Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter
A/N: After the last chapter I got a few comments about Harry's statements to Snape, particularly his comment that Snape had deserved the abuse he received as a child. To be clear, I do not think that any child deserves abuse of any kind, child abusers are monsters who should rot in prison for the rest of their miserable lives. Harry's comment was not reflective of an actual opinion, merely a statement designed to cause Snape as much mental anguish as possible, in response to the very real evil that Snape has gladly perpetrated on Harry, his family, and the rest of the world.
"Harry, what in the world did you say to Snape?" Neville Longbottom asked Harry as he and Hermione sat down for dinner in the Great Hall.
Harry had just picked Hermione up from the Hospital Wing following the Wand Weighing and they had not yet had a chance to talk about what Harry had seen or said during his confrontation with Snape. Harry had spent the time since the incident perusing Snape's memories and his thoughts to build a fuller understanding of the man, all the while wishing he could stop and forget everything he had learned. As he looked at Neville he considered just how much to tell the boy about what had happened, on one hand Neville deserved to know the truth about Snape, especially as it involved his parents, on the other hand though the truth would only cause him pain and may have caused a violent reaction from Neville toward the greasy Potions Professor.
"I simply informed him that I was in a position to see him in serious trouble for a number of things in his past, and that if he did not moderate his behavior that I would... make things difficult for him." Harry said with a small smile.
"You threatened Snape?" Neville asked, surprised at Harry's nerve.
"No, of course not. I simply helped him understand that antagonizing me in the manor he has previously would not be in his best interests."
A few other people asked Harry for more specific details of what he said to Snape, but he avoided revealing anything else, though he did manage to piece together an idea of how the Potions class had proceeded after he and Hermione had left. Snape had stood in the corridor without moving or speaking for somewhere between thirty seconds and five minutes, depending on who told the story, before he simply swept into his classroom without speaking. He then simply wrote the instructions for the potion on the board and sat down. He didn't move from his seat or say one word throughout the entire lesson.
When they finally broke away from all the questions at dinner Harry and Hermione went back to their quarters. Harry told Hermione exactly what had happened, and what he had said to Snape. Hermione was shocked at the venom in some of Harry's statements, until Harry better explained just what kind of man Snape was.
"The man is utterly reprehensible, he has no conscience, no regard for any human being outside of himself. He keeps a list of enemies in his head and spends all his free time coming up with more and more horrible ways to kill everyone on that list. The worst part is that the top section of that list is everyone who he blames for the death of my mother, not because he really cared about her, but because as far as he is concerned they stole his property from him. Have you ever wondered why he treats Neville the way he does? It's because he blames Neville partly for what happened, he somehow thinks that Neville is at fault for not being targeted first instead of me. He blamed the Longbottoms too, until he managed to get the Lestranges to go after them. He blames me for being born and for being the subject of the prophesy. if he didn't believe that I'm the only person who could defeat Voldemort he would have killed me years ago." Harry ranted, hoping that finally saying it out loud would get the images out of his head.
"So what are we going to do about him?" Hermione asked as Harry calmed down, being sure to emphasize the 'we'.
Harry shrugged "I warned him, if he tries anything I know enough to completely destroy him, and I fully intend to go through with it if he crosses me. Other than that I don't know what else we can do."
The next morning Harry was awoken by the strangest sensation, it felt like he was being pulled backwards at a high rate of speed. Turning to look at the clock on his bedside table he was surprised to see the hands spinning backwards. When they had stopped spinning the clock read five o'clock. Harry instinctively knew what had happened, Dumbledore had died. He must have gone after the ring already, and the curse must have killed him on the spot. Since Dumbledore still had extra chances time had turned back to when he was reinserted into the time line. Of course this would still leave him with three more chances, and he would still probably end up cursed so they would need to move quickly to stop Snape from saving Dumbledore, most likely removing another of the old man's chances and hopefully reducing the amount of time he could survive with the curse.
"Hermione, wake up." Harry said as he nudged his wife to wake her.
"What is it?" She asked groggily, not completely awake yet.
"Dumbledore is going after the ring right now." Harry explained as he pulled on a pair of trousers.
This got Hermione's attention and in the blink of an eye she was fully awake, out of bed, and getting dressed. "How do you know that?" She asked as she slipped a t-shirt on.
"I felt him die, and then come back. If I had to guess I would say he came back ten minutes before he died." Harry said as he tied his shoes "That means we only have a few minutes to get down to the Dungeons to slow Snape down."
Four minutes later Harry and Hermione were layering locking and sealing charms onto Snape's office door. Satisfied with their work, Harry and Hermione hid under Harry's invisibility cloak while Harry kept an eye on the Marauder's Map.
"There he is," Harry whispered as a dot labeled 'Albus Dumbledore' suddenly appeared in the headmaster's office "He must have portkeyed in." Suddenly there was a loud banging on the door they had just spent so much time sealing, followed by much swearing. "Any moment now" Harry said, holding Hermione tightly so they wouldn't stick out from under the cloak. The dot labeled 'Albus Dumbledore' had been moving back and forth across the office, but then it stopped, and then it disappeared, and for the second time Harry felt the same sense of being pulled backward. Watching the map he saw Dumbledore reappear before pacing only to leave the map again.
"Did you feel that?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Yeah, that was weird." Hermione replied "Why did I feel it this time, and not earlier though?"
"Dunno, maybe because I was holding you this time." Harry guessed as he watched the map again. Based on how far he thought they had gone back, they shouldn't need to seal the door, but just in case Harry fired another sealing charm at the door. Once again the dot labeled 'Albus Dumbledore' appeared, but this time there was no banging on the door as all of their charms inexplicably failed.
"I guess we can't use the same trick twice." Hermione whispered as Snape ran past them toward the Headmaster's Office.
As Harry and Hermione followed Snape Harry came up with an idea to further reduce Dumbledore's number of chances, but before he could implement it he would need to know how many chances Snape had left. Reaching up to touch his glasses Harry activated the Death Sight and looked at Snape. Snape himself was surrounded by a dull blue light, but above his head was a black number two which was crossed out with a glowing crimson line and next to it was a Crimson number zero. Below those numbers was the number 4962. Harry was slightly confused by the results he got from looking at Snape under the Death Sight. The top number normally showed the number of chances a person had left, but for some reason Snape had lost his two remaining chances. Even Dumbledore, who Harry knew had used up a chance, still only showed a number four the last time Harry had looked at him.
Unfortunately this ruined Harry's plan to trip Snape with a spell as he ran past the fourth floor landing and hopefully causing him to fall to his death. So instead Harry and Hermione just followed along all the way to Dumbledore's office.
Five minutes later they were waiting next to the statue which guarded Dumbledore's office, waiting for Snape to leave the office so they could go in a take both of the Icons in Dumbledore's possession. After another half hour of waiting Snape finally leaves the office, a perplexed expression on his face. Anyone else seeing Snape might have believed that Snape was concerned for Dumbledore's health, Dumbledore himself quite probably believed that, but Harry had seen the truth of Snape's mind. Snape was concerned for what the Headmaster's poor health would affect his plans and intrigued by his newest puzzle in curing the Leper's Curse that now afflicted Dumbledore.
Before the statue could move back into place Harry and Hermione had moved past it and onto the spiral staircase was not moving at the moment as the wards around it had not detected their passage. At the top of the stairs Harry opened the door as quietly as possible and he and Hermione slipped through.
"Hello, Professor." Harry says as he removes the cloak, clearly having caught Dumbledore off guard as the old man is looking out the window.
Dumbledore's confusion was clearly written on his face, none of his wards had been tripped, and all of them had been set to bypass the superior protections of the Potter Invisibility Cloak. These wards were only made possible by the use of the Elder Wand, but there was no way that they could have failed.
"Harry, what a surprise. What brings you to my office this morning?" Dumbledore asked, completely ignoring Hermione who was standing right next to Harry.
Unbidden they both took a seat opposite the Headmaster before Harry replied, "I have come to collect a couple of things." Harry stated simply before holding out his hand. Instantly the Resurrection Stone flew to his hand. This caused Dumbledore to immediately draw his wand, under no circumstances would he allow anyone to hold two of the Deathly Hallows at once. Before Dumbledore could even begin to cast whatever spell he had planned on Harry another wave of Harry's hand saw the Elder Wand turn into black smoke before wafting over to reform in Harry's outstretched hand.
"Professor Dumbledore," Harry gasped in mock disbelief "I can't believe you would draw a wand on a student."
"Harry please return my wand." Dumbledore asked, his tone belying his polite words.
"Albus we both know this wand is not 'your wand'." Harry replied staring the old man down, daring him to respond. "Though I am not surprised that you would refer to it as such. You would claim ownership of a power beyond your comprehension, a power of which you do not even know the origin."
"I know full well the origin of that wand." Dumbledore replied smugly "It was originally owned by Antioch Pevrell and it is the most powerful wand in the world."
"Not quite true Albus, but we will get to that. Tell me, do you know why it is called the Elder Wand?" Harry asked.
"Because it is made from the wood of an elder tree." Dumbledore responded condescendingly.
"Incorrect," Harry said with a smirk "The wand is not made of any wood native to this plane, and the wand is not named after the tree, it is the other way around. You see it is called the Elder Wand because it is exactly that, the oldest wand, the first wand. It is the origin of wandcrafting and all wands that have come after it are but pale imitations." At this point Harry examined the Resurrection Stone. Seeing the crack that ran along it, bisecting the symbol carved into its surface Harry raised the Elder Wand to point at the Stone and cast a repairing charm on it.
"Harry that will not..." Dumbledore began, only to be struck dumb as he watched the surface of the Stone ripple like water as the crack vanished. At this point Dumbledore truly began to get scared, he had tried that very thing moments before Harry had entered the room and had no results at all.
"Surprised?" Harry asked "Don't be, you could never have accomplished that, even with the Elder Wand, because you were only borrowing its power until someone like me came along to reclaim it for its true purpose."
"And what, exactly, is its true purpose?" Dumbledore asked trying to buy time to come up with a plan to take the Wand back from Harry.
"To be wielded by one who acts with the full authority of Death, but you in your arrogance sought to become the 'Master of Death' when the truth of the matter is you could never have mastered the other two artifacts you so sorely sought. You see each of these objects," Harry indicated the Wand, the Stone, and the Cloak "acts just as any other object of the same kind in the hands of one who has not mastered it. So the Wand is as good as any other wand until you gain its allegiance by defeating its former master. The Cloak is as good as any other invisibility cloak, but in the hands of its rightful owner, or one who uses it with the owners blessing it becomes all but impossible to see past. I'm guessing that is the real reason why you actually returned it to me for Christmas in my first year, it no longer worked for you as you were supposed to give it to me if my father died. The only way to master the cloak is to be given the cloak by its former master, with full understanding that it is yours to use without condition from that day forth. The cloak belonged to my father, but when he died it became mine, and while I could not claim it until I turned eleven you used it as you pleased, but once I turned eleven the Cloak was no better than any other invisibility cloak. The Stone is again an interesting piece in the average person's hands it is just a rock. Once you have successfully used it once it can be used to call forth any spirit you desire to speak with, but the first spirit must always come willingly, and no spirit you would call would ever come just so you could assuage your guilty conscience."
"But none of that really matters." Harry said before he raised the Wand again and cast a memory charm on Dumbledore. The charm ran straight through Dumbledore's mind removing the memory of the last few minutes and then proceeded to remove every memory of the Deathly Hallows the old man possessed. Dumbledore was left with no idea that he had ever possessed the Elder Wand, no clue why he had put on the ring that cursed his hand, and the memory of calling Harry to his office on this Saturday morning. While the charm did its work Harry quickly hid the Elder Wand and the Resurrection Stone.
Dumbledore blinked twice upon seeing Harry and Hermione sitting in front of him and it took him a few moments to remember why he had called them to his office. Deciding on what he thought was his most likely reason for calling this meeting he began. "Harry, Professor Snape spoke to me about what happened before his lesson yesterday, and I am disappointed in you. You cannot simply threaten your teachers any time they do something you disagree with. You will be serving two weeks of detention with Professor Snape."
"I will have to pass on that Professor." Harry said with a hard glint in his eye. He had suspected that Dumbledore would try a power play like this, which was exactly why he had stuck around in Dumbledore's office rather than slip out while the memory charm had the old man distracted. By doing this now he had the upper hand, Dumbledore did not have a wand on him, and would most likely be only peripherally aware of that fact. While Harry was sure that Dumbledore would have his original wand somewhere it would not be in any place he could get to it quickly enough to get the jump on Harry and Hermione.
"Harry you do not have a choice." Dumbledore responded, the kindly grandfather act he usually played all but gone.
"No Professor, it is you who do not have a choice. You can assign as many detentions as you see fit, but I will not attend any of them. Should you attempt any stronger form of punishment then I shall demand arbitration by the Board of Governors. During that arbitration I would be obliged to reveal the things I discovered when I managed to reverse Snape's highly illegal Legilimency attack. I was not bluffing when I said I knew enough to destroy him Professor, and if you make an issue of this I will gladly do so."
Dumbledore was reeling, he had hoped that Harry would fold under the pressure of being called into his office, but the boy was simply raising the stakes. All that Dumbledore had left was to appeal to the boy's compassion "Harry, Professor Snape should not be judged by his past mistakes, he has spent the last thirteen years trying to atone for them. Everyone deserves a second chance."
It was not Harry, but Hermione who responded to Dumbledore's plea for leniency "Trying to atone?" She asked incredulously "Everything that man has ever done at this school has only strengthened Voldemort's cause. We all know that Voldemort is coming back, and that when he does there will be another war. When that war comes the two things we will need more than anything else is Aurors and Healers. A Potions NEWT is required for both of those careers, and leaving aside the fact that he is quite possibly the worst teacher in this school, his policy of only accepting students who have received an O on their Potions OWL means that NEWT Potions enrollment is at a fifth of what it was before Snape began teaching. Instead of producing more Aurors and Healers we aren't even producing enough to replace those who are retiring. And those that we are producing are by and large Slytherins, who have been conditioned for seven years to be supportive of Voldemort should he return. The fact that you have given all of this your tacit approval should raise serious questions about which side of this war you are really on."
"As for a second chance," Harry said, once his wife had finished tearing Dumbledore's appeal apart. "This is his second chance. The crimes he has committed against my family more than justify any response I choose to take, but I am giving him, and you, this one chance should you or he refuse it or squander it I will destroy you both." Seeing the look of concern on Dumbledore's face Harry elaborated "I saw far more than just Snape's sins yesterday, I saw your involvement in a great number of them as well. I wonder how Augusta Longbottom would react to discovering how it was that the Lestranges really knew where her son and daughter-in-law were that day. I doubt Barty Crouch would be all that forgiving either when he learns that you explicitly ordered Snape to give the information to his son."
Harry smiled as he saw the look of unmitigated terror on Dumbledore's face, that one piece of information could destroy him. Augusta was his linchpin on the Board of Governors, not to mention a force to be reckoned with in the Wizengamot. She would see him out of Hogwarts in less than a day should she learn the truth and he would most likely face criminal charges as well. Those facts becoming known would seriously erode his support, and what support he would have left would be sorely taxed just keeping himself out of Azkaban. Add to that Barty Crouch finding out his involvement in the younger Crouch's arrest, disgrace, and eventual death would only make things worse. While Crouch may not have much power left he still had a few strings to pull and nothing would stop the man from making sure Dumbledore lost everything. In short Harry had him over a barrel with only one secret, and if he knew anything else Dumbledore would probably die in Azkaban.
Deciding that he had no other options available Dumbledore surreptitiously slid open the bottom drawer of his desk where he kept his wand. When he looked down at it he was momentarily confused by the amount of dust that had somehow accumulated, after all he used his wand on a regular basis. As he tried to remember when he had put his wand in there he suddenly had a mild headache before remembering that he had put it in the drawer shortly after returning from Little Hangleton that very morning, and the dust had obviously come from the Gaunt Shack, it was after all the most logical explanation. Dumbledore looked up to find both Harry and Hermione's wands pointed directly at him.
"Headmaster if you reach for your wand I will consider it to be a personal attack, and in light of your past actions against myself and my wife along with your support of an enemy of House Potter I would be fully entitled to use lethal force to defend myself, which I would do." Harry said his voice so cold and steely that Dumbledore did not for one moment doubt that he meant every word of it.
"So unless you want to die today you will close that drawer slowly and then keep your hands on the desk where I can see them." Dumbledore did as Harry instructed him so Harry continued "Now, as I said, this is your second chance as well. Normally I would threaten to kill you if you cross me again, but as you are already dying there would be little point to it, so here is what I am offering you if you restrain yourself from interfering in my life, and tell me every piece of pertinent information about my life that you have thus far neglected to tell me, I will allow you to die with your dignity and reputation intact. If you attempt to interfere or if you are less than completely forth coming and honest I will ensure that you lose everything, and that you go down in history as the most reviled Dark Lord since the founding of Hogwarts. You have until the end of the month to decide."
Before Dumbledore could respond Harry and Hermione had stood up and were walking toward the door. Dumbledore attempted to again reach for his wand, but when he tried to lift his hand from the desk he found it stuck there. When he tried again he felt a jolt of electricity lance through his body, leaving him twitching in pain for a few moments. When the door had closed behind Harry he felt the magic that had held his hands in place dissipate.
Harry pulled Hermione into an unused classroom and proceeded to kiss her passionately. "That spell worked perfectly." Harry told her as they broke apart.
"Thanks" She replied with a smile. Hermione had never crafted a spell before, and she was glad that her modified sticking spell had worked as well as it had. The spell was a combination of a standard sticking charm and a shocking jinx. It was designed to give an ever increasing shock every time the target pulled against the spell. Eventually the shock would be sufficient to knock out an elephant, at which point the spell would finally fail. However the odds of anyone retaining consciousness at that point were pretty slim. The truly ingenious part of the design though was that rather than directly fighting the target the spell redirected their kinetic energy into stored magical energy, which would then be released as electrical energy only to be reabsorbed and stored again. That way the energy requirement to cast the spell was significantly lower than its results would normally require.
"Let's go get some breakfast." Hermione finally suggested after another passionate kiss.
The morning of the First Task had finally arrived, and Harry felt absolutely no nervousness at all, well almost no nervousness. He had a plan, a backup plan, and a back-up, back-up plan. Harry and Hermione were quite certain that the basic plan would work perfectly, but it was dependent on wizards being as stupid as they suspected they were. Unfortunately depending on someone else's stupidity was not a foolproof way to plan, after all fools are far too ingenious when it comes to ruining plans. So they had the back-up plans in case someone had done something which would prevent Harry from making a mockery of the entire tournament.
Harry had warned Cedric about the dragons since Fleur and Krum would still know about them, or more accurately Hermione had passed along a warning from Harry since she had an easier time of getting close enough to him to deliver a warning. Harry had also let slip a concern that transfiguring an animal to distract the dragon would be insufficient since the dragon would easily dispatch a single animal. Harry had been experimenting with his glasses and found that Cedric was not actually on his last chance yet, and had most likely lost his next to last chance in one of the tasks, so he hoped to keep Cedric from sustaining any potentially serious injuries during the tournament.
Somehow Harry still ended up drawing last from the bag, and still ended up facing off against the Hungarian Horntail. He wasn't sure if he was just unlucky or if everyone else had instinctively grabbed the smallest dragon they could find in the bag. So it was that Harry found himself sitting in the Champion's tent waiting for his turn to face off against a dragon. He would much rather be sitting with Hermione, but he was not allowed to sit in the stands, and even though she was his wife she couldn't join him in the Champion's Tent.
So instead Harry sat and thought about how things were going so far with his plans to defeat Voldemort. Sirius had gotten in contact with Remus about looking into Hepzibah Smith's possible insurance policy. So far Remus had only ascertained that she did have a policy of some sort, but not what she had actually insured. Sirius had also told Harry that his own Occlumency was coming along and that soon he should be able to hold out Dumbledore or Snape. They had also told him of their own successful animagus transformations, but had not yet been able to demonstrate them for him. Dumbledore had not yet given any response to his ultimatum, but he still had six days and Harry fully expected at least one more power play before then. Harry and Hermione had also been invited to spend Christmas with Hermione's parents and they had agreed. Both knew of the Yule Ball, but no one had actually announced it and Harry figured he could squeeze concessions from the School and possibly the Ministry in order to assure his attendance.
Finally his name was called and he walked out to face his dragon. As he heard the cannon which signaled the beginning of the task he raised his wand, the holly and phoenix feather one as it was the one he had presented at the Weighing of the Wands and therefore the only one he could use without breaching the magical contract that compelled him to compete. "Accio Golden Egg." He called out, making sure that he spoke it loud enough for the entire stadium to hear him. As expected the egg simply flew to his hand. The horntail simply let it fly past her as she could immediately tell it was not one of her own eggs and was travelling quickly away from her. Harry caught the egg and then turned away from the dragon and walked out of the stadium, resisting the urge to make a very rude hand gesture to the judges.
The moment Harry was out of the stadium and on his way to the medical tent Hermione was in his arms holding him tightly and smiling more brightly than she had all month. The plan had worked perfectly. It would have been extremely simple to ward the eggs against summoning charms, after all many everyday products were charmed to be unsummonable, like clothes, money pouches, and wand holsters, but by and large wizards did not consider such things when everything they did not want people summoning came pre-charmed when they were bought. As such when the eggs were obtained from the goblins no one stopped to consider whether or not the goblins had put anti-summoning enchantments on the eggs, and now they looked like fools in front of the world press for not considering the possibility of a champion simply summoning their egg.
A/N: Sorry this took so long to get written and posted, I've had a lot to do for classes the last month or so. I've decided that I really need to focus on just finishing one story at a time, so this will be the only story being actively worked on for the time being. Sorry to those of you who have been waiting so long for me to continue Master of Time, I promise to get back to it, but not until I finish this story.