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.


48. Chapter Forty-Eight


There was much more to be done on the houses they were building than even Harry had supposed. It was Hermione's idea to expand their application of the charms used on the ceiling of the Great Hall to not just the atrium dome, but to most of the outer walls as well, so people within could see out without adding in vulnerable areas like easily breakable windows.

The ceiling of the Great Hall of Hogwarts was enchanted so those inside could see the sky outside. But, as Harry knew from flying over the castle a few times, if you were outside the Great Hall, those same charms didn't let you see in. From outside the castle that roof looked solid, but people in the Great Hall could see someone on a broom flying overhead.

That made Hermione's application perfect.

A person sneaking up on a house generally watches out for those places he knows a person could see him through and takes care to avoid them. But, if the ENTIRE exterior wall could be seen through from within but not without?

A burglar or attacker could never tell when someone might be looking at him.

Besides, it was generally nicer for those who dwelt within, as well. Who didn't enjoy having broad windows looking out over beautiful landscaped yards? And watching snow fall was always beautiful - especially when you weren't cold.

They could even add to those charms ones similar to the ones on Moody's eye or Amelia Bone's monocle: the ability to detect invisible or disillusioned people - even highlighting those for special attention. So you'd know at a glance that someone invisible was sneaking across your lawn. So the very act of being invisible made you MORE noticeable and more likely to get a response.

A response along the lines of: "There he is! Blast him!"

There was no need to add the additional spells from Moody's eye. Residents of houses had no particular need to see through each other's walls, or the clothes of passersby. So seeing through solid objects was something they could leave off, and be glad for the lack of. Privacy existed for a purpose. So they wouldn't be an infinite free peep show on everyone in town, but they would warn you quite effectively of someone sneaking across your lawn.

"We should put vaults in the basement too," Hermione further suggested. "They'd probably be more secure than Gringotts, because no matter how secure people like to think Gringotts might be, the goblins must be able to access the vaults there to perform transfers, or to get gold out for fees, interest they are due, or so on. And, if the goblins can get at your money, there is no telling what all they could do if they decided to."

"Which they would, and DO, in all of their little uprisings and wars," Luna confirmed. "They steal out of every vault they feel they can get away with."

Hermione nodded, accepting the confirmation. "You wouldn't have to store everything there. But, to use a muggle comparison, you could say having a vault in your home is more like a checking account. You can get to the gold quickly and easily, even if it doesn't gain interest and is a little less secure than, say, banking with the gnomes in Zurich. It wouldn't have to affect any of your long term investments at all, just be a petty cash fund so you didn't have to go to Switzerland every time you wanted your hair done. It would fill the gap between what you carry around in your pockets, and what you don't need ready access to on any kind of routine basis."

"And there are plenty of families, the Weasleys for example, who haven't got enough gold to justify the expense of maintaining a large bank account." Luna eagerly agreed.

The two muggle-raised looked at her.

Luna was unruffled as she shrugged. "They may only charge two percent, but the larger your deposits, the more that two percent is."

"Uhm, Luna? Muggle banks GIVE you interest to bank there. They don't charge it," Hermione spoke in sort of dumbfounded tones.

The blonde witch perked up immediately, clasping her hands together in delight. "Oh! We should bank with them instead, then!"

"I agree," Harry posited quickly. "But moving on..."

"Most people don't have vaults in their homes because a vault in an insecure building is an unsecured vault, and most houses are extremely low security," Hermione blurted, cutting him off. "But, from the very start the intention of these homes was to be secure buildings. And whatever vaults we put there ought to be MORE secure than Gringotts because that security will change; it's up to the individuals, so there will be a great degree of variation, and it's always the traps they DON'T suspect that catch criminals!"

Harry scratched his head, agreeing with her, "And, we could always put the Weasley Twins into business as Vault Protection consultants, this time using those prankster minds of their to lay series of bizarre traps. Or to figure out how to break in to assess holes in a vault's security."

"They'd do well," Luna agreed.

Harry adjusted his glasses, and couldn't fight a grin. "You know, it seems every time our conversation turns to 'Get the twins to test the security' it's something to our benefit." He grew serious for a moment. "But, you know there is another bonus to having vaults in all of the houses, even if people never use them."

"Oh?" both girls turned curious glances to him.

"Uh huh," He nodded. "Because..."

"People will KNOW they have them!" Hermione blurted, once again getting excited as her mind raced ahead of Harry's words. Shimmering with her idea, she twirled about to explain it to Luna. "Most of the success Death Eaters had in the last war was the speed of their raids - they were always gone before reinforcements or help could arrive."

"But if there is a vault in the basement," Luna realized, the idea dawning.

"They'll stay and break it open, even if there's nothing in it. They couldn't know the contents beforehand because there isn't a goblin to bribe to give them a balance sheet!" Hermione exclaimed.

Harry nodded, confirming all her statements. "Yes. Tom's followers are split almost equally between the very top and bottom most levels of society, and ironically both ends are quite greedy for more gold. Once they know that our houses have vaults they'll have a difficult question each time they break into one: Do they go upstairs to kill the family, or down to grab the gold?"

"Both should have substantial defenses," Luna posited.

"Right!" Hermione declared, before rushing onwards, "In the last war it took the Death Eaters very little time to break into a house, kill the family, then escape. Most of the time warning never got to the aurors, who were so disorganized they almost never arrived in time even when it did."

"The work of Lucius and his ilk," Harry supplied.

"Thank you," Hermione accepted his tidbit, before rushing ahead once again, "Carving through defenses ALWAYS takes more time than rushing across a living room! So already to take out these houses we are NOT talking about quick raids! But, if they have to decide to go up to kill the family or down to steal their gold..."

"Some of the time they'll steal the gold," Harry interjected.

"And they'll NEVER have time to do both if we have a reaction force on hand! Heck, they shouldn't ever succeed at either one, but, if you had to choose..."

"Would you rather lose your family or your gold?" Luna saw ahead and completed Hermione's question, before answering it with a smile. "I can always earn more gold. But replacing a family just isn't the same."

"No, it isn't." Hermione stopped her feverish rush to explain with a smile.

"They are sure to try and compensate with larger assaults, using separate teams to go after the family and their gold; but the larger a force the longer it takes to organize and the slower it moves." Harry instructed. "The small, quick groups of the last war were perfect for their goals. If they want to double the size of those to have enough people to kill a family and raid their vault at the same time they'll discover their reactions are clumsier, and the whole force harder to coordinate. So they'll move slower regardless."

"In theory they could train to overcome some of that weakness," Hermione postulated. "Muggles do. But there is a limit to what training can do for you."

"And that training requires great discipline - which is something no wizard has ever had in large amounts, and dark ones less than most," Harry grinned. "No, the larger a force of dark wizards you gather together, the more they resemble the keystone cops. The ideal force for their purposes is three to four people per strike force, any more and they start bickering."

"Evil has always been its own worst opponent," Luna smiled dreamily.

Harry nodded, speaking from experience, having access to Voldemort's memories gave him countless such examples, "Every dark witch or wizard is concerned about him or herself first and foremost. They each want all the glory and goodies, while getting none of the blame (and as little of the actual work as possible); and the games they play to do that are literally infinite - they occupy their Entire Lives, from getting sorted into Slytherin onward. Each one tries to pull down his fellows while aggrandizing himself. Putting aside their own interests for the good of the team is literally anathema to all they've ever striven for. Herding cats would be a breeze by comparison."

"How did Voldemort ever do it?" Hermione questioned.

Harry sighed, taking a seat and motioning for them to sit also. "It's a long story. In summary, Tom Riddle was always a bright yet selfish child - the exact opposite of me. I was content to be meek and dumb. He was cruel and bullied those around him, I was the one who got bullied. My relatives beat and brutalized me, constantly putting me down in every way imaginable and not letting me alone for an instant. He, on the other hand, got away with anything because the overworked orphanage employees mostly ignored the kids. So long as he could keep things quiet, they never noticed what he did, so he had a completely free hand to terrorize those around him. You couldn't ask for a more different environment from the one where the Dursleys watched my every move like a hawk and brutally punished the least disobedience. He had freedom of action, while I was raised in a jail serving hard labor."

Hermione paled as he described his experience at the Dursleys. She'd often suspected it was bad, but this went beyond the pall.

Harry continued, "Our backgrounds could not have been any more different. The Dursleys neglected and abused me, belittled and humiliated me, insulted me, starved me, beat me, vilified me, dehumanized me to everyone, and made me their personal slave. Young Tom Riddle, on the other hand, made himself master of all he surveyed right under the nose of authority figures who didn't notice his little games - and that was a pattern he expected to go on throughout his life. Which, strictly speaking, it did. The Ministry's actions (aided by a few of his agents inside it sewing disorder and confusion) were so bumbling and incompetent they were effectively useless; while Dumbledore, for his own reasons, let him get away with most of what he wanted to do. All of that lasted right up until I reflected his killing curse back on him - the end of his natural life. So, strictly speaking, he enjoyed that privileged state of being ignored by authority his whole life long - and I've never been free of scrutiny. I was under Dumbledore's watchful eye from before I was born."

Harry wiped tired eyes with his hands. "Even our experiences at Hogwarts are almost in direct opposition to each other. I arrived here well known and loved. But starting with being revealed as a Parselmouth my reputation went south and I started to become hated and vilified. Tom Riddle arrived here as an unknown muggleborn and hated. He was forced to become a toady to more powerful older students to survive after being sorted into Slytherin. However just as my reputation reversed, so did his over time. Ironically, being shown as a Parselmouth was the turning point for both of us, only it was the best thing ever to happen to him. I got befriended by Ron, who made sure I stayed lazy and never studied. Tom made no friends, just allies of convenience, and worked hard, driven to improve his situation."

The tired boy sighed and leaned back, contemplating the morning sky. "Tom was brilliant. He saw he could turn the tables on those he toadied to if he could get more powerful than they were - and he did. It took time. He built his spellcasting ability up fanatically, making himself the most useful follower in the whole House. By doing so he was able to trade his services for greater and greater favors, changing patrons in exchange for bribes and bits of advantage until finally he didn't need a sponsor anymore, he'd already gotten enough from ignorant purebloods to stand on his own if he wanted. But he went on doing as he'd done previously, collecting more and more favors, and more and more resources, until he was a leader in his House and most of his former patrons were now his followers. He'd played them all off against each other until, in the end, he was the only one holding any cards. By then they were forced to accept his stories about being a pureblood 'wrongfully cast off' by the family over a perceived wrong, as it hurt their egos too much to be that deeply in thrall to a halfblood."

Harry scowled at himself. "While I, until this year anyway, squandered any esteem in which I was held, trying so hard to 'fit in' that I could not have done any more damage to my reputation if I'd done it deliberately. My being scared of people drove off any potential allies, and kept me isolated, so any power blocks that were forming didn't have me in them. So now, in the space of two short years, I've gone from most popular person in the wizarding world to an isolated hermit with only two friends. A mighty reversal indeed, and just exactly the opposite of what happened to Riddle."

"We are working to reverse that," Hermione offered kindly, hoping to comfort the boy who'd always been her first and only friend. "What you did with the sword of Gryffindor and other artifacts of the Founders was very brave, and people started to see you in a new light - as a hero again."

Harry chuckled. "That was the point in using them that way." He pulled the sword partway out of where he'd hidden it. "Pity that we forgot about it for that fairy ritual. It's just not the same without the gems."

"The spirit of them is still in the magic of those devices," Luna spoke, confusing them both.

"Now, speaking to a reaction force," Hermione quickly changed the subject to prevent Harry from dwelling on his failures again.

"Yes," Harry accepted this change with a nod, leaning forward to clasp his hands together while he spoke. "So far all we've been working on are passive defenses, which are far from perfect. Still, you don't throw out the entire concept of tanks just because tanks aren't invulnerable. You don't throw out the entire concept of body armor just because there are things that can penetrate it. And martial artists still spend a lot of time learning how to block things, even though blocks aren't perfect either."

Harry caught them in his gaze, but his grin was sparkling, "Don't demand perfection because nothing is ever perfect. Going that route only condemns you to being eternally unsatisfied with everything around you. Defenses are the start. Everyone's got to have a safe place to base themselves out of. It's when your enemy hits your rear that the real agony starts - and there is nothing Voldemort or Dumbledore are more inclined to do to us. So we've got to sew up our town as tight as we can, because they'll both hit it."

"Is it really paranoia if they truly are out to get you?" Hermione asked with a grin.

"Of course I'm paranoid. But am I paranoid ENOUGH?" Harry asked, with a smile on his face.

Luna nodded. "Yes. Now, one of the first things we'll want to establish is a covenant community, where people swear oaths to abide by certain terms as a condition of living there. You don't want to live those terms? Go elsewhere. No one is forcing you to move here. You are welcome to make whatever rules you want to someplace else. Here, we live by these."

Harry nodded, understanding her point. "Oaths like: Don't be a Death Eater, and equivalents."

"Exactly," Luna agreed, just as the light of understanding shone in Hermione's eyes. "Our terms would be some basic Centaur principles: Number one, your safety is your own responsibility. Trusting someone else to guard your life makes you no better than a slave. Likewise, the safety of a community is the responsibility of that whole community. If any decide they will not defend themselves, they are to be left without defense by others. If they are unwilling to work or risk to be safe, they are unworthy of the privilege of enjoying security and are cast out of the town. In order to help keep this stricture, all adult residents will be required to reach and maintain an acceptable standard of fighting ability."

"Oh, that would be PERFECT!" Hermione squealed, bouncing up, getting excited by this prospect. "That would change the whole paradigm from one family cowering in their home waiting for the enemy to break through and kill them, to a couple of adult magicians firing out of their bunker while hundreds more of their armed neighbors race to assist them! The whole war would change! They could never attack Godric's Hollow under the old rules because it would be, not one little raid, but assaulting an armed camp!"

"Isn't that a bit much to ask?" Harry asked, feeling dubious of the ability of normal wizards to live up to such a standard.

"No. Not actually." Hermione blurted out in her excitement. "There are tons of countries that require military service of all their residents, and enroll them in their reserves after their term of enlistment is up. This is the same thing, just on a city instead of country wide scale. But considering all of these people have, theoretically, already HAD an education on how to defend against the dark arts..."

The bookworm practically quivered in her glee. "We could turn Godric's Hollow into the magical equivalent of Switzerland! Armed neutrality. 'We don't care what Dark Lord you worship, just leave us alone.' It would require massive fortification and a trained population, but if we are going that way anyway..."

The bushy haired girl looked so happy about the prospect that Harry felt terrible about bursting her bubble. "Yes, I have to agree with what you're saying. But, considering the lazy fools that make up the wizarding populace, that sounds an awful lot like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

"Why should that be difficult?" Luna interrupted, blinking in confusion.

Harry caught himself. "Oh. Right. Sorry, muggle expression. They can't do transfiguration."

"Ah!" The blonde nodded, satisfied she understood. "Well, yes, I can see how they could find that difficult, then."

"Nonsense!" Hermione rebutted the original objection. "Every witch or wizard is already armed with a deadly weapon and theoretically trained to use it. If they made any effort at all to fight back against the various Dork Lords they would be losing followers left and right. Even if Tom only lost one every raid in three he'd soon run out of followers. Then HE'D be the one terrified and running scared! Strong as he may be, the man's still gotta sleep. And he isn't blocking fifty spells at once. We may be individually weaker, but there's a reason people fear army ants!"

The brown-haired girl frowned, disapprovingly, and whispered, "Also, there is something utterly contemptible about grown men with full educations and the attitude, the strange dare of telling a child, 'Well, I am not going to bother to defend myself. So if you don't want me to die you'd better save my life!'"

Luna beamed approval to her. "Yes, so before even moving in, we tell them: These are our terms. Don't like them? Fine. Go live elsewhere. If you want to live here, you agree to abide by our conditions - just like the rent charged for the privilege of living in any other place you don't own."

Hermione bounced with her own example, "Or, how a man with an apartment complex can tell his renters: no pets, no loud parties! We can tell them: Don't be Death Eaters, live according to a certain standard of conduct. Home owners associations get away with worse restrictions!"

Harry conceded they could do that. Wizards had a very medieval outlook and a very medieval society. They were used to things like the local noble owning all the property and setting conditions on its use. To them this was normal, just like it was normal to modern muggles to have mortgage payments to make to a bank.

Actually, by comparison, the medieval serfs got off easy, as their rents were less of their income, by comparison, than the mortgage payments were out of the modern wage.

And it would allow them to control who got to live there, throwing out those that failed to agree or refused to abide by the restrictions, restrictions that were mutually agreed upon and put there for everyone's protection.

"And, having that rule 'don't be a Death Eater' implies strongly we have the right to check," Harry conceded, lifting his eyes to meet the twin gazes of his friends. "And it would be in our best interests to do so frequently. Heck, we could censure someone for spouting their propaganda!"

Hermione nodded vigorously. "Like Draco. No one has any doubt about where his loyalties lie. Honestly, spouting death eater propaganda in the midst of a supposed 'light' school? Real teachers would have expelled him the first time he crowed that 'and the mudbloods are next' junk in second year."

Harry found himself agreeing, and contrasting that with Tom's memories. "Yeah. Lucius had some brains, but Draco has none." He sighed as in mock sadness. "The quality of Death Eaters has really declined since Tom stopped training them personally. Even the best of them fight as individuals without any real teamwork. Most of them rely on fear and the Unforgivables to get through a fight, covering up the fact they are incompetent wizards by using spells that have no block or counter. A man can only dodge so much, and a single hit is enough to take him out with any of those curses."

The boy hero sat up decisively. "Okay, Vulturewart devised some wards that allowed anyone with a Dark Mark to pass, and ONLY those with a Dark Mark to pass. Or, if they are like myself and know that mark's inner secrets, which, before you ask, I'll naturally teach to you the moment you have the proper background in runes and arithmancy to understand them," Harry cut off the dual interruptions made by the eager-to-learn girls.

He grinned widely as they settled down. "But, give me a little time and those should be easy enough to reverse to create a ward that will simply keep out anyone who has a Dark Mark, and ONLY those with one!"

Hermione giggled. "We should start selling those around Diagon Alley."

"Too soon," Luna corrected. "It would tip our hand too early, during an era where people carrying the mark are still claiming to be innocents, and would raise a fuss over being kept out. But yes, someday we definitely should."

"But if we put them up around our town," Harry smiled triumphantly. "Then whatever Vulturewart's followers want to do to us, they'll have to do it from long distance, robbing them of direct access and that personal touch."

"I like that," Hermione agreed. "He's got these working for him. We should definitely turn them against him."

Harry nodded thoughtfully. "Plus, I'm pretty sure that I can finagle it right so as to make our wards unalterable by anyone who possesses a Dark Mark. It's just a reflection of the wards used to restrain certain magical creatures: set it so that a certain frequency, ie the magic to be contained, is blocked from access to the magical flow of the wards so they can't control them, then make that frequency match the one supplied by the Mark. You could set wards against a certain person that way, but most people don't bother." He smacked his lips thoughtfully. "But I think I will against both Tom and Albus."

Both girls giggled ferociously.

Harry shrugged, rising up and putting his arms around both girls. "It won't stop them. Both our enemies are accustomed to working through agents, the Master Manipulator especially. But in Tom's case we can force him to work through the agents of his agents; while Dumbledore is far and away the most potent person on his side. None of his tools are anywhere near as effective as Tom's at this sort of thing, so in situations like this one he prefers to act personally. In both cases we're forcing them to use non-preferred tools, and that sort of thing leads to errors."

"Errors which we can then exploit," Hermione affirmed firmly.

"Both are also accustomed to subversion," Luna observed, "either turning a few people on site into their servants, or infiltrating their own. Often both strategies are used at once. But if we can deprive them of the ability to do that by setting up rules and precautions beforehand to prevent it, then we deprive both Dork Lords one of their most frequently used and vital tools."

"I like it," Harry agreed.

"Especially for use against an information junkie like Albus," Hermione agreed enthusiastically. "If he can't get any local information through any of the usual sources, then he'll be much more reluctant to act against us. People like that both hate and fear the unknown, so the longer we can keep him in the dark about our town, our plans, and our defenses, the longer we'll hold."

"And that grants us time for building up to hopefully neutralize him," Harry agreed. Then he sighed. "The weird thing is, we don't even plan to live there. Godric's Hollow is our red flag to wave in front of those two bulls. Our real treasures will be elsewhere, hopefully in unaligned countries. This is just a place to give those who don't flee England a place to run to, and a target for our opponents to waste their strength against; a diversion, if you will."


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