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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79. Chapter Seventy-Nine

I I I

There came a shocked silence as the group watched as the fight between the two great dark lords of the age concluded and Voldemort knelt to swear his oath of fealty to Dumbledore.

Harry swallowed around a heavy lump in his throat, knowing that he had not practiced most of his inherited abilities - Voldemort had been fighting at a level that was far beyond what Harry could currently do, and he'd lost.

Still, pale white though he was, that didn't stop the boy from licking his lips and venturing aloud the statement (half hoping that someone would prove him wrong, and they wouldn't have to do what he was proposing), "Well, we have a choice. Sybil's already told us he has thirteen soul fragments, and three of those are about to be embodied and walk free. We can let this scare us, and fall back, in which case we have to deal with all three at once. Or we can muster every resource we can and hit this guy by ambush."

Luna raised her eyes resolutely. "He's got to die. That is a needful thing."

Hermione's stomach was full of butterflies. Feeling like she was forming a brigade of mice to go attack a cat, she added her own observations, "While he was dueling he said that he was tuning his shields. He even admitted that preparing to stop one spell makes it weaker against others. So if we had a large number of wands firing many different spells, he couldn't tune to best advantage against all of them. It ought to exhaust his energy."

She tried to venture forth a brave smile.

Harry himself kept trying to work his courage up to this. "Well, one thing we know for certain is that he loves his precious reputation. So he won't go everywhere with Voldemort hanging off his elbow. He won't be seen that way ANYWHERE if he can avoid it. So once he sends his newest servant on his way and heads back to Hogwarts, we ought to be able to catch him just outside of the ward line - all alone where he doesn't have allies or the defenses of the castle itself to protect him."

"That would give us our best chance," Hermione agreed, feeling sickly.

Nobody else was any more eager to go into this situation, but they could all see that waiting around to face three of him would be worse. Minerva leaned over the pool to observe, "I know Albus. He'll spend a good two hours gloating before giving any instruction to his... ahem, 'new hire', and those will take another three, at least. Given that, he'll probably seek to arrive at Hogwarts right before the evening meal, for what it's worth. I know the spot he arrives at. He is actually very habitual about some things."

Harry sighed, stating, "It's worth a great deal, as that give us an opportunity to go round up some Death Eaters. I can summon them myself, and this is a case of 'if I don't, our enemy will'. So if I go get those guys on our side then we at least deny them to our enemy, and can probably use them to help us in this attack. A few hundred more wands ought to really improve our ambush."

Susan ventured a small and frightened smile at that news. "At those odds I almost start to feel good about this fight."

Hannah nodded, feeling much better about her friends now that they'd been close to each other their whole lives. Continuing on with this relationship didn't seem bad at all now, so she joined them in pretending more bravery than she felt. "Not to mention we don't feel bad about losing some of those murderers. All that means would be that our enemies wouldn't be able to get his followers back somehow."

"Cannon fodder," Harry nodded. "Napoleon, who was short, put all of his tallest men at the front ranks of his armies to feed the enemy cannons. He knew the artillery was going to kill somebody, and the front ranks would be it, and he didn't like tall men. To this day the French are shorter than world average because of it. But it was those acts that coined the term 'cannon fodder', ie 'food for cannons'."

Susan twinkled. "Well, I have nothing against tall men, but Hannah is right: If we are to lose anyone in this fight I'd rather it be Death Eaters."

"Agreed." came all of the available voices.

Harry sagged in relief. Anyone who'd seen that fight knew going up against the Headmaster would involve casualties. At the relative skills it would be like trying to dogpile a lion with pygmies - you could do it if you had enough of them to crowd it in, cut off all escape routes, and then just bury it under a wave of flesh. But you couldn't kid yourself that you weren't going to lose a lot of pygmies doing it. There was just no way a bloodless victory was going to happen!

It was awful hard to face death and walk right into it. Knowing that someone else would be at the front bearing the brunt of it made it SOO much easier!

Not to say anything about this was going to be easy.

Fighting a wild dog who was chewing on your leg required a degree of mental fortitude that was plainly and simply beyond most people. Better to give it a steak to chew on, or, worst case scenario, somebody else's leg. Then you could focus your mind on killing the beast before it did any more damage.

Marching towards slaughter when it was your own side that was about to get slaughtered was enough to defeat fighting spirit all on its own, and without the will to fight, no victory could happen.

Dryads he could lose (and at the same time not lose, that was the beauty of it). Death Eaters he could afford to lose and not care about. Hermione, Luna, Hannah, Susan or himself were all different matters entirely. All of those core people were irreplaceable.

Yet they had to be risked anyway.

Still, THIS boy had been raised by Lily and James Potter, along with the rest of the true Marauders as uncles. And, as Snape could personally attest, there was very little difference between their abilities staging a successful prank on an enemy and blasting him to bits, except for intent.

I I I

The guards at Azkaban prison were a joke. They depended too much on the dementors to do everything, and while Tom Riddle had dark rituals to allow him to command those creatures, Harry had something better - his unicorn nature repelled them just as effectively as a fully corporeal patronus.

They could not bear his presence.

Well, that was refreshing. He felt like a lantern chasing shadows as he'd entered the prison, darkness fleeing into the farthest corners to escape his approach. In all it was a very effective way to overcome the real guards. The aurors and warden, all barricaded up behind wards where the dementors couldn't reach them, were no better. He'd never even had to face them. They'd relied on a combination of alarm spells and the dementors to alert them to anything. The dementors were too busy fleeing out of his presence to alert anyone to anything, and the spells were childishly simple to bypass.

Harry did so for three very good reasons. One was he needed the force to use against Dumbledore, and while these weren't in good shape, the Death Eater locked up in here had once been crack troops. Two was that this was going to happen anyway, either Riddle or Dumbledore would free these people if Harry didn't get to them first, and getting to them first gave him some degree of control over them. Better that than fight them. A ravenous, rabid wolf that obeyed your orders was preferable than one you had to fight.

Third was that this would free up the dementors. Right now the Ministry had been fighting Narcissa's motions to have them all walked through the veil of death in the department of mysteries, and the crux of their argument was that the dark creatures were needed to guard the prison. And, well, you show up those guards as incompetent, unable to keep the prisoners in, and the voices arguing to keep the dementors had much less strength to their argument. Also, an empty prison was a hard thing to convince people you needed such extreme measures to guard. So this operation ought to go a long way towards taking the wind out of the sails of those who argued in favor of keeping the foul wraiths around.

And frankly dementors were such awful creatures that the fewer of them there were in the world, the better. The fact that they preyed upon human misery alone was reason enough. But Harry also had another in that the soul suckers were one of the few weapons that could be of any use against a well-defended dryad using multiple well-defended trees.

Ok, you might plant a dryad's trees on Venus and Mars, where Albus could never reach them, but her soul was embodied in nymph form and walking around, vulnerable to being sucked out by these disgusting creatures; and if she lost her soul it didn't matter how healthy her body was, she was worse than dead. So the fewer wraiths left in the world, the less that danger would be. The dryads Harry and his crew had had a hand in creating were safe, seeing as how the Queen had shared out a full portion of the unicorn powers embodied in one of those bundles of unicorn parts among them through the powers of the Cauldron of Plenty. So that meant his core dryads, the hundred they'd created, were safe. It was those that did not share the benefits of a unicorn nature because of the Queen's empowerment (and well, the rest of the human race) who were at danger.

And frankly it would just be better for everyone if that was no longer the case. Although, Harry had to admit how greatly he was reassured by his own people having unicorn powers for driving off the wraiths, that didn't mean there were not potential victims out there for the dementors to feed on.

There were all those innocent witches and wizards in Cuba and his fortified towns, for one. All of the innocents of the muggle world, for another. But he had entered a binding oath to prevent the extermination of the fairy races, and his own hundred dryads aside, all of the rest were vulnerable. So ideally the dementors just had to go, and the sooner the better.

So humiliating them in their role as guards was a good thing. Acquiring another hundred or so wand arms to ambush Albus was another.

Harry was still amazed that Riddle had gotten away with as much as he had. Even after his defeat, most of his followers remained free and active. Tom was big into numerology, so he'd tried to work numbers to empower him. His inner circle consisted of three groups of thirteen, three covens or thirty nine people total. In turn, each of them were required to recruit a coven of thirteen for them to lead personally (with two lieutenants for taking over in case their leader were to die), leading to a total of five hundred and seven marked Death Eaters across most of Voldemort's rise.

It could have been more. In fact many had been eager to attend and get themselves marked, but according to his numerology that numbers scheme he had was best for control of the magical world. So the rest of his willing would-be recruits served as a reinforcement pool, ready to take the mark to replace his losses, and helped make Tom's forces seem invincible, as they never suffered serious enough losses to visibly cut down their numbers.

It also had contained Tom's best deployment scheme. Each coven was lead by a person who reported to him personally. So he could get all of the leaders together on short or no notice, and they would transmit his orders to the rest. Then, each coven having a true leader with two lieutenants meant they could split up into effective groups of four or five - which was the optimal size for a strike force of dark wizards. Too many more and they get involved in twisted plots against each other as part of their instinctive power politics.

Habits learned in Slytherin lasted a lifetime, and there was a reason they called them snakes. They'd turn on anyone for a moment's advantage.

But out of his five hundred and seven marked Death Eaters (thirteen times three times thirteen) only twenty had been killed after Tom's defeat at the Potter home, and less than a hundred imprisoned. In fact, more than thirty of his inner circle remained free.

That made it a matter of triviality to step back into the world and pick up the reins of his old organization. Eighty percent of it was intact, and most of the rest could be reactivated during a single operation. And, well, Harry simply couldn't allow Tom to do that. That gave him far too much power too quickly to be ignored.

Taking over this organization would be tricky, but Harry felt he had no option but to try. Bellatrix was actually his best advantage in that department, as no one could be unaware of her unswerving devotion to her Lord and master. So if she was calling him it (and she was) that would grant him enough credit to convince most of them.

It was the rest who could be a problem. Some he could win over by knowing Tom's memories of them. Some few could be convinced by him wearing the proper face. But there were a few who would be clever enough to require some special methods of handling.

However, most would be gotten on his side by the combination of the right face, having Bella on his arm, and knowing the secrets of their Dark Marks enough to summon them. And most of the rest could be borne along with the tide if he had a substantial group already convinced. Since being broken out of this prison would win the loyalty of just about anyone who didn't fall into one of the previous groups, and they could then stand in turn to declare him their lord and master, that would convince all but a handful of the rest. And that handful would not declare their suspicions out loud or immediately, so he could deal with them later.

Right now he had some Death Eaters to free and take ownership of.

Evil was such a tortured mockery of Good. Here these people submitted to Tom out of a combination of greed and arrogance, but once they took his mark they became his slaves. He'd lured them in with promises of wealth and power, them robbed them of both. Once Marked, their fortunes were his to do with as he pleased, and they lost the most basic freedoms any common fool had. They would obey his commands or die. Because of their pride and what they'd thought was their nobility, they had submitted themselves to his utter domination.

On the other hand, what compliance Good required was given voluntarily, with a full knowledge of what that entailed and the ability to back out if that changed. So the same principle, obedience, done the Evil way was slavery and bondage. Done the Good way it was freedom and cooperation and mutual benefit. The difference was the principle of Force. Evil took what it wanted and brutally punished disobedience. Good made requests, rewarding obedience to its principles, and the only punishment for non-compliance was a lack of those same rewards.

Of course, one of the biggest of all of the rewards of Good was ultimate freedom from Evil. Not necessarily in this life, but eventually. And lack of that was probably the most dreadful punishment of all, because Evil caused misery, so to be stuck with it for eternity was the worst sort of Hell.

I I I

Avery clutched his arm as the familiar painful signal of a summoning burned. It was most unexpected, as just yesterday the mark had been more faded than ever, following a recent trend started just last month where the last vestiges had begun to disappear until it had become effectively invisible.

Now, however, the mark was back in full force. His master had returned, and Avery didn't know to be elated or filled with dread.

Quietly excusing himself from the budget meeting on some pretext, he left the Ministry building and apparated away to his house, where he put on the robes of black dragonhide and specially enchanted mask, before going to meet his risen Lord. It was to the Malfoy home to which he was summoned this time. Hardly surprising, as the Malfoys had often arranged to be in special favor with their Lord.

Avery met the Carrows outside of the gates, and they all held up their Dark marks, acting as keys to the wards on the gates, which parted to let them in down the long drive. But instead of to the main house they felt drawn aside to the large outbuilding made to house the family's collection of carriages.

Avery noted several things at once. First, that the ground floor had been cleared of the antique vehicles and more than a hundred of his fellow Death Eaters already stood in rows. It was to be a full meeting, then, not just the inner circle. A fitting setting for the Dark Lord to announce his return.

Second a ball hung suspended from the ceiling, one covered with thousands of tiny mirrors. As the mirrored ball slowly spun, it scattered droplets of colored light all throughout the room. For a people who accepted magic as normal, and who recognized that colored lights accompanied virtually every spell, it was an awesome sight.

Avery took his place at the head of his coven and stood patiently, waiting in silence for the others to arrive. It did not take long. Before them, lounging on Dumbledore's golden throne, obviously pinched from Hogwarts (a mighty feat, that, one well worthy of impressing on them the power of their Lord), with Bellatrix LeStrange curled up on one side and Narcissa Malfoy on the other, lay their recumbent Lord, his robe sewn with tiny jewels.

At last, minutes later, the last had arrived and Voldemort drew himself to his full and impressive height, first calling them out one by one to reaffirm their oaths, then announcing, "They like to think we are bogeymen. We will oblige them! We are going to get down and boogie and play that funky music til we die," Voldemort proclaimed in sober and serious tones.

Inwardly, Harry grinned. He'd taken control of their oaths. And for a man with the skills and experiences of the one who was able to get a proud culture of ultra-conservatives to accept tattoos of a snake violating a skull it was no problem at all to get those same marked followers wearing rhinestone studded costumes.

Thus became the creation of the Disco Eaters.

I I I

Dumbledore never stood a chance.

Minerva had pinpointed the spot he used to apparate in, just outside of the castle wards, on a quiet side near the forest (or where the Forbidden Forest used to be. The new growth there put in to replace it was just sprouts) and working together they had raised the surrounding land into a cupping shape, like a natural amphitheater.

This served two important purposes. One is there are only so many people who can even see a target person when they were all standing on level ground together, so in order to crowd all of their combatants in to have clear sight to the target they needed to slope the ground. The second was their fields of fire. There is a reason why a firing squad is a single line of troops, standing on one side of the target. If you all crowd around in a circle, every shot that misses the real target was going to hit a friendly soldier on the other side of the ring. Having a slope put a stop to that, as each person would be firing down into the center where the target stood, so even if it missed it would strike dirt instead of continuing on to strike friendlies on the other side.

That meant they could mass the firepower of an incredible number of people onto a single point. And, as Harry had told his friends in the past, fifty people all firing together could blow through the best shield he had, even if all they threw was a tickling charm.

Between nearly five hundred Death Eaters, a hundred dryads, and the fairy champions themselves they had substantially more than fifty, and would not be throwing tickling charms. They wouldn't be throwing unforgivable curses, either, because they had forewarning that he was immune to those. But the collection of curses and injuring hexes would have dropped a herd of dragons.

Appearing bang on time in the center of that, Dumbledore never stood a chance.

Unfortunately for our heroes, they'd ambushed the wrong simulacrum.

Warned by Moody, who'd fallen prey to what he'd felt were their traps before this, and paid particular attention to detailing to Dumbledore his many deaths at these unseen assailant's hands already, the Headmaster had elected to follow caution, scrying ahead, then sending a perfectly ordinary simulacrum in his place when he'd discovered their preparations.

Flush with victory from having trapped Dumbledore, catching and destroying him, the allies were shocked only to be ambushed in turn by an army of werewolves led by the actual Dumbledore who'd been observing this remotely.

Behind him, Tom activated the Dark Marks, taking his stolen followers out of the fight in agony. The dryads flashed away to safety, but nobody else was able to get clear. The werewolves outnumbered the wizards five to one - and had appeared right in the midst of them.

Werewolves were dangerous for several reasons, among them their ferocity and resistance to most spells. However it was their speed to which lay credit for most of their danger to wizards, as by the time they are within range to cast spells at, they are only a single bound away from your throat, and they could cross that distance in the space of a heartbeat.

No, for most wizards, once the were was within range to cast a spell at, the wolf had already won. Behind this came a second wave consisting of giant acromantulas, expertly bundling up the downed wizards in cocoons of silk.

Out of this threshing mass of defeat, Harry and his girls got carried, already trundled up in cocoons of silk leaving only their heads free, carried into the castle and deposited in seats in the Headmaster's newly refurnished office, just as Dumbledore himself sat opposite them, twinkling in victory.

"Ah, Harry," the Headmaster beamed. "It seems that you have chosen to join us in the game as a player, instead of just the pawn. A pity. You would have lived so much longer and enjoyable a life as my servant. Perhaps you would care to join Tom as my lieutenant?"

The unicorn parts of Harry were screaming that not only was this man evil, but his words had nothing trustworthy in them. Whatever he was saying, it was a trap - not that he'd have been inclined to believe him anyway!

"What? Nothing to say?" The Headmaster twinkled, grinning triumphantly. "Alas, I fear your resolve will do you little good, for I have already called for my good friend Severus to bring us a vial of Veritaserum."

Harry tried his best to hide his reaction, eyes already scanning the renewed office, but that statement told him several things. For one, this copy of the Headmaster was not fully caught up on recent events, if he expected Snape to answer his summons promptly. That meant there were gaps in this simulacrum's knowledge, and that could be used to benefit them.

"Harry?" Susan asked from her own cocoon, obviously not having reached the same conclusions yet he had.

Harry gave the old man a direct stare. "The wicked flee when no man pursue. The righteous need have no fear of death for they know their reward is glorious. I'm not afraid to die, old man." Turning to his girls, he said, "It's when things look blackest that you mustn't quit."

He winked, and his girls' eyes widened in 'O's of hopeful surprise.

Dumbledore chuckled openly. "Ah, I never cease to find amusement in the humble lies Light supporters tell each other. You have already lost, my boy. But I shall be glad to enjoy your despair as you find that out for yourself. But in cases where my prisoners verbally reinforce each other I always find it speeds interrogations along if I separate them. Your friends can wait on their own until Filch arrives. His enthusiasm for pain has its own kind of magic to it. There is a reason why I maintain him, allowing him to keep and polish those torture devices he adores so, as he is quite adept in their use."

'Yet more evidence he's not current if he doesn't know Filch has been sacked, and is no longer in the castle,' Harry thought.

Dumbledore raised a wand. Doors opened, and the four girls and their chairs all flew backwards into separate holding cells before being sealed off. The Headmaster then noticed the boy's eyes had latched onto his ebony stick.

"Ah. I see you have learned more than I ever anticipated you should. Yes, this is the fabled Elder Wand, although it may surprise you to know it is not the original. No, the original was broken when Gellert and myself struggled over it, snapped between us as we each held part, trying to pull it away from the other. A tragic loss, but one not incapable of being fixed by magic, as I used very rare and wonderful magic to bring out of the dead cells of the original a living elder bush, and a live thestral. It was, in fact, sire to the herd Hagrid keeps upon the grounds. Ollivander now keeps me supplied with duplicates crafted according to the original specifications, made from these sources."

Harry correctly assumed this banter would be Obliviated post-interrogation, while the Headmaster took his seat. It had been a fair while since this old man had taken residence in the Headmaster's tower. The wards had been screwed with to not retain any information, so the old man probably assumed they had no recent messages waiting for him.

A far cry from the swamped and overworked condition he'd left it in. Harry, of course, did not correct his assumption. But seeing as how the wards had no new information waiting for him, the Headmaster began to pry into other sources of secrets, and triggered the delivery of a backlog of mail. It had been building up there for weeks, the original too busy to process it.

"Ah," Dumbledore sighed into his seat, feeling happy and friendly as he picked up a number of packages addressed to Harry out of the stack. "You don't mind if I read you mail while we wait for Severus, do you?" He chuckled darkly, staring at the boy over the tops of his glasses. "Yes, my boy. You see, you have no secrets from me. Not even you owl post is unknown to me."

The man ripped open the package containing a shipment from a furniture factory.

A bomb fell out and the office exploded.

"What happened?" Hermione yelled as Harry opened the door to the inferno that had consumed the main office. The incoming flames consumed the ropes that held her bound, as well as the seat she'd been sitting on.

"Napalm bomb I mailed to myself before I learned he'd done the ritual to be immune to fire." Harry yelled back to be heard over the roar of flames. "I always knew he was intercepting my packages."

Hermione accepted his help to rise, and brushed the ash of her ropes off her. "How did it kill him if he's immune to flames?"

"He is. His simulacrum wasn't." Harry yelled back in answer, leading her on to the second door. Before opening it, he hefted an old style signaling horn. "He had a horcrux in the center of the pile of snow, animating it. But while it was protected, the pile of snow wasn't. He's intelligent, but not infallible. And it's when he tries new stuff like this that he hasn't tested and perfected over centuries that he makes the most mistakes."

After he'd rescued the other girls and carried them out of the inferno (Susan and Hannah had been kidnapped and put through the fire protection ritual in their sleep by the dryads during their little time twisting) they all sought an explanation, which he repeated for their sakes.

"What are you going to do with that now?" Hannah pointed to the horn still held in the boy's hand. "Destroy it?"

"Destroy the Horn of Roland? Never!" the boy shot back with a grin.

"But it is a horcrux. Dementor time?" Hermione mused.

"Oh no!" Luna shook her head. "First create a new body for the Headmaster, then separate out the soul fragment within that horn to animate it."

All eyes turned to her.

She smiled. "Dosed with Draught of the Living Death, of course. Then, dose it to the gills with malaclaw venom. So whatever else the other Dumbledores do once they come back, one will always be unlucky. And they are the same man, so unlucky for one is unlucky for all!"

I I I

Author's Notes:

I will call your attention to the orders for furniture Harry made in the earliest chapters of this work. And, at a later date, when asked where he'd been and what he'd been doing when he was first playing with the recovered ring of Slytherin, and I quote:

The boy only smiled mysteriously. "I found time before our last expedition out of the wards, on the jaunt before, to stop by a furniture store, a cave, and a hut. This was in the hut. I'll leave you to wonder about the others."

Of course, that was only forty some odd chapters ago.

 
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