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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95. Chapter Ninety-Five

I I I

Dumbledore could safely say that nothing in the Ravenclaw common room had prepared him for the experience of being used as a racquetball by a bunch of civic landscaping.

Gryffindors were expected to learn the type of improvisation, adaptation and derring-do that made chaotic, tumbling combat situations like this one if not comfortable, then at least survivable. However, nothing like this had ever been expected of Ravenclaws, or Slytherins for that matter.

A great deal has been said about the traits seen as the signature strengths of the four Hogwarts houses, but a great deal less has been said about their associated weaknesses. The one most often sneered about has been Gryffindor, as rushing forward bravely does not often mesh well with thinking things through carefully, so they are often seen as not very clever.

There were exceptions, of course, rare individuals such as Hermione and the Weasley Twins, and now including Harry, who could mix the two qualities. But those were the exception, not the rule.

However, Gryffindor House was not the only one whose celebrated traits clashed with certain others. The ambition of Slytherin did not mix well with loyalty. After all, if it's you or me at the top, and I'd much rather it be me, then I don't much care what happens to you, do I?

Once again, there were rare exceptions to the rule. But it was the rule, not the exceptions, that shaped the character of that house, and most of them were about as loyal as the snakes that were their emblem - which was to say, not in the slightest. Most could not even conceive of sacrificing their own interests to serve a greater whole and would turn on anyone for the right advantage. Loyalty simply cannot exist under those conditions.

But though those two houses often had the most attention focused on them, there were others. Anyone who thought much about Hufflepuff House often dismissed them out of hand, as their loyalty prevented them from having much ambition, thus they were considered duffers, not liable to accomplish anything. They were the flip side of Slytherin, choosing loyalty over ambition.

But the House least thought of in terms of weaknesses was Ravenclaw. The desire to think things through carefully did not suit itself to rushing into situations that were chaotic and often dangerous. Thus, while they were generally thought of favorably by just about everybody, a Ravenclaw was at his worst in situations where he wasn't able to think things through carefully.

Situations such as, oh, combat!

Their unwillingness to jump into situations where they would be unable to carefully consider all of their options has, a time or two, been interpreted as a lack of bravery - with, it must be said, a certain amount of accuracy. They disliked and tended to avoid any fast-paced situations, as not giving them enough time to think; and combat, to be successful, must always be fast.

Albus Dumbledore was in many ways the quintessential Ravenclaw. He could outthink entire generations of his peers and had amassed a terrific amount of knowledge. But he was NOT one of those rare individuals who could also, at the same time, overcome that house's weakness - he got confused and flustered when he hadn't planned out his actions ahead of time.

In situations where he had the luxury of selecting the playing field and pieces, controlling the assorted variables and could plan things through in advance, he could dismantle the likes of Voldemort and make it look easy. Caught with his britches down, on the other hand, was an entirely different story.

One of Dumbledore's less known weaknesses was he did not improvise well.

A Gryffindor, trained to go forward boldly, would rush ahead and probably do ok. The crystal clarity that comes from seeing your options shrink and knowing you had to fight for victory was familiar to most of them. On the other hand, seeing options shrink and disappear before they had decided on which were the best ones to pursue often caused a Ravenclaw to panic.

Dumbledore was panicking. He had every reason to already be dead and the situation was not improving. Nevertheless, he remained too stupid, hurt and confused by all he had suffered to even recognize when Aberforth apparated in, overcoming the wards against that by sheer, personal power, summoned his brother out from the Whomping Willows' version of baseball, and apparate out again.

Harry would be fixing those wards to block out Aberforth's signature before the sun rose, as you simply CAN'T let an enemy wizard that powerful enter and leave your base of security as he pleased!

But that version of the Headmaster had gotten away, rescued by his brother and taken off to parts unknown.

I I I

The Marauders were not yet done pranking the opposing forces to death - in literal fact, of course.

They'd always focused their pranks on destroying those pureblood supremists who wanted to kill everyone else, humiliating them to destroy their morale if nothing else.

The next stage of this deadly prank they actually owed part of to Lily, as the wizards and dwarves building the town had been far too busy to install the system they'd heard of. So it had been Lily's expertise with the muggle world that had arranged the installation of sprinkler systems outside every home.

For wizards this was unheard of, like putting a ship's prow on a bus. Not only does it look out of place, why would you want to? This was Rainy Old England. You could hardly pick a country less in need of artificial watering systems, unless it was one already underwater. Farmers emigrating from there all the way up to the mid-nineteenth century generally had to run into native peoples to even learn what irrigation WAS!

Water was just something that came from the sky.

Oh, sure, some muggles with more wealth than sense installed them anyway, purely as a convenience, of course. However, for wizards, even that fell flat, as automated sprinkler systems requiring computers didn't work in a magical environment; so you'd have to turn it on or off manually, and operating the device that controlled it would be both more effort and more confusion than simply waving a wand. So wizards, even those who'd heard of them, regarded muggle sprinkler systems as sort of useless, even among those who didn't also think they were insane.

James had wanted a set for Godric's Hollow, so his wife had arranged it.

The reason James wanted a set was very simple: any pipe system can be rigged to spray all *sorts* of liquids! Not just water.

By bringing in a couple hundred muggle sprinkler installation companies from the American southwest, charmed not to notice any magical goings-on, and offered bonuses for early completion, they'd gotten the whole town rigged in a matter of days - with some even offering to come back and lay sod or other landscaping.

But the pipes were what James was after. Rig a nice holding tank behind the system, then whatever you transfigure the water in that tank into is what your sprinkler set starts spraying when you turn it on.

Voldemort just used far too many vampires not to trigger all sort of gleeful thoughts among the Marauders about what could be sprayed from nozzles coming out of every lawn. Those vampires had invaded and clustered about the fake barracks just before the fireworks went off, and that was all that was needed to take care of the bulk of those blood-suckers.

Sprinkler systems began spraying flammable oils all around them, igniting hundreds of jets of what were basically flamethrowers going off all across town (suitably charmed so the systems themselves didn't explode).

The landscaping (currently made up solely of dryad trees and bushes) didn't care, as they were immune to fire - as were those villas. So the only things out there to burn were the invaders.

And the stacks and stacks of firewood they'd conjured.

From Voldemort's camp out across the way the town went up like a giant inferno. To all appearances, the whole city was aflame, fires rising so high above the rooftops that they became clearly visible above the wall and even over the artificial hill they sheltered behind. Blasts of heat hit the advancing troops, causing them to falter in their advance, and junior Death Eaters flung themselves, burning from off the top of the wall where they'd been holding out for reinforcements, leaving the flaming bodies of their comrades behind.

In moments the advance turned into a route.

"And THAT!" James declared, lowering his field glasses. "Is how you conduct a war: bloody his nose, kill his troops, draw them in, slaughter them, then convince them that they won anyway so they'll go away and leave you alone. And, should they ever learn otherwise, their first thought is to groan with disappointment over possibilities of another campaign, thinking of how many troops they lost in the first one and how little they gained - if anything."

"Of course," Remus licked his lips, still watching through his field glasses, "This being a *magical* war, the fighting doesn't necessarily end when one side gets utterly crushed and annihilated. Egypt is proof that wizards are apt to leave all sorts of deadly traps and dangerous guardians behind even LONG after the people who constructed them are extinguished."

Below them, inside the inferno, dark, mysterious soldiers who had emerged from the midst of the ruined barracks began charging towards the outside walls, clearing them in mighty leaps, then laying into the retreating Death Eaters with their enormous swords.

"Animated figures," Sirius answered the childrens' unspoken question. "Cast out of solid brass, which is easy to enchant, then covered in thick plates of solid iron, which resists spells fairly well." Here he broke into a manic grin. "Of course, it was *my* idea to cast them in the shapes of Space Marines!"

Death Eaters screamed as their retreating fellows were chased into their camps by rocket-pack powered jump troopers wielding a frightening array of huge axes, chainswords and flamethrowers.

"We couldn't figure out how to replicate most of their traditional armaments like missiles, bolt pistols, lightning gloves, or most of the projectile weapons in their inventory," Remus explained. "But flamethrowers are easy, and big axes suit most purposes."

"You used magic to create an army of soldiers?" Hannah asked, uncurling from around Susan as, for the moment at any rate, the slaughter seemed to have stopped.

"Yes. Unfortunately, we couldn't make them GOOD soldiers," James told the girl, as down below one of the land speeders crashed into an obstacle at high speed and began pinwheeling across the countryside, shredding itself and its passengers as it went.

Of course, this happened right through the middle of the Death Eater camp, shredding tents and occupants along the way, so it was hardly good for the fleeing purebloods' morale.

Tents were burning. Chaos spread everywhere as what had been a route of the advancing troops became general to the whole army, Death Eaters in their nightgowns popping out of tents, seeing the general anarchy of war right there on their doorsteps, then doing anything to escape to safety.

House Elves from Godric's Hollow were already looting the camp under cover of the confusion as Voldemort's proud followers scattered like startled children, screaming as they ran every which way.

James' grin was feral. "And, to add insult to injury, we just happened to have planted in Flint's invasion plan where all of this mess is supposed to retreat to, and their fallback positions after that, just in case some of those buffoons try to rally. And, you guessed it, we have MORE of those animated troops waiting to spring on them there!"

Voldemort's camp burned, the screaming easily reaching their ears over a mile away.

I I I

Among the very few Death Eater children loyal to the cause in that fight to cover themselves in glory was, surprisingly, little Draca No-Name, who not only cast a shield spell to cover herself from the ED-209 model to attack her small party, but actually cast a curse back at the puppet, which promptly exploded from her blasting curse.

This made her the only child to not only defend herself, quite a few did that, but also take out her attacker.

Then, in a display of cowardice best reserved for bullies when they spot an authority figure coming by, the gutless wonder flung herself off the wall at the first hint of fireworks, before the entire town exploded in flames. This would later be entirely attributed to good judgment on her part during her later retellings of the story. And, as it made her one of the few children to escape the blast more or less unharmed, few challenged her assertions.

Fleeing back to camp with yellow streaks down both legs, one of the space marines tripped while pursuing her and she would later claim whole credit for having killed it (this, in spite of the fact that it got up again after).

Fleeing through camp, not stopping for the mind-numbing terror occupying her mind, she paused only to rob a tent of a broom, a purse, and a sackful of rations, before flying out the other side of camp.

She would later attribute this great glory to her tactical expertise and wisdom in having figured out the rally points had been compromised, instead of the white-knuckled terror that had possessed her at the time wiping out all thoughts of her fellows.

Luckily, she'd stolen enough galleons on her way passing through camp to have purchased a complete new wardrobe, so there no incriminating stains didn't give her story away.

Also, with so many purebloods newly dead, she was able to purchase herself a manor and an elf to go with it, which raises the question of just how many tents she robbed on her mad dash through that camp.

I I I

A much older Dumbledore was waiting in the underground chamber viewing this school years memories recorded by his original self in a pensieve as his brother Aberforth brought in a much younger version of the Headmaster.

Not bothering to disturb the older Dumbledore, Aberforth dipped into the healing knowledge his brother had forced him to learn for just this sort of occasion and began to ply healing spells and potions on the injured child version of his lord and master.

It was not long before the older one pulled his head free of the pensieve. "I have been a fool," the older Dumbledore declared, silvery liquid dripping from his beard as he considered the recorded memories he'd just seen.

It had long been his habit to record each day's pertinent memories for later review. Originally, before his Occlumency was perfect, this was to ensure that no one tampered with his mind without him knowing about it. Then, after he had started the practice it became clear this was a useful way to catch clues, undercurrents to conversation, and other useful tidbits of information he might have missed on actually experiencing them, but that were plain on reviewing those memories again.

It was not for no reason he was viewed as insightful, even prescient.

Since memories could be reviewed at fifty times real speed, this cost him very little, and was a tremendous boon to his activities. An hour of memory could go by in a little more than a minute of real time. Nearly two months could be reviewed in a single day.

This was a VERY useful tool for determining what went wrong, when, how and where in his various schemes.

Sadly, success can sometimes do more damage than even the most bitter enemy. In this case, overconfidence had become his foe, for the habit of reviewing his recorded memories had taught him so much about how to read people and predict events that he had felt he'd needed those reviews less and less. Having gone over his memories as a daily practice for nearly a century, then as a weekly one for decades more, it had become monthly, then lapsed altogether except for special occasions.

He was now bitterly cursing his own hubris in doing so, as several things that had caught his original self off-guard were now obvious in review. Still, at least the habit to record every day's memories had remained true, and this backup of that stash, kept by Aberforth, had become invaluable, showing the course of this entire war so far.

Fortunate indeed that he had been so far-sighted, as the horcruxes do not automatically know all that the other soul fragments have experienced. If it had been so, the diary of Tom Riddle would've known all he'd needed to about Harry Potter, and would not have required a year wheedling that information out of a devoted fangirl.

The older Albus looked over to where his brother was working on fixing the wounds of his childlike double. "Have you finished there yet, Abe?"

"No, Albus," Aberforth was not permitted to shorten his brother's name, in spite of it being done to him. "Your other self has been cursed with stupidity, shrunken down to a childlike state, and finally shot through with so many Silverthorn Spruce needles that it nearly amputated his arms."

"Kill him and start over with a new body, then," the older Albus ordered callously. "Just make sure the horcrux survives."

Nodding wordlessly, Aberforth abandoned his healing efforts and picked up a butcher's cleaver. One whack and a spurt of blood later, and a head went rolling. Aberforth then left, returning with the horcrux egg rescued out of Godric's Hollow moments later.

"A trifle crude, but better to start over with a new body," the older Albus adjusted his collar as though he'd ordered a cup of tea, looking down proudly on this great crystal egg.

As his last horcrux created, one intended to preserve his life long after the others had gone on, he had gotten a little creative with this one and it had powers and abilities beyond the ordinary ones. Frankly, it made him consider upgrading his remaining horcruxes to possess the powers he'd invented for this egg.

In fact, he thought he would. At least the active ones, anyway. No need to alert a secret enemy to ALL of his life stashes by leading him from one to the next, obviously. But for those already active, it was a sound plan.

Moments later, Aberforth had revived the second Albus.

"Put the memories in the pensieve," the older Albus ordered the now newly revived one, watching as his younger self obeyed.

It was easier, more complete, and faster to watch those memories of the event than it would have been to ask what had happened to him.

Moments later the older Albus was pulling his head free of that experience as well, scowling as he informed his brother and younger duplicate in the room, "Well, it follows the pattern of all the others. Sudden, massive violence of a largely nonmagical nature. I can't tell you how many times our original self has been killed over the past nearly two months by such means: traps in his chairs at the office or great hall, great swinging weights, stones dropped from above or traps in the floor beneath. They are all depressingly ordinary, really, which must have been what caught us off guard. Magic we know how to detect and expect."

He made a disgusted sound over his original self having missed the pattern. It was so obvious in retrospect!

Then again, it was possible to be too close and too caught up in a problem to notice obvious details like that. He'd had that type of problem before. It was one of the major reasons why he had taken to reviewing his memories thusly.

Well, he needed no better evidence than this that he ought to get back in the habit.

"So, you know our course forward?" asked the information-starved double from the Godric's Hollow house.

"Obviously," the older Albus just rolled his eyes. "It's quite simple, really. Our original self worked it out ages ago, he was just too off-balance to act on his conclusion. There was a prophecy given, by an agent of our enemy, actually, that named us an 'old, white bumblebee' that had become a spider. And, as a spider, we were mere prey for this new foe she called a chicken. The answer was as obvious then as it is now. If we are to be prey to this enemy as the plot-weaving spider, as the last nearly two months proves to have been so, then it becomes time for us to follow the destiny of another of our names, and become the Wolf."

The other Albus pondered this, while Aberforth was too well-trained to speak unless addressed personally, just like the servant he was.

Having recently spent a day reviewing the whole course of this losing war, the Albus copy brought to life by his brother Abe currently had seniority. He had all of the information the Godric's Hollow duplicate lacked, and thus the most information to act upon.

Information was something the Dark Ravenclaw respected greatly.

This older Dumbledore rubbed his forehead thoughtfully. "Despite coming to this conclusion, however, our original self simply allowed the tide of events to carry him on as he had been doing, proving himself the spider as he focused all of his attention on scampering about, attempting to repair all of the many holes and rents torn in his web of plots. Doing this, he remained prey, as was proven by the many times this enemy continued to kill him."

The younger double looked to this older one earnestly. It need not be said that most of the knowledge and experience of ANY copy of Albus Dumbledore was that of the original - the ability to plot and plan and scheme. "Then how shall we proceed?"

"The wolf is two things a spider most certainly is not," the older Dumbledore continued rubbing down the bridge of his nose. "One, he is a pack animal. We are more accustomed to solitude and privacy, keeping our secrets safe and confiding with no one. That is the behavior of a spider, and it must change."

The younger double's eyes widened as he saw through to the older clone's reasoning. Yes, that would be a departure for them, wouldn't it?

"The other is the manner in which they take prey," the older clone continued. "A spider favors traps and ambush. Even those that do not build webs are hunters who prefers to lurk in ambush to take prey by surprise. Whereas a wolf, on the other hand, takes them by his power. He is a warrior, first and foremost, who is not afraid to engage even foes stronger than himself, trusting to his tactics and his pack to carry him through the fray."

The older clone gazed off into the infinite distance, as if not seeing the walls of the private vault surrounding them. "Our original was well served by his secrets, and when those secrets came under attack, he spent every effort to repair or conceal them over again. It was this massive thrust of focus that left him off guard for the continual murder attempts he suffered. If we are to succeed where he has failed we must do one thing: accept that those secrets are gone. Not all our effort can bring them back. The cat, to use an old expression, has been let out of the bag and we cannot put it back again. Our secret status as a Dark Lord is now fully known the world over. We must accept that and move on, to become the warrior. To become the Wolf!"

I I I

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