Alright, final chapter, you guys! I admit, it's not exactly the most eventful story of them all, but in my defense, it is my first Harry Potter fanfic.
"So that makes it five: Nagini, the locket, the ring, the diadem, and the diary," Dumbledore said, sitting behind his desk as he gazed upon the diadem on top of it. Harry sat in his usual seat, feeling very satisfied. "That leaves the cup of Hufflepuff, which I am certain resides in Bellatrix Lestrange's vault. I am currently working on getting it. The goblins are proving most cooperative, after the goblin Griphook returned to the Gringotts."
"Griphook?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. "Why, did something happen to him?"
"It would appear that he and his brother Gornuk ran into some Death Eaters around a week ago," Dumbledore explained. "They tried to intimidate the goblins into joining Voldemort. When they resisted, Gornuk was killed in an escape attempt. Griphook was gravely wounded, but managed to flee. I wish for you, Harry, to write a letter to Ragnok, the goblin king and manager of Gringotts."
"Me?" Harry asked incredulously. "Hey now, Albus, I know I am the Chosen One and all that, but I highly doubt that the king of the goblins would listen to me simply because of that."
"Oh, it is not your status as the Chosen One that will convince Ragnok of your good intentions toward the goblins," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling. "It is your status as the Ninth that will convince him. After all, it was the First Prime who helped Gringott build the bank in Diagon Alley, and she helped take the first step toward goblin-human coexistence. I am sure that, if you tell him that you are the Ninth Prime, and that you have met with the First, he..." Dumbledore trailed of, no doubt noticing the pained look on Harry's face, which he had been unable to hide. "...he might be persuaded into letting you take a single item out of Bellatrix's vault."
"I can see your point." Harry nodded slowly as he collected himself. "I'll send him the letter. After all, it doesn't hurt to try."
"Harry," Dumbledore said, the twinkle in his eye disappearing as he leaned forward, looking concerned. "Forgive me for my abrupt rudeness, but may I ask what happened during your meeting with the First?"
Harry sighed. He knew Dumbledore would ask some time.
"I fell in love with a woman who had, apparently, been in love with me for hundreds of years," he said after a few moments of silence, seeing Dumbledore's eyebrows rise in surprise. "She... She put a love potion in my drink when I first arrived. It wasn't a real love potion, just something that would speed up the inevitable," he added quickly at Dumbledore's shocked look. "Then, she left me, passing on to the next life... Imam told me that she didn't want it, but that it was necessary in order for my heart to grow stronger."
"And did it?" Dumbledore asked quietly.
"I believe so," Harry said, nodding slowly. "I... It hurts, you know? But at the same time... I can't explain it. I'm grateful to Elvina. I don't know how, but I loved her, and still do, more than anything else. I can still feel her, like she's right behind me, watching over me. It fills me with confidence, and wipes away all doubts in my mind."
"I am pleased to hear that, Harry," Dumbledore said with a smile. "Let me just say that I am very proud of you at the way you are handling your loss. You are a better man than I am."
"I assume the whole thing with Grindelwald hit your pretty hard?" Harry guessed, to which Dumbledore nodded.
"Indeed... Gellert was... Did he tell you...?"
"He told me of your feelings," Harry confirmed.
"Gellert was everything I wanted in a life partner. Gender did not matter to me. It was his skills, and magical power, that attracted me. After his betrayal, I... I could not bring myself to fall in love again. I was worried that you may have suffered the same fate," Dumbledore said, heaving a great sigh.
Harry was surprised. He didn't think he'd ever seen Dumbledore with his guard down as much as it was now. It made Harry feel good to know that Dumbledore trusted him enough to drop his guard like that.
"Well, you know what they say," Harry said, shrugging with a smile. "It's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. We are a shining example of that, compared to someone like Voldemort."
"Well said, Harry," Dumbledore said, chuckling, "well said."
As Harry stepped into Gringotts, he felt very uncomfortable. Every goblin that he got within a few feet of were giving him scrutinizing looks. They were filled with neither trust nor distrust, and it greatly unnerved Harry. He preferred it when they just gave him distrustful looks. At least he could read those looks.
As Dumbledore requested, Harry had sent a letter to Ragnok, but he didn't tell him what he wanted. Instead, he simply requested a meeting, a request he was surprised to find was approved in the reply he got just a few hours later. He hadn't expected the goblin king to agree to a meeting so readily, although he suspected that his title of Ninth had something to do with it.
"Mr. Potter?" came a voice from behind Harry as he stood shifting in his robes. As he was expected these days to be an imposing, heroic figure, he felt it silly to run around looking like a rebel teen. Instead, he had taken some robes he found in Avalon, black with gold trim, and put them on for the meeting. He turned around, and found a goblin he recognized.
"Griphook?" he asked, his eyes widening as he saw the state of the goblin. His face was heavily scarred, and although it was only about half as scarred as Moody's face, it was still rather hideous. But he had read up on goblins. Scars were proof of bravery, apparently. He also saw that the goblin was leaning heavily on his right leg, suggesting that his left was injured.
"You remember me, Mr. Potter?"
"Of course I do," Harry said, nodding. "You were the goblin who showed me to my vault the first time I ever visited Gringotts."
"A meeting that has earned me quite a reputation, Mr. Potter," Griphook said, also nodding. "Even amongst goblins, you are very famous."
"I heard that you were captured," Harry said. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"You are sorry?" Griphook asked as he peered suspiciously at Harry, who felt his eyebrow raise in confusion. Was that rude? "You truly are an unusual wizard, Harry Potter, as the rumors tell us."
"I take it not many wizards would give a goblin their condolences?" Harry guessed, to which Griphook nodded.
"They seem to believe that we are beneath them."
"Well, I don't know about other wizards, but I sure aren't going to start insulting the people who safeguard my fortune. That would be bad for business."
Griphook gave a nasty grin.
"Indeed, Mr. Potter. Indeed."
Harry saw Griphook's eyes flash down to the sword strapped to his waist, but Griphook's gaze quickly moved back to lock with Harry's eyes.
"Our lord Ragnok is expecting you, Harry Potter. Follow me, please."
"After you," Harry said with a bow of his head.
Instead of going through the usual door that led to the railway system that took visitors to their vault, the two walked through another door, this one made of ebony instead of iron. The door opened up to reveal a long marble hallway, which had doors on either side, many doors, probably goblin offices. At the end of the hall was a long set of marble stairs. Griphook led Harry past all the offices and up the stairs.
They came upon a set of double doors at the top of the stairs. These doors were made of gold, with the Gringotts crest on each door. Griphook knocked once, and the doors swung open.
The office they stepped into was round. In the back stood a single desk with an ancient goblin sitting behind it. The walls were lined with bookcases and shelves filled with parchments, inks, quills, gold, silver, copper, scales of all kinds of metals, and various other tools.
"Lord Ragnok," Griphook spoke in Gobbledegook, the language of the goblins, making the ancient goblin look up. "Harry Potter is here to see you."
The goblin gave Harry a scrutinizing look, and Harry took the time to look him over. He was, indeed, ancient. His face was heavily wrinkled, the skin under his eyes sagging. His long, pointed nose was slightly crooked, his eyebrows were incredibly bushy, and his beard, which must have been the usual pointy beard on his chin in his youth had grown so long that it reached down to his chest, where it ended in a curl.
"Ah, Harry Potter," Ragnok said after a few moments of silence. Although he looked like the goblin version of Dumbledore, his voice sounded young, and still had that nasty sharpness to it that Harry had come to associate with goblins. "Welcome. You may leave us, Griphook."
"Feel better, Griphook," Harry told Griphook in Gobbledegook, which made both goblins go wide-eyed. If it was because he could speak Gobbledegook or because he wished a goblin well, he didn't know, but he could tell that they were very surprised.
"Have a good day, Harry Potter," Griphook said finally, bowing to Harry, and then to Ragnok, before leaving the office, the golden doors closing behind him.
"I have been looking forward to meeting you, Harry Potter," Ragnok spoke in Gobbledegook as he gestured for a very comfortable-looking chair in front of his desk. "Please, have a seat."
"Thank you," Harry said as he walked across the office, sitting down. "It's an honor to finally meet you, Lord Ragnok the... Fifth?"
"Indeed," Ragnok said with a nod. "You know your goblin history."
"I think my old History of Magic teacher is in love with you goblins," Harry joked with a small smile on his face. "All he ever does is drone on about goblin rebellions."
"You do not find our history interesting?" Ragnok asked, raising a bushy eyebrow.
"Keep in mind that I said 'drone,'" Harry said. "I find your history to be very interesting, but when it is told in a monotone voice without pause, it can get boring. Most of your history, I have learned through books."
"Wizard books," Ragnok said, and Harry noticed a hint of disgust in his voice, "written by wizards, for wizards, out of a wizard's point of view. I care not for your history books, Harry Potter."
"I know you don't. But the book on goblins that I have read was written by Elvina the Oracle," Harry said, smiling still. He was pleased to see both of Ragnok's eyebrows rise in surprise.
"And how did you come upon that book, Harry Potter? I was under the impression that the First Prime and all of her belongings has been lost."
"Not lost," Harry said, shaking his head, "merely forgotten."
"In your letter, you claimed to be the Ninth Prime of Merlin," Ragnok said. Apparently, he had decided that the time for small talk was over, and it was time to get down to business. "This statement was enough to earn my interest, but I cannot guarantee that I will agree to whatever it is you wish from me."
"I wouldn't expect you to agree to anything without knowing what it is," Harry said. "What I want is-"
But he was interrupted by Ragnok, whose eyes, like Griphook's, had flashed down to the sword.
"That sword," he said, narrowing his eyes, "that is the sword of Godric Gryffindor, is it not?"
"It is," Harry said with a nod. "Why?"
"Once a goblin-wrought object is imbued with its maker's magic, it is impossible to destroy or reshape," Ragnok said, staring down at the sword. "How could you have done this?"
Harry shrugged. "I just channeled my magic into it and transfigured it."
"That is reassuring," Ragnok said, much to Harry's surprise. "Allow me to explain... There has ever only been one person whose magic has been strong enough to overpower a goblin's magic. Can you guess who that wizard was, Harry Potter?"
"Merlin?" Harry asked, to which Ragnok nodded.
"Indeed. The fact that you have been able to reshape the legendary sword forged by Ragnuk the First himself is proof that you, like the Primes before you, have inherited Merlin's magic. Whatever suspicions I may have had regarding your claim to the position of Ninth are gone."
"Why did you speak of Gryffindor with such venom in your voice?" Harry asked, finding himself straying off subject as he took the sword off his belt and held it up. "He must have been a good friend of the goblins for someone to have made this for him."
"Wizarding arrogance," Ragnok spat. "It is true that Ragnuk the First sold the sword to Godric Gryffindor, but he sold it only to Godric Gryffindor!"
"Pardon?" Harry asked politely, blinking. "What does that mean?"
"The sword should have been given back to the goblins when Gryffindor died. That is the goblin way."
"But why? Gryffindor bought it fair and square," Harry argued. He couldn't believe that what was supposed to be a discussion regarding the cup in Bellatrix's vault had turned into an argument regarding the sword.
"A purchase from a goblin is temporary," Ragnok said. "All objects belong to the creator, not the purchaser. That is why the sword should have been returned to Ragnuk when Gryffindor died."
"But you aren't talking about a purchase," Harry said, scratching his head. "You are talking about renting. A purchase is permanent, an item permanently swapped for money. That is the human way. I am sure there was just a misunderstanding from between different customs."
"Be that as it may, we have requested the sword be returned several times, but it has not."
"That, you can chalk up to human arrogance. Most people wouldn't take the time to learn your customs. They have probably just assumed that you were trying to cheat them," Harry agreed. He may have been a human, but that didn't mean that he agreed with humans all the time. "So, shall we talk, then, about how much you want for my purchase of the sword of Gryffindor?"
"What purchase are you talking about?" Ragnok asked, his bushy eyebrow rising again. "A goblin purchase, or a human purchase?"
"Human, of course," Harry said.
"You cannot expect me to simply sell a goblin artifact the human way," Ragnok said, scoffing. "It is unthinkable!"
"There has to be something," Harry said. "What do you want for it?"
"The sword is very old, and changed, probably imbued with Basilisk venom. It's not worth as little as it was then."
"Ah, so you agree that a human purchase is acceptable, and we now just have to haggle over a prize?"
Ragnok made a humming noise as he stared sharply at Harry.
"Indeed, Harry Potter. But I don't think you can afford it."
"You look like a very rich goblin," Harry said, humming, "so you no doubt have enough gold, and I'm not eager to part with the larger part of my gold for a sword. I can, however, offer you favors."
Harry saw that he had caught Ragnok's interest. Elvina had told him that goblins valued favors. In exchange for a rather large patch of land, the mountain where she had made her hideout, and the secrecy of that hideout from even the goblins, Elvina had offered favors, and those favors had immediately been called in, such as having the goblins recognized by the Ministry as sentient being.
"Favors," Harry nodded, smiling. "I can offer you five big favors, provided that it is within my power to do so, in return for permanent ownership of the sword of Gryffindor. It has great sentimental value to me."
"Will you shake on that?" Ragnok asked, narrowing his eyes. "A person's word is his bond, and if you do not follow through..."
Ragnok didn't need to continue. The threat was obvious, and Harry nodded immediately.
"I have no intention of breaking my word," he said as he held out his hand over the desk. Ragnok studied it for a moment, and then shook it, nodding.
"Then we have a deal, Harry Potter. However, the sword was not what you came here to discuss originally, was it?"
"It was not," Harry said, shaking his head. "See, I am sure you can tell just how much goblins would suffer under Voldemort's rule, can you not?"
Harry noticed that Ragnok didn't flinch when he heard Voldemort's name. He did, however, make a somewhat disgusted face.
"I can," Ragnok said, nodding. "But we are also suffering under the current rule, with wizards thinking themselves better than everyone else..."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Harry said, smiling. "I have big plans, and none shall be seen as less than another once all those plans are complete."
"What do you want, Harry Potter?" Ragnok asked.
"Voldemort has stored something in the Lestrange vault," Harry explained cautiously. "I realize that it is a big thing I am requesting here, but that item is crucial in defeating Voldemort once and for all."
"You say defeat..."
"Not kill. I have no intention of killing Voldemort, unless he forces my hand. The Dark Lord Grindelwald was never killed, and he hasn't been a threat since he was defeated."
"And you would like Gringotts to neglect our duties, granting you access to the vault of one of the oldest families there is?" Ragnok guessed, and Harry nodded.
"It is a lot to ask, but it's very important. Believe me when I say that I do not do this for personal gain."
"You are the last wizard, Harry Potter, that I would accuse of seeking things that do not belong to you for personal gain. What, exactly, is it that you want from the Lestrange vault, Harry Potter?"
"I want a cup," Harry said, pressing his fingertips together in front of him, his elbows against the armrests of the chair he was in. "It is the cup of Helga Hufflepuff."
"Another goblin-wrought artifact."
"An artifact I need to damage."
Ragnok's eyes widened considerably at that, and he immediately shook his head.
"Out of the question. I have my pride as a goblin, and even if I would allow you to take an artifact out of that vault, one of the oldest vaults in Gringotts, I would never allow it to be damaged by a wizard, Prime or not!"
"I merely need to scratch it with this," Harry said, patting the sword at his hip. That cup has been defiled by very Dark magic, if not the Darkest. I need to cleanse it, and I could only do so with either Basilisk venom, or Fiendfyre."
Ragnok's eyes narrowed as he gave Harry a sharp look. Harry didn't need Legilimency to know that Ragnok was going through his memory for any spell or curse that could only be undone by Basilisk venom or Fiendfyre. He appeared to have come up with the answer, as his eyes once more widened considerably in shock.
"He couldn't have..."
"If we are thinking about the same thing, then yes, he did," Harry said. "That is why I need that cup. It keeps Voldemort chained to the realm of the living. I am hoping that if it's destroyed, and he is faced with his own mortality, he'll become a bit more open to the concept of surrendering."
"Why do you not want him dead?" Ragnok asked, quite obviously confused. "From what I understand, he has caused you more suffering than anyone else."
"I want him punished for his crimes," Harry said seriously. "Death is too easy for him."
"This is a serious crime for the goblins, Harry Potter," Ragnok said, straightening up. "I will consider this, and I will take it up with the High Council of Goblins. If they deem it to be too great a violation of our laws, then I am afraid that there is nothing I can do to help."
"I am grateful that you would even take the time to consider it," Harry said, bowing his head. "I thought you would throw me out at the slightest hint of my suggestion."
"Although I tend to not listen to fools, I do have a keen nose for profitable business," Ragnok said. "I am not one to pass up on a golden opportunity."
"Are you calling me a fool, King Ragnok?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I am calling you an unusual wizard, Harry Potter."
"So, you're calling me a fool?"
"A likeable fool."
Slowly, Harry nodded.
"I can live with that."
When Harry returned to Avalon that evening, he let out a sigh of relief as he stepped through the portal, which was located inside the Shrieking Shack. He was surprised, however, to meet Alastor Moody in the portal room, looking grumpy as ever. Moody nodded in greeting, both eyes on Harry.
"Moody?" Harry asked, blinking. "What are you doing here?"
"There's an Order meeting tonight," Moody growled out. "Dumbledore sent me here to wait for you. They're all in the War Room."
Harry nodded and followed Moody out of the portal room, all the way to the War Room, where he found that most of the Order had showed up for the meeting. Dumbledore, sitting in one of the General chairs, which was one of the chairs on either side of Harry's chair, their backrests higher than the rest, but not as high as the backrest of Harry's chair, looked up when Harry and Moody entered the room.
"My word, Harry!" Dumbledore said jovially, smiling brightly. "You look like a wizard!"
Harry raised an eyebrow as he took in Dumbledore's purple robes. Unlike he usually had, there was no pattern on these robes, no stars or moons.
"And you look quite like a dried prune," Harry commented, which elicited gasps at the disrespect from most of the Order, while some chuckled heartily, including Dumbledore.
"Bill and Fleur tell me that you spent quite some time in Ragnok's office," Dumbledore said as Harry sat down in his seat, while Moody took the other General chair. "How did it go?"
"Well, Ragnok has decided to bring the matter up with the High Council," Harry explained. "It would seem that they greatly favor us now, especially since I permanently purchased the sword of Gryffindor from them."
"Oh?" Dumbledore asked, his eyes twinkling. "And what did you pay for it?"
"Favors," Harry replied. "I have also given the promise that I will get the goblins more respected in the wizard world."
"Very good, Harry. Very good," Dumbledore said, nodding in appreciation. He had seemed slightly annoyed (not that you could ever tell with Dumbledore) when he wasn't allowed to sit in the highest chair in Avalon, but he had adjusted to his General chair quite nicely. Despite the fact that Harry sat in the most imposing chair, it didn't stop anyone from giving Dumbledore their full attention.
"Kingsley, I believe you had something to say?" Dumbledore asked, now looking to the bald Auror, who was sitting right across from him, between Sirius and Hestia Jones.
"I believe that Pius Thicknesse has been put under the Imperius Curse as well," Kingsley spoke in his deep voice, which carried across the entire room. Everyone stared at Kingsley in surprise. Apparently, that was a big blow. From what Harry had heard, Pius Thicknesse was the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, taking over after the death of Amelia Bones, a great loss.
"That is... unfortunate," Dumbledore spoke gravely. "Pius is, after all, next in line for Minister."
"Do you think that Voldemort will make a move to take over the Ministry?" Harry asked, glancing at Dumbledore, who hummed.
"I do not know," he said as he shook his head. "I suspect that he will. He has, after all, infiltrated most of the Ministry. Have you glimpsed into Voldemort's mind lately?"
"I have," Harry said with a nod. "But it's getting harder. He's using Occlumency against me, getting stronger and stronger every day. Now, I'm limited to deciphering mere emotions. He's been getting more and more pleased as the days go on. That's a bad sign."
"Indeed," Dumbledore said. "Keep an eye on the Minister, Kingsley," he told the Auror, who immediately nodded. "If anything happens, I want you to let me know immediately. Sirius, any news?"
"Death Eaters have started coming back to Britain," Sirius said gravely. "They're increasing in numbers. They seem to have recruited more soldiers while out of the country. I think they're getting ready to focus on the matters here. Voldemort may have abandoned his search for that Oracle in the prophecy."
"What did that mean, anyway?" the very pregnant Tonks asked, sitting next to Lupin, who was next to Sirius. "That whole 'know the Oracle' thing?"
"No idea," Harry said, shaking his head. "I have met the Oracle, and I got to know her, but there are so many ways to interpret that. Voldemort suspects that it's merely to know the history of the Oracle, and that's why he's abandoned the search for her, as he learned about her while he was at Hogwarts. If that's it, then he's already won. Otherwise, I'm the one who's won."
"So, it's a coin toss now?" Sirius asked, to which Harry nodded. Sirius hummed and reached into his pocket, taking out a Galleon. "Heads, and it's Harry's win."
Sirius flipped the coin into the air, and all eyes were on it as it went up, then fell onto the surface of the table. It bounced once, then spun on its side for a few seconds. Everyone stared in anticipation as it slowly stopped spinning...
But it never fell...
Everyone stared in shock as the gold coin, its shape very uneven, stood perfectly on its side.
"Well..." Sirius said, clearing his throat. "Wow..."
Harry let out a sigh of relief. "Well, at least it wasn't tails..."
Dumbledore cleared his throat rather loudly to draw everyone's attention away from the gold coin. "Severus, what do you have for us?"
The greasy-haired Potions professor, who Harry hadn't even noticed yet, sitting closest to Moody, glanced at Harry, then looked at Dumbledore.
"Everyone speaks the truth. The Dark Lord has been very pleased with the recent developments. He believes himself to be ready to take the Ministry within the week. I have, however, planted some traps which will postpone his plans for at least fourteen days."
"Very good, Severus, thank you," Dumbledore said with a bright smile. "And about the prophecy?"
"The Dark Lord believes himself to have figured it out, and believes that he will emerge victorious the next time he and Potter duels. Although he has expressed concerns to me. After Lucius' failure in the Ministry, it appears that I have become his most trusted, not that he truly trusts anyone..."
"And what are the concerns, Severus."
"He feels weakened," Snape said quietly. "It's not much, but basically, it feels like a single drop has been taken from his vast well of magic."
At those words, Harry felt his ring vibrate slightly, but other than his fingers twitching ever so slightly in surprise, he showed no signs of having felt it.
"He believes that Potter did something to him, and has ordered me to find out what it was."
"I invented a spell," Harry said, smirking. "You can tell him that. You could tell him that I have invented a spell that drains the victim of their magic permanently. That should make him sweat a little."
"It's not nice to lie, Harry," Sirius chided jokingly, while some chuckled.
"That lie may work," Snape said seriously. He hadn't looked at Harry, nor Sirius, when they spoke, instead staring down at the table, appearing deep in thought. "Given the Dark Lord's recent paranoia regarding Potter's new-found powers..."
It looked like it physically pained Snape to admit that Harry was powerful, and Harry felt very pleased to know that he had become so powerful that not even Snape could pass it off as luck.
"And the preparations...?" Dumbledore trailed off, glancing at Harry, who nodded.
"They are done. Everything is ready."
Dumbledore sat there and stroked his beard. Harry noticed that the Order members were looking at Harry and Dumbledore strangely. They had no idea... No idea what the two of them had planned. Harry himself could hardly even believe what they had planned, so he doubted that any of them could guess...
The meeting slowly started becoming unintelligible as everyone started talking to everyone, muttering loud enough for buzzing to be heard, but not loud enough to be overheard by anyone.
"Albus," Harry said, leaning in toward Dumbledore, who raised an eyebrow. "You know, I've been thinking about the final Horcrux."
"I have been expecting you to have second thoughts, Harry," Dumbledore said kindly. "It is only natural, but I am afraid that I see no other way to-"
"But I do," Harry whispered. "Listen, Basilisk venom can destroy a Horcrux, right?"
"And injecting me with Basilisk venom would destroy the Horcrux, yes?"
"I am afraid not," Dumbledore said, shaking his head. "After all, Harry, you have been poisoned before."
"Yeah, but that was my arm," Harry said, then gestured for his scar. "The Horcrux is here. It's worth a try, isn't it?"
"I suppose it is worth a try, but there is not guarantee that Fawkes will give you his tears, although I suspect that he would do so quite willingly."
"He already has," Harry said. He reached into his pocket and took out a phial. It was filled to the cork with a clear liquid, which made Dumbledore's eyes widen. "Fawkes seemed to believe that I might get recklessly hurt during my travels, so on the first day, he filled this with his tears for me."
"If you believed this theory to work, then why have you not done it yet?" Dumbledore asked quietly. He looked quite relieved at the possibility of another solution regarding the Horcrux in Harry's head.
"Two heads are better than one," Harry said, shrugging. "I wanted your opinion first. And I need someone to cut me. Will you help me, Albus?"
Dumbledore's beard twitched with mirth.
"You know, Harry, it is very refreshing to hear one as young as you calling me by my name."
"Are you sure about this, Harry?" Dumbledore asked cautiously as they stood in Dumbledore's office that evening. Dumbledore was holding the sword of Gryffindor in his hand and the phial of Phoenix tears in his other, and Harry was sitting in the center of the office.
"I'm sure," Harry said, taking a deep breath. "Now, make sure to run the entire length of the scar. We don't want to take any chances."
"Do you wish for me to do it quickly and recklessly, or slowly and painfully?"
Harry gave Dumbledore a glare for giving him such horrible choices, and Dumbledore seemed like he couldn't stop smiling. He must have had great faith in Harry's theory, or he never would have been so jovial at such a crucial time.
"If you're a good fencer, do it quickly. I-"
A flash of silver, and a burning pain in Harry's forehead interrupted him as he saw Dumbledore lowering the sword. Apparently, Dumbledore had come up with the same idea in his youth as Harry, that fencing would greatly improve one's wrist movements, perfect for spell-casting.
"How long?" Dumbledore asked as Harry immediately felt the venom work in his body.
"The last... second..."
That familiar white-hot pain was spreading from his head throughout his body as his vision started to blur. He had to admit that the weightlessness he was feeling was very calming. If it wasn't for the pain, he would be quite enjoying the feeling of Death wrapping its arms around him.
Then, it happened...
Pain, even more intense than that of the Basilisk venom, erupted from his scar. A terrifying scream echoed in his head. Harry lurched forward, clutching his scar, and couldn't hold in his own scream of pain. He felt something, something thicker than blood, pouring into his hands from the wound. It was hot, so hot that it felt like it was burning him, yet at the same time he felt no pain from the substance itself.
Then, the pain subsided, and Harry felt the drowsiness take over him. And then, everything went black...
After what felt like a second, Harry snapped his eyes open, and found himself lying on his back, staring up at a clear-blue sky. He didn't remember passing out in the grass. Hadn't he been in Dumbledore's office just now? Groaning, he sat up and looked around. He was on a grassy cliff, overlooking a vast ocean. Behind him, he could only found grassy fields, stretching out as far as he could see.
With a start, he discovered that he was, to his embarrassment, naked. This was, by far, every man's worst nightmare. To wake up somewhere you don't recognize, starkers... At least he wasn't cold, as the sun high in the sky was warming him up quite nicely. It still would have been nice to have some clothes, though.
Barely had the wish formed in his head than robes appeared a short distance away. He took them and pulled them on. They were, he noticed, dress robes, very nice ones, too. They were soft, clean, and warm. It was remarkable how they had simply appeared like that...
A noise reached him through the silence, small soft thumpings of something that flapped, flailed, and struggled. It was a pitiful noise, yet also slightly indecent. He had the uncomfortable feeling that he was eavesdropping on... Harry cleared his throat. This noise was not to be associated with something as pleasurable as sex.
Turning slowly to his left, he saw, in the grass, the thing that had been making the noises. It had the form of a small, naked child, curled on the ground, its skin raw and rough, flayed-looking, and it lay shuddering in the sun.
Making a disgusted face, Harry slowly reached out with his foot and poked the thing. It gave off a pained whine, and Harry immediately pulled his foot back.
"Quite pitiful, isn't he?"
Harry spun around, and saw someone he least expected to see. Elvina stood there, dressed quite differently than she had the last time he saw her. She was now wearing a very cute, white sundress with a rose pattern going up one side of it. She was smiling at Harry, who saw that her gray eyes, unlike the last time he'd seen her, weren't cobwebbed.
"Nice to see you, Harry," she said, sounding very pleased.
"Elvina..." Harry said, gaping at the woman. "You... How...?" Then, his mind came to a realization, and he slowly nodded. "So, I'm dead, then?"
"Are you?" Elvina asked, her tone changing to one of amusement as she walked up to Harry kissing him softly on the lips. She gave him a smile, and then walked over to the baby-like thing in the grass, kneeling and picking it up, cradling it as she would a newborn child.
"Well, you're here," Harry said, rightly feeling that that fact alone solidified the conclusion that he was dead.
"Yes?" Elvina asked, still sounding amused.
"Is this a dream, then?"
"Of course it isn't," Elvina said, laughing softly, a sound that made the thing in her arms whine again. "You know as well as anyone that dreams are much more... confusing... than this. If this was a dream, I have little doubt that your Potions teacher would appear, wearing a cape and a top hat, scolding you for slacking off."
Harry couldn't help it. Even with his surprise and shock, he still managed to laugh at the mental image, and Elvina laughed as well.
The creature whined again, and Elvina hushed it softly.
"But if I'm not dead, and you are dead, and this isn't a dream... what is it?"
Elvina hummed as she looked around. "That is the question, isn't it? What is it? That, I'm afraid, is all up to you. Do you want this to be some form of afterlife, rendering you unable to return to the world of the living?"
"Do I have to answer that?" Harry asked, blinking. Elvina chuckled and shook her head.
"Not really. We both know the answer, so there is no need to be saying it."
Harry nodded slowly as he watched Elvina rocking that hideous creature, humming a tune to herself.
Elvina paused for a second, and then resumed her rocking, nodding.
"We both know the answer as to why I didn't say good-bye, so there is no need to be saying that either."
Harry nodded again, keeping his eyes on the creature in Elvina's arms. He walked closer to her. "Elvina," he said. "What is that thing?"
"This?" Elvina said, nodding down toward the creature, who gave off a whine. With a nonchalant shrug, Elvina rocked the creature back further than before, and calmly chucked it over the cliff. Harry's eyes widened as he ran to the edge of the cliff. How high was it, anyway? He saw nothing falling. The creature was gone. There was no splash, no nothing. He looked back to Elvina, who shrugged and said, "It's nothing. Not anymore, anyway."
"That..." Harry pointed down the edge of the cliff. "Was that...?"
"Yes, it was the piece of Voldemort's soul that had attached itself to you."
Humming that very same tune again, she turned her back to Harry and walked off. Harry, thinking of nothing better to do, followed her.
"You were right, you know," Elvina said with a smile as she looked back at Harry. "The sun truly is very beautiful."
"Just like you," Harry said, nodding. Elvina laughed softly and suddenly stopped. She turned toward Harry, who stopped as well, and took his hands in hers. Her expression, Harry noticed, had turned solemn.
"Harry," she said quietly. "I'm sorry."
"For the potion?" Harry asked, knowing what she was thinking about. She nodded. "Don't worry about it," he said. "I don't blame you for doing what you did. I'm not saying it was the right thing to do, but I don't blame you for it."
Elvina looked honestly relieved to hear that, and she immediately hugged him. Harry, without hesitating, hugged her back. She hummed in a pleased manner.
"I missed this," she said, closing her eyes. "Hearing your heartbeat, I mean. Too bad this won't last."
"I agree. But, you know, there are things I have to do," Harry said with a nod.
"Yes, you still have to take care of Voldemort, and revolutionize the Wizarding world."
"Well, I don't know about revolutionizing anything," Harry said. "But taking care of Voldemort is something I have to do."
Elvina nodded and broke the hug, looking up at Harry and smiling warmly at him.
"Well, you better hop to it, then."
With that said, Elvina kissed him softly, and gave his chest a hard push. Harry tripped and fell back, but as soon as he hit the ground, he blinked, only to find himself in a bed in the hospital wing, his usual one. The last time he was there, he had magically carved his name into the headboard, and since the name was there, he knew it was his bed.
"Basilisk venom!" he heard a sharp voice cry. Madame Pomfrey... "What on earth were you thinking?"
"In my defense, it was all Harry's idea, Poppy," Dumbledore's voice defended. Harry turned his head to see the two of them standing not too far from his bed. Their blurred forms told Harry that his glasses were off. He reached toward the bedside table and found his glasses, in their usual spot, putting them on quickly.
Madame Pomfrey was glaring daggers at Dumbledore, who looked quite calm, though Harry could see that he looked a bit shaken as well. It was probably because Harry lost consciousness, not because of Madame Pomfrey's glare.
"And you usually help suicidal students, do you?" Madame Pomfrey demanded.
"Well, if the price is right..."
"This isn't a joke, headmaster!"
Dumbledore chuckled at the ferocity in Madame Pomfrey's words.
"Nevertheless, I am certain that Harry will treat it as such, and it was much better than the alternative."
"Two much," Harry croaked, feeling that his throat was rather dry as he got the attention of the two.
"Pardon?" Dumbledore asked politely, his eyes twinkling as he looked at Harry, who took the glass of water by the bed and drank it all down.
"A single 'much' isn't enough, Albus," Harry said as he set down the empty glass. "It was much, much better than the alternative. See, there needs to be great emphasis on that second 'much.'"
Madame Pomfrey was visibly twitching now, and Dumbledore chuckled.
"And the link?"
"I can't feel him anymore," Harry said as he rubbed his scar. Madame Pomfrey, who had always appeared to know more than she let on, went wide-eyed at that, and most of her anger seemed to fade away. How much did she know about the link, Harry wondered as he watched the nurse turn and walk away. "That black stuff came out, just like the diadem and Nagini."
"The same thing happened with the ring and the locket," Dumbledore said with a nod. "I believe that we have managed to destroy the Horcrux in your scar, Harry."
"Me too," Harry said as he leaned back. "Did you panic?"
"When I lost consciousness," Harry elaborated. "You seemed pretty nervous when we started, so when I lost consciousness... did you panic?" he asked with a cheeky grin.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, "I admit, there was a moment where I believed that I was too late in administering the Phoenix tears."
"Bet you even cried a bit, too," Harry mused, to which Dumbledore chuckled.
"That is for me to know, and you to wonder about, my boy," the headmaster said, patting Harry's leg before walking off, looking full of mirth. "Feel better, Harry."
"Ah, by the way," Dumbledore said as he stopped and looked back at Harry. "I heard from Bill that it has been said that you speak Gobbledegook. Where did you learn that?"
"No idea," Harry said, shrugging. "Good night, Albus."
Dumbledore gave a quick chuckle. He was probably accustomed to the unusual things that happened around Harry by now.
"Good night, Harry."
When Harry Potter the next day stepped into Dumbledore's office, he was faced with an interesting sight. Fawkes was standing on the surface of the desk in the empty office, holding a letter in his beak. Now that, in itself, wasn't too interesting. What was interesting was that Fawkes seemed to be glaring at him, as if accusing him for being late, even though he didn't even have an appointment.
"That for me, Fawkes?" Harry asked.
Fawkes didn't answer. Instead, he simply dropped the letter onto the desk and flew off to sit on his perch. Curiously, Harry walked over to the desk and picked up the envelope, which had his name written on it in Dumbledore's familiar hand writing.
Urgent news have reached me, and I have been forced to leave the country for some time. It would seem that Gellert has something to say to me, and it apparently could not wait. Although Minerva is an excellent Headmistress, I do not believe that she has the power necessary to maintain the wards in case Voldemort chooses now to attack Hogwarts.
Please, is it too much to ask that you step in as Headmaster of Hogwarts while I am gone? I assure you, I will not take long, one week, at most. It would mean a great deal to me if you would agree to this, Harry.
Harry blinked as he looked over to Fawkes.
"Is he serious, Fawkes?"
Fawkes just gave a thrill that, despite having spent a long time with the Phoenix, Harry couldn't tell if it was an affirmative or negative...
Just then, the door to the office opened, and Harry was surprised to see Professor McGonagall enter. When she noticed Harry, a sort-of smile appeared on her face.
"Ah, Mr. Potter, you're here. I take it you read Dumbledore's letter?"
"Is it for real?"
"It is," Professor McGonagall said, nodding. "I was sent here to see if you would accept or not."
"I have nothing better to do," Harry said with a shrug. "I suppose I can fill in for Dumbledore for a week."
"Very good," Professor McGonagall said as she nodded stiffly. She looked (despite hardly even changing her facial expression) very pleased to hear that Harry had accepted. "I shall inform the faculty of this."
"I wonder how Snape will take the news," Harry mused, and smiled upon seeing the corners of Professor McGonagall's mouth twitch in amusement. "Have a good day, Professor."
"Please, Mr. Potter, you are no longer a student, and are now interim headmaster, call me Minerva," Professor McGonagall said as she strode out of the office, leaving a shocked Harry. He never thought he'd live to see the day where Professor McGonagall asked him to call her Minerva...
Harry looked around at the occupants of the table, smiling brightly. His Dragon Order was gathered, even the graduates had showed up at Hogwarts. They were all in their designated chairs, giving Harry their full attention. Now Harry knew how Dumbledore felt when addressing the Order of the Phoenix. He stood up, and the chatter died away immediately.
"I'm so pleased to see you all," he said happily. "It's been near eight months since I last held a meeting, and you all answer my call as though it was yesterday."
That part, he'd taken from Voldemort's resurrection. Say what you will about Voldemort's personality and cruelty, he had a way with words.
"I can't tell you how happy I am to have you all gathered here," Harry continued as he took a deep breath, unable to get rid of the smile on his face. "We are all still united under the banner of the Dragon Order, are we not?"
As one, every member of the Dragon Order pounded a fist against the table, and Harry was happy to see most of the members smiling or grinning up at him.
"Do we have news from our graduates?"
"I have some news," Angelina Johnson said near the other end of the table. Harry gestured for her to continue. "My father works at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He says that the Head of the Auror Office, Robards, has started acting strangely. He thinks that he's been put under the Imperius Curse."
"That isn't implausible," Harry mused as he sat down again. "Apparently, Pius Thicknesse, the Head of Magical Law Enforcement has also been put under the Imperius."
"That's bad, isn't it?" Michael Corner asked. "I mean, if You-Know-Who has people in the Ministry..."
"Voldemort has had people in the Ministry for a while now, both Death Eaters and Imperius victims," Harry said. "As long as the Minister isn't replaced, there is no need to worry about anything other than slight law changes, not that that is a good thing."
"Just the lesser of two evils," Hermione agreed.
"Neville," Harry said, looking to Neville, who was sitting near the middle. "Your gran is in the Wizengamot, yes?"
"Has she said anything?"
"She believes that several of the Wizengamot members have been Imperiused," Neville said with a nod. "This is getting bad, Harry... Really bad..."
"But as long as we have you and Dumbledore, we should be okay, right?" Colin Creevey asked nervously. Harry sighed.
"Although Voldemort would be incredibly foolish to attempt an attack of Hogwarts, the same cannot be said for the Ministry," he said sadly. "It's quite plausible for him to take over the Ministry, and if he does, he may be able to force us into hiding. After all, we are only two men, and we don't want to attack innocent people who are just following orders."
"What can we do, then?" Neville asked, sounding as nervous as Colin. "I mean... we haven't got any say in the Ministry, have we?"
Harry nodded slowly.
"No, we don't... There's nothing we can do, except wait... and hope. Our main focus will be Hogwarts. So long as we're here, we won't allow anyone with malicious intent to enter this castle. Am I right?"
Everyone pounded the table again, harder than before, showing their resolve.
"Very good," Harry said, nodding. "To our graduates, I want you to keep your rings on at all times. In case of an emergency, you will Apparate to Hogsmeade, and take the hidden entrance to Hogwarts through the Shrieking Shack."
A week later, Harry could be found sitting behind Dumbledore's desk, reading a small, pocket-sized book, the leather binding of which was old and worn. The cover had no writing or anything on it, but from reading it, Harry had found that it was one of Merlin's notebooks, in which he had written ideas for spells that he never got to finish.
On the desk stood a golden cup, next to a piece of parchment. The message on the parchment was short and to the point.
The High Council has agreed. The cup has been taken from the Lestrange vault. Will be expecting great favors.
Harry's focus, however, wasn't on the cup, which he had already scratched at the base with his sword, but instead on one unfinished spell in particular.
Iudicium Pristis. Judgment of the Dragon, a spell that seemed right up Harry's alley. The theory on the spell was perfect. If done as the book described, it should've worked, but somehow, Merlin could never manage it. There was something he must have overlooked, some sort of contradiction, or lack of power, anything...
Wrapped up in his thoughts, Harry barely even noticed the door opening, and didn't look up from the notebook until he heard a very amused voice.
"You look right at home in my chair, my boy."
Harry looked up, a smile appearing on his face when he saw the very happy Dumbledore.
"Albus," he said, standing up and shaking Dumbledore's hand. "I take it your trip was enjoyable?"
"It was, as was the time I spent at my destination," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling.
"So, did you enjoy talking to Grindelwald?"
Dumbledore nodded. "It was... It is hard to explain, but I feel much, much lighter now, thank you."
Harry moved around the desk, and Dumbledore did the same. Dumbledore sat down in his chair, while Harry say down in his usual chair, pocketing the notebook.
"He was very interested in you, Harry," Dumbledore said, observing Harry over the rim of his glasses. "From what I gathered, you made quite an impression on him."
Harry bowed his head, smiling. "I try my best," he said, then gestured for the cup on Dumbledore's desk. "As you can see, the goblins came through. The Horcrux has been destroyed."
"Then it is done," Dumbledore said as he leaned back in his chair. "All the Horcruxes have been destroyed. Now all that is left is Voldemort himself." Dumbledore looked at Harry, who had averted his eyes. "You still do not know if you are capable of killing him?"
"I am going to give him one last chance the next time we meet," Harry said. "If I can't save Tom Riddle then... well, I guess I will have no choice..."
"You are an admirable man, Harry, let no one tell you otherwise," Dumbledore said, smiling at him. "What you have, the ability to see good in even a man like Lord Voldemort, is a great power, not a weakness. It is a power that not many others have."
"Except for you," Harry said. "After all, you trust Snape."
"Indeed I do," Dumbledore said with a nod. "If I was incapable of seeing the remorse in Severus, then he would be in Azkaban by now, and he would not have been able to become as valuable a spy as he is today."
Silence fell, and the two just sat there, both of them staring at the cup.
"Does it get easier?" Harry asked after a minute or two.
"Pardon?" Dumbledore asked politely, raising his eyebrows.
"The burden of all these responsibilities," Harry clarified. "Does it get easier?"
"I am afraid not," Dumbledore said and shook his head. "No, but you get used to it, after a while."
"That's better than nothing, I guess," Harry muttered, sighing.
"I find it easier to deal with when I think of it like this: I take on all those burdens, so that no one else will have to do it themselves," Dumbledore said, making Harry hum.
"The big brother to all of Britain, eh?" he asked with a smirk, to which Dumbledore chuckled.
"Something like that, yes. Now, what was that book you were reading when I came in? You seemed very interested in it."
"Kama Sutra," Harry said immediately, seeing Dumbledore's eyes widen in shock. He couldn't hold it in, however, and burst out laughing. "No, I'm just kidding," he said after calming down. "It's actually one of Merlin's notebooks. It's one of the five books containing the spells he was never able to finish."
"Oho, indeed?" Dumbledore asked, sounding very interested. "So you have taken it upon yourself to finish them?"
"I will try, but I can't guarantee anything," Harry said, shrugging.
Dumbledore nodded slowly, and silence fell upon them once more. Harry say, watching Dumbledore, who was staring at the cup, appearing deep in thought.
"Will you go to the wedding, then?"
Harry blinked at the sudden question.
"Bill and Fleur's wedding," Dumbledore clarified.
"But, er, I thought they got married this summer."
"Well, I informed them that the odds were good that you would be coming back this winter, so Fleur felt that, perhaps, a winter wedding was better, and Bill was quick to agree."
"They postponed the wedding just for me?" Harry asked, feeling his eyebrows rising in surprise. "I... Well, I'm honored."
"Then I take it that you will go?"
Three days after the conversation in Dumbledore's office, Harry Apparated into view just outside the wards surrounding the Burrow, where he met with Lupin and Tonks, who were heading up to attend the wedding between Bill and Fleur.
"Harry," Lupin said with a smile as they three headed up to the huge, white marquee that had been set up in the orchard outside the Burrow. "I didn't think you would show up."
"I wouldn't miss this, not after they postponed it just for me," Harry said with a smile. He was once more dressed in black robes with gold trimmings, as that color seemed to have been the only color Merlin preferred. He also had some blue robes, but that color didn't fit Harry, in his opinion. He looked at Tonks. "You look pretty far along, Tonks."
Tonks nodded, smiling as she patted her rather large stomach. "It won't be long now."
"You'll be godfather, right?" Lupin asked, patting Harry on the shoulder.
Harry blinked in shock at that, looking from Tonks to Lupin, then back to Tonks, and once more to Lupin. They were both smiling happily at him.
"Me? I, er... blimey, yeah, of course! I'd be honored!"
"Excellent," Lupin said happily as the reached the marquee, taking their place in the long queue of guests who were waiting to be seated. At the front, Harry spied Ron, Fred and George, directing the guests to their designated seats. Lupin glanced at Harry. "So, how's your knee?"
"Very well, thank you," Harry said, shrugging. "Hurts sometimes, sometimes it doesn't."
"Vague, but oddly satisfying description," Tonks said in amusement.
"That's the way Harry has always been," Lupin said, smiling. "I taught him in his third year, remember?"
"And we've never had a better Defense teacher since."
Lupin seemed to blush slightly at the praise. Harry knew that Lupin's greatest wish had always been to teach.
"I'm starting to regret waiting in line with you," Tonks whispered, looking a bit crossed. "That constant giggling is beginning to annoy me..."
As Tonks said, giggles were heard every few seconds from behind him, but Harry couldn't fathom why he was at fault for it. Confused, he looked back and saw a pair of French blond girls, probably in their twenties, stealing glances at him and giggling. Veela, judging by their aura.
"Bonjour," Harry said, nodding to the girls, who fell into another giggle fit. Harry looked at Tonks and shrugged. "Can't be helped, can it?"
"Hey, English," a voice from behind Harry whispered in his ear in French, sounding so close that he felt a shiver go down his spine. He looked back, to see one of the two girls standing dangerously close to him. He felt her arm wrap around his own, and without warning, the other girl did the same to his other arm, pulling him back toward them, away from Lupin and Tonks.
"It's awfully cold, isn't it?" the other girl asked in a very low voice, which sounded very seductive to Harry, also in French. "English winter, I mean... Is it too much to ask... that you come warm us up a bit?"
"I..." Harry swallowed. His French seemed to have run away at the moment. "Er... I, uh... I..."
"You are a very powerful wizard, aren't you?" the first girl whispered in his ear, and though he couldn't see her, he could feel her smirking. "I like that, you know. Call me shallow, but I do."
Luckily, Lupin came to his rescue, reaching back and seizing Harry's collar, before pulling him toward him as they walked.
"The line is moving, Harry," he said kindly, smirking at Harry, who glanced back at the veela, gulping.
"Er... maybe later?" he suggested in French, which caused the two veela to giggle again.
"Oh, there you are!"
Fred's excited exclamation tore Harry's attention away from the veela, and he looked to see that they had reached the entrance to the tent.
"Remus and Tonks," George said, looking down at the seating plans in his hands. "You're seated on the fifth row on your right, furthest in."
"Thanks," Lupin said with a nod as the couple entered the marquee. Harry looked into the marquee and saw rows and rows of fragile golden chairs set on either side of a long purple carpet. The supporting poles were entwined with white and gold flowers, and someone had fastened an enormous bunch of golden balloons over the exact point where Bill and Fleur would shortly become husband and wife.
"And Harry, old chum," Fred said, having consulted his own seating plans, "you're to be seated in the front row, closest to the aisle."
"Thanks, Fred," Harry said with a nod, before entering the marquee. Despite being mid-winter, the tent was very warm, no doubt thanks to several warming charms. Harry smiled, unable to help himself, as he walked down the aisle, looking over the other guests. Hagrid, who was seated in the back, on a reinforced chair, waved happily when he spotted Harry, who waved back.
Harry jumped and looked to the left side of the tent, finding himself standing face to face with none other than Viktor Krum, who, like Harry, had decided to grow a bit of facial hair, only he had gone for a goatee.
"Viktor!" Harry said pleasantly, shaking the Quidditch star's hand. "How are you?"
"Good, good," Krum said, nodding as he looked Harry over. "You look vell."
"Never felt better," Harry said with a chuckle. "Fleur invited you?"
"Yes. She vas very kind to do so."
"We're all friends, aren't we?"
"Ve are, thank you." Krum nodded slowly. "Have you seen Her-mai-ownee?"
Harry smiled. At least he was trying to get her name right. It was better than during the Triwizard Tournament, when he only managed to call her Her-mo-ninny.
"Not yet. I only just arrived, but I think she's probably in the house, getting ready."
Krum nodded again. Then, he spotted a man who had just entered the tent. Harry, curious, looked as well. Slightly cross-eyes, with shoulder-length white hair the texture of candyfloss, he wore a cap whose tassel dangled in front of his nose and robes of an eye-watering shade of egg-yolk yellow. A very familiar symbol, looking like a triangular eye, glistened from a golden chain around his neck. Next to him, wearing a long dress of the same color yellow, was none other than Luna Lovegood.
"Who is that man in yellow?"
"Probably Luna's father," Harry said with a shrug. "A Lovegood. Why?"
"Because," Krum said, "if he vos not a guest of Fleur's, I vould duel him, here and now, for wearing that filthy sign upon his chest?"
"Sign?" Harry asked, glancing at the symbol for the Deathly Hallows. "What about it?"
"Grindelvald... That is Grindelvald's sign."
Harry choked on his own saliva at that. Krum seemed to think that it was just from shock, and continued.
"Grindelvald killed many people, my grandfather, for instance. Of course, he vos never poverful in this country, they said he feared Dumbledore, and rightly, seeing how he vos finished. But this," he pointed a finger at Luna's father, "this is his symbol, I recognized it at vunce: Grindelvald carved it into a vall at Durmstrang ven he vos a pupil there. Some idiots copied it onto their books and clothes, thinking to shock, make themselves impressive, until those of us who had lost family members to Grindelvald taught them better."
"I'm going to have to stop you there, Viktor," Harry said when he saw Krum cracking his knuckles menacingly. "True, Grindelwald used that symbol as his own, but I highly doubt that Grindelwald is the reason why Luna's father is wearing it. After all, Grindelwald adopted the symbol from somewhere else."
"Else?" Krum asked, looking at Harry strangely.
"The Deathly Hallows, a silly tale of three items of great power, bestowed upon three wizards by Death himself. Grindelwald loved that story. Look."
Harry held up his hand, showing off the Gaunt ring, and he saw Krum's eyes widen when he noticed the symbol on the black stone. Harry ignored him and pointed at the symbol instead.
"Look, the line is the so-called most powerful wand in the world, the circle is the Resurrection Stone, a stone that is said to bring people back from the dead, although that has been proven to be impossible, and the invisibility cloak, said to never lose its power, a cloak that cannot be summoned from the wearer and so on. I think that is the reason why Mr. Lovegood wears the symbol."
"And you believe in these Hallows?" Krum asked, watching the ring as Harry lowered his hand.
"I think that there are powerful items in this world, created by powerful wizard, but gifts from Death himself? No."
"Then vhy vear that ring?"
"Oh, this?" Harry said, showing off the ring again. Then, he shrugged. "I don't know... I guess you could call it spoils of war, and leave it at that."
Krum nodded. The two shook hands again, then moved to their designated seats.
When Harry sat down, he felt a pat on his shoulder, and looked to the side to see Sirius sitting there, smiling at him.
"Well, I'll be..." Harry said, blinking as he feigned surprise. "I didn't know dogs were allowed in here."
Sirius scoffed, crossing his arms.
"And a bloody shame that is. Merlin knows that a couple of mutts going crazy in here would truly liven this place up."
Harry laughed at that and said, "So, how are you doing, Sirius?"
"I'm great," Sirius said happily. "Bucky has had eight kids now, and they're all growing up so fast!"
"Hey, I've been thinking about that..." Harry said, humming.
"Well, a hippogriff is part bird, part horse, right?" Harry asked, to which Sirius nodded. "Well, do they lay eggs?"
Sirius laughed. "Oh, you don't know how many times I have been asked that question. Yes, they lay eggs, but only one at a time."
"The eternal Hogwarts question has finally been answered," Harry said, nodding to himself. Sirius nodded as well.
"Yeah, I remember how your dad used to stalk the hippogriffs in the Forbidden Forest in his stag form, trying to see if they gave birth or laid eggs."
Harry laughed, and the two lapsed into silence as a sense of jittery anticipation had filled the warm tent, the general murmuring broken by occasional spurts of excited laughter and giggling. Harry spotted the two veela girls on the left side of the tent, waving at him. Smiling, he waved back.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley strolled up the aisle, smiling and waving at relatives. Mrs. Weasley was wearing a brand-new set of amethyst-colored robes with a matching hat.
A moment later, Bill and Charlie stood up at the front of the marquee, both wearing dress robes, with large white roses in their buttonholes. Harry could hear a wolf-whistle, followed by an outbreak of giggling. Then, the crowd fell silent as music swelled from what seemed to be the golden balloons.
Harry heard many "Ooh's" and "Aah's", and swiveled around in his seat to look at the entrance.
A great collective sigh issued from the assembled witches and wizards as Monsieur Delacour, a shorter, plump man, with a little, pointed black beard, and Fleur came walking up the aisle, Fleur gliding, Monsieur Delacour bouncing and beaming. Fleur was wearing a very simple white dress and seemed to be emitting a strong, silvery glow. While her radiance usually dimmed everyone else by comparison, today it beautified everybody it fell upon. Ginny and Gabrielle, both wearing golden dresses, looked even prettier than usual, and once Fleur had reached him, Bill didn't look as though he had ever met Fenrir Greyback.
"Ladies and gentlemen," a slightly singsong voice said as a small, tufty-haired wizard took his place in front of Bill and Fleur. "We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of two faithful souls..."
"What are you doing?" Sirius whispered to Harry who held what looked like glowing golden sand in his hand, pouring it into his other hand and repeating the process.
"Playing," Harry said. In reality he was molding magic. The sand was pure magic in its rawest form, a skill that Harry had picked up... Well, he didn't really remember where he had learned this magic, actually. He had, however, found that he was very good at molding raw magic.
"Do you, William Arthur, take Fleur Isabelle...?"
"Playing with what?" Sirius asked, seeming unable to take his eyes off the magic in Harry's hand.
"You'll see," Harry said quietly as he started kneading the magic in his hand. Slowly, it started taking shape, that of a Eauropean swallow. Sirius stared as Harry held it in his hand, turning his attention back to the tufty-haired wizard.
"...then I declare you bonded for life."
The tufty-haired wizard waved his wand high over the heads of Bill and Fleur, and a shower of silver stars fell upon them, spiraling around their now entwined figures. As the applauds started sounding, and the balloons burst, showering them in confetti, Harry threw the bird into the air. The bird exploded into a shower of sparks, which caused everyone to jump in shock. Then, each spark formed into a golden swallow, so that a flock of them flew around the tent. The swallows circled Bill and Fleur three times, and then flew straight out of the entrance to the tent, chirping happily.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" the tufty-haired wizard called. "If you would please stand up!"
They all did so, and he waved his wand again. The seats on which they had been sitting rose gracefully into the air as the canvas walls of the marquee vanished, so that they stood beneath a canopy supported by golden poles, with a glorious view of the sunlit, snowy orchard and surrounding countryside.
Next, a pool of molten gold spread from the center of the tent to form a gleaming dance floor. The hovering chairs grouped themselves around small, white-clothed tables, which all floated gracefully back to earth around it, and the golden-jacketed band trooped toward a podium.
"Impressive," Sirius said, looking around as the waiters popped up on all sides, some bearing silver trays of pumpkin juice, butterbeer, and firewhisky, others tottering piles of tarts and sandwiches.
"Eh, I could have done it faster," Harry commented, clicking his tongue, to which Sirius chuckled. "I'd rather congratulate the happy couple, but... well, see for yourself."
He nodded toward Bill and Fleur, just in time to see them vanish amid a crowd of well-wishers.
"So, I noticed that you were undressing a couple of veela cousins with your eyes," Sirius spoke in amusement as he snatched two glasses of firewhisky from a passing tray and handed one to Harry. "Shame, shame, Harry, you don't even know their names."
"I can't help the impulses of my brain. They've got a will of their own," Harry said, scoffing as he sipped the firewhisky, which left a burning sensation in his throat as he swallowed it.
"You know, your father was more into redheads," Sirius said as he looked around. "I never would have thought you'd prefer blonds. And..." Sirius trailed off, his eyes landing on a strange sight, obviously. "Er... what is she doing?"
He was pointing at Luna, who was dancing alone, waving her arms around her head like someone attempting to beat off midges.
"Getting rid of Wrackspurts," Harry answered calmly, recognizing the symptoms. Luna had done that pretty much every meeting with the Dragon Order.
"Wrackspurts?" Sirius asked, blinking, and Harry nodded.
The two looked at Luna for a moment. Then, they both shrugged, and said at the same time, "Wrackspurts."
Harry and Sirius both looked back, and Harry saw one of the veela girls from earlier, who, just like Fleur and Madame Delacour could only be described as stunning. Tall, slender, and with long, silvery hair. She was smiling brightly at Sirius, looping an arm around Harry's
"You do not mind if I borrow 'Arry for un moment, vous faire?" she asked Sirius in heavily accented English.
"Not at all!" Sirius said jovially. "My godson needs to learn to spend time with people closer to people his own age. This old dog will just be sitting on the sidelines," he said, snatching Harry's walking stick out of his hand.
"Bon," the veela said, pulling the stunned Harry to the dance floor. "Dance wiz me, oui?"
"Uh..." Harry was speechless for a few moments, then snapped himself out of it. "You don't have to speak English, you know," he said, switching to French.
"Oh, good," the girl said. "So, will you dance?"
"Er, sure," Harry said, nodding slowly.
Smirking as they reached the dance floor, the girl took Harry's hand in her own, then guided his other hand to her hip, much lower than was necessary, he noticed, before placing her free hand on his shoulder.
"My name is Giselle," she said as they slowly started moving to the music. "Giselle Chevalier."
"Yes, I know, Fleur told me," Giselle said with a musical laugh, which turned the heads of many dancers around them. "Fleur has told us a lot about you, you know. She speaks so highly of you that I thought for a moment that you were the one she was going to marry, instead of that Bill person."
"Just how are you related to Fleur?" Harry asked, blinking. Seeing as Fleur was a quarter-veela, and this girl was a full veela, the relation had to be distant.
"Her grandmother and mine are sisters," Giselle told him, smiling brightly.
"Just how old are you?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. "I mean, I know it's rude to ask, but from looking at Fleur's mother, I can see that you all age very gracefully."
Giselle laughed again. "Oh, do not worry, Harry, I am only twenty-three years old." She gave him a shrewd look. "I take it, from that question, that you are interested?"
"Who wouldn't be interested in a beautiful woman?" Harry asked. He was getting used to this. The shock of dancing with a stunning beauty was slowly wearing off, and he could be himself again.
"I didn't lie, you know," Giselle said as she leaned closer, and Harry felt his body heating up. "To me, just like Aunt Apolline, power is very attractive. Looks are not important, and neither is personality, so long as a man is powerful, be it politically or magically."
Harry took offense to that. Was she saying he wasn't good-looking? Before he could voice this, however, Giselle continued.
"You are a powerful wizard, Harry, and not only that, but you are also very handsome, and, according to Fleur, very kind. Whatever you wish, for this to be a one-night thing, or if you wish to pursue a relationship, it doesn't matter to me..." Giselle said, her voice lowering with every word, until she leaned in and whispered in his ear, "I'm yours."
Harry felt himself heat up again, and he was sure that he was blushing pretty heavily from the implication of those words. He cleared his throat, trying to regain his ability to speak.
"I am... tempted, I admit," Harry said after a moment, feeling Giselle pressing herself against him. "But, you see, anyone associated with me, even a one-night thing, would become a target, see."
"Considerate, as well," Giselle purred. "But what if I don't care?"
"I don't think it's so much that I worry about you caring, as it is me worrying about myself caring. I could never allow someone to get tortured or killed just because of me. After I take care of Voldemort, though, I wouldn't have a problem with it."
"After..." Giselle hummed, a sound that was just as seductive as any other sound she made. "I can live with that. But how about I give you something to remember me by?" she whispered, and Harry felt something wet brush against his earlobe. Was that her tongue? "A night... of happiness... before you go to war?" Every pause was accentuated by Giselle kissing Harry on the neck, and he closed his eyes in pleasure.
He couldn't believe this was happening to him! Harry felt his head going mistier for every kiss she placed on his neck, and he noticed how she was slowly moving to his cheek. Then, she pulled back, looking into Harry's eyes.
"Okay..." Harry whispered breathlessly. The two leaned closer to each other. Kissing this girl, it was all Harry wanted at that moment.
Then, his eyes caught something large and silver falling through the canopy over the dance floor. Harry immediately pulled back to look at it, Giselle doing the same. Graceful and gleaming, the lynx landed lightly in the middle of the astonished dancers. Heads turned, as those nearest it froze absurdly in mid-dance. Then, the Patronus's mouth opened wide and it spoke in the loud, deep, slow voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming."
In the blink of an eye, Harry's walking stick had come soaring through the crowd, and he easily caught it. As soon as it touched his hand, it extended, reverting to its staff form. Many people were only just realizing that something strange had happened. Heads were still turning toward the silver cat as it vanished. Silence spread outward in cold ripples from the place where the Patronus had landed. Then somebody screamed.
"What's going on?" Giselle asked, looking rather panicked as she glanced around the panicking crowd. Guests were sprinting in all directions, and many were Disapparating, meaning that the protective enchantments around the Burrow had broken.
"This is what I was talking about," Harry said, his eyes hardening. He was getting ready for battle, when Sirius came running through the crowd, stopping in front of Harry.
"Hey, Harry, I know you are eager to fight and all, but this is the Ministry, innocent Aurors among the Death Eaters, just following orders!" Sirius said, obviously noticing the look in Harry's eyes. "You know, there's a time to fight, and there's a time to get the bloody hell away from here, and this is the latter! Let's go, alright?"
With that, Sirius Disapparated with a sharp crack. Harry sighed and turned to Giselle.
"Some other time, mademoiselle," he said with a shrug, then leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss against her lips, before Disapparating.
With a crack, he appeared in the Shrieking Shack, to find Sirius already there, looking out the window.
"As I thought, they came here as well," Sirius muttered. Harry moved up to the window and looked out. In the distance, he could see men, Aurors and Death Eaters, Apparating into view far, far away, heading in the direction of Sirius's ranch. Sirius sighed. "I'm glad I left the herd in Hogwarts today."
"This is bad, isn't it?" Harry asked, also sighing, to which Sirius nodded.
Two sharp cracks were heard, and the two whipped around. Harry had a red ball of magic building up in his hand, and Sirius's wand had a red glow to it as they got ready to Stun the newcomers, to find that it was just Tonks and Lupin, both of whom had their wands pointed at Sirius.
"What did you, Lupin, ask me right before the wedding?" Harry asked, glaring at the both of them.
"I asked you to be our child's godfather," Lupin said. "And Tonks has been with me all this time. Sirius, what was the first thing you said to James and me after your first meeting with Amelia Bones in fifth year?"
"She sprouted some nice ones," Sirius said immediately, a slight grin appearing on his face at the memory. Slowly, everyone lowered their arms.
"Dumbledore called a meeting," Lupin said. "Let's go."
Pretty soon, they all found themselves sitting in the War Room. Almost the entire Order was gathered, save for, understandably, the Weasley family, and some others.
"With the Ministry fallen, it will only be a matter of time before Voldemort attacks Hogwarts, the final obstacle in his path," Dumbledore spoke, standing up. "I want each and every one of you to be ready to defend the castle at all costs. Hogwarts must not fall, or else all is doomed."
"But no pressure, eh?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. Dumbledore looked down at him.
"I need you all to grasp the seriousness of this situation."
"Don't," Harry said immediately, pointing at Sirius, who had, as predicted, opened his mouth to speak. "And we do understand the seriousness, Albus. You don't have to tell us that all of Britain is buggered if Hogwarts falls. We already know."
"Odds are that Voldemort's name has once more been Taboo," Dumbledore spoke. "I hope that those of you who speak his name would refrain from doing such when not under the protective wards of Hogwarts, Avalon or Grimmauld Place."
"I take it I won't be going out much now?" Harry asked, sighing, and Dumbledore nodded, just as he thought he would.
"That is correct. It is you they are after, and until you feel that you are ready to face Voldemort, I think it would be best if you stayed here in Avalon."
"Well, then I better get started," Harry said, getting out of his chair and walking off. "Good luck, everyone, you all know the way out."
As soon as he left the room, Harry reached into his pocket, pulling out Merlin's notebook and opening it, reading while he walked.
A week later, Harry choked on his tea as he and Sirius sat in the dining hall, eating their breakfast. He was currently reading a copy of the Daily Prophet, and was appalled by what he saw on the front page.
"Have you seen this?" he demanded of Sirius, who looked up curiously from his cereal.
"Seen what?" he asked.
"'Today, the newly assigned Head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, will start her interrogations of Muggle-borns. These thieves of our magic will...' Ugh, I can't read anymore..." Harry muttered as he folded the Prophet and tossed it onto the table. Sirius reached over and grabbed it, reading the front page. His eyes seemed to widen more and more the further into the article he got.
"'...will be placed in Azkaban where they belong...'" he read slowly. "That's not right... That's not right at all..."
Harry saw Sirius glance at him. He was looking at Harry strangely, probably because Harry had taken a thoughtful pose, pondering.
"What are you thinking?" Sirius asked, raising an eyebrow. "You're not...?"
"I am," Harry said, nodding. "I am going to take a trip to the Ministry of Magic."
It was because of that statement that, two hours later, Harry and Sirius stood in what looked to be an ordinary underground public toilet, tiled in grimy black and white. Harry was flipping a golden token into the air over and over, and Sirius looked bored, his hands shoved into his pockets.
"And would you tell me why no one is reacting to us?"
"A rather complicated Notice-Me-Not charm, my dearest godfather," Harry said with a smile, catching the token, which landed face up, the Ministry of Magic symbol gleaming in the light coming from above. "To anyone else, we look like Unspeakables, talking about... er, I don't know what, but something else."
Sirius looked impressed. "That's pretty good. I see you have inherited both Lily and James's magical prowess."
"Of course," Harry said, flipping the token into the air again. "Why settle for just one?"
"Morning, Reg!" came a voice from behind them, and they looked back to see a small, ferrety wizard get patted on the back by a wizard in the same kind of navy blue robes as him. "Blooming pain in the bum, this, eh? Forcing us all to get to work this way! Who are they expecting to show up, Harry Potter?"
Harry and Sirius looked at each other, then immediately looked away, so that they wouldn't burst into laughter. Smiling to themselves, they let themselves into adjoining cubicles by inserting their golden tokens into a slot in the doors.
To Harry's left and right came the sound of flushing. He crouched down and peered through the gap at the bottom of the cubicle, just in time to see a pair of booted feet climbing into the toilet next door.
He looked left, and saw Sirius staring at him.
"We have to flush ourselves?" Harry asked.
"Yeah, it looks like it," Sirius said, nodding.
"I'm not getting my boots drenched in toilet water," Harry said adamantly, gesturing for the boots he had picked up in Spain. Black leather riding boots, with a very intricate design carved into the leather. Although he wore his robes, as had become a habit for him, there was just no way he could part with his very nice, very comfortable boots. Foot comfort was important for powerful wizards, in Harry's opinion.
"Don't be such a baby," Sirius said as he clambered into the toilet. "I'm not wet."
Twitching, Harry did the same, and noticed that Sirius was right. Although he appeared to be standing in toilet water, his boots, and robes remained quite dry. He reached up, pulled the chain, and next moment had zoomed down a short chute, emerging out of a fireplace into the Ministry of Magic.
The great Atrium seemed darker than Harry remembered it. Previously a golden fountain had filled the center of the hall, casting shimmering spots of light over the polished wooden floor and walls. Now a gigantic statue of black stone dominated the scene. It was rather frightening, this vast sculpture of a witch and a wizard sitting on ornately carved thrones, looking down at the Ministry workers toppling out of fireplaces below them. Engraved in foot-high letters at the base of the statue were the words MAGIC IS MIGHT.
Harry walked up to the statue, looking more closely, and realized that what he had thought were decoratively carved thrones were actually mounds of carved humans. Hundreds and hundreds of naked bodies, men, women, and children, all with rather stupid, ugly faces, were twisted and pressed together to support the weight of the handsomely robed wizards.
"Cute," Harry heard from behind him, and looked over his shoulder to see Sirius, who was looking up at the statue, disgust evident on his face. "Real cute..."
"I'm gonna destroy this thing when we leave," Harry said, nodding. "Definitely."
They joined the stream of witches and wizards moving toward the golden gates at the end of the hall. They passed through the gates and into a smaller hall, where queues were forming in front of twenty golden grilles housing as many lifts.
"I'm heading to Umbridge's office," Harry said to Sirius as they stepped into an empty lift. "You head on down to the courtrooms. I'll meet you down there once I've caused some havoc up there."
The grilles shut wit a clang, and the lift began to move upward.
"Should I be worried?" Sirius asked. "I don't feel worried, but it feels like I should..."
"Maybe you've grown soft in your old age?" Harry suggested, shrugging.
"Hey, I'm just as much a Marauder today as I was thirty years ago."
"You were a prankster at seven?" Harry asked incredulously. Sirius shrugged.
"Well, I had to do something to distract myself from my family."
Within moments, the lift stopped, and the disembodied, female voice said, "Level one, Minister of Magic and Support Staff."
"Well, I'll see you down there," Harry said, waving to Sirius as the golden grilles slid apart. Humming, he walked out of the lift. Looking back, he saw Sirius's grinning face sinking back out of sight, and as soon as Sirius was gone, he dropped the Notice-Me-Not charm he'd placed on himself.
If someone saw him, and decided to attack, it was their loss. Whistling to himself, Harry set off down the thickly carpeted corridor. He passed gleaming wooden doors, each bearing a small plaque with the owner's name and occupation upon it. The might of the Ministry, its complexity, made it almost impossible to think that the Ministry could possible be inept at maintaining law and order. Harry, who'd had first-hand experience, wasn't fooled by its appearance.
He didn't know for how long he walked, but it was a long time, and he only passed a single wizard, who was frowning and muttering instructions to a quill that floated in front of him, scribbling on a trail of parchment. The wizard didn't even look up as he passed Harry.
Harry turned a corner, and halfway along the next corridor, he emerged into a wide, open space where a dozen witches and wizards sat in rows at small desks not unlike school desks, though much more highly polished and free from graffiti. Harry paused to watch them, because the effect was quite mesmerizing. They were all waving and twiddling their wands in unison, and squares of colored paper were flying in every direction like little pink kites. After a few seconds, Harry realized that there was a rhythm to the proceedings, that the papers all formed the same pattern, and after a few more seconds, he realized that what he was watching was the creation of pamphlets, that the paper squares were pages, which, when assembled, folded, and magicked into place, fell into neat stacks beside each witch or wizard.
Harry moved closer, and slid a completed pamphlet from the pile beside a young witch, examining it. Its pink cover was emblazoned with a golden title.
and the Dangers They Pose to
a Peaceful Pure-Blood Society
Beneath the title was a picture of a red rose with a simpering face in the middle of its petals, being strangled by a green weed with fangs and a scowl. There was no author's name on the pamphlet, but Harry could guess. Then, the young witch beside him confirmed his suspicion as she said, still waving and twirling her wand, "Will the old hag be interrogating Mudbloods all day, does anyone know?"
"Careful," the wizard beside her said, glancing around nervously. When his eyes landed on Harry, a few of his pages slipped and fell to the floor as his jaw dropped.
"What, she's standing right behind me?" the witch mocked, scoffing as she turned around. Then, she saw Harry as well. She gave a startled little shriek, which shocked everyone enough to make them stop and look. Harry looked around, giving everyone there a murderous glare, which made the witch he was standing next to cower away from him, falling out of her chair in the process.
Giving one last glare, Harry turned away from the workers, and found the door he was looking for. The plaque on the door read:
Senior Undersecretary to the Minister
Below that, a slightly shinier new plaque read:
Head of the Muggle-born
Harry grabbed the doorknob, and channeled his magic into it. He could almost imagined the looks on the stunned Ministry workers' faces as the wooden door actually melted into a puddle, smelling strongly of burnt wood. As he stepped inside, he was immediately appalled by the sheet girlish feel of the office. Lace draperies, doilies, and dried flowers covered every available surface. The walls were filled with ornamental plates, each featuring a highly colored, beribboned kitten, gamboling and frisking with sickening cuteness. The desk was covered with a flouncy, flowered cloth.
"Let's see here..." Harry muttered as he walked up to the desk, opening the drawers. He found quills and notebooks and Spellotapes, enchanted paper clips that coiled snakelike from their drawer and had to be beaten back, and a fussy little lace bow full of spare hair bows and clips.
Waving his hand over the desk, he watched as the quills in the top drawer quivered. They would now attack whoever touched them, which would be Umbridge. Then, he touched the lace box, and transfigured the bows into earthworms.
Next, he moved over to a filing cabinet behind the desk. Like Filch's cabinets at Hogwarts, it was full of folders, each labeled with a name. It wasn't until Harry reached the bottommost drawer that he saw something interesting: Mr. Weasley's file.
He pulled it out and opened it.
Blood status: Pureblood, but with unacceptable pro-Muggle leanings. Known member of the Order of the Phoenix.
Family: Wife (pureblood), seven children, two youngest at Hogwarts.
Security status: TRACKED. All movements are being monitored. Strong likelihood Undesirable No. 1 will contact (has stayed with Weasley family previously)
"Undesirable Number One," Harry muttered, shaking his head. Judging by the lack of noise coming from outside, the workers were either too shocked, or too afraid to sound an alarm. He replaced Mr. Weasley's folder and took out another file.
Blood status: Mudblood
Family: Parents (Muggles)
Security statues: WANTED. Parents. Wanted for interrogation. Likely at Hogwarts. Undesirable No. 2
Harry scoffed and replaced Hermione's files as well. With a wave of his wand, the people in the folders were replaced by other people, such as Voldemort, Umbridge, Thicknesse, Yaxley, and all the other Death Eaters.
With his job now done, Harry turned and walked out of the office, but not before waving his hand at the walls. All the plates on the walls lost their sickeningly cute cats, and were replaced with the scowling face of Harry on each and every one of them.
"What's going on here?" Harry heard as he reached the doorway. "Why are you not working?"
Harry looked outside, to see Pius Thicknesse, the Minister of Magic. His long black hair and beard were streaked with silver, and a great overhanging forehead shadowed his glinting eyes, putting Harry in mind of a crab looking out from beneath a rock. The man was scowling at the witches and wizards who were supposed to be working on the pamphlets. The witch closest to Thicknesse pointed shakily to the doorway of Umbridge's office, at Harry. When Thicknesse looked, his eyes went wide with shock.
Harry didn't allow him to finish, immediately blasting the Minister with a Stunner. The Minister was thrown off his feet and landed on the carpeted floor with a thud. Harry looked over the workers.
"You didn't see anything," he said calmly as he walked off. "And try to tone down on the prejudice, or you'll all be fired once I'm Minister."
With that, he headed back the way he came, whistling all the while. He stepped into the lift, and headed down.
The lift stopped on level three, and Mr. Weasley walked inside, talking to an elderly witch, whose blond hair was teased so high it resembled an anthill.
"...I quite understand what you're saying, Wakanda, but I'm afraid I cannot be party to-"
Mr. Weasley broke off. He had noticed Harry, who had once more cast the Notice-Me-Not charm on himself. It was strange, seeing Mr. Weasley look at him as if he didn't recognize him. After a moment, Mr. Weasley nodded in greeting, and Harry nodded back. The lift stopped on the next level, and the anthill-haired woman got off. Now that only Mr. Weasley and Harry were left in the lift, Harry dropped the charm and spoke to Mr. Weasley, who had his back turned.
"Don't turn around, Arthur," he told the Weasley patriarch, who had repeatedly asked him to call him Arthur. "It's Harry."
Mr. Weasley jumped, but he did as he was told.
"Merlin's beard, Harry," he whispered. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, you know me, causing mayhem. Just coming back from redecorating Umbridge's office and Stunning our beloved Minister."
Mr. Weasley couldn't help but chuckle.
"Only you, Harry... Only you could talk about something like that so lightly..."
"Arthur, I need you to stay away from any future Order meeting," Harry whispered. "You're being tracked. They're watching your every move. Just pretend that you're a normal wizard who does his job, never having any contact with any Undesirables, alright? If you don't, you'll be in trouble, your family will be in trouble, and the Order will be in trouble, alright?"
"Alright, Harry," Mr. Weasley said, nodding. "I've been feeling watched lately, but I didn't think it was that bad."
The lift stopped, and Harry once more cast the Notice-Me-Not charm on himself as the doors opened. Mr. Weasley nodded to Harry once, before leaving, stepping into the Atrium. The lift doors clanged shut, and the lift started descending again.
When the doors opened next, Harry stepped out into a torch-lit stone passageway quite different from the wood-paneled and carpeted corridors above. As the lift rattled away again, Harry looked toward the distant black door that marked the entrance to the Department of Mysteries.
He found Sirius waiting for him halfway down the hall, next to a doorway on the left-hand side, which, according to what Mr. Weasley had told him, opened onto the flight of stairs down to the court chambers.
"Hello, Harry!" Sirius said happily, waving at him. "Fancy meeting you down here!"
"Well, well, Padfoot! No dogs allowed down here, I'm afraid," Harry said. They both chuckled as they headed down the flight of stairs. "Is Umbridge here?"
"And Yaxley," Sirius confirmed with a nod. "Right nutters they are, those two," he muttered. "They looked positively gleeful when they came here, like Christmas had come early, or something."
An unnatural chill was creeping over them, as if they were descending into fog. It was becoming colder and colder with every step they took. It was a cold that reached right down into Harry's throat and tore at his lungs. And then he felt that stealing sense of despair, of hopelessness, filling him, expanding inside him...
"I hate dementors," Sirius muttered next to him. "Hey, is there any way for you to tweak this Notice-Me-Not so that they can actually hear what I'm saying?"
Harry nodded and snapped his fingers. Sirius shivered at the sensation of the charm being modified.
"There, now they can hear both of us."
As they reached the foot of the stairs and turned to their right, they came upon a dreadful scene. The dark passage outside the courtrooms was packed with tall, black-hooded figures, their faces completely hidden, their ragged breathing the only sound in the place. The petrified Muggle-borns brought in for questioning sat huddled and shivering on hard wooden benches. Most of them were hiding their faces in their hands, perhaps in an instinctive attempt to shield themselves from the dementors' greedy mouths. Some were accompanied by families, others sat alone. The dementors were gliding up and down in front of them, and the cold, the hopelessness, and the despair of the place laid themselves upon Harry like a curse...
Moving through the dementors was a pain. The dementors all turned as they passed, probably sensing that they both had plenty of joy in them. However, when they turned to Harry, they abruptly turned away, and glided out of his path.
"What's all this?" Sirius whispered to Harry, who shrugged.
"I guess they remember me," he guessed, and just then, abruptly and shockingly amid the frozen silence, one of the dungeon doors on the left of the corridor was flung open and screams echoed out of it.
"No, no, I'm half-blood, I'm half-blood, I tell you! My father was a wizard, he was, look him up, Arkie Alderton, he's a well-known broomstick designer, look him up, I tell you... get your hands off me, get your hands off-"
"This is your final warning," Umbridge's voice said, magically magnified so that it sounded clearly over the man's desperate screams. "If you struggle, you will be subjected to the Dementor's Kiss."
The man's screams subsided, but dry sobs echoed through the corridor.
"Take him away," Umbridge said.
Two dementors appeared in the doorway of the courtroom, their rotting, scabbed hands clutching the upper arms of a wizard who appeared to be fainting. They glided away down the corridor with him, and the darkness they trailed behind them swallowed him from sight.
"Next... Mary Cattermole," Umbridge called.
A small woman stood up. She was trembling from head to foot. Her dark hair was smoothed back into a bun and she wore long, plain robes. Her face was completely bloodless. As she passed the dementor's, Harry saw her shudder.
Nudging Sirius, who grinned, he followed Mrs. Cattermole into the courtroom, Sirius right behind him.
It was a reasonably large room, with a very high ceiling, which gave the claustrophobic sense of being stuck at the bottom of a deep well.
There were more dementors in here, casting their freezing aura over the place. They stood like faceless sentinels in the corners farthest from the high, raised platform. Here, behind a balustrade, sat Umbridge, with Yaxley on one side of her, and a rather mousy woman on the other. At the foot of the platform, a bright-silver, long-haired cat prowled up and down, up and down, and Harry realized that it was there to protect the prosecutors from the despair that emanated from the dementors. That was for the accused to feel, not the accusers.
"Sit down," Umbridge said in her soft, silky voice. Then, however, she noticed Harry and Sirius. "And what are you two doing here?"
"Huh?" Sirius asked, glancing around. "This is not our office," he muttered.
"That's true," Harry said thoughtfully, also looking around in confusion. "But we were supposed to study the effect of magic on disgusting toads and ugly Death Eaters, and... well..." Harry gestured for Umbridge and Yaxley. "You see for yourself..."
"What did you say?" Yaxley demanded, rising from his seat.
"Scratch that," Harry said, not looking at Yaxley. "Ugly and deaf Death Eaters."
"Maybe there's a magical cure for that to be found for that..." Sirius said thoughtfully. "Well, for the deafness, anyway. No magic in the world could manage to fix something that ugly..."
Before Yaxley could finish, Harry dropped the Notice-Me-Not charms on the both of them, and smiled brightly.
"Hi!" he said happily, savoring the shocked looks on Umbridge and Yaxley's faces. Then, he raised his hand, pointing at Yaxley. A red jet of magic shot from his hand at the same time as another Stunner flew from Sirius's wand. Umbridge and Yaxley were thrown out of their seats before they even had the time to react. The silver cat vanished immediately. A wave of coldness washed over them, but for some reason, the dementors didn't move. Instead, they were just 'watching' Harry, seeming quite apprehensive.
"Sirius, be a dear and take Mrs. Cattermole and the Muggle-borns outside out of here, will you? I'm going to have a little talk with these guys," Harry said, nodding toward the dementors.
"Hey, are you, er, sane, Harry?" Sirius asked. Then, he seemed to realize what he'd just said, and shook his head. "No scratch that, I knew you were insane the second you said that you wanted to come here, and I'm insane for coming with you, but are you even more insane than that? At least conjure a Patronus!" he hissed.
"No, that won't be necessary, I think," Harry said calmly. He glanced at Sirius, giving him a look that left no room for argument. Sirius sighed, and gestured for the shocked Mrs. Cattermole to follow him. Once Sirius was out of the room, Harry felt even colder, and looked behind him to see the dementors from outside gliding into the room. They formed a circle around him, but nobody moved.
"You all remember me, don't you?" he asked, looking from each dementor to the next. The ragged breathing sped up all around him, and he took that as a yes. "Do you, by any chance... fear me?" For every second that passed, he felt himself getting more and more used to the feeling from the dementors, and with that came courage. He could even smirk at the dementors now. "I know what you creatures are. You are scum. You are disgusting crimes against nature... Abominations..."
The dementors seemed to be proud of this, as he noticed that they didn't get aggravated.
"No one knows how to kill you, or you would all be extinct by now. But make no mistake, one day, people will work out a way to do it, and when they do, I will learn, and I will personally hunt down and kill every last one of you. If, that is, you are on the wrong side..." He knew he had their attention now. They dementors were gliding back and forth, side-to-side, seeming agitated at the prospect of being vanquished. "Now, Azkaban is good for you. There, you get to feed on the joy of the prisoners, you get to live, and the people of Britain don't have to worry about the lot of you. If you side with me, I will let you go back there, and I will stop any attempt at killing you that people may try. If you choose to go against me, however, you will all be in a world of hurt. Do I make myself clear?"
The rattling breathing started speeding up once more as the dementors stilled. Were they thinking it over?
Then, after a few moments of stillness, one of the dementors bent at the waist, lowering itself into a deep bow, quickly followed by the others. Harry smiled and nodded.
"Very good. Go back to Azkaban, let your people know."
With that, he left the courtroom, humming as he made his way back to the lift.
The lift jerked to a halt, the grilles opened, and he stepped out into the Atrium, to find that it was packed with people, talking loudly amongst themselves. Apparently, Sirius had caused quite a bit of commotion taking all the Muggle-borns out of there. Making his way through the crowd, Harry pressed his thumb down on his ring, a domed shield appearing around him, and for a good reason, too.
"Is that...?" a wizard muttered as Harry passed him. "Merlin's beard, it's Harry Potter!" he cried loudly in realization. Immediately, the crowd went silent, and Harry felt everyone's eyes on him. The crowd dispersed, and Harry found himself standing in the open, with several wizards pointing their wands at him. Smiling, Harry reverted his walking stick to staff form and took a good look around.
Golden bars had been conjured in front of all the fireplaces, sealing them off, the only way out. The statue was right in front of him, and to the left, right and behind him were Aurors and Snatchers, Muggle-born catchers, all of them with their wands out.
Spells started flying, and Harry was sure they were immensely shocked when their spells, Stunners, Disarming Charms, and curses and jinxes of all kinds, merely splashed harmlessly against his shield. Only someone on Dumbledore or Voldemort's level of power would be able to smash his shield. To add insult to injury, Harry ignored the wizards around him and merely pointed his staff at the statue. The black stone changed color to white, now looking more like white marble. Next, its shape started changing. It seemingly melted into a white blob, and then started taking shape. The end result made Harry laugh. It was a very accurate statue of Voldemort, on his hands and knees. A house-elf, looking exactly like Dobby, was sitting in a saddle strapped to Voldemort's back. Voldemort himself had a look of utter surprise on his face, and a horse bit in his mouth.
"Well, my work here is done," Harry said and pressed the fingers of his free hand to his temple, concentrating as he stared up at the ceiling. A sharp crack, like fifty Apparations combined, sounded through the Atrium, signaling that the anti-Apparation wards had been shattered.
"Gentlemen," Harry said, giving his attackers a deep bow. "I will now take my leave! Have a good day."
With that, he Disapparated.
Bill's resounding laughter the next day made Harry feel very good. He was pleased to hear that his presence at their wedding, which was what caused the Death Eaters to appear, hadn't upset him too much.
"Only you, Harry!" Bill said, his eyes tearing from laughter as the two sat in the kitchen of the Shell Corrage, Bill and Fleur's house, a lonely and beautiful place by the coast of Tinworth, Cornwall. "Did you see the headline in the Prophet? 'Undesirable Number One mocks the Ministry!' I heard you did quite a number on the statue in the Atrium."
"Well, I felt a need to show them what I truly thought of their new statue," Harry said, shrugging. "I couldn't think of another way."
"Yes, it was quite amusing," Fleur said, entering the kitchen.
"My word, Fleur!" Harry exclaimed, looking the part-veela over. She was dressed very... casually, only a plain, powder-blue dress under a white apron. "You look right at home in the role of wife!"
"Quite surprising, non?" Fleur asked, twirling on the spot. "I suppose you, like everyone else, zought zat I would be some kind of gold digger, going from man to man?"
"You certainly have the looks for it," Harry said, grinning.
Fleur hummed thoughtfully. "You know, so does Giselle."
Harry felt himself blush as he looked away from Fleur, who laughed. Bill, evil as he was, laughed as well.
"So, why did you come here, Harry?" Bill asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, I needed to go somewhere that was out of the way," Harry said with a shrug, "and I can't exactly go back to Avalon, 'cause Albus will probably be waiting for me there, ready to chew me out for recklessly infiltrating the Ministry. But hey, I did a lot of good in there! I redecorated Umbridge's office, nailed the pathetic excuse for a Minister in the face with a Stunner, recruited the Dementors, and saved your dad."
"You what, and you what?" Bill asked, and Harry saw that his eyes were wider than he'd ever seen them. "Recruited the dementors? Saved my dad?"
"He was being tracked by the Ministry," Harry said, shrugging. "So I told him to stay away from any future Order meetings, so that he didn't get into trouble. As for the dementors... well, they remember me from my third year. They're a bit afraid, I think."
"Like I said, only you, Harry," Bill said, shaking his head in disbelief. Harry could hear him muttering "...scaring dementors..." among other things between sipping his tea, which made Harry and Fleur laugh.
"Well, I should get back," Harry said as he stood up, stretching. "Albus is probably eager to chastise me."
"Good luck, 'Arry," Fleur said, smiling as Harry shook Bill's hand.
"Enjoy the preaching," Bill said, grinning.
"Yeah, right," Harry said with a scoff. "I-"
He got no further, as just then, two balls of silver soared into the Shell Cottage through the open window. One of them took the form of a Phoenix, and the other took the shape of a very Grim-like dog.
"Hogwarts is under attack," the Phoenix spoke in Dumbledore's voice, just as the Grim told Harry, "Harry, he's attacking the school. Come immediately."
Harry shared a look with Bill and Fleur, before all three of them rushed out of the house as the Patronuses vanished. As soon as they got out of the anti-Apparation wards, they disappeared.
Harry reappeared in Hogsmeade, suspecting that Bill and Fleur had Apparated into the Shrieking Shack. He looked toward the school and saw that, indeed, Grawp, Hagrid's giant half-brother, was an undersized giant. The gargantuan monsters that were storming the castle were huge! They were at least twenty feet high!
Harry rose into the air and shot off toward the school. The lawns were filled with wizards and bodies. The giants didn't seem to care who they stepped on as they charged the castle, apparently intent on smashing as much as possible.
Harry was torn. He didn't know if he should take care of the giants or Voldemort first. Coming to a decision, Harry flew straight toward the giant oak doors, which had been blasted to pieces, and light was flashing from the doorway every few seconds. He noticed that all fighting near the entrance hall had ceased, and Harry lightly set down in the doorway.
Everyone were still, staring into the Great Hall, and Harry made his way through the crowd.
Voldemort and Dumbledore were locked in a duel in the Great Hall. The floor underneath them had shattered from the power they put out, although Dumbledore looked very tired, while Voldemort looked excited. Spells were sent back and forth at incredible speeds, so fast that Harry could hardly even keep up. Harry was powerful, and fast, but he doubted that he could block and counter spells at that speed.
He was shaken from his thoughts as a flash of white brought his attention back to the duel. Dumbledore had been knocked off his feet, and his back thudded against the shattered floor hard at Harry's feet. Voldemort, taking advantage of this, pointed his wand at Dumbledore.
"Expelliarmus," he hissed, and everyone watched as the Elder Wand soared out of Dumbledore's hand and into Voldemort's. The spectators around them gasped from shock, while the Death Eaters cheered as Voldemort held up the wand triumphantly. Dumbledore panted at Harry's feet, looking weaker and older than he had ever looked. Silently, Harry knelt and wrapped an arm around the struggling Dumbledore, helping him to his feet.
"H-Harry?" Dumbledore stuttered as he saw Harry, but Harry didn't look at him. He was only staring hard at Voldemort, who just now seemed to notice him.
"Ah, welcome, Potter," Voldemort hissed as Harry took a step forward, then another. The movements around them, which had started the second Voldemort became the victor of his duel with Dumbledore, now ceased once more. Voldemort pointed his newly won wand at Harry. "Avada Kedavra!"
Harry's hand twitched, and a rather large chunk of rock soared up in front of him, just as a shield was conjured behind it. The extremely powerful Killing Curse smashed into the rock, shattering it completely and sending shrapnel flying everywhere. Harry was shielded from the shrapnel. He thrust his staff toward Voldemort, who conjured a shield just in time to deflect a ball of red magic, a smirk appearing on his face.
"Following Dumbledore's footsteps, are you, Potter?" he taunted coldly. "Are you not aiming to kill me?"
"There is more than one way to vanquish you, Riddle," Harry said, seeing Voldemort's eyes narrow at the name. He slashed his wand at Harry, whose eyes widened slightly as he saw five different curses flying at him.
Harry's hand shot up, and a shimmering, blood red shield appeared in front of him, intercepting the curses and sending them bouncing off. He brought the tip of his staff to his mouth and blew hard. A massive, fiery dragon head, a Hungarian Horntail, materialized in front of the staff and shot off toward Voldemort, who slashed his wand upward. Unlike the last time, the Fiendfyre didn't disappear. Reacting as if struck, the fire shot straight up, but looped and dove for Voldemort again.
Voldemort gave a loud cry as he thrust his wand out. A snake made of fire shot out of it and crashed into the Horntail. The two fires wrapped around each other, biting whatever they could reach, and slowly formed into a ball, chaining Harry's staff and Voldemort's wand to each other. Harry's hand shot out, and he had to use both his staff and his hand to keep the fire under control. Risking a glance at Voldemort around the ball, he saw that the Dark Lord was holding his wand with both hands, a look of absolute hatred on his face. Seeing Voldemort like this, feeling just how much power he had... Harry shuddered at the thought of just how powerful he might be had he knows of his heritage as a Prime.
Another cry was heard from Voldemort, and Harry's eyes widened as he saw the ball, and subsequently his staff, get pulled toward Voldemort. The pull was made with such force that it pulled Harry off his feet. The ball of Fiendfyre shrunk and simply formed a thick rope of fire between the two of them. With a smirk, Voldemort cracked his wand like a whip, and Harry watched as a wave formed in the fire rope, heading for him quickly.
When the wave reached Harry's staff, a crack like a gunshot was heard, and Harry felt himself get shot into the air as the fire disappeared. He was flying in an arch straight toward Voldemort, who made a series on intricate wand movements, before stabbing it up toward Harry.
A massive ball of sickly green magic soared toward Harry. Luckily, Harry had his flight, which enabled him to dodge, even in midair. The magic soared past him and splashed against the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. Harry's eyes widened in surprise when he saw the stone melt away, dripping chunks of melted stone to the floor, and creating an opening to the outside.
Harry raised his hand as he saw another spell cast from Voldemort. Still in the air, he blocked the spell with a shield and thrust his staff toward Voldemort.
Voldemort dodged, and the blast of magic shattered the floor where he had been standing, destroying it more than it already was. A audible growl was heard, and Harry raised an eyebrow when he saw Voldemort rise into the air. He didn't have time to react, however, before Voldemort shot off, out of the hole in the ceiling. Obviously, he wanted a bigger playing field. Harry, not objecting at all, followed.
He stuck on Voldemort's tail as they flew higher and higher into the air. They were a good two hundred feet above Hogwarts when Voldemort finally stopped.
"You are good, Potter," Voldemort said, hovering in the air and turning toward Harry, who had stopped eighty or so feet away from him, hovering at the same height. "I admit that much. Why do you waste your potential on this useless cause? Do you not agree that people like us, like you and I, we deserve better than anyone?"
"Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth, Riddle," Harry said coldly. "There will be only one way to end this little duel."
"So be it," Voldemort hissed, and immediately stabbed his wand toward Harry, who effortlessly blocked the spell with another glowing shield.
He had been wrong, Harry. As he soared through the air, dodging, blocking, countering, attacking, Harry realized that he was just as fast as Dumbledore and Voldemort were. His blood was pumping now. He was in the air, where he belonged, and that somehow released something in him. He let loose.
Dodging a Killing Curse from Voldemort, Harry cocked his arm back, holding his staff at the very bottom of it. A blade much like that of a scythe formed at the top of the staff, and with a mighty cry, he hurled it at Voldemort, who gave a laugh as he ducked it.
"Reckless, Potter!" he roared as he fired five consecutive spells so fast that they looked like they had been cast at the same time. A small shield shimmered into existence in front of each of Harry's hand, and he batted the spells aside like they were nothing. Then, he twitched his fingers.
Voldemort raised his wand, probably ready to block anything Harry threw at him. He probably hadn't expected, however, that Harry's staff would smash into the back of his skull, having been summoned by Harry. Voldemort lost focus on his flying, and Harry suspected that he had also lost consciousness. Catching his staff, he dove toward the falling Dark Lord.
When he reached Voldemort, Harry wrapped his arms around him from behind, locking his arms to his sides, and then dove straight toward the opening to the Great Hall. The ground was getting closer and closer, and just as they reached the opening, Harry let go of Voldemort and veered off. A massive boom was heard as the body of Voldemort impacted with the floor, and Harry slowly floated down, into the Great Hall to see a large cloud of dust settling. Voldemort's body, from the chest down, was sticking out from the floor, the rest buried under it. Harry sighed as he set down lightly on the floor, shaking his head.
"It's a shame..." he muttered and turned away. Then, he heard it. The crack of a joint, then another, and another. Slowly, he turned around and saw Voldemort pushing his body out of the hole in the ground. He felt his jaw drop. "No way..."
"Did you truly think it would be that easy, Potter?" Voldemort demanded after pulling his head out of the ground and straightening up. "Guess again."
Harry immediately dodged a Killing Curse, and his eyes went cold.
"Enough!" he called with a force in his voice that made it sound like he had cast Sonorus on himself.
Voldemort, surprisingly, froze, and Harry took advantage of this.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle," he spoke slowly, with a coldness in his voice that he didn't even think was possible. "For too long have you been allowed to run around, torturing, killing, terrorizing... If you had used that amazing power righteously, and taken the right path, you would have been able to lead the magical world into a bright future..."
Voldemort's brow furrowed, and confusion was clearly visible on his face.
"What is this? A lecture, Potter?" he hissed, his scarlet eyes narrowing.
"For too long have you taken the easy path, the path of cruelty and malice..." Harry continued, not bothering with answering Voldemort. "I didn't want to have to use this, but you leave me no choice. For the sake of the man you could have become, I will give you until the count of three..." Harry stabbed his staff deep into the floor and let go. The staff stood vertically on its own as Harry held his hands out about a foot from his chest. His palms were facing each other, his right hand over his left with just a few inches between them. "Kneel, Riddle, and beg for forgiveness..."
"Kneel?" Voldemort asked, his eyes wide. Harry saw his pupils shaking, as if vibrating, displaying the madness in them. "You... are asking me... to kneel?"
"Try for some remorse, Riddle," Harry said as a bright, white spark ignited between his palms. "One..."
"YOU ARE ASKING ME TO KNEEL, POTTER?" Voldemort demanded, and his whole body was taut and his red eyes stared, a snake that was about to strike.
"Two..." Harry muttered, ignoring Voldemort.
"YOU ARE THE ONE WHO SHOULD BE KNEELING BEFORE ME! NOW DIE! CRUMBLE TO DUST AND VANISH FROM THE FACE OF HISTORY, POTTER!" Voldemort roared, and with the same speed as before, the Dark Lord fired five consecutive Killing Curses, but the shield appeared in front of Harry again, and stones rose to intercept the spells.
"Three... That's quite enough from you..."
The spark grew into an orb of bright light, brighter than even a Patronus, and Harry saw a bit of fear enter Voldemort's eyes as the magic kept building. Voldemort whipped his wand, and three bodies came soaring through the air, coming to a stop in front of him, probably in a Full Body-Bind. Harry saw Hermione, Sirius and Lupin.
"DO IT, THEN, POTTER! SHOW HOW COLD-HEARTED YOU CAN BE! YOU WOULD KILL YOUR LOVED ONES JUST TO GET TO ME?"
"It'll be alright," Harry whispered, and he felt a pleasant smile break out on his face as he tore his gaze away from the human shields, to lock with Voldemort's eyes. Harry clapped his hands together. "Iudicium Pristis had been invoked..."
The light grew and grew, enveloping everyone in its light. It covered the entire Great Hall in its light, but didn't stop there. It grew even more, encasing the entire castle in a dome of light, growing still larger to cover the Forbidden Forest and Hogsmeade. Screams were heard all around him, and roars came from the giants outside, but nothing could be seen through the bright light.
Then, slowly but surely, the dome of light started shrinking once more. Within minutes, it had shrunken so much that the Great Hall started coming into view. It shrunk back into a ball of magic between Harry's palms, back into a spark, and then vanished. The scene around them was vastly different now. Voldemort, who had been standing, glaring at Harry, was now on the floor in a fetal position. What little fat he had built up on his body was completely gone, his eyes were rolled up to only show the bloodshot whites of his eyes, his mouth was open in a silent scream, and he was trembling violently, twitching every now and then.
Voldemort wasn't the only one, though. All around them, the Death Eaters were all in the same fetal position, all of them trembling, looking like they had gazed upon the gates of hell.
"The Dragon Order has passed its judgment," Harry spoke quietly into the silence, his voice carrying across the entire Great Hall. "You, who so prized magic, and accused others of stealing it, have lost your magic, which will be in my possession until such time I deem you worthy of getting it back..."
Slowly, Harry walked up to Voldemort, past Hermione, Sirius and Lupin, who had been released from their Full Body-Binds, and knelt in front of Voldemort, picking up both his wands.
"Death is too good for you, Riddle," he whispered to Voldemort. "Enjoy life as a Muggle..."
With that, Harry stood up once again and walked over to Dumbledore, holding out the Elder wand. Slowly, cautiously, Dumbledore took it.
"Thank you, my boy."
Those words broke the silence. The tumult broke around Harry as the screams, the cheers, and the roars of the watchers rent the air. They thundered toward him, and the first to reach him were Hermione, Sirius, and Lupin, and it was their arms that were wrapped around him, their incomprehensible shouts that deafened him. Then, Ron, Ginny, Nevile, and Luna were there, and then all the Weasleys and Hagrid, and Kingsley and McGonagall, and Flitwick and Sprout, and Harry couldn't hear a word that anyone was shouting, nor tell whose hands were seizing him, pulling him, trying to hug some part of him, hundreds of them pressing in, all of them determined to touch the Boy-Who-Lived, now the Man-Who-Won, the reason it was over at last...
The Great Hall blazed with life and light as Harry was pulled inside, an indispensable part of the mingled outpourings of jubilation and mourning, of grief and celebration. They wanted him there with them, their leader and symbol, their savior and their guide. He spoke to the bereaved, clasped their hands, witnessed their tears, received their thanks, heard the news now creeping in from every quarter as the day drew on, that the Imperiused up and down the country had come back to themselves, that the Death Eaters who hadn't been at Hogwarts were fleeing or else being captured, that the innocent of Azkaban were being released at that very moment, and that Kingsley Shacklebolt had been named temporary Minister of Magic...
The dead were moved to a better place, the de-magicked Death Eaters and Voldemort were brought to Azkaban, while the dead giants outside were carried into the Forbidden Forest by Grawp, and the house-elves whipped up an excellent feast. Harry was seated up at the Head Table, next to Dumbledore, and everyone ate, laughed, mourned, and cried together. Once everyone were full, the food vanished, and Harry, prompted by Dumbledore, stood up with the headmaster and left the Great Hall, shaking hands and getting hugs and kisses as he passed the people.
Great chunks were missing from the marble staircase, part of the balustrade gone, and rubble and bloodstains occurred every few steps as they climbed.
Somewhere in the distance, they could hear Peeves zooming through the corridors singing a victory song of his own composition:
We did it, we bashed them wee Potter's the one,
And Voldy's gone moldy, so now let's have fun!
Harry smiled slightly at Peeves's antics, and he could hear Dumbledore's chuckle next to him. Within moments, they arrived at the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to Dumbledore's study.
"Oh dear," Dumbledore muttered. "Are you quite alright?"
The gargoyle had been knocked aside. It stood lopsided, looking a little punch-drunk, and Harry wondered whether it would be able to distinguish passwords anymore. It groaned in response to Dumbledore's question.
"Can we go up?" Harry asked.
"Feel free," it groaned.
They clambered over him and onto the spiral staircase that moved slowly upward like an escalator. Dumbledore pushed open the door at the top.
"Well, Harry," Dumbledore said with a sigh as he strode over to his desk and sat down in his chair, Harry sitting in his usual seat, "I daresay we only have a few moments before you will be pulled back to join the celebrations."
"And before Madam Pomfrey comes pestering you," Harry added, to which Dumbledore chuckled.
"Was that, perhaps, one of Merlin's unfinished spells?"
"It was," Harry said with a nod. "It's still unfinished, though," he added as he held up his hands, which were red, looking almost burned. "It's just some magical damage. It'll pass soon."
"I am very proud of you, Harry. You have defeated Voldemort, and you have made sure that he can never harm another person again, without killing him."
At that, applause immediately broke out all around the walls. The headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts were giving him a standing ovation. They waved their hats and in some cases their wigs, they reached through their frames to grip each other's hands, they danced up and down on the chairs in which they had been painted. Dilys Derwent sobbed unashamedly, and Dexter Fortescue was waving his ear trumpet.
"I want you to have this," Dumbledore said as he reached into his robes and pulled out the Elder Wand, holding it out to Harry, who took it with a raised eyebrow.
"My magical output is too strong even for this wand," Harry said as he held up his walking stick. "That's why I have this, remember?"
"But I still want you to have it, Harry," Dumbledore said, smiling brightly. "I think you are best suited for it. If you do not wish to use it, you can just hide it in Avalon."
"That's true," Harry said, and he pocketed the wand with a nod.
"So, what are you planning on doing now, my boy?" Dumbledore asked as Harry stood up. Harry hummed as he looked out the window.
"Mourn the dead, celebrate my victory, and secure a date with a beautiful French girl."
Dumbledore chuckled, patting his chest. "I, myself, will remain here, until such time comes when I find a suitable replacement."
"Once she gets more experience, I suggest Hermione," Harry said, walking toward the door. "She would be a great headmistress for the school."
Dumbledore didn't respond. He just hummed. Harry opened the door and looked back.
"I'll see you around, Albus."
"Have fun, Harry."
As Harry closed the door behind him, he smiled to himself. It was time to start working on the perfect future.
And that, as they say, is that. What, you expected there to be some epic Dumbledore versus Grindelwald level duel? Come on, haven't you figured out by now that Harry was much more powerful than Voldemort, and that a long duel would have just been a waste of energy? Anyway, that's that, the war was won, Harry fulfilled the prophecy, and didn't actually kill Voldemort. Instead, he reduced him to that which he hated the most: a Muggle. The prophecy only said that he had the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Vanquishing the Dark Lord doesn't necessarily mean killing Tom Riddle. Hm... I think we have time for a little more of the story, of what happened afterward.
In a cottage in Godric's Hollow, in the first bedroom to the right on the second floor, lay an old wizard in his bed. His eyes were closed, and with his weak breathing, his chest rising and falling ever so slowly, he looked almost dead, a peaceful expression on his face. The open closet was filled with colorful robes decorated with stars and moons. His beard, extremely long and silver, lay on top of his covers.
As the door to the bedroom opened, so did the old man's eyes, and a smile came upon his face when he saw who was standing there.
"Ah, Minerva," he spoke weakly, and a very familiar twinkle entered his eyes. "Is he here?"
"He is here, Albus," Minerva McGonagall said with a nod. A man passed her, walking into the room.
The man's raven black hair was an absolute mess, wild and untameable. His eyes, emerald green, softened when he looked at the old man in the bed. His face, though still looking quite young, had seen its fair share of battles, as he had a scar under his left eye, which went all the way down to the center of his cheek, and a smaller scar on the right side, by his jawline. But the most eye-catching wasn't his hair, or his glasses, or his very beautiful black and gold robes, or even the staff he held in his hand. It was the scar on his forehead, over his left eye, which was in the shape of a lightning bolt.
"Well, good morning, Minister," the old man said, his eyes twinkling madly.
Harry Potter, now thirty-eight and Minister of Magic, chuckled as he waved his hand. A very comfortable leather recliner appeared by the old man's bed. He smiled as he ran a hand over his goatee, having long since switched to it from the mutton chops, at his wife's urging, of course.
"How are you doing, Albus?"
"Getting weaker and weaker for each day that passes, I am afraid," Albus Dumbledore said with a smile. "I can no longer even leave my bed."
"Anything I can do?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow, and Albus shook his head.
"No, of course not, my boy," he said peacefully. "This is a journey I feel that I have been postponing for far too long."
Harry reached into the pocket of his fine velvet, high-collared vest, never having been one for wearing a waistcoat, and took out the pocket watch he had gotten on his seventeenth birthday.
"Well, I have the whole day off. You want me to stay?"
"If it is not too much trouble," Dumbledore said, smiling. "I do not have very long left, so I would appreciate some company."
Harry leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath, then exhaled, a soft smile appearing on his face.
"It all worked out in the end, didn't it?" he asked, and Dumbledore nodded.
"That it did, Harry. That it did." Dumbledore reached out weakly and patted Harry on the knee. "I could not be prouder of you, my boy, and I am sure that Lily and James would be as well."
The two went silent, as Harry patted Dumbledore on the hand, both smiling at each other.
"And how are the children? Unless senility has finally hit, Adrian started his first year this year, did he not?"
"That he did," Harry said, smiling. "Gryffindor, just like the rest of us."
"I suspected as much," Dumbledore said as he nodded slowly. "How is he doing?"
"He was nervous, at first, especially with James teasing him and telling him outrageous stories about basilisks in the plumbing and acromantulas in the broom closets," Harry said with a laugh, which was mimicked by Dumbledore.
"And James must be in his... third year?"
"He is," Harry confirmed. "And Arienne is in her seventh year," he informed the old former headmaster, knowing that he would ask. "She is pretty nervous, facing her NEWTs and all."
"And has she decided on her career yet?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Harry asked, chuckling, and Dumbledore nodded.
"Ah, Auror, of course." His eyes started twinkling again. "And how is Giselle?"
"Same as always," Harry said with a shrug. "She's snobby, shallow, and rude, but at the same time the most loving woman in the world. She's the greatest woman I've ever had the fortune of meeting."
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Say, did you ever figure out Elvina's potion? Did you ever find out...?"
"If everything she said about it was true?" Harry finished, seeing Dumbledore nod. "Yes, I did. It's a long forgotten potion, which I found after hours in the Avalon library. Yes, everything was true."
Dumbledore eyes lit up, as he was always thirsty for knowledge, and he looked at Harry curiously.
"Please, Harry, do tell, what does it do?"
"Basically, it speeds things up," Harry explained. "According to Merlin, this was a potion used a lot in times of war, because when they faced the risk of dying any day, they didn't want to spend meaningless time with people they may have turned out to hate, so they drank it. One might say that it speeds up the time around your emotions only, allowing feelings that could take years to surface to appear after only a few minutes."
"Ah, and Elvina, being a great Seer, already knew that her time was short, and as such-"
"Already knew that she would be giving it to me. Maybe she wanted some measure of equality. After all, she had been watching me since before I was born. She knew me better, I think, than I knew myself, and maybe she didn't want to spend her last days alive loving someone who wasn't even in love with her yet?"
"So, you feel that she was right to do so, then?"
"Oh, Merlin, no, and I'm going to make sure to punish her when I die," Harry said immediately, making Dumbledore chuckle. "Just because I can understand why she did it, and I don't blame her for it, that doesn't mean she was right to do it without permission."
"And had she asked?"
"I would have said no."
Dumbledore looked positively delighted. He always got that look whenever they talked about Elvina, and what she knew.
"And, naturally, she knew this as well," he quipped, chuckling.
"I am pleased to see that you are happy, my boy," Dumbledore said. "You have no idea how much it pleases me."
"Yeah, but you know, this job isn't exactly easy," Harry said, chuckling. "I mean, I have the wizards on one side, then the goblins on another, centaurs on the next, and..."
Harry trailed off and blinked. Dumbledore's eyes were closed. Slowly, he leaned forward and reached up, pressing his fingers against Dumbledore's neck. No pulse... His chest wasn't moving, either.
Harry sighed as he rose from the chair. His staff transformed into a walking stick, and the recliner vanished. He reached down and put a hand on Dumbledore's forehead, closing his eyes in respect to the old man.
"I'll see you on the other side. We'll have a drink with my parents. But not yet, of course."
With that, Harry turned and walked away from the bed, over to the door. Opening it, he took a step out of the room, then stopped and looked back at the still, peaceful form of his old mentor, a smile slowly appearing on his face.
"Pip pip," he said, winking at the dead man, before leaving the room.
On the bedside table next to the bed were a few items that defined who Dumbledore was. There was the candy bowl Dumbledore had received on the Christmas of nineteen ninety-seven, filled to the brim with lemon sherberts, and his pair of half-moon shaped glasses. Leaned against the candy bowl, however, was something one wouldn't expect to find in the room of an ancient old man. It was a chocolate frog card, and on it was the smiling figure of Harry Potter, a goatee on his face.
Currently Minister of Magic
The first wizard to survive the Killing Curse, earning the
title 'The Boy-Who-Lived.' Most famously, for the defeat
of the most dangerous Dark wizard of all time, Lord Vo-
ldemort in 1998 and his work and revolutionisation of t-
he Ministry of Magic. Founder of the peacekeeping mag-
ic council known as the Dragon Order. Discovered the c-
ure for madness induced by the Cruciatus Curse.
And now, I think it's time for you kids to go to bed. Alright, maybe just one more story. I'll tell you all about how I bested the fearsome Djinn known as Ripper! Hey, where are you going? Hey! What, stories about me aren't good enough for you? Damn brats! Ungrateful, the lot of you! Fine, see if I tell you any more stories in the future... I don't even care...
Finished! Story is complete! You know what happens next. Review, review, review, and review again! Bwahaha! I want reviews! They give me inner strength!