Yes, it has been a long, long time coming.
Oops - accidentally lost the chapter and had to repost - Sorry
Veritas Oracle: True Faith
"The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."
- Albus Dumbledore - The Philosopher's Stone
"It is Veritaserum - a Truth Potion so powerful that three drops would have you spilling your innermost secrets for this entire class to hear."
- Severus Snape - The Goblet of Fire
"So?" asked Harry, barely waiting for Ron to get the door to the dorm closed.
It was very close to curfew, and he had been worried the redhead would not make it in time to avoid been caught. He should have known Hermione would make sure they got back in time though.
"So what?" asked Ron, the goofy grin on his face painting a picture a thousand words could not do justice.
"Went well then, eh?" asked Harry, his own grin threatening to split his face in two. "Your little heart-to-heart with Hermione."
"Dunno what you are talking about," said Ron, fighting to suppress his smile, and losing.
"Mate, your shirt's half off, your hair's messed up, and you've got this stupid grin on your face that I bet a week of extra potions with Snape before he lost it wouldn't get rid of."
"Not sure what you're implying," said Ron, grinning even wider as he hastily tucked his shirt back in and fumbled with his collar.
"Ron, don't make me hex you," warned Harry.
"Come on, Harry. You can't expect me to come straight up here after spending the last two hours snogging Hermione and tell you about it, can you?" asked Ron, faking seriousness.
"No way," agreed Harry. "That would be completely inappropriate and probably get us both into a lot of trouble with her if she ever found out."
"That's right," said Ron, sitting on the edge of his bed. "So it's a good thing you never asked and I never mentioned it, isn't it?"
"Yep. Right proud of the adult way we didn't discuss it, she will be," said Harry. "If she ever asks, of course."
"Of course," said Ron.
They sat smiling stupidly at each other for a moment, when a quiet knock on the door sent them leaping to their feet and into each other. Unfortunately for Ron, he came out second best in the collision, landing him on the ground instead.
"Come in," said Harry automatically, the flush of surprise making him rush his words.
"Harry?" came the quiet whisper of a female voice.
It took a moment for Harry's racing brain to place the voice. It was so out of place and unexpected, that he almost did not make the connection between the voice's owner and the beautiful Asian girl standing in the doorway of his dorm.
"Cho?" he asked. "What are you doing here? In my bedroom, I mean, ugh?"
"Harry, can I talk to you?" asked the prefect quietly.
She looked nervous, almost scared. It was not a look Harry had seen on her before. Since Cedric's murder, he had not often seen her look anything except sad. Pretty, but so very sad.
"Chang? What's going on?" asked Ron, climbing to his feet. "What do you want Harry for?"
"Please, Harry," she said, an almost pleading tone in her voice.
"Harry's not going anywhere without me knowing what's going on," said Ron.
"I'm sorry," she said, backing away. "I've made a mistake. Please, just forget it."
There were times when Harry really appreciated Ron's big-brother-like attitude, and there were times when he wanted to brain the boy with a broomstick.
"Cho!" he called, stepping forward. "What is it? You didn't come all the way up here for no reason. Don't worry about Ron, he is just being over-protective."
"Harry, you know you-"
Harry turned and shot Ron a look so cross that the other boy was momentarily taken aback.
Cho hesitated, obviously torn by indecision.
Harry decided to take a chance. Tonks was always telling him he was too timid for his own good.
"What do you need, Cho?" he asked, stepping closer to the girl.
She wasn't very tall, almost petite. There were few girls Harry could look eye to eye with, but she was one of them, and very pretty eyes they were too.
"Harry," she said. "Can you to come with me. Please."
"No way!" said Ron, moving up next to Harry. "Harry is not sneaking off after curfew with anybody, not even a Ravenclaw prefec-"
Harry's hand shot out to clamp over Ron's mouth, cutting him off. There was a pretty girl at his door wanting to get him alone, and nobody, not even Ron, was going to get in the way. Well not until the inevitable betrayal Harry knew fate had planned for him, but in the mean time, he'd take what he could.
"Sure thing, Cho," he said. "I'll just be a second."
"Ron," whispered Harry quietly after guiding Ron with him to turn their backs on the pretty prefect. "In a second I am going to take my hand off your mouth. You are going to tell me to be careful and then you are going to go to bed. If you really want, you can take the map out of my trunk and keep an eye on me, but you are not going to interfere unless you have a very good reason, otherwise I am going to make sure Aragog gets another chance to talk with you. Hagrid's been saying the old boy is feeling under the weather and might like a bit of extra company, if you catch my drift. Okay?"
Ron nodded his head, the sincerity of Harry's voice overriding is natural concern.
"Good," said Harry, taking his hand from Ron's mouth.
"Er, be careful," said Ron.
"I will," said Harry, turning back to Cho. "Just let me get my cloak and we'll be off."
Cho looked a bit confused at the mention of a cloak, but nodded her head.
It was not much later that Ron forgot about Harry and fell into a deep slumber, dreaming about a bushy haired girl with fabulous teeth and an impressive enthusiasm.
"Chang too," whispered Dean, once Ron's snoring filled the room.
"Lucky bastard," said Seamus.
"I am not going to think about it," said Neville.
They knew he was lying.
"...and there will come a time when the fey things of the other world, the ones that the sightless stare at with uncomprehending minds, shall rise from the twisted nether of their hidden place and claim back what was once theirs.
"Their revelation will shake those mighty foundations of knowledge; logic and reason, and so badly will the world of the unstably sane be rocked that the cracks of the unknown will rupture and spill a torrent of new birth unto the world. The wind of freshness will sweep away unto death all that is held to, and the fruits of the plants of devastation will sate even the unquenchable lust of ravens."
With that, the strange blonde girl took her seat and continued eating breakfast as if she had never stopped. Barely a second passed before the noise level of the great hall, which had only slightly abated for the impromptu announcement, rose back to its normal rumble.
"What the hell was that?" asked Ron, his spoonful of cereal held halfway to his mouth, forgotten in the girl's dramatic pronouncements.
"Huh?" grunted Harry, not pausing from munching his toast.
"That," said Ron, waving his food in the general direction of the Ravenclaw table. "Looney Lovegood. You know, the bird you met on the train at the start of the year – Ginny's friend. What's she going on about?"
"Sorry, didn't notice anything," said Harry.
"You didn't notice somebody standing on the breakfast table spouting a load of rot that sounded like it came straight out of Trelawney's book?" asked Ron incredulously.
"Oh that," said Harry casually. "Yeah, what about it?"
"Well, what's her story, then?" asked Ron, getting increasingly frustrated at Harry's lack of interest.
"Dunno," answered Harry concentrating on his food. "But I think she might be doing it to annoy people. You know, like a joke or something."
Ron looked suspiciously at his friend, who refused to meet his eye, then shook his head and dropped his spoon back into the half empty bowl. Sometimes the weirdness of the Wizarding world was just a bit too much for even him to handle.
"Anyway," he said, deciding to let it slide, "why are looking like you've been spending nights in the forest being chased by Hagrid's spider pets? Blimey, you didn't really take Hagrid up on his request and go comfort that monster, did you?"
"No, they've been putting me through the wringer," said Harry, rubbing his forehead. "It seems like I barely get a second to myself lately. Between studying for O.W.L.s and that, I've been on the go full time lately."
Ron nodded knowingly. Despite his newfound extra-circular activities, he couldn't help notice his best friend was absent from the dorms a lot more than he was present. It was unusual for Harry to mention it though, especially out in the open like they were now.
"You reckon something big is going down?" he asked, lowering his voice and leaning forward.
"I don't know, mate," said Harry. "Sometimes I don't really remember a lot of what I say, and half the time I don't understand it anyway. It's been getting worse too."
"That's not good," said Ron, his concern showing. "You said something to them? About not remembering I mean. You want to be a bit careful when it comes to your brain, especially considering how little you have to start with."
"Ha, ha," said Harry flatly. "Very funny. Yeah I did mention it, and a couple of healers did some tests too, but they haven't found anything to explain it. Best theory is that some of the, er, stuff might be staying behind a bit, and it's building up in my system. The thing is, nobody has ever taken as much of it as me, so nobody is really sure what might happen in the long run."
"Maybe you should take a break from it for a while?" suggested Ron. "Give your body a chance to clean it out of your system."
"Maybe, but I don't think I've got much of a choice. We've been trying a few different antidotes to see if that helps, but I've got to tell you, they're pretty rough on me. Come on, let's get there early," he said, standing up from the table.
"Yeah, okay," said Ron abandoning the rest of his meal. "We can swing past the library and collect Hermione. Poor girl feels bad about not spending as much time in there as she used to."
"Well if you didn't keep dragging her off to broom closets..." laughed Harry.
"Quit it," said Ron, taking a playful swing at Harry. "Just because that metamorph thingy turned out to be a cousin or something of yours and you aren't 'pureblood' enough to not mind that, don't you go cribbing my style."
"Style, what style?" laugh Harry, as he gave Ron a shove.
"Speaking of which, what's going on with Chang anyway?" asked Ron, falling into place next to Harry.
"Nothing," answered Harry quickly.
"And you still don't know what she wanted?"
"I told you, all she did was cry for twenty minutes and then run off. I've got no idea what she was on about," said Harry, unconvincingly.
"Pity," said Ron, deciding not to push. "But then you do tend to attract the nutters."
"Yeah," agreed Harry, "your sister among them, remember?"
"Yeah, ain't that the truth," laughed Ron.
As they made their way out of the room, Harry couldn't help catching a glance of the strange looking girl from before. She suddenly looked straight at him, her penetrating and unblinking stare sending a shock through him.
Then she smiled.
"Who the hell gave her Veritaserum?" asked Harry angrily.
"It was meant to be a joke," said Cho. "A practical joke. Nobody thought it would do this to her. Isn't it meant to wear off after a few hours?"
"What are you asking me for? I'm no bloody healer."
"Because you are Gryffindor's golden boy, aren't you?" asked Marietta. "You're the one who gets to use Veritaserum on anybody you want? Isn't that what happened with the Weasley girl? Who else would know more about it than you?"
Harry had never really talked to Marietta Edgecombe before, and he did not like what he was seeing now.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe the goddamn nurse? You know, the expert employed to deal with things like this? Why the hell haven't you taken her to Madam Pomfrey, or to Professor Flitwick?"
"Because we don't have your immunity, you dolt! You can get away with anything, but we would get expelled for even thinking about some of the stuff you don't even lose points for!"
"Marriet-" began Cho.
"Immunity? Are you telling me the only reason you got me here was because you think it will keep you out of trouble, not because you think I can actually help?" asked Harry angrily.
"No, it's not like that-" said Cho, a pleading tone in her voice.
"You? Help? Hah! You can barely hex somebody's show laces together. As if you could do anything we couldn't," said Edgecombe nastily.
"Well at least I'm not stupid enough to feed somebody Veritaserum without knowing the correct dosage!"
"Oh please! We gave her the right dosage. It's not our fault she went like this on us."
"Please, this isn't helping-" said Cho, desperately trying to calm things down, but failing miserably.
"Not your fault? Are you really that stuck up yourself? You stup-"
"Stop it! Both of you!" yelled Cho, finally giving up on staying calm. "Marietta – just shut up. Harry - listen Harry, it was my idea to ask you for help, because rumour has it that you have been involved in a lot of things to do with Veritaserum and so might know something to help. I came to you first because I don't want anybody to get into trouble, but if you can't help us, I'll take Luna to the infirmary myself."
"No, be quiet, Marietta," snapped Cho.
Harry hesitated, his mind already half way out of the door and heading back to his room, but something in Cho's voice stopped him. Something about the way she looked at him made him feel she really wanted his help, was desperate for it in fact.
But he couldn't say why she would be.
"Okay, I'll talk to her, but I don't think it'll do any good. I think you're just wasting time."
"Thank you, Harry."
Ignoring the sullen look on Edgecomb's face, Harry walked past the two girls and over to where Luna Lovegood sat crossed legged on the floor, talking nonstop to herself in a low mumble. Leaning in close, Harry tried to make out her speed-slurred words.
"-But it has to be true because I believe it, and because it is true I can believe it, but it has to be true-"
She was repeating, barely pausing to breathe.
"What the hell did you ask her?" he snapped at the two girls.
Cho shot Edgecombe a glance, then answered.
"We asked her how she can believe something that is only true to her."
"This is a waste of time-"
"Marietta!" snapped Cho. "Please. Just be quiet.
"Harry, I know you've met Luna before. You know how she is always going on about strange creatures that nobody else believes exist?"
"Yeah, it drives Hermione nuts when she does it in the library, or so I've been told," said Harry.
"Well every now and then, a few people try to argue with her about what she believes in," said Cho, glancing quickly at Edgecombe. "You know, to try to get her to defend her ideas against logic. It's become a bit of a game in the common room."
"Wait, a group of you get together to argue with a girl who is obviously not all there, for a bit of fun? Nice," said Harry disgustedly.
His opinion of Ravenclaws was taking a serious nose dive.
"What do you lot do on weekends, torture unicorn foals?"
"It's not like that-"
"Then how the hell do you explain dosing her up then? Somebody obviously got pissed off enough with not winning your 'fun little debates' to do something pretty damn nasty," snarled Harry.
He knew what sort of trauma the truth drug could inflict by accident. What somebody could do intentionally was scary, and he was scared.
"Can you help or not, Potter?" snapped Edgecombe.
For a moment Harry nearly told her to stick it somewhere her wand belonged, but Luna's whispering echoed quietly through the room.
"It has to be true. It has to be true. It has to be true."
The pleading look on Cho's face tore him. He had to try. Maybe his experience with the drug would help. Maybe.
"I'll talk to her, but I want to know just how much you bloody well gave her," he said.
"Three drops," said Edgecombe.
"Hippogriph turds," said Harry. "Three drops won't do this unless you kept dosing her before the last three ran out-"
He paused, watching as horror registered on Cho's face and Edgecombe began to look a bit sickly.
"How many times?" he asked.
"Three," whispered Cho. "They thought that it was one dose, in three parts. Three drops each time."
Harry nearly screamed in frustration and anger.
"I don't know what kind of idiotic books you got that information from," he said, "but she should be out cold. The only thing keeping her going is this mental loop you idiots got her into."
"You talk as if you know something about it," said Edgecombe accusingly.
"What should we do?" asked Cho, ignoring her friend.
"You two go over there in that corner and shut the hell up," Harry said, not even trying to keep the anger from his voice.
Edgecombe opened her mouth to respond, but Cho grabbed her friend and dragged her a few paces back towards the corner. Satisfied for the moment, Harry turned and moved right in front of the distraught looking girl. She was rocking back and forth, chanting to herself.
He knelt down and tried to position himself where she could not help but see him.
"Luna?" asked Harry, quietly. "Luna, do you recognise me?"
"Yes. You're Harry Potter. We met on the train when Ginny introduced us. I like Ginny. She is nice. A bit obsessed, but nice."
Harry felt a slight surge of relief at the fact Luna responded to his question. The truth drug was still working to a certain degree. That would help.
"Yes, that's right. How do you feel, Luna?" asked Harry.
"With my hands, usually," she replied. "Although most of my body can feel things too, I generally use my hands to feel specific things. I like to touch things. I'd like to run my toes through your hair, just to know what it feels like."
Harry suppressed a chuckle and tried to concentrate.
"Are you still under the influence of the Veritaserum?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered, "But you would not know if I was lying."
"If I was not under the influence, and I said yes, you wouldn't be able to tell."
"Here we go again," mumbled Edgecombe loudly enough for Harry to hear.
Harry's head snapped around and his hand went for his wand. An anger greater than anything he had felt so far surging through his veins.
"Marietta!" yelled Cho.
Harry froze, amazed at how much he wanted to draw his wand and curse the arrogant witch, but Luna spoke again.
"Of course, if I am under the influence, you could ask me a question that has a different answer for you than it does for me and then you would think I am lying and not under the influence, but the only way to test would be for you to take Veritaserum and-"
"Luna," said Harry, interrupting what he knew from experience would be a never ending answer. "Luna, did you ask yourself a question that has no truthful answer?"
The young girl paused, her dreamy gaze suddenly taking on a more focussed look – a look of pain.
"Yes," she said.
Harry sighed and rubbed his forehead.
As soon as he stopped asking questions, Luna would start thinking about whatever question they had asked her, and that would set her off in a loop again. The thing was Harry couldn't directly ask her what the problem with the question was without also triggering a breakdown. Overdoses were tricky, although not all that dangerous and even the normal antidote was of limited help in situations like this.
"Ask her to tell you about all the numbers between one and one thousand," said Cho. "That will give you a break without letting her start to loop again."
Clever, thought Harry, even as he did as suggested. It really was a pity he was so angry with Cho.
Luna responded right away.
"One, which is a very lonely number, is first. A Cyclops is a creature with one eye and a dromedary is a camel with only one hump..."
"So what are you going to do now?" asked Edgecombe.
Slow, very slowly, Harry stood up and turned to face the two older girls. He had a few choices, and none of them were particularly desirable. If he insisted they take Luna to the infirmary, not only would Cho and Marietta in particular get a well deserved reprimand, but Luna would be taken to Saint Mungos and get the help she needed. There really wasn't any good reasons not to, except the inevitable fall out of a student being dosed with Veritaserum.
In his mind, Harry could just see a bunch of Ministry do-gooder idiots digging into how he was involved and upon discovering the rumours the girls mentioned earlier, probably inadvertently exposing his work against Voldemort.
The current expert opinion was that Voldemort could possibly block Harry's truth serum driven spying, if he became aware of it.
Another option was to possibly call in a favour from the Ministry, but there again, there was a good chance something would get out and threaten the system he and Tonks had painfully worked on for months.
No, the only option was to deal with it himself, the way he had always done.
"You two are going to sneak out of the castle and go down to the Hog's Head in Hogsmead, while I stay here with Luna."
"What?" asked Cho.
"What for?" ask Edgecombe at the same time.
"You are going to take every knut you have and buy the best bottle of Firewhisky they have, and a case of Butter beer too while you are at it."
"Whiskey?" asked Cho, dumbfounded.
"Is that how it works, Potter? You'll help us out but only for a price?" snarled Edgecombe. "Typical."
"Listen you twit," said Harry. "You asked me here to help, now do you want my help or not?"
"Not if it is going to cost me that much and line your pockets," said Edgecombe.
"That's enough!" said Cho. "Harry, what do you want Firewhisky for?"
"To drink of course," said Harry, smiling. "After all, it's a known antidote to Veritaserum, and fair bit kinder than some of the other ones."
"Whiskey? An antidote? What kind of an idiot are you, Potter?" asked Edgecombe.
"The kind that is going to save your arse, apparently," answered Harry.
"Are you serious?" asked Cho. "Firewhisky is an antidote to the most powerful truth drug in the world?"
"Any alcohol, actually," said Harry. "But Firewhisky gets people drunk pretty fast and works better because of its magical nature, and we don't really have a lot of time to play around with here."
"You are going to get her drunk, to cure her Veritaserum overdose," laugh Edgecombe in obvious disbelief. "What a load of tripe."
"I don't give a rat's arse what you think, Edgecomb," said Harry. "Just so long as one of you gets enough grog into Luna and talks to her for a few hours, she should recover just fine. If you don't like that idea, just take her to Madam Pomfrey, like you should have done to begin with."
Edgecombe got a foul look on her face, but didn't answer, and Harry knew that taking the poor victim of her prank to Pomfrey was the last thing the aggravating girl wanted to do.
"Well, Cho?" he asked. "What's it going to be?"
Cho hesitated just long enough for Luna's voice to drift over to them.
"Twenty seven is a rather odd number, even though it is divisible by 9, because I don't really know anything special about twenty seven. I guess that is something special about it, so it doesn't really fit into that category anymore-"
"Okay," said Cho, immediately raising a hand to forestall Edgecomb's objection. "If you are really sure it will work, then we'll do it, but you have to be really sure."
"Trust me," said Harry, having been overdosed by his Aurora cousin on many occasions in order to delve deeply into the truths hidden in his scar connection. "The alcohol gets in and messes with your memory. It disrupts the Veritaserum and makes you remember things wrongly, or differently anyway. An expert obliviator can do the same thing, but I can't, and there is no way in hell I am going to let either of you try something that could mess with her head anymore than you've already done. "
Both girls stared at him, either refusing to believe, or just dumbfounded by his statement. It didn't matter either way.
"Oh, and make sure you bring extra glasses," he said. "After all, nobody should drink alone."
What he really meant was nobody should have to suffer the hang-over alone, especially if they had done nothing to deserve it, but the truth was he was feeling just a little bit vindictive right now, and while he had some spare hangover cure potions for Luna and maybe Cho, there was no way Edgecombe was getting any.
Harry sat down on the edge of his bed and yawned. He had been feeling strange all day, with his emotions fluctuating badly. He knew it was likely because of something Voldemort was doing, but it didn't make it any easier to control, or live with. So he decided to go to bed early and try to catch up on the sleep his ongoing late nights were depriving him of.
"Going to bed early?" asked Neville.
"Yeah," said Harry. "Feeling a bit crook, actually. How about you? Seems a bit early for you to be hitting the sack."
"That's not good," said Neville. "Me? I'm worn out. I went to see my parents today with my Gran – that always leaves me tired. I'll probably just read for a while first though – it kind of helps take my mind off things."
While Harry didn't spent a lot of time with Neville, they talked one day after the fate of Neville's parents came out during one of Harry's 'intelligence sessions'. He wasn't really sure why he had felt it necessary to say something to his shy roommate, but they were a lot closer after Neville had the chance to share his story.
The door to the Harry's dorm room burst open unexpectedly, causing Neville to almost fall off his bed.
Harry fared slightly better, having only just sat down to start taking his shoes off. He merely threw himself backwards and scrambled for his wand.
"Harry!" yelled Ron, crashing into the room so quickly that his shout and the crash of the door were almost indistinguishable. "Have you heard?"
Harry came to his feet, wand in trembling hand.
"Whoa there, mate," said Ron, raising his hands up.
"What the bleeding hell do you think you are-"
"Harry!" yelled Hermione, shoving her way passed Ron. "Have you heard – why do you have your wand out?"
"What?" yelled Harry, the adrenaline kicking his voice up a decibel. "Have I heard what?"
A sudden commotion behind Ron pushed the boy and his girlfriend further into the room as two more redheads forced their way in.
"We were just listening-"
"To the wireless-"
"And guess what we heard?"
"We heard it too," said Ron. "Unbelievable, isn't it?"
"Heard what?" Harry almost screamed in frustration.
"Oi, Potter. Get your stuff together right quick now – you don't want to be late do you?" asked Tonks, squeezing her way between the two lanky Weasley twins, who didn't seem at all put out by a pretty young lady wearing Aurora robes elbowing them aside.
"Late? Late for what?" yelled Harry, his voice getting even louder.
"Haven't you lot told him yet?" asked one of the twins.
"That's a bit cruel," added the other, shaking his head in mock disgust. "Funny, but cruel."
"We were just about to when you interrupted us," said Hermione indignantly.
"Somebody tell me what the bloody hell is going on!" Harry yelled, "Or I am going to take this wand and stick it up somebody's-"
"Mr Potter!" came the strict tones of Professor McGonagall through the crowded doorway.
"Going to cop it now, Harry," said one of the twins moving aside to make way for the Head of Gryffindor.
"Such language is not to be tolerated, not even in these extraordinary circumstances," she said. "Now kindly lower you wand and then myself and Aurora Tonks will escort you to the Headmaster's office."
"Please, professor," said Harry, using every bit of his self control to keep his voice normal. "What is going on?"
"You haven't heard?" she began to ask, almost causing Harry to lose his temper again.
"It's him!" interrupted Ron. "He-who-must-be-named. They've caught him!"
"Is it true?" asked Harry the moment he set foot in the Headmaster's office. "Did they catch him?"
Dumbledore turned from where he stood in front of the huge fireplace, a pot of floo powder in his hand.
"True?" asked the old man smiling. "You of all people, Harry, should know by now that truth is often a matter of opinion."
For a moment, Professor Dumbledore's words struck Harry as some sort of rebuke for his involvement in the war against Voldemort, but he chose to ignore it.
"Do they still have him or not?" he asked.
"Indeed," answered Dumbledore. "It does appear that Voldemort was apprehended, and you have been invited to watch his trial, which is being held almost immediately – a feat unprecedented in the history of the Ministry. I would hazard a guess that the Minister is anxious to see justice done before any sort of a rescue may be attempted."
He started to hold out the container of floo powder towards Harry, but hesitated just before Harry could reach in and grab a pinch.
"Are you sure you wish to do this, Harry? To face him once more? Nobody would look poorly upon you if you choose not to. The Minister made it very clear that you are not required to be there, but believes you have the right, if you choose to."
There was no hesitation on Harry's part.
"Yes sir," he said. "I am certain. That man, no that thing needs to be put down. I want to see him answer for his crimes."
"I feel I must warn you that you may not hear the answers you are expecting, or gain any satisfaction from this."
"I know," said Harry, "but I want to go anyway. I have to go."
A gentle smile, one that contained more than a hint of pride graced the old man's face.
"Then let us proceed with all haste," he said, holding out the contained again. "I imagine it will be somewhat chaotic in the Ministry tonight, and our presence will likely stir up even more attention and excitement. I advise you to try not to say anything, though, as the press is notorious for overplaying even the most innocent of statements."
Harry nodded and dipped his hand into the pot, coming out with the required pinch of powder.
Dumbledore took his own pinch and placed the pot back on the mantle.
"Come, my boy," he said. "Let us see this thing ended."
The roar of excited conversation inside the massive courtroom was blessedly quiet after the near riot filling the rest of the Ministry. Dumbledore's presence ensured an uncontested path through the throng in the foyer, but Harry had never seen anything like it. Not even the world cup was as chaotic or as noisy.
He was quite impressed that the Aurors were managing to keep the bloodthirsty crowd from tearing the place apart in their eagerness to see Voldemort 'hang'.
Reporters yelled questions at Dumbledore and Harry, demanding answers and vying for a word to give them a scoop, right up to the very gates of the elevator that swept them along a meandering path to one of the deeper levels of the Ministry.
The number of checkpoints and guards along the path to the court room also impressed Harry. Minister Diggory was apparently not taking any chances. Harry even had to hand over his wand, despite being accompanied by Dumbledore, who was not asked to give in his.
Entering through the heavy doors, Harry found himself inside a horribly familiar room. This was the very same room he witnessed in Dumbledore's Penseive, the room where Barty Crouch Junior and the Le Stranges were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Swept up in the ghastly memories, it took a moment for him to register when Dumbledore explained they would not be sitting together, as the head of the Wizengamot had to sit with the other judges. A moment of panic left his heart beating a tattoo inside his chest even as the familiar 'natural' form of Tonks led him away to a seat next to Mad-eye Moody.
By the time he was seated in a row to the side of the court room, Dumbledore was sitting in one of the seven seats directly in front of the chair Crouch had occupied in the memory. He nodded to Harry, reassuring him.
Nobody sat in the chair at the centre of the room yet, and Harry found himself almost sick with nervous excitement.
They had been waiting only a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity.
Suddenly, a man sitting in front of the long bench and wearing golden robes rose from his seat and fired a loud blast from his wand into the air, causing all noise to subside.
"All rise for His Honour, Minister Diggory," shouted the Auror.
As they stood, the Minister entered the room from a door behind the centre benches and briskly moved to the empty spot next to Dumbledore.
As soon as he was seated, everybody else sat down too.
"Bring in the accused", announced the Minister.
With a loud bang, a set of doors on the other side of the chamber to Harry opened; the corridor beyond shrouded in a veil of darkness.
Immediately the noise of the chamber threatened to rise into a roar as everybody turned or stood to watch. They fell silent as two red-robed Aurors marched in, wands held out and eyes very alert.
Behind them marched two more Aurors, and between them, with hands and feet bound by thick chains, limped the Dark Lord.
A wave of murmuring and sharply indrawn breath swept the gallery as Voldemort made his way in, supported under each arm by the Aurors on either side. Despite everybody having seen his picture in the paper and on wanted posters dozens of times, nobody who hadn't already seen him in person was prepared for his horrible visage.
To Harry, Voldemort did not look well. He was trying to walk with his usual arrogance and casual grace, but Harry could see the pain in each step, possibly caused by the chains binding him and the injuries he likely received during his capture - It was doubtful he came 'peacefully'.
It was then that Harry noticed there were no manacles on the chains; the links were driven into Voldemort's very flesh at his wrists and ankles.
Two more Aurors marched in behind the captive, keeping their wands and eyes trained on the Dark Lord as if they expected him to try something any second and were ready to respond with force. The door closed behind these last two Aurors, coming together with a very loud and final seeming clang.
Silently, the audience watched as Voldemort was escorted to the sole empty seat in the middle of the floor, and made to sit. More chains shot out of the ground and latched around him, pinning his arms and legs and even snaking around his chest to hold him securely in place. The Aurors then moved away, but kept their wands pointing at the captive.
The Minister started speaking again, but Harry didn't hear him. He couldn't take his eyes away from the face of Voldemort, despite the pain suddenly spearing his forehead.
The man, no, he wouldn't call it that, the beast, looked calm and arrogant, but Harry could feel its anger, and a surprising underlying fear.
That almost made Harry smile.
"Administer the Veritaserum."
Harry wasn't sure who gave the command, but it snapped him out of his contemplation.
Another Ministry official stepped forward, this one looking decidedly nervous at approaching the dark lord.
For a moment Harry wondered what they would do if Voldemort refused to drink it. Would they force his mouth open and pour it in? It'd be pretty hard to hold his nose until he swallowed. Or maybe they had a spell to make him drink it, like the Imperius curse or something.
In the end the point was mute, as Voldemort obligingly opened his mouth and almost eagerly took his three drops.
"What is your name?" asked a man Harry assumed was a prosecutor or something equivalent.
"Voldemort," said the Dark Lord.
A ripple of whispered conversation ran through the crowd. Tom Riddle's name was well known since Minister Diggory began his campaign. One of the major blows to Voldemort's cause was his sordid history as a bitter and spiteful half-blood.
Harry was about to ask Mad-eye how the Dark Lord could be bypassing the Veritaserum, but the question died on his lips when he happened to look up and see the look on Dumbledore's face.
It was one of profound sadness.
"What is the name you were given at birth and used until changing it?" asked the Prosecutor.
Voldemort appeared to be fighting the answer, but eventually he could no longer resist.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle," he said through clenched teeth.
Nodding to himself in satisfaction, the Prosecutor then began reading the charges.
"Have you performed, or ordered performed, the act of murder?"
"Yes," said Voldemort.
Murmurs again rang through the audience, but died quickly as the prosecutor asked the next question. Harry expect some clever wording in order to prevent any possible misunderstanding or twisting of the meaning, the way he had seen lawyers on TV do, but it seemed the use of Veritaserum made things a bit simpler.
"Name the people you have personally murdered, or ordered to be murdered," said the Prosecutor.
Voldemort began reciting a list of names, a very long list of names. After the first dozen, the outbursts from the gallery grew silent, the horror of what they were hearing overwhelming them. Quiet sobs still punctuated some of the names as people were reminded of loved ones the monster in front of them had destroyed.
"Lily and James Potter," said the Riddle, breaking the numbness Harry had settled into at hearing the names, many of which he remembered from his visions.
"Easy lad," whispered Mad-eye, seeing his sudden movement.
"Cedric Diggory," said Voldemort.
Harry couldn't help looking at the Minister, whose stony expression barely flickered at the mention of his son's name.
And the list went on.
Eventually he ground to halt and even the prosecutor appeared to be shaken by the length of the answer. The audience were sitting in shock.
"In light of the seriousness and number of these crimes, I see no need to read out the remaining charges," said the prosecutor. "This list was recorded by a dictation quill during the initial Veritaserum interrogation after the accused was arrested and brought to the Ministry."
He held up a partially unrolled parchment in front of Voldemort.
"Do you recognise this list as the list of crimes you confessed to while under Veritaserum?" he asked.
"Yes," said Voldemort.
The prosecutor turned to face the Minister and other officials sitting in the high benches.
"Minister," he said. "There is no more to be said except to assign the punishment, which we all know must be death."
A rumble of agreement greeted the pronouncement.
Diggory looked tired, as if he was emotionally worn out.
"Will anybody speak in defence?' he asked the chamber.
To the shock of most of the audience, Harry included, Dumbledore rose.
"Dumbledore!" said Diggory.
Moody swore viciously under his breath, surprising Harry with his vehemence.
Voldemort snarled at the Headmaster, baring his teeth in hatred. Harry could feel the swelling of anger in the Dark Lord at the sight of the Headmaster.
"Since no other will stand forth, I find myself unable to allow this to pass without making some attempt to provide representation for the accused."
The chamber erupted in noise, Harry also finding himself loudly voicing discontent at the Headmaster.
Ignoring the commotion, Dumbledore slowly walked down the steps to the floor and moved to stand next to Voldemort.
Eventually, the Minister banging his gravel and shouting orders silenced the uproar.
"You will let him speak," Diggory shouted angrily at the crowd. "I might not like or agree with it, but you will let him speak!"
"Thank you Minister," said Dumbledore.
"I do not want your help," yelled Voldemort.
"Nevertheless, you will answer my question," said Dumbledore. "I have just one question, Tom, one that I am sure everybody here wants to know the answer to, though they may regret it.
"Why? Why did you embark on this course? Why did you turn away from what could have been a successful and rewarding role in the Magical world? Tell us, help us understand, so that we may avoid another following your path. Why?"
Everybody, Harry included, held their breath.
As Voldemort opened his mouth to answer, another voice suddenly screamed from somewhere behind Harry.
Harry barely had time to flinch when a blinding pain hit him in the head, spearing him in the forehead, right where his scar was. His breath caught in his lungs and a stabbing pain in his chest pitched him forward out of his seat.
All around them pandemonium reined, but Harry, for a split second, was locked into a world of silence and stillness.
He was already falling when Mad-eye crashed into him, knocking him to the ground and landing heavily on top.
Then the moment was over and noise exploded back into existence.
Harry heard and felt a dozen spells fly back over his head towards the source of the killing curse, but he knew it was too late and whatever the attacker intended was done.
Heart leaping into his throat, he scrambled to get up to look to see who had been struck down. Moody held him down, swearing and cursing about having to leave his wand behind, but produced a wicked looking knife from somewhere inside his cloak.
"Stay down!" and retired Auror yelled.
People were streaming from the room, pushing passed Harry and Moody, leaping and climbing over benches to run down isles screaming and shouting in panic.
Suddenly Moody stood up, heaving Harry to his feet in the same motion.
"Go with Tonks," yelled Mad-eye, still holding Harry's arm tightly in one meaty hand while his other one waved the knife threatening at any and all. "I'll cover yer retreat."
Harry ignored the Aurors flooding in to restore order and the people rushing to get out. He saw a dozen of the red-robes forcing their way through to where the killing curse originated, but he could not see who it was at the centre.
All he really saw, before Tonks grabbed him and whisked him away, Mad-eye following closely behind snarling at anybody who got close, was Dumbledore standing silently in front of the slumped body of Tom Riddle.
He was weeping.
"It's just not fair," sobbed Cho drunkenly into the cushions she had conjured earlier to make herself more comfortable.
Harry sipped his Butterbeer and remained silent. He had taken the first few shots of fire whiskey along with them, which barely left a slight buzz in his head, and then switched to Butterbeer while the girls continued to drink the more potent alcohol.
It hadn't been hard to convince Luna to drink, and after about three shots the two older girls were well on their way to being 'Three sheets to the wind', as Tonks liked to put it. Four shots later they were beyond well giggly and Harry was starting to reconsider the wisdom of getting three girls drunk while alone with him.
Luna didn't seem too tipsy, although she was swaying and had stopped 'denial looping' some time ago.
Cho was totally out of it.
Marietta was smashed, and quite abusive. It didn't surprise Harry to find she was a mean drunk.
"Quit whinging," she snapped at Cho, not for the first time. "You forget I was there. I remember how you were talking about breaking up with him, before it happened, so stop trying to push that rubbish about how much you loved him and how you were meant to be soul mates!"
"You never know what you have until it's gone," said Luna, looking directly at Harry.
"Shut up, Lovegood," slurred Edgecombe. "You've never been in love, so just shut up."
"Of course, for some people, the idea is greater than the actuality could ever be," sighed Luna, looking first at Marietta, and then at Cho. "Jealousy is a curse, lust a distraction than can be mistaken for love far too easily – as you should know, Harry – and unrequited love the stupidest tragedy of all."
Harry nearly choked on his beer.
"I told you to shut up," said Edgecombe. "You don't know what you are talking about! You never know what you are talking about. You blather on about all sorts of made-up rubbish because your father says they are real, but he is mad – driven around the twist when your mum-"
"Hey!" yelled Harry, already angry at some of the things the unpleasant girl said.
"-died!" finished Edgecombe. "That's the real truth, isn't it?"
"The real truth," said Luna, "is that you can't accept that she will never want you. That's why you hate me so much – you want to believe in your fantasy as much as I can believe in mine, but you don't have it in you -"
Marietta gaped, shocked to silence.
"So you lash out at everybody, trying to make them feel as pessimistic as you are. Every night you clutch to your dreams, but you are too weak and bitter to really believe they will come true, so you cry into your pillow and pretend nothing is wrong."
"Shut up!" said Edgecombe quietly.
"Luna," said Harry. "Stop it."
"She asked for the real truth, you know I have to answer," said Luna, turning to face him.
Her eyes no longer had the dreamy look he first noted about her the day he met her in the train. They looked hard, and cold.
"And there is so much truth to tell her –"
"Shut up," sobbed Marietta weakly.
"Like how she is only tolerated by most people because they want to be nice to Chang, who is only Marietta's friend because she feels it is her duty to be nice to somebody so 'un-pretty', never realising how much that faked friendship has caused Marietta to want more than just friendship."
Marietta began sobbing, unable to deny Luna's words and seemingly trapped by their intensity.
"And how her mother is nothing but a low level, gossiping flunky in the Ministry who wasted her youth by getting pregnant as a teenager-"
"Luna, please stop," said Harry.
"Only to find out the man she thought loved her was already married and was just using the stupid bint because he was bored with his wife. So she ended up marrying the first man that came along after that and spends most of her time giving 'little Mari' anything she wants, including illegal access to Veritaserum, to make up for the dismal failure of a mother she is."
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up," screamed Edgecomb, bursting into tears and collapsing in a heap.
Harry wanted her to stop, but she was not listening to him. Her face was growing red and her voice rising as she began yelling to stay above Marietta's increasingly loud crying.
"Then there is the truth that Marietta's last three boyfriends have only gone out with her because she has a reputation of being easy - much like her mother before her."
"Which is just as well, because she has neither the intelligence nor the drive to succeed at anything worthwhile and hides behind her bitchiness to deflect criticism of her own numerous failings."
"Luna, why are you doing this?" asked Harry, desperate for a way to stop her.
Luna stopped, mouth open as Harry's question, enforced by the trace amounts of Veritaserum still in her blood, made her pause.
"Because I came to Hogwarts expecting to be free, to have friends and wonderful new experiences, but all I found was closed, petty minded and arrogant people who torment me for believing in my dad. Instead of helping me and encouraging me, I found people like Marietta belittling and walking over me with her assumed and quite imaginary superiority. I want her to feel how she made me feel, I want her to despair the way I despair, I want her to suffer.
"Why Harry? Because I can," she added, blinking as if surprised at her own words. "Because I want to, and because she and this whole rotten world deserve it for what their neglect does to me."
Not for the first time, Harry realised just how screwed up the truth really was.
Alone in the Headmaster's office, Harry resisted the urge to pace. Tonks had left him, apologising but insistent that he wait for the Headmaster while she returned to help sort out the mess the Ministry was in at the security breach.
"Is it done then?" asked a voice.
Thinking it was one of the portraits, Harry turned to reply, but then realised the voice came from a shelf on the side of one wall.
The sorting hat was looking at him, despite not having any eyes.
"Is he dead?" it asked. "Riddle. Is he gone?"
"I don't know," said Harry. "I think so, but I don't know how, since I thought the Snake and I were still Horcruxes – the last ones in fact."
"Pity," said the hat. "A terrible waste."
Harry could only nod in agreement. Surprisingly, the portraits were silent. Fawkes slept peacefully on his perch, leaving Harry all alone with his thoughts.
The fireplace suddenly roared to life, causing Harry to leap to his feet and draw his wand.
Dumbledore stepped out of the green flames to be greeted by Fawkes, who thrilled a short happy tune that calmed Harry's nerves and put a smile on the old man's face.
"Thank you, my friend," Dumbledore said to the amazing creature as he walked to behind his desk, "and I apologise for taking so long to return, Harry."
"So what's happened?" asked Harry.
"Tom Riddle is dead," said the Headmaster, sitting down.
"How?" asked Harry. "I mean I felt something when he was hit, but I don't know what it was."
"Nagini was killed during the battle that captured Voldemort," said the Headmaster. "And it appears the accidental Horcrux inside of you was not enough to keep him from being destroyed by a direct hit with the killing curse.
"Perhaps the fact that you have never been truly affected by it, that it was never in control of you, meant it was a very weak Horcrux. Of course, the very reason Voldemort made more than one was because all previous Horcrux owners have invariably died, meaning they are not a foolproof or even reliable method of cheating death forever - otherwise we would long ago been overran by a plague of Immortal Dark Lords."
"Are you sure?" asked Harry. "I mean are you really certain he is not going to pull another 'final going away tour'?"
"I am as certain as any man can be," answered Dumbledore. "Voldemort is truly gone."
"But what about the prophecy then? It wasn't it meant to be 'at the hand of the other'?" asked Harry.
"There is a reason why prophecies need to be treated with great caution and respect. Not every one ever made has come to pass, or at least not in a recognisable fashion. Also, as you yourself once speculated, everything that happened, that brought us to the moment somebody was able to strike Voldemort down with a killing curse, was based on information you provided and could, just possibly and with a great leap of faith, be considered 'at your hand'."
"Still, what about me?" asked Harry. "Shouldn't I have to die too? One of the very first things we found out by using Veritaserum was that I was going to have to be hit by the killing curse cast by Voldemort."
Dumbledore looked tired, more tired than Harry could ever recall him seeing, but his blues eyes sparkled with life, like he had been given a gift, a puzzle that intrigued him.
"In your various investigations, you have read many old sayings regarding the truth, both Magical and Muggle, have you not?"
"Yes," answered Harry, although he didn't understand a tenth of what he read.
"Did you ever come across the saying 'The truth is ever-changing and cannot be carved in stone'?"
"What, are you saying the Veritaserum was wrong, that the prophecy was a load of bunk, that we changed the truth or something?"
"It is a possibility that must be considered, in light of these events."
Harry sat silent for a moment. It was a lot to think about.
"Who cast it?" he asked. "The killing curse. Who was it that killed Voldemort?"
The Headmaster did not immediately answer, but instead looked at Harry as if judging what to say.
"A person who was once badly hurt by Voldemort, and swore vengeance upon him. Her name will not be released, at least not yet. There are many consequences that cannot, at this time, be foreseen, so for now she will remain anonymous."
"Is she in trouble? Will she go to Azkaban?" asked Harry.
"That is yet to be determined," said the Headmaster. "While she will certainly not be officially lauded as the executioner of Voldemort, there are many that would praise her for her actions."
"I don't understand. Why? Why would she do it and risk going to jail instead of just waiting?"
Again the Headmaster paused before answering, giving Harry the impression his words were been carefully chosen.
"It is my understanding that she felt she owed it to those she lost, to perform the deed herself," said the Headmaster. "Surely you can understand how somebody would feel that way - to believe their only choice was to take the action they had already committed themselves to?"
It was probably another not so subtle dig at him, but Harry could actually see the point the old man was making. Often enough in the past Harry had done exactly that, although the circumstances were very different. He hesitated before asking his next questions, but decided he had to.
"Sir, why did you stand up to defend him? Why did you ask him what you did? What did you think he would say?"
"Honestly, Harry, I am not sure," said the Headmaster. "I wanted to know, to hear his reasons, and although I suspect I could guess at many of the things he would say, I am not arrogant enough to believe I understand everything about him.
"I believe I hoped to find a nugget of misguided intentions, something that would allow all of us, and indeed Tom himself, to see where we went wrong, where we failed him, and he us. In the end, I wanted him to regret the choices he had made and recognise his errors.
"Truthfully, I wanted him to feel sorry for the anguish and suffering he has caused."
"But why?" asked Harry. "What good would it have done? You can't believe he would turn around and say 'Oops, sorry everyone' and then we'd all say 'That's okay, off you go'? It was always going to be the Dementor's kiss for him, wasn't it?"
A sad smile formed on the Headmaster's face.
"Alas, Harry, I could only hope that we would all one day be that enlightened, but no, I did not expect redemption for his actions, or enough pity to avoid the ultimate punishment he was bound to receive."
"You're not telling me everything, are you?" asked Harry. "There's more, isn't there, like why you were crying after he was dead?"
"Yes, my boy, there is much more, but it is not relevant, and the rest can wait until you are older and better able to understand."
Harry bristled for a moment, angry at the Headmaster's avoidance. Reaching into his pocket, he took out the small vial of Veritaserum he never left anywhere else, and placed it on the desk in front of them.
"Would you be willing to prove that?" he asked.
The Headmaster's eyes dropped to the bottle.
"I am saddened to see our relationship has deteriorated so badly," said Dumbledore. "Would you truly ask me to do this, rather than take my word?"
"I've learned the truth can be pretty slippery," said Harry. "Sometimes people think they know it, only to find out it's very different to what they expected. If you had trusted me more last year and told me everything, Cedric might not be dead."
Dumbledore didn't deny it.
"Possibly true," he said, looking at Harry over the top of spectacles, "but if he had not been murdered, who knows what state the world would be in now? Do you not recall Cornelius denying your claims of Voldemort's return? Would he have dedicated the resources to rooting out Voldemort and his minions that Minister Diggory has? Do you think anybody would have thought to try using the truth serum on you to see if you could access Voldemort's innermost thoughts?
"No, Harry, we cannot dwell on what might have been, but only move forward, doing the best we can with the knowledge we have."
Harry wanted to argue, to yell at the old man and his 'holier than thou' attitude, but he suddenly found himself tired, exhausted in fact. It was all a bit too much, and he was sick of it all – the lies and half truths, the twisted and convoluted thinking people did to justify themselves – He'd had enough.
"Can I tell the others," he asked, "about the trial and the rest of it? I mean everybody is going to ask me about it, and why I was allowed to go."
"Much of the news has already been broadcast on the wireless and will no doubt be in every paper," answered the Headmaster. "If people do not already know, they will surely do so soon."
"So is that a yes or a no?" asked Harry a bit testily.
"Yes, Harry," said the Headmaster. "While I believe there are still many things you should not divulge to everybody, I trust that you will make the right choices in telling them about your involvement and what you have seen."
Harry stood up to leave, the weight of the events sitting heavily on his shoulders, but he had one more question that he couldn't let go.
"Sir," he asked hesitantly. "Why do you think he did it? I mean, why do you think he became what he did? Was it really because of his father?"
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and sighed.
"I truly cannot say with any certainty," he said. "I suspect much of his motivation came from his unfortunate childhood, of being neglected and abused, but in the end, I think he believed he had the right to do as he wished – that because nobody could stop him, he should be allowed to indulge his baser desires.
"He did it, Harry, because he felt we deserved it, but mainly, he did it because he could."
The echo of Luna's sentiment sent an unexplained shiver down Harry's spine. Nodding, Harry turned to leave the office, not at all sure he really understood.
"Here," said Dumbledore, tossing the small vial to him. "You may wish to have this, for when you once again wish to seek out the truth."
"The truth," laughed Harry humourlessly as caught the little bottle. "I am pretty much sick of the truth."
"It is a precious thing, not one to be despised or wasted."
"It's an angry witch with a broomstick, waiting to hit you on the back of the head when you're not ready," countered Harry.
"That too," agreed the Headmaster.
Harry left the office and made his way down the spiral staircase, lost in thought and not paying much attention to where he was going.
Finding Ginny waiting for him near the stairs leading to the Gryffindor common room was completely unexpected.
"I want you to dose me again," she said. "I swear I am going to be a better person, but I need you to test me, to prove I am getting there -"
Strangely, looking at the nervous girl almost pleading with him, Harry felt lighter, happier.
"You know what?" he interrupted, dropping his arm around the younger girl's shoulders and starting to lead her away. "Screw it. I really don't care anymore. Let's just give it a try and see how it goes, all right?"
Shell shocked, Ginny could only nod in mute acceptance. She was too distracted and confused to notice as he tossed a small vial into a nearby bin.
"Mind you, if I think you're beginning to go all fan-girl on me, or I start to get vibes about wanting me to cark it so you can cash in, don't expect me not to say something," he said with mock sincerity.
"Git," said Ginny, smiling as she lightly elbowed Harry in the ribs. "What about using you for fame? Is that okay?"
"Yeah okay," said Harry.
"Really?" asked Ginny, caught off guard and very surprised by the answer to her attempted joke.
"No," laughed Harry.
"You prat," she laughed before getting a sly grin and a slight blush. "What about your body then? Can I use that?"
Harry turned a bit red too, but wasn't ready to be teased that easily.
"So long as it's not for potion ingredients," he agreed.
They walked away with their happy laughter and light banter echoing through the hallways, Harry making sure to keep the small talk going for as long as possible before the inevitable interrogations started back in the common room with the others.
Neither of them saw the squinty eyes watching them suspiciously from the darkened alcove, nor did they see the owner of those eyes rummage through the bin until he lifted out the very same small vial Harry had just discarded.
A tiny amount of liquid remained, less than a dozen drops glinting in the glittering light of the torches lining the hallway.
"Well, well, well," said Filch, absently leaning down to pat the mangy cat rubbing against his leg. "What do we have here then?"
While this chapter may strike you as very different from the style of the previous ones, it is actually something like what I intended two years ago when I started writing this. Bitch!Luna didn't want to play though, and took a long time to come around - even then, she isn't as nasty as I intended.
I could have gone through every character in the HP series, but it would have gotten very repetitive.
Sorry if you were expecting a Nonjon-like Zany!Luna but you really should have known better.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to AFC yet again for helping get this done.
Oh, and don't forget to check out the collection of original short stories by some of your favourite fan fic authors - but not me, I was still suffering writers block :(
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