Disclaimer: I do not own the beautiful story that is Harry Potter. That belongs to the beautiful Rowling. :)
Warning: Less than morally-acceptable choices. Blood. Gore. Violence. Death. Language. Innuendos. Smug Tom. Etc, etc.
Beta: This story is NOT EDITED AT THIS POINT IN TIME. So there will be mistakes.
And so, let the final chapter begin...
Harry gave a bemoaning sigh as she stretched out on her bed.
Tom, who had been feeding Porteurmort and was also sitting at the end of her bed, looked over at her. He knew why she was sighing. The summer, for her, had been rather uneventful. Voldemort was clearly on the move, yet there wasn't much Harry could do. Moratorium was so preoccupied with building up his new government, and keeping the people from panicking, that Harry scarcely had a night to herself.
She didn't mind Moratorium being in control for the most part, of course. She understood it was crucial to his plans, and was happy that, for the most part, his plans were being carried out without much error.
But, as consequence of Moratorium being so busy, Harry normally found herself sleeping throughout the day to catch up on her sleep.
This meant that Harry's summer was mostly quiet, and frankly, boring for her.
Tom could sympathize with her to a certain extent. He didn't care too much for Moratorium being mostly in control, anyhow. He would much rather Moratorium found his own body to inhabit—really anyone else's body would do, as far as Tom was concerned—and leave Harry alone.
He never voiced this, of course. He knew all too well how dependent Harry was on Moratorium. He was that constant comfort she needed. Until she had come to terms with her past, and was capable of taking care of herself without worry of another panic attack, she needed Moratorium. He would not be the one to try and deprave her of that.
Moratorium was not the only one busy—Sirius and Remus were scarcely around, as they were scurrying about trying to fulfill orders for Dumbledore's little fan group. This made it easier for Harry and Moratorium to move about without drawing too much suspicion, but it also meant Harry got to spend even less time with her family, which was rather disappointing for the girl.
On the bright side, Harry would be returning to Hogwarts by the end of this week. Which meant that Moratorium would be forced to hand over the majority of the control to Harry, and only take over when necessary. It also meant Harry would see her familiar again soon, which she was very much looking forward to.
Suddenly, Harry's mirror glowed a dull white as it sat on her nightstand. It wasn't actually Harry's mirror, so much as Moratorium's. It was Marwyn's way of immediately contacting Moratorium. Harry almost sighed again, as Moratorium reached across the bed and plucked it up. "Yes?"
"Mrs. Malfoy wishes to see you," Marwyn responded.
Moratorium quirked an eyebrow at that. "Very well. Send her to my office, I'll be there in five minutes."
"Yes, my Lord."
"May I get you anything, my dear?" Moratorium inquired politely as he entered his office via floo. The Minister's office was a spacious room filled with luxurious rugs, and red oak furniture. Its primary colors were red, and black, and it held bookcases taller than Basileus standing upright that were filled with many books. Most of them were confiscated Dark Arts and Blood Arts that Moratorium had specially enchanted to appear as trivial fictional readings.
The floo network from his office was directly connected to all floo networks, one of the perks of being the Minister. That wasn't to say all floo networks were connected to the office—it was a one-way thing, for the most part, but a few were able to directly connect to it. Harry's home, for one thing. The Chambers, his suite in Sinful Island, Hogsmeade, and his assassins guild were some of those two-way connections.
Although, the floo in the Chambers was actually the Potter's portable floo before Harry had Dobby permanently install it in the Chambers.
Narcissa sat in a lush black leather couch across from his neat desk. When he entered the room from the floo—brushing off bits of ash in the process—she smiled faintly. "No, thank you."
Moratorium cocked his head and took a seat at his desk. "What can I do for you, then?"
Narcissa licked her lips nervously, and Moratorium could practically feel the anxiety rolling off her. "I trust that this office is warded for privacy?"
"Your trust is well placed, then," he assured her.
Narcissa nodded her head slowly, fidgeting with her fingers in her lap. "I never received the Dark Mark, like my husband. He cannot track my every moment due to this, but… but as you said last year, he trusts me enough to believe I will keep my tongue. I cannot do so any longer. The Dark Lord has… has placed a terrible burden upon my son.
_Draco?_ Harry echoed, concern clear in her voice. Tom, who was floating by the specially enchanted window behind to show a high view somewhere in some nameless mountain tops, turned when he heard her voice. Moratorium, for the most part, did not visibly react to the name of one of Harry's friend.
"You wish to call upon my protection for your family," observed Moratorium.
She nodded. "This year I have given them those portkeys you gave me, and told them to always wear them. I trust them to. In exchange for this information, and for a continument of information, I want your word that you will protect my family."
Moratorium raised Harry's wand with a flourishing movement and pointed it upwards. The tip of it glowed a dull blue as he said, "I give you my Magical Oath that I will do everything in my power to keep your family safe from the one who goes by the name of Lord Voldemort. Furthermore, I can promise you that you and your family will be granted immunity for your cooperation."
Narcissa's eyes widened in mild disbelief—she hadn't expected he would give her a Magical Oath so easily, or at all really (she half expected him to use Veritaserum on her), and the fact that he had done so and granted her family immunity (something she had not even considered would happen) was… very reassuring, "Th-thank you."
Moratorium only smiled thinly in response.
She licked her lips again. "The Dark Lord has grown very angry in all of your sabotages. He cannot find a good grip on any alliance, anywhere. He is growing very… desperate, I fear. He is so quick to lose his temper now. My husband… My husband was with Bellatrix when your… employee ended her. Lord Voldemort was so very displeased with his failure, that he has tasked our son with… with this burden."
Moratorium did not press her, knowing that she needed time.
Narcissa struggled to speak the next part. "He tasked Draco with killing Dumbledore before the year was over, so they could take over Hogwarts."
Moratorium was vaguely surprised at Voldemort's boldness. "I see. Rest assured, then, Madam, your son will be fine."
She nodded her head hesitantly. "Is… Is there anything I should do?"
Moratorium considered this. "Continue to give me information in regards to his plans, and… and go ahead and tell Draco to go and try to kill Dumbledore."
"Don't worry," he reassured her confidentially. "I will take care of everything. Besides, Draco will need to keep up appearances, won't he? When the time comes, and Voldewhore makes a move against Hogwarts, feel free to denounce your alliance to him and activate the portkeys. He will be dealt with, then."
Narcissa swallowed roughly, "Yes, alright. There is… another thing. Draco has been tasked with… with restoring an old Vanishing Cabinet in the Room of Requirement. The Dark Lord plans to invade Hogwarts through that."
"I see. Thank you, my dear. Do have a pleasant day, Madam. Try not to fret too much."
Narcissa slowly headed out the door, taking the dismissal with the grace of a woman of her stature. When she left, Moratorium summoned Marwyn. Marwyn entered the office, frowning briefly in curiosity. "What would you have me do?"
"Ensure that the safe house I originally prepared the Malfoys remains as such."
"Yes, Lord Moratorium."
Harry gave a low hum as she tugged up her thigh-high black socks. She then brushed down on her red and black plaid skirt, making sure she didn't see any more wrinkles. She smiled, satisfied, when she was certain there weren't.
Sirius eyed her up and down as she began to brush out her long, unruly black hair. "… Don't you have a longer skirt?"
Harry didn't even pause. "No, Padfoot. This skirt fits me fine."
"It's showing too much skin," Sirius argued. "You're… you're a growing girl, and you should cover up appropriately."
She rolled her eyes. _You don't think it's too short, do you, Tom?_
Tom shifted uncomfortably from where he sat in the air. His cheeks were a faint pink and he aptly avoided her gaze. "I… may be a bit biased."
Harry frowned. _What do you mean? _
"And isn't that shirt too tight on you?" Sirius persisted, looking worried.
"I am fine," Harry said firmly to the both of them. "What I have on is not uncomfortable to wear. It's not any different from what I wore during my first year!"
"You didn't have these in your first year!" Sirius exclaimed, making wild gestures towards her chest. She shot him an irritated look. "Don't give me that look. They're too big! Boys will notice! They will, Vix, mark my word, and—and—and boys are disgusting things. I ought to know, I was one."
"Hormones really are," Tom agreed. "Maybe you should cover up…"
"Oh, for the love of Merlin," Harry grumbled, exasperated. "I can handle myself, you know."
Sirius still looked anxious. "But—"
"Padfoot, you don't need to worry yourself. Besides, Hermione, Draco, and Neville will look out for me."
"Two of which are boys!"
"Who are like family to me, and I am certain they think the same," she assured him. "Now give the best to the twins, won't you?"
Sirius didn't look any bit reassured. "I'd rather the twins were still at school with you."
"They had no need to return, as their business is booming," Harry dismissed. "They're old enough to be adults, and they need to spend their time and energy on Mischievous Marauders' Marks if they wish for it to continue to be a success. Besides, I wore this skirt last year and it fit me just fine."
"And you've grown, Vix! In all the wrong ways!"
"Oh, good grief—"
There was a polite knock at their front door that cut Harry off before she could let out a tirade of curses. She shot Sirius one more irritable look before she opened the door. "Good evening, Professor Dumbledore."
Dumbledore smiled brightly at Harry. "Good evening, Miss Potter, Mr. Black. I trust all is well?"
"No!" Sirius protested, while Harry smiled and said, "Yes."
The two exchanged glowers.
"I'll be off then with Professor Dumbledore," Harry told Sirius. "Tomorrow I'll go back to Hogwarts, and there isn't much you can say or do about my wardrobe. Don't even think about trying to enchant it differently, Sirius, or I swear you'll regret it."
Sirius pouted, and Dumbledore gave the two bemused looks before offering his hand towards Harry. "Thank you, Harry, for agreeing to assist me in this matter."
"Of course," Harry said easily. "You've been so helpful to me, it seems like this is the least I can do."
Titan came barreling down the hallway upon realizing there was a new visitor. Titan had grown considerably over the summer—he was as tall as Harry now, and Harry could easily ride him like a horse. As such, Sirius and Remus had to enlarge the hallways, Harry's room, and the staircase for him. Harry suspected he would have to stay with Basileus in the Chambers next summer, as he would, undoubtedly, continue to grow.
Dumbledore smiled pleasantly at Titan, as the hellhound stopped short of barreling into him and Harry. "Good evening, Titan. I take it you shall be returning to Hogwarts with Harry?"
"Padfoot promised to drop him off sometime this semester," Harry said. "I think he's too big to live comfortably here anymore, so, alas, he'll have to stay with Basileus."
"I am sure Basileus will be delighted for the company."
Dumbledore then extended his arm to Harry. "I believe we must be on our way, then, before it gets too late."
"Yes, Professor," Harry responded dutifully, taking his arm. Tom slowly wiggled out of Porteurmort's cuddling (as the hydra had fallen asleep cuddled against him on the couch) and moved to hover beside Harry. "Be back later, Padfoot."
"Stay safe, Vix," Sirius called out behind them.
With a sharp snap, the group was gone.
When they reappeared, and Harry had steadied herself, she took in their surroundings in stride. They were in one of the nicer neighborhoods, and night had already fallen. There were a few lit streetlights that illuminated some of the houses in a pale orange-ish glow. Dumbledore had taken Harry directly outside one of the bigger homes. Harry frowned briefly before Dumbledore raised one of his pale hands and knocked quietly on the door.
The door gave in easily, and Harry's frown deepened.
"Wands out, Harry," said Dumbledore briefly, already pulling out his rather unique-looking wand. Harry pulled out her own wand, the tip of it already glowing white to illuminate their surroundings.
Quietly, Dumbledore stepped into the home, his wand lit up, as Harry followed behind him. The place was in shambles, with destroyed furniture and broken glass laid askew.
Harry whispered, "What are we doing here, Professor? I didn't think you were the fellow to look for adventure."
Dumbledore chuckled lightly. "I will leave the adventuring to you, Harry. I doubt we will run into any actual trouble, but it does not hurt to be safe. No, no, it would be very foolish if the Death Eaters attacked us now. Possible, but not likely… I came here looking for someone, in all actuality."
"Looking for someone?" inquired Harry as she stepped over a rather large broken lamp.
Dumbledore made humming sound in agreement.
"Tell me, Harry, what do you think of our new Minister?"
"I like him," she answered simply. "What about you?"
"He certainly is an ambitious man."
"That's putting it lightly," Tom muttered.
"He's got Voldewhore on the ropes, though, doesn't he?"
"It… would appear that way, yes," Dumbledore agreed amiably. "I am sure that it must have caused great displeasure for Tom to have Bellatrix taken from him so early on."
"Voldewhore," Harry corrected irritably. "There's no Tom inside of him. He's just a sad, worthless, whining piece of husk."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled with good-natured amusement. "My mistake. Voldewhore is certainly being stretched thin by Moratorium, and Moratorium is definitely a strong leader. I do appreciate most of the changes he is implementing."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Most?"
"He is a pragmatist," Dumbledore said. "Something this world has been in sore need of. He exemplifies equality for all races, and has done a marvelous job in providing comfort and security for the public, given that the Dark… Slut… has arisen again."
"You believe all races all equal, then?"
"I most certainly do," said Dumbledore firmly. "If it were up to me, I would invite not just witches and wizards to Hogwarts."
Harry blinked in surprise. "Really? Why don't you?"
"For one thing, while I do have some authority as Headmaster, I am not without my restrictions. I cannot add, change, or remove school rules without pre-approving them with the Board," explained Dumbledore patiently. "At least, not without incurring their wrath, and if they put their minds to it, they could expel me and replace me with someone not so… open-minded."
"Maybe Moratorium will change that," Harry mused. "After all, the best place to encourage equality is with the younger generation—when their minds are still malleable and uncorrupted."
Dumbledore chuckled. "It always brings a sort of happiness to see others share my views of equality. Especially one of my students."
Harry beamed. "I'm glad you like Moratorium, Professor. But, you said most of his changes… does that mean there are some you dislike?"
Dumbledore made another humming sound. "Not necessarily. I suppose the only thing I am weary of is if his new government will take off. This is a dire time, Harry, and what the mass needs is a strong, and stable government. What he is doing now is creating something new. Whether it will be terrible, or great, time will tell. I do hope it will be great, though. The idea behind it is nice, as it encourages a magical community where one is marked by their own capabilities—not their race, family, or blood purity. Moreover, his gain to power is a bit questionable…"
"Not everything is black and white, Professor," said Harry quietly. "I think… I think everything and everyone are shades of gray. I think Moratorium's of likeminded in that nature. Are you?"
"I have difficulty seeing the gray, sometimes, Harry," Dumbledore confessed softly. "I try, though."
Harry reached out a hand and gently placed it on his upper arm, smiling encouragingly. "That is more than many others can claim, Professor. Thank you for indulging me and answering my questions honestly."
Dumbledore placed his free hand over Harry's, and smiled warmly in return, his eyes twinkling. "Always, Harry. And thank you for humoring this old man in his own musings."
"You're not that old."
Dumbledore laughed at that, and guided Harry into the living room. The living room was, probably, the worst room in the house. It was utterly destroyed, save a lone chair that sat in the back. Dumbledore shook his head when he saw the chair. "Horace, I know you're that chair."
Without warning the chair transformed into a short, balding man with large eyes and a nervous atmosphere. "Oh, dear. What gave it away?"
Dumbledore tilted his head inquisitively in a way that reminded Harry of a bird. "If the Death Eaters had really been through this place, they would have left a Dark Mark, Horace."
The man named Horace tittered. "I knew there was something I was missing…"
"My, my," Tom mused, watching Horace with undisguised amusement. "What are the odds?"
"Would you like assistance cleaning up?" offered Dumbledore politely. "Harry, you might want to watch this closely, as you will undoubtedly find this spell useful in cleaning up any of your… adventures."
"Please," said Horace. Harry peered curiously at Dumbledore as he swished his wand in tune with Horace's. In a matter of seconds the entire house had been righted, cleaned, and organized. Harry let out an appreciative whistle. When all was said and done, Horace turned towards Harry and his eyes widened. "Oho. Oho. Is this how you thought to persuade me, Albus? Well, my answer is still no."
"What answer? What question?" inquired Harry.
Dumbledore gave another hum. "If you don't mind, Horace, I'd like to use your bathroom…"
"Oh, yes, yes… down the hall on the left."
Dumbledore gave a serene smile before heading away, leaving a curious Harry.
"He probably wants to recruit Horace into the Hogwarts staff," Tom commented. "Horace was one of my favorite teachers—he was the Head of Slytherin when I went to school. That disgusting husk will probably want him, so Dumbledore wishes to grab him first. I am… fond of Slughorn. I would rather Voldemort didn't get him."
_So what do I do?_
Tom smiled cockily. "He's a Slytherin. He values his life."
"Oh," muttered Harry. "Monsieur Slughorn… you do realize that the only safe places from Voldewhore are by Dumbledore, or Moratorium's side?"
Horace's face screwed up and he chewed his bottom lip. "While… while it is true that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has never… never sought to duel Dumbledore…"
"You should know Hogwarts well enough to know it is completely safe. One of the safest places in the world, really," Harry encouraged. "Well… safe from outsiders, at least. Unless you're me. Then danger will find you consistently."
Horace gave her a strained smile. "True, true… I've heard you've had some… eventful years. Such a bright young witch, too."
Harry preened. "Thank you, Monsieur."
Dumbledore returned shortly after. "Well, then, I suppose Harry and I must be on our way."
"On your way?" echoed Horace.
"I know a lost cause when I see one," Dumbledore responded simply, already placing a gentle hand on Harry's shoulder and leading her away. "Good luck to you, Horace."
A heartbeat passed, and then Horace quickly said, "Wait!"
Dumbledore paused, awarding Harry with a mischievous smile. Harry almost giggled at the look.
"I'll—I'll want a pay raise, though!"
"Very well, Horace. Thank you."
After Dumbledore bade Harry goodnight—and thanked her by taking her out for ice-cream (as she insisted that ice-cream was the best way to properly thank her)—Harry headed off to bed to prepare to leave for Hogwarts first thing tomorrow.
Harry slid into the cart where an anxious Draco sat. Hermione was already sitting beside him, looking up from her textbook to shoot him worried looks—not that he seemed to notice any of them, really—and Neville and Ron slid in beside Harry.
Harry understood why Draco was so nervous, and she wanted to immediately reassure him, but she knew she couldn't. Not yet, at least. As long as that git was roaming about free, her friend couldn't be calm.
Just one year, she thought, as she lazily closed her eyes. One year, and then I'll end the Dark Slut. I'm sure.
The trip to Hogwarts was short in Harry's case, as she had (unsurprisingly) fallen asleep five minutes into the ride. She was still groggy on the way to the feast, and had only properly awoken when one of the House Elves was kind enough to magic some coffee in front of her.
"Bless those babies," Harry murmured gratefully as she gulped down the hot liquid.
"You're going to be too hyped up for bed now," Hermione bemoaned.
Harry sniffed. "I will not. Be grateful I haven't shot any new professors, yet."
Neville raised his hands in a calming gesture. "Relax, Hermione. Harry will behave herself, right?"
Harry shrugged in response.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Doesn't much matter, does it? Any points Harry loses 'cause of it, she'll win back within a month."
"This is true," Harry mused.
Ron brightened. "Did I tell you that Bill's marrying Fleur?"
Harry's eyes lit up. "My dear Fleur? The same one that competed with me in the Triwizard?"
"The very same," Ron said. "Bill's lucky."
"She is a very bright woman," said Harry appreciatively. "A shame she never went to Hogwarts…"
Hermione rolled her eyes, and then her face lit up. "Harry! Did you receive the results of your O.W.L.s?"
Harry, already knowing Hermione would ask that, pulled out the folded paper from her skirt pocket and handed it to her friend. "I'll want it back when you're done. Padfoot wants to put it up on the fridge."
The results had come the morning after Moratorium's meeting with Narcissa. Harry had grumpily been awoken when a large tawny owl flew through her open window and into her room. When she received the message and gestured towards the many treats she kept in her room when Envoy (Harry's actual owl) stayed in her room (Envoy usually stayed with Moratorium, as Marwyn had recognized the owl as Moratorium's early on. She was normally in Moratorium's new office now).
At the top it had read:
Ordinary Wizarding Level Results
Exceeds Expectations (E)
Harriet Lily Potter has achieved:
Ancient Runes: O
Care of Magical Creatures: O
Defense Against the Dark Arts: O
History of Magic: E
Upon realizing that she hadn't received all Os, Harry had eeped and done her best to hide her paper from Tom. However, Tom had quickly grabbed her hands and glanced at the results. He smirked at her and said, condescendingly, "There, there. We can't all achieve my level of greatness."
"I hate you so much," whispered Harry as she glowered at him. "I would have gotten a perfect score all around if I hadn't fallen asleep and been forced to have that stupid vision because of your screw-up."
Tom just continued to smirk at her, causing her cheeks to turn a dark red because she was starting to find it difficult to stay mad at him.
In the end she snorted at him, tossed her hair over her shoulder and stomped out of the room to show Sirius her results, knowing he at least would appreciate them.
Hermione glanced over the results quickly before a smile bloomed across her face. "Good job, Harry! I'm so proud of you."
Harry preened a bit at her praise.
"I did better," sung Tom.
_Shut it, you._
"How did you do, Hermione?" Neville asked politely as Hermione gave the paper back to Harry.
Hermione sighed. "Nine Os, but I got an E in DADA."
"I'm proud of you," Harry told her, causing Hermione to perk up. Harry reached over and gave her friend a one-armed hug. She was starting to get a bit addicted to the hugs. Hermione laughed lightly and returned the hug with an equally enthusiastic one of her own.
"Better than what I did," Neville said easily. "All Es, but I got one O in Herbology!"
Hermione and Harry patted Neville on the shoulder. "Good job, Neville."
The trio then turned towards Ron who shrugged. "Don't remember what I got, actually. I didn't fail anything except History, though."
"That's… good," Hermione managed. Ron just grinned in response.
Porteurmort made a soft hissing noise and Harry adjusted the hydra in her lap. He was sniffing at her food, before he found the three bottles that Harry had already laid out for him. With a happy hiss, the three heads began to suck on the milk inside the magical bottles, enchanted to withstand his iron-clad grip and not wear down.
Suddenly a hush fell over the Great Hall as Dumbledore stood to make his annual speech. "Good evening, everyone. To our new students, welcome! To our old students, welcome back! A year of magical education awaits you. For those of you new, I must impress this warning upon you now: if you do not wish to meet an untimely death, please stay out of the Forbidden Forest, unless you are with a teacher, or you have an incredibly old, and incredibly powerful familiar that seems to take great pleasure in scaring the wildlife of the forest."
All eyes fell on oblivious Harry as she gently began to rock the hydra in her arms to sleep, cooing all the while.
Dumbledore's eyes were lit with warm amusement. "Mr. Filch, our caretaker, has asked me to say that all Mischievous Marauders' Marks' products are banned from Hogwarts. Those of you wishing to play Quidditch this year must ask their Head of House as usual, we are also looking for new Quidditch Commentators who should do likewise.
"We are pleased to welcome a new member of the staff this year. Professor Slughorn is an old colleague of mine who has agreed to resume his old potions post—"
The Great Hall had erupted into a flurry of confusion and whispers, but Dumbledore carried on. "Professor Snape, meanwhile, will be taking over the Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"Congratulations!" Harry shouted, as she was unable to clap her hands with the sleeping hydra in her arms. Porteurmort stirred at the loud noise, but remained sleeping, even as the Slytherin table clapped excitedly for the Head of House.
"I'm going to fail this year," Neville whispered despairingly.
"Would someone comfort Neville for me?" Harry asked. Hermione obliged, gently patting Neville on the shoulder. "Thank you, dear. Neville, you will be fine. I'll help tutor you if need be."
"Need will be," said Neville vehemently.
Snape did not stand up like Slughorn had for his introduction. Instead, he lazily raised a hand in acknowledgement for Slytherin's applause, and his eyes met Harry's for a brief moment. Harry beamed at him, and he dipped his head politely in return.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and the Hall fell silent again. "Now, as everyone knows, Volde… whore… (this caused many snickers among the students, and an exasperated look from the teachers) is once more at large and gaining strength. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how dangerous the present situation is, and how much care each of us at Hogwarts must take to ensure that we remain safe. The castle's magical fortifications have been strengthened over the summer, we are protected in new and more powerful ways, but we must still guard scrupulously against carelessness on the part of any student or member of our staff. I urge you, therefore, to abide by any security restrictions that your teachers might impose upon you, however irksome you might find them—in particular, the rule that you are not to be out of bed after hours. I implore you, should you notice anything strange or suspicious within or outside the castle, to report it to a member of the staff immediately. I trust you to conduct yourselves, always, with the utmost regard for your own and others' safety."
Harry pouted at this, knowing full well, that Dumbledore was talking to her especially during his whole 'don't sneak out after hours' bit. It wasn't fair.
"But now, your beds await, as warm and comfortable as you could possibly wish, and I know that your top priority is to be well rested for your lessons tomorrow. Let us therefore say good night. Pip pip!"
The next morning, Hermione, Neville, and Harry sat together in the Great Hall. Neville informed the girls that Ron was still asleep last he checked—and he would probably oversleep—as he stayed up too late last night playing wizard's chess with Dean.
Normally the students were able to pick out their classes for the year before they reached Hogwarts. However, due to the fact that they were now sixth years, and had completed their O.W.L.s, they had to wait for their Head of House to confirm they had completed the correct grade on the O.W.L.s in a subject before continuing on the same subject for N.E.W.T.s.
It didn't take long for Professor McGonagall to finish her breakfast and descend from the staff table. Hermione and Neville were quickly sorted out—Hermione was granted access to Ancient Runes, Astronomy, Arithmancy, Charms, DADA, Transfiguration, Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures (at the pout Harry gave her when she was about to say no, she had no choice, but to say yes), and Potions. Neville didn't have quite as much of a course-load. He took Charms, DADA, Transfiguration, Care of Magical Creatures (again, Harry's pout kept him from saying no), Potions, and Herbology.
"So, Potter, Potter…" McGonagall trailed off, looking over Harry's scores. "I dare say you, like your friend, Miss Granger, could take any class you want."
Harry tilted her head. "Then I'd like all the same classes as Hermione!"
McGonagall's lips twitched. "I am not surprised. Hold out your parchment, Potter. Oh, and by the way… twenty hopefuls have already put their names in for the Quidditch team. I will forward the list to you, and you can sort out their trials at your leisure."
Harry held out her blank schedule list and the professor lightly tapped her wand against it. Immediately, it showed Harry's new classes. With an excited smile, Harry hurried to head to her room to grab her first class's textbooks.
Upon re-entering her dormitory room, she gave a startled gasp. "Porteurmort!"
Porteurmort paused in mid chew before spewing out the piece of clothing. The once beautiful room was in tatters—everything was chewed through.
Tom whistled. "Hermione is going to have a fit if he ate her textbooks."
Harry's brow furrowed. "He must be entering the teething phase. Oh, poor dear… I didn't expect him to enter it for another year, at least. It's a good thing Dumbledore showed me that new spell!"
With a flick of her wrist, her wand lit up a bright blue before the room began to re-organize itself. Although, not everything was repaired perfectly.
Tom smiled faintly. "Not terrible for a first try."
Harry looked mournfully at Hermione's text books that were still ruined. "Oh, dear… She'll have to have mine, then. I can order new ones, but… well, bollocks. Some of mine are still destroyed, too…"
Harry tried using the spell again, but no matter how many times she tried, she couldn't quite fix the text books. In the end she had to give Hermione all of her textbooks that still worked (her DADA and Potions book were still in tatters, but thankfully Hermione's DADA and Potions book weren't to be found—presumably she had them on her), and summon Dobby to inform Sirius to purchase new ones for her when he brought Titan.
With that finished, she turned towards a sheepish Porteurmort. "For shame, little one! If you ached to chew on something, you should have told me. Poor manners, very poor indeed!"
Porteurmort made a soft whining noise that broke Harry's heart, but she remained firm. "No. You should know better, little one. I am taking you to Basileus, and you will stay with him. He will show you the proper manners that befits a Royal Snake."
Porteurmort made another whining noise, but Harry had already opened one of the tunnels to the Chambers. With ease, she called upon the connection she held with Basileus. Precious one, Porteurmort has shown very poor manners and destroyed our dorm room. I was able to fix the majority of it, but most of my clothes and books are still ruined. Please ensure he does not do so again, I have to get to class.
It will be done, Missstresss…
Severing the connection, Harry deftly tossed Porteurmort into the tunnel, already hearing Basileus move through the pipes to meet him.
With that taken care of, Harry hurried off to meet Hermione for their first N.E.W.T level Ancient Rune class, very grateful that her own Rune textbook wasn't ruined.
"We have so much homework already," Hermione fretted as she and Harry waited outside the DADA classroom. It seemed Neville and Ron had it at different hours than the two girls, surprisingly. "A fifteen-inch essay, two translations, and we've got to read these by Wednesday!"
Harry placed a consoling hand on Hermione's shoulder. "We'll get through it, 'Mione. We always do."
Hermione smiled gratefully at Harry.
The classroom door opened, and Snape stepped into the corridor, his pale face framed by his dark hair. Silence fell over the students immediately.
"Inside," he said.
Harry glanced about the classroom excitedly as she and Hermione entered it. It was darker than the previous teachers had kept it, as all the curtains had been drawn over the windows. It was lit by candlelight alone. New pictures adorned the walls, many of them showing people who appeared to be in pain, were horrifically maimed, or sporting strangely contorted body parts. Nobody spoke as they settled down, looking around the shadowy room.
"I have not asked you to take out your books," said Snape, closing the door and moving to face the class from behind his desk; Hermione hastily put away her book. "I wish to speak to you, and I want your fullest attention."
All eyes rested upon him, and his dark eyes roamed across the sea of faces, lingering a moment on a smiling Harry. "You have had five teachers in this subject so far, I believe. Naturally, these teachers will all have had their own methods and priorities. Given this confusion I am surprised so many of you scraped an O.W.L. in this subject. I shall be even more surprised if you all manage to keep up with the N.E.W.T. work, which will be much more advanced."
Snape began to walk slowly around the edge of the room, speaking in a softer voice. "The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutated, and indestructible."
Harry found herself nodding her head in agreement to this. She took note how Snape was showing no distaste or fear for the subject… but, rather… there was almost a loving caress in his voice. It reminded her of how Hagrid got when he talked about creatures… or how she got when she talked about adventures, or how Tom got when he talked about teaching.
It was his passion.
She could appreciate that. Professor Snape was one of the very few people who knew her past, and accepted her for it. That alone granted a special place in her heart for him. She was glad he had something to be passionate about—even gladder he got to teach the subject now. Harry always found it easier to pay attention to the subject when the professor so enjoyed teaching it (not that she would ever have difficulty paying attention in DADA).
"Your defenses," said Snape, a little louder, "must therefore be as flexible and inventive as the arts you seek to undo. These pictures" – he indicated a few of them as he brushed past – "give a fair representation of what happens to those who suffer, for instance, the Cruciatus Curse—feel the Dementor's Kiss—or provoke the aggression of the Inferius. Now…"
He set off again around the other side of the classroom toward his desk, and again, they watched him as he walked. "… you are, I believe, complete novices in the use of nonverbal spells—the exception being Miss Potter, of course. What is the advantage of a nonverbal spell?"
Harry's and Hermione's hands shot up.
Snape cocked his head. "Miss Potter."
"Your opponent can't predict what spell you're gonna use," Harry said eagerly, "so there's a better chance you can catch them off guard and finish them."
"Correct in essentials," Snape granted. "Yes, those who progress to using magic without shouting incantations gain an element of surprise in their spell-casting. Not all wizards can do this, of course; it is a question of concentration and mind power which some… lack. You will divide into pairs. One partner will attempt to jinx the other without speaking. The other will attempt to repel the jinx in equal silence. Carry on."
Harry grabbed Hermione's hand and awarded her with a smile. "You practice silent spells on me, and I'll practice a silent shield. My Shielding Charm isn't the strongest wandlessly, so…"
Hermione nodded her head. "Right."
"When you got the hang of it, you should try it wandlessly, too," Harry insisted.
Hermione smiled. "Right, then. Let's head over to that corner."
Unsurprisingly, a good amount of cheating ensured. Many people were merely whispering the incantation instead of saying it aloud. A good ten minutes into the practicing found Hermione discarding her wand to attempt the jinxing wandlessly. Snape glided over to the two girls, eyeing them.
"Who is attacking, and who is repelling?" he asked.
"I'm working on my shields, sir," Harry supplied, "and Hermione's got the silent spell for the Jelly-Legs Jinx, so I thought she ought to try it wandlessly."
"Or perhaps," Snape said, his voice velvety soft, "she should move on to another spell, perfect that one, and move on to another. It is better, I think, to have a wider range of silent spells, than one good one to over-rely on."
Hermione and Harry considered this thoughtfully.
"I would like to get the silent spells completely down," Hermione added. "It would be nice if I could do all silent spells like you, Harry."
"Not all of my spells are silent," Harry protested.
Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"I can't do the Patronus silently," she muttered meekly.
"No one can," Snape said, raising an eyebrow. "That spell was not made to be silent. It is a form of the Blood Arts, one of the Natural Arts."
Harry recognized the Blood Arts bit, but the Natural Arts was lost on her. Tom, however, looked surprised. "I didn't realize that."
"What are the Natural Arts?" Harry asked.
"Merely another name for the Arts of Old," Snape answered. "There are some spells that are so old, their origins are lost to us, and they are incapable of flexibility. The Patronus is one of these spells."
"I didn't realize it was a Blood Art, though," she said. "Isn't that banned, or something?"
"Most of it, yes," Snape agreed. "However, Blood Art covers a wide variety of spells—spells that normally come to life due to an individual's heart, or mind, is a Blood Art spell."
Harry continued to frown. "I thought Blood Art was all about equal exchange, though. Blood, or soul, or something akin, in exchange for the spell. The Patronus doesn't call upon that exchange, does it?"
"It does," Snape said. "It draws upon your essence, your soul, and it uses that energy to supply the spell. It gives it back, of course, when the spell is over, so no real damage is done, but the exchange is still there. For as long as the spell is active, you lose a part of yourself. This is why much can be revealed by a person's Patronus—it is their heart personified."
Harry made a humming sound, while Hermione was looking in between the two, chewing her bottom lip. "… What are Blood Arts?"
Harry chuckled. "I'll tell you all about them later tonight, 'Mione. We should get more practice in, though, don't you think?"
Hermione and Harry hooked arms as the two talked amiably about their DADA class. Neville met up with them half way, and told them about his Herbology class.
"Silent spells?" Neville repeated worriedly. "I knew I shouldn't have signed up for DADA…"
"You'll be fine, Neville," Hermione reassured him. "Harry and I will help you. Besides, Draco's in your class, isn't he? He already knows a few silent spells, so I'm sure he'll let you practice on him while he works on shielding, like Harry did with me."
Neville gave her a nervous smile. "Think so?"
The trio entered the Potions classroom, and Draco was already there. He caught Hermione's eye and the two both blushed before promptly avoiding each other's gazes. It was only a small class, with a handful of Ravenclaws, Slytherins, and one Hufflepuff, and then the trio of Gryffindors, along with Lavender Brown, and Parvati Patil.
Hermione moved to stand in between Draco and Harry, her shoulder brushing against his. Draco shuffled his feet, and Harry noted that he moved to stand closer to Hermione. Again, Harry felt that familiar, electrified air in between them, and wondered if she would be feeling the same kind of air in between her and Tom again soon.
"Now then, now then, now then," said Slughorn, whose massive outline was a bit blurred to make out with all the vapors in the air from the potions he had laid about. "Scales out, everyone, and potion kits, and don't forget your copies of Advanced Potion-Making…"
"Sir?" ventured Harry hesitantly.
"My, uh…" Harry had the decency to blush sheepishly at this. "My hydra ate my textbook."
Knowing glances were exchanged between the students, while Slughorn's eyebrows drew up in surprise. "I thought you had a basilisk."
"Er… I have a hydra, too," Harry admitted. "Well, at least, I'm helping to raise him. He's, uh, started teething, so…"
"I see," was all Slughorn said, but it was quite clear he did not. "No matter, I have plenty of extra copies left. Go ahead and grab one from the cabinet over there!"
Harry dipped her head politely and hurried over towards the cabinet. There were a few books left, but she found herself grabbing the tattered one. When Tom asked her why, she replied with a cheeky: It adds character! Plus old textbooks always smell nicer than new ones.
"Now then," said Slughorn, "I've prepared a few potions for you to have a look at, just out of interest, you know. These are the kind of thing you ought to be able to make after completing your N.E.W.T.s. You ought to have heard of 'em, even if you haven't made 'em, yet. Anyone tell me what this is?"
He motioned to the cauldron nearest Draco. It looked like plain water boiling. She recognized it immediately as one of the potions Moratorium regularly made and used. She raised her hand, alongside Hermione.
"It's Veritaserum, a colorless, odorless potion that forces the drinker to tell the truth," said Hermione.
"Very good, very good! Now," he continued, pointing towards the cauldron closest to the Ravencalws, "this one here is pretty well known… Featured in a few Ministry leaflets lately, too… Who can…? Miss Granger, again?"
"It's Polyjuice Potion, sir," she said.
"Excellent, excellent! Now this one here… yes, my dear?"
"That's Amortentia," Harry said, wrinkling her nose.
"It is indeed. I assume you know what it does?"
Tom looked disgusted as he stared at it.
"The most powerful love potion in the world. It's said… it's said it's supposed to smell differently to each of us, according to what attracts us, and I can smell…" Harry closed her eyes as she thought about the smell. "… Roses… rowan… and…"
She gave a jerk as she recognized one of the scents. A scent she had only too recently been acquainted with since she became tangible to him—since she was able to feel him, to smell him, to—
Ashes—like a soft fire burning—like… Tom.
She swallowed roughly, realizing if she didn't finish the sentence, it would look odd. "… ashes."
If she looked a little pink, no one commented. Slughorn nodded his head and smiled. "Very good, Miss Potter. Amortentia doesn't really create love, of course. It is impossible to manufacture or imitate love. No, this will simply cause a powerful infatuation or obsession. It is probably the most dangerous and powerful potion in this room, oh yes…"
Harry glanced over at Tom, who was looking at the potion with plain loathing.
_Is everything okay, Tom?_
Tom swallowed roughly and forced his gaze away. "… Another time, Harry."
Harry carefully reached behind Neville, where Tom floated, taking note that no one was watching her hand, and grabbed Tom's. She squeezed it in what she hoped to be a comforting manner.
Surprisingly, though, she just felt a jolt of electricity run through her, making her feel slightly giddy. Tom steadily kept his gaze away from her, and squeezed her hand once before letting it go.
"And now," said Slughorn, "it is time for us to start work."
"Sir," interrupted the Hufflefpuff, "you haven't told us what's in that one."
He was pointing at a small black cauldron standing on Slughorn's desk. The potion was splashing about merrily; it was the color of a molten gold.
"Oho," hummed Slughorn. "Yes. That. Well, that one, ladies and gentleman, is a most curious little potion called Felix Felicis. I take it," he turned, smiling to look at Hermione who had let out an audible gasp, "that you know what Felix Felicis does, Miss Granger?"
"It's liquid luck!" she said excitedly.
"My, my," Tom mused. "I've never been able to make a successful batch of that before."
That alone spoke of how difficult it was to make. Harry felt compelled to try and make some of her own.
"Quite right, take ten points for Gryffindor. Yes, it's a funny little potion, Felix Felicis. Desperately tricky to make, and disastrous to get wrong. However, if brewed correctly, as this has been, you will find that all your endeavors tend to succeed… at least until the effects wear off. And that… is what I shall be offering as a prize in this lesson."
Silence fell across the anxious students.
"One tiny bottle of Felix Felicis. Enough for twelve hours' luck. From dawn till dusk, you will be lucky in everything you attempt. Now, I must give you warning that this is a banned substance in organized competitions… sporting events, for instances, examinations, or elections. So the winner is to use it on an ordinary day only… and watch how that ordinary day becomes extraordinary! So, how are you to win my fabulous prize?
"Well, by turning to page ten of Advanced Potion Making. We have a little over an hour left to us, which should be time for you to make a decent attempt at the Draught of Living Death. I know it is more complex than anything you have attempted before, and I do not expect a perfection potion from anybody. The person who does the best, however, will win little Felix here. Off you go!"
There was a mad scrambling amongst the students as everyone got started. Harry moved towards her own little private cauldron, after gathering the ingredients.
"I know this potion," Tom said softly, slowly moving to stand behind Harry. "And I can tell you now, the proper way isn't written in the book."
"I know this textbook—same one I used when I went to Hogwarts," he whispered. "If you want that potion, you'll need to follow my instructions."
Harry felt the heat rushing up to her face as she felt Tom's presence directly behind her. He was still a good bit taller than she was—she came up to the tip of his nose, really—and he seemed to practically radiate body heat. Harry could already feel her stomach dropping pleasantly, and her heart speed up inside her chest. Every inch of her felt tingly, and that warm happiness started to spread throughout her entire being.
_Whatever you say._
Tom gently placed his left hand over her own left hand, guiding it towards one end of the table. With his right hand, he placed it over her own right hand, and used it to turn on the burner. He said softly, in her ear, "The textbook would have told you to first begin chopping the roots. You'll want to do that thirdly for the best effect. Pour in your infusion of Wormwood first. Half a cup, at least…"
Harry felt as if the air around them was brimming with electricity. As Tom moved Harry about, like a doll, and whispered in her ear, Harry found it harder and harder to concentrate. He was so very warm, and smelled so very nice.
Harry yearned to turn around, wrap her arms around him, and bury her face against him, and—
Harry's face was a bright pink all throughout the lesson. When Tom noticed this—and he most certainly also noticed how anxious she was—he felt himself smirking when she wasn't looking.
She wasn't sure if she was relieved, or annoyed when Slughorn called out, "And… time's up! Stop stirring, please."
Tom chuckled as he slowly retracted his hands from Harry's, his hot breath still tickling her ear. Harry twitched and resisted the urge to act out her impulse to hug him tightly. It wouldn't do to start hugging air to the eyes of onlookers, would it?
Instead, she swallowed roughly, and tried to calm down as Slughorn began to move slowly among the tables, peering into the cauldrons. Tom took a step back from Harry, and Harry felt a rush of cold air greet her back. She almost made a noise of protest in the back of her throat, but caught herself in time.
When Slughorn reached her cauldron, a look of incredulous delight spread over his face.
"The clear winner!" he cried out. "Excellent, excellent, Harry! Good lord, it's clear you've inherited your mother's talent. She was a dab hand at Potions, Lily was! Here you are, then, here you are—one bottle of Felix Felicis, as promised, and use it well!"
Harry shakily slipped the tiny bottle into her front pocket. "Th-Th-Thank you, sir."
Tom chuckled again, and Harry's face had never felt so hot before.
"How did you do that?" Hermione asked as the two left the dungeons. Harry was still twitching and blushing. "And why are you blushing?"
"I—I just—Tom had shown me that potion, is all," Harry mumbled.
"She knows about me?" Tom asked, blinking in surprise.
Hermione's eyes lit up in understanding. She smiled teasingly at her. "The same Tom you're smitten with?"
"What?" Tom's eyes widened.
Harry made an odd squeaking sound. "I—am—not—smitten! A-And there's only one Tom I know."
"So the same Tom you had me draw a rune on you for, the same Tom who, apparently, when you think about something he taught you, makes you blush, and the same Tom who makes you feel happy—but not happy like I do?" Hermione summarized.
"Yes. I mean, no. I mean…" Harry trailed off, mortification clear on her face, as she saw Tom smirk at her.
"I know I'm eye-candy," he purred. "But, really, smitten? I'm flattered."
Harry made more odd squeaking sounds. She roared, "I—AM—NOT—SMITTEN!"
Hermione giggled. "Of course not…"
Harry shot them both venomous looks, uncaring if it looked odd she was glaring at the air. "I am just… just… wound up, is all! I just need a bloody good adventure to relax. You're… you're both—I mean… you're making connections where there are none!"
Tom held up his hands in a surrendering gesture, but the smirk never left his face. His eyes were bright with a kind of soft warmth that made Harry feel tingly all over again. "I'm not pushing the issue, Harry."
"Good," she muttered. "Glad you understand."
Tom's smirk widened. "I can be patient for you to get over your denial."
Never before had she felt the strongest urge to strangle him. Instead, she whirled around to Hermione, "And what of you and Draco, huh? You blush around him an awful lot!"
Hermione smiled. "I am smitten."
Hermione giggled. "I am mature enough to realize when I am smitten, you know. I like Draco… just like you like Tom."
"I'll kill him," Harry said.
Hermione's eyes widened. "Who? Tom?"
"Oh, Harry, really…"
"I mean it, Hermione," Harry declared. "If he breaks your heart, I'll kill him."
Hermione laughed lightly. "Honestly, Harry, you're too much…"
For the rest of the week, Tom insisted on 'helping' Harry with potions. Harry was torn between vehemently rejecting his help, and happily accepting it. On one hand, it made her feel happy, and warm, and all sorts of fun feelings; on the other hand, he was impossibly smug about it, and Hermione kept shooting her knowing looks.
They were both insufferable, really. As a result of him 'helping' her, though, Harry did pick up Potions fairly quickly, as she was determined to do well enough that she wouldn't have to rely on him anymore (which also made her feel a bit sad, though she didn't know why). When glancing through Hermione's book, Harry realized that Tom was right in saying the textbook was all wrong.
It made her wonder how Tom had learned these potions if the text book was wrong in the first place.
"Trial and error, really," Tom had answered when she asked. "This way, though, you're saved the error part. Not to mention, my… lessons… have really been sticking with you, haven't they?"
To which, Harry had answered with a firm yes—as they were really unforgettable, for some reason—which caused him to smirk.
It resulted in Slughorn raving by their fourth lesson that he had never taught someone so talented, which did cause Harry to feel mildly guilty about, but then Tom pointed out that if Slughorn had given them good textbooks, this wouldn't even be an issue. It wasn't her fault that she used the resources available to her to succeed. If anything, it was expected of her. After all, students were encouraged to do their best in their studies, weren't they?
The rest of Harry's classes went by easily. DADA was rather pleasant for the girl, as she enjoyed her lessons, and was happy to say that her silent, wandless, shielding charm was definitely growing stronger.
Hagrid's class was, as always, entertaining. It was mostly a carry on from last year, much to the relief of Neville and Hermione, with the small group of students helping to tend to the magnificent creatures Harry managed to procure for Hagrid. As the week went on, it actually became a favorite for the group—as most of the creatures were very well behaved, and it was entertaining to see Porteurmort prance about with some of the babies.
The other classes carried on as normal, their subjects just a tad harder than last year, but nothing impossible. Ancient Runes gave out the most homework, though, much to Hermione's irritation.
Their free period, which Harry had been looking forward to as a break to play with her familiar, was not at all like she anticipate. In fact, it was like Hermione predicted… they used up their free period time to catch up on their homework and study extensively for the next lesson (at least for some of the classes. Mostly for Ancient Runes, and Arithmancy, really).
Nonverbal spells were now common in the other classes, and more than once Harry was asked to tutor her fellow students. Draco had become equally popular among the Slytherins of his year for this reason, as well.
Harry scarcely had time to dote on her familiar, so when it was time for Quidditch try outs (as she was the Captain)…
She sat on Basileus's head, peering down at the hopeful teammates. A few of the younger ones looked especially nervous. "Basileus is my darling familiar. I have not had many days to dote on him. I am doting on him now. If any of you gits have an issue with it, get out of my sight."
None of them dared to move away.
"I am glad to sssee you in sssuch a visciousss mood," Basileus hissed, amused.
"I missed you," Harry confessed. "Tom's been a prat."
"I have not," Tom objected, clearly offended.
"I would bite him if I could," Basileus offered.
"Thank you, love. That won't be necessary, though," she reassured him, then looked across the hopefuls. She gracefully slid off Basileus to saunter over towards the large group, unabashedly eyeing them up and down. Her eyes rested upon a rather handsome young man who winked at her.
Tom's eyes narrowed into slits while Harry raised one of her own eyebrows. He extended her hand to her. "Cormac McLaggen, Keeper."
Harry took his hand dubiously, trying to ignore the rather irritable look Tom was giving the two of them. "Pleasure. Did you try out last year?"
He shook his head, looking rueful. "I was in the hospital wing when they held the trials."
"I see," Harry allowed, taking note that there were a many other boys who were glaring at Cormac. "… Well, alright then. You can let go of my hand now."
Cormac gave her a cocky smile and leaned down to gently kiss the top of her hand. Harry flushed and promptly snapped her hand back. "That—er—okay."
"Hussy," Tom muttered.
_What's a hussy?_
Tom closed his eyes. "… Different generation, Harry. Don't worry about it."
_Are you okay?_
"Never better," he muttered.
"Ehum… then… I want everyone to group up into ten groups. Then I want you all to fly around the ring a couple times," Harry instructed. "One group at a time."
Harry watched as they divided up into the groups, and was thankful she started with a basic test. As one of the first years who tried out apparently hadn't ridden a broom before and when he got a few feet off the ground, was so surprised, he promptly startled and fell off. She was able to dismiss that group fairly easily.
The next group was comprised of some of most overly-acting boys she had ever met. They huffed and puffed, and swaggered. Each kept winking at Harry, and instead of doing as she said—mount their brooms—they made some rather blatant innuendos, that had Harry turning pink, and Tom shrilly saying, "Indecent hussies!"
The third group kept crashing into one another, the fourth group didn't bring their own brooms, and the fifth group were Hufflepuffs.
"If there's anyone else here who's not from Gryffindor," snapped Harry, starting to get irritated—she could have been spending this time watching Basileus play with Porteurmort!—with this whole charade, "get off now!"
There was a pause, then a few Ravenclaws, and a couple of Slytherins sprinted from the pitch, still winking at Harry, and snorting with laughter.
After two hours, many death threats from Harry, several tantrums, Harry found herself with three Chasers: Katie Bell, returned to the team after an excellent trial; a new find called Demelza Robins, who was particularly good at dodging Bludgers, and Ginny Weasley, who had outflown all the competition and scored seventeen goals to boot.
Pleased though she was with her choices, Harry had also shouted herself raw at the many complainers and was now enduring a similar battle with the rejected Beaters.
"That's my final decision and if you don't get out of the way, I'll tell Basileus you're threatening me," Harry snarled viciously.
Tom chortled as he saw a fair few of the boys pale at that before scurrying away.
Neither of her chosen Beaters had the flair or genius of Fred and George, but she was still reasonably pleased with them: Jimmy Peakes, a short but broad-chested third-year boy who had almost managed to hit Harry—had Tom not given her a warning, he probably would have—with a well-aimed Bludger, and Ritchi Coote, who looked lean, but aimed bloody good. They now joined the spectators in the stand to watch the selection of their last team member.
Surprisingly, Cormac McLaggen saved five out of five penalties. Ron also saved five out of five penalties, and so Harry was forced to amp it up. She then instructed for her new Beaters to begin to try and knock the two Keepers off their brooms. Whoever stayed up the longest got the post.
Ron looked horrified at the prospect, but Harry casually reassured them that she would catch them if they fell.
It lasted roughly a minute before Jimmy landed a brutal hit to Cormac's head, knocking the boy clean off the broom.
Tom snickered at that, and Harry lazily raised her wand to stop his fall. She levitated him to the ground with ease.
"Ron's Keeper, then," she said. "Now everyone better clear off, because I'm about to play with my basilisk, and he's going to keep his eyes open!"
Never before had the Quidditch pitch been cleared as fast as that.
"There, there, dear," Harry soothed as Hagrid blubbered into a handkerchief. "Aragog lived a long, and happy life."
Harry had received a letter from Hagrid, fairly early on into the summer that he was worried that Aragog had gotten sick. She used Moratorium's connections to pay for a private doctor (who specialized in magical arachnids) to see to Aragog. Only recently had Hagrid received the test results for his friend.
Hagrid continued to blubber, and Rutherford chirped sadly in his lap. Hagrid took some comfort in his dragon, gently running his large hands over Rutherford's soft head. "I jus… dunno what to do, 'Arry… He's been my friend for so long."
"His kind don't live that long, Hagrid," Harry said patiently. "You cannot cure old age. At least now you, and he, know a time line. You're helping his children find homes, yes?"
Hagrid sniffled. "Most of 'em are staying here. Promised I'd look out for them, I did. I will, too."
"I'm sure," Harry consoled. "Do any of them need my assistance in going to a certain place?"
Hagrid shook his head. "No'… not that I know of… said they'd tell me if they need anything… Just keep bringing them food, I reckon, will help a lot."
"Then I will continue to do so," Harry promised him. "If the colony needs anything else, don't hesitate to tell me."
Harry stretched out her arms, already anxious to be heading back to Hogwarts. They were finally allowed their first Hogsmeade visit, well into October, but Harry was planning on sneaking back to meet up with Basileus and take him for a nice, long walk. The pathway back was empty, and it was only Harry and Tom, really.
Tom walked beside her, glancing at her with a lopsided smile. "I'm surprised you left Draco and Hermione alone."
"Draco was whiter than the snow. He was so anxious," Harry mused, "the only thing that calmed him down was Hermione talking to him. Hermione was stressed over homework, but somehow Draco made her relax. The two just make each other happy for the moment. I get that, I guess."
Tom slowly sped up so he was walking ahead of her. He then slowly turned around and started to walk backwards, directly in front of her. His expression was unreadable, but there was a sort of dark warmth in his eyes. Again, the air felt way too warm and heavy, and Harry's skin started feel unnaturally hot.
"Is there anyone that makes you happy?" asked Tom, his eyes never leaving Harry's.
"You've been with me constantly since third year," Harry pointed out, a little breathless, "You ought to know that answer as well as I do."
Tom cocked his head, his lips twitching upwards before he slowed down and started to walk beside her again. "Mm-hmm. Just wanted to be sure."
"Sure of what?" muttered Harry. She peered at him through her eyelashes, uncertain whether she really wanted to push the issue, or just relish in the warm feelings she was experiencing at the moment.
Tom chuckled. "'Spose that's for me to know… and you to figure out."
"You're smitten with me anyway," he sung.
"I AM NOT!" snarled Harry, but this only made Tom's chuckles turn into taunting laughter. With a growl she started to chase after him, but Tom persistently just floated out of her range. After a couple minutes of this, he abruptly stopped in front of her, causing her to crash against him. The two wobbled a bit from the collision, but Tom easily steadied her.
Harry looked up at Tom, her chest pressed against his, and her heart pounding loudly in her head. For a second, the world seemed to freeze, and then—
"Harry! Oh, Harry, please, come quick! It's Katie—something's wrong with her!"
With a jerk, Harry stumbled away from Tom, and blinked blearily at Leanne—a girl who frequently watched the Quidditch practices to cheer Katie on—began to desperately tug at Harry's hand. "I'm so glad I found you—I don't know what else to do."
"Calm down, and tell me what happened," Harry ordered as Leanne sprinted down the path, with Harry right at her side. In no time the two girls arrived at an unconscious Katie.
"I—I don't really know," Leanne confessed. "She just touched that necklace, there—don't know where it came from, but she said it was awfully important she delivered it to Dumbledore—and then she… she..."
Leanne broke off into sobs at this.
Tom bent down to examine Katie, a clear annoyance on his face. "She's been cursed. Dark Magic. You'll need to get her to the infirmary, and quick. Bring the necklace, but don't touch it. Pompfrey will need to examine it to extract a counter-curse."
"It would be awfully handy if I knew some healing right about now," Harry muttered, thinking—not for the first time in her life—that it was inconvenient she didn't know healing anywhere near as well as she did the other Arts. "Right, Leanne, can you use Leviosa?"
Leanne sniffled, but nodded her head.
"Do so on the necklace. I will carry Katie. If you think for an instant you are going to drop the necklace, tell me."
"Then we go on three. One… Two… Three!"
Harry placed the paralyzed girl on Pompfrey's bed, stepping back for the nurse to do her job. "Leanne, please set that down over there. I'll go and inform Professor Snape about this—he's an expert on this sort of thing, isn't he?"
"Or the closest thing we got to one," Pompfrey said grimly. "Hurry, Potter."
"Yes, Madam," Harry said, already turning and hurrying down the hall.
_Think this was Draco's attempt?_
"More than likely," sighed Tom. "A rather poor one, if you ask me, but he is just a child, so…"
_And what would you have done?_
"Me?" Tom asked, bemused. "I would have taken the students hostage and told him if he didn't surrender himself, I would off them all."
"You would have done the same if someone was threatening your dear basilisk," Tom retorted.
Harry shrugged, and then slowed down to a walk when she neared Snape's door. She knocked a few times, before his cold voice said, "Enter."
Harry opened the door and poked her head inside. Snape's sour expression transformed into incredulity. "Potter. Shouldn't you be at Hogsmeade?"
"Katie's been cursed," Harry explained. "She's in the infirmary now."
Immediately, Snape was getting up from his desk and hurrying out of the classroom. "Very well, then, Potter. I will take care of things. You should head back."
"I'd rather hang out in the Chambers with Basileus," admitted Harry.
Snape did not look the least bit surprised. "Then do so."
Harry beamed. "I think I will. Good day, Professor Snape."
"Good day, Potter."
Harry had an odd dream.
She was sitting next to Moratorium, and the two were overlooking a vast, and completely still lake. The sand was a ghostly white, and the stars reflected prettily on the lake.
Moratorium was standing up, his dress pants rolled up so he stood a fair bit into the lake.
"It's almost time," he said softly, his back turned towards Harry, leaving his face unreadable.
For some odd reason, Harry felt a pang in her chest. "Must you really?"
"You cannot depend upon me forever, loved one," he whispered.
"I need you."
A minute ticked by, and then Moratorium slowly turned around. His eyes were glowing red, and one of them no longer held a white sclera. Instead, it was black as the night sky. There were tears in his eyes, and his expression was crossed between mournful and proud.
Harry's breath caught in her throat, and she stretched out a hand to him, wondering why he was crying.
"Why are you crying?" she whispered.
"Because you cannot."
Harry sat up right in her bed, her breaths coming in short gasps as she clutched at her chest. There was an undeniable pain inside of it that she couldn't quite explain.
Do not fret, little one.
Moratorium, what was that?
But, no matter how many times she called out to him, he would not say much else on the matter.
She couldn't explain this sense of mourning she felt at that. Harry curled up in herself, tucking her legs underneath her and resting her chin on her knees. She stayed like that, trying to calm down and reassure herself that Moratorium was only tired; that he just needed time to re-cooperate.
Harry wiped at her eyes, and looked over at Tom tiredly. He had ended his meditative trance, and was looking at her with what passed as a worried expression. "Harry, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," managed Harry, and she wiped at her eyes again. "Just… silly dream."
Tom hesitated. "Do you… need to talk about it?"
She shook her head. When she found that her eyes were still blurry, she gave a disdainful snort and rubbed furiously at them. "Bollocks. I swear this is all the hormones' fault."
Tom gave her a quirky smile, which did make her feel a bit better. He shifted uncomfortably in front of her, looking conflicted. Then, as if making up his mind, he shook his head and moved to sit beside Harry. Harry closed her eyes and, against her better judgment, leaned into him.
He smelled nice, she mused.
Tom awkwardly placed an arm around her. "… There, there?"
Harry found herself giggling at his poor attempt to comfort her. He looked more uncomfortable than ever, and looked as lost as a blind man in a maze. When he realized she was giggling at him, he glared at her. "So glad to see my discomfort amuses you, you ungrateful prat."
She had to cover her hands over her mouth to smother her giggles. "You look so… awkward. It's so unlike you, it's hard not to laugh."
"You should be grateful I even bothered," sniffed Tom, pointedly starting to float away from her. "But, what thanks to do I get? Getting mocked at!"
"I—hehe—I'm sorry, Tom, really—snrrk—oh, don't give me that look!"
But it was too late. A flushed Tom had already stormed away towards the Chamber.
A sheepish Harry greeted Tom early in the morning the Chambers. He eyed her coolly before telling her, "We're going to have much fun in Potions today, I suspect."
That day was probably the worst Potion's lesson Harry ever had the displeasure of experiencing. Never mind the fact that Tom took great pleasure in Harry's potion exploding three times because of his guidance; never mind the fact that he was unusually close and rougher than usual in guiding her; never mind the fact that Slughorn kept hovering over her, worrying that she was sick or something.
It was the fact that after the third explosion, Hermione and Draco had an explosion of their own. The two were right next to each other at the beginning of class, you see, and had been talking in hushed whispers, completely ignoring Harry (and Harry was forced to ignore them when Tom started his lesson).
After Harry's third explosion, though, Hermione shrieked, "If you won't tell me, then you shouldn't have lead me on the first place—you—you—you git! I thought you trusted me!"
Harry's heart squeezed with worry when she caught sight of the oncoming tears in Hermione's eyes.
Hermione gave another shriek and then threw her textbook at him before she stormed out of the classroom. Draco looked lost, and defeated, as he watched her leave.
"Must be a sick time indeed!" Slughorn declared, shaking his head mournfully. "I think I shall end class early today, as it seems to be simply a bad day for potions, sadly. I'd rather not have any more explosions."
Tom gave a mutter, but didn't protest when Harry hurried after Hermione. She found her friend with ease—sitting underneath a staircase, and engulfed her in a hug. "Dear, what's wrong? What did he do?"
"Something's wrong with him," whispered Hermione, burying her face against Harry's shoulder. "It's something horrible, I just know it, but he won't tell me, and… and it's eating him up, Harry, I just know it is! I ought to know what it is, I ought to be able to help him, but—he—won't—let—me!"
The last words were bit out in frustration from Hermione. Harry consoled her friend, feeling mildly guilty at the fact that she knew full well what was bothering Draco, but she wouldn't be the one to tell Hermione, "Maybe he can't, Hermione."
"Maybe he can't," Harry insisted. "Maybe it's not his secret to share? Maybe he wants to try to figure it out on his own, Hermione? You can't fault him for that."
"I can fault him for lying to me," she snapped bitterly. "I can fault him for—for saying—saying—"
Hermione swallowed roughly.
"It's not you, it's me," Hermione snarked. "I don't want you getting hurt because of what I'm doing. Honestly, that's just… that's just… hogwash!"
"Yes, it is," Harry agreed. "But doesn't that just mean he cares?"
"Or maybe he led me on, and then backed off," she muttered angrily.
"I don't think that's the case," Harry said carefully. "I really don't think he's clever enough to do that sort of thing."
"Oh, Harry, of course he is—"
"Or that he's the type," finished Harry. "Hermione, you're my best friend. As your best friend, I feel like kicking his arse for making you upset, but as your best friend I have to consider what will make you happy. So even if it pains me to say this—and trust me, I would much rather be hexing him right now—I think you should give him a chance."
Hermione sighed and closed her eyes. She seemed to sag in Harry's arms. "I'll think about it."
"Thank you, dear. Slughorn canceled class, by the way."
"Oh! Oh… alright, then."
Early December found Moratorium sitting in his office, staring across at Narcissa. "You are sure of this, Madam?"
"Quite," Narcissa said tersely. "When… When the Dark Lord found out that the diary had been lost, he was… he was incensed."
Moratorium rubbed his temple. The only reason he would have been looking for his diary, is for reassurance that at least one of his Horcruxes is safe. The fact that he needs this reassurance would imply that he is growing desperate, and scared. It would stand to reason he would check on his other horcruxes—that would include the ones we have already collected.
"And he then immediately asked you to enter Bellatrix's vaults?" he repeated.
Narcissa nodded her head. "I told him I couldn't do it until her will was finalized, as Gringotts wouldn't let me in, and with you withholding her will…"
Moratorium gave a humming sound.
"One of the horcruxes must be in her vault," Tom muttered.
I won't be able to break into the vault before… Moratorium trailed off.
Before what? Harry asked.
Moratorium shook his head. "Thank you for this, Madam. You have been most helpful. I suspect we will resolve this matter sooner than you might think."
After Narcissa had left, Marwyn entered the office.
Moratorium wasted little time. "What's your report in regards to the Hogwarts artifacts?"
"Progressing nicely," Marwyn answered.
"When you complete the list," Moratorium said softly, "please hand it directly to Harry Potter."
This is your adventure, isn't it? I will trust this to you.
Harry shifted nervously. There was something off about his words.
"Yes, my lord."
Christmas was fast approaching Hogwarts, which was leaving Harry feeling anxious. Moratorium was nervous about something, which set her on edge, though he wouldn't tell Harry for the life of him.
As if this wasn't enough stress for Harry, large groups of boys were found huddling under the mistletoes in every corridor Harry went through. Some boys even had the gall to wear mistletoe hats and follow her around.
She hexed many of them, but they didn't stay away for too long, sadly.
On the bright side, it seemed to amuse Tom greatly when she hexed them.
On an even brighter side, it seemed Hermione and Draco had reconciled, too.
And on the best side, Sirius promised Harry that she could bring Titan back to Hogwarts with her when she visited for Christmas.
"You ought to know," Draco told Harry casually as he and Neville walked on both sides of her, "that some blokes bought some of Fred and George's love potions."
"We heard them talking about trying to slip you some," Neville warned.
"They better not if they know what's good for them," Draco muttered. "But, if they somehow get passed us, you ought to be on the lookout, Harry."
Harry's lips twitched in fond amusement at her two friends. "I will be sure not to drink anything that hasn't been vetted, then."
"Or eat," Neville added hastily.
"Very well," she reassured them.
"You know who you're going to take to Slughorn's party?" Draco asked curiously. "I'm not asking because Neville and I need to have a chat with him or anything, of course…"
"Of course," Harry said sardonically. "And the answer is: no one. The only other person I would have asked was Hermione, but she's already going with you, so…"
The trio stopped dead as Cormac swaggered around the corner, a bouquet of roses in his hands.
"Gag me with a spoon," Tom said distastefully.
Harry groaned and buried her face in her hands. Neville and Draco exchanged glances before they both positioned themselves in between Cormac and Harry. Harry, realizing this as her chance, turned on her heel and sprinted in the opposite direction.
In little to no time, she had made it to Snape's classroom, knowing full and well no silly horny boy would try to bother her here. She popped her head inside his classroom to find that it was mostly comprised of second-years, who were in the middle of reading a textbook chapter.
Snape immediately noticed her, as he stood at the front of the classroom, and raised an eyebrow.
"Sanctuary?" Harry asked hopefully.
His lips curled in distaste, but he tilted his head in a manner that seemed to grant her permission. Harry sheepishly entered the room, ignoring the excited looks the children were giving her, and she sat in an empty desk at the front row.
"I'll study quietly," Harry promised, already pulling out her homework.
"This better be good," Snape whispered softly, bending down so only the two of them could be heard by each other.
"I've already hexed Cormac five times and he hasn't taken the hint," Harry said desperately. "I think he said something along the lines of 'feisty'. I'm afraid if I go down into the Chambers, I'll be too tempted to take Basileus up on his offer and let him eat him."
Snape looked disgusted. "… You already hexed him?"
"Five times," Harry said firmly.
"Your hexes must be pathetic," he declared. "I will show you a good, proper hex after class."
Harry's eyes lit up with hope and excitement. Snape resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the plain eagerness on her face. She was too easy to please, really.
When it was time for Slughorn's party, Hermione dragged Harry along with her to it. Draco awaited for both girls outside the Gryffindor Dormitory, along with Neville and Luna. Neville was dressed rather sharply, and Luna (his date) kept messing up his hair (which Harry thought looked rather more handsome than when he kept it combed). Luna wore a rather unique dress that Harry thought fit her rather well.
Draco was dressed just as sharply, with his hair just as messy as Neville's, as Luna had also messed his up, too. Draco did look rather irritable at this, but relaxed when he saw Hermione. Hermione was wearing a pretty pink dress that gave a rather princess-ish impression. Not that Harry was complaining, obviously. Hermione was her little princess to protect, after all.
Harry merely wore the same dress she wore to the tournament, as she didn't really have any other dress, nor did she care to buy another one—this one still fit her (even if it was a bit tighter and shorter than when she originally wore it, but a well-placed expandable charm fixed that), so why bother?
Draco took Hermione's arm, and then offered his other arm to Harry. Harry chuckled, but slipped her arm through his, and Hermione beamed at her.
"All the boys in the school must be brimming with jealously," Draco said. "I've got the most brilliant, and prettiest witch on one arm, and Harry on the other."
Hermione blushed prettily, which caused Draco to smirk. Harry just chuckled at the display, happy that Hermione was happy.
Neville extended his arm towards Luna, and she took it serenely. His cheeks were a bit pink, and he smiled. "Thanks for agreeing to wait for everyone, Luna."
The group slowly began to make its way towards the party.
"Happy to," she answered. "I just hope Harry's date doesn't get upset that she's with Draco."
"I have a date?" Harry asked incredulously.
Luna only smiled vaguely in response.
"Good grief, I hope one of her stalkers didn't get into the party," muttered Draco.
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "If that is the case, I'll hex him so hard, he'll need to stay in the infirmary for a week!"
While Draco was giving Hermione an approving look, Harry rolled her eyes. "If that is the case, then I'll hex him with one of the new spells Professor Snape taught me."
"What is with this newfound friendship between the two of you?" Neville asked dubiously. "Beginning of last year, neither of you two cared for each other at all! Now you're acting as if he's your favorite professor."
"He is my favorite professor," Harry said plainly.
Hermione glanced over at Harry. "What changed?"
Harry shrugged. "We… just got to know each other a bit better, is all. Did I tell you all he was giving me Occlumency lessons last year?"
"You failed to mention that," Hermione responded dryly.
Harry grinned. "Well, he was."
"Was that why you kept running off Monday nights?" Neville wondered.
"I thought you were running off to meet Tom," remarked Hermione.
"You mean her date?" Luna asked, tilting her head.
"Tom's my date?" Harry echoed.
Draco's brow furrowed. "Wait, wait, what? Who's this Tom fellow? One of her fans?"
Tom snorted at that.
"Tom's a friend of mine," Harry explained. "And as far as I know, he's not my date."
"A friend she's smitten with, but is in heavy denial," Hermione clarified for everyone.
"I—am—not—smitten!" Harry shrieked.
Draco and Neville eyed her with no shortage of pity. Draco clicked his tongue. "If that's not denial, I don't know what it is."
Neville nodded his head sagely. "Guess I shouldn't be surprised. Only other date she's had is with Wood, yeah?"
"What I feel for Tom is nothing like what I felt for Oliver," Harry bit out vehemently. "Oliver never turned me into a nervous-wreck, for one thing!"
"Oh, I make you nervous, do I?" Tom purred, a predatory smirk on his face.
As if realizing what she said was a horrible, horrible mistake, Harry made some odd choking sounds. "That—it—"
"That is some heavy smitten, and some even heavier denial," Draco observed, watching as Harry's complexion changed colors as she struggled to say something.
"Don't worry, Harry," Hermione reassured her. "I'm sure you and Tom will make a happy couple."
"WE WILL NEVER BE A COUPLE!"
"That's hurtful," Tom said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Neville tilted his head. "So what House is Tom in?"
"Slytherin," Luna answered for Harry.
Draco, Neville, and Hermione considered this, while Harry finally started to calm down. Hermione nodded her head. "I suspected as much. A Slytherin would rather fit you Harry, or another adrenaline junkie. Is he an adrenaline junkie?"
"No," Tom denied firmly.
"No," Harry answered.
The group had finally approached Slughorn's office, and the sounds of laughter, music, and loud conversation were growing louder with every step they took.
Slughorn's office was much larger than the usual teacher's study. The ceiling and walls were draped with emerald, crimson, and gold hangings, so that it looked as though they were all inside a vast tent. The room was crowded and stuffy and bathed in red light cast by an ornate golden lamp dangling from the center of the ceiling where fairies fluttered about. Loud singing accompanied by what sounded like mandolins issued from a distant corner; a haze of pipe smoke hung over several elderly warlocks deep in conversation, and a number of house elves were negotiating their way through the forest of knees, obscured by the heavy silver platters of food they were bearing, so that it looked like roving tables.
"Harry, m'dear!" boomed Slughorn, almost as soon as Harry and company had squeezed through the door. "Come in, come in, so many people I'd like you to meet! Miss Granger, why hello there, oh and Mr. Longbottom, how are you?"
"Fine, sir," Neville answered. Luna leaned up to whisper something in his ear, and his cheeks turned pink and it looked as though he was struggling not to laugh.
Slughorn gripped Harry's arm and began to purposefully lead her into the party. Harry shot a helpless look towards her snickering friends (Traitors!).
"Harry, I'd like you to meet Eldred Worple, an old student of mine, author of Blood Brothers; My Life Amongst the Vampires—and, of course, his friend Sanguini."
Sanguini, the vampire, inhaled deeply when Harry approached, and his eyes widened considerably.
"Hello?" Harry offered tentatively.
Sanguini dropped into a low bow, taking her hand and brushing his lips across it. "The pleasure is mine, Lady Potter."
A gaggle of girls, who were hovering around him, shot Harry both jealous and curious looks. Harry managed a polite smile in return. "Nice to meet you, sir. Enjoying the party?"
Sanguini straightened up, ignoring the astonished look from Worple, and the ecstatic look from Slughorn. He smiled at Harry. "More so than I was before."
"Another one?" muttered Tom crossly, looking considerably annoyed and in mild disbelief.
"Nothing," he grumbled.
"That's good," Harry chirped. "I've only ever met two other vampires before, you know. L, and Gage. I met them at the finals."
"They told me about you," Sanguini said solemnly. "Our kind owe much to you."
"Much to Miss Potter?" Worple asked curiously.
"What did I do?"
Sanguini's smile widened. "Do not worry, my Lady, your secret is safe with me."
Before Harry could persist in her answer, Hermione's hand appeared out of nowhere and grabbed her. Harry barely had time to utter, "Oh, it looks like I'll be taking my leave, so sorry" before Hermione had dragged her across the room.
Harry shot Hermione an incredulous look. "What was that for?"
"Cormac's here," Hermione warned her. "Draco shot him with a jinx, so he's a bit confused right now, but thought you should know."
Harry's lips curled in distaste. "If he comes near me, he's getting broken bones now. This is getting bloody ridiculous."
"Go for the pelvis bone," quipped Tom helpfully. "Hurts like no tomorrow."
Another ten minutes into the party, and Harry felt she had stayed long enough that it would be perfectly alright if she were to leave.
So, without a backwards glance, Harry snuck out of the party.
It's December 21st, Moratorium whispered.
That's true, Harry told him. We're supposed to leave in the morning for break.
It's the winter solstice tonight.
Harry paused at the odd tone in Moratorium's voice. Tom looked at her, raising an eyebrow in curiosity.
Tonight, Moratorium whispered. Get the horcruxes out, Harry. Tonight we will make Tom the anchor.
Harry paused at this, and looked over at Tom, her eyes lighting up. _Tom! Tom, we're making you an anchor tonight._
"What?" Tom asked in surprise, but Harry didn't respond, as she was already speeding towards the Chambers. In little to no time, she had grabbed the rest of the horcruxes and laid them about. Tom floated in front of her, his face screwed up. "No… Harry, there aren't enough horcruxes here. We need at least one more."
It will be done tonight, Moratorium insisted.
"Moratorium says it will be done tonight," Harry echoed.
Tom shook his head. "It won't, because it can't."
This is taking too long to argue like this—time is being wasted. Come to me, precious one. It is time you learned the truth.
"I… hold on, Tom, Moratorium needs to talk to me," Harry said, her eyes screwing shut.
In a handful of seconds, she soon found herself face to face with Moratorium in her mindscape.
"Tom says there aren't enough horcruxes," Harry said, frowning. "So why do you insist it needs to be—well, that it can be—done tonight?"
Moratorium smiled mirthlessly at her. "There are enough horcruxes, because I am here."
Harry stilled. "What?"
Moratorium made a humming sound. "I am a horcrux, my dear. Your scar is, in fact, me."
"When Voldemort attacked you, Lily sacrificed herself and the curse rebounded," he began. "This destroyed his physical body, but it did not leave him dead, due to the horcruxes. Instead, in a rush of unfocused power, he latched onto the only living thing—you.
"But, a body was never meant to hold two souls. You ejected most of him out, or really, I should say, Lily ejected most of him. Some piece of Voldemort, however, stayed. Lily's magic is a powerful, powerful thing, Harry. How exactly she knew the Blood Arts so well to accomplish this spell is still a loss to me, but it does not change the fact.
"Her magic overrode Voldemort's. This scar, which was only ever meant to serve as a tool for Voldemort, became a weapon to him. It was her love, her sacrifice, and her power that rewrote this horcrux's very purpose.
"In the beginning I was merely a piece of Voldemort, given only one goal: to survive. It was a hollow, and empty existence. But, with Lily's spell, my purpose was changed. My goal, and my drive in life is only ever to protect you. To keep you safe, and happy. As a scar, I had limited capabilities in this.
"But you, my dear, dear, girl, gave me life. Whether accidental, or not, your emotions, your will brought me to life. I became conscious inside of you. This personality that I hold, was something that you developed for me. I was just a scar, but through your will, I became this.
"I am Moratorium, now. Voldemort's memories, and powers are mine; Lily's purpose is my own; and you gave me life, Harry. I am the final horcrux Tom will need to complete this."
Shock, and disbelief settled into Harry, even as she knew—she knew—in the pit of her stomach he spoke the truth. She swallowed heavily, a hollow pang starting to bury its way into her heart. "If… if you are… then… then why are you… what are you… You're talking as if you're going to leave me, Moratorium."
"You cannot hold a horcrux inside of you."
"I'm losing you?!" she demanded.
"Let me clarify," Moratorium told me, his gaze dark. "My consciousness cannot remain inside of you forever, my sweet one."
Moratorium sighed softly. "As I told you before: Voldemort gave me power, Lily gave me purpose, and you gave me life. However, two souls were never meant to coexist in one body. That's why your scar hurts when Voldemort approaches, and not Tom. Voldemort is the anchor of the soul, and being near him for me is like… like being near a black hole, just waiting to suck me in. And he is only a fraction of an anchor. If Tom became the new anchor, if he became a bigger soul, then the pain would be nearly unbearable near him."
"But my scar hurt when I was near the other horcruxes," Harry protested.
Moratorium smiled faintly. "That would be Lily's spell, but that pain is nothing in comparison to being near Voldemort, is it?"
"So, my soul—my consciousness—will need to be removed from you, as well. I will leave my power for you, sweet one, but I must also merge with Tom."
"But," Harry objected weakly, feeling torn, "but then… then you won't be Moratorium."
"No," he disagreed. "I will. My will will transfer to Tom, as will my memories. While his personality will remain—his essence will dominate—I will not fade away completely. I will never leave you, precious one. I am merely… obtaining a physical form."
Harry shook her head, feeling lost. She felt like a thousand frozen needles were dancing inside her stomach. Her eyes were brimming with unshed tears. It was Moratorium who was always by her side; who always watched out for her. She loved him fiercely, and the thought of him leaving her—of him never returning was…
"Please," Harry whispered softly, "don't leave me…"
"It has to be done," Moratorium said gently, moving forward and wrapping his arms around her. He held her tightly, carefully running his fingers through her hair. She buried her face in his chest, squeezing him tight against her, shaking minutely. "There is no alternative, I am afraid. Besides… you no longer need me."
"I do," Harry argued stubbornly, holding him more tightly. "I will always need you. I can't do this on my own."
"You are a strong, good girl," Moratorium whispered. "I am so very proud of you. But, we were not always meant to stay together. You have grown so much, little one, and as have I. I must do whatever it takes to make you safe, to make you happy. So long as I am with you, you cannot grow independently, and you will never reach your potential."
"I don't need to reach my potential!"
A ghost of a smile crossed Moratorium's lips, but it was gone in an instant. "Dear, dear Harry… This must be done."
"I don't want you to leave me," Harry croaked, unashamedly crying at this point. She clung tightly to him, wanting desperately to change his mind, but unsure how.
He gently kissed the top of her head. "I will always be with you, in your heart and in your memories. But, this must done. Little one, be brave for me. I will leave you what powers I can, but my essence must be driven out of your body."
Harry could only shake her head and murmur no repeatedly. Moratorium softly cupped her face in his hands and raised it to meet his eyes. His gaze was firm, and warm, and held no promise of wavering. Harry's heart torn in two, as he lightly kissed her cheek.
Then, in a flash, the connection was over and Harry was left standing in the Chambers, silently crying.
"What's going on? Harry?" Tom asked worriedly.
Harry covered her mouth with her hands to keep from crying out. She trembled, and screwed her eyes shut.
You must let me do this, Harry, I don't want to force the issue, but I will if need be.
Tom gently placed his hand on her shoulder. "Harry, what's wrong?"
"Moratorium," she rasped and then shook her head. She closed her eyes, and when they re-opened, Moratorium was in control.
"I will be the final horcrux needed to complete this ritual," he declared aloud. Inside, Harry whimpered.
Tom's eyes widened. "What? But…"
"It must be done on a winter's solstice—tonight," Moratorium continued, "for only tonight will we be able to gather enough of the natural dark energy of the world for this to work. Should we try this on any other day—try to extract me, that is—it would result in a painful outcome for Harry. It must be tonight."
"You're… you're the horcrux?" Tom said incredulously.
"I am," Moratorium said. "I was given life by Harry, but my original will—my will to survive—was overpowered by Lily's sacrifice. Her will, her drive to protect Harry overcame me, and replaced my own will. I am Moratorium: Once Tom Riddle, born from Harriet Potter, but the will of Lily Potter. Two souls were never meant to be inside one body. Harry must live her own life, else she be consumed by me.
"My entire existence is devoted to her safety; to her happiness. I cannot abide by this outcome, and so, I must insist that I be used in the ritual tonight."
"But…" Tom trailed off, looking lost. "I… What does Harry say?"
Moratorium's eyes hardened. "She will not fight it. She knows it is what I want."
Tom swallowed roughly. "If… if she's… okay with this…"
"I'm not," Harry admitted, resuming control temporarily, "but I'm not going to force the issue. I'm not sure I'd win."
"You won't," Moratorium said blandly. "We must begin the ritual immediately—time is precious upon the winter solstice!"
"Why do we need the winter solstice, exactly?" Tom asked hesitantly.
"The winter solstice is a day when Dark Magic is at its strongest," Moratorium said brusquely. "What we are doing is Dark Magic, and we will need a lot of power behind it for it to go smoothly. Now, hurry! Help me draw the runes."
Tom still looked uncertain, but grabbed some of the chalk (which was enchanted so he it was tangible to him) and began to assist Moratorium in drawing the runes upon the Chamber floor. When they were done, Moratorium summoned the other horcruxes and placed them on the ground, next to him.
"When this happens," Moratorium said, "then Lily's will will transfer over to you. You will never be able to harm Harry Potter, and you will always do your best to protect her. That magic is undeniable."
Tom blinked in surprise at this information. He frowned, but said, "… Okay."
"What?" Harry asked, shock coloring her tone. "You're okay with that?"
Tom shrugged, looking mildly uncomfortable. "I… I had no intentions of betraying you. You are… close… to me. I do not mind not being able to harm you. I do not mind protecting you."
Moratorium resumed control, and smiled. "Of course not."
"Wait… so does this mean… I mean… does this make me her… proxy-mother?"
"No," Moratorium said, aghast. "Lily's will is what is transferred, not her maternal feelings. I assure you of that."
"Good," Tom sighed with relief. "That would have made things incredibly awkward."
Moratorium's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean by awkward?"
Tom flushed. "N-Nothing. Just… what else do you need to tell me?"
Moratorium continued to eye the young boy suspiciously. "My memories will be yours, as well. You will know everything, then."
"Right," Tom managed, still looking uneasy. He then cleared his throat. "Right… then… shall we begin?"
Harry wasn't sure if it was working for the first five minutes. It seemed as though Tom had merely been frozen in the center of the pentagon filled with runes. Then, at the end of those five minutes, thick, oppressive magic filled the room. It slammed into Harry, forcing her to her knees.
In a flash, she stood before Moratorium, and everything seemed dull and colorless before her.
Moratorium was smiling at her, his red eyes sparkling with mournful mirth.
Then everything was shrieking around her—or seemed to be—and she yearned to cover her ears, but she found that she was unable to move any part of her. The breath was being sucked out of her, and Harry felt as if she could collapse in on herself.
Then, in a moment, it was over, and Harry fell forward, wheezing for air.
She felt lighter.
A minute passed before she forced herself up.
Tom stood shakily in the center of the pentagon, gasping for air. Steam rose up from parts of his skin, and clouded the room. He was stark naked, but a quick flick of his hand and he was soon clothed in a long dark robe.
Harry stood on the outside of the pentagon, her heart aching something fierce. Her hands were held tightly together and she clutched them to her chest as she shifted nervously and waited for Tom. He continued to wheeze for a while, his eyes closed.
"… Moratorium?" Harry whispered hesitantly. Behind her, Basileus shifted and let out a long, soft hiss.
"He sssmellsss of the previousss heir."
Finally, Tom seemed to have caught his breath. His dark eyes flickered over to Harry, and he staggered towards her. Immediately, Harry rushed to him, her arms out stretched to offer support. He rested his hands on her shoulders, still steadying himself, while she anxiously watched him.
"Moratorium?" Harry asked again, her brow furrowed. She wasn't sure what she felt at that moment—hopeful? Dreadful?—all she knew was that she didn't know. Did she want Moratorium to still be there—to replace Tom? Or did she, perhaps, want Tom to remain the dominate personality?
She didn't know.
And she hated that.
Moratorium was her longest, and dearest friend. He had always been there for her, and had always protected her—even if she didn't yet know he was there when she was younger. Everything he did, he did it for her. Harry loved Moratorium desperately, and the very idea of having to continue life without him was…
And, yet, there was Tom. Harry hadn't known Tom nearly as long as Moratorium, but somehow Tom had wormed his way into being one of her most precious people. Tom was the first outsider to accept her for what she was—all of her—and the only person she knew who could understand her. That alone was irreplaceable in Harry's eyes.
Moreover Tom made her… happy. She couldn't quite describe it, but she was happy with him. Not in the same way she was happy with Moratorium, or Hermione, but…
Tom let out a long sigh, his eyes slowly opening. Their eyes met and Harry froze, every inch of her dreading, yet hoping, for his response.
"I'm sorry," Tom croaked, his voice hoarse. "But, Moratorium is no more, Harry."
Harry's eyes widened and burned as the first onslaught of tears came. She didn't mean for them to come—and she certainly hated the fact that they did come, as tears were something she despised—but she couldn't stop them. They fell from her, and her body somehow seemed to be drained of all energy. Her legs turned into jelly; her heart plummeted like a cold stone; and her head spun around and around.
She stumbled, and soon found her face buried into Tom's chest while she shook and mourned for her longest friend. Tom was stiff for a moment, but relaxed soon after and brought an arm to wrap loosely around her waist. He placed his other hand on top of her head and gently patted her.
"It's okay, Harry," Tom said softly into her hair.
She just shook her head, hating herself for not being able to stop sobbing.
"It's going to be okay," Tom told her, "because I'm right here, and I will never leave you."
"Swear it," she whispered.
When Harry had calmed down enough that Tom was able to leave her be, he then told her, "Moratorium's memories are my own now. I know what his plans are—were, I should say. He was brilliant, Harry. Everything will be taken care of now."
"What do you mean?" Harry rasped, cuddling Porteurmort.
Tom smiled faintly at her. "Moratorium planned for this from the end of year three."
"Well, he planned this as a possible outcome. I will assume control as Moratorium in the public—I need only a Polyjuice potion and the ring to fool the public eye. Marwyn and Efface are the only ones that know outside of this room that this will be happening."
"Wh-What do you mean they know?" Harry demanded.
Tom's eyes danced with mirth at her worry. "Moratorium trusted them. Marwyn will continue to be my right hand."
"Will be your champion."
"Do not worry," Tom said swiftly in a manner that reminded Harry vaguely of Moratorium. "For a while I will stay here to recuperate my energy, but then I will need to take my leave."
Harry froze. "You're leaving?"
"For a while," Tom said softly. "I will be back, though. I promise you."
She swallowed roughly. "O-Okay."
Tom smiled at her. "Don't worry. I'll carry half a mirror with me so you can contact me at any point. Voldemort will, undoubtedly, have felt the majority of his horcruxes disappearing and will know that it happened in Hogwarts."
Harry's brow furrowed and Porteurmort's heads started to nuzzle her affectionately in a soothing manner. "What do you mean?"
"As he was, originally, the anchor, he will have felt his horcruxes distinctively as separate pieces. Now he can no longer sense them as distinct pieces—thus giving the impression that they were destroyed. This kind of ritual is powerful and would draw all sorts of attention if used in an open area. Thanks to the Chamber, though (as its walls are made of magic-cushioning stones), only those connected to the ritual could feel it outside. Voldemort is connected, obviously, and would therefore know his horcruxes were destroyed in this very place. I suspect he will want retribution of the highest order—he will want to invade Hogwarts immediately."
"Certainly," Tom said confidently. "I must take the necessary steps to protect you now. To do so, I will need to finish stabilizing the government and bring in some enforcements."
Harry squeezed the baby hydra to her, trying to squash down her worry. She obviously wasn't worried for herself—she adored the fact that she would get to face off against that waste of space in a final battle soon enough—but rather for Tom. Harry knew Moratorium could take care of himself, but she also knew Moratorium had used some rather risky methods to secure his spot.
She knew now that he was rushed—that he had, apparently, anticipated this outcome and wished for things to be ready as soon as possible—and as such drew some unwanted attention.
It was as Tom had explained, all those years ago. Using fear to rule people was never a good idea. Fear broke people—making them utterly useless or the worst kind of enemies. The way Moratorium abolished the previous government—using threats, blackmail, bribery, assassinations (though no one would be able to connect the assassinations to Moratorium, of course), and flat out manipulating—had undoubtedly made some enemies.
Enemies that might, just might, have reached their breaking point.
Harry hoped desperately that was not the case. She hoped, so very dearly, that none of them had reached that point. It scared her to think that some of them might have—that Tom had just become the very large target to some very nasty people.
Tom, misinterpreting her worry, kneeled down to where she sat up against her familiar. He smiled at her—although it came across more as a smirk—and brushed back some of her hair, and tucked it behind her ears. "Don't worry, Harry. I'll protect you."
Harry's cheeks flamed at the contact, and her stomach turned to mush. She didn't verbally respond—though she really wanted to—as her tongue felt tied. Instead, she just nodded her head and cuddled further into Basileus, squeezing Porteurmort tightly.
It's not me I'm worried about, Harry thought.
Harry swallowed roughly and said, "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to stay here for a couple days, and then I'm going to assume control as Moratorium," Tom answered. "You should probably head back to your dorm. It's nearly sunrise, you know."
Harry didn't know that. It didn't feel like morning. The ritual couldn't have been more than a few seconds, could it have?
Harry wobbly stood up. "Alright. I'll… I'll go, then."
Porteurmort trotted behind her, as did Basileus. The two would escort her to her room.
Harry tried to bring herself to come to terms with what exactly had just happened. She wondered, idly, if she was still in shock. She decided that must be the case, because she couldn't otherwise reason how she was taking this so calmly.
It was so strange to think that Moratorium was a piece of Voldemort all along. Even stranger to know that he was now Tom.
No, no, that wasn't quite right. Tom was Tom, and Moratorium was Moratorium. They weren't the same people. It was more like… More like Moratorium sacrifice himself to give Tom life.
Like an epic battle and ensured in these walls.
A battle that no one seemed to win.
A final blade would have fallen onto Tom, and Harry could not save him. It was Moratorium who took the blade, instead, really.
But, even then, that didn't do it justice. Moratorium didn't do this just for Tom. He did it for Harry.
Two souls could not exist in a body. He said he would consume her if this continued the way they were. The concept was difficult to grasp for Harry, but she could see that it was possible. Moratorium had been taking over her life more and more frequently. Originally he was just a voice inside her head, but if this had carried on like before…
Well, it would be more like she was the voice inside his head.
I wish that wasn't the case.
I wish you weren't a horcrux.
I wish you were still here.
She stumbled walking up one of the passages, and Basileus moved to support her immediately. She leaned against him heavily, not realizing she was crying again.
"What can I do for you missstresss?" Basileus asked anxiously. "Sssay your command and I will do it."
"I don't know, dear. I feel so lost, I just… I don't know."
"Do I need to get someone for you?"
Harry shook her head and wiped at her eyes. "No, no… I…" She took a steadying breath. "I am Harry Potter. Moratorium sacrificed himself for my life—for my happiness. I will not let that be in vain. I will be fine, my dear. I will be fine. But, for now, I must mourn. Please take care of Tom, as I doubt I will be returning for a while."
Basileus nuzzled his large head against Harry, and she took comfort from the gesture. She took another, deep, and steadying breath, and then she hissed out the words to open the passage, and she left.
She refused to look back.
Harry did not waste time upon taking the train back. When she returned, early that morning, she magicked for her things to be packed immediately, shrunk down her trunk, and then changed into some pajamas. She shoved the trunk into the pocket of her red pajama pants, and slipped on some fluffy red slippers.
Hermione had finally awoke just as Harry was about to leave. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and looked up groggily at Harry. "Harry? 'S wrong?"
Harry forced a smile on her face. "Just anxious to get back. See you next year, Hermione. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year."
"Mn. You, too."
Harry quickly walked through the hallways, pushed open the front door, and pulled out her broomstick. In less than a minute, she flew to Hogsmeade, tossed one of the innkeepers a few coins before floo'ing herself to a nearby station of their flat.
In another minute, she had reached their flat, kicked open the door and shouted, "I'm home!"
There was a heartbeat of silence, before chaos ensued, as Titan came barreling down the staircase, along with a joyous Sirius. Harry felt her heart lighten considerably as Sirius lifted her in his arms and spun her around. "I wasn't planning on getting you for a while longer, Vix. How are you?"
"Tired," Harry sighed. "… I'm a little sad, too."
Sirius stopped spinning her around and placed both his hands firmly on her shoulders. "What's wrong, Vix?"
"I just… lost a friend," she mumbled. "A best friend."
"Voldewhore," she muttered. Which was true enough.
Sirius took a deep breath and engulfed her in a tight hug. "I know that sucks, Vix. I understand completely. Was it recent?"
He squeezed her tightly. "You aren't old enough to drown your worries in firewhisky, but I think I know something that might cheer you up…"
Harry looked up at him hopefully.
Sirius gave her a mischievous smile. "Want to go on an adventure for Christmas?"
Sirius's smile turned into an infectious grin. "So then, Vix. What kind of adventure will it be? The illegal sort, or something tamer?"
"Tame is for sissies!" she cried out.
"Atta girl! What'll be then? You name it, we'll do it."
Harry's breath caught in her throat and her eyes widened as she considered this. She looked Sirius dead in the eye and said, "I want to break into Grigotts and steal from Bellatrix's vault."
Sirius's smile, somehow, grew even wider. "Have I mentioned how you remind me of your father, lately?"
Harry preened. "No, but thank you. Can we do it, Padfoot?"
"We can certainly try!"
Come Christmas Eve, Harry and Sirius had the majority of the plan worked out. Well, it was worked out enough that Harry was confident in it, and insisted that they could just wing the rest of it, which seemed to suit Sirius just fine.
Harry realized she could probably ask Tom to use the thieves' guild to get the horcrux, but somehow, she felt a bit nervous in doing so.
Besides, she really need this thrill.
Getting into Gringotts wouldn't be an issue—getting out would be the problem. It didn't take long to divulge the fact that Gringotts had anti-apparating wards, anti-portkey wards, and anti-Polyjuice wards past a certain point. Even Dobby couldn't teleport all the way in and out.
A quick, but well-placed Legilimise on a goblin told Harry exactly where Bellatrix's vault was—as well as about a fair few of the wards.
And while Dobby couldn't breach all of their defenses, he could bring them past a certain point.
So, on Christmas Eve, when the sun had begun to set, Sirius and Harry transformed into their animagus forms—their wands strapped tightly on a belt around their waists, along with a couple bags that had been shrunken and given an undetectable expandable charm.
Dobby tossed the invisibility cloak over the three of them, and with a snap of his fingers, he brought them right in front one of the magical carts.
Harry purred at Dobby, and Dobby winked at her before snapping his fingers again—taking the cloak with him—and heading back home.
Harry hopped onto the railing, ignoring the cart entirely.
The carts were heavily magicked to impede against intruders. The rails were not, however, as it seemed goblins hadn't considered that wizards would be so bold as to try and balance on them.
Balancing on the wide railings was a simple task in their animagus forms. They were wide enough there was plenty of room, and Harry found that her tail kept her easily balanced. Sirius trotted behind her, completely at ease with the situation.
Half an hour of walking, and Harry flicked her tail, signaling to stop.
Throughout their entire trip, Harry had been keeping an eye on the number of vaults they passed. When they reached the appropriate area, Harry tilted her head and transformed back into her human form. She wobbled a bit on the railing, but with a quick swish of her wand, she was soon dressed again.
She waited a minute while Sirius mimicked her actions.
"Down there?" Sirius reckoned.
"Unless their numerical system decides to change, then yes, down there."
"That's going to take forever to follow the rails down there."
"I was thinking we'd just jump," Harry said. "See those runes carved in the wall? That'll keep us from using our brooms, but it won't prevent us from using a slow-fall charm."
Sirius beamed. "Excellent. On three, then?"
"Indeed. One, two… three!"
Harry leapt down into the dark chasm below. She didn't bother casting her slow-charm for a good bit as she fell, cherishing the pleasant feel of the adrenaline running through her, instead. About halfway to the bottom, though, she swished her wand and immediately felt herself slowing down.
She landed gracefully on her feet, and looked up at Sirius, who was still falling. A few more seconds passed by as she waited for him, before he finally landed beside her.
Harry surveyed the rocky surroundings with a sharp eye, her stomach still churning pleasantly from the shot of adrenaline she got. With a determined step, she began to walk down the only corridor available to her. At the end of the corridor, it emptied out into a large cavern with tiles, and many vaults at the back of it. Light poured through it from the top, illuminating everything in a pale light.
That was not what had Harry pausing, though.
It was the bloody, mangled, scarred, form of a white dragon that eyed them warily.
Horror froze Harry in her footsteps as she stared at him. "Dear God. What have they done to you, my sweet one?"
The dragon's eyes narrowed into slits and it let out a low, gurgle growl.
Harry shook her head, her eyes watering as she took in its clearly abused form. Sirius placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and she shook out of it with ease. "Unforgiveable! I will have their heads for this."
The dragon snarled and Harry raised her wand. She shook her head, her expression mournful. "I am sorry, my sweet one, but I must do this to sneak you out of here."
With a sharp flick of her wrist, Harry transfigured the dragon into a small white kitten. Harry hurried over towards the mewing kitten, and picked him up with gentle hands. She cooed at him and kissed the top of his head repeatedly. "Poor baby…"
"I don't think we can fit a dragon in the flat," mused Sirius.
I'll just ask Moratorium—
Harry stopped her thought process, completely unprepared for the onslaught of grief that was about to bombard her. She physically stumbled, and her world tilted.
For a second, she thought she was about to pass out as a wave of heavy, harsh, cold, and painful agony ripped through her. Her eyes burned and her chest felt too heavy to breathe—like it was being filled with icy water, and she had to struggle to catch a single breath. Her stomach dropped and her head spun in circles, feeling as though it was going to spin right off.
And then she remembered where she was, and she forced herself to straighten her back and stamp down on her feelings.
She would deal with them later that night, in private. Not in the middle of a bloody bank heist.
Although she found it surprisingly difficult to keep the tears in check. She supposed years of practice of forcing herself not to outwardly react to any sort of pain had finally been useful.
"Charlie, Ron's brother, took in a baby dragon my first year at Hogwarts," Harry said softly. "I'll contact him and ask him to help me with this one, too. Those goblins will pay dearly for this misdeed, I swear."
Sirius smiled at Harry. "I'm sure. Now let's take care of Bellatrix's vault, shall we?"
Harry sniffed, and marched forward, still cradling the kitten in her arms.
Not for the first time, she found herself wishing she knew healing magic, if only to ease the pain of the poor creature she held.
When Harry and Sirius finally stood outside the vault, Harry lifted her wand. Silently, she summoned her familiar.
Basileus let out a soft hiss as he struggled to maneuver comfortably in the small corridor. "What will you have of me?"
"Use your venom to destroy the magic in this vault door," Harry instructed, gesturing towards it. Sirius kept his eyes screwed shut, as Basileus's large yellow eyes stared at the door. With a harsh hiss, he spat out some of his venom towards it.
Basilisk venom was one of the few things that, unconditionally, destroyed magic. It didn't matter what kind, it didn't matter how strong. Nothing less, save phoenix's tears would stop this from happening. Harry highly doubted the goblins would have sprayed Bellatrix's door with such.
Harry watched, satisfied, as the door began to dissolve as if acid had been poured over it (which wasn't too far from the truth, all things considered). With a quiet thank you, and another wave of her wand, Basileus was dismissed.
Harry and Sirius entered the vault with cautious eyes. Harry didn't have any particular way of knowing what exactly was the horcrux, so she pulled out her empty bag and then held it open. She tapped her wand against the opening of the bag.
"Inanis," she whispered. The bag jerked in her arms before opening widely—wide enough to cover the entire room—and it sucked everything in. In a matter of seconds, the vault was cleared out. Harry shut the bag, and tied it back around her waist before looking over at Sirius with a bright smile. "That was easy!"
Sirius chuckled. "Now we just got to get out of here."
Sirius's brow furrowed. "But isn't there a ward?"
Harry wore a smug smile. "Runes can't overlap. You can't ward something against portkeys and apparitions at the same time, as those runes fall into the same category. They aren't charms—as charms aren't strong enough for a permanent ward—so they have to be runes. We can't Apparate right now, which means we can portkey."
"Are you telling me," Sirius said slowly, "that Ancient Runes actually helped us pull off a heist?"
"Yep," Harry sung.
"Bugger, I didn't take that class."
Harry patted his cheek. "I can tell, dear."
"Oi! What's that supposed to mean?"
Harry just giggled.
Tom ran his hand through his hair as he stood in Moratorium—well, his—office. It was unbelievable, really, what had transpired within the last few days. It was so difficult to wrap his mind around the fact that Moratorium was the horcrux. The same Moratorium that issued threats to Tom as casually as commenting on the weather, had sacrificed himself to make Tom the anchor.
Actually, Tom corrected, he sacrificed himself, so he wouldn't consume Harry.
But, it was done. There was no turning back. Tom supposed he was lucky that Moratorium insisted on always wearing a hat, and a long red scarf to cover the lower half of his face. It kept his face mostly concealed, which made make the transition between the two easier, while Tom worked on mimicking his actions.
Not that he really needed to. Moratorium was a piece of himself.
Tom sighed and ran his hand through his hair again.
There was a knock on the door.
"Enter," Tom intoned. Marwyn entered the room, carrying a couple of folders. Tom's eyes flickered over to them as Marwyn set them on the table.
"L has requested a meeting with you," Marwyn said.
"Very well," Tom allowed. "… You are dismissed, Marwyn. I need time to gather my thoughts."
Marwyn bowed as he left.
Tom looked down at his hands, examining them. It was also a bit difficult to believe that he was tangible again. Multiple occasions he found himself attempting to float away, only to find that he was unable to anymore.
Tom slowly closed his eyes and sank into the office chair.
His memories and plans are mine now, he thought. There's a lot of work to be done, and not a lot of time.
And while some part of Tom greatly appreciated this—he enjoyed a good, complicated, long-term plan—he found that another part of him wished this weren't the case.
That instead, Moratorium was just another personality of Harry's, never a horcrux, and that he was back with Harry, enjoying Christmas Eve with her like he had the years before.
When I wished that Moratorium had his own body, Tom thought dryly, I never meant it like this.
The irony was not lost on Tom.
Remus floo'd in on Christmas morning, and was greeted to a warm breakfast. Harry cheerily waved at him, while sneaking Titan bits of her breakfast. Sirius looked up and grinned merrily at his friend, and Remus wondered briefly where his pants went off to… again.
"Good morning," Remus said, taking a seat at the table.
"Morning Moony," Harry chirped. "How have you been?"
Remus smiled. "Rather well. I'm sorry I haven't been sending many letters lately, the Order has kept me underground."
"What do you mean?"
"Dumbledore wanted a spy among the werewolves," Sirius answered for Remus. "And, well, Moony was our best option."
A bitter expression crossed over Remus's face at that, but it cleared up soon enough. "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Last time, the werewolves supported Voldemor—er—whore, but this time the majority of them are leaning towards Moratorium. Moratorium has done a lot of major revisions to the laws, you see."
"I did notice that," Harry commented, her heart twisting at the reminder of her friend. She forced a smile on her face, though it was a bit wobbly. "Do you like the changes?"
"Very much," Remus agreed heartily. "Did you know he's invited one of the werewolves to join his Council? An older, rather interesting, fellow by the name of Bronzemane. According to what I've gathered, Moratorium told Bronzemane he was perfect to take over the Magical Enforcement Department."
"I thought Bones was in charge," Sirius commented.
Harry shook her head. "Moratorium planned on dividing the departments. One for investigations, one for judgment, and one for actually enforcing the issue. He wants Bronzemane for the actual enforcing department, doesn't he?"
"Right," Remus agreed. "Which is a breakthrough, really, considering how shunned from society werewolves have been. Moratorium's dispatched a lot of money and help in building a society for werewolves a bit far out, you know. Actually built them homes, and brought in merchants and trade. Amazing story, I tell you."
Sirius made a humming sound. "I like this Moratorium fellow. He seems to know what to do."
Remus nodded his head firmly. "He's a pragmatist."
"Yeah," Harry echoed softly. "Hey Paddy—er—sorry, Padfoot—?"
At Paddy, Sirius did a double take and erupted into loud laughter. Remus snickered quietly, while Harry looked at them curiously.
"What?" she asked.
Sirius grinned. "You called me that before, you know. When you were a tyke, your mum and dad were trying to get you to say Mummy and Daddy. They were at it for quite some time, but you just kept giggling at them. Then I walked in, and you squealed Paddy! Lily thought it was the cutest thing ever, while James looked ready to throttle me."
Harry chortled. "Did I really?'
Remus nodded his head eagerly. "Oh, yes. It was quite funny. For the rest of the day you kept calling on Paddy-Paddy, much to James's annoyance."
"I insisted on having you stay with me for the rest of the week, but Lily and James wouldn't hear of it," Sirius reminisced. "Said I was too much like a crazy uncle. Best if taken in small doses for the young and impressionable, were Lily's exact words, I believe."
"I think you make the best godfather," Harry told him, and Sirius's eyes twinkled with happiness.
"I think you make a smashing goddaughter," he returned. "That was the best adventure last night."
The two snickered quietly to each other while Remus eyed them suspiciously. "Should I be worried?"
They exchanged sly glances. "No. Not at all."
When it was time to return to Hogwarts, Harry transfigured Titan into a smaller version of himself, so he could travel with her by floo. Charlie had stopped by the day after Christmas to escort the dragon-turned-kitten to a sanctuary, and reassured Harry that he could transfigure the poor thing back, and he would send her letters on his recovery.
The Ministry had arranged a one-off connection to the floo network to return students quickly and safely to the school. With practiced ease, Harry floo'd back to Hogwarts, straight from her flat, and greeted Professor McGonagall with a charmed smile.
She greeted her friends happily, and spent the evening get Titan situated in the Chambers with Basileus. On the bed in the Chambers was a note scrawled out in neat writing.
I'll return to the Chambers when I can. I hope you don't mind taking care of Porteurmort in my absence.
Merry Christmas, Harry.
Harry had carefully folded the note and kept it in her breast pocket, before feeding her animals for the night. She carried Porteurmort back up to the dormitory with her, and stayed up late exchanging Christmas stories with Hermione.
The new term started next morning with a pleasant surprise for the sixth years: a large sign had been pinned to the common room notice boards overnight.
If you are seventeen years of age, or will turn seventeen on or before the 31st of August next, you are eligible for a twelve-week course of Apparition Lessons from a Ministry of Magic Apparition instructor. Please sign below if you would like to participate. Cost: 12 Galleons.
Harry and Hermione joined the crowd that was jostling around the notice and taking it in turns to write their names at the bottom.
Harry was very much looking forward to being able to Apparate on her own, and she was not the only one. All that day there was much talk about the forthcoming lessons; a great deal of store was set by being able to vanish and reappear at will anywhere in the world.
Come study time, Harry finally deigned to pull out her tattered Potions textbook, as it was clear she would have to start studying on her own again with Potions.
However, much to her glee, she found that it was filled with annotations and scribbled out corrections. She recognized the correct process of making all the Potions that Tom had originally taught her. It could stand to reason that the previous owner of the book had written out the correct version for all of the potions.
Come Saturday morning the next week began the first Apparition lesson, which took place in the Great Hall. The tables had disappeared, and the students assembled in front of Professors McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick, Sprout, and a small wizard who Harry assumed was the Ministry instructor for the lessons.
"Good morning," said the Ministry wizard. "My name is Wilkie Twycross and I shall be your Ministry Apparition instructor for the next twelve weeks. I hope to be able to prepare you for your Apparition Tests in this time by which time, many of you may be ready to take your tests
"As you know, it is usually impossible to Apparate or Disapparate within Hogwarts. The headmaster has lifted this enchantment, strictly within the Great Hall, for one hour so as to enable you to practice. May I emphasize that you will not be able to Apparate outside the walls of this Hall, and you would be unwise to try.
"I would like each of you to place yourselves now so that you have a clear five feet of space in front of you."
There was a great scrambling, jostling, and muttering as people separated, banged into each other, and ordered others out of their space. The Head of Houses moved among the students, ordering them into position and breaking up arguments.
Twycross waved his wand. Old fashioned wooden hoops instantly appeared on the floor in front of every student.
"The important things to remember when Apparating are the three D's! Destination, Determination, Deliberation!
"Step one: Fix your mind firmly upon the desired destination. In this case, the interior of your hoop. Kindly concentrate upon that destination now."
Harry stared at the circular patch of dusty floor enclosed by her hoop and tried to think of nothing else. This came easily, thanks to her years of Occlumency.
"Step two," shrilled Twycross, "focus your determination to occupy the visualized space! Let your yearning to enter it flood from your mind to every particle of your body."
Again, this came naturally. Harry had years of practice to control her emotions (and while she struggled during high-strung times, she was still fully capable of doing so, when she put her mind to it), and her thoughts due to the nature of Occlumency. She emptied her mind and steeled her will in preparation.
"Step three," Twycross called, "and only when I give the command… Turn on the spot, feeling your way into nothingness, moving with deliberation! On my command now….one…. two… THREE!"
Harry felt herself relax as she lost herself behind her Occlumency shields. There was nothing before her, but the task at hand. There were no worldly distractions, or other traitorous thoughts in her head. There was nothing, but the emptiness; the nothingness, and the hoop.
She felt herself lose her balance as she turned, and indeed, it felt as if she was falling gently through the air. Not unlike the time she free-fell in Gringotts.
There was a sharp snapping sound in her ears, and when Harry opened her eyes, she found herself standing perfectly still in her hoop. She wore a triumphant smile as she looked about, finding she was the only one successful, and most of her fellow students had lost their balances and fell over.
"Very good, Miss Potter," Twycross praised. "Please move your hoop another five feet back, and when we try again, you shall attempt ten feet instead."
"Yes, Professor," Harry said meekly.
Harry entered the Chambers that evening with a skip in her step. The lessons had gone rather well. She remembered Marwyn had once commented that he perfected his Apparition skills due to his extensive study in Occlumency.
All prepared to spend the evening doting upon her pet, Harry stopped short to find Tom standing in the center of the Chambers, flipping through a book. He noticed her almost immediately—Harry took note that he looked more tired than usual, and that he wore an awfully nice suit and tie.
What really caught her attention, though, was his eyes. She didn't really have much of a chance to properly look at him after the ritual—her mind was still reeling from the shock of it all—but now that she was in a far better state, she noticed there was something different.
His left eye glowed a bright red, and his sclera was black as night. Harry found herself staring at it, and he seemed to notice. He gave her a wane smile. "A side-effect, I am sure, to splitting one's soul. They say, you know, that the eyes are the doors to the soul."
He gestured to his red eye. "I suppose that saying merits some truth."
"Does it hurt?" she asked hesitantly, approaching him.
Tom shook his head. "Not at all. I didn't notice it, actually, until I looked in a mirror. My other eye turns red, too, when I use magic, though. If I don't, then it just stays like this."
"Do you see any differently when it does that?"
"Not at all," he assured her. "Merely cosmetic for the moment. How are you, Harry?"
"Better," she admitted, then brightened. "I got another horcrux."
His eyes widened. "What? How?"
Harry rushed past him into the Chambers, being sure not to disturb her sleeping familiar, and other sleeping babies, and grabbed the bag she used to suck in Bellatrix's vault. She hurried back over to Tom and held out the bag. "In here. Padfoot and I robbed Gringotts. I… I couldn't tell what exactly was the horcrux, so I just put everything in there."
Tom smiled at her. "Thank you, Harry. If we can get another piece, we could perform the ritual again, and confirm me as the anchor."
Harry's brow furrowed. "Do you want to merge with Voldewhore?"
"No. It's just a horcrux now," Tom dismissed. "I'd rather kill it with fire, to be honest."
Harry smiled, relieved. "That's good."
"He's building an army, you know," Tom said. "He told Draco to not concern himself with Dumbledore, and focus wholly on completing the Vanishing Cabinet, as well as to sneak in a few portable floos. He wants to invade Hogwarts by the end of the year."
"Why did he say to forget about Dumbledore?"
"I suspect," Tom began, "that he does not realize he is not the anchor anymore. I believe he is under the impression that Dumbledore figured him out, and destroyed the horcruxes. He wishes to extract a personal revenge. This just further proves how much farther he's fallen, as he is beyond reason. I believe the day he invades Hogwarts, Narcissa will denounce him and use the portkeys to bring Draco and Lucius to the safe house."
Harry chewed on her bottom lip. "What should we do about the other students?"
"I will be setting up a meeting with Dumbledore about that, actually," Tom remarked, looking mildly disdainful over the idea. "It would be an annoyance if I let a bunch of brats die under my reign as Minister, wouldn't it?"
Harry chuckled. "Annoyance could be an understatement."
Tom shrugged. "In short, I hope that he will agree to give each student a portkey tie that will activate simultaneously, and bring the students directly to the Ministry. In the same instance, reverse portkeys will activate and summon a large force of Bronzemane's and Bone's forces to Hogwarts to deal with this threat."
"Will that work?" Harry asked anxisouly. "I know portkeys work to take someone out of Hogwarts, but…"
"Do you not remember your Triwizard tournament?" Tom asked, bemused. "Rune wards cannot stack upon each other. So long as Hogwarts is Apparate-free, it cannot be portkey-free. At least, not entirely. For a portkey to work, it will need to have either stayed in Hogwarts for an extensive period of time and bathe in Hogwarts' natural magic (so Hogwarts would recognize it as a Hogwarts portkey), or be granted permission by the Headmaster. Barty Crouch Jr used the former, while I hope to save time and use the latter."
Harry sighed with relief, then looked up. "I thought you didn't like Dumbledore."
"I don't. He labeled me as a troublemaker before I even officially attended Hogwarts," Tom said off-handedly. "I don't care if he has improved or mellowed out with his age. As far as I am concerned, he only sees black and white, and I will always be on the darker side to him. Something he will never forgive, or forget."
"Do you want me to be there?" Harry offered.
"If you came as my guest, people would realize we are connected," Tom sighed, looking rueful. "I have caught whispers of those who are displeased with me and my… radical movement. Moratorium did not play very nice, and I am left to contend with what he left behind. I would rather our connection remain… hidden… until I can either uproot these pests, or until I am certain you are capable of taking care of yourself."
Harry felt indigent to that. "I can take care of myself, just fine!"
"You're too easily baited," Tom said, shaking his head. "But, that's not the point. At least let's wait until you can Apparate out of unpleasant situations."
Harry resisted the urge to pout. Instead, she said, "I've been doing well with my Apparition lessons, you know."
Tom smiled warmly, and Harry felt that familiar happy feeling in her tummy at the smile. "I am glad. Things are going to get a little crazy soon. While I am sure you are looking forward to this, it is still something you should take caution in, Harry. If not for your sake, for mine, at least."
"I'll be fine," Harry boasted.
"I hope so."
Harry hesitated, and then hurried into another room to grab something. Tom watched her rush back, her cheeks pink as she held out a familiar bottle that had a golden liquid inside. She held it out to him. "Here."
His eyes widened. "That's your Felix Felicis bottle. You can't really mean to—"
"You're the one with a long list of enemies," Harry insisted, shoving the bottle in his hands. "I've only got Voldewhore to deal with, and we both know I can kick his arse when he bothers to grow a pair and shows up. I'm the Golden Girl, remember? I'm loved."
"Good to see your ego hasn't taken any sort of bruising since we last talked," commented Tom sardonically. He carefully took the small bottle and pocketed it. His gaze and tone lost their sarcastic edge, though, when he spoke again. "Thank you, Harry."
Harry shrugged, feeling too embarrassed to say much else. "Anything new happening with you, Tom?"
"Mostly just preparations to finish off the has-been," he said. "The Falk have been bickering with the werewolves over some new land. Although, I did learn something interesting. Did you know that Atlantis exists?"
Harry's eyes widened. "What? Really?"
"Really," he said. "It used to fly in the sky before a malfunction with one of the runes. It fell to the ocean. The Falk have tried on many occasions to lay claim to it, but it's besieged by some rather monstrous creatures. Creatures we have no record on, save a couple of them. One of them being… krakens."
Harry's eyes were bright with glee and she squealed. "Oh, please tell me you're going to stage an expedition to reclaim it, and please tell me I can go with it."
Tom chuckled at her obvious enthusiasm. "I will mount an expedition, after you graduate, and coordinate with the Falk to see if we cannot reclaim it. It would be a perfect place for the World-Ministry headquarters if we could get it up and working again."
Harry was practically bouncing up and down with excitement. "Marvelous! Spectacular! Perfect!"
"Consider it a graduation present from me," Tom insisted.
"Best gift ever," Harry declared. "At least I have something to look forward to after I get rid of Voldewhore."
"Well, Atlantis isn't the only adventure I had in mind," Tom mused. "But, I believe, one expedition at a time. Who knows how long it would take to properly restore Atlantis after we reclaim it?"
Harry sighed wistfully. "Hopefully not too long."
"I am inclined to hope so, as well."
By the end of next week, it seemed Tom's meeting with Dumbledore had gone as planned, because every student was given a pin to go on their tie (and they were given their own bed sheets), and if they were caught without it, they automatically lost fifty points, and were given a month's worth of detention.
Naturally, this extremely severe punishment made everyone bloody certain they had their pin.
That was not the only change at the end of the week. Ministry officials could be found casually roaming about Hogsmeade. Many of them aurors under Bones, or exequutors (the name given to those who would enforce the law) under Bronzemane.
Most annoyingly, though, was the fact that Efface was found frequently following Harry whenever she left Hogwarts. Even if it was just to go to her outdoor class, or attend Quidditch. She had taken to steadfastly ignoring him, knowing damn well that nothing she could say or do would make him go away, and with time, the other students learned to ignore him, too.
A few nights after these changes had been made, Harry found herself having tea with Dumbledore in his office.
Dumbledore's face was grave. "Harry, my dear, for a long time, I had hoped to avoid this. You have been placed through much unnecessary stress, and I was disinclined to burden you with more. However, it has come to my attention that Voldemor—ah—Voldewhore will be making his final play, very soon."
Harry sipped on her tea and simply waited for Dumbledore to re-collect himself. He took a great, steadying breath and said, "Before you were born, a prophecy about Voldewhore was given. In short, it prophesized that you were the one to defeat him. This is why he targeted you, on that night, so long ago.
"I had hoped to keep you safe, and hidden from the influence, and pressure of this world by giving you to your mother's muggle sister. I know now that was a horrible mistake, something I will undoubtedly endeavor to rectify for the rest of my life.
"When Voldemo…whore… rose up, it became clear he was after the prophecy. The prophecy was kept in the Department of Mysteries, but in a tussle to apprehend Bellatrix Lestrange, it was destroyed. I thought it was for the best. I thought you would have longer still to prepare for the Dark Lord's last march. I thought Moratorium was doing an excellent job at keeping him at bay, but I underestimated how desperate he was growing.
"Which brings us to tonight, Harry. Tonight, and every weekend, I will provide you with private lessons. What I hope to teach you is something that I hope will help you survive your inevitable battle with him," Dumbledore finished.
Harry finished her cup of tea and gracefully set it on the table in front of her. She offered Dumbledore what she hoped would be an encouraging, and comforting smile. "Thank you, Professor Dumbledore. I would also like you to know, before we continue, I no longer blame you for placing me with… those people. You had no way of knowing how horrible they would be."
Dumbledore's blue eyes watered at that. "Thank you, Harry."
Harry continued to smile. "You have been kind to me, Dumbledore, and very understanding. I appreciate that more than I could ever put into words. Whatever you wish to show me, I will gladly do my best to master it."
"Simple tricks will not do for these lessons, Harry," said Dumbledore quietly. "Those are things you are learning in your classes. What I am providing, is knowledge of your enemy. And hopefully, with time, his weakness."
I already know those things, Harry thought ruefully, but she could see that Dumbledore needed to show her these things. He needed to help her, or at least think he was. He may not have been the best man Harry knew, but his heart was in the right place (for the most part, at least).
"I am all ears, then," Harry said. Then, she grinned cheekily. "But, if you also wanted to throw in a couple of charms to teach me, I wouldn't say no."
Her joke seemed to lighten Dumbledore considerably, as if a great weight had been lifted when she verbally forgave him, and accepted his help. He smiled jovially. "I suppose there might be a few things this old man can still show you…"
"You're not that old," Harry insisted.
He laughed lightly at that. "You are too kind, Harry. Shall we start now?"
Dumbledore stood up from behind his desk and gestured towards his Pensieve. "Let us take a trip down Bob Ogden's memory lane…"
Harry and Dumbledore delved into the Pensieve, and Harry found herself soon trotting behind a portly older man, Dumbledore right at her side. For the most part, she was in an unfamiliar neighborhood, but as Ogden carried on, she slowly recognized it.
In little to no time, Harry found herself standing beside Ogden, peering at the same house that she and Tom had taken the ring from. Ogden moved forward quietly, cautiously. Harry noticed, with disgust, that someone had nailed a dead snake to the door.
There was a rustle and a crack, and a man in rags dropped from the nearest tree, landing on his feet in front of Ogden—who had leapt backwards in fright."
"You are not welcome."
The man had thick hair, so matted with grime and dirt, Harry could not discern its natural color. Several of his teeth were missing, and his eyes were small and dark, staring in opposite directions.
"Er… good morning. I am from the Ministry of Magic—"
"You're not welcome."
"Er—I'm sorry—I don't understand you…"
Parseltongue, Harry realized, her eyes widening. Then… is this man… a relative of Tom's?
The man began to advance upon Ogden, a bloody knife in one hand, and wand in the other.
"Now look," Ogden began, but it was too late. There was a bang, and Ogden was on the ground, clutching his nose, while nasty goo squirted from between his fingers.
"Morfin!" shouted a voice.
An elderly man hurried out of the cottage, banging the door behind him so that the dead snake shook morbidly. The man was shorter than the first, and oddly shaped—his upper body was far larger than his lower body, giving him the odd impression of an ape. His hair was just as matted and disgusting as 'Morfin's', though.
"Ministry, is it?" asked the man, looking down at Ogden.
"Correct!" snapped Ogden, dabbing his face. "And you, I take it, are Mr. Guant."
"S'right. Got you in the face, did he?"
"Yes, he did!"
"Should've made your presence known, shouldn't you?" demanded Gaunt aggressively. "This is private property. Can't just walk in here and not expect my son to defend himself."
"Defend himself against what, man?" said Ogden angrily, clambering back to his feet.
"Busybodies. Intruders. Muggles and filth."
Ogden pointed his wand at his own nose, which was still issuing large amounts of goo, and the flow stopped at once. Mr. Gaunt spoke out of the corner to his mouth to Morfin. "Get in the house. Don't argue."
Morfin lumbered into the cottage with an odd rolling gait, and slammed the front door shut.
"It's your son I'm here to see, Mr. Gaunt," began Ogden. "That was Morfin, wasn't it?"
"Ar, that was Morfin. Are you pure-blood?"
"That's neither here nor there," said Ogden coldly. "Perhaps we could continue this discussion inside?"
"Yes, Mr. Gaunt. I've already told you. I'm here about Morfin. We sent an owl—"
"I've no use for owls. I don't open letters."
"Then you can hardly complain that you get no warning of visits," he retorted tartly. "I am here following a serious breach of Wizarding law, which occurred here in the early hours of this morning—"
"Alright, alright, alright," bellowed Gaunt. "Come in the bleeding house, then, and much good it'll do you!"
Harry hesitantly followed behind Ogden and Dumbledore into the filthy, cramped house. There was a shuffling noise in the corner beside the open window, and Harry realized that there was a girl in the room.
She wore a ragged gray dress, and stood beside a steaming pot on a grimy black stove, fiddling around with the shelf of squalid-looking pots and pans above it. Her hair was lank and dull, and she had a plain, and pale face. Her eyes, like her brother's, stared in opposite directions.
She looked utterly defeated, and Harry worried that this girl before her might be like Harry.
"M'daughter, Merope," said Gaunt grudgingly when Ogden glanced at her.
"Good morning," Ogden said politely.
She did not answer, but gave a frightened glance at her father, and continued to shift the pots on the shelf behind her.
"Well, Mr. Gaunt," said Ogden, "to get straight to the point, we have reason to believe that your son, Morfin, performed magic in front of a Muggle late last night."
There was a loud clang. Merope had dropped one of the pots.
"Pick it up!" roared Gaunt. "That's it, grub on the floor like some filthy Muggle, what's your wand for, you useless sack of muck?"
Harry felt a boiling anger begin in the pit of her stomach. She found that she held great distaste for Gaunt.
"Mr. Gaunt, please!" exclaimed Ogden in a shocked voice, as Merope, who had already picked up the pot, flushed scarlet, lost her grip on the pot again, drew her wand hesitantly from her pocket, pointed it at the pot, and muttered a spell that caused the pot to shoot across the floor away from her, hit the opposite wall and crack in two.
Morfin let out a cackle of laughter. Gaunt screamed, "Mend it, you pointless lump, mend it!"
Before Merope could move towards the point, Ogden had already repaired it.
Gaunt snorted. "Lucky the nice man from the Ministry's here, isn't it? Perhaps he'll take you off my hands, perhaps he doesn't mind dirty Squibs…"
Without looking at anybody, Merope picked up the pot and returned it, hands shaking, to its shelf. She then stood quite still, her back against the wall, as though she wished for nothing more than to sink into the stone and vanish.
"Mr. Gaunt," Ogden started again, "as I've said: the reason for my visit—"
"I heard you the first time! And so what? Morfin gave a Muggle a bit of what was coming to him—what about it, then?"
"Morfin has broken Wizarding law," said Ogden sternly.
"Morfin has broken Wizarding law," mocked Gaunt. "He taught a filthy Muggle a lesson, that's illegal now, is it?"
"Yes. I'm afraid it is." Ogden then pulled out a small scroll of parchment and unrolled it.
"What's that, then, his sentence?" demanded Gaunt angrily.
"It is a summons to the Ministry for a hearing—"
"Summons! Summons? Who do you think you are, summoning my son anywhere?"
"I'm Head of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad."
"And you think we're scum, do you?! Scum who'll come running when the Ministry tells 'em to? Do you know who you're talking to, you filthy little Mudblood, do you?"
"I was under the impression I was speaking to Mr. Gaunt," Ogden responded, looking wary, but holding his ground.
"That's right!" roared Gaunt. He held out his disfigured hand, and Harry immediately recognized Slytherin's ring. "See this? See this? Know what it is? Know where it came from? Centuries it's been in our family, that's how far back we go, and pure-blood all the way. Know how much I've been offered for this, with Peverell coat of arms engraved on the stone?"
"I've really no idea, and it's quite beside the point, Mr. Gaunt. Your son has committed—"
With a howl of rage, Gaunt ran toward his daughter. For a split second, Harry's heart froze in her chest as she was reminded of another time that Vernon had—the next moment, he was dragging her toward Ogden by a gold chain around her neck.
"See this?" he snarled.
"I see it, I see it!" said Ogden hastily.
"Slytherin's! Salazar Slytherin's! We're his last living descendants, what do you say to that, eh?"
"Mr. Gaunt, your daughter!" cried Ogden in alarm, but Gaunt already released Merope; she staggered away from him, back to her corner, massaging her neck and gasping for air.
"So!" exclaimed Gaunt smugly. "Don't you go talking to us as if we're dirt on your shoes. Generations of purebloods, wizards all—more than you can say, I don't doubt."
"Mr. Gaunt," said Ogden doggedly, "I am afraid that neither your ancestors or mine have anything to do with the matter in hand. I am here because Morfin, Morfin and the Muggle he accosted late last night. Our information is that Morfin performed a jinx or hex on the said Muggle, causing him to erupt in highly painful hives."
"Be quiet, boy," growled Gaunt. "And what if he did, then? I expect you've wiped the Muggle's filthy face clean for him, and his memory to boot—"
"That's hardly the point, is it, Mr. Gaunt? This was unprovoked attack on a defenseless—"
"Ar, I had you marked out as a Muggle-lover the moment I saw you," sneered Gaunt, and he spat on the floor.
"This discussion is getting us nowhere. It is clear form your son's attitude that he feels no remorse for his actions. Morfin will attend a hearing on the fourteenth of September to answer to the charges of using magic in front of a Muggle and causing harm and distress to that same Mugg—"
Ogden broke off. The jingly, stomping sounds of horses and loud, laughing voices were drifting in through the open window. Gaunt froze, listening, his eyes wide. Morfin hissed and turned his face towards the sounds, his expression hungry. Merope raised her head, her face stark white.
"My God, what an eyesore!" rang out a girl's voice, as clearly audible through the open window as if she stood in the room. "Couldn't you have your father have that hovel cleared away, Tom?"
"It's not ours," said a young man's voice. "Everything on the other side of the valley belongs to us, but that cottage belongs to an old tramp called Gaunt, and his children. The son's quite mad, you should hear some of the stories they tell in the village—"
The girl laughed.
"Keep your seat," Gaunt said warning as Morfin moved closer to the window.
"Tom," said the girl's voice again, "I might be wrong, but has somebody nailed a snake to that door?"
"Good lord, you're right!" said the man's voice. "That'll be the son, I told you he's not right in the head. Don't look at it, Cecilia, darling."
"'Darling,'" whispered Morfin, looking at his sister. "'Darling', he called her. So he wouldn't have you anyway."
Merope continued to pale.
"What's that?" demanded Gaunt sharply. "What did you say, Morfin?"
"She likes looking at that Muggle," said Morfin, a malicious expression on his face as he watched his paling sister. "Always in the garden when he passes, peering through the hedge at him, isn't she? And last night—hanging out the window waiting for him to ride home, wasn't she?"
"Hanging out the window to look at a Muggle?" repeated Gaunt quietly. He turned towards his horrified daughter. In a deadly voice, as he began to advance upon her, he asked, "Is it true? My daughter—pureblooded descendant of Salazar Slytherin—hankering after a filthy, dirt veined Muggle?"
Merope shook her head frantically, pressing herself into the wall.
"But I got him, Father!" cackled Morfin. "I got him as he went by and he didn't look so pretty with hives all over him, did he, Merope?"
"You disgusting little Squib, you filthy little blood traitor!" roared Gaunt, and his hands closed around his daughter's throat.
Harry twitched, and Dumbledore placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
Ogden cried out No, and raised his wand. Gaunt was thrown backwards, away from his daughter. With a roar of rage, Morfin leapt out of his chair and ran at Ogden, brandishing his knife and firing hexes from his wand.
Ogden ran for his life. Harry and Dumbledore followed behind him, and then the two were out of the memory.
Harry breathed in a gasp of air, as she struggled to calm her heart.
"I think that will do for tonight, Harry," Dumbledore murmured.
"What happened to Merope?" Harry demanded.
"She survived. Ogden Apparated back to the Ministry and returned with reinforcements within fifteen minutes. Morfin and his father attempted to fight, but both were overpowered, and removed from the cottage, and subsequently convicted by the Wizengamot. Morfin, who already had a record of Muggle attacks, was sentenced to three years in Azkaban. Marvolo, who had injured several Ministry employees in addition to Ogden, received six months."
"Marvolo?" Harry echoed, horrified.
"That's right. He was Volde-Voldewhore's grandfather. Marvolo, his son Morfin, and his daughter, Merope, were the last of the Gaunts, a very ancient Wizarding family noted for a vein of instability and violence that flourished through generations due to their habit of marrying their won cousins. Lack of sense coupled with a great liking for grandeur meant that the family gold was squandered several generations before Marvolo was born. He, as you saw, was left in squalor and poverty, with a very nasty temper, a fantastic amount of arrogance and pride, and a couple of family heirlooms that he treasured just as much as his son, and rather more than his daughter."
"Merope… Merope was Tom's mother?"
"She was. And that man that Morfin attacked was his father. That was Tom Riddle senior, a handsome Muggle who used to go riding past the Gaunt cottage and for whom Merope Gaunt cherished a secret, burning passion."
"And… and they… they, what, eloped?"
"Unlikely," Dumbledore said serenely. "Merope was a witch, despite her lack of power. Once Marvolo and Morfin were safely in Azkaban, once she was alone and free for the first time in her life, then, I am sure, she was able to give full rein to her abilities and to plot her escape from the desperate life she had led for eighteen years.
"Can you not think of any measure Merope could have taken to make Tom Riddle forget his Muggle companion, and fall in love with her instead?"
Harry suddenly remembered Tom's clear loathing of love potions. She swallowed heavily. "Love potions?"
"Very good, I would agree with that. In any case, within a few months of the scene we had just witnessed, the village of Little Hangleton enjoyed a tremendous scandal. You can imagine the gossip it caused when the squire's son ran off with the tramp's daughter, Merope.
"But, the villagers' shock was nothing to Marvolo's. He returned from Azkaban, expecting to find his daughter dutifully awaiting his return with a hot meal on his table. Instead, he found a clear inch of dust and her note of farewell, explaining what she had done.
"From all I have been able to discover, he never mentioned her name or existence from that time forth. The shock of her desertion may have contributed to his early death—perhaps he had simply never learned to feed himself. Azkaban had greatly weakened Marvolo, and he did not live to see Morfin return to the cottage."
"Merope… she died, though, didn't she?"
"Yes, indeed. We must do a certain amount of guessing here, although I do not think it is difficult to deduce what happened. You see, within a few months of their runaway marriage, Tom Riddle reappeared at the manor house without his wife. The rumor flew around the neighborhood that he was talking of being 'hoodwinked' and 'taken in'. What he meant, I am sure, is that he had been under an enchantment that had now lifted, though I daresay he did not dare use those precise words for fear of being thought insane. When they heard what he was saying, however, the villagers guessed that Merope had lied to Tom Riddle, pretending that she was going to have his baby, and that he married her for this reason."
"What went wrong?" Harry found herself asking.
"Again, this is guesswork," he said, "but I believe that Merope, who was deeply in love with her husband, could not bear to continue enslaving him by magical means. I believe she made the choice to stop giving him the potion. Perhaps, besotted as she was, she had convinced herself that he would by now have fallen in love with her in return. Perhaps she thought he would stay for the baby's sake. If so, she was wrong on both counts. He left her, never saw her again, and never troubled to discover what became of his son."
Harry felt sick. While she may not have had the greatest of childhoods, she could at least say she had loving parents.
Tom couldn't say that.
"I think that will do for tonight, Harry," said Dumbledore.
"Yes, sir," she whispered.
Not for the first time, she found herself wishing that Moratorium was still there.
She bet he would know what to do.
Harry headed down to Hogsmeade with her friends, ignoring the fact that Efface was soon dutifully trailing behind them in the shadows. Her arm was hooked through Hermione's, and Neville's, as the trio headed down.
"Valentine's Day is next weekend," Neville said worriedly, "and Luna says I don't need to get her anything, but do girls really mean that?"
"I hope I don't get anything for Valentine's Day," Harry told Neville, perfectly serious. "Draco told me some of the boys are slipping in love potions in chocolates. Love potions!"
Hermione gave Neville a smile. "I'm sure Luna doesn't expect a gift, but I'm equally sure she would enjoy one. Just give her some chocolates and her favorite flowers, as a start. You two haven't been dating very long, have you? You can't expect to get her something extravagant, and chocolate and flowers are simple enough that on the off chance she didn't get you anything, she won't feel too guilty about it."
Neville gave a sigh of relief. "That's good advice, Hermione. Thanks. I'll… I'll do that now."
Neville peeled away from the two girls, hurrying off towards one of the shops. The two watched him leave before exchanging sly glances.
"I suppose I should look into getting something for Draco," Hermione mused. "He's been looking so pale these past few days, you know. He seems so nervous, and he insists on walking me to class."
"I've noticed," Harry commented dryly. "It would look like he's worried about an attack happening at any moment."
Hermione chewed on her bottom lip. "I know… I know his father is probably… probably a Death Eater. Do you think he knows... knows why we have all these new securities?"
"Hermione, it doesn't do you any good to dwell on it now," Harry said patiently. "If that is the case, Draco's in a difficult situation. Voldewhore, probably, has his father in an uncomfortable situation. Could you imagine choosing between your father and friends, Hermione?"
She shook her head, looking worried. "No, I couldn't. I hope that's not the case. I hope he's just nervous over N.E.W.T.s."
"Time will tell," mused Harry.
"I think I'll pick him something up to calm his nerves," Hermione said, slowly moving away from Harry. "Meet you for some butterbeer and snacks in ten?"
"Wouldn't miss it," Harry promised. With a song in her head, Harry hummed lightly as she made her way through Hogsmeade, merely appreciating being outside of Hogwarts. As she neared the edge of the town, something caught her eye.
It looked like…
"Moratorium?" Harry whispered, and the figure at the edge of the town, in the woods, turned and began to run in. "T-Tom?"
Confused, and more than a little worried, Harry hurried after the figure. She ran into the forest, calling out for him. When she received no response—and she realized that Hogsmeade was out of sight—she began to grow suspicious.
Carefully, she pulled out her wand and her eyes roamed across the area.
Suddenly, there was a flurry of movement in the corner of her eye and she reflexively shot off a diffindo. The ground exploded where the spell landed, and a large, burly man cloaked in red descended upon her.
With a snarl, Harry whipped her wand around and shot off more spells. The man countered them with ease, and within seconds, Harry was surrounded by at least eight more. In the far off corner, she could hear Efface had begun engaging even more behind her.
Harry whipped around, prepared to start using more lethal curses, when she found that she was unable to do so anymore. Eyes wide, she looked up in the tree branches and found several dozen more had been circling her from above with their wands out.
Stupid me, she scolded herself. Should have kept my eyes peeled upwards, as well.
That was the last thought Harry had before her consciousness faded away.
Harry's eyes snapped open and she seized. She was in a small dungeon, chained tightly to the walls.
"Oh, good. You're awake."
Harry dragged her eyes over to an elderly man who smiled humorlessly at her. He was robed in rather luxurious clothing, giving the impression of wizard nobility. Harry felt as though she vaguely recognized him.
"Who are you?" Harry inquired.
The man's smile widened. "I was worried you had hit your head too hard (at this, Harry realized that the back of her head was killing her and felt a little wet) but none of us are really trained medics. Don't worry, my dear girl, I don't intend to keep you here long. I have no issues with you, rather your… friend."
"Which one?" Harry asked curiously.
"Moratorium," the man supplied, then tusked. "What a nasty piece of work. A horrible man. Loved by the mass public, but honestly, he just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. His support for those… monsters… is disgusting."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "Monsters? Are you referring to the vampires? The werewolves? Perhaps the Falk?"
"All of them," he exclaimed. "Honestly, we made those restriction laws for a reason, and he just blows them all away. Did you know your friend is making a law that will allow some of those very creatures to carry a wand?!"
"Heaven forbid," Harry said dryly.
He nodded his head. "Indeed."
"Is that why you kidnapped me?" Harry asked.
"Well, that's why I assisted in this farce," the man sniffed. "I cannot speak for the rest. But, rest assured, child, we are civilized. You will be relatively safe here, and well-kept. We aren't going to torture you or anything—we aren't monsters. We merely need to keep you away from… that man until he's ready to submit to our desires."
Harry resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the sheer idiocy of the man. It was no wonder Voldewhore was able to round up such a large gathering of followers—it seemed as though every damn pureblood adult she met (or at least the vast majority) lacked common sense. "You're awfully informative."
He smiled at her like a pleased master would at a pet that did a particularly interesting trick. "I am a civilized man, you know. A gentleman. I don't care for keeping little girls chained up in my dungeon, you know. Disgusting. But, necessary."
He nodded his head.
Harry cocked her own head and smiled sweetly. "Do you know what's funny?"
She leaned towards him and whispered, "I'm not a bloody damsel in distress."
Then her magic flared through muscles, strengthening them and she ripped her chains straight out of the wall. She shot an overpowered Stupefy at the man with her right hand and he flew through the darkness and crashed, hard against the other side.
Harry placed both hands on her hips. She sniffed. "Pathetic."
"Yes. I suppose you would think so."
Harry's eyes bulged as she recognized the voice and she whirled around. She had a moment to digest what she saw—what she confirmed—before the speaker raised his wand at her and smiled.
Fuck, Harry thought, as her knees buckled.
It wasn't too long before she blacked out.
She awoke to find herself chained again, only this time with magic-restrictive constraints.
This… might be a problem, Harry allowed reluctantly.
"What do you mean she was kidnapped?!" Tom demanded with a snarl.
Efface, still battered, merely kept his head bowed as he repeated, "She was taken from me in mid-fight."
Efface glanced over at Marwyn, and the handsome Italian deftly took over. He smiled at Tom and held out a folder. "From the corpses we were able to identify all of them. They are an old mercenary group called the Steelarx."
Tom's brow furrowed and he stopped in his furious pacing to take the folder and begin to glance through it. It held information on the bodies found and the mercenary group. "Old?... Oh, yes, I remember. I sent you to dispatch the previous leader and pressured the group into disbanding. Well. More like I drove them out of business with my own mercenary group."
Marwyn nodded his head once. "Quite. It seems they are… displeased with this."
"I would imagine there are a lot of people displeased with me," Tom responded easily. "You cannot, after all, make an omelet without breaking some eggs. For this world I envisioned, I knew I would be stepping on many toes. That is why I made The List—why I had so many higher-ups assassinated as I knew they were the most likely to oppose me. The fact that I misjudged the psychological profiles of such a lethal group is… irritating."
Marwyn shrugged. "In your defense you did not have that much time to spend on judging them. You took the chance that they would take the retirement money you offered them instead of joining you, and leave for good. It was, at the time, a chance in your favor, but there is nothing you can do about it now."
Tom sighed harshly through his nose. "I suppose not. Is that it, then? Just a little game of revenge?"
"We have not received any ransom notes as of late."
"Has anyone else discovered she is missing?"
"No," Marwyn answered.
"Let's keep it that way. We will need to find—Ah. Dobby. I need you to find me her House Elf, Dobby. House Elves are magically bound and he will know exactly where she is."
"Is there a usual place this… Dobby… prefers to stay in?"
Tom's brow furrowed as he tried to recall one of Harry's past ranting about how adorable Dobby was and where he liked to stay. "… Hogwarts kitchen. I will write you a note saying I wanted you to come and bring Harry to me for some questioning in regards to Voldemort. This will provide an alibi for her absence in the meantime without drawing too much attention, as well as give you access to Hogwarts. Do you know how to reach the kitchens?"
"Yes, Lord Moratorium."
Tom nodded, already waving his hand towards his desk and enchanting a quill to write out the note for him. Within seconds the note was written and signed, and Marwyn was on his way.
Tom turned towards Efface. "Is there anything else you can tell me?"
Efface paused, considering this. "I do not think they are acting alone."
"What do you mean?"
"The Steelarx group was a group of more… brash… mercenaries. At least, that is what I gathered from the fight, as well as from their profiles. In this battle they were more… cohesive. It was… I am uncertain if I can explain it, but I… feel as if they had an ulterior motive. That this wasn't just for them, I suppose?"
Tom's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Interesting."
Harry wheezed as the last lashing ended. She was panting heavily, and every inch of her stung brutally from the whip lashes. Her clothes were in tatters and covered heavily in blood. The long gashes were, unsurprisingly, stinging something fierce.
"Civilized," she panted, "definitely."
Gage sneered at her. "Be quiet you filthy witch."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Harry muttered, then winced when another crack landed against her.
In a tiny part of her mind, Harry was very proud of herself for not buckling. For not reverting back to that disgusting little girl of her past. But, it was a small part that was ignored. This kind of pain was not the same. This was not d-i-s-c-i-p-l-i-n-e. This was not a-b-u-s-e. This was not an adult being superior to a child.
This was a villain, and a hero.
Harry was not a little student. She was Harriett Lily Potter, the Girl-Who-Lived. She was a brave girl who had faced off with Voldewhore on multiple accounts.
This was an adventure.
Granted, a far less pleasant adventure than what Harry would have preferred, but no less true. Gage was not someone who was seeking retribution against her personally. The whippings, while unpleasant, were aimed for her joints and other sensitive areas. They were precise in hopes of severely limiting her mobility in the off chance she did escape again. While vampires could now, legally (or soon legally) hold wands, they were not inherently spell-casting beings. They preferred the more physical, more personal side of a battle. At least as a whole. Vampires were unlucky (or lucky) creatures that were either turned (due to some secret ritual that only vampires knew) or birthed. Vampires were normally sterile, as Moratorium had originally learned in his studies before approaching them to become his allies, and as such it was extremely difficult to create vampires through this means.
The only other way was turning someone into a vampire. Anyone could be a vampire—from unicorns, to witches, to humans, to ogres. It's just that, more often than not, very few survived the turning. As the way things stood, from what Harry understood from what Moratorium explained, there was not even a percentage of surviving the turning. It was, essentially, one in a million.
So if a wizard was turned into a vampire, he could still cast spells (although it would be illegal, as he would now be classed as a vampire and was prohibited from using any wands) just as well as any wizard. And if an ogre was turned into a vampire, well, he would still be as stupid as ever.
Gage, Harry guessed, was one of the very few wizard-vampires (magical beings had an even lower rate of surviving a turning than muggles).
Perhaps he could have simply broken her bones, but for personal reasons Gage had chosen the whip (Harry suspected it was due to a more sadistic-fetish of his).
If they left scars, they would have been scars that Harry would have been perfectly okay with showing.
They were proof that she stood up.
That she would not bow.
That she could make it on her own two feet—that she did not need Moratorium.
Even if she did still wish he was with her.
And while this being was not a Death Eater, it was not hard to picture him as such in Harry's mind. When she did that—when she pictured him as an enemy she had already faced off and beaten—it kept the fear in check.
She was not a student being disciplined.
She was not a little girl being abused.
She was a young woman standing up to her antagonizer.
It was these thoughts that Harry kept chanting to herself. It was these thoughts alone that kept her from descending into panic and crawling back in on herself.
He'll come for me.
"Why are you doing this?" Harry wondered. "I would have thought all the vampires liked Moratorium."
Gage's lips curled back in distaste. "L thinks this alliance is a way to protect our coven. I know better. You can't trust a wizard, or a witch."
"So… what? You want more laws to restrict vampiric movement amongst the magical society?" Harry questioned. "That seems rather selfish and stupid of you."
Gage shook his head. "You wouldn't understand."
"Most likely," Harry agreed.
Gage eyed her for a moment, his eyes lingering on her injuries. "You won't be going anywhere like that. My work is done."
Without another word the vampire turned on his heel and left the dungeon, leaving Harry alone in the dark.
Explosions rocketed above Harry. Loud thumps and screams of horror filled the air, and Harry yearned to know what was transpiring. Had someone come for her, or—and she suspected this was more likely the case, as it seemed far too early for someone to notice she was missing—were they simply having a quarrel with each other?
For several minutes this was all Harry heard and then utter silence.
Harry's brow furrowed, and she chewed on her bottom lip. Suddenly the door to the dungeon swung open and light flooded the room. Harry reflexively squinted her eyes as a caped figure stood in the light. The figure raised its hand and suddenly white balls of light filled the dungeon, lighting everything up.
L stood at the doorway. His short pale hair looked messy—as if he had frequently been running his hand through it in exasperation—and he wore a simple red dragon-skin tunic, and loose black pants. There were daggers strapped to both of his sides, and were dripping with blood. Harry suspected his pants were splattered in it, as well, but due to their color it was hard to tell.
He smiled charmingly at Harry, his fangs glistening in the light. "Well, well, it seems I'll be saving you today. To be honest with you, I rather wished that was not the case."
Harry smiled tiredly in return. "That would make two of us."
L chuckled lightly and swiftly approached her. With great ease he ripped off her chains and caught her when she fell to the floor. He picked her up bridal style. "I am afraid I am not as skilled in the medical arts as I am in the more… destructive areas."
Harry snorted. "You know, you aren't the first person to tell me that. I'm beginning to think I should start investing in that area for cases just like this."
"Do you intend to enter a similar situation again?"
Harry considered this, then nodded. "I don't intend to, but given my nature and luck, it'll probably happen again."
L laughed, beginning to carry her out of the dungeon. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, dear Moratorium."
Harry successfully suppressed her surprise at his statement. "How did you recognize me?"
"Although your magic is different, your blood is not. The Moratorium I met with for the first time was, undoubtedly, you. The latest Moratorium, though, is not. Which is a puzzling situation. The magic is the same, at least his magical energy, but the blood that runs through his veins is different."
Harry eyed the vampire prince thoughtfully. More than likely, he'll find out on his own sooner than later. Better it come from my mouth and without any twisted spin, than him draw a different conclusion that might prove… hurtful.
"Moratorium was just a piece inside of me," Harry answered truthfully. "The Moratorium that walks now is the real Moratorium, I suppose."
"A piece? My, my, were you possessed?"
Harry smiled wryly. "You could argue that he possessed me at times, but it was with my own permission. Regardless, he now has his own physical body."
"So it would seem," L hummed, continuing to climb the stairs. "That would explain a part of his attachment to you."
"You knew we were connected?"
"From the moment I laid my eyes upon Harry Potter at that race, I knew Moratorium was closely tied to you. All the vampires knew," L responded. "As you were honest with me, I shall return the favor. Our sense of smell is… exceptional. Mine is, of course, the greatest out of us all, and I am also the only one capable of sensing (and recognizing) another's magic. Any vampire who had met you, and Moratorium, would have been able to recognize his scent upon you, and vice-versa."
Harry frowned. "That would explain how Gage knew to target me. And what Sanguini was going on about at the party."
"More than likely," L agreed.
"Wait, did you say you could sense another's magic?"
L smiled humorlessly at her. "Indeed."
Harry's eyes lit up. "That's amazing!"
L chuckled. "You are the first witch to tell me that. Most would be worried."
Harry shook her head, her eyes still bright. "That's a wonderful accomplishment. Scary to have, sure, but still damn impressive."
They finally exited the dungeon and Harry took a good look at the carnage around them. "You really know how to make things interesting, L."
"I do enjoy a good battle," L agreed.
"Likewise," Harry sighed dreamily.
L chuckled. "You're an interesting witch, Harry."
"Thank you," Harry said sincerely. "So how did you find me?"
L looked almost wistful. "I actually wasn't looking for you. Gage's sister informed me that he had been acting suspiciously and I was concerned he would try to ruin the alliance with Moratorium."
"Why would he want to do that?"
"Because he cannot overlook his bitter hatred towards the wizarding society," L admitted bluntly. "I will not make excuses for him. While it is certainly tragic he lost his life-mate to them, he is being entirely selfish in trying to sabotage this relationship. I tracked him to here in hopes of persuading him from doing anything rash. It seems I was a tad too late."
"Just a tad," Harry agreed. "No hard feelings, though."
L smiled crookedly. "I can only hope Moratorium will feel the same."
"I'll make sure he does," Harry promised. "I'm rather glad he targeted me and not one of my friends at the moment, to be honest. I know what I can take."
"I understand that sentiment," L said.
"So he did kidnap her?"
Harry's head snapped up to Dagonet. The leader of the Falk was waltzing down the extravagant stairs, carrying a severed head by the hair. Harry honestly did her best to ignore the head, finding it a bit disturbing. That and she found her eyes just couldn't leave the handsome man alone. She vaguely remembered that the Kelpie were the equivalent of the male version of the veela, but found that she didn't really care at that moment.
"So it would seem," L said ruefully.
Dagonet winced. "Old friend, I am sorry."
"No need," L dismissed. "Harry has already assured me that this will not hinder the alliance."
Dagonet's deep blue eyes rested upon the blushing young witch. He smirked at her. "Is that so?"
Harry only nodded her head, not trusting her tongue at that moment.
Dagonet's laughter was like beautiful music to her ears. "Very good! Well, I am glad I could partake in this massacre with you, L. It's always entertaining to battle alongside a vampire. However, as the situation seems to be under control, I will go ahead and take my leave."
"Of course," L said smoothly.
Harry sighed despairingly when he left, and L chuckled at her.
"I should take you to Moratorium now," L told her. "Then I must take my leave and finish this."
"Gage was not here when I came for you," L sighed. "I must track him down. Never leave a loose end."
"Right," said Harry. "I think Moratorium—"
The front door to the mansion blew open as a young, positively furious wizard obliterated it with a wave of his hand. Harry immediately recognized the wizard as Tom—disguised as Moratorium—with Marwyn, and Efface flanking him, and several other witches and wizards behind them as Harry recognized them as assassins from Moratorium's guild.
Tom's eyes fell upon L and Harry and his expression grew thunderous. "L!"
Harry shook her head frantically. "It's not what it looks like, I swear!"
"I was just on my way to see you, actually," said L pleasantly.
"M-Marwyn, do you think you could heal me while I explain this?" Harry asked anxiously. After a glance for approval from Tom, Marwyn was at Harry's side in an instant, his wand raised as he began to repair the damage. "Okay, believe it or not, L and Dagonet actually saved me."
Tom's eyes narrowed.
Harry explained what L had told her, as well as what had happened while she was here. As her explanation grew, Tom slowly relaxed and lowered his wand.
Tom let out a long sigh, just as Marwyn finished healing Harry, and Harry finished her explanation. "That would match up with our own evidence and suspicions. It seems I owe you a thank you, L."
L shook his head in disagreement. "I was merely playing my part in our alliance, Moratorium. I want this to work just as much as you do. You have been faithful to your word and a great boon to my people. I will not have our agreement sullied by the selfish actions of one my brethren. Rest assured that I will find Gage, and I will bring him to you, and we—as the new government—shall properly punish him."
Tom smiled darkly at that. "You have my full support in tracking him down."
"Thank you," L responded politely. He then turned his head towards Harry and smiled. "Are you ready to stand on your own, dear?"
"Yes, sir," Harry responded.
L's eyebrows drew up in surprise. "Never thought I'd see the day a witch said sir to a vampire."
Harry smiled warmly. "You'll have to get accustomed to it, I suspect."
"I'll manage," L assured her. "My, my. You and Moratorium are such interesting mortals. In under a decade the two of you have already managed to rewrite history, and are continuing to do so. No small achievement."
Harry felt herself blushing, and felt a bit awkward at the praise—it was Moratorium who was doing all the work, really—but Tom took it in stride. He cocked his head and smiled thinly. "It is merely a stepping stone to our plans."
"That does not surprise me," L informed him. "If that is all, I shall take my leave now. Good day, little ones."
"Good day," Harry managed, and, still feeling rather awkward and mollified from the praise, she curtsied. "… And thank you for saving me."
"Always happy to help a damsel in distress."
… And there went any last bit of gratitude Harry had felt. She stuck out her tongue at his retreating, chuckling, back.
"I see that," L chided before he vanished in a flurry of shadows.
Tom sighed as he approached her—Harry noticed that Efface was already at her side, just a bit behind her; she was starting to grow used to his presence. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Go on adventures with me?" Harry ventured.
Tom's lips twitched upwards. "Come along, then. Let's get you back to Hogwarts. Everyone else, I need identification of everyone who is here. We will be doing a thorough investigation of everyone here. Let us make sure there is no one else lingering in the shadows of this coup, and if they are, take care of them."
"Yes, Lord Moratorium," the chorused faithfully.
"Dagonet has one of their heads," Harry mentioned helpfully. "I would be more than happy to go to him and—"
"Never," Tom vehemently denied, "will I allow you in the same room as him without me, or Efface to keep you straight. Or Hermione, perhaps."
Tom held out his arm to her, and Harry sulkingly hooked her own arm through it. In a sharp, dizzying snap, he had transported the two of them back to Hogsmeade. He frowned, retracting his arm. "It seems as though we will not be able to keep our connection hidden that well, anymore."
"I don't mind," Harry said, smiling cheekily.
"You were just kidnapped," Tom said plainly. "Like a bloody damsel in distress."
Harry's eyes narrowed menacingly. "I would have freed myself if given the proper time. L just beat me to it."
"Right," Tom said, his voice dripping with clear sarcasm.
"Fine," Harry declared, "I'll get kidnapped again, and you are not allowed to rescue me. I will rescue myself, just fine and dandy without you."
Tom shook his head, sighing. "I am quite certain you could, but I am afraid that the cost of such would be too high. Besides, I am… uncomfortable with the idea of you getting kidnapped so easily. I think you should carry around a portkey, so—"
"Nope," Harry vehemently rejected.
Harry waggled her index finger at him. "No, Tom. Never mind my adrenaline-junkie side. I am damn good bait."
Tom paled. "Bait?!"
"Bait," Harry repeated, pleased with herself. "You found out a coup, didn't you?"
"Harry, your life is not something you can just toy around with," Tom snapped.
"Why not?" Harry mused. "It is my life."
"It—It doesn't—just—you—you are insufferable!" Tom bit out, his cheeks flushed a deep crimson. Harry leaned up to his face, her eyes narrowed, and he returned her gaze unflinchingingly.
"I may be insufferable," Harry allowed cheekily, smiling coyly, "but I am bloody useful like this."
Tom made a funny noise that was somewhere between a frustrated scream, and an exasperated grunt. He bumped his forehead against Harry's—sending a jolt of electricity to run through her, and for her to start taking several steps back as she realized she was a tad too close—and bit out, "Go back to Hogwarts, Harry."
There was another sharp snap, and Efface was right beside Harry, his face unreadable. "I will escort you back, my Lady."
"Very well," Harry allowed, her face feeling warmer than it had before. "See you later, Tom."
"Yes, I suspect you will," he muttered.
"Neville," Harry whined, "tell Hermione to stop giving me death looks."
Neville didn't even glance up from his homework. "Hermione, stop giving Harry death looks."
"I am not giving her death looks," Hermione protested. "I am merely giving her a warning look, because I just know she broke one of the school rules recently."
"How could you possibly know that?" Harry demanded.
"You were giggling when you came into the dormitory, and you have the air of smugness," Hermione retorted.
"I do not," objected Harry, clearly offended by this accusation.
This time, Neville did look up from his homework. He was sitting across Harry and Hermione in the Gryffindor common room, and the three of them were occupying one of the tables and going over their Transfiguration homework. He scrutinized Harry. "You kind of do have an air of smugness."
"Maybe I'm a naturally narcissistic person."
"While you are that," Neville allowed, ignoring Harry's irritable glare, "there's definitely that… that something. It's almost like you did something really bad and haven't been caught, yet."
Harry flushed. "W-Well…"
"Harry…" Hermione warned.
"What did you do, Harry?" Neville persisted.
"I might have, uh, you know… turnedtheentireSlytherindormitoryhotpink," Harry squeaked out.
Hermione's eyes bulged and Neville greeted his hand to his face. He sighed. "Harry…"
"I was bored," she whined. "I, ah, also might have turned Hufflepuff purple, and Ravenclaw brown…"
"How?!" Hermione demanded.
"Well, you know with the Chamber's secret tunnels, I can get access into anywhere in the school," Harry began, "so I just cast some heavy forget-me and disillusionment charms around me and I visited each common room. I waited until no one was around, and then I, uh… tested… some of Fred and George's new products."
"Why those colors?" Neville asked curiously while Hermione fumed.
"Brown because Ravenclaw thinks they're smart shite; purple because Cedric told me that a lot of the boys hate that color (don't ask how he knows that, or the conversation that lead to him telling me about that); and pink because I know their Quidditch team hates that color."
"They're going to retaliate," Hermione snapped. "They'll know it's you."
"I'd like to see them try," Harry sniffed.
"Well I don't," Hermione shrilled. "They may just target Gryffindor as a whole. Oooh, Harry, I wish you hadn't done that."
"Frankly, I was afraid it would be much worse than this. I'm rather relieved it was just pranking," confessed Neville. Harry beamed at him.
"Don't encourage her!"
Harry whined. "'Mione! Come on, relax."
Hermione glared at her. "How can I relax? You might have just started inter-House war!"
Harry's eyes lit up. "Oh, do you really think so?"
Suddenly the door to the common room opened up and a group of seventh year boys staggered in, each of them splattered in paint.
"I knew it!" Hermione exclaimed.
Harry leapt from her seat at the table, dashing over towards the boys. She recognized one of them immediately as a friend of Oliver's. "Axton, what happened?"
"Group of Ravenclaws and Slytherins is what happened," Axton told her, raising his wand and sucking the paint off his clothes. His friends were doing the same. "We were on our way back here when all of a sudden the hallway exploded into a warzone. Don't know what happened, next thing I know we're covered in paint. You know what brought this on, Harry?"
"Inter-House war has been declared," Harry cheered.
Axton exchanged glances with one of his friends before grinning slyly. "Well, why didn't you say so? Gryffindor's been winning the House and Quidditch Cup for six years. I think it's about time we explained to those… lesser… Houses exactly why we keep winning."
Harry giggled excitedly. "I agree wholeheartedly."
Hermione groaned, as Harry and the group of boys began to plot nefarious things. Neville patted her shoulder consolingly.
For the next week, not a single student could leave the dormitory without entering a war zone. The teachers tried to put a stop to it at first, but after Snape let it slip that any Slytherin who managed to cover a Gryffindor in green received extra points, McGonagall stated that anyone who covered a Slytherin in red, also got extra points. Naturally, the Hufflepuffs didn't want to be left out in this, and so their Head declared that anyone who drenched a Ravenclaw in yellow got twice as many points. This encouraged Flitwick to join the fray, as well.
Usually the first and second years were off limits to the upper classmen, but if a first year targeted an upper classmen, they were fair game. Most of the jinxes and spells were harmless, and painless, but there were a few nasty ones thrown in the mix among the upper classmen. Most commonly they were used against Harry herself when she taunted to everyone during dinner that she could handle them.
It was like a dream come true for the girl when they started forming groups and trying to cover her in paint. Her silent, wandless Protego had been the bane of everyone's existence who dared to challenge her, followed up by her usual retaliation vanishing all their clothes, except their underwear.
It was a joyous occasion for the girl, really.
Harry half-heartedly pulled Hermione down when a way-ward jinx almost hit the girl. The spell was actually aiming for Neville, who sat beside the girl and who immediately turned around and fired a silent spell that glowed white towards the Ravenclaw girl who tried to jinx him. The spell hit the girl and she opened her mouth to let out a squeak—but no sound came out. Harry could only assume Neville silenced her, knowing that she wouldn't be able to cast any more spells that way.
Hermione muttered, "Really. This is getting out of hand. We're at dinner."
"It's all fun and games," Neville soothed her.
"We should be studying, not playing games," Hermione snapped. "Our N.E.W.T.s aren't that far away, you know."
Harry pouted. "But—but—but… this is so much fun."
"It's inappropriate and I cannot believe the professors aren't stopping it."
"Snape started it," Harry muttered sullenly.
"No, you did."
"I meant he was the first teacher," she grumbled.
Hermione raised an eyebrow at her. "Be that as it may, you started it, so you better finish it."
"Maybe," allowed Harry. "But, I doubt that's going to happen for a while. Besides, when you really think about it, I'm helping them. Moody would be so proud of them. They're practicing constant vigilance."
"They shouldn't need to," Hermione said. "This is a school, Harry. Not a warzone."
"Why can't it be both?" Neville wondered. "I mean, Harry is right to a certain extent, Hermione. The students are learning quite a bit. A lot more of the students are getting the hang of silent spells, because more often than not, silencing someone is the most common form of defense."
"And look at the first years," Harry insisted, pleased that Neville was supporting her. "They look so happy. And isn't this what the people need? Something to take their mind off Voldewhore, or whatever. Because for some reason people are actually worried about him. Don't know why."
"It couldn't possibly because he's committed massive genocide, slaughtered entire magical villages, is a Dark Lord, and has recently been resurrected with a vengeance," said Neville wryly.
Harry shrugged. "I don't see what the big deal is. He's pathetic."
"You may lack self-preservation," sighed Hermione, "but most people don't."
"Really? That must be quite annoying."
"Actually, it's very helpful," continued Neville dryly. "It's useful to, you know, living longer. Being able to grow into adulthood, and staying alive long enough to properly retire. Bloody good thing to have, really."
"Eh. I think I'll pass," dismissed Harry.
"Of course you will," muttered Hermione.
Harry instinctively pulled up her Protego, smirking smugly when a spell rebounded behind her and hit a Slytherin. "Damn I love this school."
"You just know the Hogsmeade trip tomorrow is going to turn into another war zone," Neville commented.
Harry's smile stretched. "I certainly hope so."
It was indeed a warzone.
"YOU WILL NEVER DEFEAT ME!" Harry cackled as she planted a foot on top of an unconscious Ravenclaw seventh year boy. There were several other unconscious students that surrounded her. The cold wind blew harshly, picking up flurries of snow that rested on the ground. Any student that fell unconscious automatically got a warming charm to keep them from getting hyperthermia. The charm was usually given by the perpetrator, but sometimes a bystander would add their own charm to help out.
Draco ducked behind one of the buildings as Harry fired a Stupefy at him. He rebutted by shooting a Stupefy of his own at her, which she easily deflected. Draco and Hermione had teamed up halfway through the battle and made a formidable pair, but no one had been able to land a charm against the adrenaline-junkie Gryffindor.
Neville forfeited halfway through when he saw the duo team up, and decided to gather up any of the unconscious students and take them out of the war zone and into the warmth.
Harry wasn't entirely certain how this game got started. Just that a Hufflepuff was the first one to fire that morning, and since then everything fell into chaos.
It was nearly noon, and Harry was bloody hungry, but she couldn't dare head into Hogsmeade directly. She had taken refuge at the end of the town, the forest at her back (with Efface sitting up in the trees and watching everything transpire with unreadable eyes). She had transfigured and moved massive amounts of snow to create a makeshift fort. After making the snow fort, she went ahead and heavily enchanted it to reflect most spells. Occasionally one of the upperclassmen would obliterate one of her walls, completely blinding her in the explosion of snow, but they were easily rebuilt.
The latest attempt to breach her fortress came from these silly Ravenclaws. They figured to distract her with spells, while a couple of them physically charged at her. They thought she wouldn't be able to handle so many of them at once.
They didn't count on the fact that Colin Creevey, die-hard fanboy of Harry's, was also hiding in the fort at her feet, assisting her whenever he could (without being seen, obviously).
Suddenly, the snow around Harry's fort erupted upwards, completely obscuring Harry's view of the surrounding area. Harry instinctively brought up her Protego shield and raised her wand in anticipation of the oncoming attack.
A red light shot out of the snow, headed directly for her, but her Protego deflected the spell easily. Harry leapt over her fort walls and sprinted in the direction the shot came from. Her Protego shuddered when another slammed against it, but she continued, unhindered.
She had to re-apply her Protego when a third shot shattered it.
Hermione gave a squeak when Harry tackled into her, laughing gleefully.
"Harry!" Hermione yelped as Harry scooped up snow and shoved it against her. Hermione wiggled and giggled, but she was laughing too hard to put up much of a struggle against Harry. Harry grinned wickedly and plucked Hermione's wand out of her hands and tossed it aside.
"You're out, Hermione," Harry told her. "I know your Protego can't hold up against my Stupefy."
Hermione pouted, and Harry glanced up when Draco shot another Stupefy that hit her Protego. Harry's grin took a nastier turn as she manipulated the snow underneath Draco to turn into ice and then over-powered her next Stupefy.
Although Draco's Protego was able to prevent the spell from knocking him unconscious, it wasn't enough to stop its effects entirely. The force of the spell caused the blond to lose his balance, and thanks to the transfigured ice beneath him, he fell back into a pile of snow.
Harry mercilessly exploited this advantage and transfigured some more snow into some ropes and proceeded to manipulate them to tie tightly around him.
She laughed victoriously once she was certain he wouldn't be getting back up again.
"You won," Hermione giggled. "Not get off!"
Harry easily got off her friend and helped her back up. Draco glared at her. "Untie me."
Harry waved her hand and the ropes released him. "There. I think it's safe to say that I am the unbeatable champion."
"Great job, Harry!" Colin cheered, popping his head up from behind the fort.
"Thanks, dearie. Now, I'm hungry. Let's get some food!"
Hermione brushed off the snow on her. "Okay. You should probably disenchant that fort."
"Probably," Harry sighed. "You, Draco, and Colin should go ahead and find Neville and Luna and eat. I promised Basileus I would go for a walk with him and eat with him."
"You sure you don't want us to wait for you?" Hermione asked, brushing the snow off Draco's shoulders.
"Nah. See you tonight, though," Harry said, shaking her head, and already turning away.
After Harry had disenchanted her fort, she headed out of Hogsmeade a bit in preparation of summoning her familiar.
Efface trailed behind her, silent as ever.
When she was a fair bit away, she raised her wand and—
That was about as much as she could remember.
The next thing she knew, she was in an annoyingly similar situation.
Kidnapped again in the same month.
Only Harry could be that lucky.
This, she thought, is just getting annoying.
Harry allowed herself to let her temper flare and she let out a string of curses she learned from the twins.
I have got to get out of here before Tom figures it out, or I will never hear the end of it, she grouched. You know, when I imagined getting kidnapped, I always thought that I could take my time, and savor the upcoming escape, but no. I can't do that now because Mr. Narcissist will throw a fit, or make me carry around contingency plans, or something.
Harry glowered at the chains around her wrist. She was strung up against a stone wall, with magical restraints. This prevented her from casting spells with her hands, but it didn't stop her from using the rest of her body and channeling magic throughout that.
She drew upon her magical core, feeling the warm magic flutter to life inside her. With practiced ease she channeled the magic into her legs and then she swung out. She kicked backwards into the wall, prepared to pull herself out of the chains, but…
The wall gave in from her kick and, leaving a giant hole.
Stupid, flimsy wall, she grouched. Harry began to wiggle, and pulled her knees up to her chin before leaning forward and placing her feet against the wall higher up. It was uncomfortable, and normally she wouldn't have been able to hold such a position with ease, but she found with her raw magic coursing through her veins, a lot of things were easier.
With a giant push she launched herself off the wall, full anticipating probably dislocating a shoulder, or two to break free.
She was proud to say it only hurt like hell, but nothing was dislodged when she pulled the chains out of the wall with her.
She stumbled when she was released from the wall, but quickly caught herself. She stared down at her magical-restraints and grimaced.
Okay, Harry reasoned, now sitting cross legged on the cold dungeon floor. So I can do wandless, silent spells, and I can channel magic throughout my body. So why I can't I use my feet to cast spells?
Harry wiggled her left bare foot around until it rested on top of her right wrist.
If you succeed in this, Harry realized, you will have just revolutionized wizard dueling.
The thought sent a smug thrill through Harry, and she couldn't resist giggling in anticipation. She began to push her magic through her legs like she had done before, but instead of picturing enhanced muscles, she pictured the magic gathering in her left foot.
She then propelled the idea of the magic shooting out—Diffindo—and—
There was a sharp sound like metal tearing and Harry felt as though her hand was being ripped in two. Only years of dealing with this sort of pain kept her tongue still, and she did not cry out, no matter how dearly she wanted to, when the spell worked.
Worked too well, really.
The chain was gone, ripped in two, and so the rune keeping her magic at bay in her right hand was destroyed.
However, her hand was nearly split in two, and was gushing blood.
"Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks," Harry whispered, her voice tight and high-pitched at the pain. She clutched her hand to her shirt, frantically looking around for something to stop the bleeding. "Fuck being an auror when I graduate, I'm going into medicine!"
Then as if remembering she was a damn witch, she cursed, blew off the other chain with her bleeding hand, and then used her non-damaged hand to cast a fire in the palm of her hand.
This is going to hurt like no damn tomorrow, Harry thought glumly. But, better than passing out from blood loss. Come on, Harry. Just like when you were nine. And ten. And I guess when you were seven, too.
With a grimace, she cauterized her hand.
She actually did pass out from the pain from that one.
When she awoke—a scarce ten minutes later, she assumed, judging from how not all the blood had dried on her shirt. She scrambled to her feet, her skin chalky white and she shook from the after-shocks of such a painful emergency patch job.
That's what you get, she scolded herself, from trying out experimental ideas without any sort of planning ahead. And that's what you get for not studying medicine like you studied everything else.
Something she would rectify as soon as she could.
Harry gave a sigh and moved towards the edge of the dungeon door. She could already tell that the dungeon was warded against Apparition, but she was mildly disappointed to find that it wasn't further warded against magic. They seemed to believe those chains would have held her.
Let's find my wand, Harry thought, already casting a silent Alohamora against the dungeon locks. It popped open with ease. She was about to begin heading up the stairs when a terrible idea came to her.
A malicious grin crawled over her face and she wasted little time in hurrying back into the dungeon, placing her hand in a pool of blood she had created from her foot-spell, and then running back out. With glee, she began to write out the runes to ward off the entire mansion against Apparition.
Better make sure they can't do this sort of thing again, she thought gleefully. Best way to do that would be if they were corpses, really.
With a wave of her hand, Harry began to cast heavy disillusionment spells around her. Satisfied she wouldn't be easily noticed, Harry began to trek up from the dungeon, and entered a long hallway. She immediately went towards one of the windows and opened it up.
"Serpantosia!" Harry hissed out, throwing out her right hand. A small black portal emerged at the tip of her fingers, and Basileus threw himself out of it.
"Hello, love," Harry purred.
"Why are you covered in your blood?" he demanded.
"I have been kidnapped. I'm going to take care of them. I have placed anti-Apparation runes around the mansion, so they'll only be able to leave either by physically walking out of here, or portkey. I'd like it if you took care of any of them that tried to escape by running out of here."
"Consssider it done. Will you be alright?"
"I'll be fine," Harry reassured him. "Besides, I'd like to get my wand back. I'll summon you if I need you."
With a hiss, Basileus slithered further away from the mansion and began to circle it lazily.
Harry turned on her heel, and began to head into the next room. Then the next. And then the next. And the next.
She was starting to grow a little irritated that she hadn't found anyone to take out her frustrations on, when she finally happened across a small sitting room. The door was wide open and she could hear loud voices inside. They were arguing.
Harry cocked her head.
Oh. Wait. Can't I just…?
"Accio wand," whispered Harry softly, raising her right hand.
I always forget about that spell.
A couple heartbeats passed before her wand came flying at her from behind. Harry caught it happily, full acknowledging that someone probably saw the flying wand and drew their own conclusions.
Then with a flourishment that came from being a Marauder, Harry stepped into the room. Naturally, due to the heavy charms she used to conceal herself, no one paid her much heed.
When she fired off the first Avada Kedavra, and dropped her charms with a giggle, they realized that they weren't alone.
When the third one fell to the ground, dead as doornail, before they even had time to pull out their wands, they realized that it was a very, very stupid decision to kidnap the witch.
I have eaten a third one, whispered Basileus. Harry hummed happily as she skipped over another of the corpses. The entire mansion was currently on fire, and littered with the corpses of mercenaries. None of them were people Harry recognized, so she figured that the real brains behind the operation had yet to be found.
It was a little annoying to figure out, though, that none of them were after her for her, but rather they were after her for Mora—er—Tom.
Why can't anyone kidnap me for the sake of kidnapping me? Harry whined to her familiar.
Becaussse anyone who would want to knowsss you are not sssomeone to be messsssed with.
That's stupid! I feel so insulted. Tom gets all the good bad guys. And here I am, being forced to play the bloody damsel in distress.
A nameless witch leapt out from the hallway, firing off a Duro, but Harry didn't blink as her Protego charm had yet to even be taken down. With a flick of her wrist, the woman dropped dead to the green light of Harry's returning spell.
Yesss. Clearly you are a damsssel in dissstresssss.
Clearly, Harry agreed. You know, I should be having a whole flock of people trying to kill me for me! Damn it, Voldewhore, you're really letting me down here. You're being outshone by—by—by whoever the hell this is this time.
Harry half-heartedly continued to climb the steps, unminding that an entire hallway had collapsed behind her. It was starting to get a little difficult to breathe, so she quickly cast a bubble charm around her head for an hour of clean air.
Oh, I jussst ate another pair. They were burnt.
Do you prefer your food burnt or raw?
… I like both waysss, actually. I don't like it cold, though.
Harry finally reached a room that was not on fire. She debated if she wanted to set it on fire right away, but upon recognizing that it was under heavy enchantment to prevent that, decided to look around it, instead.
It looked like a library with a giant oddly-shaped coffee table in the center of it. There were many charms and runes—clearly for protection—but Harry could see that they were area-based on the mansion. With most of the mansion effectively destroyed, the runes were quickly losing power and fading away fast.
Why would someone go to so much trouble to protect a library? Harry wondered.
Perhapsss for valuablesss?
Harry scratched her cheek thoughtfully and looked around. If that's true…
Harry transfigured a nearby candle into a bag before she began to quickly charm it to expand exponentially inside.
Then, without a second thought, she enchanted the bag to suck in everything inside the room in the same manner that she had done to Bellatrix's vault.
With that settled, she transfigured a strap for the bag, draped it over her shoulder and blew up a nearby window on the top floor of the mansion. Come to me, my dear. I am bored of this place now.
In a handful of seconds, her pet was hissing softly at her. He stretched up and raised his head towards the window. Harry leapt out of the window and landed on top of his head. She then lifted her wand, the tip of it lighting up with fire.
"Fiendfyre!" Harry called out, and a great flaming serpent roared out of her wand and engulfed the mansion. "There. Can you tell me if we are near any civilizations, dear one?"
"I thought I sssmelled some humansss a few milesss away."
"Away we go, then! With any luck, at least one of them will be magical, and an adult and can Apparate me to London, so I can floo back to Hogwarts. If you don't sense any magic from them, though, dear, as we approach them, let's be sure to avoid them."
"Very well. Before we leave, though, I thought you should know I sssmelt your bodyguard a little waysss away."
"Efface? Where is he?"
"In a shack, a waysss behind the mansion."
"I suppose we better go rescue him, then, first."
Efface came to about a few hours later, his head resting in Harry's lap while she and Basileus chattered happily as they looked for a magically-friendly town to safely floo from. He wasn't too injured—it seemed as though he was merely heavily sedated.
Efface slowly blinked up at Harry. "My Lady?"
"Good morning," Harry chirped. "We're on Basileus's head at the moment, but now that you're up, you can just Apparate us!"
He sat up, his sharp eyes taking in their surroundings and Harry's rather bloodied form. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Harry dismissed. "Took care of everything, so don't you worry. Hey, do you know who got us?"
"No," Efface muttered, "but I will find out."
Harry shrugged. "Okay. But, uh, seriously, can you Apparate us to Hogsmeade or something?"
"Yes. Give me a moment."
Efface seemed unusually pale and flushed after they Apparated. Harry felt a bit worried for the boy—he was her responsibility, after all (or so she believed)—and insisted he stayed with her for the weekend in the Chambers. Basileus was able to carry the two teenagers into the Chamber without much of a fuss (as it was well into the night by the time they even got to Hogsmeade).
Harry gave him her Pepper-Up potions and laid him down in the bed in the Chambers before instructing Dobby to fetch some medicine for him.
Once Efface had finally fallen asleep, Harry changed into her spare pajamas and headed out of the dungeons and snuck into the kitchen.
The elves were delighted to stuff Harry's arms with sweets and goodies. All too happily, Harry snuck back into her dorm room, surprised to find the girls still up.
"Oh, hey, Harry," Lavender greeted, glancing up from Parvati's bed. Her eyes lit up upon seeing Harry's bundle of food. "Oooh, are those scones?"
"And many more," Harry promised. "Care to share?"
The two girls squealed and leapt onto Harry's bed. Hermione rolled her eyes, but smiled easily and moved to sit on the bed, too.
"I'm surprised all of you are still awake," Harry commented, munching on one of the scones.
"We were too wound up. Did you hear what happened in Hogsmeade today, er, yesterday?" Lavender asked excitedly, picking out one of the blueberry scones.
Harry smirked. "You mean how I was unbeatable, yeah?"
"No," Parvati giggled, and the two girls gave a blushing Hermione a knowing look.
"I-It's nothing important," Hermione managed.
"Puh-lease," Lavender dismissed, then leaned towards Harry and winked. "Draco so kicked a bunch of Ravenclaw arses when they wouldn't leave Hermione alone. After it became clear to everyone you were the winner—stop looking so smug, Harry!—there was a truce. But, Draco totally ruined it and started up another war. Since then, it's been a bloodbath. Gryffindor and Slytherin are teamed up against Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw."
"Good for Draco," said Harry approvingly.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "They're romanticizing the entire thing. The Ravenclaws were being mean to everyone, not just me."
"You keep telling yourself that," Parvati dismissed. "So where'd you go, Harry? Hermione said you were with Basileus…"
"Uh… Yeah… I guess you could say that…" Harry laughed nervously.
Hermione's eyes narrowed immediately. "Harry…"
Harry waved her hands in a calming gesture. "Don't worry about it. It's all good now, so no need to worry about the past, yeah?"
Hermione grabbed Harry's hand, her eyes widening. "Harry! What happened to your hand?"
"An adventure, obviously."
"It's—It's burned heavily! Why haven't you gone to the nurses?"
"Because it doesn't hurt," said Harry, as if that were the most obvious answer in the world.
Hermione took a deep breath, closing her eyes and counting to ten. When she opened her eyes, and breathed out a long sigh, she glared irritably Harry. "How do you know it's not infected, then? Moreover it could be more than just skin that was damaged! What if you hurt your nerves?"
"What if I did? If it becomes an issue, I'll get it checked out, so don't worry," Harry dismissed.
"I wish you cared more about your injuries, Harry," sighed Hermione.
"You worry enough for us both," Harry replied.
Harry relaxed on the bed in the Chambers, discarding her tie and shoes, and getting comfy. She pulled out her Potions textbook and then laid flat on her belly, her feet in the air as she swung them carelessly. With a lazy hand, she began to flip through the textbook, scanning over the revised steps and trying to make sense why these ways worked better than the standard textbooks ways.
Basileus slithered past her before he dove into the water outside the room, undoubtedly going to hunt for food for the night. Porteurmort gave a hissing sound before he followed after Basileus into the water. Titan gave a great yawn at the foot of Harry's bed, and slowly lowered his heads to fall into a deep sleep.
As the night wore on, the candles slowly sunk in. Suddenly there was a flare of fire, and Tom stepped out of the floo, brushing off bits of ash. He took off his suit hat and placed it on the desk. Harry didn't even glance up from her book, too absorbed in trying to comprehend one of the more complex potions.
Tom watched her for a moment, amusement on his face, before he yawned, rubbed at his eyes and rolled into the bed with her. Harry startled, almost reflexively firing off a diffindo, but stopped when she realized who it was.
"Do you know how much sleep I'm able to get now?" Tom asked her, laying on his back, and looking over at her.
"About as much as I used to get," she said cheekily.
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Indeed. Pepper-up is something I am becoming very fond of."
"I would imagine so," Harry said.
"Are you reading Potions?"
"Have to," she said. "My tutor ran away."
"Your tutor would much rather be teaching you potions, than being polite to insufferable purebloods," Tom told her, rubbing his temple. "It's been giving me flashbacks to my later years at Hogwarts, where I had to practically suck-up, and manipulate daily."
"I thought you liked those sorts of things."
"Oh, I do," he assured her. "But, there are some days where it gets so… tedious."
"I can only imagine."
He made a humming sound of agreement. "Voldewhore has been exceptionally busy. He's been all over the place trying to find the Deathly Hollows."
"The what?" Harry asked, shutting her textbook to look over at Tom.
"The Deathly Hollows," Tom repeated. "Sure you know of them?"
When Harry shook her head, Tom's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Well… let's see… the story went… 'There were once three brothers who were traveling along a lonely, winding road at midnight—k'"
"You have this memorized?" Harry asked dubiously.
"I was very fond of this tale. With my memory, and my skills, after reading it a couple times…" Tom trailed off. "Don't give me that look, Harry. Shut up, and let me finish. And stop smirking at me! 'In time, the brothers reached a river too deep to wade through, and too dangerous to swim across. However, these brothers were learned in the magical arts, and so they simply waved their wands and made a bridge appear across the treacherous water. They were halfway across it when they found their path blocked by a hooded figure—'"
"'And Death spoke to them. (Tom ignored Harry's incredulity) He was angry that he had been cheated out of three new victims, for travelers usually drowned in the river. But Death was cunning. He pretended to congratulate the three brothers upon their magic, and said that each had earned a prize for having been clever enough to evade him.
"'So the oldest brother, who was a combative man, asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence: a wand that must always win duels for its owner, a wand worthy of a wizard who conquered Death! So Death crossed to an elder tree on the banks of the river, fashioned a wand from a branch that hung there, and gave it to the oldest brother.
"'Then the second brother, who was an arrogant man, decided that he wanted to humiliate Death still further, and asked for the power to recall others from Death. So Death picked up a stone from the riverbank and gave it to the second brother, and told him that the stone would have the power to bring back the dead.
"And then Death asked the third and youngest brother what he would like. The youngest brother was the humblest and also the wisest of the brothers, and he did not trust Death. So he asked for something that would enable him to go forth from that place without being followed by Death. And Death, most unwillingly, handed over his own Cloak of Invisibility. Then Death stood aside and allowed the three brothers to continue on their way, and they did so, talking with wonder of the adventure they had had, and admiring Death's gifts.
"'In due course the brothers separated, each for his own destination.
"'The first brother traveled on for a week or more, and reaching a distant village, sought out a fellow wizard with whom he had quarreled. Naturally, with the Elder Wand as his weapon, he could not fail to win the duel that followed. Leaving his enemy dead upon the door, the oldest brother proceeded to an inn, where he boasted loudly of the powerful wand he had snatched from Death himself, and of how it made him invincible
"'That very night, another wizard crept upon the oldest brother as he lay, wine-sodden, upon his bed. The thief took the wand, and for good measure, slit the oldest brother's throat.
"'And so Death took the first brother for his own.
"Meanwhile, the second brother journeyed to his own home, where he lived alone. Here he took out the stone that had the power to recall the dead, and turned it thrice in his hand. To his amazement and his delight, the figure of the girl he had once hoped to marry, before her untimely death, appeared at once before him.
"Yet she was sad and cold, separated from him as by a veil. Though she had returned to the mortal world, she did no truly belong there and suffered. Finally the second brother, driven mad with hopeless longing, killed himself so as truly to join her.
"'And so Death took the second brother for his own.
"'But though Death searched for the third brother for many years, he was never able to find him. It was only when he had attained a great age that the youngest brother finally took off the Cloak of Invisibility and gave it to his son. And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, as equals, they departed this life.'"
"Um. He wore that his entire life, and managed to have kids? So he—"
Tom flushed. "Not appropriate, Harry."
Harry shrugged, then frowned. "Surely that's just a tale, though?"
"It's real," Tom said. "Because you have the invisibility cloak, and I found the stone inside Slytherin's ring. It's still there, you know. It wasn't destroyed by ritual, or anything. Dumbledore, according to my sources, actually has the Elder Wand."
Harry gaped. "Dumbledore has the Elder Wand?"
"Yes," Tom said. "That's why Voldewhore wants to fight him himself, I think. To ensure that he is granted ownership of the wand."
"Makes sense," Harry admitted reluctantly. "Were you able to find the horcrux from Bellatrix's vault?"
"Yes," Tom answered. "It was Hufflepuff's Cup. I suppose all that's really left is the locket, and, possibly, his pet snake that's been following him around. Nagini is her name, I believe."
"You think she's a horcrux, too?"
"I think there's a strong possibility of it. Not that I'm in any hurry to collect them all. Voldemort is capable of being destroyed now, and that's all that really matters at this point in time," he murmured. He eyed Harry unabashedly for a moment. "Do you need help with your potions?"
"I'll manage," she sighed.
"Mn… is that so?"
"You know Dumbledore's been telling me about you," she said quietly. "He's been having me watch these memories."
"What kind of memories?"
"I saw your first meeting with him," Harry said, a slow smile crawling on her face. "Monsieur… Special."
Tom groaned and buried his face in his hands. "I was eleven!"
Harry giggled and rolled onto her side so she was partially on her back, and partially pressed up against Tom. She savored that familiar warmth he made her feel. "Well, I think you're awfully special, Tom. And I like the name Tom."
Tom did not reply, or respond for any length of time. When he did, he spoke in a soft voice, and he freed an arm out from underneath Harry and casually slid it underneath her head, so her head rested in the crook of his arm. "Thank you."
Silence fell in between the two, and Harry fidgeted nervously. It wasn't until she heard soft snoring that she realized he had fallen asleep. Torn between feeling great amusement at this, and disappointment, Harry blew out the candles, pulled a blanket over him and headed up to her own bed to catch up some sleep.
Even if she would have rather stayed down there with him.
The next night she returned to the Chambers, Marwyn awaited her.
"Marwyn?" Harry asked, confused. Basileus had informed her that a friendly guest was waiting for her in the Chambers, so Harry had wiggled out of Hermione's study group to greet her guest.
Marwyn smiled briefly at her before he pulled out a long, rolled-up parchment. "This is for you, my dear."
Harry carefully took it, frowning. "Um…"
"It's a list of the whereabouts for all the Hogwarts artifacts," Marwyn admitted.
Harry's eyes widened and she quickly unrolled it and began to look through it. She finally found the item she was looking for near the bottom—Slytherin's locket! It was in the possession of one Mundungus Fletcher. The name was vaguely familiar to Harry—she could have sworn Sirius was complaining about him in the Order, but she wasn't certain.
"How did Mundungus get the locket?" Harry asked Marwyn.
"From what my sources tell me, he stole it from the Black House," Marwyn answered. "How he got into the house in the first place, I am not certain."
"He's in Dumbledore's order, I think," responded Harry. "So he probably nicked it off during one of the meetings. Does he still have the locket?"
"To the best of my knowledge."
"Would you be a dear and secure a meeting with him for me? Tell him I want to buy the locket off him."
"Consider it done."
Mundungus was all too eager to sell Harry the locket. He didn't seem to realize exactly what it was—its relation to Voldemort, or Slytherin—only that it gave off odd magic that made the oily man uncomfortable. The transaction was made the very next night Harry asked Marwyn to set up the meeting, and after he had dropped Harry off back at the Chambers, she asked him to fetch Tom—or as he knew, Moratorium, for her.
Tom floo'd in within the hour.
"What is it?" Tom asked, swiftly approaching her.
Harry proudly held up the locket. "Wasn't much fun getting it, but I got it."
Tom's eyes lit up. "That's amazing, Harry."
"I know," said Harry. "But that's neither here, nor there. Any idea when Voldewhore's going to be attacking soon? I'm getting awfully bored."
"Yes, I suppose you are," snarked Tom, carefully taking the locket from Harry's hands. However, upon noticing her hand, Tom's eyes bulged and he dropped the locket, choosing instead to grab Harry's heavily burned hand. "What is this."
"Where did you get this burn?" hissed Tom out.
Harry had a funny feeling Tom wouldn't be as accepting as Hermione in regards to the simple answer of an adventure. Ever still, she had to try. "An adventure?"
"What kind of adventure," he bit out slowly.
"The best kind, with lots of mayhem and gore?" offered Harry.
Tom's face contorted with dark rage, and his tone promised nothing but pain and misery to the next person who pushed him. Despite his obvious foul mood, he didn't tighten his grip on Harry's mangled hand, treating it with relative care. "And who put you on this adventure?"
"I dunno," answered Harry. "Think it was the same group that kidnapped me. I kind of just killed them all with Basileus once I got out."
"You were kidnapped?! Again?!"
"Oh, God," bemoaned Harry, "I knew I wasn't going to hear the end of this. Do you really have to lecture me? It wasn't my fault!"
Tom glowered at her, then sighed. "Part of me wants to lock you up in a tower and hide you away from the world. I think that's largely Moratorium speaking, though, because the rest of me wants to applaud you in handling it on your own."
Harry's eyes widened hopefully. "No lecture?"
"No lecture," he promised her. "You are safe now. I am annoyed, however, because you didn't tell me about this the last time we talked. This burn looks too old to have occurred after we last spoke."
"I actually didn't even think about it," confessed Harry. "I thought Efface told you, and I might have gotten off the hook."
"Efface's duty is to you, and you alone," Tom dismissed. "He would only come to me if he needed assistance in taking care of you."
"You know, I can take care of myself," sighed Harry.
"I know that," reassured Tom. "You are a bright witch, Harry."
Harry beamed. "Thank you."
"But you didn't find out who was behind it?"
"I didn't really care to torture them," Harry answered meekly. "I was frustrated and angry at them, certainly, and I didn't want them to do it again, so I took care of them. But, I didn't prolong their pain more than necessary."
Tom nodded slowly, frowning briefly. "A shame."
Harry perked up. "But, that reminds me, I stole their library."
"Well you know how I stole Bellatrix's vault?" Harry asked excitedly. "I did the same thing with their library! I set the mansion on fire when I broke out to make it more fun, and bright, and awesome because fire makes everything better, but the library was the only room that was so heavily warded against it, it wouldn't burn naturally. So I thought it had to have all sorts of fun nasties in it, and I stole it."
Tom snorted. "Klepto."
Harry sniffed. "That was an adventure. I risked my life to take care of them all. I needed some kind of treasure, or reward. That's… That's like the laws of adventuring! The loot. The prize. The glory."
Harry smiled widely at him. "Do you want to see? I haven't released it, yet. If there are some books you want, and you ask really nicely, I might let you borrow them."
"I'm touched," he said sardonically.
"What can I say? I'm such a giver. So do you?"
Tom gave her an amused look, as if her sudden eagerness was highly entertaining to him. "Sure. Show me what you bled for."
Her smile stretched so widely across her face, it actually started to hurt. Harry wasted little time in turning on her heel, and rushing back into the study. She came back a few seconds later, carrying the small black bag. She opened it, and released the stasis spell over it, and summoned everything out.
Within a minute, the entire lobby in the Chambers was filled with books, bookcases, papers, a desk, candles, some chairs, and that giant odd coffee table.
The second Tom saw the coffee table, he paled and shoved Harry behind him, pulling out his wand.
"What the hell?" squawked Harry.
"Do you know what that is?" Tom demanded, pointing his wand at the coffee table.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "A gothic coffee table."
"That's a vampire's coffin."
"Oh," was all Harry could say. How did one respond to that, anyway?
Harry scratched the back of her head. "That's… nice? So I stole someone's bed?"
"The lid is closed."
"A vampire's coffin lid only closes when it's in use."
Harry gnawed on her bottom lip. "Should we wake him?"
Tom hesitated. "I would feel better if we did not do so here. If who I think is in that coffin actually is in that coffin… I would very much like to take him alive, and given the fact that you are here… I am uncertain if I will be able to restrain myself if he attacks you."
"Then just leave the Chamber and I'll take care of him."
Tom shook his head. "No, Harry. This is not some wasted away husk that doesn't know it's dead, yet. This is an old vampire. Someone who is rational, capable of using spells like us, and is physically strong, faster, and sturdier than we are. There is a reason vampires are treated with caution, Harry. Any vampire, no matter how young, is a weapon. It's a testament to Slytherin and Gryffindor's strength that they had such enemies and defeated them. I do not think you are at an appropriate skill level to handle a very vengeful, suicidal, vampire without heavy injury."
Harry wanted to protest heavily against that notion, but given Tom's harsh tone, and dark eyes, she figured it would be pointless.
"Then what do we do?" she asked instead.
"Call for Marwyn. Tell him to get L, and Bronzemane, and some damn good exequutors. Then I want you to stand back, and let us handle this."
Quickly utilizing his knowledge of Harry and her love of adventures, Tom softened his tone. "You get to fight a Dark Slut. At least let me have this adventure. Unless you don't want to share?"
Harry gasped. "Never! Everyone should be able to have adventures. Oh, you're right, Tom. You hardly ever will get a chance to have some fun like this, given how so deeply ingrained in politics you are at the moment… Okay, I'll let you have this one."
Tom smiled at her. "Thank you. Why don't you take Basileus and the others for a walk? We wouldn't want to unnerve our guests, would we? Or accidentally kill them."
"I guess I would be a bit sad if Basileus accidentally killed L. He is pretty cute," fretted Harry.
Tom lost his smile, replacing it with a deadpanned expression. "Heaven forbid cute boys die."
"Exactly," Harry agreed.
He rolled his eyes.
Harry gently placed the sleeping chimaera back on the ground and off her lap.
"Thanks fer helping out with this class," said Hagrid happily, as Neville also placed another sleeping chimaera next to the first. Neville and Harry had been pulled aside after their last class with Hagrid (Hermione had already left before Hagrid could catch her) and was asked by Hagrid to help soothe some of his younger students into being more friendly with some of the more… exotic creatures.
Harry delightedly agreed to help, while Neville did so a bit more hesitantly.
The class went by fairly easily, as Harry had brought along Porteurmort and once the third year students had seen the baby hydra cutely play with the others, they seemed to warm up a bit.
"We were happy to help. Is there anything else you want us to do?"
"That's 'bout it," Hagrid said. "Class is over."
As Neville and Harry were turning to gather up Porteurmort and leave, one of the Ravenclaw girls approached Harry, smiling.
"I'm really glad you came," she said, beaming. "I think you're really cool."
Harry smiled in return. "Thanks, little one."
"Although, I'm really glad you didn't bring that big snake of yours," the girl continued, completely oblivious to Harry stiffening. "'Cause it's all icky, slimy, and gross."
Harry's eyes bulged and she seized. Before she begin to brutally maim the giggling witch (who had turned away and was already heading back to the castle with her friends), Neville tackled into her and pinned her. "No, Harry! Harry, calm down. Killing students is frowned upon."
"Then I'll just maim her," Harry howled.
"VENGEANCE MUST BE HAD."
"We—are—Prefects!" panted Neville as he struggled to his feet and hauled Harry over his shoulder. She began to pound on his back.
"Release me, Neville, or I swear I'll start kicking and I will break your nose," threatened Harry.
"You will not harm me," dismissed Neville. "Just as you will not cause bodily harm to that poor girl."
"But vengeance," whimpered Harry.
"Not in the form of bodily harm," Neville reiterated.
Harry giggled happily to herself as she clutched the neatly wrapped box to her. She was on her way out of the dormitory to deliver it, when Hermione stopped her.
"What are you doing?" Hermione asked curiously. "You look far too happy to be up to anything good."
Harry inwardly winced. "Um… I'm just… delivering a package."
"Why? Was there a mess up in the mail?"
"Then I'll help you. Here, I'll carry it," Hermione offered, placing her textbook down and getting off the couch."
"No! I will," Harry said quickly.
Now suspicious, Hermione asked, "Why don't you want me to carry it?"
"Because what's inside isn't something you want to carry. Trust me."
"How would you know? It's completely wrapped, and taped shut, with a big label on it…"
"… And hold on. How could there be a mail mix-up?" Hermione questioned, her eyes narrowed. "I thought owls were very good at their job. And even if it was a mix up, it should have a new stamp explaining the mishap. Where's the stamp?"
"I, uh, re-wrapped it?"
Hermione's eyes narrowed further. "Likely story."
Harry cringed at her tone—it promised a lecture if Harry couldn't wiggle herself out of that situation, and fast. "Guess you're not willing to look the other way and pretend you never saw me?"
"You guess correctly. What is it for? Some kind of prank?"
"Certainly not for a Ravenclaw girl who called Basileus slimy," lied Harry.
"It's not," Harry insisted, lying through her teeth.
"What's inside of it?" demanded Hermione.
Harry winced. "You don't want to know."
"An exploding pie?"
"Try the other end."
Hermione stared at her for a moment before comprehension dawned on her face. She gaped. "In… you… in a box, Harry?!"
"Not me!" said Harry quickly. "Chimaera dung."
"That's disgusting," Hermione snapped. "Anyway, you are not inflicting that upon some poor ignorant girl just because she had a loose mouth around you."
"Well then how am I supposed to teach her a lesson that she's a pile of shit?" demanded Harry.
"You aren't! You're supposed to forgive and forget."
"That's so boring!"
Harry whined, sensing the lecturing coming. Quickly deciding that a scathing lecture from Hermione was not worth extracting vengeance on the girl (yet), she relented. "Fine. I will not inflict justice upon the moronic whelp who bullied my precious, innocent baby basilisk."
Neville, who had just entered the dormitory and caught Harry's last statement and was there when the Ravenclaw made the comment, so he could guess what was going on, deadpanned, "Yes. Because Basileus is clearly a helpless little babe who is emotionally traumatized when a nameless little girl calls him slimy."
Harry sniffed. "I'm glad you understand."
Hermione shook her head, her eyes hard. "I have had enough of your trigger-finger pranking."
Harry gaped. "Wh-What?"
"It's time for a punishment. You are going to give me that box, and all day tomorrow you will wear this."
Hermione swished her wand and Harry's sweater into a new sweater.
Neville stared at the shirt, his eyes widening, while Harry paled considerably.
"And you will carry out the message on that shirt with a bloody smile on your face and make peace with everyone you have wronged," hissed Hermione.
Then, Neville erupted into a coughing fit—in a poor attempt to hide his snickers—while Harry whimpered.
The shirt read: FREE HUGS.
Harry tried valiantly to escape Hermione's punishment, but her dear friend was adamant about it. Deciding it would be best to just placate her and get it over with, Harry sullenly went about the day and was forced to hug every horny boy, every stupid fan, and every other smirking student (who hugged her because they knew she hated it).
It was a horrible, horrible day.
Or at least she thought it was a horrible day up until a sharp alarm rang throughout Hogwarts late that afternoon, just as the classes were being let out for the day.
"All students must be wearing their pins at this moment. You will have one minute to make sure you are wearing your pin, as random inspections are about to occur," Dumbledore's voice rumbled throughout the hallways.
Hermione reflexively grabbed at her pin (secretly the portkey), and exchanged questioning looks with Neville. She, Neville, and Harry were on their way to the dormitory before Dumbledore gave his instructions. All around them, students checked for their pins.
Most students had simply enchanted their pins to stick to a piece of clothing they wore every day—such as a tie, or something akin, and let it be. Since it was so threatening not to have it, no one dared to completely forget about it.
As Dumbledore began his count down, Harry transfigured the shirt back into a blouse and began sprinting throughout the hallway, ignoring Hermione's shout of surprise.
Harry rounded a corner, a brilliant smile lighting her face. As she ran, she transfigured a random bench into a sword, and grabbed it. She didn't stop running for a second, and she ignored the surprised looks the students gave her.
He'll wait for them to let him in. He craves attention and a dramatic entrance. He'll want to walk straight through Hogwarts doors and into the courtyard!
Harry scrambled down a hallway, nearly skidding and crashing into another student.
"Five… four… three… two… one…"
Suddenly, the hallways were entirely cleared, save for Harry. Harry dashed past the Great Hall, and through her peripheral vision, she found that she could see many portable floos being used, with Dumbledore, and Snape overseeing it. She immediately picked Tom out from the crowd—he was standing atop one of the tables, Marwyn, L, Bones, and a man Harry could only assume was Bronzemane, flanking him.
She didn't pause, or hesitate, and she continued to sprint down the hallway, adrenaline and giddiness bubbling inside of her.
She giggled, then her fit of giggles erupted into full-blow laughter in anticipation.
Harry didn't falter when Efface was suddenly running right beside her. She just said, "Keep them off me. I'm going for the king of losers."
"Consider it done," Efface said solemnly, pulling out two long, curved daggers and dashing ahead of her.
He kicked open the door to the hallway that lead to the courtyard, and no less than ten Death Eaters awaited them. Harry pushed up her shields and began to run past them, while Efface was already upon the first one, mercilessly slicing his throat.
"Don't touch the girl!" hissed one of the Death Eaters. "The master awaits for her. He will take care of her."
Harry laughed again at that. He really was making it almost too easy for her.
With her left hand, she whipped out her wand. In her right hand, she gripped the sword. She never formally took lessons, but she just really, really wanted to cut into him. Using magic to kill him, while easy, just wouldn't have been as satisfying. Besides, Voldewhore had become a horcrux, in place of an anchor. Normal things wouldn't kill him.
Harry could cut him up as much as she wanted, and he would still be kicking.
Unable to wait any longer, Harry used an over-powered Bombargo against the doors to the courtyard. They flew apart, and she ran through and whipped her wand around again before the debris even had time to settle.
Basileus emerged from the tip of her wand with a feral roar, just as Harry spotted Voldemort, Nagini nowhere to be seen.
"Find Nagini!" Harry howled. "Find her and kill her!"
"It will be done!" cried Basileus, as he turned and slithered away.
Voldemort's face contorted with unhidden rage. "You…"
Harry winked at him. "This is a good day. This is a very good day."
His rage was replaced with smugness, and he smirked at her. "It is, indeed, Harry Potter."
Harry giggled at him. "Oh, I really, really want to fight you. Can we just skip the boring words and get started? Please?"
"Since you asked so nicely…" Voldemort trailed off, before his smirk took a nastier turn and he fired off his wand. "Avada Kedavra!"
Harry reflexively brought her own wand up in the same instant. "Diffindo!"
The spells of the two wands clashed together like a loud clap of thunder. A harsh force pushed against Harry from the power that overflowed from the collision. Sparks of magic flew off in all directions, and her wand felt on fire. It hummed, and throbbed in her hands, but she relentlessly held on.
Gritting her teeth, she squared her shoulders and began to march forward. The streams of energy fluctuated as Harry began to close the distance. She couldn't see how much farther she had to go, yet, as the spells had produced a blinding light when they collided.
She squeezed the sword in her right hand. Closer, and closer she drew, until she could see the tips of the bottom of his black robe.
Voldemort seemed to realize how close she was, because he sharply pulled his wand up, canceling the effect instantly. But, it was too late. Harry swung her across, slicing across his stomach and spraying out blood.
He cried out, clutching at his wound and bending down. Harry gripped the sword with both her hands—discarding her wand in the process—a grin on her face.
"This is for giving me a crappy childhood," she whispered, a dark gleam in her eyes.
She swung down as hard as she could, carving into his right shoulder. The sword was stopped by some bone, and Harry began to push raw magic into her arms to finish slicing through.
The creature that was once Lord Voldemort cried out again and fell forward. He looked up at her, his eyes mad with loathing and hissed out something unintelligible. He dissolved into a plume of smoke.
But Harry had anticipated this. Tom warned her of one of his favorite spells—a bastardized Apparate. Harry discarded her sword, and shouted out at the top of her lungs, "Finite Incantatem!"
The spell had been recommended by Tom, but it was Snape who taught it to her. He had been the one to first use it in that Dueling Club, all those years ago, when the students were running amok with their spells. A general counter-spell, that if supplied enough magic, could completely nullify the area of all magical properties. Naturally, runes and magic-intensive environments (such as Hogwarts) were unaffected by this, but any wizard casting a simple spell (such as what Voldemort was using) were sore to find that their spells would be canceled.
Voldemort fell to the ground as his escape was abruptly ended, and Harry was upon him in seconds.
I have taken care of Nagini, hissed Basileus softly in her head.
Return to the Chambers. I am nearly done with this piece of shit. Thank you, my dear.
I will come if you need me, dear missstresss.
She kicked the wand out of his hands—so he could no longer escape, and viciously kicked his head in before he could even begin to stand up again.
"You worthless half-blood bitch," he growled out, before he launched himself at her.
Harry, surprised that he was finally resorting to physical violence, was caught off guard by this. He got in a brutal punch that left her ears ringing and her nose bloody before she ducked below and shamelessly used a wandless, silent, diffindo where no man would want one used.
Voldemort gasped, his pale complexion whitening even more so and he let out an inaudible groan, as he slowly sunk down into the pool of blood he had created.
Harry didn't wait as she balled up her right fist and punched him right in the eye.
His head snapped back, and Harry wiped at her nose, grinning again.
"It's over," she whispered.
Harry quietly summoned her wand to her hand—as she couldn't control the spell without a wand.
Voldemort's eyes focused for a moment on Harry. "It's—"
The tip of Harry's wand lit up with fire and she jabbed it into his chest. "Fiendfyre."
His eyes rolled back, as his entirely body lit up into flames from the inside out.
Harry pulled back her wand, dismissing the spell the second she did so, and she stared down at the smoking body.
Harry took a steadying breath, and she shakily lowered her hand. A tense silence had fallen over the empty courtyard, where only she and the corpse of Lord Voldemort remained. She could still hear fighting being carried out inside the castle, but she knew the battle would be in Tom's forces favor.
Especially now that the has-been had been effectively eliminated.
Her knees felt wobbly, and she felt a keen sense of fatigue begin to press down upon her. She knew her magical core was nearly depleted at this point, and it would be hard for her to do much else, unless she found some Pepper-Up (she briefly inwardly scolded herself for not always carrying some around with her).
Before her knees buckled, however, there were two strong arms wrapped around her waist and turning her around. Warmth jolted through her like lava on a cold day, and Harry struggled not to fidget nervously as Tom's eyes raked over her form. She noticed that he wasn't wearing any sort of disguise. He wore a suit, with a suit hat that was angled to shade over his eyes, and he had Moratorium's trademark red scarf, but it was tugged down at the moment.
"Are you hurt?" he demanded quietly.
"No," Harry said.
"You're covered in blood."
"Not mine. Well, okay, my nose might be broken, but that's easily fixable," she mumbled. "Are you?"
"Of course," he snapped. He was tense, and there was a minute tremble running through him as he continued to turn Harry's body this way and that to examine her.
"So confident in your abilities?" Harry lightly teased.
Tom snorted at that, but didn't answer. Only after he was certain that Harry wasn't in dire need of medical attention, did he finally begin to relax.
However, there was still a taunt underline inside of him and Harry. There was a loose wire dangling above a pit of water. The air was thick with this sort of anxiousness, and Harry found it difficult to breathe in it. Part of her wanted to pull away—wanted to just step back and breathe in the clean, normal air, but it was a small part.
For a much larger, much more dominate, and determined not to be ignored part of her wanted the opposite of that.
Harry swallowed roughly, and shakily brought her arms around Tom. Tom immediately stiffened, his eyes widening as a wary light took to them, but he did not push her away. He watched her quietly, as Harry continued to lean closer, and closer to him.
Then, very hesitantly, she pressed her lips to his.
He jolted, causing Harry to snap her head back and blush fiercely in mortification. She opened her mouth so stammer out an excuse, and she was already pulling away, but before she could follow through with all of that, he pulled her tightly against him.
And he kissed her tenderly.
When the two pulled back, Harry's face was redder than Ginny's hair, and Tom was smirking slyly at her.
"Well, what do you know," he remarked, using his right hand to rummage through his suit pocket. He pulled out an empty familiar bottle. "Felix actually works."
"You used the luck potion?" Harry blurted out.
"Of course I did," Tom dismissed. "You were about to enter a death battle with a Dark Lord. Did you honestly think I wouldn't?"
"I didn't need luck to beat him," Harry objected.
"Maybe," Tom allowed. "But, I'm glad I still used it. Probably needed the luck for you to get over your denial."
Harry wanted to protest against that, but decided that he was probably right.
Tom carefully lifted up his right hand and brushed back her hair, tucking it behind her ear. "I suppose we should probably get you to Pompfrey's office for some Pepper-Up… and find you a change of clothes."
Harry hummed, leaning forward and resting her forehead against his shoulder. "Or not. We could just stay here a while, too."
"That works for me," Tom decided.
Harry smiled to herself and closed her eyes, allowing herself to completely relax her guard in his arms. A tiny part of her warned her against doing so, but it was largely ignored. She felt safe there. There was no over looming threat for them to face eventually.
There was Harry, and there was Tom.
That's all she really needed at that moment.
"So, uh, do I need to… to ask Sirius's permission, or something…?" Tom trailed off.
"I don't need you to," she reassured him. "He would probably like it if you did, though. But, wait, are you sure you even want to consider that? I mean, you would pretty much be going public about us if you did that."
"You did just single-handedly kick a Dark Lord's ass, even if it was Voldewhore," Tom pointed out. "Not a lot of people are going to want to mess with you for a while."
Harry whined at that.
"Which is good," Tom emphasized. "The public knows you can handle yourself just fine, and I feel… comfortable enough… that you can also take care of yourself. Or at least that you'll be smart enough to summon Basileus if things get really bad. Or that you can Apparate out if necessary. But, I am going to insist you always carry a portkey around with you…"
"You're paranoid," she accused.
"I have pissed off so many people," he said simply. "I think I have earned the right of being paranoid."
Harry sighed. "Alright, alright. But, only until I've got my license to be a Healer."
"You want to be a Healer?" Tom asked in surprise.
"I always seem to need one, but there's never one around," she grumbled.
The two pulled apart as Sirius practically sprinted across the courtyard to tackle into Harry, picking her up and swinging her around.
"Harry, what are you doing here?"
"Well, I just kicked Voldewhore's ass," Harry said, gesturing towards the body.
"I… see," Sirius said, his eyes wide as he stared at the body. "That's… wow."
"I get that a lot," Harry said, winking. "But, uh, I'm actually kinda low on magic, so I'm not sure if I'll pass out or not. I might. Just to warn you not to freak out or anything."
Sirius swung Harry up and carried her like a bridal. "Don't worry, Vix, I'll get you to Pompfrey."
"I'll go with you," Tom said quickly, giving Harry a wink—which caused the girl to blush prettily.
Sirius immediately noticed this and narrowed his eyes. "It's fine, Mr. Moratorium. She's my goddaughter."
"Well," Tom said silkily, "she's my girlfriend."
Sirius gaped at him, but didn't have time to respond, as Remus, Snape, Dumbledore, Marwyn, and quite a few others had reached them. In seconds, Harry was surrounded by loved ones, each congratulating her. Dumbledore's eyes were especially twinkly.
And Harry just smiled, because that was all she needed to do.
She didn't need to make any remarks, or subtle manipulations. She didn't need to hide the fact that she brutally murdered that man—she didn't need to hide anything (though she still chose to leave her past behind her).
Most of these people—most of these adults loved her.
Perhaps during her first, second, or third year, she would have simpered and taken their praise with a grain of salt, all the while trying to subtly control them.
But she didn't need to do that.
So Harry just smiled, because smiling was all she felt like doing, and no one seemed to mind.
It was okay for Harry to smile.
It was good for Harry to smile.
The following weekend, Harry found herself at a familiar place.
"Are you sure you're ready to do this?" Tom asked softly.
Nerves knotted her stomach, and Harry couldn't quite feel the tips of her toes and fingers. Her head was spinning, and her heart pounded erratically in her chest, and she was having some difficulty steadying her breath.
In spite of all of this, Harry refused to back down.
She took a long breath. "Yes. I need to do this."
Tom reached forward and grasped her right hand in his left hand. Their eyes met, and he squeezed her hand. He offered her a small smile—meant to assuage her worries.
It eased her a bit, but it did not completely stop the nerves.
"If you ever need to stop…"
"I know," Harry managed, "but I won't. I can't. I have to do this."
Tom continued eye her, before he nodded his head. Marwyn, and Efface each moved forward to their side. They had finished placing silencing and look-away charms around the home, so no one would disturb them.
A small shudder ran through Harry, as she thought of what she was about to do.
The terrible, terrible things she was about to perform.
Things she always dreamed of doing, but never thought she'd actually have the courage to go through with them.
She supposed, that without Tom at her side, she probably still wouldn't.
She drew strength from his side. She felt as though she could take on the world in one long, bloody war, and win.
Given what she was about to face, a part of her wished that was the case, rather than this.
Harry held on tightly to his hand, and took a wobbly step forward. He matched her pace, never pushing her, or urging her in one fashion or another. Right behind them, were Marwyn and Efface. Marwyn carried a fairly big black duffle bag that was filled with instruments for Harry to use.
She took another step forward, and slowly, mechanically, she made her way to the front door.
When she reached the door, Marwyn pulled out one of the tools from the bag—a poker stick. He lifted the tip of it up to his lips, and blew hot fire onto it. The tip of it burned, and he held it out to Harry.
Harry grasped the opposite end of it, just as the door opened.
Petunia's eyes widened upon seeing Harry holding the flaming poker stick.
Harry smiled at her humorlessly. "Hullo."
Petunia screamed with all her might and scrambled back. She turned on her heel and ran, and Harry let her go for a moment before transfiguring the carpet into a pit of snakes.
The small group entered into the overly-tidy home, just as Vernon came barreling down the stairs.
He paled considerably upon seeing Harry.
Harry continued to smile.
Tom momentarily released her hand to gently close the front door before he returned to her side.
He was smiling, too.
No one would hear their screams.
Two decades had passed.
Moratorium's plan for the new government had been near full-proof. Due to the fact that he had systematically bought over half the world, and freely controlled the economics of it, he had set up a nearly invincible shield for Tom when he stepped in.
There were many more attempted coups, and rebellions, but each were dealt with swiftly, and mercilessly. Tom was meticulous in eliminating any enemies of his government.
However, in comparison to the mass population, there were only a handful of people that truly resented the government. So many benefited from it—so many whose voices were once left unheard. To some, Moratorium was a heartless tycoon who only craved power. To others, he was a hero who righted society.
With Tom's help, as Moratorium, Dumbledore was able to push for a law that allowed all magical creatures who wished to learn to attend Hogwarts. This opened up the opportunity for many more classes to be taught (as there were Muggle Studies, there also became Vampiric Studies, Werewolf Studies, Falk Studies, and so on), which gave other species a chance to teach at Hogwarts.
This alone allowed a more open-mind to be molded at Hogwarts, as the students were forced to adapt to this change. Students of all races flocked to join Hogwarts, and while there were some families who pulled out their children when learning of this, most seemed to accept this and encouraged the change.
Hogwarts was making for a new generation in this practical government—one with far less prejudice.
Within two years of this new law, Tom pressured the other schools to accept other students, as well. Soon enough, all magical schools had to accept all magical students who wished to learn, so long as they were not a direct danger to the student body.
When Voldemort's death was announced, a great celebration was made and those of the Order of the Phoenix were officially recognized for their efforts, as was the many exequutors who fought in the battle at Hogwarts.
Parents were thrilled to find out their children had been so diligently protected, while students, upon returning after they were suddenly transported away, took the news easily. Those who had been around Harry long enough—and did not know first-hand the horrors Voldemort inflicted upon the world in his prime—effortlessly believed Harry had done him in. Indeed, they expected her to do so quite handily.
Feeling particularly ironic that day, Tom declared it to be National Holiday in honor of Harriet Lily Potter.
Harry nearly tackled into him to show her displeasure at being forced into the spotlight like that, but Marwyn restrained her. It made for an interesting cover photo, though, in the Daily Prophet. Tom smirked at her from behind his scarf—he never bothered with Polyjuice, anymore—while Harry vowed vengeance for embarrassing her like that, all the while Marwyn just smiled, utterly amused, as he effortlessly held the girl back.
The rest of Harry's years at Hogwarts passed by without much incident. The only thing of real note was when Dumbledore pulled her aside one evening to tell her that the Dursleys mysteriously disappeared, and their house was left in flames.
He never asked her if she knew anything about it, but merely parted with, "Perhaps you should bring this news to Severus."
Severus gave her a Potions Set—complete with a cauldron—when he learned of this.
The twins' joke shop had continued to flourish—they were rapidly building up an empire and creating a monopoly on all fun toy shops and joke shops. The two were so busy running their business, and 'testing' their products, they never had much time to visit Harry.
Although each time they did manage to visit, it was like they were never gone, and the trio relished in creating chaos for those around them.
Sirius worked part time with the twins—he had a fairly high-ranking position in the business, and the twins often sought him out if they were ever low on ideas. However, as soon as Harry had graduated Hogwarts and moved out (and he was certain she could take care of herself), he joined Bronzemane's group as an exequutor.
Remus, not one to be outdone, joined Bones' investigation department as an auror. The duo were frequently partnered together, much to their glee. Surprisingly, (or at least to Harry) Remus married a fellow auror named Tonks—who was Sirius's cousin. They had a son named Teddy.
Thanks to Moratorium's new laws in regards to the other species, more, and more magical villages were popping up around the world—places meant for wizards, vampires, Falk, gargoyles, shishi, and others to live together in theoretical harmony (naturally putting this to practice wasn't quite as smooth, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as Moratorium had originally feared it would be).
Dumbledore remained at Hogwarts for a few more years after Harry's graduation, all too delighted to see the wonders of this less-prejudice school unfold. When he was satisfied he would no longer be needed, he retired his post as Headmaster.
Last Harry knew, the old man still lived in a small cottage in one of the new villages. He stayed in contact with her, all too happy to indulge in listening to her latest adventures, and offering a few of his own. The two even traveled to some ancient ruins together and puzzled over some of the more difficult riddles the ruins presented them with.
Professor Snape, who also stayed in touch with Harry over the years, still remained at Hogwarts—still as the nasty old bat in the dungeon (although Harry remained as one of the few who knew better, but the man seemed to enjoy his rather fearsome reputation).
Neville, surprisingly, took up Dumbledore's post as Headmaster, and he did so with a wide smile on his face.
The man had come far from his tentative, nervous, self-conscious first year self. He had grown into a sarcastic, yet warm-hearted man who was inexplicitly in love with one Luna Lovegood.
Luna graciously took up the position as the new Transfiguration professor (as McGonagall decided to retire with Dumbledore, and she lived with her sister in one of the new villages, as well).
The two currently had an eleven year old son who would be starting his first year at Hogwarts. Their son was named Daxtras, and he was a kind boy with his mother's penchant of staring off into space. He had his father's face and hair, but his mother's eyes.
The two weren't the only one of Harry's friends to have happily married.
(un)Surprisingly, Hermione and Draco fell together. After Draco had originally been port-keyed away from his family (setting off an alarm in Tom's office that Narcissa had defected, and that it was time to trigger the students' port-key and warn Dumbledore), he had almost immediately been port-keyed again, like the rest of the students. When he realized he was with the rest of the students in Hogwarts (all of them stumbling around, so very confused), he had sought Hermione out.
He told her everything, and she listened with a worried face. When it was all over, and he anticipated for her to turn away in disgust, he had been immensely relieved to find that she merely held him close and told him he was brave for telling her this, and she couldn't imagine how hard it must have been for him.
Since that day, the two had only ever grown closer. Draco proposed to her a year after the duo had graduated (much to his father's dismay. Lucius had threatened to disinherit him, but Draco called him out on it. Harry wasn't entirely sure what happened next—only that it resulted in a six month long argument between the two men that lead to a three-month long time of silence. Only after Narcissa and Hermione had literally locked them in a room together until the two sorted it out, did they finally come to an agreement and hesitantly reunited).
They had three children. The eldest being a girl named Violana, who had her mother's temper and personality, but was a mirror image of her father (and who was also Harry's goddaughter). The youngests (twins!) were Brook and Lynn, who looked exactly like their mother, but reminded Harry an awful lot like their father during his last year at Hogwarts (sly, stubborn, and a bit egotistical).
Draco joined the government nearly right out of Hogwarts, eventually becoming the Head of the Relations Department and direct hand to Dagonet (who was the Council member of Relations). Hermione chose to join the government, as well, although she entered one of the new Departments Tom had set up for Harry. Department of Discovery and Recovery of Losts and Ancients. Hermione was the head of the department, and Harry's right hand woman (as Harry was coerced to join the Council).
Lockhart continued to be a best-selling author, and although he never officially joined the government, Harry called on him frequently to cover press conferences for her (much to Tom's annoyance, and Lockhart's delight).
Harry had graduated top of her class, with a job in the government waiting for her, and Tom.
Their formal announcement of their relationship had been met with many mixed reviews—the age difference wasn't an issue, as in the magical community girls could get married at sixteen, but it was a rarity to see the age difference. It was eventually passed off as nothing more than a fling, at first.
Although, as the years progressed, it became rather blatantly apparent that was not the case at all.
Harry bought a fairly large mansion with an even bigger forest for her pets after she graduated. Tom moved in a week later, bringing along an apartment-sized hydra who was all too happy to live with Harry again.
Harry didn't stay in contact as much with the rest of her acquaintances and friends from school. She was always kept a bit on the busy side with her job. It was up to her to find and recover lost artifacts and cities.
It had taken nearly a decade for Harry's team to finally free Atlantis from the monsters that plagued it, and another decade for it to be brought up and running (but Tom was determined to make Atlantis their new Headquarters for the government, and home). It was a grueling, exhilarating, and thrilling experience, which made success all the more satisfying.
The monsters had been unlike any ever seen—mutations over the years, Basileus often insisted. They were neither reptilian nor amphibious, but somewhere in between. They were highly intelligent when they chose to be, but utterly ruthless and possessive of what they viewed as theirs.
But, Harry was a clever girl and eventually took back Atlantis for the magical community.
Her friends weren't the only ones to be married. Tom ended up proposing to Harry the day she secured Atlantis. It was a spur of the moment, really, and he hadn't realized he had asked until she had smirked at him and said yes.
When she told him the news of her victory, Tom was so overcome with triumph, and joy, he couldn't quite keep himself in check, and the words slipped out before he knew it.
There wedding was small, and very private. A scarce few knew his true identity at the time—Hermione, Draco, Neville, Luna, Marwyn, Efface, and L (and consequentially all the other vampires who got within ten feet of him and recognized his scent as something very similar to Voldemort's).
The two still lived together, although once they got Atlantis working, they moved into it. One of the very few who were allowed to live in the city.
In short, for one Harriet Lily Potter, these past couple of decades had been absolutely, and entirely blissful.
When she was young, she always believed the good never won—that only the bad, bad villains could ever truly win in reality. And she supposed that may have been true. She was neither good, nor bad.
She wasn't a good girl, like she was supposed to be.
But, she couldn't be a bad girl, like she wanted to be.
She was somewhere in the middle—somewhere very gray, and that was fine with her.
She was the anti-hero of her story, and she had more than earned her happy ending.
"And you found this where exactly?" Tom asked again. He slowly peeled off his suit coat—as he was home for the remainder of the day—and continued to stare at the oddly shaped mirror. It was shaped in the form of a silvery eyeball with many ripples in it, but it was larger than their bed.
Harry stood beside him, tilting her head as she eyed the strange artifact she and Hermione had found in a far off temple in Japan.
"We found it in a hidden temple in Japan," Hermione answered. The three of them were standing in Harry's and Tom's bedroom, staring at the eyeball.
"And why did you bring it to me? To here?"
"Because," Harry said, smiling slyly, "we think it's a portal to a whole other universe."
"A portal to a new universe," Hermione answered excitedly. "Fascinating, isn't it? Harry insisted on bringing it here for you to see. She wants permission to make contact."
"What kind of universe?"
"Well," Harry began hesitantly, "that's just it—there are more than one it shows."
"Yeah! There's this one with a—a—Lich King, or something, and another where this guy is flying in—get this—blue and red tights, and another where this guy is covered in some kind of red and yellow armor and is also flying, and he's shooting laser beams out of his hands, and another one had this girl with pink hair riding a giant salamander, and…!"
Harry nodded her head eagerly. "But that's just the tip of the iceberg. This is the world I want to us to take over. I mean enter."
Harry placed her hand against the cool glass-like sphered. It rippled and shined before presenting an image to Tom.
He stared at it.
"Is that… is that… your father as a child, Harry?"
"No," Harry said, a smile stretching on her face. "He's got our Mum's eyes."
"Our?" Tom repeated incredulously.
"His name," Harry began with a flourish, "is Harry James Potter, and he's just turning fourteen."
Tom smiled darkly. "Now that is very interesting…"
Welp. There you go.
I think after given an appropriate amount of time, I'll go ahead and combine chapters five and six into chapter five, scoot this year over to chapter six, and then make this chapter epilogue exclusive.
What does Moratorium look like EXACTLY?
I DREW A PICTURE OF HIM, HARRY, AND TOM. HERE IS THE LINK (TAKE OUT INDENTATIONS, OBVIOUSLY):
YOU CAN ALSO JUST GO TO MY PROFILE, OR GO TO MY DEVIANTART ACCOUNT (CHARREDBLOSSOM16) OR TUMBLR (BURNTPETAL16) TO LOOK AT IT. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO DO THAT, THEN, HERE IS A WORDY-DESCRIPTION:
Moratorium is a rather tall, and lean fellow. He prefers to wear expensive suits with red ties, and is never seen without his suit hat. He always has a long red scarf wrapped around his neck, and for the press he pulls it up to cover the lower half of his face. He originally did this to help keep suspicion off of Harry, should anyone look too close at him, but at the end of the third year when he began to plan for Tom to take over, he did so to keep people from seeing his face. This way, should Tom decide he did not want to continue to take the Polyjuice potion, he could still masquerade as Moratorium.
His hair is short, black, and bit on the curly side. His eyes are normally a dark obsidian, but as he began to take over Harry as a horcrux, a red light started to glow in them.
Why does she say Monsieur instead of Mister?
Because that's just how she is. Everyone has their quirks, and I always liked how monsieur rolled off the tongue better than mister. Maybe that's just me, but this girl is my baby, so…
So her and Tom…?
And Hermione and Draco…?
And Neville and Luna…?
Did you plan for this when she originally stole the Philosopher's Stone?
I planned for Moratorium to somehow rule the world in one fashion or another, and for Harry to live a long life with the stone with Basileus. I didn't plan for the whole killing-off-Moratorium-for-Tom until the third year.
So Tom Riddle essentially rules the world now, yeah? Because Moratorium's Ministry runs over the entire world, and he's the Minister (not counting how much of monopoly he has, or tycoon)?
Huh. I guess he does. Canon!Dumbledore would probably be rolling in his grave at that. Oops. Spoilers.
And for the Dursleys?
Harry has a firm alibi for the day the Dursleys mysteriously disappeared. That's all she will say on the matter if asked.
A shame their house was burned to the ground, though. Really such a shame.
Um… I think you misspelled executor as exequutor?
No. It's spelled as exequutor (I had to put this in there, because I just know I would get that one reviewer who would adore pointing out mistakes in this un-beta'd version, in spite of my heavy warning that this is not beta'd. I am not a damn perfect writer. I make mistakes, and I am far too lazy to go over each individual sentence to make sure it's fucking perfect for over a hundred pages.
Will you write / draw any more of them?
I'll answer questions about them on my Tumblr ask blog, and I'll keep drawing fanart for them, sure.
In regards of a 'Sequel'...?
I honestly have no clue what I would write as a sequel. Well, okay that's a lie, I have a fairly good idea of what I'd do as a sequel, but I probably won't. For one thing, what I want to do as a sequel is a borderline crackfic.
If you're still confused about what Moratorium was, I'll try to explain it. :)
For those of you who are not familiar with MPD, I suppose a bit of explaining is in order into what Moratorium was exactly—if you didn't already understand from what I wrote, of course.
Personalities are not something that develop overnight. You don't suddenly wake up with a new personality. They take time. They fester. They're a bit like open gashes, left untreated. They are, in most cases, drawn from the emotions of a horrible event. The original personality goes through something traumatic often enough that they begin to detach themselves from reality. These emotions—these feelings they get during these times begin to grow more strongly.
Moratorium started out as nothing, but a thought. But, after Harry began to fester and feed that thought, after she started to think of Moratorium as a separate entity from herself, he became such. He was those feelings of detachment she felt under the abuse, and over time he developed as a separate personality.
The horcrux in canon!Harry was never described as a another conscious soul inside of Harry. It never fought against him, at least. It was implied, actually, that it helped him on multiple occasions. I can only assume that this is because of Lily—because her magic, her 'sacrifice' re-wrote the very nature of the horcrux: which was to survive.
It seemed to make the most sense to me that should Harry ever develop MPD, that those personalities would be drawn from the second soul that lived inside of him/her.
The 'soul' of Moratorium was Tom Riddle's.
His 'will' was of Lily Potter's.
But it was this Harry that defined him as a separate person—that gave him 'life'.
Words: 225, 709
Favorites: 2, 337
Times I went hiatus without someone catching on: 2
Times I went hiatus and got chewed out by my friend: 1…
Times I questioned if I would ever finish this stupidly long-chaptered story: Lost count after 30.
Probably no sequel, because, I'm already planning a Harry Potter crackfic self insert, I think, so… yeah, no sequel for this baby, at least in the foreseeable future. Besides, I think I tied up quite a bit of the loose ends that I wanted to tie up.
I want to take this time and say thank you to those of you who have stuck through this story with me. I'd like to imagine I've improved over the course of writing this story, and it's because of your guys' awesome reviewing, favorite'ing, alerting, and all that jazz, that I was able to finish this story.
Thank you all so very much.
And so, without further adieu…
Reviews are love!