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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61. Chapter Sixty-One

I I I

Show of hands. Has anyone here ever heard the phrase 'calm before the storm?'

I I I

Walking down the hallway with her arms full of books after morning classes on her way to lunch, Hermione told Susan and Hannah as they joined her, "Trelawney is beginning to scare me."

"Oh?" the Hufflepuffs inquired curiously, as girls are wont to do when scenting good gossip.

"Yes." The bookworm nodded. "Just today she asked, demanded really, books of published furniture forms from famous cabinet makers such as Thomas Sheraton, Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite, compendiums of their designs and those of other cabinet makers, the pre-mass-production artisan-only stuff. I think she might be getting a trifle obsessed. I don't think she's going to stop until the furniture she gives Harry would be fit for royal houses at their most decadent."

"But you got her the books?" Susan asked.

"Of course!" Hermione smiled. "I rather like the look of furniture from that era, and am hoping for some samples myself."

The Gryffindor and two Hufflepuffs watched as Luna crossed their path, so intent she didn't notice them.

They were all a little worried about her.

It was Luna's Gift to know needful things, to know what's needed. She might not know how to get it, or why it's required, but she knew what was required, and for the past twenty days, even while things had been at their busiest back when they'd been fighting Dumbledore full time, she had been working her little tail off in what time could be spared from group activities to pursue measures for enhancing plants.

First thing she'd stolen Harry's notes on his Potion of Plant Protection, converted over from the Pot version the Bones family would be producing, and after making a copy for herself gave it over to the Weasley Twins with instructions for seeing what they could do with that and Re'em blood.

Outside Hogwarts she'd hired an agent to track down for her one of the rare few potion masters able to mix one of the little known wonders of their art: the precious Essence of Evergreen. A rare elixir that protected a plant against colder climates than it might be accustomed to.

The brew was considered frivolous even among wizards. Highly volatile during mixing, it was both rare and expensive, so much so that it rarely if ever got used, so was one of the harder magical wonders to obtain. After all, even among wizards very few were of a mind to spend more gold to protect one plant than it would take to buy an entire field full of greenhouses.

Luna had also written, through her Great Aunt Dorothy, to Glinda the Good Witch of Oz pleading for potion recipes for enhancing plants and gotten back two: One for converting Elixir of Life into a brew that could provide a plant with resistance to rot and corrosion of all types, and another using phoenix tears at its base that provided a plant immunity to poison and diseases.

Luckily the trio had both rare and precious ingredients on hand.

Luna was not the only witch with fairy gifts, and Glinda had her own version: knowing not just what was required, but what was possible. It was a better gift than Luna's own, but she wasn't jealous.

Glinda had also sent back one of the magical devices stolen by Alice from the British Department of Mysteries, a silver watering can studded with rubies that caused trees to continually fruit and blossom all year round.

Luna had already been searching through the treasures they'd obtained from looting the Hogwarts basement vaults and storerooms, and had come up with another patent application, this one by Harry's grandparents, for a ribbon to be tied around a tree trunk or plant stem that would enchant the whole for protection against inclement weather such as hailstorms or early frosts.

Giving that to Harry she'd ordered him to put on Ravenclaw's Diadem to make a conversion process into a potion straight away.

Then she'd also ordered an expensive Draught of Draughts, a potion that let you combine lots of potions into a single jigger without conflicting, invented by a hypochondriac wizard so he could take all of his medicines in a single swallow without blowing his intestines apart or leaking strange gasses.

The others in their group did not know the reasons for Luna's mania, but went along with it anyway.

Alerted by this little obsession, Harry had dipped into Riddle's studies for a tidbit he'd come across and ordered some very expensive old Greek books, authored by the court scribe of Alcinous, and detailing how his marvelous and sublime orchard had been created.

Even muggles had heard about that place. It was mentioned in the Odyssey: "Therein grow trees, tall and luxuriant, pears and pomegranates and apple-trees with their bright fruit, and sweet figs, and luxuriant olives. Of these the fruit perishes not nor fails in winter or in summer, but lasts throughout the year."

The boy settled down to study and master these enchantments. If Luna wanted plant enhancements, Harry would back her not even knowing why.

After this, however, he'd make a copy of these books and give it to Neville for his birthday. No reason not to make the boy happy.

Although when he'd learned his parents were awake, the boy had all but dropped out of school for two weeks to spend time with them, so he was already practically delirious with joy, floating around the castle on a cloud.

Neville still spent every weekend and most evenings with them. In fact they rarely saw him at mealtimes, as he took both breakfast and dinner at home.

The smile he had on would light up a dim corridor, however.

Hermione for her part had, with Harry's permission, begun to study the old Potter family grimores dealing with plants and growing things. Such was her trust in Luna that she began to prepare a recipe she'd found there in spite of it having all of the drawbacks of Essence of Evergreen, namely that it was so difficult and expensive to brew that no plant one could use it on would be worth the price, but that enabled one to live on any soil.

She couldn't imagine it being worth it. The ingredients alone cost half of what had been in Harry's trust vault, which was a ridiculous sum for a potion. But they went ahead and did it all the same.

She could understand the reason IF they could've used something like this on Trelawney. But most of these potions had to be applied to a seed. They were useless on a plant that had already germinated. So Hermione truly couldn't understand the point, but went ahead trusting Luna anyway.

Luckily she was far above her classmate's ability, above even where her year should be if they didn't have Snape as a teacher, as was proven when she'd brewed polyjuice last year, or she'd not have had the ability for this one, even with all of Harry's marvelous potion brewing tools.

Still, she wondered if they all weren't being a little obsessive about this. It would be so much simpler, and cheaper, to buy truckloads of dragon dung!

The dragon dung would have done a better job, too.

Hermione sighed when Harry didn't come to the dinning table. She'd have to seek him out after lunch. They had an appointment together to use the last of the remaining current charge in the Goblet of Fire in some rituals to bind Harry's three dragons to their service.

Come to think of it, he was probably off buying dragons for Susan and Hannah.

And, true enough, he came back having found nine more dragons hatched from the same clutches as their current Antipodean Opaleye, Chinese Fireball, and Swedish Short-Snout. Three from each clutch.

It was six more than they needed, but none of them saw that as a problem.

I I I

As had been previously stated, one of the odd things about going back to a semi-normal environment where they weren't dealing with crises all of the time were having to deal with all of the non-crisis issues that had been piling up in the background as they'd dealt with war measures.

One of those un-dealt-with issues was Ginny. But as the first Hogsmead trip arrived and he shoved himself into their company, they got reminded another was Ron. If they wanted to pretend normalcy and avoid tedious explanations and possibly detentions, they couldn't just hex him or drive him off.

But he was a headache all the same.

After ruining their lunch, Ron had followed them as they explored around town. They were going through a second-hand shop in Hogsmead, trying to pretend everything was normal, when Hermione stopped to exclaim, "That may be the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen."

"What is it?" Ron shoved himself forward, still dropped crumbs off the front of his robes from a bag of crisps he'd made Harry pay for.

"Have a look," Harry waved toward the object in question. He and Hermione stood aside so the dullard could see.

"An obsidian cauldron? What's so odd about that?" Ron asked, face scrunched up in confusion.

Harry sighed, rolling his eyes. "Ron, what are cauldrons used for?"

"Making potions, Harry. Everyone knows that. Did nearly getting kissed to death cause you to forget things?" The redhead taunted.

"I see subtlety is lost on you," Harry sneered, insulted at being called an idiot by an idiot, then caught himself and sighed. "Ron, to make a potion requires heat, right?"

"Yeah, so what?" the redhead asked dully.

While Hermione smirked over not having to be the one to explain things for a change, Harry picked up the heavy cauldron and tapped the black material. "So? Obsidian is a rock. Rock isn't like metal. Metal conducts heat, but rock RESISTS heat! So, you're trying to cook something, but this won't heat easily or quickly or evenly. So any potion you made in this would be spoiled because no matter what you did, the heat would ALWAYS be wrong!! Actually, this is worse than just about any other rock - this is Volcanic Glass!! You'd need a BLAST FURNACE to heat this thing up at all quickly!! Anything hot enough to get this pot even slightly warm would incinerate whatever ingredients you put inside it! You couldn't even approach to stir it. I'm sure whatever stupid idiot ordered this thing made found it USELESS!"

Seeing Ron's dumbfounded look, Hermione decided to chip in. "Ronald, I could take you up to Hogwarts right this minute, and we could go over the Potions section of the library book by book, and you'd never find one recipe that could use something like this. It would be like... well, like having a wand that weighed fifty tons and was as long and wide as a quidditch pitch. Even if you could lift it, you could never wave it around or carry it indoors with you."

Nothing annoyed Hermione so much as a goofy idiot thinking he was brilliant. Ron got a 'Ha! Caught You!' grin on his face and said, "Oh yeah? I bet if you shrunk it, a wand like that would be pretty powerful!"

In response, she merely drew her wand and shrank his. Lofting an eyebrow eloquently, she said, "Go on. Use it."

Taking his now-matchstick-sized wand gingerly between two fingers, Ron tried to cast a spell at her. There came a flash of light and he jerked as if burned. In seconds the boy was jumping around, waving his fingers, trying to get the sparks to go out and stop burning him. His tiny matchstick wand had been flung off who knows where in his initial reaction.

"Putting spells on wands is generally a very bad idea," she told him primly as the boy started to suck on the ends of his sore fingers. "Wand crafters know the only few exceptions, and those just fine tune them. Anyway, size has nothing to do with a wand's potency. If anything, as it serves as a conduit for your energy, it would take MORE of your magic to cast the same level of spell. Like drinking soda out of a straw that was two miles long! The soda can is your energy. You don't get any more to drink, there is only so much in the can, it only takes more time and effort to get it. Being large would only make it inefficient. Wands are the size they are for a reason!"

"But bigger is always better, right?" the dullard insisted.

Hermione exasperatedly rolled her eyes. "Not always. In some cases, like this one, it would be like putting on pants a hundred sizes too large for you and expecting that to make you taller! If anything, the extra material would only drag, slow you down, and make you look ridiculous!

"As with pants," Harry smirked. "Having a proper fit is what's important with a wand. Just like proper heat is important for a cauldron."

"So why did someone make that thing?" Ron thrust a still stinging finger accusingly at the obsidian cauldron, sitting back on its shelf where Harry had returned it.

"They were stupid?" Harry and Hermione both had a small laugh, before she started to lecture again. "Obsidian has its uses, but a cauldron isn't one of them - any more than you'd want an obsidian pair of pants!"

"The things you want pants for, bending and folding and flexing, are all things obsidian is worst at," Harry added his bit helpfully. "Just like it doesn't suit making potions."

"So it can't be used for anything?" Ron asked around the fingers he was still sucking the ends on.

Harry shrugged. "I can think of plenty of uses: a chamber pot, washbasin, something to store loose change in... just nothing involving potions."

"It would be a decent material if you wanted to hold melted metal," the bushy haired girl interjected. "But at anything less than those temperatures, it has no practical use - And it's the wrong shape for holding metal. You want those to be tall and narrow so fewer sparks escape. This is low and wide. So, no. I have to agree with Harry. This has no practical use. Maybe you could stick it on your mantelpiece and fill it with colored marbles as a conversation piece. But aside from a curio, it has no practical value."

"Yeah," Harry was nodding. "Like those little statues of elephants. This isn't a cauldron. It is a piece of art that looks like a cauldron."

"Right you are, dearies," the shopkeeper mysteriously appeared behind them. "That's not a cauldron. It was never meant to be a cauldron. Instead, it was a cauldron holder, used to keep volatile or experimental potions from eating away at your desk. Fire won't scar it, and acids won't dissolve it."

"But explosions would shatter it, and fill the air with razor edged pieces of glass," Hermione filled in, somewhat horrified.

"Well, there is a reason it is in a second hand shop, dearie," the owner turned away to go back about her business, seeing there would be no sale on that.

Harry and Hermione both met glances. "People try new things. Sometimes those don't work." Harry shrugged.

Ron bought the cauldron.

I I I

The next morning the Creevey brothers came to Harry with a completed yearbook, pictures of all of the current students, clubs, and so on. It was an amazing job given that they'd spent less than a month compiling it, and half the emergencies going on would've halted a less-motivated project team.

He signed their copies without argument, even bought one himself, and some as gifts to other students.

Instantly after doing so, however, the boy popped up to do some networking, making the rounds of the entire school introducing himself and shaking hands, asking each and every person, whether teacher or student, to sign his yearbook - and offering to sign theirs in turn if they had one.

The Creevey brothers sold out in the first few minutes and raced off to the owlry with an order to get more printed.

After they were gone Hermione giggled aside to Luna, "So twelve year old Ginny is wandering naked around the tower trying to steal a kiss (or a shag) from Harry and no one is taking pictures to embarrass her down the road? Creevey's slipping."

"Don't worry," Luna informed her softly. "I've got it covered."

The movie camera from their History of Magic class ran passed on its tripod.

After a pause, from across the breakfast table Susan shook her head. "This is sadly an improvement from the Ginny of last year who just sat there and sighed and wondered why Harry wasn't stalking her yet."

I I I

"Uh, girls? We have a problem," Harry admitted sheepishly as they got out of final classes for the day and began walking over the lawn out toward the lake - Dumbledore had never gotten around to announcing new restrictions yet, seeing as how he'd been massively occupied with making complaints to the American Ministry over their lack of concern over the 'Ghostbuster' disaster in New York, and afterwards had been tied up in other emergencies. Seeing four faces turn to him in trusting incomprehension, the boy elaborated. "We're running out of malaclaw venom."

"Why does that matter?" Hannah piped up.

"Because we've been using it to dose the Headmaster," Hermione answered the question, feeling rather glum about the news. "We started out as three little ants attacking a lion - which the ants can do provided the lion is drugged out of its gourd and essentially a helpless target. But even so it takes a long time, and the moment he gets up he could still crush us."

"Malaclaw venom made every potential random event go against him," Luna supplied. "Which did far more to hurt him than our efforts alone could ever have supplied."

"To give you a sense of the scale, Dumbledore had full control over an entire magical country, and arguably, through his command of the ICW, more than one. But we started out just three third year students with no particular power or resources," Hermione instructed. "Picture three African tribesmen wielding spears going up against the entire might of the Nazi empire at its height and you will get the idea."

"The fight was so uneven it might as well have been a joke," Luna agreed.

Harry carried on, "In my first year the Headmaster gave me back a family heirloom he'd stolen, only it was soaked in malaclaw venom to give me bad luck every time I used it. This year, Hermione turned the tables on him by dipping her copy of that cloak into his tea, and he foolishly drank it."

"Since that time, nothing has gone right for him, and we've been able to kick him while he was down," Luna caroled, skipping a step or two in joy.

Hermione was more sober as she added, "And it turns out, nothing less could have saved our lives. Every time we hit the Headmaster, it turns out he has powers and reserves of strength we'd never dreamed of. He's shrugged off blows that would've destroyed any other man. But he just takes them on the chin and goes right on with what he was doing. It's ridiculous!"

Harry nodded. "Voldemort would've fallen a dozen times under the blows we've dealt our Headmaster. There really seems to have been no end to his power, wealth, influence or authority, and he schemes at least a dozen moves ahead of his opponents. Really, it's as if he owns the entire game!"

"It's like we've only been stabbing him with pins," Hermione agreed, brushing hair back out of her face. "No matter how vital a strike we think it is, he just takes it and keeps going on. Anyway, we have a still set up, wringing all of the malaclaw venom we can through repeated washings of each cloak, followed by distilling the venom out of the water."

"This idea was based on Hermione's successful dosing of Dumbledore by dipping her cloak in his tea," Harry provided as an informational aside, before sighing, "But the cloaks are running out. This is not a bad thing, it just means we need a new source of malaclaw venom. Unfortunately Dumbledore got a step ahead of us, and has been buying up and destroying the world supply."

Luna froze for a moment in fear, then shivered. "Dumbledore is still a threat. He's survived everything we've done to him so far. I don't believe he is entirely out of contingency plans yet. I can't believe it, not after what we've seen out of his Machiavellian plans already. He's hatched more twisted plots than my Uncle Lucius. No, fighting against him is still a needful thing."

"How did you get Dumbledore to take it?" Susan asked. "More tea?"

"No," Harry smiled.

Luna turned brightly to the newcomers. "You mean during that summary of our struggle nobody mentioned Confounding Snape to believe that malaclaw venom was an integral part of the ritual to raise Dumbledore from the dead? How odd. I was sure we'd covered that."

Hermione giggled. "Yes, every time he got raised he got a whole new dose of malaclaw venom. The only trouble is Dumbledore has been getting destroyed so often we go through a lot of doses."

Harry nodded soberly. "And it's doubly important if we destroyed his last body. Because a whole new body won't have any lingering traces of the last dose in its system, starting off fresh instead."

Hermione grew grim. "And without him suffering bad luck it would be a more fair fight; and a fair fight between three natives with spears and the entire Nazi empire at its height... well, the outcome would not be in question."

"Dumbledore's empire has suffered some losses and setbacks, nor are we quite as helpless as we were starting out," Luna amended. "But even if you call us five western gunslingers - infinitely more powerful than three natives with spears, and say our enemy has been subjected to some bombing at his capital. The outcome would still not be in doubt."

Hannah and Susan looked at each other. "So... that means we've got to keep up the bombing?"

"Right," Hermione stated decisively. "And that means more malaclaw venom, because realistically what we could do to him without that is limited. He has so many resources to draw on, and so much experience and authority, that if he were actually able to resist our strikes we'd be totally helpless."

"How so?" Susan asked.

Harry grimaced. "Well, for one he still has by far the majority of the aurors under his direct control. Your aunt is trying to fix that, but due to the power of his spells she can only reclaim a few each day. So if he were to come back right now and learn who was striking against him (and without bad luck to distract him, I fear it would not be long before he identified us - he is an information specialist, after all), we'd be facing nearly the entire strength of the auror corps hunting us down. I don't want to face that."

Hermione sighed. "But that's only ONE of the many things we KNOW he could throw against us on almost no notice! And the resources we are building, like the towns, are not ready to be used in combat yet."

"So really," Luna concluded. "Our strategy depends upon him not being able to resist us, and for that we simply must have more malaclaw venom."

"Couldn't we just buy more, like in another country?" Susan asked.

Harry shook his head. "No. Dumbledore's already bought up everything he or his agents could beg, borrow or steal. He knows this bad luck hurts him just as well as we do, and was doing his best to stop it by cutting it off at the source. Malaclaws only appear in the UK, so cutting off all the sources here and then buying up what was available on the world market has dried it all up. And it's not like there's that big a market for it, so no great stockpiles were out there. It prime use was as the active ingredient in Liquid Luck - the rest of that potion is only there to reverse the luck it gives from bad to good. But since not many people even CAN brew that..."

"Can't you just buy a malaclaw?" Hannah inquired innocently.

The Fairy Trio stared at each other.

"I'll get right on it," Harry declared, right before vanishing. Fortunately for them, and unluckily for Dumbledore, Harry managed to obtain a few live malaclaws to milk for venom, putting them on his private preserve in one of the fish ponds - using zombies as his work force to milk them, as he didn't want to get anywhere close to the claws of a critter that could inject it into him.

The trouble now was introducing the stuff should Dumbledore came back and Snape not be there to do it for them.

I I I

Author Notes:

Truly, Dumbledore's luck has been so bad that almost everything they've done has been free hits on him. It would be an entirely different equation if he'd been able to fight back. If he'd been able to hit THEM with anywhere near the facility they hit HIM, there wouldn't be anything left of them by now.

 
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