Partially Kissed Hero

Summer before third year Harry has a life changing experience, and a close encounter with a dementor ends with him absorbing the horcrux within him. Features Harry with a backbone.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4240771/1/Partially-Kissed-Hero

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85. Chapter Eighty-Five

I I I

There is an old adage about a straw that broke the camel's back.

Now, in a little more detail, the weight of a straw is insignificant, and a camel fairly strong, but that metaphorical beast of burden had already been loaded down with so many things that it was already at or beyond the uttermost limits of its capacity, such that the tiny weight of a straw could push it over the edge of its ability to cope and do it lethal damage.

Another story, a true story that does not appear at first blush to be related, is one of a deer that was discovered in the wilderness of Canada, a deer that had no injuries or diseases, nothing wrong with its health in any way, save for the fact that it was covered in a mass of ticks such that the authorities had never seen. Each of these tiny bloodsuckers was individually insignificant, but together they killed the deer.

The world was already heavily burdened. Political and economic turmoil were epidemic across the globe, so-called 'minor' wars had embroiled troops of every nation, and by some calculations the tax burden on the ordinary citizen was the highest ever recorded, to say nothing of the plethora of crimes being unveiled on every level of society, from the lowest to the highest.

The muggle world was at that point, both of the overburdened camel, and the poor deer. Between the crime and corruption, strife and turmoil the stresses of society were at maximum. It could not bear any more. Citizens had already retreated into drug and alcohol abuse in record numbers, a sure sign of the distress they were feeling in their lives. Signs of stability, such as healthy, undivorced nuclear families, long-term employment and well-knit communities of neighbors who hang out with and speak to each other regularly were also suffering record lows. The warning signs were there to anyone who cared to see them. All that the crisis-to-be needed was a tiny nudge to push it over the edge into cascading failures that could consume the whole.

The discovery of magic was that thing.

It could have been anything. If not this, it would have been something else. Corruption in government was like Malaria: the disease won't kill the victim directly, but it will make him weak enough that practically anything else could finish him off.

Really, corruption of any sort was a potentially deadly disease.

Moral decay was as bad for cultures as rust was to metal ships. Either one left unchecked would destroy the target of its attentions. Break that down a little further and see. What are the most basic morals? Don't kill, don't steal, don't lie, and respect other people and their property. That is the moral stance and represents the basic building blocks of civilization. Take away morals and you get a creature that respects only itself. It falls back on a more feral, animalistic approach that is out for Number One and isn't going to let anything get in its way. That stance is OF COURSE going to kill, lie and steal and do anything else to gain advantage! And if you respect other people then how are you going to take their stuff?

You can't build a society out of feral creatures. You can't do it. No kind of institution could be created or maintained by anyone so selfish they respect no kind of rules. Institutions are composed of rules. That's all they're about. You can't have any if you don't build up and follow them, and a man without morals is all about tearing rules down for his own temporary advantage.

And, no, people like that just really can't seem to see the big picture. If they acknowledge the necessity of rules and institutions at all, it is always the job of someone else to maintain and repair them. The feral man admits to no responsibility for them, nor will he acknowledge any.

He is too busy Getting Ahead to worry about anything like that.

At best, a man without morals is going to form a gang, and time has proven the only rules those are able to agree on are to look out for the gang as the criminal would ordinarily look out for himself, and even that if imperfect. But the only kind of society you could form out of that limited rule set is a tribe.

Tribes may squat in the ruins of more advanced cultures, but generally speaking they are not known for their comforts, accomplishments and infrastructure.

It was not a spear-wielding native who first reached the moon.

Really, to collapse anything only needs more forces of chaos pulling it apart than there are of order holding it together. All societies have both elements present within themselves. Numbers make a difference, but there are also force multipliers, such as riot police wearing gas masks and wielding both specialty vehicles and weapons to beat down rioting crowds. They are able to account for far more than mere numbers would suggest. However, once past a certain point it is not always the case that government represents a force holding society together. Corrupt cops on the take or committing crimes themselves are sadly common, as are morally bankrupt officials using what would have been the forces of law in ways that actually tear down society.

People generally don't start out with the intention of "Hey! Let's all go bring down our government!" More often it starts out like a bunch of three year olds fighting over the remote control. They don't intend to destroy anything, they just want this or that aspect set to their advantage, and the level of force involved quickly grows all out of proportion as each involved focuses on getting their way, rather than fixing any of the core problems.

And it has also been observed that on occasion bullies and thugs in police and government go too far in stopping a demonstration and only add fuel to the blaze.

Now, as with an avalanche, the first stirrings were small relative to their later cumulative effect. Most of these elements had been in place for a generation or more. One of the key factors was that people had become divided. There was no end to all of the issues that people had to take sides on, to the point where it was a truly remarkable thing if you could find someone with whom you could agree on all major points of contention.

There were so many issues no one could account for them all. There was sexism and racism and every brand of politics, both for and against every issue imaginable. The key thing was these groups all had grudges, goals and declared enemies, so that when things started to fall apart, the members of these groups had forgotten how to hold it together with anyone but those in their own, widely scattered, cliques. Rather than face it together, they took potshots at their rivals under cover of the confusion.

And really, that's all it took.

Events that consumed nations rarely came in forms those nations were expecting. In this case there was no bullet to dodge. The societies had simply grown so bloated and corrupt they would sooner or later have died on their own. But, when something was in ill health like that, it's easy for a mischance to finish it off.

The spark that lit the blaze was a small and familiar one, and not considered unusual or all that threatening. Riots had become commonplace, and could be trigged by something as simple as a sporting event. Sports fans didn't even have to lose to riot. But society seemed to have forgotten that simple sport riots had brought down Constantinople, a city as great as ever boasted by Rome and the capitol of their eastern empire.

But there was a lot more going on here than sports fanatics.

Most everyone had an opinion, good or bad, about the revelation of magic, and those who were inclined to riot anyway used this as a grand excuse. The feelings on this ran rather high, muggle dabblers in the occult celebrating having been right all along and the Islamist extremists denouncing them gave the first real clashes, and things only got worse from there. Hysteria and jubilation spread in equal measure. Churches were jammed and bars packed as fear proved to have a magic all its own.

Countless times humans have been compared to sheep, and it doesn't matter the size of a flock, if you frighten one sheep then you have a panicked herd.

The muggle world, which had been hanging out near disaster for the longest while, slowly began to slide over the edge.

I I I

Voldemort was not a happy Dark Lord.

In the first place he could hardly call himself a Dark Lord any longer, as in his present state at most he amounted to a lieutenant. While he gave orders, he also took them, just one more link in a command chain.

This did not sit well with the egotistical megalomaniac.

Even having regained his body, something which ought to have pleased him seeing as how he'd struggled for a dozen years to do so, was bittersweet at best considering immediately upon doing so he was enslaved to his worst enemy. That was enough to sour anybody's disposition, and it hadn't hit him any better. But that was only the first step. Second, he'd discovered that his 'loyal' Death Eaters had sworn over to a new Lord Voldemort.

He'd never anticipated that, but having created a title it functioned as those do and titles are always capable of being passed on by heredity or conquest. So now Tom Riddle was more appropriately called a Former Lord Voldemort. A new person held that title and position, and had received the loyalty oaths of the followers that made up his fiefdom.

All of his life's work had been to accumulate power, and that had just been dashed to pieces before his very eyes. Even his wealth had gone missing, and he'd thought no one knew the secrets of where to find it or how to pry it out of his protections. Those caches were his very best work, yet judging by left over traces they'd been popped open as easily as a can of soda.

No, recent revelations had not been good for Riddle's ego.

Of course, for a normal person this chagrin might lead to a little humility. For a dark lord who'd deliberately burned out any tender feelings long ago all it did was inspire new depths of hate and rage, and once more the world saw a hateful creature raging over how the world would pay for this defiance. It was more than a little pathetic how upset creatures who spend all of their time provoking fights and hurting others get when they are hurt in turn.

However, at the present time all that did was make him more vindictive as he carried out his current instructions. Including making contact and using a set of command codes for a hidden army of vampires.

A dozen clans of fifty active members each. Five times that amount if all of the sleepers were awakened, something usually not done as even the muggles would become suspicious of the drain on their population created by nearly three thousand vampires feeding. These weren't the only vampires in Britain, but they were unknown to anyone outside of Dumbledore himself until now.

That was quite an accomplishment.

Despite himself, Voldemort was impressed. He created an excellent setup of his own. Two dozen of his Death Eaters were aurors, another thirteen were Ministry officials, with triple that amount of each serving him un-Marked, enough so that when things got lost there was no one person to blame, and patterns of escapes and so on could be obfuscated nicely.

With that level of penetration, the Ministry had never bothered him. Any time they might have acted effectively or been a threat to him, his insiders had compromised those plans. Countless times his aurors, scattered among teams not loyal to him, had shot their comrades in the backs to insure Death Eater victories in critical fights, or when Ministry fools had tried to ambush his lairs. Then his moles helpfully identified the leaks that led the Ministry to him. His rages over those betrayals had disinclined anyone else from turning.

In addition to that Voldemort had other advantages. Growing up an orphan in London during what muggles called World War Two several then-new devices had seriously impressed upon him with their usefulness, and among those was radio. As a young boy he'd been shocked at how effective muggle radios were at turning the tides of war in the favor of those who best used them.

So he had resolved to make magical copies of them. And he had done so.

Eventually the final form of the Dark Marks he would issue to all of his most faithful followers would have several useful magics woven into them, serving not only as perfect communications devices but also reusable, programmable portkeys so they could never be denied a means of escape, provided they weren't imprisoned at some place warded against them, like Azkaban.

Of course the pain controls were nice, too. It ensured obedience.

No, Voldemort had been convinced that he was a true contestant for the slot of Most Powerful Man In Britain. He'd had the personal power and skills and a support base to back him up matching any he knew of. But his error there lay in the fact that he had never considered large forces he knew nothing of. It made no sense to him that someone could have power and not use it.

Well, the answer to that was simple: Dumbledore didn't use his hidden army because he'd never needed it. He already owned all the power most could dream of in politics and finances, so had never had cause to call upon his hidden resources, which he built up more as a hobby than anything else. It kept his vast mind and resources busy doing something they enjoyed.

No, what Voldemort saw as he viewed the information Dumbledore had given him was awe-inspiring. Frightening, even. He'd never even dreamt of building up a hidden vampire army no one else even knew about.

So, of course, once he got his freedom back he would immediately steal it.

This was far from an impossible desire. From his earliest childhood Tom Riddle had been perverting the desires of those in authority over him and wresting control from them for his own purposes. He was not a meek nor a mild follower. No, he was a snake of the worst sort. Treachery and betrayal were his native tongue. It was all he spoke with any degree of fluency.

In the first place, Riddle needed his own followers back, as none of THEM had sworn to the old man, so could be used in actions to pry their true master away from the Headbastard's clutches. And for that there was a fairly simple remedy. Tom Riddle simply declared this new Lord Voldemort to be a usurper and reclaimed his title - there was plenty of provisions to do so, as titles had been fought over since their invention. This was simply one more.

Of course, declaring this to be so did not make anyone win automatically. It merely put him and his would-be successor on an equal footing. Each could claim full powers and authority as Lord Voldemort until it got resolved - which most often the question only got settled by one killing the other.

He was fine with that. Whoever this new upstart may be, he was not Albus Dumbledore, and no one else did Tom Riddle fear.

Now they both could claim whatever magically belonged to Lord Voldemort, which, being brutally honest, was nothing more than his sworn followers. But they'd each gotten loyalty oaths from those followers. So what it truly came down to at this point was the followers themselves. In any kind of dynastic dispute where two people claimed the crown, the nobles then chose sides as they pleased, and the same applied here.

Those Death Eaters who wanted to follow him were welcome to do so and would get their Marks restored to his pattern. Those who would not, but insisted on following this new Lord Voldemort would remain... Disco Eaters.

He shuddered at the disrespect to his hard efforts building up fear.

Seeing as how he had them now in custody, Tom Riddle did not expect many of his followers to refuse him. Then they could begin the rituals to free him from his servitude to Dumbledore, because really magical oaths and contracts were all breakable. Even so-called Unbreakable Oaths were nothing of the sort. Oh, sure there was a cost involved, sometimes that cost was death, but there were ways around that. Voldemort was particularly fond of the many ways of making other people pay those costs for him.

Some devoted but deluded follower could often be convinced of the necessity and die for him, for example. That was always fun. And a willing substitute to accept the penalty for him would satisfy most magic quite easily.

Of course, once that pesky bit of nuisance was taken care of, it was time to party. And Albus Dumbledore had foolishly trusted his newest tool with a set of instructions for carrying out certain operations on his behalf.

Conquest of Magical Britain? Oh, yes. Voldemort would carry out that order. But it would be on his own behalf, not Dumbledore's!

I I I

Speedy as dwarves were construction on the town of Godric's Hollow could, by original estimates, at best be termed half-completed. The other five trailed behind by a substantial margin, having begun construction much later.

Still, those original estimates had been based off the work of dwarves alone. They had not anticipated wizards showing up from Cuba, sent by Queen Sybil to assist with getting these vital things done quickly.

Five hundred wizards per new settlement working together with the dwarves meant those construction projects had been practically, and in some cases literally, flying together.

One thing that often surprised many who'd seen how static and unchanging wizard society was, was how quickly they could accomplish something when they set their minds to it.

Magic was just that powerful.

By contract, and for quality, actual construction of anything there would be left to the dwarves. But it was amazing how much work could get done NOT building things, just taking care of all of the associated work like digging up holes to put foundations and basements in, levitating blocks so they could be positioned more easily, transporting building materials and other such things that, while leaving no enduring product, vastly sped up the efforts that did.

Three hundred ton rabbits under control charms and used as earth moving machinery could move a lot of dirt, but it was easier and more efficient to use three hundred man sized ones to do the same job, as more wizards could handle that level of spell. Conjured scaffolding didn't have to last forever, it only had to get workers into position to get their tasks done.

It also meant the complex and often demanding warding work was being done often as quickly as the houses themselves were.

Those, and tasks like them, and the fortified magical communities were coming together faster even than the original two-month estimate, in spite of all of the additional work being added to the original project's design.

This was good. Still, 'ahead of schedule' was a far cry from 'completed' and it was only a little over a month and a half since school had started, and not all of that time had been spent on construction. The great outer walls and defensive works lagged even further behind as those had only recently been authorized. Great trenches gaped open where those walls would eventually be seated on the underlying bedrock, and the stonework was being assembled at a colossal pace.

However despite all these fantastic strides they just had not had time to get everything ready before the first assaults came testing those defenses.

I I I

Godric's Hollow was not on anyone's list as a high-priority target. It had always been a sleepy little backwater community even among wizards, with not much of interest there. If not for a certain historical significance the place would have been forgotten, even by those who lived there.

That was part of what had made it a great spot for hiding when the Potters originally went to ground.

No one outside a very few knew what was going on there now, and that small number did not include the recently-raised and information-deprived Albus, nor the out-of-touch Riddle. Were it not for the orders to complete the conquest of ALL of magical Britain the place would have been ignored again.

Against such a tiny, insignificant spot of ground of few and mostly overaged and retired magicals three vampires would have been sufficient. Six would have been plenty, and twelve overkill.

Voldemort sent thirty.

To him, this was an insignificant amount, a hundredth of his total command. He'd ordered the twelve night clans to awaken all of their sleeping members and frankly had more vampires at his disposal than he knew what to do with.

One on one, vampires could easily defeat most wizards, provided that wizard did not have specific anti-vampire protections (which few carried). This was because vampires were faster, tougher and stronger than ordinary men, and far more ruthless and prone to violence as well - a distinct contrast to the sleepy and placid, easily startled sheep of the magical world. Vampires also had powerful wandless magic abilities in their narrow and specialized field. The Night Clans were, after all, the originators of Blood Magic, and a few even had tricks in that branch that Voldemort had not learned yet.

Shapeshifting by reducing themselves to liquid blood then reforming as bats or wolves was one of those highly coveted powers. A few living men before this had learned that skill, and Voldemort coveted it.

Twenty Death Eaters could send a group of thousands of adult wizards to rout like frightened sheep. Those same twenty at the head of hundreds of vampires? A slaughter. Under direction of his Death Eaters, whose magic was more wide-ranging and flexible, and were thus able to reduce or remove those specific anti-vampire protections, that force would be unstoppable.

Six hundred had taken the Ministry by force, another six hundred Hogsmead, and a further three hundred Diagon and Knockturn Alleys, and in each case it was a show of force more than anything else. A tenth than number would have been more than generous against any of those targets, and he still had half his numbers to play around with. So he was behaving like a kid given a stack of credit cards, pointed at the mall and told not to worry about the bill.

In a few hours time, Tom Riddle would rule the magical world.

I I I

Author's Notes:

Kudos to those who noticed the glass tower, referenced several times in the Forbidden Forest as part of Dumbledore's plots to get rid of Harry, was the keeping place of the mindbogglingly dangerous Jabberwock and connecting the facts about what that meant.

Secondly, I have long wondered about how a place with magically binding contracts (mentioned specifically in canon during Goblet of Fire) could have any degree of civil disobedience whatsoever. Any muggle government or corporation given the power to create contracts which had ability to enforce themselves would swiftly put in place a totalitarian regime no one of any generation would ever be able to escape because they'd be signed in blood to it moments out of the womb - their parents would be under contracts that required it.

So why is it that a place that has the potential for total control in a way that would have made Hitler and Lenin wet dream over so subject to civil wars and rebellion?

I'm willing to assume most people have a natural aversion to being controlled. But, when you come right down to it, those contracts and oaths have got to be imperfect. They've got to be, as too many people are sneaky enough to bind a few followers to their whims, and those could be used to enforce the signing in of the rest, eventually leading to the Human Ant Hive, unless it was easier to escape those contracts than the books led us to believe.

So, given the stature of Voldemort, I am going to assume he is a sneakier bastard than most and knows how to wriggle out of even the most binding such oaths and contracts.

The summary of the state of the muggle world's distress was, of course, brief, but a four hundred page report would still only skim over the top of it.

 
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