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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82. Chapter Eighty-Two

I I I

Hermione stared around at her surrounding in somewhat apprehension. They seemed so deceptively... normal.

When Luna had led the rest of the fairy champions and their entourage into the giant mirror leaning up against Trelawney's tree, the last thing she could have expected was finding this comparatively normal glade on the other side. She knew the books started out that way, deceptively normal for a little while with only the infrequent odd occurrence that grew more and more as time went on and you went further from the entrance, resulting in cheerful nonsense at the end, but still she had to ask, "Is it always like this?"

Luna answered her unconcerned. "Oh, not at all. When you are here you tend to get so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seems quite dull for life to go on in the common way."

Susan was reassured, but not altogether comforted. "I hope we can find Harry soon," she sighed.

Hannah, also, was looking around. She'd only just begun to get the hang on the extra senses that came with their newly acquired unicorn nature, and this place was sending off signals she couldn't interpret that were driving them haywire. She shook her head and declared, "Yeah, I'll be relieved when we can find him and plant the cuttings from Trelawney's oak so we can go."

Luna drilled the girl with a glance she found difficult to interpret. "This is Wonderland. About Harry I do not know, the shockwaves surrounding him are extreme, but for Trelawney's oak we could very well turn around to find it already tiptoeing along behind us."

Hearing a rustle, they did and it was there, doing just as she'd said. Caught, the oak gave them a sheepish wave and a grin on a face it hadn't had before rooting itself again and pretending to stand still and immobile.

Amused at their open-mouthed reactions, Luna spoke with a wry grin on her face, showing these newcomers the ropes. "Expectation also tends to lead reality in this place."

Seeing their confusion, she expounded, "Oh, her tree still there by the lake out in the real world. But this is also her tree. Don't question it too closely. This is Wonderland, common sense does not apply here. Things either Are or they Aren't, and whether they Are or Aren't is subject to change, often without notice."

"Which is what made our environment so perfect for this project of Queen Alice's." A grinning white cat phased slowly into existence on a nearby tree limb, and it took the startled girls a second to recognize it as Gus, Harry's pet kneazle. Its laughing eyes teased them as it continued, "The fervent, heartfelt belief of tens of thousands of magical children? Oh yes, we can work with that."

"Isn't it a little strange to hear that we can be shaped by other's beliefs?" Hannah asked her friends, frowning, before seeing the grinning cat and having her jaw drop open.

Hermione snorted. Around Luna Cheshire Cats were tame. You got used to things of that nature. The only odd thing was that cat was Harry's and didn't use to be white. "Frankly, fairies aren't the only ones who can be shaped by the beliefs of those around them. Humans call it peer pressure. We fey just have fewer limits about conforming to it, that's all." She paused a moment, touching her chin in thought before admitting, "Actually, that gets a little scary when you think about accidental magic. Magical children have a habit of causing the world to transform according to their wishes, anyway: moving things about or changing their shapes, or breaking the odd laws of physics by bouncing when their Uncle Algie drops them from a third story window. Most often it's purely random, but all directed and focused into a single desire..."

She trailed off, her eyes grown wide in horror, not at the concepts she was discussing, but at the creature too big to be real that had just stepped over their heads as though they were grass in a field. Not quite an elephant (too many tusks for one), it was easily as big as a hill. The thing had to be eighty feet tall. A man on horseback could ride under it and not scrape its belly with the tip of an upright lance. A normal elephant would come up to its ankle!

It was simply too big to be allowed.

"An oliphaunt?" Susan asked, only slightly puzzled by the bigger-than-dragon sized creature stepping over their glade as though the lake was a puddle. "I never thought I'd get to see one for real."

Hannah nodded along, taking this in stride quite easily, in contrast to how she'd gotten shaken by the talking cat. "Not outside that magical history picture anyway."

"A large number of magical schoolchildren watched that Lord of The Rings history recently." Luna waved it off as inconsequential. "Of course it would be on their minds, somewhat; and you could expect spillover to appear here just after their beliefs were focused through this place."

"But..!" Hermione sputtered. "That film wasn't real!"

Luna rolled her eyes, folding her arms. "Really, Hermione! Next you are going to go on about blibbering humdingers or crumple horned snorkacks not existing again! Or are you going to disbelieve the existence of socks now?"

"No," the bushy haired girl admitted meekly, having seen them herself since becoming a fairy and feeling a touch ashamed about the whole deal. Magic had all sorts of creatures muggles couldn't see, like fairies or dementors (well, they could only see fairies under special circumstances, at any rate. The principle still holds). And, as it turned out, there were quite a few not even ordinary witches and wizards could see.

Muggles didn't believe in the ones they couldn't see, and witches and wizards didn't believe in the ones they couldn't, either. She felt ashamed for having fallen into the same trap as everyone else like that, then having to become a fairy so she could see them herself before she'd admit she was wrong.

Susan even snorted good-naturedly over that. Putting her hands on her hips, she declared, "Really, I don't know how you could doubt their existence like that," she nodded toward the tower of flesh passing over them.

Hannah concurred. "Yeah. Even the muggle myths agree the Horn of Roland is made of oliphaunt horn - and we've handled that artifact!"

Hermione felt herself growing dizzy.

Hannah looked casually at the giant tower of flesh passing above her and asked conversationally, "So those appeared here because those same magical schoolchildren who believed in the Boy-Who-Lived had also seen those history pictures lately?"

"Uh huh," Luna nodded.

"So this place is pretty flexible, right?" Susan observed.

Once more Luna nodded. "However, in consequence of that, this place has always had more than a tinge of madness to the air. Study and book learning are impossible in this environment, as whatever you memorize, you'll find out is wrong once you've left. Completely wrong, every bit of it. But most of the changes wrought by the magic here do not pass beyond its borders."

She sighed. "My grandmother wasn't in Wonderland an hour before she began to think that very few things indeed were really impossible. Although it isn't a place one wants to stay if one has any desire for stability. One is always growing larger or smaller or being ordered about by mice and rabbits."

Luna looked around and sighed again, before admitting, "Even us lovegoods find we cannot stomach an infinite amount of the place. It was on one of my grandmother's frequent vacations to the real world the Unspeakables caught up to her. Still, she's going to tell me next afternoon that being back after such a long absence, she finds herself quite refreshed by the environment."

"So belief can shape the environment here?" Susan questioned, watching Gus, the Cheshire Kneazle, walking along the bottom of a branch as though it were the top.

"To an extent," Both Luna and Gus answered in chorus.

Hermione folded her arms in a determined way, getting a forceful expression on her face, and declared, "Then I am going to turn around, and behind me will be Harry."

She did so, and there he was, although he wasn't quite himself. No, at the moment Harry was a garden, filled with flowers each with different faces. No two were alike. They were all Harry, but some were smug and arrogant, some meek and downtrodden, and just about ever face in between or expression imaginable, of every kind of bloom and color, and all of the flowers were biting and snapping at each other like angry serpents.

I I I

Harry was quite busy reforming himself. The fact that this was difficult and his many parts were arguing with each other gave this the appearance of fighting with himself. The fact that he was currently a garden... well, this was Wonderland, and an oddly appropriate choice seeing as how his mental state was only slightly better than vegetative.

Still, all of the energy of his whole soul was directed to trying to pull himself together again. Though the blow of that immense amount of belief energy had been kinder than expected on Queen Alice, the opposite was true of poor Harry Potter.

He was trying to heal. There was considerable drive to do so, but frankly so far not much success. He now had several quite different backgrounds, and frankly they did not have a lot in common they could all agree on, and this was not assisting his instinctive desire to form a coherent whole. There was no conscious thought, as there was no one to do any conscious thinking. It all came automatically, like magnetism, certain forces attracted or repelled others, and very few were in agreement.

Each history had a different take on their parents, where and how they grew up, what their favorite things were, and...

Hermione.

A concerned girl had rushed into the seething garden, touching a bush where three blue flower faces were picking on a white one. At her touch all grew still. There wasn't enough of a fully cognizant Harry there just now to wonder how or why she came to the top of his mind, but she did. And in the midst of swirling contradictions, she was the first point all sides could agree on. The Harry of the Dursleys could recall meeting her on the train and being friends with her ever since. The Harry that was part Voldemort saw her as his most useful minion. The Harry of the changed Fey timeline saw her as one of his closest and dearest childhood friends, and the Boy-Who-Lived could see the data associated with this girl, that she was gifted and brilliant, flawlessly devoted to him and helped him during times of crisis, and instantly accepted her as obviously being one of his many companions on his adventures - which was even true, so the other aspects didn't argue about it.

Everything else about his various conflicting childhoods some aspect of the many personalities trying to work out a compromise would disagree with and veto. So Hermione was the first point they all could agree on, and everything else started to move from there as bit started to get attached to that beginning. Tiny bits of schoolwork they did together attached themselves to her memory like iron filings collecting on a magnet.

Naturally she couldn't see this, only her concern shone through as she lightly stroked the leaves of the bush that had until moments before been fighting with itself.

Hermione may have been the first, but she was far from the last as her other female friends quickly came following after. Each time a one of those concerned girls touched a bush her name hit Harry's mind and lodged there, accumulating data and memories, forming something closer to whole.

For Hermione the situation was peculiar in the extreme, as no sooner had she touched the bush than the flowers stilled and she could feel in her own mind the thoughts and feelings Harry had toward her. This was enough to make her blush, as even the most negative things were not very negative at all. And to girls, well, the secrets of feelings were some of the most closely guarded and cherished of all their treasures, and to feel Harry's towards her and know how he felt towards her... well, she could die a happy girl right there. The Cuddle Companions, while nice, hadn't even come close to this.

Around her, Luna and Hannah and Susan were experiencing the same.

Spontaneously, around each girl flowers began to still. Yellow, white and red blossoms began to vanish from the bush Hermione was tending, reappearing elsewhere in the garden, with the same occurring in reverse for the blue ones, disappearing from all over the garden to appear on the bush Hermione was touching.

This happened for every girl. Luna's bush began to acquire red blossoms of every description, Susan white and Hannah yellow, bushes becoming a single color as the various fragments of the shattered boy marshaled themselves. And, like a snowball rolled around in snow gaining size and mass, each part of Harry began to pull itself together, although not every blossom was pretty.

The boy raised by the Dursleys was practical, meek and hardworking because he'd had to be. Those were the traits the Dursleys had forced him to have in order to survive. He'd had more work than any ten kids his age, or even most adults, so he'd not only had to buckle down to get to it and work hard, he also could not afford any mistakes. So there was no waste. He got things done swiftly, solidly and economically. Those were his virtues.

His downsides were another matter. Under the Dursleys the boy had been a slave for all intents and purposes. Any excuse was a good excuse to beat him; and Dudley didn't even need that much, the urge to go Harry Hunting was sufficient. Aside from teaching him how to run fast and be good at dodging this had also taught him to be mild and inoffensive to the point of invisibility. While a good trait for a maid or janitor, it robbed Harry of any chance to be to be socially adept or a good leader. He was not comfortable with attention on him and sought to avoid it whenever possible. For him attention equated closely with pain, as all during his developing years if the Dursleys were noticing him they would inflict pain on him: whether verbally, physically, or by heaping more work on him, if he caught their notice he got hurt. So he strove hard not to stand out in any way. This effectively made him a eunuch as far as using the advantages of his own legend or his family's wealth, power or social influence. He was simply unable. You might as well talk to a mule about astrophysics.

The Dursleys had raised him to be a servant: meek, hardworking and invisible, and that's what he turned out to be under their influence. He had effectively no ability to make his own friends (instead deciding to accept whatever ones Fate delivered him) and more or less did whatever he was told by those he accepted as having authority over him. It also crippled his studies. The Harry raised by the Dursleys would get by, no more.

The perfect follower, unable to challenge such people as Dumbledore.

All his life, deep down inside that Harry would still be living in a cupboard under the stairs, never more than one misstep away from a beating. Nothing in his life would ever quite convince him that he was worthy of other peoples' love and so he would, uncomplaining, accept whatever came his way. But the girl would basically be in command from the moment she declared they were dating; and she'd have to, because he'd never dare presume to approach her.

By contrast, the Harry raised by his own parents was a completely different child. The Potters brought him up as a healthy, normal boy, one who could afford to be loud at times and have a messy enough room. He did not get instantly crushed by parental authority or verbal or physical beatings if he chose to stand up for himself, and having attention most often meant love. Achievement was rewarded by parents pleased to see him doing well, and he had peers and siblings to learn social interactions from.

Strangely, one of the greatest strengths of this Harry was he was the only one of the set that had a completely healthy set of emotions. The Dursleys beat any expressions of those out of their Harry, teaching him to suppress them so as not to disturb or inconvenience them by actually wanting things or feeling he was a human being. The set taught by Tom Riddle were twisted at best and best not thought of at their worst, and the ones displayed by the Boy-Who-Lived were an extreme, and thus unhealthy in their own way.

Actually, the Harry Potter raised by his natural parents was the only one of them all to have any experience at being normal. The only downside to having him be a perfectly normal boy was those had perfectly normal skills and abilities that were suited to perfectly normal challenges, like puberty, NOT personally taking on dark lords in a conflict to decide the fate of the world!

Perhaps it was because he was not extreme in any direction that led to that being another strength of this Harry, as whatever cracks were left in the more interesting backgrounds this one could fill in the holes of, bring them up to an acceptable standard of normal, instead of leaving gaping weaknesses.

Still, Harry was an exceptional boy. Left to his own devices he would have done exceptionally well at having a normal life, getting above average grades, a better than average job, leading to a better than average house and most probably an above average wife. But hardly the stuff of legends.

Most people are happy and content to lead ordinary, unexceptional lives. The greatest emerge when they get shaken out of that rut by some crisis or other, and that certainly applied to poor Harry!

The combination of Natural Harry, raised by his own parents, and Dursley Harry, due to the deliberate memory tampering of the dryads during those formative years could almost be termed its own Harry, as the infusion of those perfectly awful memories of experiences gave the natural raised boy a supercharging of dedication and energy.

Calling this for the moment the Enhanced Harry, the boy being raised secure in a loving environment among his own parents and siblings got thrown into an artificial crisis, with all of the motivation and focus that comes from such. In fact, the Enhanced Harry became desperate to make the most of his situation and appreciate it to its fullest, getting the most out of that life and specifically address some of the Dursley Harry's weaknesses.

Last of the original Harrys was the Voldemort influenced one, the one who had learned many traits from his enemy while their souls were locked in 'kill or be killed' mental combat after that near brush with a dementor. This was the confident and aggressive Harry, the one determined to succeed or willing to die trying. The purifying influences of the unicorn and phoenix that had saved him prevented these from being dark traits, as he would only pursue worthy goals, intending maximum benefit for the most people rather than destruction for the sake of destruction and his own glory.

There were substantial drawbacks to that persona. While he was more confident he was guarded, suspicious, and arguably harder to get close to than the Harry raised by the Dursleys. Luna had succeeded by engaging him in a shared scheme for wealth and power. Susan had been all but sold to him and brought Hannah along with her, so he'd adjusted.

One of the (it was hard under normal circumstances to call it a strength, but it often was one in times of war) traits of the Voldemort influence was that the original was always on the lookout for opportunities to harm others, and that ability had not entirely departed from Harry.

This was not exactly a trait that endeared one to others, but under proper control it became an advantage, just like an advanced martial artist notes holes in a sparring partner's style. It could be useful to know when someone was vulnerable to being hit.

Being in a war made that ability priceless. Striking through holes in your enemy's defense was sometimes the only way you GOT to strike! The only alternative was powering through, and you don't often have that ability. They certainly didn't against Dumbledore.

Finally, they had the Boy-Who-Lived, who was supposed to be picture perfect, only his image had been painted by a very imperfect people who idealized some very twisted things.

It could not be argued that the Boy-Who-Lived had load of advantages; he did, every one those authors or publishers could think of. They gave the boy hero an instinctive grasp of magic, powerful wandless abilities, a keen mind that took well to whatever he studied, and loyal followers out of all four houses. The boy very nearly had power dribbling out his ears and was handsome, too, always well-groomed with perfect knowledge of just how to present himself at his best. He was armed with everything the heart could desire and (the authors were careful to mention) without being spoiled.

One of the more interesting side effects from all of the press surrounding the Boy-Who-Lived was how it affected his standing among the purebloods. Status among those rarefied circles was based on a combination of money and how far you could trace your magical line. Truly, the Potters had only been about the middle of the road in each. However, the way the books about Harry painted his circumstances, it was impossible to get better than the Boy-Who-Lived on either of those critical points. Since perception was nine tenths of reality in those cases, and most of the magical population were sheep who believed anything they read, the perceived facts were that you simply didn't get any more pureblooded than the Potter or Evans lines.

One of the most outstanding qualities of the mythical Boy-Who-Lived was his vast, verging on incalculable, wealth. Some stories placed his as the richest magical being in Britain, some others the world.

Which, when you consider that either Nicholas Flamel or whoever inherited his estate was out there, and the man could make gold at a whim, the amount of wealth and properties the alchemist could have accumulated over those more than six hundred years would be enormous! So the sums necessary for the Boy-Who-Lived to be MORE wealthy than him simply boggled the mind.

Of course, one of the traits most admired in the wealthy by the non-wealthy was generosity. So at the end of each book the Boy-Who-Lived tended to give away vast sums of money found on his adventures to people he'd met in that story. Even the most tenuous connection was apt to get one rewarded with a fortune dropped on one's lap - in some cases even applying to a waitress met once in the early part of the story who'd had no connection whatsoever to the adventure or its successful conclusion.

Dropping ten thousand galleons on someone for "Having a happy smile" was more that a bit ridiculous, but happened fairly regularly in those books. After all, generosity was a virtue, and so many times those tales had the boy who had captured the magical world's heart being stupidly generous, sometimes giving gold even to his defeated enemies. And, a time or two, even to his not-so-defeated ones (who then used it against him, of course. Generosity was one thing, but villains were villains). Giving gold to them was STUPID. Money was power and you do NOT give power to those who've proven they'll misuse it. But common sense never was much part of magical society.

They just wanted to paint Harry Potter as so virtuous that not even his enemies were safe from his gifts or largess.

About the worst of all traits for the Boy-Who-Lived was that he was the perfect picture of the quintessential British wizard, meaning he had no common sense, or head for tactics and lacked much ability to think ahead. He took every situation as it came, just relying on his innate awesomeness to carry him through no matter how dangerous the situation. He lived in the moment and was focused on the pursuit of pleasures, whether that was toys, racing about on flying brooms, pandering to his friends, or enjoying the challenge of a good mystery or the adrenaline rush of an exciting battle.

The Boy-Who-Lived was carefree; but the unspoken downside to that was he didn't bother to prepare for the future, certain it would take care of itself.

The Boy-Who-Lived also spent money like it was water, blowing vast fortunes for no real benefit and giving away priceless artifacts like they were party favors. He didn't just believe in tipping, but in over-tipping, and he'd drop a pile of galleons on someone for a candy bar.

He didn't understand the value of anything, expecting the universe to take care of his finances while looking toward his own amusements. Shakespeare had written a very moving play about such a character, called Timon of Athens, a rich playboy who gave lavish gifts on no practical reason, spent and spent all happy about all of the friends he was making, thinking he could never reach the end of his enormous fortune - and got proven wrong most dramatically when he went broke under the crushing debts he'd accumulated. None of his friends stayed on after the money ran out, either.

There was no fortune so big some wastrel couldn't spent it. Even if Harry avoided that fate, those authors hadn't done him any favors in giving him those habits.

In a few short words, the Boy-Who-Lived was soft, indulgent, and frankly had a lot of flaws built into his character by authors who probably didn't know any better, but that were very likely to turn their beloved Boy-Who-Lived into a lackluster adult, unhappy most of the time, having loads of amusements but tired of all of them - almost the classic picture of the jaded nobleman, surrounded by pleasures but not really happy, and unable to figure out why.

The phrase "money can't buy happiness" exists to describe such a person.

Actually, the stereotypical empty-headed nobleman was an excellent guide to use to describe the Boy-Who-Lived emerging from those adventure books. He had vast wealth, but no clue as to how to manage it. All of that was all taken care of by someone else off-camera. The boy hero enjoyed vast estates but knew nothing about how to take care of those, either. That was all work for house-elves and servants, never for the action/adventure hero. He'd work hard, but only on adventures and other 'important' stuff, never servant's work. All of that was expected to take care of itself.

Poor money management skills, no estate management skills, the Boy-Who-Lived was all set up to be a child for the rest of his life, letting someone else look after all of the daily maintenance tasks while he amused himself.

And, frankly, such a person always seems slightly broken.

I I I

Hermione stepped away from her rosebush, now grown into a small tree, as the rush of feelings ebbed and noticed how all the flowers on it were a single color. Looking around, she noticed the garden itself was now considerably smaller, most of it made up of the four small trees each girl held close to, although there were some smaller bushes scattered about with orange, pink, green or purple blossoms, none had the mass of the first four.

She also noticed rather quickly that not all of a tree's flowers were healthy or happy. Indeed, some were dark, grasping pseudopods of malignancy that made Venus Flytraps look pretty by contrast.

She also noticed these parts, you could not honestly call them flowers, were acting the harshest to drive off the other bushes as they tried to creep together, tiptoeing on their root systems.

A zap was heard behind her, and Hermione twirled around to see Luna with her wand out, casting careful low-power cutting hexes, diseased red organs that claimed to be flowers dropping off her tree at every hex.

Luna smiled over her shoulder at her, mouthed 'Needful things' and went on back to cutting off those horrid growths. Already knowing of Luna's gift to know what was needed, Hermione turned back to her own and quickly joined the other girls in trimming off anything unworthy to be part of Harry.

One of those feral, alien-looking blossoms, she noted as it fell to the ground, looked uncommonly like Dumbledore.

I I I

An ugly, corrupted blossom fell to the ground and the scared Harry raised by the Dursleys no longer felt a need to hide from people who loved him.

Another mutated flower got cut off the red tree and the Harry influenced by personality traits copied off the soul fragment of Voldemort no longer felt any desire to crush his enemies. That certain people had to be defeated was a regrettable necessity he would not shirk from, even if that defeat required their deaths, but he no longer had to make their lives miserable as they went down in order to prove his own superiority to them.

A yellow flower looking like a cancerous tumor with tentacles fell and the Boy Who Lived's stupid generosity fell into something more rational, calculated to do the most good rather than show off his wealth. He no longer felt a desire to brag (because that's what it was) by dropping small to medium fortunes on people for candy bars or smiles. No, instead his alms would be paid the way generosity was supposed to work: to alleviate suffering. Of course, that posed its own problems, as every major charity in the magical world was run by some pureblood or other who used it to enrich his own coffers and cover for the bribes they made to Ministry officials. You couldn't drop a dime in a poor box without nine cents going to wasteful overhead, and two thirds of the rest being stolen. It was just that dishonest a world. But he had hospitals of his own now. The bible advocated one-tenth as an offering. He could pay that without bankrupting himself or ruining his family fortunes to where his own descendants would be the ones in need of charity in order to live.

Another and that Harry no longer felt so much of a need to pattern his life after that most respected figure: Albus Dumbledore. One ugly blossom after that and he recoiled in horror over the thought of emulating the man, and a few more left him firmly opposed to the Twinkling Tyrant of Hogwarts.

Another corrupted flower fell and a different part of Harry no longer felt like it had to hoard every coin it came across with a desperate fervor.

As a diseased flower fell from the yellow flowered Boy-Who-Lived tree that left him no longer despising servant's work, the white blooming Dursley Harry tree inched a few steps closer to it. Since that one no longer fled in fear or terror from social situations, the very social Boy-Who-Lived tree allowed it closer without snapping so much at it.

As the red tree of aggression, influence and power stopped despising others the blue tree inched closer; and the girls continued their work, flawed blooms falling like fall leaves to the grass below their feet.

I I I

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