Author's Note: I guess I don't know how to begin. I finally have a title, which is most of the reason this hasn't been up earlier. Oh, and I might as well say this just in case...if you have not read Atoning the Past then you should probably read that first just because everything will make better sense to you if you do read that first. Both Atoning the Past and this story, Amerliorating the Future are based off of the Severitus Challenge.
This chapter was really hard to write mostly because I had so many different things I could do and picking a path and sticking to it was hard particularly when every single one of them fit with the plot, but I finally settled for this which is probably good seeing as it led to exactly what I wanted to happen. I'm still not sure about it though and I think it still needs a lot of work but I guess it's fine. Enjoy. Please review.
Three months have passed since that fateful night when Dumbledore was killed and Harry vowed to kill his murderer, and it's been a year since Harry found out Severus Snape was his father, but this time it is not the worries of making a relationship work that cloud Harry's mind but how he will deal with the war that has now become all too clear, how he will find the Horcruxes in solitude, and how to distract himself enough to not think about his father. But how can he accomplish all of this when he's worried sick about his best friend and he has no idea where to begin searching for the pieces of Voldemort's soul.
July 31, 1998
The pristine white room belonging to Madame Pomfrey was, for the first time while holding a number of people, found in complete and utter silence. Harry Potter sat with his back to everyone in the room alongside the bed of his best friend, Hermione Granger. Most of his face was cast in shadow and gave the impression to anyone that looked at him that his face was no longer his own. This wasn't helped by the many changes that Harry had finished going through in the last months – his face was more angular and thinner, his lips themselves had become quite thin, and his hair had become much more manageable. It saw on his head now without sticking up in all directions unless he ran his hands through it which had become a habit for him quite like it had been for his step-father, James Potter. One of the few things that had not changed about Harry, since finding out that Severus Snape was in fact his father, was the lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead that was evidence enough for anyone that saw him that he was Harry Potter – The Chosen One.
The girl in the bed next to Harry was deadly pale. She wasn't breathing but instead lay as still as a statue looking much like she had when she had been petrified by the Basilisk in her second year at Hogwarts, though she too had changed since that year. She was on her back, eyes closed, her pale white hands folded together neatly atop the red and gold blanket that had been placed on her to offer the warmth that was clearly unnecessary. Her face was devoid of all color and if Harry had not known better, he would have imagined that Hermione Granger was dead.
"Harry," someone whispered from behind him.
Harry ignored the whisper and stood up. He walked to stand right beside Hermione and settled one of his hands atop Hermione's, running his thumb across the smooth skin of her hand. He lingered there, looking down at her for a long moment, wishing that she wasn't there on that bed looking cold and lifeless, and then after a moment, knowing that he would be stupid to continue his visit, he stood and turned to face the other occupants of the room.
The Twins, Bill, Mr. Weasley, Faye, Fleur, Tonks, and Remus were all waiting for him silently – they would be serving as his guard for the day. Usually he was allowed to leave his house to visit Hermione – something he made sure to do at least once a week – but as it was his birthday, everyone had agreed that he would need the extra protection just in case. Harry hadn't argued but simply gone along with it, in fact more than any of the others, he expected something was going to happen even if it didn't happen somewhere in his vicinity. He had been feeling like that all day, and was more than sure that he was right. It didn't help, he had decided over breakfast, that memories of his last birthday were plaguing him. What could happen during this one, his coming of age? Would he find out that he had a long lost brother or sister? Or better yet, was Lily Potter not even his mother? He knew that wasn't what would happen, but more than three people would lose their lives this time around.
As Harry offered Remus a small smile, his mind took him back to his last birthday. His memory depicted well the feeling of complete and utter surprise and shock that had come over him after he had read James' letter. He remembered the worry over what all of this information entailed, and about Snape's reaction to the news.
His and Snape's relationship, thought it had started rocky – what with their past – had gotten better over time. It had happened slowly and soon they had been entirely comfortable with each other. They had talked about so many things during his lessons with him, or just during the time they had spent together in the summer and afterwards. They had never really had the kind of relationship that a father and son should have had, but they had begun a friendship if anything and while some things had obviously been completely taboo and never brought up, what they had talked about had never been too awkward after those first weeks living together. It had been after Christmas that things had changed in a small sense, and Harry knew that might have only had something to do with the Horcruxes. Harry had never once mentioned them to Snape, even though he had been aware that Snape knew about them. Snape had never brought them up either, and the topic had been left alone without either of them perusing it as a topic of conversation.
However, it had been after the Malfoy incident that everything had changed for them, and as much as Harry had wished to talk to him and get back to the way things had been but so much had changed by that point. Harry had even recognized Snape as one more adult that didn't care for him, and then Snape had betrayed the Order and Harry by killing Dumbledore and had basically proven Harry's point, thought Harry had not exactly wished that his father had.
It had been a devastating loss, and Harry still stood by the promise he had made to both Dumbledore and Faye. He would avenge Dumbledore – even if it meant killing his father. Severus Snape would pay for depriving the world of the greatest wizard the world had known.
After his declaration, Faye had brought out her wand, and waved it at Dumbledore's body, while wiping away tears, and the body had been lifted into the air.
"Come, Harry," Faye had muttered, and then led him, with an arm around his shoulders back to the school, Dumbledore's body floating in front of them.
Shock had befallen him then and Harry had lost track of time, and before he knew it, he had been pushed into one of the cots in the hospital wing by Ginny and Mrs. Weasley, who had also taken his cloak, and his shoes, and transfigured his clothes into pajamas. He had barely noticed Ron's unconscious body, or for that matter Hermione who was sitting up in the bed next to his, looking at him worriedly. He hadn't seen the small first year that Madame Pomfrey was handing a potion to. He didn't see a shocked Tonks, pale white, looking at Remus in a strange expression of mixed emotions. He had noticed nothing and no one had said a thing to him, after they saw Dumbledore's dead body.
He had woken up hours later to hear a loud argument. The first thing he noticed was that Ron, Ginny, and the twins had their ears pressed to the door, as if they couldn't hear anything that was being shouted from the other side. Harry heard the rustling of sheets from somewhere next to him and found Hermione, sitting up in her own cot, with a book propped open on her lap, completely in her own world, ignoring the three Weasleys.
"I want to see him," Ginny said.
It was then that Harry realized that it was not in fact their ears that were pressed against the door, but instead their faces, as if they could see through the door. Harry would bet his arm that they probably could and it was due to something the twins had created.
"What's going on?" Harry had managed to ask, then.
"Harry!" Ginny shouted and ran from the door towards him. "Are you alright? Everyone's going to be happy you're awake! No one knows what happened yet. That blond woman explained a bit, and Hagrid said something about Snape and Malfoy but he wasn't being coherent enough. Aragog died last night, you see, so he's a bit distraught."
"I think he's really infuriating her now," Fred said with a laugh, looking up from being pressed up against the door. "Oh, hey, Harry, looking better than last night!"
"Who's out there?" Harry asked.
"Oh, just Scrimgeour," Hermione said with a roll of her eyes, closing her book. "He wants to speak with you but Professor McGonagall is arguing against it. Apparently he's been sending letters nearly weekly to Professor Dumbledore to allow him to see you, but of course Dumbledore kept him away, but now that Dumbledore is dead, well, he thought he would have a better chance to see you, and he was here to talk to McGonagall anyway. He tried to sneak into the hospital wing, but Professor McGonagall managed to catch him. Anyway, what happened last night? How are you? Where were you?"
"He does not want to see you!" Professor McGonagall's shrill voice was carried into the room.
Harry ignored it and looked at Hermione, and didn't answer. "What happened here?" He asked instead.
"Oh, well, there was a fight," Hermione said.
Harry shot her a dubious glance. She smiled back.
"Alright," Hermione said. "Well, really it was not that exciting. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time and we had to help out. No one knew how they got in, or for that matter where Dumbledore had gone. It was all a mess but we held our own, and then some of them left, going up to the tower, and I guess that was where you were. Snape went up there too. I guess one of them killed Dumbledore—" she trailed off.
Harry didn't bother telling her that it had been Snape who killed him, and that he had watched as the greatest wizard in the world had begged for his life. Instead, Harry got out of bed, put on his glasses for the sake of his friends and transfigured his pajamas into his school robes, and then he paced across the room, hoping that Scrimgeour would leave so he could go somewhere to think about everything that had happened the night before. It all had just flooded into his brain and he found a deep pain that he knew no one would understand. He had been betrayed by someone he had trusted.
"Alright, I'm ready to go I guess," Harry said to his guard, thoughts of the day after Dumbledore's murder still plaguing him, though he tried to push them back. Not even Occlumency helped in hiding from himself and his thoughts on this day.
He felt Faye's hand come to rest on his shoulder. "She'll be alright, Harry. We are so close to finding some way to bring her back."
Harry nodded, but knew that even if she was brought back it wouldn't make a difference. She couldn't change what had happened and what he would have to do to stop the war. Only he and Snape knew about the prophecy now – knew it to its entirety. Lucius and Remus knew about the Horcruxes, but weren't aware of Harry's knowledge on the subject, and of course so did Snape. There were so many things that he was keeping secret and so many things that he had to do. Hermione without a doubt would be okay as long as she had Faye to look after her, especially after he left.
The curse Hermione was under had been created by Snape, from what Harry had learned from Lucius Malfoy. From what he understood, it basically ate up her organs from the inside, killing her slowly and painfully. The process took two to three months, and within that time the victim was in constant pain and nothing would help to appease it. Faye had been the one to place her in the petrified state the moment they had figured out what the matter was, but it was taking too long to find a counter spell, or a potion that could reverse the effects, and if they took much longer than a year, there would be no helping Hermione. It was ironic that with the help of Hermione they probably would have already found it. From the very beginning of helping Faye in the library researching anything and everything Harry had felt as if he knew what could save her, but the answer had never come to him.
He remembered the day they had found out about the curse.
Only two days after Harry left the Hospital Wing to the confines of the room of requirement, which as it turned out was the only place anyone ever left him alone – for the most part because they couldn't get in – that Hermione collapsed. Harry had just left Headmistress McGonagall's office – where she had questioned him for what had been the third time, on the reason for why he and Dumbledore had left the school – when he saw Hermione. He had been contemplating the fact that he wouldn't answer Professor McGonagall's endless questions and how they had reminded him of the Horcrux which he knew was still sitting in his robes pocket in the room of requirement. He had meant to get a good look at since first taking it from Dumbledore, and then afterwards, the first time McGonagall had spoken to him, but hadn't gotten a chance to. He had been making his way back to the room of requirement to do just that before something else distracted him, when he saw Hermione walking calmly towards him.
He knew she had been looking awfully pale since he had seen her after the incident at the tower, but when he spotted her at that moment she looked tired, too thin, and scarily like she had just seen the most frightful thing in the world. Her eyes were wide open, and she was completely devoid of all color. She was hugging herself and looked as if she was going to collapse at any second. Harry rushed towards her, just as she let out a pain filled yelp.
"Hermione!" He called. "Are you alright? What happened?"
She didn't answer. Instead she tried to cough, and then seemingly disoriented, she wobbled on her feet and fell to the floor with a thump.
Harry ran to her side, and knelt next to her, reaching for her wrist. He could still feel her pulse which wasn't faint at all, and he could see her chest rising and falling. If it were not for the way she looked or for that matter the fact that she had just fainted, Hermione could have easily been asleep, Harry thought as he without a second thought, scooped her up effortlessly into his arms, making sure that her head was supported against his shoulder.
He took her as fast as he could down to the Hospital Wing, glad to not meet anyone in the halls. The students were still at Hogwarts and would be for another two days for Dumbledore's funeral. A few of them had left the school, having been picked up by their parents, but they would be back for the funeral. Lessons were no longer taking place, however, and all end of the year exams but the O.W.L.s and the N.E.W.T.s examinations were to take place. Harry had been quite surprised at Hermione's lack of response to the news when they had been told, but he had pegged it to the fact that she had come to understand that there truly was a war out there. Now, he wondered if it was because of something to do with the spell that Ginny had told him Hermione had been hit by.
Harry followed Mr. Weasley and Faye who were conversing about the recent happenings at the ministry.
"—he must be," Faye said.
"We cannot be sure," Mr. Weasley said. "We can't do anything until we are completely sure."
She nodded thoughtfully.
Behind him Harry heard Fred and George whispering to each other about some grand scheme they were planning, for a moment Harry considered joining them, but decided it would be best to keep away from the two troublemakers. Walking right in front of him were Tonks and Remus who had been acting odd for a while now. Sometimes Tonks was smiling for no reason at all, and the moment she saw Remus she would frown and leave the room, but Harry was sure they weren't having any problems with their marriage or each other – the two of them were as loving as ever, it was just that something else had happened and it was affecting them. Fleur and Bill walked together in silence, sometimes saying a word here or there to add to Mr. Weasley and Faye's conversation about the ministry. Harry walked among them without saying a word, glad that he wasn't being pressed for answers about that night two months before which Harry had done his best to tell the order about while keeping a few things to himself. The last time he had received a question on the matter had actually been during the double wedding for Remus and Tonks, and Bill and Fleur.
It had been strange to feel happy for someone in the midst of all the tragedy that surrounded him. Dumbledore was dead. Hermione was in a petrified state waiting for a cure. Harry's biological father had killed Dumbledore. Voldemort was practically immortal. Harry had no one to share his troubles with. Harry shook his head, trying to forget how Mrs. Weasley had tried to weasel something out of Harry that night, this being the first time she saw him since the Order meeting in which Harry had recounted what he could of the night that Hogwarts' greatest headmaster had died.
"We can't use the floo, you said?" Harry asked, having heard that earlier but not really registered the fact.
"Nor any other form of magical transportation," Mr. Weasley confirmed and didn't add what they were all thinking, that it would have been easier if Harry hadn't wanted to go see his friend.
Harry disagreed. Now that he had seen her one last time, he could leave Grimmauld Place without feeling the guilt of not having seen Hermione one last time. The danger of going to see her didn't matter, because he knew he would be putting himself into even more danger when he left in search of the Horcruxes. The idea had been cemented into his head – and he knew only Hermione could have talked him out of it – the moment he had finally looked at the locket that had served as one of the reasons Dumbledore was dead, the other being his father.
It had happened when he was sitting with Hermione the day they had figured out what was plaguing her. Faye had just put her under the spell to stop her suffering and had gone to try and find if Lucius had kept any notes on the spell that could help. Harry alone had remained in the Hospital Wing with Hermione, ignoring everything around him, knowing that it didn't make a difference anyway. He had reached into his pocket absentmindedly and begun fingering the locket. He had brought it out, hoping that no one would come in and see it.
He had brought it up close to his face to examine it, and then he had noticed it. The serpentine S was nowhere to be found. This wasn't Slytherin's locket. It couldn't be. He reached to open it, and quickly did, and out fell a folded piece of paper. Harry let it fall to the ground, knowing now that this was clearly not a Horcrux, and that more than that, Dumbledore had died in vain because they had not in fact gotten a Horcrux but instead only a fake.
The note had been for Voldemort, Harry had discovered when he had finally gotten the courage to pick it up and read it, addressed from someone with the initials R.A.B., the note had read:
To the Dark Lord
I know I will be long dead before you read this
but I want you to know hat it was I who discovered your secret.
I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match,
you will be mortal once more.
No one knew that he was going to leave the next morning. He had decided to wait until his seventeenth birthday, so he could at the most, claim that he was an adult and had a right to make his own choices. He wondered how they would all see it – if they would think that he was running away. He needed to figure out what he was going to do, and he had decided he needed to begin where it had all begun and that was Godric's Hollow. There was bound to be something there that could help him – he just knew there had to be. It was a gut feeling.
"So muggle transportation?" One of the twins asked, Harry was almost sure it was Fred.
"Not, quite," Mr. Weasley said.
"Then what?" The other twin, this time Harry was sure that it was Fred, asked.
"Brooms," Faye answered. "Brooms are hardly ever traceable. We're flying just to one of the safe houses, not far off. We will be partly under the protection of the Hogwarts' wards. We will be flying above the Forbidden Forest for half an hour, and then we will reach the end of the wards. Another half an hour from there is where we will find the safe house. It is one of the better hidden ones if I do say so myself, however, magic is not allowed anywhere within its grounds."—She stopped to look directly at the twins—"Magic will attract more than just Death Eaters where we are going."
"Then why go there?" Fleur asked as if she too had just learned the plan, and Harry was sure that she probably just had.
Faye didn't answer this time but instead Remus did, "Flying from here directly to the Burrow would not only be strenuous, but it would get us noticed easily and they are bound to be up to something today. What they did last year to Harry's relatives was only a small show of what Voldemort could do, and he's already named Harry's birthday as one of those days for his"—here he used air quotes for the next word—"celebrations."
Without further conversation they stepped out of the school, and Harry wondered when he would be back within its halls. He knew he wasn't going to come back for his seventh year, and he was completely unsure as to how long it would take him to hunt down Voldemort's Horcruxes, or if he would even manage to do that without losing his life.
Harry shook those thoughts out of his head and instead reached into his robes pocket, and pulled out his firebolt. He tapped it once with his wand and watched it grow, knowing now the reason Faye had insisted he bring his broom.
Tonks had done the same to her broom, as had Fred and George. Faye had just brought out her shrunken broom, and was tapping it, while Fleur, Remus, and Bill shot up into the air, seemingly to look around for anything strange and unusual that could hurt them on their try. Once the rest had gotten an okay from them, they joined them in the air, Faye flying to the front with Remus while Tonks hovered right above Harry. Bill and Fleur taking up the rear, while Fred and Gorge flew on either side of Harry and Mr. Weasley took to flying right underneath him. It reminded Harry heavily of when he had first been taken to Grimmauld Place back in his fifth year, and of course of his meeting with the metamorphmagus witch that had come to mean a lot to one of his friends.
The wind and his robes flapping around him was a comfort, and even though he had given up Quidditch and doubted he would play the sport until Voldemort was truly and finally gone, Harry knew he would miss flying, which was not something he would also be doing any time soon. He knew it wasn't the best way to travel and with the measures he had taken to make sure he was untraceable, apparition would work much better as much as he hated the feeling of being compressed.
Author's Note: This chapter basically summed up everything that happened in the last three months...and I guess it does leave a lot open but those three months were really unimportant other than the few things that Harry did mention. Chapter two will most likely be up next weekend Friday or Saturday. Any questions are of course welcome and thank you for reading. Please review.