Harry & Hermione
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MattD12027 - Harry Potter and the Eternal Right
Chapter 14 - Fallen
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related plot events and characters are the property of JK Rowling.
Summary: PostHogwarts. Harry must deal with the horrors of war, and in doing so he will embrace his heritage and leave a lasting legacy on the world.
A/N: Brownie points to those who can point out the exact line the title of this chapter comes from. Enjoy!
Chapter 14: Fallen
Seven-year-old Helen Potter was looking for her father, eighteen-year-old Harry Potter. She wasn't sure exactly when Harry had gone from being just 'Harry' to her 'father', but the word didn't even cause a pause in her anymore. Having never known her real father, there was no reason for her mind to think it odd, and for all intents and purposes, Harry had become her parent. She knew they shared a strange kind of bond, but she couldn't really place it. To her, he sometimes felt like a big brother, but most of the time, he felt like she thought a father should.
When she exited the bathroom in their suite, from her shower, she had been expecting Harry to be patiently waiting to take his own shower. They had just finished their training for the day, and when she had went into the bathroom, he had been in the living area. Now, though, he was nowhere to be found.
As she exited through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room, her thoughts went to the past month. It was now the last day of August; the month had been a weird one. Her Dad and Mum's wedding had been at the beginning, and she had been amazed at the beauty of it all. She couldn't quite understand romantic love yet, but she could tell that Harry and Ginny cared deeply for one another.
The wedding had gone flawlessly, but then Harry had left their table toward the end of the reception. When he had come back…he had a very odd expression on his face. It seemed to be a mix of sadness and shock, but that wasn't what captured her attention. He had an ugly bruise forming on his jaw, and when Ginny had asked him about it in alarm, he said he'd slipped on some water and hit the wall. It was clear to Helen, and Ginny too, by the look she was giving Harry, that what he said wasn't the truth.
Helen then realized that the table had less people than before Harry had left, but she couldn't place whom the missing ones were. She looked from the Headmaster, to the Professors, to Ginny, Harry, and then to the two empty seats. Then she realized it: Ron and Hermione. She had pursed her lips in thought, because she was beginning to make a definite connection between Harry's moods and those two.
Since that day, things had been different. Before the wedding, Harry had always been warm and friendly, to just about everyone, but starting the very next day, his attitude had been remarkably cool. He rarely spoke unless spoken too, and he went about his training much more seriously; the less spontaneity didn't really bother Helen, but she didn't get it. That's what bothered her. There was something in all of this, something large apparently, that she was missing, and she hated to be out of the loop.
There was something else that didn't make sense. Harry hadn't been mean or anything like that to her, but he wasn't as inviting—his personality had closed off. However, with Ginny, he seemed to actually be more and more devoted to her. She could partially understand that, as Ginny was sick, but the sudden jump in their relationship didn't fit. Sure, they had gotten married, but they had essentially been so before.
As she walked through the common room portrait into the corridor, the pieces continued to swirl around in her head. She paused, thinking for a moment of all the places that Harry could be, and then decided to head for the seventh floor. She knew that she and Harry had shown giant leaps in their training during the month of August, but she wished she could go back to the night of the wedding and find out what happened.
The Harry she had been living with recently wasn't the same Harry that had rescued her and brought her to Hogwarts. She wasn't even sure if he realized it, because she knew if he did he would immediately be guilty and try to make it up to her in some way. It wasn't selfishness that made her think that way—it was, rather simply, that she knew Harry's personality too well.
She enjoyed Hogwarts, but she liked it a lot more during the school year. With just a few people in the castle, it was huge and empty and lonely. Her footsteps echoed across the cold stone as she climbed stair after stair. She paused for a moment at the seventh-floor landing, listening. She must have been right in her assumption, because she heard sounds coming from down the corridor.
As she turned and continued her search, her young brain returned to the thing that she couldn't quite grasp. Her Mum, as she had been calling Ginny for some time now, was going to die. Mortality and death was still a distant concept to her, even though her parents had been lost to her. They had died before she was self-aware, so they didn't really factor in. She just couldn't imagine losing someone like that, and wouldn't accept the fact. It wasn't denial, because there was nothing she could deny; rather, it was incomprehension.
Her Ravenclaw intellect, though, told her that Harry was in a similar state. She was aware that he and Ginny mostly avoided the topic, at least in her presence, and she wasn't sure if that was good for any of them. As she came upon her destination, her thoughts were going a little beyond her scope, so they slowly returned to more normal seven-year-old topics—that is, until she reached the open door of the Room of Requirement.
She stood in the doorway and looked in, a little amazed, a little scared, and a little confused at what she saw. Her father had his back to the door; he was standing with his legs spread a little, his arms angled down and away from his body, and his back erect. He had Animus in his right hand, pointing at the floor. A violent red aura was swirling around him, licking angrily at the floor and whipping his robes around in a phantom wind.
Helen sensed great anger coming off of him, which she knew because of the aura, and realized that he was trying desperately to control it. She watched as Harry bowed his head for a moment, the aura flashing to a dark purple, from which she felt a profound sadness, and then back to the angry red again.
Then Harry did something that made the hairs on the back of Helen's stand up: he let out the most anguished cry of rage and loss that she'd ever heard, and probably ever would, and his aura flared out. She moved back from the doorway a little as the aura pulsed throughout the Room of Requirement, incinerating every object present. She silently cast a Protego in case it got out of hand, watching as the sleek bronze wall sprang up around her.
When she looked back into the Room, she could see that Harry had begun a complicated dance of twirling and jabbing his sword. He leapt, ducked, dove, and twisted as he brandished the sword, changing hands with it every so often. The red swath that was his aura slowly decreased in size as he did this. Suddenly, though, it flashed purple again, doubling in size.
Harry paused for a microsecond, and then hurled Animus at the far wall. The blade rocketed through the air, fairly whistling along its course. Harry Apparated, inside of Hogwarts, to stand in its way. Helen was about to cry out, but he deftly snatched it out of the air, hands capturing the flats of the blade between their palms. The point rested only an inch in front of his forehead.
She watched as Harry continued his dance of death, and he repeated the sword-throwing action many times; each time, he would stop it just before it embedded itself into his face. Helen was growing more and more anxious watching this, and was about to say something to him.
She jumped about a foot in the air, though, and whirled with her wand in hand when a soft voice from behind said, "I'm glad I could find you, Miss Potter."
"Sir," she said as she put her wand away. She cocked her head at him. "What did you need me for?"
Dumbledore looked over her head into the Room of Requirement. He observed Harry quietly for a few moments, and then looked back at Helen. "Walk with me?"
Helen glanced back into the Room for a last time, watching Harry continue to hurl his sword around, and then nodded to the Headmaster. She fell in step beside him as he started away from the door.
"Let me preface this by saying that you're a smart girl, Helen," he started. She blushed a bit, but continued to listen. "Probably one of the smartest I've ever seen." The blush deepened. "You've noticed something, haven't you?" he finally asked.
Helen didn't respond immediately. Of course she'd noticed something—she'd noticed a lot of things, actually, not the least of which was what she had just seen.
"Sir…yes, I have…" she said; she looked up at the old man as they continued their stroll through the empty corridors.
Dumbledore nodded, staring straight ahead, and clasped his hands behind his back. "And what, might I ask, have you noticed?"
Helen was silent for a moment as she struggled with her thoughts. She knew what she had felt, especially over the past month, but putting that into words was difficult for her. She was perceptive, yes, but her vocabulary was still limited.
She fingered the wand in her pocket, looking for inspiration. "Something changed, sir… I don't really know how to say it. Daddy isn't the same person."
Dumbledore didn't smile; in fact, his face seemed to grow darker. "I thought it might have just been an old man's worries, but I see that you seem to see it as well."
"See what, sir?"
"The difference in Harry, Helen."
So she hadn't been wrong in sensing something. The Headmaster himself had noticed it. It made her feel a little better, but not very much, because they were talking about someone she loved. And it had all started that night…
"What happened after the wedding, Headmaster?"
Dumbledore broke stride almost imperceptibly, but Helen noticed it. It must have been the directness of her question, because she couldn't see any other reason to cause it.
"I'm rather surprised that you also were able to trace it back to that night." He looked sidelong at her. "I'm guessing you didn't believe his little story about slipping and falling."
She shook her head. Of course she didn't. The way Harry had avoided everyone's eyes, the fact that it looked remarkably like a fist, and the fact that the castle should have been dry were all things she had thought about. No, he hadn't slipped. He'd been hit. It angered her a little bit that he wouldn't tell anyone about it, but the person who did it angered her more. If only she could get her hands on them…
"Nope. I'm pretty sure he was hit."
Dumbledore nodded again, pursing his lips. "That is the very conclusion that I reached, my dear."
"Who would hit him on his wedding day, sir?" She clenched her fists.
"That is the great mystery, Helen; there certainly are some clues, though."
Yes, there were. She nodded her head, more to herself than to Dumbledore. "Like the two people that left the table."
Dumbledore gave her another sidelong glance; his brows were furrowed a bit. "Exactly."
This gave her the opportunity to ask something that had been bothering her for some time—since before the summer. "Sir…what were Harry, Ron, and Hermione like before I came to Hogwarts?"
"You mean, together?" Helen nodded. Dumbledore took his hands from behind his back and scratched the tip of his nose for a moment. He grimaced slightly.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a closer three than they were. They seemed to be—perfect, yes—for each other. Friendship that powerful usually takes quite some time to establish, but by the end of their first year together, they were as united as anyone I've ever come into contact with."
"Was there something that happened in that first year to do that?" Helen desperately wanted to know some of Harry's history, because she always thought the books had stuff about him were probably wrong.
"Well, a couple things, actually. The first occurred on Halloween. A…misguided Professor let a troll into the school, and Hermione was attacked by it. Harry and Ron went to her aid, and in an impressive display of tactics and strategy for first years, they knocked it out. In essence, they most likely saved Hermione's life that day."
"So they were really close after that?"
"Yes, but there was one other thing that sealed their bond." His eyes narrowed at the word 'sealed'. "The three of them worked together to protect an item of great importance. They held each other's lives in their hands, and they came out relatively unscathed."
"The Philosopher's Stone incident?"
Dumbledore looked at her as they turned a corner. "How did you know—ah, of course, you've read about it, no doubt?"
Helen dipped her head in the affirmative. "And after that they were great friends?"
"Before that, Helen, they were great friends. After that, they were inseparable. I'm certain that they got each other through school, and the war."
"What do you mean, sir?"
"Well, Hermione has a prodigious intellect, much like yourself, but for a time she was singularly devoted on her studies. I think she would have burnt out, but Harry and Ron showed her how to have fun.
"Ron…well, Ron has always had some motivational issues when it came to his studies, and he probably would not have liked his OWL or NEWT scores if it had not been for Harry and Hermione. She pushed Ron into studying harder, and Harry was there to provide some fallback support.
"And Harry—he's had a great many personal issues to deal with over the past seven years. There were little spats every now and then, usually with Ron, but he and Hermione held Harry up from falling during his darkest times."
Dumbledore stopped in front of a panoramic window that looked out on the Forbidden Forest, hands clasped once again behind his back. Helen stood in front of the glass, watching the swaying of the dark trees.
"Honestly, Helen, I doubt Harry would be with us today if it weren't for those two."
Helen's eyes caught movement at the edge of the tree line. She wrinkled her forehead in thought. "How so?"
Dumbledore closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the glass. The movement caught Helen's eyes, and she looked up at it. It surprised her to see such a …normal gesture from the wise old man.
"There have been a great many disappointments in his life, Helen. Many people let him down over his time as a student here, me notwithstanding." He drew back from the glass and turned his gaze down to her. She met it. "Without the support of Ron and Hermione, I fear two things could have happened." Helen lifted an eyebrow, waiting for him to continue.
"One of the years he probably just wouldn't have come back, and who knows if we could have found him."
She waited again. When he wasn't forthcoming, she asked, "What about the other thing?"
"I know you'll probably disagree…but he may have become the next Voldemort." Helen's brown eyes clouded and she turned once again to look out the window. She thought she saw a flash of white and a horse-like figure in the trees.
She sensed Dumbledore looking at the top of her head when she didn't disagree. "No…" she said slowly, "I'm not going to disagree." She took a breath. "I can't."
"Oh?" Dumbledore sounded somewhat surprised to her.
"The night the Death Eaters came to St. Mungo's…Harry did some things that I won't ever forget." Her eyes searched the grounds, as if looking for a way to express what she was trying to say. "There was darkness in him that night."
Dumbledore turned back to the view. "Yes, there was. That's what I was talking about. If Hermione and Ron weren't there to keep him grounded as his situation grew more and more grim, he might have turned away from the Light."
Helen shrugged. "What does it matter now, though? That's in the past."
"Indeed it is, Helen. But I return to my earlier point. Who do you think hit him?"
Helen thought she had a pretty good idea, but still she scoured her memories of the last few months of her life. They had been wonderful, but there were certain times she'd gotten weird vibes from his two friends. They hadn't seemed at all like the two people Dumbledore had just described. There was only one way to find out if she was right.
"Ron," she said, simply.
"Again, I am not alone in my conclusions." He suddenly knelt next to her. She turned to him, and he placed his hands on her shoulders. Slightly twinkling blue yes met troubled brown ones. "What do you think is going on?" The seriousness of his voice was a contradiction to the sparkle in his eyes.
She was a little confused—why would he be asking her this? Surely he must be able to figure out more for himself than she ever could. "I don't know, sir." Her eyes narrowed the tiniest of bits. "You've known them all for a lot longer than I have."
"Yes, I have, but you have the unique position of seeing all of this from a relatively new perspective. All of my thoughts are tempered by things that have already happened."
She looked over his head, briefly, before meeting his eyes again. "I don't know—I just don't know. It's all very weird. Sometimes…sometimes I feel like I caused it all?" It was a more of a question than a statement.
"What do you mean?"
"I've never felt comfortable around Hermione or Ron, sir. They've always seemed…cold to me. The Ron and Hermione I know are a lot different than who you described for me."
Dumbledore looked at the floor for a moment, and then stood up, facing the window once again. "I see." She noticed that his eyes had stopped their usual sparkling.
"Sir, I have a question."
"And what may that be?"
"I don't know if it's my place to ask this, but where did Mum fit into their friendship?"
He blew his breath out from between his lips. "That gets a little more complicated…the three of them did very little with her until their fifth year. It was then that she realized, I think, that the only to make Harry see what she wanted him to see was to be more visible."
"She wanted him to see her feelings for him?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Over the next two years, her and Harry grew closer and closer. From what I've been told, Harry tried to keep her away from the fighting during this past year, but she wouldn't be stopped. They grew closer and closer, as the war grew more and more intense. You could say that 'Golden Trio' had become the 'Gryffindor Four' by the time they went face-to-face with Voldemort."
"So the friendship they had with her was as strong as the friendship they had with each other?"
Dumbledore glanced at her; he had a strange look about his face. "No one's ever had any reason to believe otherwise."
Helen nodded. She hadn't seen anything to the contrary, either. "Alright…well, if you don't mind, sir, I think I'm gonna go back to my room."
The Headmaster smiled. "No, I don't mind. It was a pleasure talking to you, Helen."
"You too, sir," she said, and he turned and left. Her eyes tracked across the darkening grounds one last time, and then she turned and left as well.
Her thoughts occupied her trek back to the suite, and she almost didn't notice the voices when she entered through the portrait. When they penetrated her brain, she stopped, looking around and listening. The door to her parents' room was open, and the voices were coming from there.
"Harry, could you please tell me what's going on?" That was her Mum. Helen felt a little guilty about eavesdropping, but the door was open…
Her father's voice was so quiet Helen could barely hear it. "I'm sorry Ginny…I can't." There was a slight tremor to it.
There was a slamming noise. "Goddamnit, Harry! I can't help you if you keep shutting me out like this!"
"No, Harry, don't keep pushing me away. You wouldn't let me before, and I'm not going to let you now."
There was a whisper of cloth and then a creaking of springs—one of them must have sat on the bed. "Things just…got out of hand, alright? I'm not sure how it happened, either."
"What's gotten out of hand, Harry?"
"Ron, Hermione, and I. I don't know when things got so beyond my control."
"What do you mean?" There was that whisper and creak again. Helen presumed her Mum had sat down next to her Dad. "What happened on our wedding night, Harry?"
Helen thought she heard him sigh. "You remember that bruise I had?"
"The one you said you got when you slipped and fell?"
"Yeah, that one. I didn't get it—"
"From falling. Yeah, I figured as much."
There was a silence for a moment. Her father's voice then came through the door again. "You're right; I lied. I didn't want to think about what had just happened. I still don't, but I can't deny it anymore." Helen heard him take a deep breath. "Ron hit me, Ginny."
Another silence, and then the bed creaked slightly. "That prat…" her Mum breathed. "On our wedding day, too. What the hell is wrong with him?"
"He said some things, Ginny, some pretty terrible things. I didn't exactly help the situation, but basically all of it came from him."
"What did he say?"
"He blamed me for ruining your family—"
"—and for keeping you away from him. He was being really irrational…he blamed me for your parents' deaths and his alienation from your brothers."
Helen continued to listen, but there was a silence that seemed to stretch for ages. Finally, her Mum spoke up. "And Hermione?"
"Umm…she didn't say anything at all. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't think we've said a word to each other since graduation."
"What happened, Harry? What caused all of this?"
"I wish I knew, Ginny." More silence. "Do you remember when Hermione wanted to talk to me alone, during the school year?"
She must have nodded, because Harry continued. "She said she felt like I was drifting away from her and Ron. She…blamed it mostly on you and Helen."
"I know, and I got really upset with her. I said some stupid things, but I knew she regretted what she said. All of this can't be caused by that alone, and if it is, Ron's more petty than I thought."
"They haven't been to the castle at all this month, Harry." Her Mum's voice was very quiet.
"I know, love…" Her father's voice choked. "What's happening to us?"
"I'm not sure, Harry."
"I miss them." Helen couldn't help but think he was crying by the way his voice sounded.
"I know you do babe, and I do too. Maybe I could try talking to them?"
There was a sniffle. "You'd do that?" Her Mum probably nodded. "I don't know if it will do any good, though. Some of the things we said to each other…" he trailed off.
"Maybe you all just need some time, Harry. The past few months have been full of pretty big things. We ended the war…you adopted Helen…you married me. Maybe they just need some time to adjust, because you aren't the Harry you were before."
"What do you mean?"
"You grew up, Harry. You're no longer that angsty fifteen-year-old that locked himself away at the Dursley's. You matured, and I think you might have left Hermione and Ron behind a little."
"What about you? How come it didn't affect you?"
"I think I knew it was going to happen. With all that you'd been through, and were going through, it had to happen sooner or later." Silence again. "Those memories you showed us…it makes sense that it happened sooner rather than later."
Helen thought back to the first time she met Harry—even though she had been in shock, she could tell that he was overwhelmed with what had happened. She remembered him breaking down as he held her against his chest. She also clearly remembered thinking she wished there were more people in the world like him.
He had continued to visit her at the Pediatrics Ward for months after that, and slowly she knew he was growing to care for her. Then, she had thought she was going to have to go back to the Orphanage, but he again came in and saved the day. Since she had been at Hogwarts, she'd felt like part of a family for the first time in her life. It wasn't something she ever wanted to be without.
Her Mum's voice came through the door. "Just recently, I think you've changed even more. You're acting more and more like a parent and a husband, and that probably made Hermione and Ron uncomfortable."
"Why would it, though? They're savvy enough to understand it." His voice sounded very resigned.
"They didn't see the leap coming, Harry. You went from the person they've always known to an adult version of him in a few weeks."
"So what are you saying? They're still immature and therefore I can't relate to them anymore?"
"No, not exactly…they just haven't had time to get to know you again for who you really are and have become, hun. The bond you three had was so strong because you did everything together."
Helen heard a sigh, which presumably came from Harry. "I haven't really done anything with them besides studying for NEWTS since before we took out Voldemort."
"And therein lies the problem."
"They start Auror training tomorrow. I start teaching, as well."
"So?" her Mum asked.
"Time, Ginny…time. It's something that all three of us won't have in spades for a while. My next opportunity to see them probably won't be until Halloween or maybe even Christmas."
"Oh, come on, that's rubbish. You could Apparate over to the Burrow right now and start to fix things."
There was another silence, and Helen strained to hear, but neither of them was talking. What her Mum said made sense, and she was waiting for her Dad's response.
"I can't, Ginny…"
"And why not?"
"It seems like there's something more going on than just that. Come on…we both know Hermione…she wouldn't let something as stupid as me 'maturing' come between the three of us."
"Then go find out what it is."
"No, I don't think that would work. I'm probably not welcome at the Burrow anymore."
Her Dad's voice choked again. "Ron basically said he never wanted to see me again."
"Yeah, well, we both know how hot-tempered my brother can be. I'm sure he didn't mean it."
"See, that's the thing—he didn't really fly off the handle; well, except for when he hit me. It seemed like he'd been thinking about it for a long time."
"And Hermione said nothing?"
"Not a word. She gave me a weird look after Ron had walked away, but then just followed him."
"You know, Harry, what he said about my family…that's not true."
"I know…but I can't ignore some of the things he said. Like that fact that if I had never known your family, your parents would probably still be alive."
Helen had always wondered what had happened to her Mum's parents. "Harry…they were supporters of the Light; they were in danger anyway. We all were, regardless of whether or not we knew you." Helen nodded to herself in agreement with the words. Of course it wasn't her father's fault that her Mum's parents had died—if they were opposed to Voldemort, they might have died nonetheless.
"And besides, if you had never met my family, you wouldn't have met me." There was a smacking noise, and Helen realized with a blush that she had just listened to them kiss.
"I just don't know what to do, babe."
"Why don't you think on it for a few days, and then maybe next weekend or sometime you can Apparate over to the Burrow and try to work things out."
"I suppose…" her father trailed off, and there was another of the smacking noises. Helen slipped toward her room, away from the open door. She'd heard enough.
The next day—September 1st, 1998—Hogwarts reopened for another year of magical education. The students arrived as they usually did, via the Express, boat, and carriage, and the welcoming feast was as splendid as it normally was.
Harry entered his classroom the following day, somewhat nervous about his first class. He looked at the schedule on his desk—he had the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw first years first thing. He browsed through the textbook—Defense, Year One—for a few moments, working out in his mind exactly what he wanted to say. Noise outside the classroom made him look up.
The students started to stream into the classroom. He noticed the looks of awe that most were directing his way. Being only eleven, he was probably somewhat of an icon to most of them. Their childhood had no doubt been checkered by stories of his exploits at and around Hogwarts. He would have to take care of that quickly.
"All right, find a seat. That's it, don't be bashful." He noticed several students had their textbooks out. "Books away, for today, and wands out." Some of the small—he didn't think he had been that small—children threw him curious looks, but they all did as they were told. With a wave of his hand, the door to the classroom flew closed. Several of the students jumped, unaware that he could do magic without his wand.
"Ok, now, my name is Harry Potter and I will be your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." He paused, looking around at the bright, young faces. He wondered what it would be like to be so young and naïve again. A small, fair-skinned, blond-haired girl at the back of the class raised her hand. He pointed at her.
"Did you really stop You-Know-Who?" And there was something else he was going to put a stop to.
"Yes, I really did take Voldemort out," he said, noticing the gasps and the extreme way they flinched. He paced in front of the class. "That is one thing that I will not tolerate in this class—the first step to overcoming your fear of him is being able to say his name." He gave them all piercing looks; his forehead crinkled when he accidentally focused too hard on some of their eyes in his passing sweep. Being so young, their minds were not occluded at all, and he got some static from them.
"Someone much older and wiser than I once told me fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself."
A black-haired boy in the middle of the room raised his hand. Harry nodded at him. "But it's ok to fear him, right?"
Harry nodded. "Oh, without a doubt, having some fear is ok. But you can't let it paralyze you. Voldemort," he said, noticing that a few of the students got hard looks on their faces, refusing to flinch, "was an evil murderer. However, he ruled through fear; it was his greatest weapon.
"He preached to his own followers about blood prejudices, yet he himself was a halfblood. The hypocrisy with which he ruled was astounding—his real name isn't even Voldemort."
"It's not?" one of the girls piped up.
Harry shook his head. "It's Tom Marvolo Riddle." Harry took out his wand and wrote the name in fire in the air, much like the memory from the diary had done in his second year. He waved his wand again, and the letters rearranged themselves into I am Lord Voldemort. "See?"
There were some understanding nods, some stares at the fire-writing, and some people that looked like they were having trouble accepting it.
"Look," Harry addressed them, "I'm not going to deny the fact that Voldemort was probably one of the most dangerous wizards to ever live, but at some point you have to ask yourself if all the smoke and mirrors that surround him are really needed.
"He was a Dark Wizard, yes, but he has been defeated; twice, actually. They come and go—they always have and they always will. There hasn't been a time yet where they have won. There will always be wizards like your Headmaster around to stop them."
"And like you," one of the boys said.
Harry smiled softly, but shook his head. "It's true—I did deliver the final blow, but I had a lot of help along the way. Without my friends…and mentors…it wouldn't have been possible."
The girl who asked the very first question spoke up. "But isn't that how it always is? I'm sure Professor Dumbledore had help when he defeated Grindelwald."
Harry was surprised that she knew that, but even more surprised at the truth of what she said. He conceded the point with a smile. "Yes, you're right." He paused, sweeping the class with his eyes once again; he leaned back against his desk, folding his arms across his chest.
"Alright…let's get started then. Who can tell me the name of a spell they've heard of—relating to defense, of course?"
A sandy-haired boy, who Harry thought he recognized, raised his hand. "And your name is?" Harry asked.
"Patrick Finnegan, sir." Of course—Seamus's little brother.
"Very nice to meet you, Patrick. You can call me Mr. Potter or Professor—please avoid 'sir'," he said, addressing the whole class. Many nodded. "And what spell have you heard of?"
Harry raised his wand called out the incantation. He didn't need to; in fact, he could do it without moving or speaking, but that would not be very instructional for these young wizards and witches. A lustrous gold magical barrier flew up around him, pulsing with the amount of energy it contained. The first years stared in awe at it.
"Before the end of this year, all of you will be able to cast this. It is one of the most useful spells that you will know—essentially, it can stop almost any spell if you are powerful enough." He let the shield fade away. "Any others?"
The girl who had spoken twice already raised her hand. "What's your name, honey?"
"Melanie Brown, Mr. Potter." Now he knew where the blond hair came from. She must be Lavender's younger sister.
He smiled at her. "What spell do you know?"
"A few, actually," she said, which got a few snickers from the rest of the class. She turned bright red, but did her best to ignore them.
"Alright, let's hear them one at a time, Melanie." Harry refolded his arms, waiting.
"Wingardium Leviosa," she stated. It was an odd choice for a defense spell, but Harry's own history had proven it to be useful.
"That is more Professor Flitwick's territory as it is really a charm, but it can be useful." Harry smirked, and demonstrated the spell. He pointed his wand at Melanie, whose eyes widened, and incanted. She slowly and gracefully rose into the air. He stopped her about three feet above her desk. Her nervous look turned into a bright smile.
"Normally, the spell is harmless. Its main use is for hovering things too heavy or too big to carry." He gently placed her back into her seat.
"However," he continued as he pointed his wand at the bench on the side of the room. "It can also be used as a weapon." He incanted the spell once again and watched as the large wooden bench rose into the air; a flick of his wrist sent it careening toward the back wall of the classroom. There were a few gasps and even a scream, but Harry had everything under control. They didn't know it, but they were all shielded from any accidents by an invisible barrier he had set up.
The bench crashed into the wall with a sickening crunch, shattering as only ageless hardwood can. Sharp splinters went flying in every direction, and the students cringed away from them, but they bounced harmlessly of the sides or skittered over the top of the shield Harry had placed.
"Reparo," he said, and watched as the bench flew back together. With another hovering charm, he placed it, good-as-new, back against the sidewall.
"How come the pieces didn't hit us?" Melanie asked.
Harry tapped where he knew the edge of the shield was with his wand, and it changed from clear-colored to having a red hue.
"What's that?" another girl asked.
"That—" he started, looking at the new girl with a questioning look.
"Susan Bell, Professor," she said.
Harry nodded. "That is a NEWT level shield spell, something that you will learn in my class seven years from now." Harry turned back to Melanie. "You said you knew more spells?"
She nodded. "Yes, Mr. Potter. Reducto," she stated.
"Indeed," he said. He raised his wand toward an empty bookcase, made sure the shield was still up over the class, and cast the spell. The curse obliterated the wooden structure, much to the shock and surprise of the first years, but Harry fixed it with another Reparo spell.
"That is one we will get to either at the end of next year or at the beginning of your third year." He looked back to Melanie. "Any more?"
"Expecto Patronum," she said.
"Yes, but I'm curious, did your parents tell you about all of these?" Harry asked her. The rest of the class turned their heads to look at her. Their parents certainly hadn't been forthcoming about any spells. She blushed and dipped her head a bit, shaking it.
"Actually, it was my older sister, Lavender, who told me most of them. When I showed her my letter, she saw that you were going to be my teacher, and told me some of what to expect."
Harry inclined his head. That made sense. He smiled at his class—his class—and raised his wand. "Expecto Patronum," he called out. Several students near the front leaned back front the intense glow it created, and they all shielded their eyes. Prongs leapt from his wand and pranced around the room for a few moments. Harry could barely look at it, for fear of being blinded. Even outside on a sunny day, it would be hard to stare at. There were some oohs and aahs, but they faded as the corporeal spell did.
Harry tried to ignore the looks of pure awe he was receiving. "That is a spell that normally is taught to NEWT classes, but I think I'm going to make a change in the curriculum. I learned it in my 3rd year, and there's no reason why the rest of you can't."
Susan spoke up again. "But aren't you really strong? Magically, I mean?" Harry laughed softly at the innocence of the question. He didn't think they were quite ready to see his true power or Animus, but there were some things he wanted straightened out.
"I may have a lot of magical strength, yes, but a lot of the ability to do magic successfully comes from intent. For instance, even if I had infinite reserves of magical power, I wouldn't be able to cast a simple Protego if I didn't want to or need to somehow." Some of the students nodded their heads in understanding.
"The Patronus charm is a difficult spell, but it doesn't require a lot of strength to accomplish. It requires a focused effort, which can be hard when preoccupied or distracted. In the past, they've waited so long to teach students it because they think that older minds are more organized, but I think that's rubbish. You just need the proper motivation," he finished, with a smile.
Once again, he looked to Melanie. "Any more?" He chuckled when she blushed again and nodded. "Well…how about it?"
"Finite Incantantem," she intoned.
"Ah, yes, one of the most important spells, especially from a defensive standpoint." He touched his wand tip to the invisible shield again, causing it to turn and stay red. "Very often, it is important in a duel or battle to end your opponent's spells. Few wizards have the presence of mind to cast the simple Finite, but it is very effective." He pointed his wand at the shield. "Finite Incantantem," he said, and watched as the shield fizzled momentarily and then faded.
"The only thing that you have to be careful about with that spell is that it must be more powerful than the spell you are trying to end. Finite is another spell we will cover this year; you will probably come across it in more than just this class, as well."
"What's next, Melanie?" he asked, and smiled at her reaction.
She laughed a tiny bit and said, "Expelliarmus."
"I was wondering who would bring that one up. Another very useful spell, as long as your opponent needs a wand to cast his or her spells." He looked around the room for a moment, and pursed his lips. "Why don't you stand up, Melanie? Grab your wand while you're at it."
Harry could tell that she was new with a wand, because she kept readjusting her grip as she slowly stood up from her chair. She looked about nervously; she had no idea what her Professor was planning.
"Alright, I want you to cast the spell on me." She looked up sharply. She started to protest, but Harry interrupted her. "No, no, it's alright. Just point your wand straight at me and incant 'Expelliarmus'. The key is to really want to disarm me; you have to really want to get my wand away from me for it to work. Ok?"
She nodded, and visibly took a deep breath, which steadied her slightly shaking hand. She leveled the wand at Harry's chest, paused for a moment, and yelled, "Expelliarmus!"
There was a small, faint trace of the spell as it flitted across the room, and Harry felt a slight tug on his wand, which was only held loosely in his hand. Melanie's face immediately fell when she realized the spell hadn't worked.
"Tell me, Melanie, did you visualize my wand flying from my hand before you cast it?" She shook her head. "Did you really want me to be disarmed?" She shook her head a little slower this time, and Harry could almost see the light bulb of comprehension go off in her eyes. "Try that this time. Cast it again."
The young blond leveled her wand at Harry once again, and this time she paused for a little longer. Her face set in a hard line, and she yelled the incantation again. This time, the magic was very visible as it crossed the room, and Harry felt his wand slip from his grasp. He watched it fly across the room, where Melanie deftly caught it. She had a triumphant grin on her face. Several of her classmates cheered and whooped, and she blushed.
She walked to the front of the room, giving Harry his wand back. He smiled down at her. She returned to her seat. Harry raised his eyebrows at her.
"Umm…Stupefy," she said.
"Another good spell. This one has the power to knock your opponent out, which ends normal duels. Weaker castings, or partially blocked ones, will slow them down or give them a terrible headache, which are both still advantageous." Harry cast the spell at the wall, not really wanting to knock any of the eleven-year-olds out. A bright red streak flew across the room, splashing against the stone. There was a small scorch mark where it hit.
"This is one such spell where magical strength is a definite benefit, more so than intent. Depending on how much stronger than your opponent you might be, you could actually cast it right through their shield. We should be learning that one toward the end of this year." He glanced at Melanie again. "Any more?"
She seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then finally said, "The Killing Curse." There were a few heads whipped in her direction, but most of the students either didn't know what it was or chose not to react.
"I was wondering when that one would come up, as well," Harry said. He went around his desk and sat down, steepling his hands underneath his chin as he regarded his class. "Does anyone know the incantation for it?"
Melanie, Susan, Patrick, and another boy were the only four that raised their hands. Harry called on the second boy, whose name he did not know.
"Yes, your name is?"
"Henry Crane, Professor." He had thick, curly, brown hair, and was wearing wire-frame glasses.
"What is the incantation?"
He looked around for a moment, and then said, barely above a whisper, "Avada Kedavra."
"Yes, you are correct. If I might ask, though, how did you know it?"
"My Dad is an Auror, Professor; I've heard him talk about it before."
"I see…" Harry said. His eyes swept over the class again. He noticed that they were paying him rapt attention. He seemed to be doing fairly well for his first class ever (if he didn't count any of the DA meetings).
"Avada Kedavra is based almost purely in intent. I've seen it cast to very little effect—maybe a nosebleed, nothing more. The caster has to really want, and I mean really want—almost lust after—the death of the person they are casting it on to be successful."
The boy, Henry, spoke up. "Why is it called an Unforgivable, Professor?
"Because it is exactly that, Henry. The spell is almost impossible to block or counter, and if it's successful, it's final. It separates the soul from the body, and there's no reversing that. No amount of wishing or willing can undo that kind of damage."
The class had grown silent, perhaps noticing the slightly quieter voice in which Harry was speaking. All of them knew that he had fought in the war, so they all guessed that he had seen it be successful many times. It was one thing being taught something from a textbook, but to hear it from someone who had experienced it…several of them got goose bumps as they listened to him.
Just then, the signal for the end of the period came, and Harry stood up from his desk. "Alright, this has been a very good first class for you all. Wouldn't you agree?" There were many appreciative nods and smiles, and Harry was glad to see it. "That is a good thing. For next class, I'd like you to look over the first chapter in your textbook." It wasn't a lot to ask of them, so no one complained. "Enjoy the rest of your lessons, and I'll see you in two days."
Harry watched as they filed from the room. Melanie gave him a look that almost made him laugh out loud—he seemed to have an admirer already. As soon as the last student was out of the room and the door had clicked shut, Harry slumped back into his chair, closed his eyes, and heaved a sigh.
It was so hard to keep the façade of the warm, happy teacher when his brain was a maelstrom of thoughts and problems. His personal life was just that—personal—but it was hard to separate it out when it dominated his mind. Harry was slipping into a depression.
Nagini had finally made it to her destination after many months of traveling. As she slithered over the cool rocks of the island of Azkaban, her tiny brain was singularly focused on one thing, just as it had been for a long time now: get back to her master.
She had traveled from down south somewhere, where a huge stone hole went down into the ground. Funny looking metal things had continuously been going through that hole, and she was fascinated by the way the sun had glinted off their shiny tops. Then, without warning, she had heard the strong and irresistible calling of her master. She knew that he was very far away, but she had to get to him.
Since that day during the spring, she had been moving north toward where she knew he was. All throughout the rest of the spring and into the summer, she had slithered north across the entire countries of England and Scotland. She had reached a roadblock, in the form of the North Sea. Azkaban Prison was situated several miles off the northern coast of Scotland. Prisoners were taken there by boat, but those boats were much too small for a snake of her size to hide in without being seen.
So, she had had to wait for almost a week before the chance came. Every two weeks, the prison received shipments of supplies by boat, which docked briefly at the coast before heading across to the island. Somehow, Nagini knew this, and when the ship came, she slithered into the hold, out of sight.
She had successfully made it, and now she rested by the entrance as night fell across the rocky environment. Her scales blended well, but she couldn't risk being seen. Her master needed her. Finally, when true dark came, she entered the prison. It wasn't hard to do, as the front door was always propped open. However, she would have to wait for a guard to open the inner security door to go any further into the place.
She could almost taste her master he was so close. After another hour or so of waiting, a guard exited through the door. She went through it, just as he walked past, as fast as she could, and neither that guard nor the one at the security desk noticed the door bounce back twice before clicking shut once again.
She was in a long hallway now, with many doors on both sides. Her small heart was pumping very fast because he was only meters away. The numbers on the right side went from 002, to 004, to 006, and then finally to 008. She stopped outside of this door and snaked her tongue once. Yes, this was definitely it.
How to get in, though? She studied the thing for a moment, and noticed that it seemed to be held fast at a point about halfway up the right side. She coiled herself, tensing her muscles, and then struck. The force of the blow forced the rusty padlock apart, and the door eased open.
She slid into the room, and was as overjoyed as a snake could be to see her master lying there. He was bent at an odd angle on the bed, his eyes opened unseeingly into the dark room. She got the bulk of her body up on the bed and rested her head just below his chin. Slowly, very slowly, the room was filled with a sickly green light. It seemed to be coming from her mouth.
She didn't flinch or move though, because she knew she had to remain absolutely still for this to work. The light got brighter and brighter—Nagini felt like something was being pulled from her; it wasn't a pleasant feeling, but still, she didn't move.
There was a sigh, almost like pressure being released, and Nagini went limp. The light faded, much quicker than it had come. With a shuddering, gasping sucking noise, the man on the bed took his first breath in almost four and a half months. The eyes blinked once, and then again, and he slowly sat up.
His back was horribly stiff, but he didn't notice it as his eyes went to the limp snake next to him. He smiled to himself. The snake had done her job. Nagini had died, and now he, Voldemort, was alive once again. He was never properly dead, but it was as close to death as he'd ever been, or ever wanted to be again. He may only have one-seventh of a soul left, but he sure as hell was going to protect it. Death was the only thing he feared.
He sent out a wavering tendril of his magic, and noticed that the fools hadn't even put him in a high security cell. He wouldn't even have to break out—he could just Apparate away. Not that he was complaining, though; it would be better if it went unknown that he was out. For now, at least.
He stood up, stretched his muscles briefly, and Apparated away. The only thing that was left in cell 008 in Azkaban Prison was the limp body of a dead snake.
Like it always does, time continued to flow. Summer passed into fall; the days grew shorter and colder. As September faded into October, and then October into November, Harry settled more and more comfortably into the routine of teaching. He enjoyed what he was doing, and he seemed to be good at it. Even though he would never admit it, he heard plenty of people say that his class was the most interesting and exciting, and he privately agreed with them.
However, he was living somewhat of a double life. The smiling, humorous teacher his students were seeing was not his true state of mind; in fact, the only people that saw it were Ginny, Dumbledore and Helen. Since Helen and him continued to train a bit with the Headmaster, both she and the old man noticed Harry's newfound reticence. When he was outside of class or meals, he would rarely speak. Often, Helen went days without hearing a single word from her father.
Ginny, who was taught by Harry and therefore was exposed to both sides, tried to get Harry to open up, or to visit the Burrow like he'd said he might, but he wouldn't. Ron and Hermione had said nary a word to either of them since their wedding, and it was beginning to grate on Ginny as well. Her other brothers had been to see her several times since school had begun, but Ron had all but disappeared. She knew he and Hermione were extremely busy with their Auror training, but that was no excuse. She cringed when she thought about it so directly, but she probably only had a few months left. She didn't want to leave Ron like that.
That was another thing that she and Harry had stopped talking about—her condition. She wasn't necessarily opposed to it, but it probably wasn't a good idea in the long run. She hadn't exactly come to terms with it yet, so he couldn't have either, but they seemed to be mutually avoiding it. She continued to take her potions and rarely experienced any pain, but she did notice that she would get out of breath much easier than she used to. It scared her, to be faced with mortality like that, but it worried her more that she didn't really have anyone to talk about it with. She could try bringing it up with Harry again, but she was afraid of how he'd react.
Harry, on the other hand, was so busy with teaching and training that he really didn't take the time to think about the effects of his withdrawal on other people. His mental, magical, and physical fitness had drastically improved, as well as Helen's, but that would just be a waste of time if he didn't face his issues. He might look and act fit, but he was slowly wasting away where it counted: his heart and soul.
The fact that he hadn't spoken to Hermione or Ron in almost four months bothered him in ways he couldn't even comprehend, and as the holiday season rolled around, other people besides the three closest to him began to notice, too. He couldn't just Apparate over there, though—Ron would probably hex him, and then where would they be? He wasn't going to duel Ron, or Hermione for that matter, so he didn't do anything. He just let the time between the last time he'd seen them and the present grow.
One week before Christmas, classes let out for three weeks, and Harry was looking forward to some time where he could attempt to sort things out. His depression had deepened, and if he didn't do something about it soon he might never be able to get out of it.
As the last thestral-pulled carriage turned out of sight, Harry turned back and walked into the nearly empty castle. The silence was familiar, but deafening. He needed to talk to Dumbledore.