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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63. Chapter Sixty-Three

I I I

Retired master auror Mad-Eye Moody, hit wizard and private assassin to the Chief of the Wizengamot knew that whoever he had been tasked to kill, it was not Hermione Granger.

No thirteen year old girl, no matter how bright, would be able to evade the deaths he'd plotted for her. The first time, the troll and fire trap, might have been luck if you assumed a near-miraculous level of it. Mad-Eye Moody could not discount that entirely, as he knew such bursts of insane luck did occur from time to time. It would have taken something amazing to do it, but he couldn't entirely discount the possibility.

Still, that trap ought to have extinguished the life of any witch or wizard, Light or Dark, save perhaps Voldemort or Dumbledore alone, and he knew for certain that no thirteen year old girl was getting to that level, no matter how hard working or brilliant she was.

Heck, countless muggleborn girls as brilliant as she was had been used up and spat out by the Pureblood controlled Ministry for years.

But even if he discounted her escape from the first trap as a brilliant stroke of blind luck, no matter his precautions against luck mattering in the slightest, his next attack had been a killing curse right in her back while she was out of school at market and perfectly vulnerable.

He'd not missed. He'd not been distracted. He hadn't mistaken someone else for his target (anyone could get out of school at any hour provided they had parental permission - something the staff was anxious their students not learn about. But a girl like her was just the type to look it up). Nor had he made the rookie mistake of firing off a spell and then running for cover while it was still in the air and merely assuming it had hit the target. He was a professional. He was an assassin. More to the point, he enjoyed his work.

No, he'd done his job properly. He'd marked his target and tracked her over more than an hour, making sure that whole while she did not drink anything, so he could not have been deceived by polyjuice. He'd made sure using his eye that she had no unforeseen variables, like an adorable pet kitten tucked in a backpack where the kitten might die instead of the girl wearing the pack. And he'd made the attack from cover and watched as the spell struck his target. No brave hero had leapt in the way, nor had any idiot stumbled into the path of his curse. It had struck home, and he'd watched her go down.

That was about as final and certain as things got in the magical world.

Nonetheless, she'd been up and back at market the next day. That just didn't happen by accident, and it didn't happen without some serious magic; magic that a thirteen year old girl just would not have had access to. They not only took years to learn, they relied on NEWT levels of other studies to serve as a foundation. Tom Riddle had set the record, making a horcrux at sixteen. And he knew the type, this girl would not have dipped into the Dark Arts yet.

Nevertheless, to test it he'd hit her again, this time carefully watching for the telltale shade to escape from the falling body. There had been none.

What he privately suspected was the case was that someone was using a simulacrum. A rough statue made of snow, given a heart of stone and treated with ointments not unlike polyjuice, charged with a person's blood to give it that person's shape and form, then animated with advanced magics.

But that magic was also far beyond the girl's level, and half the spells to create one were illegal in Britain and existed only in dusty family libraries, things such a girl would have had no access to.

So if someone was creating simulacrums of Hermione Granger, the question became: who and why?

Moody could almost discount the second question. If the girl was worth killing then she was worth something to someone, and whoever that was might be motivated enough to try saving her. But the only person Albus had reported her being close to was Harry Potter, and that threw the whole issue wide open. The boy himself couldn't have worked that advanced magic any more than she could've, but as the darling of the wizarding world almost anyone would have enough motivation to step in on his behalf to protect him and his girls. That suspect list included everyone in Britain, including master auror Moody himself. He'd accepted protection contracts before this where he had afterwards Obliviated the details of the job from out of his mind.

No one could drag details out of a mind that didn't know them, and the best security was always a surprise to those who crossed it. Nor could he be compulsed or Imperioused to compromise a security arrangement he didn't remember setting up.

He charged ruinous fees for that kind of service, but he did offer it. And that offer had been taken up by a few customers. He could not recall who - that was part of the whole security package.

Even Dumbledore himself could have protected the girl. The old goat fondler did things like that from time to time. In fact every so often Moody would get a call to try and break some security of the Headmaster's just to see if it could be done, and if so reveal weak points so they could be fixed. There was no reason to assume this might not be another instance of that.

No, before he went any further, the master auror needed more information. An elite hit wizard like he was simply didn't accept a task without a good and detailed profile of the target, and his briefing was sadly lacking.

He'd have words with Albus over that. The old man did love to play his little games, and that included sending him off with incomplete profiles from time to time. The assassin always made sure to charge him punitive fees for it, but it hadn't stopped the goat molesting old fart yet. But always before once he'd run into one of those little traps, the Headmaster had been there, laughing, to tell him to carry on anyway.

Now he wasn't.

Moody was not a fool. He had tracking and monitoring charms of his own, as well as the official warning device Dumbledore had given him to alert the auror to the Headmaster's demise, and the Master Manipulator had been dying like flies these past couple of weeks.

Someone had been killing off the Twinkling Tyrant, as often as a couple of times a day. And Dumbledore in return wanted someone killed who could not be killed by any of the usual methods.

Moody did not think these facts were unrelated. But he was a killer, not a detective. He'd always left anything beyond the most basic investigations to those more inclined, and his prime source of information was Dumbledore himself. And according to his latest reports from devices and monitoring charms, the man had been petrified and then transfigured, taken out of action entirely.

That made Moody's priority to get Albus Dumbledore back into action. Any side interests or simple (or not so simple, as it turned out) assassinations had to be put on hold while he pursued his primary responsibility.

Moody was one of a handful of people the Headmaster trusted enough to have reciprocal agreements with, bound by Unbreakable Oaths to restore one another from their hidden horcruxes. Moody was not supposed to know the identities of any of the others, but Snape was simply too obvious to ignore, and he had one or two private suspicions about others, as well. Suspicions he was careful not to confirm, as Veritaserum only revealed facts, not ideas.

Although it had frankly surprised him that Lucius Malfoy remained dead, and did not get better first thing the next morning. Those two had enjoyed their little games against each other too much, yet had not felt any of the heat of true rivals, for Moody not to get ideas about secrets under the surface.

No, their tennis match of authority, constantly one-upping each other, had been amusing enough to watch. But it had borne Dumbledore's fingerprints all over it in the way they had tied up the magical government so firmly between them, each one sounding the rallying cry of his cause against the other.

Still, regardless of who else might be tasked to do this, Moody was next in line. The device had alerted him it was his turn to locate and recover the Headmaster's remains and reanimate them. It did not matter if he was stone as the horcrux provided a link to follow if one knew the spells.

Or he could turn the horcrux itself into a new copy of the Headmaster, using it as the stone to make the heart of a simulacrum. The body would appear real and it would be the Headmaster's spirit fragment lodged in the horcrux animating it. Nobody would know the difference, and no one was more suited than he to find out what had been done to his previous remains.

That explained why Moody was digging through the Hogwarts basement, using his wand to lift aside beams and repairing structures of fallen roof and walls, seeking after the Headmaster's primary horcrux.

The Headmaster had left a horcrux with Moody, but he'd prefer to use the original if possible. Links were strongest between the one most recently used and the body it had helped to create.

Besides, once revived the first question out of the Headmaster's mouth would be what had happened to his original horcrux and why Snape wasn't the one reviving him. Either way, to get that information he'd have to dig through here, so why not recover this horcrux at the same time? The auror was even doing a good job of repairing damaged sections as he excavated the collapsed area, as he wasn't about to risk a poorly put together bit dropping a stone on his head as he passed under it. Being paranoid meant being careful about everything, big things as well as small things.

He didn't want to activate his own horcrux, or the precautions surrounding it that would see that it got put to use.

Tom Riddle had been the youngest, but he was a fool if he thought he was the only one who had ventured into multiple horcruxes. Moody alone had three.

Of course, the magical world was full of surprises, as Moody learned when the mud and algae he'd taken for a water leak on dusty, pulverized rocks (perfectly understandable given the busted pipes running through that area) surged up and attacked him as he lifted aside the collapsed masonry that had been covering it, revealing itself to be instead a giant bundimun.

I I I

Aberforth Dumbledore looked up just as the compulsion fell on him. Without saying a word, he stopped polishing the counter of his bar and went into the back room, as if after something.

Instead, he took the Fidelius-covered stairs to the sub-basement below the wine cellar. He'd long since given up cursing his brother for trapping him into this miserable state. He was just as powerful as his famous sibling, every bit as well trained, and condemned to live a perfectly normal life without showing any exceptional behavior or abilities by an oath his brother forced from him.

All so he could keep secrets safe and remain beyond suspicion.

The ritual chamber below his bar was fantastic, a match for any of the most advanced such chambers prepared for the Ministry's official use. Everlasting candles hung suspended in mid air. Gold leaf lined the carefully carved runes in the walls and floor, while the ceiling had the same enchantments as the roof of the Great Hall, so as to bring genuine moon or sunlight down for the rites that required them.

No expense had been spared. But in order to keep it secret and safe the workers who had constructed it had all been killed. Thus, it was the last of its kind, as the clan that had made them no longer existed.

Stepping across to a still pool of water in one of the attached antechambers, Aberforth began the ritual to call forth images of what he needed to know.

He was his brother's slave, bound by him since their sister's death to serve him unquestioningly in anything he demanded. In the many years it had been since his enraged brother tore his freedom from him that day, Aberforth had become expert on anything his brother needed doing - and before his stroke of luck that had dropped Trelawney into Albus' power, he'd needed an expert at the arts of Divination to help him with his plans.

So Aberforth had become one. He'd served in that capacity for more than a century before being laid aside when his brother landed a genuine oracle.

But Albus wasted nothing. He always carefully stored his toys when he was not currently using them, holding them in reserve against a future need.

The first thing Aberforth learned was that his brother lay under a black cloud of Fate. Malaclaw venom, obviously, as he'd always been careful to perform the rites of Cleansing after his murders, so the spirits of his victims could not find him for vengeance.

It had been a long time since Albus had updated his brother's programming, so it was with heavy heart that Aberforth began the long and laborious process of performing a full and complete check of all possibilities before acting on long-disused instructions.

It would take him weeks, but his brother would be restored from the horcrux that acted as the chain on Aberforth's soul, the metal plate embedded in the back of his skull, covered over by runes and also by skin and hair.

The first of thirteen segments of Albus' soul, twelve being objects, and the thirteenth being Albus Dumbledore himself.

I I I

Albus Dumbledore had planned for a dizzying array of eventualities. Anyone with the time, intellect, and resources he did in his position would've done the same. Besides, it had helped him stave off boredom to play little intellectual games with his trusted counsel of portrait advisors over all of those placid in-between years of peaceful consolidation. He'd had years upon years of listening to former headmasters tell him how they'd challenge him and pick apart his plans. And whenever one of those 'what if' scenarios turned up a tragic weakness in his defenses, it got fixed.

And he hadn't always been unlucky either.

The Dumbledore House in Godric's Hollow had been largely forgotten to all but a handful of history books. There was a good reason for this, as it'd been put under Fidelius by Albus Dumbledore not long after he came into possession of his family's home. However, unfortunately for our heroes for whom so much had been going right, Albus had also used the location to practice on during his introduction to the art of warding. Ward schemes had been set up and torn down over it many times, leaving it an eclectic mix of obscure and little known ones (the last Albus had practiced there) including an anti-fairy ward. No modern wizarding home would have that, as it stood in the way of having one of their traditional Christmas decorations, but in this case it stood Dumbledore in good stead, as without that Harry and his wives would have seen through the Fidelius that was the main protection of the property.

This was important, because it was within that secure and largely forgotten location that the Headmaster had hidden his third horcrux. And, by a complex series of spells and monitoring devices, it determined that Dumbledore had been gone from the world for fourteen days. That was long enough for any of his more immediate protections to have fetched him back into the world of the living, so according to preset parameters it was time for this backup to restore him to life.

As far as the 'what if' scenarios worked out by him and the portraits of former headmasters, the rest of his precautions were so thick and varied as to be impenetrable in all but one way: old age.

So, they'd very cunningly seen fit to deal with that too.

This precaution was set up long before Dumbledore had come into possession of a genuine philosopher's stone, and it had been presumed back then he'd never get one. So he'd been forced to defeat old age another way. And then, once he'd gotten the stone, hadn't seen fit to change those precautions.

After all, you could see that as a backup precaution in case he ever lost the stone. He wanted to be prepared for everything, no matter how remote.

Presuming that Albus Dumbledore lived a full and healthy life, whether using phoenix tears to treat every twinge and sniffle prolonged that span or not, eventually he would die. Now, if he died in combat that was one thing, and he'd be brought back via horcrux to a much younger body. But supposing no one did kill him, that he lived until years claimed him (and it was the job of his little games to plan for every eventuality, no matter how unlikely) then he could not be restored into a body that had degenerated that way.

A younger body didn't stop one's horcrux from growing old. And a horcrux provided no defense against the march of years. An ordinary mage who aspired to immortality using that method would die, and his horcrux with him, when his normal lifespan had passed.

Albus felt he had nicely circumvented this by placing each horcrux into its own specially warded box, where time within was held in virtual stasis. It was a very expensive way to keep potion ingredients fresh, but he thought that he was better served by preserving his immortality with it. So, while his body grew old, his horcruxes did not.

Time did not pass for them while they were safely stored away. Even the one implanted in the back of his brother's head was encased in a small warded space sealed inside of the metal plate he'd grafted there, a tiny hinged door the only hint that was anything more than a playing card sized piece of rune covered metal. The space beyond was not much thicker than a paper match ordinarily, but had been expanded via magic to a more generous size.

His brother would have to rip open the flesh on the back of his head to get at the horcrux to use it, but other people's pain had never bothered Albus.

No, he had one guardian for each horcrux, each bound by mutual unbreakable oaths to restore the other, and each guardian had their own horcrux stored under frozen time just as his were. He saw no point in acquiring suitable guardians if he just had to keep replacing them every so often. And he intended this setup to last forever.

Albus Dumbledore planned to the point where what most would call paranoia was childish and clumsy by comparison, simply the beginnings of his ploys.

His theory was that a horcrux kept in such a box ought to last forever. But among former Ravenclaw headmasters an alternate theory had been raised as possible, that a horcrux might acquire the age of the person it brought back to life - it was his own soul, after all. There had to be connections. So it was possible that a regularly used horcrux would die just as soon as though it had not been in a time-suspending box at all.

Unacceptable.

And it was for that eventuality that Albus had prepared his house in Godric's Hollow, to serve as a backup location to start anew from, using a horcrux that had been carefully disassociated from all others.

Just in case his original body, the horcrux he'd been using, and all of the guardians of his other horcruxes perished due to old age, he'd prepared this little spot in order to bring him back regardless.

Paranoid didn't even begin to scratch the surface of Dumbledore's plans.

So, having been altered to his dying and not coming back, automated measures began the process of bringing a young clone of Dumbledore to life.

I I I

Moody sputtered, spitting out dirt as he'd been forced to dig himself out of a shallow grave. There were as many different rituals for restoring a dead man to life as there were horcrux-using mages who'd developed them.

Snape preferred his potions, as did Dumbledore. But both of them were potions masters.

Moody had other interests, and necromantic rites were a specialty. Death was his bailiwick, and the assassin was comfortable with it. About the only disadvantage to this rite was it did not bring back more of his body than he'd had during the past few months of life. So it did not restore things like his missing eye or leg.

Still, it was intensely private. The mad-eyed auror did not like to have people observing him during moments of weakness.

The cloaked figure who had revived him nodded her head as he pulled himself free of the last little bits of dirt, already packing her bags of ritual components away.

Already obliviated, she departed without a word, which was just as Moody liked it.

Dragging together the rotted corpse garments that were a necessary part of this particular rite, Moody covered himself, seized his wand, and departed. There were many things he had to reexamine, not the least of which was how he had been assassinated (Moody did not believe in coincidence. He was on a job to kill someone, moved to protect an ally who was being killed, and got killed himself. To him that was a signed note, saying: enemy action), but for now his highest priority was to restore his intelligence contacts.

And that meant reviving Dumbledore using the horcrux left with him, not the original he'd gone fishing in the Hogwarts basement after.

Moody was not a man who'd walk into the same trap twice.

I I I

Hermione looked up to see Susan and Hannah clustered tight together come into the room where she was studying that book on Exorcism herself, feeling a bit left behind by the rest of Hogwarts in that area of study.

Hannah shoved her friend forward, and Susan sidled up, declaring, "You know, with how good you three guys are at fighting, Hannah and I have decided to be healers to back you up!"

Hermione paused a moment to lick her lips in contemplation before saying, "You know, it was a muggle author by the name of Robert A. Heinlein who I believe put it best. He said 'A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and lastly die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.' "

She busied herself while talking. "In something like an army, where you have large numbers of people but limited time and money for training, specializing makes some sense; you train people more quickly that way, and have enough people to special-task some. But for your own life, your skill set is going to be with you always, so you want it to be as broad as possible. And in a small group like ours we'd best be able to have each of us do everything, just to be better prepared against all contingencies. We have time and money to afford training, but very few people. So in most ways that gives us the reverse situation of an army, and we've got to cram as much skill into our few people as possible. So, by all means become healers, but that won't save you from becoming expert fighters or curse breakers too."

I I I

Author Notes:

Other people SAY Moody is paranoid. But few people HAVE him paranoid, especially to this extent.

For a quick recap: Dumbledore dies, and Snape is first in line to bring him back using horcrux at Hogwarts. Then there are some backup measures in place to make certain that happens regardless of minor difficulties or hiccups. If Snape (or the Hogwarts failsafes) fail to bring him back it then becomes Moody's job. And, if Moody dies before bringing him back, it goes to Aberforth. Measures beyond that are unknown, not having been revealed to us at present.

Then, entirely apart from that chain of command, there was an entirely separate measure put into place for in case they all failed, and that one got activated by the sheer time involved they were taking in bringing him back.

A bit of crossed wires, but he'd never envisioned being killed in quite so many ways so quickly, and it has stressed his precautions.

So, not only is Dumbledore coming back, he is currently being brought back by no less than three separate sources: Moody, Aberforth, and the automated measures in Godric's Hollow. Each one is going to give him its own body, so there will be three, count them THREE separate Albus Dumbledores running around - NONE of them with malaclaw venom in their bodies, and unfortunately for everyone good and true, they will cooperate as they are, in essence, all the same soul in control of different bodies, just like fingers of the same hand. And even one without malaclaw venom would be a significant danger.

The Empire is Striking Back indeed.

 
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