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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68. Chapter Sixty-Eight

I I I

Harry took himself off into a corner so he could write out quickly all of the details he could recall out of Tom Riddle's memories about raids, who his victims were, and when and where they died - because it occurred to him that if Sybil were going back and had power to replace people right before they died, that perhaps, just maybe, a few more than his parents could be saved.

Minerva found him and discerned his idea and immediately began to add her own information, often prompting him to recall more details himself.

Circumstances around the time were so dangerous she wouldn't be able to save them all. Heck, Harry doubted even he could have saved most of them. But with the dates, times, places and manners of their deaths all spelled out along with circumstances, there was a good chance she could save a few.

Harry's attentions were drawn from this project by a feeling of shock, and it took a moment to identify the feeling as not his own, but transmitted via the Cuddle Companion that was now an integral part of their magic girdles. The cat images on it, worked into the leather, now served as substitutes for the enchantments previously supplied by stuffed animals.

No sooner had he wondered what it was than the duplicated Sorting Hat on top of his head informed him, transmitting a mental image seen from the perspective of Luna, of her hearing Hermione ask the Fairy Queen if, seeing how their unicorn bundles had briefly become liquid, they couldn't somehow be taken back in time and added to the Draught of Draughts so their dryads could be granted unicorn powers via transformation cordial.

The Hat relayed the Queen did her one better, and said not only would she do that, but she could liquefy a set of silver armor and do the same for that - once more, included in her very being like that she could manifest it at will. Nor could it be stolen from her or lost, even if her dryad form got slain they would simply vanish into the ether with her body and reform at her tree.

Trelawney had already begun to strip out of the silver weapons and armor Bellatrix had gotten for her, to donate them to that cause. So they would not only have a hundred dryads, they would have a hundred armed and armored dryads who were resistant to curses.

Their situation was looking better all of the time! In that moment Harry decided that, not only were his girls geniuses, but although wearing pointed hats might no longer be fashionable, he was unlikely to ever take this one off; even as he got up and rushed over to participate in this conversation.

As he did so, it also informed him that although the cuddle companion powers had been moved to their belts, the Cauldron of Ceridwen was now stored in his hat, and that each one of the five of them had one in their hats.

Harry was less concerned about the storage powers (although those were nice, he had several options in that department) than he was about the mental image he'd only just received describing that otherwise unexplained sensation of shock. "Will you always be able to do that?" he asked the hat.

"Of course, Potter. And I must say it's nice to see my value finally being recognized," the piece of magical headgear replied in his mind. "It used to be wizards were inordinately fond of their hats. Many of them could talk and some offered protection against attacks on the mind or body. Some could improve memory or even calm emotions or heal minor wounds. I can do all of those things, as well as read minds and communicate telepathically, while the only power I don't have is that possessed by the Diadem of Ravenclaw, which is actually able to make the person wearing it smarter. But now that we are working together, the point is moot, unless you separate us."

"No chance of that happening!" the boy thought smugly, before he retracted that statement, "Unless, of course, your personalities are clashing?"

The Hat harrumphed. "Not likely. Although a few magic objects like myself have personalities, most are inanimate lumps. Wizards prefer not to have to argue with their property over whether it will serve them or not. But in my case it was an absolute necessity."

"Oh? Why is that?" The boy was grateful this conversation was happening at the speed of thought, for he hadn't even reached his fiancees yet.

"Mister Potter, I was created by Godric Gryffindor, one of the most amazing warrior-wizards who ever lived. He founded a name and a fame that cannot be slain, and he did NOT do that by being ordinary! I was with him through much of his life, and it was not until the end of his years that he whipped me off of his head and told his fellow Founders that they would place additional enchantments upon me to Sort the students in their absence. Now, what do you think I was doing all those years up until that time?"

Harry realized he had no idea. For so long he'd presumed the only thing it did was sorting. In fact the only name it had ever been called that he recalled was The Sorting Hat - as if it had no other function!

But, if that was the case, why had Gryffindor been wearing it? Already magic enough to have recalled being offered up as the object to sort students?

"I shall tell you, Potter," the Hat resolved his confusion by providing the answer unbidden. "I was originally created to be a combat assistant, acting as a second set of eyes (often in the back of one's head). My first priority at all times is to be watching for dangers around you, so you'll forgive me if most of the time I'm not terribly chatty. And you'll note my wide, floppy brim that countless students have mocked over the generations? Godric, like you, wore armor from neck to toe at virtually all times. But most people don't like talking to a faceless visor, so a full-face helm is out of the question for any kind of social environment. But social environments are the preferred operating grounds of assassins and their ilk, because their quarry can almost always be assumed to be off their guard. Should a spell or a dagger fly out of nowhere at one of those parties even Godric might not be able to react in time. So in addition to warning him I was to lower my brim between him and the attack, sheltering his face with a layer of enchanted leather armor. My brim can be replaced, though it hadn't been in over nine hundred years until today, but Godric's head and neck could not be. Although I think that function of myself will work better than ever before, as previous to this I was just ordinary enchanted leather. Now I am unicorn hide, and I believe that ought to magnify my resistance to curses to quite an amazing degree."

Harry was so shocked at this wonderful revelation he was speechless.

The Hat was quite smug as it concluded, "There was a reason, Potter, why my pattern influenced hats among witches and wizards for over a thousand years, and it's not because I was so pretty. I can see from any part of me, so even the tall point you students so often despised had a function in that my point of view was eighteen inches taller than the top of my owner's head. Many things that are hidden from eye level can be seen from nearly two feet higher a perspective, and I could even act as a periscope to peer around objects while my owner was under fire."

The Hat fell silent, and Harry filed away this useful information while he burst in on the conversation all of his girls were having over what to go back and include in the dryad cordial, if such additions were possible.

And he solved this dispute simply by listing them all, although most of what had been suggested was already in the book he'd given Trelawney, he did note one thing that had to be explained, as not everything could mix well.

"Ok, now we've got a dilemma." Harry looked up, fountain pen poised over the sheet of paper on which he'd been listing suggestions. "If Sybil is going to be adding anything to our dryad cordial then we'd best plan ahead. Felix Felicis, aka Liquid Luck, would be one of the most mind-bogglingly useful boosts to have, but it combines explosively with malaclaw venom."

Luna gasped, and Harry nodded in her direction. "Yes. The potion IS malaclaw venom given a very delicate serious of buffers and additions to reverse the luck it grants from bad to good. Everything depends upon precise proportions of venom to all the rest of the ingredients. Throw that balance out of whack by adding more or less venom than the potion calls for, and you get disaster. Not just bad luck, but EXPLOSIVELY bad luck! That's why we never tried to cure our cloaks of that venom by dipping it into the potion. The best result we could've asked for would be an explosion that only tore the cloak into confetti. And while the luck that Felix Felicis potion grants will give near-miracles to the imbiber, it has a blind spot in that it won't grant you any protection at all against more malaclaw venom. It's a weakness, and one that cunning enemies can exploit to our disadvantage."

The boy scanned those assembled so they could see his serious expression. "Now that's our problem. Albus Dumbledore is a very cunning foe, and recent events have made him VERY well aware of how potent a weapon malaclaw venom is to use on your enemies. He won't let that trick slip by him, he'll try to use it on us. Now we face a choice: We can include Liquid Luck in our dryad cordials, and it will probably give us a tremendous advantage, for a time. But Dumbledore has been recently sensitized to this. He WILL figure out what is going on and he WILL react to counter us. And one of the best ways he could do that would be to arm his troops with malaclaw venom tipped darts. Our luck won't protect us from anything to do with that venom, and the slightest extra venom will kill our dryad. Boom! Gone. And the luck associated with that reaction could well be bad enough I wouldn't rule out a series of improbable events destroying all of her trees with her. He could pop our entire collection of dryads like soap bubbles with a weapon like that - and we know he would eventually use it, or something essentially like it, on us."

"But isn't there an antidote for malaclaw venom?" Hermione spoke up.

Harry nodded. "There is, and that's our other option. You can't combine the antidote with the venom or Felix Felicis, even under a Draught of Draughts, because the antidote will serve its purpose and cancel out the venom, ruining the Liquid Luck. Luckily that's one case where the other ingredients don't unbalance. Having no venom at all, there's no explosive in the bomb casing, so to speak. So that's our options as far as this goes. We can take Felix Felicis and use the luck to our advantage, taking the risk he'll pop our dryads like soap bubbles as soon as he figures out what's going on. Or we put in the antidote to deprive him of the ability to use malaclaw venom against us."

"What about us? You say this will protect our dryads, but what about us?" Hannah demanded.

This time it was the Queen who answered. "As unicorns are immune to all poisons, and you have just taken upon you their power, so are you. Both the venom, and the potion that alters its effects are of no use to you. The moment either enters your system they will be neutralized. As will any disease. Unicorns represent purity of body, soul and mind. Corruptive influences like disease and poisons have no part in them."

"So that's really our answer, then," Hermione concluded firmly, while folding her arms across her chest. "Rather than build in weaknesses which can eventually be exploited, I prefer greater protections, and as we can add the powers of a unicorn to our dryads by liquefying one of our bundles and having someone slip back in time to put it in, general immunity to ALL poisons is preferable to only one." Here her face scrunched up. "Actually, they ought to already have that, oughtn't they? That was the purpose of that elixir based on phoenix tears. So the point is moot anyway."

"It would still be to our advantage for them to be able to perceive the world in shades of kindness, trustworthiness and overall goodness." Luna insisted. "That's a priceless gift in a war of treachery and betrayal!"

"Agreed," the others all chorused.

"And," Harry continued, "the more people we have who can do it, the more warning we'll receive of spies and things slipped in among our support bases."

"About that," The Queen's spicy voice interrupted. "The physical and magical defense planning put into those settlements is truly remarkable. However, I am concerned that you put so little thought into their governments. As I am about to have dryads there, that concerns me, especially since this is a war fought more by treachery and betrayal than open conflicts."

Harry shrugged. "That's why we put people we could trust in charge."

"Ah." They'd never smelled disappointment before. It had swampy overtones. "So you are unaware, then, that Dumbledore required Unbreakable Loyalty Oaths from anyone joining his Order? While sounding innocuous, his phrasing was very generic and contained no escape clauses - and the poor, deluded fools swore thinking he was the 'Leader of the Light'. So all former members are bound to obey any instruction he gives them. He merely gives them fewer orders than you'd think, in order to maintain their illusion of free will. But they do get orders - like not to believe children trying to protect a stone."

McGonagall blushed and cast her eyes downward in shame.

Harry's insides had turned to crushed ice. Frank and Alice Longbottom were his sheriff and headmistress at Godric's Hollow, respectively. And while they were good people, bound to him by loyalty imprints from when he'd rebuilt their minds, Unbreakable Oaths were just that - Unbreakable short of death.

In any conflict of interest where Dumbledore demanded one thing of them and Harry's interests required another, they'd serve Dumbledore. His first town was largely governed by sleeper agents - traitors.

It may not have mattered yet because Dumbledore had been too busy to assert that control, but he would.

Then the icy slush in his gut froze into a glacier when he thought of Sirius Black, the man they'd been relying on to see to their backup accommodations in France. All of those measures had to be considered compromised now.

"You might want to pay attention to this," his Hat prompted him, drawing him out of his descent into misery and diverting his attention to Hermione, whose Hat had alerted Harry's of a critical thought budding.

"What about Minerva? Wasn't she a part of Dumbledore's Order?" the girl asked, causing Harry's mind to spin with how many enemy agents he'd built into the fabric of his own plans.

"Oh, you needn't worry about any of that from my dryads," the Queen told them in bright, chipper overtones. "The very first cordial I arranged to clean up Sybil Trelawney, who had been controlled and manipulated to just short of destruction. She had been layered with more spells and compulsions than the press that printed the Daily Prophet, yet I swept all that garbage away in a potion designed to preserve the soul, repair the mind, replace the body, and eliminate all the 'clothes' as I once referred to rituals and extra magic, that were not applied to the subject by Harry himself. You added a few things, but nothing that compromises that core. You need have no fear of them."

While the others were busy feeling relief, Luna privately noted how casually the Fairy Queen referred to sweeping away others' Unbreakable Oaths.

Fairies had long had a reputation of being outside the normal rules, and as their Queen, she would naturally be the most extremely capable among them. Once more fairy magic accomplished the impossible, making it seem trivial.

But then, getting rid of magic that would destroy a body you were already replacing anyway should not have been too surprising. She'd counted on it when planning for Bellatrix' conversion.

Hermione was already declaring, "Why, that's simple then! We simply put our dryads in charge of everything!"

"Even if they were not shortly to become mothers to rather large numbers of children, I still would not advise that," the Queen gently admonished. "Very few fairy creatures are at all appropriate for governing non-fey. Those who had such abilities before can by and large continue to use them, but do not expect those who don't to pick it up. Our temperament often conflicts."

Harry drew in a ragged breath. "Laying government aside briefly, I think we should grab another Order member or two for our original twenty dryads. If Albus has their unbreakable loyalty, then he won't expect any traitors in their midst, and the best way to break any spy ring is always to insert your own spies in it. Besides, it could help us to tap into any data he's collecting."

Minerva regarded him soberly before slowly nodding. "Might I recommend two former colleges of mine from the 'old crowd'? Emmaline Vance and Hestia Jones would be prime picks for your purposes." Then her lips quirked. "And speaking of having spies within spies, you might want to consider that having someone to look in on the Ministry for us would not be a bad idea."

A flight of flower petals somehow felt like the Queen nodding. "Whenever possible, compromise your enemies' intelligence network by placing your own spies inside to observe it. Because of those oaths Albus trusts these people with tasks he would not give to anyone else. Thus you might learn much. It is a well reasoned plan."

Somehow Harry felt her pointing out it was 'well reasoned' was a kind and parental way to say 'this is no guarantee of success.'

Luna was also nodding. "If they can only be freed by death, or by a dose of dryad cordial, he would never have reason to suspect our spies among his spies, because he believes those oaths to be unbreakable."

Sybil Trelawney raised her eyes in a disturbingly intense gaze. "Even dying with a horcrux in use doesn't cancel them out if you swore the oath on that horcrux - which Albus did in return for similar oaths to get people for his mutual revival pacts. But the regular Order members were his 'white' pieces. They existed to bolster his Light image, and so he did his best to keep them from becoming corrupt. Thus, they have no horcruxes, and he has no reason to suspect they could betray him and live."

And that seemed to settle that.

Harry sighed, then slumped. "So, how do we find good people to govern our towns? The only things I know how to do are to magically bind people - and most of our enemies seem to have beaten me to the punch."

McGonagall slipped into a 'teacher' moment, slipping into lecture pose. "Say rather, how do you *continue* to find good people to govern? That is a much harder question. The founders of any new society generally find a few good people they can trust. But as those societies grow older it grows harder, and harder, until corruption sets in and it becomes impossible."

This prompted Hermione to assume her own lecture mode, slipping into an almost identical pose. "The LAST people you want in positions of power are those who seek them, because those are the people most likely to abuse power. A humble guy who just wants to do his job and go home is more likely to do good for everyone than a man who dreams about forcing his will upon others and is willing to backstab his friends or do anything to get the power to do it; or march people into ovens to maintain it. But the eternal question always stood: How do you select leaders out of those who don't want to lead?

"Muggles tried democracy, getting their neighbors to elect them. Although that has broken down to the point where only those who campaign most vigorously have any chance of getting elected. So once again, you are left to choose leaders from among those who want power so bad they dream of it.

"Actually, the historian Gibbon had proclaimed one of the signs of corruption leading to the fall of the Roman Empire was that public officials spent more money campaigning for a government job than the entire salary of that post added up over the whole term of office was worth. He gave this as proof that justice had become a myth and the authority of government was for sale, because the only way to do that long term means those people to get the offices had to be making fortunes on the side in bribes to recoup their losses - and if someone has to pay a bribe to get something to happen, objectively speaking that thing was probably not in the public's best interest. That is, until government becomes so corrupt that NOTHING could be done without a bribe, at which point you're FUBAR and had best prepare to meet hordes of barbarians, because your country is teetering on the precipice, only one step away from already fallen, from the perspective of history."

She raised a sober gaze to meet her friends. "Oddly enough, the same thing is occurring now, in that if you don't spent more money campaigning for a government job than the entire salary is worth you can never expect to hold an elected position in any government on Earth."

Now the girl looked sad, holding herself as though cold. "So if you want a government job, forget it unless you want it bad enough to drop vast sums of money on campaigning for it, which effectively makes it an exclusive club - you have to have lots of money in the first place, and really want whatever power comes with that position because you have to be willing to pay truly outrageous sums of money even for a chance at getting it."

Now she looked genuinely scared. "Exclusive clubs have never run any government well. Forget the humble guy just doing his job, you're back to having only those who dream about power competing for the posts. Once again it brings things back to 'those who want positions of power are the last people you want to fill them' rule."

Hermione actually sobbed back tears as she admitted to the group. "So the muggle experiment has failed. Getting neighbors to select people who did not want the jobs has failed. In fact, in most so-called 'democratic' countries it is rapidly becoming a hereditary aristocracy where those jobs get handed down in extremely wealthy families, electing just another Bush or Kennedy."

"Unicorns can tell good people," Luna stated quite calmly and reasonably.

"Trouble arises when all of your people are bad - which happens more often than you might think," Harry stated morosely, having just reached the sad realization that he'd never get his parents back, because if they didn't die then they'd still be under oath to Dumbledore - just like Sirius.

"Also," McGonagall contributed delicately, "Good does not always guarantee competence. A few people of genuinely good hearts and nonetheless quite feckless. I've known one or two business owners who were so generous to the downtrodden or charitable causes they went out of business."

"This is actually two problems," the Queen's voice intoned softly. "One is how do you prevent all of your people from eventually going bad - a problem no mortal society has yet fixed. The second is how to select the best of your people for the job, rather than getting the worst. And there is an answer."

She now had the total, undivided attention of all present.

"Harry, present me with the egg of a phoenix," she commanded.

The boy's heart fell out of his chest down into his shoes.

"Wait!" Luna bounced before him excitedly. "There WAS one of those in the Department of Mysteries! My Grandmother Alice took it along with everything else down there once she got freed by you!"

Harry stared in wonder as Luna contacted her grandmother and had the egg back in a moment. Too tired by the repeated shocks of leaping in and out of despair to feel anything, he silently presented that egg to the Fairy Queen.

"You aren't going to destroy it, are you?" Susan blurted out in concern.

The Fairy Queen actually laughed. "I cannot. You need have no worry about that, my dear. It is merely my intention to catch the hatchling's First Song."

"First Song?" Hermione cocked her head, wondering at the emphasis.

"Yes dear, the song of a phoenix is truly remarkable, but the first time they sing out of the shell has a wonder and quality unlike any other."

"So, you're going to make it hatch?" Hermione wondered curiously.

"No dear," if snow bubbled, that was the sound. "A phoenix is as hard to create as they are to destroy. But I am going to use this as a material link, along with my mastery of time, to look ahead and listen to a song it has not yet sung. For it will hatch eventually. There is no doubt of that. Now do be a dear and don't interrupt, this is going to be tricky even for me."

On no further discussion, the Queen had Harry produce six of those bales of phoenix feathers they'd stolen from Dumbledore, slicing them open to spill those feathers out, all of which curled up and transformed into little sea shells. Hermione was reminded of the myth of holding a sea shell to your ear and you could hear the sea.

Suddenly there was the most beautiful song. It was such rapture to listen to that no one there could tell how long it lasted. But when it was over they all felt, better, nobler beings than they were before. In some cases it was even visible, Luna was probably and inch taller and better filled out than before.

There came a heaviness to the Queen's mental voice that had not been there before, as if she was exhausted. "There. Now the little feather-shells have caught enough of it, and shall continue to play it softly beyond human hearing until they are destroyed. Implant these secretly all around your towns. The song is simply unbearable to evil, despite their being unable to hear it. So it will drive them off. Evil creatures can enter the area, spend a few hours, even destroy your village. But they will feel uncomfortable and in danger all the while, and will be unable to rest, so would inevitably leave. How long they can stand it is up to the creature itself, and is based upon willpower.

"Now I would caution you this song will not prevent residents from going evil, but they will be unable to remain if they do go down that path. I leave how to distribute them up to you to decide, but would suggest putting one in each of the cornerstones of your buildings' foundations as a start. Hide them in the cleverest ways that you can, and be plentiful in their use. But do not tell anyone what they are or the purpose they serve. Keep that knowledge among the fey, because if others should learn of this, creatures like Dumbledore would spare nothing to remove or destroy them - for the very reason that these are your first defense against the dishonest, vile or corrupt ruling your towns. Because with these in place, those types will be unable to bear living there. They won't even like to visit."

Suddenly Trelawney's tree formed a new leaf that quickly grew to be seven feet long and as wide as a parchment. It was not an accidental resemblance, because it also grew covered in writing before it detached itself and floated down into Hermione's waiting hands.

"I had intended to give you a three tiered defense against evil ruling your towns, but I grow weak, and you must prepare the other two yourselves. This scroll describes how to prepare goblets not unlike what the Goblet of Fire was used for by wizards to decide contestants in that tournament of theirs, although more reliable. Build one for each town and have it select candidates for government out of the general population. You have in your possession Dumbledore's notes for the replacement Sorting Hat he'd intended to create after the original had gone missing. Those are based on decades of research into the original. Create your own, one for each town, and have them Sort through the candidates to find who would do the best for each position."

"Now copy down these numbers."

The teens obediently did so.

"Are these part of some arithmatical formula?" Hermione asked when she could no longer bear her curiosity.

"No," the Queen's tired but merry voice replied. "They are the account numbers and access information to several major drug cartels' savings. Dumbledore knows next to nothing about muggles, so I want you to withdraw a couple of hundred billion from those accounts to hire some to find ways to hide our kind from Dumbledore forever. Mortals are infinitely clever, while we fairy tend to get set in our ways. So I want that cleverness working to defend us, for once."

I I I

Author's Notes:

Ah, me. Yet another instance of "Wherever Harry goes, Dumbledore's been there first." Now how is he going to deal with the fact that several of his most trusted allies (the Longbottoms, Sirius) are sworn to serve his enemy?

Also there is the small matter of his parents being sworn, too. That greatly complicates saving them, if he even wants to save them at all at this point.

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