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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64. Chapter Sixty-Four

I I I

Unaware of the building danger, Harry and his fiancees had continued on with their lives in a more or less orderly fashion. They made their first shipment of ink, taking over sales on Dumbledore's monopoly, and got rather surprised by how much cash that drew in. Although it did cost them a fair amount to purchase barrels to store it in, as Trelawney refused to have her beautiful wood stained with black writing ink.

Dumbledore had arrangements with everyone to restore to him used barrels and fined them for any damage, so he'd only been forced to buy them once, long ago. But that was a cost they had to pay up front to take over the business, just like there were surprises about taking back over sale of farm produce from the old man - this in spite of that having once been a Potter business, and they'd left Harry records on how they'd done it.

Harry had returned Madam Pince to her duties right after Bellatrix had been petrified so no one would notice her missing. He'd Confounded her to continue on in the vein Bellatrix had been pursuing, restoring the library to its pre-censorship condition, making available lost materials in big displays right up front where Ravenclaws could descend on them like starving wolves.

Dumbledore, having achieved his own animagus transformation, discovered that it had certain advantages he didn't want others to have, so from his beginning tenure as transfiguration professor, started to leave out those parts of the material that were necessary for the change. He also began to cull the useful or pertinent books on the subject out of the library until the only ones left were basically worthless at best, outright harmful at worst. James was able to sidestep that because his family library still detailed the procedure in its true and accurate form, and he helped his friends.

McGonagall had achieved hers before Dumbledore had eliminated enough material and references to make it impossible. Even so, she'd faced more difficulties than most and was rather proud of herself for her success.

It was one of the extra projects hanging around the edges of Harry's 'to do' plate: find a way to modify the current ritual so it allowed non-fae multiple animal forms.

Not currently a priority, but in the 'it would be nice' category.

As part of their general precautions Narcissa had produced more sets of silver weapons and armor for Susan and Hannah to wear, and while delivering them mentioned as an aside there were a few books on wand manufacture in the infamous Black Library.

Illegal? Yes. But that hadn't yet stopped the Black family, being illegal barely slowed them down, even if they hadn't produced any wand crafting experts.

They collected lots of illegal things. That was just one on the list.

On discovering this, Harry couldn't wait to start studying in the Black family library. And naturally Hermione was even more eager than he to get at all of those lovely and delicious books.

Well, actually 'lovely and delicious' was subject to debate. They weren't called the Black family for nothing. They had some truly horrendous spells in there, some of which Harry proclaimed could be tied to defensive wards to trigger on any intruders.

Which would be a good idea, actually, seeing as a person's ward schemes were like a fingerprint, and right now he was using Voldemort's. That not only made his wards seem like Tom Riddle's to anyone who was investigating them it meant that dark idiot could understand to remove them better. Anyone who had faced the Dark idiot's ward schemes could too.

So anything to change that, like new spells to work in to replace old, would freshen up that style a bit and confuse those trying to identify it. And he did want his places protected as best as he was able.

Harry had collected up the Black family properties along with the Potter ones (with a couple of exceptions like Godric's Hollow), including their played out mines - just because he was being thorough. Who knew what his ancestors had hidden in some of those spaces? Illegal dragon hatcheries was just one of the things he knew of that was hidden down there. But anything the family wanted kept away from prying eyes might have been stashed down there.

And if they were, he didn't want to miss acquiring them.

Luna controlled several generations of illegally accumulated Malfoy family wealth, and she'd wanted him to hide that too. So he was a busy beaver.

Still, when Narcissa hinted that the Black library had one or two books on wand manufacture, Harry dropped many lesser priorities to look into that.

But, once discovered, that was a daunting task. They had thousands of books stored in each of dozens of different houses with no organization or filing system whatsoever. Many of the books were unmarked, or deliberately disguised, and included countless private journals rambling about anything.

To read this massive library, Harry created a portrait of himself, then set it before an automated reading stand that would flip pages or change books on verbal command. A painting could give verbal commands, and the portrait Harry could thus skim over a large volume of Dark material that he already knew from Tom Riddle's memories, looking for those occasional bits that were new. A verbal-command quill could then highlight the new stuff and bookmark it, saving the place for Harry to read himself later.

In this way he could sort a large volume of material to pick out those gems he didn't already know in a short amount of time, because the drudge work was being done by a painting instead.

It could sift the entire library that way.

And besides, Bellatrix would expect it of him when she returned, and he could hardy keep the mask in place that allowed him to control her if he did not match up to that very reasonable (for Voldemort) expectation. He had to not only act delighted to have access to those books, but actually learn stuff from them. And, who knew? Maybe it had counters for some of Voldy's better abilities. Most of the books of that sort would tell you "take care lest you bring an X close to this, as that will unravel all of it's power!"

And really, what knowledge could be more priceless? That told you what to find in order to counter some of Voldemort's toys and abilities. It highlights their weaknesses by the very warnings it gives intending to protect them.

All of the best and most fearsome Dark Arts had loopholes and weaknesses like that - just like a basilisk could be destroyed by the simple crowing of a rooster.

And speaking of basilisks.

Harry's newest basilisk had hatched. He'd taken to carrying it around with him, sealed up in a cage disguised as a book in one of his expanded pockets. The gaze of a newly hatched basilisk was nothing, and wouldn't be until the tiny King of Serpents had grown a little older. So that was why he wanted to keep it with him, to make sure it matured at three times normal rate as he went through his repeated days.

He hadn't been able to repeat that trick of aging it a thousand years in a second. So was stuck for now with normal advancement. Fairies are unpredictable. And, he was finding, that often applied even to themselves.

The gaze of an immature basilisk wasn't all that special either. Much like an immature mandrake plant, they lacked the full adult's killing power. But still, the older it got the more powerful its magic, and the more useful the parts that could be pulled from it.

Just like his dragons, he didn't have to kill them to get their skins. The hides of dragons were not as magically protective as a basilisk's, but were more physically tough.

Also, using that Dental Potion he hoped to develop he could even harvest fangs, then replace them!

Trelawney had seen ahead (odd, that. He was unused to picturing her as an oracle, but with the damage to her gift restored, that's what she was) and one of the creatures put through that fire protection ritual before the time ran out on them and they'd hit the Fall Equinox was Harry's own Demiguise.

With the beast itself immune to fire, so was its hair. So with more doses of dragon whisker soup he now had a practically limitless supply of material for fireproof invisibility cloaks.

He gave one to the dryad, naturally.

I I I

"Hermione, I've been meaning to ask, do we know what specific kind of oak Trelawney is?" To Harry this was very important. His efforts had turned Petunia's rather ordinary lawn into an award winning landscaped garden.

One did not do that by merely planting 'a rose'. You had to know the specific species and cultivar of rose, what characteristics this bush had that made it suitable for that spot, and weigh those against other possible varieties. This was the essence of what made a modern gardener, and Harry was admittedly a very good one. His work had won awards in a very highly competitive field.

And while he knew they'd assumed Trelawney was a white oak, without a tree identification book on hand to reference it was impossible to be certain as there were several related species that shared many identifying traits.

Besides, there were many trees called white oak.

However Hermione had recently been doing research into dryads, and she huffed at him. "Really, Harry! Don't you know anything about this?"

The boy blinked in surprise. As previously mentioned, he was an expert in this field - both about plants, and about nymphs.

Then she giggled, having gotten him back for his teasing her about math homework, and the mood relaxed. "Actually, Harry, I wasn't quite joking. This is one of those areas where muggles get almost as silly as wizards. You see, it's one job of scientists to classify things - only they don't know when to stop! Their job says do it, and they get status from doing it, only there's no provision for saying 'okay, that's enough now', so they never give up trying to break things down further into smaller and smaller categories so they can have something to name after themselves. It's institutionalized, and that's a form of bureaucracy, and those never make sense. They always start out with good intentions, but they get more and more insane the longer they run. It's ridiculous, but some of them make Wonderland seem rational!"

Harry blinked. He'd been quite proud of his accomplishments in this area. But it seemed his bushy haired friend may have found one of those holes in his knowledge base. The boy actually knew a lot, both from his own studies and inherited from Voldemort. But nobody knew everything.

The boy flopped into a seat, teasing, "So, teach me oh great wise one, impart to this humble seeker your knowledge."

Hermione giggled. "Okay, it's really very simple. Imagine that all human beings suddenly froze in place and could neither move nor speak. Then picture some aliens coming down, someone who has no knowledge of Earth, and is trying to classify us. They start with the easy stuff. Humans are different than plants or beasts, so they call us humans. Then they continue on just as our muggle scientists have done, breaking that definition smaller and smaller. They start on some more pertinent details, some of us originate in Europe, others in Africa, Asia, America, what have you. That's still useful knowledge. But then just like us they don't know when to stop. Soon we're broken down by height, then weight, and a variety of other factors - useful to a doctor to figure out your health problems, but not so much an aspect of race. But then they still don't stop, and go yet further, until you have them picking out individual specimens, cloning them, and calling that its own subspecies! So eventually you'd have the Snivellus cultivar of the Greasius Gittus species of the Tall-Hook-Nosed genus."

Harry broke out laughing until he wept. "It's true!" He proclaimed, as he was rising up off the floor. "They find a single specimen of a tree, or whatever, and make millions of clones of it, then treat it like it was something entirely different than the rest of the species, and call any mixes hybrids!"

Hermione nodded firmly, having deeply enjoyed Harry's reaction to her point. "That's actually not an exaggeration. All commercial pistachios are clones of a single tree that someone found in their garden that produced an unusual number of nuts. They liked having so many nuts, so cloned that tree literally millions of times. They gave it a name and call it its own cultivar, but that's really like grabbing Snape and calling him his own species! Then other alien scientists come along and compare his greasy hair to other examples of humanity that are also poorly groomed, and claim they are related! If we want to go that route, then our dryad is of the Trelawney cultivar!"

Once more Harry broke down laughing into helplessness.

Hermione's enjoyment over his reaction grew yet further, and she let loose a smile that she was no longer able to contain. "If she were human, Trelawney would be stuck with whatever traits she got born with, improved somewhat by her own efforts. But she IS a dryad, so that means fairy, and that means at least somewhat mutable. So truly she should have any aspect of oak trees that she wants to, and right now is leaning toward white oak. But she could mix that with aspects of swamp oak, or pin oak or any other oak she wanted to. I'm really not sure of her limits."

I I I

"Hermione, what are you reading?"

Instead of answering directly the bookworm simply began to read aloud, "A Welsh or English military archer during the 14th and 15th Century was expected to shoot at least ten "aimed shots" per minute. An experienced military longbowman was expected to shoot twenty aimed shots per minute. A typical military longbow archer would be provided with between 60 and 72 arrows at the time of battle, which would last the archer from three to six minutes, at full rate of shooting. Thus, most archers would not loose arrows at this rate, as it would exhaust even the most experienced man. Not only are the arms and shoulder muscles tired from the exertion, but the fingers holding the bowstring become strained; therefore, actual rates of fire in combat would vary considerably. Ranged volleys at the beginning of the battle would differ markedly from the closer, aimed shots as the battle progressed and the enemy neared. Arrows were not unlimited, so archers and their commanders took every effort to ration their use to the situation at hand. Nonetheless, resupply during battle was available. Young boys were often employed to run additional arrows to longbow archers while in their positions on the battlefield."

Harry had the grace to smirk. "Whereas a musket, even a fairly advanced 18th century version using a paper cartridge (which vastly sped up the whole loading process), was lucky to get a fire rate of four rounds a minute even with a veteran soldier allowed to fire as quickly as he was able - three or less a minute for a very experienced man without a paper cartridge. In combat one or two per minute was far more likely. And muskets were so inaccurate it was complained that it took a man's weight in lead balls to kill him. They basically gave up on the concept of marksmanship and relied entirely on massive volume of fire at short range. They commonly exchanged volleys at sixty feet or less because it was so ineffective farther out. In fact I recall one saying 'It is a very unfortunate soldier indeed who is hit by a musket at a hundred feet - provided it was aimed at him.' The musket was theoretically their main weapon, but those armies did most of their killing with bayonets. One British general was nicknamed 'No Flint' Grey because he rarely had his troops fire. He just ordered bayonet charges. Can you imagine a tank general today ordering his units not to fire, just run the enemy over?"

Hermione gazed at him triumphantly as she stood up to replace her book on the shelves. "And I was just reading, archery contests such as the famous one where Robin Hood shot, commonly had their targets 'seven score and ten yards' out, or four hundred and fifty feet or farther. And the main tactic for infantry attacks for musket equipped armies was a slow measured advance. Even at a fast walk, which was as fast as those formations could go without charging (at which point they become melee troops and don't shoot a thing), they only cross about 210 feet a minute. So a handful of decent archers, not even the best, just enough to pass military standards, could over the two minutes of that advance, kill more than twenty times their number in musketeers before the muskets even came close enough to fire."

Harry smiled back to her. "So, if you had, say, five of those longbow archers. They could kill a hundred musketeers before the archers were in any danger - and even have time for spare shots in case they missed a couple times. You know, those kind of losses are demoralizing. It's hard to make your troops take those and go on fighting. Historically speaking, virtually all armies break and run BEFORE losing one man in ten! And it looks bad if you have to have a thousand troops to chase down five. But musket equipped armies defined the 'stand there and take it' mentality. So they couldn't even duck for cover."

The girl nodded firmly. "Longbow archers were the elite troops of a medieval battlefield. Blackpowder firearms took over because they were cheap, and you could hand any moron one and get him to use it within minutes. Archery training took decades to get the kind of skill they required."

Harry snorted good-naturedly. "I'd recommend cavalry charges, personally."

Hermione sniffed disdainfully. "The French tried it. English longbowmen would commonly jab hundreds of stakes as big as a spear into the ground and fight from within those hedges. Charging them on horseback was suicide. It wasn't until Joan of Arc got the proud French knights to dismount and enter those hedges on foot that they ever beat them. And even so it wasn't easy - it just was no longer impossible. England dominated Europe with the longbow, and they enjoyed that so much at one point they'd cut down every yew tree in Britain, and most of those on the continent, to make bows."

Harry sighed, then chortled good-naturedly. "Which reminds me, don't forget we've got another archery lesson in a few minutes. Firenze is trying to make up for having missed a few days in the transition of the forest."

Hermione groaned. Her arms hurt, and her poor fingers could barely hold a quill! Firenze was turning out to be as much of a fanatic about his sport as Oliver Wood was about Quidditch!

Suddenly Harry's complaints the last two years about an insane coach wanting to practice them at all hours, in all weathers, and work his team to exhaustion were not so funny. It wasn't a little boy being lazy, it was a real inconvenience! (not to mention a literal pain)

Sighing, she got up to follow him out to their favorite apparation spot, where they met up with the others, and Harry took them all to the Forest.

But instead of Firenze it was Trelawney who was there, sitting at a tea table set for six and calmly sipping her juice. Then she looked up at them with an intellectually smug smile that was so Hermione Harry had to check to make sure the real Granger still stood by his side.

Ever since the professor had taken that polyjuice he'd been able to tell her apart from the real girl until right then, and it scared him.

Instead the professor turned back to her drink and, blowing on the cider to cool it (for her change had made tea revolting to her, no one knew why) she calmly gloated, "Ever since the Headbastard's manipulations to my mind have been removed I've been able to recall my own predictions, when I make any. And I just had a rather detailed, though brief, one."

"I can see why he wouldn't want you to be able to do that," the real Hermione volunteered. "Oracles may not be able to predict their own futures, but you still might have seen something that could mess him up."

Harry had not spoken. He'd had a sinking feeling ever since Sybil spoke that this was about to become one of those, "Troy will not fall unless..." moments and he was bracing for the impact.

Greeks had relied upon their oracles for clear and accurate predictions, none of this "you'll never understand it until it's all over" nonsense!

It turned out he was exactly right.

Trelawney turned a strong gaze to them with just a touch of fairy fire around her eyes, which was a touch spooky considering that she wore Hermione's face. "Headmaster Dumbledore has split his soul into thirteen parts. Three of those are shortly to be embodied and will walk free. They are untouched by the venom you used so adroitly to destroy the original, and if they have time to get their bearings you must unavoidably be destroyed. So if you wish to live and succeed at the tasks the Fairy Queen has given you, you must catch as many as you can as they emerge before they have sufficient guard up."

Harry's heart sunk at the thought of Dumbledore having twelve horcruxes. Nevertheless, he asked, "Where do they come from?"

The oracle's gaze riveted onto him. "Thirteen strongholds he has, Hogwarts plus twelve others. None are what they seem. The first is a hill, farmed for generations. You will know it by the purple windmill. Second is a bar owned by his brother. It is most dangerous of all. Third you will never find unless one who knows shows you the way."

Harry was nodding, already tabulating and calculating the information. There were no purple windmills on any of his farm properties, so it was time to take a broom ride over some others. Fortunately only wizards would have a purple windmill. Best to start looking across other farms Dumbledore controlled.

Second was the clearest of all. The Hog's Head Inn at Hogsmead was run by Aberforth Dumbledore, Albus' younger and only brother.

Third obviously indicated a property under Fidelius. But they were fairy, they had the second sight! They could see through those!

Then Harry's heart sunk yet again as Voldemort's knowledge popped up with the answer: an anti-fairy ward. Rare. Heck, practically unknown! One effect of having an anti-fairy ward was that house elves could not enter. So it was simply unthinkable to any pureblood household to apply one, as the thought of living without servants catering to your every need was appalling. Pampered purebloods simply could not tolerate a life of not being catered to. And none of the poorer households would want them either, for that and the fact that it would prevent them from using their most popular Christmas decorations.

No, to wizards that would be almost as unthinkable as having a ward against functioning toilets (which reminded him to suggest that to the twins as a prank). But on an old, unused, semi-abandoned property? Yeah, he could see that. Then a chill seized his heart. The Dumbledores were an ancient family. They might have properties anywhere, including especially some of those old quiet backwater part-magical towns he'd been converting over into forts!

So any one of them might be compromised. Even though he wasn't planning on hiding in any of those places himself the thought was chilling. "Who is one who knows?"

"Bathilda Bagshot knows enough," Sybil's reply was unusually blunt for an oracle. "The ones who truly know would never tell you. They are bound to never tell at all."

Harry sighed, nodding, while all his girls look on at him processing this. "So we need her on our side, great. Well at least we know."

"What traps would work best?" Hermione blurted from around Harry's shoulder.

Sybil grinned. It was a good question. "Whatever you do, back it up with dementors."

Harry slapped his face and proclaimed, "I am a FOOL! We KNOW the old man is using a horcurx, or as it turns out, a dozen horcruxes. Those are soul anchors, meaning bits of soul. And what creature eats those?"

"Dementors," the girls all realized together.

"Of course!" Luna gasped. "We've been going about this all wrong! There is no reason for horcruxes to be indestructible. They are made of dementor food! All of the protections are simply things that wizards apply after the fact to protect their precious soul anchors!"

Harry rolled his eyes and tossed his hands in the air, frustrated over his own foolishness. "A horcrux can stop you from crossing over to true death, but can only draw you back to life if you are a free-floating spirit. If you're stuck in a dementor's gut there's nothing that it can do! Every part of a dark lord's soul we shove down a dementor's throat is one piece that cannot come back, no matter what! I've even been DOING that to Tom's soul pieces! Why did it never occur to me to do it to Dumbledore? This could have been over with by now!"

Luna laid a small hand on his shoulder, speaking with kind eyes. "Harry, don't blame yourself for not having all the best ideas at once. No one can do that."

Now Hermione herself smirked. "Actually, I think we ought to go for double protection: Every dementor we feed a part of one of their souls we should send through the Veil of Death."

They all paused.

"Let's do that to most of them right now," Hannah remarked. "It's not like anyone wants to have them around."

"Yeah," Susan offered. "From what you said couldn't Voldemort get them back on his side in an instant? Didn't the Headbastard say he was bringing him back? Do we want them to still be around for him to recruit?"

"I'll tell Narcissa to get the Ministry on it," Luna volunteered. "It's not like any of us can control them. Harry couldn't use the same dark arts Riddle did to get command of the things."

"Save out a few," Harry instructed tiredly. "We have a few traps to set."

I I I

Author's Notes:

You know, I played up the drama of the need to get Trelawney out from under Dumbledore's control so long ago for a reason, and that was with perfect information he was unbeatable.

Having an oracle on their side doesn't make them unbeatable, but it sure is nice to have perfectly accurate targeting information from time to time.

 
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