Faery Heroes

Response to Paladeus's challenge "Champions of Lilith". Harry, Hermione, and Luna get a chance to travel back in time and prevent the hell that England became under Voldemort's rule, and maybe line their pockets while they're at it. Lunar Harmony; plenty of innuendo, dark humor, some bashing included; manipulative!Dumbles; jerk!Snape; bad!Molly, Ron, Ginny

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8233288/1/Faery-Heroes

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44. Casting Blame

"He seriously thought you were trying to take his badge?"

Harry nodded at Hermione's question as the trio settled themselves in a carriage. Seeming to know they were not waiting for a fourth passenger, the thestral hitched to the front began its slow slog up the hill to the castle. "Yes. I don't know why, though. I mean, I remember I was envious that Dumbledore picked him and not me when he first got it, but that faded pretty fast. This time around, though? It wasn't even on the fifth page of my priority list."

"You're really confused about that? I thought it was pretty obvious." The pair looked to Luna, who shrugged. "It's because you weren't jealous. Think about it: he always wanted to stand out, be better than whomever he was comparing himself to at the time. Didn't you say that his heart's desire, at least according to the Mirror of Erised, was to be the best?"

"I think so… Yes. Quidditch captain and Head Boy," Harry said, the memory from long ago, over fourteen years, finally resurfacing.

Hermione frowned. "But surely we can't judge his motivations based on something from that far back. Four years, especially for teenagers, is a lot of time for change. I never thought he would have been the type to abandon us when the going got tough when we were first-years. I hate that I'm defending him after what he did in the future, but I always wondered how the eleven-year-old who was willing to fight a troll could grow up to be the traitor he became."

"He changed in some ways, certainly, but he didn't in others." The blonde frowned for a long moment before continuing, "After all, from what you two have told me, he didn't care about putting forth any effort into anything, nor did he – or any of his family, if we're going to be completely honest – view Muggles as being the same as wizards for all that they claimed they wanted equality. I wouldn't be surprised to find that, assuming he did not join Voldemort again as he did in our future, he would think nothing of using magic on a Muggle to get what he wanted."

"…You have a point there. Even Arthur, who acts the most like he cares about them, really doesn't. How else could he profess to be an 'expert' in Muggle society and technology yet not know the first thing about them?"

Luna nodded at the brunette's line of thinking. "Exactly. Back to Ron, though; yes, the exact vision he saw in the Mirror would have changed as his priorities changed, but the essence would not, at least not unless he went through a major life-altering event. In this case, his true desire was superiority. He saw himself as the least appreciated son, as poor, as unimportant, and he wanted to rise above that. A respectable goal, but one that is all too easily twisted into something darker.

"That is why he was upset that you didn't want the badge, Harry. He must have made you his point of reference, the one he had to be better than. Being chosen as prefect over you was a major success for him, but then you revealed that you weren't competing for it. This prize he had achieved, at last a way to be better than the Boy Who Lived, and you don't even care? His grand success was anything but, and all the joy he had taken from it was suddenly gone."

"And you don't think it's the loss of the badge itself that set him off? Even without comparing himself to me, his position gave him power, and then he lost it," he asked. He had no reason to think Luna was wrong, but it painted his first and former friend as someone even more petty than he had believed possible.

Considering Ron had joined the Death Eaters to get revenge on him for 'stealing' Hermione away, that was saying something.

The girl in question had been worrying her lip throughout the conversation, and now she offered, "There's some of that, too, I expect, but Luna makes some good points. I would not be surprised if that was the road his thoughts took."

"Great, that's exactly what I wanted to hear," Harry sighed. At the girls' questioning looks, he explained, "Think of all the damage we did to Ron so far this year. No Quidditch, no homework help, no romance, no friends, even, and now he's lost the one bright spot he had."

"You're feeling sorry for him."

He shook his head at Hermione's suggestion, surprising her. "No, I'm not. I should have burned that bridge when he thought I was a liar about the Triwizard Tournament, and the only thing waiting for him when he showed back up at the tent during the Hunt should have been a quick Reducto. No, what I'm thinking about is that he doesn't have much to lose anymore, and that could break him… or it could make him behave like a cornered animal."

His lovers shared a look, and Luna volunteered, "That's… not really a pleasant thought."

"No, it isn't."

The carriage drew to a halt in front of the school, and the trio piled out and entered the castle. As they passed the four enormous hourglasses in the entrance hall that kept track of the points for each house, Harry could not help but notice that they held many more sapphires, citrines, and rubies than they had when the holidays began. How did Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor gain so many points over the past three weeks without any classes or activities?

Shrugging, he followed the girls to the Lions' table and joined the other students already present in filling his plates. The noise in the Great Hall increased as more and more teenagers poured in and took their places, and just when the din reached its height, a loud chime silenced them all. Harry glanced up at the staff table to see Slughorn standing behind the podium and pulling a roll of parchment from his pocket.

"Before everyone digs into their supper, I have a quick announcement," the rotund wizard began. "Over the holidays I noticed an unusual point discrepancy, and a closer examination found that one prefect had been abusing his authority and deducting points from the other houses without just cause. That student has since lost his badge, and as some of you may have noticed on your way in, I have already returned the following: 134 points to Ravenclaw house." The blue-trimmed students cheered at the sudden gain. "370 points to Gryffindor house." Slughorn had to wait again for the celebrations to end, eventually casting a tripping jinx at the cavorting Weasley twins that caused yet another rush of laughter when the pair became tangled in their own feet. "And 562 points to Hufflepuff house. That means," he yelled over the Badgers' shouts, "that the house currently in the lead for the House Cup is none other than Hufflepuff!"

Ignoring the noise coming from the yellow and black table, Harry swept his eyes over the assembled Snakes. I wonder who it could have been who was taking all those… Oh, never mind. He had to repress a smile when he spotted Malfoy, the boy's cheeks flaming pink and his glare directed at the head of Slytherin house. I have to say, I like this timestream's version of Slughorn a lot more than the one we had to deal with before. He's actually halfway decent, unlike another old man I could name.

Draco finally turned his heavy glare off the old Muggle-lover who was staining Slytherin's reputation and focused on the food in front of him. He had been everything a proper Pureblood should be, and yet Slughorn dared to tell him he wasn't good enough?! All he had done was make sure the mudbloods and filthy half-bloods and blood-traitors knew their place below true wizards.

It wasn't fair!

He had brought the matter up to his father after receiving the letter stripping him of his authority, but to his shock, his father had done nothing to change Slughorn's mind. The man even said that his problem wasn't important enough to bother with! Didn't his father understand that his badge had been stolen from him by the old, senile wizard who took Uncle Severus's job after his godfather had been murdered?

He looked across the room at the cause of the whole situation. Potter, sitting there laughing with his pet mudblood and the crazy Lovegood girl. Laughing! At him! He would make the scarhead pay for this insult. He didn't know what the blasted half-blood had done to make Slughorn treat him like he was, but he knew it was Potter's fault. Uncle Severus had made it clear that it was always Potter's fault.

First he kills my godfather, then he humiliates me when I try to show him the error of his ways, and now he convinces Slughorn to take away my badge and give it to Zabini? I won't allow it! I'll break him, make him cry. Maybe then everything will go back to normal.

Yes, Slughorn will realize he made a mistake, Potter will learn that half-bloods are supposed to show proper respect to Purebloods, and Father will pay attention to me again instead of spending all his time with the Dark Lord. Everything as it should be.

Ron glared at Harry where his former best mate sat laughing with Lovegood and his Hermione. This wasn't how things were supposed to go! He would make Hermione fall in love with him, Harry would fall for Ginny and – after a quick word about not hurting her or else finding himself in trouble with the Weasley boys – make her happy, and everything would be wonderful. But no! Harry had to date not just Loony Lovegood, but somehow trick Hermione into being his second girlfriend.

It wasn't fair!

He knew what started all this. The day after the Triwizard Tournament ended, Harry had been different, acting like a Malfoy and treating him as if the special champion was now too good to be seen in his company. He was starting to think that he had been right from the beginning: Harry probably had tricked his way into the Tournament, after all. If he had been the one picked to be the fourth champion, he would be the one all the girls were flocking to!

Yes, that was when everything fell apart. Harry was lording it over everyone, making Hermione do his homework but keeping her from helping anyone else. Ron would suspect a love potion was involved, but he knew that Harry was as bad at Potions as he was, so that wasn't it. Maybe Hermione was just that shallow that she would be with him now that he had the title and the prize money? It wasn't what he expected from his girl, but girls were impossible to understand, anyway.

Neville leaned over to say something to Harry, and Ron's anger flared again when he saw the silver badge pinned to the fat boy's robes. Why would McGonagall think Neville Longbottom of all people would be a better prefect than him? The other fifth-year was a nobody, a cowardly Puff who sneaked his way into the Lions' den. Ron was the true Gryffindor in his year: a noble hero, charging into danger without wasting time on a pointless plan and teaching the Snakes that their place was on the floor. How could she ignore all that just because Harry told her to give the badge to Neville?

It all came back to Harry. Harry, Harry, Harry, all the time. He would have to do something about that, something to remind the oh-so-precious Boy Who Lived that he wasn't as perfect as he thought he was. Maybe… Maybe he could even take Hermione back in the process.

Now, what to do?

Albus shot Horace a stern look at the younger man's recent announcement, but the Potion Master instead chose to ignore him, just as he had when Albus first suggested he not do this. The headmaster sighed; why could people not just understand that an old man's wisdom was something to be listened to?

It was a terrible thing that Horace was refusing to budge on the prefect issue. He did not seem to understand that his actions were not helping matters. Stripping away young Draco's badge and authority would not make the boy a better person; all it would do was push him farther and farther down the Dark path he already trod. If he was ever to be corrected, he would have to be enticed to the Light with forgiveness and rewards for his good behavior.

Albus had learned that lesson himself with Tom. Strict punishment would only bring out the worst sides of an individual. His new philosophy, however, worked. All one had to do was look at Severus! Given a chance at redemption, the man had positively leapt onto the Light's side and before his untimely death was making great strides to atone for the sins he had committed in his youth.

It is too bad that the ultimate decision on who should be prefect lies with the heads of house, he lamented. He was not normally one to criticize the Founders' decisions, but this rule was a mistake. That kind of authority should be reserved for the Headmaster, not the faculty in charge of the individual houses. They were too involved, too focused on their own small segment of the students to see the big picture like he could.

Horace was not the only one who had erred about who most deserved the prefect badge. Minerva, too, had ignored his advice, removing the authority she had granted Ronald and instead giving it to Neville Longbottom. He had argued against that decision, but alas! Without knowledge of the Prophecy, there was no way she could know that Neville was the other Chosen One. Should Harry's death not be sufficient to make Tom regret his choices, Neville would also need to be sacrificed, but he would not do that if his deputy shore up his self-confidence.

No, both children named by fate needed to be broken, passive, if they were to accept their roles as martyrs for the Greater Good.

And unfortunately, Harry has already done a great deal to try to wiggle away from his destiny, he thought with disappointment as he looked over the Gryffindor table. As I suspected could be the case during their first year, it is Hermione who is at fault for his recent changes in behavior. Ronald had one responsibility: keep her from filling Harry's head with dreams of the future. He has to stay focused on the here and now, not make plans for what he will do once Voldemort is defeated. If he does, he will not be interested in laying down his life for the Light as he ought. But Ronald could not accomplish that, and now Harry's love towards her has made him too cautious, not to mention how he argued with me earlier in the year. Before this summer, he would never have done such a thing.

He sighed and shook his head slightly. That constant questioning of the status quo was a bad habit of Muggleborns in general, and Hermione was one of the most inquisitive he had ever encountered. Even Lily Potter was more willing to accept the truth of what he said without worrying about how it might clash with her nonmagical upbringing!

Oh well, it is not an insurmountable problem. I still need Hermione's intelligence available should they need to overcome another challenge – forcing Harry to do the thinking would be worse than leaving them together! – so failing or expelling her is out of the question. No, I just need to limit her influence over him. Ronald did a marvelous job holding Harry back until this year, and he is Light enough that her incessant need to analyze would not move him from his path. I'll have to speak with him privately before I do anything and see if he already has an attraction to her. If not, a weak love potion over a few days should cause her to catch his fancy, and then something stronger – much stronger – for her would see her returning to her appointed role.

Should I break Harry up with the Lovegood girl as well? He ruminated on this question, examining his options, before finally making his decision. No, I'll leave them together for now. Ginevra would be a good match, true, in much the same way Ron is for Hermione, but his current relationship is acceptable. Despite being a Ravenclaw, the girl – Luna, wasn't it? – is still Xeno's daughter, and while his wife was deplorably Neutral, he was in the Order during the first War. She should therefore be Light enough for my goals as they currently stand. Harry can't escape his destiny forever; I expect he will finally fall sometime in the next couple of years.

And if she eventually becomes a problem… Well, she is not as important as Hermione, and teenage relationships are fragile. Harry leaving her for Ginevra would not be looked at as too unusual.

He nodded to himself and continued his dinner. Love might be 'the power the Dark Lord knows not', but it still was a double-edged sword. Love for the world at large was an absolute necessity for Harry to sacrifice himself and for Tom to be redeemed and take Albus's place as the Leader of the Light.

Love towards a specific individual? Not so much.

BY ORDER OF
The High Inquisitor of Hogwarts

Teachers are hereby prohibited from discussing information with students that does not directly relate to their courses or assignments.

The above is in accordance with
Educational Decree Number Twenty-Five

Dolores Jean Umbridge
High Inquisitor

"You know, I had completely forgotten about this one," Harry said, pointing out the new Decree hanging from one of the walls flanking the doors to the Great Hall. "I didn't expect to see it again this time, either, since I hadn't planned on giving another interview to the Quibbler."

Hermione shrugged. "The more things change, the more they stay the same. Have you noticed how many people have been whispering about the Prophet article about the Dark Mark 'mysteriously' finding its way above Azkaban? It flies in the face of the Ministry's official view that Voldemort hasn't returned."

"Psst."

"That I'm well aware of," he rejoined. "Still, with Fudge out of office, and a new Minister yet to be elected, I hoped it would curtail her authority more than this."

"You're severely underestimating the lengths to which the Ministry will go to cover their own arses," Luna laughed.

"Psssst."

"I don't know. I have to agree with Harry on this one," Hermione added. "I can't see how Umbridge would have much in the way of support now that Fudge is no longer part of the picture."

"Are you ignoring the fact that the current Chief Warlock and interim Minister of Magic is an old friend of Lucius Malfoy's?"

Harry blinked in surprise. "Yes, actually, I did forget about that."

"PSSSST!"

He looked around for the source of the sudden hiss. Was someone trying to get their attention? A door just down the corridor slowly opened, and after a quick check to make sure all the other students had made their way into the Great Hall for lunch, the trio surreptitiously drew their wands and crept towards the room. He pushed the door open all the way and jerked his wand up to point at… himself?

The other Harry rolled his eyes. "I bloody hate time travel. Can you put the wand down now?"

They shared a glance with each other and lowered their aim. Hermione sighed, "Would one of you two like to explain why you went back in time this time?"

"Don't look at me. I haven't a clue," he denied.

"Just a little joke at the Toad's expense," future Harry explained. "I won't say anything more on that score, since the me I talked to didn't tell me what was going on either, but what I came up with is rather appropriate, all things considered." He held out his arms to the girls. "Shall we, my ladies? We don't want to miss this."

Luna linked elbows with future Harry, Hermione doing the same at this other side. "We shall."

"So that's how it is, huh?" Harry huffed playfully. "Leave me for the next guy you see without a word of warning."

Hermione shrugged. "What can I say? He's closer to my age than you are."

"By an hour!"

"So? My point still stands."

"Fine, go!" he called in a mock-angry tone. "Let's see how you like it if you walk in on me with a future you!"

"Oh, that's a great idea! I've always wanted to have a threesome with myself," the blonde shot back.

He palmed his face as the three departed. Thank you so much, Luna. Now I'll never be able to get that image out of my head. Still, we use Time Turners for work all the time, but we've yet to add them to our play. Something to think on, at least, as weird as it could – and likely would – be. "Dobby, invisibility cloak, please."

A sharp pop, and the shimmering fabric was in his outstretched hand. Throwing it over himself and casting a silencing charm on his feet, he slinked out of the spare room and into the Great Hall. The other him shot him a grin, the lenses of his glasses glowing faintly with the magesight charm, as the current him passed by. Soon standing in front of Umbridge, he drew his wand and waited for inspiration to strike.

He… I… The other me said it was something appropriate, but what could that be? I've already made her croak like a frog, and considering she's still yet to give out detentions or even take points, I'm fairly sure that compulsion is still in effect. Maybe a better question would be, appropriate for what? Is it in response to the newest Educational Decree? I suppose I could make her only talk about Defense topics, but while that would make her a more effective professor, it would require more work on my part than I really want to put into this. The less time I have to spend in her head, the better.

I need something simple, but something that I can leverage to great effect… A wicked grin made its way to his face as an idea sprang to mind. Oh, that works. That works quite well. Appropriate, indeed.

His wand danced and swirled while he stared into Umbridge's eyes, his Legilimency probe slipping deep. He finally stopped its burrowing when he felt the thin thread of his previous 'prank' still lurking in the depths of her subconscious. Whispering the incantation, he cast the second compulsion.

Time to sit back and enjoy the show.

"What was that, Filius?"

"I said—"

"What?"

"Are you even—"

"Speak up, Filius. I can't hear a word you're saying." The corpulent woman turned to look at the student body. "Why is everyone so quiet?"

Dumbledore leaned towards her. "Are you quite all right, Dolores?"

"You need to talk louder." She tapped her ears with her tiny wand, and when that didn't work, wiggled a sausage-like finger into one ear. "I can't hear anything. I can't hear anything! By Merlin, I've gone deaf!"

"Now, my dear, there's no need to be alarmed," Dumbledore said, trying to comfort the distraught woman. "Let's get you upstairs to Poppy, and I'm sure—"

"Where's Pomfrey?!" she demanded, not realizing that was exactly what the old man had suggested. "She's still up in the infirmary, right?!"

"Yes, she normally—"

"Oh, never mind! I'll look for her myself!" Umbridge dropped out of her chair and waddled to the doors, passing Harry by only a few inches. The rest of the students were roaring with laughter at the sight, and his eyes caught the future him supporting his lovers where they had collapsed from their giggles. He smiled, tempted to hustle her along with a stinging charm, but ultimately let her go without further molestation. This was enough for now.

Have to admit, that was a little more creative than I usually have the chance to be. A silencing charm or deafening hex would have been just as effective, but those can both be removed with a simple Finite. A compulsion to ignore anything but her own voice except when she's in her classroom, though? Mind magic, particularly a spell set that deep into her mind, needs more effort to get rid of, not to mention that someone would have to realize it was a compulsion in the first place. I wonder how long it will take her to figure out a way around this one.

Now, how am I going to pass the next hour?

 
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