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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100. Chapter One Hundred

I I I

It must be said that humans are creatures of habit. Especially during peaceful times, we get in our comfortable little routines, and, barring small changes where we really only want this or that small part to work better, we want things to remain the same. Changing mental gears is work, and most don't want to do it. So most people, on seeing a problem, go to the same answer that has served them before and try to implement that over again.

Many Americans saw their nation at risk of going to war, then did what they always did about such things - demonstrated against it, thinking that would solve the problem and they would not get involved.

But, frankly, history would have virtually nothing recognizable in it if countries that did not want war had been left alone by those that did.

Sadly, people do not often get what they want, even if all they want is to be left alone. Also, the assumption that things would always go on just as they do right now, simply because in our limited experience they always have before, was a false one.

Just about everybody innately believes that they are an exception, that they are special. It is a kind of complacency common to man. We are frequently found saying, after some tragedy, for instance, something such as "I never thought it could happen to me."

And this doesn't just apply to people, but to countries as well. On a national level (and this especially applies to great nations) this manifests itself in the notion that "it" could never happen here. Oh, the "it" could be war, descent into tyranny, domination by a foreign power, or dissolution. Or maybe it could be the election of a leader who is a Manchurian candidate, a traitor within, someone bent on destroying the nation that gave him everything. That "it", whatever disaster that "it" represents, couldn't happen here. In fact, the idea is so preposterous to many that if such a threat loomed, they would never see it coming. And they would call a person who warned of it a nut.

But, nevertheless, those things all happen. There were Roman emperors about whom nothing good could be said; and they were not the only nation ever plagued by corruption in government, the army, or anywhere really. Leagues of nations have scattered, sometimes on the flimsiest of pretexts, and today's ally could be, and historically has often become, tomorrow's most bitter foe. And creeds, like Nazism, once celebrated the world over for rescuing Germany from the Depression, with Hitler on the cover of Time magazine as their Man of The Year, could turn out to be not very good at all.

Likewise, there is nothing more common in history than war.

Space based weapons existed in profusion since Trelawney's manipulation of the past. But, recognizing the threat, anti-satellite weapons had also been put into place, most of those being in the form of killer satts whose sole purpose was to hunt down and take out other satellites before those could arm or reposition over their targets to deliver their payloads to Earth.

Because virtually no one was foolish enough to let an enemy's space-based weapons systems hang out in launch position over their heads. So, in most cases, as the war began there was some warning as those started moving into attack positions. And with the killer satts better positioned, by and large, to strike their targets before the space-to-ground weaponry could usefully deploy its arms, and the bulk of all the space-to-ground weapons being nuclear, the arsenals in orbit largely failed to accomplish much.

The moment the decision to attack was made, a great many satellites ate each other in soundless explosions in space, beam weapons and bombs taking their toll, not only on each other, but on anything unlucky enough to get in their way. Thus, as war on ground began, a great many communication, weather, navigation or reconnaissance satellites ceased to be, ending their lives and floating down as clouds of wreckage taken out by the killer satts destroying each other - as well as the space based weapons platforms that had been their primary targets (although no military planner disliked the idea of taking down ENEMY communication, weather, navigation or reconnaissance satellites, so those were all listed as secondary targets).

Most television and radio broadcasts, depending as they did on satellites as signal relays, stopped having anywhere near the same coverage. Telephones, surprisingly, although a great many thousand miles of land lines had been laid to carry those signals, had also largely converted over to satellite use to carry long-distance signals for a variety of economic and business reasons that seemed sound at the time. So the muggle world suddenly got a much darker place as no one had even a fraction of the news they were used to.

Nevertheless, as brutal as the antisatellite action turned out to be, a few weapons got through the deadly game in space to rain their payloads on the ground, and not a few capital cities ended their days in no small surprise to find that yesterday's peace turned out not to have been eternal after all.

Those hits that were nuclear largely failed to accomplish anything except astonish folks by dumping a fair amount of missile wreckage over the target cities, warheads failing to go off due to those magical treaties. There were crushed cars and houses, but the lives lost were inconsequential in the overall scheme of things (except, of course, to those who lost them).

But those were not the only weapons up there, and the hardest of all space launched weapons to stop were of the impact variety, most popular of which were the so called 'Thor Strikes' where a telephone pole sized rod of metal shot down like a giant bullet. And, depending on the size and style of the projectile used, there was very little to convince an average Joe on the street the attack was not nuclear.

Since nukes offered more 'bang for buck' than just about any other type of weapon, on the strategic scale they were the preferred system and thus most large scale weapons were of that type, with Thor Strikes reserved primarily for tactical scale, like wiping out tank divisions, as well as for the ultimate bunker busters, taking out strategic command posts on either side.

There were, however, exceptions.

The most important of these came from one of those commanders who had the sort of fatalistic 'I don't care if I die, so long as I take you with me' attitude that most nations try their hardest to keep people possessed of it away from the controls of their superweapons, who sent the order to that country's small space fleet to go off to the asteroid belt and bring back a meteor large enough to wipe out all life on Earth.

It was this man's thought that they could be certain they had wiped out the hidden magical people in no other way.

Fortunately, Trelawney was ready for that, the possibility having been raised long ago by the science fiction shows she so adored, and simply activated the portkeys that each space vessel's hull had been enchanted as to recall them all to Earth, stranding them upside down and helpless, with not a machine on the planet having the power to lift them upright without dismantling them first and reassembling their parts that way.

She also portkeyed home every astronaut the same way, leaving only those extra-solar missions beyond communication range untouched. And thus the colony missions alone went on.

It would be the end of man's efforts in space, but if they were willing to destroy their whole planet in a suicidal orgy of hate of what they did not understand, then they weren't worthy of it anyway.

She even sent along a note expressing her regrets of that fact, one copy in every craft so returned.

People studying Vulcan in the newly rejuvenated space programs could not even begin to express their disappointment over that sudden grounding.

I I I

Since lifting heavy cargoes into space by the nuclear pulse method was so much cheaper than any other alternative, it made sense that even the very biggest ships still be constructed on Earth, as anywhere else they'd still have to run separate missions to lift the crew and payloads to, and that multiplied expense and effort beyond any savings of launching out of a lighter gravity.

So out in the American southwest deserts, as far from anything reasonable as it was possible to get and still stay within the continental United States, three nearly completed eight million ton Super-Orion spacecraft sat on their launch pads (since it was inconceivable to move them by any method other than their own main drive, they all got constructed in their launch cradles).

The bulk of the work had been completed long, long ago. It was only the final, mission-specific touch-ups which had been endlessly debated that had not been installed, because no one could agree on what those bits should be.

Of course, given how far from anything they were intended to be, it was remarkable how many buildings and superhighways and such had sprung up nearby, to service both the construction effort and the shipping in of parts and supplies, as well as machine shops and all of the sundry support network needed to keep all of those workers functioning at peak efficiency. Anything too close to the launch vehicles had to get evacuated before liftoff, as the blasts made the Saturn V series look tame, so anything beyond a certain sharply defined limit was temporary housing that could be towed away. And most everything else had a bunker-like aspect to it in case of accident.

Strangely enough, thick concrete was one thing, heavy doors another, but when the construction engineers putting this new 'Space City' together got around to burying half the structures, using dirt as extra ablative material in case of disaster, one joker had started calling the place 'Hobbiton' and the name had stuck and been used ever since.

One imaginative genius had even come up with plausible reasons why all of the outer doors had to be round, and brightly painted in eye-catching colors (in case of a nearby blast, round doors had greater stress resistant properties due to their geometry than square ones, and bright colors made them easier to find if you were digging through debris looking for buried entrances, so you could rescue people trapped within).

The landscaping had soon followed suit, and Hobbiton was born.

Still, those engineers were shocked to get an early wake-up call one morning that all three Super-Orions were going to get launched TODAY, whether they were ready or not.

Apparently all other Earth spacecraft had been returned to their mother planet, and those highest in authority felt some extra-terrestrial power was going to ground the people of Earth indefinitely. So it was now or never, the last chance for their race to reach beyond the cradle of their birth.

Since the Star Queen of Cuba had delivered those vials of medicine allowing suspended animation for long term space flights, engineers at Hobbiton had worked out plans for how to complete those Super-Orions with those in mind, but given the speed of bureaucracy, nothing had been decided.

Until now.

Orders given, those plans were hauled out and a great many serious, hard working people with excellent training and the best tools began turning those plans into reality at a feverish pace.

Astronauts were called in from all over, or substitutes used where primary choices were unavailable. Mission stockpiles, containing everything a colony might need from seeds and animal embryos through tools and entertainment got loaded aboard even as the craft were being finished.

Last minute briefings got given and goodbyes said, and those three Super-Orions lifted skyward, the last of them taking off only a few minutes before midnight.

And, since no other orders had been given, they all went off on their original missions, colonization of far-flung solar systems, and each carrying a golden acorn along for the ride (no one thinking to question the tradition and having those acorns already on hand).

All sorts of people felt thrills of triumph as those craft sped on their way, unimpeded.

I I I

The caves of the River Styx grew silent as people stopped what they were doing while everyone stared at Albus Dumbledore, who was screaming invective at the top of his lungs and shouting insults and heaping abuse on all of the 'incompetent imbeciles' around him.

Even Gellert Grindelwald was shocked. This was not the sort of behavior that usually follows the man's grandfatherly, Santa Claus image.

Snape was speechless. As the man's close associate of many years, he had a better concept than most of how hard the man strove to rein in the foul and often abusive things he wanted to say - as Snape was often his mouthpiece in saying them by proxy, so the man could have the satisfaction of having them said, without all of the blame for doing so.

It went contrary to nearly two centuries of practical refinement of his image to scream out what he really felt in public. Heck, Albus Dumbledore could get more mileage out of a moment of mild disapproval than many of the toughest drill sergeants could squeeze out of hours of filthy diatribe, and most of that value came out of NOT screaming invective at the top of his lungs!

It was about as shocking as a rabbit biting the heads off people to see Albus lose control of his temper. And just like no one would ever trust that rabbit again to just be a harmless little bunny, doing so was doing irreparable harm to the Headmaster's grandfatherly persona.

The cause was even fairly minor, on the scale of their recent defeats, anyway. Just one more instance of foul, black, bad luck. That everything had been running so well until this point had only caused them to run into it harder, but Albus was ruining a great deal of his influence over Fudge and his followers by getting so upset about it in public.

Gellert had been performing masterfully with the invulnerability rituals. He had hit upon a key concept of using Shrinking Charms on the followers before dipping them into the Styx. While the magic of the river quickly canceled the charms, it was enough for a short dip, and that was all that was called for anyway. Tissues burned too quickly for anything longer than a swift dip.

If they tried to soak, the bodies crumbled away to ash before they could be recovered, with damage too great for the ambrosia to restore from. Luckily, that had only been a couple of file clerks they'd lost that way.

Using the charms this way they saved a great deal of ambrosia in covering them in coats of it. The after-dip doses had to be larger, but they still saved ambrosia overall. That meant they could dip and coat more of their followers with the available supply, and Gellert's idea to do so had been simple, masterful, and elegant.

However, focusing their attention on this new idea had caused them to miss something that now had Albus cursing a blue streak in the Styx chamber. A case of things going so smoothly, so swiftly, that, like an embarrassing accident with a sewing machine, you discover too late that you've sewn the seams so well that you've got no arm holes.

Or, in this case, lost a horcrux or four.

Things had been progressing so swiftly with the minions that they had lost focus on paying attention to aftereffects, more concerned with getting the minor adjustments and things right.

Chief among their concerns had been the ancient, legendary weakness of Achilles: his heel. According to stories told about how the ancient hero's mother had given him his invulnerability, to dip him into the water she'd held him by his heel, and thus that point became his weakness, the one point where he was not invulnerable.

And the fact of the matter was, while they were not terribly eager to emulate that weakness, you had to hold the body somewhere.

The Styx dissolved anything non-living to touch it. So you couldn't tie a cord around their waist to dip them in that way, as the Styx would just dissolve it and they'd float away underwater until they'd burned up entirely (they lost Madam Hopkirk of the Improper Use of Magic office that way).

You couldn't catch or retrieve a body out of the Styx with spells, as it quickly canceled out charms and all sorts of other magic to come in contact with it (and they'd lost no less than two former Wizengamot members that way).

Since anyone touching the Styx lost their mind to a combination of pain and forgetfulness, they couldn't bathe themselves. So someone had to do it for them, and that someone had to hold them somewhere. And if that someone holding the person to be dipped found themselves touching the water in any way, they too lost their mind to that combination of pain and forgetfulness and one of the first things that happened was they lost hold of the person they were dipping. It was hard to count the number of people lost that way. It must be dozens. Just a little splash or ripple and suddenly they get dropped.

It wasn't pretty.

Dealing with this problem had been legitimately tricky and absorbed a great deal of their attention. One didn't want to leave too great an area un-dipped, as that left too large a vulnerable zone. Once again, trying to hold onto too small a piece of person, a toe for example, often didn't leave one enough of a grip to hold onto or haul them back out of the water by. And it leaves the person holding them too vulnerable to accidentally touching the river.

And, last but far from least, they didn't want to hold every person by the same point. That was Albus' idea, but a brilliant one. If every person to be dipped was all held by the same part, they'd all share that vulnerable point, and every enemy would aim for that. If, however, they each were held by a different one, and furthermore (this is what the changing screen was for), if only one or two people *knew* which part you had been dipped by, then no one ought to know the vulnerabilities of any significant number of his agents!

Outside of Albus and Gellert, who managed all of the dipping, of course.

Actually, this had been a fallback idea. The first had been to double-dip every person, so that holding them first by one part, then by another, each part of their bodies ought to have been covered, and they would have no vulnerability - but it turned out it didn't work that way. Flesh that had been dipped once, then regrown by ambrosia, could not be regrown by ambrosia a second time.

Troublesome, as that had really been their favorite choice. But they'd only lost a good dozen of their followers confirming it.

So the plan had proceeded along a more conservative route. A follower would approach behind the screen naked, get shrunk, coated in ambrosia, then held by a suitably strong-backed follower and dipped in the River Styx while the two dark lords looked on. For former Ministry workers, they would be dipped one of five ways: holding either hand, one heel or the other, or the nose, so an opponent would never know which one to hit.

It was only possible to hold by the nose when Albus noticed what Gellert was doing by placing engorging charms on certain parts of his followers as he dipped them, causing the part in question to swell to a much greater size and thus be a good hand-hold, but also as contact with the river canceled the charm the shrinking action helped draw them back out again.

Albus grew quite fond of giving one of Fudge's administration a Pinochio-like nose, anchoring one end of it with a sticking charm to the belt buckle of someone strong like a half giant, who then grasped it with both hands and leaned back, right before the startled office worker got tossed in the drink.

One quick tug and they were out again, safe and sound. No sooner had they done this with the nose than he left off doing hands or feet entirely and restricted his efforts to engorged fingers or toes, done the same way.

Gellert was more imaginative with his followers. He liked to use ears, particularly the lobes, but he also he tried dipping men by their beards or eyelashes (only to learn those counted as non-living tissue, so got tried only once each, with dramatically fatal results each time), or the nose (which Albus copied off of him).

But rather than restrict his efforts entirely to the head, and give too many targets in a small zone that eventually all of his enemies would aim at, he would vary it up a bit by dipping women by their elongated breasts (either one), or men by their genitalia. Any dangling part could be elongated for this.

And, best of all, wizards in battle inevitably learn to protect those parts anyway, so there would be no needless telltales if his people wore armor around those parts when expecting combat.

Albus found this a capitol idea! And for his own protection he grew more creative still. When his own clones dipped each other's bodies into the River Styx to become invulnerable, one was transfigured into a wolf and dipped by his tail (a feature he would not have most of the time, and was yanked out by the transfiguration reversing itself just like those Ministry workers had been by a shrinking nose), another had his tongue elongated and held by that. And last had his navel magically turned into an outie, then expanded into a rope to hold onto, then shrunk back again once he was dipped by it.

Actual bodies had been used in all of these cases, as simulacrums were magical constructs destroyed by the magics of the river.

It was only at the moment that the last of these Albus Dumbledores was being brought forth out of the river that Gellert, who had been overseeing the dippings of Aberforth and Snape, discovered on observing the reactions of Aberforth that horcruxes are destroyed by the lamentation effect.

A man with a horcrux has had his soul magically separated into a number of pieces. There were rather a large number of enchantments necessary to not only keeping those portions separate, but also keeping each one alive and viable, and ALL of those went away when touched by the magic of the river!

So each of the fragments of Albus Dumbledore's soul stuck in the bodies he had dipped in the river were suddenly no longer supported by those spells, rituals and enchantments, and basically ceased to be. Fragments as small as Albus was using essentially evaporated without the webs of magic required to sustain tiny soul pieces that size.

After administering the Mnemosyne failed to revive the man, Gellert was only able to restore him to life by use of the horcrux Albus had stored with him.

The ones associated with the bodies that had been dipped were now no longer horcruxes at all. Wherever the horcrux of each soul fragment was hidden didn't matter, as on those bodies hitting the river, the magic that tied the soul animating that body to the object serving as its anchor got destroyed.
Those magics had been vanquished entirely via their links to those bodies (although any non-horcrux related magical properties remained untouched).

This left Albus Dumbledore with three invulnerable bodies, but three fewer horcruxes and soul fragments overall. Leaving him one man with two empty, soulless (but invulnerable) bodies lying about even after Gellert revived him with an additional, previously unused horcrux left in his possession.

Although, while Gellert was dealing with this problem his minions went on administering the ambrosia and Mnemosyne to the other bodies undergoing the process.

Without Albus awake and able to warn them, no one could have known of the horcrux-plate stuck in the back of Aberforth's head, that was not only destroyed, dissolved by the magic of the river, but also all of the spells and runes tied to it that made the man Albus' slave were canceled too.

And the Snape they'd been dipping turned out, on having been healed, not to be Snape at all, but some sort of natural shape-shifter that on entering the river looked like Snape, but healed up to look remarkably like the Pillsbury Doughboy. By that point the thing's memory had already been restored (as one burned, blackened body looks much like another, and they had gotten into a routine of administering both remedies quickly on recovery of a body) and it merely grinned at them, changed shape to resemble some random person, then dove into the milling crowd of followers, disappearing in moments in the press of people.

They couldn't track the shapeshifter too carefully, as Aberforth, once broken free of his magical imprisonment and his memory restored, had started casting combat spells at the assembled group, flinging dozens of people with waves of force to lift them up and cast them into the river.

They'd lost half a hundred followers with completed invulnerability rituals to that tactic before Gellert and his followers were able to turn the tactic back on the man, casting Aberforth into the Styx to burn and die there, and by that time the Pillsbury Doughboy was long gone...

... along with their last urn of ambrosia.

Everyone present paused to stare as the newly revived Albus Dumbledore started cursing up a storm.

I I I

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