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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96. Chapter Ninety-Six

I I I

Greece was a land of ancient magic.

The roots of western magic were inextricably tangled up in that land. What had not been inherited from the Egyptians had largely been invented here. Of course, the land had also been some of the most fought over territory in Europe's long history, so not much of that survived, and what did was ruins.

Some of what *did* survive, however, would have sent chills of horror down the spines of any right-thinking mage.

Albus chuckled to himself at the thought of it, standing on the banks of the river Styx, staring out over those black and placid waters to see the castle of Hades on the other bank. The last wizard to have held the post of Charon was, of course, long dead and decaying in his grave, and the boat did not run itself, so there were precious few ways of crossing.

Which, Albus chuckled once again to himself, may have done a great deal to explain why the Citadel of Hades had survived.

It had most certainly NOT been spared for the love that native Greek wizards felt for the place. Nor even the invaders, really. Greeks had fought Greeks over this countryside for thousands of years as one city state waged war on another. Then came Persia, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Rome, Celts, Byzantium, Attila the Hun, Goths, Vandals, Visigoths and countless others on up to modern times.

And those were just the recorded wars. More blood had been shed in Greece than in all the rest of Europe, by some accounts, just for the fact that it had been going on over a much longer time.

Some scholars disputed that, of course. Perhaps, but whatever. The Greek wizards masquerading as gods had established a long and bloody history long before creating this wonder. That it had been sealed by Roman order was of no concern to Dumbledore. Those records had only led him to rediscover it. The fact that armies had clashed and clashed again overhead, on the plains and fields above this cave system had only served to strengthen the death magic about the place.

That it had lain unharvested for so long only made there be there that much more in store, a veritable vault of death energy that had been accumulating deposits for well on five thousand years. Even on this side of the river, the energy store untapped and undimmed by those mages who'd once siphoned off that power to use in their various wonders and projects held marvelous potential.

Of course, now no one dared try. The last wizard who had made the attempt had found the energy far too great for those ancient, rediscovered rites he had been using, and in his discovery had become the world's first dementor, and unleashed the Black Plague across Europe, killing (by various reports) between one and three-quarters of the entire population of the continent in a glorious five years of disease and misery before the tap shut itself again.

A part of Albus wanted to throw wide the floodgates on this power just to see what would happen. But no, he would save that for his final, retributive strike. Spells would be laid down that, should his final horcrux be destroyed, the gates of Hades would gape open wide and plunge the Earth into...

Well, Albus had to admit he didn't quite know what it would plunge the Earth into. All he knew was with that much accumulated death energy released to run free, it wouldn't be healthy. And, if the Black Plague was anything to go by, people above would not be happy.

But then, if he couldn't rule the Earth, he didn't see why anyone should enjoy that privilege. It would either be his, or it would be destroyed.

He would see to that.

Still, Albus permitted himself to release a long, nostalgic sigh. This cave was going to have been one of the first stops he and Gellert would have made on their world trip together.

He turned to his friend with a twinkle in his eye. "Better late than never, eh Gellert?"

The Dark Lord Gellert Grindelwald stepped up beside his lifetime companion and peered down into the inky black water. "We'll never get across with just the wand, Albus. Curse the last ferryman for distributing the articles of his office amongst three brothers, just for crossing a river!"

Albus placed a loving hand on his companion's shoulder, eyes twinkling full force as Gellert's freed followers went about their ritual setup behind them. "We have argued this many times, my friend. How many times have we tried calling up his shade so that he might answer? At the end we may only guess what his motivations were. I maintain my position, however, that when he saw the three brothers create that bridge, he saw something unique about it, a property that, at a guess, would've permitted them to cross the river Styx without the use of his ferry. And, being in the final hours of his own life, saw in them his natural successors. It is even probable that he felt the spell to create that bridge would become widely known, and thus end the protection this river provides, and end the need of a ferryman forever."

"And I still maintain he was a fool," Grindelwald replied very gruffly. "Better to have slain them himself to seal the spell, and kept the set together by finding his own replacement! He ought to have maintained the office, as others had done before him!"

"Again, perhaps," Albus agreed with a twinkle and smile, removing his hand as he turned about to the ritual site. "Still, it matters little enough to us today, as it is not our mission at present to cross, for we came here without the intent to claim the throne of Hades."

"Not yet, Albus. Not today," Gellert agreed, still staring at the castle with a fire in his eyes.

The fierce intensity behind the expression was marred by an impotence they both well understood. For the River Styx was a unique magical feature, and formed a complete ring about the island where rested the Citadel of Hades. Some might even say that ring was an inappropriate word, as it implied two dimensions, when sphere came far closer, as there was no way to enter this cave, or approach the castle without arriving on its banks. And, while seeming placid, the river was fierce even just beneath the surface.

Not so much a cave as a dimensional weak point, a city the size of medieval London lay on an island surrounded by waters more than a football field wide, and above it all stood the black Castle of Hades.

Flying, climbing, digging and swimming were all impossible. The waters would dissolve anything that touched them save living tissue. Magic was impossible to use upon the Styx, or anything that came in contact with it. And any living thing to touch those waters instantly forgot its entire life. Worse, on being disturbed the waters instantly erupted in towers of flame. So, on touching those waters a man would become as helpless as a newborn, drawn in by undercurrents to simultaneously burn and drown.

Actually, forgetfulness was only one of its five properties. Later muggles who'd forgotten the original myths would interpret the Greek underworld as having five rivers, wrapped nine times around Hades. In truth, well... Gellert was an expert, but even *he* had to admit he didn't know it all. But he knew enough to know the water had at least five major properties. The wrapped nine times around probably referred to being unable to circumvent the river by any known means.

The rocks of this chamber would resist any known spell, and no one knew why, but flying was impossible in this chamber, even for a bird animagus. The air was heavy, such that not even a rock thrown by a giant would go farther than a handful of feet, and the cloak of ancient magic hanging about the place stopped portkeys or apparating better than wards.

Elves wouldn't come near the place.

The only means to cross was one boat, a boat they could all see tied up on the other side, and that would resist any magic known to man save for the command of three specific objects used together. Objects that Gellert and Albus had been searching for since their shared youths together, as the keys to gain the powers stored up in the castle of Hades.

But Albus was right, crossing was not what they were here for today.

Grindelwald turned away from the visions of glory that possessed him every time he looked upon that castle, to where the Fudge was already blubbering, "But! But, Albus! Whatever are we here for? Surely you know the dangers of this place?"

The former British Minister of Magic was already turning his bowler several times over in his hands, glancing about, half-panicked that maybe the walls of this dark place would reach out and bite him.

His former undersecretary Umbridge was taking things much calmer, Gellert noticed. Hmm, now *she* had some real potential, in his eyes. But Albus was right, having on their side the last man to be Minister of Magic over Britain before the troubles broke out gave them a semblance of legitimacy.

A priceless advantage in any civil war was a claim to the throne, even a tenuous or easily dismissed one clouded the issue and made it harder for your enemies to gather against you. And having Fudge's entire government in their pockets? Well, the man was useless, but he was cheap. Having been reduced to living in a rude hut in the Congo, not even rightfully there but having crept across the border, the man had been willing to join their cause for nothing more than a new bowler and a three piece suit. And with him on hand, it had been easy to recruit all of his former aides that had been thrown out of England with him. Some had been willing to join up for a bowl of soup.

They were a lazy lot, incompetent and ineffectual, but together they gave their side as much claim on the British magical government as Voldemort had. Not that they expected to take it through legitimate means, by any count, but it would confuse those who fought against them more. And if the world couldn't make up its mind who to root for, so much the better. They'd be in control again before anyone figured out Albus was the one leading this faction. They might never find Grindelwald was involved.

Besides, he and Albus had turned worse wizards than these into competent soldiers, when times called for it.

And they most certainly did.

But Albus had been busily reassuring Fudge while Moody patrolled around on his peg-leg, keeping the rest of Fudge's crowd in line. "Ah, my friend. I know of the dangers on which you speak. But really, all that can happen to you or I from the worst accident is a simple Obliviate-like effect."

"Erasing a man's entire life, Albus!" Fudge protested, spittle flying from his face as he nearly tore the new bowler in two in panic. "I mean, it's one thing to cause a few muggles to forget a dragon or two, but..."

Words failed the former minister as he tried to express how much he feared losing those few useful skills that he had acquired during life. Instead he just settled for gazing on the inky blackness of those waters in fear.

"And I have a remedy for that, too, my dear friend," Albus patted the distraught former minister on the shoulder, reassuring with kind words. "Just trust me, as you once did, and all shall be well, for all of us."

Those words were enough to get Fudge's attention moved from the inky black waters to the face of his old comrade. "But... Albus... those things they've been saying about you..."

This nearly elicited a laugh from the old man. "Ah, Cornelius, are they any more true than those things said about you?"

At that the former minister froze in unaccustomed thought. True, people blamed him for many things for which he did not feel himself responsible. How in the world was HE to know what was up with the Boy-Who-Lived all those years in the muggle world? People hadn't told him!

And thus, in the genius of Albus Dumbledore, he'd won a convert, because by tying his own foul deeds in Fudge's mind to accusations against himself the former minister did not believe to be true, both got dismissed at once, as the politician decided that, not being guilty himself, Albus must not be either!

Hogwart's Headmaster was already leading his easily deluded friend near a changing screen set up on the banks of the river. "It's really quite simple, Cornelius. Some unseen force working behind the scenes has discredited us both, casting our entire country into carnage and bloodshed. We alone are what's left of those who might be able to stop it. So I must beg of you to accept the great power this ritual shall provide."

Fudge no more than any politician, loved power, but one word caught his mind. "Ritual?" The man looked about, startled, seeing many of those assembled for the first time. "What ritual? Nobody ever said anything about a ritual, did they?"

Actually, they had. Multiple times. Just not, apparently, when the blithering idiot had been paying attention. But Albus did not permit his fond facade to falter. "Oh, yes, Cornelius. For you see, it's really a routine thing, but when we go back to England there may be a small amount of danger, and so we are going to partake in a ritual known to old heroes which will make us all but impossible to harm."

Opening his mouth during the middle of this to object, Fudge closed it again upon hearing those words 'impossible to harm'. Really, he was not a brave man, and on hearing about danger was willing almost immediately to form a committee to determine who had to deal with it (making sure, as he did so, they did not have power to select HIM, naturally). But the idea of being practically immune to harm was an appealing one, as braving dangers (in perfect safety, of course) was naturally a great way to attract votes.

Actually, it was far more dangerous than the former minister knew. Muggles who knew part of the original myths had split this river into five when talking about it. The old Greek names would mean nothing to Cornelius, but the five properties of the river were called: forgetfulness, pain, hate, fire, and the one that actually scared Albus Dumbledore most of all, lamentation.

He was scared because he didn't know exactly what it meant. The ancient Greeks had possessed a tendency to wax poetic that left a regrettable lack of clarity to their words sometimes. The river of pain was also called the river of sorrow, which was fairly easy to see as 'you are sorry you touched that, as it hurts so bad' was a simple, poetic interpretation.

Hate was another property he well understood, as he possessed scrolls written by those ancient Greek wizards who described the great hatred of this river as destroying anything it touched. Thus, the property of the Styx destroying all non-living tissue was attributable to that.

On lamentation, however, he had no idea. They'd just have to find out.

One thing he DID know, was that the ritual they were about to attempt, that of following in the footsteps of Achilles by dipping themselves in the river Styx to acquire invulnerability, was not something that other Greek heroes had attempted with any degree of success.

Really, you'd think among a warrior people, the property of invulnerability would be so popular that if it was as simple as a mother holding her son's heel to dip her child in the Styx, that Greek mothers would be queued up in lines to bathe their children in this river. They almost certainly would then have grown so bored fighting each other that they would have spread out, colonizing the world just in a search for someone who wasn't invulnerable to fight - which *might* have explained certain migration patterns.

But if so, the exact parameters of the ritual were soon lost. It was also possible that outside of that one instance with Achilles, they never got it to work. Or, if they had, nobody bothered reporting it. But you would think the odd invulnerable warrior would stand out a bit. They were certainly not shy about boasting of their other deeds or attributes.

Again, perhaps, but whatever. Albus was certain he had it close, and if they did not achieve invulnerability today, there would be other attempts. The key really seemed to be in the contradictory myths of how Achilles came about his marvelous invulnerability. In one set, he was dipped by his mother into this river, in another tradition, blamed on Phonecian influence, he was bathed in ambrosia before being 'passed through the fire' a form of human sacrifice that, in this instance, was said to have burned the mortal parts away.

Since many did not believe that a mother would bread her son, then fry him, in order to obtain immortality for him, as that could only be the immortality of a ghost, that had focused the efforts of most researchers on this river, to their lasting disappointment as virtually all claimants on the power died.

Albus, however, was willing to experiment. And, having obtained a supply of ambrosia, was willing to liberally coat one or two servants in the material, then dip them in this river, to see what would result from it. Actually, he was quite confident that the conjunction of the two myths could be found quite easily in this method, as the river both burned and had other properties. So, 'passing through the fire' and dipping in the river might indeed be the same thing and, with a light coating of ambrosia, invulnerability might indeed result.

At a mere cost of all of one's memories, naturally. Harmless for a child who had none to speak of. More tricky for an adult.

"Are you ready, Gellert?" Albus called out once he had Fudge calmed to a sufficient extent that he could leave the ex-minister alone for a while.

"Almost done here, Albus," came Gellert's voice from the river side of the screen.

Excellent!

Dumbledore nipped around the screen to see the results of this experiment, and was quite gratified to see them matching his expectations. As expected, the animal not covered in ambrosia had burned through completely. That was as anticipated. Then, seeing as how ambrosia was too expensive to waste on mere animals, a minor ministry file clerk from Fudge's administration who'd been in a position that ought to have known about Harry, and seen to it that he'd gotten better treatment, had been breaded and put into the river.

Surprisingly, yet to Albus' immense gratification in his own brilliance, that man had lived!

Horribly mutilated by the flames, yet he lived.

It became apparent in this that the rejuvenating qualities of the ambrosia were not entirely canceled out by exposure to the Styx. Excellent! The man had burned, naturally, yet not quite to the point of death, and the ambrosia had nearly regenerated that! Another dose, and the man's wounds ought to be fine. His memory was a complete loss, but that was as expected, really, although it had had to be tested.

"Administer the Mnemosyne, Gellert. I am excited to see the results, and if it is indeed as potent as tales say."

Mnemosyne was not actually a river. Instead, it was a potion named after the titaness who'd discovered it. The ingredients were now all but impossible to find, but naturally, having been involved in the illegal trade of magical objects for more than an ordinary lifetime, Albus of course had a private stock of them on hand.

He would be able to replenish current store from the much larger stockpiles he had in England, so was not worried about consuming some in this effort.

When the minor Ministry clerk came awake, sputtering and shouting over the indignation of having been both breaded and fried, Albus smiled, then cast a spell conjuring a large spiked weight to drop on the man's head.

He survived!

It had worked!

I I I

"Daphne! Tracy!"

The Boy-Who-Lived lunged forward and hugged first one, then the other, then both of the startled Slytherin girls, laughing merrily and talking a mile a minute about events that had lost them within the first sentence.

The weird thing was, both girls felt they ought to remember what he was talking about.

Then it hit Daphne. Potter was talking about those books her father had had printed about her and the Boy-Who-Lived, referencing those adventures as if those stories had actually happened, and he was reminiscing with old friends who'd been through those events with him!

At thirteen the blonde ice princess of Slytherin was ready to consider herself very grown up, and put childish things like those adventure stories behind her (especially considering how much a disappointment the real Harry Potter had been), but then Harry casually flicked a hand and, with wandless magic, accomplished a trick he'd been doing all of the time in those books, yet had NEVER demonstrated a proficiency for in real life!

It was enough to throw the Slytherin ice princess for a loop when he levitated seven girls at once out of that wicker basket, without any seeming effort, and wandless and wordlessly to boot!

That was Boy-Who-Lived level of magic right out of the adventure stories, the likes of which were unseen by Harry Potter, or indeed even Dumbledore!

Daphne stared at the boy with new eyes, determined to get the measure of this new mystery, and perhaps change her opinion of Harry Potter.

After all, if she was honest with herself, she *did* owe the boy a Life Debt for having sent his owl with the means to get out of the slaughter on those walls. Even from where she stood, the burned and mangled bodies of those he *hadn't* saved were evident.

And the weird thing was, she could almost remember those events from those adventure stories he was talking about. Regardless, the boy seemed determined to treat her and Tracy as lifelong friends, and Astoria too, for that matter, adding her to the three-way hug the moment she was out of the basket. And, since this boy seemed to be on top of the current social ladder, those Slytherin girls calmly accepted this arrangement, for now.

Tracy was even staring at the boy as if seeing him for the first time.

I I I

Author's Notes:

One more blast into mythology, and suddenly dropping a huge weight or a bunch of spikes on Albus isn't going to kill him anymore! The man is already forming his pack around him, too.

To my own surprise, I shock myself at how well I can get some of Rowling's worst plot holes to shape up when properly tied to appropriate myths. But I must admit I have fun doing it.

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