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.


60. Chapter Sixty


The rest of September passed by in a blur for the Fey Trio, spent in a mix of going to classes, studying on the side, working on their projects, and causing headaches for Dumbledore for when (or if) he came back.

Luna caused that they should steal every statue, painting and suit of armor in the castle, all the while giggling the refrain: "that should have him pulling his beard out!"

Hermione caused that they should use Harry's dodo to 'puff' into the parts of the Headmaster's tower they had not been able to reach yet, especially the private storage rooms he used, and drained them dry, grabbing bales of phoenix feathers and barrels of tears as well as the rest of Dumbledore's impressive private library, along with every bed sheet or knick knack in his private quarters - including some priceless unicorn horn amulets that could be used to check food and things to detect poisons.

She may have done a bit of giggling herself over the books thus acquired.

Harry's private project was to break the web of information wards around the school. He couldn't break them all, that would take ages, but he could and did snap select pieces of them in such a way as to render the rest useless.

Basically, if he could not stop them from collecting information (which he couldn't, those parts were too vast), and couldn't stop them from reporting what they found (which, to be quite frank, were not only vast but outclassed his knowledge of wards by a wide margin - Dumbledore was an information specialist who had obsessively refined these until they were at a very high level) he could destroy the reservoir which sorted and stored this information for the headmaster's retrieval. So essentially, if he didn't hear a warning right away as it happened, he would not hear it at all.

This had the salutary effect of erasing all past messages the Headmaster had not yet listened to that had been piling up during this moment of crisis, destroying a considerable store of information. But it also meant his wards would not be recording anything new until he came back and repaired them.

It really doesn't matter how good you are at magical surveillance, or how many camera or microphone equivalents you've got placed about, if you're not there to check in on them and they have no way to record information.

He also started another basilisk to replace Blinky and disguised as the Colonel approached a few squibs and got them to start a KFC in Hogsmead.

That would boil Dumbledore's bottom, he felt sure. Also, more than that, McGonagall had, in an effort to spare what poor, overworked House Elves remained to the school, put fried chicken back on the menu.

They had it three times a week at school, now. Albus would flip.

The group also made several stops by the long term spell damaged ward of St. Mungo's, because Frank and Alice were far from the only ones ever held there for over-exposure to the Cruciatus. That had been one of the Dung Eater's favorite spells, and there were a couple of hundred who had survived it but had their minds broken by the attack. Some of those had since passed on, but many remained, and rebuilding their minds with loyalty imprints like he'd used on Lockhart and the Longbottoms gave him a few more people he could rely on each visit. And he desperately needed trustworthy people to help run his towns - especially since both of his main opponents, Dumbledore and Riddle, used spies, informants and traitors as a matter of course.

The skills of these people he was recovering were all over the map, but they could be made to accept training, just like Lockhart had been; and Harry was getting not a few aurors and other skilled professionals out of this little act of kindness. And a solid core of dedicated individuals was exactly what was required to start many of his town offices off on the right foot.

There were one or two worrisome little bumps during the rest of that month. Very few werewolves came forward to accept the portkey collar. Not even Remus. Also, the surviving acromantulas driven out of the Forbidden Forest just seemed to have disappeared. Neither they, nor the werewolves of the hidden village, turned up anywhere - which left all of the kids uneasy, since, as Harry put it, "They all have to be somewhere and eating something."

But, while troubling, the children were already overextended, so there was very little they could do about it, and sweeps by Hedwig turned up no sign of the wayward monsters.

Strangely, though their major problems seem to have retreated, or even been defeated, a host of minor ones cropped up in their wake that were no less dangerous or annoying.

Harry's first warning of this was on one of those infrequent occasions when he actually woke up in his bed in the boy's dorms (he stayed there only rarely due to the fact that now he had other places to be - and Ron's snores could wake the dead) to discover Ginny Weasley leaning over him, about to give him a kiss.

His scream of shock and surprise had woken the entire dorm.

Granted, he had enough threats to be worried about to be concerned over having something looming over him as he woke, but still that reaction led to a situation almost worse than most of the fights he'd been in, as the entire Gryffindor dormitory learned about Ginny sneaking into his bed attempting to claim a kiss, and started teasing him about it, soon to be followed by most of the school.

It was strange to be fighting for ones life almost daily and find your worst nightmare being a bunch of kids making fun of you. But there it was, the actual threats to his life hadn't been that bad, but the teasing was getting miserable. Worse yet, it was giving other girls ideas!

He'd been down to the Hospital Wing with a vial of phoenix tears to cure Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson of their lingering injuries, because they weren't likely to make a full recovery under Poppy's treatment and he cared for them as teammates. But, on being cured, both girls had immediately surged up off their beds and chased him around, trying to kiss him!

This was intolerable! Worse, yet, they could make the same claims about being saved by him, so a kiss could form a binding engagement.

Technically speaking, since saving the Stone and slaying the basilisk were both heroic deeds that saved the lives of everyone in the castle, if Harry were to kiss any unpromised maiden in Hogwarts he could marry them. His defeat of Voldemort could even count as saving every maiden in the world!

And frankly that idea scared him.

He didn't care to drown in a sea of women any more than he already was. Hermione and Luna had been enough for him. He'd resisted Susan but caved in under her aunt's pressure, and she'd just sort of brought Hannah along before he'd known how to do anything about it.

Ok, he really enjoyed having Hermione and Luna about. They were among the most competent witches he'd ever heard of at their ages. They were a true resource and he was glad to have them, and Hannah and Susan were working their little bottoms off to catch up to them. But he was certain very few of the girls he knew had either their gifts of genius or work ethic.

Objectively, right now he was at war. There was very little time for frivolity, and most of what girls were interested in struck him as frivolous. Very few of the female Death Eaters had been worth anything, with Bellatrix being the notable exception.

If they couldn't contribute in a useful fashion, he had no time for them at present. He couldn't afford to be burdened down with dependents, those who consumed more resources than they provided. His circumstances were just too dangerous for that.

On an emotional level, as opposed to the practical, fangirls scared him. They all had these ideals built up of what he ought to be based on nothing more than their own fantasies and little girl romantic daydreams, and frankly he was convinced not only that the real him wouldn't match their expectations, but that he'd get the blame for not being all they imagined.

He certainly didn't want to be stuck with them after they discovered that.

He was a real boy, not a dream. He had flaws and weaknesses and bad habits, none of which would match the idealized fantasies built up about him, and all those girls out there who were determined to marry their dream could only be disappointed in him. And that disappointment could easily turn to hate.

It would be a nightmare to marry a fangirl who then turned hateful for you not living up to idealized expectations that no one alive COULD live up to!

Besides, all this romantic stuff... well, Harry had not been through puberty yet, and Tom Riddle had sacrificed his sex organs for power. Neither set of memories was set up all that well to do ought but tease, and that not well.

However his girls felt this situation was hilariously funny. Hermione and Luna had several giggles over Ginny trying to ambush Harry (often in the nude, and frequently in his bed) trying to steal her kiss. Susan and Hannah puzzled over that, but were working so hard to catch up to the others of the trio they hadn't had time to say anything.

Ron was a seething jealousy machine over the whole thing, of course - which it really bugged Harry that Ron still had that much power to annoy him.

Although Ron did not react well to Harry's offer that if he wanted his own fangirls so bad he was certainly welcome to have Ginny.

Actually, it was as though a dam had burst, in that all these little things they had been ignoring up til now, safely ensconced in dealing with crises, were now bubbling to the surface and demanding the attention they'd previously been denied.

Not the least of these was the Assistant Professorships Myrtle awarded to them. In the wake of the Ghostbuster attack Myrtle had become something of a heroine to the entire ghost population of Hogwarts, going right on holding classes even while ghostbusters were in the castle hunting them.

She had with that act become something of a legend in the spirit community.

Hermione never stopped gloating over Binns having been destroyed early on during that raid. As a non-moving target, bound to the chair he'd died in, it hadn't taken more than a second for Luna to slide a trap under him, and that was the end of one boring professor.

Actually, with no paintings, statues or suits of armor about, the only spies left of Dumbledore's impressive network aside from the school staff and prefects (who now could not report in as they usually did, due to the lack of paintings) were the ghosts - and Harry made copies of that book on exorcism and began to leave them about the school, particularly in the common rooms.

Slytherin students started it, exorcising Nearly Headless Nick, but Gryffindor was quick to respond by getting rid of the Bloody Baron. Soon ghosts were vanishing right and left, either racing off to parts unknown or getting sent on to their rewards. Even Ravenclaw got in on the act purely for spell practice, while Hufflepuffs began plotting their own Ghostbuster franchise.

The ghost population of Britain dropped by at least half. Hogwarts was left practically empty of spooks. Soon Myrtle was essentially the only ghost left in the formerly haunted castle willing to show her face, and she remained mostly because no one wanted to miss her classes.

They were showing Braveheart this week.

One of the surprising things going on was how excited the students were over their History of Magic classes. The Ravenclaws averaged about four feet of parchment on the subject, drawing conclusions like: obviously the Ring-Wraiths were the origin of the Dementors, and High Elves and Wood Elves leaving to go to their own hidden, sheltered islands was how the magical world got stuck with only their miserable distant relation: House Elves. And Thulsa Doom now had his own slot in the official history of dark lords, while people tried to figure out what place he had in Slytherin's ancestry.

That wasn't the only odd thing going on.

Dwarves actually existed in Magical Britain, Harry knew from second year when he'd had the unpleasant experience of having been humiliated by one of the ones Lockhart had delivering singing Valentines around the castle. Tolkein had even been right about most of the race's traits, only Ravenclaws had pegged the current, miserable existence of those creatures as being as it was only because they'd been driven out of their mountain halls.

Humans weren't the only race goblins had made war on. And working in conjunction with evil wizards the goblins had broken the backs of the dwarven clans, before immediately falling out and waging war with each other over the plunder thus achieved.

Goblins bred so fast and were so foul-tempered that if it weren't for the fact that they fought among themselves and wiped each other out semi-regularly, they'd have destroyed every other race on the planet.

Actually, those history reports made a surprising amount of sense. If one didn't know beforehand that story was all produced by a fiction writer, one could see how the world came about the way those Ravenclaws described it.

And that was scary on its own.

One particularly well-read student even pointed out a little known fact - that dragons, as a species, were once far more intelligent, and thus dangerous, than they were today. Wizards had managed to transform them into dumb brutes, but only after generations of breeding. Wizards at dragon preserves still made sure to dose all newly-hatched drakes with intelligence-dampening potions as part of their first food out of their eggs.

And, Harry wondered just how potent those potions were, because wizards did eat dragon meat. The beasts were regularly slaughtered for their hides, also for dragon heartstrings for wands cores, and something had to be done with the flesh, so it generally got sold for food.

Dragon meat was an expensive staple to the diet of rich, upper class wizards like purebloods, and a 'special occasion' treat for practically all other magic folk, so if the effects of those potions survived ingestion by the dragon to get passed on to the eater of that dragon's flesh... well, that could explain so much about wizarding behavior!

They might be morons, in part, because they ate flesh treated with potions to make the ingester a moron. That made a scary amount of sense!

Then again, those facts might have nothing to do with each other. The idiocy could just be cultural. He saw plenty of evidence of that, as well.

The castle began to feel downright empty without the specters, magical paintings and moving suits of armor. Frankly, it was a touch spooky for the students to be the only moving things in those vast, drafty halls.

Strange for it to feel creepy WITHOUT the ghosts, but there it was. It did.

Also, those papers McGonagall had signed to get rid of the 'Ghostbusters', well... they didn't have anything to do with those students getting paid for their work at a made-up company.

No, they were another kettle of fish entirely.

As Deputy Headmistress she had a lot of power; only since Albus had left the actual day-to-day running of the castle to her so he could pursue other interests in the Geezergamot and whatever, she had a great deal more. He'd never released hiring decisions to her, of course, but what he had let her do was almost worse.

McGonagall was in charge of the day to day running of the castle. Of necessity that required her to hold a significant chunk of authorization to handle financial dealings and other sorts of decision making powers.

She was, in short, everything BUT the Headmaster in directing the school. And if he didn't choose to countermand her edicts within a certain period they held as much force as though he'd declared them himself. Since he was currently unavailable to countermand those orders, he was going to be stuck with whatever she did when or if he ever came back.

The first set had very simply expelled Draco, Crabbe and Goyle, fired Snape and Filch, and released Binns from his post (although that last was moot, as the ghost had already been exorcised, but it did help to speed the wheels of bureaucracy towards his replacement just to acknowledge him gone).

Minerva could not hire their replacements, but it was good to have those problems dealt with.

The next set had been slightly sneakier, proclaiming long lists of valuable Hogwarts artifacts lost and promising a reward to the finders. Should they be found and a fitting reward not issued within a certain period of time, ownership of those treasures would revert to their discoverers.

Sitting neatly in the Headmaster's inbox, notarized and dated as to when received, was a note explaining that Harry had found the Sorting Hat sitting on the head of a scarecrow in a farmer's field while on one of his daily runs, and offering to return it for the reward offered.

The period of time left to act on this if Hogwarts wanted their hat back was rapidly diminishing, nor did they expect Dumbledore home soon.

Harry didn't even particularly WANT the hat, it was just another thing to use to screw Dumbledore. After all, the man loved his image, but no headmaster in history had even done so grievous a thing to that school as lose the Sorting Hat. So history ought to remember him poorly even if he somehow managed to escape his current sets of troubles.

Actually, one of the very most important of the slips McGonagall signed was a release allowing the development of a satellite school in Godric's Hollow.

Now, to Harry a school was a school. The only difference worth mentioning was the quality of the education they offered. However, he had enough of Tom Riddle's pureblood scheming to know that to the Ministry and magical public at large, it was tradition and history that was more important. The aura of respectability of an institution was valued more highly than its quality among the elite sectors of magical society.

So, since Harry'd been planning for the renovation of Godric's Hollow even before they went and played Ghostbusters at school, having McGonagall sign forms that allowed the formation of a small school to be established there as an annex of Hogwarts meant it was legally and socially a part of Hogwarts and therefore shared the same aura of mystique and respectability. Then, at the same time, she'd also signed release forms making it a self-governing entity, independent of Hogwarts control.

It was an easy way to steal a bit of quick respectability for his new school. And it would force the Ministry to consider graduates from there almost the same as those out of Hogwarts, should things ever progress to where his towns and the rest of the magical world were dealing peaceably with each other. But he didn't expect that to happen until after the fighting was over.

The trick now would be to get McGonagall to sign more forms for his other towns so their schools could have the same. He could do it from the one he already had, but better if he could get McGonagall to do it again. Right now the as yet unnamed school at Godric's Hollow was one step removed from being 'as good as' Hogwarts. If he had other schools established from there that would make his other towns one step further away, making them two steps removed from Hogwarts, and that would matter to the ego-obsessed morons in the Ministry when it came time for his graduates to apply for jobs.

To Harry's mind, every one of his villages had to be self-sufficient to the maximum degree possible. If he built them all inter-connected and relying on each other for basic services, then that would make it possible for an enemy to target a key town and take it out, leaving all others crippled.

He couldn't afford that weakness, so each had to see to its own needs as much as possible, seeing to its own food, education, services, and so on.

It just wasn't safe to do otherwise.

Another thing none of them had expected was the side effect of having many clans of dwarves each produce a village for him led somehow to competitions between dwarven clans for best job done, most ingenious defenses, etc.

They had a great fortress-city pattern to work off of; after all, Palmanova was built exactly as an enclave to defend against all odds. And that dwarven pride had kicked in, too, so the clans were working so hard at this they were rediscovering many of their lost arts, and actually tearing down previous work to restore old buildings to a higher standard. So the quality being done by these formerly dispossessed workers on his projects was skyrocketing.

But that ancient dwarven pride was the kicker. Dwarves held ancient grudges with the same ease and frequency as they did beards, and they all expected Harry, as their employer, to do the judging between them - and whichever way he picked, he'd likely just satisfy one clan while making the other five eternal enemies over the insult of not proclaiming their work the best.

Luna calmly supplied the resolution to this problem by having Harry order the clans to appoint judges. They each would have two votes: one to cast for his own clan's work (because you couldn't ask them not to) but the second could only be cast in favor of some other clan's efforts.

Having each clan cast a vote in favor of themselves, those votes would even out and essentially mean nothing aside from soothing fiery dwarven tempers. It would be the secondary votes that decided each issue.

She then selected categories, based on the history of each clan about what each had been best about doing, so each could win at something. Even if they didn't, they'd have the other clan's judges to blame, not Harry. But hopefully they'd all work it out to mutual satisfaction.

Dwarves were actually fairly good about not offending other dwarves.

To further isolate himself from blame, Harry offered prizes of a hundred tons of muggle scrap metal to each winner in every department. That made him the prize giver, someone to dwarven minds who was actually supposed to stay out of judging and therefore NOT the one to blame if any judging went sour. But it served to redouble the dwarves' efforts - and frankly, Harry was determined to deliver a hundred and ten tons of metal in each case, and have them be the ones to pick out what they wanted from the scrap yards, lest he be accused of being even an ounce short on payment.

Dealing with dwarven pride and prestige was always a tricky situation.

However, speaking of prestige, Luna knew of a ritual to perform under the harvest moon at fall equinox to cause a damaged stone or metal object to repair itself. Harry, who hadn't been able to wear the Founder's artifacts since their gems had gone missing, dissolved during that first fire protection ritual they'd undergone, used it on those priceless artifacts and had those jewels regrown to their original size and luster.

So once more he was able to parade around wearing the Founder's artifacts.

Luna had always said the spirit of those stones remained in those objects, and that ritual proved her right. So Harry and all of his girls were doing their homework in Ravenclaw tower with Luna (and making free with the Ravenclaw tower library). And, since he was wearing the Diadem of Ravenclaw, no one had the heart to refuse him.

Besides, it kept him safe from Ginny and her antics.


Author's Notes:

One or two more chapters like this one to address some dangling loose ends before we can get to the massive explosion of enemy activity. Also, this is a rare opportunity to deal with non-crisis plot movements, stuff that doesn't concern their survival one way or the other - like interacting with the Weasleys.

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