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.


62. Chapter Sixty-Two


Topping the list of recent events, Sirius came back to England, name newly cleared by an embarrassed British Ministry, and started to help them with sundry tasks both personal and private. For the latter he had taken over at first helping, and then directing the Weasley Twins in their mock attacks on the newly arrived citizens of their magical towns, teaching people how to use their security enchantments and measures by sheer negative reinforcement.

The cries of outrage would have been deafening were it not so easily proven (by the fact these pranksters kept getting people, if nothing else) that those new townsfolk needed training to be cautious in who they opened the door to.

That's what the Foe Glass and Sneakoscope was there for, folks. You don't check them, you deserve what you get when you let people inside.

The old black dog was having more fun than any time since he'd left Hogwarts. He even petitioned once they move Snape's cottage to one of those magical towns, just so he could prank HIM with official sanction!

They had to turn the old dog down, of course. But, well, it didn't stop them from playing around with that staff for a little fun.

"Harry, what are we doing in this miserable area?" Susan asked for all the girls, who were staring around with a measurable amount of distaste at the partially abandoned and decrepit industrial slums they found themselves in.

The boy grinned back at her. "Oh, nothing. I just bought the mortgage on one of these tumbled-down wrecks of a house, that's all."

Not even Susan was going to be caught up by THAT old gag! Not anymore! She scowled, folded her arms in feminine outrage, and stamped her foot.

He blushed. "Well, Snape lives there; and as of today, he's a month behind on his rent payments - strange that he got distracted from paying them. I can't imagine how that happened. Justice being swift beyond all reason in the magical world, that means we get to ransack his place for any valuables, and if we deem them to be insufficient, throw him out."

Harry was of a sudden surrounded by sparkly-eyed girls who'd rather be there than anyplace else. "Oh?"

"Can we invite the rest of Hufflepuff House?" Susan and Hannah chorused.

Later, standing on a bridge, Hermione asked, "What does this button do?"

Luna glittered in reply. "I'm not sure, but when I pressed it, Snape's home reappeared at the bottom of the Thames River. Oh well, live and learn."

Spurred on by Sirius, Fred and George kept doing more and more amazing stuff like enchanting rings, making better potions, and so on. Harry and his girls had unanimously voted to present the twins with the Weasley ancestral manor, as well as the Weasley family automobile, although they could no longer call it a Ford Anglia, as it had grown a large number of legs in place of its now-vanished wheels, and was turning into something long and vaguely caterpillar-shaped with striped orange fur - a rather telling reminder of the effects of fairy magic on muggle machines (and they had cast rather a lot of spells on it to restore its condition), although it still functioned just fine, and was, if anything, more comfortable to ride in than before.

The headlights had also begun to look disturbingly like yellow eyes. Luna could swear she'd seen its front grill grin a few times.

Fred and George could not have been happier to have it. It even still flew in short bursts, too, and they swore the invisibility was better than before as they'd run the mutated vehicle down the streets (and across not a few walls and rooftops) of Edinburgh without a single muggle noticing.

There was also promise that the Weasley family farming and shipbuilding interests were going to get restored soon, as there'd been a tremendous and growing surge of outrage that was only getting mightier and shriller as more and more skullduggery got exposed under 'Dumbledore's' request to have all of his proxies and guardianships released.

This was a true outrage, not one of those 'flash-in-the-pan' upsets here one moment and gone the next. This wasn't splashing a little of the water in a tub, where things would settle down a moment later. This was dumping the entire tub over.

Trust for Dumbledore was vanishing about as fast as spilled water runs down the drain. This was in many ways worse than the Prophet disaster for him.

Hundreds of families had been robbed blind, and more injured, by that man's mad pursuit of both wealth and power. The outrage was still building to a crescendo on that issue, but all sides of the political spectrum had been injured, grievously, by that old man's power grabbing manipulations. There was no corner in which you could look without finding outrage against him.

Narcissa was collecting political clout right and left as she used the Potter and Darling proxies she held to shred the interconnecting webs of lies, using information the children fed her so she knew exactly what points to hit to do the most damage to the old man's clout and reputation. And she was proving a shrewd political foil to use in this arena.

Members of the Wizengamot were already calling for Dumbledore's blood.

Among several minor points already exposed, it turned out the Weasleys still owned the Chudley Cannons. They'd just signed over all rights and privileges to that ownership long ago, when deep in debt, and the one holding that paper was none other than Dumbledore (who had, along with it, control over most other teams). Yet since he'd just asked the magical court system to release those, they'd probably own the Cannons again in a practical sense soon.

Fred and George were already talking of taking over as professional Beaters, and drawing Charlie back under the call of family loyalty to be their Seeker.

Heck, there was a small chance they'd draw Oliver back out of France with an offer to be their Keeper; and if they could snag Alicia Spinnet, Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson to be their Chasers, Harry was predicting a huge surge in the Cannon's standing within the Pro Quidditch League. Although they'd first have to convince the latter two girls to stop chasing Harry. But Fred and George had stated (only half in jest) they'd be willing to marry them to do so.

Heck, they wanted to make it a family team anyway. This only fit with that.

The newly revised Cannons would not be able to beat the best teams in the League, but the current Gryffindor team was far and away better than the garbage that the Cannons had been fielding. Not only that, but the Gryffindor players were all young, and just growing into their skills. In a few years, given a good bit of training and growth, they just might have a shot at the top.

They'd just have to keep Ron off the team, as despite all his pretensions he played at the Cannon's current level (which was to say, miserable). Although Ginny could maybe work out as a reserve Chaser. That would fit their desire to field a family team. Heck, Percy had even made a decent reserve Keeper for Gryffindor until it became obvious that they'd have to pry the broom out of Oliver's cold, dead fingers before he'd surrender the position.

Molly didn't know what to think, torn between hero-worship for Dumbledore, shock and fire-spitting fury that he'd kept them all impoverished this long time. But despite Harry's apprehensions, the Weasley family had already made the move to their new/old (orange) manor house on the outskirts of Godric's Hollow - they truly couldn't deny that to Fred and George, and those two had naturally brought the rest of the family along.

It was dangerous if they retained any loyalty to Dumbledore, but what could he do? Throw out Fred and George after all they'd done for him? Not hardly. It was enough to make Harry nervous, but the least he could do to prevent any future catastrophes would be to make sure they all read a copy of the last issue of the Daily Prophet and had their Obliviations reversed.

That triggered Molly off into a hell-spitting fury. It turned out the ancient and well regarded Headmaster had been manipulating lots of old allies over the years - and his idea of a good joke was to tell them all his plans, what he had been doing, and how this screwed them over, then Obliviating them of all that knowledge so they'd continue to trust him and carry out his orders.

Endless laughs.

The old fart had been cackling through his beard for years at innocent faces crushed as he'd told them his plans, then doubled the fun by chortling over those innocent, trusting gazes directed at him again after Obliviating them.

No, he'd been able to have his cake and eat it too: expose your vile plans and gloat over plots, then repair the damage by stripping those memories away. It was every mad villain's dream to be able to gloat yet not get caught for it, and the Headbastard had been getting away with it for years.

Molly was practically frothing at the mouth over it, almost ready to chew his legs off, should they meet again.

Arthur, unfortunately, was almost catatonic over the mess revealed, falling into drink as it got exposed just how many of his family had died serving in Dumbledore's plans, even while the old goat had been robbing them blind - and effectively assisting with those deaths of his family members all the while.

This situation was, sadly, rather typical of the residents of Harry's new towns. A few promising members would bring in extended family he didn't feel nearly so certain about, most of whom would be devastated to one degree or another by the depths of the betrayals of Albus Dumbledore.

But it was the best they could get, as he didn't know anyone with family in the magical world who was completely unaligned with one side or another. It was a situation without easy resolution, unless he wanted to do what Luna Malfoy Lovegood suggested when she half-jokingly said, "You can't pick your relatives, so you must console yourself with the thought that you can kill them." And THAT certainly wouldn't make him any friends!

Heck, Harry's own family history, descended from two of Dumbledore's most ardent servants and tied to several more, would have made him suspicious of himself if he were to consider his role from an outside perspective!

No, the magical world was deeply split, and most families were at least partly divided. If they weren't allied to Dumbledore, they had some Death Eaters tucked away in the family tree somewhere, and often enough they had both.

For so long the magical world had been fed a false dichotomy: that if you did not belong to one side you had to join the other. So anyone who cared, who was motivated and wanted to do something to help his ideals progress, would have jumped in on one side or the other and pushed hard. And the ones who don't jump in are generally unmotivated, so not the ones you want.

Unmotivated people don't achieve anything. So you end up in a situation where you have to choose among the former adherents of either side, if you want any followers at all.

Given enough time, his citizens could come around. But they were undergoing some deep shifts in loyalties as they reread those papers and had obliviated memories restored, so it was understandable they'd be confused for a while.

But that just underscored why Harry needed those recovered patients with the long term loyalty imprints: to have a solid core to build around so his towns didn't fall by betrayal before they truly had a chance to get started and have their loyalties sorted out.

Heck, obedience to one side or the other had been so ingrained for so long that it would be sheer REFLEX for certain people to sell him out until they had a chance to think things out all over again, reexamining all of their previous loyalties. Basically they had to build themselves a whole new world-view.

For so long they'd been sold on the idea of there being only two sides: The Dark and Dumbledore (who, as it turned out, was *also* Dark). Now they had to wake up to the fact that trying to select the lesser of two evils was still choosing to back evil.

It was time to retake their world, and that always started in people's minds. Harry could fix things, and was willing to work with his people. But until that came about, they were quite vulnerable to betrayals.

Speaking of betrayals naturally led to Dumbledore's agents, and that led to one still hunting them. They couldn't forget Moody was still out there, it didn't take long for Mr. Paranoia to find out that his dead people were still alive. And they learned he was still on the hunt when Trelawney, who still looked like Hermione thanks to that Polyjuice given to her by Harry shortly before she became a dryad, had been killed twice during the last week by Killing Curses mysteriously striking her in the back.

She'd changed her hair color to Hermione's brown and had been tending to shopping and other things the real fae trio could not manage time for, even on repeated days. But the mysterious ambushes had been meticulously planned, and they were concerned that worse was under development, since the killer was obviously getting informed that his target hadn't actually died.

And though the trio had the Fairy Queen's promise to have shared among them the protections offered by Harry's mother's sacrifice, they did not know how far to trust that, or what all it entailed. So would rather not be testing it by getting an AK in the back.

"I really think I ought to try healing Bellatrix," Harry gave his opinion. "Right now our attention is too focused on getting projects done. We don't have any to spare for looking over our shoulders or checking for ambushes at all hours - and certainly not enough to match one of the best in the business! So I'd like to put our bodyguard back on, well, guarding our bodies."

"There are no records, even in the magical world, of someone as badly wounded as her surviving," Hermione supplied. "But it seems to me that wizards would never be able to think as far as you did, using a charm for flowers on humans. That would be a smart thing, that's too much brain activity for the common wizard. So I think it would be alright."

Luna paused before delicately disagreeing. "In her own twisted way Bellatrix Black loves Harry." The LeStranges were now dead, and their properties turned over to her, so there was no barrier to accepting her back as a Black. "More than she ever did Riddle, because the Dark Idiot never returned any of her tiny gestures of affection, and Harry has. Harry didn't even realize he was doing it, that's just who he is. Just as I'm certain Riddle didn't realize what he was doing, that's just who he was."

Luna raised her clear, blue-eyed gaze to her friends. "She was desperate to be loved, and so did whatever she could to prove herself worthy of love by the people she felt ought to love her. Sadly, truly evil people are incapable of any love other than love of self. So her quest was hopeless, and her acts to prove herself only grew more extreme as she grew more desperate. Being the cruel and capricious creature she felt would please her family and their associates also drove her quite insane."

Hermione jerked as though stuck by a pin as she recalled something her mother once said about someone disgusting in their neighborhood, 'She was somebody's baby once'.

Babies aren't born with the ugly habits or evil personalities some people later take on. Babies come as sweet, little adorable bundles of love.

Hannah stifled a giggle over Loony Lovegood calling anyone ELSE insane! Susan elbowed her in the ribs. Luna came as part of the package. They had to get used to her, despite the reputation Ron and Ginny spread about her.

Luna continued, calmly noting this byplay but saying nothing of it, "Phoenix tears could cure her wounds, but not her mind, nor of the Mark on her body, and truly she deserves the best we can do for her. There is a better way," Luna intoned seriously. "And for that we must still wait a few days more."

Such was the trust of her two closest friends that though they looked at her in some amount of confusion, neither contradicted anything she said, dropping the topic instead of arguing or pressing for more details.

This, despite the fact that Harry knew that removing the Dark Mark would surely kill her, even if she were at full health and despite all he knew about it.

It was designed that way.

"Well," Hermione offered, "in that case I'd really like to add another defense - one hopefully that this assassin knows nothing about, so won't know that he needs to circumvent. Just like our fire immunity surprised him the first time. And for that, why not another animagus form?"

The others all looked at her askance.

"But the Ministry insists a person can only have one animal form." Susan was her aunt's niece, and had overheard countless conversations. Not that there had been many animagi registered this century, but still...

"Ridiculous!" Hermione proclaimed, all a-quiver with excitement over the knowledge she was about to share. "You know Ceridwen, whose famous cauldron you gave me? The one used to mix a potion where the first three drops give wisdom and the rest is a fatal poison? When she tried to mix it, three hot drops spilled onto the thumb of the young boy she had stirring it, burning him. He instinctively put his thumb in his mouth, and instantly gained great wisdom and knowledge. But she was so upset he got the benefit, instead of her ugly son, that Ceridwen fought him. And the way the legends describe that battle, he first turned himself into a hare. She became a greyhound. He became a fish and jumped into a river. She turned into an otter. He turned into a bird; she became a hawk. Finally, he turned into a single grain of corn. She then became a hen and ate him."

"That sounds like a wizard's duel, out of the Sword in the Stone movie," Luna told them. "Each side transforming into shapes chosen to escape or destroy the other."

Everyone looked at her.

"What?" The blonde protested. "Of course I'm related to some characters in the Aurthurian tales! Every wizard claims he is, even if he isn't, only I am one of the few who can prove a connection. I think that movie should be next up in our History class. It's important material to cover!"

"Well," Harry was pondering aloud and trying to subtly change the subject. "Whatever methods they used, they don't sound like the results of the process that give you an animagus transformation. Riddle went through that, and it is intended to lock you into one potential form."

"But you haven't been through those rituals," Hannah pointed out the obvious. "You three just drank polyjuice."

The fairy trio stared at each other.

"She's right, you know," Luna conceded.

Harry nodded contritely. "And Zeus, the Greek wizard, was famous for changing his shape to whatever he wanted it to be. Riddle thought it was one of the abilities he'd stolen from fairies."

"Ha!" Hermione stood taller, feeling vindicated. "As noble fae, we should be physically capable of changing into any number of forms! We have Nemean Lions for combat, so a unicorn would be great for speed, healing, and logistic support. Werewolves are amazingly fast, but slower than unicorns, making the equines extremely fast land-runners. Good at dodging, too!"

"Highly resistant to all forms of curses," Luna began to nod her agreement. "Willingly given unicorn blood is among the most powerful potions ingredients in existence, so adding some to Polyjuice Potion will allow Harry, Hermione, and I to take on unicorn shapes, almost certainly." Raising her disturbingly piercing blue-eyed gaze to the others, she said, "The powers are another matter entirely. One does not assume the mantle of so pure a creature by so base a potion, no matter how well intended."

"What do you mean?" Hermione felt some of the wind go out of her sails.

Luna fixed her with a cold glance. "The magic of a unicorn comes through their purity and the purity of a unicorn is not a part of their bodies, it is an aspect of their souls that reflects in their bodies. And one doesn't simply chug a dose of polyjuice to change one's soul."

Harry, while pondering, declared slowly, "I think we could do it - not with the blood, or a potion, you're right about that. But with the heart, and the right ritual, I think we might be able to devise some means to create a reflection to mimic their powers." Seeing the eyes of several girls on him, he explained, "Voldemort was big into certain rituals, and he learned all sorts, good as well as bad, hoping to pervert some good ones to go his way, or at the very least learn a few useful bits from them to improve his dark empowerment rituals. He didn't ever succeed on the really good ones, some things are just too pure to be corrupted by even the foulest magic - but that doesn't mean he didn't try. I was thinking maybe I could reverse some of what he was doing and take one of those dark ones he'd created and try to reverse engineer the original Light version out of it - and there are good means to strengthen the soul."

Harry drew a deep breath, then intoned slowly, "His primary interest since he was a young boy were rituals to empower himself, and many empowerment rituals require the sacrifice of a magical creature - chiefly the dark ones of course. But ancient Greek wizards made a specialty out of hunting nymphs, and were big into sacrificing them to steal portions of their power. In fact, they preyed upon them until they'd nearly wiped out the nymph populations of the world. Generations of Greek wizards seeking after power took a world rich in those lovely nature spirits and left us with one devastated for lack of them. The only reason Riddle didn't use those rites was because there were no suitable nymphs left that he could find - and remember this was a man who successfully tracked ancient artifacts that others had considered lost."

"What about the naiads?" Susan blinked up at him.

Harry smiled. "Supreme in their environment, and useless to him outside it. You can catch dryads or most other nymphs without killing them and subject them to involuntary rites to grant you some portions of her power. But while you can kill naiads by drying up their lakes or rivers or streams or whatever, you can't just pluck them out to use like they were a potion ingredient. They are one of the few types of nymphs useless for those sorts of rituals."

"So, this helps us how?" Hermione cocked her head at him.

Harry wet his lips. "Well, Riddle did his best trying to adapt those same Greek power-stealing rituals to magical creatures other than nymphs. He tried all sorts: vampires, Peruvian Vipertooths and of course basilisks. But none of those really worked the way he wanted them to because they lacked that essential fairy element that so inclines itself toward change."

"However, unicorns count as fae," the bookworm blinked her understanding.

"Backing up a step, couldn't we use some of his rituals?" Hannah asked of him, wide-eyed. "If it was for a good purpose, I mean."

Harry soberly shook his head. "You do not understand true evil, and if you did, you would run screaming from it. There are kinds of magic that serve few purposes, none of them beneficial to others."

Hermione cocked her head at him in curiosity. "Don't you recall the original versions? You did say you got his memories."

Now Harry supplied them with a wry grin. "Sadly for this circumstance, Tom didn't have a perfect memory of everything he ever read or did. He didn't bother to recall the original forms any more than most people recall their math homework from fifty years gone."

Hermione noted wryly that he'd said 'most people' and 'fifty years gone' - just to spoil her comeback that she'd saved it all in a file at home, and could go over it at a moment's notice.

Hermione then noted that he was watching her reaction with bemusement and gave her own grin in reply.

"Anyway," Harry shook himself clear of the momentary distraction of teasing Hermione. "One of the rituals long ago used to empower the sons of Irish kings was to infuse them with the heart of a deer so they could become fast and agile - and the nobles didn't take kindly to paying for magic only for an old phony to mumble some words and run away with their gold. The youths they subjected to this got some rigorous tests before the kings paid their wizards. In one popular test the youth's hair would be braided, and he would be pursued through the forest; he would fail if he was caught, if a branch cracked under his feet, or if the braids in his hair were disturbed. He would have to be able to leap over a branch the height of his forehead, pass under one as low as his knee, and pull a thorn from his foot without slowing down."

"That's very much like what we are trying to do," Luna agreed slowly.

Harry nodded. "But Riddle modified that ritual, turning it into one to grant himself the heart of a vampire. Then, when that didn't work, the heart of a snake. That one succeeded, but remnants of the first attempt made his eyes glow red and gave him a thirst for blood. Anyway, in both cases he was trying to steal magic as well as physical traits, and I think he succeeded."

He looked to his girls and gave them a shrug. "I can at least research this."


Author's Notes:

Well, I originally had the resurgence of evil in this chapter, but the stuff before it grew so big that got bumped to the next chapter.

Don't worry, we've had our happy little celebration that the threat of the Death Star is over. Now it's time for the enemy to make some moves, and prove just why he was so scary in the first place.

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