Chapter 24. You know what to do.
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Chapter 24: Feed the Dementors
"Do you know what being a Slytherin means? Sometimes, it feels like the witches and wizards in our house forget; they get caught up in homework and gossip and trying to find someone to fuck. None of that is what Slytherin is about, folks. Slytherin isn't just a house, it isn't just a word. Slytherin is a creed. It's a promise to each other, to protect each other and to fight for each other. It binds us all, and glory for one of us is shared by all of us.
"You have one last shot this year, team. All of you. This is your last opportunity until final exams to shine and bring glory to our house. This is the one opportunity that you all will have this year to win the Quidditch Cup. Hufflepuff stands before you. They're the only ones who can stop you. Do not let that happen!"
Felix Sykes paced. The team sat on the benches in front of their lockers. Harry was leaning back into his.
"This is it," Sykes summed up. "One shot. If that does not fire you up, I cannot do anything for you. Slytherin is watching. Make us all proud."
One shot. Harry smirked a bit and cracked his neck. His skin tingled with suppressed energy. The year had flown by and it all came down to this one last chance, according to Sykes.
What a year it was.
Not even a year ago, magic was a foreign concept to him. Harry lived in an orphanage, in a constant state of cynicism. Nothing was…good, there. There was no source of hope. At the orphanage, instead of a light at the end of the tunnel, there was just a bleak, cloudy sky. What was he supposed to do after leaving the orphanage? Was he supposed to find a way to save himself?
But magic had saved him. Magic delivered him from his miserable existence.
And then Cedric had come along. And Draco. Then Theo and Blaise, Fred and George. They all provided him hope. They gave him a reason to care – a reason to live. Harry had friends for the first time. They had all gotten him Christmas presents, for Christ's sake! The boots from Draco were tucked away safely inside his locker at the very moment.
They all cared about him – it was something that the orphanage had never offered him. And it was magic that had made all of it possible. Harry knew this, now.
And so Harry had finally come around, upon Lucius' insistence, to view all magic with an open mind and a lack of judgment – no singular piece of magic had been the one to save him, after all – and that had made all the difference. The spells. The training.
He now could see without his old, ratty glasses. He could see with sharper vision than ever. His body had changed as well. Dramatically. Coming from the orphanage, he was a bit on the scrawny side. A bit short. Now…he was strong. Or at least, he was well on his way to getting there.
And then there was Voldemort. How coincidental was their meeting? Pure luck, the epitome of fate…whichever. Magic, again, was probably the best answer. Their odds of their confrontation in Gringotts were astronomical! They were a matter of time and space – and yet, the two of them crossed paths once more. They crossed paths for the first time since the thirty-first of October, ten years ago.
He had blamed the man, the spirit…whatever Voldemort was, once upon a time. He had blamed him for everything. Voldemort had killed his parents. If not for him, he would never have suffered in Ripley's orphanage for a decade. He would have grown up like a normal child with a loving family.
But of course, Harry's perspective had changed. It is amazing, really, what can happen in a year.
Voldemort…Harry understood him, at least to a certain extent. The man wanted to make changes for that would benefit the magical population. Did that make him evil? Harry wanted to do the same, and if some Muggles got hurt along the way…who cared? Really, what did it matter? Harry's parents had opposed Voldemort, and Harry could respect their choice. More than anything, he respected his own parents' convictions, one way or the other. But he disagreed.
And because of that, he was willing to let go. He was certain that his parents, despite their opposing views, would support his desire to change things for the better. And then, Dumbledore had betrayed him.
Oh, he was still angry about that whole ordeal. He was apoplectic, in fact. However, it simmered below the surface. Voldemort had been right; that type of rage was counterproductive. It clouded his judgment. The fact of the matter was that Dumbledore would get his comeuppance sometime in the future. McGonagall, too. For now…he would put on a fake smile and steal as much knowledge from the man as possible.
Their lessons had continued and Dumbledore had seemed relieved when Harry's anger had abated. They moved from Conjuring to Transfiguration and they even delved into Alchemy, which was humorously ironic to Harry.
And yet, looking back, Voldemort had taught him so much more. Voldemort touched on everything. Simple spells, Dark spells, convenient spells, blood magic, ritualism…everything. Harry was still training his…chakras…and Voldemort promised to show him some cool things that could be done with that once the man regained his body. And that would be soon, after all.
They had a plan. They had finally worked out a plan to steal the stone. They knew how to use it, as well. That bloody, transfigured figure in that last room did not stand a chance.
"Potter! The match isn't going to wait for you, you know!"
Harry cocked an eyebrow and smirked at Sykes. It seemed his introspection would have to wait.
"Don't rush me, Sykes," Harry teased. "You wouldn't like what would happen if you did."
Sykes laughed in return. "I know it now, you fucking super wizard. You scared the shit out of the upper years in that duel you had."
"They never said anything," Harry chuckled darkly. "I'm a gentle soul deep down…I promise."
"Yeah, well, don't be today, alright?"
"Sure," Harry grinned. He snatched his broom up from his right, bouncing on the balls of his feet; it was time to have some fun.
"Another goal for Hufflepuff! They were off to a slow start, but those Badgers are giving the Slytherins everything they can handle, now! The score is now 90-80, Slytherin!"
Damn all of it to hell. The game had started off well, but that patented Hufflepuff grittiness was making itself known. The sun was shining heatedly down on the game and Harry wiped the sweat from his brow. Bloody May and its weather.
In truth, he as getting annoyed. The damn Snitch was nowhere to be seen and it was up to him again to save the day. Was everyone around him incompetent?
'I have asked myself that same question for years, Potter.'
"Fun game!" Harry jerked his head to the right. Cedric was there, floating aloft with a sappy grin on his face. Despite Harry annoyance, amusement bubbled up inside of him, but he quelled it quickly; at the moment, they were not friends.
"Won't be for you, Ced," He responded, gazing down. Hufflepuff had the Quaffle again. Fucking Flint had fumbled it away.
Cedric flew in a lazy circle around him. "Aww, come on, Harry! Don't be like that."
Harry ignored him. After all…he had just seen the Snitch.
"And Potter takes off from up above! He's flying through the air like a dragon, folks! Has he seen the Snitch, or is that crafty Slytherin up to something?"
No tricks, no schemes. The desire for pure domination fueled him. Harry approached the Chasers swiftly, thanking magic for fixing his eyesight and himself for having the guts to go through with it. He ducked, digging in with his heels to dive under Whittingale. He threw his weight to the right and rolled past a Bludger.
And then the stupid Snitch switched directions. Beeler had prepared him for that, however.
"Wha – oh, what a move!"
All those end-overs that Beeler made him do certainly paid off. He rocked his broom up and then down swiftly, hooking his ankle around the shaft of his Nimbus. He turned sharply, still on the proverbial heels of the Golden Snitch.
"Potter could be moments away from ending this game, ladies and gentlemen!" Lee Jordan declared to the crowd. "But wait! Here comes Diggory on Potter's right! Do it, Diggory! End Slytherin's reign!"
"It's true, Professor!"
Harry ducked another Bludger and Cedric was behind him, laughing his ass off.
"I'm gonna catch you, Harry!"
"Fine. I'll catch the Snitch instead," Harry tossed behind him.
They were near the Hufflepuff goal posts with only several feet between them and the expanse of grass. The Snitch weaved between the posts and the two Seekers followed, until the Snitch shot towards the sun, shining brilliantly in its glare. It went up and up and Harry ignored the peculiar sense of vertigo, clenching his Nimbus tightly with his thighs. The sun was causing him to squint heavily, but the Snitch was mere feet away.
But this particular Snitch was resilient; it soared to the side slightly before falling down dramatically. It was as if the magic of the bloody thing had disappeared.
Harry took a chance. He let his legs fall off the broom and leaned backwards as well. It was as if the magic in his Nimbus had disappeared. Sky became ground and ground became sky. He angled his broom…and flew.
'Nowhere to run, little Snitch.'
Harry's left hand snatched on of the Snitch's wings deftly and he leveled out his broom.
"Potter's got the Snitch," Jordan announced with a sigh. "Final score 270 – 160 Slytherin. The dynasty continues."
Harry beamed, holding the Snitch up by its damaged wing. The Slytherin section was roaring in its approval and was already storming the pitch. An arm draped around his shoulders.
"Nice catch," Cedric grinned. "I'm not taking the risks you take, Harry. You couldn't pay me enough!"
Harry simply laughed in response. Cedric ruffled his hair and took to the ground as Harry's teammates – sans Flint – all attempted to tackle him at once.
"We're the champions!"
"The Quidditch Cup is ours! Again!"
"Brilliant snag, Potter!"
Harry needed to get to the ground. Quickly. His teammates were attempting to tear his robe off him. Of course, the ground was not any better. The Slytherins surrounded him and it was so loud that Harry could not think straight.
"Ladies and gentlemen, your 1991-1992 Quidditch Cup winners…Slytherin!"
Hooch had the Cup, gleaming brilliantly in the light. Harry's smile widened as Bletchley took the Cup from her and hoisted it in the air. When the Cup finally found him, he pressed it up lazily into the air with his right hand.
Harry Potter, the champion. He liked the sound of that.
"Ahh! That was amazing! You shot off out of nowhere!"
"Remember when he did that Sloth Grip Roll through the Hufflepuff Chasers – "
"And when he shook off the Hufflepuff Seeker – "
"His name's Cedric, by the way! And then the catch – "
"Oh my God, that catch was a masterpiece! Harry's ready for the big leagues, aren't you, Harry?"
"Sure, Royce," Harry snorted. "Just need to grow a bit. Draco, be careful with that thing."
The pitch was finally clearing out. It had taken a good fifteen minutes or so, and now Draco and Royce Beeler were both acting like children. Perhaps Draco had an excuse, but Beeler? Not so much.
"It's fine," Draco scoffed, but handing the Quidditch Cup over to Harry anyway. "A Mending Charm would fix anything I could do to it."
Harry accepted the cup with a grin. Both Royce and Lucius had found him as soon as the Slytherin crowd had thinned out. Lucius made sure to shake his hand and pat him on the shoulder, once again offering Harry a place to stay for the summer. Harry had accepted his offer and joy flowed through his chest like hot chocolate.
"Remus!" Harry greeted the man. They had kept in touch since their first meeting. "How are you doing?"
Remus shrugged, cocking his head to the side and smiling. "I cannot complain. You told me that you were good at Quidditch, but I think you undersold your talents. That was superb flying. I've never enjoyed myself at a match as much as I did today."
"Harry's awesome!" Royce gushed. "Remus, right? Royce Beeler, Seeker for the Winbourne Wasps. This kid owes me for teaching him all of those moves today!"
"Do not," Harry retorted, but Remus raised his eyebrows.
"Does he, now?" Remus' blasted mischievous expression was back. "Aren't you going to thank him, Harry?"
"I already signed stuff for him!" Harry protested hotly, causing both men to laugh.
"Thanks for inviting me today, Harry," Remus made sure to say. "I had a blast. Congratulations on winning the Quidditch Cup."
Harry did not respond immediately; instead, he grinned and gave the man a one-armed hug.
"Anytime," Harry finally said.
"Hey," Royce blurted out, breaking the silence. "It's a Saturday, right? Let's go to a pub, Remus! Any friend of Harry's is a friend of mine!"
Remus certainly looked unsure.
"Go on," Harry urged him. "Draco and I are going to our own party in a moment. Go have some fun."
Remus glanced at Royce for a moment before patting the pockets of his robes. There was a small, clinking sound and Remus looked up with steel in his eyes.
"Sure, why not?" He said easily. "Got a pub in mind, Royce?"
"Of course! C'mon!"
Royce grabbed Remus by the arm and just like that, they were off. Harry watched on in amusement.
"Got any tattoos, Remus?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Ha! So you do have a wild side, then?"
"If only you knew."
"Who was that guy?" Draco asked once the two men were out of hearing range.
Harry shrugged. "Remus Lupin was a friend of my parents. Really cool guy."
"He needs a robe that at least reaches the ground. Perhaps a shave as well," Draco sniffed. That haughtiness of Draco's upbringing was showing.
"He has no money, Draco. He's had a tough life," Harry defended the werewolf. "Bloody brilliant man, though."
"If you say so," Draco muttered dubiously.
"Harry! What a catch!"
He knew that voice.
"Hello, Minister Fudge," Harry smiled fixedly. "How are you doing, today?"
"Very well, very well," The Minister guffawed. "Do you have a moment?"
Harry looked over to Draco. "Er – sure. Draco, why don't you take the Quidditch Cup to the Common Room and I'll be there in a bit?"
Draco nodded after a moment's hesitation, but his eyes glowed brightly as he took the Quidditch Cup back in his hands. The boy walked back to the castle – he was practically skipping – and Harry followed the Minister away from the crowds on the field.
Fudge was in his normal bowler hat and he too was walking with a bounce in his step. Once the pair of them reached the stands surrounding the Quidditch pitch, Fudge whirled around with a smile on his face.
"You are quite talented on that broom, by the way," He started, motioning to the broom in Harry's grasp. "But I daresay you've heard that a lot today!"
Harry gave him a small smirk but said nothing. Fudge could not be here just to talk about Quidditch.
"Listen," Fudge took his hat into his hands. "I really want to thank you for your contribution a couple of weeks ago, Harry. It went a long way in aiding my term as Minister."
What contribution? Oh, right; Fudge had sent him that letter.
"Sure thing," Harry said easily. "You've helped me out a lot, so I figured I could do something in return."
"Exactly! Exactly!" Fudge grasped his hand. "That attitude will help you go a long way, Harry! I would not have been able to push my latest proposal through the Wizengamot without your letter. You words are stronger than you know!"
What proposal? Harry had not exactly said nice things, but he never expected Fudge to put his words out in public. "Thanks, Minister. If I might ask, though…what did Fairview do with my contribution?"
"Well, he went and researched each of the evil, vile men and women on the list I sent you," Fudge appeared uncomfortable. "And since it has been a decade since You-Know-Who's downfall, we wanted to do something special for the population that would boost morale and help with our approval ratings – that is, the approval ratings of my advisors and I – and we figured that the best way to do this would be to…close the book on the past, if you know what I mean."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "I'm afraid I don't."
Fudge blinked, gripping his hat tightly with both hands. "Patrick took his research and we had a few respected people – including you, of course – and we took that to the Wizengamot. They decided yesterday evening that the proposal was best for everyone involved. On Monday, everyone with a life sentence in Azkaban for conspiring with You-Know-Who against the Ministry will be given over to the Dementors."
"Dementors?" Harry did not like how the hair on his neck was standing up. "What do they do and why does this matter?"
"Well…" Fudge was squirming. It did nothing to make Harry feel better. "Dementors guard Azkaban for us. They're nasty creatures, really, but the Ministry has use for them. In order to keep them happy, we have to…feed them… –"
"Dementors survive on the happiness of others, but they 'eat' souls. So, on Monday, we will be, er…feeding them the Death Eaters."
Harry was gaping. How horrible did that sound? Having your soul eaten by a monster – and that was what these Dementors were. Monsters! He never agreed to this! He only was willing to help Fudge!
But he did help Fudge. He was a fucking idiot.
"I thought Fairview was just collecting my words for you! I did not realize you'd be using me like this!"
"Harry, come now! Be reasonable," Fudge's arms were held out defensively. "You are finishing the job you did ten years ago! You're bringing peace to the Wizarding World and supporting your Ministry like every proper witch and wizard should do! These murderers are the worst sort you'd ever meet. They deserve death if anyone does!"
"But you won't be killing them! It's worse than executions! I did not agree to that! I don't support this!"
"You don't?" Fudge seemed confused. "But Harry, this is for the good of our society. We will prevent anything like the last war from happening again! You will be a hero!"
"I never wanted to be one in the first place!" Harry roared. "I never wanted to grow up in an orphanage! I wanted my parents and they were taken from me! And now you want to ruin more damn lives in the name of the old war! It's over! Let it go!"
"But the support I could gain – "
"I DON'T CARE!"
Harry threw up a silencer before he yelled; he was angry, but not dumb. His chest was heaving much harder than it ever did during the match.
He had to get out of here. The decision had already been made. He had to tell Dumbledore.
"Look, Minister, it's fine," Harry ran a hand through his hair. "It's been done. Whatever. Just…don't do that ever again, okay?"
"I don't know what – "
"You used me," Harry snapped. "You asked for help and then used me for purposes that you never explained. Don't do that."
"You should have asked if you cared that – "
"I know!" Harry shouted loudly. Minister Fudge even jumped a bit. "Look, I've got to go. Thanks for telling me, I guess."
And he whirled around, sprinting up to the school without looking back. He was so fucked. To the Wizengamot, Harry was a boy who had said awful things. He condemned men and women that he did not even know. The only hope he had was Dumbledore. And how was Dumbledore not aware of this?! Was he not the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot?
The one thing that truly scared him was the fact that Voldemort had not said a word yet. Nothing.
'Harry Potter…do you have any idea how angry I am?'
'I – '
'You ignored my warnings!' Voldemort roared. 'I told you what to do and you did not listen! I warned you not to trust Cornelius Fudge! Harry Potter, you are responsible for the lives of my followers!'
Harry's heart sank. 'I know! I did not mean to mess this up! I was – '
'You were careless and now my followers are going to fucking pay for it! They are MINE, Harry! They pledged themselves to me. I marked them. Do you not understand this? They are suffering in Azkaban for my glory! They will be rewarded! I WILL NOT HAVE YOUR FAILURES SENTENCE THEM TO DEATH!'
Harry flinched. He was in the entrance hall of the castle and Voldemort's words chilled him. He was responsible, wasn't he? The people were going to suffer something worse than death because of him.
He had to find Dumbledore. He was Harry's only hope.
'So…what are you going to do?'
'What will I do to fix your mistakes?' Voldemort scoffed caustically. 'No, no, no. Harry, you are going to fix your own mistakes. I'm not here to hold your fucking hand. What you are going to do is steal that bloody Philosopher's Stone. Tonight. I will go and save my people myself and you had better hope my anger fades, Potter. You will do everything I say, or I will possess your body and get it done myself.'
God, he had really messed up. Here he was, still in his Quidditch robes with his Nimbus in hand after he had sentenced nearly a dozen people to death row.
'You listen to me, Potter,' Voldemort's voice was colder that Harry had ever heard it. 'You will be successful this evening. There is no other option. If you fail...'
Harry closed his eyes as Voldemort's words trailed off. He understood the silence better than he would have understood a threat. His life was probably on the line.
Where should he start? Their plan to steal the Philosopher's Stone required a few things. For one, Dumbledore needed to be out of the school.
How coincidental. He had a way to make him leave. Harry raced up the stairs, two at a time. He turned corner, and then another.
Oh, thank god. Dumbledore had just been about to go up to his office.
"Harry," Professor Dumbledore blinked before smiling. "What has got you in such a hurry?"
"Minister Fudge, sir," Harry huffed. "You see, the Minister and I were talking after the match and he was telling me about this idea he had for the Wizengamot…"
Professor Dumbledore simply nodded. Harry swallowed to assuage the dryness of his throat. "He wants to give all the Death Eaters in Azkaban over to the Dementors! He wants to take their souls away!"
"That's – I appreciate it, Harry, but I do not believe there is any chance that such a proposal would pass. As a matter of fact, unless the proposal passes unanimously, I must be informed –"
"It already has!" Harry cried.
Professor Dumbledore seemed startled. "I beg your pardon; what?"
"Fudge, I – he asked me what I thought of the Death Eaters in Azkaban and asked for help, sir. He used me! I swear I didn't mean to – "
Wizened arms pressed down on his shoulders. "It's okay, Harry. Just tell me what happened."
Harry breathed deeply and looked up at the man. "Fudge took what I said and twisted it and them presented it to the Wizengamot. I never meant to make this happen!"
"So the proposal passed?" Professor Dumbledore asked. Harry nodded vigorously. "Very well. I must be on my way, then."
Dumbledore paused for a moment and looked down at Harry. "I will take care of this, I promise. Thank you for coming to me, Harry, despite our disagreements lately. I am very proud of you and I'll protect you from any consequences."
"Thanks," Harry muttered, looking down. Dumbledore patted him on the shoulder. "Of course. If you'll excuse me, I must be off to speak with Professor McGonagall."
Harry watched as the man's magenta robes disappeared around the corner.
"Bloody ponce," Harry muttered underneath his breath.
Harry got into the Common Room unnoticed. A simple Disillusionment Charm (though it probably could not be considered "simple" for most students at Hogwarts) got him all the way down to his dormitory unnoticed. But he did not want to be noticed. He needed to change and grab his father's old Invisibility Cloak.
This was the moment. The plan would have to change a bit, but Voldemort wanted the Philosopher's Stone now. Harry simply wanted to be finished with their agreement; he had fucked it all up, after all. Voldemort would not forgive him – hell, Harry knew he would be lucky to get out of this mess unscathed.
He…he was scared, though. He did not want to lose Voldemort as a teacher. The Dark Lord had taught him more than he'd ever dreamed and now the man was furious. He had things to do and his followers to save. Harry did not want to be left behind.
It was difficult to admit that to himself. The man had killed his parents, after all, and Harry still was not sure how he felt about actually joining Voldemort's side. He was already sworn to neutrality at the very least. A Voldemort with a body was a game-changer, though. It sent a shudder down Harry's spine just thinking about it. What would Voldemort look like? He had a hunch, just from knowing the properties of the Philosopher's Stone and how it was used. Either way, the most powerful wizard in Britain was about to get his body back…if Harry succeeded.
Harry took to the stairs once more, climbing up to the third floor. He was still unsettled – it was as if his center of gravity had changed. Voldemort was silent, brooding. Harry could only move forward, towards his means of earning forgiveness. The Philosopher's Stone.
The door was locked, of course. Harry had relocked it the one time he went down the trap door. Harry threw the hood of his cloak back and drew his wand out.
He remembered how to do this. A tool here, another placed just so inside the lock. Harry struggled for a moment, but felt the lock's mechanism start to give.
"Potter! What on earth do you think you are doing?"
Harry's heart leapt. He was caught! He turned around slowly, his hands bare and risen up above his shoulders to face the woman who had introduced him to the Wizarding World. Professor McGonagall's arms were crossed, but her eyes promised suffering.
"I would like an answer, Potter! This is the third floor corridor. It has been off limits since the beginning of the school year at Professor Dumbledore's command. I could have you thrown out of the school for this."
No. No, no, no. Harry looked down at his feet and swallowed. Voldemort was still silent. He would receive no help. Professor McGonagall would not hesitate to expel him, he knew. That could not happen!
He reached inside his robes with a swiftness that shocked Professor McGonagall. Harry held is wand decisively in his hand, desperation on his mind.
His wand flew out of his hands, soaring through the air. The holly wand went end over end until it landed into pale hands. Harry's eyes snapped to Professor McGonagall's right.
"My, my," Snape drawled. Black eyes narrowed as they examined him. "If you were not in trouble before, Potter, I do believe you are now.
"What was that curse you were attempting, Potter? Answer me!" Professor McGonagall demanded. Harry's heart was in his throat.
"The Cruciatus, I daresay, Minerva," Professor Snape growled. "It looks as if Potter here has been studying some forbidden magic. Dark Magic. Look at the boy; it envelops him."
Harry looked at the man in loathing. How dare Snape betray him?
It did not matter, much. With two wands pointing at him and a Dark Lord who refused to help, he was screwed.
It's been a while since I gave you guys a cliffhanger. I thought it was time to rectify that.
One chapter left, I believe. I'd like to get it out to you all before I go back to school, but it's been a hell of a ride so far. One last chapter to go. I'll see you soon.