worry about the manipulative old bastard coming after me directly was rapidly coming to a close.

Since Dumbledore's reputation was his strongest and most subtle weapon, I had already decided, from the moment I set out on this course, to destroy as much of that as possible before he could turn around and wield it against me. So, to that end, I plotted a second punch.

When your enemy is down is the easiest time to kick him. Not something you want to do in a friendly fight, or against honorable opponents, but since this guy was scarcely better than a dark lord, from all that had been revealed about him, well... he was just too powerful and too ruthless to fight on nice terms. I wasn't even sure that, having personally arranged the child abuse and murder of Harry Potter, he was even deserving of it.

Dumbledore was living proof of the adage, "A man can smile and smile and be a villain." The guy loved power more than he loved people, and that was pretty much all there was to it.

Frankly, I was terrified of him.

I had never really set out to be an enemy of the Headmaster. However, I HAD more or less dedicated myself to the support and training of Harry, as vital to the safety and future of this world I was now in, and that more or less came with the requirement of opposing certain things initiated as schemes by Albus Dumbledore.

I had chosen people. But, doing that required I oppose Dumbledore's power, as he was out to sacrifice those very people I'd chosen to protect.

The moment he'd uncovered those acts of opposition he would act in turn to neutralize them, and, I felt certain, neutralize me with them. I hadn't forgotten how he'd sent Sirius to Azkaban for being inconvenient to his own plans. The guy was a master of subtle legilimency who routinely scanned all those who came in contact with him. You couldn't tell ME that Albus hadn't known that Peter was the real traitor!

They'd all rubbed shoulders in those Order meetings often enough.

I had Peter's memories in a bottle back in my room. I KNEW the rat had never studied occlumency! He'd never known the art existed! I'd been able to go over the relevant period in my pensieve a few times, and seen knowing grins and glances as Albus met his eyes during meetings across that whole year of Peter's treason. So I KNEW that Albus had uncovered it!

And as the head of the magical court system, it took AT LEAST his passive acceptance for the then-Minister to get away with sending Sirius anywhere without a trial.

But, no, Albus couldn't have custody of Harry with Sirius still around. So the old man had arranged for one of his own Order members to get locked up and fed on by dementors for the crime of having been inconvenient to the plans of Albus Dumbledore.

That was extremely evil, not just a little but a LOT!

From his perspective I was guilty of that same crime as Sirius was, but far worse as I'd actually intended to be in the way of Dumbledore's plans. That meant that despite never having wanted to be the Headmaster's enemy, I was. And, seeing as how I was his enemy anyway, I might as well strike just as hard and as deeply as I could, on the vague chance I might win this thing.

Not that I really expected I would. In fact, half my plans regrettably had to account for Azkaban as an almost certain fixture in my future (which was an excellent reason for having gotten rid of the dementors beforehand). In most of the rest I was dead.

Still, I could either accept defeat, and make it certain, or fight against it and by doing so open up paths where I might get outrageously lucky. You never knew, it might happen.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Hope dwells eternal in the human breast, and all of that. The only thing truly certain was I'd fail if I didn't try. After all, look at Tom Riddle's original situation - he'd won that war, then during a routine triple murder he'd accidentally shot himself in the face. His followers had panicked, and that was the end of everything for him.

You couldn't say odd happenstance didn't affect things, because they did.

I was able, as a bookwriter, to walk in to Nuremburg prison where they kept Grindelwald and interview him during regular visiting hours from outside the bars to his cell. There, in exchange for some decent food of a muggle sort, he spilled his guts about anything and everything I asked questions about.

Under Veritaserum, no less. Administered by a helpful guard certified to do such things on request, and willing to testify to such in my upcoming book.

So, in return for a basket of fruit, a few hamburgers, a pitcher of milk, some bread and a blanket, I received a signed contract stating that I had exclusive rights to write and publish Lord Grindelwald's biography, and hours and hours of interviews about the subject matter including, most especially, his early friendship and partnership with Dumbledore, from whom he'd acquired most of his ideals. The guard sickened and my dictation pens scratched as Gellert, under truth serum, told of how Albus had drawn the young Gellert into Albus Dumbledore's own plans for world domination; how together they'd theorized about Wizard supremacy "For the Greater Good" of the world, and that it was only the intercession of Aberforth Dumbledore sparking a duel resulting in the accidental death of his sister that kept Albus and Gellert from setting off together on paths Lord Grindelwald had later trod separately.

It took a feverish afternoon of work, but one rush order to the printer later and now the book based on that material one was due to come out in stores soon, as well. I could hold off on the four volume set of the complete version of Gellert's history later, as it would take time and research to do it justice. Heck, with maps and outsider accounts and things it might be larger yet. That would be the best way to do it, creating a resource of the age.

But right now I wanted to stick another fork in Dumbledore's eye.

Hopefully my fame would shield me somewhat from Dumbledore's wrath, but I didn't count on it. It was like asking a bit of tissue paper to protect you from rain. It might do a very tiny, teeny bit, but you'd best get the problem solved by other means first. By taking up residence in the USA, however, I WAS able to dodge the bulk of his legal authority and force him into illegal methods that could at least blot his reputation and provide more material to hurt him with...

... in the bizarrely unlikely eventuality that I should survive to write about it. But one had to have hope, after all. Superior forces had lost in the past, and would again. You never knew what could happen if you kept trying.

An old image came to mind, a hand-drawn picture of a frog being held in a pelican's beak, reaching both arms out of its mouth to strangle the bird so it couldn't swallow the frog who was strangling it.

Ok, you may go down, but don't go down easy! It's when things look blackest that you mustn't quit. The enemy's strength had limits, too, and those may be tighter than you know. There was also some small hope this little dodge might also aid me in escaping those engagements Morticia had set up for me.

There was actually a decent probability I was safe there, seeing as how the United States were a young country and didn't have those ancient, pureblood laws grandfathered in like junk accumulated in the back of a closet. So it was doubtful they had anything like the same marriage laws, as the old corruption simply didn't exist to the same extent there.

Actually, the Colonies had always been the dumping place for castoffs, spare sons and criminals in the old days. No self respecting pureblood witch or wizard would even visit the place for the longest time. So no, from what I understood, the magical laws they had there were sane and rational for the most part, without the corruption that had set in on the muggle side as yet.

One thing I knew was I couldn't be married to anyone less than sixteen in the USA. So, score! I planned on taking up permanent residence, ready to let most of my unwanted marriage prospects wilt on the vine while waiting for me to show my nose elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I couldn't settle down to retirement just yet, as Harry was not yet out of the woods as far as Dumbledore's manipulations went. So I had to put off going into hiding until a few more of those issues got resolved.

And I wasn't entirely safe to hide there myself, yet. The United States WERE Britain's closest ally, so I didn't exactly feel sheltered from Albus there. He was bound to have abundant contacts with resources there who could and would come looking for me on his behalf. And I still hadn't solved the problem of how I was going to teach at Hogwarts while not leaving America, but I still had a month or so to address that one, while I had no such luxury in dealing with the most powerful wizard of our age.

Feeling a terrible rush to get ready for this confrontation, and fearing that things were about to come to a head soon, I hurried back to the manor and absorbed the most dangerous of all of the memories remaining in my collection, after stripping out the dark bits through a unicorn and kneazle monitored filtering process and praying REALLY hard for protection during it!

Through Narcissa (one of the many Nicholas has also restored youth to), I'd gotten ahold of Riddle's Diary, then Obliviated it so I could steal his memories from a time when he was at his least evil before AKing the thing. I used those to copy some of his powers, ESPECIALLY wandless magic! But also everything else, as "he was one of the most brilliant students Hogwarts has ever seen."

As a result, I got access to Tom Riddle's wandless skills, something I made sure to share out among my close group, as I was sure we'd need it; A great prison break tool, if nothing else, as it was difficult to incarcerate a man who could cast spells without a wand, and even in the remote chance we didn't need it for that or other survival reasons, it was still nice and useful to have.

On getting his invitation to Hogwarts, Riddle had boasted, "I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to." All of those were incredibly useful skills, and that was before any formal training.

That diary also included six full years of Tom Riddle's formal training, as well as all of the independent study and research he'd performed over that time. It came as a vital second perspective, something we could contrast to those same periods of education covered from the Marauder's perspective, and the gaps of one often got filled by the other, or highlighted failings in both. From that basis, our little family could obtain more full mastery of the Hogwarts material than any other student in centuries, given a little time to do so.

Time I feared we may not have.

Of course, Hogwarts was still only Hogwarts. Even granted full mastery of all of their official material, as well as a few sidelines, that school covered only the basic essential grasp of magic. There was only so much you could teach flocks of uncaring students over a space of seven years, and it had to lay a foundation for those students to build on across a lifetime, so they couldn't get into any of the weird, specialty, or fringe stuff - stuff that made all of the difference between a well educated amateur or an expert in their field.

Fortunately for us, Tom Riddle had done more independent study and extra work than had been covered in the entire official course load. And I could view through Pettigrew's memories the sort of outside interests and study on topics not covered that the Marauders had done. It wasn't the same as learning it directly, but did point our family in the right directions.

And we had Sirius and Remus here to provide memories of those independent study sessions and other learning events, so I could get soon hope to get that information directly and become one additional expert helping out in those fields.

Still, of it all, I was most grateful for Riddle's wandless skills. They weren't much by the time he'd reached sixteen, as he'd let those ability atrophy, diminishing his focus on wandless skills in favor of the easy power available by using a wand for all of his spells.

Tom Riddle was big on easy power.

But, these being memories, I could use that trick I'd done before when I'd first arrived in this world and had been trying desperately to reassemble something approaching a magical education. The original Gilderoy Lockhart had been incredibly gifted with memory charms, and I could use those to reinforce the memories of Tom Riddle gaining those wandless magic skills just as I had done to catch up on classes Gilderoy had lazed through. So I went ahead and did so, as I feared I'd greatly need them.

For myself, power was not so much a goal as a means to an end, and the end I was seeking at the moment was merely escape and survival. But to do that, I had to escape what were the most powerful people in the magical world, and that required some power on my own part to do properly.

Not about to consider what I had adequate, we moved on.

Various fanfics had described in detail wonderfully insightful methods for learning wordless or wandless magic, occlumency or animagi transformations and raising your magical potential.

All of those, we put to use now.

Some worked, while some didn't. But the ones that worked were amazingly successful, light years ahead of anything the magical public had available.

I really should NOT have been surprised by that! Most of her fans who wrote were better at the whole figuring out magic stuff than Rowling was. She'd claimed that witches and wizards couldn't think things through very well only to cover her own failings in that department. But maybe that was what put her in tune to witness this place to begin with, because while standing here I could see that it was true, magical folk in general didn't have a lick of common sense. All of those clear-thinking fans who'd done work on figuring this magic system out were leagues ahead of the local witches and wizards.

Hey! Many of them had worked out that that Patroni could be used to carry messages long before Rowling had ever 'revealed' that to be the case. And, if you wanted to listen to some cynics, she might even have picked up the idea from them.

They certainly wrote better than she did, even if they did have to 'follow her tap' as it were, allowing her to make initial contact with this world.

However, we feverishly made use of everything we had.

Bellatrix was the one who taught Draco Occlumency, and did so to such a degree that Snape, who'd been illegally practicing Legilimency for years on unsuspecting students, was unable to casually penetrate his mind. What was interesting to note was that it was in sixth year that defense was tested, and she'd only been broken out of Azkaban during Harry's fifth year, by the timeline in the books. That meant she'd had at most a year to tutor him, and in practical terminology probably only a few months grabbed during summer and holidays for her to instruct Draco to that level.

Thus, it was possible, if you had a decent instructor (something Snape was most definitely NOT) to pick up a respectable proficiency of Occlumency in just a few months of tutoring. Draco's skill level from that was actually impressive, as he'd blocked the scans of a man who'd been practicing the art in secret every day for longer than the boy had been alive.

And we just happened to have the tutor who'd given him that impressive skill on our side at the moment. So that became our plan. We could only hope we had the few months it would take to accomplish it.

But quick, that evening before we did anything to alter Harry's mind, we all skipped off to Russia, where practically nothing magical was illegal, as their last recognized Ministry of Magic failed when the Czars got overthrown, and the Communist replacement had been a crude, badly put together ideological hackjob made up of nearly untrained communist wizards who made the incompetent English ones look like Merlin by comparison.

And that Communist Ministry had made too many attempts to overthrow their neighbors to be trusted, so it did not share any resources with, and was not part of any international community and shared very few of their laws - something that, combined with their own isolationism and inability to properly infiltrate foreign magical societies (who rightly feared their spies, and further takeover attempts), had served to cut them off from outside sources, which in turn kept Russian wizards more or less ignorant of what everyone else considered to be common magic.

Kind-hearted outsiders ignorant of their ruthlessness had taught them spells a time or two, but those examples always turned out so badly for everyone that spigot had dried up quickly.

I mean, when you teach someone a simple Cutting Curse and they use it on Lenin's orders to slaughter a couple million of their own people, plus a few foreigners, you get kind of leery about showing them anything else. And when you teach them a simple healing charm, and they immediately turn around to use it, almost exclusively, to prolong the suffering of victims of their rather brutal interrogations, you stop wanting to show them anything.

And Russian wizards had been so consistently hostile to the rest of the world that none of them could leave Russian soil without triggering the many wards set around their country by hostile neighbors, wards the Russians were too incompetent to detect or take down, and that would result in their deaths if crossed. So they didn't mingle to get spell knowledge. They couldn't even get out over the polar cap, as that had been tried a few times.

So use of the Unforgivables was practically MANDATORY for Russian Ministry employees, who learned those first and used practically nothing else. They were all accounted agents of the KGB and dealt with as part of that arm of the Soviet government - an arm that was still taking its own sweet time falling, as right now it was still very much in force.

Anyway, arriving in Russia, I gave our newly expanded group (now including Minnie, as well as Bella and Cissy) the basic run down of the Unforgivables just as the false Moody had done, and, with a Russian license to practice them in my pocket, very carefully cast the Imperious Curse on Harry.

I may have gasped in heartfelt relief when he failed to obey my instructions and threw the curse off moments later.

That was my intent.

Now I knew ahead of time that Harry was the only person named among the students who was able to throw that off, actually the only person of any age it was specifically mentioned could do so. And we'd needed him to. He may have been the only one, but we knew he COULD!

That was good enough. Where there was one, there could be several by the methods I had already made use of to practice other things.

I got his memory of that event then fed it into every person present, one by one, not even disguising what I was doing this time, even explaining how one could gain skills by absorbing memories directly, and confessing that this was the method I'd used to gain all of my power, finally giving each one a minor Obliviate to erase that tiny event and keep my secret.

However, in this case I attached a rider to my memory charm, in that if anything should happen to me, if I should die or disappear or be permanently incapacitated, my spell would remove itself and they would recall this event.

Now if I should be destroyed, these people would have the tools they'd need to continue on to fight in my absence.

Harry's future should be at least remotely secure.

Yes, it was manipulative of me, but the point where Dumbledore and I differed was that he had stopped caring about what happened to the people involved in his schemes, or the costs they paid on his behalf, while I was doing this so I could give them the same level of powers I had in case they needed them.

They would, after all, be able to find my trunk of saved memories, copies made of all of the experiences I'd absorbed, and from them they could gain everything that I had now.

That ought to throw a wrench in the Headmaster's plans.

Dumbledore had never arranged for anyone to ever match his power, under any circumstance whatsoever. Nor was I motivated by some nebulous 'Greater Good'. I was acting in the best interests of those precious to me, as best I knew how, using the materials and abilities I had available to me.

And full disclosure was coming. It just wasn't going to be right then.

Thankfully, when we picked up on the Imperious resistance practice from that point, everyone fortified by Harry's memory of overcoming it was able, with some difficulty more or less, to learn how to throw it off themselves.

That gave us a priceless extra measure of security.

Then, when Bella (with her own license to practice them on Russian soil) used the Imperious on me, also having been fortified by Harry's memory, I... well, I was halfway through a striptease before I threw it off, but throw it off I DID!

After that we did a bit of practice until any one of us could throw off such a curse in seconds, if not sooner. Harry could overcome the strongest such spell as soon as it was placed on him, and Bellatrix was an expert in their use!

So we had no worry about him; and the others among us, while not at his level, were adequate. We could throw off any such spell, just not as quickly.

Thus defended to a point where one of three Unforgivables was now next to useless against us, we retired to safer countries to begin to implement the rest of our regime of exotic training, including mastering Occlumency and using fan-suggested methods for building up a resistance to the Crucio, most notably including using tickling charms to train our minds in recognizing and overcoming phantom signals coming in to the brain. Of course, in terms of force, a Crucio was a firehose compared to the squirtgun of a tickling charm, but it was a good way to start, and not our only method, a recitation of which would be needlessly boring.

For a backup until such time as we had our Crucio resistance training up and functioning at a usable level, I overlaid a delayed spell on each of us. That freaky pain/pleasure reversal spell used by the LeStranges, set to activate only when we were under a Crucio.

Okay, the curse would still incapacitate you, but it was slightly less likely to drive you permanently insane in the aftermath, and would serve until we had a better form of resistance to the Pain Curse.

That left us with two of the three Unforgivables at least partially protected from. And, from what Rowling said, especially when Riddle was gloating over getting his new body (that it shared the remnants of Lily's blood protection over Harry) there was every possibility that Harry's resistance to the Killing Curse was a blood gift, and therefore something I might well have gotten a copy of when I unintentionally copied his other gifts.

Logically, it should have copied along with the rest. Naturally, this wasn't something I was eager to test. But the possibility was there all the same. A hope of last resort, that if every other defense had failed, that one MIGHT come forward and save the day.

And if I could somehow share that out it could potentially give each and every one of us some protection against the last of those three dreadful curses, a last line of defense for if all else had fallen.

I'd still far rather charm statues, stones and furniture into jumping into the way of a killing curse as far more reliable, even if this did work, as I knew well enough to know there was so much that I didn't know to stay cautious. What if Harry's resistance only applied to curses cast by Moldyshorts himself?

Things like that made me want to stay cautious in any event, as I could very much see a resistance that applied only to the first person who tried to use one on you, for example.

Not worth your life to find out the exact parameters.

It was Moria who came up with our solution, in a way. We blood typed Bella to see who could share her gift of Empathy, and the littlest girl in our company asked the innocent question of "Why can't you change blood type when you change faces?"

Out of the mouths of babes come the most startling ideas sometimes.

I tried it, and it turned out you CAN!

Shifting back to my own form, pre-Lockhart days, and I tested out as a solid O negative, just like I'd always done before arriving here.

Well, that made things simple. As Lockhart, the AB positive, I could receive from all of the common blood types. And as Jared, the pre-HP verse author, I could give blood to anyone.

Soon our entire company were empaths, metamorphs and parselmouths; any other gift we had, we shared in common among us all (even if we didn't know we had them).

Then at sunset I made sure to do a quick trip to visit Trelawney. The old bat may have been a fraud who had useless skills, but even Dumbledore admitted that she had the BLOODLINE of a true seer! And we did see her use that gift from time to time. For all of being erratic, uncontrolled and infrequent, she did make the occasional correct pronouncement.

The more active seers you had on your side, the more likely one of them was to give out some actual useful information. So I had dinner with my fellow teacher in her tower and surreptitiously took a blood sample.

Unfortunately her great-great-grandmother, the very gifted, very famous Cassandra Trelawney wasn't still around to copy from. But better a slight gift than no gift at all.

The next morning it was time to visit Luna Lovegood and see about acquiring Mage Sight, the ability to see magic and interpret auras, something that had once been described as "seeing in color when everyone else saw only in black and white."

The less said about that trip the better. It was odd even by my standards.

By now I was dashing about, trying to get all of the abilities I could lay hold of, for fear of a looming confrontation with Dumbledore. Nicholas Flamel and his wife Perenelle had both hidden out as hunters of the elusive demiguise at one point during their long as colorful pasts. So they'd had the training to see the invisible and between them had no trouble helping me overcome my difficulties in getting my own skills in that area sorted out right, to where I could both control and rely on it.

Of course, this did nothing to divert us from our many projects on the side.

As part of long-term plans that had to be fit in amongst all these hurried preparations, I started our group on the study of martial arts, getting them to where they could hopefully, eventually become physically fit and ready for anything. Because they'd need that when the time came.

As another a core element to one of my long-term contingency plans, I also introduced them to D&D and strategy games to start to develop that part of their minds, along with the problem solving aspects of those games.

The mind can truly be the most potent weapon anyone could have. But it has to be developed to do you any good.

Around this time we began making our rounds of public appearances, shoring up our image. No one really wanted to, but quieted when I said, "Remember that hungry lion, Fame, Harry? Now is the time to tame it."

Besides, if it all came down to a popularity contest, I didn't want to grant Albus too easy a victory. And, knowing Dumbledore, the way he preferred to dispose of his enemies was to use the government to destroy them for him, like he'd done with Sirius, and like he'd failed to do with Voldemort.

So, at some point it was almost guaranteed that one or more of those of us who opposed the Supreme Mugwump on the issue of Harry's treatment was going to end up in Azkaban. Probably sooner rather than later.

That made animagus transformations a top priority.

We already had most of the skills and training required to do that, plus an expert of our own in the form of Minnie to help us in overcoming obstacles in the last few steps, and an advisor in the form of Sirius himself.

What we really had to do now was choose what shapes to aim for. You had to have some kind of connection to your proposed shape, and the stronger the better. This was the stage most aspirants failed at, in selecting an animal form that you had a clear, perceivable connection to, rather than choosing a beast you merely liked or felt fond of. Thinking a shape was cool didn't help you to turn into one. You had to have some sort of connection.

It didn't need to be a literal connection. Figurative ones were almost stronger so long as they were evident to those around you. Minerva had been quite catty in her youth, and so that's where she got the form from. Dragon lady might be more appropriate for her now, although she was loosening up a bit.

Even being engaged to her, and her youth being restored, I would forswear any potential comments about her being a fine pussy.

Tom Riddle was a snake. Pettigrew, obviously, had been a rat, both figurative and literal. Sirius had been named for the dog star, and was as loyal as a hound. James had been something of a stag, while Rita Skeeter had always been bugging people even before she became a reporter or animagus, while Albus was a barmy old goat (he rarely used his animagus form).

So the trick was to pick an affinity and go with it, building on that connection until you had a solid basis for making that transformation.

Harry's was the most important to us.

He loved flying, so a bird form gave an excellent foundation. And, given the series as it was originally written, he'd also managed to raise himself from the dead. It might have been a cliche for him, but that wasn't going to stop us as it only got that way by being so tremendously useful, even logical.

Actually, being cliche just reflected the fact that the child had an enormous perceptible connection to the proposed form.

Having survived the killing curse twice, loving flying and helping others, and being a Gryffindor (the house of Fire to go by Rowling's intentions) Harry pretty much had to become a pheonix. Once this got explained to the others, they all agreed, so we aimed him toward becoming one (and having the group agree on this perception strengthened it, and helped him in no small way to reach that goal as his alternate form).

For myself, I became a lion. Hermione became an otter, and her mother a seal. Moria became a flying squirrel, and Bellatrix a fox, while Narcissa joined us as a parrot. Dora, predictably, got stuck as a chameleon animagus.

They all had their reasons. Don't ask me all of them, as some of them were embarrassing. For my sake, they'd insisted I try lion as it came closest to reflecting what they saw in me, and not the least of the factors shaping the proposed selection was my having a pride of females forming around me.

But I was also, in their eyes at any rate, commanding and authoritative (don't ask me how they got this perception, as I don't know), powerful (this one at least I knew how they'd formed THAT misconception) but also graceful in a very fundamental way. This last I could explain, having always been dexterous and that only having been added upon by all those memories of martial arts practice as well as dance, proper comportment, and so on.

I was also commonly believed to be a true Gryffindor, because of the bravery people assumed I had because of all of my reported exploits. But bravery and the House of the Lion connection more or less got me cornered (in spite of my expectations the original Gilderoy had actually been a Gryffindor, but he'd never been a very good one - too much like Ron, actually).

That being their perception of me, and most if not all of the magical world seeing me in a very similar light, I got pretty much locked into that form. It might have been more useful to be something more discrete, but discretion was not what they had a clear perception of me for. I was charm and grace and power, to their minds, and that spelled lion, so that was my connection.

If I HAD to be a great cat, I personally preferred tigers. But I didn't get to make that selection and got to have a go at being a lion despite it.

Narcissa, who'd spent most of her life repeating what lines others had told her about pureblood superiority and so on, almost became a mockingbird, and would have if I hadn't pointed out her beauty and that factor caused her to switch her aims over to another famous mimic that just happened to have gorgeous plumage. So she became a beautiful macaw, largest and most famous of the parrot family. Something oddly suitable on all counts.

She would have been a monkey but for the fact that she took herself so seriously, and monkeys just were plain undignified. Although I made a note to suggest that form to the Weasley Twins at some future point.

Trust Hermione, that muggleborn witch who was comfortable in both worlds, to become an animal at home both on land and in water. The playful aspect of otters surprised me a bit, though, as she'd hid it well in the novels. She'd first raised the question of becoming an owl, for their supposed wisdom, until I pointed out that she hated to fly, so a bird form was out of the question for her. But she loved swimming as much or more as she detested flying so that made for a clear bond.

Miranda was mostly the same as her oldest daughter, caught straddling two very different worlds. Although, like a seal, she'd favored one environment over the other. And that elegant lady confessed to always having loved the ocean. It wasn't the strongest of connections, but enough of one.

Moria fit in a similar form, only choosing two different environments to be at home in, and trading in a certain amount of playfulness for a touch of nutty. Plus, unlike her sister, she absolutely adored swings and flying.

Bellatrix, being both lovely and deadly, clever and cruel, made a perfect fox. While Dora, having been showing off her Metamorph powers so long, had a strong public perception as one who changed (especially her hair color), and the only good match for her with that kind of connection was the famous animal who changed colors. So she got to be a lizard with a funky skin.

Not what she would have picked for herself, but them's the breaks. You took what form you could get, or didn't become an animagus. And she nearly gave up the quest, and would not have continued on but for our prompting.

Luna joined us as a unicorn, and the story of how she'd joined us was a tale all its own, but the form suited her beautifully. Lovely and ethereal, magical and free, mysterious and unfettered by all but her own whims, it suited her right down to her bones.

She was also able to give Harry a metaphysical kick in the pants, touching him with her horn while she was a unicorn pushed him over the edge to achieve his own pheonix transformation.

It was a feverish bit of work for the rest of us, and took more time than I felt we could easily spare save for how vital it was to our futures, should we be facing ones that featured Azkaban.

Despite several turns of the Time Turner, three weeks advanced during our studies and both school and our marriage dates grew much closer. During this time we also moved around extensively, hiding from Albus.

Finally having achieved those forms (correctly defined as non-inheritable gifts, although the potential for the gift itself could be passed down, the form itself would not be) we used purified blood magic rituals to share them around, so that each of us could access the forms created by the others, even those designed by Sirius and Minnie. So the whole flock of us could hide out as cats or dogs, foxes, otters, lions or the slew of forms now available to us. It gave us a ton of useful disguises, modes of transport, even combat potential.

With our metamorph abilities working on so many base creature templates we would be practically unrecognizable in any urban or rural environment. A cat or dog able to change its fur and markings the way Dora could change her face and hair, made for an animal that could pass itself off as virtually any breed, and thus fit in practically anywhere.

Foxes and squirrels had a more wild bent, but the same thing still applied, and parrot and chameleon forms gave us the tropics. Lions, while tremendously useful for their combat powers, could also, with a bit of morphing, be seen as pumas, and the various breeds of those were found practically worldwide, so that form, too, could be used as a disguise in the wilder regions.

I didn't even know how to begin quantifying the advantages of those magical forms. And while there were fewer calls for hiding in an aquatic environment, being able to fit in there too was not without benefit - fewer people around to try and pierce the disguise, for one.

And, if one was going to be escaping from a small island in the north sea, you did well to have a swimming form so immune to extreme cold.

Actually, there was hardly a cage built that could contain that wide an array of possible forms. Most things that could contain a man would let you slip out between the bars as a squirrel, or fly off as a parrot. You could cut through whatever mesh could contain the squirrel with the claws of a lion, and hit the ocean as a seal. The only thing you'd have to worry about is becoming whale food, as sharks or killer whales saw seals and thought 'lunch!'

And that was presuming that we couldn't just transform into pheonixes and 'flame teleport' to someplace safer.

Now we had a solid means of escaping Azkaban, if we were ever incarcerated there. Next would be to prepare for a life on the run, and the most sensible thing for us to do in that circumstance would be to leave the UK. Albus had near supreme authority in Magical Britain, and it would be some time for that to decay around him, even with the information I'd already dropped. So it would behoove us to do our hiding elsewhere, because as I'd said his influence (while still existing) dropped sharply once you left the British Isles.

And there were ways to make a life abroad far more comfortable. This was especially easy if you had the right magic.

Judging by the fact that Barty Crouch Sr speaks over 200 languages, both Muggle and Magical, and was not any great brain, it seemed likely that there were magical ways for magical people to learn them.

And indeed there was. Language Lozenges, available in any magical travel store for a handful of galleons (no more than seven apiece) were a common item in this world that Rowling had not touched on, and you took one as if it were a cough drop, only it taught a language instead of soothed throats.

Their effects were permanent, lasting all life long, just as if you'd learned a tongue naturally. All were color coded and labeled, with those symbols based, as closely as possible, on ancient heraldry, with heavy European bias. The one for French was blue, with a Fleur-de-lis imprinted on it. English was red with a trio of lions rampant, and so on.

You couldn't take too many at once or you'd end up confused and mixing your languages, if not muddling them entirely. It basically took a week, minimum, to absorb one safely before you could try another, and it was best to use the language as you did so, to reinforce the learning cycle.

It made me wish I'd been using them all along, but oh well. I bought full sets of the major world languages for each of us and distributed them. We'd all take the same ones at the same times to help us reinforce each other, and follow a weekly schedule as best we could from then on.

The more of those we knew, the more places we could easily hide. So we all popped a Japanese lozenge apiece as we started our martial arts courses. It helped with our terminology and really impressed our instructors. I already knew the tongue, but it helped make those memories more accessible.

We already had rather extensive sets of magical camping gear, although it had come time to purchase more of those, so we all had our own sets in case of disaster, loss, or other emergency.

Next trick would be trying to keep hold of our equipment in spite of capture. And, having read how the Snatchers (magical bounty hunters) treated their prey, we had nothing to worry about from them. If they caught us it would be no worry, as they barely even searched their prey, only doing just enough to find and pull away wands. So, carry a spare or convincing fake in any easy to discover and remove place, and you had no worries from them, as if they captured us we'd be able to escape as soon as their backs were turned.

No, what I was worried about were Probity Probes: long, thin golden rods used to detect spells of concealment and hidden magical objects, described as both crude and effective. But... every spell had a counter, well, all of them except the Unforgivables, of course. So, since magic devices were nearly all based on spells, it should be possible to develop a counter for the probes.

Knowing how a thing could be searched for was a huge part of hiding from those searches. So if you understood how a detection device worked, you could evade it. Just like a metal detector couldn't find a non-metallic weapon, and so on.

So I went and bought one of those probes, having thoughts about devising a counter for it. None of my memories showed me how to create one, but I did have some idea on how to reverse engineer magical objects at that point, due to my collection of curse breaker memories of people who had to study such things in order to understand unknown or forgotten devices incorporated into tomb defenses, so they could get around them.

However, it was at this stage that I got interrupted by what I'd been fearing all along. Albus cornered me as I came out of the shop all alone where I'd purchased a Probity Probe, and the look on his face was... stormy.

"Ah, Gilderoy. I'm afraid one of your editors contacted me for comment on a book of yours he was about to publish, fearing to slander me. I was grateful that he did, as you had included the most appalling charges of misconduct against me in no less than three volumes. Fortunately, I was able to Obliviate the man and his staff and destroy the already printed tomes. They will not be coming out in bookstores now, or indeed ever. So the information you have sought to broadcast shall remain hidden. It was really quite rude of you to try and publish it in the first place."

Ooops. Well, if I survived this to get clear and try again a pensieve memory of this moment was going into the submission package of the next copy of those manuscripts I'd sent out. And I'd be using a different publisher!

However, Albus was so angry my escape was far from guaranteed, and he was not done ranting just yet. "Of course you and I are going to have a little chat over the topic of how you came to possess such information, which I was sure had been safely hidden away. In fact, you have proven to know a great many things beyond what was available to the public, or indeed anyone beyond a select and trusted few. I should like to plunge the entire depths of your experience to find out why. But first, I would like my wand back."

I glanced down to the stick of elder he grasped. "I was under the impression you already had it. Isn't it there in your hand?"

Dumbledore raised the elder wand and assumed a dueling stance. "Yes, it may be with me physically, but these past few weeks it has not been responding to me as it once did. Curious as to why, I did a little searching through my mind and found a deleted section of memories, one in which you defeated me. Now, I'm afraid that I shall have to return the favor."

Ah. So it wasn't to be Azkaban with me. At least not yet. He had to defeat me first to remaster his wand. THEN he'd doubtless drug me to overcome the Occlumency I'd just been learning, rummage through my mind and, if I was lucky, I'd wind up in a cell in Azkaban.

But a couch in St. Mungo's ward for permanent spell damage, Obliviated down to a vegetable state, was more likely to judge by his look. The expression of anger was just as stormy as ever, and could only get worse if he followed through on that threat and discovered just how much I truly knew. Bellatrix was doing a wonderful job teaching us all Occlumency, but hadn't had time to finish yet. Too many other projects. We were all still learning, and somehow I had the impression that Albus would not be letting me go until he'd either paralyzed or stunned me to grant himself the opportunity to do a thorough ransacking of my mind to find out what he wanted to know, in detail.

Ouch. Okay, bad situation here!

I gave a grave nod, replying solemnly. "And the Elder Wand responds best only to its true master, who is whomever defeated its last one. So you want to return the favor, restoring your connection to it. A connection you gained in the first place by defeating your best friend and lover Gellert Grindelwald. Very well, Albus. We'll do this your way." I cast my cloak to the floor as part of limbering up to free my shoulders and arms for more swift reactions.

Then we walked several paces before turning and assumed dueling positions across from each other.

I made a mistake and met his eyes. Instantly I could feel the stabbing pains of a powerful legilimency attack. I'd not been very long in training to resist this, so he effortlessly blew through those minor shields I had prepared.

What he found, however, stopped him cold.

I had so many memories of complete lives in there, so many times my own age in duration, even I had trouble navigating them at times. So many sets of different personalities, experiences and so on all slowly merging into one, not to mention boughts of insanity (and thinking of impossible things like rolling credits, as if that were possible), all slowly being altered to fit me.

In spite of a fully successful legilimency penetration attack, Albus couldn't even find my core self now.

It was in there, but there was SO MUCH STUFF I found I could hide it behind a wall of fake memories, and just to yank his chain and make him wonder I used a specific set and made him think I thought I was a Catholic witch from Spain, with all of the memories of a life history to prove it.

Albus had been intending to paralyze me from a carefully constructed mind insertion, giving orders to my subconscious and bypassing the conscious self entirely, but wound up having to withdraw his attack without fulfilling any of his previous intentions.

He couldn't implant suggestions, even a paralysis command, without finding out the core me. Telling one of my sets of witch memories to stop moving didn't help him any.

"I see," he mumbled, shaking his head to try and clear it. "And what, pray tell, happened to the real Gilderoy Lockhart?"

"He stands before you," I replied with a cocky smirk, trying to recover my center after his attack while inwardly suppressing the answer, 'I wish I knew, old man.'

Dumbledore's face went slightly slack... in sadness? I couldn't read it properly, and it lasted only a moment in any case. But then it filled with resolve and he cast the first spell, animating a statue of rock.

I immediately began to reply, but it was clear from the outset that I was grossly overmatched.

It should have been obvious. And to me, it always had been. While I had many skills it could be compared to dumping together a pile of car parts, some good, many bad, and most of them just nothing in particular. But I hadn't had time or the experience necessary to assemble it into something usable, much less fine tune it. It was all hanging around unconnected. While, on the other hand, Albus intimately knew all of his abilities and had linked them together into a smoothly functioning machine, fine tuned across decades of use and including delicate adjustments as required.

I privately resolved to start some intensive dueling practice as soon as I was able, provided I survived this one, of course.

Albus started overwhelming me from the first instant, which is not to say that I did not have tricks of my own. But he had more, and better ones. Both of us were transfiguring odds and ends and statuary to serve as guardians or assailants (and his, of course, were superior to mine in practically every way, both more numerous and stronger), but he also conjured animals to attack me from the sides to draw attention from his direct attacks with their own deadly dangerous distractions.

Thanking Heaven that I was ambidextrous, I resorted to a carefully planned surprise of mine and proved I carried shrinking swords instead of shrinking keys, a former muggle-baiting spell applied instead to carrying concealed armaments. In a single motion I garbed myself in armor and weapons of goblin silver I'd previously extracted from Bella's vaults to use to defend myself in cases just like this one, protecting my person via my strong sword skills with one hand, while still casting spells with my wand in the other.

Dumbledore gave this a blink of interest, but did not let up on the attack at all, continuously driving me back with his superior spell work creating far more attacking animals and objects than I could easily cope with.

Thus armored, I was immune to fang and claw, though they could still knock me down or pin me. So I also covered myself with an aura of flame to drive those animals back from assaulting me. I then used a few exploding potions, based on failed experiments or catastrophes from the novels, to cover the Headmaster and then all of the animals in failed boil remover potion, coating them all in ugly, painful boils from head to toe.

It slowed him down, but not much, although it did buy me breathing space as all of his conjured animals gave up seeking for my blood to whine and cringe and lick their boils, or just writhe or crawl off to escape the pain. This gave me and my animated constructs time to finish off his, leaving me with a small advantage which I made sure to exploit by throwing more potions.

Actually, a quick set of exploding potions bought me more success than all of the spells I'd tried. Dumbledore was accustomed to stopping attacks aimed at his person, but a grenade-like object going off nearby was not among his sets of recognized threats - although it must be said that he learned quickly.

Perhaps too quickly, as my brief surge against him, although it did some notable damage, was reversed all the same and once again he was driving me back with superior spell work of every kind. His shields or counterspells stopped every kind of attack I was willing to launch (not believing I could or should resort to the Unforgivables, as it could only spell bad news for me to use them on a wizarding judge, who'd then use that as evidence to enable him to legally do whatever he wanted to me in the event I should lose).

At the same time I was hard-pressed to simply keep up, dodging spells I could not shield from, and hardwired reflexes of many different sorts all firing at cross purposes to each other.

It was clear Dumbledore was the superior duelist from the start, as aside from that brief moment of success with my exploding potions he'd not had anything to fear from me. Still, I HAD managed to pique the guy's interest so Albus began to play with me, just to see what I could do.

Thus he raised fears that he wasn't going to keep me around to study later.

That was when Dumbledore made a mistake. Focusing on me, and following my retreat so he could keep me in proper wand range at optimum dueling distance, he didn't notice until he'd done it that he'd stepped on my cloak, discarded at the very beginning of the fight before we'd parted to duel.

The instant his foot met fabric the entire cloak sprang up and wrapped him tight, cocooning his body and sinking fangs into his neck to deliver poisons to both paralyze and stun him.

This was no accident. I'd deliberately dropped it before we'd each retreated to proper dueling range, so it had been in the middle between us, and I'd animated it long ago to serve as exactly this sort of trap against him. It'd been stealthily creeping into his way this whole time, making sure that so long as he was coming towards me it would be in his path, yet quite carefully appearing harmless the entire time.

Hey! I'd known all along that I couldn't best Albus Dumbledore in a fair fight! So I'd prepared contingencies, as in the event this duel happened no way was I going to restrict myself to fighting fair!

I had come to realize that it's not so much the resources you have, it's how you use them. I'd known all along that Albus could beat me spell for spell. He had been doing this, and viewed as formidable at it, for a very long time, while I was a recently recovered coward and incompetent.

So I'd laid a trap or two for him, hoping that while he was beating me his awareness of other things would be diminished. It had been a gamble, but it had paid off. Knowing I probably had only moments before Albus got out despite the venoms, I hit him at once, without delay, with my one unique spell.

It was the only spell I had that could get through his still erect shields, unique spells being hard to block, and I'd been saving it to use for just this moment so he still had no experience to base a counter off of.

My first week of spell practice in this reality, in the Room of Requirement, I had invented one unique curse of my own, using Lockhart's botched medical spell as a basis to create a Boneless Curse - vanishing the bones of a target.

There was already a bone-breaker curse, but broken bones can be cured in seconds. Regrowing vanished ones, however, took about twelve hours of painful treatment, and that was if you had the proper potion on hand to do it. So it was far more debilitating to de-bone your target than to stun or even bludgeon him, while still not being fatal.

So Dumbledore lost the use of both of his arms and legs, as the first target I hit was his collarbone (without which the arms are useless) then his pelvis, and finally finishing up with the one I should have started with, vanishing his jawbone so he couldn't speak, and finally summoning his wand.

No arms, no legs, no voice, and your options are limited.

It was probably Dumbledore's shock at the unexpected nature of the cloak's attack more than anything that carried the day. But the guy had already proved that he was not immune to surprise taking him out of a fight, as that was the way Draco had done it in the novels.

So, surprise had been what I'd counted on all along to carry me through this fight, should it ever happen.

Still, holding out long enough for the surprise to work had pushed me farther than I'd thought I could go. Albus was an astonishingly powerful duelist, and he'd pushed me near my breaking point with just a portion of his power. It had taken everything I had just to keep him interested enough to play with me. I was panting in relief when I saw his eyes gloss over as the poisons took hold.

I'd been lucky. Nor was a simple memory charm going to fix this, either. Well, not fix it all of the way. But that, as a component of other things... well, it was a good place to start.

Seeing the man who had caused so much pain and anguish trapped, I quietly whispered, "To the victor go the spoils, old man," and took the Elder Wand out of his grasp and into my own.

That would limit the amount of threat he could pose me, if only by a little. It would not make him no threat, it wouldn't even make him a manageable one. But any wee little loss of power to your enemy was always useful. Denied the advantage of the 'unbeatable' wand, even operating at sub-par capacity as the whole "you're not my master!" thing came into play, he was less powerful - and every little bit helped!

Now, I wasn't going to kid myself or make mealy-mouthed excuses. Albus may have been deserving of death, he'd certainly arranged it often enough for others, but I couldn't kill him. I didn't dare to.

The Dursleys were one thing, the Head of the Wizengamot was something else altogether!

I didn't even need the picture, springing fully formed into my mind, of myself standing in chains before the entire Wizengamot, being sentenced to death, to know that there was no way I was getting away with that. When someone of that much reputation and authority dies, people are going to want to know about it. Police would investigate. And, as the author of books that didn't like him, I would be among the first suspects.

The wizarding world didn't care about the presence or absence of evidence. Suspicion was enough, and often enough that was based on snap judgments and first impressions without any sort of investigation whatsoever!

No, I NEEDED the ability to testify, under Veritaserum, that I hadn't killed him or arranged his death in any way shape or form.

And, by a similar token, I just wasn't powerful enough to hold him prisoner. I didn't know his limits, but they were certainly greater than mine! I'd bested him in a duel using near every dirty trick at my disposal. I could and certainly would erase his memory of that fight, but he'd proven able to break memory charms before, and once he'd recovered his memory those surprises weren't going to work again. And coming up with more, when Dumbledore would be expecting trickery, wasn't going to be as useful the next time.

Simply put, he could overpower me. If Fawkes was still loyal to him he could escape from any bindings, or any cell (and I couldn't imagine why that bird was loyal to him in the first place, except perhaps for some kind of binding charm, but then I had to bite the bullet and admit that the bird had stuck by him before, and likely would again, and without knowledge of why it would be pretty pointless to try and stop it from happening). I could tell in my gut that Dumbledore could throw off an Imperious, so unless I wanted to keep him stoned out of his gourd, I couldn't expect to hold him prisoner, and even then I wouldn't put money on him not being able to spellcast while stoned.

Stoned? That gave me a Very Good Idea!

I only needed Albus out of the way for a little while. I could tell what kind of disaster I would be inviting by trying to destroy him at the peak of his power, but I still had those books tying him so closely to other dark lords, and that could expose enough of Dumbledore's own crimes to get him thrown out of most if not all of the offices he'd held.

That would pull most of the worst of his teeth. Sure, Albus was a very great wizard, powerful in his own right, but at the moment he wielded virtually all of the authority of the magical world. No matter how threatening he was as an individual, that couldn't compare to him BEING 'The Law!'

Yet, once those books came out, and people had a certain interval to read and consider them, that authority ought to fade away from beneath him. It had already proven possible for things to be that way, by the other public relations blows he'd had to cope with, dodge or disarm before.

Public opinion COULD hurt him! Dumbledore HAD been removed from the office of Headmaster before! And that was just on Lucius Malfoy's efforts. I had a hundred times the dirt on Albus that Lucky Lucy had conjured up!

So, all I really required was some space of time for Albus to be out of circulation long enough for those books to come to print and be distributed. Some period where he was unable to stop me from publishing them, because so long as he was 'in play' as it were, he'd use all of his considerable powers to stop me - because I was really striking at the root of his most far-reaching power: his influence.

And he was, by his own admission, addicted to power.

Which, that one statement explained so much of why he'd worked so hard, so deliberately to destroy Harry Potter.

For example, it was revealed by Albus himself that he was well aware of the "neglect and often cruelty" (direct quote, excerpt from Dumbledore in HBP, 3) that the Dursleys had treated Harry with over the past 15 years. He had later revealed that he needed to keep Harry "level-headed" and life with the Dursleys accomplished that for him. In other words, he needed the Dursley's neglect and abuse to shape Harry into a submissive little tool who would do anything to please an old man who showed him an ounce of kindness.

Dumbledore of canon had proved to be a monster in his treatment of Harry.

But, so long as he was viewed to be "The epitome of all that is good in the wizarding world" (direct quote, excerpt from one of Rowling's interviews, as the way she saw him - and thus proof of just how badly she'd lost control of her own characters during later part of the series) then he was untouchable. You couldn't defy him, much less defend yourself against him, so long as that was the common perception of him.

But.. alter that? So people at last saw him for the slime he really was? Well, that made things different. If a minor disobedience to him didn't spell the entire auror force immediately coming down on you to bind you to his will, that made the situation, if not comfortable, then reasonable. It put threats he posed onto a more manageable level.

For one thing, being accountable for his actions meant he could no longer just attack me on the streets, like he'd just done.

Judges could do what they liked, and most people assumed it was legal, but ordinary wizards were expected to have some legitimate cause before they could fight other wizards, and more than half the time he could never explain any cause he had openly without blowing wide the very secret he was trying to conceal by fighting me in the first place!

Back to my Very Good Idea.

I only needed to delay his interference for a while, to let public opinion wash most of his power away from him. I couldn't hold him prisoner, and I dared not kill him, not even after his influence had faded.

However, I had Blinky, and my pet could turn him to stone for me. Not lethal, so I could truthfully say that I had done nothing to kill him, or arrange to have him die. Not something that pheonix tears could cure him from, so Fawkes could not just rescue him. And it wasn't something he'd be able to break out of by himself.

It was a good plan, but I had something to do first.

Having only just now purchased a Probity Probe, I ran it over our 'beloved' Headmaster, and removed all of the items or spells it could detect (which was no small number - he carried an amazing assortment of devices, the vast majority of which I couldn't identify even with my wide assortment of magical backgrounds and experiences, curse breakers among them).

Next I blood typed him, then hooked him up to drain a pint into one of those nice muggle blood bags, figuring to steal his blood gifts, whatever they were (and I suspected a huge magical core was among them).

Hmm, maybe there was something about that 'blood magic makes you dark' stuff, seeing as how I had become a trifle ghoulish about my willingness to inject other people's fluids into my veins.

Then again, it might just be Addams-ish. Or Crazy. Hard to identify all of the influences on you when you've had so many, much more so when you've had them all jumbled together in so short a time.

Anyway, I had no particular desire to become a goat, and that's what the old man's animagus form was reputed to be, but we all might want to cross a mountain sometime when it wouldn't be convenient to fly. Or possibly spy on a farm sometime, although we had so many potential shapes now it was always possible to use alternates.

I say potential shapes because while the gift was transferable via the method we'd begun using - figure out your animagus form, then master it, then transfer the ability to use that via blood transfer. Anyway, while that most certainly worked it only transferred the latent ability. You had to master a form all over again to be able to transform, and that had kind of taken all of the fun out of it.

Luna was still our only unicorn animagus. We all had the latent ability, but she was the only one of us able to make transformations to that shape. Similarly Harry was the only one to master the pheonix shape so far. Those two just took way more oomph than any of the rest of us had to give.

I will append the word Yet to that, seeing as how I'd still not given up hope for the future, seeing as how it had already brought any number of impossible things, or what had previously been thought to be so.

Lower energy forms, like cat or dog, had most of us able to use them. Lions were few among us, so far, although Minnie had already become one.

Still, all of this was getting me off track. I had very little time to do what I was planning, and considered it vital to question him under veritaserum. Actually, much worse than that, I knew from my varied experiences that the effects of an overdose of veritaserum is that it becomes permanent, and I couldn't think of anything I'd more rather do to the old coot!

It would be very nice, one might even say essential, to find out what his intentions were regarding me, and also the details of his past plans, those regarding other characters of whom I was fond, general ideas for the world, and so forth. From this, I could probably compose another book in the Dark Lord series. But whatever good that information might do to me, however, it was trivial compared to what a permanent dose would do to him.

What would the Master Manipulator do if he couldn't lie?

How would he go forward living life if he truthfully answered any question any person made to him, and could not make an untrue statement?

I think honestly it might do him less harm in the long term if I were to cut the man in half with a chainsaw. This man was secrecy incarnate, playing cards close to his chest, always gathering information yet never releasing it to others. He'd never once answered a direct question honestly that I knew of! Albus Dumbledore lived for lies. Revealing information was not a part of his nature. And yet he faced a future of NEVER being able to lie or refuse to answer a question honestly again?

I think the man might prefer to be whacked in half with a chainsaw.

It was with no small amount of eagerness that I poured four full vials of full potency veritaserum down his unresponsive throat, thankfully aided by a swift medical charm designed for dosing unconscious patients with potions so he didn't choke, but gulped it all obediently down.

It was all I could do at that point to stop cackling.

Then I had another nifty idea and swiftly yet carefully began to draw runes on him where he won't see them: on his back, between toes, on the roof of his mouth, underneath his hair/beard, and so on. Selecting inks as close as possible to the flesh tones of the areas so marked before I tattooed them on (a legacy of a memory of a misspent youth) was also a touch of genius.

One of those runes would negate the effects of pheonix tears, should the Headmaster try to use them to negate his unfortunate, veritaserum induced truthful state. The others? Well, a great many other cures no longer worked for the Headmaster. As for the rest? They'd be their own surprises.

Something like that trick I'd played with my cloak, actually. Handy to have a few dirty tricks in reserve for in case it truly mattered.

Then I Obliviated the old man, just like Lockhart had done to countless others before him, causing all of his memories to come falling out of his brain in a cascading flood that got caught in a convenient basin.

I'd pick his secrets out of his own memories.

After that it was a simple matter to take him to Hogwarts and petrify him, then leave him hidden somewhere in his own office. Between his pinky toe on his left side and the toe nearest to it, completely invisible with his feet stuck in socks and shoes that would also be petrified, was a rune to vanish any mandrake restorative draught that came into contact with the man, before it could take any effect on him.

Let's see the morons of the wizarding world solve THAT one!

No, I hadn't killed the Headmaster, but I could potentially take him out of action for a very long time. And when they did get him back, they'd have had time to read those horrible exposes on his naughty deeds, and then he'd wake up all nice and truthful about any questions they asked of him.

No, that could destroy him more thoroughly than killing him ever could have.

Placing the man there, on my way out I realized I had no more emergencies in my life. There were problems, sure, but nothing out of the scope I was prepared to deal with, and I had plenty of pleasant things to look forward to, as well. There was Star Trek and other movies to film, plenty of satisfying work to keep busy on, good friends and companions to hang out with doing it, and a life to look forward to that, while it had a minor wrinkle or two, was not on the whole so bad. About the worst thing on the horizon was too many fiancees, and for that I could pull a Ranma and just figure out a way to hold the whole thing off indefinitely.

So, on the whole, I had a life, even one I found I was eager to go on living.


The End

Author's Notes:

The first draft of this, which stayed up for years, was posted as just another chapter. However, the story naturally comes as an end here, and the more I worked on writing what came next the more I realized that it didn't fall within the same story arc, that if it came out, that would be a sequel, not a continuation. So here you are.