Disclaimer: Haven't won the lottery yet.
Quick note: This chapter is 21 pages and 15.5k words long. So... long chapter.
The Finale Countdown
When Hermione met Harry it had been as a silly, somewhat nosy little girl, years ago on a train that honestly hadn't been very impressive. She hadn't been impressed with the boys either. Somehow, in her mind, when she had been looking forward to the magical world and all that it might hold, she had thought it would be like the stories she'd read over the years, where magic was a thing of knowledge, and where one's ability was directly linked to their willingness to study.
She'd thought of old warlocks locked up in towers, surrounded by books and arcane diagrams, learning until they could learn no more.
This was the sort of education she'd been expecting, and had expected others to feel the same. Except that what she'd found had essentially been more of what she'd seen in primary. Regular people with regular children, passing around brooms instead of bikes and cauldrons rather than paints kits.
It was... disappointing. She'd at first thought it was because they were just children, as she'd known for some time that children, on the whole, were quite stupid.
But eventually she'd come to realize that how she'd imagined magic to be... wasn't how it was.
To be sure study was still important, but the romantic notions she'd arrived with had eroded over time, and eventually she realized that magic as it was was far more based on instinct than knowledge.
Wand magic, it seemed, relied on aptitude more than academics, and that grated for a time.
Still, she did her best and worked to understand, since that was what she did best. She worked out how a spell worked, and that allowed her to better cast it. Ultimately, she turned her attention to magics that played to her strengths.
Arithmancy and Ancient Runes certainly did. Truly they were more like what she'd imagine than wand magic was, much better than that Divinations bollocks.
But the most agreeable of all was Potions.
Sure, the Professor responsible for the class was something of a berk, but the subject itself was fascinating and varied.
Just the very idea of it appealed to her. Bottling spells that could be used for nearly everything at any time needing only to be prepared! An exacting science in magical form!
It was, for her, perfect. So when she took to the challenge of brewing not one but two very special, very advanced potions, without supervision she took it as almost a test, to see whether she really had what it took to become a potions Mistress.
At the time she was nearly beside herself with worry for all that could go wrong without supervision. But after it was all over she was almost ecstatic for her wild success.
Becoming an animal, however, helped and hurt her in other ways, ways she couldn't have predicted.
As an animal her instincts were never far away, and the more she learned to listen to them, the more she leaned on them, the better she understood them and, by extension, magic itself.
It was, as she now understood it, not unlike an animal itself. What repetition and association got out of an animal, wand movements and incantations got out of magic. Tricks, tasks, basic commands, these were the sorts of things both magic and animals could be trained to perform on command but, with time and familiarity the clicker would no longer be needed, the leash superfluous, and even the silly wiggles and codewords that allowed children to cast spells could be replaced with much simpler familiarity.
And as she came to understand these things better, her spellcasting improved, even if her wand movements may not have been quite as precise.
In fact, there were so many things that changed over the last couple of years that perhaps the most important one slipped her notice. How she related to other people.
At first she'd thought of them as silly, and perhaps a bit lazy. Then she'd turned to wondering how they dealt with all the instincts that drove magic warring within them.
Then she realized that it was emotion, not necessarily instinct that drove them. Instinct and emotion were so similar that it was little wonder that so many spells were driven by emotion.
And she wondered about herself. Like a light had gone off in her head one day she just stopped and thought, 'Am I different?'
Perhaps a bit, but it was normal for an Animagus, so she put it out of her mind. Whatever it was that drove her, whether a pack instinct or just teenage emotions, she didn't want her friends to leave, and didn't want to leave her friends.
All this and more ran through her mind as she cried atop Harry, who patiently let her do so. Whether because of emotion or instinct, she wasn't going to leave Harry's side again, not until she was sure that everything was okay.
Eventually both her tears and her emotions started to wear away, leaving her feeling a strange combination of cold, warm, tired and content. Finally, she opened her eyes, which she was sure were bloodshot and looked for Harry, who was right over her, watching her with those bright green eyes that reflected what little light there was to have so late at night.
Finally, the little pink kitten that still managed to be bigger than her mewled 'Better?'
Rather than answering with any of the millions of things still zipping through her mind, about Hogwarts or about Umbridge or about anything else, she merely gently shoved her head into his stomach. Perhaps if she'd been human she'd have given him a swat and called him a prat, but the nearly judgemental glare, tinged with worry and relief and a million other things was just the same and easily said it all.
Harry (Flash?) scratched the back of his head with a smile, before backing off a bit and looking her earnestly in the eye. He then quietly asked, 'Do you think Ron understands...?''
Hermione was confused by the question for a moment, then thought about it. Did he? Did she? She wasn't so sure about herself, but she thought maybe Ron did better than her.
'I think so?'
Harry smiled, then looked back at the odd structure for a moment before returning to her. 'Come on, let's go get him. There's something I want to show you guys.' Suddenly Harry took off into the air and floated above her, directing his head back toward the school.
Go get him? Did Harry mean to fetch Ron and bring him here? Harry was going to go back to the school?
'Come on, don't be scared.'
'I'm not scared!' She huffed and took a couple steps, but shrunk a little, 'It's just... Umbridge...'
'Don't worry.' Harry floated excitedly overhead and, unwilling to lose track of him, Hermione followed.
Meanwhile, after a quick Floo-call by Umbridge to the Ministry's offices, a man had arrived to deal with a situation that had been brought to their attention. This man arrived with a large pole-axe leaning against his shoulder and an almost jolly glint in his eye that might make one believe he was quite happy.
This man was from the Ministry's Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures, and the pole-axe was a dead giveaway to his favorite method of controlling them. His name was Walden Macnair, and he rather liked his job, even if that job wasn't very nice.
He was responsible for the disposal of 'Dangerous Creatures', and he was always ready for such a call. So ready that he didn't even mind too much if he were getting paid or not, which led to him gaining something of a reputation among Ministry workers.
If you had a creature that needed disposed of on the sly, Macnair was the one to call. It got him in trouble with his boss, sometimes, but so long as he got to watch the life bleed from his victims' eyes he was happy.
In short, he was unstable. A loose cannon that the Ministry kept on only because there were so few who would take the job from him. There were only three Executioners in the department, and neither of the other two revelled in it as he did.
And so, here he was, walking across the lawn of Hogwarts, ready to head into the Forbidden Forest to look for a 'Dangerous Creature' that had been spotted 'threatening the children', or some such tripe.
Perhaps if he took his time, he'd be able to reduce the spider population a bit. Or better yet, the Centaurs. Not the Unicorns, of course. It was a close thing, but not even he was far gone enough to kill a Unicorn without even being told to.
He would need a permit for that.
Still, as he walked across the grounds, whistling a jaunty tune, he couldn't help but to think about how much time he and so many others had spent in this same forest over the last year or so. And right under Dumbledore's nose! True, three different Muggleborns had needed to be put under Imperius to keep them quiet (and also because they were just so pretty), but the search for Harry Potter had been fruitless.
And then he came upon the treeline and what does he see? The little brown mongrel he'd come for, and the pink monstrosity they'd all been searching for!
With an insane grin, he hefted his axe, "Well well, looks like I get two for one!" He then swung his weapon, seeking to cut the both of them entirely in twain.
He didn't miss. He never missed. The creatures didn't move, his axe was enchanted to paralyze whatever it was aimed at.
Rather, the two of them had stared at him for all of a moment, paralyzed as expected, and then with a great flash of blinding light, they vanished.
He stood silently for a moment, then grinned even wider. He summoned his broom before taking off for the edge of the school's wards. He needed to be able to Apparate. He needed to tell his Master.
Harry Potter was at Hogwarts!
"Why don't you just open that door so we can have our inspection. If you've nothing to hide, there's no reason to deny us, is there?"
"You're not allowed to force your way into another house's dorms, Malfoy! It's a violation of the school charter!"
"Madame Umbridge has given us a wide range of powers for the course of this investigation. If you continue to block our way you will be removed from our way, and included in the investigation. How does expulsion sound?"
"Are you threatening my house, Malfoy?" The sound of Ron Weasley's voice coming from just behind the Inquisitorial Squad brought the rest of the hall to silence, as the increasingly tense standoff became entirely silent. The rivalry between Malfoy and Weasley was well known, and everyone wanted to know how this would turn out.
"And what are you going to do about it, Weasley? Curse me? If I even thought you could pull it off, I'd say you'd be expelled pretty quickly. Madame Umbridge is quite serious, you know." The IS sniggered at his barb, drawing hisses from the Gryffindors.
"I don't need magic to deal with you, Malfoy." Those that were paying attention may have noticed the undertones in Ron's voice, but in the heat of the moment Malfoy and his hangers-on failed to note it.
They also failed to note a small pink flash. Instead Malfoy pointed his wand directly at Ron's face, "Well, why don't we test that, shall we? You should remember this one, Weasley. Slugulus Eructo!"
Before the spell could hit anyone, or even before Malfoy could finish his incantation, a noise sounded from near the floor and a pale opalescent aura sprang up, swallowing the green light of the spell before it could even form, causing Malfoy to give his wand a queer look.
"What? Slugulus Eructo!" But nothing happened, so he tried again. "Serpensortia!" But again, nothing.
Another member of the IS tried an Expelliarmus, but it too failed, then everyone's attention was drawn to the side, where an odd green-and-white woman-like creature stood, pointing her fingerless forearm at Malfoy.
"What is that thing? Whatever, Crabbe, kill it." Crabbe lumbered forward, intent on strangling whatever it was, but Ron got in his way.
"Not on your life." The growling should have been a giveaway that Ron was being pushed too far, but what happened next was far more memorable.
"Shove off, Blood Traitor!" Crabbe went to punch Ron square in the face, not that Ron would have cared, but what happened instead was that the creature shouted loudly and, in time with the shout, a bright blue-gold barrier erupted between Crabbe and Ron, stopping Crabbe's fist cold before knocking him nearly three feet back.
The IS huddled together, finally detecting a threat of some kind, and the Gryffindors did the same, detecting an advantage, but the Green creature gently glided forward, noticeably effeminate fury showing in its posture. "Gar! Garde-devoir! Voir voir, devoir! GardeVOIR!"
The IS bristled before giving each other looks and raising their wands. What followed was a barrage of attempted spells, most of which failed outright and the rest of which splashed harmlessly off the Barrier that had been put in place. After nearly a full minute of increasingly loud spellcasting on the Squad's part the Gryffindors had taken to taunting the increasingly red-faced students.
Finally, Malfoy had had enough, "STOP!" After the chaos had stopped, Malfoy glared at Ron through the still visible barrier, "This isn't over, Madame Umbridge will be hearing about this."
The assembled Gryffindors cheered as the Inquisitorial Squad retreated down the hall, throwing glares over their shoulders as they went. Finally, however, a voice brought the cheering to a stop.
"Harry, come on, let's get inside."
All eyes turned on Hermione, who had grabbed onto the green creature and was now holding it. In response it changed back into the pink kitten which everyone now recognized as the creature Harry had changed into after the end of the tournament. As Harry crawled to stand on Hermione's shoulders, the assorted Gryffindors all crowded around, trying to get a look, asking questions, and some even asking to pet him
It was Ron, however, who got them all to stop. "SHUT UP!" The shout was so loud that several people jumped at it, turning to see the boy looking somewhat severe. "Everyone get inside. When Umbridge comes for us, we can't be out here." Fred and George nodded and started ushering people through the portrait hole, all the while Ron gave Harry a smouldering look, not even sure himself if he should be really angry or really relieved at seeing him.
Ron and Harry were the last ones through the portrait, the Fat Lady encouraging them on the whole time before closing behind them, promising to deny Umbridge entry even if they threatened to burn her, which was a nice gesture though hopefully not needed.
Once everyone was in the Common Room the questions started up again, dozens of voices all blending together into one messy cacophony. Most students were demanding answers, some pleading for help, and still others were trying to get the others back under control. Harry meanwhile had taken to floating higher and higher, closer to the ceiling as he looked over all the faces, worry in his posture though he made no sound.
Finally it all came to a halt when the youngest Weasley shouted, at the top of her lungs for "QUUIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTT!"
Everyone stopped, some looking amazed at the young girl, others holding their ears in pain at the pitch of her scream. Ginny merely stomped with a huff. "You're scaring him!" She crossed her arms and glared at her housemates.
"Mew!" Harry, in response, protested with crossed arms, though his twitching tail gave him away.
Ginny huffed, "Oh honestly! Harry, stop being a big baby and get down here!" Harry in response flipped upside down and blew her a raspberry, but soon complied, landing on his hind paws and transforming at the same time.
So there, among the Gryffindors once more, was Harry Potter.
The quiet didn't last for long, and the three friends had a lot of explaining to do. Ron was rather popular afterward, most students concluding that his other form was 'cool'. That night Gryffindor remained uninvaded.
The next day was even more stressful.
For reasons that were patently obvious to anyone paying attention, not a single student from Gryffindor attended class, or even arrived to meals. This alone presented the staff with a problem, but when after lunch the bulk of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff followed suit, suddenly Hogwarts had an emergency on their hands, and the whole faculty got together to try to determine the best way to handle things.
A couple of the professors wanted to ignore it, and indeed Professor Snape had already taken three thousand points from Gryffindor for their mass absenteeism, along with one thousand each from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, while awarding Slytherin House a thousand for 'not being a bunch of morons'.
By lunchtime not only had two members of the school board of governors arrived, so had several guardians, all of whom started shouting at each other about who was at fault. The Faculty featured prominently in these accusations, as did Umbridge, who conveniently wasn't there, the Minister having called her back for some emergency or another.
And then something wildly unexpected happened. The school came under siege.
The first clue was several devices in the Headmaster's office suddenly making a large amount of noise. This didn't strike anyone as unusual, though Governor Baldridge did think to ask, with ears covered and a pained expression, "Dumbledore what is that blasted racket!?"
With a wave of his wand, the venerated old wizard silenced the device, which looked rather a lot like a muggle microphone that had suddenly sprouted a mouth and started screaming. His somewhat worried expression barely made the notice of most of those in the room. "It means that someone on or near the school grounds means harm to the students of the school."
"Is that all? The students are always scheming against each-other, why does it have to be so loud?"
"You misunderstand, Mr. Baldridge. The louder it responds means the greater the danger. Normally nothing short of an attempted murder would bring such a reaction." He gave the Heads of House pointed looks, to which they nodded and retreated from the room.
"Where are they going?"
"To check on the students. It would appear we need to lock down the school..." He straightened slightly, eyes going unfocused. "The wards have triggered. The school is under attack."
The visitors all blinked, disbelieving before one thought to ask, "What? Under attack? What do you mean?"
"The wards that check visitors for Ill Intent have fallen, I must go, there is much to do." Barely giving the visitors a nod, Dumbledore left the room in a hurry, followed first by the Governors, then by the guardians.
Mr. Baldridge spoke first, already gasping for breath slightly, "Where are you going? To reinforce the wards?" Dumbledore's pace must have been too much for the man, because barely at the end of the hall he started falling behind. Unfortunately, time had been far kinder to Dumbledore than Mr. Baldridge.
"Yes. I will also be activating the suits of armor." Noticing the state of his companion, Dumbledore made a decision, "Mr. Baldridge, the Floo in my office is a secure connection, could you be kind enough to call Madame Bones to request support?" Seeing Mr. Baldridge nod Dumbledore nodded back, followed by acknowledging Madame Longbottom, who came up next to him.
"I shall meet them on the field, Albus. I cannot power the wards, but I can delay any that get through."
"Thank you, if so this is where we part, good luck." Dumbledore descended toward the wards' achor as Madame Longbottom led the rest of the visitors to the field, ready to defend the school and its students.
Meanwhile, in the Gryffindor common room things weren't much calmer, as the students were preparing for an expected siege of a different sort. They had expected the staff, especially Umbridge to come knocking at any time now, which while a rather saddening commentary on the students' lack of faith in the school's administration, it was also an almost expected reaction to recent events.
So far, Professor McGonagall hadn't tried nor wanted to use her position as Head of House to confront her students over the matter of their absenteeism. It was clear that they'd been protesting their treatment at the... tentacles of that woman, something that Minerva silently supported, though officially she could only defend her students from that woman if she perceived an actual attack, not mere bullying.
Her thoughts, therefore, were rather dark as she approached the entrance to the tower and, under better circumstances she would have been somewhat proud of the Fat Lady for denying her entry. Logically she knew that the wards were picking up on her state of mind and, perhaps due to a lockdown that she strongly suspected was either active or in the works, denying her from possibly harming the students.
She wasn't in that state of mind, however, and to her shame she quickly descending into a shouting match with a portrait.
"LET ME IN RIGHT NOW OR SO HELP ME-"
"DO YOUR WORST! I promised I would protect them, even from you! And by Merlin, even if it means being - oh, bollocks..." The Fat Lady was interrupted mid-rant by the door she was attached to swinging open, leaving Minerva stunned and confused for a moment before she quickly gathered herself back to respectability.
"Thank you, I need... Mr. Potter?" She stopped for several seconds as she took in the unexpected sight of a little pink kitten floating upside down in the passageway, staring at her as only a cat can.
Then his attention was drawn back at the common room and, giving her a look, he darted back up the stairs, leaving her to follow and the Fat Lady to slowly close, muttering about not being appreciative.
When she arrived at the top of the stairs it was to be greeted by the the sound of dozens of voices casting spells, some of them quite advanced. She knew she heard the Patronus charm being cast, and based on the silvery glow that one corner of the room now had, somewhat successfully.
When someone finally noticed her they stopped what they were doing, shouting "Professor!"
Everything stopped to stare nervously at her, even as she spotted a couple of students hiding their wands behind their backs.
"Er, we're sorry for not coming to class, Professor..."
"No we're not!"
"We're not coming out until Umbridge is gone!"
"I'm with him."
Minerva remained silent as she listened to the mutterings of support that the students were giving each-other, then sighed. "I don't know how the events surrounding Madam Umbridge will turn out, but I can't fault you for protesting her..." She tried to come up with a good, not-completely-character-assassinating description for Umbridge, but trailing off seemed to do well enough, as the Gryff's mostly calmed down, though they remained on alert.
Straightening, she got back to why she was there in the first place. "I've come to inform you the school is on lockdown." Muttering came from this, and Umbridge's name passed a few mouths. "The Headmaster informed us that an unknown, great danger is on the grounds and until it has passed, you are all to stay in the dorms. Now, if everyone could please stand still, I will do a headcount."
Before she could get to it, however, a great rumbling noise echoed through the school, a physical noise that shook everyone's feet and dislodged someone's glasses from an end-table, where they fell to the ground and shattered.
After it had passed and everyone had started mumbling, Colin Creevy rushed down the stairs from the boys dorms, shouting loudly, "GUYS GUYS! THERE'S AN ARMY OUTSIDE!"
Although he stopped at the sight of Professor McGonagall, the damage had been done as pandemonium erupted, Professor McGonagall standing no chance of reasserting order. Students worried, students shouted, and a good bunch of them retreated to the dorms, intent on looking out the windows to verify the claim.
But before Colin had even noticed the army outside, while he was still climbing the stairs to retrieve his camera, Harry had already retreated, Hermione close in tow.
She found him in his dorm, just lifting the window open. "Harry!"
He looked at her, then flicked an ear and looked away, down at the grounds where he could see said army, leading Hermione to have a look. What she saw made her eyes widen in shock, "Is that a basilisk!?"
Indeed, among the throngs of people were a pair of gigantic snakes, each with eyes covered by cloth, while roaring in the distance suggested something perhaps even more chilling as a dragon bayed for blood.
'They've come for me, Hermione.'
"What do you mean? For you? You can't know that!"
'I can hear their thoughts, Hermione. Besides, they've been looking for me since last year, coming out at least once a week to tear the forest apart, and it isn't going to end until I confront him.'
"But, what makes you think you have to do that? What makes you even think it has to do with you?"
'Because I know it. I've kept away from them so far, but I can't run forever, Hermione.' Hermione was struck by a recollection of Ron saying the same thing, and got a rather cold feeling in her gut; the last time she'd heard those words they'd been attacked by giant spiders. 'They'll catch me sometime, and then I'll just be too tired to fight.'
Hermione stood stunned for several seconds, just watching Harry, then as the Common Room erupted into chaos she frowned, "Well then I'm coming with you." At his confused mewl, she nodded more strongly, closing her fists with a determined expression. "You're not going without me. I'm going."
Harry sort of looked at her, as though measuring what she was saying, then, with little preamble, flew out the window, leading Hermione to do possibly the stupidest thing she had ever, or would ever do in her entire life.
She transformed so she would fit, and jumped out the window after him.
In retrospect, she obviously hadn't been thinking about the many-story height of the Gryffindor Tower.
"VWEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" She flailed and wriggled mightily as she fought against gravity, not even noticing for several seconds that she hadn't gone even a foot from the windowsill until she'd been pulled back inside, where she latched with all four legs onto the arm that was holding her, stricken with panic.
"'MIONE! 'Mione calm down!" She stopped, stunned for a second as Ron repositioned her to carry her better, then started shouting at him agitatedly, causing him to grunt, "Mione..." she huffed and glared at him, causing him to roll his eyes as he held up his other hand, which held a broom. "I've got his broom."
Meanwhile on the ground several professors and even some students had gathered to defend their school, lobbing spells from a distance even as the suits of armor that most had always thought were decorative marched forward, weapons at the ready.
It was just as the Headmaster had arrived to lend his direct support that it happened. All involved heard a loud, high pitched shout and watched as a streak of pink dove from the clear sky into the assembled ranks of wizards, plowing through them and scattering them out of formation.
Dumbledore, seeing this and watching as the pink streak was followed back into the sky by several wizards on brooms, paled. "Harry, no..." 'He can't be here! Tom can't get ahold of him!' Reenergized after the tiring work of activating the school's defensive wards, he started casting spell after spell into the crowd of Death Eaters, for that's what they were and, indeed, how they were dressed. Most were meant to incapacitate, some would kill if left alone, but all were wide-area spells hoping to catch more than one target at a time and all were much more powerful than any others being flung back and forth on the battlefield.
The exception was that pink streak, which while it did little damage flung its targets as much as a hundred feet in the air.
But even as students started swarming from the castle, some on broomsticks, it was barely enough to slow down the tide; rather than strategy, Voldemort had opted to simply overwhelm Hogwarts with numbers.
Indeed, Voldemort himself was quite pleased with how things were going. Not just because his death eaters had Dumbledore nervous, apparently unwilling to jump into the fray directly and leave the students unguarded, but because his real target had arrived.
"Ignore the old man, focus on the brat! Bring him to me!" It took only a moment for the order to disseminate, but it was clear when it had, as suddenly a full third of the spellfire coming from his lines had been directed at the pink streak in the sky. Certainly many of the lower ranking Death Eaters did not know what to fire at, but so long as they were firing they were doing enough.
At the other end of the spellfire Harry noticed the sudden change of tactics. He knew he was the center of attention, but he also knew that he couldn't stay there forever; he needed to reduce the amount of spells coming at him. His Barrier deflected most of them and he was able to dodge the rest, but he didn't know how long that would last
So, he did the only thing he could think to do: He dove straight into the middle of things, right at Voldemort himself.
Who smiled at the sight. Finally, something was going right! "Capture him! Prepare the altar!"
For the previous months, Voldemort had researched any way he could take that creature's power for himself. And although he had missed his chance at the resurrection ritual, what he had found would be even better!
But first he needed to catch the brat, to keep him from moving around.
When he was almost there Harry slowed down, taking in what Voldemort appeared to be doing. It looked like some kind of summoning ritual, with Voldemort at the head and five others at the points of a six-pointed star. He didn't recognize any of them, even just from their thoughts, but he knew he didn't want to let them do what they were doing.
So he dove in, sending a shocking wave at the first few defenders, who fell to the ground paralyzed. This dropped a barrier that had been defending the circle, though of this outer circle he recognized the elder Malfoy and that man that'd been on the grounds the night before.
He didn't spare a thought to those men as he advanced on those at the inner circle, grabbing the closest two and flinging them aside.
But then he heard something that froze him in place. Voldemort, now visible to him, had raised his wand at him and shouted "HOMOMORPHUS!"
Ron and Hermione had landed only moments before and had joined the fighting.
Or rather, Ron had joined the fighting, while Hermione darted forward, running between the feet of their adversaries almost entirely unnoticed.
"BOMBARDA!" Spamming his new favorite spell, Ron advanced on the Death Eater lines, never letting them get close enough to get a good shot at him. He was just cresting a small rise, wary of all the faces he saw on the other side, when he saw something that made his blood run cold.
He saw Harry descend onto a group of villains near the back, close to the woods. He saw Harry attack a couple of them.
And he saw Harry fall to a green flash of light, his suddenly-human form limp as a puppet with the strings cut.
It took only a moment for the cold feeling to ebb away, and what replaced it was much, much warmer.
He saw red.
In that moment, two amazing things happened. While Ron stepped forward, heedless in his rage of the spells careening into his body, entirely unfazed by even the killing curse, behind him, closer to the lake, a rather large plant, which had been budding for several years now, suddenly came into full bloom.
It happened in sync, as though planned, that as the sun had begun to set, the flower came into full bloom and, as it did, as its petals reached out for space, the sky erupted into sudden burning light. So intense was it that student and attacker alike had to guard their eyes, and with the light came a wave of heat that would be sweltering even to the experienced.
But Ron didn't notice any of that. He'd already transformed, and the heat felt like home against his fur. He focused it, revelled in it, and with his eyes focused on Voldemort alone...
Hermione did not care if she had to go around someone's feet or straight through them, when she felt like it she was quite violent, and more than a few unfortunate lackeys found themselves without a leg to stand on, with nary a clue of why. She was on a mission, she was going to get Harry back! She could smell him, knew where he was, knew he was in trouble!
She wasn't going to lose him this time!
So it was little surprise that when she came across the ritual, the first thing she did was attack the closest face she could find, which just so happened to be a very surprised Walden Macnair.
Voldemort, meanwhile was very irritated and impatient. The ritual was all but complete! Magic was practically buzzing around them! The ancient Familiar ritual was almost finished, the creature almost bound to his will forevermore!
All that was holding them back was that the stupid boy was refusing to change!
"CHANGE! I COMMAND IT! CRUCIO!" Again he cast the pain causing curse, and again the boy barely twitched. It was infuriating! How was he supposed to bind the creature to himself if the boy refused to become it? Oh sure, the ritual would work equally well on a human; once Voldemort pressed his own open wound against that of his new familiar, the two would become as one, with the one possessing of more power being in command. He had taken great pains to make sure that that would be him. The Dark Mark siphoned off energy from every Death Eater it marked and fed it to him, increasing his overall power, but even then he'd gathered his most powerful followers and, in addition to powering the Familiar ritual, had them feeding him power so that he would be on top.
It was flawless, and all he needed to do was to exchange blood with the little monster, then it would be his little monster. But between the Crucio and the Imperius, nothing got the brat to even move, let alone transform. It was as though a Dementor had already sucked his soul away.
Finally he decided, just as the sunlight was reaching its peak, that if he didn't transform now, he would take the boy and control the creature that way, extra benefits be damned!
Furiously, he demanded, "TRANSFORM NOW! SO HELP ME, CREATURE OR NOT, YOU WILL BE MINE!"
Perhaps it was the word 'transform' rather than change, perhaps the term 'creature' rather than monster, even Harry would never know for sure, but something clicked in his mind, and Harry thought 'Transform? Good idea...'
Seeing the boy start to shrink was all it took for Voldemort to hold off, a grin growing on his face as he readied the knife that would create the wound.
And then his outer circle was broken, the resolve of his Death Eaters was shaken by a monstrous roar, and before he could determine what was wrong, his face was suddenly full of biting fur.
While Harry slowly came-to, eventually catching Hermione's attention, Ron's rage was all pent up, pushing out on him in all directions. He could barely see!
Then, just as he saw Hermione tackle Voldemort in the face, giving him a sort of satisfaction, his rage turned to resolve. The red haze turned to perfect clarity.
And as his roar echoed back to him, the ground beneath his feet, paws began to rumble and shake, softly at first, then violently until, in a moment he'd been anticipating for years, Life itself drove up and erupted around him, sending light and flame everywhere.
It surrounded him! It suffused him! It really did feel like he could take a thousand Avada Kedavras to the face and barely sneeze!
Purpose in mind, he turned on one of the Basilisks, the greatest threats among his current enemies, breathed in, and let it go.
From the outside the explosion of light and fire looked and felt more like the eruption of a volcano than any explosion any present had seen before, and as great lumps of molten rock rained down upon the robed figures, breaking bones as easily as immolating flesh, all present realized it was!
Then, when the insanity couldn't have gotten any greater, one of the Basilisks reared up, complaining loudly about the burning rock that had fallen on its tail, only for a spherical gout of concentrated flame to rocket from the growing volcanic pyre and slam into its mouth. The great snake's mouth closed automatically less than half a second before the back of its head exploded in a shower of flaming flesh and debris and scattered venom that even the smart could only hope to avoid.
Seeing this, the escorts for the other Basilisk made a snap decision, "REMOVE THE BLINDS!"
Before the order could be carried out, however, another blast, this time seemingly of light itself and originating from the great flower slammed into the snake king's snout, doing little visible harm but pushing the beast up and back, while also blinding any who saw it, including the monster itself.
Enraged, the creature thrashed powerfully in its blindness, its blinds having come off, leaving it to trample the suddenly very dead corpses of its handlers.
While the burst of light returned to finish off the Basilisk, Harry had woken up, calling out to Hermione.
Hearing this, Hermione gasped, jumping off her last victim's face and retreating to the stone table that Harry was sitting on. Jumping up to him she tackled him, licking his face with tears of relief and joy. Then Voldemort, having regained his bearings, swiped for Harry with a shout, "CREATURE! YOU'RE MI-AAAARRRRRGGGHHHH!" But by the time he'd taken his swing Harry had already teleported away, leaving Voldemort in a rage from which he saw only one escape. "AVADA KEDAVRA! AVADA KEDAVRA!" He started killing everyone around him, leaving several students parentless, his plans in shambles.
Harry, however, had landed atop one of the castle's parapets, far away from the fighting.
It was peaceful up there, with only the edges of the stress and noise making it up to them.
It was here that Harry watched and Hermione experienced something that Harry had only been told about.
Harry held Hermione off him as he watched her glow brightly, even more brightly than the sunlit sky above. It was at the point that Harry was watching with awe that Hermione noticed that something was happening.
"Vee? Veevee, Eevee!"
"Eevee?" Harry nodded with a smile and Hermione relaxed, allowing whatever was happening to happen.
It was fast. She grew larger, still on all fours but with a longer body and longer legs. Her tail grew longer as well, though its fur also grew thinner, followed by her single tail splitting in two near the halfway point, like the branches of a tree.
Her mane shrank away, though not completely, she would never fully outgrow that bushiness she'd had all her life, and then, finally, the light faded, leaving her an impressive shade of... purple.
"Spee?" Confused, the newly reformed creature looked herself over with gem-like, violet eyes. She didn't know it, but she now looked very much more like a cat than a fox, but the greatest difference was how she felt. She felt stronger. More sure of herself. She swore she was hearing things, feeling things she hadn't felt before. She was, indeed, a very confused young Espeon.
But she didn't get much time to think about it. "Biii?"
Both Harry and Hermione turned to the sound, to find that they had company. There, floating just above the tower, holding a lightly glowing stone was... Harry. Well, the time-travelling-fairy version of Harry, at any rate.
"Mew?" The second Harry slowly approached the first one, holding the stone in both green hands.
While both Harry and Hermione watched curiously, the light from the stone leaked out and drew into the second Harry's arms. Then, once the stone was dark, but still somehow glowing with an internal light, the second Harry handed it to the first.
'Do you know what to do with this?' Harry looked at it, then shook his head slowly. 'Yes you do.'
The Celebi then disappeared before appearing again behind the other two.
And to Harry, it was strange. It was like that first time he and Hermione travelled to the past, like he knew what was happening, what had happened and what was meant to happen.
In that one moment, it was like he got a briefing on everything the other Harry had done. That he needed to do. Everything that led to this point.
Determined, he nodded his understanding. He transformed into the form that allowed him to travel through time, and disappeared, leaving a confused Hermione and a Future-Now-Present Harry behind.
Hermione turned to the only Harry left for answers, "Espe?"
Harry timed the arrival of his first destination very carefully. If he arrived at a point when his past self was aware of time, his past self would get the same... briefing that he'd just gotten. To prevent a paradox, his past self would be told what to do and when to do it. He couldn't have that, his past self had to remain unknowing of what was to come, at least for now. That's what time had told him.
So he arrived inside the very small moment of time when Professor Lupin had used the Homomorphus charm on him. That charm was the only thing he'd come across with the power to make him completely human, and since he was not aware of time when completely human, that was his opportunity to travel to the past without alerting his past self.
Once there, the only thing he could really do was wait, so he retreated from the school to the forest surrounding it, where he waited in a sort of hibernation until his next opportunity. Biding his time was important here, but so was the stone he'd taken with him. It had life in it, and he spent his time nurturing that life. Growing it, giving it strength while he himself also grew.
Until that holiday season, when his past self allowed the charm to be cast on him, in an attempt to keep the Dursley home as a place of refuge. To keep the blood wards up and therefore keep one foot in the Muggle world.
Harry jumped once more into the past, alerting his other time travelling self, but again not the boy who was, in that moment in Dumbledore's office crying out in pain.
Harry tried not to think about that detail, it made him shiver, but he had something he needed to do.
This time, although he continued to nurture the stone, which now looked far more like a seed than a stone, he also prepared himself for the first major task that time had given him.
Then, on the night that the Goblet of Fire had been put out, he made his move.
With all the time he had spent travelling through time, Harry was now seventeen years old. And although he didn't actually know what would happen if he didn't put his name in the Goblet, he knew that he was meant to do so.
So he did. The Goblet accepted it and, as a literal deity, he was a shoo-in for Champion. It was perfect! He didn't know why, exactly, but at least he knew his past self didn't really have any problems with it.
Of course he also conveniently forgot his little temper tantrum, but it was forgotten, conveniently so, so that was fine.
Still, with that done he had one more thing to do, and again it would take some time to complete.
Again his past self succumbed to the Homomorphus charm, and again future Harry took it as his cue to leave, this time to the summer of third year, again.
Once he arrived he made his way to the Hogwarts grounds, where he took his seed... and planted it.
The strength he'd been gathering inside it allowed it to sprout almost instantly, but that wasn't enough. So he drew on a power that he knew he had, but had never used before.
The sky brightened, as though the sun had suddenly grown three times stronger, and plants for miles around grew.Trees, aged and tall, grew less weary, if only slightly. Bushes and grass grew larger and taller, if only a bit. Plants in general soaked in the energy, and the plant that sprouted from his seed was no different.
It had been five feet tall before, but within moments it grew to ten feet. Fifteen feet. At twenty feet its roots reached the level of the lake nearby and within seconds it had reached fifty feet, seventy feet, one hundred feet tall and still it grew.
Somewhere along the line two small leaves bloomed from its stalk, reaching outward to cover a wide area of land, shaming any tree. Its stalk wrapped around itself, giving it the appearance of a green and purple vine, much like one a Jack might climb, and it continued until the tip blossomed into a mighty flower nearly twenty feet across.
And then, as the light faded back to normality, leaving the world feeling just a little bit cooler, the plant's growth stopped.
Harry, satisfied, flew up to the bloom and dove inside. There, he started gathering strength again, just as he had for the seed beforehand, his own power giving the stalk a protective force even as the plant gathered the sun.
Over the next year, while students and professors alike puzzled on the strange, alarming growth, Harry remained nestled inside. Over the winter, the flower's petals fell away, leaving only the stalk and a single bud, inside which Harry continued gathering energy.
Then, as spring came the bud grew, but did not bloom. It did not bloom all summer. It did not bloom that fall.
But it did swell, as though preparing itself. And it was.
The leaves, each larger than cars and so reminiscent of the arms of Celebi, gathered the sun. More and more every day, growing in strength and power, storing all it could spare into the bud, for just as any other flower, its purpose was the creation of the next generation, the creation of a seed.
Time didn't seem to care much that it had created a loop, that the very seed this flower was producing would later be the one that grew into that very same flower; it was perhaps a bit strange, but Harry paid it no mind.
Still, to be honest the seed was already ready, plenty prepared for creating the next generation, but Harry was holding off from removing the seed, still gathering strength.
And when he sensed approaching darkness one afternoon, the reason he did so became important.
This time when the army came, he'd been meditating and sensing the outside world purely through mystic senses for nearly a year and a half, and with nothing else distracting him he was able to see far more about Voldemort's forces than he had the first time. He felt the Basilisks, great knots of power barely restrained. The dragons, four of them, were farther away, fluttery bonfires of animal aggression headed this way, but besides those great powers were others. There was Voldemort himself, barely even approaching human himself but still clinging to it, if a bit unwillingly. His inner circle was there, powering something that Harry knew wouldn't do much. He could feel himself, too, of course, as well as the professors and students.
He might have revealed himself as soon as he heard the fighting start had it not been for what he sensed last.
Smaller bonfires of darkness, cold and hateful, malicious even. He hadn't seen many, only having run into one or two while exploring Knockturn a lifetime ago.
At first they hung back, and as soon as Harry noticed them he couldn't figure out why. Then it made sense to him.
When he felt them start to move, that was when he made his move.
The bud above and around him creaked open, too slowly for his taste but still it did so. As soon as he could see the sky he took his prize and shot for the open air.
What he saw was exactly what he expected, although since he'd been barely alive last time his memories did little to prepare him for what he saw.
The school grounds were a mess. Between explosions from spells impacting the ground, the various effects of those spells, elemental abilities and just about anything else that could possibly happen in what amounted to a magical warzone, as far as the eye could see had been... ruined, for lack of better word.
But he quickly took stock of what he could see, and the first thing that really caught his attention was Ron, fury, power, and FIRE ready to burst out of him.
The part of him that was a Pokemon knew what was about to happen, and that part also supplied something he could do to help.
His mental intonation took a moment to take effect, but the artificial sunlight that flooded the area afterwards did three things all at once that helped him.
The first, which he was happy to note seemed to have worked, was that Ron was obviously strengthened, judging by the giant pyroclastic display. The second thing made him even happier: Vampires, which had just come from the forest since the sun had set, were now flying back for cover, many clearly in pain and unlikely to come back for more.
The third, which made him even happier, was that his instincts told him about a skill that was easily paired with the harsh daylight.
Deciding on the most important target, he chose the Basilisk that Ron hadn't just immolated from the inside out, took aim and... SOLARBEAM!
The beam of concentrated sunlight that left his palms at that point would have been plenty powerful enough just from the Sunny Day he'd cast, and wouldn't have even tired him out as it otherwise might have. But in addition to the readily available sunlight all around him, he also drew from the seed, which had taken in so much power over all the time Harry had been caring for it that it now looked more like a smoldering stone than a seed.
He barely paid the burning creature's pained shrieks any mind, firing a second time just to be sure it would be dead before choosing a new target.
He did that again a few more times, taking out one of the dragons just as it arrived and making the other three nervous, several humans falling of their backs from the sudden flanking movements.
And then he sensed his past self teleport. He gave one of the remaining airborne dragons a good shot in the flank before following.
There he again watched Hermione evolve, the sunlight from his Sunny Day suffusing her fur and even her very being. For a moment he actually felt kind of guilty. It was relief about him being 'okay' that had given her the happiness needed to evolve as she had. That meant that he had really, really worried her. He'd have to make it up to her somehow.
He waited until the right moment to let them notice him. He repeated what his own past self had said, and finally he traveled forward in time, only a moment or so, to give Harry that little... briefing. It was like when he moved through time, all the previous moves through time followed him, and reflected themselves back to any who were sensitive to those movements. Or maybe it was because he was psychic, it was hard to tell. Maybe he'd had too much time to think to himself.
Now sure that his past self knew what to do, Harry drew the last of the excess sunlight from the seed into himself, allowing it to become just a seed, and handed it to the younger 'him', who promptly left for the past.
And now he was alone, the only version of himself currently in the timeline... but not completely alone.
'Yup. Miss me?'
'But you didn't go anywhere!'
'Sure I did! I went to the past, and I did some stuff... I'll explain later.'
Hermione watched as this new Harry, which was apparently the old Harry, turned to look at the battlefield, changing back to his normal form in the doing. In the back of Harry's mind he realized that that little adventure would probably be the longest he'd ever hold a single form for rather a long time. It was like a record, really!
'Harry, what are you doing?'
'I think I know how to stop him. I know what to do with him.'
'Harry no! Let the professors do it, you don't need to do anything!'
Harry didn't sigh, but if he hadn't been so energetic he might have. 'Hermione...' Then he stopped, tilting his head as he looked at her carefully.
'Actually, would you like to help me?'
'What? What are you talking about? Me?'
'Sure! All you gotta do is confuse all the other people around him. I'll even teach you how!' And without even letting the purple cat respond, let alone back away he suddenly darted forward and put both palms on her forehead.
This was a delicate process. He hadn't even known he could do it, and maybe he even couldn't, but his instincts told him that he mind was ready for this, so in an instant he connected his to hers and... showed her what to do. He didn't force her to learn, just asked her to pay attention as he showed her subconscious something that he instincts already knew.
Less than a moment later it was done and he backed away with a smile, watching her eyelids flutter as she swayed on her paws.
Finally when she shook her head and refocused on him he asked, 'Ready?'
She opened her mouth with a frown, clearly ready to lecture him, but then she stopped, squeezing her eyes shut as she ineffectually rubbed her forehead with one paw. 'You're not going to change your mind, are you?' She could maybe understand a bit, beyond simply wanting to be done with it; she didn't understand the thing with You-Know-Who and the Boy-Who-Lived, beyond both having hyphenated nick-names, but she could understand being fed up with it.
But beyond that, whatever Harry had just done it had... done something. It was like she was suddenly aware of magic. Or maybe not aware of magic so much as aware of what she could do with it; it had always been there, it had the familiar feeling of something that had simply always been so ubiquitous as to be ignorable but that she'd now noticed it and realized what it could do. It was...
Merlin if this was what Harry felt like all the time, no wonder he was so hyper!
Standing a bit straighter, she focused on the... not so much plan, but plan. 'Fine, let's get this over with.' Harry smiled, floated toward her with one paw out, and touched her shoulder.
Suddenly they were in the middle of a battlefield, surrounded by men, many of whom had abandoned their white masks to see better and were lobbing spells with as much power as they could still muster. It was obvious that they were tiring, and most of them were scared out of their wits. The fighting shouldn't have taken so long! They shouldn't have been fighting a bunch of forces that could take out a pair of ancient Basilisks and a bunch of dragons! They'd signed up to be on the winning side, not the weirdly losing side!
Still, Harry and Hermione's entrance did not go unnoticed, as a few wands turned in their direction, spells splitting off toward them quickly, which Harry shielded against.
Hermione simply concentrated on that feeling Harry had given her, and pulled.
Her eyes glowed a bright purple and her head felt as though a great weight had settled upon it, so with a cry of "ESSSPEEEEOOOOOO!" she lifted.
She had no way of knowing that her 'attack' was actually quite weak. Her battle experience amounted to fighting for her life against some giant spiders, and tearing up a classroom. She hadn't even participated in any but the required duelling lessons, and those were usually heavily controlled. So while the effect of her attack was widespread, it didn't do much in the way of damage.
But, as hostiles for dozens of feet around were suddenly lifted, spinning slightly into the air, Harry darted off. Hermione's attack didn't need to do damage, so long as it could be a distraction.
By the time Harry found his target Hermione had to let go, not because the men she was holding were heavy, but because some of them had managed to twist in her grip to be able to get a shot at her.
They all fell to the ground, but she picked them up again right away. To her consternation they simply pivoted in the air again, so she dropped them again before running off.
She was quickly cornered, however, and lifted them all once more. She knew she couldn't do this forever, not without wearing herself out, and she really couldn't move while she was holding everyone in the air; maybe with practice she could pull something like that off, but at the moment it was all she could do just to lift them.
This time when she dropped them again, several of them landed on their feet and immediately approached her, spells hanging on the end of their wands.
Desperately she lifted them again, but this time rather than they simply being lifted into the air several of them were knocked to the side as Ron landed among them, roaring louder than anything Hermione had ever heard before.
Ron had noticed the commotion, of course. He may have been living in the moment, revelling in both the feeling of power and in the sense of being useful for once, but he was still aware of what was going on around him.
When he noticed a section of the battlefield near the back, being repeatedly lifted and dropped he figured that something was going on, and the vaguely purplish color suggested Harry had something to do with it. So, in one great leap, he landed in the middle of the group just in time to take the lot of them by surprise.
The addition of Ron and his raw power to her little plan had quite the effect, as suddenly nearly all of the people near her were concentrated on him as the greater threat. At this point some of them were making a break for it, running into the forest screaming, while she continued to distract and wrong-foot those who stayed behind while Ron batted them around like toys, occasionally throwing a fireball.
All of this meant that Harry had time to do what he needed to as he found the one he needed to.
Voldemort was still lobbing spells from a distance, apparently aiming for Dumbledore, as much good as that did; the school's wards may have fallen to his superior numbers and firepower, but Dumbledore's personal shielding spells were nothing to laugh at. It was just too bad that the Avada Kedavra lost its potency with distance. That didn't stop him from trying every once in a while, but so far he'd only hit a pair of students, which was of little concern to him.
He didn't notice the Potter brat sneaking up behind him until he was very close, and at that point he was about to call a full retreat. Unfortunately said brat was now between him and the best avenue of escape.
Sneering, Voldemort snarled at the little monster, "YOU'VE COST ME EVERYTHING! AVADA KEDAVRA!"
Harry frowned and instantly transformed, barely thinking about what he needed, instead allowing his instincts to come up with the best solution.
"MIIIIIMEEE!" Voldemort had no time react. He wasn't in shape, so he couldn't dodge, and despite the defensive wards falling the Anti-Apparition wards still worked so he couldn't teleport away when a sudden wall of light reflected the world's most unblockable spell!
"AAAAAAUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!" Voldemort writhed as his half-living, half-ghostly self was ripped apart, the dark forces that held him in the living world fighting mightily against his own Killing Curse.
His body, fake yet solid as it was, began to dissolve into black motes as he fell apart, but he did not despair. He was immortal! His soul anchors meant that he would never go to the afterlife, he would always stay here, such that no matter how long he stayed as a shade, he would always come back to life!
He was just about to leave to lick his wounds as well as an un-ghost could when he felt something latch on to him.
His attention drawn, he looked to see those green eyes staring attentively at him, as though they expected something from him.
"Hah! You think this is the end? I'M IMMORTAL! I CAN'T DIE! I'll simply come back again, and mark my words, NEXT TIME YOU WILL DIE!"
Harry was largely unaffected by the not-man's words. He reached out and tugged again, eliciting a surprised yelp from the not-ghost.
A few moments later Voldemort realized that he wasn't able to get away. His ghostly form had no strength to it whatsoever, and somehow, despite being immaterial, the... boy was keeping him in place. "No. Let me go! DO YOU HEAR ME? LET ME GO!"
Harry smiled. And then he floated forward, both palms out.
Several seconds later, and after some rather chilling wails that echoed across the whole battlefield, it was done.
And all across the battlefield, all those that had come with Voldemort suddenly descended to their knees, clutching their left arm in pain. Almost as one they dropped their wands before them, whether they be standing on solid ground, mud, or among the corpses of the battle.
Hundreds of people had died that day, and the students and defenders of Hogwarts only mostly came out better than the Death Eaters; but with that sudden unease, the battle came to an end, the sound of Ron roaring with the backdrop of the volcano he'd created mirroring him.
In the days and weeks after the Battle of Hogwarts, as the papers had dubbed it, Magical Britain reeled from the after-effects.
Several major Ancient and Noble houses died out in that battle, while several more now had either members, heirs, or even sole members that had been marked with the Dark Mark. Many claimed that they'd been forced into servitude, whether by threats or coercion, but such claims fell flat when it was found out exactly how and why one obtained the mark.
Privately, Dumbledore recognized it as a modification of the ritual used for making Horcruxes. Specifically, the mark taker needed to shatter their soul through the murder of another, and then Voldemort would implant his own magic within the cracks, shoring up the soul while irrevocably tying it to his own. One could not be truly forced to do so, as simply not wanting to take a life while doing so, or being unaffected by the act as one would while under Imperius, meant that every single marked individual could, at minimum, be charged with at least one murder.
Normally, in the ministry of only a few days ago, such trials would be thrown simply because the killing of a Muggle counted for the ritual, and therefore obviously none of those that were marked could be charged with anything other than what had been witnessed, and even that was coerced by the very invasive nature of the Mark. But that Ministry was but a memory, as nearly two-thirds of its former number now counted among the captured and dead.
On the day of the attack Voldemort had pulled every single wizard, witch, and dark creature he could call upon on such short notice. Of the wizards, most had been placed 'on-call', and they came immediately. In addition, the results of an illegal brood of Basilisks from several hundred years ago that had been found in China, and some dragons bred in captivity in Australia of all places, had all boosted his numbers. But the real problem came when all those those people disappeared, all at once.
The implications were obvious, especially as Fudge had panicked and called in every single ministerial employee that could be reached, only to find that a full third of the Auror force had gone missing along with nearly half of the rest of the Ministry.
That the ruling body was so corrupted caused a rather severe backlash among the public. Fudge was sacked almost immediately, joining Umbridge, who had been sacked the day before for her part in what the Wizengamot called 'Gross and Burdensome Negligence and Abuses of Power'. In Umbridge's case it came down to the fact that inconveniencing and bullying Muggleborns was fine, but doing the same to Purebloods was suicide. Every rule and attempt at law that she'd had a hand in was reversed or at least put up for great scrutiny. It helped that the Wizengamot, too, had had rather a lot of fat cut from it.
All these changes in Britain's magical government came alongside changes elsewhere, such as in Hogwarts itself. While it mostly returned to business as usual, tension among the students peaked with each new announcement of this or that Death Eater who had died or been sentenced for either prison or death. The school had been shut down for well over a month as parents and families mourned the dead, and several more were pulled from the school entirely. Draco Malfoy, notably, was pulled by his mother shortly after finding out that his father was among the dead; he'd then been enrolled in Durmstrang, citing 'great emotional trauma connected to Hogwarts'.
The Magical government additionally created, for the first time ever, a foster system for magical children suddenly bereft of a real family. No longer would children be the responsibility of one man, but of a small committee, dedicated to their good care.
In relation to Harry and his friends, overtures had been cast for their reclassification as dangerous and berserk magical creatures; Ron, especially, was being cast into the light of a 'Dark Creature', but these overtures did not last long, especially after their paperwork had been filed. Now that Ron's form was complete and observable, all three friends could be fully registered as Animagi, even if it were now considered a rather useless gesture. Especially for Harry, who's shapeshifting lent a rather large headache to the registration office.
In the coming years Harry's friends found their places. Hermione became a teacher, taking over for Professor Binns to teach Magical History, a change welcomed by both Students and Staff, as well as being a convenient excuse to stay with the school where she could help protect the children as her powers continued to grow.
Ron, meanwhile, had gone into law enforcement. The Auror Corps changed quite a bit in those several years, not only because of being overworked and underpaid, barely appreciated as the task force they effectively became, but because of the Muggle world, which continued its alarming march forward in technology. That technology, as vulnerable as it was to magic, just like the people that designed it, was becoming increasingly pervasive. Witches and wizards were getting caught on camera more and more, performing feats, especially Apparition, that couldn't easily be explained away. This is why the Auror Corps had to get into contact, and create a working relationship with Scotland Yard and, to a lesser degree, even with lesser, more local districts. Ron loved and hated his job in the same breath.
Harry himself was something of a strange one in those years. He seemed happy to stop hiding, as Voldemort was no longer a threat, and hearing about a Prophecy involving the two of them simply made him shrug, not really having anything to say about it.
But overall, Harry seemed to all others to simply be happy to be involved. Much like Peeves he became an unofficial fixture at Hogwarts, often prancing about or playing with the children. Sometimes he disappeared, rarely for months at a time, but Hogwarts, as he said, was his home. Discovering that he had properties was of little importance to him, though he did find way to make use of them for the House Elves' sakes.
Voldemort lived on as well, though much changed. Harry's final bid to be free of the Dark Lord's threat was to take command of his broken soul. It had been explained to him by the visitor that had introduced herself as the one responsible for their altered potion, the one responsible for bringing the first Mew hair into his world, exactly what a Mew was. She had told him what a Pokemon was, and what his role as a deity was.
Mew, for all its power mixed in with childishness, had a very important role in the world they came from. Though there were only a few remaining, and they sometimes got help from other interested deities.
Mew was the Pokemon of New Life, the origin Pokemon; it took care to nurture life, so when a soul was too damaged or burdened to properly make its way to the afterlife, too tired or regretful, too angry or afraid to make the journey, a Mew would find them, help them in whatever way necessary.
Often this meant being reborn; going back into the world, given the opportunity to come to terms with death, or say goodby;, to open up from a defensive shell, or even be punished and taught a lesson. Whatever would prepare the soul best for the afterlife was Mew's domain, and almost always it involved a New Life.
This time was no different. Harry, having been informed that there was a piece of Voldemort's soul having taken residence within him, had been given responsibility for that soul. He needed to punish, reward, and teach that soul, it was his responsibility, and so he had claimed it.
The result was an egg, about the size of the Golden Egg from the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament, but black with colorful designs on it rather than one solid color. And this time, with the former Dark Lord's tattered, almost completely destroyed soul within it, it thrummed with life.
This was Harry's method for ending the war, for ending Voldemort's threat, and when said former man hatched into a large snake, Harry continued to be responsible for him. He taught him how to be what he now was, punished him as necessary, rewarding him when possible and overall taking an almost parental role for the young snake.
A parent with an almost Imperious level of control, due largely to holding command over his soul, true, but a parent nonetheless.
And so it went. Very few people really got all that they wanted, and there was, as ever, a lot of work to do to reach that mythical 'Happily Ever After'. Harry's intervention from time to time usually made things better, sometimes made them worse, at least in the short term, but while the students of Hogwarts usually thought of the little pink creature as a fixture of the school, almost belonging to it the same as the ghosts, none could deny his effects on the greater world around them. He seemed almost determined to change the world, though that could only be expected.
It wasn't until the Triwizard Tournament came around again, this time being held in Bulgaria, that the Magical world at large, beyond Britain's borders, really got a good look at just what Harry was capable of.
After all, when wizards gather together, they can't help but to show off, and despite not really being human anymore, Harry was no exception.
"Are you sure about this, Harry?" Hermione held her cloak around her as she adjusted it in the wind. It was getting on into the winter months, and despite the Muggles seeming to be worried about 'Global Warming', Hermione thought it seemed chillier than she remembered it. Or perhaps that was her imagination.
Regardless of her thoughts about the weather, especially knowing that it would be even colder at her destination, Harry merely grinned and bobbed up and down in an energetic, and perhaps somewhat odd mimicry of nodding 'yes'.
"Miyuuu! Mewmyuiu!" He then returned to flitting around wildly, as though checking everything was in order, although what he might be checking no one knew for sure.
"I admit to a bit of nerves, Hermione. I know for certain that something on this scale has never been attempted before. You're absolutely certain you can do it?" McGonagall frowned slightly as she watched her former student flutter around like a bird, mewling commentary she couldn't understand.
Hermione smiled at the older woman, still as strong as ever, even with nearly another decade behind her. "Yes, Headmistress. Harry will be doing the heavy lifting, of course, while I'll be watching the wards and the grounds. As I've told the Board, if I see any sign of instability, I'll call the entire adventure off and we'll simply have to arrive by more conventional means."
"Merlin, I'm not sure if I want this to work or not..." Shaking her head, the now more noticeably elderly Professor reminded herself that the Board of Governors had, indeed, approved this little stunt.
Then she snorted quietly, amused at the idea of this stunt being called 'little'. Straightening, she bade her temporary farewell. "Well, nothing more for it. I shall go inside and do my part. You'll have plenty of curious gawkers at the windows, no doubt, and many more will be watching through the enchanted ceiling, but there won't be so much as a pet outside on the grounds."
"Thank you, Ma'am, that will be very helpful." Both witches nodded before the elder of the two retreated back to the school, shutting the doors tight behind her.
Breathing a fortifying sigh, Hermione transformed, sending a mental signal to Harry that everything was prepared.
Harry responded first with a light giggle as he floated near a higher parapet on the western side, then he coasted closer toward the center of the castle, glowing more and more brightly pink as he went.
Hermione watched, amazed, as she felt as much as saw the raw power that Harry had suddenly started pumping out into the air and grounds in and around the school.
For several seconds, nothing else happened; then, like some kind of locust swarm small black dots, creatures in fact, began pouring out of every opening in the school, careening around the area like some kind of cloud.
Then the pink glow intensified and, just as Hermione was able to hear Harry's high pitched shout, the ground beneath her began to rumble.
She couldn't afford a lapse in concentration, so she largely missed the light show that the students inside were privy to, even if they had to watch through windows and enchanted walls.
Harry floated higher, the black cloud now forming a dome with several strings of them floating, almost meaninglessly in odd, whimsical designs within this dome, until Harry reached the peak of the structure. As he did so his pink glow suddenly erupted across the entire surface, crashing down into the ground in a great circle centered on the castle, physically impacting it with a resounding CRUNCH.
Then, slowly, agonizingly slowly, the castle and the grounds around it began to rise. Inch by inch. Foot by foot. The castle, the grounds, the lake and all of its dungeons rose into the air under the power and guidance of one small creature.
And then, just as it reached far enough into the air that it had started to brush low-hanging clouds, it vanished.
Thousands of miles away, at that very moment, the entire contents of the Durmstrang School of Magic had assembled on the lawn of their school. Like Hogwarts, this school had been made from an old castle, grand yet sturdy, powerful and ancient.
And most of those students were now growing quite anxious. They'd been expecting visitors for close to an hour now, and yet none had arrived.
Then some students began to mutter, noticing what appeared to be a dark cloud of bugs, or possibly birds in the distance, fluttering wildly over the nearby forests.
Muttering became hushed whispering, then morphed into all out chatter before being silenced by a great pink flash that temporarily blinded them all...
Awe, and honestly a bit of fear took them all, down to the last, as they looked up at the massive floating... well, mountain! An entire mountain had been set to floating, up-ended, and then a relatively small, though otherwise grand castle sitting atop the mountain's bottom, was now hovering ominously over the forest below the castle, as though it were a massive warship that had come in for the kill.
Shock and surprise had gone through the entire population of the school before, as ever, it began to wear away, changing into curious excitement.
The black cloud, which had flashed pink for a moment, had settled down and was now more like thin black chains holding the mountain in place. To the trained, experienced eye the patterns looked remarkably like the structure of a spell in flight, as though this entire incident had been caused by a single, massive spell, at a scale no one had ever heard of before. But upon closer inspection, the sharp-eyed observer would note that the substance of the black lines was not solid, but created by thousands of tiny black... things.
Of all those present, the two most prepared among them was two men. One was older, and the other quite a bit younger, but both had the royal bearing of noble blood. And both refused to show shock.
"Yes, go, please." And with a nod, the younger stepped forward.
Despite the cliff face affording the aberrant building far more room than it would have had otherwise, the distance between the two schools was still a comfortable walk to cross. And it also gave the young man enough time to observe more as he approached.
And to realize that the black dots were more than just dots. They were runes.
Runes with eyes! Living runes!
What an absurd idea. And yet, someone had apparently thought of such a thing. At least that explained how this had been pulled off. Sort of. Even with the runes, the power requirements to teleport an entire magical school, itself resistant to magic, would have to be monumental.
Still, as he noticed a figure approaching, walking seemingly on air, he gave a sense of apathy to the near heart attack that loomed mere yards away.
The figure noticed him standing there and walked, across a platform made of pure magic, toward him and gave him a polite nod.
There were a few moments of silence, then Hermione spoke again, "Headmaster McGonagall shall be down soon."
"And I shall guide them to Headmaster Karkaroff."
Silence again. Then an observation.
"Your lake is leaking."
Hermione spun around, then sighed. "So it is."
"The waterfall is a nice effect."
"Perhaps, but the Merfolk would be angry if we let the lake drain out."
"I can imagine so."
"So, have you made Deputy yet?"
"No, that honor went to Filius."
"Head of House?"
"My apologies." They stood silent for another moment.
"Ah. Keeping them in line?"
Draco grimaced, "I never was one for practical jokes. Seems I always have at least one student in detention." Feekind was a bit like taking the near anarchist tendencies of Gryffindor and mixing it with the political maneouverings of Slytherin. "Potter would have done well there. Well, before..."
"Yes. Speaking of."
A pink streak greeted them, zipping to within feet of their position with a loud "MEWEWWW!"
Hermione scowled at him, bringing him up short. She then jabbed her finger at the small waterfall coming out from beneath the school, which was being captured by the wind and distributed all over the forest below.
"Meeehhh-" Harry gave his head an embarrassed scratch before zooming off to plug the hole, and likely to deal with some irate mermen.
"So you even brought the dungeons?"
"Not doing so would have left the Slytherin dorms behind. Besides doing so being rather rude, no one could be bothered to think of a new place for them. Taking the dungeons without taking the lake would have collapsed it into the hole. So we took it all."
Malfoy sighed with a shake of the head as he noticed Headmistress McGonagall approaching with a procession of students, transfiguring some proper stairs from the nearby stone, rather than trusting the forcefields that the living runes had set up.
"It looks like we'll have to continue this conversation another time." He plastered a wide smile and walked forward. "Headmistress! So good to see you! I shall take you to the Headmaster for a proper welcome, if you'll come this way."
"Ever the gentleman, Professor Malfoy. Thank you."
The remainder of that educational year was rather interesting, to say the least. Although Hogsmead weekends were, understandably cancelled. Few people seemed to mind.
That's it! That's the end of the story. I hope it was satisfactory; it took long enough. Even after I finally got the will and energy to get working on it, it still took several months. Partly because I only seem to be able to do writing anymore during breaks and lunches at work, and partly because my computer suffered a Hard Drive crash and I lost everything I'd been working on for the previous year and a half. Most of what I lost for this story, other than the first draft of this chapter of course, was simply previous chapters, which have already been posted so that's alright.
But regardless, that's the end of the story! There won't be any more chapters for the main story, but there will (eventually) be sort of chapter-length Omakes, some of which have already been planned out, and a few of which are just silly ideas I think about sometimes.
Now that this story is complete, and I can finally call it complete (which feels nice), I can focus some more time on some of the other projects that have been simmering in the back of my brain. Specifically Emerald Dream, the HP/MLP crossover I hinted at several chapters back, which I've got a vague outline for already, and some backbones for some companion stories I probably won't put as much effort into for the time being.
And to all the people still with me after all this time, thank you so much! I can't say again how awesome it's been to have you all there, whether with an encouraging review every now and again, or with a Favorite (I keep finding my own story in peoples' favorites lists, which has done more to keep me motivated that I can really describe), or even just by reading without reviewing.
Thank you again, and have a good Evening!
Pokemon in this Chapter:
Entei is typically described as being roughly the size of a horse, perhaps a bit smaller, though the example in this story is closer to the size of a smallish elephant. Though not seen much in the Anime, Entei did have a feature film as an imagined protector made real by the Unown, where he acted as protector, guide, and temporary 'father' to a young girl under the influence of the Unown. Entei, as a legendary, is quite powerful in the element of fire, and is strongly linked to Volcanoes. It is said that Entei is born from the eruption of a Volcano, and that every time an Entei roars, a Volcano erupts. Strongly resembling a lion, it is the Fire-Type of three legendary beasts that have been called both 'Legendary Cats' and 'Legendary Dogs', although Nintendo simply refers to them as 'Legendary Beasts'. This is the creature that Ron turns into, being able to draw smallish amounts of power even in his human form, it treats him well in his chosen profession of Auror.
Gardevoir is a green, delicate-looking Pokemon with green hair, red eyes, and white flesh that flows from its arms and hips in a striking resemblance to a ballroom gown, which, together with the red 'horn' protruding from its chest, gives it a striking resemblance to a human woman, its average height of just over five feet helping the comparison. Gardevoir's greatest strength is in Psychic ability, but while it is strong in its own right, it is strongest when defending others, especially those it cares about, whereupon it pours all of its available power into a defense that few things can break through. Unlike Mr. Mime, which creates barriers as a matter of course, Gardevoir's shields are intended for the protection of others, and there are few shields in the Pokemon world that are stronger, which is thus why Harry transformed into one when his friends and House were threatened.
When Eevee is especially happy and being exposed to Sunlight, it evolves into Espeon. Exactly why this happens during the day, while an evolution into Umbreon happens during the night despite otherwise identical triggers is unknown. But what is known is that Espeon is a very powerful Psychic type, if a bit weak physically. Hermione's Pokemon form evolved into this Eeveelution due to the happiness and relief of finding Harry healthy and alive after believing him to have been gone, while the continued shine of Sunny Day caused her to become Espeon, otherwise she would have become Umbreon. As an Espeon she is far more in tune, now, with Harry, his abilities, and his thought processes, and with the right training could possibly almost keep up with him, though she prefers to think of herself as a Human first, and a Pokemon second.
Mr. Mime, despite its surname, is actually the name of a species of both male and female Pokemon. Looking and acting like the classic mime-in-an-invisible-box, it almost always either has its hands up against a flat 'surface', or mimicking others (although it's pre-evolution, Mime Jr., is better known for mimicry). However, unlike the average Mime, Mr. Mime's hands are usually against an actual surface, created using its psychic abilities and focused by the tips of its fingers. Its shields and barriers are second to very, very few, and have a wide range of effects ranging from blocking special attacks, physical attacks, to reflecting the same, which is what happened when Voldemort lost control of his 'unblockable' spell. In short, the Mirror Shield simply reflected it, rather than blocking it. The best-known 'Mr. Mime' in Pokemon Media is likely the one adopted by Delia Ketchum, Ash's mother, which stayed at home with her and is often seen helping around the house, while ostensibly keeping the woman company.
Seviper is a primarily black snake with brightly colored markings adorning its body, typically gold and blue. Although famous for its rivalry with Zangoose, it is generally a fairly average Poison-type Pokemon. In this case, however, it is a somewhat appropriate punishment for a Dark Lord that tore his soul to pieces in an attempt at immortality. He will live long enough for his soul to be healed, while also being subject to the rules he spurned before, in a form appropriate to him, and then will die just like everyone else.
Although everyone likely already knows what Mew looks like, acts like, and what its general abilities are, I thought I should point out the salient bits that may have been lost in translation for this story. Mew is usually referred to as the 'New Species' Pokemon, and is said to be the Ancestor of all Pokemon. In order to be this, it had to have existed before all other species, save perhaps Arceus. This means that it knew a world where Death didn't exist. So after Death started to be a thing, the way it worked had to be worked out. If all Pokemon came from Mew, that means that the other Legendaries did, too, therefore it was a Mew that became responsible for the souls of the Dead. When this responsibility became too much for one Legendary to do alone, other Mews volunteered to help, and thus they started to take the hardest cases to rehabilitate their souls so they can more smoothly progress through the death and rebirth process. This means, in my Pantheon at least, that Mew is literally a god of death and birth, specifically re-birth, while also having a very strong connection to the birth process, exhibiting itself earlier in this story as Harry's unaccountably close tie with the golden egg he'd gotten during the Triwizard Tournament. I might write up a full Headcanon Origin Story at some point and post it as one of those Omake Chapters, but for now I hope that answers any questions about that particular detail. ^^v
For now, this is Alex Ultra, getting back to work. *sneaky looks*
Alex Ultra: And Back To Normal