*Check's date* Wow, it has been a while... Best not to delay any further!
Lord Voldemort had come to realize that staring raptly at a pair of eyes, no matter how beautiful they might be, could only not be boring for about five hours. Once that five hour mark was reached, he casually tossed the orbs away and summoned his minions.
As soon as everyone had arrived and identified themselves per the official secret knock, the meeting began.
"My Death Eaters, the time has finally arrived," he informed them. "It is time for us to claim-"
"I'm sorry to interrupt, My Lord," Yaxley spoke suddenly. "But is there maybe somewhere else that we could talk about this? It really stinks in here."
Everyone glanced around at the half dozen dead bodies on the ground.
"Yeah, I think that tale about people emptying their bowels when they die must be true," Macnair said.
"Holy crap, is that Lucius?" Goyle asked, pointing to the charred body in the corner.
Voldemort growled. "Right here is fine. I can't smell anything, anyway."
"But sir, you don't have a nose," Nott pointed out.
A quick Cutting Curse later and Nott didn't have a nose, either.
"Anyone else not want to smell anything?" Voldemort asked calmly.
Aside from Nott's screams of pain, no one made a sound.
"Good, then back to the matter at hand," He gestured vaguely toward the body of Lucius. "Thanks to the tireless acts of bravery and ingenuity on the part of our dear, deceased Lucius, I have learned that Daniel Potter is dead, which means so too is any hope those fools may have of stopping my plans. It is now time-"
"So why did you kill him?" Crabbe asked.
"If Lucius found out all of this information for you, why did you kill him?" he elaborated.
Voldemort's eyes narrowed. "For asking stupid questions."
"What kind of stupid questions?"
"Exactly," the Dark Lord said, sending a Crucio into the large fool, sending him into his own spasming heap.
"As I was saying," he continued while re-holstering his wand. His eyes swept across the room at his minions. "The time has finally come for us to strike out against our enemies, my loyal Death Eaters. Without the Boy-Who-Lived for them to hide behind, we will destroy that fool Dumbledore and his pathetic followers, and then we-"
"What!" he growled, glaring irritably at Rudolphus.
"I uh... do you think it's at all possible, considering how easily he apparently died through no action of you or any of your followers, that maybe Daniel Potter wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived after all?"
"..." Realizing that was all the answer he was going to get, Rudolphus continued. "It's just that, Daniel is dead, but his brother is still alive. Might it be possible that his brother was the real one right from the start? Maybe?"
"Don't be a fool!" Voldemort shouted. "Just because the stupid boy always conveniently showed up to help Daniel escape every single time I had him right where I wanted him, foiling all of my plans in the process, doesn't mean that he's the real dangerous one. I decided that it was Daniel, therefore it was Daniel. And even if it somehow wasn't, it doesn't matter anyway because-"
"Maybe it wasn't supposed to be either of them?" Dolohov wondered, causing He-Who-Was-Becoming-Severely-Pissed to grind his teeth.
"Yes, my Lord?" the sole woman asked eagerly.
"Take out your wand and curse the next person who interrupts me. In fact, curse the next person who opens their mouth at all," he instructed as calmly as he could.
"Curse them how, my Lord?"
The insane woman's eager smile became positively gleeful. All the other Death Eaters began breathing through their noses (those who still had one).
Rabastian sneezed. Bellatrix set him on fire. Everyone waited patiently for the screams to end.
"Now then, once we've gathered the rest of our forces, we shall launch an assault on-"
A teenage boy walked into the room. "I'm back, Dad."
"God damnit!" The Dark Lord bellowed.
"Who's God?" Macnair asked. His question went unanswered as Bellatrix blew his head off.
Not minding the mess on the floor, the newly arrived boy entered the circle to stand next to Voldemort, his body hunched and melancholic. "I finished torturing those blood-traitors like you asked, Dad. Not that I took any pleasure from it, seeing as all I've ever wanted was to make friends and live a peaceful life. But alas, I'm the son of the most evil wizard in all of Europe, branded with the Dark Mark from the moment of my birth, and then sent to the Salem School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in America where I was sorted into the darkest, most evil house of them all, but because of my cheerful and optimistic outlook on life, I was shunned by my housemates, but also shunned by all the other houses because of how obviously evil I must have been. Oh why, why can't some beautiful young witch just give me a chance? A chance to prove that I'm not like my father, that I'm truly a sensitive and caring individual, that I have dreams of one day-"
By now the Death Eaters really wanted to tell the boy to shut the Hell up, but were too afraid of Bellatrix's wrath to do so. For his part, Voldemort just kind of stared at the angsting boy, more out of a sort of bile fascination than any interest in whatever he was monologuing about.
"Bellatrix," he finally said.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"Is this my son?"
The deranged woman frowned. "I'm fairly sure that you don't have a son, my Lord. I seem to recall a daughter, but not a son."
He nodded. "That's what I thought."
They fell silent as the boy continued to angst pitifully.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"I believe I gave you a job?"
"Hm? ...Oh, right." With a wave of her wand, the boy began his new (and short) life as a blood fountain.
"You know what? Screw it," Voldemort stated. "We're going to Hogwarts and killing anything living and destroying anything non-living. I don't even care if they're somehow related to any of us. If it breaths or moves, it dies. Got it?"
The remaining Death Eaters nodded. Bellatrix waved her wand, causing Goyle's intestinal tract to erupt.
Voldemort stared at her.
"You didn't hear that, my Lord?"
"I distinctly heard him say that he hated you and that your name was stupid, my Lord," she insisted. He stared a second longer before pressing his fingers against his eyes.
"We leave immediately," the Dark Lord said sternly. Sure, this wasn't the best of plans for the beginnings of his glorious conquest, but if he didn't do something quickly, his trigger-happy lieutenant would leave him no minions left. Besides, it wasn't like Dumbledore knew he was planning something anyway.
"I have the distinct feeling that Voldemort is planning something," Dumbledore informed his second-in-command.
"What do you suppose it is, Albus?" Minerva asked.
Dumbledore began pacing about his office. "Probably launching an attack on the school or something equally uninspired and foolhardy would be my guess. Nevertheless, for the greater good, we will stop him!"
"Of course, Albus. But what makes you so certain that he'll be planning an attack now?"
"For the greater good!"
McGonagall waited until it became apparent that Dumbledore wouldn't be elaborating any further. "I... don't think that answered my question, Albus."
"This is not the time for questions, Minerva; it's the time for action! Right now, I need you to contact the rest of the Order and the Ministry. I feel that this battle is going to require a lot of meat-shields."
"Albus, I've told you before: Even if they don't serve any higher function, Ministry employees are not to be used as meat-shields."
"Well, who do you suggest we use as meat-shields then; the students? I'm disappointed in you, Minerva. I mean, sure the sixth and seventh years would probably work, but those little firsties barely come up to the tip of my beard." He began stroking said beard. "Though on the other hand, they would be much lighter. I could probably hold one of them like an actual shield if I wanted to. That's quite ingenious, my dear!"
"Sir, I don't-"
"Ten points to Gryffindor, for the greater good!"
She sighed. "Sir, I don't think we're focusing on the right things, here. If You-Know-Who really is attacking-"
"...I'm talking about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
"Albus, are you doing this on purpose?" she demanded, her irritation finally reaching its limit.
Dumbledore laughed. "Minerva, I do everything for a purpose; and that purpose is for the Greater Good! And for the Greater Good, we-"
"Why on Earth do you keep saying that, Albus?"
"'For the greater good'. You've said it half a dozen times now in the last two minutes. Why?"
The old wizard looked puzzled. "Why? Because it's my motto; I say it all the time."
"I don't think you do, Sir."
"Of course I do! I even had it trademarked a few years ago so that no one else could use it," he insisted.
"Albus, I've known you for over sixty years," Minerva informed him. "And in all that time, I've never once heard you say that."
Dumbledore opened his mouth to object, but paused. "Are you sure?"
"Quite sure, Albus," she answered with a nod.
"But then why do I feel like I've been saying it constantly for... years now?"
"I've no Earthly idea, Albus; but I would highly recommend you not say it anymore because it's really getting annoying."
"...Right then. What were we talking about before that?"
"I can't believe Snape gave homework on the first day of school," Ron griped as he and the others drudged on to their next class. "And now I'm stuck partnering with Neville for the entire school year just because all of his supplies are doing twenty-five to life for premeditated murder! This is the worst day ever."
"Truly your life is one of unfathomable pain and misery, Ron," Harry grumbled beside him. "How about you and I trade? I can fail Potions this year, and you can be Snape's illegitimate daughter with four pregnant wives, one of whom you don't like, one of whom you don't know, and one of whom has a penis, all while being surrounded by people conspiring to betray you if they haven't already. And also you have a Dark Lord that's trying very hard to kill you. Can't forget that part."
Ron shrugged. "Well, yeah... but at least I'd finally get an O in Potions."
Harry ground her teeth as Hermione placed a supportive hand on her shoulder. "Things aren't all as bad as they seem, Helena-"
"If you call me that again, Hermione, we're both going to learn the answer to the question 'How much force is required to bare-handedly separate a human head from its spinal column'."
Hermione glared at her. "First of all, Harry: I already know the answer to that question. I read it in 'History's Most Brutal Troll Encounters' back in Third Year. And second: You need to start looking on the bright side of things-"
"Let me just stop you right there," Harry interrupted as she herself came to an abrupt stop, making the other two stop with her. "If I've learned anything at all in the weeks since waking up chained to my bed with my uncle threatening highly unnecessary grievous bodily harm to my person, it's that there is no 'bright side'. What there is-" She held up her left hand. "-is a dark side, where everything sucks, where the world sits around all day long just thinking up new and inventive ways to screw with you, and where even the things that seem good in your life eventually wind up biting you in the ass."
She raised her other hand. "And then there's the gray side. That's the side where nothing matters, where you ignore the world around you and everything in it, and where you never get your hopes up because deep down, you know that sooner or later something will come crawling out of the Dark Side, grab you by the leg and drag you back in with it, just so you can repeat the cycle all over again."
She sighed in a small amount of relief at getting that rant off her magnificent chest. "But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there really is a bright side out there and I'm just not looking hard enough. So tell me, my oh-so-intelligent buddy: What is this bright side that I should be looking toward?"
Neither Ron nor Hermione could find their voice for about ten seconds.
"Well... in the case of the Dark Lord who's trying very hard to kill you: it's still the first day of school, which means you can probably rest easy knowing that whatever he might be planning this year isn't likely to come to fruition for at least another six months."
A loud explosion shook the castle.
"What in Elphaba's green flesh was that?" Hermione cried, clinging tightly to Ron who had jumped into her arms bridal-style.
Harry smirked. It wasn't a happy smirk. "That, Hermione, was the world, and you just handed it a brand new way to screw with me. Thanks."
"I still say that this didn't happen just because I said it wasn't going to," Hermione persisted as the remainder of the student body finished filing into the Great Hall.
"Whatever you say, Hermione," Harry grumbled.
"I mean, it's not as if Father somehow overheard my offhanded comment about not attacking us, and then decided to launch an impromptu attack just to spite me or something."
"And besides, even if he could have somehow overheard me saying that: The explosion happened the very moment that I finished talking, which means that he and his Death Eaters were already standing outside the castle, which in turn means that he had already planned his attack long before I drew attention to it. He probably set this up hours in advance. Days even! Possibly weeks!"
"I get it, Hermione!"
Hermione shrugged. "Just so long as we're clear on how completely not my fault this is."
Harry simply went back to brooding.
"Why so down, mate?" Ron asked.
Harry couldn't even muster an eye-roll. "Dark Lord attacking? Hate my life? Hate you? I don't know, take your pick." She stared up at the professor's table, where all but Dumbledore himself were currently seated. "Or maybe it's just the thought of knowing that Dumbledore is going to pick me to lead this army of half-ass educated children into a battle against a large group of professional killers and psychopaths and somehow expect to come out the victor."
"Aw, mate," Ron slung a supportive arm around her shoulders. "You're getting too bummed out over nothing."
"'Course! I mean, there's no way that Dumbledore would ever put you in charge of an army!" The redhead chuckled at the idea. "Hell, you can't even beat me in a single game of Wizard's Chess! Why would anybody think you would be capable of leading an army?"
Harry was glad she hadn't bothered to raise her hopes. "Maybe because Wizard's Chess has jack-all to do with leading a real army?"
Ron laughed loudly. "Spoken like a true chess loser, Harry. Look, it takes strategy to win at chess, and it takes strategy to win a war. I'm the best chess player in the school, which obviously means I'm the best strategist and most fitting to be in command of an army."
"Or it could mean that you spend way too much time playing games when you could be doing your homework," Hermione pointed out.
"Fleur and Viktor sandwich," Ron shot back, causing Hermione to go to a happy place.
"So you expect me to believe that Dumbledore is going to pick you to lead this army, due entirely to your amazing board game skills?" Harry questioned.
Ron shrugged. "If he's smart." Harry snorted hard. "And even if he doesn't, you still wouldn't be the ideal second pick, you know? I mean, he could always pick Luna. She's a seer, so she would at least be able to predict the enemy's movements, right?"
"I'm not a seer, Ron!" Luna called from across the Great Hall.
"Of course not, Luna; that would be silly!" Ron shouted back, giving her the most exaggerated wink you could imagine before turning back to Harry. "That reminds me: You wouldn't happen to know what fifty galleons at thirty thousand to one odds comes out to be, would you? Dad says he's having trouble getting that muggle calculator thing to work properly."
All conversation fortunately ceased at that moment as Dumbledore finally arrived at the head of the room.
"My students," he greeted. "We are facing our darkest hour. Voldemort and his Death Eaters are currently assaulting the outer walls of Hogwarts. Faced with this great threat, there is only one course of action to take."
"Stay inside where it's relatively safe and let the Aurors handle it?" a Hufflepuff asked.
Dumbledore, the other teachers and a large portion of the student body burst out laughing.
"Let the Aurors handle it!" the old man wheezed. "Oooh... oh, thank you young lady. I haven't laughed like that since I was ninety. Ah, but no. We will be defending our great school ourselves, using all of the talent, knowledge and fighting skills that I'm pretty sure you've all been taught by now."
"Do those of us who haven't learned those things yet have to fight?" a small Ravenclaw asked.
Dumbledore smiled in his direction. "Oh no, my dear boy. Those of you who can't fight will simply be put on defense duties."
The boy nodded. "That seems a bit safer."
"By which I mean you'll be defending the more talented students from enemy fire with your bodies, of course," Dumbledore finished.
The boy drooped, as did many others.
"What about those of us who hate the rest of you and don't care if you die?" a Slytherin asked, to which his housemates rallied behind.
"And I really think those of us who may currently be pregnant should stay somewhere safe," Alicia Spinnet added.
"I second that!" Blaise Zabini shouted.
Dumbledore shook his head in disappointment. "What do I always tell you children? House unity. House Unity! Live together, learn together, fight together, die together! What is so hard to understand about that? Now if we can have no further interruptions, I'd like to announce the person who will be leading you all into battle!"
"Shouldn't that be you, Sir?" a poor, naive Gryffindor asked.
Dumbledore sighed. "House. Unity. People. As in, those of you who actually belong to houses, which I obviously do not. But fear not, for my decades of experience, power and knowledge, my legendary wand, my equally legendary sword, my singing hat and my magical cure-all crying phoenix shall all be on the battlefield with you in spirit!"
Students began making plans to revolt. Not all of them were Slytherins.
"Now then, your leader: Someone of great integrity, bravery, ingenuity, cunning, charisma, a healthy amount of recklessness, and one heck of a chess player-"
Harry's head smacked the table. Ron started raising the roof.
"-is none other than-!"
Outside the castle, the encroaching army was halted in their tracks by a demonic bellow from within.
"WHO THE BLOODY BUGGERING HELL IS TRACY DAVIS?!"
Dumbledore may be a lot of things, but a broken record about The Greater Good is not one of them. If everyone could kindly stop making him do that in their fics, I would certainly appreciate it.
I'd originally planned for Luna to have a much larger role in this fic (ditto Ginny), but somehow none of the ideas for her managed to mesh with the rest of the plot, which is kind of sad considering there's barely any plot to begin with.
Turns out I had one last SI Mary Sue that I could feed to Voldemort before moving him on to other things. That's always fun.
The story's winding down. Let's see if I can finish it some time within the next three years.