Summary: Originally written prior to the release of OotP, this is the August 2009 re-edited incarnation of Harry Potter and the Third Key, a broadly canon-style, fifth year fic that's now firmly, firmly AU.
Sword fights, apocalyptic battles, new kinds of magic. Love, betrayal, angst. Doing the right thing, doing the wrong thing, and doing it in style.
This is epic. This is dark. This is TTK:Reloaded.
Disclaimer: JK Rowling and assorted publishers own Harry Potter.
This is a work of fanfiction: no money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
The Magi were defeated. The Wizards, led by Salazar Slytherin, had finally swept the last traces of their Barbarian blood off the face of the planet; the last stand being made at Hoag Ward, a remote moor in the Northern highlands. 'Proof, then, that brawn is no match for brain,' he thought, as he surveyed his surroundings.
He knew that there were voices that had disapproved of his methods in the battle, but Avada Kedavra was the only weapon the primitives appeared to understand; Slytherin had little time for weak-minded liberalists, apologists who seemed to live purely to dream up new limitations to impose upon their own power.
Such reasoning did not make sense to Salazar; they were what they were. The liberals lacked the vision to see what power they could ultimately command, being too concerned with protecting the Muggles, who, though even more primitive than the Magi, were more numerous than the Wizards.
The Magi's stone circle was still intact - it would have to go; he disagreed with Rowena Ravenclaw on this point - she had been arguing that they should preserve the feature, that demolishing the structure now was nothing more than vandalism.
"Don't you see?" he'd asked, "we have evolved beyond the Magi stage - there's nothing they can offer that we do not already possess. We've proved that the precision and subtlety that is our art is superior to their bludgeon-like crudity. There is no possible gain in leaving a door open to our descendants to abandon all that we have learnt and return to these Barbarian ways."
The problem turned out to be the central stone. 'Boulder' seemed inaccurate a term - it seemed more like a large pebble. Perfectly smooth and uniformly black, it was the sole remnant of the original circle, the shattered fragments of which had been thrown into the lake.
They tried levitation charms at first, but they'd had no effect. A transportation incantation had been singularly ineffective. Slytherin had hurled lightning bolts at it, Hufflepuff had attempted to dissolve it with corrosive potions. Gryffindor had tried to pulverise it with a storm of boulders. After each attack, the stone remained exactly where it was, seemingly unchanged.
This resilience troubled the wizards. What kind of dark magic could create such an indestructible object? And what was the purpose of such a thing? News reached them that similar stones had been discovered at the fall of the Strang and Baton sects...
"So, my friends," said Slytherin, "we are left with this puzzle. The three centres of the Magi's power all appear to have these stones as central elements in some kind of shrine." They were standing to one side of the object in question - it was cold, and Ravenclaw was warming the group with a small fire of blue flame that sizzled as the drizzle fell.
"Clearly, these things are of some significance to the Magi," his contempt for the Magi was clear as he nearly spat the word out, "and as we cannot seem yet to destroy it, nor move it to a safe place, I feel we must protect it, and its brothers, in the sites they are now. We must prevent any possibilities of the primitives regrouping - so that means either destroying, or, in this case," he indicated the stone with a vague wave of his arm, "isolating, any focal points they may try to rally behind.
"We should not dismiss this as an innocent trinket; the Magi went through the trouble of dedicating the stone circle to them. It must have some significance. I therefore suggest that we post a guardian at each of the stones, to prevent any deluded fool from attempting to re-open the door we have only just closed."
"What sort of guardian did you have in mind?" enquired Hufflepuff. "The forest about us would provide good shelter from Muggle eyes, and there's the lake, too."
Slytherin nodded, thoughtfully, "This is true, and such wards and guards will be useful, but I was actually meaning to post a senior wizard as a guardian."
Gryffindor laughed. "You are getting paranoid, my friend. There is nothing here..." he made a show of turning round to survey the desolate landscape as he spoke.
"Nothing here, but this stone," corrected Slytherin.
"...nothing here but this stone, then. What, you would us assign wizards and witches to keep watch during periods of sabbatical? I cannot see too many volunteers for that."
Slytherin turned to Ravenclaw; "Rowena, maybe now is the time for your plan to be executed. I suggest that we found a school here in Hoag Ward - the headmaster would also keep care of this Soakstone."
"Soakstone?" asked Gryffindor.
"Well," Slytherin shrugged, "it seems to soak up everything we can throw at it. Anyway, a school - I believe that Rowena is right - the way to ensure that magic shall never again return to the barbarian hordes of the Magi is to ensure that our descendants all receive instruction in how to harness and utilise their abilities."
"And," added Hufflepuff, "we could encourage the Bulgarians and the French to do likewise with the Strang stone and the Baton one. Three schools of witchcraft and wizardry..."
"It has a certain elegance," continued Slytherin, "since we would be keeping the Magi at bay on two fronts - denying access to these Soakstones, and also ensuring that they cannot recruit, by teaching those magic born the route to the Higher Path."
And so it was that the schools of witchcraft and wizardry were born. Not, as the legends told, out of a philanthropic desire to promote learning, but, instead, as a mechanism to ensure that a defeated enemy could never again rise to a power that threatened the wizards' hold on the magical world.
Over time, the names softened and the schools grew, to become Hogwarts, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. The Magi were considered extinct; a crude, primitive ancestor to the rule of the wand.
The Soakstones, however, stayed exactly where they were, completely unchanged. Waiting.