Title: A Certain Level of Society
Author: Meyari McFarland
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Kid!fic
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Bigotry (canon-typical), sympathetic Dursleys, serious Dumbledore Bashing, serious body autonomy issues, compulsions and mind control issues
Author Notes: Credit for dragging me into writing Harry Potter fic after years of not writing any fanfic at all goes squarely to Keira, though as always for me, I went in my own direction for pretty much everything from cannon to how magic works to the goblins and the Dursleys. Thanks for the inspiration, Keira!
Word Count: 129,070
Summary: If there’s one thing that is known in magical Britain, it’s that squibs can’t do magic. At all. Everyone knows that. The question is: how do they know that? Where did this certainty come from? The way the magical world works seems to be an inconvertible fact as immutable as gravity but the underpinnings of that world are built on sand and made of rotten wood. When one Harry Potter is delivered to the hands of his oh-so-Squib Aunt, Petunia Dursley, it would seem that he would grow up ignorant, abused and desperate for anything that could same him from the mundane world. But squibs aren’t what they seem, and neither is the magical world. What Harry discovers on his first trip to Diagon Alley changes far more than anyone might have expected.
Filius smiled as Mrs. Dursley arrived in the staff break room with Madame Bones. Thank goodness. People in charge. He might yet be able to delivery this horrible wand to Ragnok.
“Ladies,” Filius said with his most welcoming smile, the one that was entirely human and not at all goblin. “I’m glad to see you. I was hoping to run an errand, if you don’t mind.”
Both of them skewered Filius with looks that would do the most ferocious goblin proud. Filius deliberately didn’t purse his lips or hold his hands to display his sadly human nails. They wouldn’t understand the attempt to make himself more visibly harmless, anyway.
Instead he sighed and gestured for them to join him at the little group of armchairs that he and Minerva had tucked into the back of the break room. No one else was there, thankfully. The only reason Filius was there was that he’d been looking for Minerva and failing to find her anywhere.
“We’re already dealing with a great deal of That Man’s problems,” Mrs. Dursley said severely enough that Filius did actually purse his lips and flash his fingernails. “Oh. You’ve goblin blood.”
“…You’re remarkably well educated for a squib,” Filius said. He stared at her with fascination, especially as her pale cheeks turned pink.
“It was necessary to keep up with my sister Lily,” Mrs. Dursley said. She chuckled and shook her head. “And to keep up with Harry, honestly. That boy. All my sister’s curiosity and all her husband’s talent for finding trouble by leaping in feet first.”
“Oh dear.” Filius laughed despite himself. “I’ve only had a handful of classes with our Mr. Potter so far. He’s a brilliant student though and amazingly good at uniting the younger ones. Not so surprising given his heritage, I suppose. Which is neither here nor there. I have another bit of Dumbledore’s trouble that must be managed.”
Both Mrs. Dursley and Madame Bones stiffened. When Filius pulled out the Elder Wand, Madame Bones frowned and leaned closer. Mrs. Dursley stared at it for a long moment before putting her hand on Madame Bones’ arm.
“What is it?” Mrs. Dursley asked with such ice in her voice and eyes that Filius would have sworn that her bit of magic was a gift for temperature control.
“There are legends of three items given to three brothers by Death,” Filius said. He nodded to Mrs. Dursley. “I don’t know how much of our myth and legend you’ve had time to absorb, but the Deathly Hallows are… famous.”
“And fictional,” Madame Bones protested but she leaned back in her chair as if she wanted to get as far away from the wand as possible now.
“Not fictional at all, actually,” Filius said. “The Peverell brothers were real. They received a wand, a stone that would bring back the souls of the dead and a cloak that made the wearer invisible. This is the wand, the Elder Wand. It is, I fear, the reason that Dumbledore was so amazingly powerful.”
“This is how he was so successful controlling everyone,” Mrs. Dursley breathed, eyes hard with fury as she glared at the wand.
“Yes,” Filius agreed. “I believe so. I’ve won it from him. It won’t work as well for him anymore. But frankly, I’d much rather have it safely in the deepest vaults of the Gringotts than here. After Mr. Potter claimed the Gryffindor legacy, Dumbledore pulled a different wand. A much more troubling one.”
He paused, stomach roiling and heart pounding just from the memory of that wand. Filius had been just a child, barely fifteen and looking more like a five-year-old human, when Grindelwald was defeated. Despite that, he remembered Grindelwald’s wand. They’d had pictures of it in all the papers, discussions of why he’d chosen that wood, that fashioning, what it said about him.
“Whose?” Madame Bones whispered. She didn’t look as though she wanted the answer.
“Someone worse?” Mrs. Dursley asked in a perfectly calm, diamond-calm tone even though her hands had gone white at the knuckles where she still gripped Madame Bones’ arm.
“Grindelwald,” Filius made himself say. “He pulled and used Grindelwald’s wand. And I realized, after Fawkes took him away, after everything calmed down. I don’t. I don’t know if anyone knows, but I don’t know. Do you know where Grindelwald’s prison is? Has anyone been there to see if Grindelwald is still there? Still controlled?”
Madame Bones went as still as stone, only her eyes widening as her cheeks went marble-pale. Then she was up and cursing as she strode towards the door. Mrs. Dursley didn’t pale. She raised her chin, pursed her lips and then nodded to Filius.
“Take that to the bank,” Mrs. Dursley ordered. “Tell Silverclaw and Ragnok that we’ve another problem that we’ll need help with. And tell them that I said you need to know the prophecy. I suspect that That Man’s wand is going to be important to Harry’s defeat of him.”
“Yes ma’am,” Filius said as he hopped off the chair and hurried towards the door.
It wasn’t until he was through the floo to Gringotts before he thought to wonder at just how instantly he’d obeyed Mrs. Dursley. Perhaps her gift was vocal rather than temperature control.
Or maybe she was where Harry had learned how to lead others. She was, truly, a rather compelling individual. He’d have to gossip with Silverclaw about it, not that someone like Silverclaw was likely to be interested in spending time with a halfblood like Filius.
Still. It never hurt to ask. Sometimes you got the most fascinating answers.
Sixty million, jillion questions later, Harry and Dudley set out to explore Hogwarts together.
The students had, predictably and annoyingly, been told absolutely nothing at all. Professor Snape hadn’t come back to the Great Hall. None of the teachers had. They’d not told the kids that they were free to head back to their dorms or the library or whatever. Harry was going to, but they mobbed him shouting questions until Dudley threatened to hit them with his Magic Fists of Doom.
Ron did get hit because he hadn’t believed Dudley had Magic Fists of Doom.
He apologized and whined after getting up off the floor. Hermione had the most questions of everyone even though she’d been researching the whole Gryffindor thing for Harry. In the end, he’d had to ask Hermione to come along with him as he explored.
Neville, of course, was with Harry on his right-hand side while Dudley walked with Hermione, asking her as many questions about Hogwarts as she’d asked Harry about what had happened. They both seemed utterly delighted with that, so Harry was more than happy to leave them to it.
“Where are we going?” Neville asked as they headed down into the dungeons.
“I can feel the elves,” Harry said, pointing ahead of them. “I’m worried about them. They’ve felt bad ever since I arrived, and now they feel afraid and bad, so I’m going to find them and see what I can do to help.”
“Oh,” Neville said with a nod. “The magic here has felt really off. It’s better now, though.”
“Mhm,” Harry agreed as he stopped and frowned. “No, they feel behind me now.”
“Oh, you have to tickle the pear,” Hermione exclaimed when she realized that she and Dudley had walked straight past Harry and Neville. “The painting here is the entrance to the kitchen. Susan told me about it. She says that if you tickle the pear, that one there, it will open the door.”
“How d’you tickle a pear?” Dudley asked.
“Do you always talk like that?” Hermione asked with a stiff little stare that was a lot like Aunt Petunia.
“Yeah,” Dudley said with his biggest ‘didn’t get in trouble when I should have’ grin. “It drives Mum and Aunt Marge batty. Totally worth it. I mean, I don’t at school but anywhere Mum’s around? Yeah. She gets all pinched in the face and tries not to scold me for it.”
“She should scold you!” Hermione exclaimed as Harry exchanged a look with Neville and then set to tickling the pear. “You sound like a hooligan.”
“Thanks!” Dudley said with so much delight that Harry snickered and Neville clapped a hand over his mouth. “That’s just what I’m going for.”
Thankfully, the door to the kitchen opened before Hermione could go into full-blown conniption mode. Or lecture mode. Harry wasn’t sure which way she’d go, not when she looked that gobsmacked.
The kitchen was big and ancient looking, like something out of the middle ages with a huge, enormous fireplace that had a whole pig roasting in it. There were stoves and trestle tables laden with food in various stages of preparation. Pies and cakes and savory things and just everything you could think of to eat.
And House Elves.
About a hundred House Elves stood there, staring at Harry as he came in with the others on his heels. All of them were dressed in clean but very worn pillowcases. No shoes. Sad drooping ears. Big scared eyes.
“Oh wow, what did he do to you guys?” Harry said as he sat down on the floor in front of the oldest one who was shaking as she held a big bowl full of batter. “You’re all so tired!”
“Master Gryffindor is caring?” the old elf asked. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“I am,” Harry said. “Here, put that down and let me feed you some magic. The school’s an utter mess magically. I need to have you guys help me clean it up. Not just, you know, the physical stuff. The magic needs cleaning, too.”
Every single Elf straightened and stared at him hungrily. The old Elf burst into tears. She put the bowl of batter on the closest table and then popped into Harry’s arms instead of walking. He hugged her and patted her back as she cried.
It was so obvious that they’d been starved of magic. A tiny little curl of the Gryffindor magic made her shiver and sigh like it was a tidal wave. Harry eased more into her and then tugged on a thread of magic in Hogwarts that felt like green things and flowers that weren’t getting tended properly. Maybe something to do with the greenhouses? Or the Forbidden Forest.
He wasn’t sure and it really didn’t matter because the old Elf moaned and sagged in his arms as she worked with that magic and sent it back out cleaner and cleaner by the second. The instant Harry let her go, the other Elves swarmed on him, touching and patting, crying and praising him.
Harry let them. They needed this. He could feel it. Besides, it made him and the castle both feel way better so why not? This was what House Elves were best at.
Eventually, after about hour, maybe more, he’d gotten all the Elves some magic to support them and other magic for them to work on cleaning. Harry smiled because they all looked way, way better than before. Brighter expressions, much less grey skin. Still those awful pillowcases, though.
“Okay,” Harry said. “I know you weren’t allowed proper uniforms before but I’m really, really stubborn on the uniform thing. Kreacher,” Harry started as Kreacher popped in next to him, “this is him. Kreacher can help you guys figure out good uniforms for the House Elves of Hogwarts to wear.”
“Kreacher will do that,” Kreacher promised. He scowled at Harry. “But Master Harry is needing to eat. He is not having dinner and is not having breakfast and now it is lunch and still Master Harry has not eaten.”
“It’s lunch?” Harry said, staring at Kreacher who nodded disapprovingly. Dudley was sitting with Hermione and Neville at a table with food in front of them. “Oh wow. I thought that took just barely an hour, not half the day.”
Kreacher shook his head while the Hogwarts Elves stared at him disapprovingly. “Master Harry is as bad as Master Sirius. You is eating and lots. No arguing!”
Dudley snickered before coming and helping Harry up off the floor. His legs were kind of numb and his butt was cold so Harry appreciated the help. The food was even better than Harry remembered or maybe he was just that hungry. Either way, he plowed into the lunch Kreacher put in front of him with as little grace as Ron before the blocks were broken.
“Does he eat like that all the time?” Hermione asked.
“No,” Neville and Dudley said at the same time.
“Jinx,” Dudley said, lightly smacking Neville’s shoulder and grinning. “Nah, he’s just hungry.”
“Normally he’s way more polite than this,” Neville agreed. “No punching. It’s rude.”
“Breaks the jinx,” Dudley replied and shrugged.
“Is that actually a real thing?” Hermione asked. “Can you make a jinx for real if you have magic and do something at the same time as someone else?”
Harry wanted to respond to that, to ask questions with Hermione and maybe head to the library for books, but Kreacher glowered and shoved another sandwich in Harry’s hands. So he ate instead.
Around them, the magic of the kitchen felt better and better. All of Hogwarts felt better. Well, not all of it. There were a couple of places that felt all wonky and wrong. One was below the dungeons which was kind of weird. The other was upstairs somewhere, on one of the upper levels.
“What’s wrong with the gates?” Harry asked Kreacher.
“Voldeghost cursed Hogwarts,” Crow exclaimed as she popped in to pass Hermione and Dudley a book on accidental magic. “Gate is cursed so that no ones can be Dark Arts professor long. Bad Dumbles didn’t fix it even though he could.”
“Well, I’m going to have to fix that,” Harry complained. He shook his head. “Crow, can you please let Aunt Petunia know that Lacey should come and remove that curse? And Madame Bones. She needs to know, too. And there’s something wrong with the sewers, I think. I’m not sure. It’s weird.”
“Crow will tell them!” Crow threw a sloppy salute that Kreacher groaned and grumbled over before popping away.
“Harry,” Hermione stared at the spot where Crow had been. “I need books on House Elves. I need them badly.”
“Me too!” Harry exclaimed even though Kreacher poked him to keep eating and then threw his hands up in disgust when Harry put the remnants of his second sandwich down.
“You can borrow the books I’ve got but none of them are very accurate,” Harry continued. “They don’t say a thing about the cleaning House Elves do for magic. Or the way that their magic shores up and reinforces family magic. I swear, I’m gonna find a good book yet or I’ll write it myself. You know, when I’m older.”
“I’ll help,” Hermione promised. Then she scowled at Harry. “Now eat your food, silly. You need it!”
Harry groaned and ate the rest of his second sandwich. At least after that, Kreacher gave him a pear to eat and some nice chocolate biscuits. By the time he was done eating, Hermione and Dudley were fast friends, reading the book on accidental magic together as if they had known one another their entire lives.
“He’s good at making friends,” Neville commented quietly to Harry once Harry gave the plates to the kitchen elves and Kreacher nodded approval.
“Not so much, really,” Harry said. “I mean, sort of? It’s weird with the curses we were under. Want to come with me as I try and figure out what’s going on under the dungeons?”
“Under?” Dudley asked, proving he wasn’t that invested in the book.
“There’s only sewers under the dungeons,” Hermione agreed. She shut the book and stored it in a beautiful bracelet on her wrist.
“Oh, is that a dimensional store?” Harry asked, beaming. “Aunt Petunia has one but it’s only good for a key.”
Hermione grinned. “Yes, it is. It’s a library trunk, just one I can carry with me. I told my parents about it and they let me order one by owl post.”
“I want one!” Harry said at the same time that Dudley did.
He hit Dudley’s shoulder before Dudley could hit his shoulder, making Dudley laugh. Neville shook his head at them both, pulling Harry towards the door. All the elves waved to them. They looked and felt so much better now. That was good. Harry really didn’t want the elves suffering anymore. Kreacher would get them proper uniforms that made sense for Hogwarts and they’d be safe and healthy and happy and they’d make the magic her healthier, too.
Which left the sewers, the whatever Dumbledore had been doing on the third floor, the curse on the gates and Dumbledore himself to deal with. Not too much, really.
Itzy popped in front of them.
“Master Harry is to come to Dumbles’ office,” Itzy declared. He smiled and took Dudley’s hand when Dudley offered it. “Is very important. Mistress Pet is very upset. Very upset indeed. She has everyone coming.”
“We’ll be right there,” Harry promised. He bit his lip. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with the sewers? There’s something not right there but I can’t tell what it is.”
Itzy blinked before closing his eyes. He frowned, cocked his head to left, then to the right. When he opened them, Itzy looked frustrated.
“Itzy is not sure what happened, but yes, is something wrong,” Itzy said. “She is very sleepy and does not want to talk. She says she is waiting for her master to come back to feed her. She has not fed well in a long, long time. Her master was mean and blocked her way out to hunt in the forest, so she has not had yummy big spiders in a long, long time.”
Both of Harry’s eyebrows went up at that. “Um. She who?”
“Oh, basilisk in the sewers,” Itzy said. He stared at Harry as if astonished that Harry didn’t already know that. “She was put there to protect the school. Should Itzy open door so that she can hunt right?”
“Uh, I think so?” Harry said.
He wasn’t at all ashamed that his voice came out super-high. Everything he’d read about magical creatures said that basilisks were horribly dangerous, incredibly rare and highly intelligent. Hermione looked just as horrified as Harry while Neville had his wand out like they were about to be attacked at any second.
“Who’s the blighter who made her starve?” Dudley asked with way less concern and way more outrage than Harry thought was right. Except yeah, starving a very dangerous and highly intelligent creature was an outrage. Another one.
“Riddle,” Itzy said. “She says he said born-name was Riddle. But chosen name was stupid so she won’t say it.”
“We’re gonna have to tell Aunt Petunia about this,” Harry said. “Either way, please do open her door. I don’t want anyone to be hungry, even scary monsters. Um. Tell her that I said she’s not to hurt anyone at the school if she can help it. And that um, she should talk to the elves if she needs anything else.”
Itzy nodded and bowed his head. A moment later, he bounced, grinned at Dudley and then popped away. Hermione blew out a breath.
“Harry, your life is so incredibly weird,” Hermione said.
“It is!” Dudley said, laughing so hard that it echoed all up the hallway. “It really is! Come on. We gotta tell Mum about the basilisk and then we gotta ask for library bracelets. I could wear one and use it, Harry.”
“I know!” Harry said, grinning. “That’d be brilliant.”
“What books do you have?” Dudley said, turning to Hermione with so much enthusiasm that she blushed. “Harry’s got some amazing ones, especially in his Inaccurate Information one. They’re a hoot.”
Harry blew out a breath as Dudley and Hermione started in on questioning each other at high speed again. If they were a couple of years older, Harry would have said that it was flirting. Really silly flirting. Not that he thought Hermione would be bad for Dudley or vice versa.
Actually, that might be nice. Hermione as part of his family would be wonderful. Her magic was wonderful and she didn’t condescend to Dudley because he was a squib. Hm. Maybe he’d mention it privately to Aunt Petunia.
Or maybe not.
No reason to make Hermione that nervous, not when they were all so young and there were so many more important things to take care of. Like basilisks in the sewers and curses on the gates. Really, what had Dumbledore been doing, anyway?
Lacey hurried into the Headmaster’s office, trailing behind Professor McGonagall and Madame Bones. You’d think that she’d have gotten used to the Black elves popping in with a command performance from Petunia. It’d happened so many times since that wonderful, infuriating, horrible dinner party where everything had changed for the better.
She hadn’t gotten used to it. The connection to Zing, his enthusiasm for helping Lacey and Anthony with anything they wanted, or even Zing’s delight in wearing socks in rainbow colors underneath his uniform continually surprised her.
Who knew that it would be house elves that knocked her on her arse? She would have bet on it being accepted in the Black family magic instead. And then lost money.
The Headmaster’s office was spelled to be just big enough for everyone in it, while still being comfortably cozy. It felt like a very old spell, one that had sunk deep into the stones generations before Lacey was conceived. There were some squiggly bits of magic on top of it that made her frown, but it was hard to focus on them when the office was so welcoming.
“What?” Petunia asked Lacey.
She held up a hand to forbid both Anthony and a very surprising Vernon from saying anything further. They’d obvious taken the floo since both of them still had soot on their suits. Vernon looked excited, more excited than she’d ever seen him. Anthony had that manic look in his eyes that said she’d be sitting back and listening to him enthuse about something big soon.
“There’s… an edge to the spells in here that’s making me uncomfortable,” Lacey said just as Harry and Dudley pushed past her with two of Harry’s friends coming after them. “The spells that make it so nice in here are making it hard to figure out just what’s bothering me.”
“That Man.” Petunia huffed. “There’s a curse on the front gates that will need to be removed, Lacey. Once you’ve done that, I’ll have you spend some time tracking down what’s wrong here. I’ve no doubt That Man did something.”
She turned to Amelia, leaving Lacey huffing with outrage that Dumbledore had left a curse on the gates to a school full of children. Petunia’s lips went very thin while Amelia raised her chin and glowered as if she was getting ready to go into battle.
“The boys figured out what’s in the sewers,” Petunia said and now she just looked very tired. “Apparently, someone put a basilisk in there ages ago and Voldemort sealed the doors so that the basilisk couldn’t feed. Itzy’s made it possible for the basilisk to go hunt, but we’ll need to do something to get it out of here.”
“A what?” Lacey squawked at the same time that Amelia did.
Anthony’s jaw dropped open. Vernon looked to Harry and Dudley. It was their friend with the bushy hair who pulled a book from her dimensional store, paging through it and then whispering an explanation to Vernon that sent him to huffing and going red in the face with outrage, too.
“Um, why are we here, Aunt Petunia?” Harry asked.
Petunia sighed and ran her fingers carefully through Harry’s hair. It stubbornly refused to obey, springing back into its messy mop of curls just the way Anthony’s hair loved doing. Harry blushed and leaned into her hand, smiling shyly at her.
“Professor Flitwick brought a problem to us and exposed a very large issue,” Petunia said. “That Man was using Grindelwald’s wand before he escaped. This could be understandable but apparently no one knows where Grindelwald’s prison is but That Man.”
Silence stretched as Lacey, and everyone else other than Amelia who seemed to have already figured it out, put the pieces together. They weren’t just facing Dumbledore. They were facing both Dumbledore and Grindelwald, the greatest Dark Lord the magical world had ever dealt with.
“We have to find them,” Harry said. He squared his shoulders and stared up into Petunia’s eyes with the same determination as Vernon with his rugby or Petunia with a very proper tea party to throw. “We have to find them, and we have to stop them before they hurt anyone else.”
Harry glared at the stairs leading up the headmaster’s office. “This isn’t fair.”
“No, it’s not,” Dudley agreed with a ferocious scowl that probably matched Harry’s scowl. “We could help. We’ve had some really good ideas.”
“Yeah, but we’re kids,” Neville said like the voice of reason he always was. “We don’t know enough to really do any good. We should let the grownups handle it.”
“I really want to do some research,” Hermione said as her hair drifted around her head. “But I don’t know if the books in the library are even reliable now.”
“What into?” Dudley asked.
He put an arm around Harry’s shoulders, squeezing Harry hard enough to make Harry wheeze. It didn’t do much to calm Harry down. Nothing was going to do that, not when he’d been sent off to ‘go play with your friends’ when Harry was the one with the stupid prophecy about him. He was going to be involved in fixing it all somehow. Cutting him out of figuring out the solution was just mean.
Stupid grownups treating him like a kid who couldn’t do anything.
“Dumbledore,” Hermione answered. She smoothed her hands over her hair and then huffed when it drifted right back up again. “Grindelwald. The whole war against Grindelwald and the one against Voldemort. What Dumbledore’s supposed to have done and who said he did it.”
“Yeah,” Harry said with a sigh. “The library’s not going to do much good on those subjects. We already know that Dumbledore was controlling people’s minds. He’s not going to have let them write anything useful down.”
“No, but you have the Inaccurate Information trunk,” Neville said slowly. He bit his lip and then shrugged when Harry turned to him. “If everyone’s been getting the wrong information, if Dumbledore’s been sculpting what they think and feel and do, maybe the Inaccurate Information isn’t as inaccurate as it seems?”
It wasn’t the same as finding Nurmengard or Dumbledore. It wasn’t listening and helping as Aunt Petunia and Lacey and Anthony and everyone else figured out where to find Dumbledore and then take him down, just like they’d taken down Voldemort. But it was something to do.
“Right,” Harry said. “Let’s get all the trunks and go to the library. Hermione, you get any Ravenclaw books you can find that aren’t supplied by the school. Neville, Dudley, let’s see who we can gather and what books they can find from the other houses.”
“I think the upper years are out playing quidditch,” Neville said, “but there’s some first years who decided to stay inside. I’ll get them.”
“Me, too,” Hermione said. “I know there’s some Ravenclaws who think quidditch is ridiculous.”
“They’re mental!” Dudley groaned. “Quiddich is the best game ever!”
Dudley blinked and then went red as a beet when Harry stared at him for quoting Uncle Vernon. Not just quoting him but using Uncle Vernon’s exact tone of voice for ‘Rugby’s the best game ever’ rants. At least it stopped Dudley from ranting like Uncle Vernon, who really should’ve been at work instead of Hogwarts. They all ran off on their errands.
Pretty quickly, in less than half an hour, they had a hoard of students in the library annoying Madame Pince who eventually threw her hands up and retreated to her office muttering threats against them all. The elves helped with so much delight that Harry found himself grinning every time a Hogwarts elf popped in with food or tea or treats or even more paper and quills for people to use.
“Oh,” Harry said, smacking himself in the forehead. “Shimmer, I need your help.”
Shimmer, the old elf that Harry had helped first in the kitchen immediately popped to his side. She’d replaced her battered old pillowcase with a lovely little dress made out of thick new pillowcases all covered with big pink cabbage roses. She already looked much better, but Harry still held out his hands and gave her a little trickle of magic to clean.
“Master Gryffindor needs Shimmer?” Shimmer asked, beaming at him as she swiftly cleaned the magic and let it loose again.
“I do,” Harry said. “We’re pretty sure that Dumbledore removed bunches and bunches of books from the library. He probably hid them away somewhere. Can you and the other Hogwarts elves help us find all the missing things he took away?”
Shimmer bit her lip. “Is many, many things, Master Gryffindor. Many things. Is a special room where they’re kept. Is a very big special room.”
“Oh,” Harry said, surprised. “Um, well, why don’t we start with books, then? I think Madame Pince would like all her books back.”
“Would like it,” Shimmer agreed with a firm nod. “Mistress Booksy has complained many times about lost books. We’s go find all the books and bring them back. Master Gryffindor tells Mistress Booksy or she gets mad about the mess. Is lots and lots and lots of books.”
Harry opened his mouth and then just nodded when he wasn’t sure what to say to ‘lots and lots’ of books. Shimmer popped away, as did all the other elves in the library. That caught everyone’s attention. The elves had been so active and in their faces that the sudden disappearance was a shock.
“Um, I asked them to go find any lost books or books that Dumbledore took away,” Harry explained. “I’ve um, gotta go tell Madame Pince or she might be angry at the sudden influx.”
“I’ll go with you,” Neville immediately volunteered. He stood from the table, moving to Harry’s side as Dudley, Hermione and Blaise all looked at each other with delight.
“I’ll keep things organized here,” Draco said. “You’d better hurry. My mother claimed that there’s literally over a million books missing.”
Harry ran over to Madame Pince’s office door, rapping on it urgently. She came to the door with a black glower that would’ve normally made Harry quail at her, but not this time. He took a deep breath and then started as the first stacks of books appeared near Draco.
“Um, I asked the elves to go find and bring back all the lost and hidden books,” Harry told Madame Pince. “Because I figured that Dumbledore took them so that no one would learn the things he didn’t want them to. And um. Draco’s mom said that there’s more than a million missing books so where do you want them?”
“What?” Madame Pince stared at him.
The first stack of books was taller than Harry, teetering until Draco and Hermione caught it with their hands. When the second popped in, it was taller still. Then the third appeared, and a fourth, all of them as tall as a grown man, not Hagrid-tall but definitely Uncle Vernon-tall, and wobbly. The stack filled inwards until the book towers became a book heap that grew until it really was as tall as Hagrid.
Then a second stack of books began to grow, and a third, and a fourth, all of them dusty and unloved. Some of them looked like they hadn’t been touched in easily fifty, a hundred years. Harry stared for a second before turning back to Madame Pince.
Tears flowed down her cheeks. She had both of her hands pressed over her mouth. She shook her head when Harry put a hesitant hand on her elbow.
“Mr. Potter,” Madame Pince said in a tear-choked voice, “this is… This is a wonder. A blessing. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome?” Harry said, confused and blushing. “We just wanted to see if we could find any information about Dumbledore and Grindelwald and Nurmengard. You know, to help the grownups so that they can go find Dumbledore and stop him. But wow. I didn’t expect this many books. It’s going to take forever to sort through them.”
Madame Pince laughed and sobbed at the same time. “No, it won’t. The library will help us, Mr. Potter. We just have to ask her.”
She slowly stepped out into the library which somehow seemed bigger than it had before. Expansion charms maybe?
No, the Castle hummed happily like it had been forced to make the library smaller than it should be and now it could make it right again. Harry put one hand on the wall next to Madame Pince’s office. The feeling off happiness increased so much that Harry found himself laughing and leaning into the wall.
“Harry?” Neville asked. “You’re giggling.”
“Sorry,” Harry said, grinning at him. “The Castle is so happy. It’s making the library right again. Big enough for all the books.”
The kids, led by Ron who was loud and obnoxious about them getting the bloody hell out of the middle of the library and to the wall where Harry was, came to join Harry and Neville. Ron had to go back and drag both Hermione and Dudley because they were grabbing books off stacks and exclaiming over them instead of listening.
“Stop arguing with me!” Ron snapped at Dudley. “It’s not safe for us out there. What? You want a bookcase to land on your head?”
Dudley blew a raspberry at Ron. “How’s that supposed to happen? Bookcases don’t come from nowhere.”
In the middle of the library, Madame Pince started glowing. Her magic was the color of old parchment, threaded through with glowing brown lines that looked just like indecipherable writing. Her full skirts shifted around her ankles as she bowed her head, blew out a breath and then snapped her head upright to stare towards the ceiling.
Magic swept outwards from her, enveloping the books and then the shelves and desks and walls. It whipped around the room, startling the girls into shrieks as it flipped their skirts skyward and yelps as it pushed all the boys back against the wall.
“Catalogus!” Madame Pince shouted.
She pointed her wand at the closest stack of books. For a moment the magic just swirled around the room and then the books took flight. A bookcase soared down out of the ceiling, from nowhere, thumping into the floor with a crash that took Harry’s breath from him. The flying books smacked onto the shelves, ordering themselves, except there were some that flew to the bookshelves that were already there and others on the shelves that flew to the new bookcase.
When Madame Pince pointed at the next pile, the storm of books grew. As fast as she pushed the books into the cataloging spell, more stacks of books popped in.
In moments, the library was a hurricane of books, pages flapping, bookcases thumping down from nowhere, flying in from the walls, rearing up out of the stones. Their little patch of wall by Madame Pince’s office remained unchanged but Harry would have sworn that they were pulled further and further away from her as the library grew and grew.
Hermione clung to Draco’s arm while Draco sheltered both Susan and Hannah against the wall. Dudley had placed himself with Neville in front of Harry, barely letting him see what was happening between their shoulders. Blaise was mouthing curses, or maybe prayers, that Harry couldn’t hear over the flapping and thumping and roar of Madame Pince’s magic.
Ron stood and watched it all happen, nodding approvingly. When a bookshelf soared out of the ceiling straight at him, Ron calmly stepped to the side and let it whump into the floor inches from his toes.
Then he grinned.
Harry opened his mouth to shout at Ron, to ask what he was so happy about, but silence suddenly fell.
No books flying. No bookshelves moving. Nothing but the sound of twenty or so kids panting as they slowly straightened up.
“That’s done it,” Ron said entirely too happily. “It’s right now. All fixed up. The destiny of the Dark Lord of the Light and the Light Lord of Darkness is at hand, sorted and indexed for the Child of Destiny to reveal.”
“…You Saw it?” Harry asked very hesitantly as he pushed his way between Dudley and Neville so that he could get at Ron.
Ron’s eyes were glowing but very distant when he turned to smile at Harry. “Yeah, mate. How not? It’s right there in front… of… us.”
Ron’s eyes slowly rolled up and then he toppled forwards. Harry, Dudley and Neville grabbed for him, keeping Ron from braining himself on the floor. Dudley and Neville had longer arms, so they caught Ron, which left Harry to run into the newly huge and newly labyrinthine library to Madame Pince.
When he found her, Madame Pince was sitting on the floor, panting. Her hair had come loose from its normal bun and her hat was on her knee. Shimmer and Pot were patting her hands comfortingly. Shimmer smiled at Harry as he skidded to a stop and then knelt at Madame Pince’s side.
“That was brilliant!” Harry declared even as Madame Pince laughed softly at him. “Terrifying but brilliant. I had no idea library magic was that amazing. But um, Ron’s apparently just had his first real vision? He’s gifted with Sight, you see, and his eyes were glowing, and he said we’d find what we need in minutes now but then he passed out.”
“Oh, dear,” Madame Pince said. “Goodness, we’d best call his family. And Poppy. He’ll need a bit of care. First visions can be quite exhausting.”
Harry nodded. “Shimmer, can you let the twins know? And Percy, too. They’ll want to be there for Ron when he wakes up.”
“Shimmer goes,” Shimmer said. She pointed at the table that they’d been using before the books came back. “We’s left your books there. Should we adds them to the library, too?”
“Oh, no, some of them are entailed to the Potter family,” Harry said. “We’ll take care of those. Go on.”
Shimmer popped out, leaving Harry and Pot to help Madame Pince up. She was unsteady on her feet for a few steps but then she got her legs back and strode off towards her office with complete confidence in her path.
Harry tried not to walk on her heels as he followed her, waving Pot off back to his duties. Madame Pince might know where to find things in the library, but he sure didn’t. Though it was going to be a ton of fun finding out just what there was to read now. So many new books, so many things to learn.
And maybe, if Ron’s vision was right, they’d find what they needed to deal with Dumbledore and Grindelwald, too.
Molly scowled at the interruption in her work. She had so many potions she needed to finish. The orders lately had been unbearable, ten, twenty times what she was used to. Every spare inch of space on her workbenches were filled with sterilized bottles, stoppers, wire to bind the tops. The cauldron hadn’t stopped bubbling since school started, except between batches when she had to clean it out.
Frankly, she needed to clean it badly right now. The last set of potions, a triple batch of obedience potions keyed to the strongest levels possible without making them toxic, had left residue in her biggest cauldron that was going to have to be scrubbed out by hand. There was no time for that, though, because she still had another hundred doses of the obedience potion to make and so little time to get it done in.
It was enough to make her pull her hair out.
There was no use in protesting, though. No one else could create these potions. Molly could hear Albus’ voice in her head, thrumming behind her eyes, filling her ears, coating her tongue like one of the potions had been poured into her tea when she hadn’t noticed. Ridiculous thought. Albus would never do something like that.
He needed her. He needed Molly’s potion gifts, her ability to work away for hours without losing focus, her capacity for doing multiple potions at once. Though honestly, that was just proper staging and preparation. Bottling one potion while another was brewing while you gathered to ingredients for a third; simple.
Either way, there was only her, slaving away over her cauldron for the Greater Good. Which she should get back to. Maybe the residue in her big cauldron was light enough that she could get away with not scrubbing it out? Hm…
“Molly?” Arthur’s voice broke through the need, the near-compulsion, to go back to brewing potions for Albus. “It’s Ron. Apparently, there’s been a problem at school. He needs us.”
She whirled and strode to the door to her workshop by the kitchen. Her heavy leather work-apron spun off and hung itself by the door. Her normal apron, the red-and-white gingham one that Ginny had embroidered with ladybugs, flipped itself over her head and tied itself around her waist.
Grim determination to get back to her potions work flipped into ferocious concern for Ron the instant her hand touched the doorknob. Molly strode through the door, the wards Dumbledore had so kindly cast for her embracing her and cleansing her of all fumes and taints from the potions. She flung the door shut behind her in complete faith that Dumbledore’s wards would keep it from slamming and harming the potions inside.
It always seemed so bright outside of her potions workshop. Molly blinked several times, eyes watering, before she could focus on Arthur’s worried face. He was in his work clothes, a nice tweed suit with the jumper she’d knitted for him under an old open-front dark brown robe. He was so very pale, though. His faint freckles stood out vividly on his cheeks.
“What happened?” Molly asked as she offered her hands to him.
“We just got a floo from Madame Pince,” Arthur said, clutching Molly’s hands. “I was about to head back to the office, back to work. Startled me rather badly to suddenly have her there in the floo. But she said that Ron’s had a Vision. A true Seeing. Then he passed out cold, poor boy. He’s in the infirmary. The boys are there, taking care of him but Percy asked us to come right away. Where Ginny? I’ve already sent for Bill and Charlie. No idea if Charlie will show up but I had to try.”
“She went to visit Luna,” Molly said, glancing at the grandfather clock. Ron’s hand did say ‘infirmary’ while Ginny’s said ‘flower-crowns’. Both Bill and Charlie’s hands said ‘traveling’, so they were on their way. “Goodness, we need to go get her. She’ll want to make sure Ron’s not hurt herself.”
“Agreed,” Arthur said. “I’ll go get Ginny. You head through to Hogwarts. Madame Pince is waiting for you to come through.”
The floo was still burning green. Molly hesitated, heart pounding. She did still have so much work to do… but no. Not now. It was Ron, her baby boy. She threw on her favorite jumper and then strode through the floo, leaving Arthur to go gather up Ginny and come after her.
She needed her whole family together. She needed to be sure Ron was all right. Nothing was as important as that, not even the Greater Good.
Oddly, the infirmary wasn’t as scary as Harry expected from the twins’ warnings or Sirius and Remus’ stories. It was a big open room with little curtains that would station themselves around a bed to give the occupant privacy, but it was warm and comforting despite the size and the beds were surprisingly comfortable.
Not the chairs. Those were horribly stiff and hard. Harry’d sat in one for a few seconds and then promptly sat on the end of Ron’s bed even though he really shouldn’t have. Percy was sitting by Ron at the head of the bed, freckles standing out starkly against his milk-pale face as he carefully combed his fingers through Ron’s hair. Fred and George paced at the end of Ron’s bed, moving like mirrors of each other along parallel five-foot paths.
“He’ll be fine, dearies,” Madame Pomfrey said. She’d done a diagnostic spell that the twins had watched like hawks and then just tucked Ron in. Now she was just passing by on her way to the door to the infirmary. “A good night’s sleep and a good meal is all he needs. First visions can be very taxing. There’s a reason that few people develop the skill, you know. It’s hard on the body and mind when you open yourself up to infinity.”
“How does Professor Trelawney figure in that?” Harry asked because he had to say something. All three of the awake Weasley’s rolled their eyes and made little scoffing noises.
Madame Pomfrey looked horribly sad. “Just because you have the Gift, doesn’t mean that it’s useful or that you can deal with what you see, Mr. Potter. Sybill’s family has a bit of a curse, I’m afraid. She’s doing the best she can within it.”
“…Has anybody tried to remove the curse?” Harry asked after a moment where he just accepted that, then another where he really thought about what she’d just said, and then a final moment of pure outrage that anyone would let her suffer under a curse like he’d suffered and not do a damn thing about it.
Madame Pomfrey stared at him, eyebrows rising at his tone and his glare. Before she could answer, the door flung open and a frowsy middle-aged woman in a cute gingham apron and a horrible orange and pink button-front jumper rushed in.
“Ron!” she shouted.
“He’s just sleeping, Mum,” Percy said immediately. He stood and waved her over. “No damage at all. Apparently, he passed out after having a vision.”
“What in the world?” exclaimed Molly Weasley, recipient of the payments that should’ve gone to support Harry. “Ron have a vision? I’ve never heard such a thing. No one in our family has ever had visions before.”
She brushed past Harry, outright pushing him off the bed so that she could sit in his place. Harry jerked at the way her magic screamed inside of her. It wasn’t just Weasley magic. There was another family’s magic, old and deep, that howled with outrage over the blocks. And over something else though Harry couldn’t tell what it was in the short seconds that Molly’s hand had rested on his shoulder.
“Easy,” Fred whispered to Harry as he caught Harry and kept him from falling to the floor. “She’s on one of her rampages.”
“Gets like this after she’s been brewing too long,” George agreed in a low murmur that somehow came out quieter than Fred’s whisper. “Let Percy handle her. He’s got it down to an art.”
Not ten seconds later, a ginger-haired man and a little girl with Weasley red hair and Weasley freckles and another of the horrible jumpers ran into the infirmary. They were followed by two other red-haired men, both of whom looked remarkably like Ron, just older and way cooler-looking.
Draco was outside. So was Susan and Neville and Hermione. And Pansy, too. Oh yeah. Something else he needed to take care of.
“I’ll be right back,” Harry murmured to Fred and George. “I’ll bet they’re all blocked. Don’t touch if you can help it.”
Fred and George nodded, though it lasted all of two seconds as Ginny latched onto George’s waist to cling to him desperately. Harry ran out to the others, pulling Blaise and Pansy off to the side. They both stared at him, confused, before craning their necks to look into the infirmary where Molly was sobbing loudly about her baby boy being injured even though both Percy and Madame Pomfrey were reassuring her that no, Ron was just sleeping.
Maybe he could sleep through the racket because he snored twice as loudly?
Harry shook his head and focused on Blaise and Pansy. “Look, I’ve got to choose someone to be the Heir of Slytherin. Right now. You two are the best choices. Kreacher thinks your mother is very scary, Blaise.”
“She is!” Blaise exclaimed as he put his hands behind his back as if afraid Harry might touch him. “That’s a terrible idea. I don’t know what Mum would do, but it wouldn’t be good for anyone.”
“My dad will have a fit,” Pansy hissed at Harry. “He’ll say that it should’ve gone to him, not me.”
“That’s what Kreacher said,” Harry agreed. “But he’s not here and I don’t know him. I get to choose who, and I already know it can’t go to Draco. The Malfoy magic is too protective of him and Mr. Malfoy. It won’t accept the Slytherin magic. That leaves you. Will you? I mean, I know it’s really sudden, but honestly, it doesn’t have to be super-dramatic. I did that because of Dumbledore being awful.”
Pansy snorted a laugh, wrinkling her nose as she grinned at Harry. “He was horrible, wasn’t he? Why now? Can’t it wait?”
“No, I don’t think it can,” Harry said.
He rubbed his chest which ached not just from worry for Ron but from the Gryffindor magic and the Black magic and the Potter magic all rumbling unhappily about Dumbledore and the Weasleys and everything that had happened.
“No, it can’t,” Harry said. “We need the Slytherin magic and we need it right now. We gotta save the Weasley’s. They’re key somehow and I think Mrs. Weasley might be just what we need to figure out just what Dumbledore was doing and how.”
Pansy bit her lip, looking to the other Slytherins there. Draco nodded encouragingly. Blaise still had his hands behind his back, but he gave Pansy a firm nod that she should do it. Dudley nodded to her, too, and Hermione gave Pansy a thumb’s up which made Pansy blink in confusion for a second and then laugh softly.
“All right, what do I do?” Pansy said. She scowled. “You’re going to help me tell my parents, you know. I’m not telling them by myself.”
“I promise,” Harry said. He held out his hands and then smiled as Pansy took them. “As Heir of the Potter Family and my parents Lily and James Potter, the conquerors of Slytherin, I choose you, Pansy Parkinson, as the new holder of the Slytherin Magic.”
He hesitated as shimmering silver-green magic welled up around them like grass or a pool or maybe like a cloak resting on the floor. It wasn’t the same shade as the Potter magic, a more pure yellow shade of green, but then the Potter magic that stirred inside of him seemed to have shifted more towards the blue end of the green scale. Teal, maybe?
Huh. He hadn’t known that he’d been using Slytherin magic all this time. Interesting.
Pansy’s eyes were very wide, but her hands didn’t shake at all in Harry’s. “I accept.”
“Will you swear to protect people?” Harry asked without any intent to speak. The words just spilled out of his mouth. “Will you swear to guard Magic Herself above your own interests? Will you work to bring safety and security to the magical world in every way possible?”
Pansy started shivering as the Slytherin magic crept up her legs and then slung around her shoulders. “I swear to protect all people, not just magical people or purebloods. I will work to bring everyone safety and security, in the magical world and outside of it, in every way I can. I swear to work by myself and with the other Founders’ Heirs to guard Magic Herself above my own interests and my own survival. if necessary.”
Harry expected something dramatic. For the magic to whoosh around him and Pansy, to make the castle quake or even something as simple as a chiming sound. Instead, the Slytherin magic left Harry entirely and wrapped Pansy in a silver-green glow. It seeped into her until her eyes glowed and her mouth fell open in shock.
“Oh,” Pansy said. “Oh my.”
Then the glow was gone, and the hallway was normal except that Harry felt lighter and more right as Pansy laughed. She pressed her hands to her chest, tears dripping down her cheeks. Blaise leaned closer, peering at Pansy’s face.
“Leave off,” Pansy ordered as she pushed him back, hand firm against his forehead. “I’m fine. That was… that was brilliant, Harry.”
“I feel better,” Harry said with a grin that Pansy mirrored. “Wanna come help me, Susan and the twins free their family?”
“Absolutely,” Pansy declared.
Susan bit her lip but followed Harry and Pansy into the infirmary with a firm stride. Neville and Dudley followed like honor guards and Draco came afterwards with Blaise and Hermione.
Somehow, the magic binding the Weasley’s was much more obvious now that he wasn’t holding the Slytherin magic. Removing that extra burden let Harry see things more clearly, like the Slytherin magic was dust and smudges on his glasses and now it was gone. The magic around the Weasleys was ugly and cruel, warping Molly’s soul and suppressing Arthur’s so much that Harry was surprised that Arthur was even awake. The oldest Weasley son, the one with long hair and an earring, didn’t feel blocked at all. The next oldest, Harry thought his name was Charlie from the complaints Ron had made about his brothers being amazing and him being nothing, was shorter and very strong. He wasn’t blocked, either.
Ginny was profoundly blocked. To the point that it made Harry’s skin crawl.
“That is so wrong,” Pansy whispered to Harry.
“I know,” Harry whispered back. “Come on. Let’s help them. Everyone grab one and we’ll free them. The magic knows how. It’ll just be tiring.”
Both Susan and Pansy nodded. Harry took a deep breath and stepped close to Molly, putting one hand on her shoulder even though Arthur frowned at him and Percy shivered. Behind him, Ginny squeaked and then Arthur gasped.
“What are you doing?” Molly asked.
She turned, staring at him with eyes that were blank other than the shimmer of magic that blocked the color of her eyes. Harry gritted his teeth and pushed hard with his magic, with the Potter and Black magic, with the raging red-gold ocean that was the Gryffindor magic.
The shimmer resisted.
Molly sat, open mouthed and panting as she was caught between Dumbledore’s compulsions and all the magic Harry could bring to bear to save her. Her own magic struggled inside of her, but it wasn’t getting through.
“Mum!” Percy gasped.
He flung his arms around Molly’s shoulders, burying his face against her hair. Then Bill reached across Ron’s bed. Charlie grabbed at Bill’s shoulder and poured magic into Bill where it surged onwards to Molly. Harry grabbed their magic and held on.
Still not enough.
Harry yelped as Pansy grabbed his elbow. Then Susan’s magic joined Pansy’s and then Ginny and Arthur and the twins were pouring magic through Harry into Molly as they tried to save her. It didn’t work. No matter how Harry tried to pull the shimmer of Dumbledore’s magic away, it resisted, and she stayed blocked.
“Open the door,” Ron whispered. His eyes were barely open but the glowed brightly in a pure, white light that was all Ron. Or maybe it was something else looking through Ron’s eyes, talking with Ron’s voice. “Open the door, Harry.”
Door. There was a door in Molly’s head, one that felt oily and slimy like Dumbledore’s spell over Quirrell’s fallen body. Harry gritted his teeth and then grabbed that door in Molly’s head. There was a jolt of pure power straight through him, a scream that seemed to erupt from multiple mouths at once, but then the door opened and all the Weasley magic surged through. Then the Potter and the Slytherin and the Black and Bones and the Gryffindor and everyone’s magic plunged into Molly.
Dumbledore’s blocks on her exploded into shimmering silver fragments that rained down around them.
Harry wheezed and then collapsed forward into Molly’s lap. She was free. They were all free. Finally.
Molly’s hands shook as she cautiously opened the door to the Burrow. It’d taken hours before she’d woken up. Hours after that before she could sit up, could speak, could get across to everyone just how worried she was about the potions that she’d left behind in her workshop.
Granted, Molly couldn’t exactly remember what they were but the darkness in her thoughts around them bothered her. The entire thing bothered her far more than she wanted to admit. Honestly, that everyone could see that she was upset was bad enough. She might wear her heart on her sleeve when it came to her family, but this level of it was ridiculous.
“I don’t see anything,” Amelia said as she eased in past Molly with her wand raised just in case they were attacked.
“There’s some really dark bits attached to your wards,” Lacey said with a ferocious scowl. She held her wand low but very much at the ready in a more European style of dueling than the standard British pose Amelia used.
Odd that there were new Black family members to meet now. That hadn’t happened since well before Molly was born. Not adult members, anyway, and not ones that would acknowledge that Molly had Black blood and a thread of Black magic running right through her core.
Really, why Walburga always insisted that Molly was less of a Black for having been born a Prewitt and marrying Arthur, Molly would never know. Except for how she did know. Bigotry came easily to Walburga, along with stupidity.
Goodness, she was in such a mood. It was good that Arthur stayed behind with Ron. Molly would’ve been snapping his head right off.
“Molly?” Amelia asked.
“I apologize.” Molly sighed. “I’m still a bit scatter-brained. Lacey, I’d greatly appreciate your help removing that. It will need Arthur or Bill, as well, but my workshop comes first. They never had access to it. No one but Dumbledore and I did.”
The looks that Amelia and Lacey exchanged went from worried to dark and dangerous in an instant. Molly took a deep breath and led them across the living room, into the kitchen and then to the warded and invisible door that sat next to her pantry.
“I can’t believe I put a potions lab directly next to my pantry!” Molly huffed, entirely at herself. “The possibility of cross-contamination alone should’ve made me rule that out.”
“True,” Lacey said, laughter in her voice despite the situation. “You’re going to have to either give us access or open the door, Molly. I can’t see it. I can’t even feel it as anything other than an extra ward in the room.”
“Agreed,” Amelia said. There was no laughter at all in her voice, or her eyes when Molly turned to look. “The spells will take you again, you know.”
Molly shuddered. “I know. They’re designed to. I can remember my attitude, my attention, my very memory shifting depending on which side of the door I was on. He was… I don’t know what he had me do but it’s terrible and it has to be stopped. Stun me. Do whatever you have to if I get in the way. Just make sure that the potions in there are destroyed.”
“I can cast a pretty good wardbuster through the door that’ll blow the whole thing out the far wall,” Lacey offered.
“We need to know what he had her doing,” Amelia growled as if she wanted to stun Lacey.
“No,” Molly said. She bit her lip. “No, that’s not the most important thing. We need to destroy those potions. If we can learn what they are, that’s lovely. I keep very detailed notes in a profoundly warded journal. It will survive anything short of Fiendfyre.”
Amelia grumbled but finally nodded. “Fine. Let’s get this done. The sooner we’re finished here, the sooner we can track Dumbledore down.”
“Or catch up on Harry and the kids,” Lacey said with a shake of her head that felt like Molly’s exhaustion every time the twins got into another scrape. “Merlin knows, they’ll probably have that figured out by the time we get back.”
Given what she’d heard about the Hogwarts library and the elves and the Founders’ magical legacies that Harry’d freed, Molly could easily believe it. She nodded to Lacey and Amelia to be at the ready. Then she passed her main wand over to Amelia, her secondary wand to Lacey, and then put her hold-out wand into the sugar jar.
It never did work right when it was covered with sugar. That was the best she could do to keep the others safe.
Molly gripped the doorknob, feeling the wave of silver sliding back into her brain. It slipped right past all the shields and charms and spells that had been given to Molly, past all her defenses. There was a moment where she could feel pure rage, masculine rage…
“My word, when did you two get here?” Molly asked, utterly annoyed that she’d been interrupted before she could finish her latest batch of potions. “What can I do for you girls?”
The stunner aimed at Molly nearly hit her. She rolled to the left, reaching out to her wand in the sugar jar, summoning it wordlessly. Sugar sprayed everywhere. Molly flung a cutting curse towards the intruder who had to be polyjuiced to look like Amelia. Damn them, whoever they were, they weren’t going to take Molly or her family.
The other intruder shot a wardbuster from a crouch. Molly threw up a shield, but it was too late because the wardbuster wasn’t aimed at her. She screamed along with the silvery stream inside of her head that made it so hard to move and think and do anything but fuss over potions.
Molly grunted as her back hit the wall, her knee hit her nose hard enough to make Molly see stars, and her shield collapsed under the explosion of her workshop.
The Silver in her head fled as Molly collapsed to the floor, bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth. Consciousness fled with it.
The library was absolutely the most brilliant thing Harry had ever seen and that was saying something after everything that’d happened since he got his letter. It’d been pretty spectacular before, full of incredible books that reshelved themselves and spelled nooks where you could get an extra five or ten minutes of studying compared to everyone else if you were properly quiet and respectful.
Now it was enormous, easily as big as Hogwarts herself. The bookshelves seemed to extend for miles and miles. There were six stories of shelves along the wall, going up into torch-lit darkness, and what looked like at least four floors of bookshelves on floating platforms that you could walk up to by staring at the platform you wanted and starting to climb. The stairs would form under your feet, but if you lost your focus, they’d disappear, and you’d spiral down to the ground like a feather in the breeze.
Hermione and Dudley had found that one out by accident. Draco and Dudley had then spent a good half hour doing it deliberately, laughing like loons every time they drifted back down to the ground. All the first-year students were here, looking at the books, the library, or just sitting quietly and staring at everything in awe.
All the Ravenclaws were there, no matter what year, and all of them looked like they’d died and gone to heaven. Except for the ones who looked like they wanted to cry because the organization they’d memorized no longer held. Actually, when Harry stopped to watch, the Ravenclaws seemed to be alternating between delight and horror in the changes.
A few upper year students from the other houses were there, poking around and making shocked noises at the changes. Percy Weasley had stuck his head in and then scurried back to the infirmary to be with Ron and the rest of his family. That he’d come away to look at the library said a lot about just how much he wanted to be there despite Ron’s condition.
Dudley and Draco landed next to Harry and Blaise, both of them laughing like fools as they ran back to try for a different platform. Hannah scowled at them before frowning like she intended to go to war and climbing the invisible stairs towards the top platform where Susan and Hermione were urgently chatting with Pansy about something.
“Seriously,” Harry huffed to Blaise. “What is it with them?”
“At least they’re having fun,” Blaise said with a disinterested shrug. “Do we have any idea of how we’re going to find stuff on Dumbledore, Grindelwald and Nurmengard?”
“Yep,” Harry said. He grinned when Blaise stared at him with awe. “We’re gonna ask Madame Pince for help. She’s the one who knows the library and it knows her. The best thing for it is to ask and adult for help.”
Blaise huffed and rolled his eyes. “And here I thought you’d have something cool to teach me.”
“Eh, I don’t. Maybe she will,” Harry said
Harry blew out a breath as he finally found his way from the front door of the Library back to Madame Pince’s office door. It wasn’t anywhere near where it’d been when they’d left the library. Maybe it moved around now, like the stairs?
He knocked, flinching slightly as Madame Pince flung her door open.
“Oh, Mr. Potter,” Madame Pince said much more gently that it looked like she’d been about to. “What can I do for our resident miracle worker?”
“You can work another miracle,” Harry said, blushing and grinning at her. “Because I all I did was ask questions. You did all of this. But now I don’t know how to find the books I need, especially since I know those books weren’t in any sort of catalog or index or anything.”
Madame Pince smiled at Harry, a smug, fond little smile that usually preceded adults attempting to smooth his hair. She didn’t, thank goodness, try to make his hair behave. Instead she waved for the two of them to follow her towards the center of the study area near the main doors.
“The books are already cataloged, Mr. Potter,” Madame Pince explained. “That was what my spell did, in combination with the Library itself and your magic making space for everything.”
“I didn’t do that!” Harry exclaimed because no. No, he hadn’t. That’d happened all without him.
“I suppose I shouldn’t say that it was you, personally,” Madame Pince agreed. She nodded to Harry anyway. “It was more the magic that the Founders left in Hogwarts that adjusted space in the library to make room. The magic you’re heir to as opposed to your personal or family magic.”
“Oh.” Harry blinked and then blushed when Blaise stared at him. “I mean, yeah, I noticed something going on, but I didn’t really do anything? It was just… happening.”
“Exactly,” Madame Pince said.
She straightened like every single teacher did before they started the formal part of a new lesson. Every single student in the area, other than the Ravenclaws who were busy despairing of their organizational structures at that moment, focused on her.
“The Catalogia spell is a very useful and very powerful one,” Madame Pince said. “It’s used for organizing not just books in a library such as this, but also adding and removing entailed books to a Family Library. If you focus and use the correct gestures you can use the spell to organize your personal homework and other writings, which I will demonstrate and instruct those interested on later,” her frown made the Ravenclaws subside. They’d looked about ready to mob Madame Pince.
“In addition,” Madame Pince continued, “you should use Catalogia to ask the library to retrieve the books that will be most useful for your current research project. With an additional swirl of your wand and the proper focus, you can get tangential research targets to expand your essays to be more detailed, thorough or complete. And yes, I expect all of you to use it starting now. The Library is no longer damaged. It will return proper results instead of gibberish.”
Harry turned to Blaise who had both of his eyebrows so high that they all but disappeared into his hair. “Hermione is going to scream that she missed this lecture.”
“I’ll be giving it repeatedly until I have everyone, Mr. Potter,” Madame Pince said. “You simply get to go first.”
He squeaked at that, and then huffed when Blaise gleefully shoved Harry right over next to Madame Pince. Learning a new spell with everyone watching was utterly nerve-wracking, but not too difficult. It was like the Library and the Gryffindor Magic wanted him to know it, so they sort of outlined it in his head as Madame Pince demonstrated the swish, twist and thrust over your head moves required by the spell.
Harry bit the tip of his tongue as he practiced the wand movements. Only after Madame Pince gave him a nod of approval did Harry focus on what he really wanted.
Which was information on Nurmengard. On Dumbledore and Grindelwald and what they were to each other. On where to find them. And, especially, on what they might be up to.
“I’m going to end up with so many books.” Harry sighed as he stood in the spot, marked by an engraved box on the floor, where you were supposed to cast the spell. “Catalogia!”
He held the things he wanted clear in his head, especially the part about what Dumbledore was up to and how to defeat him, as the Catalogia spell swirled around him. It felt sixteen times more dramatic being inside of the spell than it was being outside of it. The Library shuddered.
Hogwarts seemed to shudder.
Then the floor rumbled near his feet and a set of stairs opened up leading downwards. Madame Pince gasped, both her hands flying to her mouth. Three books drifted out of the swirl of magic, landing gently right in front of Harry’s feet.
“I don’t think you were supposed to do it that hard, Harry,” Dudley called from up on the second platform from the top. “I saw the trees in the Forbidden Forest shaking through the windows.”
“I thought I was the one shaking,” Harry said, horrified.
“Nope,” Dudley said. He grinned and jumped off the platform to drift down next to Harry and his brand new set of stairs going who knew where. “Whatcha got? We gonna go black That Man’s eye for Mum?”
Harry picked up his books. They were small, bound in soft doeskin in a natural tan, and barely half an inch thick. The first one said “Diary of Arianna Dumbledore”. The second was “Grindelwald’s Journal, Keep Out!”. And the third had nothing whatsoever on the cover but it was bound with a silky cord that was neon lemon yellow braided with sparkly purple and an oily grey.
“I… think we’ll need Aunt Petunia for these,” Harry said. He looked down the stairs which were very dark but looked nice and sturdy. All stone with very little wear. “Um. Do you know where this goes, Madame Pince?”
“It’s the entry to the Founders’ Library,” Madame Pince said from behind her hands. She was shaking as she stared down it. “Only the Founders’ Heirs will be able to go down it, Mr. Potter. Only you and Susan.”
“Oh, no, it’s me, Pansy, Madame Bones and a guy who’s in France,” Harry said. He bit his lip. “I guess we should call him. I was really seriously focused on what we needed to stop Dumbledore. If this is the answer I got, then we’ll probably need him.”
“Mum?” Dudley asked.
Pansy drifted down with Susan and Hermione. “I swear, you get into the most ridiculous situations, Harry. I felt that all the way down to my toes.”
“I sort of felt it,” Susan said. “I think we need Aunt Amelia.”
“Right,” Harry said. “Back to see Aunt Petunia and make some floo calls. Hopefully one of the grownups will know what we need to do once we’re down there because I sure don’t.”
Pansy winced when she looked down the stairs. She waved a hand and a door, wooden and carved into four quarters that were decorated with the House colors and seals, flew into place on top of the open stairwell. There was no handle. Maybe there didn’t need to be if only four people could ever go in.
“Let’s go,” Pansy said. “The sooner we get this sorted out, the sooner things can go back to normal. We’ve got classes and tests and essays we should be writing. All of this running around isn’t going to get us our OWLS or bring us success in life.”
She marched off, leaving Harry and Dudley to scramble after her. Hermione stayed behind, already asking about the Catalogia spell along with about fifteen upper year Ravenclaws, six Hufflepuffs and all the rest of the first years who were on the main floor. Madame Pince was going to be teaching them that spell for hours and hours.
Which was fine. Harry had the books he needed and, maybe, more of an answer than he had before. Now he just had to figure out how to put it all together in a way that meant Dumbledore would go down and Harry and all his allies would survive intact.
Amelia shuddered and rolled to her feet, wand in hand, before she had any clue what had happened. Her head throbbed abominably. Every single inch of her back felt like it was bruised. She could smell blood, but thankfully she didn’t seem to be the one bleeding.
“Thank Merlin you’re finally awake,” Lacey snapped at Amelia. “Get up and help me stabilize the Burrow, woman!”
That got Amelia out of her defensive crouch and onto her feet. Damn it all, that was where she was. Molly. The Burrow. Whatever Dumbledore was up to. They’d come and the door had slapped more controls on Molly and now…
“Hellfire,” Amelia complained as she started throwing stabilization spells over the hole blown out of the Burrow’s kitchen wall.
Then over the rafters, the walls, most of the rest of kitchen and outwards from there because the place was on the verge of falling down on their heads. Lacey sighed like she’d just had a million tons taken off her shoulders. She shook her wand hand out and then cast the sort of wards that Amelia had taken down before but never seen put up.
Beautiful, elegant, highly efficient; Lacey’s wards were gorgeous things that spun out like silver starlight with pearls, diamonds and water droplets. The longer she cast, the better the Burrow looked. The walls straightened. The floor above them solidified, the gaps between the boards closing. Then the doorway to Molly’s workshop, shattered and broken, squared up until it almost looked like it was normal again.
“That’s done it,” Lacey said with a huge sigh of relief. “We can leave it be for Molly and Arthur to fix when they get back. How’s Molly?”
“No idea,” Amelia said. She stopped casting and turned to look around the room.
Molly lay crumbled on the floor opposite her workshop door, blood flowing freely from her nose and mouth.
“Hellfire,” Amelia cursed as she hurried over to see whether or not Molly was dead, dying or had just broken her teeth by hitting the wall face-first.
It didn’t take long to see what had happened. Knee to the face was one of those things that they trained you to avoid in the Aurors. Pity Molly hadn’t had that training. She’d nailed herself solidly and broken her nose. The teeth were probably loose but that was easily fixed with a simple dental spell. Madame Pomfrey could handle it, no problem.
“Took a knee to the face but she’ll survive,” Amelia said as she used levicorpus to pick Molly up. “We have anything useful out of there?”
“Accio Molly’s journals,” Lacey said, wand at the ready in case something much worse had been spelled into the workshop to keep her secrets.
For once, things went their way. Amelia braced for another attack, another spell, something horrible but all that happened was three embroidered journals sailed out of the destroyed workshop and into Lacey’s hand.
“Let’s head back,” Lacey said, shrinking the journals and putting them into her pocket. “I’d much rather Molly open these. They’re sure to be spelled somehow and she’s the only one who knows what the security measures are.”
“Agreed,” Amelia said. She laughed a bit ruefully. “I want to make sure that Susan hasn’t gone and done anything stupid while we were gone.”
“Oh, I doubt that it would be her,” Lacey said with her own rueful little laugh. “Harry and Dudley are far more likely to be the ones doing stupid things than her. They’re enthusiastic about trouble, so often. Such boys.”
Amelia tried not to smile. She really did. She failed when Lacey rolled her eyes.
“There’s a reason I was delighted that Susan is a girl,” Amelia said. “They get into much less trouble at this age. I don’t have as much to worry about until she’s older. I’m not looking forward to the dating age, though.”
“Oh, well, you’ve not got to worry about boys at that point,” Lacey said with entirely too much confidence. “Susan’s not going to be interested in them. I’d guess that she and Hannah are going to be a thing long before then, though. I saw that sort of bond forming several times at Beauxbatons.”
She was entirely too serious about it as she led the way to the Burrow’s fireplace and then offered a hand so that she could touch Molly and floo to Hogwarts with her. Amelia sighed and let her take care of Molly. Damn it all, she’d really hoped Susan would be reasonable and be a late bloomer. A very, very late bloomer. Just her luck that she didn’t get that.
“Journals,” Aunt Petunia said as she turned over the books that Harry had gotten from the Hogwarts libraries. “How mundane. I wouldn’t have expected That Man to do something as simple as keep a journal.”
Harry nodded. “What I want to know is who is Arianna Dumbledore? His mother? Sister? Daughter?”
“Arianna was Albus’ younger sister,” Professor McGonagall said in a faint, pale sort of voice that made Harry stare at her with worry. “She died very young. There was some… trouble when she was younger than you, Mr. Potter. Her magic was unreliable, uncontrollable. No one knows how she died.”
“Trouble?” Harry asked.
Pretty much as soon as he asked, he could tell from Professor McGonagall’s face just what sort of ‘trouble’ she meant. Grownups only got that sort of face when they talked about very young people getting molested. Or raped. Aunt Petunia seemed to see it instantly, too, because she frowned and took Arianna’s journal out of Harry’s hand.
She started flipping through the journal, an intense scowl on her face. The scowl went sad and then furious and then miserably sick. Aunt Petunia stopped reading, staring at one page. Professor McGonagall came over and read over Aunt Petunia’s shoulder, but only for a moment. Then she shut her eyes and turned away, one hand over her mouth.
“Rape?” Harry asked Aunt Petunia because not knowing was worse than knowing.
“Mm,” Aunt Petunia agreed, nodding once. Her lips were so thin that they practically disappeared entirely. “And then her family locked her away, refused to get her any treatment, and eventually she was only allowed to see her brothers and That Man’s lover, Grindelwald.”
“What?” Harry squawked. “But why? She didn’t do anything! There was no reason to treat her that way.”
He would’ve protested far more but the floo flared into life and Madame Bones came through with Lacey and a bloody-faced Mrs. Weasley. Thankfully for Harry’s heart which had just about stopped at all the blood, Mrs. Weasley groaned as they came though, one hand going to her head. Professor McGonagall rushed over and cast several swift silent spells on Mrs. Weasley which made her sigh and subside though her eyes were open.
“What in Merlin’s name happened?” Professor McGonagall asked, fussing over Mrs. Weasley.
“The spells on her workshop were a lot more robust than expected,” Lacey said. She sighed and waved her wand to set Mrs. Weasley down on the floor. “I had to throw a wardbuster into her workshop to stop it from taking her over entirely.”
“It blew up,” Madame Bones agreed, helping Mrs. Weasley up and into one of the chairs in front of Dumbledore’s desk. “Knocked both Molly and I into the wall. When she hit, her knee impacted her face. That’s where the blood came from. She should be fine. Poppy can handle all of this easily.”
“I seriously hope so,” Professor McGonagall huffed. She did another spell and a silvery cat erupted from her wand. “Poppy, I need you in the Headmaster’s office. Molly has some minor injuries which need treatment.”
The cat zipped away through the walls, leaving Harry and Dudley staring after it. Wow, another spell Harry wanted to learn. It looked super-useful if you could send messages to people like a quick phone call. Mrs. Weasley, thank goodness, was sitting up fine, lightly slapping at Professor McGonagall’s hands like she didn’t want anyone fussing over her.
“I’ll be fine,” Mrs. Weasley insisted though her words came out all mushy. “Tell me you have my journals.”
“I do,” Lacey said. She pulled out three shrunken journals, passing them over to Mrs. Weasley who huffed and then winced as if that little breath was too much for her face to handle. “Didn’t check them yet. I wasn’t sure what security you put on them.”
Mrs. Weasley barked a very un-funny laugh. “Blood. You’d have been fine if you had my blood on your hands. This is the current one. Let’s see…”
She started reading. Almost immediately, she started spluttering with outrage that made color rise on her cheeks to match the blood on her face. Almost like the color of her hair, actually. Harry bit his lip, turning to Aunt Petunia who was skimming through the journals he’d found in the library. She had just as grim, outraged an expression as Mrs. Weasley.
“He was working to create a ‘better’ world,” Aunt Petunia said, glaring at one page like she wanted to set it on fire. “Which by That Man meant one wherein the Muggleborns were subject to control by the Purebloods and the Squibs were forbidden to interact with magic at all. All with him and his ever so perfect lover in charge.”
“By whatever means necessary,” Mrs. Weasley agreed. Her words still came out mushy but she seemed too angry to care if her face was bloody and her lips swollen and her nose seemed too flat. “He had me brewing various personality altering potions, several mind control potions and one, a recent addition, that could be used to outright enslave someone and tie their magic to yours. He insisted that it had to be done by Halloween though I’ve no idea why.”
Dudley smacked his fist into his hand, glaring. “That’s the day that Harry’s parents were killed. I bet he was gonna do something to Harry that day, like, tie it back into what’d happened then and make a full loop of it all.”
All the adults turned to stare at Dudley. So did Harry because wow, Dudley really had been paying attention to all the stuff he’d read with Harry. There were dozens of the old so-called Inaccurate books that claimed that you could do rituals that tied back into past events, drawing power from them or adding power to spells cast then to get new results.
Pansy and Susan stepped out of the corner where they’d been quietly waiting, out of Aunt Petunia and Professor McGonagall’s direct path of outrage. Susan looked terrified. Pansy looked utterly furious, eyes sparking with green and silver magic that was so familiar. It was strange not to see it in his own magic anymore.
“Harry opened the way down into the Founders’ Library, Madame Bones,” Pansy said. “He thinks, and I agree, that we need all four of the Founders’ heirs to head down into it.”
“I was very focused on what I needed to defeat Dumbledore,” Harry explained when Madame Bones frowned at first Pansy and then at Harry. “We got three journals, Dumbledore’s, his sister Arianna’s and Grindelwald’s. Plus we got those stairs. So, maybe, the journals will tell us what he’s after. And what we need is down in the Founders’ Library. But I think we’ll probably need the Ravenclaw heir, too. Nothing works against Dumbledore if you do it alone. You need allies to win, all the allies, working together.”
Madame Bones nodded slowly. When Aunt Petunia offered Dumbledore’s journal, Madame Bones took it. She skimmed through it, much like Aunt Petunia had. Harry bit his lip because she showed the same sort of responses. Anger, disgust, fury, despair, regret and then the sort of iron determination that made Harry stand straighter and Dudley stand like a bodyguard at Harry’s side.
“We have to stop him,” Mrs. Weasley said as Madame Pomfrey rushed up the stairs, white apron fluttering. “Immediately. This can’t go on. We can’t allow him to do this, Amelia! I won’t let him use me this way!”
“You’ll sit right there,” Madame Pomfrey snapped at Molly, “and let me heal you before you go off on one of your rages, Molly. Don’t make me stun you. You’d have a terrible headache for days afterwards if I did have to.”
Mrs. Weasley settled back into her chair, grumbling under her breath as Madame Pomfrey worked. Madame Bones ignored both of them in favor of skimming through first Arianna’s journal and then Grindelwald’s. His made her go so pale that Harry took a step closer so that he could put his hand on her elbow.
“They were equals,” Madame Bones whispered. Not to Harry. Not to Aunt Petunia or Dudley or even to Professor McGonagall who cupped Madame Bones’ other elbow. “It was both of their idea. They came up with it all together. Dumbledore’s great victory over Grindelwald was just part of their plan.”
“No,” Professor McGonagall gasped. She took the journal from Madame Bones, skimming through the last few pages of it. “Oh, damn them both to Hell! They’ve played us all for fools! That’s it, I’m taking over as Acting Headmistress and seizing control of the wards. Lacey, help me with that. Amelia, you call the Ravenclaw Heir here. Tell him to get his butt here even if it requires an emergency international portkey. I want him here within the hour.”
Aunt Petunia smiled. She took the journals away from Professor McGonagall and from Madame Bones. As Lacey hurried to follow Professor McGonagall off into the back room of Dumbledore’s, now her, office, Madame Bones went right to the floo. Harry would’ve gone her way, but Aunt Petunia put a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“Let them work, Harry,” Aunt Petunia said. “I want both you and Pansy to get something to eat. Not too much candy. Plenty of good, solid food, please. They’re both adults with their full magical resources. You’re children. You’ll need to be well fed and well rested before you do… whatever it is that you end up doing.”
Harry nodded. “All right. Um, should we read the journals?”
Aunt Petunia shook her head very firmly, lips disappearing as she pressed them together again. “No. Definitely not. When you’re an adult, certainly you can read them. I wouldn’t want any child to read these. They’re… even Arianna’s is quite horrible. The poor child was so abused. They were aiming to turn her into some sort of weapon called an Obscural.”
Madame Bones and Mrs. Weasley both stared at Aunt Petunia while Madame Pomfrey gasped and collapsed to her knees next to Mrs. Weasley. At least Mrs. Weasley looked a lot better, despite her horror. The swelling had gone down on her lips. Her nose didn’t look flat anymore. And her eyes didn’t look like they were both going to be black, either. That was magic Harry should learn. Heaven knew, Dudley got enough bloody noses and black eyes that it’d be very useful.
But first, he was going to do as ordered. He’d eat, try to relax, and then see if he could convince Kreacher to tell him what an Obscural was.
Then, with all the other Founders’ Heirs, he’d stop Dumbledore’s plot once and for all.
Albus cursed under his breath as he paced the drab parlor in Nurmengard. Hidden away behind Gellert’s ‘jail cell’, the parlor was a windowless stone square with only the sparest of furnishings to make it more comfortable. No banners, no colorful carpets, just a set of black leather covered couches, three grey leather covered armchairs and bookshelves filled with books.
He’d locked the wards down entirely after being driven out of Hogwarts. There had been no choice whatsoever about that. Albus couldn’t keep control over Hogwarts and its so-important ley line nexus if the Founders’ Heirs claimed their power. Especially if the Gryffindor Heir claimed his power, damn the boy. So many plans fallen to pieces and all because Harry bloody Potter refused to be the cowed, abused child he was supposed to be.
So now he was here, in Nurmengard a full four months ahead of when he should have been, with Gellert looking at him as if Albus had no reason to be in a strop.
No matter how many times Albus had offered to bring in something a bit more colorful, Gellert had refused. Scornfully, his lip curling up as if enjoying color was a personal failing of Albus’. The man might as well be colorblind. Albus certainly felt like he’d been struck colorblind every time he came to live here.
Their ruse of imprisoning Gellert had worked wonderfully over the decades. For six months, Albus would stay at Nurmengard, study in their hidden library, live quietly and comfortably behind Gellert’s official jail cell while Gellert worked in the world under an unbreakable disguise charm.
At the end of the six months, Gellert would return to Nurmengard to rest, study and work on their plans to rule the world. They usually made the switch when the school year started as Gellert had little to no patience with very young children before they’d settled into the spells and charms and potions that made them so marvelously obedient. Albus early went to ensure that the next generation of British Magicals were properly conditioned for their future rulers.
It worked. Beautifully. They’d sculpted Magical Britain for generations, the world over the last twenty or so years since Albus was declared Supreme Mugwump. It was amazing how much one could do to change laws and spell people untraceably with that title.
Gone now, damn that boy.
“Do calm down,” Gellert said from his sprawl on the couch. His hair was neatly combed and pulled back, his beard properly combed. “We’ve made plans for this.”
“You don’t understand,” Albus snapped at him. “Our plans are nothing if everyone we’ve spelled is freed.”
Decades of work. They’d lost decades of work in a matter of days and all because of that blasted Potter boy. He’d spent so much time and effort making sure that the boy’s spirit was broken and that he was utterly isolated, all for nothing.
He’d known, all those years ago, that Trelawney’s prophecy was a harbinger of doom. Not for that idiot puppet, Tom, but for Albus and Gellert and all their plans to save the world. She’d looked him right in the eyes, the silver mind control spells falling away to show the bright white shimmer of a true prophet’s gift, and held his eyes as she pronounced his doom.
Harry Potter was his mortal enemy.
A baby. A mere child. It had seemed so impossible and yet, here he was, driven out of all of his positions of authority, chased right out of Hogwarts which they needed if they were to succeed.
Gellert sighed and stood, moving more like a hunting cat than like the old man he was. They both were old, damn it all. He’d gotten so close to creating the Elixir of Youth with the Philosopher’s Stone. Just a few more months and he’d have been able to brew enough to return them to their primes. The last step they needed to take over the world, short the spells they’d been building on the ley line nexus under Hogwarts.
“Albus,” Gellert said as he captured Albus’ wrist.
“Let go,” Albus snarled at him.
“Albus,” Gellert repeated entirely too calmly, with too much of a smirk. “Breathe. Think. Stop reacting and use your brain. They cannot know what we have planned. So, we have to wait another few years. We will lie low, leave here and go to my other fortress in the Carpathians. This is not the end.”
Albus jerked his wrist free, glowering at Gellert. “Don’t be a fool, Gellert. You’ve forgotten how much care we have to have in public. I was chased away. Chased! I don’t have our diaries. I don’t have the Philosopher’s Stone. I don’t have anything other than Fawkes and he refuses to let me close. That little Goblin stole the Elder Wand! Every tool and every plan we have is now in their hands. They will figure it out.”
Gellert rolled his eyes. “A child.”
“A child with Lily Potter’s elder sister guiding and teaching him,” Albus countered. “I tried to break the boy’s curiosity and will. I failed. He’s gathered an army around him. It’s not just students. Every adult he comes into contact with springs to his aid. It’s uncanny. And they have Hogwarts, Gellert. Hogwarts!”
For the first time, Gellert looked uncomfortable. He frowned, turning away to gesture with his fingers as if he was writing on a parchment. A flick of his hand as if to wipe the parchment clean, and Gellert ran a different series of calculations in his head. That was dismissed more forcefully. A third and then a fourth followed and were dismissed just as quickly.
“We need to stop them,” Gellert said finally, his eyes glittering as black and hard as they had when they were both young. “Immediately.”
“Finally,” Albus huffed. “I doubt that Fawkes will allow you close enough to him to transport us both.”
Gellert smirked again as he caressed Albus’ cheek in a way far more promising of private time in the dungeon than dealing with their enemies. Though they could certainly indulge afterwards, of course.
“I have several ways that we can get there unseen,” Gellert said. “We’ll need to get a replacement wand for you out of the stores. I’ll want my wand back.”
“Of course,” Albus said.
Decades of practice had allowed them to use each others’ wands interchangeably. There were many times where it was… helpful… to have an untraceable wand. Albus’ image as a light mage had to be maintained, whether it was Gellert or Albus filling the colorful robes that Albus had chosen. Whoever went out into the world carried both the Elder Wand, damn Filius for a thief, and Gellert’s wand hidden away.
Really, this was intolerable. Just a few more months, six or seven years at most, and they would have had everything in place. Both of them could have been out and about in the world instead of taking turns playing ‘the Great Albus Dumbledore’.
They’d just have to take care of Potter and his allies quickly so that things could get back on track.
Gilles Fawley was a tall man with white hair and a scar on his chin. He frowned as Aunt Petunia explained everything that they’d figured out so far. Harry was more than happy to stay in the background even though he knew that the prophecy meant that he’d be shoved into the center of it all soon enough.
Aunt Petunia had her Very Serious Business face on. No way was Harry interrupting right now.
“You’re sure about this?” Mr. Fawley said in faintly French-accented English. “Dumbledore is plotting to control people’s minds?”
“Not just plotting,” Madame Bones said with a scowl that seemed to be her version of Aunt Petunia’s Someone’s Getting In Trouble face. “He’s done it. For generations, across Britain and potentially further.”
Mr. Fawley shook his head, lips pursed and eyes troubled. “It’s hard to believe. The Supreme Mugwump working against the betterment of Magical society.”
“He always says things are for the Greater Good,” Madame Bones said with a little sniff of disdain. “For all I know, that man actually does believe that mind-controlling the entire population of our world is working for our betterment.”
Harry looked at Pansy who looked back at him. She frowned and huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. He had to agree. Having all your freedom, all your curiosity, everything good and happy taken away from you was definitely not serving any sort of Greater Good. Maybe it was better for Dumbledore, but it sure wasn’t good for anyone else.
It was just the five of them. Aunt Petunia had sent everyone else away, even Dudley, to make sure that Hogwarts was properly warded, shielded, defended and armed in case Dumbledore came back and attacked. The Goblins had arrived just before Mr. Fawley showed up, following Professor Flitwick. They had dozens and dozens of armored warriors stationed in the dungeons. The aurors had put all sorts of people around the outer edges of the school property. Mr. Malfoy had come in with a whole bunch of wizards and witches who were blue eyed and blond haired with noses just the same shape as his. They were patrolling the Forbidden Forest for any signs of Dumbledore.
And the Elves were watching, too. Kreacher had marshalled all the Hogwarts elves, giving them tasks from keeping everyone fed to watching the grounds to talking to the basilisk who was much calmer and happier now that she had a nice full belly. There were, apparently, far fewer giant spiders in the Forbidden Forest than there had been.
The basilisk had told Itzy all sorts of ways that someone could get around Hogwarts through the walls, which is what she did when she went patrolling. Itzy was working to convince the basilisk that she should use her gaze to stun anyone who came, unless they were Dumbledore. He could die outright, turned to stone.
“Master Harry,” Itzy said, popping in and making all of them other than Aunt Petunia and Pansy start. “Nice snakey basilisk said somethings that Itzy is concerned about. He asked the Hogwarts elves and they agree. Is very, very important.”
“What is it?” Harry asked as he took Itzy’s hands and pushed some magic to Itzy to clean. It worked beautifully to calm Itzy down so that he stopped shaking.
“There be two Dumbledores,” Itzy said. He shook his head, ears flapping wildly when Madame Bones opened her mouth to argue. “Two! One is here for start of year and stays six months. Other comes after that and does summer things. We is not facing one Dumbledore. We is facing two. We gots to be ready for both of them.”
Harry blew out a breath and nodded. “Thank you, Itzy. We’ll make sure everyone knows. Actually, can you have the Elves tell everyone? They’re way faster.”
“Itzy will do,” Itzy promised. “Master Harry bes careful. Master Ravenclaw and Madame Hufflepuff and scary little Mistress Slytherin bes careful, too.”
Pansy perked up and preened. “I will be. You be careful, too.”
When Itzy popped away, Pansy smirked at Harry. He grinned and laughed. She was a little scary, but it was like she was a much younger version of Aunt Petunia. Maybe when she was all grown up she’d be really scary.
Or maybe Harry’s sense of proportion when it came to scary women was off.
That was very, very possible, actually. After all, he had Aunt Petunia and Madame Bones and Lacey and Professor McGonagall and Mrs. Weasley and Madame Longbottom around. All of them were really formidable, way more so than any of Aunt Petunia’s bridge partners. Not that any of them could come close to Aunt Marge’s sheer horribleness.
Either way, Mr. Fawley looked green as he rubbed a hand over his mouth. “Two Dumbledores? Who could the other be?”
“Who else could it be?” Madame Bones said. She glowered out the window of Dumbledore’s office. “It has to be Grindelwald. The Elves said that he’d pretended to do great things a long time ago. That must be what they meant. Grindelwald hasn’t been sealed away at all. He’s been free to walk among us, to spell people and control them, for generations.”
“And they’ve been working to create an Obscural that they could control ever since Arianna,” Aunt Petunia said. “A magical assassin that no one could track. Monster.”
“…Oh.” Harry’s stomach turned over so hard that he had to clap a hand over his mouth. Aunt Petunia was just there in front of him, her hands on her shoulders as she knelt to stare into his eyes.
“What is it, Harry?” Aunt Petunia asked.
“You said that Obscurals were created from abused kids,” Harry said slowly, around the queasy churning of his stomach. “So there was Arianna, their first attempt, but she died somehow in an argument. And then there was Tom Riddle. He didn’t become an Obscural. He just went crazy and tried to take over the world. And then… there’s me. That’s what he wanted to do to me. An Obscural that he could control, one with the Potter magic and the Black magic and the Gryffindor magic and even the Slytherin magic. All of that power, all ready to attack at Dumbledore’s order. That must be what he was doing when he cursed us.”
Aunt Petunia pulled him into a hug that made his bones creak. She was cursing under her breath, as angry as he’d ever seen her. Ever felt her. For the very first time, Harry could feel her magic moving on her skin. Moving in her voice, really, because it rose and fell in time with every word Aunt Petunia said and how she said it.
“There must be more to it,” Pansy said once Aunt Petunia let him go. “I mean, seriously? That’s horrible and I believe it. I do. But… that doesn’t explain the whole thing about controlling everyone’s minds. It doesn’t explain why he had so many jobs. Headmaster of Hogwarts plus the Wizengamot thing plus Supreme Mugwump. If all they, he, no they, wanted was an untraceable assassin, that wouldn’t require everything else.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” Mr. Fawley said slowly. He hummed while rubbing his hands together like they were cold, massaging his knuckles as he thought. “But the one he took first, the one he was most dedicated to, was Headmaster. Everything else came later.”
Madame Bones nodded. “Right. Let’s get moving. We need to get down into the Founder’s Library. The sooner we see what he was up to, the sooner we can block him. Or stop him outright.”
“Them,” Harry corrected. He stared back into her eyes when Madame Bones frowned at him. “I believe Itzy and the Elves and the basilisk. It’s not just Dumbledore. There’re two evil wizards we have to fight. We can’t forget that or we’ll get blindsided by a rush and get taken down.”
None of them got the reference other than Aunt Petunia who snorted a little laugh that Harry would bring rugby terminology into things. But it was accurate enough. They had to watch out or they’d be surprised and then it would all be over.
Harry didn’t think for a minute that he was a match for Dumbledore.
He sure wasn’t a match for two Dumbledores, especially if they weren’t pretending to be Leaders of the Light anymore.
Albus snarled as he shot a series of hexes up the dungeon hallway towards Severus. Traitorous wretch. After Albus had kept him out of prison and given him a job, he turned on Albus. That first attack had nearly taken Albus’ head off outright. If Gellert hadn’t been aware, primed for a fight, Albus would already be dead.
More than likely temporarily given all the work they’d done to extend their lives, but it would still have been quite inconvenient. Might have delayed them enough that that whelp Potter managed to figure something out.
Severus’ blood decorated the wall of the dungeon nicely. After this was over, Albus would give him to Gellert. There would be no treachery from Severus after that. Gellert always had had a dab hand at training people to obey.
After this was over.
They still had two turns to make it to the proper passage. They had to get to a particular spot if they wanted to get into the Founder’s Library where everything rested. It had taken so long, years of dedicated effort and far too much work, to create the secret entrance. Only they could use it. Not even Potter could open it, no matter what magical legacy he claimed.
“The wards are not happy, Albus,” Gellert murmured.
He twisted his wand and shot a fireball up the passage. The screams from Severus and his useless Slytherin seventh years and pounding feet made both of them smile.
“I’m quite aware of it,” Albus agreed. “Giving me a bit of a headache. We’ll fix it once we’re there.”
“We’ll have to,” Gellert said. He grimaced. “She’s trying to force us out. That’s never happened before.”
“Minerva must have claimed the Headmistress position,” Albus said with a frustrated sigh as the sound of Severus and his students creeping back hit his ears. “Damn that traitor. I thought I had him broken.”
“I thought I had him broken,” Gellert agreed. “Pity. We may need to eliminate him. He was useful, but if he won’t obey, won’t even pretend, he’s worthless.”
They both cursed a blue streak as a band of seventh year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs ran in from the opposite end of the hallway. They must have snuck in through the kitchens, taking the damnable House Elves’ passages to get there. It was the only way to reach that particular end of the hallway without passing Albus and Gellert.
No teacher. No adult. Albus smiled.
He hit them all with the mind numbing spell, the one that worked so beautifully to prepare children for being control charmed. The leaders, a pair of Gryffindor boys bracketing a burly Hufflepuff girl, stumbled. The girl snarled, shook her head and then slapped both of them upside the head. They staggered, shook their heads and then began shooting hexes at Albus.
Shields slapped into place just in time. Albus kept firing spells at them, trusting Gellert to keep him safe. They were stronger together than apart. Gellert wouldn’t betray him. Yet. Possibly not ever, but that remained to be seen. They’d not yet claimed the world, after all. It might prove to be the temptation that pushed them too far.
Mind control charms of all varieties slid off the children. Albus huffed and started shooting cutting curses, hexes and a few firework charms at them. Fireworks in an enclosed hallway made for a beautiful distraction. Also some lovely burns if you didn’t get out of their way fast enough or shield hard enough.
“They’re closing in,” Gellert said through gritted teeth.
“Sewers,” Albus decided. “It’s faster, anyway. She should still be trapped in the Chamber.”
Gellert grunted as one of the Slytherins hit his shields with a stunner so strong it nearly knocked Gellert over. “At this point, I won’t believe anything will go right. Get it open. I’m going to take care of these brats once and for all.”
Albus raised an eyebrow and then shook his head. Ah well. It had been too much to expect that Gellert would keep his temper under control in a battle. Albus fired off a series of flashing explosions that set off shouts of dismay in their attackers. Blinding them to opening the sewer entrance a few feet away was a benefit, certainly, but the real purpose was to blind them to Gellert’s spell.
“No!” Severus bellowed. “Run, you fools! It’s Fiendfyre!”
Ah well. Pity that Severus knew the spell so well. Gellert wouldn’t catch half as many of the whelps as he would have otherwise. Albus waited until the fire had grown so hot and so wide that it was roaring up the passageway in both directions before he grabbed the back of Gellert’s robes and hauled him into the sewer.
They shut the door together, shielding the entrance with everything they had so that the Fiendfyre wouldn’t get in.
It worked. Of course. Gellert was a grandmaster of that particular spell.
Albus laughed as Gellert claimed a quick, hard kiss. “Later. The dungeons will still be there.”
“Mm, I’ll hold you to that.” Gellert nodded up the passage. “It’s roundabout but it should get us there. I directed it upwards and outwards, not deeper into the dungeons.”
They both knew the sewers like the backs of their hands. How could they not? They’d spent decades exploring, spelling and controlling Hogwarts until she did what they wanted, when they wanted. How irritating that she was fighting against them now.
“So much work we’ll have to redo,” Albus grumbled as they turned right, then left, right and another right. “She’s fighting us horrifically.”
Gellert put a hand on Albus’ shoulder. “Do you hear that?”
It took a moment. Albus’ mouth dropped open as he heard the slither of scales against the cool stone tunnels. He couldn’t have. Potter couldn’t have freed the basilisk.
“How is he doing this?” Albus hissed as both he and Gellert cast protective mirror spells over their faces. “He’s a first year. He was isolated from everything magical. I cursed those Muggles until they should have been abusing him half to death.”
“Something clearly went wrong with that part of the plan,” Gellert said. He shoved Albus ahead of him. “She’s free and she’s angry. Run!”
Harry delicately ran his fingertips over the rough stone wall as he followed Madame Bones down the stairs into the Founders’ Library. It was a sort of blueish gray stone, weathered and rough like it had barely been hewn at all before it was mortared into the wall. To Harry’s magic, the Gryffindor part, it felt like home. Like a chunk of his heart that he’d never known was there before.
“This feels so right,” Pansy whispered behind him. “Why does it feel so right?”
“Because we’re the Founders’ Heirs,” Mr. Fawley said behind Pansy. His wand was held high, the tip lit with a silent lumos that Harry desperately wanted to learn to do, too. “We belong here. Hogwarts wants us here. To do something.”
“I just wish I knew what.” Madame Bones growled. “Bottom of the stairs. Let’s see what we’ve got.”
She stepped into a room that sounded small. Her heels barely echoed as she slowly strode out into the dark space. It didn’t stay dark for long. Crystals the size of Harry’s head set into torch holders began to glow as soon as Harry, Pansy and Mr. Fawley reached the bottom of the stairs.
It wasn’t a small room.
It was oval, about the size and shape of a small auditorium with terraces that took four steps down into a central area that had a huge table, a pool and several metal things that Harry didn’t recognize. The bookshelves were filled with heavy leather-bound books all around the outer rim of the room. The second smaller terrace had books bound in fabric of all colors and types. The third smaller still terrace held racks full of scrolls carefully wrapped in silk with lovely ribbons that said what they were. The final terrace had a half-height set of bookshelves that were full of artifacts.
Gold and silver, stone and wood, wire wrapped around bone; the artifacts were weird and wonderful and scary all at once.
“That’s… the Philosopher’s stone,” Mr. Fawley whispered. He pointed towards a small platinum cauldron with a milky-white stone suspended over it in a cage of gold wire. “They’re making youth serum.”
“Or something worse,” Madame Bones whispered in a horrified voice that made Harry reach out for Pansy’s hand.
He sort of expected Pansy to bat his hand away, but she gripped his hand hard enough to make him wince. Harry didn’t tell her to stop. He just slowly approached the table and the pool set in the floor.
Harry really didn’t want to be close to those wire things.
They smelled like blood. Like old dead things. The rust on them might not actually be rust. It looked way too much like dried blood. Harry had seen that often enough before the curses were broken. All Dudley’s beatings had taught Harry exactly what blood and pain and death were.
“That’s Dark,” Pansy whispered.
“It is,” Mr. Fawley agreed. “Don’t touch it, children.”
“We need to know what it does,” Harry protested even though he didn’t want to touch the thing at all. Any of the ugly, nasty metal things with their dried blood and bundles of herbs that might actually be bones wrapped with dirty rags.
Madame Bones nodded grimly. She was the one to approach the wire things. Her cursing rose and fell like the waves washing up against the shore. Mr. Fawley set to work examining all the artifacts on the table, which made him curse in French, before he started cautiously poking at the cauldron with the Philosopher’s stone.
“What’s the pool do?” Pansy whispered to Harry.
“Dunno,” Harry replied, jerking his head towards it.
Pansy nodded, lips pressed together and hand grinding Harry’s bones until they might just break.
They edged their way around the pool, looking for anything that might be a trap. Nothing seemed to be. His magic didn’t yell at Harry. It did tug at him, pulling him past the pool and up the other side of the terraces. Pansy frowned at Harry, but she followed along with him.
“Don’t leave the room,” Madame Bones snapped as Harry started patting the wall.
“There’s… something else,” Harry said. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something else here. Right here. It’s important. Can’t you feel it? What we need is in here!”
“…It is,” Pansy agreed. “Come on. Get away from those nasty things and come see. What we need is here. Hogwarts is all but yelling it when you get out of range of those things.”
Mr. Fawley raised an eyebrow. He braced himself and then shot a silent spell at the cauldron under the Philosopher’s Stone. Whatever the potion was in it, it went up in a puff of rainbow-colored smoke. The Stone teetered inside of its wire cage. Mr. Fawley pulled it out and pocketed it with a firm nod.
“Good idea,” Madame Bones said. “Go on up there. I can’t leave these things here intact.”
Whatever her spell was, it was fast and hard and loud and made the wire things crack loudly before they started to melt into a noxious blackened heap on the floor. Madame Bones levitated them together and then hit them again. By the time she was done with her third spell, they’d been transformed into melted, fused hunks of metal that smoked slightly.
“Thorough,” was all Mr. Fawley said.
“It is… You’re right,” Madame Bones said once she joined them at the back wall. “There’s something here. But how do we open it?”
Harry thought about it and shrugged. Asking had worked almost every time before. It might work this time, too.
“Hogwarts, we hear you,” Harry said with his hands pressed against the wall. “Can you please let us in? We want to fix it as quickly as we can.”
The room was silent long enough for Mr. Fawley to sigh as if Harry was being silly and Pansy to cock her head to the side as she raised an eyebrow at Harry. Thankfully, Madame Bones just watched the door.
When she put her hand on the wall above Harry’s, a crack appeared.
Pansy gasped and smacked her hands onto the wall right next to Harry’s. The crack widened, glowing as it went up and down and then turned corners until it was the outline of a door.
“I should have thought of that,” Mr. Fawley said. He put his hand next to Madame Bones and pushed.
The door opened inwards, silent and smooth.
Inside was a small room, almost a closet. The walls were smoother, worked until they gleamed like marble despite being made of that grey-blue stone. Two chairs sat at a very modern worktable. There was a perch, a book, a mirror and Fawkes, sitting on the perch while crooning a very, very sad song to himself.
“Fawkes!” Harry gasped and ran in to him. “Oh, thank goodness you’re all right! I was so worried about you.”
He ignored the way Pansy laughed and Madame Bones choked. Even Mr. Fawley’s incredulous question in French didn’t matter as much as Fawkes and the delicate golden chains on his ankles.
Dumbledore had enslaved a phoenix.
“We’ll get them off, I promise,” Harry told Fawkes. “We just need to figure out what Dumbledore and Grindelwald are up to so that we can stop it.”
Fawkes stared at Harry and then leaned his forehead against Harry’s.
Images filled Harry’s mind. A spell, sweeping outwards from Hogwarts along lines in the earth. Everyone it touched was affected and it touched absolutely everyone, everywhere. The Magicals’ eyes went silvery and they all started walking in perfect unison. The Squibs screamed and screamed, clawing at their faces and eyes and throats. They fell to the ground to kick and scream until foam came from their mouths. Then they didn’t move anymore.
The Muggles… died.
They just fell over, life lifted right out of them by the spell that would cleanse the world of everything but the Magicals that Dumbledore and Grindelwald thought were worthwhile. Only a million or so Magicals would be left, every single one of them controlled.
Then Fawkes’ magic swept out along with the spell, burning everything non-magical away. The bodies of the dead, the living but insane Squibs, every building and car and plane that Muggles had built was sent up in flames so fierce that they were consumed utterly. Ash drifted to the ground in blankets in places. Thinly in other places.
Fawkes let Harry go.
He staggered backwards and fell on his bum. Pansy was crying, her hands over her mouth. Madame Bones was as white as a ghost while Mr. Fawley heaved great breaths in and out like he was trying not to throw up.
“No,” Harry said as he dragged himself back to his feet, back to Fawkes. “No. I won’t let them. I won’t let them do this, Fawkes! Not to anyone but especially not to you!”
Albus had always been a fuzzy-headed nincompoop when it came to students of Hogwarts. He would, endlessly and eternally, believe that none of the little wretches could possibly be a threat. Not to the Great Albus Dumbledore, whichever of them was filling those God-awful robes at the time.
Gellert understood very well just how dangerous all of the students were. The teachers, as well. They were vicious, unpredictable animals who would turn on each other or on their teachers in a heartbeat.
Some of them were worse than others. The Potters had been a thorn in their side since they hatched the Great Plan. Albus must have forgotten just how impossible the Potters were in the lull between James’ death and Harry Potter’s return to the magical world. And those Evans sisters! Gellert had warned Albus that they should both be executed with extreme prejudice, but no. They might be useful.
Wooly thinking at its worst.
“The sewers are sealed again,” Albus said, panting as he leaned against the doorway they’d finally managed to get through. Nearly at the Founder’s Library at last. “She won’t get out this time.”
“Not until the Elves let her out,” Gellert snapped at Albus. “Get your shields up, you fool. The entire Malfoy clan his here to kill us.
Albus’ jaw dropped open. “What?”
“That Potter brat apparently saved Lucius from the control spells,” Gellert said. “The Dark Mark is gone. Entirely. Lucius has brought in every single Malfoy there is.”
The battle against the basilisk had taken them through nearly all the sewers before they’d managed to get her back into a tight spot and then seal her in. During the run for the door and safety, Gellert had cast his best scrying spells. The little bits of enchanted paper had flown ahead of them, fastening themselves to the walls, floors and stairs of Hogwarts. Then their spells had activated, letting Gellert see what they saw, hear what they heard.
He hadn’t managed to get them everywhere. It wasn’t necessary. He’d seen enough. That brat Draco Malfoy explaining the situation to his father and mother, a small army of blond, blue-eyed Malfoys in their genteel finest battle leathers.
Albus cursed and strode towards the door to the Founder’s Library.
A torch lifted off the wall and swung at his head.
Gellert shielded Albus, grabbed the back of his robes and dragged him back before the Elves at the end of the hallway could try again.
“And he’s managed to suborn the Elves,” Gellert continued. “They’re bonded to him now. And much stronger than the nasty little things should be.”
“I’m going to cut the boy’s throat myself,” Albus said in the too calm, too controlled voice that meant his temper was just about shot.
“I’ll hold him down,” Gellert promised. “We have two minutes, at most, to take down the Elves before the Malfoys get here.”
Albus nodded slowly. “Brace yourself.”
Even without the Elder Wands, Albus was a terrifying dueler. When he let go, which he rarely did with anyone but Gellert, he was vicious, fast, and bloodthirsty in ways that would give the lie to his so-called “Leader of the Light” reputation.
Six Elves died before they could blink. The rest howled with rage and began tearing up flooring tiles to fling at them like cannonballs. Gellert blocked those, shattering them as necessary but mostly just stealing them so that shortly they had a lovely supply of free stones.
When Albus stunned all the Elves in the passageway, Gellert grunted. Truly, there was no one in the world who was a match for him other than Albus. That they’d managed to fool the world for so many decades as to their true relationship still amazed him.
“Here they come!” Gellert said as Lucius and Narcissa eased down the final staircase and headed towards them.
Thirty Malfoys came behind them, all with their wands at the ready. All of them between Gellert, Albus and their entrance to the Founder’s Library. Well, that couldn’t be allowed to continue.
Gellert waited until they were all in the Dungeon. Then he activated the other spell on the scrying strips. Electricity arced through the passageways, connecting with and making all the Malfoys jerk like marionettes during an earthquake. He held the connection until the strips burned out.
All the Malfoy’s collapsed to the ground, unconscious.
“Elegant as always,” Albus commented.
His smile was back, the black, vicious one that required using glamours on an ongoing basis. Gellert laughed. Albus’ eyes went wide as he stared over Gellert’s shoulder.
The shields went up instinctively.
Gellert didn’t even hear whatever it was Madame Longbottom shouted at them. His heartbeat was too loud in his ears as he fought against the cutting curse attempting to saw its way straight through the strongest shields that Gellert had. Albus levitated a rock into the way of the cutting curse and then pulled Gellert down.
The rock shattered. The remains of the cutting curse gouged a groove into the wall exactly at Gellert’s neck height. Madame Longbottom snarled.
Behind her, the misfit Blacks Anthony and Lacey had their wands at the ready. Remus was with them, eyes glowing gold and fangs obvious in his mouth. His claws were out from sheer rage.
“Oh, that’s not good,” Gellert commented to Albus.
“No, I imagine it’s not.”
Albus stayed focused on Madame Longbottom’s party as Gellert whirled back to the passed-out Malfoy clan.
They were all gone, whisked away up the stairs to be revived. Damn it all. He knew better than to leave an enemy alive behind him. They should have killed the lot as soon as they fell. At least with those injuries it wouldn’t be a quick return to the battle.
Which was going to be utterly vicious.
Sirius Black stood in Lucius Malfoy’s place. One arm was in a sling, but it wasn’t his dominant wand hand. The tip of Sirius’ wand already glowed.
“Always nice to see that my godson is as brilliant as his parents,” Sirius said far too lightly. “Pity that he’s not here to hear the praise, but that’s probably for the best. This isn’t something for children to see.”
More Blacks emerged behind Sirius. Not Bellatrix. She, thankfully, should still be locked away in Azkaban. Hopefully she’d die there. The little bint was too insane to be useful and had been since she was a teen. He’d pushed her… a little too hard in her first year at Hogwarts. Still hadn’t turned her into the Obscural their plans needed, sadly.
“You’re not going to survive this, boy,” Gellert told Sirius.
“Funny,” Sirius said with a grim smile that could have come from his grandfather Arcturus on the dueling platform. “I was just going to say that to you. Both of you.”
“Damn it, they’ve brought the entire Longbottom Clan!” Albus hissed to Gellert.
“You’d best have your worst manners on then,” Gellert said.
“Just like old times,” Albus said.
He laughed, as wild and terrifying as when they were teens together. Gellert grinned and then laughed, too. Oh, these whelps. They had no idea what the two of them could do. Especially here in Hogwarts. She might be fighting them, but it wouldn’t matter. They’d embedded too many things in her walls for this battle to go any way but in their favor.
Harry huffed as he tried to work the chains off of Fawkes’ ankles. They weren’t budging. Not at all.
Fawkes trilled a soft note. It felt like him saying ‘don’t bother’ and ‘you can’t free me’.
“I might not be able to,” Harry said, glaring at those horrible chains, “but together I bet we can.”
“This room is the key,” Pansy said from the table where she’d been studying notes and things that Dumbledore had left behind. “The other room is important because it had all sorts of stuff that they used to be more powerful, but this room, right here, is the key to what they’re doing. The pool out there is for scrying. Apparently, this room is right at the heart of the node of ley lines that supports Hogwarts’ magic.”
The table was made of stone that came right up out of the floor. It looked like it’d been carved out of the bedrock, or like the room had been carved around the table. Maybe it was a table? It kind of looked like an altar, too, but Harry really didn’t want to think that.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald had done horrible things here. If it was an altar instead of a table, that was a thousand times worse. So it was a table. A table covered with runes and spell circles, one that glowed very, very slightly if you looked at it from the corner of your eye.
Definitely not an altar. Nope. Harry wasn’t going to believe it was a defiled sacred space.
Until maybe after it was all over and he could go cry in Aunt Petunia’s arms.
Mr. Fawley hissed as he read over Pansy’s shoulder. “Damn them. The spells are already here. They’re embedded into Hogwarts’ walls. Into her foundation. All the way up to the rafters.”
“Can we break them?” Harry asked.
“Not without breaking Hogwarts,” Mr. Fawley said. He rubbed a hand over his mouth. “If I’m right about the math here, we might just send a wave of destruction through the ley lines that would break every magical enclave on the planet if we tried it.”
Fawkes squawked at that. So did Harry.
“We’re definitely not doing that,” Madame Bones said. “We’ve got to block it somehow.”
“That’s not going to work,” Pansy said. She slapped the table with both hands, so furious that her scowl twisted her face up almost as much as a goblin’s. “That would mean blocking the ley lines and none of us have the power to do that.”
Harry bit his lip. Not good. Very not good.
It was a bit like when Dudley used to go Harry Hunting. Can’t go this way. Can’t go that way. If he went up, he’d hit a block or the teachers who’d get him in trouble. If he went down, he’d be caught.
“Okay,” Harry said as he came over to the table, “if we can’t break it or block it, can we use it?”
All three of them stared at Harry like he’d just lost his mind. Fawkes flamed over to stare at Harry quizzically.
“Well, I mean, the spell’s there,” Harry explained more to Fawkes than to the others. “Is it like an artifact, something that can be used over and over? I didn’t think it was when you showed it to me. It was more a one-and-done sort of thing. So, I mean, can we use it to do something else? That way it’s done and they’re not going to get a chance to do anything else with it.”
He sort of felt like they were still linked, still sharing thoughts on a deep level. There was a brightness to his magic and his mind that was different than it had been before. Fawkes crooned at the thought, the brightness in Harry’s mind increasing as Fawkes perked right up.
“Maybe healing or something?” Pansy suggested.
“Breaking the control spells on everyone would be perfect,” Madame Bones countered.
“That,” Mr. Fawley agreed with a finger wagged in her direction. “We’d best hurry, though. I feel like we… don’t have much time.”
Harry frowned before going to put his hands on the wall. As soon as he touched Hogwarts, she filled him with a huge sense of urgency. They really didn’t have much time. Dumbledore and Grindelwald were both here, battling everyone else. He shuddered.
“They’re sacrificing themselves to give us time,” Harry whispered. He whirled back to Madame Bones and Mr. Fawley, utterly terrified for everyone he’d saved and made friends with and helped. “They’ll die if we don’t stop them! We gotta do something!”
Pansy nodded even though she was very, very pale. “I like the idea of using the spell to break the controls. That way the rest of Britain and the world won’t be under their control. They’ll be able to come after Dumbledore and Grindelwald until they’re taken down.”
“That’s what we’ll do then,” Madame Bones said. “What’s the method?”
There didn’t seem to be a method in the notes. Harry helped the others search for it, his heart pounding with fear and worry for his friends, until Fawkes hopped over and put one foot on Harry’s wrist.
“It’s you,” Harry said. “You’re the key that turns the lock. You’re the trigger for the spell.”
Fawkes crooned a low, sad, miserable note and nodded.
And then squawked in surprise when Harry pulled him close and gently hugged him. He was warm, so very warm. His magic felt a lot like the Gryffindor magic. Like… maybe? They belonged together?
He’d have to do some research later. After this was over. Harry let Fawkes go, biting his lip at the glimmer of tears in Fawkes’ eyes. There would be an after. He wouldn’t let anyone die, not anymore.
“Let’s do this,” Harry said to Fawkes and the others.
Fawkes directed them to the proper positions. Pansy had the southernmost spot on the table. Mr. Fawley had east. Madame Bones took west. And Harry took North, right next to Fawkes who clucked and nodded.
“You’re the one who knows how to break the spells, Potter,” Madame Bones said. She didn’t look very happy about it. “You’ll have to take the lead.”
“It’s… not complicated,” Harry said with a little shrug. “I just throw power at them, all the while grimly determined not to stop until they break. No matter what it costs me. If all of us work together, if we all pour our magic into it, it should work. Especially here, in Hogwarts, in the Founders’ Library. There’s so much power here. If we pull it all in, focus it on freeing everyone,” he caressed Fawkes’ cheek, “it should work.”
Fawkes nodded thoughtfully. He held up one foot, the fine golden chains on them glimmering. Harry touched one again, this time with his magic instead of just his fingers.
“Oh, the spells are all linked to the chains,” Harry breathed. “That’s brilliant! Now I have something to focus on. Okay, you guys pull on your power and I’ll use my magic like a wedge. We’ll throw it all into the spell they were building and then shape it to hammer away at the control spells so that everyone can be free.”
Harry just hoped that it would be that simple.
Hogwarts wanted to do it. Fawkes wanted to. The ley lines were just channels of power, like powerlines overhead. They’d do whatever was sent along them. Hopefully the four of them could twist Dumbledore’s spell into doing something good.
Before Dumbledore and Grindelwald got there.
Gellert’s strangled scream of pain was nearly enough to turn Albus around. There was no thud of Gellert falling. Albus kept his eyes on Minerva and Filius, who didn’t have the Elder Wand, damn him. If he could just get the Elder Wand back, it would be enough of an advantage to set all these idiots right.
So many control spells that would need to be redone. At least Molly’s workshop should be intact. They’d spelled that room every which way to ensure that no one, especially Molly, could enter it without being firmly spelled to obey their orders.
Not that it did them much good right now.
The battle had gone bloody within moments of Sirius’ arrival with the Blacks. For all the work Albus had done to twist Sirius in a new direction, and all the work Gellert had done to ensure that Sirius rejected the Black training he’d gotten as a boy, Sirius fought like a Black. He fought like Bellatrix before she went insane, damn the man.
“My arm…” Gellert panted behind Albus.
“Broken,” Gellert corrected. “Not my wand arm. Bleeding badly though.”
Albus cursed and let loose a whole series of explosive fireworks that curled Minerva’s lip until they went off, knocking everyone on that end of the passageway on their arses. Filius rolled to his feet immediately, but there was blood coming from his nose and ears so the explosions had done damage.
A second set went off at the far end of the hallway that Gellert had been defending. Albus grunted and smiled when Minerva struggled to stand only to collapse back down to her hands and knees. Good. She should know better than to attack them.
“You… won’t win…” Sirius panted from behind Albus.
Albus ignored him as he sent his strongest stunners, four of them fired as fast and as powerfully as he could, at Filius. The first two missed as Filius dodged like a rubber ball thrown hard at the wall. The third caught his ankle, tumbling Filius to the floor. The final one caught him square in the face, knocking the little goblin out. Finally.
Augusta was out, slumped against a wall. Remus was shaking his head as he tried to get up, just like Minerva, but he was so dazed that he was faced in the wrong direction. Good. Let the filthy thing go off against his own allies. That would lower the number of people they needed to fight.
All so that they could go ten feet. Ridiculous fools.
“We will,” Gellert said. His tone was confident, cold, controlled, but Albus could feel the way Gellert shook. Too much blood lost, damn it.
Albus whirled and stunned Sirius, catching him square in the chest. The idiot toppled face-first over one of his cousins, the one who lived in France and who’d refused to so much as shake Albus hand during a World Court meeting. Looked like he was dead, blood pooling under his body. Good. He deserved it.
“That… took out the last,” Albus said, astonished. “Well done, Gellert.”
“Why, thank you, Albus,” Gellert said. His smirk was full-force, despite the blood dripping down his limp arm. “If you could possibly help me with my arm, I’d appreciate it.”
“Certainly,” Albus said.
Healing spells didn’t work as well with his backup wand as with the Elder Wand, but Albus was a dab hand at them. After all these years, he had to be. Heaven knew, they’d done enough damage to each other in the dungeons and in various battles that they were both well beyond mastery of healing spells.
The shout came with a rumble, a blast of random magical energy and a large body leaping down to slam his fists into the floor. Stones blew up off the floor, out of the walls, and cracked into both Gellert and Albus. Neither of them managed to shield properly, but their incomplete, warped, wavering shields covered enough that neither of them was brained by the flying stones.
“Dudley!” Draco Malfoy shouted. “Don’t be an idiot!”
The squib. The damnable Dursley squib! Albus snarled and flung a cutting curse right at Dudley only to miss as Dudley rolled to the side and then slapped his hands together.
The explosion of wild magic knocked both Albus and Gellert off their feet. Albus shook his head and then grinned. Right next to the secret door.
“Up!” Albus shouted at Gellert. “Get in there!”
Gellert hefted the door open. He all but fell inside. Too much blood lost, damn it. Even healing his arm wasn’t going to have Gellert back in the fight soon.
Behind Dudley was a small army of Hogwarts students. And Filch who had a blunderbuss in his hands. Albus snarled at him, threw several explosive fireworks their way, and whirled to go through the door.
Fire seared across his back.
“Get back here you filthy coward!” Minerva shouted at Albus. “You’re not–”
Gellert shoved the door shut, sealed it and then used Albus’ and his blood to lock it tight. As long as they lived, that door was never opening.
“Sit still,” Gellert said. “The cutting curse went deep on your spine.”
“Ah, that explains why my legs aren’t quite cooperating,” Albus said.
He stayed still as Gellert healed the damage. It wasn’t going to be enough to bring Albus back to full strength, just as Albus’ healing hadn’t restored Gellert. Too much blood lost, too many battles today; they would just have to make do with what they had.
At least the spells should still be intact. There was no way that the Potter Brat could have…
The ambient magic shifted from resentful and faintly hostile to viciously determined. There was a youthful feel to it, a bright, hopeful, relentless feeling that made Albus’ stomach turn flips. He turned to stare at Gellert who was staring up the dark passageway toward the Founder’s Library.
“They’re already there,” Gellert whispered. “They’ve found our spells, our plans.”
“Get me on my feet,” Albus ordered in a snarl that would have done Gellert proud during their glory days. “We have to hurry before they ruin everything!”
It was so dark.
So mean and cruel, so callous about people’s hopes and dreams and joy. Harry wanted to scream as he focused everything he was, everything he had, everything Pansy and Madame Bones and Mr. Fawley had on breaking the mind control spells on Fawkes’ chains.
Fawkes couldn’t do anything.
Harry could feel all his power, the amazing fire that burned inside of Fawkes, but it was trapped by the spells. Just like Dudley had been trapped inside his curses. Like Mr. Malfoy had been trapped by the Dark Mark. Or Sirius and the control spells keeping him away from the Black Family Magic.
It was all the same thing. Every single mind control spell or curse that he’d faced was the exact same thing, just shaped a little bit differently to match what Dumbledore wanted to do.
Control their minds. Control their lives. Shape them to be nothing more than puppets in Dumbledore’s grand game. His Greater Good.
The sheer thought of this being greater or good made Harry want to scream.
Instead he gritted his teeth and nodded to the others to start hammering away at him and his magic. They would break through. They would. He wouldn’t allow anything else to happen. Fawkes would be free.
The whole world would be free!
If Harry had to die to make it happen, then so be it. He would. He would die to free them all from Dumbledore’s plots, willingly, but he’d much rather win.
The Elves magic surged into Harry as if Kreacher had heard the thought and decided that Harry wasn’t allowed to do anything as stupid as dying. Then the Black family magic, which had been quiet and focused on Sirius, flooded into Harry, too.
So much magic.
So much power, so many people all determined to stop Dumbledore.
The chains weren’t breaking.
“Stop this instant!” Dumbledore yelled from the door. Not the main door, the one they’d come in through, but the other door on the other side of the room.
Blood splattered his face and beard. He’d lost his perfectly-bent-tip wizard hat somewhere. His glamour was gone, showing Harry and the others the real face that Dumbledore hid away from everyone; snarling, furious, hard-eyed and cold-hearted.
Behind him was another old man with white hair and hard, dark eyes. That man had one arm that was soaked in blood, hanging limp by his side. It didn’t seem to affect the aim of his wand.
Grindelwald. They really were allies. Ugh.
“No,” Harry replied. He pushed harder against the spells, throwing his whole soul against the magic that Dumbledore and Grindelwald had created. “I won’t! You won’t win! I won’t let you!”
“You have no idea what you’re doing,” Grindelwald said in a sharp, cold snap that might have made Harry flinch long ago.
Not anymore. Aunt Petunia would’ve given him the cut direct for being that rude. Uncle Vernon would’ve punched him in the face. Dudley would’ve punched him way lower with his magic fists and that would’ve been the perfect response.
“I know exactly what I’m doing,” Harry said even though Pansy was shaking and Mr. Fawley looked like he wanted to turn and fight but couldn’t. “You won’t distract us. This is ending now. God or Merlin or Lady Magic or whoever it is that protects against stupid wizards who think they can make the world in their own image, please help!”
He threw more power into the battle against the chains and then gasped when Fawkes chirped happily.
Suddenly Fawkes’ magic flooded into Harry, too, merging and blending with the Gryffindor magic in ways that made Harry feel like he’d suddenly caught on fire. He could hear the basilisk complaining in the sewers, trapped by Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s magic.
Harry freed her.
He could hear the Elves fretting about what to do now that everyone was hurt.
Harry directed them to get people to safety and then get them healing.
He could hear Dudley complaining as he tried to hammer his way through a stone door that was not ever, ever, ever going to open.
Harry pushed him towards helping Draco and Professor McGonagall get the walking wounded onto their feet and up the stairs.
He felt Aunt Petunia, upstairs, coolly directing everyone what to do, where to do it, when to do it.
She smiled and pushed Harry’s mind back to what he should be doing.
“You’ll destroy everything!” Dumbledore shouted at Harry. “Stop it right now! We’ve worked too hard for you to kill it all, you damnable child!”
There were flames surrounding the altar, because yes, it actually was an altar. Not a table. A sacred space that had been defiled in so many ways that Harry really, really, really wasn’t going to look at, just like he really wasn’t going to open a door in Gryffindor tower without knocking first.
“Help me, Fawkes,” Harry whispered to the golden eyes so close to his. “Help me make it all better again.”
The flames leaped higher, then swept inwards to scour the altar clean. Hogwarts rejoiced in the back of Harry’s mind. She gently prodded Harry and he nodded. Blood. They needed blood of the attackers, blood of the victims, to make the spell shift into something new and better.
“Blood,” Harry said. “Theirs, please.”
“Done,” Madame Bones snapped. She’d only put one hand on the altar at the start, keeping her wand in the free hand. A quick accio sent droplets of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s blood flying up to fall on the altar.
Harry nodded and smiled at Fawkes who crooned before slashing a claw across the palm of Harry’s hand. He turned his hand and smacked the bloody palm into the altar before letting the spell surge into him and through him and through Fawkes.
Help us kill this spell.
Help us stop this monstrosity.
I just want everyone to be free. Free to live their lives instead of serving Dumbledore and Grindelwald.
Please. Help us!
There were people yelling, screaming. Harry tipped his head back as the fire and power and magic of so many people screamed all together with him for freedom, for an end to the evil that Dumbledore and Grindelwald had inflicted on the world.
“Ah, child, you are a wonder.”
A cool hand caressed the back of Harry’s neck. He couldn’t see whoever it was. He couldn’t move or blink or even breathe.
Time had stopped, hadn’t it?
“Yes, for the moment, it has,” the voice said. “It’s quite rare for someone to muster this many behind them. We’re a bit astonished that you managed it so soon. My husband expected that it would take until you were seventeen. My brother was sure that you’d have it done by fourteen. And here we are, with you still but eleven, and you’ve gathered all your allies, all of what Dumbledore and Gellert know not.”
“Yes,” the voice agreed. “You were always to be the key. Through you the world would either be changed, or it would be doomed to continue the same patterns forever. Well done on winning free.”
Oh, that was Aunt Petunia. She was the one who made it all happen. I just did my best with whatever was in front of me.
“True, true,” the voice agreed. “I am quite fond of her, too, but this was your victory, my child of prophecy.”
But they’re still there, still alive and enslaving Fawkes and most everyone else they get close to?
Their laugh was like a bell ringing. Literally like a bell ringing. For that matter, it sounded just like the bells that rang when Harry claimed the Gryffindor magic.
“True,” the voice agreed. “But only in this frozen moment of time. You have a choice. The terms of the ritual you created requires death. You put your whole soul into the spell, you see. All of your magic, all of everyone else’s magic. Only death can set it free. And the prophecy is clear: either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.”
I don’t want to die. I really don’t.
“You must choose,” the voice said and now it sounded like wind, like a raging storm and waves crashing against the beach when you were out without a coat or hat or even good shoes. “Either must die.”
His name was Harry James Potter. He could die. That would free everyone but…
Dumbledore and Grindelwald would still be alive. They’d just start over.
Either… must die.
They both played at being Dumbledore! They were both in the prophecy. It wasn’t Harry who had to die so that they could live. It was Dumbledore and Grindelwald who were trapped together and unable to move on as long as they were tied to each other.
“You do so take after your lovely mother,” the voice said. They laughed again, full of joy and bells that were more like reindeer bells this time. “Very good. Choose. Which do we claim? Which survives to face punishment?”
Harry thought about it for a long moment that felt like minutes but was really no time at all. Who could he choose? There really wasn’t a choice, now was there?
“Dumbledore,” Harry said as time started moving again in a jerk that he felt right down to his toes. “I choose Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore!”
Fawkes’ chains shattered under Harry’s hands.
The fire leaped high as both Dumbledore and Grindelwald screamed.
Dumbledore fell to the floor, eyes rolled back in his head.
Then all the strength went out of Harry’s legs as darkness swooped into his eyes and his brain. He saw, as he fell, Madame Bones fling a cutting curse as wide as the room at Grindelwald. Then heard a twin thud just before unconsciousness claimed him.
Petunia smiled, perfectly properly, as Harry stepped forward on visibly shaking legs. He’d somehow managed to comb his hair into an even worse mangle than it had been before he started. At least his formal suit and robe looked good. Kreacher had spent hours fussing over Harry’s clothes to make sure that they were right.
Queen Elizabeth smiled and patted Harry’s shoulder gently. “Deep breath. This won’t take long.”
“Yes, your Majesty,” Harry said even though his voice shook horribly.
Weeks of practice, weeks of tutoring. Everyone from Draco and Pansy on up to Queen Elizabeth’s personal advisor had coached Harry on how to handle the ceremony in front of the Wizengamot. Pity that none of it had worked.
“Breathe,” Petunia said in her best ‘do not embarrass me’ voice, the one that calmed Vernon, stilled Dudley and always brought Harry up short when he was fretting.
Harry looked over his shoulder, bit his lip and then nodded to her once.
When Harry offered his elbow to Queen Elizabeth, his elbow didn’t shake nearly as badly. The queen chuckled and patted Harry’s elbow before allowing him to lead her into the Wizengamot. Next to Petunia, Dudley huffed as if he wanted to be there, too. Vernon leaned against the wall, tugging at his tuxedo jacket which fit a tiny bit looser about the middle than it used to.
Leaving Grunnings had done them both wonders. All of them, really. Dudley had flatly refused to go back to Smeltings. He was in the new ranks of Squibs invited to join Hogwarts next year. This year he was getting special tutoring along with twenty other Squibs who’d been identified after Harry saved the world.
Such a thought.
Harry Potter, world savior.
James would have been laughing himself sick over it while Lily stared and stared and turned to Petunia with confusion in her eyes. Unthinkable as it was, Harry had saved them all.
The Phoenix of the Potters was his new title in the press. They’d dropped the Boy Who Lived nonsense within hours of That Man’s death. All the reports of what Harry and the other Founders’ Heirs had found and done swept away every old story of Lily and James’ brave sacrifice.
Now the newspapers in Magical Britain were full of stories of what Those Men had done while pretending to be enemies. Generations of torture, mind control, and degradation of magical society. Thousands upon thousands of people who had been forced into lives they never would have chosen. To do things they never would have wanted. The last Petunia heard, the stories were scheduled to go on for months more.
Mr. Swashlin was having a glorious time suing anyone who dared to publish something about Harry or anyone else in Petunia’s family without getting permission.
They’d not been able to prevent that horrible paparazzi woman Skeeter from getting a picture prominently featuring Harry and his new familiar, Fawkes. Thus the new title and the new claims from the stupider and less reputable papers that Harry was the second coming of Merlin.
“How long we gotta wait, Mum?” Dudley asked.
“We wait until the Queen’s people say that it’s time for us to go in,” Petunia said for the sixteenth time today alone. “Do stand up, Dudley. No hitting anything.”
“No, Mum,” Dudley said with a frustrated sigh as he unclenched his fists and straightened his formal robe. “Dun’ know why we gotta wear these stupid robes. They’re right uncomfortable.”
Petunia pressed her lips together to keep from snapping at Dudley. He was just doing it for attention. He knew how much she hated to hear him speak with that accent and he did it so that she’d notice him more. She let out a slow breath, smoothed the robe over Dudley’s shoulder and then nodded when it settled properly.
“It’s expected,” Petunia told Dudley. “Any time now.”
Sirius and Remus were already inside, in their seats. Amelia had gone in earlier, too, bracketed by Gilles Fawley and Augusta who had to use a cane now. Broken hips could be healed in the magical world but when you were as old as Augusta, they didn’t tend to heal perfectly.
She’d asked Silverclaw about it, after the battle when they were counting up the dead and trying to save the still-living. Thankfully, only a handful had died outright. So far, they’d managed to keep all the injured alive. If they were lucky, and Petunia truly hoped that they would be, all the ones still in critical condition would turn a corner soon.
The magic that had always lurked under Petunia’s collarbone quivered. Harry. He was worried, frightened and awed. Petunia hummed and nodded to Vernon, to Dudley. Any second now. They’d just gone in so it would be their turn to be brought in soon.
“If you will follow me, please,” the officious little pink toad that had worked for Fudge said with a disgusting little simper. “It’s time.”
“I know,” Petunia said.
She swept right past Umbridge who went purple in the face to be dismissed that way. The horrible woman was lucky to still be free. The things that Amelia had discovered about her during her efforts to find all of Those Men’s allies. Umbridge might not have been an active ally, but she certainly wouldn’t have objected to anything Those Men wanted to do.
The Wizengamot chamber was quite grand. It had soaring walls painted a deep, lustrous blue. The lower part was full of the Sacred Twenty-Eight sitting in their boxes. The upper levels, high up on the wall, was full of reporters and members of the public. Minerva was up there, beaming and clutching her hands to her chest while nudging Filius with her elbow. Filius grinned so widely that his mustache bristled abominably, clapping along with the crowd as Petunia crossed the chamber, Vernon and Dudley on her heels, to sit with Harry in his box.
“Well, this is lovely,” Queen Elizabeth said. The chamber carried her words easily to every ear in the room. “We shall have to attend the Wizengamot meetings more often. It does no one good for Us to be so estranged from all of you.”
Petunia didn’t snort a laugh. Dudley and Harry both did, but one could hardly blame them. The new Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, looked like he’d about swallowed his tongue in his effort not to protest that. Amelia, on the other hand, looked as delighted as she ever did by the prospect.
“We are here today to celebrate the end of several very terrible threats,” Queen Elizabeth said in a much more stern, serious tone of voice that Petunia fully intended to learn to duplicate. “Our kingdom, as well as the world, have been saved by the actions of a group of very special people. The Goblins are hereby granted full citizenship for their ritual defeat and destruction of Tom Riddle, also known by that ridiculous pseudonym Lord Voldemort.”
Harry lit up with so much joy that Petunia touched his thigh so that he wouldn’t interrupt the Queen. He grinned and nodded that he’d be quiet, quivering with joy that all but radiated off him like the sun. A phoenix for a familiar did have its effects, apparently.
“Hogwarts has long been the premier school for magical society in Our kingdom,” Queen Elizabeth continued. “It is sadly been much abused by both Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Minerva McGonagall claimed the Headmistress position in a time of crisis and acquitted herself marvelously. She is hereby confirmed in the position and authorized to hire as many new instructors and other staff as necessary to bring Hogwarts back to her full glory. I expect great things of you. Don’t disappoint me.”
Amusingly, Minerva looked like she might just faint right out of her chair, even with Filius supporting her and bouncing in his seat. Both Harry and Dudley applauded, setting off a wave of applause in the room that Queen Elizabeth just chuckled at. When she held up a hand, the applause died off.
“Next,” Queen Elizabeth continued, her eyes on Harry now, “We must acknowledge and reward the bravery, curiosity and determination of Harry James Potter. Had you not worked so hard to bring everyone together and thrown your very soul into breaking the evil magic that those men wove, the world would be on a path to destruction. Thank you, Mr. Potter. We are all in your debt.”
Harry went beet red as the entire chamber rose to applaud for him. It went on a rather longer than appropriate time before Queen Elizabeth held her hand up once more.
“We award you rulership over Hogwarts and Hogsmead, which is your right as the Heir of Gryffindor,” Queen Elizabeth said. Her smile went impish. “We further award you access to the Royal Library which has a very nice selection of magical books that have long been ignored. Including several on House Elves, as We have been told that you are particularly interested in them.”
Petunia couldn’t help but laugh at Harry’s delighted gasp. Dudley pounded Harry’s back, grinning just as hard. She was going to have to haul them both out of the Royal Library by their ears on a regular basis. It was obvious already.
“The other Founders’ Heirs are hereby awarded the same access,” Queen Elizabeth said. She laughed when Pansy squeaked and then flung her arms around her father’s waist. “You are directed to help Headmistress McGonagall improve the Hogwarts curriculum with it. As well as explore whatever information is there.”
She turned back to Harry. No, to Petunia and Vernon. Oh dear, no, just to Petunia. Queen Elizabeth’s smile was so kind, so gentle and yet so knowing.
“Every hero comes from somewhere,” Queen Elizabeth said. “We are certain that it was your strength of will and guidance that allowed Mr. Potter to become the young man that he is. We have been informed that you have a sizable vault, legacy of your sister, Lily Potter. It is hereby doubled. We thank you, Petunia and Vernon Dursley. It is Our wish that you both be comfortable as you continue to guide Mr. Potter and young Mr. Dursley into becoming men.”
Petunia wasn’t sure exactly how red her cheeks were as the chamber applauded for the two of them. Across the way in the Black box, Sirius was bouncing much like Filius up above. Anthony stood up even though no one other than Lacey joined him. Then Augusta heaved herself upright to applaud. Harry stood, too, grinning at Petunia and Vernon with so much pride that tears welled up in Petunia’s eyes.
Harry set off a wave of people standing, people applauding. Petunia pressed her lips together and bowed properly to Queen Elizabeth who nodded once before holding up her hand once more.
“Now,” Queen Elizabeth said far more briskly. “Let’s see what you do here. We’re quite curious, quite curious indeed. Do begin the session, Mr. Scrimgeour.”
Everyone sat down. The focus turned away from Petunia, finally. Vernon looped his arm around Petunia’s shoulder as he pressed a quick kiss against her cheek. Mr. Scrimgeour was pompous, incredibly stiff, but very, very proper as he called the Wizengamot to order.
“Aunt Petunia?” Harry whispered a few minutes of very dry recitation of the last meeting’s minutes and an agenda that promised to be even more boring as it had not one thing of substance in it.
“Yes?” Petunia replied, softly enough that no one outside of their box should hear it. They would notice, of course. Too many eyes were on them not to notice the little discussion.
“How long do we have to stay?” Harry asked.
“Yeah, Mum,” Dudley agreed with a grimace. “This looks boring.”
Petunia sighed. Across the chamber, Queen Elizabeth’s eyes were dancing with laughter as if she’d heard exactly what Harry and Dudley said. Well. She was a mother of three young boys. She certainly knew how this went.
“We stay until the Queen leaves,” Petunia told them. “You can sit quietly or read, but no chatting. It’s rude.”
Both Harry and Dudley grimaced. They went back to listening and fidgeting. Ah well, they’d pull out one of Harry’s book trunks soon enough. Hopefully soon. Something to distract them would be good.
Ten minutes later, after the boys had each claimed a book from Harry’s Inaccurate Information trunk, Vernon leaned close to Petunia’s ear.
“Seriously, Pet,” Vernon whispered, “how long do we have to stay?”