Chapter 1: ...To Watch | ...To Hope
Came to me as I was off to bed one night after a couple of days in a row of reading Harry-in-Azkaban stories. Yeah, it's a bit over-done, but I've not seen this particular time-period before. So I'm gonna try my hand.
I'm only posting this when the whole fic is done. You'll get an update every week or so, depending on life in general, I guess? Dunno. We'll see.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Prologue ~ ...To Watch
Harry had just taken the orb and they were all staring at it when a voice drawled, "Very good, Potter. Now if you would be a good boy and hand that over, we can be gone."
Harry felt himself go cold and his body seemed to no longer be his. Indeed, his body smiled, walked right over to Lucius Malfoy and placed the delicate ball in the man's outstretched hand.
"Harry!" Hermione cried. "What are you doing?!"
Harry's body turned and sneered at his best friend. "Silence, you pathetic little Mudblood."
Hermione looked like she'd been slapped.
Ron stepped forward, looking furious. "Don't you dare speak to her like that! I don't care how moody you are!"
Harry's body rolled his eyes. "I'm not moody, Ronnie. I'm simply telling you my real feelings." His body snorted at the looks of disbelief on his friends' faces. "Oh, come now. Surely I didn't actually trick you with my moody act?" His body paused, then laughed scornfully. "I did! Oh, this is too precious, don't you agree, Lucius?"
"Of course, Potter," Lucius drawled next to him, the sphere Harry had handed him given to another Death Eater to, no doubt, pass on to Voldemort. "But, surely, you knew what Gryffindors were like, having lived amongst them for so long?"
"Of course," Harry's body replied, sounding disgusted. "And to think, I was one of them once."
Luna stepped forward suddenly, understanding on her face. "Harry," she whispered, "Harry, you can fight this off."
Everyone stared at Luna for a long moment in amazement and Harry felt a stab of hope. He quickly tried to get control of his body again, but whatever it was that had the control just started laughing. Loudly. It was a terrifying, evil sort of laugh. And Harry wondered how it could come from his mouth.
"Dear, dear, Loony," his mouth said once it'd stopped letting out the horrible laugh. "How stupid you are. And here I thought you were a Ravenclaw!" Next to him, Lucius snorted, as did a couple of other Death Eaters behind them.
Luna shook her head, eyes eerily clear. "No! I know this isn't you, Harry! You're wrong!"
The controlling force in Harry's body was no longer amused. It, too, had seen the hopeful looks in his friends' faces. The knowledge that, certainly, Harry wouldn't really do this. No. Not possible. Harry wanted to scream at his friends, Yes! Yes! Listen to Luna! She's got it!
Harry's body moved before anyone could act and his wand was pointed at Luna's heart. "Avada Kedavra."
Harry felt as if his soul had been torn in two. It hurt. The magic and watching as Luna fell to the ground, eyes lifeless; it hurt. He screamed in his mind, hoping, wishing, needing someone to hear him.
Harry's body smiled coldly at the remaining four people, who were all looking back and forth between Harry and Luna in disbelief. "She really was crazy," his body explained. "I thought I'd put her out of her misery."
"You monster!" Neville shouted, jumping forward and lunging at Harry, his wand forgotten where he'd dropped it in his shock.
Harry's body side-stepped the attack and he heard a female laugh from behind him as a one of the Death Eaters caught Neville. "Hold him for me, Bella," his body commented pleasantly as he turned back to Harry's other friends, waiting to see what they would do next.
Ginny stepped forward, looking certain. "I know Harry," she said in a soft, yet steady voice. "I know how he feels about us and how little he would want us hurt. And I know those feelings weren't a lie." She took a deep breath, then looked him straight in the eyes. "You're not Harry Potter."
Harry's body continued to smile and he turned his wand on the girl. "Crucio."
Harry screamed in his mind with Ginny. He screamed from the pain of casting the Dark spell and from casting it on his own friend. And he mourned the fact that he couldn't do anything. And he wished he were dead.
Harry's body stopped the spell, then tapped his wand against his mouth. "Lucius, I'd like you to do something for me."
"Of course, Potter," Lucius replied, sneering.
"Put the Imperius on her. We may need her later, if you know what I mean?"
"My pleasure," Lucius hissed, then turned his wand on the girl.
Four things happened at the same time. Lucius cast his spell as Ron shouted, "Expelliarmus!" Hermione cried, "Stupefy!" and Harry's body waved his wand, cancelling the two students' spells before they got past Ginny's head. Ron and Hermione watched on, frozen by some of the Death Eaters behind Harry, as Ginny struggled against Lucius' spell then, slowly, succumbed.
In his mind, Harry screamed.
Harry's body just chuckled. "Ginny, love, if you could please step out of the way?" Ginny moved to stand next to Lucius and Harry's wand turned on the horrified Ron and Hermione. "Ah, say good-bye, my friends. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra."
Hermione and Ron's bodies hit the ground as Harry cried in his mind, unable to even feel the pain of the spells any more.
Harry's body turned to Neville, who was staring at him in terror. "Now, what to do with Neville? Maybe, you should take up residence in St Mungo's, with your parents, hm?" Harry's mouth took on a truly terrifying smile. "Yes, I believe that would be a fine fate. Bella, would you care to do the honours? I know you had so much fun with his parents and all..."
"You honour me, Potter," Bellatrix Lestrange replied, then bound Neville and said, "Crucio."
Harry wished he could be properly ill. He wished he could throw up. He wished he didn't have to watch as his best friends were killed. He wished he could just kill himself and save their lives. He wished...
Bellatrix let the spell go after what seemed like an eternity and Neville remained on the ground, drooling. Harry managed to catch sight of his friends' eyes; they were dead and broken. Neville...
Harry's body let out a cold chuckle, then he turned to the silently watching Ginny Weasley. "Ah, I think it's time we end this," he commented, sounding pleased as he turned his wand on Ginny's unmoving form. "If you all would?"
The Death Eaters hurried off, some using portkeys to leave. Harry just stood there, staring at the unmoving Ginny. He wondered what was happening for only a few moments before a tingle went through him. As if for his benefit, his body said, "Ah, and there go the wards. I guess your Order is here. What a pity. Crucio."
Ginny fell to the ground, screaming.
It was only moments later that Harry felt his body go rigid, thanks to the Body Bind Curse. He watched, silent and hopeless, as Order members swarmed around them, whispering curses as they realized what had happened. Ginny was fed a potion and then, once she'd apparently recovered from the Cruciatus, asked what had happened.
As Ginny retold the tale with slight differences, Harry suddenly understood. This was all Voldemort's plan. Make him kill his friends. Get him out of the way. Most of the Wizarding World already thought he was mad, and this would convince the rest of them.
In his mind, Harry closed his eyes in defeat. He couldn't watch any more.
The trial was a sham. Pathetic.
Ginny, under Lucius' control, told the whole tale to the courtroom. She left out the involvement of Lucius, placing his actions upon Bellatrix or Harry and completely leaving out the fact that she was under the Imperius Curse. Harry's body showed no thought for his supposed actions and nor did it look as defeated as he felt. Even when Ginny slipped from Lucius' control once and gave Harry an apologetic look, Harry didn't feel any better.
So what if Ginny still believed in his innocence? She couldn't do anything. She'd already begged the court to only make her go through the horrible ordeal once, then Obliviate her. Even after the trial, there was nothing she could do. Nothing either of them could do.
The verdict was called. Harry Potter was sentenced to life in Azkaban.
Chapter One ~ ...To Hope
Harry didn't have an animagus form to rely on. Nor did he have the knowledge that he was innocent to help him – he had killed his friends with his own wand. It never helped that dementors already affected him something horrible, and the visions Voldemort gleefully sent him of the prophecy and the deaths of innocents only made his life that much more terrible.
Within a month, Harry became a little crazy and began talking to himself.
Within five months, Harry had started seeing his dead friends coming to visit him. They called him horrible names and told him they'd always known he was a Death Eater.
Within the year, Harry had become comatose, no longer reacting to anything. His eyes simply stared off into nothing.
It was the beginning of his third year at Azkaban that it happened. A flash of bright light came from his body and Harry returned to the world, looking a little worse than he had two years previous when he'd shut himself within his own mind, but feeling all the better for it.
Harry didn't understand why he was awake. He'd never intended to return to the real world ever again. The only person alive who could have saved him from Azkaban had her memories of the horrible day removed, and the evidence was too solid. No, he never intended to face this world's horrors again.
There was a sound at his cell door and Harry quickly made himself appear catatonic. If he had to be aware, he'd rather no one else knew.
Two men and a large dog stopped outside his cell door. The one man, an Auror, sneered at the other. "You've got five minutes, werewolf, though I doubt it'll do much good. He doesn't react to nothing." The Auror walked off, laughing manically.
Remus Lupin touched the bars separating himself from the seemingly lifeless Harry Potter. "Harry? Oh, Harry, what has happened to you?"
The dog next to Remus turned into a gaunt-faced man. "Oh, my Prongslet," the man whispered. "Oh, what would James think, seeing us now, Moony? What would he think of us, letting his son go into prison."
Remus shook his head. "Sirius, I thought you said you'd stay a dog."
Sirius Black shook his head. "I can't, Moony. He looks so broken. He smells broken, Moony. It's like he's got no hope left." Sirius turned his attention to the silent figure in the cell. "Prongslet, Harry, please, I don't care if you can't hear me. I don't care if you hate me forever. Please, please don't lose hope. I can't lose you to Voldemort's lies."
Remus froze and looked down the hallway beyond the cell door. "Padfoot!" he hissed.
Sirius returned to his dog form, looking at Harry just as desperately as he had as a human.
The Auror returned. "Well, your time's up, monster. Leave this Death Eater to himself, now."
Remus bit his lip and shook his head. "Harry, we know you didn't do it. We know you didn't kill them. And we're trying to get you out. We won't stop trying. Ever."
The Auror laughed at the werewolf and the dog, then proceeded to herd them from the cell of the Boy Who'd Fallen.
In the following silence, Harry turned broken eyes towards the empty cell door. A spark of life danced deep within the green depths next to a desperate hope that their words were true. A desperate hope that someone, anyone knew he hadn't killed them. That Hermione and Ron and Luna and Neville's futures hadn't been destroyed by him, but by Voldemort.
It took Harry a month of looking through Voldemort's memories without the Dark Lord's knowledge before he knew that the light that had woken him was his magical inheritance. It took him only a week after that to learn that, since he didn't have any spells to learn his new abilities from, he would have to look at his magical core and figure it out himself.
Not that finding his magical core was easy, really, but at least he had the required time. It wasn't like he would be going anywhere or anything.
Another month of solitude dragged by before Harry finally figured out how to find his magical core and read it so he could figure out what had come of his inheritance. The results were nothing short of shocking.
He had the expected strength in Defence, the known ability of Parseltongue and the semi-expected ability to become an animagus; but the expected abilities ended there. He had a weak gift for controlling water and a stronger gift for controlling wind. A very faint ability to morph his form accompanied a second animagus form and even the possibility of a third, if he really worked at it. A very faint connection with the plane of death – from when he'd been hit with the Killing Curse as a baby, Harry hypothesized – gave him some powers of Necromancy. To round off his magical insanity, Harry learned that his blood was rather poisonous, most likely from the basilisk in his second year.
Harry spent another month trying to figure out how to use all his new abilities to his advantage, especially with the wards around Azkaban, which used a wizard's own magic against them by using their magic to power the wards that didn't allow a wizard to cast any spells. So the magic was still being used, just not by the prisoners.
The month provided Harry with the knowledge that most of his abilities – the morphing ability, the many animagus forms, the Parseltongue, his blood and, surprisingly, the Necromancy – didn't need the magic which the wards fed off of. When Harry thought about it, he should have realised that the animagus forms wouldn't be stopped, since Sirius managed his. Sadly, Harry considered, unless he was something small, he wouldn't have much luck with the forms, especially since the dementors didn't seem to affect him any more. Harry didn't know whether to blame the coma or his inheritance on that development.
After two months of silent meditation, Harry managed his first animagus form: a small black snake with faint streaks of white and an eerily green lightening bolt on it's head. As far as Harry could tell, he was highly poisonous and had no magical properties to speak of. From what he gathered from Voldemort's mind, he was a member of the scientific hydrophiidae family. He was a sea snake, which, he figured, played to his gift with water. But, alas, the whole idea was pretty much useless in his dry stone cell, and he didn't know enough about his form to guess at how long he could remain out of water – not even Voldemort knew all that much about sea snakes.
It took him almost four months to master his second form, which turned out to be a thestral, much to his disgust. As ironic as the form was, he really wished he didn't have it. Yes, it could fly and, yes, not many people could see it, but, really! Didn't he have enough death on his hands? Bloody hell.
Harry wasn't sure if he wanted to know what his third form was.
Deciding to leave his last animagus form alone for the moment, Harry moved on to practising and testing his morphing abilities. He quickly learned that he couldn't change his body into anything that wasn't human – no pig snouts for him – and he couldn't make himself a girl. He could change the colour of his hair, as long as it was a natural colour, and the same restrictions for his skin, which was fine. He could change his height within one foot either way of his current 5'2" and he could make himself appear to have more muscles, but that didn't make him any stronger. He could create freckles, moles and wrinkles. He could move his current scars around, but he couldn't get rid of them or make more – the only exception to that being his lightning bolt scar, which he couldn't do anything to. His hair could be changed to be pretty much any length he wanted, but if it got too short it still had the tendency to act like his normal hair and do whatever it damn well pleased. His eyes, Harry was pleased to find, could be changed to any colour under the rainbow, including a rainbow itself, though he couldn't make his pupils do anything that wasn't natural to a human.
Still unsure whether he wanted to do anything with his third animagus form, Harry moved on to testing his abilities in Necromancy. Within Voldemort's mind was a wealth of knowledge on the subject, though most of the information Harry quickly decided was useless, since he didn't intend to make himself immortal with his powers over death.
Necromancy, Harry learned within his first week of study, was not an easy subject to study and practising it was illegal in the eyes of the Ministry, earning anyone who was caught a minimum of twenty years in Azkaban. Since Harry was already in Azkaban for life, he figured that the laws hardly pertained to him and, really, it was the Ministry's own fault that the prison wasn't warded against the branch of magic. Of course, Harry learned after further study, they couldn't block that branch in Azkaban, since the dementors required Death magic to exist.
To fully understand Necromancy, Harry found himself studying the various branches of magic, which he hadn't fully understood until he looked for it, though purebloods supposedly grew up learning about it. He was immediately disgusted with the Wizarding World for not making sure that Muggle-raised witches and wizards had the same chances to learn about the branches too. But, really, he shouldn't have been surprised, he supposed.
There were three main categories, or branches, of magic, Harry learned from the library that was Voldemort's mind: Light, Dark and Death. Light magic had three sub-categories: Healing, defensive and offensive. Dark magic also had three sub-categories: Mind, offensive and defensive. Death had two sub-categories: Blood and Necromancy.
Since both Dark and Light magic had the sub-categories of offensive and defensive, some spells were up for debate about which main category they actually belonged to and often the uses of them were ignored unless someone was seriously harmed or killed through their use.
The Unforgivables, Harry hadn't been surprised to know, all fell under the Dark classification, though both Voldemort and Harry himself believed that the Killing Curse should have fallen under the Death category, even though it was neither Blood magic nor Necromancy.
After two months spent learning all he could about the various branches of magic and all that Voldemort knew about Necromancy, Harry felt himself capable of trying the magic out. His first attempt involved calling out to a dementor as it passed. When he'd tried getting five different dementors to stop and gotten nowhere, he decided he'd have to try another route and returned to Voldemort's mind.
As far as Voldemort knew, one had to perform a complicated ritual any time they wished to use any form of Death magic, since humans had no other way of connecting with the plane of death. Voldemort had also found that casting the Killing Curse as part of a ritual shortened the ritual and made it much simpler to complete, though Harry wasn't interested in that.
As far as Harry was concerned, he shouldn't have to do a ritual, since he already had a very faint connection to the plane of death. He just had to expand on that connection. He hoped.
Harry spent three weeks working on making his connection to the plane of death stronger, though he wasn't quite sure how he managed that, other than just sitting in his mind and staring at the ugly black line for hours on end. Of course, as was his luck, he opened it too much and got sucked in.
When Harry landed on the other side, he found an older, but just as pretty, Luna smiling at him. She helped him to his feet, then commented, "I knew you didn't kill me."
Harry blinked. "Uh..."
Hermione ran up, looking disapproving. "Harry James Potter, just what do you think you're doing here?!"
"Yeah, mate," Ron said from behind Hermione's bush of brown hair. "You shouldn't be here. It's not your time yet."
Harry frowned at that. "Yeah, well, what do I have to live for down there?" he demanded, ignoring how rough his voice was after years of disuse. "A bloody cell in Azkaban and no visitors? Thanks, but I've already gone crazy once in there, I don't care to do it again."
"What's to say you will?" Luna asked. "You've got your magic to explore now, and you know Sirius and Remus believe you're innocent."
"Harry, please," Hermione whispered. "It's not your time to die."
Harry shook his head furiously, remembering watching them die. "Oh? And it was your time to die four years ago? Was I supposed to kill you, then?" he demanded bitterly.
"No." Luna shook her head. "And you didn't kill us, Voldemort did."
"I might as well have, as much as I fought against him," Harry replied.
"You didn't have the intent," Ron tried to explain. "You didn't want us dead, therefore you couldn't have killed us."
"And Voldemort is a very powerful man," Hermione added. "Never mind that Umbridge had already shot a spell at you that was supposed to make his taking over your mind that much easier."
Harry blinked a couple times, then said, "Wait, what?"
"Umbridge cursed you on our way to the forest," Hermione explained, looking stricken. "I don't know much about it, since we only learned about it later, when Voldemort was awarding her for her good work, but she cursed you with something that would make you more susceptible to Voldemort taking over your body when Lucius Malfoy said the key words."
Harry shook his head. "So, so you're saying..."
"You couldn't have fought him off," Ron offered. "He knew you could throw off the Imperius Curse so he wanted to make sure he could possess you without you kicking him out."
Harry felt as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. It wasn't– "It wasn't my fault," he whispered, awed.
"No, Harry," Hermione replied, drawing him into a hug, "it wasn't. There was no way for you to have fought him."
"You don't belong here, young man," a firm voice said from behind Harry.
Harry extracted himself from Hermione and turned to look at the tall man with wild black hair behind him. It took him a moment before Harry realized who this was. "D-dad?"
James Potter's frown turned into a smile and he scooped Harry up into a tight hug, then proceeded to twirl around. Laughing, he set his son back on the ground and said, "Yes, Harry."
A red-haired woman stepped up next to James and hugged Harry with much less excitement as he whispered, "Mum..."
Lily pulled away from her son and gave him a worried look. "Harry, child, why are you here?"
Harry shrugged uncomfortably. "I was trying to see if I could open my connection to this plane enough to use my Necromancy gift without performing the rituals."
"Oh, Harry..." Lily sighed and cupped his face in her hands. "You don't have to open that connection any more. Merely the fact that it's there at all allows you to use your gift. But Necromancy the way you can use it doesn't require spells, and it doesn't affect the dementors."
Harry furrowed his brow. "But, then, how am I supposed to use it?"
"Yours is an interesting side of Necromancy," Lily explained. "It's not one you'll find anything about in Voldemort's head, since he's not interested in ghosts."
"Yes, Harry. Your strength is in commanding ghosts and sending them to the world beyond." Lily paused and frowned, unsure, then let out a sigh. "Sending them beyond, and calling them back."
"Calling the–" Harry's eyes widened as he realized what his mother had said. "Wait, you mean I could call your ghosts down to me and you'd have to come?"
"After a fashion, yes," Lily agreed, looking wary. "But because we've already passed on, you'll really only be calling echoes of the echoes of a person, and you'll be the only one who could see us."
Harry nodded in understanding – it wouldn't be as great a gift as he wanted it to be. "But, ghosts that are already in my world, like the ones in Hogwarts, could I call them to me? Even if they're bound to an object?"
"In theory, yes," Lily allowed. "Your gift is very unusual, you see, and I'm not quite sure what will happen when you do some things. You can certainly try, I suppose. It's hard to hurt a ghost." She smiled.
Harry nodded thoughtfully. "Alright. I suppose I'll go back to Azkaban and try that, then."
"Harry," Luna cut in before he could actually leave. He turned to look at her curiously. "I don't know if it would be wise for you to try this again. When you return to Azkaban, call me down."
Harry blinked a few times in surprise. "You're sure?"
Luna smiled. "I, too, had a gift for Necromancy in life, so I can travel between the planes, once I have a Necromancer on the other side that I can bond with. This way, we'll have a way to tell you if we learn anything important, and you'll have someone to talk to."
Harry nodded, a little shocked, though he shouldn't have been. Luna had always been an odd one. "Alright. How would I call you?"
"Call my name and envision me as being there. For real this time, not as one of your hallucinations," she added, shaking her head.
Harry laughed nervously. "Right. I'll keep that in mind. How do I get back?"
"Think of your body," Lily replied.
So Harry closed his eyes and thought of his body. He cracked open an eye when nothing had happened after a few moments and was shocked to find himself back in his cell. He sighed, then decided to try calling Luna. He imagined her as she'd been on the plane of death and said, "Luna."
"Lovely place you've got here," Luna offered as she appeared. "Bit chilly, though."
Harry smiled bitterly at her. "You get used to it, after a while."
Luna sighed and sat in front of Harry on the ground. "I'm sorry. You shouldn't be here."
Harry shrugged. "I know, but it's not like I have a choice, right? I mean, if I could get out, I would."
Luna shook her head. "But you can. You can become your snake form and get out of the cell, then turn into a thestral and just walk out."
Harry's shoulders fell and he shook his head. "No. I can't see myself doing that."
"Even to just get out of your cell long enough to see the sky again?"
Harry shivered. "I can't, Luna."
"Not even if getting out for a couple hours means you can practise your elemental gifts?"
Harry paused and thought on that. He did want to practise his water and wind gifts and he probably should, at least a little. He could take a bath... He blinked, then snorted at himself. "I could take a bath, couldn't I?"
Luna smiled. "You could."
Harry mulled that over, getting more and more excited about taking a bath. It was rather sad, really, that the one thing he wanted most in the world wasn't his freedom, but a bath. "I think I'm going mad," he commented, "but now that I've thought about it, I really want a bath."
Luna laughed at that. "Yes, you need one." She paused suddenly and seemed to be listening to something, then frowned at Harry. "But not right now. Hermione says that Moony and Padfoot are coming for a visit."
Harry's eyes widened. "I– Luna, do you think I should talk to them?"
"Harry, that's for you to decide," Luna replied, then drifted into the far corner so Harry wouldn't get distracted by her.
Harry resumed his vacant look as he heard steps in the hallway. The same guard as last time left Remus and Padfoot at his cell door with the warning that they had five minutes before walking off.
Padfoot suddenly turned into Sirius and said, "Harry, Harry, please speak to me. To us. Please. I know you're in there. Moony can smell it too, can't you Moony? Harry..." Sirius fell silent, staring at Harry with tears in his eyes.
Harry let out a mental sigh, then whispered roughly, "What do you want from me?"
"We want you free," Remus said, watching the young man he considered Pack warily.
Harry laughed bitterly. "Free. What is freedom but another cage?"
"Harry..." Luna breathed from her corner.
"Harry, Prongslet, I know you didn't do it," Sirius whispered desperately. "You couldn't have..."
"If only they hadn't been so strong," Harry whispered, seemingly to himself. "If only they hadn't thought ahead. Hadn't cursed me and weakened my will. If only–" He choked and closed his eyes. "It hurts, to kill people. It hurts like you'll never know. And it hurts the most when it's you doing the killing and you can't stop it." He turned to look at the two at his cell door. "I tried to stop him. I tried to fight."
"Harry, the guard!" Luna hissed desperately.
"Guard," Harry whispered, then turned forward again and resumed staring off into space as Sirius once again became Padfoot.
Remus paused as the guard was leading them away, then said, "Harry, you're innocent, and we'll get you out of here, somehow. But, until then, we'll just keep coming back so you know we're on your side. So you don't lose hope."
"You're a fool, werewolf. You can't find innocence when it doesn't exist," the guard laughed, then force the two Marauders to leave.
Harry looked at Luna. "I'm going to take a bath, and meet some ghosts and train my elements and become an animagus again," he stated firmly. "Then, if I must, I'll go out there and find my own innocence. And I'll kill Voldemort if it's the last thing I do. I'll kill him for Mum and Dad. I'll kill him for Cedric and Neville and Ginny and Ron and Hermione. I'll kill him for you, Luna."
"And will you kill him for yourself?" Luna asked, moving closer to Harry carefully.
Harry considered that, then nodded. "Yeah. I'll kill him for myself."
Harry nodded and transformed into a snake to get out of his cell, then a thestral to move through the halls, forcing himself to remember the way back to his cell.
And when Harry got outside the prison and he saw the retreating boat with two men and a dog on it, he let out a loud cry which, surprisingly, struck hope into the heavy hearts of Remus and Padfoot.
Not sure how I like this in the end. I mean, it's just not quite the way I envisioned the whole thing.
And I sooooooo can't write Luna to save my life. I can't. Really.
I hope the magic explanation made sense. I mean, it made sense in my mind, but I'm not sure it actually makes sense in the fic. Damn it all.
Chapter 2: ...To Learn
The idea behind some things in this chapter come from another fic I read ages ago in which Harry does something similar. ( I don't remember the name of the fic... Anyone?) I don't mean to copy, but I can't see Harry just sitting around, doing nothing, and he's too noble to just escape. I had to give him something to do. And with his dad giving him suggestions through Luna, well, it was inevitable...
Since this fic was started before DH, I won't really use much from that book. What little I do use from that book is largely from memory – my copy isn't with me, nor, I'm pretty sure, is my sister's – so it may be off a bit. Also, since I've basically changed the ending of OotP, I'm calling creative license for any changes I make.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter Two ~ ...To Learn
After finding an empty island away from Azkaban and ordering Luna to not look, which she did with rather a lot of laughter, Harry pulled off his ragged robes and jumped into the chilly ocean. As he didn't have any soap, he made do with the gritty sand under his feet. When he was red all over and shivering, he jumped out of the water and pulled his clothing back on. Then he sat in the sand and smiled at Luna's back. "Thanks."
Luna turned around and shrugged. "I understand privacy," she replied, then settled down across from him. "How often, about, do the dementors come to check on you?"
Harry hummed and considered his time in the prison. "Well, without any way to tell the time of day beyond when I sleep, I'd have to say that they come when they feed me. Once for breakfast, once for dinner. And even then, they don't always come."
Luna nodded sadly. "I see. Well, Ron says he's going to keep an eye on the prison and warn us when it looks to be about breakfast time. We'll compare that to what time it is out here and then do the same for dinner time. That should give us an idea about how much time you have outside your cell each day."
Harry nodded. "I know the time between breakfast and dinner is shorter than the time between dinner and breakfast, so might I suggest that I train at night and stay inside during the day to sleep?"
Luna blinked a couple of times, then said, "Why didn't we think of that?"
Luna offered him a crooked smile, then turned mostly serious and said, "Why don't we work on your elemental magic for tonight?"
Harry nodded. "Alright. Shall we start with water?"
Luna's smile returned. "Let's."
Two months later, Harry felt that his elemental magic was under control, so he moved on to practising his third animagus form. Through Luna, he learned that his two best friends and his parents were making bets and jokes about what he'd be. Ron thought he'd turn into some sort of bird, as did Hermione, but Hermione thought he'd be a sparrow or something while Ron thought he'd be a hawk. James wanted him to be a stag, like he had been, but Lily thought he'd be more likely to turn into some sort of cat. If Luna had a guess, she kept it silent from Harry.
Five and a half months after Harry had mastered his elements, Lily won the bet when Harry became a black leopard with bright green eyes. After that change and a little help from Luna, he learned how to apparate and spent an evening in the African jungle. He had to admit, after he'd returned to his cell for breakfast and a nap, it had been nice to get away from the ocean and relax on a tree. The best part about the whole thing, as far as he was concerned, was that he managed his entire nap without a single nightmare.
Luna's next test, which took the rest of the month of March, was to work on his Necromancy gift some. Harry called various ghosts from around Azkaban – there were a lot, even though most of them were rather horrible people – and a few from where he liked to relax in the African jungle.
At the beginning of April, Harry decided to test something and called Nearly Headless Nick to him on his island near Azkaban. When Nick appeared, he looked absolutely floored to find Harry Potter standing in front of him with a ghostly Luna behind him – ghosts could see Luna, even though other humans besides Harry couldn't. "I– What is..." Nick trailed off, not seeming to know what he wanted to ask.
Harry smiled. "Hello, Nick."
Nick shook his head, which wobbled dangerously, and said, "Why aren't you in Azkaban?"
Harry shrugged uncomfortably and waved his hand in the general direction of the island prison. "It's not far – just beyond that mist, really – but I like getting out of the place and relaxing on an island that's not so cold and depressing. You know?"
Nick looked questioningly to Luna and she smiled knowingly. "He's innocent. Voldemort possessed him and made him kill us."
Nick turned to Harry with wide eyes. "Why, you can be free, then! Why are you still here? Surely Miss Lovegood could have gone to the Ministry and set things straight!"
Harry shook his head, smiling sadly. "No, Nick. Luna's a ghost of a ghost – I called her down here to have someone to talk to, really, and no one besides other ghosts and me can see her."
Understanding dawned on Nick's face. "Necromancy..."
"After a fashion," Luna agreed cheerfully.
Harry nodded. "I can only affect ghosts," he explained. "I can't call demons or bring corpses back to life. Even if I could, I don't think I'd want to, really." He smiled happily at Nick. "I thought I might try something, if you're open to the idea?"
"Erm, well..." Nick looked wary. "What is it?"
"I'd like to see if I can finish detaching your head from your body."
Nick's eyes went wide, then he smiled. "I– yes, I'll let you try that."
Harry nodded and picked up a sword he'd transfigured from a stone earlier. "Sorry if this hurts at all," he offered.
Nick shrugged. "A little pain is worth it," he replied, then picked up his head, giving Harry a better shot at what was left of his neck.
Harry took a deep breath and touched the black string in the back of his mind. Focusing on that connection, he swung the sword at the last little bit of skin holding Nick's head on. The skin broke and Nick let out a 'whoop', which made both Harry and Luna smile.
Nick happily tossed his head in the air and caught it again, then turned to Harry with a large smile. "Thank you, Harry."
Harry nodded. "Of course. Think of it as repayment for all the times you've helped me over the years."
Nick frowned and settled his head back on his body carefully. "My deeds on your behalf shy in comparison to what you have just given me, Harry, and I don't know if there is a way for me to repay you."
Harry shook his head. "Don't worry about it," he suggested.
But Nick couldn't just leave without finding some way to repay Harry. "What if I were to testify on your behalf? To get you out?"
Harry smiled bitterly. "They'll put me right back in because I practise Necromancy," he pointed out. "No, I'm fine here. I get two meals a day, plenty of free time and wonderful conversation." He nodded to Luna, who laughed.
Nick shook his head, then had to catch it as it fell off his shoulders. "Harry, I can't simply leave you here without doing something."
Luna floated forward. "What if you were to spread it around that Harry was innocent? Tell the students at Hogwarts and the other ghosts. You don't have to say how you found out, simply say that you did. Maybe, if popular opinion is that he's innocent, they'll reopen his case."
"What good would that do?" Harry asked. "They had Ginny Obliviated, and she's the only other person who knows the truth."
"Other than the Death Eaters who were there!" Luna shot back, then turned to Nick. "Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. And Dolores Umbridge. Those three I know for sure knew what happened. If we can get one of them on trial..."
"But what's to say they'll tell the truth?" commented Harry, who had hunted Voldemort's mind for ways to get himself free when he first woke to his powers almost two years ago. "All three of them can overcome Veritaserum, and none of them are particularly inclined to offer the truth to free me anytime soon. It's not like my being here in Azkaban is putting a damper on Voldemort's reign of terror or anything."
Nick moved his head, which he was holding, forward and backward, so it looked like he was nodding. "He has a point. Unless we can trick them somehow into telling the truth about what happened, it'll never work."
Luna looked like she might blow a fuse, then paused to listen to something that the other two couldn't hear – Harry had spent enough time with her to know she was listening to something that either his other friends or his parents were saying. After a moment, she started to smile, then she looked at Harry with a glint in her eyes that made Harry want to run away. "Your dad says that you should become a vigilante and start capturing Death Eaters yourself. Get them to admit their wrong-doings and write them down, then drop them off at the Ministry. Hermione says that, if you get enough of a reputation, you can go for Lucius or Umbridge and they'll have to tell the truth about everything, even if everyone believes they're good."
Nick blinked. "You can, ah, talk to the dead?"
"After a fashion," Luna replied cryptically.
Harry hummed as he considered the idea. "You know, that might work. Especially if Nick is inside the school, telling people I'm innocent. And when Sirius and Remus come to visit, I can have them spreading word. Well, Remus can, at least. Maybe. I hope..." He frowned at that. Sirius was an escaped convict and Remus was a werewolf. No one was going to listen to either of them.
"You'll need a name," Luna said immediately, trying to draw Harry out of his dark thoughts.
Harry nodded. "Aye. But what sort of name? I can't use my real name, and I don't know if using another name from the wizarding world will help much..."
"Well, you need a Marauder name anyway," Luna commented, probably from his father. "Why not pick one and just use that?"
"Oh," Harry said, surprised at the simplicity of it, yet daunted by finding a name that would cover all three of his forms.
"You know, you don't have to cover all three forms in your name," Luna commented dryly, apparently reading his mind.
"Three?" Nick squeaked.
Harry nodded. "A black sea snake, a black leopard, and a thestral."
Nick settled into a seated position a few inches off the ground, looking stunned. "Not only do you have three forms, but one of them is magical?"
"Erm, yeah." Harry blushed. "It was rather a shock."
"I'll say," Nick agreed.
Luna rolled her eyes. "Lily says that, since all your forms are so dark and you only really spend time outside of Azkaban at night, you could go with a night time theme."
"Yeah, but Moony's already taken," Harry joked.
"How about 'Dorcha'?" Nick said, seemingly out of nowhere.
"What does that mean?" Harry asked curiously.
"It's Gaelic for 'dark'," Nick explained.
" 'Nuit' is French for 'night', says Hermione," Luna offered. "But Lily likes the idea of you having a Gaelic name more."
Harry blinked. "Oh. Irish roots. That makes sense." He frowned thoughtfully and tried the two different suggestions out a few times. After a few minutes of contemplation, he glanced back up and said, "It sounds kinda feminine, I suppose, but I think I like Dorcha the best."
"The fact that it's feminine sounding will probably throw them off for a while," Nick pointed out.
"He has a point," Luna agreed.
Harry grinned. "Alright, then. Dorcha's my name."
A form draped in black appeared silently in the square in Godric's Hallow. The shadow of the solitary war memorial hid its appearance from any watching eyes, though there was no one to see anyway. At three o'clock in the morning, everyone was asleep.
The dark form almost seemed to float as it moved through the square and down a silent lane with cottages lining it. The form stopped outside a cottage with a flickering candle dancing in one of the windows. It stepped up the walk to the door, then stood there, unmoving. After a moment the door popped open, a strong gust of wind slipping out of the house and causing the figure's cloak to flare out behind it as it stepped into the house unhampered. The wind that had blown out followed the figure back in and pushed the door closed, then fell dormant.
The figure stepped into the room with the candle where two men sat, staring at one another across the room and neither noticing the figure's arrival.
The man closest to the door said, "I'm not sure how much I like this idea of razing Diagon. My wife–"
"Your wife, your wife," the other man grumbled, waving his hand dismissively. "Forget about your wife, Gibbon. She is nothing to our Lord."
The first man, Gibbon, rubbed his hands together nervously. "You can only say that because you're not married, Macnair."
Macnair let out a snort. "And nor will I ever. I know better than to be tied to some woman who wouldn't want me even if under the Imperius."
"You have no charm," Gibbon snapped back.
"And I don't really want any," Macnair said with humour. "Charm isn't needed for murdering creatures."
The cloaked man in the doorway decided he'd heard enough mindless prattle and cast two Incarcerouses in quick succession, followed by a stunner to Macnair. He wasn't taking any chances.
The stunner was a good idea, as Macnair managed to get his wand out in time to banish the ropes, but the stunner caught him in the belly and the man toppled over from his half-standing position. Gibbon squeaked and huddled inside his bindings.
The cloaked man pulled back his hood to reveal a dark-skinned man with caramel-coloured eyes and long black hair. A black band around his forehead mostly covered what looked to be – from the few it didn't cover – a mass of scars. When he spoke, the man had a deep, painfully scratchy voice, "I am Dorcha and I have an offer for you."
"Untie me this instant!" Gibbon demanded. Or tried to; his voice was high pitched with fear.
Dorcha smiled grimly. "No, Michael. Allow me to make my offer first, yes?"
"I want nothing you could offer me!"
"Oh? Nothing?" Dorcha taunted. When Gibbon shook his head, Dorcha added, "Not even the life of your wife?"
Gibbon went white. "Not Abby...."
Dorcha shrugged. "Her life is of no importance to me, but the information you can give me is."
"What do you need to know?! I'll tell you everything! Just, please..." Gibbon fell awkwardly to his knees in front of the chair he'd been restrained in. "Please don't hurt my Abby."
Dorcha's lips twitched. "We have an understanding then?" Gibbon nodded his head furiously. "Excellent. Tell me about this attack the Dark Lord is planning."
"It's set for this Saturday. We're to go to Diagon and act like normal shoppers until Lestrange apparates in. Then we're to start attacking in our Death Eater robes. We're supposed to leave as soon as the Aurors show up. Please don't hurt Abby!" Gibbon whimpered.
Dorcha rolled his eyes. "How long have you been a Death Eater?"
Gibbon looked to be doing some quick maths in his head for a moment, then whimpered, "A little over four years..."
"What about Macnair? Do you know?"
"I-I'm n-not sure..."
Dorcha sighed. "What crimes have you committed in the Dark Lord's name? List them all." He shot the kneeling man a threatening look to get the best results.
Gibbon listed fifteen Muggle raids that he'd killed and tortured on as well as three Aurors and nine regular witches and wizards that he'd killed during a raid on the Ministry building two years ago and the little girl he'd raped and killed at his initiation.
Dorcha thought he might be sick.
"Please, sir.... Please don't hurt my wife. She's never had any part in this. She doesn't even know I'm a Death Eater!"
Dorcha sighed. "I wasn't going to, you fool. Stupefy." He rubbed at his nose wearily and took a moment to check that he had enough time left on the tape he was recording on before spelling chains on Macnair and calling both his and Gibbon's wands to him, then rennervating the executioner.
Walden Macnair immediately shook the magic off and fixed his captor with a deadly glare as he tested his bindings. "Niggy!" he called after a long moment of silence.
As soon as the house-elf popped into view, a furious gust of wind slammed the creature into the far wall rather painfully. Dorcha quickly cast a couple of spells to ensure that the elf didn't get in the way again and shot Macnair a faintly amused look. "Clever, Walden, but not clever enough. How about you tell me what I want to know and I promise not to bring your house down."
Macnair narrowed his eyes. "What makes you think I'd help you?"
Dorcha tapped his wand against his cheek thoughtfully, ignoring the pale gold sparks it shot out. "Let's see. Perhaps because you don't want to lose all this lovely furniture that's been in your family for generations?"
Macnair twitched. "Who cares about some ratty old furniture?"
"I certainly don't," Dorcha offered, then turned his wand on the ancient grandfather clock in the far corner and cast a blasting curse.
Macnair's eyes went wide and he hurriedly said, "What do you want to know?!"
Dorcha smirked down at the man and ran through the same basic questions he'd run through with Gibbon. Macnair didn't have anything to add about the attack on Saturday, but he'd been a Death Eater since the first war and his record of devious acts far out-did Gibbon's.
Once Macnair ran out of things he could remember, Dorcha assured him that he wouldn't ruin any more of his family furniture and stunned him again. He quickly tied the two Death Eaters together and placed the recorder and tape with a note braced between their heads. Two snapped wands and a portkey charm on a teacup later and the two Death Eaters were gone. With a crack, Dorcha disappeared.
FYI - Approximately the last third of this chapter was written in March of '08. Any weirdness should be blamed on the long period of time between writing.
EDIT: I fail at French. 'Soir' changed to 'Nuit'. Thanks, JacobimVonStyluss (FFN).
Chapter 3: ...To Have Friends
I find myself torn between adding the Horcruxes to this story or not. A random question of yes or no – my favourite way to get people to decide things for me – resulted in a 'no' from magickmaker17, so they won't make an appearance. (Which is probably for the best. I could work them in – Harry's got enough dead people on his side that he could probably figure out the status and hidey-hole of each of them – but it seems like too much trouble.)
Chapter Three ~ ...To Have Friends
With Luna and those in the afterlife's help, Harry was able to threaten seven more Death Eaters into creating evidence against themselves and turn them in to the Aurors. According to Sir Nick, Hogwarts was awash with rumours about both Harry's possible innocence and the mysterious Dorcha who was going around capturing Death Eaters for the mostly useless Aurors.
At times, Harry wondered what had ever possessed him to want to be an Auror. When asked, Luna suggested it was insanity.
Along with news, Sir Nick also brought the Bloody Baron and Peeves once school let out for the summer. Peeves thought it was great fun to fly around Azkaban, tormenting the other prisoners and harassing the stoic dementors until they started chasing him through the halls. He was careful to never let any of the human guards see him and if any of the other prisoners were to tell a guard, they'd just wave the comment off as too much time near the dementors.
The Bloody Baron was a great boon to Harry's side, as Harry was the only one among his various dead friends who was at all Slytherin, and he'd spent so much time suppressing that part of him that he almost didn't count. With the Baron around, Harry's captures of the Death Eaters became more cunning and sneaky and his demeanour more threatening.
Harry also found himself, with help from his various allies, with three sets of African-style robes, a thick African accent, two spare wands in holsters they couldn't be summoned from and a well-protected trunk on the island that he used for training just off the shore of Azkaban. Harry wasn't sure he wanted to know where Peeves and the Baron got the money for the extra wands, their holsters or the trunk. His own wand had been made by an African wandmaker that Harry had saved from some other humans in the jungle and gotten custom made as thanks, while the robes came from some hunters in the jungle who thought a napping panther would be a fine catch. The accent had been cultivated through hard work and an accent spell that James had taught Luna who taught Harry after he got the robes.
From what Sir Nick said, the Ministry wasn't quite sure what to do with Dorcha. The unknown African was helping the Ministry with the collecting of Death Eaters and hadn't used any illegal spells to their knowledge, but he was doing a lot of breaking and entering as well as threatening the people of Britain, Death Eaters or not. To top it all off, the only people who'd ever had any contact with Dorcha were those he caught when he caught them. The Ministry was quite flabbergasted.
Voldemort, on the other hand, was quite furious with the constant captures of his people and the various attacks he'd planned being turned to failures on his part because of the information leaks of his captured people. He couldn't even go and kill the captured Death Eaters before they gave the information up. Really, Voldemort would have loved to have Dorcha on his side, but, as far as he was concerned, Dorcha had earned the right to either be killed on sight or tortured to death.
Dumbledore, according to the two Hogwarts ghosts, was rooting for Dorcha just as much as the Aurors, who were suddenly finding their jobs much easier. The lone African, according to Dumbledore at the End of Year feast, was a symbol of hope in their time of need and a wizard worthy of Britain's respect and thanks. Apparently, he'd commented to Fawkes in what he thought was private, that even though he genuinely liked Dorcha and respected his bravery, he wasn't sure he approved of the African's immoral way of doing things. Harry wasn't quite sure what to think of the old man, especially since he was one of the ones who firmly thought that Harry was still guilty, no matter what the rumours going around the school said.
Harry spent the night of July thirtieth hunting a rat, which he then sent to Auror Headquarters at exactly midnight with a short note that said, 'The British justice system is full of holes. You may wish to caulk this one sooner, rather than later. Sorry for the lack of tape, I figured you should all earn your money for once.'
The next day, Sirius and Remus were later than usual, but since Sirius was a human and not Padfoot, Harry forgave them.
"Harry! Harry!" Sirius started, running up to the bars ahead of an amused Remus and an irritated guard. "Look! I'm free! There's this wizard guy running around – you won't of heard of him, unless the guards here were prone to talking to you, which they're not – anyway, this guy is catching Death Eaters all over Britain and sending them in to the Aurors to question and arrest! And he caught Wormtail! It was a beautiful trial!"
Remus shook his head at Sirius and looked over at where Harry was watching them with a faint smile in a dark corner. "How are you, cub?"
Harry shrugged, then croaked out, "I'm glad for you, Sirius."
Sirius' face fell. "Oh, Prongslet..."
Harry shook his head. "It's not so bad here, now. The dementors mostly leave me alone, and all this free time has me working on my Occlumency, so Voldemort isn't mind-raping me any more."
Remus frowned as the young man inside the cell while Sirius seemed to droop with the weight of Harry's imprisonment. "We'll keep trying, cub. I promise."
"Save your worthless attempts for someone who deserves it, werewolf," the guard sneered as he came back over to the two visitors. He glanced into Harry's cage and saw a thin boy with drool coming from the corner of his mouth and insanity dancing in his eyes. As he turned away from the sight that was so common in Azkaban, he said, "Come on. Time's up. Don't know why you waste your time on this monster anyway..."
Only Luna saw the fury on Harry's face as the guard led his godfather and Remus away
In the week following Harry's birthday, six Death Eaters ended up in the hands of the Ministry. A seventh showed up dead the following Monday and the tape revealed that a fight had occurred and one hell of a lot of magic – Light and Dark – had been cast by both Dorcha and the Death Eater – Amycus Carrow. To the current Minister, Rufus Scrimgeour, that was enough of a reason to put a price on Dorcha's head.
It was probably for the best that Harry's wounds from the battle – a broken arm and leg, a painful cut across his torso and aftershocks from the Cruciatus Curse – kept him stuck in Azkaban with Peeves for entertainment and his three ghost friends for conversation. His ability as a metamorph, as weak as it was, had probably saved his life, as he was able to mostly heal the wound from Carrow's severing curse that had hit him hard in front. A normal metamorph, like Tonks, would have been able to fix their bones as well as healing a cut without too much help from spells. But Harry wasn't that strong a metamorph and bones were largely beyond him.
It took almost two months, even with the potions Peeves stole from Hogwarts and, later, the spells Harry cast outside of Azkaban, for Harry to be healed enough to consider going out to take on more Death Eaters. By then, most of the dust raised by Scrimgeour and Voldemort's people for Dorcha's arrest had calmed and popular opinion seemed to be that he'd died.
Even though he was feeling better, Harry stayed near Azkaban. He refused to be caught unawares like he had with Carrow. To help him, he called on the knowledge of the Bloody Baron as well as three other ghosts that the Baron found who had been duellers in their lives. The four of them trained him hard – well, as hard as ghosts could train the living.
Despite his duties at Hogwarts, the Baron spent more time at Azkaban with Harry than he did watching his Slytherins. Peeves also took a break from terrorizing the students to continue his summer adventures of tormenting other prisoners and the dementors. When Harry asked the poltergeist why he'd chosen to stay, Peeves simply said, "Baron doesn't make rules for naughty prisoners other than telling Peevesy to give them hell."
Hallowe'en was a dreadful day for Harry that year. Normally, Voldemort would spend the holiday razing Muggle villages for Harry's "enjoyment", which he would gleefully push through the bond. Harry's Occlumency was strong enough now that the bastard couldn't torment him like that any more, so Voldemort instead chose to go for the killer. He decimated what was left of the Weasley family – minus Percy, whose estrangement from his family had probably saved his life. So it was that Harry woke up on the first of November to the painful news that five Weasleys had joined Ron, Hermione, Lily and James in the afterlife.
After playing with his connection to death a little, Harry found himself back on the other plane and surrounded by sobbing Weasleys. "Hey."
Mrs Weasley immediately jumped forward and enclosed Harry in a crushing hug. Mr Weasley followed her, looking devastated. The eldest male Weasley met Harry's pained eyes and said, "Harry, we're so sorry."
Harry shrugged uncomfortably, knowing Mr Weasley meant that they were sorry for not believing in him. "It's not your fault. Voldemort had all his bases covered. Even if he hadn't been possessing me at the trial, I'm not sure I would have had a chance."
"That's not the point, mate," Fred offered.
"Yeah," agreed George. "We knew about Sirius–"
"–hell, he and Remus never stopped believing you were innocent–"
"–but we didn't even consider a set-up."
"It was personal to you guys," Harry tried. "I mean, Ginny was the sole witness–"
"Not everything is always as it seems on the surface, though," Bill cut in, eyes sharp. "That's one of the first rules of curse-breaking. None of us thought to look past the surface. Not even after the sorrow had faded as the years passed."
"You were family," Mrs Weasley agreed with tears still making tracks down he face, "and we left you to rot in Azkaban of all places!"
Harry felt his face get hot. He'd always thought of the Weasleys as his family, but he hadn't thought that they'd felt the same way. He bit his lip and looked over at where his birth parents stood off to the side. Both Lily and James were smiling at him.
Ron stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Harry's shoulders, then smiled at his parents and siblings. "What Harry can't quite bring himself to say is, 'thank you.' And he also, I know, never really blamed you for your actions."
"He was too busy blaming himself," Luna agreed, appearing next to Harry. She glanced around quickly, then frowned. "I thought you said Ginny was dead too?"
The simple statement caused a minor panic as everyone realized that they hadn't seen Ginny at all since they'd arrived. Luna let them all panic and turned to the bemused Harry, who had spent enough time with the dead Ravenclaw to know she was up to something. He leaned over and whispered, "All right. Where is she?"
Luna smiled. "A ghost."
Harry's eyes went wide. "But... why?!"
Luna shrugged. "Ask her." Then she disappeared to return to the world of the living.
Harry watched the chaos for a long moment, then followed Luna down. When he opened his eyes, he found that the Bloody Baron and Peeves stood on either side of a semi-transparent Ginny Weasley. Luna was doing cartwheels on the ceiling.
Harry took a moment to look this elder Ginny over. His best friend's sister had gotten thinner as the war progressed, it seemed, and her eyes were haunted with horrors only she knew. Her robes were slightly tattered and Harry could see a few minor wounds and bruises through the holes.
"Hey, Harry," Ginny whispered after a long moment of only Harry's breathing and Luna's happy cartwheels.
Harry closed his eyes against the vicious memory of him cursing her. "Why did you stay?"
Ginny wrapped her arms around herself. "Before they killed me, they removed the block on my memory of that night. They taunted me with the knowledge that you were rotting in Azkaban for a crime that wasn't yours. And, well, I owe you a life debt, remember? From my first year? I can't go on until I can pay you back for that."
Harry shook his head. "It doesn't matter."
"Yes it does! I wasn't strong enough to fight off Malfoy in the Department of Mysteries and now you're stuck here–"
"It's not that bad here!" Harry shot back.
Ginny bit her lip. "The Baron said you've been training and that you're really Dorcha. That you're behind the lessening in Voldemort's troops. But now you've stopped. Why?"
Harry stood and winced as his legs got a shot of pins and needles. "It's complicated."
"Tell me. It's not like I'm going anywhere," Ginny replied, seating herself in mid-air. Luna settled into the same position next to her. The Baron floated out of the room, but Peeves settled himself next to Luna, his face painted comically with curiosity.
Harry sighed and leaned back against the wall, feeling tired. "I'm tired of fighting," he offered, forcing his thoughts on the matter to organize into something that would make sense. "I'm tired of fighting for people who could care less if I lived or died, as long as they're safe. I'm tired of trying to please such a fickle public, where one moment I'm their knight in shining armour and the next I'm their scapegoat. It doesn't matter who I am, who I appear to be, it's always the same."
"Then what's the point of training?" Ginny asked once she was sure Harry had finished unloading.
Surprisingly, it was Peeves who answered, "Harry knows that as long as he lives, Moldy will be trying to kill him. And Harry isn't the sort to kill himself just to end the wait. He's training so that when Moldy finally does come for him, he can at least die knowing he tried. For himself, and those Moldy has killed. But not for the rest of the world."
Harry and Ginny gave the poltergeist incredulous looks while Luna tumbled over backwards, laughing.
Peeves smiled mischievously and zipped out of the room to, no doubt, irritate some dementors.
Ginny turned to Harry. "What have you been teaching him?"
Harry shrugged, just as thrown off balance by the poltergeist's words as she was.
Luna calmed herself and settled back into her spot next to Ginny. "You can't expect him to have lived though all these wars and not have picked up some understanding of human nature. Never mind that him being serious is almost as good a joke as tormenting dementors."
Harry rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "I'm beginning to think you're working together to drive me spare."
"Neither of them need help for that," Ginny teased, smiling.
Harry grimaced. "Good point."
The two girls fell backwards in giggles and proceeded to roll around in the air. Harry smiled faintly as he watched them, glad that the horrors they had all faced hadn't destroyed them completely.
The footsteps stopping in front of the cell froze both girls in the air. As one, the three occupants of the cell turned to see two gob-smacked Aurors standing at the door to the cell. Behind them, Peeves was floating with an evil smile on his face.
Harry groaned and covered his face with his hands. "Bloody hell."
Chapter 4: ...To Know Death
Chapter Four ~ ...To Know Death
The two Aurors weren't quite sure what to do with the scene of a fully aware Harry Potter sharing a cell with the laughing ghost of Ginevra Weasley. They probably would have continued to simply stare, but Ginny had different plans. She went right up to the bars of the cage and said, "Harry's innocent of the crimes laid against him. I was under the Imperius Curse when I testified and Harry was being possessed. His case needs to be reopened immediately," she demanded in her best adult voice.
One of the Aurors turned to the other and said, "Can ghosts testify?"
The Bloody Baron chose that moment to float into the cell. "Of course they can, though it's a rare thing. Ghosts are the best witnesses, since wizards among the living can't mess with their minds." He paused to stare at the two men while they stared back at him, mouths open. "Why aren't you contacting the Minister?" the Baron demanded when the two didn't move for almost a minute.
As one, the two Aurors fled.
Harry gave the three ghosts and the poltergeist a measuring look. "How long did you have this planned?"
"We didn't," the Baron replied coolly. "Peeves saw a chance to create mass chaos and went for it. I'm just here to make sure he doesn't go too overboard." Ginny and Luna nodded while Peeves cackled madly and spun around in the air.
Harry groaned and knocked his head back against the wall. "What am I going to do with you, Peeves?"
"Peevesy too much fun to pass on," Peeves offered, then cackled again and zoomed away.
Harry muttered some choice words under his breath.
Luna smiled. "Your mother says you need to watch your mouth. Ronald says you should probably go along with this for now and see where it goes. Hermione agrees and adds that if they turn on you again, you can just go have a vacation in America or Africa."
Harry sighed in defeat. "Alright, alright. I'll see this through."
Luna smiled while Ginny ran forward and gave Harry a chilly hug, which he didn't really mind.
The Baron drifted closer. "I lied a bit, by the way."
"Oh?" Harry cocked an eyebrow at the ghost who'd become something of a mentor in the past few months.
The Baron nodded. "Voldemort can still silence Ginevra if he has a Necromancer on his side who would be willing to exorcise her or order her to do their bidding."
Harry narrowed his eyes. Voldemort had dabbled in Necromancy, he knew, but the man didn't know much about ghosts, nor, really, did he care for them. He wouldn't put it past the snake-bastard to have learned how to exorcise ghosts just so he didn't have to deal with them in the older manors he stayed at. "Is there any way I, as a Necromancer, can keep that from happening?" he asked of the Baron, then turned to Luna to include her in the question. Luna's connection to death had been nowhere as impressive as Harry's when she'd been alive, but he usually trusted her to know more than she could have used.
The Baron shrugged – he had no clue – but Luna smiled. "You have to make her yours. It's a quick ritual that, using your magic and blood, binds her spirit to you until such a time as you deem fit to let her go."
Harry nodded. "Baron, can you play look-out? Maybe get Peeves involved? I want this done now."
The Baron nodded. "I will watch for them and use Peeves as a distraction if needed. How long will you require?"
Luna frowned thoughtfully. "Give us seven minutes. The ritual should only take five, but..."
The Baron smiled coldly. "I understand. You have seven minutes." Then he floated from the cell.
Harry turned to Luna. "Tell me what to do."
Luna swallowed and glanced at Ginny. The corporeal ghost looked just as determined as Harry did. "Right. Harry, conjure a knife or find something sharp and outline a quick circle in your blood. Ginny, you need to stand inside that circle." Harry and Ginny both moved quickly to do as the dead Necromancer said. Once done with the circle, Harry turned back to Luna. The girl took a deep breath, then said, "We don't have time to teach you the runes you need to add to the circle or the words you need to chant. May I join with you to help you? It's kind of a form of possession..."
Harry looked at Ginny, who floated nervously in the circle. Taking a fortifying breath, he nodded to Luna. "Do it."
Luna floated over and lined her body up with Harry's. After a moment, Harry felt her reaching for the control of his body and, with a mental grimace, handed it over. If anyone other than Luna had asked this of him, he probably would have turned them down flat. But Luna had never proven herself to be unworthy of his trust.
Harry felt the same detachment as five years ago as he watched Luna make runes in his blood on the outside of the blood circle. After a moment, he felt his hands return to him and realized that he would have to cast the magic himself or Ginny wouldn't be tied to him. Possession only let you use the hosts' magic to a certain extent. If Luna had done the casting, even with Harry's body, the spell would recognize the magic as belonging to Luna. It was complicated, but made some sort of twisted sense to someone, Harry was sure.
Luna ran him quickly though a mental 'How to' of the hand movements he would need to make – at least the ritual didn't require a wand and Harry's minor wandless abilities would suffice. Once he was certain he had the movements down, he gave a mental nod. Luna started chanting while he moved his hand in the correct pattern and focused his magic to connect with Ginny.
Almost four solid minutes of spell casting later, Harry felt control over his whole body return. Not wasting any time, he cast a wandless and imperfect spell to clean up the blood circle, then cast another to ensure it was as gone as he could make it. Then he knelt next to where Ginny was leaning over painfully. "Are you okay?"
Ginny glanced up and him and smiled. "Yeah. Give me a moment."
Harry nodded and settled himself on the floor next to her, hoping they looked like they were merely talking to anyone who might stop outside the cell. Luna floated off to tell the Baron that he could let the Aurors over.
Ginny had regained her composure by the time the two Aurors and the Baron returned with Minister Scrimgeour and Dumbledore. Neither of the two powerful men looked pleased to be there, and Dumbledore kept shooting the Bloody Baron suspicious looks.
Ginny floated up and over to the cell door while Harry stood and took up a leaning position against the wall with a blank look on his face. Ginny smiled faintly at the group on the other side of the cage. "Headmaster, Minister."
"Miss Weasley," Dumbledore replied, eyes darting over to Harry. "May I ask why you didn't pass on with the rest of your family?"
"More-so, why you would wish to defend your torturer?" Scrimgeour added harshly.
Ginny frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. "Harry didn't torture me, Voldemort did. He possessed Harry with some help from Umbridge and Malfoy and made him kill Luna and Ron and Hermione and then torture me."
Dumbledore shot Harry a considering look even as Scrimgeour said, "You testified differently at the trial."
"Does the Imperius Curse ring any bells?" Ginny hissed, her Weasley temper coming to bear as her patience ran out.
Harry pushed himself off the wall and moved easily over to the bars. "Ginny, calm down. Losing your temper won't help anyone."
Ginny huffed. "Not my fault they're idiots."
Harry's lips twitched. "No, I suppose not." The Baron smirked proudly while the two Aurors gaped at Harry like he'd just grown another head and Scrimgeour blinked at the two in the cell dumbly.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Mr Potter, is this true?"
Harry gave the old wizard a quick once-over, then nodded. "What Ginny says is true. Umbridge hit me with something on our way into the forest that night and when Malfoy – Lucius, to clarify – said the trigger phrase, Voldemort had himself a free pass into my head and took control."
"Why would You-Know-Who want you to kill your friends?" one of the Aurors asked.
Realization hit Dumbledore like a sledgehammer. "The prophecy..."
" 'One must die at the hand of the other'," Harry agreed, his eyes dark. When Dumbledore looked surprised, he added, "Oh, I know the whole thing. Voldemort gave Lucius the prophecy sphere so it could be passed on to him. He was quite happy to share the bloody thing with me as I sat rotting here in Azkaban."
"Between the visions and the dementors and Harry thinking it was all his fault, it's no wonder he went a little insane," Luna muttered from behind Dumbledore.
"Oh, Harry...." Ginny whispered tearfully even as Harry shot Luna a silencing look.
"Getting Potter out of the way was in Voldemort's best interest," the Bloody Baron growled, coming around to stand next to Harry. "Everyone knows how badly the dementors affect him, and if he dies here, it only means that Voldemort wins."
Ginny wiped at silvery tears. "Even when Harry had his wand pointed at us in the Department of Mysteries we knew that he would never hurt one of us. No matter how moody or angry he got, he would never have acted so cold to us. We're family. We – Luna, Ron, Hermione, Neville and I – knew that back then and we tried to help him, but we couldn't. We were just kids. Sirius and Professor Lupin never stopped believing in Harry, and they didn’t know Harry half as well as my family or you, Headmaster. Harry says my family was too close to the tragedy to look past the surface, but what's your excuse?"
"Ginny..." Harry sighed and met the tired eyes of Albus Dumbledore, then looked over at the grim-faced Scrimgeour. "Look. Ginny can't move on until I'm free of Azkaban – the danger of owing me a life-debt, I suppose. I don't care myself, whether I'm in or out – the public is a fickle creature and at least here I'm mostly at peace and safe from Voldemort – but Ginny's eternal soul, as it were, rests on my freedom. I've hurt her enough in her life; if you won't let me out the easy way, then I'll find another way out."
"We'll just capture you again," one of the Aurors said haughtily.
Harry turned chilled green eyes on the Auror. "You're in the middle of a war, idiot. If I escape, the last thing you'll be worrying about is hunting me down."
"Actually," the Baron commented cheerfully, "if you were to escape, Voldemort would probably focus on finding and killing you, rather than demolishing the wizarding world."
"Delightful," Harry shot back dryly. "Make sure they write on my tombstone that I was just a way to get Voldemort side-tracked, won't you?"
"I'll do my best," the Baron agreed with a sombre expression.
Harry rolled his eyes
Scrimgeour cleared his throat and everyone looked at him. "Mr Potter, I will have your case re-opened in light of conflicting evidence. Expect to be moved to Auror Headquarters within the next twenty-four hours."
"Surely we can move him now?" Dumbledore asked, eyes twinkling.
"Headquarters would go ballistic," Scrimgeour replied. "Twenty-four hours."
Harry shrugged. "Time is of no importance to me," he said. "I've already been in here for five years; what's another day? I'm going to take a nap." He turned and walked over to the small pile of rags that acted as his bed and laid down on it.
It took the crowd outside his cell a while to disperse. The Baron got bored with all the staring after a while and floated off to find Peeves while Ginny and Luna glanced at each other, then floated over to take up guard positions next to their living friend.
As soon as the other living people were gone, Harry sat up and looked to where Peeves and the Baron were slipping into the cell. "Peeves? Could you see that my trunk makes its way to somewhere safe?"
"Peevesy on it," Peeves said with a salute, then left.
Harry nodded to the Baron. "Could you let Sir Nick know what's happening and have him inform Remus and Sirius?"
"I will. Then I will return here to help keep an eye on you and Miss Weasley. Don't fall asleep until I return."
"Right." As the Baron left, Harry turned to Ginny and Luna with a tired smile. "So, heard any good jokes lately?"
Harry Potter, the Aurors of the Ministry soon found out, had a strange tendency to attract the attention and companionship of ghosts. By the time of his trial, he'd attracted not only the two Hogwarts House ghosts, the poltergeist and Ginny Weasley, but also another six ghosts that had either been haunting Azkaban or the Auror Headquarters. Since more than one of the gathered ghosts was known to be violent towards anyone that approached it, the Aurors were quite worried about approaching the Ministry cell that Harry had been moved to four hours after Scrimgeour had left Azkaban.
Tonks, unlike her fellow Aurors, wasn't particularly afraid of the ghosts, so she approached the cell calmly. "Wotcher, Harry. Ginny."
"Tonks!" Ginny called happily and moved to hug her Auror friend before remembering she was a ghost and touching Tonks would only make the other witch cold.
Harry and the old dead Auror he'd been talking to watched as Tonks' smile turned sad when faced with Ginny. "At least they can't hurt you any more, right?" the metamorphmagus said.
Ginny's smile turned sad as well. "Physically, no. Emotionally?" She glanced back at Harry.
Harry sighed and walked over to the bars of his new cell. "What can I do for you, Tonks?"
"Well, mate, you could ask all your ghost friends to leave or simply file into the courtroom in an orderly fashion. The other Aurors are shaking in their boots at the sight of so many ghosts," Tonks reported in a professional voice.
Harry blinked, then turned back to his various dead followers. "You heard her. Shoo!"
The ghosts fled like a flock of birds startled into flight. Sir Nick half-dragged the Baron out of the cell and towards the courtroom with a wave good-bye. Peeves gleefully bounced next to Harry, Ginny and the mostly invisible Luna while Tonks shook her head in amusement.
"Teach me that trick, Harry?" Tonks asked.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know how I do it, I just do. Peeves, remember to behave yourself in the courtroom."
Peeves turned upside-down in mid air. "Peevesy not be causing trouble in the courtroom. Promise," he said with a touch of seriousness that left Tonks staring.
Harry merely nodded. "Good. Keep it that way. Are you coming in with us, or going to sit with the Baron?"
"Peevesy stay with Potty and Weaslet."
Harry shrugged again and smiled at Tonks. "Lead on, ma'am."
Tonks made a face, but unlocked his cell and let him out of the room and down to the courtrooms. On the way, several Aurors fell in beside or behind the strange party.
Once in the courtroom, Harry calmly settled himself in the chair in the centre of the room and said nothing as the chains sprang to life around his arms. Tonks offered him an apologetic look and he shrugged in return. He was still considered a dangerous criminal until he was proven innocent in the court.
Luna floated up next to Harry's chair. "Two newer Death Eaters are here with a Necromancer. The Necromancer is weaker with ghosts than you are; her speciality is summonings. If she makes a try for Ginny, we'll be fine."
Harry nodded and bowed his head to better hide his whispered response from anyone watching him. "Can she see you? And will any of the other ghosts have trouble with her?"
"She can only see me if I try very hard to let her. As for the others? Those here are keeping an eye on her, but she shouldn't try anything against them unless they try and help you in the trial, and she's not strong enough for Peeves."
Harry nodded and returned to the trial when Scrimgeour called for attention.
The trial was almost as much a sham as Harry's original one. Most of the members of the Wizengamot had decided previous to the trial that Harry was innocent – the simple fact that Ginny had refused to pass on was proof of that – and all but one of the rest had voted for Harry's innocence by the end. The one who didn't was Dolores Umbridge, and Ginny's claims that the woman was part of the plot to put Harry in Azkaban pretty much nullified her right to vote, pending her own trial.
Twice during the trial, Harry felt Death magic aimed at Ginny. It was weaker than his own, so the magic simply bounced off the ghost, but Ginny winced every time it happened and Luna tensed each time the Necromancer shifted.
Once freed of the chains, Harry stood and met the other Necromancer's eyes coldly. The woman was small and pale, with greying hair, pale blue eyes and more wrinkles than Dumbledore. She shivered when she met Harry's gaze, then inclined her head, wordlessly admitting her defeat. Harry nodded in reply, then followed Tonks out of the courtroom. He didn't like that the woman had been there to send Ginny on, but he could respect the woman's talents. She also didn't have the Dark Mark, which likely meant she had just been hired at the last minute.
Once all his papers had been filed with the Ministry and he was once again a normal citizen, Harry headed to the atrium to leave. Waiting for him by the elevators was Dumbledore, with his eyes twinkling. Beyond him, Remus and Sirius stood, watching the old man warily.
Harry stopped in front of the man, his group of Hogwarts ghosts, Peeves, Luna and Ginny fanning out around him with varying degrees of frowns marring their faces. "What can I do for you, Professor?" Harry asked the old wizard evenly.
Dumbledore smiled. "I was wondering if you were interested in returning to Hogwarts to complete your education, my dear boy?"
Harry frowned. "Is that even allowed?"
"There's nothing in the rules that say you can't return," Dumbledore replied cheerfully. "And it would be wrong of me to leave you to face Tom with an incomplete education."
Harry sneered. "You should have thought about that before you let them sentence me to Azkaban, sir," he spat. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to live with people who believed in me the entire time." He pushed passed the older wizard and stepped easily over to where Remus and Sirius were.
Sirius immediately enveloped Harry in a hug while Remus ruffled the young man's hair. "Oh, Prongslet, I'm so glad you're finally out of there!"
"Thanks, Sirius. Remus." Harry slipped out of Sirius' embrace. "You're sure it's okay if I stay at your place?"
"James and Lily would never forgive us if we left you on your own after five years in Azkaban," Sirius replied vehemently.
"Quite true," Luna agreed.
Harry smiled. "Let's go, then. The ghosts will catch up in their own time, I'm sure."
The Baron and Sir Nick nodded agreement to the statement, while Ginny smiled and Peeves cackled. Luna shrugged. "Ginny and I are tied to you. We'll probably join you immediately."
Harry nodded, seemingly to himself, and allowed Sirius to side-along apparate him to the cottage he and Remus shared in the woods. As Luna and Ginny appeared next to them, Sirius opened his arms wide and said, "Welcome to Cottage Freedom."
Harry couldn't help but laugh at that.
Chapter 5: ...To Touch Freedom
Chapter Five ~ ...To Touch Freedom
Cottage Freedom, as Sirius had named the place after his own trial, was a small, one-story, wooden building that had as many enchantments and wards as the Ministry building. The house wasn't up to Azkaban's standards, but Harry hardly cared. After all, it wasn't a bare cell with dementors floating just out of reach. Better, it had a shower, which Harry gladly took advantage of.
Sirius lent him a slightly too big set of robes and pants, so he tossed his old rags out and returned to the kitchen feeling a hundred times better about the world. Remus was cooking up a quick meal of pasta with sauce and some bread while Sirius and Peeves connected at the table. Luna added to the fun by making faces behind Sirius, which sent both Peeves and Ginny into gales of laughter for no clear reason. The Baron floated near the wall, eyeing the proceedings with a part amused, part irritated expression on his face.
The Baron turned to Harry as the Necromancer stepped up next to him. "Sir Nicholas went back to Hogwarts."
Harry nodded, smiling as Luna put her head through Sirius' chest and stuck her tongue out at Peeves. "I'd expected as much. You're staying with me?"
"I intend to, yes. The other ghosts are keeping an eye on the Slytherins and I'd feel better keeping an eye on Peeves myself, even though he listens to you."
"Thank you," Harry replied. He'd come to enjoy the Slytherin's company during his time in Azkaban, and wasn't sure how he'd feel if the ghost had chosen to return to Hogwarts. "Will you and Peeves get my trunk tonight?"
"We will. Will you be telling the men about your recent activities?"
Harry sighed and tugged on a lock of hair that brushed his shoulders. "I'll tell them about my being a Necromancer, if only to explain why so many ghosts are attracted to me, and about being an animagus. I'll probably mention my Marauder name and let them figure that out themselves."
The Baron nodded. "Very good. Make sure you also warn them about your blood, though."
Harry winced. "Good point. We should probably purchase a few bezoars, just in case."
Luna made motions towards Harry and both Ginny and Peeves turned to look at him with smiles. Sirius turned also and grinned. "Hey. You look better. Why don't you leave Mr Stoic to his glaring contest with the table and join us?"
Harry gave the Baron a curious look. "Who's winning?"
The Baron sneered. "It was a draw. Sit."
Harry grinned and sat amongst the laughter of his friends. "How much longer, Remus?"
Remus smiled over his shoulder. "About another minute. Sirius, why don't you set the table."
Sirius grumbled good-naturedly and got up to do as he'd been told. Peeves looked about ready to 'help', but glares from both Harry and the Baron had him slinking down in his chair.
Harry turned to Ginny and quietly said, "Do you want me to release you now?"
Ginny shook her head firmly. "I'm staying with you, Harry."
Harry blinked. "But, your family..."
"Can wait. And we can communicate through Luna, anyway. I'm staying and helping you – you're family too," Ginny replied as Luna came over to float next to her friend.
Harry smiled in understanding. "Of course. Do you want to stay bound to me, or free to cause mayhem elsewhere?"
Ginny shrugged. "I'm safer if I stay bound to you. If there's a way to lengthen the reach of the bond, go for it. If not, I'm fine staying near you."
Harry glanced curiously at Luna. "The longer the bond is in effect, the farther apart you two should be able to go, I'm pretty sure. Will you tell them?" she finished, nodding her head at where Sirius was pestering Remus for some bread.
Harry nodded. "A few things. I'll have to mention being a Necromancer, if only to explain why ghosts keep following me around," he said. "And about my blood, so they're prepared just in case. And I'll mention my panther form and my Marauder name and see what they get from that."
"But not about being a metamorph?" Ginny asked, frowning.
"Let them figure that one out themselves," the Baron suggested as he joined their huddle. Peeves had also floated over. "Peeves and I will go get your trunk now and leave it in your room. If you need us, summon us."
Harry nodded. "Right. Safe trip."
Peeves saluted Harry, then zoomed from the house after the Baron, cackling. Remus and Sirius stepped over to the table and Remus served dinner while Sirius retook his seat next to Harry. "What was that all about?"
"They're getting something for me," Harry offered with a shrug. "This looks wonderful, Remus."
"Thank you, cub," Remus replied as he settled into his own seat. "I'm surprised by how well Peeves is behaving himself," he added as Sirius attacked his dinner.
Harry rolled his eyes at his godfather and traded amused looks with Remus. "Peeves tends to do his own thing most of the time, but the Baron is good about keeping him in line."
"Just the Baron?" Remus inquired.
"Stop fishing, Moony," Sirius muttered around some bread. "Harry'll tell us what he wants to tell us when he wants to tell us."
Harry blinked while Remus sighed and Ginny and Luna both laughed. "Sorry, Harry," the werewolf offered.
Harry shook his head. "No, it's okay, Remus. Peeves listens to me too because I'm a Necromancer."
Sirius' fork hit the edge of his plate and clattered to the floor. He quickly bent to retrieve it while Remus nodded. "That makes sense. It also explains why the ghosts like to spend time around you."
"Does that mean you're going to create an army of inferi?" Sirius asked with a blank expression, placing his retrieved fork down on his plate carefully.
Harry shuddered. "Merlin, no! I'm not sure I could, anyway."
"Harry's not your average Necromancer," Ginny interrupted. "According to Luna – who's here, by the way, but only Harry and other ghosts can see her – Harry's talents in Necromancy lay solely in the realm of the calling, manipulating and sending on of ghosts. He'd have the same problems non-Necromancers have with summoning demons and creating inferi, and he can no more speak to the dementors than you can, though he does have an immunity to them."
Sirius rubbed at his face angrily and Remus offered Harry a sad smile. "It's okay, cub. Andromeda and Ted Tonks, Nymphadora's parents, got killed by inferi right before Hallowe'en."
Harry felt like someone had punched him. "But, I saw Tonks today..."
"She's trying to keep it from affecting her," Sirius offered, then offered Harry an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, Harry. I know you'd never do something like that."
"Not against friends, but it's tempting to see if I could set a horde on Voldemort and his people," Harry replied, wondering who had created those inferi and if he should kill them. According to Hermione, Tonks had believed Sirius and Remus when they claimed that Harry would never kill his friends willingly, though she wasn't as public about it as Remus was, since she needed her job.
"Don't," Remus said. "Let the dead rest in peace."
"Your mother says that if you create any inferi, she'll find her own way back to this world to smack some sense into you," Luna offered matter-of-factly.
"Tell Mum she doesn't have to go to those lengths. I won't try it," Harry told Luna, then smiled at the startled looks on Remus and Sirius' faces. "Luna's what we like to call a ghost of a ghost – someone who's passed on, but was brought back down as a spirit by a Necromancer – but because she was a Necromancer when she was alive, she's able to stay here with me and communicate with everyone on the other side. Mum, Dad, Hermione and all the other Weasleys can communicate with me through her. Sometimes, others who have died send their hellos through Luna, but only my family – and I include the Weasleys and Hermione in that – stays in constant contact."
Ginny offered him a watery smile. "I'm glad."
Sirius, on the other hand, smiled evilly. "Oiy, Prongs, you bloody prat! What were you thinking, leaving me with this crazy kid of yours and a bloody werewolf?" Everyone laughed while Remus kicked Sirius under the table.
Once the laughter had subsided, Remus gave Harry a curious look. "So, I know dementors had affected you pretty badly before. When did this all change?"
Harry rubbed at his chin. "I came into my inheritance on my eighteenth birthday. It was rather effective in knocking me back to the world of the sane and living. Before that, I was mostly catatonic."
"Oh, Harry..." Sirius whispered, eyes haunted. Godfather and godson shared a moment of shared understanding. Sirius had been in Azkaban twice as long, but Harry had suffered more without the knowledge of his innocence or an animagus form.
Harry glanced over at Remus, who looked worn. "After I woke up, you two came. And you told me you believed in me. I had honestly believed that I was at fault for my friends' deaths. I mean, I can throw off the Imperius, why couldn't I get my body's control back from Voldemort? But you two believed in me, and that made me want to live again. It wasn't until I accidentally ended up in the realm of the dead that I found out that Umbridge had cursed me to make me more susceptible to Voldemort's possession."
Remus had stood and walked around the table to hug Harry awkwardly while the young man spoke. "I'm glad, then, that Sirius and I pushed Dumbledore enough that he finally allowed us to visit you."
"Me too," Sirius agreed, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder and squeezing it. "More that it was the same day you woke."
Harry smiled at the two and leaned his head against Remus. "The connection between Voldemort and me was open still, so I borrowed some of his knowledge and found out what I got. I'm a Parselmouth – which we knew – an animagus – my form is a panther – a Necromancer and my blood is highly poisonous."
"How did that happen?" Sirius asked, eyes wide.
"When Harry came to save me in the Chamber of Secrets," Ginny offered, "he had to fight a basilisk. It bit him, but Fawkes healed the wound. We think that's why."
Harry nodded. "The tooth hit bone, so I think the poison mixed in with my bone marrow, which meant that newer blood cells contained some of the basilisk poison." Harry grimaced. "Or, well, that's Hermione's theory. Once Luna explained it to me a little more, it made sense."
"If you say so," Sirius replied, then smiled through the laughter at his expense. "So, I suppose I can't really call you Prongslet, any more. Did you decide on a Marauder name for yourself while you were stuck in Azkaban?" he asked as Remus returned to his seat.
Harry's eyes fairly twinkled. "Yeah. We all decided on Dorcha."
Sirius' fork hit the floor again while he and Remus gaped at the amused Harry. Peeves chose that moment to bounce into the room and offer Harry his custom-made waterberry wood and runespoor tongue wand. "Potty's wand!"
Harry took the wand and the accompanying holster, which he attached to his right forearm. After briefly checking the wand over for any damage, he put it away and offered Peeves a smile. "Thank you."
Peeves bowed, then tumbled himself in the air a few times. The Baron, who came in behind the poltergeist, sneered at the spinning form, but didn't say anything.
Sirius coughed. "Dorcha, huh? Well that's....interesting..."
Remus shook his head. "Where'd you get that wand? It doesn't look like it's from Ollivander's."
Harry's smile was a touch mischievous. "No. I got it from a wandmaker in Africa."
Sirius leaned over and picked his spoon up again. "Well, at least that's one thing we no longer need to get you."
Harry shrugged. "I have a trunk, too."
Remus ran a hand over his face. "You know the Ministry wants your alter-ego dead, right?"
"I might have heard that somewhere, yes," Harry agreed. "A large portion of the public also seems to think that Dorcha's dead."
"What happened, by the way?" Sirius asked, curiosity written all over his face. "If the Ministry knows, they're not saying."
Harry sighed. "Carrow had a silent alarm intended to trip as soon as someone stepped onto his property that I missed. He was waiting for me when I got inside. We duelled and I just barely won. Honestly, if I hadn't been teaching myself things from Voldemort's mind, I probably would have been killed. That and Luna playing spotter for me. It took me a while to get back on my feet, and by then I didn't really care if Voldemort and his people took the Ministry by storm or whatever."
"Are you going to start being Dorcha again?" Sirius asked.
Harry shrugged. "Dunno. In some respects, if I send them in one or two at a time now, then when I have to face Voldemort on the battlefield he won't have as much back-up. On the other hand, if I start sending them in again, there may just be a manhunt for my head."
"I highly doubt they will ever catch you unless you want them to," the Baron huffed. "All they know about Dorcha is that he's African, doesn't like Death Eaters, somehow has inside information on all the Death Eaters and isn't afraid to use some Dark spells when needed."
"Yeah," Sirius agreed. "The whole being an African wizard with a wand that's not registered in Britain thing is throwing them off. They questioned Kingsley at one point, but he's almost always had an alibi, and he never expects the Death Eaters to be coming."
"The voice is too different for it to be Kingsley, anyway. Voice-based spells can only change so much," Remus added. "We should probably get you a wand that's registered in Britain, anyway, just so you have one that you can use in public."
Harry glanced over at the Baron. "You said one of my other wands was registered here?"
The Baron nodded. "The oak one."
"Peevesy get it!" Peeves shouted, then zoomed from the room.
"Alright, how many wands have you got?" Sirius said, half exasperated, half amused.
"Three. This one," Harry said, holding up his right arm, "is made of waterberry wood and runespoor tongue and is a custom wand. The oak wand has the heartstring of a hebridean black. My last wand is white poplar with an augurey feather. Peeves and the Baron got me the other two wands."
"And the other two work for you?" Remus asked as Peeves came back with the requested wand.
Harry switched his waterberry wand to his left arm and strapped the oak one to his right arm after checking it over. "This one," he said, holding up the oak wand, which shot off some black sparks, "works, but is the worst of the four wands I've had. The white poplar is about as effective as my old holly wand was. Neither of them have anything on the custom wand, though."
Remus nodded. "Okay. So you don't need a wand, and you have a trunk. We need to get you some clothes – Sirius' are just too big for you, and mine likely are as well. Anything else?"
"Bezoars," Harry said seriously. "I want both of you to carry at least one, and I'll have some as well. While my blood isn't dangerous to touch, if someone accidentally swallows some or it gets into an open wound on them, it'll poison them. I may not like the general public, but I refuse to go around accidentally killing people because they tried to help me when I was wounded."
Remus nodded and summoned a scroll and a quill. "Okay. Robes and underclothes. Also, bezoars, at least one for each of us."
Harry tapped his chin. "What happened to my old stuff?"
Sirius' face turned grim. "Most of it was destroyed, and your wand was snapped. Remus and I managed to save your broom and cloak, and Dumbledore kept the Map after we showed him how to work it."
"My family took care of Hedwig – I think she got killed in the attack, though. Your old books, I'm pretty sure, were sent to the used bookshop in Diagon while your potions stuff was added to the school's supplies," Ginny offered. "And I know for a fact that your photo album wasn't in the pile of stuff that was destroyed, but I don't know where it went."
Harry glanced questioningly at Luna, but the ghost shook her head. "None of us were paying much attention to what they did with your stuff, sorry. Do you know who might have kept it? One of the others could try and check."
"Uhm.... Hagrid, maybe? He's the one who gave it to me. But, wait. He was killed last year, wasn't he?"
"Yeah, he was," Sirius answered glumly.
Harry nodded. "Have someone ask him. At the very least, he might know who does have it."
"Ron and Hermione are going to check," Luna replied.
Harry turned back to Remus and Sirius. "Ron an Hermione are going to check with Hagrid. Dumbledore can keep the Map – it's more useful at Hogwarts. Thanks for saving my broom and cloak, though." He smiled.
"We knew what the cloak meant to you," Remus offered. "And Sirius refused to let them destroy such a great broom. Since he gave it to you to begin with, he demanded it be returned to him and not destroyed. The broom is in the closet down the hall with Sirius and my brooms. Your cloak should be in your room somewhere."
"Hagrid says he claimed the photo album," Luna reported. "But he doesn't know what happened to it after he died, beyond that he asked that Dumbledore make sure you got it back. It might still be in his cabin, or the Headmaster could have it."
"Peeves and I can return to the school and try to find it for you," the Baron offered evenly. "If it's not in the cabin, we can ask the Headmaster."
"That would be great. Thanks," Harry replied. The Baron inclined his head while Peeves literally bounced off the walls with a cackle.
"Does he eventually get quiet?" Sirius inquired with a grin as Remus got up an collected their empty dishes.
"Rarely," Harry said dryly. "Usually, I send him off to pester the other prisoners or the dementors so I can sleep."
"This should be fun," Sirius decided, earning him an exasperated look from Remus and an 'are you insane' look from Harry. Ginny and Luna laughed while the Baron rolled his eyes.
The next day found the three Marauders – Sirius and Remus had agreed that Harry had earned the title – and the two female ghosts in Diagon Alley, taking care of Harry's vault and getting the things on Remus' list. Even after three months, Sirius earned a few nervous looks from the few people out and about. Harry, himself, earned his fair share of startled looks, despite his freedom being rather publicly announced. The public was fickle indeed.
After getting everything on their list, the group apparated to the edge of the Hogwarts wards, then started on their way up to the castle. Dumbledore had, in fact, kept possession of Harry's photo album after Hagrid died. However, when the Bloody Baron had asked if he and Peeves could have it so it could be returned to Harry, the Headmaster had said that Harry would have to come get it himself. So Harry decided they would make a side trip to the castle at about lunchtime.
As they approached the castle, various castle ghosts came out to greet them, including the Baron, Sir Nick and Peeves. Peeves was overjoyed when Harry agreed that he could follow them into the Great Hall – he wasn't allowed in the Great Hall unless invited by one of the professors, who made a habit to never do so. Harry was no professor, but his Necromancy gift nullified the spells that kept Peeves out.
So it was that mid-way through lunch, the main doors of the Hall burst open and Harry led the way in, with Remus, Sirius, Ginny, Luna and Peeves filing in behind him. Most of the ghosts he'd met on the way had dispersed back into the castle, but a few slipped into the Hall behind the unusual party.
Harry calmly made his way up to the Head table, where Dumbledore had risen to his feet with a welcoming smile. Everyone else in the Hall had varying degrees of shock on their faces and no one made a sound, except Peeves, who cackled madly as he bounced along after Harry.
McGonagall spoke just before Harry got to the Head table. "What is Peeves doing in here?"
"Peevesy was invited," Peeves informed her, then blew her a raspberry.
"Peeves, behave," Harry ordered, meeting Dumbledore's twinkling eyes coldly. "I would like my photo album, Headmaster."
Dumbledore inclined his head. "Of course, my dear boy. But wouldn't you like to join us for lunch first?"
"I'd sooner return to Azkaban," Harry snapped back. "And I'm not a boy, let alone your dear one. I'm only here for my photo album."
"It appears not even Azkaban could teach you to respect your betters, could it, Potter?" Snape sneered.
"On the contrary, Snivellus, it taught me who my betters were," Harry shot back with his own sneer.
Snape's eyes narrowed and he looked about ready to return with an insult, but Dumbledore cut in with, "Now, boys..." which earned him two sneers.
"My photo album, Headmaster," Harry said tightly, trying to get a grip on his temper. Snape always seemed to rub him the wrong way.
Dumbledore sighed, looking decades older. "Of course, Harry. It's up in my office." Harry nodded and motioned for the Headmaster to lead the way. Dumbledore walked around the table and led Harry and his group from the Hall, which broke into loud chatter as soon as they were out of sight.
Once in his office, Dumbledore pulled Harry's photo album out of his desk and handed it over. "Hagrid insisted we not destroy it, so you had something to remember the good times with when you got out of Azkaban. He never came out and said it, but I do believe he, too, always thought you were innocent. In his will, he asked that I keep this for you and that I make sure you know that he always remembered his best student."
Harry bit his lip hard and took his album. "Thank you, sir," he whispered. Next to him, Sirius settled a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it.
Dumbledore settled into his chair with a groan and folded his hands in front of his mouth. "Harry, for what it's worth, I'm sorry. I should have known better than to believe that you would turn on your friends."
Harry tightened his grip on his photo album. "Perhaps, sir, if you'd cared to spend time with me that year, instead of pushing me away, none of this would have ever happened."
"Perhaps," Dumbledore agreed. "I had hoped that if I distanced myself from you, that Tom would be unable to use you against me, or me against you."
"It worked masterfully," Harry replied sarcastically.
Dumbledore bowed his head silently.
Harry sighed and glanced down at his album, unsure how to act towards this side of the great wizard. "If that's all, Headmaster?"
Dumbledore nodded and glanced back up. "You are welcome to attend Order meetings. We hold them every Friday at six in the old headquarters. Sirius and Remus are often there."
"We shall see," Harry replied, then turned and led the way from the office and out of the school. He paused at the sight of Hagrid's empty hut and said, "Whatever happened to Fang? And Grawp?"
"Fang died a few weeks after Hagrid for no clear reason beyond missing him," Remus reported gently. "Grawp was killed in the same battle as Hagrid."
Harry clenched his eyes shut against tears. Slowly but surely, Voldemort destroyed everything good in the world. And Harry was the only one who could kill him. He opened his eyes, feeling determined. "I think it's time Dorcha proved that no Death Eater can do him in," he said firmly.
Remus, Ginny and Luna smiled while Sirius whooped and Peeves cackled madly, earning the group odd looks from the students who were stepping from the school to go play quidditch or avoid homework.
Chapter 6: ...To Have Morals
Chapter Six ~ ...To Have Morals
Saturday night, the four Aurors on duty were startled out of their idle conversation when three stunned Death Eaters appeared in the middle of the floor with a note and a tape recorder. They all traded surprised looks, unsure what to do. They, too, had believed Dorcha to be dead.
The senior Auror on duty, Kingsley Shacklebolt, chose that moment to come back from using the bathroom and, after blinking in surprise, picked up the note and read it with a laugh.
Susan Bones, the youngest Auror on that shift, cleared her throat and said, "What's it say, Kingsley?"
Kingsley grinned widely. "Dorcha says, 'As you lazy bums can see, I'm not, in fact, dead. I fully intended to let you chaps flail through the rest of this war yourselves, but a couple of mates of mine reminded me of some of my friends who'd died fighting for England, so I took my wand up again and hunted me some Shit Munchers for dinner. I'm told they taste excellent with mustard, but my stomach's a bit iffy when it comes to skinning my own food. Alas. Well, they're all yours, chaps. Let me know if they really taste good with mustard.' "
The three Death Eaters woke to laughter. Kingsley leaned over and smiled at all of them, while the other Aurors laughed. "Welcome to Auror Headquarters, gentlemen. Would you prefer to be rare or well-done?"
The Death Eaters could do nothing more than stare while the five Aurors laughed.
'written by Jenny Richards
'Three Death Eaters showed up in Auror Headquarters last night, with a
mocking letter and a muggle tape recorder, Dorcha's calling card. When
the tape was played, Aurors concluded that the sender was, in fact, the
infamous Dorcha, and the three Death Eaters' description of their captor
matched previous descriptions of Dorcha.
'Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour has said that his reward for the
capture of the unknown African wizard still stands at one thousand galleons.
'Senior Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt, however, commented, "Dorcha is probably
the only witch or wizard constantly able to capture and drag evidence out of
Death Eaters. We shouldn't be trying to capture Dorcha, we should be
thanking him and offering him medals. Dorcha has done more for this war than
the entire Auror squad put together."
'Surprisingly, Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, in inclined to
agree with Senior Auror Shacklebolt over Minister Scrimgeour. Dumbledore
said, "Dorcha is paving the way for fellow witches and wizards everywhere.
This war is not just between the Ministry and [You-Know-Who]; it is between
every witch and wizard in Britain. That we need a wizard from Africa to show
us this is shameful. Fear is no excuse for letting our future be destroyed."
'While the war over what to do with Dorcha continues, the African wizard
continues to prove that no price on his head will deter him from fighting for
'May Merlin guide him safely.'
Sirius set the paper down after he'd finished reading the article with a grin. "Well, Dorcha, looks like you've got fans among the Aurors."
Harry grinned back. "It's nice to know that the Ministry isn't totally corrupt, I suppose," he joked, waving a forkful of eggs around. "I'm a little sad they didn't say if the Death Eaters tasted good with mustard, though."
Remus snorted from across the table. "I'm not sure I want to know, myself."
"Moony prefers them fresh, with no condiments," Sirius teased. Remus kicked him under the table while Harry snickered. "You going out again tonight?"
"Hmm... Don't really know. I have a few more Death Eaters that I have things to threaten with, but I don't know if I want to hit them now, or wait until I got things on some others."
Ginny floated into the room with a smile. "Morning. What madness is in the paper?"
"Here." Remus took the paper from where Sirius had folded it up on the table and laid it out for Ginny to read.
Ginny read it over quickly while the three wizards finished their breakfasts. When she finished, she snorted. "Impressive. Reporters actually seems to like this version of you, Harry."
"Didn't you know? Black is in this year," Remus joked.
"Nah. It's the accent," Sirius disagreed.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Harry, are you going after Bellatrix any time soon? Umbridge is already caught and Malfoy's in hiding as far as anyone can tell."
Harry sighed. "None of Voldemort's Inner Circle are easy to get to. They're usually near him. Now, if I could catch them on a raid, I'd go for it in a heartbeat."
"But if you try for one of them on a raid, someone's bound to try and take you out while you're at it," Remus commented. "Especially with this price on your head."
"Don't I know it. I really want to get Bellatrix and Lucius, though. It's those two and Umbridge that helped kill Hermione, Ron and Luna and make Neville insane."
"And got you put in prison," Ginny added firmly.
Harry smiled weakly. "That too."
Luna chose that moment to float into the room. "You're in luck. Lucius Malfoy has to go to Gringotts today. He'll be Polyjuiced as Martin Yaxley."
"And the goblins will let him into his vault like that?" Harry asked, surprised.
"As long as you've got a key, they don't really care all that much. Well, a key and the okay of the vault's owner. Malfoy doesn't trust anyone else with his vault key, though, so he'll be going," Luna explained.
"What time?" Ginny asked for Harry as the Necromancer finished his breakfast quickly.
"Soon. Within the hour, I think," Luna reported.
Harry nodded. "Right." He glanced at the confused Remus and Sirius. "Lucius Malfoy's going to Gringotts today to withdraw money, but he's going in disguise. I'm going to go disappear for a while. Remus, you said there's a nice clearing not too far from here?"
"Yes. It's to the south. Are you going to send him there to question him?"
"Yeah. I'll make a portkey. Be back in a couple hours!" he called over his shoulder, then ran for his room. As soon as he got in his room, he started morphing himself into as boring a face as he could, the sort you could easily miss in a crowd. Once satisfied, he changed into one of his African robes and threw a quick glamour over them to make them look like the current English style. He hurried out of the cottage while putting on the wrap to hide his scar, with an added notice-me-not spell to keep people from paying too much attention to it. When he was sure that his scar was safely hidden, he checked the small belt bag he brought with him everywhere to ensure he had a pre-made portkey to the Ministry in it as well as a few bezoars and some other potions could be useful in a tight spot. Last, but not least, he made sure his tape recorder had a new tape in it and that it would record.
As he stepped into the clearing Remus had mentioned, Ginny and Luna caught up to him. "Will Ginny invisible to the living," Luna hissed. "Six eyes are a million times better than two, and she has to stay near you anyway."
Harry nodded and focused on making it so that only he and Luna could see Ginny. "Done. Ah, here's a good stone. Portus. Okay. I'm apparating to the Leaky. You two watch the doors at the entrance to Gringotts, I'll keep an eye out inside. When you see him, let me know."
"Right," Luna agreed.
Harry nodded and apparated. As soon as Luna and Ginny appeared next to him, he set out for the bank, forcing himself to look like he was simply strolling along, and not that he was rushing to capture a Death Eater or whatever. Diagon was reasonably populated for a Sunday.
Once in the bank, Harry only had to wander for six minutes before Luna floated over. "Ginny's with him."
Harry glanced up and nodded when he saw Ginny floating above Martin Yaxley, who was strolling purposefully towards one of the lines behind a teller counter. Harry started wandering in the same general direction, eyeing the floor glumly. Then he bumped into the man.
"Oof! Watch where you're going, fool," "Yaxley" snapped.
Harry grabbed the other's arm to steady himself. "Please, sir, I'm most sorry," he said. At the word "sorry," the portkey in his hand activated. As soon as they landed, Harry whispered, "Stupefy," and the man dropped to the ground.
Harry sighed and tossed his rock portkey towards the trees, spelled some chains to hold Lucius and summoned his wand, which he then snapped with a smile. "Oh, I've always wanted to do that," he murmured, pleased.
Sliding the broken wand into his pocket, Harry dispelled the glamour on his robes and the notice-me-not on the wrap over his scar. Pulling out the tape recorder, he spelled his voice with an accent and morphed into Dorcha. Then he turned on the tape recorder. "Hello, Aurors of the British Ministry. I know I usually only pester you lot at night, but I decided that today you were due for a special delivery. Rennervate. Hello, Martin Yaxley. Or, should I say, Lucius Malfoy."
Lucius glared up at the smirking African. "Dorcha. So you aren't dead."
"Alas, I'm afraid not. Tired of fools, certainly. Dead, not yet. Now, would you care to answer some questions?" Dorcha inquired cheerfully.
"Rot in hell."
"I'll save a spot for you and your master while I'm at it, hm? Let's start off with a simple question: What were you doing at Gringotts today under the guise of Martin Yaxley?"
"I have no reason to talk to you," Lucius huffed.
"That's nice. Now, how about you talk and I promise to let your son go free?" Dorcha tapped his wand against his cheek.
Lucius tensed. "What?"
"Your son. The spoilt little blond one? Draco, I believe, is his name? He makes a nice decoration in my living room, but I have to keep cleaning up his piss."
Lucius choked. "Not possible."
"Mmm... Planning to stake his life on that?"
"Fuck. You," Lucius hissed.
"You seem more the submissive, to me. Does that make Narcissa the dominant in the marriage? Well, I suppose that explains your need to grovel at the feet of another..." Dorcha mused thoughtfully.
Lucius was starting to look a little like a tomato. "You– You–"
"Oh, right! What were you doing at Gringotts as Yaxley? Come on, Lucius. You and I may have all day, but I haven't fed your son yet–"
"I was getting money from my account!" Lucius shouted, eyes wide. "It costs money to run a war, and we're running low. If that Weasley brat hadn't become a ghost and freed Potter, this wouldn't be an issue."
Dorcha smiled. This was too easy. "Hm. Surely you've heard all about Potter's trial by now. Is it true that you had Ginevra Weasley under the Imperius Curse right up until she was Obliviated?"
"Yes. And everything she said at the second trial is true. Do you really have my son?"
"Maybe. How long have you been a Death Eater?"
"Since I finished Hogwarts. If I answer all your questions, you'll let him go, right? And not into the hands of the Ministry?"
"Of course I will. What sorts of horrible things have you done as a Death Eater?"
Lucius listed quite a number of things. Dorcha was almost impressed, and that was saying something, with how many things he'd seen Voldemort doing and heard the many Death Eaters he'd caught doing.
Once Lucius had run out of things he'd done, Dorcha asked, "So, any attack plans you're aware of in the near future?"
Lucius tensed. "No."
Dorcha narrowed his eyes. "You're lying."
"It's not worth the punishment to tell you. Do you know what the Dark Lord did to Abigail Gibbon?"
Dorcha shuddered. Yes, he knew. The woman was an innocent in the whole war. Voldemort had made quite the spectacle of her death once he'd figured out who had spilled the information about the attack. He'd also set fire to Macnair's house. Voldemort didn't take betrayal well. The Death Eaters Dorcha had caught were usually best off dead, once Voldemort found out what they'd told Dorcha.
Lucius nodded, seeing the knowledge in Dorcha's caramel eyes. "Keep Draco chained to your wall if you must. I won't have my son murdered like that on my account."
Dorcha nodded. "Were you ever placed under the Imperius Curse on Voldemort's orders to do something you wouldn't have otherwise?"
"No," Lucius replied, clearly relieved that Dorcha wasn't going to drag information out of him that could hurt his son.
"Now, last question: Are either Draco or Narcissa marked?"
"Narcissa is, yes. She took the mark so Draco didn't have to."
Dorcha flipped the recorder off and rewound the tape. "Where is Draco? I can probably get him somewhere safe."
Lucius' mouth dropped open in surprise. It looked really odd with the Polyjuice fading away.
Dorcha rolled his eyes. "I'm not needlessly cruel, Lucius. I hunt Death Eaters because they killed my family and many good friends. Had I known what Voldemort intended for Abigail Gibbon, I would have tried to get her out of the country. While your son is in no way as innocent as Abigail was, he doesn't have quite the same stain as you do. He also doesn't carry the mark, which will make it harder for Voldemort to track him down." Dorcha refused to let school rivalries get in the way of his morals. He didn't like Draco, but they were adults now. People change.
"He's staying with Blaise Zabini at their Manor. The floo address is Zabini Cabins. He'll be safe there for a little bit, but not forever. Especially since Blaise's parents are supposed to be leaving for Italy today and leaving Blaise and Draco alone," Lucius said. "Are you really going to protect him?"
"I will try," Dorcha offered.
Lucius relaxed. "Thank you."
Dorcha blinked a few times, surprised by the sincerity in the man's voice. An annoyed Luna coming to float in front of him snapped him out of it. "Ah, of course. Let's see. Snapped wand? Check. Tape recorder with rewound tape? Check. Note complaining about them not telling me how Death Eaters taste with mustard? Che– Wait, where did I put that thing?"
Lucius snorted in amusement as Dorcha patted his pockets down with a frown. "Mustard?"
"Here it is! Yes, mustard. I was curious as to whether they'd actually test it. You never know with Aurors these days." Lucius snorted again while Dorcha knelt to add the snapped wand, tape recorder and note to the chains. Then he pulled out one of his pre-made portkeys and used a sticking charm to make sure it stayed on Lucius' head. "Say hello to the Aurors for me!" he said cheerfully. Lucius disappeared.
Ginny came to float in front of Dorcha. "Are you mad?! Why should you care about Draco Malfoy?!"
Dorcha gave Ginny a sad look. "You didn't see what Voldemort did to Abigail Gibbon. I did. Malfoy or not, I won't let him torture someone like that again!" He turned and hurried back to the cottage. A quick spell at the perimeter assured him that Sirius and Remus where the only living people there, so he walked right in.
"Dorcha?" Sirius asked, looking up from his game of cards with Peeves. The poltergeist grinned at him.
"Hey, Padfoot. Peeves. We're connected to the floo, right?" Dorcha asked, moving towards the fireplace.
"Well, yeah. Why?"
Dorcha sighed. "Look, Draco Malfoy was never marked. I just sent his father to the Aurors. Voldemort hates betrayal, and he always takes it out on the one thing the betrayer would die to protect. He spent six days torturing Abigail Gibbon to death after I turned her husband in. Other Death Eaters' families have suffered just as badly. I don't like the Malfoys, but I'll protect what I can."
Sirius sat back in his chair with a heavy sigh. "Where do you plan on hiding him?"
"Honestly? I have no clue. For now, here should be fine. I hope. I can make him swear an oath that whatever he sees here he can't speak of to others, or something. If things get bad, we can send him to Hogwarts. Dumbledore should be willing to protect him."
Sirius nodded. "I have no love for the Malfoys, but Draco is of Black blood. Bring him here. I'll make him swear the oath."
"Thank you. You may want to warn Remus, though."
"Yeah. And clean up that other bedroom. Just keep in mind that he's the only Death Eater kid I'm helping."
"Right." Dorcha grinned, then turned to the fireplace and pulled down some floo powder. "Zabini Cabins!"
When Dorcha stumbled out of the floo, a house-elf popped in to greet him. "How is Nibbs to be announcing sir?"
Dorcha blinked. "I'm not here to be announced. Lucius Malfoy sent me. I'm here to move Draco to a safe place."
"Nibbs will gets Mister Draco!" the house-elf exclaimed, then popped away.
Dorcha sighed and cast a quick cleaning spell on his robes. He wasn't sure if this would go better if he was Dorcha or Harry, but it hardly mattered now. Never mind that he didn't have his oak wand on him.
Draco Malfoy and a pale boy that Dorcha recalled being in Slytherin in his year showed up in the doorway. The two Slytherins stared at Dorcha in shock for a moment, then both drew their wands and sent curses zooming his way.
Dorcha called up a shield, then disarmed them dully. "I'm not here to duel you, idiots. Draco, I promised your father that I would try and get you to a place where Voldemort can't get you."
"Why should I believe you?" Draco snapped back.
Dorcha rolled his eyes. "Why else would I be here?"
"To turn Draco in to the Ministry?" the other boy, who Dorcha decided must be Blaise Zabini, asked.
"Draco doesn't have the mark. His mother took it so he wouldn't have to. I don't go after people who aren't marked," Dorcha replied. "Besides, if I'd planned on taking you for questioning, I wouldn't have waited here patiently, I would have come and attacked you while you were unawares."
"Yeah. That would have made more sense."
The two Slytherins stared at each other for a long minute, then Draco turned back to Dorcha. "Where's my father?"
"Auror Headquarters," Dorcha said blandly. "Look, Voldemort has a spy in the Wizengamot Administration, the same floor as the Aurors. He will probably know Lucius has been caught in moments. Then he'll come for you. Are you leaving with me, or not?"
Draco had paled as Dorcha spoke, while Blaise's eyes had gotten bigger. At his question, Draco said, "Let me pack real quick!" then spun and ran from the room.
Blaise sighed. "Well, if the Dark Lord's coming, he'll be coming through this floo. You can apparate out of the house, but not in, so you two can leave from Draco's room. Come on."
Dorcha nodded and followed Blaise up two flights of stairs and down the hall to where Draco was packing in a frenzy. The other two stood in the doorway and watched the mess with amused looks for a long moment before Dorcha waved his wand and said, "Pack!"
All of Draco's clothes folded themselves and settled neatly into his trunk. His well-loved stuffed dragon settled on top of the clothing with a few other magical items and a hand-made blanket. The lid of the trunk closed and Draco's broom came to rest on top of it.
Blaise and Draco both blinked at Dorcha, who smirked and held out their wands. "Here."
The two Slytherins took their wands and each gave them a once over, then put them away. "Thank you," Draco said.
Dorcha nodded. "Is it safe to shrink your trunk? I'll apparate us to the safe house."
"Yeah, hold on." Draco pulled his wand back out and shrunk his trunk, which he then put in his pocket. He held his broom in his free hand and put his wand away again. "Blaise, what will you do?"
Blaise shrugged. "Pack and follow my parents to Italy, I suppose. They did say I could join them there if you went home early."
"Right. Stay safe."
"You too, Draco." Blaise turned to Dorcha. "You'll protect him?"
"I will do my best. I'm not exactly Britain's favourite wizard right now."
"That's all I ask," Blaise said, then turned and left.
Dorcha held his arm out. When Draco took his hand, Dorcha said, "Keep an open mind. Things are never as they seem." Then he apparated them to the clearing he'd questioned Lucius in.
Draco looked around, confused. "Is it under Fidelius?"
Dorcha shook his head. "No, this is just a nearby clearing. The cottage is this way."
Draco fell into step next to Dorcha as the African led the way through the woods. "I know you dislike Death Eaters, so why would you save me? I'm as good as one."
Dorcha snorted. "Have you ever killed someone, Draco?"
"Do you get off on people's pain?"
"Are you comfortable kneeling at the feet of a half-blood with delusions of grandeur?"
"Voldemort's a half-blood. Are you comfortable with that?"
"Ugh. No. Malfoys kneel to no one. Especially not half-bloods."
Dorcha snorted. "You're not a Death Eater, Draco. How many people have you seen killed?"
Draco blinked. "Uhm... Two? Maybe three?"
Dorcha sighed. "Then you're still reasonably innocent. I don't approve of harming innocents."
Draco sneered. "Have you killed someone?"
"Yes. Five people."
Draco choked. "Wait. They said you duelled Carrow to the death."
"Yes. I've killed two Death Eaters," Dorcha agreed, recalling the death of Quirrell. "I'm also indirectly responsible for a number of other people, mostly innocents."
Draco took a deep breath. "Did you enjoy killing any of those five?"
"No," Dorcha said firmly.
Draco nodded, relieved. "How many people have you seen killed?"
"Hundreds," Dorcha replied tightly as the cottage came into view. "This is Cottage Freedom, by the way. Welcome."
"Cottage Freedom?" Draco asked.
"Yes. I'm afraid Sirius Black is the one who came up with the name. His humour needs some adjusting," Dorcha replied dryly.
"Sirius Black? He's here?!" Draco froze five steps from the front door.
Dorcha rolled his eyes. "Your mother is his first cousin. He's promised to take you in."
Draco scowled. "Is Potter here?"
"Grow up, Draco," Dorcha said in response, then opened the door. "Sirius! We're back!"
Sirius bounded over to the door and grinned at Dorcha and Draco. "Welcome to Cottage Freedom, cousin!" he called to Draco as Dorcha moved so Sirius could get past him.
Draco sneered. "Of course, cousin."
Dorcha rolled his eyes.
Sirius' smile got bigger. "Us or Voldemort, cousin. Decide now."
Draco's face went blank. "You."
Sirius nodded, his face turning serious. "I need an oath from you that you won't tell the secrets of anyone in this house. Everyone living here is someone Voldemort wants dead. Dorcha and now you are both at the top of that list. We'll keep your secrets if you keep ours."
Draco nodded in understanding and pulled out his wand. "I, Draco Lucius Malfoy, do hereby solemnly swear on my magic that I will never break the confidence of the residents of Cottage Freedom." The tip of his wand glowed white.
Sirius nodded. "Thank you. Now that's over, Harry can show you to the room you'll be staying in."
Dorcha snorted. "Right. Come on, Draco."
Draco's mouth dropped open and his eyes bulged.
Dorcha rolled his eyes and willed his body to morph back to the one more commonly know as Harry Potter. Sirius joined Draco in staring at his godson and Harry smirked at him. "I forgot to add that I'm also a metamorph."
" 'Forgot' my arse!" Sirius laughed. "Well played, Harry. Well played. Anything else you 'forgot' to tell us?"
"A couple minor things," Harry replied, amused. "You'll find out eventually, I'm sure. Coming, Draco?"
Draco shook his head in disbelief. "You out-Slytherined me!"
"It's a talent," Harry assured him. "Come on."
"Wait. Who else lives here?"
"Just Remus," Sirius offered with a wicked grin.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Ginny Weasley's ghost is also in residence. The Bloody Baron and Peeves both spend a lot of time here as well."
"The Bloody Baron and Peeves?!" Draco squeaked.
"Harry's a Necromancer," Ginny offered, appearing next to Harry. "Ghosts tend to flock to him and Peeves listens to him. Luna Lovegood is also floating around here, but since she's not a true ghost, just someone Harry called from the realm of death, only Harry and us ghosts can see her."
"Mmm. What Ginny said," Harry agreed calmly. "Now, come on in, Draco."
Draco nodded and followed after Harry with a lost look on his face. Behind him, Sirius and Ginny burst into laughter.
Chapter 7: ...To Taste Victory
Chapter Seven ~ ...To Taste Victory
Five months came and went while Draco stayed at Cottage Freedom. In that time, Draco learned to live with and even, to some extent, enjoy the company of his house mates. While the cottage out in the woods was far from the luxury he was used to, he became accustomed to life there. Full moons were nerve-racking, even though he knew Remus had Wolfsbane Potion to dull his wolf as well as Harry and Sirius to keep the werewolf away from the house, Draco always found himself curled up under his blankets in terror and unable to sleep until the sun rose the following morning. Other than that, he had no complaints. When he asked one day in his third month at the cottage if there was a chance of him seeing his father again, Harry asked the Aurors if it would be okay for them to visit Lucius and got permission.
Really, Draco had decided, Harry wasn't so bad, for a Gryffindor.
Harry continued to run around, depleting Voldemort's forces as Dorcha for months. When he could, he'd get the Death Eaters' families out of the country safely or find room for them at Hogwarts or Grimmauld Place. Only the residents of Cottage Freedom knew that Harry and Dorcha were the same, but Dumbledore had always approved of Dorcha's actions and was quick to offer safety to those in need of it, no matter who they were.
The Ministry remained torn over what to do with Dorcha. The Minister wanted him taken out. The Aurors wanted the African to join their ranks, or at least be given a medal. The Prophet ate the tension up and was constantly printing stories about either Dorcha's latest conquest, or the strife in the Ministry.
Voldemort was furious with the whole thing. He broke Azkaban open to get the few followers who resided there – the Ministry had taken to keeping Death Eaters either in Ministry holding cells or sending them out of the country to be imprisoned after Dumbledore suggested they not put too much faith in the dementors. Every time Voldemort was particularly furious, Harry would get one hell of a headache and have to go lie down. Even with his Occlumency, Voldemort could still affect him. On Voldemort's bad days, he would often hammer away at Harry's shields all evening until he could get in and give Harry nightmares of people he knew and innocent muggles being tortured and dying.
Every one in a while, Harry would think about Neville and go over to St Mungo's to visit him, usually without even Ginny or Luna's presence. When he visited, he simply sat next to Neville's bed and smiled sadly at his friend and his friend's parents, who lay in the beds next to Neville. He never said anything to Neville, for there was nothing he could think of that would make things better, and even if there was, Neville would never hear him.
Harry wished he could change the past.
It was one such visit to Neville's bedside that everything finally came to a head.
Harry settled into his normal seat next to Neville's bed with a sigh. He offered his friend a smile and Neville smiled back at him, clearly not knowing who Harry was, only that he was smiling. Neville reached over to his table, where a vase of fresh sunflowers sat. He took one of them out and offered it to Harry. He didn't know who his visitor was, only that he came often and always sat in that same chair with that same sad smile.
Harry blinked at the sunflower. "Are you giving this to me?" he asked after a moment of confusion.
Neville nodded. "You're sad," he said, as if it explained everything.
Harry took the sunflower, a little surprised. The nurses had told Harry the first time he'd come for a visit that Neville was more aware of his surrounding than his parents and he would occasionally speak. Harry had never actually heard his friend speak before, but he took them at their word. "Thank you, Neville."
Neville cocked his head to one side. "Why are you sad?"
Harry's smile turned bitter. "Because it's my fault you're in here."
Neville shook his head. "No. The nurse says a woman put me here."
"Bellatrix cast the curse, yes," Harry agreed. "But I'm the one who brought you to the Department of Mysteries."
"Why?" Neville asked innocently.
"Why did I bring you there?" Neville nodded. "Because Voldemort sent me a vision that he was torturing my godfather there. I had to save him. But it wasn't real."
Neville blinked. This person's name was Harry. Where did that come from? "Harry..."
Harry's head, which he'd bowed in shame, shot up at his name. "Neville? Did you just say my name?"
Neville smiled, pleased he'd gotten it right. "Harry!"
"Merlin..." Harry breathed. No one had called him Harry in Neville's presence since he'd been cursed by Bellatrix. One of the nurses may have told Neville Harry's name after one of his visits, but Harry didn't know for sure. All he knew – all he cared about – was that Neville had remembered his name.
Before Neville or Harry could speak again, Ginny appeared in front of Harry. "Voldemort's attacking downstairs!" Almost as soon as Ginny had finished speaking, the hospital emergency alarms went off.
"Shit!" Harry stood and pulled out his waterberry wand, not caring if someone questioned him on its existence – he needed all of his magic to fight Voldemort.
Two nurses burst into the ward. As soon as they saw Harry, they turned towards him. "Anti-apparation and anti-portkey wards are up. We have to get the patients out of here!"
Harry nodded. "Do you have brooms? Or an extra fireplace upstairs?"
"No," one nurse said. "Our only floo connection is downstairs. And even if we did have brooms, we can't take some patients on them."
Harry bit his lip, then nodded decisively. "Ginny, stay in here. I'm going to put a ward up over the doors that should, hopefully, keep them outside. Then I'm going downstairs to help with the fighting."
"It's dangerous down there!" the other, clearly more frightened nurse said.
"Yes, but I'm perfectly capable of keeping myself alive in a fight. I need you two to stay here and get the people in this ward ready to flee, just in case we have to. Was anyone able to contact Auror Headquarters?"
"No," Ginny said. "But Luna went to get the Baron and Peeves to send them for help. With any luck, help will start showing up soon."
"Merlin, I hope so," Harry murmured. He set the sunflower Neville had given him on the table next to the vase and offered his friend a sad smile. "Be brave, Neville. I promise I won't let them hurt you again." Then he hurried from the ward, pausing outside to throw his strongest wards up around the door, praying they would keep the Death Eaters out.
Once certain the wards would hold, Harry took the stairs down in a rush, jumping the last four steps or so to the landing and using his gift with air to make his movements just a little faster.
On the second floor landing, Harry finally ran into a Death Eater. It was Bellatrix Lestrange and she was cackling madly as she held a nurse under the Cruciatus. Barely pausing, Harry snapped out, "Avada Kedavra," and hurried on as Bellatrix fell to the green light. The nurse Bellatrix had been torturing took a moment to catch her breath, then picked up the vile witch's wand and snapped it with a vicious smile.
On the first floor, Harry ran right into another Death Eater. The Death Eater stumbled and fell backwards down the stairs. The wind at Harry's back kept him moving, though he let up on it enough to check and see if the Death Eater was still breathing. He wasn't; his neck was broken.
As soon as Harry exited to the ground floor, he had to duck a wild spell. The place was a madhouse of screaming patients and nurses as well as flying curses of all colours. Aurors were pouring in the main entrance and the floo, crushing the Death Eaters between the fresh Aurors and the tiring staff.
Then Voldemort made himself known with a mad laugh and started killing the opposition. More people started screaming.
In the confusion, Harry had a crazy idea. If only he and Voldemort could kill each other, according to the prophecy, then Voldemort would only take Harry Potter seriously. However, if he were faced with Dorcha, he probably wouldn't, which would give Harry a slight advantage. Strangely amused by his idea, Harry morphed himself into Dorcha and transfigured his robes into an African style. A strip of blood- and fluid-free bandaging off the floor took the place of his normal wrap over his scar and the accent spell completed the costume.
Finally disguised, Dorcha joined the fray. Among them, he was just another wizard shooting curses at the Death Eaters. It didn't matter to anyone that he looked like the descriptions of Dorcha the Dark Hunter, as the Prophet had taken to calling him.
To keep direct attention off of him for the moment, he stuck to using Light offensive and defensive spells. A quick shield with his white poplar wand – which he'd taken to carrying in a sheath on his leg just in case he ever needed two wands – in his left hand saved a nearby mediwizard from a nasty curse while his waterberry wand in his right hand stunned a Death Eater bearing down on sobbing child who was clutching at her dead mother's arm. That same just-stunned Death Eater was picked up by a sudden gust of wind and got in the way of a Killing Curse aimed at a witch with a stone arm.
Dorcha caught sight of a Killing Curse green wand tip pointed his way and shot out and avis spell to get in the way. Two of the birds died in a wash of green while the rest of them made for the Death Eater's hands and eyes. To his far left, he saw a flare of fire and Dumbledore appeared with Fawkes. He immediately had to duck three Killing Curses and Dorcha made a mental note to never join a battle in so obvious a manner. Really. How many people in Britain owned a phoenix?
A cackle of glee and three stone globes hitting the heads of Death Eaters and taking them out announced the arrival of Peeves. The poltergeist ducked out of the way of various curses sent at him and a quick shield spell from Dorcha ensured that even if one of the spells hit true, Peeves would be fine.
A familiar shoulder bumped Dorcha's. "Fancy meeting you here, kid," Sirius teased.
Dorcha snorted. "You know me, always chasing after Death Eaters." Another gust of wind blocked a Killing Curse with an already dead body. "Did Remus and Draco come too, or is it just you and me?"
"Too close to the full moon," Sirius said, shooting off a stunner and shielding against a nasty return. "I made Remus stay home. Gave Draco a choice and he decided to stay with Remus."
"Best idea he's had all year," Dorcha quipped, aiming a cutting curse at a Death Eater's wand arm. "I mean, we've been training him and all, but he's not quite at fighting Death Eater level yet."
"Don't I know it. Remus can take him down even on one of his bad days."
Dorcha snorted. "In all fairness, you wore him down first."
"Forgot about that part."
A mad laugh from their left drew their eyes to where Voldemort was about to finish Dumbledore off. "Fucker," Dorcha spat, and sent a strong gust of wind to throw Voldemort's aim wild. The Killing Curse hit the wall and furious red eyes searched out the hate-filled caramel eyes watching him. The Dark Lord mouthed, "Dorcha," then immediately sent a Killing Curse his way.
Dorcha ducked, dragging Sirius down with him. The green curse hit a Death Eater stalking towards a fallen nurse. "Move," Dorcha hissed to Sirius, then stood and started towards Voldemort. "So we finally meet," he said when he was close enough to not have to shout.
"And then we say good-bye," Voldemort replied, then shot another Killing Curse at him.
A gust of wind moved a startled Death Eater in the way and Dorcha smirked. "Do you enjoy killing your own people off?" he inquired.
With a roar of fury, Voldemort started casting a variety of Dark curses. With two wands, Dorcha was easily able to keep a shield up and send a few Light spells back.
After a minute of Voldemort not getting anywhere against the shield, he spat, "Fight me!"
"Oh. You should have said that's what you wanted," Dorcha replied with a cheerful smile. Then he cast a Killing Curse of his own and jumped out of the way of the Dark Lord's return fire.
The two men danced around each other, shooting spells of various ranges of legal usage, though most of the spells they used were less than legal. An occasional gust of wind just barely moved Dorcha out of the way of a spell and Voldemort constantly found himself only just able to block one of his opponent's spells.
But, as Dorcha had hoped, Voldemort was confident that only Harry Potter could beat him and since the man he was duelling wasn't Harry Potter, he wasn't as careful. When Dorcha finally broke through his shield with a Light cutting curse, Voldemort ignored the wound. A fatal mistake, because Dorcha had already sustained at least one cut and he spelled some of his blood into the cut on the Dark Lord's arm. Mere moments later, Voldemort fell to the ground convulsing.
Dorcha picked up the tainted yew wand and snapped it. "Guess this is the end, mate," he offered cheerfully to Voldemort.
"My blood's poisonous. You're lucky that ritual you used required the 'ingredients' to be put into boiling water or you would have died then. Pity."
Understanding flashed in dying red eyes. "Po...tter..."
Dorcha tugged off the bandage he'd used to cover his scar and, even through the mass of other scars that he'd moved from around his body to try and hide it, his lightning bolt curse scar was easy to make out on his forehead. "The one and only."
Voldemort smirked. "Save you.....place in....hell...."
"I look forward to it," Dorcha replied, then stood as the Dark Lord finally died.
Dorcha blinked when he looked up, only just then realizing that the rest of the lobby was filled with Aurors, patients and staff staring at him. Apparently, he and Voldemort had been the last two fighting. "Err... He's dead."
The entire room filled with cheers and Dorcha grinned at them all. Sirius came over and hugged him carefully. "That was one amazing duel. And I always thought Dumbledore looked wicked fighting him."
Dorcha sighed and rested his head on Sirius' shoulder. "It was bloody exhausting, too."
Sirius chuckled. "I'll bet. And I know everyone's proud of you. Especially me."
Dorcha nodded and blinked back tears. "Thanks, Sirius."
"Sure thing, kid."
Three Aurors stepped over to them then. Kingsley and Tonks were among them and both looked a little worse for wear, but were smiling. Tonks bounced to a stop directly in front of Dorcha. "Wotcher. So, are you Harry, or Dorcha?" she asked cheerfully.
"Both," Dorcha said, then shifted back into his normal form. "I'm a metamorphmagus too, just not as strong as you are."
"Wicked!" Tonks decided.
Harry grinned. "Great for getting around unnoticed."
Kingsley settled a big hand on Tonks' shoulder. "That was an impressive duel, Mr Potter."
"It was also a highly illegal duel," Harry agreed. "But, as Dumbledore's showed us a few times before, duelling using only Light magic isn't always the way to go."
Kingsley smiled. "I think I can safely get away with a gentle admonishment, in light of the situation. Don't do that again."
Harry grinned. "I'll do my best, Senior Auror."
An Auror Harry didn't know stepped forward. "Were you the cause behind all the wind in here as well?"
Harry winced. "Err, yeah. I'm a wind elemental." That earned him a couple of startled looks and a chuckle from Sirius. Harry had never mentioned his control over the elements to his three house mates, though they knew he had more gifts than just what he'd told them.
Tonks shook her head wryly. "Harry, mate, you're something else."
"In a good way," Sirius cut in.
"In a very good way," Tonks agreed, then smiled at him.
Kingsley chuckled. "Sirius, why don't you take him home? He looks like he's only just standing on his feet."
"Probably a good idea," Sirius agreed.
Harry shook his head and forced himself to stand and not lean on Sirius any more. "I was up in the Janus Thickey Ward with Neville with the alarms sounded. I put a ward up on the door that I need to take down before we leave."
Sirius sighed. "Alright. Are the elevators running?"
"Only the emergency one, and you need a code for it. Hold on, let me see if I can find a mediwizard..." the Auror Harry didn't know said, then hurried off towards where the mediwitches and mediwizards were gathering at the reception desk.
Peeves floated down next to Harry while the Auror was gone. "Moldy's dead. Potty wins!"
Harry grinned at the poltergeist. "You didn't get hit with anything, did you?"
Peeves shook his head. "Potty's shield protected Peevesy. Thank you, Potty."
"You're welcome," Harry replied, while the two Aurors and Sirius laughed.
The other Auror hurried back over with a mediwizard that had a cut on his arm that was bleeding sluggishly, indicating a poor healing job. "I'm in charge of the wards on the fourth floor. Auror Fairbank said you placed a ward up around the Janus Thickey Ward?"
Harry nodded. "My friend Neville is in there, and it's not like the people in there can really defend themselves. They've got a couple of nurses with them and all..."
The mediwizard nodded. "Right. This way, Mr Potter."
As Sirius and Harry followed the mediwizard, Kingsley said to Tonks, "Go with them and make sure they get home all right. We'll probably have to have Harry come in for questioning tomorrow, but he's too tired right now."
"Right." Tonks hurried after the trio getting into the elevator and just made it. "Hey, my new job is making sure you two make it home okay."
"Sounds good to me," Sirius replied, once again bearing most of Harry's weight as the young man dozed on his feet. "When will we have to go in and give statements?"
"Kingsley's going to try and keep them off you until tomorrow. Of course, with as many people as were here and the clean-up we'll have to do on this place, it might take another day before we have to drag you two in. I'll try and make sure either Kingsley or I are the ones sent to get you."
"That would be best," Sirius agreed as the elevator stopped at the fourth floor.
Harry straightened and walked evenly over to the door. A swish of his waterberry wand dispelled the ward and he poked his head through the door with a smile. "It's safe," he offered to the two witches pointing wands at him. Behind them, Ginny relaxed. "Everyone all right in here, then?"
"Yeah," Ginny said, floating over to the door. "We got them to huddle in one of the corners, just in case. Did you fight a boar or something?"
"No," Tonks announced. "He killed You-Know-Who."
Ginny's eyes went wide, then she let out a loud cheer and twirled around. "That's wonderful, Harry!"
Harry offered her a weak grin. "It is, but I'm bloody tired because of it."
"What about her?" a quiet voice asked from the corner of bodies. Neville wiggled his way out and looked at Harry seriously.
Harry smiled. "Bellatrix is dead."
Neville smiled back. "Thank you."
"It's the least I could do," Harry replied. "How are you feeling?"
Neville's smile faded. "Confused. I-I remember things. Like Hogwarts and the Department of Mysteries and the DA and what it feels like to be under Cruciatus."
Harry stared at his friend in shock. "Y-you do? You actually remember things?"
Neville nodded, eyes wide.
Harry half ran over to Neville and hugged him. "That's wonderful, Neville."
The mediwizard who'd brought Harry, Sirius and Tonks up moved forward. "Mr Longbottom, may I run a quick test on you?"
Eyes wide, Neville nodded, so Harry moved out of the way. The mediwizard scanned Neville twice, looking impressed.
"Well?" Harry said when the mediwizard went to scan Neville a third time without saying anything.
The man shook his head and smiled at the two young men. "Whatever block you unconsciously put up to protect yourself from the Cruciatus exposure is now falling apart. I have no explanation for it. When did you start to remember things?"
Neville bit his lip. "I remembered Harry's name when we were talking earlier. And when Ginny showed up, I remembered her being placed under the Imperius Curse?"
"By Lucius Malfoy," Ginny agreed, smiling madly.
Neville nodded. "Yeah. And then, when Harry left, I started remembering more that had happened there. Like Harry acting funny and killing Luna. And Luna saying he was being possessed. And flying on the thestrals. It's coming back in bits and pieces, but it's there."
"So, Mr Potter was the cause behind the whole thing?" the mediwizard asked.
"Yeah," Neville decided. "Usually, he doesn't talk. He just sits next to me with a sad smile. So I thought he might like one of my sunflowers." Neville's cheeks reddened. "And I asked him why he was always so sad. And he started telling me about the Department of Mysteries. Then I remembered his name."
"Merlin's beard," the mediwizard whispered, looking at Harry like he was Merlin himself. Harry frowned and inched closer to Neville.
Sirius cleared his throat. "As wonderful as this all is, Harry needs to go home and get some sleep and I have to tell Remus and Draco that we didn't get killed."
"Draco?" Neville frowned.
"Draco Malfoy," Harry said. "He was in our year at school. A Slytherin. Blond hair, always walking around like he owned the place."
Neville's eyes lit up. "Oh. Malfoy. Yeah. I remember. I'm worth twelve of him."
Harry buried his face in Neville's shoulder, laughing.
Neville blinked. "Why are you living with him?"
Harry looked back up with a smile. "Never change, Neville." Neville flushed again. "Draco's living with us because when I turned Lucius in to the Ministry as a Death Eater, he requested that I protect Draco from Voldemort. Since Draco never took the mark, I agreed."
"Harry's just too nice," Ginny agreed.
Sirius cleared his throat again.
Harry sighed. "I know. We need to leave."
Neville smiled and hugged Harry. "You'll come back?"
Harry smiled. "You know I will." He turned to Ginny. "Do you want to stay here?"
Ginny nodded. "Are we close enough to the cottage?"
Harry cocked an eyebrow at Sirius, who said, "I think so."
"Alright. If not, come find me and I'll release you."
"Okay. Go get some sleep."
"Yes, mum," Harry teased, then scampered over to Sirius while Ginny kicked in the general direction of Harry's behind.
Sirius rolled his eyes at the two. "Are the anti-apparation wards down?"
"Yes," Tonks reported.
"Okay. I'll apparate with Harry. You know where the cottage is."
"I'll follow you. Go on."
Harry waved at Neville and Ginny, then let Sirius apparate them away.
Chapter 8: ...To Live
Because I can: A million thanks and candy to all my reviewers (though this fic has none as I'm writing this note, sine it's not yet posted). General devotion and love for my wicked beta, who will probably never let me live down Draco's four wands. Also, praises to the HP Lexicon, without which I would have been left flailing in the middle of chapter two for another couple of months. And last but not least, a great big 'thank you' to my mum, who allowed me to take over her laptop for almost the entirety of my spring break so I could finish this fic, with only a few complaints on her part.
Also: I am by no means a speech writer, though after two semesters of speech one would think I could manage it by now. *dry look*
Epilogue ~ ...To Live
Harry smiled as he took his seat next to a grinning Neville, who was wearing his new Auror robes, at the ceremony. Draco settled into the chair on Neville's other side while Sirius and Remus took the seats on Harry's free side. Over the sounds of the hundreds of people filling the seats behind them and the stands of the quidditch pitch above them, Harry could just barely make out Peeves' shouts of glee as a few of his pranks went off. Harry wondered how long it would take for the Bloody Baron to lose his patience with the poltergeist and order him to settle down in the box made for the various ghosts attending, including a row of ghosts that only the other ghosts and Harry could see. A glance back at the box showed Lily Potter scolding her husband while an amused Fred and George mocked her behind her back.
Sirius squeezed Harry's shoulder. "What are they up to?" he asked.
"Dad must have done something to upset Mum; she's scolding him something fierce."
"I bet James helped Peeves," Remus offered with a fond smile. "I know Sirius did."
Sirius huffed. "Have to let the little bugger have his fun now, or he'll be booby-trapping the cottage for the next month."
"We could always just send him back here," Harry pointed out, amused.
Draco snorted. "Sure. Send him my way, why don't you?" the newest Hogwarts flying instructor said wryly.
"At least you have some measure of protection from him," Neville pointed out. "Think about the other professors."
"My thoughts on their behalf are always filled with mocking laughter," Draco assured the Gryffindor.
"Wotcher," Tonks said as she and Kingsley slid into their seats behind Harry's group. "What are you lot up to?"
"Mocking my fellow professors who don't have Harry as a close friend," Draco replied pompously.
Harry snorted in amusement and turned to Tonks. "Nervous?"
Tonks scoffed. "Hardly. After spending a month telling the trainees what all happened and writing out a hundred reports on the stupid battle I'm mostly over it. Will you be okay?"
Harry grimaced. After the final battle with Voldemort, he'd become somewhat of a shut-in so he didn't have to deal with all the reporters clamouring for an interview. Other than a few trips to St Mungo's to see Neville and giving his statement at the Ministry the day after the battle, this was the first time he'd been out in the public eye in a month and a half.
Sirius squeezed his shoulder again. "Dorcha will be fine. The reporters have to stay up in the stands."
Kingsley nodded. "The Minister is as tired of them as you are."
Harry snorted. "So there's something Scrimgeour and I see eye-to-eye on after all?" The Minister had been quite intent on dragging Harry before the Wizengamot for his use of Dark magic as Dorcha, not to mention his apparent escape from the prison. However, the Aurors refused to arrest Harry and the Wizengamot voted to not have a trial in light of Harry being both a war hero and wrongfully imprisoned at the time.
"You're a little too short to be seeing eye-to-eye with him on anything, Harry," Sirius pointed out teasingly. Remus elbowed him in the ribs while Harry rolled his eyes and the others laughed.
A large, circular thing appeared above their heads and an image of the stage a few feet in front of Harry's group appeared for those up in the stands. That was, for all intents and purposes, the warning that they were about to get started. A quick glance up at the stands found the glaring Baron herding a pouting Peeves to their box, so Harry settled back into his chair and mentally went over his speech for what felt like the hundredth time since that morning.
The stadium fell silent as Dumbledore slowly made his way from his seat, across the aisle from Harry's group, and up onto the stage. Leaning on a cane – his defeat at Voldemort's hand had almost cost him his right leg – he looked his age even as he smiled and twinkled at the gathered witches and wizards.
"My friends," Dumbledore boomed, "thank you for coming. We're here to reflect upon both our losses, and our gains. Yes, Voldemort has fallen, but we lost many in our fight for justice. No one here has been free of loss." Dumbledore paused for a moment and let everyone think on that.
"The list of dead is long indeed, but, friends, we cannot rebuild our community if we are intent on mourning those we've lost. Family and friends would want us to move on and remember them fondly. We have triumphed, and it is in their names that we have done so! Our ability to mourn those who have passed on is our strength, and was Voldemort's downfall!" He paused for a roar of cheers from the crowd, smiling up at them.
Harry chanced a glance back at the box of ghosts and saw smiles on all the faces there. Yes, the dead did want them to move on, Luna and Ginny had told Harry that often enough in the past weeks.
Dumbledore nodded as the noise died back down. "Remember the dead, but keep the living also in your minds and hearts. Without our brave Aurors and the resolute staff at St. Mungo's, we would still be at war even now. Above all else, let's not forget the one who destroyed the tyrant intent on killing us all: Harry 'Dorcha' James Potter!"
With a deep breath and another squeeze to his shoulder from Sirius, Harry got up and walked to the stage amid the overwhelming cheers of the stadium. Dumbledore and he shook hands formally, then Dumbledore hobbled off while Harry took up his position at the podium, which had a sonorus spell cast on it. He waited until the cheers had mostly died off before starting to speak:
"Fellow wizards and witches, families and friends, thank you. After what has seemed like a lifetime of war, we have found peace. Yes, I took down Voldemort, but if it hadn't been for the many others there at St Mungo's that day, it would have never happened. The battle was a madhouse, I must tell you. There is little glory to be found in murder of the sort Voldemort revelled in.
"Draco Malfoy once asked me why I would offer him my protection, knowing of his background as I did. In school, we traded insults over blood purity and money, the statuses of our parents and our stance in the coming war. To Draco's question, I posed my own: Had he seen people die before? Had he killed people himself? Did he enjoy their pain? Voldemort and many of his Death Eaters found pleasure in the pain of others. Our inability to find joy in that act is the very thing that sets us apart from those men and women.
"While I was in Azkaban, I had a lot of time to reflect on the things that had brought me there. Those who know me have often heard me complain of the fickle public. A wise man I once knew said simply that people never looked beyond the surface. They believe what they're told and look no further. When an article in the Prophet says so-and-so is a mad lunatic, we tend to take that at face value and forget what we may actually know about that person. Always question your sources. Rarely are things as they seem.
"One last thing, and then I'll hand this show over to Minister Scrimgeour. I have spent time with the dead. I suffered their legacies at school and their taunts in Azkaban. I have found life-long friends in the ghosts of Hogwarts and the Ministry, but never any enemies. One thing I can say of them, they've lived their lives and seen countless others pass by. When you are in need of a guide, they make some of the best. They do not judge on sight, rather, they will sit down and listen. And further yet, they can see things we could only dream of. They also, the Bloody Baron is constantly reminding me, make excellent spies.
"With that note, thank you again for being here and let me had the podium over to Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour!" Harry called, then stepped back to shake hands with the Minister in a show of non-existent solidarity and retook his seat.
Scrimgeour's speech was long and tedious – a recap of both Dumbledore and Harry's speeches as well as much of the same that had been appearing in papers regularly since the battle. Once he was finished, various other Ministry officials and some Aurors who'd been at the battle took their time with long speeches. By the time Dumbledore and Scrimgeour returned to the stage together – to hand out Orders of Merlin to those who'd been a part of the war – Harry was dozing lightly on Sirius' shoulder while the other four tried their best to stay awake.
Sirius elbowed Harry awake as Dumbledore stepped up to the podium. "Let us move on to our awards. Will the following please come forward to the podium for their Order of Merlin, Third Class: Dedalus Arnold Diggle, Filius Flitwick, Hestia Elizabeth Jones, Neville Frank Longbottom, Remus John Lupin, Minerva Aurora McGonagall, Sturgis Steven Podmore, and Severus Augustus Snape." The group was made up almost entirely of Order of the Phoenix members that hadn't made it to the battle for one reason or another.
A number of deceased Order members and Aurors had also received Orders of Merlin of varying classes, but those awards would be going to their families or be hung in the Ministry of Magic later. The full list of Order of Merlin recipients had been in the Prophet that morning and was also listed in the pamphlets that had been given to everyone attending the ceremony.
The list of Order of Merlin, Second Class recipients that Dumbledore called out listed the surviving Aurors and staff of St Mungo's who'd fought in the final battle, as well as the Minister, some normal citizens who'd managed a few spells during the battle and a gleeful Peeves – the only poltergeist to ever receive an award of any sort.
When the Second Class awards were done, Dumbledore handed the podium over to the Minister. "Now, the following have shown admirable dedication in ridding our world of Voldemort and his followers. Will the following please come forth to receive their Order of Merlin, First Class medals: Sirius Orion Black, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody, Harry 'Dorcha' James Potter, Kingsley Erasto Shacklebolt, Nymphadora Andromeda Tonks, and Ginevra Molly Weasley."
Harry walked up to the stage with his friends and took his medal, as well as Ginny's, since she couldn't. The rest of the Weasley families' medals, Harry knew, would be arriving at the cottage later that evening. Ginny had said, when asked, that her family would have wanted Harry to have all their medals, for he was a part of their family. As Harry turned to return to his seat, Dumbledore motioned for him to remain. Mentally frowning, he remained standing next to the Headmaster as the others returned to their seats.
The Minister nodded to him, then turned back to the podium. "While looking through Ministry records last night, I found that we had missed someone during our award ceremony at the end of Voldemort's first reign: Harry Potter. If not for Mr Potter, Voldemort would have continued on his way to destroying everything in sight and we would not have had the thirteen year respite we enjoyed. When I mentioned the mistake to Professor Dumbledore, he agreed that Mr Potter deserved a medal for his first defeat as well, even though it was an ancient ritual done by Lily Marie Evans Potter that really ended Voldemort that night. In light of all this and on behalf of the Ministry of Magic, I award Mr Harry 'Dorcha' James Potter a belated Order of Merlin, Second Class!"
Harry took the offered medal numbly as the stadium shook with the resulting cheers. Dumbledore placed a hand on Harry's shoulder and smiled at him. "You've done some great things, Harry. Be proud of them, just as so many others are proud of you."
Harry nodded and looked out at the hundreds of people who'd come to the ceremony. In the back, he saw a line of cheering, ghostly faces and he smiled. His family was proud of him, and that was enough for him.
Harry sighed as he slid into the bench across the table from Rita Skeeter, smirking when she blinked at him in confusion. He'd made himself look like he had when he'd caught Lucius so he wouldn't be mobbed. "Rita," he said quietly. "I believe we have an interview scheduled?"
Blue eyes widened with understanding and she smiled. "Excellent disguise. I got a room upstairs for us to use."
Harry nodded and stood, then motioned for the reporter to lead the way up. After the award ceremony, he'd been bombarded with owls from various reporters asking for an interview. After a week of trying to ignore the mess, Remus suggested that Harry pick a reporter and give an interview, but state in the interview that it was the only one he would be giving. Harry had agreed and, after looking through all the letters, realized that there was one name that hadn't appeared in all the owls: Rita Skeeter.
Naturally, Harry wanted to know why she hadn't been bugging him, so he asked Draco, who would be the mostly likely to know, with his connections. Draco revealed that Rita's younger brother had been killed by Voldemort the year after Harry had been sentenced to Azkaban and her work after the death had been poor quality, so papers stopped publishing her work. After a couple of months, she disappeared from sight, though Draco was pretty certain she hadn't been killed.
Harry had written a quick note after that to the missing reporter, asking if he could give her an interview for the Prophet. A week later, her surprised letter had come back. She briefly filled him in on her status of no longer being a reporter and suggested he ask someone who would actually get it published. Harry's response was a simple, "I don't want another reporter, I want you." So Rita had suggested they meet at the Leaky Cauldron at noon the following Monday.
With that in mind, Harry compared the Rita in front of him to how he'd known her in the past. There was an air of sadness around her that he'd never sensed before and she had lines on her face that Harry recognized from his days of too little sleep and constant nightmares. Her once-blonde hair hung dully, as it had in Harry's fifth year after she'd been unemployed for so long and was a light brown with a few streaks of grey. She'd also done away with her dramatic robes and jewelled glasses, leaving behind a conservative black muggle suit and small glasses. Considering the muggle clothing, Harry decided she must have hidden herself away in the muggle world, where she wouldn't make such an easy target.
Once in the room, Harry paused to throw up a slew of privacy and silencing charms before taking the seat across from Rita at the small table in the room and shifting back to his normal form. Then he offered her a sad smile. "I'm sorry, by the way, about your brother. Draco told me when I asked him about you."
Rita nodded. "Thank you. If you know that, you also should know that no one's publishing my writing?" Harry nodded. "Then I'll ask again, 'Why me?' And, please, give me an actual answer this time."
Harry sighed and settled back in his chair. "I'm sure you've heard that the war is over?" Rita nodded with a faint smile. "Well, as expected, I got bombarded with owls from reporters asking for an interview. It was a little overwhelming." He offered her a wry smile and she chuckled. "Remus suggested I pick a reporter and give an interview, but make it clear that was the only interview I was giving. I was going through the owls, reading the names of all those reporters and I kept thinking, 'Where's Rita's letter?' But there wasn't one, so I asked Draco about you and he caught me up on your fate, as it were.
"I don't really know why I was so fixated on giving the interview to you, but it might have to do with you being the only reporter I've had more than a passing acquaintance with. You were absolutely nasty until Hermione caught you at the end of the tournament. Then, when I decided to give a full interview of Voldemort's return, Hermione got you, and you did it, even though popular opinion went the other way at the time. Well, given, you didn't have much of a choice at the time..."
"Yes," Rita agreed blandly. "Miss Granger was a piece of work."
Harry snickered. "That's one way to put it." He sighed and gave the woman a blank look. "What I guess I'm trying to say is: You're the only reporter I actually know, so you're the only reporter I'm comfortable with."
Rita leaned forward with an amused look. "Did I hear you right? You're comfortable with me?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, Rita. I'm comfortable with you. Merlin only knows why."
"First time for everything." Rita shook her head. "Okay. So, say I do your interview and no one will take it. Then what?"
"Their loss," Harry replied easily.
Rita laughed and shook her head again. "Right. Saying they actually take it, you're still going to have reporters after you for regular interviews and quotes about things that are going on."
Harry huffed, having already had this conversation with Draco. "If I have an opinion about something that I care to share with the rest of the world – which rarely happens; I'm a fan of people thinking for themselves – then I'll only tell you. Exclusive interview rights, if you will."
Rita gaped at him.
"Look. I've had enough of my life spread all over the front page of the Prophet. All I really want at this point is to continue living in peace with what's left of my family and friends. I'm well aware that I'm a legend in our world and everyone will want to know everything I'm doing, but some things I just won't share. Draco said that the best way to keep any part of my privacy is to put my foot down and give exclusive rights to only one or two reporters. What he said made sense, so it's what I'm doing."
Rita shook her head and laughed. "You're a piece of work yourself, Harry."
"Hermione and I are friends for a reason," Harry agreed.
"Alright. Say I take you up on these exclusive interview rights. What are your terms?"
"If I say no comment, I mean no comment. Same goes for if I say I'm not giving an interview." Rita nodded. "Also, if I see that bloody quill of yours, I'll destroy it. And then find another reporter."
Rita laughed. "Probably a good thing I got rid of that quill when I couldn't get any more stories published. But that's it? Nothing about snooping?"
Harry narrowed his eyes. "There are wards up around where I live that alert us to any animagi not already worked into the wards. If you snoop, be ready to face down the Aurors who will come running when the alarms go off. I can assure you that Tonks, Kingsley and Neville will shoot first and ask questions later."
Rita winced. "Point taken." She took out a muggle note pad and pen, which earned her a raised eyebrow from Harry. A quick spell and the pen was charmed to write down everything they said. "Alright, Harry. Let's go through everything briefly, then I'll touch more on the interesting things. Let's start with the incident that landed you in Azkaban..."
'HARRY "DORCHA" POTTER: HUMAN LEGEND
'written by Rita Skeeter
'Four years in exile may have dulled my popularity, but
not even five years in Azkaban Prison could diminish
Harry Potter. Imagine my surprise, if you can, when an
owl landed at my kitchen table one morning two weeks after
the award ceremony to recognize those who fought against
Voldemort. The owl had a letter from our Saviour, Harry
Potter. He wanted to give an interview – needed to, really
– but he didn't want to give it to just anyone. Harry wanted
me. When I asked why, he said he was comfortable with
me, much to my surprise.
'So, as any reporter with half a brain would, I took him up
on his offer and met him in the Leaky Cauldron. We got a
room upstairs and got to it.
'I can honestly say, now that I've spoken to him again, that
Harry Potter is a legend. But he's not a fairytale legend that
is only there to save the world from evil and get the girl. No.
Harry is the sort of legend who is also a real person. He was
wronged by all of us and faced the most losses in the war
against Voldemort, but he didn't turn his back on us when he
could have. He fought for us, despite an ugly stay in Azkaban
that never should have happened and his own mourning for
the many people he lost.
'Harry hunted Death Eaters from Azkaban and even after,
despite the Minister's call for his arrest. He taught himself
how to become an animagus and an air elemental while stuck
in a dreary cell with little food and only the words of a
werewolf and, at the time, an escaped convict to give him hope.
He taught himself to fight against impossible odds and evaded
Ministry law with an ease that makes even me jealous.
'Despite past rivalry, when Lucius Malfoy begged Harry to
protect his son, Harry did. He dragged Draco Malfoy out of
the reach of a furious Voldemort and made him a part of his
painfully small family. And, later, he always took care to
protect the families of the Death Eaters he captured as long as
they weren't marked.
'After the final battle that ended in Voldemort's defeat, Harry
thought first of the safety of those he'd tried to protect with a
ward on the door in the Janus Thickey Ward. Once there, he
cared only for the surprising recovery of his friend, Neville
Longbottom, who had been placed there with his parents after
being tortured into insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange.
'When I asked Harry how he'd felt when he was given his two
Order of Merlins, he said, "I don't know if I actually deserve
them, Rita. The first time, it was my mother who defeated
Voldemort. This time, Professor Dumbledore wore him down
for me, and I was disguised as Dorcha at the time, so he didn't
see me as a threat. If I'd looked like myself, I'm not sure I would
have been able to bring him down. That's not to say I'm not glad
to have the metals – Ginny, Sirius and Remus knocked some
sense into me about that – but I don't think I deserve all the fame.
I wasn't the only person out there. Yes, I brought the bastard
down, but I wasn't alone. I wish people would remember everyone
else that fought and give them the same regard they give me."
'At the end of our interview, I asked Harry what he plans to do,
now that Voldemort's dead. "I plan to enjoy a little peace and
quiet with my family. I suppose that, after a few months, I'll
probably tire of the cottage and want to find a job or visit some
sights around the world. But, until then, I'm quite happy where I am."
'That, fellow witches and wizards, is our Saviour, Harry "Dorcha"
Potter. He risked his life to save the world we live in and lost his
family and friends so we might live with our own in peace. Harry
may indeed be a legend of the same breed as Albus Dumbledore
and Merlin himself, but he's also a human, who is able to forgive
even the most grievous of crimes against him. He's the wizard we
should all aspire to be, yes, but aim to be the human, rather than the
For full interview with Potter, turn to page 7.
For reactions to Potter's interview at the Ministry, turn to page 9.
For an Auror's look at the St Mungo's Battle, turn to page 2.