Chapter 21 What Do We Do Now?
Major Shacklebolt traded shifts, so his team could be on stand by duty for the Autumnal Equinox. He was expected to decisively turn the tide of the battle, calling for reserves and emergency healers, if Voldemort didn't just run, like he usually did. He did not expect to see bodies laying everywhere. How had a dozen death eaters done this, after they walked into an ambush? They were just supposed to interrupt a ritual. He saw Dumbledore stumbling around some of the dark cloaked bodies.
"What happened?" asked the Major, as he ran up. Two squads spread out over the area.
"I expected two, maybe three dementors, at the most," said Dumbledore. "He had them all. They made short work of us, I'm afraid. We are lucky there have only been two casualties, of the people who were with me, though there are several severe injuries. Eight death eaters are known dead. Severus Snape is unconscious and portkeyed to the Hogwarts infirmary, as planned. I have made sure the prisoners are stunned, and ready for medical transport. Voldemort is stunned and manacled."
"You got him, then," said Shacklebolt. "You thought he might escape, once the ambush was discovered."
"It wasn't me," said the old man. "I was overwhelmed by him, and others he had with him. I am lucky to be alive. He would have killed us all, as soon as the last person was incapacitated."
"Who did it, then?" asked the Major. "Where are they?"
"I didn't actually see," said Dumbledore. "I put the manacles on him after I regained consciousness." Albus had been a politician, for far too long, to give up extraneous information, so he kept his information scant, and to the point. He needed time to think. Harry had poisoned Voldemort, but a bezoar alleviated most poisons, until further treatment was available. Harry wouldn't have a poison that would overwhelm a bezoar. He really didn't know who stopped Tom Riddle. He knew Harry didn't have the ability. Hell, he didn't have the ability himself. The darts in a few of the dead men were obvious. The young man had been on his own for a few months. It was feasible Harry had ran into a dodgy character, while trying to continue the medical training he seemed to enjoy so much. The poison didn't make sense, in any scenario he could bring forth. Dumbledore's mind was spinning.
Harry had likely saved Minerva's life, and as well as several others. Albus was most grateful for that, since his plan had failed so spectacularly. The boy would be a remarkable healer, according to Madam Pomfrey's reports. Albus saw no reason to let the Ministry hacks think Harry might have information that could lead to the capture of the Archer. It could get Harry killed. Dead men carry no tales, and the Archer was proven to be ruthless, and apparently unstoppable.
A young man ran up to them. "The perimeter is secure, sir," he said. "The injured are being transported to St. Mungo's. Three death eaters have been manacled, and sent to DMLE medical. You-Know-Who has Tonks' equipment on him, but she is at St. Mungo's. What do I do with him?"
"I will take care of that one," said the Major. "I am leaving shortly, to take him to a special cell in DMLE. It looks like this is over. I want to see your Captain, as soon as he is available."
"Yes sir," said the young auror, and he left.
"Professor, you need to go to St. Mungo's yourself," said Shacklebolt. "You don't look so good, if I may say so, sir."
"This took a lot out of me," said Albus. "I am getting too old for this. I think I will accept your portkey to St. Mungo's." The Major activated the portkey, and resumed his investigation.
Harry spent the night with his family. The hunt was done, but he didn't know what would happen with the Ministry. Only one way to find out, and that was wait, and see. He left for Belgium in the morning. He didn't want to see Dumbledore. He didn't even want to think about Dumbledore.
"Please sit down for breakfast," said Nicolas, as Harry walked in. "The morning paper had quite the head line."
"What did it say?" asked Harry.
"Albus Dumbledore, with a few others, fought Voldemort at Stonehenge at sunset, and Voldemort was beaten," said Nicolas. "When Albus woke up, Voldemort was unconscious, with the remaining death eaters stunned as well. The Prophet is giving credit to The Archer for saving Dumbledore, and stopping Voldemort. They found some death eaters killed with his trademark crossbow bolts. They are ecstatic that Voldemort has been captured."
"Here is the tracking stone," said Harry. "The only traces left lead to the Ministry, or Snape. I won't need it any more. It was very effective."
"I was only too happy to make it," said Nicolas. "That vile creature should be beyond recovery by now, and on his way to a painful death. I have contacts in the British Ministry that will tell me of his status."
"Dumbledore made him swallow a bezoar," said Harry. "Will that have any effect on the poison?"
"It will probably just make his passing more painful," said Nicolas, with a smirk. "There is no antidote for that mixture, but its activity can be slowed down. The removal of the bonding between the ethereal and spiritual bodies should have already begun, with no ability to cancel. I would prefer to take no chances, and let the toxins work."
"What will you do now, Harry?" asked Perenelle.
"I have to find out what the Ministry plans to do," said Harry. "I would rather return to school. I missed half of my OWL year, and I need a NEWT in potions to be accepted at St. Mungo's."
"I could tutor you," said Perenelle, "as could Nicolas. You can apply to take the examinations separately."
"Thanks for the offer," said Harry, "but I like attending Hogwarts. I have friends there. I am sure I will have questions for you both, from time to time."
"I know the pull young people have for each other's company, Harry," said Nicolas, with a grin. "You don't need to be cooped up with old fossils like us."
"Please remember us, Harry," said Perenelle. "Our door is always open for you. Ah, here is the treacle tart you are so fond of." A young elf had just brought in the freshly baked pastry.
Dumbledore was busy at the Ministry. As usual, he was knee deep in politics, meeting with Fudge.
"I want to talk to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," said Fudge. "Why can't I see him?"
"When we do get him awake, all he does is scream," said Healer McKenna, Chief Healer of Unusual Maladies at St. Mungo's. "He had some really bizarre toxins in his system, and I don't know that he will recover. The toxins have been removed, but the damage to his organs is extensive. I don't know that I have seen neural damage this bad. I give him two days, at the most. If half of what I think was in his system, it was put together by a Potions Grand Master. The ingredients should not be able to be together, in a stable mixture."
"Auror Tonks' manacles were on You-Know-Who," said Fudge. "What was her involvement in this?"
"I put her manacles on Voldemort," said Dumbledore. "She was not on duty, and I asked her for assistance, once I heard Voldemort might be there."
"We are well aware of your organization, Albus," said Amelia Bones. "We are not adversaries, in the pursuit of dark wizards. Her report was simple, and to the point. Voldemort's group entered Stonehenge, and she tried to apprehend them while off duty. She will be commended."
"I need someone to accept the Order of Merlin," said Fudge. "Are you absolutely certain his illness is not from something you did, Dumbledore?"
"He beat me," said Albus. "We have no idea which ritual he was planning. We did interrupt something that utilized several potions."
Dumbledore had decided to keep young Potter's name out of any investigation concerning Voldemort. Auror Tonks had not mentioned his presence, and Albus knew Xavier would not inform anyone. It would serve no purpose, that he could see. It could ruin the young man's life, and for what? Being at the scene of a battle with Voldemort, and administering a potion to the worst Dark Lord in centuries? Someone else had given Potter the poison. Young Potter was an excellent student, but he was no Potion Master. The poison was not a student's creation.
Xavier Figg told Albus he had not informed Harry of the ambush on Voldemort. That meant someone else had involved Harry, apparently to administer the poison. It was well published that Harry Potter was a promising healer candidate, and he was not in school. Teen Witch Weekly was always running some article on the young man. Potter also had sufficient reason to want to fight Voldemort, and was a natural choice for recruitment. The Archer certainly didn't want to give medical help to death eaters, given his past behavior. The Archer's extensive organization had surely found Harry, even if Albus himself could not. Albus would keep a close eye on Potter. Very close. Surely, he would be back in school now where he could observe his behavior.
"We found three cross bow bolts in dead death eaters, and the remains of at least a dozen dementors," said Amelia Bones. "It is possible that this unknown Archer has had his sights on ... Voldemort ... all along, and he finished the job. He used Albus' distraction to purpose."
"That is just a guess," said Fudge. "I will not make the Archer a hero."
"He already is," said Bones. "Once the Prophet found out there were bolts at the scene, they inferred the rest."
"The Archer saved my life," said Dumbledore. "He saved the people who were with me as well, since Voldemort releases no one. I will be the first to say that I don't like the Archer's methods, but he has, without question, saved several lives."
"Who gave out that kind of information?" said Fudge.
"I fear I did, inadvertently," said Albus. "I believe I was overheard, while discussing medical details at St. Mungo's. I had to warn the healers about the possible danger from the Archer's weapons." Dumbledore really didn't mind that particular information leak. He didn't care for the Archer, but the focus of Voldemort's fall HAD to fall on someone. It seemed obvious the Archer was not coming forward. Hopefully, the brutal person would fade into oblivion.
"Isn't there SOMEONE I can give the medal?" yelled Fudge.
"There is my spy," said Dumbledore. "Without his information, I would never have known about the ritual. He worked behind the scenes, at great risk."
"Who?" said Fudge. "YOUR spy?"
"Severus Snape," said Dumbledore. "He was injured in the fight, and I sent him to the Hogwarts hospital wing. He was carrying potions that Voldemort had requested, and the bag he carried took a hit."
"Excellent," said Fudge. "Potions, you say. A PROFESSOR. Yes, most excellent. Has he recovered? We will publish that he was working for the Ministry, without any particular details."
"He has been sent to his quarters, by the Matron," said Dumbledore. "He is expected to be released in two days."
"I will be at Hogwarts in three days," said Fudge. "Please inform Professor Snape to expect my arrival at noon."
"Do you still want Harry Potter?" asked Dumbledore.
"What ever for?" said Fudge. "I have no use for a famous school boy, even if he could have possibly been linked to a prophecy. It is obvious he had no involvement in You-Know-Who's incarceration."
Harry spent most of the morning with the Flamels, and returned to England. Xavier and Minerva were probably still at St. Mungo's hospital, so he returned to Gryffindor tower. He was lounging at the end of Ginny's bed, when she returned from classes.
"HARRY!!!" she exclaimed silently. "Have you heard? Voldemort has been captured. It is over."
"Yeah, I heard," said the cat. "I want to talk to McGonagall. I heard I was reinstated last year, and she will know my status. She is my Head of House."
"She is in the infirmary," said Ginny. "St. Mungo's released her to Madam Pomfrey's care. She fought beside Dumbledore."
"I am going to go back out, and come through the front gates," said Harry. "I will go straight to the infirmary. You want to meet me there?"
"Sure," said Ginny. "How long will it take you?"
"Twenty, maybe twenty-five minutes," said Harry. "I am not in a hurry."
"Want to meet me for supper, and then go up afterwards?" asked Ginny. "I missed lunch."
"I ate a couple large rabbits before I came up here," said Harry. "I will meet you there, when you are finished." Harry left for the loo.
Harry walked into the Hogwarts hospital, and immediately noticed Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall in the corner room, having a cup of tea. Minerva was sitting up in bed.
"Mr. Potter," said Pomfrey. "What a pleasant surprise. Does this mean you have returned to us?"
"That is what I was hoping to discuss with Professor McGonagall," said Harry. "I would like to continue my studies at Hogwarts."
"Of course you may continue," said Minerva. "You missed the second half of your fifth year, and it is customary for you to restart your fifth year. You only need your potion OWL to continue, since you have your three other NEWTs. What would you like to do? Do you think you can pass your potions' OWL?"
"Probably, but why push it?" said Harry. "I am in no hurry, and I can probably resume courses at St. Mungo's as well. I will take fifth year potions, charms, runes, and transfiguration. Some review will be good for me. I am not concerned about DADA. What do I need to do to get started?"
"As deputy Head, I will sign the necessary paperwork tonight," said Minerva. "Welcome back, Harry. When can you get what you need, to continue classes? The text books have not changed."
"I just need to know where my bed is," said Harry. "Should I stay with my old room, or bunk with the fifth year boys?"
"I see no reason to change rooms," said Minerva. "Given that much of your class work is independent study, I will discuss the possibility of taking fifth and sixth year potions simultaneously, with Professor Snape."
"I don't mind staying in fifth year," said Harry, as Ginny walked up to him. "Runes require a bit of study. I might even try a bit of arithmancy."
"I see," said Minerva, with a glance at the red haired girl. "Fifth year, it is. I will have a bed set up in your old room, by the time you get there. Have you had a chance to eat?"
"Yes Ma'am," said Harry.
"Then I will see you tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m., in my office," said Minerva, with an uncharacteristically broad smile. "I will have a Hogwarts elf assigned to give you assistance getting your dorm set up properly."
"Dobby will be fine, Ma'am," said Harry. "We have worked out our differences."
"Dobby it is then," said Minerva. "Dobby!"
"May I help you, Professor?" said Dobby.
"Please give Mr. Potter any assistance he may need setting up accommodations in his old dorm," said the Professor.
"Yes, Professor," said Dobby. "What do you need, Harry Potter Sir?"
"Just a bed, for now," said Harry. "I will talk to you later, about any thing else." Dobby grinned, and left.
"Your new year-mate can accompany you back to the tower," said the Professor, with the same broad smile. She was most happy to have Harry back.
Voldemort died, the next day. The Goblin vault monitors ... used for inheritance issues at Gringotts Bank, confirmed he was thoroughly dead. The Goblins knew the Heir of Slytherin was Thomas Riddle, and that Riddle was Voldemort. Riddle was no longer in the line of progression for any inheritance, being dead. The goblins always know such things, as it is their business to know. They promptly took their transaction fees, and let the Ministry know the Thomas Riddle Jr. was no more, as per treaty. There was no will on file. Dumbledore would be stunned, when he reviewed the goblin notices that pass his desk in the Wizengamut, since they gave no notice the first time Riddle was stopped.
Riddle never knew how wealthy he was, as the Gaunts hadn't had enough magic left in them to acquire the vault. The Gaunts had land, which they sold to the Riddles, and a few artifacts handed down from father to son. Salazar Slytherin had been very specific setting up who was eligible to acquire his library and vault. A significant amount of magical ability was necessary, and near squibs did not qualify. They had just needed to escape their inbreeding, and the muggle Thomas Riddle had provided the genes necessary. The Gaunts thought they needed 'blood more pure'.
Voldemort never bothered to get a Gringotts account. In his early days, he kept the cash he earned in his pockets. Goblins do not search out heirs, preferring to let gold accumulate. Voldemort knew his mother died a pauper, and he personally ended the Gaunt line, the last of the natural Slytherins. Riddle claimed Slytherin's title, from the ring he took from the Gaunts. He never thought to ask the goblins, and Professor Binns doesn't teach wizard culture, with any effectiveness.
Slytherin's heritage passed to the heir of his best friend, Godric Gryffindor. The second child of Godric's heir would become the new heir of Slytherin. The lines were not allowed to stay combined. Information that the Goblins did not divulge, until the heirs obtained their vault key.
Thomas Riddle Jr. had the talent, and the means, to become the greatest wizard since Merlin, revitalizing the legacy of Slytherin. He didn't have the common sense to know a chain can't be pushed. It has to be drawn, and the weak links must be watched. He was no leader of men.
Albus Dumbledore was the only living human, who knew Harry Potter was the heir of Gryffindor. But, that is a story for another day.