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.


66. Chapter Sixty-Six


Minerva McGonagall sat in her place as the staff gathered around her for the meeting she had called. "Thank you all for coming," she told them as the last of them, Rolanda Hooch and Pomona Sprout, took their seats. "Filius and Mr. Lupin are out on hall support so our students do not get too out of hand while we have our meeting, but I felt a quick, informal brunch while we discuss where we are as a school to be appropriate considering recent calamaties."

The Deputy Headmistress looked kindly around the room. For all the talk of Hogwarts having an equal female to male staff ratio, that was not what she was seeing in this room. To her right sat Aurora Sinistra, Professor of Astonomy. Next to her was Bathsheba Babbling of Ancient Runes. While on her left sat Pomona Sprout, Head of Hufflepuff and Herbology Professor, with Septima Vector, their Arithmancy Professor, and Charity Burbage of Muggle Studies next to her, with Rolanda Xiomara Hooch directly across.

Hagrid was out seeing to the grounds (and the poor man was still blubbering over the Forbidden Forest going missing one night). But neither the school nurse, Poppy Pomphrey, nor their now well-esteemed librarian Irma Pince were present either.

With Snape and Filch no longer on staff, and Binns exorcised, everyone was now accounted for.

These present, plus Trelawney (who was first to be changed) their nurse and librarian made for ten female staff members. While the male side currently was represented only by Dumbledore, Hagrid, Lupin and Flitwick.

So much for the school being equally divided along gender lines.

She signaled Harry, and he came forward with a food cart and began to serve dishes to all of the ladies present. While he did so, McGonagall smirked. "Mr Potter I have found to be an excellent cook, and in absence of most of our house elves I have him serving out a detention providing refreshments for us. Do not be afraid to speak before him, as he is wearing a silencing charm for this occassion so he does not overhear sensitive issues."

Harry kept his head down and served quietly and efficiently as the female staff of Hogwarts began to speak frankly before him. He did wear a silencing charm, but it was only on his mouth and below. His ears were fine, and he listened without showing a sign on his face while he served out drinks and dishes to the women present.

Bellatrix was doing a fine job as McGonagall, he felt.

Actually, though they had kipnapped the Deputy Headmistress from her room that morning and subjected her to the unctuous unction and dryad cordial (she made a very excellent birch, and they had all enjoyed watching her transformation) they had a change of plans that no one had been able to tell Harry about, because he'd been too busy cooking in the kitchen, and that was really Professor McGonagall there.

Bellatrix was currently impersonating Rolanda Hooch, and she was running damage control for in case anything went wrong. If things did go sour, they would all be looking at McGonagall, giving Bella freedom to curse them in the backs. And if things went right, it was her intention to go and collect Poppy Pomphrey immediately after this meeting with tales of a flying injury, so they could get virtually all of the female staff at once.

Sybil Trelawney showed up, astonishing everyone (including Harry). Once again this was a change in plans, but this one was actually a change of a change of plans. Originally Hermione suggested that she could attend as Trelawney, since she'd mastered her form during that first switch long ago. But Trelawney begged and pleaded that someone go fetch her old hairbrush that she'd used during her mortal days, so she could take a hair from it and charge polyjuice to assume her old form.

This was not because she liked her old appearance, far from it, and she still indended to go about looking like Hermione whenever possible. But for this once she wanted to be there doing what Bellatrix was doing - supporting Harry. And since this might be one of the last opportunities with Albus gone the girls hadn't the heart to refuse, so they let her.

She too, was there with the same plans as Bellatrix. If anything went wrong she was not the person they'd all be looking at, and could stun them in the backs. And if things went right, she could rush off to grab Irma Pince to add to the collective flood of teachers about to be converted.

Certain levels of function had to be maintained around the school at all times, so very few staff meetings actually involved all of the staff. But with no idea when any of the Albus clones were returning, they did want to grab as many teachers as possible as soon as possible to avoid confrontations. So, nodding to the rest of the staff, Sybil took her seat.

Besides, she'd 'seen' what this turned into, and it was too amusing to miss!

While there was some flutter over the reappearance of their Divination teacher, Sybil just gave her best mysterious smile and told them all would be revealed shortly.

There was naturally some grumbling over this proclamation from the fraud.

Harry hid his smile as he served everyone their drinks of choice, each one laced with unctuous unction. The plan was once they'd all drunk enough to be his best friends, then McGonagall would lead them out of the small room and off the grounds to where they could take a portkey to just outside the glade.

One great hiccup they'd discovered during Bellatrix' transformation that was later confirmed by McGonagall's, was that dryads are invariably YOUNG, and BEAUTIFUL women, meaning that a lady's dryad form often looked very much like an idealized version of what she was when she was young and in her prime. Age lines, wrinkles and scars vanished. They were neither over nor underweight after the change, nor did they acquire any of the gawkiness or pimples of youth. In short, they'd never looked so good, even when they were that young. Naturally this endlessly pleased the women so changed, but also just as obviously they couldn't go around like that and be taken for their mortal selves. And that would invalidate their plans to use them as sleeper agents to confound Dumbledore's control of the school. So Luna was out collecting samples from hair brushes to use in polyjuice so their new dryads could learn to impersonate themselves.

Apparently a certain amount of metamorph talent was inherent in being a dryad. And while they preferred to be their own beautiful selves, they could disguise themselves as other women at need.

And, well, that could be useful.

"Before we start," Pomona Spout leaned forward, eyes twinkling. "Are you going to share with us the good news?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," McGonagall said primly, fighting a grin.

"Oh, don't you take that tone with me, young lady!" Pomona teased her friend indulgently. "You and I got hired on practically the same day. We went to school together. I know your secrets, and I haven't seen you in a mood like this one since you had a crush in our seventh year. So spill!"

Other females perked up, sensing gossip.

McGonagall could now no longer entirely fight her canary-eating grin. Blushing, she looked down at the table. "I... may have some romantic prospect, yes."

The entire table was now riveted at the shocking news.

Pomona shook her head as if regretfully, sporting her own grin. "Dear, you know we can't possibly let you leave this table now without prying all of your secrets from you!"

She was surrounded by nodding women.

"Are you using a new makeup?" Aurora blurted. As soon as she did so all the others at the table noticed and remarked upon it, how Minerva's face was remarkably clear. Really, Harry, who was still in the room, couldn't tell the difference, but women notice these things.

It was at that point that McGonagall lost control under the pressure, her transformation falling away to reveal her true form.

She got surrounded by gasps.

Pomona sighed, then scolded, "Minnie! I'm surprised at you! You know deaging potions and beautifying elixers are not something to use in a relationship! They are just a form of lying! It always ends up worse when you use them, as they always end up discovering the truth eventually!"

Minerva raised her head to regard the disappointed women surrounding her, a triumphal smile on her face. "That's just the thing," she boasted. "This is no lie. The effects are real and permanent."

Once more gasps filled the chamber. Then suddenly everyone had to get out of their seats to examine her. Minerva's hair was a bright red, as it had been in her youth before she'd turned steel gray. Her body was round in the right places and lithe and had to be commented upon, and her skin was absolutely to die for, soft and smooth and blemishless; her proportions flawless.

She was, in essence, one ideal of feminine beauty, the ideal that fit her body type and coloration. She could not have looked better and still been herself.

"Now I simply can't believe it!" Pomona declared. "If this sort of thing was available they could charge my weight in gold just for a spot on the sign-up sheet! Now Minnie, be honest. What have you done?"

"Me?" Minerva fluttered her eyes in fake astonishment. "Why should any of you think this was my fault? In point of fact, I was kidnapped this morning by Bellatrix Black, who took me off to a clearing where I was forced to consume a fairy draught that will not only keep me looking this good for the rest of my life, but will make me arguably as hard to kill as Voldemort himself!"

"Now even I know you're lying," Aurora, the youngest witch in their company, reproved. Fairies, in theory, had the power to do that sort of thing. But they were too capricious to be relied upon to actually do it! It had been positively ages since anyone had convinced one to try. They were far more likely to leave one an ugly toad and consider the whole thing a joke.

Besides, adding Bellatrix Black to it just made the story too ridiculous.

"Very well, I'll prove it to you," Minerva shoved back her chair and stood up. "They have more doses of this lying about. I'm sure I could convince them to share some with you. I do warn you, however. They will expect you to take a draught of unctuous unction before they will give any to you."

"If they make me look like that they won't need a dose of unctuous unction to make me their best friend." Pomona also stood, and poking her friend in the ribs to get her moving, demanded, "Now lead the way! But I warn you, if this is a joke you'll have all year to regret it!"

"Of course," Minerva nodded demurely, before turning to younger teachers and commanding, "Septima, Bathsheba, you put warming charms on the food for when we return. Sybil, you go collect Irma. Rolanda, you get Poppy. They won't want to be left out of this."

"I don't have a girl in my house who'll want to be left out of this, provided this is true," Pomona insisted. "There won't be a girl in the school! Or in our world, for that matter! Which is why I think you have to be fibbing."

"Just us teachers, for now," Minerva returned with a smile. "And you'll learn for yourself soon enough whether I am lying or not."

Sybil left in a rush, biting her finger to avoid laughing. She was weeping tears from her eyes out of the strain of not having busted up in the chamber!

Harry was gobsmacked. This was not what they'd planned! Not even close! But moments later the entire flock of them were going willingly to where he'd thought he'd have to drag them.

Beauty is IMPORTANT to women! And he'd failed to adequately grasp that.

Pomona took the first drink of cordial herself, leaving all the rest to witness her transformation in shock and wonder, then practically fight over who got to go next after she'd exited the trunk of her new tree as a young and beautiful woman - far beter looking than she'd ever been in mortality.

Far better looking than most models were, even after makeup and airbrush.

It was obvious fairy magic at work, and legends were clear that fairies could actually do the sort of thing that Minerva boasted they'd done for her. Then they had Pomona's change to witness this was reliable!

No, the normally reserved teachers nearly started pulling out each others hair for the opportunity to take that potion next. No, even after Minerva explained the potion made the drinker into a dryad, it did not dim their desire to take it. Not even the requirement to breed more dryads phased them.

This was LEGENDARY magic! Eternal youth and beauty in one package, offered to a bunch of mostly middle aged and older women who felt dumpy and had given up on the concept of ever being attractive or finding romance. Your basic feminine nerd who is older and given up. Even Sinistra, the youngest (and fairly attractive already), was in there fighting for her share of it, having been through a few failed courtships that led to phases where she'd despaired over finding someone.

As attractive as Pomona and Minerva were, finding someone would NOT be a problem! The problem would be beating suitors off with sticks!

Luckily Hermione was there to insist there were vials for all, as no fight over dresses in a department store sale had ever threatened to get as heated. Dresses were an insignificant contribution to one's beauty compared to this!

Pomona could wear a sack sewn out of dead mice and still be attractive looking like she did! Minerva too! Then when Trelawney revealed that her true form was as a dryad too...

Harry's head was spinning.

"Well, Mr Potter?" McGonagall demanded in her best school mistress tones, having come silently up to his side while he wasn't looking.

He looked helplessly up at her, unable to find words.

She found a smirk. "I assure you, Mr Potter, that this is a far better way to recruit than to drag them out of their beds at first light."

"It was the only way I could think of," the boy honestly replied, wincing at the mild scolding. "The dangers if somebody refused..."

He was cut off by a shriek of delight as the normally reserved Poppy Pomphrey squealed like a delighted young girl as she got her hands on a dose of the cordial and downed it in one quaff.

Minerva lofted a beautifully proportioned eyebrow. "You were saying, Mr Potter?"

The boy rubbed his forehead. "You might as well call me Harry. Something tells me we are going to be working together for a very long time."

"Indeed, Harry," she replied more softly. Then both stopped speaking long enough to witness Poppy's transformation.

"Hm!" McGonagall let out a delicately surprised grunt.

"Oh?" Harry prompted.

The Deputy Headmistress did not bother to hide her smile for her old friend's sake. "How appropriate for Poppy. She is a Rainbow Pine."

"A Rainbow Pine?" Hannah asked, obviously confused. The group of girls had reformed around Harry during this conversation.

The Head of Gryffindor turned the question aside to Hermione. "Miss Granger, do you know the species in question?"

The bushy haired girl now scrunched up her face as she probed her memory, then began to recite an article obviously memorized from a school book, "The Bifrost, or Rainbow Pine, is a tree of obvious magical properties even to muggles as its needles continually cycle colors from one moment to the next. Tar produced from this tree has powerful medical properties, especially in binding up wounds, and even among muggles was once widely known to heal 'even those cut in twain through their midriff'."

"What does that mean?" Susan asked.

Hermione sighed. "It means that if someone cut you in half right through your middle, leaving your upper half in one place and your waist and legs lying separate from the rest of you, if someone got to you real fast and smeared both halves of the cut with this tar, then stuck you back together, you'd be alright. Not only that, but you'd walk away from the experience. It was also called Troll Pine because of all known creatures only trolls healed that well without magical aid."

"So what you're saying is we'll want to stock up on Bifrost Tar." Harry smirked.

"Well, yes, now you mention it." The brainy Gryffindor replied smugly. In the background, Aurora Sinistra had drawn the next longest straw, and got to go next, quaffing the elixir with evident glee.

"Very good, Miss Granger, twenty points to Gryffindor." Minerva smiled.

The boy was still shaking his head in stunned amazement by the time the light show had ended and the Astronomy Professor's conversion was complete. Mind having been brought back to tree identification, he'd belatedly recognized the species Pomona had become. "Who would have thought Pomona Sprout to be a Whomping Willow?"

Susan and Hannah snorted together, while the latter explained, "Don't be too surprised. She's our Head of House. You have no idea how protective she is."

"Indeed," McGonagall sighed fondly. "Why, I could tell you stories."

"Why don't you?"

"Another time, perhaps. As Harry has intimated, we're going to be working together for a very long time." McGonagall turned to look at her female charges. "That is if what I am assuming is correct, that you four availed yourself of this potion yourselves when it first became available?" Then she registered a bit of shock and confusion, rounding on the boy. "Mister Potter! There is no way a boy such as yourself could have taken a dryad cordial and lived! Certainly not done so and remained male! Explain things at once!"

This outburst was enough to stop the celebrated dryad transformations.

"Ah." Harry thought there was no better way to handle this, so dropped his own human disguise. That was a clock stopper by all accounts. Even those waiting in line for their cordials could think of nothing else for their surprise than the Boy Who Lived and his amazing appearance.

Hermione and Luna dropped theirs as well, and were, if anything, more lovely than the dryads. Only Harry was on their level of beauty. To Hermione this was a blessed relief, as she couldn't get enough of her fairy form of late.

Luna noticed this and frowned over Hermione not taking better care of herself. Still, the now bluenette Granger shook her amazing cascade of hair and, fixing them with her gemlike sapphire irises, told their professors, "Harry, Luna and I all got new bodies made for us by the Fairy Queen, and we are now her champions."

"Should we be kneeling, or something?" Aurora asked quietly from the back after a long pause where people processed this revelation.

Luna brushed the suggestion aside. "The Fairy Court does not stand on ceremony. We are what we are because that's who we are, not because of how people treat us. Muggle aristocracy may need pomp, but we do not."

"She is right."

The words were not audible, but they struck in their minds with such a forceful impression everyone gasped. An aromatic breeze drifted over the glade. It smelled of rich soil and new blossoms, with just a hint of the sea.

The centaurs and unicorns and magical beasts around the glade, who had been watching the dryad transformations, knelt respectfully. The crowding was less than it had been largely due to the acromantula and werewolf-free nature of the relocated forest. Still, there were many visiting. Every fairy paused in what they were doing, granting their full attention to the voice.

Harry glanced to the side. Trelawney's original oak stood on the banks of the naiad lake that contained the Fairy Shrine. So this wasn't far to reach for a visit. But it had come on them unexpectedly.

Nevertheless the peculiar non-voice of the Fairy Queen continued speaking to her trio of champions in amused tones, "The people responsible for creating your body are called your parents. They provided the material, and thus you are theirs, created of them. Your mortal parents gave you a mortal body, which you lost through foolish actions. I created your new bodies. I provided the material, and thus you are mine. I am your mother, and you are my children. Since I am the Fairy Queen that makes you a Fairy Prince and Fairy Princesses, regardless of how others treat you."

A peculiar leaf-filled breeze brushed passed Harry's shoulders that felt almost like a hug. He noted his two closest friends receiving the same.

Her trilling, spicy scented laugh filled the clearing. "Now you need not be too surprised to hear me. I know my children, and paid the price to create one dryad. Did you not think it would gather my attention when several began to appear in rapid succession?"

Harry then noted the not-unpleasant sensation of someone rifling through his thoughts, just like someone paging rapidly through a filing cabinet. It was a sensation that ought to have felt violating, but all he could feel from her was love and kindness, like a mother fondly ruffling her son's hair.

"Well," the Queen's soft, aromatic voice continued. "I can see that you have managed to expand my gift a hundredfold. It's rare that I create dryads, as it takes her a hundred years of existing to restore to me the energy it took to make her, and they do not often last so long anymore. But I see that in this case I shall be restored my investment in a year or less, followed with rewards of greater. For this I thank you."

No words were necessary for their reply. She read their feelings well enough, including Harry's deeply buried feelings of apprehension and fear over what she'd think of him drafting so many women.

In truth, she surprised him by finding that amusing. "Now, Harry, you mustn't feel badly. Most leaders in times of war will draft any soldiers they can, and not give a thought to their feelings about the conflict. You also did right to feed them that potion that assures you friendship, as despite being dryads and thus bound to obey your orders, they are fairy, and it renders this easier on everyone involved for them not to resent your commands. And they do have responsibilities. You are trying to fight on their behalf in this war. The dark lord who desires to destroy you wants to enslave them just as much."

They could all feel the Queen prompting McGonagall to talk, and she did, "Harry, we are not enslaved. If this were truly against our will, we could become human again just as simply as choosing to do so, and everything the cordial makes permanent would vanish with it. You will note we have not."

The boy stirred uncomfortably. "Yeah, but you wouldn't. We're best friends."

McGonagall actually laughed. "Harry!" she reproved in bright and joyful tones. "Friendship is not slavery! I have disagreed with my best friends before, even gone against their wishes. Actually I've thought of Albus as my best friend for decades, only now with my mind restored to full function from all of his damage I can recall thousands of instances where I went against his orders. If anything, this has conditioned me to be able to do whatever I feel is right, REGARDLESS of my best friend disagreeing! I have, after all, worked up the gumption to do it thousands of times."

"I don't know a girl alive who wouldn't like to be more attractive." Bathsheba quietly supported her friend and co-worker.

"During any typical year, nine times out of ten when my services are required it is not so much a medical issue, but a girl wanting to safeguard her looks," Poppy contributed, with a small smile. "Acne, and such."

Now Harry got to his real guilt that he'd tried hard to ignore during his drive to satisfy necessity. "Yeah, but none of you signed up to be baby factories, did you? That wasn't what I'd wanted."

"And did you think, for a moment, if we found that revolting we could not end this in a second?" Minerva primly replied. "And how many jobs have ever fully disclosed everything you have to do before you accept them? I can assure you, Harry, when I signed on as a Hogwarts teacher I was not expecting to be routinely obliviated, compulsed, and run roughshod over! Frankly, at my age, having children is an opportunity I'd thought I had lost; and I do not think I can describe to you the emptiness that realization carries. When you are a child you are told that success comes from having wealth, fame or a career. It is only when you are old you come to realize how little those mean, and how much of life's joy comes from having a family of your own. To have missed out on my opportunity to have children was the central grief of my life!"

Several of the other teachers echoed her with, "Mine too," and "Same here." Pomona wept as she nodded fervently, crying too hard to speak.

"NOW do you think you should feel bad for 'forcing' them into this?" Luna demanded of Harry with her arms folded across her chest. "It's like winning a magical lottery! Only no lottery ever gave something as important as eternal youth and a form of immortality! To say nothing of the beauty, extra magic, or other advantages. People have killed for less than this!"

Really, how silly could he be?


Author's Notes:

Once again I wish people would read this story instead of skimming it. The details they complain over are almost always covered in the material before they even thought to complain about it!

I said before, a dryad can stop being a dryad any time she cares to; and best friends is just that, FRIENDS! You can disobey them if you want to.

So if you want to call it a mugging when he sneaks up on them in a dark alley, heals their wounds and shoves money in their pockets, go ahead.

But an ugly fact is that ANY government will draft soldiers during times of need, regardless of how those troops feel about it. My mother had a teacher who was in Hitler's army, not because he wanted to be, or that he agreed with their cause, but because they came to his village, lined up the young men, pointed guns at them, and made it clear they were leaving that field in Nazi uniforms, or in boxes.

He wasn't even German. It was a Slavinian village.

Nobody likes it, but everyone agrees governments have the authority to draft. And Harry is both of royal lineage as a Fairy Prince, AND a legitimate government as the noble who owns those independant cities he has created.

As he is at war, and they are troops in active service of his enemy, he could have slaughtered them instead and been perfectly within bounds to do so. Would you have preferred that?

No, neither would I. Harry is better than that, offering them a chance to change flags instead. They were already in service, now they can represent the side that does NOT intend to destroy them in the end.

The essence of slavery is someone else owning your efforts, and you not being able to say no. Normal soldiers come fairly close to that, and the world is ok with it. But Harry's dryads can say no any time they care to, either to refuse his requests as friends, or to stop being dryads altogether.

I also made something of an issue a while back of fairies' ability to wriggle out of commands they don't like. That does still apply to dryads, you know. Only, being close friends, they won't do that without real need.

Their situation is BETTER in just about every way than just about any soldier in just about every army I can think of. Really, I would that if any of us were drafted we'd be heaped with such huge benefits, made virtually unkillable, and given a 'leave anytime you want' clause.

They are at war, and someone has to fight so that the rest can remain free. They just get eternal youth and beauty to go along with it.

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